Saturday, February 25, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week 48 (Special Post-Presidents Day Edition)

Did you all have a nice Presidents Day? I'd like to think  Bill Clinton writes anonymous letters to Netflix every month begging them to add Evening Shade.

1) Hulu: The Golden Girls does not have commercials! Hallelujah! Also, a lot of anime debuted this week, so if that's your thing, go crazy. I am also glad to see FX show Legion showing up here in season, and I want to check out last week's NBC 90th anniversary special, although I would kind of like to skip over the last 20 years and focus on the first 70.

2) YouTube: Just when you think things are all bad these days, remember that someone has a YouTube channel devoted to vintage USFL footage and is uploading Philadelphia Stars "season in review" videos.

3) Netflix: I'm not super thrilled about this week's adds, but a lot of the Ken Burns documentaries have returned. I admit I am curious to see Ultimate Beastmaster, but I am afraid seeing even a few minutes will only encourage them to make more shows like that.

4) HBO Now: I am celebrating HBO another week based on the excellent Veep, a show unlike any other currently on TV. Season 5, which I "bunch of shows at a time" watched on the free preview weekend, was so good that, had I not known the creator had bailed, I really doubt I would have suspected it.

5) Shout! Factory TV: This week's Glen Campbell featured Stevie Wonder--'nuff said. I also saw an intriguing Cavett rerun with Jane Fonda--meaning well, perhaps, but coming off as self-important as the stereotype would have it--and Mort Sahl, who is the most fascinating person out there even after Peter and Henry join Jane.

6) PIX11:  Number 6 with a bullet--and I don't mean the one that shot a "lady cop" as covered in the episode--on the strength of a complete 1982 Action News with original ads (including Carvel and some awesome-looking stage show with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Batman, and Wonder Woman).  The great Ralph Lowenstein is in the anchor chair, and though there is some depressing stuff, you also see a nice sports report and a segment on Vanderbilt jeans.

7) TuneIn: I don't know why I heard the Moonglows' "Hey Santa Claus" in the middle of February, but I'm glad I did. We have to do something about what I see as the continued effort to trick me into hearing Barbra Streisand, though.

8) Days of Dumont: Even channels that purport to show programs with social value today don't show anything like The John Hopkins Science Review.

9) Pub-D-Hub: Quiet week with no update, but they at least told everyone ahead of time there would be no update. It had a technical issue last week, but it responded to me when I asked about it. Finally, it deserves a place if only because of the bizarre commercial for Swanson Frozen Chicken Parts featuring some kid in a Davy Crockett hat pretending to go gaga for some kind of boxed drumstick he finds in the icebox.

10) MLB.TV: It's back, baby! Spring training games, the World Baseball Classic...I won't be watching a ton of that, but I'm glad it's there. I figure I have about a month or so to catch up on all this crap I need to watch on other channels before Pirates season begins.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Cultureshark Remembers...Ivan Koloff and George Steele

Two famous former professional wrestlers passed away last week within a day of each other, and while it may seem like I'm straining to connect the two, I see a resemblance here. Each to me represented the stereotypical "old guy" wrestler. There is a myth that Vince McMahon took rasslin' out of smoke-filled arenas and made it a family event--a myth propagated by...Vince McMahon!

Still, it is easy to think of pre-WWF expansion in the 1980s and post as distinct eras. George Steele and Ivan Koloff had great success in the early days and looked like the archetype of the old TV wrestler--middle-aged, kind of scary-looking, hairy everywhere except the tops of their heads, and most likely quite sweaty.

Yet the two reinvented themselves, in a sense, and thrived during the 1980s, when I happened to become a wrestling fan. Steele went from the savage heel to the beloved "mentally challenged" babyface (and had a memorable feud with RANDY Savage), a comedy character who made kids happy with his green tongue and his tearing of the turnbuckles. A lot of fans didn't like the character--hey, I have to admit I was annoyed that he was involved in Savage's feud with another of my favorites, Ricky Steamboat, as much as he was--but he was one of the more well known among the general public and the casual fans, and he certainly was an attention getter.

Koloff found a career rejuvenation years after winning the World Wide Wrestling Federation championship over Bruno Sammartino in a legendary upset. He slid into a mentor role as the manager/tag team partner of his "nephew" Nikita Koloff, and together the two were a significant act in Jim Crockett Promotions, the organization I always wanted to see more of even when it seemed WWF was all over the place. So years after his physical peak, Koloff changed roles and may have made the most money he ever did, even though he was no longer a main event singles wrestler.

The other thing that links the two in my mind is that both are great examples of the, "Wouldja believe he's really..." phenomenon. You know, it's that deal where you find out a pro wrestler is totally different than his on-screen persona. I think for years the go-to example of this was that George "The Animal" Steele was a schoolteacher in between wrestling gigs. I didn't know until well after I first saw him, but Koloff was not Russian at all. Well, that wasn't a huge surprise, but I didn't know he was a Canadian who was originally billed as an Irishman.

Of the two, I much preferred Ivan Koloff's act, but both were big parts of a misspent youth filled with way too much TV wrestling. R.I.P.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

And Now...a Word from THEIR Sponsor

Welcome to a new recurring feature in which we focus on vintage commercials of yore. Today, I'm hungry for some pizza. Are you in the mood for pizza? Yeah, I'm always in the mood for pizza. Let's go out for some.

Someone want to explain this to me?

I don't have a problem with Tim Conway--fine performer getting the job done here--but what the deuce is the concept of "Straw Hat Pizza"? "Hey, let's make people really feel at home by making them think they're getting their pizza from..." What? A bunch of rubes? Hayseeds? What exactly is the gimmick, and how does it pertain to pizza? Did the employees enjoy wearing those big straw hats? Actually, I 'm pretty sure I know the answer to that last one.

I think "Big White Chef Hat Worn by Guy with Stereotypical Thick Black Mustache" Pizza would have been a better choice, but this was apparently a real direction that a franchise chose. Nothing like getting your pies from someone wearing...a straw hat! And if that isn't appealing enough, check out the lovely 1970s brown-centric logo.

Straw Hat Pizza: "All for fun, and fun for all." Why, that sure does look like a fun joint. I wonder if kids got a free straw hat with every pan pizza. Other ads show the row of fun--basically, a handful of arcade games--a little better. Hey, back in those days, a standalone Frogger was a big deal, something worth donning your straw hat and heading outside to see.

(Note: I begrudgingly did some research and discovered this chain is still around. Straw Hat, I may not understand you, but you have several dozen more restaurants to your name than I do, and for this I respect you.)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Beginning next week: 'Mooners Mondays!

That's right, in addition to the regular "Hazel: The Early Years," Cultureshark will now try to brighten your Mondays with a post about The Honeymooners. Unlike my look at Hazel, though, this will not be an episode-by-episode series, but more like a collection of screencaps and random thoughts I have while making my way through the series yet again.

I've been watching the show again and posting some inane comments on Facebook, so I thought, why not share my self-indulgent tidbits with my blog readers? I am already close to halfway through my Blu-Ray set (thanks to a tip from Ivan at TDOY, who told me it was a mere bag of shells during a recent sale), so I may go more or less through the rest of the season, but I will also go back and hit some other episodes and maybe some Lost Episodes and miscellaneous material along the way. Don't expect lengthy or even "good" posts, but you can expect the 'Mooners, and isn't that a nice way to start the week?

Oh, I wish that these things were true of this blog...

Celebrate Presidents Day with...(some shameless self-promotion)

If  you would like to celebrate the holiday, might I recommend revisiting my recent TV Time piece at ClassicFlix? Sure, Abe Lincoln's role in guiding the Union was critical, but how did he do on Star Trek?

Also, Battle of the Network Shows will return shortly with season 2, but in the meantime, we are putting features on the webpage, like today's Tale of the Tape comparing Lincoln to one of our favorite superstars from our season 1.

Don't you dare miss it!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week 47 (Special "Just about back to 100% after mild flu" edition)

1) YouTube: Finally some good news in the streaming world, as YT announced it was axing Pewdiepie. I don't even know the whole story behind that, but I was delighted to see that had happened, anyway. Plus those 30-second unskippable ads are being phased out (I actually read about that on a site with an unskippable embedded ad, which amused me), and while the cynic in me assumes we will get more skippable ads, I appreciate the news.

Oh, yeah, plus I discovered the entire run of [SHOW I LIKE REDACTED] is on here after all and not anywhere else, so that's a good thing, too! All this plus a new feature coming to the blog will be made possible by YouTube.

2) Hulu: OK, I'll admit it, I have enjoyed watching The Golden Girls this week, and it is a pretty cool get for a service that seemed to need one. On the flip side, a big general deal with Viacom expired this week, meaning stuff like The Daily Show is no longer available after broadcast.

3) Netflix: The new Bob Odenkirk movie kind of slipped in under the radar, didn't it? Still, it's there, and people seem to love Chefs Table. I know my kids enjoyed a new installment of Project MC2, and I enjoyed quite a few various reruns this week. It was a relatively quiet week, but Netflix didn't do anything to annoy us, either.

4) HBO: HBO was about to sneak into the list despite the return of Girls on the intriguing news that an Andre the Giant documentary was in the works, plus the arrival of the prestige "limited series event" (or whatever they want to call it) with Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. Then I discovered it's a free preview weekend and I got to watch season 5 of Veep, and, whoosh, HBO rockets up the charts.

5) Shout! Factory TV: I very much enjoyed the first episode of The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,  which features an endorsement from John Wayne (Glen in turn calls him the greatest guy in the world) and a long segment with the then-Torkless Monkees.

6) Days of Dumont: This week was all about some short clips for me, like Bishop Sheen  talking about the evils of communism and a performance by Benny Goodman (not on the same show, unfortunately).

7) SeeSo: Upstart Crow, a series about Shakespeare from one of the creators of Blackadder and starring David Mitchell, premieres this week. Hmm...might be time to give SeeSo another look.

8) The CW: The fact that CBS is charging so much for people to stream its shows makes me appreciate sister network's free service even more.

9) PIX 11: Barely in the rankings on the strength of an amusing 1975 news clip about the removal of pay toilets, but I expect more from this one. Cool clips show up on the Facebook page, but the Archives section on the Roku channel has been slim pickings in recent weeks.

10) Showtime: Showtime has a free preview weekend, too, so I give it some props,'s still Showtime. It seems only appropriate that HBO would steal its thunder with a free preview of its own at the same time.