Thursday, October 29, 2015

Shameless self-promotion: TV Time at ClassicFlix!

My newest feature is up at ClassicFlix, and we're providing a valuable public service this month:

It's TV Time again at ClassicFlix, and this time we're doing a publc service in showing you how to identify an evil twin. Don't you dare miss it!
One thing I loved about TV Guide in its heyday was its frequent description of a performer playing two different characters in the same episode as being in "a rare dual role." It seems like it happens all the time. There is a rich history of look-alikes appearing out of nowhere in television, and qu…

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Things Only I Want to See: Raising the Stakes

Nowadays every returning television program tells us it's "raising the stakes" for the upcoming season. You can't read about a show that's coming back without seeing a showrunner assure us that "the stakes are gonna be higher for  ___."

It's ridiculous. In this year's "Entertainment Weekly" Fall TV issue, even "Nathan for You" pulled this bit.

Why do the stakes have to be higher? Why can't the show just be better? Those aren't mutually exclusive.

What I would like to see is a showrunner tell us that the stakes will be LOWER next season.

"Things are going to be a lot more chill this season."
"The stakes have never been lower for the team."
"There will not be so much at stake for the staff this year."
"Things are much more relaxed, and it'll just feel like a comfortable status quo for the gang for a change."

Hey, I'd love to see it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Shameless Self-Promotion: Mid-October Edition

New TV Time is coming before the end of the month, but to tide you over, howzabout checking out my take on the Ritz Brothers' "Kentucky Moonshine" over at ClassicFlix? Preview below. Tell 'em Cultureshark sent you!

Kentucky Moonshine (Fox Cinema Archives)
Dancing Under the Moon of Kentucky Moonshine
Yesterday | by Rick Brooks
As movie comedy teams go, I would call The Ritz Brothers an acquired taste. In fact, I don't know too many people who have acquired it. I have been fascinated by them ever since seeing The Gorilla with Bela Lugosi and the even worse short subject Hotel Anchovy. I try to catch their movies whenever I can, so I was excited to see Fox release Kentucky Moonshine (1938) as part of its 20th-Century Fox Cinema Archives series.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Cultureshark Book Club: Brady, Brady, Brady by Sherwood Schwartz and Lloyd Schwartz

Bootm line is this is a fun read for "Brady Bunch" fans. That's what I was expecting and what I received when I got this one from the local liberry. It's an anecdotal telling of the Brady saga from creator Sherwood Schwartz and his son Lloyd. Now, I'm a longtime viewer of the series (please don't think any less of me) and I am now introducing it to my own children (please don't think any less of me as a father), but I am no fanatic.  So after finishing the book, I went online to see what the hardcores thought.

There are apparently some problems with certain details from Lloyd, and there is a strong belief that Sherwood's son may have overinflated his importance to the series. I will say I was surprised when Sherwood's section ended and then the book was turned over to the son, who covered most of what went on in the actual run of the program. That's a bit disappointing, and I can understand the incredulity of some fans who think Lloyd, who went from dialogue coach for the kids to an associate producer and directed an episode, makes his own role in the show larger than it was.

Nevertheless, Lloyd tells a pretty good story, and even if you need to take some of it with a grain of salt, it's amusing. He implies there are inaccuracies in some of the OTHER Brady books, including Barry Williams' memoirs. It seems to me that more Brady fans lean towards Williams' accounts being more accurate, but like I said, I'm no expert.

I do think Lloyd comes off better than some of his critics indicate. He takes credit for some big Brady moments and concepts, but he also tells many stories that make himself look foolish.  I'll tell you who does not come off very well: Robert Reed. We all know the stories about how Reed squabbled with Schwartz and complained constantly, and the authors definitely get some payback. Lloyd in particular seems to still have it  in for Reed for making his dad's life more difficult (Sherwood seems to be more at peace with the whole thing). It is clear, though, that Reed was always good with the kids and didn't cause problems when they were around.

Many of the incidents in the book will be familiar to viewers, but I enjoyed reading about the cast's encounter with Ronald Regan at "The Merv Griffin Show," Lloyd throwing the actual football pass that hit Marcia's nose, and the time the Bradys put on a presentation of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

According to Lloyd's account, the show sought permission from the Walt Disney Company to use the names of the dwarfs, and it became a "thing." Lloyd tells the story with great build and color, but the gist is that it culminates in a big corporate boardroom as a bunch of lawyers debate whether or not to let "The Brady Bunch" do this.  From the book:

 Finally the head attorney looked at everyone and gave his most sage opinion: "You know something? I don't give a s--- about this." We took that as an okay and did the show."

"Brady, Brady, Brady" is full of stories like that. Told in short, breezy chapters, it's a fun, undemanding read. It's not a comprehensive history of the series, but it is an entertaining look at the iconic sitcom, one casual fans will enjoy and that hardcore fans may contest but will want to read nevertheless.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


More Streaming Video Showcases are in the works, but let me make a few brief remarks about already published installments:

ACORN TV: Can you believe that despite my glowing review and strong letter grade, this service decided to shank me by announcing 'Drop the Dead Donkey" is leaving at the end of the month? I don't think I'm going to get to all 65 episodes in time.

SIGH. At least it's letting us know, but still, the series was added December of 2014, so that's not even a full year on the service. Hopefully it will return someday soon, but this is another example of how streaming video, with its arrivals and departures, is in some ways more stressful than conventional television.

CRACKLE: ran an article explaining "Why we shouldn't be sleeping on Crackle."  Decider does some good work, but this reads like an ad. I see no mention of how clunky the site navigation is or how maddening the auto-play is on Roku. Maybe those aren't problems anymore, I thought, and I should take a look to see if I should revise my scathing grade of F.

When I launched Crackle on Roku, I at least got a warning that something was going to auto-play. However, it was just that, a warning, because I couldn't actually prevent it from playing. Then I tried to look at what was available while the show was playing, and it was difficult, but I thought I had accessed "My Crackle." Something wasn't working, so I relaunched the channel, and this time it crashed Roku.

I tried again on my Blu-Ray, and I didn't get the auto-play, and I didn't get a crash, but my grades are based on Roku performance. Besides, navigating on the Blu-Ray was slow and unwieldy. As an example, if you are trying to find a specific episode of a TV series, you have to scroll down from the very first in a sloooow vertical slog until you get to the one you want. This is also the only way I was able to confirm that only the first 3 seasons of "Larry Sanders" were up at the moment.

Besides, some of the new content Decider touted--"Party of Five," "Dawson's Creek,"--doesn't interest me. I'd rather have two series that Crackle removed--"Sanford and Son" and "Good Times." All in all, no need to change my review or even to go back here very often.