Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Half-Assed Gourmet: Cheez-It GRIPZ

Continuing our country's trends of miniaturizing things (by making them smaller for no apparent reason) and of infantilizing them (by spelling them with Zs instead of Ss in a misguided attempt at edginess), the Kellogg corporation has created a product called Cheez-It GRIPZ. Fortunately, these crackers are still "made with 100% real cheese," but in this form they are now presented in crumb form.

Image result for cheez-it gripz

The now-tiny crackers come in a small bag that encourages snackers to tear off a corner at the top and presumably drink them. It's too small to fit fingers in there, even if you ARE an infant, so the options are to pour the GRIPZ  bits into your hand or dump them directly into your mouth. If you do tilt the pouch into your piehole and remember to chew the numerous tiny bits, you just might get the equivalent of tasting one regular cracker.

I must admit my kids enjoy this packaging, and maybe this product is better marketed to those who are too young to make intelligent nutritional decisions, anyway. To me, though, this seems an unnecessary creation. I can create my own GRIPZ, if I so desire, by filling a baggie with regular Cheez-Its, sealing it up, then throwing it down on the ground and stomping it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

If only there were, say, I don't know, a video store where I could rent a movie...

Out of curiosity, I checked the invaluable  to see if any movies featuring the late Gene Wilder were available for streaming on Netflix. Here's what I found:

         Search for 'Gene Wilder' 0 matches

It's not like the other usual suspects are  much help, though. I saw a Decider story touting "how to stream the top Gene Wilder movies"  or something like that. Don't bother. First of all, the shameless feature lists the films but makes you click through each title to see the streaming options. Plus they are all lame. You can't actually "stream" them as part of an existing service. You can PAY TO RENT them for like 3 bucks for a non-HD video from Amazon (not part of Prime Video) or Google Play or some other rental option.

Remember the days when, if you wanted to see a movie more than 2 years old, you could go to your local video store and, for a small fee, borrow it for several days?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Summer of Angst: The Trouble with Father

Sitcoms aren't supposed to be hyperealistic, but I have an issue with the episode of "the Trouble with Father" on the Lost Television Legacy of James Dean" DVD collection.

Dean has a small role as a nervous schmuck who doesn't know how to deal with girls. Hey, Martin Milner was an attractive man who was surely no slouch with the ladies, and I can buy Dean as jittery, but I don't know if I buy him as a lovelorn loser asking Marty for tips.

It's a reasonably amusing episode with a dose of typical sitcom misunderstanding. I wish Dean had a bigger role so he could be more directly in the hijinks.

Here's a shot of a young Sheila James, who causes her share of trouble in the story:

Overall, it's an interesting watch for fans of early TV, and I loved seeing it on the disc, but it's not essential Dean, and it doesn't offer quite as much angst as his anthology appearances of the era.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

I feel sorry for Britney Spears

A lot of the hype about tonight's Video Musi--Wait, we have to call them the VMAs now, I think--about tonight's VMA show on MTV concerns the potential SHOCK generated by Britney Spears' performance. Will she lip-sync (Uh, yeah)? Will she make an inappropriate gesture of some kind (perhaps)? Will she wear something revealing (Magic 8-ball says...signs point to yes).

I long ago stopped caring about the MTV Awards (If I were younger and angrier, I'd say that MTV stopped caring about ME, man!!!), but I'll admit I still care whether or not Britney Spears is going to dance on TV in something revealing, and I might even watch the YouTube clips the next day. But it's a shame that this is all the media is talking about.

One might argue that it's her choice to do this, and to an extent, of course that's true. However, she has a history of mental issues, was stripped of the ability to control her own career (her own life, even), and now spends much of her performing career at a residency in Vegas to keep her off the road, presumably because she needs a stable, controlled environment. Every time you see her post on a red carpet or in some kind of publicity deal, she dons a fake-looking smile that makes her look like a prisoner. I don't think she hates her fans or any BS like that, but I think she is genuinely trying to play the part, which makes it even sadder to me.

You know when she does look really happy to be there (I'm not a psychiatrist, but I play one on Blogger)? When she is with her kids. I hope she really loves being a mom, and I think she does. To a lesser extent, I get the feeling she enjoys performing sometimes, maybe a lot of the time given the right circumstances. Yet if she really had the choice, would she really be doing this? What really makes her happy at this point in life?

I've seen enough accounts of her demeanor offstage to wonder if it's at best a "grin and bear it" situation or at worst a "lights are on, but nobody's home" situation. I can't help but wonder if the ongoing media narrative about how controversial her high-profile performances are going to be is part of the problem. She recently released a music video, and with suspicious rapidity, stories circulated about outraged fans complaining that the "sexier" version was scrapped. I suspect that whole incident was a publicity stunt, but here's the thing: Was it Britney Spears' publicity stunt, or was it "Team Britney's" stunt, with her being dragged along?

Perhaps I am underestimating Britney Spears and she is a canny manipulator who knows exactly what she is doing and relishes any kind of attention. But based on her complicated history, I wonder if maybe she'd be happier out of the spotlight, raising her kids, doing what she wants to do, and not feeling pressure to be outrageous on an awards show.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 22

Welcome back to the weekly power rankings. As a reminder, the list is based on a combination of buzz, news, my own personal watching, my own personal whims, and the position of Mars in the nighttime sky. I tend to judge most streaming video channels by how they perform on Roku.

Slow week, and next week will be more exciting when many channels get their September adds, but I'm sure I'll find something to say:

1) MLB TV: Folks, if I am being honest, the Pirates had games all week, and I watched very little else. A word of praise for this excellent service: I rarely have buffering issues, there are plenty of useful options, and it's just great to be able to watch all the games on the Roku (other than the ones blocked by inane MLB blackout rules). Contrast this with the NFL, which once again took down its Roku channel and is promising something by the beginning of the season...when we will not be able to watch live games. Right now, though, there is nothing--no highlights, no season previews, no NFL Network clips...nothing.

2) Netflix: I could make a wise-ass remark about the new Jeff Foxworthy/Larry the Cable Guy special, but instead I will cite it as another example of the broad array of entertainment Netflix is offering. I'll make my wise-ass remarks offline.

Actually, Netflix made a ton of announcements this week. Some of it sounds kind of intriguing, some doesn't appeal to me at all, but the company does a good job of creating the perception that there is always something going on and always something coming.

3) Hulu: Added a "bonus poop" portion to last week's successful Triumph Election Special, and I'm man enough to admit I can giggle like a kid when I see that.  I'm finally finishing 11/22/63, and it's amazing how--what's the word--likeable James Franco is in it. Hulu is making some announcements, too, but it seems to be focusing on its cable alternative package than on catalog acquisitions. Next week is gonna be rough as more people start realizing all the CW shows are leaving in September.

4) YouTube: The Roku version made yet another change in its interface--a minor one, but still.  Stop fussing with yourself, YouTube. You look fine. We're already 15 minutes late, so can you just finish getting ready so we can go?

5) Crackle: Slides down two spots, despite the continued presence of "Grady," because even though the service continues to not crash my Roku, the constant commercials are starting to wear on me.

6) Pub-D-Hub: I enjoyed a solid episode of the old Kate Smith show featuring a Grand Ole Opry segment. Yep, I love this channel.

7) Shout! Factory TV: I love how on the second appearance of Ray Charles, he is only the second guest, following Mayor John Lindsey. Shout! is really cranking out these Cavett episodes, adding a "Directors" category. I hope it has a little bit more in store for September, but I love the continued rollout of this series.

8) My Retro Flix: Unusual Roku channel of unknown origin with a fantastic selection of public domain and (a surprising number of) studio classics. Is it licensed? Who knows, but I suggest you check it out while you can.

9) Dumont Days: I didn't get much chance to enjoy Dumont Days this week, but I promise to do better soon.

10) Watch TCM: I'm tempted to stop ranking this since, being unavailable on Roku, it often slips from my radar. Plus, as great as the selection is, the movies all disappear after a week. Yet, man, so many great things to watch right now if you're lucky enough to be authenticated and can tolerate watching them on your laptop or whatever.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Fall Book Preview (that is, a list of upcoming books that I want to read)

Nothing against literary fiction, mind you, but I'm focusing on the books I really want to buy this fall.
Here, in no particular order, are books I might actually read and would love to get this season:

1) American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin: An account of the Patty Hearst case, loaded with social context, no doubt.

2) Powerhouse by James Andrew Miller: The guy behind the oral histories of ESPN and "SNL" (what exactly did credited co-author Tom Shales do on those books, anyway? Nobody ever seems to talk with HIM about them) returns to tell the story of Creative Artists Agency.

3) Monsters in the Movies by John Landis: OK, the guy may be liable for a few movie set deaths here and there, but he knows his monsters! This is actually a paperback reissue of a book that came out 5 years ago. I confess I totally missed the original.

4) Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hell's Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day by Joel Selvin: Title says it all.

(Note: Books 1-4 are all out now)

5) Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers on Stage by Robert Bader: I think we can count on this Marx expert to deliver a fantastic read. (October)

6) That's Me, Groucho: the Solo Career of Groucho Marx by Matthew Coniam: Sounds great, but it's from McFarland, so unfortunately, it's 40 bucks MSRP for 188 pages. (September)

7) The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by H.W. Brands: I enjoy Brands' works of popular history, and this should be a good read. (October)

8) Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen: I'm not a hardcore fan of the Boss, but I'm curious to see how this book turns out. (September)

9) Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy by Mike Love and James S. Hirsch: Yes, Brian Wilson has a memoir coming out, too, but I have to admit I'd much rather this one even if I won't believe all of it. (September)

10) Disco Demolition: The Night Disco Died by Steve Dahl and Dave Hoekstra: Tells the story of the infamous disaster known as Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in 1979, an event that got out of control and actually led to the cancellation of the second game of a doubleheader. What a great idea for a book! (August 30)

11) Based on a True Story: A Memoir by Norm McDonald: How could this not at least merit a look?
(September 20)

12) The Best of Shoe by Jeff MacNelly: On one level, a hardcover collection almost seems inappropriate for this strip, but since nobody's making pocket-size paperback reprints anymore, it'll have to do. (October)

13) Super Weird Heroes (Various) Giant Yoe Books anthology of oddball Golden Age comic book stories.

14) TV: The Book: Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time by Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz: That title is a lot more pretentious than these guys' actual writing. Two perceptive and entertaining critics use this gimmick to survey all of TV history. I expect an addictive read.(September)

15) A Thousand Cuts: The Bizarre Underground World of Collectors and Dealers Who Saved the Movies by Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph: This sounds fabulous: An exploration of film collecting and a history of the FBI's efforts to harass the collecting community in the 1970s. (August 25)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Summer of Angst: James Dean with the "Live TV Camera Bomb"

Back we go to "The Lost Television Legacy of James Dean" DVD set from TCM.

James has only a minor role in the unexceptional "Studio One in Hollywood" production of "Ten Thousand Horses Singing," but he still stands out...sort of. He's a bellboy, but you can bet he's a sensitive bellboy. Unfortunately, we don't get much evidence of that.

We do get some awkward composition on screen, though:

I wonder if he's even supposed to be in the shot.

This is not a classic, but this love story starring John Forsythe has some interesting moments. For instance, it features the great Grady Sutton in a key role:

In fact, I'd tell Dean fans not to get this for Dean...but Grady Sutton fans should be happy.

Let's go back to that elevator and close with a shot of Forsythe appearing to stare daggers at Dean:

"You want to do WHAT with my niece Kelly?"

Friday, August 19, 2016

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 21

Just in time for the weekend, it's the weekly power rankings, brought to you by Harris Teeter and some law firm that advertises with English graphics but Spanish audio (See # 3)

1) Hulu: Back on top despite discontinuing its free tier. Some strong content this week, including the Triumph election special and--FINALLY--ESPN's "O.J. Made in America" miniseries. It added the Yahoo season of "Community," meaning the entire series is on Hulu. Plus it seems to be ramping up the original programming, announcing this week an adaptation of Marvel comic "The Runaways." Let's enjoy this while we can because September brings the departure of the CW shows and I think those Criterion Collection movies.

2) Netflix: Still near the top thanks to the reruns it still has, the debut of the last Louis CK comedy special, "Project Mc2" (see last week's rankings), and a promising story about hotels adding Netflix to their in-room entertainment options. Why do I get the feeling there will be a steep "Netflix fee" at those hotels? I'm gonna choose to believe that since a log-in with existing account will be required, it's just value added. Because,  you know, hotels love to give us stuff for free (apart from towels and shampoo bottles).

On the other hand, why in the world is Hulu the one adding Disney Channel movies in August? That Disney/Netflix deal sounded great a few years ago, but each month, it looks less impressive as catalog stuff just isn't arriving.

3) Crackle: Yes, Crackle, the SVOD service I gave an "F" one time, is all the way up at 3 this week. Confession time: I love seeing interesting original programming on Netflix, but really, I'd be happier if it just added shows like..."GRADY!" Yes, the short-lived spinoff suddenly popped up this week, along with episodes of "Benson," 'Sanford," and the first season of "Archie Bunker's Place." Apparently Crackle now adds content throughout the month and not just on the 1st.

It's just too bad those commercials are so repetitive and so extensive. I think it takes 2 hours to watch a 90-minute movie. However, it hasn't crashed my Roku lately, and best of all...Whitman Mayo, baby.

4) MLB.TV: Hey, the Pirates swept the Giants and are right in the Wild Card chase.

5) Dumont Days: We should all be commemorating the 60th anniversary of the demise of the Dumont Network this month, so let's not say good-bye to this one just yet. I watched some cool old promo clips this week, including an add for Dumont TV sets with Kenny Delmar and Wally Cox lifted, I assume, from an episode of "School House" (sadly, no Arnold Stang in the clip). Plus several new episodes debuted today. This free Roku channel is like a dream concept for me, and big thanks to the kind soul who started it and is maintaining it.

6) TuneIn: "Don't Be Cruel" is not by any stretch of the imagination a "Deep Oldie," but I forgive the Deep Oldies station on here because it also plays stuff like "It's a Gas" by "Alfred E. Neuman." Now, that is one I have NOT heard elsewhere lately.

7) Watch TCM: Just added a handful of Ruby Keeler movies, and that means--you guessed it--Cultureshark favorite Dick Powell is in the house. I'm also interested in "Sweethearts of the Campus," which teams Keeler with a young Ozzie and Harriet.

8) Made for TV: Here's an interesting one: A free Roku channel, presumably ad supported, with nothing but old TV movies, mostly from the golden era of the Movie of the Week, the super 70s. This is another one I thought would be neglected after launch, but it is adding content and bears monitoring from folks who would like to see stuff like the 1978 Buford Pusser telefilm with Brian Dennehy, Forrest Tucker, Sheree North, and Ken Howard as the villain! Hey, I might go watch that after I post this.

9) Pub-D-Hub: I didn't watch any Pub-D-Hub this week, but that's not Pub-D-Hub's fault. It's my fault.

10) Amazon Prime: Sneaks into the top 10 on the basis of its latest round of pilots, including "The Tick," plus buzz surrounding a Calrton Cuse "Jack Ryan" series in the works. Really, though, this outfit can and should do much better.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Shameless self-promotion: Underrated baseball movies at ClassicFlix (plus my favorite "modern" ones)

Check out my newest feature at ClassicFlix: a look at underrated baseball films. Tell 'em Cultureshark sent you, and don't you dare miss it!

Underrated Baseball Films
By Rick Brooks
As a lover of both baseball and old movies, I enjoy discussions of the best films about the national pastime. Unfortunately, too often arguments begin, say, 40 years ago and concentrate on modern times while excluding fine works from Hollywood's past. The Pride of the Yankees is deservedly beloved; one of the iconic movies of the golden age of studio filmmaking, but it often stands alone as the token "classic" choice in the conversation.
Now, this piece looks only at pre-1970 efforts. Some of my favorite post-1970 baseball movies include:
*The Natural (I loved it as a kid and hadn't read the novel beforehand. I was puzzled that so many grumbled about it at the time).
*Field of Dreams (Sappy? Yes, but I confess I liked it much more than "Bull Durham," which I almost didn't even consider a baseball movie at first because I was so annoyed by Susan Sarandon. I should revisit that one.)
*The Naked Gun (Hey, the last, what, 20 minutes takes place at a ballpark, and it's some of the funniest baseball movie footage this side of "The Babe Ruth Story.")
*The Rookie (Underappreciated recent gem--earnest and moving with a great Dennis Quaid performance)
I think all things considered, the best baseball movie ever might be John Sayles' Eight Men Out, which really brought a fascinating historical era to life. 42, by comparison, seems a bit sterile to me, though I think it is quite good in its own right.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Brooks on Books: Suicide Squad: Trial by Fire

What a treat it was to see this DC Comics trade paperback at my local liberry. At a recent visit to a certain major chain bookseller (OK, Barnes and Noble), there was an ample table devoted to tie-ins with the current "Suicide Squad" film. However, it was a whole lot of merch, a ton of Harley Quinn, and "New 52" trades. There was nothing about any pre-Harley Quinn version (Yes, such a thing exists!), let alone the Silver Age incarnation--this despite a big, shiny new book collecting the earliest stories in a suitably expensive format.

So I was glad to snag "Trial by Fire," which is one of those non-fancy affordable collected editions, a softcover compiling the John Ostrander revival of the team beginning in 1987. It's a fun reminder of why I loved comic books back in the day, and it's a particular delight for me because I never read THAT comic (this collection contains Suicide Squad #1-#8, which establishes Ostrander's vision of the team, plus an issue of Secret Origins detailing the backstory of the group). I give it a strong recommendation, but I also give the caveat that I have no idea how/whether/if this is at all relevant to the movie.

The Suicide Squad is a group of villains recruited by Amanda Waller and led by Rick Flag with the purpose of performing covert ops for the government. They are considered expendable and thus prime candidates for dangerous missions. This set-up lets Ostrander introduce some political ideas, some meditations on morality, and, yes, some of that sweet, sweet SOCIAL RELEVANCE we all love in our old comics.

This book wins me over from the get-go with the "Secret Origins" issue setting up the modern (well, in the 1980s) version of the Squad. As Amanda Waller makes her case to the unnamed President (who is clearly Ronald Reagan, and that's hilarious enough right there; I love seeing real people in comics), she recounts the case files of the older team.

My favorite line is when Waller, relating her own up-from-bootstraps story, tells Ronnie, "Of course back then we had some social programs to fall back on. You DO remember social programs, don't you, Mr. President?" What did I tell ya? SOCIAL RELEVANCE, baby! Reagan's gentle response is hilarious: "Now, now, Miss Waller..."   Incidentally, Reagan is not portrayed as a buffoon, though he does lament the fact that since the Squad was covert, it couldn't have been a movie, and, oh, there might have been a great part in there...

After you get into the actual run of "Suicide Squad," the thing that jumps out is the non-decompressed storytelling. Everything moves! It's almost to a fault--when one moral dilemma causes friction with Waller, it's eventually resolved when she basically gives a quick "My bad," and apologizes at the end of an issue. It's refreshing in a sense, but it's a bit rushed; nevertheless, I'll take this fast-paced stories even if some things go by quickly.

It's not like Ostrander sacrifices character for plot, either. The villains get their little bits of business, and there is a romantic back story with Flag and a former colleague who shows up in a surprising capacity. Perhaps the most distinctive is Captain Boomerang, who shares a bit of Australian slang in every panel, once admiring the "norks" on a female teammate.

During one action sequence, Boomerang has a chance to save a teammate and figures, "Eh, why should I?" It's a startling moment that adds some realism to this concept. It's not like everyone magically becomes a Good Samaritan because the government offers commutation of their sentences. It's also a good example of the moral ambiguity that Ostrander packs into these stories. Particularly for the era, it's some provocative stuff on right/wrong, the role of government, etc. It's a solid mix of politics and action that never gets preachy. Sure, there were groundbreaking comics exploring politics and social issues, but this is a mainstream DC comic book. It holds up very well today.

Most of the art is by Luke McDonnell, and it totally looks like late 1980s comic book art, not that I am complaining. I'm not sure how much he and Karl Kesel contribute to the storytelling, and maybe I am giving Ostrander too much of the credit, but the whole package is highly entertaining and addictive. I'd love to get my hands on more of this run, which lasted 60-some issues.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 20

I realize some of you are out there thinking, "Week in and week out, this is the most viewed post on the blog, and yet he's THIS LATE getting it up?" And to that I say--"Hey, look, isn't that Michael Phelps?"

1) Netflix: So Netflix added and re-added a few things, but the big news to me: 6 new episodes of Project MC2--twice as many as last time for this series about teenagers using science and math to fight crime. Plus this season, the show added several new characters and also introduced a potentially--uh, I'm way too excited about this, but my kids were pleased this weekend.

2) MLB TV: They sent me their "wait until the end of the season" deal this week, and you know what that means: A marked drop in my productivity (uh, except the blog, of course) as I watch baseball  on Roku. Expect this excuse to surface next week when these rankings are late!

3) Hulu: Odd week for Hulu, which added a bunch of British reality shows and, for some reason, the third season of "Laverne and Shirley." I haven't had a chance to watch the new Triumph election special, or else Hulu might score more points.

4) YouTube: Both a curse and a blessing having so much video at my fingertips: My kids and I saw Peter Allen perform "I Go to Rio" on "The Midnight Special" about 5 times this weekend. Yeah, we laughed and enjoyed ourselves...but at what cost?

5) Watch TCM: Holding steady based on content, but, man, am I tired of using an HDMI cable to hook my laptop to the TV, Get a damn Roku channel already!

6) Shout! Factory TV: I love that the third Ray Charles appearance on "The Dick Cavett Show" has Ray waiting in the wings while Dick has a long chat with John Lindsay.   It's so great seeing these old talk shows in their entirety.

7) Pub-D-Hub: Kind of phoned it in this week, or so I thought until I got to the "Yesterday's News" section, which added Richard Nixon's resignation speech, of all things, and a few other interesting collections of old news footage.

8) WWE Network: Added a ton of 1980s NWA wrestling recently. Still a lot more to go, but that's a step in the right direction.

9) Pandora: I still enjoy TuneIn, but I have been messing around with Pandora on Roku.  It's nice, but I think I already screwed up the algorithm, and now I feel like I should start over with a whole  new account to really get what I want out of it.

10) NBC Sports/Olympics/Whatever: Well, I'm sure a lot of people are watching Olympic stuff, right?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Summer of Angst: Family Theater: The Hill (March 1951)

OK, Deaners (is there a better term for James Dean fans? If so, don't tell me; let me have this one at least for now), we spent the previous two installments of the Summer of Angst series examining the first two clips on "The Lost Television Legacy of James Dean": a pair of Pepsi commercials. Enough of that frivolity. It's time to move on to an episode of "Family Theater" called "The Hill," and from the get-go you should know this series is a religious anthology.

The episode features a framing sequence of troops in the Korean War. Soon a chaplain arrives and tells the men something like, "Hey, you think this is rough, remember what happened to Jesus," and then tells them (and we see) the followers of Jesus between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.

Naturally you might assume Dean is one of the troops, right?

Nope! We do see familiar faces like William Schallert and Roddy McDowall amongst the grunts, but the young Dean, in a bit of interesting casting, is the apostle John.

Dean gives an earnest, quiet performance, going for thoughtful and not showy. Yet he stands out for being so young and so...beardless.

Indeed, one of these apostles is not like the others...

Even noted character actor Gene Lockhart gets a big ol' beard as Matthew:

So not a lot of angst from our boy James Dean, but it's a tasteful production with loads of recognizable faces--folks like Joan Leslie, Regis Toomey, Leif Erickson, and Michael Ansara all make appearances.

But the big star, "Family Theater" reminds us, isn't any of these people, know, the big guy. And I don't mean Father Patrick Payton...or do I?

After the "Theater" portion of our program, Payton comes along to remind everyone to get their rosary beads and pray. I don't wish to offend Catholics nor anyone out there, but the good Father is no Bishop Sheen, and yet this wrap-up seems to go on and on. Again, I realize that for him, it's kind of the point, but artistically, it felt like forever.

This example of low-key, somewhat staid religious-themed early television is worth a look, but it's not something I would watch again. However, as I said, Dean's so doggone sensitive that he does make an impression, and fans should definitely catch this one.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 19

1) Hulu: Stays on top by a narrow margin on the strength of adding past seasons of shows like "Homeland" and other Showtime efforts, releasing trailers for upcoming new series, adding WGN America series "Underground" and "Outsiders," hyping more Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, and announcing a promising slate of documentaries about subjects like the co-creator of Batman, George Lazenby, and "The Dana Carvey Show." Plus I finally got around to seeing more of "11/22/63." Hulu is #1 on potential this week, but it might well stay there after the Triumph special premieres Thursday.

2) Netflix: Things are going well for Netflix, too, even though I've finally come to accept that the old "first of the month" catalog drop is going to disappoint me every time now. It debuted a n eclectic assortment of originals/acquisitons like the animated "The Little Prince," a David Cross comedy special, a cartoon inspired by Beatles music, and more. But it gets docked a spot for encouraging and debuting a sequel to "SLC Punk."

3) Watch TCM: Now that I know this shows almost everything in the last given week that was on TCM, I like it even more. It might become my #1 most watched streamer if it ever got a Roku channel. As it is, it contains more 1930s-1950s Hollywood content than Netflix each week even though it turns over its content every day.

4) YouTube: I continue to marvel at the idea of anyone paying for the content from "social media superstars" on YouTube Red, but YouTube Colorless is a daily destination.

5) Shout! Factory TV: Didn't add much this month--some more MST3K and an Olympic-themed collection of Cavett episodes--but it's good stuff, and it's not dropping titles.

6) Pub-D-Hub: Still cranking out updates almost every week. I enjoyed another episode of "Coke Time with Eddie Fisher" and an old 'Today Show" recently. Well, not so much the Eddie Fisher deal, but I was glad to see it.

7) Nowhereman's Internet Archive: I want to mention this fine effort by developer Nowhereman, a channel that pulls the public domain content posted to the IA. This is a great source for old movies and especially old TV shows, and the IA is the source for much of what Pub-D-Hub posts.

8) Crackle: The good news is Crackle is still adding content, and licensed content, no less--this month it has all the Police Academy films (I love calling the Police Academy "films" and not "movies" for some reason), which are controlled not by Sony, but by Warner Brothers. The bad news there doesn't seem to be a consistent strategy for adding TV, and when I watched the first "PA," I had to endure something like 10 numbing commercial breaks.

9) Dumont Days: When this launched on Roku a while ago, I assumed this modest but cool effort was a one-time blast of content, but I just discovered the owner is updating it! So check back for "new" installments of the likes of "The Morey Amsterdam Show" and "Follow that Man."

10) TuneIn: As I mentioned last week, it's not perfect, but it offers some great radio streams with limited commercial interruption and zero technical problems.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The great Marvin Kaplan as I've never seen him before

How bizarre to watch the Warner Archive release of obscure single-season sitcom "Hank" and see Marvin Kaplan as a hired detective posing as a college student to root out unregistered attendees like the titular character.

It's especially odd when you notice he's wearing a cap with the number "69" on it for no apparent reason:

I mean, really? Was this someone's idea of a little "college humor"? I'm surprised there's not a scene with Kaplan calling the dean's office and asking for "Mike Hunt."

Here he is, Joe College: