Monday, October 31, 2016

Possilby My favorite TV syndicator logo/tag of all time

Remember the good old days when TV stations showed programs to the very end, including those production logos and little musical fanfares? There was the Screen Gems one, the Viacom one, the Paramount Mountain, the Rankin-Bass one that kind of haunted me, and this one from Worldvision:


There's something so awkward about this.

Worldvision was created to handle ABC's program syndication interests  when the feds made TV networks give up their role in syndicating their shows. Hey, remember the good old days when the FCC actually regulated stuff like that?

What made the disclaimer even weirder was that I seemed to catch the logo at the end of cartoons like Alvin and the Chipmunks. So at the end of a set of comic misadventures of Alvin, Simon, and Theodore, I'd see this dramatic end screen with this odd message at the end. "What the...?" I wouldn't even think it was the same World Vision as the one that ran the religious-themed charity ads if this title card didn't make an issue of it.

The fact that it's there at all makes it look like something shady happened--and in fact, it did--a lawsuit filed by World Vision International (the religious and charitable organization) over the name (not very Christian of it to sue, is it?) forced the syndicator to add this disclaimer. That text at the bottom sullies what someone probably thought was a really majestic logo.

"It's got a globe, an awesome red W, and a bold font! Yeah!"
"Uh, Larry...we have to add a disclaimer below it now."

The thing that always bugged me was the lack of the comma after "World Vision International," which makes it look almost like those are two separate clauses. One could interpret that comma-less disclaimer as telling us, "We're not associated with World Vision International. By the way, WE are a religious and charitable organization." I mean, come on, folks, it's a comma. Were you so worried about preserving space in the disclaimer that you couldn't include one measly but oh-so-critical comma?

All of this combined to make the weirdest end logo--not the scariest, not the coolest, not the bestest, but possibly my favorite because of that clumsy disclaimer.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 31

Streaming still takes a back seat to the World Series at Cultureshark Tower, but I understand that many of you feel otherwise. So the rankings continue!

1) Hulu: I caught a few more new fall TV shows this week, and other services' ads are so obnoxious that they almost make Hulu's commercial load look tame by comparison.

2) Netflix: It's telling that even in a slow week, Netflix adds something like season 3 of The Fall, something I'm sure will please a lot of viewers. Elsewhere, the good news is that I am discovering some good things to watch this week. The bad news is it's because they are expiring next week and I HAVE to watch them now.

3) YouTube: It was a thrill to realize that At Ease, the short-lived military sitcom Mike and I talk about in this week's Battle of the Network Shows, was on YouTube. Actually watching it...not so much a thrill. Let's also give credit to YT for having The Return of Bruno so that Mike could sit through that one.

4) TuneIn:  Comes back strong this week as I explore more of the available channels. Unfortunately, the computer version of Deep Oldies didn't work so smoothly this week. However, listening to 80s music made me aware of a cover version of "Help!" Bananarama did for Comic Relief in 1989.

5) Pub-D-Hub: A new episode of Rocky King is enough to warrant a top 5 spot, but the Hub also gave us such classic "cautionary films" as "Halloween Safety," "Alcohol Is Dynamite," and "The Gossip."

6) Shout! Factory TV: If you're into more modern--say, last 30/40 years--horror, Shout! is a fine destination this Halloween.

7) FOTV: From FilmOn TV. Much like Pluto TV in that it aggregates all kinds of various streams. In this case, the programming consists of tons of public domain and cheapo content, but there is a lot of it, so if you're in the mood to just  channel surf for this sort of thing, this might be one of your favorite new Roku channels.

8) Watch TCM: Has had iconic horror movies like The Wolf Man, The Mummy, and The Invisible Man this holiday season.

9) Epix: Hey, did you know Epix now has original ongoing series? Yep, and one of them has Nick Nolte as the former President of the United States! I don't know if the current shows are any good, but I give Epix credit for trying.

10) Warner Archive Instant: Looks like after the relaunch they hyped, the people running this channel went right back to the same old, same old--some cool old TV shows combined with a disappointing lack of movie updates. I still rate it 10 because it added Cain's Hundred, which I would love to see.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Fall/Holiday DVD Preview

These are new DVDs/Blu-Rays I want this year. Me. Me want! Me want discs!

Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection (out now): 5 of my favorite films of all time (Yes, even the stagy Cocoanuts is still great) finally hit Blu-Ray, and there are some new extras (though not as many as these classics merit)!

The big news is that these are remastered, and not just in the "We can call it remastered; what, is someone gonna SUE us?" way. No, reports indicate that while these aren't perfect, owing to deteriorated source elements, the y really do look better than they have on home video. Also, sound is improved, and that's a big deal considering how bad the audio was on the DVD releases.

At 60 bucks on Amazon as of this writing, this set is absolutely "worth the money" if you consider you're getting Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Duck Soup, Horsefeathers, and Monkey Business in upgraded form with some extras. However, this is 2016, not 2010. That price is way too high for a marketplace that often gets much better value in box sets. I really want this set, but I don't want to pay 60 bucks for it.

Wheeler and Woolsey Comedy Classics Volume 2 (out now): At the low, low price of 35 bucks (Amazon again), you get another batch of flicks from the underappreciated comedy duo I like to call "The Boys."

OK, it's only low compared to the $40 SRP. It's made on demand, not pressed, and really this is too high as well. But it's The Boys! I haven't heard much about how these oldies look in these versions, but Warner Archive said for years it was working on them.

In addition to Dixiana, Cockeyed Cavaliers, Silly Billies, and The Cuckoos, you get a pair of solo efforts: Wheeler in Too Many Cooks and Woolsey in Everything's Rosie. I've seen most of the W&W library on The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind over the years, but I've never seen those ones, so that makes this set even more intriguing. The rest of the collection ain't bad, either. It lacks the highs of Volume 1, but it also lacks the lows. Yep, me want this.

The Peter Potamus Show (ships November 1): Well, this isn't on Amazon yet, but since it's from Warner Archive, we can be sure it'll be priced too high.

(Goes to the WA website)

Yep, 30 bucks is too expensive. It should be something like 20 bucks.

I don't have strong memories of Peter Potamus, nor his co-stars Yippee, Yappee, and Yahooey, but I DO remember loving Sneezely and Breezely on Magilla Gorilla. To me those scheming polar bears are the real draw of this set.

Sam Benedict: The Complete Series (November 22): I wish I could have seen all the episodes on Warner Instant for 10 bucks a month, but, well, I stopped getting Warner Instant, and Warner Instant stopped streaming this 1962 legal drama, anyway.

Is it a great show?  No.  Is it a historically remarkable show? No. Is it--Wait, why do I want this Warner Archive DVD set again?

Ah, yes. Because it's old. And because it has Edmond O'Brien. Good enough for me!

How to Marry a Millionaire (out ?): I have no idea when this is coming, and, yes, it's MOD, not pressed. but 30 bucks for the complete series (two seasons, 52 episodes) is surprisingly reasonable coming from CBS/Paramount.

I know very little about this sitcom. I know it was syndicated in the late 1950s, it was based on the movie of the same name, and it featured a pre-Jeannie Barbara Eden. Maybe it's terrible. But it's that rarest of rarities--an actual rarity coming on DVD from a major studio. That alone interests me.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Brooks on Books: A Baseball Doubleheader

I'm going to try to catch up on a few MLB-themed reviews while the playoffs are ongoing, but don't worry: I do read about things other than baseball! I recommend two fine books this week.

A Pirate's Life by Steve Blass is an engaging and unique sports memoir. Most sports books are written by successful athletes or ones who never really made it, but it's rare to see someone able to write so extensively about reaching the top and finding massive failure (not related to drugs, booze, or other personal demons, that is).

Blass was a standout starting pitcher for the excellent Pittsburgh Pirates 1971 championship team, but soon thereafter he suddenly lost the ability to throw strikes. "Steve Blass Disease" is attributed to pitchers who find themselves unable to reach the strike zone for no particular reason.

Blass faces the  issue head on. He never really figured out what caused his decline, but he (with co-author Erik Sherman) recount with eloquence all of the efforts he made to figure it out. It's interesting to see a top-level athlete talk so much about failure, and Blass' candor is enthralling. He takes you inside what it feels like to go through something like this--not just the experience itself, but having to answer questions from everyone about it, dealing with well-meaning family and friends, et cetera. Blass doesn't hold back from criticizing himself for lack of commitment to his loved ones, either.

It's not all struggle, though, as Blass has experienced many highs in his career as a Bucco player and then a longtime broadcaster. This amusing, fun book is a delight for any Pirates fan, and I think the uniqueness of his career makes this a thumbs up for serious baseball followers of all types. My one disappointment is that I wish Blass included more stories from his broadcasting career. After all, that's how I grew up knowing him, as the color voice of the team, not as a star pitcher.

Another quality baseball book is by an author who happens to be the mayor of Cooperstown, New York, which is home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Split Season: 1981--Fernandomania, The Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball is an illuminating look at one of the game's most unusual seasons. Katz ably covers the phenomenon of Dodgers rookie sensation Fernando Valenzuela and some of the turmoil that unfolded in New York with the Yankees, but the focus of the book is what it should be: The player strike that led to an unprecedented playoff structure dividing the season in two halves.

If your eyes glaze over at the thought of detailed coverage of labor negotiations, this isn't the book for you, as chief negotiators like union head Marvin Miller and owners'  rep  Raymond Grebey are the real stars of the text. Also, I warn any "they make too much money" types that Katz's account is sympathetic to the players. How could it not be, though?  As the author lays out, the owners were disorganized, self-contradictory, and bargained in bad faith.

Katz makes what could be a depressing slog an entertaining read. Miller's key role in the transformation of the game has been chronicled elsewhere, but it's great to see the thinking of player reps like Bob Boone. Katz takes us inside the negotiations and inside the machinations of each side. Given the circumstances, the strike seems sadly inevitable when it occurs, but so does the eventual return to the basics. It still seems like a waste.

And what is NOT inevitable is the odd playoff system the owners come up with, one attempting to reward "first-half" winners but one that actually encourages tanking by certain teams in the second half. Katz breaks down the absurdities of this scenario while also providing a lucid account of what actually happens.

Split Season is a unique book, a story of a season that, by necessity, covers as much off the field as it does on the field. I highly recommend it to anyone not turned off by reading about labor relations in baseball. Everyone else will be rewarded with lovely coverage of what could have been some dry subject material, coupled with an examination of the on-field action in 1981.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Force Awakens and The Martian: Eh....

So I finally saw these two gigantic sci-fi blockbusters, and, folks, I got to tell you, I just wasn't impressed.

Had I seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens in a theater on opening weekend, I might have had a great time. On DVD, it felt flat, with uninvolving characters seemingly going through the motions and recreating moments from the original films. It didn't help that the one scene that really "got" me emotionally had long since been spoiled for me, and while I kind of expected it to happen, hearing it spelled out surely blunted the impact.

I didn't get the Daisy Ridley character, who is apparently all-powerful and the most awesomest person ever in the universe. As Kylo Ren, Adam Driver injects a bit of charisma and mystique...until he takes off the helmet, and then it all disappears.

I just don't have a lot to say about it. It's competently made and reasonably entertaining, but there's nothing about it that makes me want to see it again nor see most of these characters return.

I understand The Martian's success more as a standalone entity (I understand why TFA is so huge--it's freakin' Star Wars). It's a total, unabashed crowd pleaser. Can you blame Ridley Scott for wanting to make a pile of money and do a broad, all-quadrant-reaching hit with awards potential? I don't. And that's what he did?

Again, The Martian is well made and entertaining. It feels like by-the-numbers filmmaking to me. It's the kind of movie in which characters say they're fine unless something catastrophic happens, and then we get a cut to something catastrophic happening. The screenplay is loaded with "Ooh!" moments that feel designed to elicit audience cheers, like strategically placed profanities that are naughty enough to draw knowing titters but not truly shocking or impactful.

A good way to see where a movie's head is at is to examine the soundtrack, and here The Martian delivers with an array of safe, recognizable hits. You'd better believe Starman by David Bowie is on the set list, to pick an example.

I don't blame people for enjoying it. There is a great premise here, and some of it is compelling on screen, but the movie eventually becomes more like a 1990s Jerry Bruckheimer film than an intelligent examination of survival and humanity. I was totally uninterested once the story shifted gears to rescue rather than Robinson Crusoe.

I'm sure there's a recent blockbuster out there I will enjoy, but it might take me a while to find it!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Hazel: The Early Years: Prelude to Hazel (Come Back, Little Sheba)

As I prepared to sit down with a cold beer, a plate of nachos, and the first season DVD set of Hazel--you know, a typical weekend night for a red-blooded American adult male--it struck me that while I had seen most episodes of Shirley Booth's sitcom, I had never seen her most notable pre-TV performance. So I ran right out and got a copy of the film for which she won an Academy Award (a real one, too--Best Actress!): 1952's Come Back Little Sheba.

The beer got warm and the nachos got cold, but it was worth it to finally check out the pre-Hazel Burke incarnation of Booth. Let's take a look at this movie before we dive into Hazel.

As Lola Delaney, Shirley is a little frumpier and a lot less sassy than Hazel Burke. She's about 10 years younger, but let's face it, a young Shirley Booth looks an awful  lot like any other Shirley Booth. And now I will stop making comparisons to the TV show.

Not the glamour queen/domestic goddess we'd see later in the Screen Gems sitcom

After all, this film is an A-list effort from Paramount.  In addition to Booth and Burt Lancaster as her husband, alcoholoic chiropractor "Doc" Delaney, look at all the talent behind the camera: Hal Wallis is Executive Producer, Franz Waxman does the score, James Wong Howe is cinematographer, William Inge wrote the play the movie was adapted from, and even Edith Head did the costumes! The film was nominated for a few other Oscars, as well, including for best editing. Director Daniel Mann made his cinematic debut here, but Wallis surrounded him with all kinds of talent.

The Delaneys are an aging married couple with zero sparks in their romantic life. There seems to be little intimacy in their relationship. He calls her "Baby," and she calls him "Mr. B"--OK, NOW I'm done with the Hazel references. She actually calls him "Doc," but their "pet names" seem more like barriers than signifiers of any true affection.

We soon learn that Doc is a recovering alcoholic, sober for one year, and we learn this because Lola can't stop flapping her gums about it. It's kind of pitiful, though; she has a strong degree of affection for him and genuinely cares about him despite the terrible things drinking does to him, but we also learn why they got married in the first place. Suffice to say it wasn't a storybook romance.

Lola talks up Doc big time and is proud of his progress in sobriety, as well as his professional standing, but Doc is more indulgent than anything. Lola pines away for her little dog that ran away, Sheba, but that longing is about more than the dog herself, but about the dreams and the life she thought was possible for her and Doc. Both are frustrated and accepting of their current roles in life but cognizant that things didn't quite work out the way they hoped. Doc dropped out of medical school to marry Lola and is now stuck as a chiropractor, which is---Ah, ah, I'm not gonna badmouth that profession. I had a great experience years ago when I screwed up my back!

Into this environment comes a young boarder Lola interviews, played by Terry Moore (who was herself nominated for Best supporting Actress). At first, Doc wants no part of anyone renting part of the house, but when he sees Moore's college student, Marie, he suddenly changes his mind. Funny how it works like that, eh, guys? If you're not familiar with Moore, three words come to mind: VA, VA, and VOOM.

"For the last time, under NO circumstances will I allow a boarder in my hou--Oh, hello, were you the one inquiring about the room?

What follows is a slowly unfurling tale of repression, remorse, and regret (I wasn't sure I'd come up with a third one there!) as Doc's vision of Marie as a symbol of purity is altered by the fact that she actually wants to spend time with boys. In fairness to Doc, who seems like a real fuddy duddy with major issues of his own (which we know is indeed the case), the first guy Marie dates is "Turk" (Richard Jaeckel). If some dude calling himself Turk showed up in my house in proximity to my daughter or even anyone reasonably close to me, I'd toss him off the premises faster than you could say "Al Bundy." In Doc's case, this whole scenario is a giant trigger warning.

Come Back, Little Sheba is an often uncomfortable but compelling exploration of broken dreams and the struggle of alcoholism. It's well acted and not too stagy despite its origins. I do find the ending unsatisfying after what precedes it, but, hey, it was 1952, and what we see is kind of par for the course.

Just another night at home, getting ready to listen to Amos 'N' Andy

We aren't just here to talk about the film, though. We are here to talk about Shirley Booth. It's hard for a modern-day fan of olden-day TV like me to separate this performance from Hazel--evident from my dumb jokes earlier--but she is likable and tender in this role. There are similarities with her later persona--her chattiness, for one--but Lola lacks the guile and gusto of Hazel Burke. We feel for her when she expresses doubts that she was ever good enough for Doc. It's hard to imagine the Baxters' no-nonsense maid being so reflective.

Booth's naïve, sad performance is a revelation. At the time, it would have been no surprise, as she had won several Tonys, including one for this very role! But it's a great reminder today to anyone who knows her as the confident, do-it-all meddling maid that Shirley Booth was capable of acting with great dimension and powerful honesty.

Kidding aside, it's an Oscar-worthy performance

Will we see anything like this in Hazel: The Early Years? Perhaps not, but we should have some fun nevertheless. Just keep in mind, as we laugh at her exploits with the likes of Mr. Griffin, that Shirley Booth was sooo much more than Hazel Burke. That said...human condition, schmuman condition! Let's gear up for season 1 of Hazel!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 30

Much of my viewing time is devoted to the ongoing MLB playoffs, but streaming video does not stop for sports leagues...unless it's the NFL filing copyright claims against YouTube uploaders. I'd love to rank Filmstruck, which was to debut October 19, but that one has been pushed back for vague reasons.

1) Netflix: Stocks jumped after higher than expected earnings were reported. That's even more exciting than new seasons of Black Mirror and The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show, which is quietly on season 3.

2)  Pub-D-Hub: Last week's update doesn't really warrant this high a rating, but I just made my annual payment for the Gold service, so I feel I should rank it here to justify the $. (Really, it's well worth the low, low payment)

3) Hulu: November looks pretty good movie-wise. Plus the latest Triumph special was not as good as the other two, but he is still providing the most cogent political commentary out there. Pretty good buzz for Hugh Laurie's new original series, Chance. And the latest James Bond flick premieres this weekend. Not bad, Hulu.

4) YouTube: Anyone can upload a clip of the Eight Is Enough theme song, but it takes some effort to put each season's opening, plus the ones from the reunion movies, into one clip. My TV theme song rabbit hole journey the other night struck gold with that one.

5) Dumont Network: To anyone who wonders why I continue to rank this channel--and fairly high, no less--while ignoring the likes of HBO Now and Amazon Prime--I say that Dumont Network just added a 1949 roller derby telecast. 'Nuff said.

6) TubiTV: I should really be talking more about this one. I repeat: Heavy commercials, but lots of free content, ability to make a queue, and a resume watching feature. I watched  a few late 1980s King Features animated specials (Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible) on there this week.

7) Shout! Factory TV: Shout! could really use some kind of watchlist feature. Anyway, this week I saw a weird late 1970s Canadian Halloween special, Witch's Night Out, a cartoon with the voice of Gilda Radner.

8) TuneIn: I had some technical problems with the stream this week, but I also enjoyed some soothing lite 80s soft rock. I'm relaxed just writing about that.

9) PBS: I am enjoying the Contenders series on the Roku PBS channel, and it is good about adding things quickly, such as the American Experience on Tesla I want to see.

10) Pizza Flix: Another in the endless parade of Roku channels offering public domain (or plausibly so) content, but this one stands out by promising to add titles weekly (we'll see) and by making it easy to find TV shows by grouping them together in convenient categories. I don't know if there's a lot here that can't be found everywhere else, but I like the presentation and will continue to explore it.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Today on Battle of the Network Shows: I think Uncle Ned has a problem

The new episode is right here, and don't forget to check in later for show notes and more. Don't you dare miss it!

And by the way, stay tuned after the main part of the show for a special treat!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Shameless Self-Promotion: TV Time is ready for Halloween!

If I told you this month's column was about The Munsters, would you start stomping your feet like Herman while singing "DAAAA DA-DA" to the tune of the theme song?

Well, maybe that's just what I would do. You are free to enjoy the column however you wish. I just ask that you stop by ClassicFlix and check it out! Don't you dare miss it! And tell 'em Cultureshark sent ya!

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First Impulse: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees announced

Hat tip to my BOTNS co-conspirator Mike for telling me about this earlier: Today the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced this year's list of nominees. I think a Hall of Fame should feature people who you can judge pretty quickly: a HOF'er or not.  With that said, here's the list and my initial take. Remember that you can vote here. Oh, but you're limited to casting one ballot a day. So you KNOW it's legit!

Bad Brains: No.
Chaka Khan: No.
Chic: I guess if they keep getting nominated, they are bound to get in eventually, but no.
Depressed Mode: Wait, that's Depeche Mode. Sorry. Anyway, no.
ELO: I like a lot of the music, but no.
The J. Geils Band: No offense to Mr. Geils, but I was stunned to see this act on the list.
Jane's Addiction: The Lollapalooza Hall of Fame, maybe, but otherwise, I don't think two albums and a bunch of reunion tours make you worthy.
Janet Jackson: No, but she is about the only commercial heavyweight (not a reference to her body issues) on this list.
Joan Baez: I had the idea that someone should ask Bob Dylan whether he thinks Joan Baez should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and see what happens.
Joe Tex: No.
Journey: The only question: Why is this band not in there already? AM I RIGHT?
Kraftwerk: No.
MC5: No, but they will get in eventually.
Pearl Jam: My favorite music act of the last 25 years, but they don't really feel like a first ballot Hall of Famer. Tremendous peak, but how much impact after the first few albums? My heart says yes, but my mind says...yes, leaning yes on the longevity and enduring success as a live headliner. After Green Day getting in, though, you have to think PJ is an absolute lock.
Steppenwolf: No Mountain or Iron Butterfly?
The Cars: I like how they come this far down on the list because they are listed with THE at the beginning. If they get in, do we get a New Cars performance with Todd Rundgren? I love The Cars, but I don't think they are necessarily HOF. I lean no.
The Zombies: Short career. Much love for the act, but no.
Tupac Shakur: No, but he will probably get in this year.
Yes: No. (Can't resist)

Here's who I think WILL get in: Janet, Tupac, Pearl Jam for marketing/political reasons. Beyond that, they need a few actual older acts, but I don't know who they will choose.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fall TV 2016: Lethal Weapon

I'm burned out on TV adaptations of feature films, and I haven't even watched any. Rush Hour, Frequency, Megaforce...Wait, there hasn't been a Megaforce TV show? Why not? I'd watch that.

(Fargo is great, but I don't count that because it just feels like a different entity than the movie. More importantly, it doesn't fit my narrative.)

Imagine my surprise when I watched Lethal Weapon and enjoyed it. I was kind of surprised I watched it, period. It's far from a classic, and when historians write epic tomes detailing The Golden Golden GOLDEN Age of Television, there will not be chapters devoted to autuerist analyses of the series. If that's not qualification enough for my praise, let me make another confession: I didn't notice who directed the first episode, but I saw esteemed helmsman McG credited with the second. If I saw that episode of Lethal Weapon in a theater and paid 15 bucks for it, I'd probably roll my eyes and think, "Another dumb McG action movie!" Then of course I'd investigate why the hell I paid 15 bucks for an hourlong presentation with 17 minutes of commercials.

On the telly, though, Lethal Weapon is that escapist fun entertainment that actually does what it sets out to do. Oh, there is a healthy dose of angst to go along with its car chases and buddy comedy, but stick around--it's never too long before something outright fun comes along to prevent you from dwelling on the heavy stuff.  Mind you, that is not at all a jab; I appreciate the effort to include some depth into the routine, but I also enjoy the execution of the formula.

As Riggs, Clayne Crawford (if that IS his real name)  brings an appropriate amount of swagger and likability to the unhinged (but with a good excuse) PTSD-suffering maverick. Likability is a big deal when you're trying to make people  forget Mel Gibson, and I mean that on several levels. As family man and perpetually exasperated partner Murtaugh, Damon Wayans reminds us how talented he is. He made me laugh out loud about a minute into his first scene.

This isn't the kind of show you need to watch closely nor watch every week, which is perhaps both a virtue and a detriment in this day and age. I also wonder if the spectacular effects and stunts in the pilot (and in the second episode to a lesser extent) will be sustained on a weekly basis. For now, though, consider this an appreciation of a simple buddy cop show that doesn't surprise at all except in the most important way: by being good at what it does.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Let's go ahead and prejudge Filmstruck before we actually see it!

After months of anticipation and speculation--well, more like  a few days of anticipation and speculation followed by months of radio silence--the Turner controlled and TCM branded streaming video service known as Filmstruck is finally here. It debuts Wednesday, and with the announcement last week, we got a little more information and some stuff to peruse on the website.

I have to say, I'm not impressed. First of all: No Roku option at launch? That excludes me from the get-go. Not cool, Filmstruck.

Now, loads of film buffs on Twitter, grateful for the presence of any SVOD service that plans to show movies before 1980 ('sup, Netflix?), seem eager to give money to this venture. I can respect that, and the Criterion/arthouse/foreign fan may well get good value out of this. It IS called FILMstruck, not MovieMania.

Me, though, I'm more a Frank McHugh guy than a Frank Borzage guy (I hope you like that; I've been saving it since the initial announcement), and most of this stuff has already been around for years. The Criterion Collection, or much of it, has been on Hulu for a long while; on Filmstruck, for 6.99 a month you get a "curated" selection of it. Remember Rick's First Rule of Streaming: Curated Means "Way Less than What We Actually Have." If you want all the Criterion Collection, it's 10.99 a month. That's all well and good, but I never got around to watching most of what Hulu has. Really I wish the Warner Empire would  find a way to use the Turner Classic Movies name and try to make Warner Archive Instant good (another story for another post). I'd rather see the classic-era Hollywood studio content. Part of me thinks, TCM is finally launching a streaming service, and it's nothing at all like  Turner Classic Movies.

But let's look at what Filmstruck IS, not what I want it to be.  One of the main selling points of Filmstruck is that it will offer movies in "collections" and "themes," as if the kind of person who would pay for this is too dumb to find something to watch any other way. Not a big thing for me.  The promise is that there will be hosts (Full Disclosure: Bobby Osbo alone might merit 7 clams a month) and bonus material akin to what you get on the excellent Criterion DVDs and Blu-Rays. That's very cool.

Right now, though, if  you take the opportunity to "explore the library,"  you don't see a lot. A Kurosawa collection sounds great, but that's not rare cinema . There's nothing wrong with a "Directed by Mike Leigh" section, either. And "Political Documentaries" is a timely and compelling theme, but when you click that one,  you see a list of "titles available at launch" and get...4. 4 political documentaries? Whoopee! Not exactly a deep  dive. I hope that's a sampling and not the entirety of this theme, or else I am going to be very worried about the ratio of curated vs. available on this service.

I am most interested in the idea of partners besides Criterion, like Flicker Alley and Kino, providing content.  Unfortunately, that isn't spotlighted on the site so far. I think some of the rarer (especially in streaming) titles may come from those companies. Right now, it's all  about the TCM name--without the bread and butter of TCM's programming--and Criterion. Is that enough to justify 7 bucks a month? Well, without ads and with a better selection than what is apparent now, maybe. But I hope to see a lot more than what Filmstruck is currently promoting.

On Wednesday, when this thing goes live, I will be happy to be proven wrong in my early and possibly baseless judgments! This definitely looks  to be worth a free trial. I sure do wish they would fix Warner Archive Instant, though.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 29

Have you ever noticed how as the seasons change and the leaves start falling, it just feels like the time of year for streaming video? Or is that just something people say when they can't think of a pithy intro to a blog post?

1) Hulu: Fall TV continues to roll in, and Hulu did something very cool: It added "LATEST 5 EPISODES" or some equally obnoxious (but vital) disclaimer to the landing page for certain shows. Used to be you had to find out on the web site...or the hard way, by falling >5 episodes behind.

2) Pub-D-Hub: Gets big-time credit for launching a Halloween-themed category combining items from its various other categories. Yes, most if not all of it has been on already and was probably part of last year's seasonal collection, but the point is that Pub-D-Hub makes it easy for viewers to find content.

I did sit down to watch an episode of Trackdown, which I have not yet been able to see on Me-TV, and was appalled by the picture quality. I am not blaming Pub-D-Hub, though. It's the same situation on the recent YouTube upload they "borrowed."

3) Netflix: It was another big week for the 'Flix with various acquisitions and high-profile debuts like Christopher Guest's Mascots and a new season of Cultureshark Family Favorite Project MC2. Plus the CW shows (not the current seasons, though) are coming with a vengeance.  So why, then, is it only #3. Simple: I had to punish it for debuting a Justin Timberlake movie.

4) The CW: This'll wear off soon enough, but I'm really happy to get hassle-free (if not ad-free) Roku viewings of Flash and Supergirl. So far, the loss of Hulu is not a huge inconvenience.

5) YouTube: One of these days I'll launch an actual quest to find people who pay 10 bucks a month for YouTube Red.

6) TuneIn: I said I would mention other stations on this app/channel, and here is a great one: Alan Haber's Pure Pop. The only problem is that on TuneIn, the song and artist doesn't display. It takes the shine away from discovering a new artist when you have to Google lyrics to figure out who the deuce the artist is.

7) Amazon Prime: Someone tell me if this new David E. Kelley show Goliath, with Billy Bob Thornton, is any good. I don't know if I hope it is or I hope it isn't.

8) Pluto TV: Returns to the top 10 on the strength of an announcement that it received a big infusion of capital. Boy, is it depressing, though, to be a Roku user and to see how many channels are NOT on the Roku version.

9) Shout! Factory TV:  This outfit actually purchased the exclusive rights to a new movie. Slowly but surely, it's becoming a contender.

10) SeeSo: Deserves a ranking for no other reason than because it is developing a Paul Reiser-produced sitcom about backstage happenings at The Tonight Show. I already can't wait to see that one.

Friday, October 14, 2016


If I were to guess the most commented post in the modern history of this blog...well, I'd guess it pretty easily because I know it. But if YOU had to guess the most commented post in the modern history of this blog  (It's been around about 20 years in one form or other), would you pick a modest little essay about TV's favorite domestic?

Yes, this post about the fifth season of Hazel is the most commented post I have written--and I mean real, legit posts, too, not just bizarre comments in apparent Arabic characters (should I tell someone about those?) and spam comments offering work-at-home opportunities.

In 5 years, we have seen dozens of comments about the fifth season, the characters, the actors. and dare I say, life itself (OK, I'm reaching now). Let's face it, there just ain't a whole lot of discussion about this particular 1960s sitcom, but there is some of it here on good ol' Cultureshark. I'd like to encourage it and show my appreciation for the participants by introducing a new recurring feature here on the blog:

Introducing HAZEL: THE EARLY YEARS! On a semi-regular basis, I will be revisiting the very first season of the show, the black-and-white era, and posting about each episode along the way. I encourage all of you to follow along here on the blog and keep the conversation going. Mr. B, Missy, Harold...even Mr. Griffin will be here. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Today on Battle of the Network Shows: Tonight Tonight!

This week on Battle of the Network Shows, we look at an unusual episode of Alf, one in which he assumes the role of another notable television icon:

(HINT: It's not Arsenio Hall.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

TV Time Bonus: More on The Joey Bishop Show

The other day, I talked about the last several episodes of season 2 of The Joey Bishop Show, which we can see on DVD thanks to the (now defunct?) Questar outfit. Season 2 is the only bit of Bishop available on legal DVD right now, but the extras give us an intriguing glimpse of how radically different the sitcom's first season is.

The series pilot is a fascinating bonus on the final disc of the season 2 collection. Things look different right away because season 2 transitioned to color , while the debut campaign is in good ol' black and white. More importantly, Joey Bishop's character is not at all  the in-command, smartest guy in the room kind of dude we see in the second season. He's a bit of a klutz and, especially compared to this episodes co-stars Danny Thomas and Joe Flynn, far from the savvy showbiz insider he would play after the format change.

Can you  blame Joey Bishop? In the pilot, he is, as Wikipedia puts it, "an incompetent Hollywood public relations man" who screws up a visit from Danny Williams (Thomas playing his Make Room for Daddy character) and apparently screws up a lot of things.  Ratings were not great when the show went to series, and I'm sure one of the first things Bishop suggested was changing his character from a nice enough guy who means well but always gets into mishaps to a guy clearly in charge of his own show and own life.

An odd element of the pilot is the strong presence of Joey's family, which causes all kinds of havoc when he has to offer the star lodging at his own pad. His parents (Billy Gilbert and Madge Blake) have good intentions but are meddlers, and stranger still, his unmarried sister is attracted to Danny, and the family wants to encourage a relationship. Well, guess who plays this sister? Yep, Marlo Thomas--Danny's real-life daughter!

The psychosexual tangles of that situation aside, this pilot is an amusing glimpse into the early days of the series, and it proves just how different Bishop becomes in season 2, when he becomes a talk show host with an all-new supporting cast, including Joe Besser (and you know Besser, for better or worse, is going to make anything different). Is it better or worse? I don't know because this is the only season 1 episode I've seen. Season 2 isn't exactly a masterpiece, but I wish more of The Joey Bishop Show could be seen on DVD because, well, why not?

Below are some glimpses of early Joey Bishop Show:

"Nothing weird about you and Danny. No, nothing at all..."

In the office, Joey is always spilling something or knocking something over

Joey does NOT get to be this kind of cool  in the series pilot

"I got out of Frank's shadow to play stooge to these guys?"

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fall TV 2016: The Good Place

I remember when Parks and Recreation debuted, and I kind of wanted to like it but was really underwhelmed. Even then I had way ore stuff I wanted to watch than hours to watch it, so I moved on after giving it a shot. the common refrain for the rest of the show's run was, "yeah, it started out not so great, but then it got great." I tried it again but just didn't get into it.

The Good Place is another NBC sitcom from the same showrunner, and while the first two episodes are pleasant and offer an intriguing premise, they just don't grab me. If I were watching NBC TV in a block and this series came on before/after something I couldn't miss (something I MUST SEE, one might say), then I'd probably watch it without reservation. In 2016, I time-shift everything, and thus I'll probably wait until everyone says the show is great before I seek it out again.

I love the concept of the show. After death, Kristen Bell's character enters the afterlife, making it to not Heaven, exactly, but certainly not Hell. In fact, it's "the good place." Only thing is, she got there due to some kind of mistake. While Ted Danson's character explains that we build up points through our lives for doing good, and that sum determines our destination after we die, we learn that Bell did not actually accumulate tons of good points. To the contrary, she was kind of a jerk.

So Bell tried to adapt to life in the good place while avoiding being found out, even though weird things are happening as a result of her being there under false pretenses. This premise is intriguing and offers a lot of possibilities. It's a legit concern to wonder how long they can run with this, but my feeling is, why worry about that at the beginning?

The bigger issue to me is that the show is amiable and interesting but not all that compelling. I don't find Bell a remarkable comedic presence, and no one else in the supporting cast (I do like her haughty neighbor) stands out. The best reason to watch from what I've seen? Danson, by far. Unlike Bell  (sorry, Marsheads or whatever you Veronica Mars fans call yourselves), he is a bona fide television star, someone who is always magnetic and always someone I want to watch (Uh, unless it's on a CSI). His character here is new on the job and a little unsure of himself, and it's a refreshing change-up from the veteran performer--and one that works.

The writing isn't sharp enough in episodes 1 and 2 to make me stick around, however, and I feel that if they can't make this funny right off the bat, I worry about the rest of the series. I am perfectly willing to be told I'm wrong, though, even if it takes a season or two.

Monday, October 10, 2016

TV Time Bonus: The Joey Bishop Show

Hey, remember that ClassicFlix piece I wrote a few months ago about expectant dads?

Well, I had to delete The Joey Bishop Show for space reasons, but let me share a few screencaps with you today. I watched several episodes from season 2, the one season available on official DVD. It's weird because costar Guy Marks had already been 86'ed (for stealing too many scenes from Bishop, from what I heard) and been replaced by Corbett Monica. Monica's character was the head writer on the TV show in which Bishop's "Joey Barnes starred. So the show underwent a radical format change  after season 1 (more on that in a future post), then halfway through the next season, it dumps one of the main supporting characters.

Well, what is another radical way to goose a show? Yep, bring on a baby! So at the end of season 2, a multi-episode arc features the pregnancy of Joey's on-screen wife Ellie (Abby Dalton). Season finale "The Baby Cometh" is one of the more entertaining episodes I have seen. It is not exactly an atypical installment, though; from what I can tell, season 2 features Bishop as a TV personality who bosses everyone around while indulging the morons around him. It's not like, say, Bob Newhart, who is the calm center but often the butt of the joke. Bishop seems more like he's telling the audience, "You see what I have to put up with?"

Still, this is a fun episode, with my favorite bit being one in which Joey organizes all the expectant dads like a military command  (see what I mean about him always being in control)? Of course, all soon-to-be TV fathers pace in a delivery room  because that's just what they do...except for the jaded ones who have already had umpteen kids, and, brother, you better believe this episode gives us one of those, too.

You can do worse than this arc if you want to sample The Joey Bishop Show, but I found an extra feature on the disc much more compelling. I'll touch on that later this week, but for now, here are some shots of Joey in action:

Joey doing one of his favorite things:  yelling

This organizing the fathers thing really is much funnier than I make it sound

I just like breaking the fourth wall...

...especially in close-ups

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 28

1) MLB TV: I salute this outfit for offering all games free to viewers on the final weekend of the regular season--a classy move! There was some fun action the last week of the regular season, too. So let's say goodbye to MLB TV with a final week in the rankings, one at number one, before we meet again in spring of 2017.

2) Hulu: Fall TV keeps on rolling, but that's not all. I love that in the midst of the launch of the new broadcast TV season, Hulu still adds all 6 seasons of the Roger Moore The Saint. In the bad news department, we now have an official end date for Criterion on Hulu: mid-November.

3) Netflix: This was another big week for Netflix. Yesterday alone, it debuted a buzzy new documentary from Ava DuVernay, more episodes of The Ranch, and a new season of Dinotrux (Hey, I'm sure the preschool set loves it). So why is it falling to number 3? Well, there was that story about the programming catalog being half of what it was 4 years ago. Is that official? No, but it is hard to believe? No, not at all. There's something very real going on here, and it is seems to be accelerating. While Hulu adds The Saint, Netflix continues to let its catalog deteriorate.

4) YouTube: I'll be candid here. I watched a lot of garbage on YouTube this week. But it was the garbage I wanted to watch when I wanted to watch it!

5) TuneIn: I'll try to talk about other stations next week, but right now let me share my "Hey, they played that!" song of th week: "Public Execution" by Mouse and the Traps. Mouse and the Traps!

6) Dumont Network: Added new episodes this week! Love this channel. Loooove it!

7) The CW: Putting its money where its mouth is (while not charging us any money) by uploading shows the morning after they air on broadcast. Don't see corporate sibling CBS and its All-Access deal doing this.

8) Pub-D-Hub: No uploads last week, but I did enjoy an episode of Range Rider, with Jock Mahoney in the title role and Dick Jones as one of the most "Golly gee whiz!" sidekicks ever. Give me a big update this weekend, though, Pub-D-Hub.

9) Shout! Factory TV: A lot of Shout's content is available elsewhere, like on Hulu, but a lot of it isn't.

10) Crackle: Doesn't belong in the top 10, but  I recently asked my podcast co-host Michael Cowgill  this question and got this response, and I wanted an excuse to share it:

Rick: Did Crackle redeem itself for not uploading any more Fantasy Island  episodes (and taking down the 5 it had) by adding a bunch of Hart to Hart?

Mike:  I hadn't thought about until now, but it seems Crackle, more than other  streaming sites even, lives in a constant "stream" of failure and  success, sin and redemption. While its programming often has little say about the human condition, Crackle itself might tell us more than we  want to know. Maybe we need to stop judging Crackle and take a look at ourselves. Are we demanding too much of a free service in today's  I-want-it-all society? Are we so hard to please that Crackle just keeps  trying and trying? Should we maybe let Crackle be Crackle?

Um...depends on the episodes.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

This week on Battle of the Network Shows...

Ladies and gentlemen, if you choose to watch this episode of Happy Days after hearing us talk about it, there will be absolutely no refunds nor apologies:

Click right here or go wherever you get podcasts, and don't forget on the show website, you can get previous episodes, show notes, and extras like my post this week about Bill Russell's "The Black Shadow" sketch on Saturday Night Live. Don't you dare miss it!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fall TV 2016: Pitch on Fox

I love baseball. I love television. I sure would love a great television show about baseball.

Unfortunately, I could not get through 15 minutes of  Pitch, a new Fox show about the exploits of the fictional first female Major League Baseball player. On the one hand, the cooperation of MLB gives it a nice patina: Real uniforms, real logos, and a real team for the subject (the San Diego Padres), but the surface baseball verisimilitude ain't worth much when everything else feels so phony.

Someone please let me know if the pilot gets better after the point at which I bailed, but I just couldn't stand it. It was an overwritten collection of clichés and unlikable characters. None of it felt real to me. Leaving aside the issue of whether a woman could actually pitch in MLB at this time, I am willing to buy into that concept, but I don't want to see her and everyone her talking faux-cutesy dialogue attempting to...I don't know what the goal was.

It's like someone was trying to imitate Aaron Sorkin writing a show about baseball. The beginning tries to establish the lead and her agent as oh, so cool and oh, so determined. The laughable thing is the agent and one of her minions, trying to own the room and show how great she is, name-drop two male celebrities--one clearly in a romantic sense, one implied--widely thought to be gay, making someone's idea of hip chatter even lamer.

Then the pitcher, who I don't blame for having a chip on her shoulder given all the crap the character has no doubt had to endure in her career, faces off with the team's big dog superstar (an unrecognizable Mark-Paul Gathalazzzabhagugyar--uh, the guy from Saved by the Bell), and he gives her a pat on the butt. Really? I'm surprised he didn't grab his jock and spit chewing tobacco in the scene, too.

So of course there is a "showdown" between the two which they resolve with an inane Leonardo DiCaprio reference that brings to mind that forced scene in Crimson Tide when Denzel Washington has to respond to crewmen arguing over which artist's version of  Silver Surfer was better. At least Crimson Tide had an excuse--someone paid Quentin Tarantino a lot of money to "punch up" the screenplay with that stuff--but what is Pitch doing with execrable exchanges like this one? It's supposed to be witty banter that shows the characters feeling each other out, then quickly bonding, and I think it's also supposed to establish the pitcher does not deny her femininity, but it plays like an embarrassment.

Don't think I am letting the male characters off the hook; what I saw of them was just as bad, but the first quarter of the episode was dominated by the ladies. I just have no desire to watch any more of this phony entertainment when real baseball is here and in playoff mode. There may have been a time years ago when the novelty of a strong female lead was enough to make a TV drama distinctive, but now so many quality programs revolve around such characters that you need better writing in order to make it worthwhile. If Pitch lasts through real spring training and I hear it's decent, I may revisit it, but for now, I've seen enough.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Hey. let's not forget about Dick Enberg

The deserved outpouring of appreciation for legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully overshadowed the retirement from play by play of another outstanding broadcaster, Dick Enberg. Enberg has only been doing San Diego Padres games for a few years, and despite a lengthy stint as the voice of the Angels in the 1970s, he's more known as a national guy and not even really for baseball, but more for being an all-around guy.

(Scully, of course, did many sports as well for many outlets and was the national voice of MLB for years on NBC, but calling the same team's games for 60-plus years gives you a certain identity.)

So consider this an appreciation of Enberg, who didn't quite maintain his standards into his 80s like Scully did (to no one's surprise, a self-effacing Enberg has acknowledged this in recent days while paying homage to his colleague), but who still had a tremendous career. I don't have one standout moment I associate with Enberg, as I do for Scully, and in fact I am embarrassed to admit that I started to read his memoir a few years ago, had to put it aside, misplaced it, and am still waiting to read it. But I'm still a Dick Enberg guy!

I grew up as an NBC guy for some reason. It was my favorite network, and that extended to sports. Even though Enberg was pushed out of its baseball coverage in the early 1980s (when they snagged Scully!), I considered him the top guy at my network of choice because of his two big jobs: PBP guy at Wimbledon, and #1 guy on the NFL's AFC package.

Wimbledon was a fascinating experience, one of the only international sporting events that really appealed to me (most of the others were also tennis), and there was something exotic yet comfortable about the setting and the ambience. Really, though, when you have athletes like McEnroe, Lendl, Martina Navratilova, Boris Becker, Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Steffi didn't matter that the environment was so cool. It was, though, and a big part of that was the amiable but enthusiastic team of Enberg and Bud Collins.

And even though my favorite team (America's Team, the Steelers) wasn't good enough in the 1980s to draw NBC's top broadcast team on a regular basis, I still loved watching games on WJAC and hearing Enberg and Merlin Olsen. For some reason, one thing that sticks out is seeing, say, the Raiders playing the 49'ers in the 4:00 window and hearing Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out" as bumper music as Enberg threw to commercials. I'm not sure how much I would enjoy Dick and Merlin as an adult watcher, but as a kid, I loved them even if I hated the Broncos and probably got sick of seeing them on NBC all the time.

It never seemed right to me when Enberg went to CBS; though he continued on NFL and tennis for years, I still considered him an NBC guy. In recent years, I discovered his work as a game show host. Thanks, ESPN Classic, for resurrecting "Sports Challenge," a great series pitting actual athletes against each other in trivia competitions...and not playing for charity, either!

I always found him polished and an ideal television personality, someone who drew me in and never sought to overwhelm what he was calling. I'll miss Dick Enberg, and I swear I'm gonna find that book he wrote and actually read it this time.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Fall TV 2016: Kevin Can Wait

A buddy and I were watching football when he saw an ad for this new Kevin James sitcom and referred to it as King of Queens 2. I chuckled, then watched the ad. After about 15 seconds, I said, "Yep, it's King of Queens 2." I was never a big fan of King of Queens 1 and didn't relish the thought of a reboot.

I gave it a shot, though, because...because...uh, that part's hazy now. I think because I wanted to try one of the debuting shows, and this one had the virtue of being only a half-hour. Sure enough, Kevin Can Wait is 22 minutes of exactly what you'd think it be, only more so: Kevin James plays a character named Kevin--a Kevin who eats all the time, is selfish, probably loves his family (we assume that, despite lack of compelling evidence, because neither his 3 kids nor his wife has murdered him in his sleep), but has retired from the police force and is now annoying everyone around him. Even more so, presumably, because he's actually around the house instead of at work.

It's done like a professional sitcom--looks like one, sounds like one, has predictable jokes like one--and if you're into this kind of thing, more power to you. I can understand why people find James charming. He does have a certain "big lug" kind of appeal. If you liked King of Queens, you may find this acceptable comfort food. It even has one of the same supporting cast members in Gary Valentine.

Speaking of "big lug," I was all prepared to sit down and slant this post in the direction of bemoaning yet another comedy about a fat oaf and a pretty wife half his age. I reconsidered when I realized that, hey, I'm not really offended by that concept, and besides, co-star Erinn Hayes is not half her screen hubby Kevin James' age.

(Get ready, 'cause I'm about to talk about her looks now, and I hope it doesn't make me sound like a "creep" or anything like that. If so, let's forget about it and go back to ripping Kevin James.)

In fact, Kevin James is 51, and Erinn Hayes is 40. Not only she is 40, she is gorgeous for any age, and there is no way I would have believed she was anywhere near 40 until I went to IMDB to find her age and learned of all the failed sitcoms she's had. I don't remember all  of those shows, but I am going to assume their short stints weren't her fault. 

She's the best thing about Kevin Can Wait. I don't only say that because she's beautiful, nor because I have Kevin James fatigue despite not seeing him in anything since Paul Blart, but because she is clearly a fine actress. Anyone who can convince us she loves the kind of character James plays in this show must be quite skilled, indeed.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 27

I write this on the first day of the month, always a special day as it represents "add stuff day" for many of the bigger streaming services. So there's the opportunity for a lot of movement in the rankings. Unfortunately, Acorn TV doesn't add anything till Monday, Crackle's October update seems to remove more stuff than it adds, and Warner Instant is still bragging about "adding" movies that were already there before it took them away to relaunch the service last month.

1) Hulu: Still riding the wave of having new TV debuts, and it added a bunch of  new movies this weekend (mostly same old stuff that circulates through all the services, though Chinatown is nothing to sneeze at), but as I actually watch those new TV series, I am less thrilled about Hulu carrying them.

2) Netflix: Solid week for Netflix even before October 1, as a high-profile Amanda Knox documentary, seasons of some returning network shows and The Imitation Game premiered.  Perhaps biggest of all is the debut of the newest Marvel series, Luke Cage, which is getting strong reviews. The new series and movie announcements are still piling up.

So why isn't it number 1? Well, for one thing, many if not most of those new series and movies they announce sound terrible. Besides, take a look at how many titles left Netflix today. They are now in the habit of licensing titles for much shorter time periods. Remember in July when they bragged about the Back to the Future trilogy and the Lethal Weapon movies? Well, now they're already gone.

3) MLB.TV: Last week of the regular season didn't see much in the way of division races, but plenty of teams with wild card aspirations made many of the games meaningful and will make this a valuable services this weekend.

4) Shout! Factory TV:  October's arrivals make a rather underwhelming lot, but this outfit got some pub when it was announced a $2.99/mo. version was available on Amazon Prime (the "regular" version is free but loaded with ads). We knew for a while that someone was gonna try to make money off this SVOD service, and normally I dread when something free becomes not free.

As long as the free option remains, though, this might be good news. Perhaps the visibility on Amazon and the subscriber option will incentivize Shout! to increase the programming, and if it comes to both versions, everyone wins.

5)  TuneIn: In addition to somebody's Battle of the Network Shows podcast, you also get Deep Oldies Radio here, as I keep trumpeting. This week I tried to load Deep Oldies Radio on my computer without the TuneIn "app," thinking maybe I should give them the credit and not TuneIn. However, I saw a sketchy warning message and decided to go through TuneIn, which offers a safe, easy way to listen.

And in another sample of listening, this week I heard an old song by "The Move." Between this week and last week, I'm thinking they really love Jeff Lynne out at Deep Oldies in Arizona.

6) YouTube: I'll just say that if you're into old-school wrestling, the selection on YT puts WWE Network to shame.

6) Pub-D-Hub: Not a great batch of new material, and I am disappointed to see the channel announce there will be no update this week, but I don't penalize them too much because 1) at least they announced it, and 2) I enjoyed an old episode of All-Star Revue with Danny Thomas and Eleanor Powell.

7) MyRetroFlix: I watched another old movie on here this week, and the commercial interruption wasn't as obnoxious as last time, but I did see an indication that this great film selection may not shall I put this...officially sanctioned by the major studios. Watch 'em while you can, folks.

8) Tubi TV: I'm not that impressed by the new October adds, but this is still a free streaming service with tons of varied content, and I was delighted to find a movie I wanted to see was on this one.

9) Amazon Prime: Picked up the Lethal Weapon flicks Netflix lost and a lot of the same movies Hulu got. More importantly, as I mentioned last week, Real People! Isn't anyone watching Real People?

10) The CW: Here's a refreshing novelty:  A major programming outlet unveils a new service featuring all its new shows, and it's free with no cable provider authentication necessary. It remains to be seen how well this goes (right now, it's only an assortment of episodes from last season, but it will be streaming new episodes once the seasons begin), but for now, bravo.