Saturday, July 22, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week #69 (Special "No comment" edition)

1) Hulu: It earns the top spot this week with its recent library deal with Fox. In addition to series like Bob's Burgers and Bones, Hulu is adding the full runs of series like MASH and NYPD Blue. And finally--finally--that "first 3 seasons" nonsense of the MTM shows like Hill Street Blues, The Bob Newhart Show, and The Mary Tyler Moore is ending as Hulu will have all the episodes. St. Elsewhere  is another complete one coming, and that has only been the first season.

Bravo to Hulu for spending some money on pre-2000 TV series. Competition is good, and I'm glad that Hulu is willing to pick up the slack in an area Netflix has abandoned.

2) Netflix: Rogue One is a big add and a reminder of the value of that Disney deal. Maybe Jason Bateman and Laura Linney in Ozark will turn out to be a big success. However, I have seen a lot of negative reviews for their recent high-profile originals like Friends from College. Yeah, it's exciting to see a new series each weekend, but if it's not any good...

3) YouTube: Oh, I've seen some great stuff on here lately, like a 20-minute block of HBO promos and an old episode of WWF's syndicated "A" show. One of the best channels, Gilmore Box, uploaded a ton of great (and by great I mean terrible) opening sequences to forgotten 1990s sitcoms.

Also, speaking of old TV, big ups to PRO Classic TV. Peter Rodgers Organization apparently abandoned its standalone Roku channel and said, "Hell with it; let's just use YouTube," and is putting tons of old stuff up in decent quality for free. We're talking Rifleman, I Spy, My Favorite Martian, and more PRO programs.

4) MLB.TV: As of press time (I love writing that), the Pirates have won 12 of 14 and 6 in a row. It's fun to have MLB when your team actually wins games!

5) Warner Archive Instant: Stay tuned this week for my special look at the continued sketchy dating of the Bradford daughters on Eight Is Enough. Really, though, a movie-centric update for WAI is looooong overdue.

6) Pub-D-Hub: I think I am going to settle down and start watching The Great Alaskan Mystery, the latest addition to the serials category, tonight. Ralph Morgan, Milburn Stone, Marjorie Weaver, and best of all, Edgar Kennedy!

6) Nosey: The world didn't really need a free Roku channel dedicated to episodes of trash TV like daytime talk shows and courtroom shows, but here it is, and--this is going to be a credibility killer, I know--I actually enjoyed it recently. I looked for a "troubled teens" episode of Sally, and lo and behold, I found one right away!

7) Britbox: Added The Young Ones. 'Nuff said. But it also adds the first 7 seasons of iconic Britcom Only Fools and Horses. Will it please add Drop the Dead Donkey so I can throw some money at it?

8) TuneIn: Once again I heard Dave Mason's "We Just Disagree" on Deep Oldies on TuneIn, and it is by no means a deep oldie, but why would anyone complain about hearing it?

9) HBO Now: I probably shouldn't rate them just because DirectTV is running a free preview this weekend, but, hey, so be it. Hacksaw Ridge premieres this weekend. Remember that was actually nominated for Best Picture? I kind of forgot, too.

10) Shout! Factory TV: This week I saw Jerry Seinfeld guest on the old Dr. Ruth Lifetime show, and much to my delight, he was just as much a wise ass as I hoped he would be.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hazel: The Early Years: Episode 5, "Dorothy's New Client"

Conspicuous by his absence in this season 1 episode is Don Defore, AKA Mr. B. We see precious little of him, though Dorothy's desire to pay for the fancy chair she has ordered for him is an important plot point. Can Hazel the show work without Hazel the domestic engineer butting heads (in an amiable, well-meaning way, of course) with her nominal boss? Of course, but the Dorothy-centric episodes are missing something. Well, they are missing Defore, but you know what I mean.

"Dorothy's New Client" is significant for establishing Missy's career as an interior decorator...and that she apparently isn't all that successful at it. She's hurting for clients but doesn't want to be aggressive about hustling for them, nor does she want to mark up cheap items and push them as luxury accessories for would-be clientele. This is admirable but not so good when you need money for a new chair for your hubby, so Hazel butts in as only she can.

Check out the snooty designer who wants Dorothy to work for her. She has no qualms about doing what it takes to get clients:


Hazel's "poker face" at some of her business ideas leaves a bit to be desired:




From a Hazel Burke standpoint, this episode is notable because she actually gets busted in her meddling, proving that she is not the superhuman, infallible force she resembles at times throughout the series. Yes, even Hazel is kind of slow sometimes. She cooks up a scheme n which she cozies up to the new neighbors' domestic and convincing her to give a spiel designed to get her boss to hire a decorator.



The transparent ruse is not one of Hazel's best. Missy figures it out quickly, and Hazel has to haul a-double-crooked-letter back to her place to avoid being caught there in the new place playing puppet master.

It's refreshing to see that rare sign of fallibility, but make no mistake, Hazel is still the queen of the 'hood. When she recruits the new maid for the Sunshine Girls, she makes the group of domestic engineers sound like a bit more than a social group, explaining that they do meetings, lectures (by Hazel herself, natch), minor armed insurrections...OK, I made up the last part of that, but the Sunshine Girls don't mess around, and they prove it by the end of the episode.


 
See, the Sunshine Girls do a welcome wagon kind of deal in which they do a housecleaning and furniture arranging, and wouldn't you know it? They just happen to illustrate the many ways in which one crucial interior decorating decision can wreck a household.

 I look forward to seeing more of the Sunshine Girls. They are like Hazel's own Special Forces, ready to be deployed on short notice in any crisis.



But back to the boss, and I don't mean Mrs. B. So Dorothy gets her new client after all. Once again, game, set, match: Hazel.


I look forward to seeing more of the Sunshine Girls. They are like Hazel's own Special Forces, ready to be deployed on short notice in any crisis.

Monday, July 17, 2017

'Mooners Monday #20: Let's overanalyze (or not) the politics of "Mama Loves Mambo"

Judging old TV shows by modern standards is ludicrous folly. It's also really dumb. Still, there are some times when I watch the old classics and kind of wince a bit at stuff that would never fly today. More often, I just laugh about it.  Check out the dated gender politics of "Mama Loves Mambo." Just don't get too deep into it, please.

The premise of the episode is that distinguished new neighbor Carlos Sanchez charms Alice and the other women in the apartment, not only with his mambo skills (note: not a euphemism), but with his gentlemanly demeanor. In other words, he actually treats the ladies with respect instead of taking them for granted like they husbands.

Well, the menfolk resent this. Why should they have to..to help out with the laundry or the cooking or to make eye contact and acknowledge their spouses as human beings? After all, they, uh...work.

Eventually Carlos SHAMES the menfolk (including the proud, decidedly old-school Mr. Manicotti) into thinking, yeah, we got it made and should be thankful. So Ralph and Ed (I hope Mr. Manicotti, too, but sadly we don't see him upstairs saying, "Please-a, bambina, let me-a poosh outta the chair for you!") overcompensate by insisting they do everything for their wives.

And of course they are terrible at it. They are out of practice at handling complex, arcane culinary equipment like pots and saucepans.

Their "excessive"  good manners seen to annoy Alice and Trixie even more, though. The opening of doors, the pulling out of chairs--all are driving the women up a wall. So naturally, instead of asking their hubbies to find a happy medium, they ask the boys to go  back to the way they were--being complete barbarians.

Oh, you!

To his credit, Ralph asks Alice if she's sure, and only then does he start yelling and bossing her around, though he does it with love. After starting in on her, he laughs and says something like, "Now get my breakfast. I'm hungry."

It's all in fun, but it looks a little weird today. Even if you  assume Alice just dislikes the overly obsequiousness of the new Ralph and doesn't actually want him to treat her like a slave, it's a little weird.

Then again, it's also really funny.

But it IS kind of weird.

But it's mostly funny. I feel I should acknowledge it, so I did.

Next time, 'Mooners Monday will look at the single most terrifying Honeymooners episode ever!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week #68 (Special "You know, Summer gets pretty hot" edition)

It's not the heat but the humidity that is gonna keep this post relatively brief.

1) Netflix: Trailing only HBO in total Emmy nominations, Netflix has to be feeling pretty good about itself. Otherwise, a very quiet week content-wise, though Friends from College  might be a big hit.

2) Hulu: Big week for Hulu with Emmy noms for A Handmaid's Tale, plus adding American Dad, Bob's Burgers, and Futurama.

3) Warner Archive Instant: Don Johnson on an old Eight Is Enough was enough to make WAI shoot up the charts.

4) YouTube: The latest "Why are the kids so obsessed with this?" on YT=compilations of musical.ly clips (I didn't know, either).

5) Amazon Prime: Added the second season of Mr. Robot, which I would really like to see. I don't think Prime Day had much if any impact on prime Video, though it may have earned a bunch of new sucker--er, subscribers.

Also, props for adding audio description to Prime Video.

6) Shout! Factory TV: I went back to Dick Cavett Land this week and enjoyed his trying to show George Carlin how witty he was. It was a nice change of pace from all that Dr. Ruth I had been watching, I'll  tell you that.

7) TuneIn: I heard two Stones songs on the radio this week,"Gimme Shelter" and "She's a Rainbow." Guess which one I heard on Deep Oldies.

8) Starz: I don't give Starz a lot of love on here, but they made a big announcement that they are beefing up their library, focusing on kids and Spanish programming. Sure, it could be an empty promise, but they have specific catalog titles they are adding. So, even though I don't know anything about Black Sails or Outlander, bravo, Starz.

9) MLB.TV: Pirates are heating up, baby!

10) Pub-D-Hub: I don't like to reward streaming outlets for NOT updating, but I like that the Hub said, "No update for this week." It's not great news, but at least they don't leave me hanging.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Brooks on Books: Golden Girls Forever

(Note: this post originally appeared yesterday on Battle of the Network Shows, where you can hear our podcast episode covering The Golden Girls)

Every TV show that runs, oh, more than 5 seasons and 125 episodes or so ought to have its own definitive book, but not many are that lucky. Despite its continued success in reruns and its appeal to multiple demographic groups, I was surprised to see a thick, fancy-looking hardback book devoted to the long-running NBC hit The Golden Girls. Jim Colucci has created what is surely the most comprehensive print collection of  information on the show. It's a slam dunk for anyone who loves the series, but even casual fans will find a lot of interest in here.

The first thing that stands out content-wise about the volume is the access Colucci has gained. Despite its release coming after the death of several key figures, the text makes frequent use of interviews with everyone. He personally interviews bea Arthur, Betty White, and Rue McClanahan and uses archival material for some thoughts of Estelle Getty. He also talks to the producers, writers, and many of the more notable guest stars and supporting players involved with  the show during its 8 seasons.

It starts off with a general history of the show and continues with a selective episode guide. It's surprising that such a hefty book does not include a comprehensive episode guide, but Colucci is not just listing the plots. Rather, he uses the episode chapters to work in other details about the series, how it was made, and the many guests who appeared. If you have a favorite episode, chances are it's included in this section.

Several things stand out from reading this book: 1) Everyone working on The Golden Girls took pride in it and felt they did good work. 2) Bea Arthur could be really prickly as a collaborator. Many stories in here begin with someone talking about how she was cold or distant to them, though they often take pains to say she was a real pro. 3) Estelle Getty's memory issues plagued her from the beginning. Several anecdotes center around her inability to remember lines, an unfortunate circumstance which often annoyed others on the set (including, yes, Arthur).

And I'm not saying this because the author happens to be gay (he mentions this), but there is a significant amount of coverage of the show's appeal in "the gay community," and there is extensive coverage of the fate of Coco, the live-in housekeeper who was axed after the pilot. There are a few appendices asking "Which Golden Girl Are You?" or questions like that, with the respondents being gay showbiz figures. It's no secret that the show has a following in that sector, and I am not complaining, but I will say that while any fan will love this book, gay fans will really  love it.

It's an outstanding piece of work by Colucci and a valuable source of info about a beloved sitcom. The commentary from the cast and creative team is useful, of course, but this book goes the extra mile by getting info from the likes of guest stars (Debbie Reynolds) and even bit players like Quentin Tarantino. I'd be a happy man if every show we covered on the podcast inspired this kind of book--well written, detailed, and offering attractive design and fine production values.

Monday, July 10, 2017

'Mooners Monday #19: The Secret Origin of Carlos Sanchez

Some of you may be shocked/outraged/totally indifferent (hey, I have to be honest) that the winner of our first dance contest, one based on "Mama Loves Mambo," was Angelina Manicotti and NOT the dance instructor who gets the whole Chauncey Street gang moving in the first place: Carlos Sanchez, Mr. Suave himself:



Well, would it surprise you to know that Carlos Sanchez is played by a Hungarian fella named Charles Korvin? He was born Geza Karpathi, moved to the USA in 1940, and made his Broadway debut several years later, according to his obituary in The New York Times. A producer spotted him there, and he soon became a contract player for Universal.



Some of his notable film roles include Berlin Express and Ship of Fools, which his family claimed broke a blacklisting in Hollywood. The latter movie came out in 1965, but obviously Korvin was working all throughout the 1950s in TV, including as Carlos Sanchez.

Let's go back to The Official Honeymooners Treasury, which reports that Korvin lied in his 'Mooners audition and said he could dance the mambo. When he got the part, he went to a Manhattan dance studio for a mambo crash course. Here's another reason to appreciate this fantastic book: The authors interviewed Roberta Weir, the former Rockette who taught Korvin that week.

Weir remembered recognizing the actor right away and struggling to get him up to speed. He was not at all a dancer, she told Crescenti and Columbe:

"He was a charming man, but before he left, I told him, 'I'm surprised you can walk.' He was so uncoordinated. I remember when that show was on the first time and I looked to see what he did, I was embarrassed. I didn't want anyone to know I taught him."

Well, maybe he wasn't the best dancer, but in fairness, anyone would look like a piker next to Mrs. Manicotti. And mambo or no, he sure is dashing!



Sunday, July 9, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week 67 (Special "Sgt. Pepper anniversary year" edition"

1) Netflix: It added a few things, like recent PRESTIGE movie Lion (I wish it would add King Leonardo) and a few seasons of Netflix Oriignals, and, hey, if you want to celebrate Christmas in July, Bad Santa 2 is new!

But it's number one because I took the opportunity this week to attack my backlog of things I want to watch on Netflix because AMERICA. USA! USA! USA!

Ahem. Anyway, it serves as my regular reminder that as annoying as Netflix's current direction can be, as tragic as it is that Quincy may never come back (I will never let that go), I still get good value for my monthly subscription.

2) YouTube: You  know, I am a big fan of uploaders altering titles to avoid copyright claims. I am not so big on shrinking the content to one quarter of the screen to do so.

3) Hulu: The Hulu Live TV thing doesn't excite me all that much, but it is growing. More importantly, Hulu is now offering HBO and Cinemax as add-ons. It's always nice to have options.

4) Amazon Prime: This is really just in anticipation of Prime Day, of which I am already sick. Maybe Prime Video will get something cool to commemorate the occasion.

5) MLB TV: Did you know they had a deal last week which sold the service for 10 bucks for the rest of the season? That doesn't do anyone any good now, but it's a pretty sweet deal...even if the Pirates are going nowhere this year.

6) Britbox: Good timing, adding the Roger Moore/Tony Curtis series The Persauders on July 4. The Young Ones is coming later this month, too, and Upstart Crow is new this weekend. If only this and Acorn were one combined super-awesome British streaming service...

7) Highspots: While WWE Network gets all the headlines, this indie-focused SVOD service chugs along, satisfying its customers and steadily adding content. A new Brusier Brody documentary looks interesting.

8) TubiTV:  The July 1 adds aren't so special--A Guy Thing? And I still feel they should be banned from the top 10 just for getting the likes of Gene Simmons' Family Jewels--but they are adds, and Tubi deserves credit for bringing new stuff in each month.

9) Fuzzy Memories (AKA Museum of Classic Chicago Television): There's more than just Chicago TV on here. The Roku channel has recently added some clips from cities like Baltimore, and it's good stuff.

10) Boomerang: I am still not overly impressed, but I give them credit for adding a Roku presence.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

TV Time Revisited (from ClassicFlix)

(NOTE: This article originally appeared on ClassicFlix as part of my regular TV Time column, but only existing members can see the content from me and others there for now. I encourage you to check out the site to see the interesting discs it is now releasing on its own label, and hopefully at some point you'll be able to read my stuff on the new site. If you are looking for a "longform" read on this holiday, please enjoy my look at Ed Asner's "heavy" roles in the 1960s!)

Long before he became America's unofficial grandfather by playing lovable if gruff characters like Carl Fredricksen in Up and Santa himself in Elf, Ed Asner had a long and storied television career. Prior to his breakthrough role of grizzled newsman Lou Grant, Asner guested in a wide variety of series in the 1960s, often playing characters that were nasty, mean, or downright evil. Let's go back to the days when this legendary performer had more hair on his head, more letters in his name (he was often billed as Edward Asner), and maybe more deviousness in his soul.

One of Asner's best guest shots is as the heinous Furman Crotty in The Wild Wild West's, "Night of the Amnesiac." Artemis Gordon refers to him as "The Grand Caliph of Kansas Crime," which may be a cooler handle than "Furman Crotty." In an episode with a lot going on -- Jim West gets amnesia, a desperately needed smallpox vaccine is held for ransom, one of my favorite character actors (George Petrie) makes an appearance -- Asner stands out and he does so by fitting in; by embracing the spirit of the series, he creates an engaging performance.

It's easy to believe Asner enjoys playing the bad guy because we see how much Crotty relishes being the bad guy. He's full of one-liners and cocky smiles. When Artemis Gordon asks where his partner Jim West is, Crotty, about to light up a cigar, casually replies, "Why don't you consult an Ouija board?" Oh, and by the way, Crotty is a federal prisoner during this conversation, which makes his attitude even more remarkable. His control of the vaccine -- and West -- as he knows, gives him leverage to get his release. He tells Gordon he'd like to help find the medicine, but he can't since he's imprisoned. "However," he adds, "I'm certain you can locate it easily enough." After a pause he adds, "Just follow the buzzards." Crotty chews on his stogie and grins as a dramatic musical sting reinforces the notion that he is an evil dude.

Crotty has plenty of classic moments; the way he sneers at the masses and mocks the thought of people dying without the crucial smallpox vaccine. The glee with which he reveals his heinous plan to West and Gordon is also a delight.

I could fill an entire column with Crotty quotes. "Every time I have to kill someone who's family, I get depressed," he says before chomping into an apple. Later, confronting the two agents, he declares, "Welcome to Crotty's Genocide Club -- the only truly liberal establishment of its kind. We'll kill anyone -- no questions asked." The fact that he says this wearing a cowboy hat and a smug smirk makes it better.

The only disappointment in this episode is the climactic fight scene, in which Asner's stunt double manages one impressive sledgehammer swing before being dispatched by a falling curtain. It's an ignominious downfall for such a charismatic foe, and someone with a name as cool as "Furman Crotty" deserves a more dynamic end.

Asner is no less devious but more subdued as an alien leader in The Invaders', "Wall of Crystal". Here, Tagus' soft-spoken nature enhances his sinister leanings. The actor trades the amped-up nature of his Wild Wild West role for a different kind of evil. Tagus (nowhere near as memorable as "Furman Crotty," is it?) is the kind of baddie who speaks clearly but slowly. He smiles with a fake warmth and keeps his hands folded in front of him. His calm persona suit's the series' moody atmosphere.

Roy Thinnes' David Vincent discovers the aliens have powerful crystals that manipulate the atmosphere to resemble that of their home planet...but make humans suffocate in open air. To prevent David (and special guest Burgess Meredith as a crusading TV host) from exposing the plan, Taugus kidnaps brother Bob Vincent (Linden Chiles).

Crotty relishes being evil, but Taugus relishes control. It's a kick to see his interactions with Vincent when he has all the leverage in the form of his captured brother. As Crotty, Asner uses broad gestures, but in The Invaders, when David demands proof his brother is OK before accepting Taugus' demands, the alien pauses, gives a slow smile, and licks his lips. He never raises his voice, but he projects total confidence throughout the scene. Asner is an essential component of a strong, tense Invaders outing.

Asner played many foreign agents in the 1960s, often of indiscriminate "There's a Cold War and you know who we really mean even if we don't name a country" origin and was surprisingly effective with an Eastern European name and sometimes an accent. Hey, it's better than his casting as "Pablo Vasquez" in a 1965 episode of Burke's Law.

In the classic Mission Impossible, "The Mind of Stefan Miklos," Asner is restrained as Simpson, a foreign agent working in the states. I won't even begin to summarize the plot of this episode because it's one of those, "We need to make him think we are trying to make him think we don't know that what he thinks is wrong" deals, but Ed is effective in a smaller part as a man who calls out a comrade, a traitor (to the Americans) named Townsend, as a traitor to HIS country. In contrast to the other roles we've discussed, Simpson is not a vision of self-assurance, but more of a weasel.

My favorite moment of the episode is when Martin Landau's Rollin Hand enters Simpson's glassware shop in the guise of brilliant Stefan Miklos, who has been dispatched by the foreign power to ascertain the truth. The two have never met in person. As Simpson pours a drink, he says, "You took me by--" And Hand/"Miklos" finishes his sentence: "Surprise?" Ooh, that brilliant bit of brainpower surely establishes he's really Miklos. I expected the next exchange to go something like, "Would you like a cup of--" "Coffee?" "Man, it's like he's reading my mind!"



An even finer Cold War villain role is Premier Alexei Brynov in "The Exile," a season 1 episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. At the beginning, a sneering Brynov faces a firing squad in a country referred to later as "The People's Republic." His last words: "Today, my comrades kill me. Tomorrow, I kill them!" Somewhere, watching bootleg ABC transmissions in Russia, a young Yakov Smirnoff's comic worldview was established.

Brynov further establishes his persona by spitting at one of his captors when asked if he wants a blindfold. After his crew frees him in a daring rescue, we see him sniping at them in their hideout. He even lowers his own brother to his knees with a devastating standing wristlock.

Because Brynov claims to have explosive microfilms that could instigate world war, the United States wants to deal with him, and the government sends Admiral Nelson (Richard Basehart) to Brynov's yacht to check things out. However, there is a traitor aboard whose sabotage leads to the destruction of the boat and the survivors cling to a raft for survival. There is little footage aboard the Seaview in this episode, though the sub tries to locate Nelson and vice versa, but it's a fun story because of the showdown between the paranoid Brynov and the upright admiral.

Asner goes with a full-on accent here, but his ferocity and the character's focus on his own survival prevents the performance from lapsing into parody. He deals with his own inner circle with various methods before a final confrontation with his American foe, with both men weak, thirsty, and desperate. We learn early on that Brynov is ruthless, and Asner brings him alive with vivid enthusiasm.

Sometimes it doesn't take a diabolical plot to make an effective TV heel. Take the Dr. Kildare, "Tightrope into Nowhere" (they really don't make episode titles like they used to, do they?), with Asner in a prominent guest spot as Dr. Frank Williams. This doc's bedside manner leaves much to be desired. When a man falls into a coma, Williams gives up on the whole deal and doesn't hide his contempt when Kildare leaves hope alive for the victim's daughter.

"Why don't you make her face it, Kildare?" he says. Deciding that isn't cruel enough, he faces her directly: "Miss Logan, nothing will save him. His body is ravaged by disease, his brain tissue is destroyed -- he is a dead man." At this point, I wanted Janet Logan, played by Mary Murphy, to respond, "So you're saying there's still a chance!"

Instead, she protests, causing Williams to glare and say, "You know what? You've got spunk, Mary. I hate spunk!" (Sorry, you knew it was coming eventually.) Actually, Williams gets a big dressing-down from Dr. Gillespie, but not before his downer of a doc enlivens this episode. Asner delivers just about every line in a flat monotone that underscores the disdain his character has for "hopeless cases." It's a stark contrast to the idealistic James Kildare.

Out of all of Asner's characters' misdeeds in the 1960s, one thing he does in an episode of Route 66 remains the most shocking. In "The Opponent," Asner is Scully, the sardonic trainer of Johnny Copa, a punch-drunk fighter played by Darren McGavin with a bulbous prosthetic nose. The boys take a side trip to Youngstown, Ohio, to see Copa fight, and Buz talks up his childhood friend like he were a combination of Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Curly Howard after he hears "Pop Goes the Weasel."

Scully and Buz don't get along at all, with the former's wise-acre repartee making a bad impression on the lads. Eventually Buz reveals that he bet money on Copa to win the fight, at which point Scully does the unthinkable: He giggles.

I never saw Lou Grant or even Santa Claus giggle. Roar, maybe; bellow, sure. Giggle, though? It's a stunning moment that looms over the rest of the episode, even when the screenplay has the trainer reveal a backstory and explain why he has such a hard shell. That giggle is the one false note in an otherwise moving episode. Minutes later, Scully brings things back into focus by announcing, "I'm going to get a steak." Now, there's an activity that fits Ed Asner.

These are all different series with distinctive parts, and the actor delivers each time. Even within the realm of playing bad guys, Ed Asner shows impressive range in his 1960s guest appearances, portraying cartoonish criminal masterminds, creepy aliens, and flawed human beings who just rub people the wrong way. The star continues to do memorable work today, but it's well worth taking a trip through television history to see his earlier characters.

Monday, July 3, 2017

'Mooners Monday #18: The winner of the dance contest is...

Apologies for skipping last Monday, but we were busy here tabulating the votes in our premiere dance contest. We are proud to announce that the inuaugural 'Mooners Monday Dance Champeen is none other than...




 
That's right, the lovely and talented Mrs. Angela Manicotti! Was there ever any doubt? After all, as Mr. Manicotti says, "She go-a like THEES! And like THEES!"


Carlos is the instructor, but he holds something back this episode. Ralph and Ed might be favorites in a hucklebuck contest, but this wasn't their day. And actually they might have won if somebody hadn't-a slipped in a Spade Cooley record.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings #66 (Special "Get Your Kicks on It, Sunsjine" Edition)

1) Netflix: I was really upset with Netflix for being all glitchy until I realized that, uh, the HDMI cable in my Roku was loose. It was a subpar week for Netflix adds, and the July 1 adds are not exciting at all, but a bunch of 2016-2017 CBS seasons are now there, and I really liked episode 1 of Glow, so, hey, there you go. Maybe Gypsy with Naomi Watts will be good, too.

Plus Netflix now offers Dolby Atmos, as on Okja. I have no idea what Dolby Atmos is, but it sounds impressive!

2) MLB TV: I watched a lot of baseball this week, and I am not going to penalize this great service for that umpire missing a call in the ninth inning and screwing the Pirates out of a game the other day.

3) Warner Archive Instant: The Courtship of Eddie's Father is a gentle sitcom. Often, gentle means lame, but there's something about ol' Bill Bixby that makes the show kind of work. I just hope that eventually they get rid of the overbearing Nilsson music that seems to intrude on every single scene.

Hey, you know what isn't gentle? Jack Lord's performance in his season 3 Klidare guest shot. Dude is intense.

4) Shout! Factory TV: A slew of Rifftrax additions makes July an interesting time after a lackluster couple of months. I must say, that while it's all "good" and everything, hearing Dr. Ruth giving sex advice to senior citizens on her old Lifetime show may be enough to make me go celibate.

5) Pub-D-Hub: I complained about the lack of commercials in a recent update, and last weekend, the Pub added like 5 big, honking BLOCKS of vintage ads. Coincidence? Perhaps, but just in case, I am gonna make sure to give them props. Hey, thanks for the new episode of Boston Blackie and the newscast footage this weekend, if you're reading.

6) Pizza Flix: I know nothing about 1944's Dangerous Passage with Robert Lowery and Phyllis Brooks (no relation), but the same screenwriter did Out of the Past. More importantly, the poster art makes it look really cool!

Also, I somehow want to see Breaking the Ice with Bobby Breen despite or because of this summary: "A boy leaves home to Philadelphia and sings at an ice rink to raise money for his widowed mother." I hope the Philadelphia crowd boos him.

7) My Retro Flix: Nabinga (1944) with Buster Crabbe may be (OK, probably is) terrible, but I feel I have to give credit to this free channel for adding it.

8) YouTube: Would be higher if I had more time to watch it this week. Also...

9) DailyMotion: ...just saying, there is an alternative sometimes when cool content gets pulled by the zealous watchbots at YT. This came in handy more than once recently for yours truly.

10) Hulu:  There is too much on Hulu to fall out of the top 10 anytime soon, and it did add/re-add some movies, like the old Star Trek films, but Bing Rewards dropped the free month deal from its incentive program. I blame Hulu! Booooooo!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Brooks on Books: Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown

I am no "video game guy," but I have loved playing Tetris for years. I had no idea reading about it would be so much fun or that the addictive puzzle game had such a fascinating backstory. Box Brown, who earlier produced an outstanding biography of Andre the Giant, delivers another fantastic graphic novel with this enthralling story of the game.

Brown starts with a brief illustrated history of games in general--how they started, why they appeal to people, and so forth. It's a fine beginning that provides context and sets the stage for the tangled account of Tetris itself.

The deceptively simple-looking game of the falling puzzle pieces was created by Soviet software developers. How it made its way to the USA and around the world is an incredible story you have to read to believe. It involves bureaucracy, geopolitics, foreign intrigue, corporate chicanery, and so much more.

I really don't want to give anything away, but just know that Brown's skillful rendering of the story draws you right in and doesn't let go. He manages to make the human "characters" stand out, and the real-life twists and turns of this saga have a big impact due to the quality of the storytelling.

I figured that reading this would make me want to go play some more Tetris again. What I didn't know was just how much I would love this book. I highly recommend Brown's brilliant adaptation of a surprisingly complex real-life story of business, one told against a backdrop of the timeless appeal of playing games.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week #65 (Special "Wait, can I retire now, or do I have to work till I'm 80?" edition)

1) Netflix: Despite a rare glitch (at least for me) earlier this week, Netflix done good. It debuted Moana and the GLOW series. I was never a fan of that particular brand of wrestling, but you combine Alison Brie with pro wrestling, and I am gonna give it a shot.

2) Hulu: After catching up on Gotham, I saw The Brady Bunch Movie before it expired at the end of the month. It's amusing, but I remember being surprised by it and enjoying it so much when it appeared in theaters. That moment will never return, I suppose. SIGH. Thanks for making me all SAD, Hulu!

Also, the Disney 1999 Tarzan is now on Hulu, which makes me wonder yet again what the deal is with that Netflix/Disney deal that was supposed to give us all that good catalog stuff.

3) PIX 11: I am enjoying the recent diversity in the archive offerings. It must be Jeffrey Lyons month, as they posted a retrospective on John Wayne he hosted, plus his original reviews of The Blue Lagoon and The Blues Brothers.

4) MLB TV: I was just remarking how amazing it was that on a given weekday, I could watch any baseball game being played if I wanted to, and how not so long ago I wouldn't even have the option.  I still complained about the Pirates losing, mind you, but it was nice to relax and see it happen.

5) YouTube: Just when I despair that all the good stuff is yanked from YouTube, I find a dozen other things I didn't even know were there. I still have to ask, hey, Don Henley, why don't you let someone post the video for "Not Enough Love in the World"?

6) Shout! Factory TV: It added a few horror movies to fill out a paltry June update, but no matter because I am still enjoying the afterglow of that Dr. Ruth/Burt Reynolds show I mentioned last week.

7) Pub-D-Hub: I really miss the old commercials when a week's update doesn't have them, but there is plenty of other stuff to watch--most of it old, cheap, and maybe slightly bizarre.

8) HBO: I no longer have HBO, so I know again what it is like to miss it. Farewell, this season of Veep. SIGH. Hey, these rankings are not supposed to bring me down so much.

9) TuneIn: Hey, eighties station, didn't Cliff Richard have more than one song? And on a related note, the joy of discovering a rare song dissipates when you play it again at the same time the next day.

10) The CW: Well, I had to go here to see the Supergirl season finale, so on one hand, good for CW's streaming channel for existing. On the other hand,

Thursday, June 22, 2017

TODAY on Battle of the Network Shows!

Today on Battle of the Network Shows, we finally talk about the series that inspired our title, one of the most era-ish shows of the BOTNS era!



Check it out right here. Don't ya dare miss it!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

TV Promo Theatre #3: Teenage America: The Glory Years

In this series, we've looked at ABC and NBC, so I thought I'd give some love to CBS. I believe this 1986 promo is voiced by longtime Tiffany Network voice man Mark Elliott:



But let's talk about the special itself, which aired in 1986.   It actually looks kind of annoying.  Isn't it kind of quaint, though? Can you picture a broadcast network doing something like this today? Maybe we'd get Millennial Mayhem or something, but a show about the rise of the teenager in American culture?

Of course, the success of Back to the Future surely helped inspire this. I do not remember this one at all. I certainly don't remember John Ritter dressed as "Wild One" Marlon Brando:




Talk about an idiosyncratic choice to host!

OK, I talked myself into it: I want to see this now.

Special thanks to the great Sean Mc for uploading this.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

And Now...a Word fromTHEIR Sponsor

(NOTE: This is a cross-post with Battle of the Network Shows, where you can grab the latest episode of our podcast, in which we discuss game shows Sale of the Century and Face the Music)

It's not difficult to envision Jim Perry as a consummate pitchman. He's so polished in all  his game show work, and his Sale of the Century stint indicates he is comfortable pushing product. One of my favorite YouTube uploaders, Bionic Disco, just posted an early Perry commercial that throws me a bit, though. He just looks so...young in this one. Check it out:



At first, I am taken aback by the haircut, but as I settle in and get past that (OK, it may have taken me a few watches), I am THERE. I want that salt.  I mean, I want that salt he has right there in the ad. I want to take that little jar and chug that Morton's Lite Salt. If this were Sale of the Century, I'd throw away $10--the value of two questions--just for a heaping portion of salt. He wouldn't even have to sweeten (or salt?) the deal by throwing in a set of shakers.

The poise, the delivery, the confidence--even in the 1970s, Jim Perry was the man.

Monday, June 19, 2017

'Mooners Monday #17: Our first DANCE CONTEST!

Yes, folks, as we examine "Mama Loves Mambo," one of my favorite episodes, it's time to play Dancing with the 'Mooners with our talented cast. Winners will be determined by a combination of reader feedback, chatter from the squirrels in the park, and my own judgment.

First up: the alluring Angelina Manicotti:


 
And 4 other lovely ladies in the contest:
 
IMDB says that's Mrs. Stevens from the Xmas episode second from the right.

Don't forget the men, though! Of course there is the mambo teacher himself, Carlos:
 


And Mr. Manicotti, keeping up quite well with his wife:


Finally, how about a hand for Ralph and Ed, who can mambo with the best of them:





Next week's 'Mooners Monday will announce the winner of our first dance contest!




 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week 64 (Special "Hey, we could put all these into a big tournament bracket" edition)

1) Hulu: Yes, it's time for Hulu to take over the top spot again. It didn't really do all that much, but it does have Star Trek Beyond this weekend. Handmaid's Tale concluded and may turn out to be a difference maker. Cardinal is new. Catch The Brady Bunch Movie before it leaves at the end of the month. Mostly, though, I'm happy to see Seinfeld.

2) Netflix: Netflix slips despite premiering "Part 3" of The Ranch. Let's face it, calling it "Part 3" costs it some points. Count me unimpressed by the new seasons of Shonda Rimes shows showing up.

3) Seeso: Amid news of layoffs, which come after the news that the SVOD service was scaling back on original programming, let's honor it with a high position because it looks like it ain't gonna get any better. As much as I'd like to see the strategy shift to buying rights to rare sitcoms and putting them up there, I fear that's not going to happen. I still think there's a decent concept here, but it just needed more content to grab people for 3.99 a month.

4) Warner Archive Instant: Would rate high this week on the strength of an epic touch football game involving the Bradfords., but also, just in time for Father's Day, the complete series of The Courtship of Eddie's Father, which I think is making its debut on WAI.

5) Shout! TV: I really hate that it takes me an hour and a half to watch a 45-minute program with all the commercials, but you gotta love Shout! for putting up these old, poor-quality Good Sex with Dr. Ruth episodes from Lifetime in the 1980s. Highlight of the first episode: Dr. Ruth asking Burt Reynolds why he chews gum, then asking him if he chews gum while making love.

6) MLB.TV: The Pirates looked pretty good in their retro unis last night.  By the way, this is one of the rare services out there that

7) YouTube: I really feel like YT should be drummed out of the top 10 for deleting the account of one of the best old-school wrestling uploaders, but there is still plenty of good 1980s WWF content on there (SHH!), plus I enjoyed an episode of the Red Buttons sitcom The Double Life of Henry Phyfe and my man Sean Mc and some others uploaded some great promos and commercials. All this gets YouTube a good ranking even though it was actually down for a while the other day

8) Pub-D-Hub: The weekly update was highlighted by an episode of the Boston Blackie TV series and a clip of Penny Singleton singing "Varsity Drag" from Good News.

9) TubiTV: I had a sudden and inexplicable urge to watch the failed 2014 FX Kelsey Grammer/Martin Lawrence sitcom Partners when I saw it was on here, but Tubi gets docked a point or two for loading up a live video feed (Newsy) when I start the channel. It's annoying and distracting when I'm trying to

10) Amazon: Because my podcast co-conspirator reminded me that you can still find goofy crap like old Three Stooges public domain shorts on Prime Video alongside stuff like...well, like Star Trek Beyond, which also premieres here this weekend.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

TODAY on Battle of the Network Shows!

It's a game show doubleheader as we look at Sale of the Century and Face the Music. You won't win cash, you won't win prizes, but you will hear us discuss game shows of the BOTNS era. Click right here to get the episode. Don't ya dare miss it!


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Lon Chaney Jr.: One of the more flappable anthology hosts you'll see

As I mentioned in the power rankings,  Pub-D-Hub has the premiere episode of 13 Demon Street, a horror/supernatural anthology series spearheaded by Curt Siodmak, filmed in Sweden, and aired (for 13 episodes) in the U.S. of A. The episode, "Black Hand," is far from a classic. It's probably not even in the top 5 of "doctor stitches a hand onto his arm and hijinks ensue" in pop culture. It's actually pretty bad, and seeing it with Swedish subtitles at the bottom of the screen only adds to the "What the hell am I watching?" factor.

But Lon Chaney Jr., our host, is responsible for a good chunk of that factor. His intros and outros might as well have been shot on a different planet, and they seem disconnected from the story they are supposed to complement. And of course, it's TV Lon, so he looks a little disheveled, anyway, but his bit in "Black Hand" is just bizarre.

Lon has been playing around with a fire poker shaped like a hand--hey, folks, Father's Day is coming up, and I just gave you a great gift idea--and he tries to sum up the macabre tale we just watched.

He tells us, "It was dead...dead as this fire poker."


See this one coming?

In this closeup, the hand...STARTS MOVING!


So Chaney reacts with this clever utterance: "AAAH!" Then he quickly tosses the poker aside.


OK, if this happened to me, I'd be a little perturbed, but this is an unseemly look for the host of an anthology series. Can you imagine Rod Serling looking over his shoulder, saying, "A COOKBOOK!" and yelping in horror? Would Boris Karloff squeal at the thought of a ghost lurking in his vicinity? Would Alfred Hitchcock say something like, "That story gave me the heebie-jeebies"?

OK, maybe HE would, but he'd be very droll about it.

The host of such a series should be unflappable, not someone prone to...doing whatever Lon is doing it in that last shot .Did Curt Siodmak give him this kind of direction?

Monday, June 12, 2017

'Moonrs Monday #16: The mystery of Pat Perkins

Each Honeymooners episodes with a litany of names (though, annoyingly, not the guest stars) brought to us by the rolling credits. We see the writers, behind-the-scenes personnel like the immortal Jack Philbin...and Pat Perkins.

Pat Perkins? Actually we don't see Pat Perkins, but we see PAT PERKINS, as in "Daytime dresses by Pat Perkins." Pat Perkins' name is in signature form, making a distinctive enough sight, but it's also HUGE. I mean, Pat Perkins is the John Hancock of sitcom credits.



The signature was so weird and so in your face that it spooked me as a youngster. I always wondered what the deal was with Double P until I acquired The Official Honeymooners Treasury. Since the chapter on "Here Comes the Bride" tells this story, I think I'll cover it here before we move on to one of my all-time favorite episodes (hopefully next week).

If you don't want to have your dreams shattered, leave now, and we'll see you next time for "Mama Loves Mambo."

You see, the sad truth is...there IS no Pat Perkins. There WAS no Pat Perkins. Nor shall there ever BE a Pat--Well, I'm sure there have been some over the years, but they weren't supplying Alice Kramden's dresses.

No, a guy named Mac Kaplan owned Sunnyvale, Inc., which produced the Pat Perkins line. Mac Kaplan. MAC KAPLAN? I can see now why the elegant name was chosen in this case. It still looks kind of creepy, but it's a bit more delicate than MAC KAPLAN coming at you all of a sudden.

The book quotes Mac's son Charles as saying his dad offered Jackie Gleason a deal: For a credit each week, he would provide the dresses gratis (Gratis is the kind of word I imagine Pat Perkins is more likely to say than Mac Kaplan).

Seymour Kaplan, Mac's brother, tells the book's authors, "It sounded like a marvelous fashion setup for an inexpensive garment, because what wouldn't look great on Audrey Meadows. The only thing was, Mac spent the rest of the time trying to get the apron off her."

It sure did work. After all, the credit had a big impact with me. I will say, too, that Mac Kaplan is shown in the book standing with Audrey on his arm, and he looks like a pretty suave dude. So consider this week's post a tribute to Mac Kaplan, even if we are all a little disappointed that "Pat Perkins" isn't a real person.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week #63 (Special "Hey, Gene Upshaw wore #63" edition)

1) Netflix: A slow week volume-wise, but original movie Shimmer Lake and a new season of Orange Is the New Black will make some people happy, and on a slow week of me watching, nobody else stepped up to unseat the big dog.

2) Hulu: I'm trying to get caught up on Gotham via Hulu, but I was in the mood for an episode of I Love Lucy the other day. Now, I have no idea why Hulu skips every other episode, but at least it has some I Love Lucy.

3) Warner Archive Instant: Not a lot going on--WAI added some new titles, and some of them are quite good, but they were on WAI before. The channel is coasting, but as I said, it's a slow week.

4) YouTube: I may have to drum YT out of my top 10 for good if my kids don't keep watching these inane vlogs and getting the songs stuck in my head and--man, I need to dive into some old network promos or something to cleanse my brain.

5) PIX11: It continued to add content this week, and that 1980 newscast I mentioned last week is great. I also enjoyed a feature on the 1978 Yankees/Red Sox confrontations with a New York suoerfan claiming the phrase "BOSTON SUCKS" "isn't derogatory."

6) Days of Dumont: There's an awesome station ID on here: A drawing of the Statue of Liberty along with the call letters WABD and the slogan, "New York's Window on the World." Modern TV could learn a lot from defunct networks and their affiliates. Exactly what, I do not know, but it's a cool station ID.

7) Pub-D-Hub: The highlight for me in this week's adds: the premier of 13 Demon Street, a short-lived anthology series made in Sweden (!) and hosted by Lon Chaney Jr. I could have sworn this was already on here, but, hey, I never saw it, so it's new to me. Also of note, a striking American Cancer Society PSA. After a lackluster stretch in the spring, Pub-D-Hub seems to be back.

8) Shout! Factory TV:  Just added a batch of episodes of The Dr. Ruth Show. Dare I watch? I should at least watch the episode with Burt Reynolds, right?

9) Acorn TV: I just realized Acorn has the third season of Count Arthur Strong, with a new episode each week. I got into the series on SeeSo, which does not have the third season. Well, I do not have Acorn, but this is tempting, and it's a good reason to rank Acorn (and to not rank SeeSo).

10) Filmstruck: Well, I have been asking for months, when is Filmstruck coming to Roku? It has finally arrived, so it earns a spot in the top 10, though frankly, I still think it looks a little overpriced.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

TODAY on Battle of the Network Shows

WEEEEE HAAAAVE THE POWERRRRR!

 
 
It's He-Man on today's episode. Check it out right here, folks. Don't ya dare miss it!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Awesome 80s Video #6: Stevie Nicks, Talk to Me

I am going to go this entire post without making a cocaine reference. I am going to go this entire post without making a cocaine reference.

 
 
Stevie Nicks, “Talk to Me” is my favorite of all of her solo songs. It is not as heralded as other hits like "Edge of Seventeen" or "Stand Back," but it is as quintessentially 1980s as just about any female-fronted rock song of the era. Whoa, is there some 1980s-style production on this track. It almost sounds like a sister song/companion to "Voices Carry."
 
All this, plus a video to match!  It's Stevie in her full [comment redacted] days, twirling all over the place and also doing some kind of choreography with some dudes…and it all takes place in one of those 1980s houses with insanely large and empty rooms!
 
If this isn't 1980s enough for you through the first verse and chorus or so, check out the awesome sax break in the middle.
 
Why, oh, why has no one tried to go "viral" with a wedding party dance copying the routine in this vid? I am normally against any such contrived effort to do such a thing, but I would make an exception in this case.
 
 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Journey Into DVD: Charle Brown and Friends

(Editor's Note: 'Mooners Monday will return next week. On Monday.)

This is a single-disc repackaging of material from the Peanuts: 1970s Collection DVD set. It consists of 3 half-hour animated specials originally aired on CBS in the late 1970s along with a featurette.

It's great to see the holiday-themed Peanuts specials every year, but there were tons of other ones on TV back in the day. It's a shame they don't get much play, and it's also a shame that Warner Brothers has released these in confusing subpackages rather than going with affordable comprehensive collections, BUT if you  look hard enough, you can find the old stuff and enjoy it today on DVD.

This particular disc reminds you that the Peanuts specials were weird. We sort of chuckle at the quirks of the holiday ones because we've seen them over and over again, but when you revisit some of these lesser-known efforts, you scratch your head sometimes.

The first special is What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown! There may not be too many children's animated specials prominently featuring the word "nightmare," but does it really surprise you that Peanuts would give you one of them?

This is a bizarre half-hour focused on an odd dream Snoopy has. It starts when Charlie Brown, apparently in one of those moods, decides he wants Snoopy to guide him around like a sled dog. When his pet isn't up to the intense  physical exertion needed to do that, Chuck berates him and says he's too civilized, etc., etc.

Snoopy often comes off as aloof and not all  that likable in the specials, but here Charlie is a real jerk, and it's no wonder his poor dog has a nightmare about actually becoming a sled dog. 


The day Charlie went from proletariat to bourgeoise


Snoop has all kinds of adventures, including working in, performing in, and playing poker in a saloon, before he "goes savage"  to become the lead dog in a pack. If you ever wanted to see Snoopy give menacing growls, bare his teeth, and get into a fierce struggle with a "realistic"-looking dog, here's your chance!



I think *I'm* having nightmares after seeing these images


The other two specials are more conventional. It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown spotlights a football game, and it's refreshing to see a team sport besides baseball. It may be a mistake watching it right after Nightmare, though; after seeing Charlie act like such a tool in that one, I was actually rooting for Lucy to pull the football away from him so he would fall on his duff.

Oh, and how old are these kids? First Kiss delves into the anxiety caused by boys and girls exchanging a smooch, but to do so, it sets up big football games, homecoming courts, and all the things you expect to see from a high school.  Actually, even many high school probably don't have the budgets to do all the stuff Charlie's school does in this one.


You don't see these kinds of parades on Thanksgiving, these days


You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown shows Chuck entering the Junior Olympics, specifically the decathlon, and screwing things up in classic Charlie fashion. Along the way, we see the Masked Marvel, a surprising bit of business from Marcie, and even a Bruce Jenner reference.  My favorite line is Peppermint Patty, trying to encourage her pal, calling Charlie "Chucko." His puzzled "Chucko?" response is classic.

Why, Marcie!


Added value comes in the form of the 18-minute featurette You're Groovy, Charlie Brown: A Look at Peanuts in the 70's." No, this is not footage of the Peanuts gang gettin' down to the sweet sounds of fuzz guitar. It's more a general overview of the strip, the production of the specials, and especially creator Charles M. Schulz. It's a nice look at Peanuts, though, and a welcome bonus on the DVD.

These aren't on the level of the perennial holiday favorites we've come to know and love, but they represent a significant portion of the Peanuts legacy and are part of TV history as well. These specials are fun, if a little out there at times, and deserve wider exposure.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week 62 (Special "Better late than never" edition)

1) Netflix: The first-of-the-month catalog drop is officially not a big deal anymore, I think, although it's nice to know I can now stream the first half of Full Metal Jacket whenever I feel like it. Yet it's still a big week for Netflix with Dr. Strange, House of Cards, F Is for Family, and quick-as-a-Flash premieres of recent CW seasons. Notice I haven't ranked CW lately? Well, I waited for episodes to show up here so I could see them without 25 minutes of repetitive ads. Oh, and there's Flaked  Season 2 because for some reason Will Arnett is the face of Netflix (if something happens to Kevin Spacey).

2) Hulu: I'm not interested in the story of Big Brother magazine, but it's cool that Hulu is cranking out these pop culture documentaries. Also, the June 1 catalog drop of movies had some good albeit recycled titles.

3) Warner Archive Instant: I continue to find astonishment at the prickishness of Dick Van Patten's Tom Bradford on Eight Is Enough, though Grant Goodeve's David gives me the biggest kick for some reason.  I also got back into Cain's Hundred this week. Hey, WAI, how about Mr. Novak if you want some annual subscriptions/

4) Days of Dumont: Yeah, baby! New Follow That Man and Captain Video among  others. I should take a day off work next week and just watch old Dumont shows. Really.

5) Museum of Classic Chicago Television: Big ups to this new Roku channel. I knew it would be cool because this outfit has a YouTube channel offering the same content: Vintage local commercials, promos and IDs. It looks like they will update this regularly!

6) PIX11: I wish the archives would be updated regularly--they post content often on their Facebook page, after all--but they get credit this week for adding a complete newscast from 1980.

7) Pub-D-Hub: Much love for any weekly update that includes an episode of The Eve Arden Show.

8) TuneIn: This week in "Hey, hadn't heard that in ages" Theatre: The Artistics, "I'm Gonna Miss You."

9) Shout! Factory TV: This week in "Awkward Dick Cavett interviews with comedians" Theatre: Cavett one on one with a post-talk show (the first one) Dennis Miller. Let's see what you got for us for June, though, Shout!

10) MLB.TV: Something like Crackle should really step up, especially with the way the Pirates are playing this year.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Brooks on Books: Hark, a Vagrant by Kate Beaton

This book is awesome, Kate Beaton is awesome, and I only wish there were more collections from her available. I see she has done a children's book and is working on a graphic novel, and I'm sure they are/will be great, but I would love to see more of this stuff.

Hark consists of an assortments of original cartoons Beaton has done, many with a historical/literary bent. I have to say that just the fact that there are comics like this is enough to amuse me, but Beaton's askew sensibility makes the source material even funnier. Also, it's great that she pulls so many random references out of her hat. Well, I say random, but she is not just leafing through books and pointing her fingers at names. She has a history degree, worked in a museum, and is an unabashed lover of what she is covering.

Also, Beaton is Canadian, so prepare yourself for some obscure Canadian references. It's a nice touch that the strips are annotated. Many feature "artist commentary" notes explaining her thinking, what strikes her as interesting about the topic, or sometimes just who the subjects are.

Here's another nice touch: There is an index! It's just a cool little bonus for a work that blends fiction and nonfiction.

A lot of the humor centers on putting modern attitudes in older situations, but it never gets old in this book. She includes a couple of Hamlet-themed comics late in the collection, and "the ghost" arrives and tells his son, "Obviously I died of poison." A shocked Hamlet says he didn't know, so the king says, "Was there no autopsy? What did everyone think I died of?" Hamlet: "Uh, this is still the middle ages or something. They just thought you died from being alive."

I am totally not doing it justice. Something about Beaton's style, the look of the drawings, and the overall attitude makes all of this hilarious, and it gets better if you just throw yourself into it. I could write out more of the strips, but just go to her site and see some samples. I see she has a similar collection, and I need to get my hands on that one because Hark is 166 pages of fun, off-kilter send-ups of  mostly "scholarly" topics.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

TODAY on Battle of the Network Shows

Our first episode of June combines two of our favorite things: Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman and disco. Check it out right here. Don't ya dare miss it!

Monday, May 29, 2017

'Mooners Monday #15: Stanley Saxon: What a milquetoast

In modern times, it has become common to express a desire to punch someone in the face or to describe someone as having a face that "you just want to punch." I think both sentiments are appalling and try to avoid these Internet-era clich├ęs. However, when I watch "Here Comes the Bride" with guest character Stanley Saxon...

Let's just say there's a good reason I snubbed Saxon from my list of proposed Honeymooners action figures a while back. He's a milquetoast. He spends the whole episode whining.  I'm not saying the chauvinist bluster of Ralph and Ed is the model Stanley should adopt, but surely he could find more productive things to say than, "I TOLD Ralph..." in that nasally drone.

(The actor John Gibson, who is seen in several other episodes in different roles as well as in other great shows of the era like Sgt. Bilko, is doing a great job, playing the role as written. It's not HIS fault he irritates me so much. Well, it kind of is, but I hold no malice. It's unfortunate that there is nothing in The Official Honeymooners Treasury about this actor nor the distinctive performance.)

At the beginning of the episode, he seems to be laughing and having a good time with his brother Raccoons the night before his wedding to Alice's sister Agnes, but then he stands up and defends marriage against all the good-natured jokes everyone is making and puts on a semi-scowl--half displeasure, half confusion--that he wears for the rest of "Here Comes the Bride."

"I'm very happy," he whines. Well, good for you, Stanley. Ralph and Ed get in their share of zingers, and then before "a little entertainment" in the club room (I would like to see what is going on in there!), they find out Stanley is moving in with Alice and Agnes' parents. "WHAT?" is Ralph's predictable response, and Stanley can only say, "Oh, I don't know, Ralph. They seem like nice people."

It's not what he says. It's the way he says it.

OK, granted, Ralph's advice to Stanley to be the king of his castle and insist to Agnes that they don't move in with her parents causes a big fight and a lot of trouble for everyone. The worst is when everyone finds out Ralph was the instigator and Agnes tells Stanley she KNEW it wasn't HIS fault. Stanley replies, "I shouldn't have listened to him." Come on, Stan! Be a man! Own your actions!

If that isn't enough, he provides one wavering "Oh, Agnes," before he exits. This is a reminder that even when he's HAPPY, he sounds like a sad sack.

OK, maybe I don't want to actually punch Stanley Saxon in the face, but it wouldn't bother me if Norton got him a job in the sewer, either. Maybe getting hit on the head with a manhole cover would do wonders for his personality.



Saturday, May 27, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week #61 (Special Happy Memorial Day edition)

1) Netflix: Memorial Day is a good time to remind ourselves of the recent Five Came Back docuseries streaming on Netflix. Oh, and of course, the sacrifices of our nation's servicemembers, but I was hoping that was a given.

Premiering this week on the 'Flix: New season of Bloodline, one of the quieter series returns in recent memory (a nice way of saying, who is watching this show?) and off-network reruns of Bunk'd. Sadly, I know what I'm gonna be watching when the kids come over for the holiday.

And what about Brad Pitt in War Machine? A big movie with a big star and maybe some big ambitions. Is it any good? Shh! You're not supposed to care about that. I do think it's kind of odd, though--when this was announced, it seemed like a huge deal, yet scores of other announcements and premiering Netflix original feature films have kind of taken the shine off this debut.

2) Hulu: Added several seasons of Power, which doesn't really thrill me, but I think anytime episodes of a series only available on a premium pay network (Starz in this case) migrates here, that's a good thing. Also, Hulu remains the go-to source for next-day TV events, including the Billboard awards and the Dirty Dancing remake (I didn't say good next-day TV events). And, hey, House Hunters International, or at least a big batch of it, is now here as well. Casual  eason 3 is also new.

3) Warner Archive Instant: I'm supposed to be angry about WAI for not adding new content regularly--though a big assortment of Hawaiian Eye episodes just returned--but how can I stay mad at my one source for the adventures of the Bradford family? Also, kudos to WAI for putting together a Memorial Day showcase for the weekend.

4) Shout! Factory TV: They made it harder to find by eliminating a category and throwing it into the "Standup Showcase" category, but the Dick Cavett selection is still available, and I saw a  few remarkable episodes this week--one with Robin Williams being typically Robin Williams and one with Eddie Murphy being surprisingly low-key despite Cavett flailing with cringeworthy attempts at racial humor. It's a must-see piece of the archives.

5) Pub-D-Hub: A solid update week, and I checked out some of an old Australian rock and roll program. Yes, they did have rock and roll in Australia. It's what Sandy Olsson listened to, remember?

6) YouTube: It's been slow going for some of my favorite YouTube uploaders lately, and I hope they get back into it soon.

7) CW Seed: Added Dynasty and Everwood. It's impressive that this under-the-radar free service slowly keeps adding material. Part of me thinks it would be great if it could combine with the "regular" CW, but I guess  anything pre-2015 is "off brand" and possibly "icky."

8) TuneIn: Am I just listening to Deep Oldies at a certain time, or is there a reason I hear so much Dave Mason on there lately? Not that I am complaining, mind you.

9) HBO: It may have disappointed some by announcing the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones would be only 6 episodes, but it also teased possible prequel ideas. I mean, HBO seems committed to finding any angle it can on any possible spinoff whatever. So fear not, fans, the network is on its way to providing you more of the franchise than you really need and running it into the ground. But it's all in service to you, the fans.

10) MLB.TV: Mixed week for the Pirates, but a good week for MLB.TV  The option to grab radio feeds of the games is a nice, perhaps underappreciated touch.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

TODAY on Battle of the Network Shows

It's Mork and Mindy on the show today! Click here to go to the website and get the episode, and don't you dare miss it!

Monday, May 22, 2017

'Mooners Monday #14: Audrey Meadows tells it like it is

I'll save my discussion of one of my least favorite supporting characters--a man so sniveling he makes Harvey's friend George look Clint Eastwood--for next week. Today I do want to talk about "Here Comes the Bride,"  but I want to focus on an odd passage from The Official Honeymooners Treasury by Peter Crescenti and Bob Columbe.

We know that Alice Kramden, despite her extremely high tolerance for Ralph's bluster and foolishness, is no pushover. But Audrey Meadows herself is something else. She always seemed like (and sounded like, if you heard her in her later years with that raspy voice) a straight shooter. Audrey the actress makes Alice the character look like...well, like that guy in "Here Comes the Bride" we'll talk about next week.

In the book, Audrey talks about the dress she was going to wear to her sister's wedding.  She mentions that costume   designer Peggy Morrison "was a very nice woman, but she had a little problem of belting brandy."

A little problem of belting brandy!

Jackie Gleason had a vision for the dress, and Morrison nailed it, but "it was miles too long." So Meadows put pins in it and asked her to cut it to the length she showed her, where the pins were.

"I didn't see it again until it was time to put it on to walk through the door.  She had belted just enough brandy that she had cut it so short that it was ridiculous. I looked like Shirley Temple doing 'Good Ship Lollipop' or something.  I said, Jack, what am I going to do?'   he said, 'Stay behind the table.'"

I am no expert on Polish-style wedding dresses made of tulle, but this passage always confused me. Let's set aside the possible slander against poor Peggy Morrison. (If you're not convinced how indispensable this book is, how many other sources talk about the imbibing of the series' costume designer?) The dress doesn't look scandalously short to me, and it's not like Alice totally hides behind the table.





Then again, I am a dude, and I may be totally oblivious. The detail in Audrey's account confuses me, though. Is it possible Meadows is somehow confusing this episode with 'The Man from Space," in which she seemingly wears an actual Shirley Temple costume?

"Where's the other half of that costume?"