Wednesday, April 26, 2017

And Now...a Word from THEIR Sponsor: Just for Feet???

Yes, there was once a chain of shoe stores called Just for Feet, and it was apparently a big deal. I think this is a horrible name for a retail store. "Foot" might be acceptable--see Foot Locker--but "Feet" is really pushing it. I don't want to walk into a store called 'Just for Feet." I worry that my page views are gonna plummet as a result of putting the word "Feet" in the title of this post.

No offense to Quentin Tarantino, but feet just ain't my thing, and in fact the word itself is a little off-putting unless it's as the unit of measurement. There's a reason why this is so funny:

This chain originated in the south, and I never entered one of these stores, so this fascinates and repulses me in 2017. Did this store have to be JUST for Feet? If you want to sell shoes, fine, but offer some other products or at least the illusion that you might find something else in there. Even Payless sells umbrellas and hats and stuff.

So here is a vintage ad for...Just for..Feet.:

Monday, April 24, 2017

'Mooners Monday #10: Who's up for some acrion figures

Two of my favorite collectibles (term grown men use for "dolls") are the Honyemooners "limited edition" Ralph and Ed deals distributed by Exclusive Toy Products in 1997. I am looking at them right now, and it makes me realize, hey, I would love to have some 'Mooners action figures  (another term grown men use for "dolls").

Exclusive also made an Alice Kramden in this series, but I don't have it because...I am a raging sexist pig? No, I honestly do not recall. I wish I had one now. In fact, I wish I had a Trixie, too. Poor Joyce Randolph always gets the shift in merchandising.

If we could receive an action figure line today, surely it would be loaded with Ralphs and Eds, but let me put forth a proposal for a more balanced line that slips in some of the beloved supporting characters who stood out on the series. Here, then, is my proposal for a 4-stage Honeymooners action figure series.

Series 1:
Ralph Classic (bus driver uniform)
Ed Classic (usual outfit)
Alice Classic
Trixie Classic
Ralph as "The human pinball machine" from "The Man from Space"

NOTES: I'd love to see another character in the first batch, but realistically, they'd slip in another Ralph, and I think his Halloween costume would make a great visual for a toy.

Series 2:
Raccoon Ralph
Raccoon Ed
Alice the Vamp (from "Alice and the Blonde")
HAR-vey (from "The Bensonhurst Bomber")
Ralph the Golfer

NOTES: Gets them in the coonskin caps, introduces one of my favorite one-off characters in Harvey (his figure would be even bigger than your Shirley figure). I imagine in this enlightened day and age, any company might strive to get at least one female figure in each series, so we go with Alice all dolled up for Ralph, "I call you killer 'cause you slay me). Another funny outfit for Ralph rounds out this series.

Series 3:
Janitor Ralph
Sleepwalking Ed Norton
Mrs. Manicotti
"Funny Money" Ralph

NOTES: I will never give up my dream of a big publicity push for Mrs. Manicotti. I love the idea of a slot for George Petrie, who appeared in seemingly half of the episodes as various characters, and the "Psychiatrist" in the sleepwalking episode is a fun visual and a nice tie-in with a pajama-clad, eyes-shut Norton. Got  to love Ralph as the janitor and in that outrageous suit he got when he thought he found a briefcase full of money.

Series 4:
Better Living Through TV Ralph
Better Living Through TV Ed
Mrs. Gibson
Bowling Ralph

NOTES: The boys in their chef outfits would be great, and maybe we can get a playset of the commercial stage so the Ralph figure can knock it down. Carlos the suave mambo instructor gets a figure, we get Ralph in a bowling jacket, and perhaps the most feared villain of all is the female slot in this assortment: Ralph's mother-in-law!

Series 5:
Captain Video Ed Norton
Young at Heart Ralph
Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler
Herb Norris
Thelma the Maid

NOTES:  The only villain who could rival Alice's mom as a villain is the maid the Kramdens hire in "A Woman's Work is Never Done." I get my favorite fictional game show host Herb Norris in here, the Raccoon ruler is worth a spot for the uniform alone, and I must admit this Norton would be kind of lame, but the space ranger helmet itself would be pretty cool.  Rounding out this last series is Ralph with his varsity duds and skates.

There's my list, and as much as it pains me to not get a figure for Mr. Marshall, Tony Amico, or Andre, I think I'm pushing it as it is with many of these selections.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week #56 (Special "Where's My Tax Refund?" Edition)

Who out there is spending tax refund money on streaming services? Anyone? You'd need a pretty big refund to cover everything that's out there. Of course, you'd still be paying less than your average "expanded basic" cable bill. Just saying.

1) Warner Archive Instant: As great as it is to see season 1 of Eight Is Enough, the show didn't really take off until Grant Goodeve started singing the theme song.

2) Hulu: Coasting lately other than hosting so much new network TV, but, hey, the new network TV counts. The Handmaid's Tale could be a breakthrough success.

3) YouTube: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings came out and said they have YouTube envy, so that counts for something. Perhaps more important, I saw some good old-school WPIX promos this week, and YT's new "we ain't cable; we're better and cheaper" service got some buzz.

4) Netflix: I considered docking Netflix a spot or two after hearing that half a billion people had streamed Adam Sandler movies, but I think that's on the world, not just on Netflix.   Really, this week was more promise than actual stuff, with the big news being trailers and announcements. Plus they missed subscriber targets for the first quarter  (Listen to me trying to sound all Forbes-y).  AND Kickin' It is leaving in May, which is NO BUENO for my kids. So Netflix slides this week for non-Sandler reasons!

Yet it gets a notch back for premiering a new Bill Nye series on Friday!

5) HBO Now: We will also accept HBO Go here. I was disappointed by the premiere of Veep, but this weekend sees a ~prestigious~ Henrietta Lacks movie plus the return of Silicon Valley. And I admit that I do kind of want to watch Suicide Squad.

6) Shout! Factory TV: I got to see John Wayne showing off his "comic chops" with Tim Conway.  That's the good news. The bad news is that I've gone through all the Glen Campbell shows, and Shout's update this month consisted solely of 4 episodes of baseball show Prime 9.. I guess this means it's a good time to "catch up" on what else is on here.

7) The CW: Hey, I'm finally caught up on CW shows! I barely remember what happened on most of the ones I watched, but still, way to go, me!

8) NBC: Just another reminder that unlike a certain other network, NBC has new and old episodes alike free of charge for your streaming pleasure.

9) FX NOW: Hey, I was able to authenticate on my Roku! Yippee! The only problem is they put shows on there, you click them, and you are "treated" to "clips," not full episodes. Not at all cool, FX. Hurry up and put Atlanta and Better Things on Hulu or Netflix if you aren't gonna stream them here.

10) Boomerang: Quiet launch for Turner's toons-on-demand SVOD. 5 bucks a month isn't terrible, but I'm disappointed that there isn't more available. It looks like they are offering more of a, "Hey, watch us for a month" deal than something for serious animation fans or something people would get more than one month at a tine,

Thursday, April 20, 2017

TODAY on Battle of the Network Shows

This week on our third episode of season 2, it's something different: a look at 1980s NBC infotainment show Real People:

Allen! Stevenson! Purcell! Raftery! And...Billingsley? Yep!

Click right here for the episode. Don't you dare miss it!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Half-assed Gourmet: The Tony Danza Breakfast

Did you read about Tony Danza's secret method for longevity? He eats the same breakfast each day: a banana and 3 breadsticks. He makes 65 look 45, claims the article!

I am not 65, but I want to look 20 years younger! As part of my continuing efforts to expand my palate, I decided to give the Tony Danza Breakfast a try. After all, I love bananas, and I usually have one each day as part of my breakfast smoothie.

So one recent morning, I grabbed a banana and...ate it. Pretty simple.

Then I realized I didn't have any breadsticks.

What am I supposed to do, go buy fresh breadsticks for BREAKFAST? Make them the night before and reheat them? I don't live in Little Italy, you know. I can't just walk down the street at 7:00, whistling and waving to the birds, and buy a handful of breadsticks.

So I scrapped the Tony Danza Breakfast. I can't do that.

What I CAN do is watch an episode of The Tony Danza Show in the morning. So it's kind of like Breakfast WITH Tony Danza. Maybe that will make me live longer and stay youthful.

There aren't too many full episodes online, but the final one is on YouTube:

After making a breadstick-free smoothie, I sit down and start the show. It begins with Danza singing "Start of Something Big," and I am questioning my life choices. I don't mean my choice in watching this clip. I mean my general life choices.

Danza moves into a sad monologue, making some self-deprecating jokes that mostly miss, experiencing some kind of technical issue, and reading a looooong list of thank yous. It's a bad sign that when he mentions its the last show, he gets no pity AWWWWW from the audience.

Next its Extravadanza, a combination of morning show "prove you watch us" trivia and Plinko played with a caller. I have to say, I do kind of miss the word "Extravadanza."

He introduces one of his favorite guests, Liza Minnelli, only she's on the road, and so they have to do a pretaped segment for his final show.  She sings to him, and it's not exactly Bette serenading Johnny.

You never know who will show up on Danza's set, and to prove this "anything can happen" vibe, we get a walk-on from...Al Roker. Next up is a montage of Tony's remote pieces, but frankly I am still too jazzed over seeing Roker to appreciate it.

(I should mention that Danza has long been teased for only playing characters named "Tony," as if he couldn't remember who he was otherwise. This episode has his signature in the lower left corner the entire time. Make of that what you will.)

Friday is Frank Pesce reviews, so Frank comes out live and says his thank you and announces one final review: The Tony Danza Show. He starts ripping everything around him before telling Tony he's the best. A critic should usually stick with his first impulses.

After a break, Tony thanks MORE people. I appreciate the gesture, but, man, we could be watching Al Roker. There is another montage, this one of Tony being charming, tap dancing, saying hi to famous people (some even more well known that Roker), and just working his butt off to entertain.

He ends the show with a final song...from Tony Danza.

It may sound like I'm poking fun at Danza, but the guy is trying, and so his talk show didn't work out. Hey, he gave it a shot. He tried a lot harder than I did at trying the Tony Danza Breakfast, no doubt. I think I'm going to stick to my routine of eating what I usually eat and watching what I want to watch. If I don't look 45 when I'm 65, at least I won't have to be out hustling for breadsticks every day.

Monday, April 17, 2017

'Mooners Monday #9: Sick Burn Theatre #1

Today on 'Mooners Monday, we begin a new recurring feature focusing on some of the best SICK BURNS delivered on the show. I am fully aware that the phrase did not exist in the mid 1950s, but insults are timeless, especially when delivered by the talented cast and supporting players on The Honeymooners.

Plus I just think it sounds funny in this context.

Let's go back to episode 14, "The Man from Space." Ralph's brilliant plan to win the lodge's Halloween costume contest by buying a nice outfit from the store is thwarted by his lack of money to buy said costume. He decides when you can't afford lemonade, you take your lemons and make...well, not lemonade, but something kind of like it. This of course leads to his assemblage of the man from space costume:

Later, when it's time to judge the contest, Ralph checks out Pete's costume ("a playboy of the Roaring Twenties") and makes a snide remark: "Nice rented costume you have there, Pete."

Ooh! You tell him, Ralph. His "heh heh" demeanor is funny enough, as he's feeling cocky and thinks his creativity trumps the "easy way out" his fellow Raccoon took. Never mind the fact that HE wanted to get a store-bought costume:

If that isn't enough, he mutters, "It's all rented," as the judges get a closer look.

We all remember the fat jokes, the "mental case" comments, and the zingier zingers, but I have a soft spots for Ralph's totally transparent attempts to be passive-aggressive. Jackie Gleason always did a great job with these kinds of moments, and this one looks small on paper (and maybe in this post), but when you see it, it's a gem in a standout episode loaded with memorable moments.

I hope to spotlight more of these moments in this series. Stay tuned for more as we celebrate The Honeymooners each Monday!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 55 (Special "Happy Easter/Passover/Tax Day" edition)

1) Warner Archive Instant: The Roku version has a loooong way to go, but WAI added Eight Is Enough season 1 this week. Granted, it's only 9 episodes, but I have been calling for this ever since the service launched, so I have to give it big  ups. Now, Warners, how's about the rest of the series, then more Alice, then bring back Sam Benedict, then some Mr. Novak, and then...

2) Netflix: I had forgotten how close we were to the launch of the MST3K  revival, and then, whammo, it arrives on the same day as the new Adam Sandler flick. Once again Netflix dominates the conversation. The 'Flix also got some good pub for agreeing to spend an s-ton of money on production in California  (funny enough, it got some really good pub IN California for this) and for landing a few spots in the Cannes  Film Festival. All it needs to be a clear #1 this week? Eight Is Enough.

3) Hulu: Not a whole lot of the news stuff interests me, but I do kind of admire how Gator, The Straight Story, and Bubba the Redneck Werewolf can all hit the movie section in a week for no apparent reason.

4) YouTube: I have reason to think YouTube is doing some shady things again, but how can I stay angry when I got to see a 1970s Filet-o-Fish commercial and Dandy Don Meredith being so doggone charming pitching Lipton tea? Not to mention the fact that I was able to listen to one song I kind of got a little obsessed with about 10 times thanks to YT.

5) Pub-D-Hub: Taking a holiday break this weekend, but it returns to the list this week on the strength of a William Bendix Life of Riley episode plus a handy assortment of Easter-related content in its own, easy-to-find category.

6) TuneIn: I rank it because of the enjoyment I received from listening to it this week, but the beta version of the site didn't work well for me and doesn't bode well for the future. It's fine the way it is!

7) Nickelodeon: The good news is the standalone Nick service apparently is offering a lot more free content than it used to, and my kids have discovered this. The bad news is the standalone Nick service apparently is offering a lot more free content than it used to, and my kids have discovered this

8) WWE Network: Surprised a lot of subscribers by continuing to upload some 1980s content, in this case old episodes of Prime Time Wrestling. Also, the Vince McMahon character in Camp WWE is pretty funny.

9) HBO: Not interested in the finale of Girls, but a lot of people are (I think they're all on Twitter), and Veep and Leftovers are back this weekend.

10) MLB.TV: When the Pirates win, I miss the game somehow or spoil the score for myself before I get home. But, oh, when the lose, I'm often right there in front of the tube for it!

Monday, April 10, 2017

'Mooners Monday #7: The stuff the young kids are saying these days

Let's get this straight about The Honeymooners "Classic 39" episodes: As far as I am concerned, there are awesome episodes and there are great episodes. "Young at Heart" was one I long thought of as "merely" great. You  know, just stick Gleason in a funny outfit and let it go. Over the years, I have come to appreciate it more. For one thing, Gleason in a funny outfit is pretty cool, and Gleaosn on roller skates is also appealing.

What could possibly go wrong here?

My favorite part of the episode is the hip slang that Ralph throws around when he realizes he should make an effort to be young again as per Alice's desires. He starts throwing out phrases to Norton, much to his friend's amusement.

"23 skidoo!" "Vo oh de oh do." And my personal favorite: "Kiss you later. I'm eating a potato."

Norton laughs at these and says, "How can anyone so round be so SQUARE?"

I decided to research some of these quaint sayings, and I decided to do it as effortlessly as possible. That's right, I Googled them.

"23 skidoo" dares back to the early 20th century, and Wikipedia says one of the rough meanings is "getting out while the getting's good." I fully endorse this one and propose that we all try to revive it, even though it was apparently a relic even in the mid 1950s.

"Vo oh de oh do," according to some sources, was old British slang for money, or possibly just nonsense words used for scat singing, though an episode of Laverne and Shirley used it as a euphemism for...well, you know.

(I just raised my eyebrows in a suggestive manner, by the way.)

I am uncomfortable with Laverne and Shirley serving as the final word on any linguistic inquiry, so I am going to drop this particular slang expression even if it means I'll never be able to hang with the cool kids of the 1930s.

Now, HERE is my favorite yet most perplexing of the group: "Kiss you later; I'm eating a potato." I should note that Gleason of course says "potater" to help the rhyme, but also he botches the line. Also, I wrote it with a semicolon this time not because my research indicated that was grammatically correct, but rather because I thought it looked even funnier.

The only substantial references to this phrase connect to The Honeymooners, and frankly, I'm not about to go to a third page of Google results to dig deeper. I think we can only speculate as to where this one originates. Come to think of it, what does it even mean?

Is the speaker being considerate by not going in for a smooch with a mouthful of potato? Or should we think it's selfish of the orator to spurn a potential liplock in favor of an unglamorous, unsophisticated potato? What KIND of potato is it? Loaded baked? Mashed? Is it just a fry, and can you really call a fry a "potato" without offending a wanna-be kisser even more than by denying the embrace?

Is it some kind of coded message to the Illuminati?

If anyone knows whether this phrase was more than just something conjured up by the writers, please enlighten us in the comments. However, the mystery of it appeals to me as much of the rhythm of the words, so I intend to start slipping it into conversation when appropriate. The only problem is I might struggle to find appropriate spots, given that I have to be 1) offered a kiss and 2) eating a potato. Let's put aside my romantic status for a minute; my potato intake, like those of many of us in these carb-aware times, has decreased big time in recent years.

I may have to make some serious life changes in order to revive some of this classic verbiage. In the meantime, don't be alarmed if you don't see 'Mooners Monday next week. I may have to do it later if I happen to be eating a potato.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 54 (Special "Didn't watch much, so might be winging it this week" edition)

Of course, by "winging it," I mean "giving you the tireless effort you come to expect so that these rankings remain the most credible in the business. And by "the business," I, let's just get to it.

1) Netflix: Just when you get annoyed with something Netflix does or doesn't do, it brings you some stuff--like The BFG (which I confess I thought premiered weeks ago), and new seasons of The get Down (not my jam, but still), Kubo and the Two Strings, and a Louis CK special.  Oddly, I think the Amy Schumer special that everyone panned is still one of the most discussed things on there.

2) MLB.TV: Because baseball is back, and the one indulgence I gave myself this year was this, so that I could watch the Pirates. I got two losses--one an excruciating extra-inning loss--a rainout, and then a win that I had spoiled for me because I forgot and checked Twitter before I could check it out. That's the only thing keeping it from being number one.

3) Hulu: I have a feeling if I had actually been watching stuff this week, Hulu would have overtaken Netflix. It still has a ton of the shows I intend to see but never do, and it made a significant content deal by getting rights to Megan Ellison's production company's upcoming films. I hear the new anthology series Dimension 404 is pretty good, too. I wonder if it ends up as a bigger and more impactful hit than bigger-hyped recent Shut-Eye and Chance.

4) WWE Network: Still riding high on the crest of WrestleMania, but how about that 1981-1982 territory footage? Those who know what I mean will know what I mean. Those who don't will be glad they don't, no doubt.

5) Amazon Prime: Won a lot of buzz by spending way too much money for the rights to stream the worst NFL games, ones that are usually already available on free broadcast TV. But that's not all! They debuted American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story and according to, "Amazon Prime Is Way Smuttier Than You Think." I never thought of  it as smutty at all, really. "Overpriced," "Disjointed," (on the Prime Video end), even "Insidious." But smutty? No, I don't think so. Props to Decider for pitching Amazon like a frat brother selling you on a blind date.

6) YouTube: Launched YouTube TV, it's "We aren't as evil as cable...yet" service, in several major markets, but not including mine. Yet I got an email hyping it.  I don't know if I'm more annoyed by the misdirected promo or relieved that Google's spying isn't as acute as I feared it was.

7) Days of Dumont: I think my new mission in life is to get Ralph Bellamy's rep changed from the perpetual second banana in romantic comedies to "TWO-FISTED" Ralph Bellamy. Anyone up for Follow That Man Fridays here?

8) Shout! Factory TV: Why is there no update for April? That's disappointing. On the other hand, the Best of the MDA Telethon series happens to have a Don Rickles episode that is perfect tribute viewing this week, and I did see Larry Storch in drag with Liberace and Glen Cambpell in a comedy sketch, so that buys Shout! some goodwill.

9) Warner Archive Instant: Guest star kevin McCarthy was really, really grouchy to my boy Kildare on an episode I saw this week. All the younger doc did was rat him out to Gillespie and accuse him of being incompetent and a danger to the patients at Blair General. Gee, some docs are so sensitive.

10) Britbox: Added old episodes of Doctor Who. It's encouraging that after launch, the service is still expanding its offerings.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Brooks on Books: Poking a Dead Frog by Mike Sacks

Like Sacks' previous "And Here's the Kicker," "Poking a Dead Frog" is a great read, a fun and illuminating collection of interviews, short essays, and lists featuring comedy writers. It's partly designed to provide practical advice to aspiring professionals, but it's entertaining for anyone. I'm no comedy writer, nor do I want to be one (though I won't object if someone chuckles every now and then at things on this blog), but I tore through the book anyway.

The breadth of names interviewed for this book is impressive. Some names are bigger than others, but there's a great variety of talents included. I am struck by the number of aspects of comedy that are represented. You hear from a cartoonist (Roz Chast), a short story writer (George Saunders), old time radio vet Peg Lynch, and current TV showrunner Michael Schur.

The book alternates long interviews with shorter pieces written in first person and titled "Ultraspecific Comedic Knowledge," in which you might get advice on being a script doctor. Also scattered throughout the text are short sections called "Pure Hard Core Advice" from names like Stephen Merchant.

One of the most unique and delightful chapters is a sample submission packet to a late night show, presented by Conan writer Todd Levin with retrospective commentary analyzing what works and what doesn't. It's the kind of thing you don't really see anywhere else outside "the biz" and offers a fascinating window into the process.

Lest ye think this book is a mere job seeker's manual, let me assure you these are great interviews with funny people, and Sacks get a lot of good stuff out of them. There are plenty of anecdotes about working in comedy as well as amusing stories about the backgrounds of the subjects. Poking a Dead Frog is nearly 450 pages but is easily burn-through-able (Maybe I should be a writer with vocabulary like that), and I give it my highest rating to anyone interested in the process of creating comedy.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

And Now...a word from THEIR sponsor: Nimoy better have been paid well for this

(Note: this post originally ran this weekend on our website for Battle of the Network Shows, which covers shows like In Search Of... and which just happens to be returning for season 2 this Thursday)

It's 1980-ish, and Leonard Nimoy has a lot going on: In Search Of is in first-run syndication, he's doing hosting for radio dramas, he has an MA from Antioch, he's making stage appearances and developing his on-man show Vincent covering the life of Vincent Van Gogh...

and, yeah, he was just in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. For a guy who wrote a book called I Am Not Spock, he sure didn't run from the franchise, and I think we are all glad he did not. But, man, it seems a little disrespectful to get the guy to shill for your product in semi-Spock mode:

First of all, the outfit makes me...uncomfortable. Second, you have to love the concept: Put Leonard in some kind of vaguely futuristic ensemble, make it look like there are stars behind him, and, VOILA--space!

I wonder if Nimoy is thinking, "I don't need this stuff. I have all these bad-ass, non-revealing suits I wear on a little show called In Search Of, and I'm doing just fine hosting that." You know what, though? It's possible that he didn't know they would add that cheesy transporter effect at the end. In fact, though I'd feel bad that they did that to him, I kind of hope that is what happened.

Or at least, I DID hope that until I did some research and found that Leonard had been doing this before. Check out this 1979 spot:

He even uses the word "logic" here...several times. I'm surprised he doesn't say he'll give a nerve pinch to anyone who doesn't sign up for Atlantic Bank's checking accounts.

Say it ain't so, Leonard Nimoy!

Monday, April 3, 2017

'Mooners Monday #6: "Ralph Kramden Inc." gives us several "beached whales"

This week I want to pay tribute to the bit the writers referred to as "beached whale" in the Honeymooners scripts: Ralph Kramden fainting. It's a seismic event because anything Jackie Gleason does is seismic, yet it always looks totally fake...and hilarious.

"Ralph Kramden, Inc." gives us several of these beached whales, and they are glorious. The bug eyes, the wailing, the walking to stage center while writhing in shock, and of course the final  "fall," culminating with Ralph sprawled out on his back. The special bonus in this episode is that Art Carney joins Gleason twice in the routine.

First, Ralph "realizes" he is set to inherit a bundle from the old lady he was kind to when she rode his bus:

This is technically the initial take and not part of the faint, but why skip a chance to see Ralph's eyes bulge?


Down goes Kramden! Down goes Kramden!

Then Ed realizes that as an exec in Ralph Kramden, Inc., he is entitled to 25% of the windfall.

Art Carney's  no slouch, either.

Interesting journey to the floor for Norton...

The patented quick attempt to regain the falling hat!

Later Ralph and Ed discover they are getting a fortune, but it's not what they expected. this is even better because Ralph stands up so that he can faint:

No bulging eyes...just the sad, dying eyes of a man who realizes he lost again.

"Pardon me, fellas, I have to get up and faint."

'Seriously, clear out, guys, I got to go in front of the table and faint."

I spoke too soon about those eyes.

DOWN goes--ah, you get the idea.

And Ed joins him soon enough, once again losing his hat and trying in vain to catch it while fainting.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 53 (Special post-Wrestlemania edition)

1) Hulu: Hulu is getting serious about its Spanish-language offerings, adding a whole bunch of stuff and making deals to get more. It has announced some renewals lately and is getting some decent level of buzz for a show called Harlots (you know, to boost its highbrow inventory). Also, it dropped some interesting trailers. Hey, their summer announcements this week reminded me that a documentary about Bill Finger and the creation of Batman is coming soon, followed soon thereafter by a George Lazenby bio.

I'm a bit alarmed by something called "Hu" now showing up there. It purports to be TV for people with short attention spans. Isn't ALL TV these days TV for people with short attention spans?

2) Netflix: Some interesting things going on here, including, as is the case more and more these days, stuff I didn't know existed. Who know an original movie  with Jason Segel, Robert Redford, and Rooney Mara was on the way? Not I. I'm excited about "Five Came Back," an original documentary series based on Mark Harris' book about Hollywood and WWII, and it's getting great reviews. I look forward to catching up on The Carmichael Show now that both seasons are available.

Yet any excitement about new programming is tempered by the ongoing mass deletion of catalog programming. In a few days, a ton of Fox shows, including the Whedon shows, are leaving. And that April catalog add list is pret-ty paltry.

3) WWE Network: Wrestlemania is tomorrow. If you're into this sort of thing, now's the time to get on board with this sort of thing.

4) Shout! Factory TV: In addition to my weekly dose of Glen Campbell, I went back to the "Best of the MDA Telethon Collection" for mostly some musical performances. Just saying, though, does circa-1983 New Edition really belong on a show titled 'R&B Legends"?

5) YouTube: Extr@ en Espanol may well be one of the most underrated sitcoms of all time.

6) Slacker Radio: Reinstalling the channel on my Roku did the trick and provided a pleasant enough soundtrack for my kids and I while playing with toys.

7) Warner Archive Instant: Kildare! Kildare! Kildare! You know, sometimes I stop and remind myself that there IS more on this service than just Dr. Kildare. Then I fire up an episode of Dr. Kildare.

8) Days of Dumont: Follow That Man: Underrated gem or hacky example of primitive TV? You be the judge when you tune in to this channel.

9) Starz: I rarely give props to Starz, but I have been watching a lot of the old sitcoms on its Encore channels, and I just want to highlight this entry from Decider's list of new SVOD programs this week, one of the best and most random ones I have ever seen:

Wagon Train – Episodes 210-238, 301-321 (1957-1959)

10) MLB.TV: Opening Day is almost here, everyone!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hazel: The Early Years #4: A Matter of Principle

There are 3 big takeaways from this episode, and 2 of them are evident in the show's cold open (Is it just me, or does "cold open" feel like too modern a term to use with a 1960s sitcom?). First is whatever is going on with Don Defore's right hand. It's heavily bandaged the entire episode, and we are told that George Baxter injured it catching a line drive from Hazel.

Takeaway #2: Hazel continues to be the Babe Didrikson of her era. The series has already established her prowess at football and bowling, and now we  learn she is a whiz at baseball, too. That's not all, though! One of George's endless parade of pompous clients struggles with his golf swing in this episode until Hazel, eyeballing him for about 2 seconds, diagnoses his problem and gives him a tip that improves his game. She's an expert golfer as well!

Let's go back to George's hand, though. There are several references to the injury throughout the episode, and it seems an odd thing to just write into the story, so I believe Defore hurt himself in real life. The romantic in me likes to think he broke some dude's jaw in a bar fight.

The third big takeaway is that, while Hazel is an expert in matters of medicine, the culinary arts, and of course athletics, Mr. B really is a talented attorney. Even though the scenario that reinforces it in this episode is rather ridiculous, it's gratifying to see that Hazel does respect and appreciate Mr. Baxter's abilities. Plus he is the one who solves the big "mystery" at the heart of the story. Sometimes the show leans so far in the other direction that I love seeing some signs that George is capable of some things and Hazel does need him sometimes.

Hazel gets a parking ticket while shopping despite putting change in ("better safe than sorry") as soon as she and Harold get out of the car. She insists she is innocent, and when George sees how disturbed she is, he offers to take care of it. Only he means he'll pay for it, but she wants him to defend her in court.

So we go to court over a minor parking violation, and not only that, corporate attorney George defends Hazel before a judge against a district attorney who calls witnesses and everything. Amazingly, the judge even permits a field trip in the middle of the trial so that everyone can assemble at the scene of the "violation" for George to make his triumphant conclusions.

Why not? It's not like they have anything more important to do, I'm sure.

This is a fine episode packed with veteran actors like Vinton Hayworth as Mr. Sunderland, who would return several times in Hazel and go on to play General Schaeffer on I Dream of Jeannie;  and Lewis Martin as Judge Rosencrantz.

And, hey, is this a young Victor French telling the judge he can't do anything about the loud jackhammering outside the courtroom?

Larry Haddon (who also returned to the show in a different role years later) has a prominent role as the prosecutor determined to preserve the credibility of the local constabulary by proving Hazel deserves her citation.

Hazel's golf tips, Mr. B's acumen, and the mysterious hand injury make this a highlight of season 1!

Monday, March 27, 2017

'Mooners Monday #5: Honeymooners Books Part 1

I'm going to step back today from the episode-by-episode impressions and start a periodic review of Honeymooners books. (Classic TV fans, take note: Hazel: The Early Years returns Wednesday with a big look at another season 1 installment!)

In this series of posts, I refer often to The Official Honeymooners Treasury, a book published in 1985 and written by the co-founders of RALPH (Royal Association for the Longevity and Preservation of the Honeymooners). As far as I know, this remains the definitive book on the show, and it is 1000% recommended to any fan of the show. The guys received cooperation and blessings from the Great One himself and other writers, cast, and crew of the series, and the result is indeed a treasure trove.

The format is a general overview of the show, followed by chapters devoted to each of the 'Classic 38" episodes that lived on in syndication for decades. Each of those chapters contains a long list of trivia questions and excerpts from original scripts--many of which were drastically reworked or outright scrapped before air. As authors Peter Crescenti and Bob Columbe write in their introduction, reading all this material is the equivalent of finding a 40th episode (Of course, 1985 was just before the Lost Episodes resurfaced and gave fans scores of "new" episodes to devour).

Things that were commonly deleted from the scripts include Norton threatening to hit Trixie (obviously some of those survived), plus other recurring jokes the writers kept trying to include but Gleason kept crossing out.  The authors also note that Ralph is even more devious in the scripts than in the finished episodes.

I am not a big fan of trivia books, but in this case, the answers (presented in the back of the book) often come with little tidbits, so it is worth reading them even if you don't care to play along. Better yet are the stills, ephemera (like original TV Guide close-ups), and other info in each chapter. For example, last week I talked about Herb Norris, host of the fictional $99,000 Answer. That episode's chapter contains quotes from Jay Jackson, who played Norris and shared his thoughts on the experience. One of the highlights of the Treasury is the wealth of info on supporting players like Jackson or, say, recently deceased Freda Rosen, AKA Rita Wedermeyer in Alice and the Blonde.

The authors pack all sorts of cool stuff into this format--pictures, illustrations, merchandising----it's all here. I just wish there were an updated edition, maybe something incorporating the Lost Episodes (though there IS a separate book for those--stay tuned for more on that). Until then, you'll have an easier time prying Jim McKeever's ring off Ralph's finger than getting this book from my hands. Plenty of copies are available on secondary markets and on Amazon.

If you don't believe me, take it from the two blurbs on the back of the book:

"It's an amazing book! It knows more than I do!"--Jackie Gleason
"As far as I'm concerned, the Honeymoon will never be over! I loved The Official Honeymooners Treasury!--Art Carney

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week 52 (Special, hey, that's a whole year! edition)

One year of power rankings, and this remains THE single most popular weekly feature on the Internet...on this blog. Thanks for your support, and may your streaming be fruitful in the year ahead.

1) Netflix: Not much competition, and nor should there be when Netflix is offering a new season of GRACE AND FRANKIE.

Kidding aside, I finally picked a telenovela to start watching, and I'm into it. One thing about Netflix: You usually get quality subtitles that are easy to read.

And, hey, an original movie with Melissa Leo as atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair, The Most Hated Woman in America, sounds interesting.

It's almost enough to make you forget that Netflix just extended its Adam Sandler deal.

2) Hulu: I already feel like I'm way behind on the shows I was watching on here again! Not Hulu's fault, though. It added a bunch of anime, if that's your bag, and "Doomed," a documentary about the infamous Roger Corman Fantastic Four movie. How funny is it that they have tried to revive the franchise twice since the Corman flick, and they still haven't gotten it right?

It's interesting that Fear the Walking Dead landed here this week, considering the mothership is on Netflix.  Also, Hulu announced another season for Shut Eye, indicating that, contrary to my unofficial metrics, there are people watching that series.

3) YouTube: Danny Dark tribute posts like the one I posted a few days ago wouldn't be possible with YouTube, folks!

4) Days of Dumont: The Dumont tribute channel did it again, adding a bunch of new shows this week! Expect this one to stay in the top 10 for a few weeks.

5) Shout! Factory TV: Come to The Goodtime Hour for Glen Campbell, stay for John Byner working Dean Martin and John Wayne impressions in whenever possible.

6) The CW: It might be a notch or two higher if I weren't so annoyed by seeing the same ad for Forever (now on CW Seed--yippee!) a dozen times during one episode of Legends of Tomorrow.

7) Warner Archive Instant: I need to dive back in here, but I did enjoy a Dr. Kildare with James Shibata, and, hey, more seasons of The FBI are available. This is still too expensive, but it has made some strides since last year at this time.

8) Pizza Flix: Still quietly adding new content each week, still free.

9) WWE Network: As we hit the peak of WrestleMania season, the subscription numbers should be going up, up, up! Of course, after the event and after people's months expire, they will go down, down, down, but that's later.

10) BritBox: A very quiet debut on Roku last week, but this BBC/ITV joint venture merits attention. $6.99/month for access to a decent catalog of back titles and an interesting assortment of shows that are airing in Britain right now. It might be worth a tryout soon, but make it count--these cheapskates offer a skimpy 7-day trial.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

TV Promo Theatre #2: Danny Dark at NBC

We kicked off this feature with a look at the great Ernie Anderson. Today I want to give respect to his counterpart at NBC (CBS before that), Danny Dark, with two promos that show off his versatility as the network's #1 hype man.

(Thanks to the great uploader "Sean Mc" for these and so many more great promos)

Notice that this one starts with a bumper as Dark says we'll return to V after the following messages. Even this is not just a throwaway. There's real tension in his voice--not because we're afraid of the promos revealing the weakness of NBC's prime-time schedule, but because aliens are invading.

Then the Real People promo has Dark teasing Byron Allen's aerial adventures, complete with an "Up, up, and away!" serving as a playful nod to a character Dark had voiced: Howard the Duck. (I'm kidding; it's Superman, of course).


Yes, the single word then offers a smooth transition to a Very Special Episode. Listen to how Dark downshifts effortlessly to tell us about this "emotion-filled" Facts of Life with hushed tones.

Next up, it's Remington Steele, and Dark calls him "the sexiest, smoooothest private eye around" as he goes into "I'm talking about looooove" mode.

He follows that line with, "Who but Remington Steele would dare to follow The A-Team?" and his jovial line reading is a perfect complement to a wacky stunt.

I love hearing Casey Kasem's voice on the NBC promos of the era, but Dark was the man. He was the smoooooothest voice-over guy around.

Monday, March 20, 2017

'Mooners Monday #4: One of the best game show hosts ever: Herb Norris

Last week, we looked at The $99,000 Answer without covering one of the episode's best assets: Herb Norris, host of the titular game show, who was played by real-life emcee Jay Jackson. If what we see in this episode is indicative, Norris is one of the medium's all-time great hosts. He's witty, smooth, and quick on his feet, and he is great at keeping the show going.

At the beginning of this episode, we see the end of the show within a show. The guest is a bit dry. Here Norris is smooth and brings enough energy to balance the lackluster contestant.

Then Ralph comes out and is all "hamina hamina hamina" and nerves. He can barely stay upright, he's shaking so much. Norris instinctively sees this (OK, it doesn't take an empathy to pick up signals like bug-eyed panic and profuse sweating) and takes over, guiding Ralph through an entertaining bit of banter before the game begins. He even gets a big laugh by telling his story about the bus experience he had ("That was you?") and is a good sport about the resolution.

He even gets a big laugh by telling his story about the bus experience he had ("That was you?") and is a good sport about the resolution. I love his take:

Of course, the show runs out of time, and Ralph does his cramming so he can return next week, and now he is cocky. Norris adapts accordingly, indulging Ralph's boasts with good nature and steering the conversation appropriately. When Ralph bombs out and has to be dragged offstage, Norris maintains composure and never loses control of his stage.

Herb Norris is, simply put, an outstanding game show host.

Jackson told the authors of The Official Honeymooners Treasury that the experience was terrifying but also one he wouldn't trade for the world. He provides an amusing account of learning the series' rehearsal process, which consisted of a rudimentary session without Gleason to set up camera blocking, followed later by several minutes with the star in which he wouldn't even recite the actual dialogue!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 51 (Special, hey, some of us had to work and didn't get to take advantage of the crummy weather edition)

1) PIX11: The 40th Anniversary Special was real, and it was spectacular. Tony Randall hosted a warm look back, focusing on the original programming of the New York station. Oh, yeah, and he did an embarrassing rap song near the end. Plus PIX posted an original newscast from the blizzard of 1993 (that was the good old days when they didn't name snowstorms). I'd love to see more of the big legacy stations from around the country make interesting Roku channels and use their archives like this.

2) Netflix: Just misses the top spot with an impressive list of things that interest me (and really, isn't that the bottom line): Lucha Underground, Mystery Science Theater, The BFG, Pete's Dragon, and Iron Fist. Plus, friends, I may have become a little misty-eyed when watching an episode of Friends this week. Even the disastrous reviews of the new Amy Schumer special (seriously, I think 5 sites ran articles just to point out how bad user reviews were) kind of make me curious about watching it.

But why is Netflix screwing around with its rating system? I don't recall anyone clamoring for this.

3) Hulu: It's been OJ and the Golden Girls this week for me. Hey, you don't suppose there could be a crossov--no, no. Forget I said anything. Also, Hulu got Everybody Wants Some, one of my most-wanted-to-see movies of last year. Now it becomes one of my most-want-to-see-but-keep-watching-old-sitcoms-instead movies of this year!

4) YouTube: True story: A spontaneous conversation about Conway Twitty breaks out (really, why shouldn't it?), I remember an old commercial of a duets album (with Loretta Lynn) I used to see all the time, BAM, it's on YouTube!

5) Warner Archive Instant: I didn't watch as much WAI as I intended this week, but the service added several seasons of The FBI this weekend.

6) Shout! Factory TV: I really enjoyed an awkward interview Dick Cavett conducted in the 90s with Ben "Hey Now" Kingsley. Cavett asks about a comment Kingsley had made about Gandhi years earlier when he was promoting the film, and Kingsley shuts him down, saying he ain't gonna talk about it now and the junket was years ago.

7) TuneIn: You know a good way to appreciate the stations on here? Try others. I just got DirectTV (formerly FIOS) and sampled some of the audio stations. For one thing, it's  irritating that many of them are part of some add-on package. More to the point, there just isn't the variety and depth you can find by looking around on Roku.

8) The CW: I'm tempted to include NBC, too, even though I didn't watch anything on it, just to spite CBS All Access for being such a ripoff (I may have also become a little misty-eyed when watching The Flash this week).

9) Pluto TV: This free, ad-supported aggregator, ad-supported "channels" is making strides and adding new content, so it deserves a thumbs up this week. Sure, a lot of the content is ehhh, but it's a fun option if you're looking to just channel surf.

10) MLB.TV: Almost there! In the meantime, have you caught World Baseball Classic fever? Well, even if not, MLB.TV has the WBC, so that's some extra value this year.

Monday, March 13, 2017

'Mooners Monday #3: Make way for the supporting players!

The $99,000 Answer is one of the show's most famous episodes, and it's a true classic. If you don't know the twist of this one, please go see it now. In fact, "go see it now" is good advice for any of these episodes at any time.

Some of my favorite Mighty Gleason Players turn up in The $99,000 Answer. First up is the oft-heard but seldom seen Garrity, the bellicose upstairs neighbor who likes to shout snide comments at Ralph...or sometimes just holler at him to shut up.

Check out Garrity barging into the Kramdens' premises like a bat out of hell as Ralph and Ed try to practice for Ralph's appearance on the game show:

The disheveled Garrity always cracks me up, but the best part is when he leaves, Alice enters the room, And Ralph yells out the doorway, "You woke up my wife!" and calls him a loudmouth!

Garrity: Always a playa hater. What right does he have to come down and break Ralph's concentration? It's quite possible that his butting in is what creates the mental block that leads to Ralph's downfall.

(Spoiler alert: As hilarious as it is when Ralph goes on the show and can't identify the composer of Swannee River despite hearing it a thousand times in his own apartment as Ed's "warmup song," it strains credibility. Kramden knows every other damn song in creation but can't handle this "gimme"? I always chose to believe he put a mental block on the tune because he was so irritated at Norton recycling that same bit time and time again.)

After Garrity it's the inimitable Mrs. Manicotti, one of my other all-time favorites in the Gleasonverse. She tries to test Ralph with old Italian opera songs but winds up waving her arms in frustration, unable to stump the master.

Mrs. Manicotti cooks, she mambos, AND she sings? What a woman! If anything ever happens to MR. Manicotti...

Let's stop and think about that name for a minute. Mrs. Manicotti. Real creative, Honeymooners writers.  I'm surprised Garrity isn't Mr. Potato (He kind of looks like a "Mr. Potato,: doesn't he). It may be the single best/worst name in Honeymooners history.

Finally, because I love the way Ralph rattles off song facts, here's a picture of him doing his thing:

"...for a little picture called 42nd Street..."


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 50 (Special "It really IS 50 this time" edition)

Last week, I was so excited about the upcoming 50th edition of this feature that I mislabeled #49 as #50. Well, this time, it really IS #50, and I thought it would be cool to make a TOP 50 instead of a top 10.

Then I thought, whoa, that would be a lot more work than I am prepared to do right now. So here's the top 10.

1) PIX11: Yes, after some lackluster weeks, PIX11 not only shoots back onto the chart, but it rockets all the way to number one by posting a 1988 40th anniversary special hosted by Tony Randall. Am I overrating them a bit? Perhaps. But don't be surprised if PIX stays near the top next week after I actually watch the special.

2) Hulu: In addition to Golden Girls, I've finally started watching this season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. So thanks to Hulu, you can say I'm getting my LAFF on (I hated that as soon as I typed it, but I am leaving it in, anyway)!

3) Netflix: Another solid if unspectacular week. Is it wrong that I kind of want to watch Buddy Thunderstruck? According to Wikipedia, "Buddy Thunderstruck will be an action-comedy, stop-motion extravaganza that follows the adventures of a semi-truck racing dog named Buddy and his albino ferret mechanic. It all goes down in race-obsessed Greasepit, a place chock full of larger-than-life characters and nitro-burning, gear-slamming, tire-squealing, fish-tailing good times."

4) YouTube: I really didn't need to watch the old syndicated Portrait of a Legend: Kenny Rogers from 1981, and I still don't know why I did, but I did. It was also a great week for vintage commercials and promos.

5) The CW: I am doing a major bunch-of-shows-at-a-time watch (Note to new readers: We don't use the term "binge" here because it annoys us) and am almost caught up. Now if they could only just stop showing new episodes, I could catch up on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

6) Warner Archive: A+ for content in the form of the Dr. Kildare I watched, but still about a D for presentation because the Roku channel isn't updating like the web version. Get with it, WAI.

7) Acorn TV: I'm impressed that Acorn is adding some older sitcoms again, including Fresh Fields and, more intriguing to me, Men Behaving Badly, which Hulu had for a while but only the first several seasons.

8) Pub-D-Hub: Now with Smilin' Jack in the serials section! That's one of my all-time favorite comic strip character names: Not Happy Jack, not even Smiling Jack, but SMILIN' Jack.

9) TuneIn: Hearing the song "5-10-15-20 (25-30 Years of Love") on Deep Oldies was enough to justify a top 10 spot this week.

10) Shout! Factory TV: Squeaks in on the strength of a delightfully awkward Cavett interview with Maximillian Schell (followed by Sally Field, Duke Ellington, and some egghead talking about earthquakes).

Friday, March 10, 2017

Brooks on Books: Fast Food Maniac by Jon Heim

Some books are meant to be fun, and I don't mean that as a negative. Jon Hein's Fast Food Maniac is a fast read, filled with bite-size chapters loaded with tidbits and trivia. It's not a scholarly nor a comprehensive look at our country's fast food restaurants, but it satisfies. It's entertaining and packed with interesting information, and if you enjoy fast food--or you just do but pretend not to, like so many--this is a great read.

Hein lists a large number of national fast food chains, plus some regional favorites, and offers their origins, their secret menu items and specialties, and ranks them in a variety of categories. Along the way he shares his own takes on each one, often peppered with anecdotes from years of unhealthy eating.

(Seriously, I wondered how Hein wasn't 500 pounds after I read this, and then I found out that he's diabetic, which makes it even more interesting)

There's a nice assortment of pictures, many showing logos and storefronts, some showing Heim and his family members indulging at various locales. Hein doesn't claim to be all-inclusive in his look at fast food joints, but given the criteria he uses, I can't think of any obvious exclusions.

I never caught Hein's show Fast Food Mania, which was on Destination America (Ah, I think I just realized why I never caught it), but I'll bet it was an entertaining watch. This book might raise some eyebrows with its rankings and with the author's guide to how to order at fast food places, which seems full of self-contradiction, but even though the whole thing is fairly weightless (unlike the subject matter), I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

TV Promo Theatre #1: The Town Bully

Time for yet another recurring feature on the blog, one in which I spotlight great TV promos that I see on YouTube. They can be about TV shows, networks in generals, TV movies, or whatever...and they may often involve Ernie Anderson.

The legendary voice-over man and former horror host is on this one, a 1988 promo (actually aired here as the intro on the night of broadcast) for The Town Bully with David Graf (Sledge Hammer). Let's enjoy and then discuss:

Where to begin? David Graf is clearly having a blast. He yells, he laughs, he BARKS. What a part.  This is all made so much better, though, by Anderson being so serious despite what looks like borderline parody playing out on the screen.

What I don't like is the phrase "Bruce Boxleitner stars in The Town Bully." Excuse me, Mr. Anderson. Anything sounds credible when you say it, but I humbly remind you that David Graf IS the town bully.  Or should I say that he IS The Town Bully. How can he not be the star? Granted he does appear to suffer an ignominious defeat towards the end of this clip, but come on!

This movie looks like a lot of fun. There are allegations of felony behavior (rape is no joke!) but it's not the town criminal. It's the town BULLY, which makes it sound like he's just really an a-hole  to everyone. How do things escalate to the point they seem to in this clip? I do not know, but I would like to find out!

Unfortunately, rudimentary research indicates this may not be the laugh riot the promo indicates, which to me shows how brilliant (if deceptive) the clip is. According to the IMDB description, Box is a special prosecutor brought in to bring the Town Bully's murderer to justice. So I suspect the bully is dispatched early on and the majority of the movie is about the town clamming up while Box uncovers the truth.

Now, that may be a decent enough story, but it sure doesn't sound as fun as 90 minutes of Sledge Hammer being an ass and barking at Isabella Hoffman. I want to think that Ernie Anderson recognized this and sold the hell out of the movie because he knew it was their only shot.

Monday, March 6, 2017

'Mooners Monday #2: Ralph's telephone etiquette

Let's stick with The Babysitter for another week. I've always wanted to answer the phone the way Ralph does in this episode. First, he endures the indignity of being called out by Alice after claiming the new phone would be for "you, you, you!"

"It's for you, you, you!"

Then Ralph picks up the phone, says, "Hello?" then after a brief pause, spits out, "Shut up!" and hangs up!

I love the elegance of that. "Hello? Shut up!" I wish I could do that someday. And by the way, aren't we missing something without these "old" conventional telephones? Pushing a little button isn't as satisfying as slamming a receiver into the cradle.

When Alice asks Ralph why he hung up on Norton, the answer is he's a nut--calling him up to congratulate him on getting a telephone. It's actually a pretty sweet gesture by Ed, but I still love how contemptuous Ralph is when he dismisses him. It's one of my favorite simple 'Mooners moments.

A final bit of info before we move on from The Babysitter: Donna McCrohan's The Honeymooners' Companion claims this episode was pushed back 3 times--from mid October to December to later in December to late January--before finally airing. Whether it's because of the redubbing they had to do when they had to change the Kramden's number is not said, but that seems a likely factor.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 49 (Special, hey, next week is #50! edition)

1) Hulu: I am seeing good reviews, if relatively low buzz, for new original series National Treasure with the great Robbie Coltrane. Plus I am still enjoying commercial-free Golden Girls. My favorite Hulu thing this week, though, was being able to see The Oscars after the fact with a hand poised on the fast-forward button! By the way, you can see the Oscar-winning O.J. documentary here, too.

2) Amazon Prime: Slow going for new material, but let's give them credit for the awards won by Manchester in the Sea. That's a pretty big deal. Unfortunately, I think people are gonna be disappointed when they find out it isn't actually on Amazon until  May 5.

3) Netflix: The March 1 adds weren't so great, though props are in order for popular movies like Blazing Saddles and This is Spinal Tap. This week, Netflix seemingly dropped about a hundred teases and trailers, though--a clever way to keep people excited.

I did enjoy some sitcom watching on Netflix, though, and it DID win an Oscar, too, so it was a solid week even if it was upstaged a but by Amazon. You have to give them credit for cranking out all this hype, though. I'm really looking forward to Five Came Back, a docuseries based on Mark harris' book about Hollywood and World War II, and I'm stunned by the news that Netflix plans to stream the vintage documentaries referenced in the series. Actual old movies coming to Netflix! Amazing! (So where is the original One Day at a Time?)

4) YouTube: The new YouTube TV service looks fairly impressive. More importantly, when I read that Judge Wapner had died, it took about a minute to find this great clip with Wapner, Johnny, and Dave.

5) Warner Archive Instant: That's right, they got me back! WAI still has many issues, but I said I would consider re-upping if they added more Dr. Kildare, and whaddya know, seasons 3, 4, and 5 are finally available, and there are lots of deals if you look around. I look forward to a month of Kildare.

6) Shout! Factory TV: The March add list disappointed me, but I enjoyed Bob Newhart and Johnny Cash on Glen Campbell and Paul Newman on Dick Cavett. Dadgummit, it's pretty tough for Newman to NOT be charming.

7) TubiTV: Some interesting new titles arrive in March, and I am intrigued by Pop Quest with Mark Hamill, in which the star interviews people about their collecting passions. Oh, and his co-host is a puppet. Hamill is an engaging and accessible host, and the first episode has glimpses of all sorts of cool stuff at DC Comics' corporate offices. I believe this 2016 series aired originally on Comic Con's paid streaming service. My only complaint is that there are only 4 short episodes.

8) The CW: The "continue watching" feature started working again for me, which makes it easier to catch up on Legends of Tomorrow.

9) Pizza Flix: I was skeptical that this service would add new movies and TV every week like it promised, but lo and behold, the free channel is indeed doing so--well, not so much on the TV, but movies, yeah. The likes of Caltiki the Immortal Monster are new right now.

10) Highspots TV: This pro wrestling on demand service is often overshadowed by WWE Network and now even FloSlam, but it did a classy thing by offering an Ivan Koloff documentary for free after the all-time great's death last week.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Instant Gratification Theater: What TV can learn from old episodes of "Vinny & Bobby"

One of my new favorite YouTube uploaders gave the world a treasure trove--OK, I'm using the term somewhat liberally--last week in the form of a series of off-air recordings of 1992 Fox sitcom Vinny & Bobby. The show is a failed spinoff of another failed spinoff, Top of the Heap, which was spawned from Married with Children. I was an Al Bundy fan back in the day, but I didn't care for the first spinoff, and I certainly don't have fond memories of the second one. I assumed it was terrible, and I hadn't thought of it in years despite seeing star Matt LeBlanc in other projects recently.

So naturally, I had to watch some episodes.

LeBlanc and co-star Robert Torti, tow young and single guys working in construction and sharing a Chicago apartment,  make a surprisingly amusing team, though in retrospect, it's understandable that LeBlanc was the one to finally make it big. His character is the more likable, regular guy type, while Torti's preening airhead is usually the one causing trouble.

Other familiar faces who show up include Joey Lauren Adams (one of the best things about this--where did she go, anyway?) and the late John Pinette, who plays--wait for it--a fat guy. You get to hear jokes right from his standup act! Fred Stoller is a regular after the first episode or two.

Is this a great show? No, and it certainly is of its time. It was an amusing way to kill some time on a weekend afternoon, though. Here's a few things that today's television might take from this long-forgotten gem--uh, long-forgotten...what's a better about just "show"?

*Hooting and hollering: A huge staple of the Bundyverse is raucous audience reaction. By the end of Married, the crowd went nuts every time Kelly walked out wearing something skimpy, every time Al entered the room, every time Peggy said something risqué...I'm pretty sure even Ted McGinley's first appearance each episode elicited gleeful howls and whistles. Vinny & Bobby continues that proud tradition with heavy doses of both hooting AND hollering.

*Speaking of innuendo, apparently jailbait is funny: I missed the first episode and never quite understood the setup, but LeBlanc's character is a grown man--a young one, but over 18--taking community college courses. Joey Lauren Adams' Mona lives in the same apartment building--I think she's the landlord's daughter--and frequently comes on to him. Adams was 24, but I think her character is supposed to be 16 or 17. It's a weird situation, but LeBlanc's Vinnie is clear about the boundaries, even though Mona's general attitude garners plenty of hoots and hollers.

*Fat and thin=comedy. Pinette and Stoller make an amusing twosome in some scenes.

*Fat and Fat=more comedy. Pinette is paired with  Ron Taylor in the early episodes to give the leads some good old-fashioned fat guy comic background players. Taylor is even bigger than Pinette, which means they really aren't "background" at all.

*Topical pop culture references are the way to go: I saw several jokes about other contemporary TV shows. I laughed out loud when the rest of the gang is watching something and Bobby laments, "I can't believe we missed Jake and the Fatman for this."

Perhaps I really need to go back and watch Top of the Heap to really "get" this show, but I think for now I'm satisfied with my exploration of this little corner of that Bundyverse. I can only hope that the inevitable Married reunion brings back Vinnie Verducci and Mona, at least.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Instant Gratification Theater: Greatest Sports Legends on Amazon Prime

One of the biggest joys I had during my latest brief stint on Amazon Prime (I'd get the annual option, but I'm not a JOINER, man...Uh, and I'm cheap) was the assortment of Greatest Sports Legends episodes available on Prime Video. It's billed as a "season" because, well, because Amazon's video section is confusing as ever, but it's really just a batch of old shows.

But what a batch! GSL was a syndicated half-hour program that aired from 1972 to 1993 (according to IMDB, though I think it was available even longer in reruns) with a variety of hosts interviewing a variety of legends, with a smattering of highlights supplementing the chats. Amazon's selection is all over the place, but you get to see George Plimpton, Reggie Jackson, Tom Seaver, and more.

The interviews were often taped at country clubs and resorts, helping create a relaxed, amiable episode. You don't expect to see Willie Stargell interrogate Terry Bradshaw like Mike Wallace, anyway, and nor do you really want to see that. It's mostly a way to see a different side of an athlete (the footage of Joe Frazier singing "Proud Mary" on stage in his episode justified an entire month's Prime fee) and an excuse to look at some vintage footage.

One of the more unique episodes is the Bob Uecker profile, which is a mockumentary of sorts before the term was even a thing. The tongue-in-cheek presentation of Ueck as an actual legend is a riot and a must-see installment. It's funny in its own right and also a nice change of pace.

Some other episodes break format as well, like the profiles of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, which are more like mini-documentaries. Considering the subjects had died many years before, the lack of interview is understandable.

Any sports history nut will love these, but the collection is buried among all the other odd stuff on Prime, so I want to highlight it here. The fashions and the ambience alone make this a great time capsule. My only complaint: There should be more! They did hundreds of things, and I want to see the others.