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?"

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week #60 (Special "Count on seeing these rankings every single Satur--oops" edition)

1) Netflix: I read somewhere (these rankings are always based on cutting-edge research, you know) that the most popular series on Netflix is Sherlock, so it's a pretty big deal for them to add season 4. However, there are also new episodes of Kimmy Schmidt, a new true crime docuseries, and of interest to me, the Christine Chubbuck biopic with Rebecca Hall  (Tip: if you don't know who Christine Chubbuck is, don't look it up and get into it if you're not in the mood to feel sad).

2) Hulu: For commissioning/encouraging/tolerating/whatever a new documentary about George Lazenby, Hulu deserves high praise. George's lone Bond outing, On Her Majesty's  Secret Service, is also available here.

3) Warner Archive Instant: Eddie Albert vs. Raymond Massey made for a fine confrontation on Dr. Kildare.

4) MLB.TV: How about those Pirates? They won a big series against the Nationals. I didn't get to see any of it except the game they lost, of course, but I could have thanks to the fine folks at MLB.TV. I'm tempted to boot it out of the top 10, though, for backing out the Pirates feed and making me watch the "hometown" version.

5) TuneIn TV: Deep Oldies continues to bring it. Plus I heard an ad for some celebrity chef guy who is premiering a podcast on TuneIn.  That's not actually very interesting or useful, but it's better than me complaining yet again about the 80s channel playing the same Air Supply song over and over.

6) Pub-D-Hub: A solid update last week was highlighted by an episode of that old crime TV show featuring THE most charismatic, most dynamic, most razzle-dazzle of all old-timey Hollywood stars, George Raft.

7) Pluto TV: Pluto added a bunch of on-demand offerings, and, yes, much of it is that same MGM library stuff that floats around, but it's free, and big ups to Pluto for continuing to grow and for continuing to be free.

8) Showtime: It's rare that Showtime gets the buzz that HBO gets, but Twin Peaks returns this weekend, so, enjoy the attention, guys! Come for Twin Peaks, stay for...uh, those other shows they are proud of having!

9) Twitch TV:  For some reason, this service, which runs a lot of live streams of playing video games, aired a Mister Rogers marathon as part of some campaign for PBS. Is PBS going after the 420 crowd now? Can't wait to see the premiums the roll out in the next pledge drive.

That said, seeing black-and-white episodes of ol' Fred Rogers = cool stuff.

10) YouTube: I was pleasantly surprised to see the existence of a "Universal Vault" channel on here with rarities from the 1930s...but by the time I got to YT, to check it out, it had been removed due to a copyright claim. Booooo! YouTube slides down the list because of this. (Special shout-out to the excellent "I Wake Up Streaming" column at The Daily Grindhouse website for mentioning the channel; it's not his fault it got yanked.)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

So I finally saw Running Scared...

I finally saw Running Scared a few weeks ago after making it a goal of mine .  Yes, some people resolve to lose weight or accomplish some kind of financial goal or better their communities. I resolved to see Running Scared.

Of course I mean the 1986 Billy Crystal/Gregory Hines buddy action-comedy directed by Peter Hyams. No offense, Paul Walker fans, but it irritates me that his unrelated 2006 flick of the same name now shows up first in web searches. When determining which of two movies with identical titles is the definitive one, ask this simple question: Did it spawn a hit song and accompanying music video by Michael McDonald? If no, then the movie cannot be the "real" one of that title.

For years, I  had only seen the "Sweet Freedom" video, but for years, it felt like enough. It had hijinks, tropical fun, and action. How could the actual movie, which I assumed did not have Michael McD in a prominent role, compare? Yet as time went on, I felt something was missing.  Several times in recent years, I have attempted to see the movie--and by that I mean, I muttered, "Huh, oughta watch that one," and then forgot about it. It's been on many different channels and streaming services, but here in 2017, I did indeed finally watch it.

The good news is that "Sweet Freedom" does get a big sequence in the film, and it's kind of like--well, kind of like a music video. The movie as a whole is entertaining. It's pleasant. It's likable. It's not life changing or great--not like that video--but I'm glad I saw it. It would have been an easy sequel--just trot the leads out and let them recreate their chemistry in any kind of BS story 32 screenwriters could throw together.

The non-"Freedom" highlight of the movie for me is late in the proceedings when a young Jimmy Smits yells with urgency: "My coke! My coke!" I didn't remember that scene from the video.

So now I have seen Running Scared. What's next? Mount Everest? Everything seems wide open to me now...and yet strangely empty.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Speaking of the podcast...

My co-conspirator and I are making a RARE JOINT PUBLIC APPEARANCE in Woodbridge, Virginia, at the Heroic Aleworks Mini-Comics and Art Show. Come say hi and learn more about the podcast while checking out the work of the talented members of the DC Conspiracy creator collective!

For more info, check this out:

http://heroicaleworks.com/events/mini-comics-show/

Or check out this Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1611795172179015/



TODAY on Battle of the Network Shows


If our podcast accomplished one thing this season, it should be to make you want to see Search. Head on over here today to listen to our latest episode. Don't ya dare miss it!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Brooks on Books: The Who: The Story of the Band That Defined A Generation

When I saw this sharp-looking hardcover on the New Releases shelf at my local liberry, I was a bit confused. Something seemed off. It didn't look like something I expected to see there, but it sort of looked familiar. I grabbed it and took it home. Well, I checked it out with my card first, of course. I could have been more "rock and roll" and stole it or smashed it on the ground, but I went the conventional route.

Turns out this is a repackaging of the Treasures of the Who collection that combined a book with all kinds of goofy crap--reproductions of handbills, photos, and stuff like that. This is just the book--no crap. I remember seeing the Treasures and thinking it was pretty cool but not wanting to pay for it. I'm sure it ended up in the "bargain bin" at Barnes and Noble like all those books do, and it was probably worth it at that point.

Chris Welch's text in this "unofficial and unauthorized" volume is lively and surprisingly critical of the music. It doesn't delve much into the personal lives of the band members, but there isn't a lot of space for that.  The emphasis is on the band as a band, and each album gets a brief section with commentary on the album as a whole and the individual tracks.

Along the way, Welch tells the basic story of the band's origins and its high and low points, with several "chapters" (each chapter in this book is a few pages) devoted to biographical sketches of the individual members. It's an entertaining and brisk overview of The Who for non-experts.

Arguably the main attraction for aficionados of The Who, if they aren't disappointed at the exclusion of the goofy crap, is the wealth of photos of ephemera like letters to fans, original concert tickets, and the like. There are outstanding action shots and publicity pics as well, and it's all vivid and eye-pleasing in the smartly designed book.

Monday, May 15, 2017

'Mooners Monday #13: More next week, but in the meantime, AWWWWW

'Mooners Monday will return with some more words next week as I talk about one of my least favorite supporting characters ever. In the meantime, I am busy with other commitments, but to tide you over--and because no one can stay mad at someone after seeing a cute puppy--please enjoy this screencap from A Dog's Life:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week #59: Special "Dedicated to my mother" edition

As we approach Mother's Day, let us think of the many ways in which we can honor our beloved maternal figures. How about letting them waste a whole day watching streaming video? If these power rankings can guide you as you determine how to spend the holiday...well, I'm a little scared, frankly. But here we go,

1) Hulu: Yeah, the fix is on. I didn't watch as much Hulu as I intended, but I AM paying full price this month, remember, so Hulu is my new streaming BFF. I did make an effort to remind myself that, hey, Seinfeld is on here. Remember when I got so excited that the whole series was debuting on Hulu? I have seen about 8 episodes. But one of them was this week!

2) Warner Archive Instant: Still no fix for the Roku channel, but they did put together a nice showcase collection for Mother's Day, and they are now touting the complete run of Medical Center. That's a lot of Medical Center and not nearly as exciting as Eight Is Enough, but it's something. Meanwhile, Adrienne Barbeau's guest turn as an older woman romancing David Bradford on EIE is enough to merit a high spot for WAI.

3) Netflix: Actually, there's a lot going on this week here with the Netflix originals--Norm McDonald, a new Jeff Garlin movie, Aziz Ansari's show returning...I am intrigued by this new King Julian series. The Netflix kid set shows are so far under the radar, they are already spawning spinoffs, yet no one seems to talk about them.

I watched a bit more of 10 Reasons Why and could easily boost Netflix a slot or two, but, eh, it's big enough to survive being "only" 3. Besides, what has Netflix done for my mother lately?

4) YouTube: Thank you, YouTube, for allowing me to do more podcast preparation with your vast reserves. No, I'm not gonna tell you what I watched and risk having you take it down.

5) MLB.TV:  I don't want to say the Pirates are bad, but--actually, no, that's exactly what I want to say. They have been hit by injuries (and, oh, yeah, cough, cough, PED suspensions and idiot players racking up DUIs), but they are just not playing well. At least I got to watch live as history was almost made when they nearly got no-hit the other night.

6) Shout! Factory TV: It took them a while, but they did upload some more stuff for May--more entries in the VHS Vault category, including John Stamos and Vanity (with Gene Simmons) in Never Too Young to Die. Hmm, I may have rated them too low this week.

7) Amazon Prime: In addition to Kevin Bacon in I Love Dick,  a series from the creator of Transparent that seems destined for Golden Globes love, there is a Tom Hanks movie called  A Hologram for the King. Are we already at that point in Tom Hanks' career in which we don't hear anything about his films until they show up on home video?

8) Pub-D-Hub: Presented without comment: The Gay Dog (1954), available for one week only. Admit that you're curious. I'm still disappointed in Pub-D-Hub, though, for an update without any new TV episodes--a rarity but a letdown when it occurs.

9) The CW: This may be the end of the line for The CW, which is great because it's free but disappointing because of the massive and irritating commercial load and the fact that some of the shows I'm watching here are creatively disappointing me lately. And I don't mean they are disappointing me in creative ways, but that--you probably get the idea.

10) Nosey: Did anyone ask for a free SVOD service with archival episodes of Jerry Springer, Sally, and Maury? Well, if you're the guy, here you are. There are also original Match Game and Family Feud episodes. It's like your one-stop shopping destination for low-rent daytime TV...but the price is right (uh, not The Price Is Right; that ain't on here). And, yes, it is actually called "Nosey."

Friday, May 12, 2017

A&E to give up "scripted" programming...and I say, "It's all right"

A&E decided crushing the hopes and dreams of Bates Motel fans wasn't enough; no, it had to announce it was ending all scripted shows FOREVER...or at least for the time being. So that means a steady diet of programming such as...

Uh, actually, what do they show these days? Do they have a housewives program? A house flipping program? Wait, they have the Wahlburgers thing, right?

The fact is, I don't know, but I'm sure much of it is not my kind of deal. Truth be told, the fictional shows--A&E's attempt to prove, "Hey, we can do good television, too"--never grabbed me, either. I can only think of a series of programs I sorta wanted to check out but never so much that I actually watched. We're talking Longmire, The Glades, and maybe Bates Motel.

As far as I'm concerned, taking away potentially good programming from an entire channel is a good thing. That's one less network to add to your "favorites" list and a lot less shows for your "want to check out" list. And if I am ever in a situation where I am cord cutting, hey, now there's one less thing to look for when comparing alternatives.

So, A&E, I salute you for giving up on the idea of quality television and giving those of us who care about said concept more of a fighting chance to keep up with it all. Good luck with the storage shows!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Brooks on Books: Green Lantern: A Celebration of 75 Years

This book is PURTY. Is it worth $40 MSRP (significantly less at Amazon)? Well, it's PURTY. It's a sturdy hardcover with 400  pages of DC Comics Green Lantern stories from all throughout the hero's career. Actually, it's HEROES' CAREERS, but more on that in a minute. I got this book from my friendly neighborhood liberry and therefore paid $0 RPP (Rick's Preferred Price) and found it an enjoyable read well worth the investment.

Believe it or not, I'm walking on air--no, that's a different costumed hero. Believe it or not, there are many incarnations of Green Lantern besides Ryan Reynolds, and this book gets the big ones. In fact, there is a whole CORPS of GLs, some with fish heads, some who are whole planets, and some who just look totally precious. This volume focuses on the Earth Green Lanterns, though--namely Alan Scott of Earth-2 (the first), Hal Jordan of Earth-1 (the most iconic), Guy Gardner (the most jerk-ish), John Stewart (the most black-ish), and Kyle Rayner (the most I-wasn't-really-reading-comics-then-ish).

There is a wide assortment of eras, stories, and styles in here. You get the origin stories and first appearances, some memorable one-shots, and a few stories that are in the middle of the now-standard multi-issue arcs. Creators like John Broome, Geoff Johns, and Gil Kane are well represented, and you get a sample of the famous "socially relevant" era that teamed GL with buddy Green Arrow for some 1970s-style consciousness...man! I don't know enough GL history to argue about the lack of particular stories, but I do question the inclusion of Geffen and Maguire's Justice League #1 only because it's a team book and a solo Gardner story could have taken its place.

The collection is heavy on first appearances, and I wonder if maybe someone should have just focused on memorable stories, period, but I don't have any true complaints considering this isn't titled Green Lantern: The Greatest Stories Ever. I suppose diehard Lantern fans will have plenty of suggestions and may have seen all of these stories already. But do they own them all in one nifty (and purty) hardcover package? If not, this might be the ticket even for the serious collector. For the casual fan, if the price doesn't intimidate you, or if you aren't a cheapskate like me willing to once again sponge off the library, this is an attractive addition to your own bookshelf, loaded with fun stories.

Monday, May 8, 2017

'Mooners Monday: One of my favorite oddball Ed Norton moments

One of the things I aim to do in this series is highlight some of the odder, maybe lesser known moments in Honeymooners annals, scenes and jokes that are overshadowed by the more famous catchphrases and zingers. "A Dog's Life" provides one of my all-time favorite 'Mooners lines. I wish I could say why I think it's so funny, but something about the absurdity of it just gets me every time.

Ralph and Ed think the can of whatever they found in the fridge (and naturally just started devouring) is Alice's home cooking. Seeing dollar signs, Ralph wants to get his boss to stake him some dough (they'd be better off trying to sell dough on store shelves, as it turns out) so they can market the food item and make a mint (they'd be better off selling the mints on--oh, never mind.

I love when Ralph is trying to name the product. Of course he is. That's the fun part of becoming rich--not the drudgery of creating the infrastructure and the physical plant, amassing capital, etc., but coming up with a cool name for your item.

So Ralph starts with, "How about this? "Kramden's Delicious--" And Ed interrupts him:


"Hey, ho...Mr. Marshall is putting up the money for this thing. You got to get his name in there someplace."

"You're right about that," Ralph concedes. Then Norton gets an idea. "Hey, how about this?"


Then he presents his own suggestion: "Kramden's Delicious Marshall."


Again, I can't articulate WHY exactly that is so funny to me, but it is. It's one of the silliest things Norton has ever said, and Ralph's incredulous expression makes it even better, as does his disgusted muttering repetition of it: "Kramden's Delicious Marshall."



"What kind of stuff is Marshall?" Ed counters: "Well, we don't know what THIS stuff is. You might as well call it Marshall!"



Norton in all sincerity proposing "Kramden's Delicious Marshall" is one of my favorite moments in the whole series. It may not be one of the most quoted 'Mooners lines, but it gets me each time I see and hear it!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week #58 (Special "Unlike the Derby, no wagering on this, please" edition)

It was another busy week, and I am ashamed to confess I focused more on things like...work than on watching TV on streaming services (OK, I was also watching satellite TV). Let's give it a go, anyway, eh?

1) Warner Archive Instant: Ladies and gentlemen, it has happened: WAI has uploaded seasons 2-5 of Eight Is Enough! Finally, my wish has come true. My BOTNS co-conspirator Mike suggested someone there is reading these power rankings. If so, thanks, and you deserve this reward for giving us all of Kildare and Eight Is Enough. Now can you please fix the Roku app so I don't have to look to the website to figure out what is available to watch? That would be worth at least another week at the top.

2) Hulu: Remember I said that I was going to rank this high just because I was paying for it this month and was determined to get my money's worth? Well, fortunately, there is actually some decent new content on the service. In fact, a lot of it is reality programming, but I can live with that as long as they don't dump Route 66 for it.

And let's give Hulu credit for adding a documentary about Batman and one of his long-neglected co-creators, Bill Finger. It debuts today, and I haven't watched it nor heard much about it, but its very existence is a big one on the ledger for Hulu. Also, the Hulu "We're not cable" TV service garnered strong reviews this week. Only the power of the Bradfords keeps Hulu out of the top spot this week.

3) Netflix: Just when I am temped to drop Netflix down a little bit--it was a slow week content-wise, and the new rating system still annoys me--it adds new seasons of a few originals. More importantly, I watched the first episode of 13 Reasons Why to see what the fuss was about, and I was kind of impressed.

4) Amazon Prime: Manchester by the Sea is now available on Prime Video, which is cool and all, but if I were a Prime subscriber, I would have been kind irritated it wasn't there the day after the Academy Awards.

5) MLB.TV: Took up a lot of my TV time this week, but I must admit that a lot of it was coming home, seeing the Pirates were losing, and turning it in disgust to see what other games were being played. That's the great thing about MLB.TV--there's always another game being played.

6) PIX 11: Yes, WPIX's Roku app jumps back onto the charts with an interesting week highlighted by the addition of a newscast from the night of the L.A. riots, with a reporter from a sister station soiling his pants while watching the area burn around him. I'd love to see more content not tied to a particular anniversary or milestone, though. Give us more promos and specials, please.

7) YouTube: I didn't actually see much this week besides music videos, so maybe this is a good time to mention that the Battle of the Network Shows podcast has a YouTube channel with episode-specific playlists going up with each new episode. Hey, it's always a good time to mention that, right? Right?

8) TuneIn: Oh, Deep Oldies Channel, you can chase away my rainy day blues. Oh, so many other channels, your limited playlists can bring them back.

9) Pub-D-Hub: A solid if unspectacular update last weekend puts the Hub back on the list. Most of their movie additions have been British movies lately, but there are a few interesting nuggets each week if you have the Gold membership (a few bones a year and highly recommended). I should really five

10) Pluto TV: Aggregator of live streaming channels keeps adding new ones, and while  it isn't A+ material, there is always something worth a look. I thought I noticed more ads when I looked at Pluto the other day, and that would not be a positive trend.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Mag Rack: Because they are still making 'em and I am still reading 'em

Some thoughts on current periodicals:

*Entertainment Weekly still ain't what it used to be, but it still surprises every now and then with an interesting piece. I have noticed that much like sister pub Sports Illustrated, it is really increasing the number of "double issues" it publishes, presumably as a way to cut costs by releasing less issues.

I'd hate to see it go away. Somehow it's comforting that even in 2017 it can irritate me by finding a way to devote 10  pages to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

*That reminds me of the incredible shrinking Rolling Stone, the masthead of which still declares "All the News that Fits." A lot less of it fits these days. I can understand the dilemma. People like me want to read about dinosaurs like Tom Petty and don't care about the likes of The Weeknd. So the mag has to scramble to avoid being Classic Rock and runs things like a piece in a recent edition that asks a current band who its influences are. It's like another way to get Springsteen in there while claiming you are covering new music.

But I think most new music stinks and would rather read about Werner Herzog.  I saw a compelling look at the enigmatic director by veteran profiler Erik Hedgaard...that was only a few pages long.

The review section is only the equivalent of 2-3 pages for music, no regular book coverage (apparently), and one single page of movie reviews.

*ESPN the Magazine never gets any pub, not even in the recent flurry of layoffs at the company, but it is actually still producing good work. The most recent issue I've seen features an excellent look at the Raiders' move to Vegas by Don Van Natta and Seth Wickersham, plus an interesting account of the Buss family struggle for control of the Lakers written by Ramona Shelburne.

*MAD Magazine is still around, and it produces some amusing content. I don't like all of it, but I enjoy a lot of it, and it's cool that it's still around. In the run-up to the election, it made fun of both candidates, and now it's making fun of the prez, as it should in both cases. The movie parodies are done in the same style and still work, and there are less words in the features, but the graphic design is excellent in many of them. You see clever pieces with realistic-looking mock ads or movie posters that look fantastic and really sell the premise. So I make my semi-regular call to those of you who haven't seen the mag in a while: Give it a look, and you might get something out of it.

Monday, May 1, 2017

'Mooners Monday #11: Every dog has his day...but what about his food?

"A Dog's Life" is one of the greatest 'Mooners episodes, even if a lot of it is ridiculous. Ralph and Ed find something in the fridge, start eating it, find it delicious, and ASSUME that it's homemade and entirely of Alice's creation, so Ralph decides to market it as an appetizer.  Oh, yeah, they also assume that it's HUMAN food and not dog food. They are incorrect in that assumption.



The show is loaded with funny moments, including the best spit takes ever executed on The Honeymooners when Ralph's boss and his colleagues discover the delicious treat Ralph has brought them is in fact dog food:



That streak in front of Ralph's belly is the food flying out of Marshall's yap.
 
We also get another "beached whale," the likes of which we discussed a few weeks ago:




One of my favorite parts comes after the boys find out the truth about the mystery appetizer. Ed sticks a finger in, takes a bite and says, "I STILL say it's the best appetizer I ever tasted!" This strikes me as totally in keeping with Ed's character...and also hilarious. And really, does the food become any less tasty just because you find out it's made for canines?



Well, yeah, I suppose it does. But this episode makes me wonder, what other TV characters would willingly eat dog food, even just out of curiosity? Full disclosure: My father and I once each ate a dog biscuit because--well, I think basically to win a bet. But that's real life, which we all know is much less important than TV land. Who in classic TV would eat dog food?  Here are my opinions:

Ward Cleaver: Absolutely not.

Fred Flintstone: No, not willingly.

Barney Rubble: He may be sort of the Norton equivalent, but I can't see him sticking his finger back in a bowl like Ed does and slurping up something he knew was dog chow.

Adam Cartwright: Only if he were starving and desperate.

Lucas McCain: I suspect Lucas ate far worse than dog food in his life.

Any female character: I can't picture this for some reason. Most women on TV are way too sensible to even consider this.

Scooby-Doo: No. Surprised? Well, did he ever actually eat anything besides people food and 'Scooby Snacks"?

Gilligan: Yep. I don't even think he would need coconut sprinkles.

Mike Brady: No.

Darrin Stephens: Didn't he get turned into a dog once? Even then, I could see him being really uptight about eating out of a dog bowl.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

ESPN and its so-called liberal agenda

I feel like I shouldn't dignify the semi-popular theory that ESPN laid off 100 or so people because the audience is rejecting its left-wing slant, but here goes: Much like the belief in some circles that Colin Kapernick's anthem protests hurt NFL ratings, it's wishful thinking. You can't tell me that the twentysomething college graduates who are moving into their first  places are saying, "Hmm, I would love to pay 100 bucks for cable and get ESPN, but, man, they are just too damn liberal."

If anything, I think people should be focusing on the fact that despite the network is still making oodles of money, it is cutting jobs to make the books look better days ahead of a Disney quarterly meeting. Should we be complaining about a "capitalist right-wing conspiracy" at work? ESPN is about making money, and if it does "favor" certain viewpoints, it's  because it thinks it will make it money. It is worried about not making as much money as it did before. Yet all the prominent left-wing-ish voices that the right wing hates are still there.

I understand the POV that ESPN drifted away from sports, but it drifted towards people yelling at each other, not towards MSNBC-style lefty commentary. The lefty stuff, such as it is, takes place on programming no self-respecting sports fan should be watching, anyway. I know people hate the 6:00 PM Sportscenter now. So don't watch it. But how does that affect prime time?

Look at the Caitlyn Jenner fiasco. Some hate that ESPN gave Jenner an ESPY. Well, the story going around was that the decision was part of a larger quid pro quo aimed at getting Jenner to give an exclusive ABC interview to Diane Sawyer. If that's true--and I believe it is--then perhaps the Jenner ESPY move was not a liberal agenda but part of a crass money-grubbing/ratings-grabbing agenda---again, part of that capitalist conspiracy, right?

But the main thing is, sports fans, why are you watching the ESPYs in the first place? That is not for sports fans. That is for non-sports fans ESPN thinks it can trick into watching its network.

And if ESPN is losing ratings because of  its politics (quite open to debate), why is FS1, which is trying to position itself as an alternative, losing them as well? And if you really want to declare this to promote your own agenda, aren't you kind of defending the one prominent right-wing voice ESPN did get rid of in the last few years--Curt Schilling? And my final question: Regardless of his political views, why do you want to defend Curt Schilling?

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week #57 (Special "Hey, pretend it's a mock draft" edition)

1) Netflix: You may not like the Bill Nye show or 13 Reasons Why or the brand-new Dear White People, but they have people talking.

2) MLB.TV: I have to rate this pretty high since it's the one channel keeping me from watching more of the other channels, but it also gets credit for a redesign that lets me see all game scores at once when I log in there. In other words, it's one of those rare SVOD redesigns that actually helps the viewer.

3) Warner Archive Instant: Tom Bradford = one of the most sneakily complex characters in the TV landscape of his era. I sure hope WAI adds season 2 soon. I'd also like to see it add some more movies and fix its Roku channel, but, hey... WAI has also done a decent job of attempting to tie into the FX Feud arc about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

4) Hulu: Folks, I forgot to redeem my reward points for free Hulu this month, so you know what that means? That means Hulu is gonna go to the top or near the top of the charts in May as I try to "get my money's worth." However, Hulu also debuted Handmaiden's Tale, which at least one observer has said may be the service's breakthrough hit.  OK, it was me who said that, and probably more than once already. I also like that Hulu has been adding some older Brit series like Lark Rise to Candleford for no obvious reason.

4) Amazon Prime: Credit is due for season 3 of Catastrophe, something I will surely enjoy when/if I get Prime Video again. Amazon also did well at the Daytime Emmy Awards because apparently its kids shows are considered "daytime" ones.

5) YouTube: The worst thing about my kids watching these Minecraft videos is that I forgot to sign out first, meaning YouTube thinks I want to watch all these Minecraft videos.

6) TubiTV: I continued my inexplicable fascination with Diane English's old CBS sitcom Love and War but also checked out another episode of the entertaining mini-show (12 minutes per episode) Pop Culture Quest with Mark Hamill. 11 are available on Comic Con HQ, but only 4 are on Tubi.

7) WWE Network: Much respect for continuing to upload old episodes of Prime Time Wrestling, which should have been up there at the beginning of the network's launch, but who's counting? I mean, I'm ranking, but not counting.

8) The CW: Supergirl is way down in quality this season, but I still like watching it for free on CW.

9) Days of Dumont: OK, I saw something interesting on here: an episode of The Wendy Barrie Show, a daytime chat show hosted by the actress. Days of Dumont is more than just the two-fisted exploits of Mike Barnett and Rocky King!

10) Shout! Factory TV: Squeaks in on the strength of a charming Dick Cavett Show I saw this week, an episode devoted to Jim Henson and his Muppets back in the early days.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

TODAY on Battle of the Network Shows!

Thank you for being a reader...and a listener...and a friend! How about doing me one more solid and listening to our newest episode? Anyone interested?



Click right here to find this week's show. Don't ya dare miss it!

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
Pyschiatrist
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
Carlos
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 mean...eh, 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 Decider.com, "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?

WHOAAAAAA....


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!