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.