Monday, February 27, 2017

'Mooners Monday #1: Alice and the Telephone

Let's consider the way Alice Kramden gazes at this telephone in "The Babysitter":



I said on Facebook that I wished I knew a woman who loved me the way Alice loved that telephone. Who can blame her, really? She spent years cooped up in that apartment without any link to the outside world (though, as Ralph notes, she did have a perfectly good window to yell through). Imagine how overjoyed she must have been to finally be able to reach her bookie without leaving the premises.

Actually, this episode is one of the creepiest ever for me due to the last-minute changes producers made. The Kramdens are assigned a phone number, Bensonhurst 3-7741, but as The Official Honeymooners Treasury notes, that was a working number, so Alice and Ralph later had to dub in "0-7740" and "0-7741." The frequent overdubs always gave this episode a surreal quality to me. I know many modern audiences find Ralph's "Bang, zoom!" threats off-putting, but to me the voiceovers in this episode are the most jarring thing in the "Classic 39" (The Lost Episodes have plenty of bizarro disturbing moments) season.

One other thing this episode made me wonder: Why didn't Alice take on more babysitting jobs? Sure, the obvious answer is the plots didn't require it, but if you think of it, it's the perfect spot for her: She gets out of the house while Ralph is off at his lodge meeting/bowling night/pool night/mumblety-peg tournaments, and Alice gets some extra bucks.

This episode has one of my favorite throwaway Honeymooners lines: Ed picking up a magazine at the barber shop and saying, "Hey, Ralph--Esquire! Va-va-voom!"

Ralph is not impressed. He reads it for the articles.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week 48 (Special Post-Presidents Day Edition)

Did you all have a nice Presidents Day? I'd like to think  Bill Clinton writes anonymous letters to Netflix every month begging them to add Evening Shade.

1) Hulu: The Golden Girls does not have commercials! Hallelujah! Also, a lot of anime debuted this week, so if that's your thing, go crazy. I am also glad to see FX show Legion showing up here in season, and I want to check out last week's NBC 90th anniversary special, although I would kind of like to skip over the last 20 years and focus on the first 70.

2) YouTube: Just when you think things are all bad these days, remember that someone has a YouTube channel devoted to vintage USFL footage and is uploading Philadelphia Stars "season in review" videos.

3) Netflix: I'm not super thrilled about this week's adds, but a lot of the Ken Burns documentaries have returned. I admit I am curious to see Ultimate Beastmaster, but I am afraid seeing even a few minutes will only encourage them to make more shows like that.

4) HBO Now: I am celebrating HBO another week based on the excellent Veep, a show unlike any other currently on TV. Season 5, which I "bunch of shows at a time" watched on the free preview weekend, was so good that, had I not known the creator had bailed, I really doubt I would have suspected it.

5) Shout! Factory TV: This week's Glen Campbell featured Stevie Wonder--'nuff said. I also saw an intriguing Cavett rerun with Jane Fonda--meaning well, perhaps, but coming off as self-important as the stereotype would have it--and Mort Sahl, who is the most fascinating person out there even after Peter and Henry join Jane.

6) PIX11:  Number 6 with a bullet--and I don't mean the one that shot a "lady cop" as covered in the episode--on the strength of a complete 1982 Action News with original ads (including Carvel and some awesome-looking stage show with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Batman, and Wonder Woman).  The great Ralph Lowenstein is in the anchor chair, and though there is some depressing stuff, you also see a nice sports report and a segment on Vanderbilt jeans.

7) TuneIn: I don't know why I heard the Moonglows' "Hey Santa Claus" in the middle of February, but I'm glad I did. We have to do something about what I see as the continued effort to trick me into hearing Barbra Streisand, though.

8) Days of Dumont: Even channels that purport to show programs with social value today don't show anything like The John Hopkins Science Review.

9) Pub-D-Hub: Quiet week with no update, but they at least told everyone ahead of time there would be no update. It had a technical issue last week, but it responded to me when I asked about it. Finally, it deserves a place if only because of the bizarre commercial for Swanson Frozen Chicken Parts featuring some kid in a Davy Crockett hat pretending to go gaga for some kind of boxed drumstick he finds in the icebox.

10) MLB.TV: It's back, baby! Spring training games, the World Baseball Classic...I won't be watching a ton of that, but I'm glad it's there. I figure I have about a month or so to catch up on all this crap I need to watch on other channels before Pirates season begins.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Cultureshark Remembers...Ivan Koloff and George Steele

Two famous former professional wrestlers passed away last week within a day of each other, and while it may seem like I'm straining to connect the two, I see a resemblance here. Each to me represented the stereotypical "old guy" wrestler. There is a myth that Vince McMahon took rasslin' out of smoke-filled arenas and made it a family event--a myth propagated by...Vince McMahon!

Still, it is easy to think of pre-WWF expansion in the 1980s and post as distinct eras. George Steele and Ivan Koloff had great success in the early days and looked like the archetype of the old TV wrestler--middle-aged, kind of scary-looking, hairy everywhere except the tops of their heads, and most likely quite sweaty.

Yet the two reinvented themselves, in a sense, and thrived during the 1980s, when I happened to become a wrestling fan. Steele went from the savage heel to the beloved "mentally challenged" babyface (and had a memorable feud with RANDY Savage), a comedy character who made kids happy with his green tongue and his tearing of the turnbuckles. A lot of fans didn't like the character--hey, I have to admit I was annoyed that he was involved in Savage's feud with another of my favorites, Ricky Steamboat, as much as he was--but he was one of the more well known among the general public and the casual fans, and he certainly was an attention getter.

Koloff found a career rejuvenation years after winning the World Wide Wrestling Federation championship over Bruno Sammartino in a legendary upset. He slid into a mentor role as the manager/tag team partner of his "nephew" Nikita Koloff, and together the two were a significant act in Jim Crockett Promotions, the organization I always wanted to see more of even when it seemed WWF was all over the place. So years after his physical peak, Koloff changed roles and may have made the most money he ever did, even though he was no longer a main event singles wrestler.

The other thing that links the two in my mind is that both are great examples of the, "Wouldja believe he's really..." phenomenon. You know, it's that deal where you find out a pro wrestler is totally different than his on-screen persona. I think for years the go-to example of this was that George "The Animal" Steele was a schoolteacher in between wrestling gigs. I didn't know until well after I first saw him, but Koloff was not Russian at all. Well, that wasn't a huge surprise, but I didn't know he was a Canadian who was originally billed as an Irishman.

Of the two, I much preferred Ivan Koloff's act, but both were big parts of a misspent youth filled with way too much TV wrestling. R.I.P.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

And Now...a Word from THEIR Sponsor

Welcome to a new recurring feature in which we focus on vintage commercials of yore. Today, I'm hungry for some pizza. Are you in the mood for pizza? Yeah, I'm always in the mood for pizza. Let's go out for some.

Someone want to explain this to me?



I don't have a problem with Tim Conway--fine performer getting the job done here--but what the deuce is the concept of "Straw Hat Pizza"? "Hey, let's make people really feel at home by making them think they're getting their pizza from..." What? A bunch of rubes? Hayseeds? What exactly is the gimmick, and how does it pertain to pizza? Did the employees enjoy wearing those big straw hats? Actually, I 'm pretty sure I know the answer to that last one.

I think "Big White Chef Hat Worn by Guy with Stereotypical Thick Black Mustache" Pizza would have been a better choice, but this was apparently a real direction that a franchise chose. Nothing like getting your pies from someone wearing...a straw hat! And if that isn't appealing enough, check out the lovely 1970s brown-centric logo.

Straw Hat Pizza: "All for fun, and fun for all." Why, that sure does look like a fun joint. I wonder if kids got a free straw hat with every pan pizza. Other ads show the row of fun--basically, a handful of arcade games--a little better. Hey, back in those days, a standalone Frogger was a big deal, something worth donning your straw hat and heading outside to see.

(Note: I begrudgingly did some research and discovered this chain is still around. Straw Hat, I may not understand you, but you have several dozen more restaurants to your name than I do, and for this I respect you.)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Beginning next week: 'Mooners Mondays!

That's right, in addition to the regular "Hazel: The Early Years," Cultureshark will now try to brighten your Mondays with a post about The Honeymooners. Unlike my look at Hazel, though, this will not be an episode-by-episode series, but more like a collection of screencaps and random thoughts I have while making my way through the series yet again.



I've been watching the show again and posting some inane comments on Facebook, so I thought, why not share my self-indulgent tidbits with my blog readers? I am already close to halfway through my Blu-Ray set (thanks to a tip from Ivan at TDOY, who told me it was a mere bag of shells during a recent sale), so I may go more or less through the rest of the season, but I will also go back and hit some other episodes and maybe some Lost Episodes and miscellaneous material along the way. Don't expect lengthy or even "good" posts, but you can expect the 'Mooners, and isn't that a nice way to start the week?



Oh, I wish that these things were true of this blog...
 

Celebrate Presidents Day with...(some shameless self-promotion)

If  you would like to celebrate the holiday, might I recommend revisiting my recent TV Time piece at ClassicFlix? Sure, Abe Lincoln's role in guiding the Union was critical, but how did he do on Star Trek?

Also, Battle of the Network Shows will return shortly with season 2, but in the meantime, we are putting features on the webpage, like today's Tale of the Tape comparing Lincoln to one of our favorite superstars from our season 1.

Don't you dare miss it!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week 47 (Special "Just about back to 100% after mild flu" edition)

1) YouTube: Finally some good news in the streaming world, as YT announced it was axing Pewdiepie. I don't even know the whole story behind that, but I was delighted to see that had happened, anyway. Plus those 30-second unskippable ads are being phased out (I actually read about that on a site with an unskippable embedded ad, which amused me), and while the cynic in me assumes we will get more skippable ads, I appreciate the news.

Oh, yeah, plus I discovered the entire run of [SHOW I LIKE REDACTED] is on here after all and not anywhere else, so that's a good thing, too! All this plus a new feature coming to the blog will be made possible by YouTube.

2) Hulu: OK, I'll admit it, I have enjoyed watching The Golden Girls this week, and it is a pretty cool get for a service that seemed to need one. On the flip side, a big general deal with Viacom expired this week, meaning stuff like The Daily Show is no longer available after broadcast.

3) Netflix: The new Bob Odenkirk movie kind of slipped in under the radar, didn't it? Still, it's there, and people seem to love Chefs Table. I know my kids enjoyed a new installment of Project MC2, and I enjoyed quite a few various reruns this week. It was a relatively quiet week, but Netflix didn't do anything to annoy us, either.

4) HBO: HBO was about to sneak into the list despite the return of Girls on the intriguing news that an Andre the Giant documentary was in the works, plus the arrival of the prestige "limited series event" (or whatever they want to call it) with Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. Then I discovered it's a free preview weekend and I got to watch season 5 of Veep, and, whoosh, HBO rockets up the charts.

5) Shout! Factory TV: I very much enjoyed the first episode of The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,  which features an endorsement from John Wayne (Glen in turn calls him the greatest guy in the world) and a long segment with the then-Torkless Monkees.

6) Days of Dumont: This week was all about some short clips for me, like Bishop Sheen  talking about the evils of communism and a performance by Benny Goodman (not on the same show, unfortunately).

7) SeeSo: Upstart Crow, a series about Shakespeare from one of the creators of Blackadder and starring David Mitchell, premieres this week. Hmm...might be time to give SeeSo another look.

8) The CW: The fact that CBS is charging so much for people to stream its shows makes me appreciate sister network's free service even more.

9) PIX 11: Barely in the rankings on the strength of an amusing 1975 news clip about the removal of pay toilets, but I expect more from this one. Cool clips show up on the Facebook page, but the Archives section on the Roku channel has been slim pickings in recent weeks.

10) Showtime: Showtime has a free preview weekend, too, so I give it some props, but...it's still Showtime. It seems only appropriate that HBO would steal its thunder with a free preview of its own at the same time.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Brooks on Books: Prime Reading Roundup

During my brief stint with Amazon Prime, I tried to take advantage of the Prime Reading program. As with many other aspects of the ever-expanding Prime, it's kind of annoying to navigate and figure out, so I won't try to explain, but many of the cheaper books and Kindle Singles in the Kindle library are available for free reading to Prime members (not to be confused with the Kindle Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited, which...ah, I'm not getting into all that).

Here are some quick thoughts on what I read:

A Spy's Guide to Thinking by John Braddock:  A short read from an intelligence agent who uses a personal incident--being accosted by someone trying to steal his phone while he's out in the field--as a foundation to discuss ways of thinking, touching on game theory and methods of analysis. It's a compelling piece of writing that leaves you wanting more. I might have been disappointed had I paid a full Kindle price, but I really enjoyed it.

Churchill in the Trenches by Peter Apps: In this Kindle Single, a former defense correspondent for Reuters traces the World War I experience of Winston Churchill, who returned to the Army and went to the literal trenches in Belgium after experiencing political defeat. It's an illuminating, focused look at a low point in the man's life, supplemented with accounts from contemporaries and correspondence between Churchill and wife Clementine.

The Spirit of '76: From Politics to Technology, the Year America Went Rock & Roll by David Browne: I was disappointed with this Kindle Single and was glad I hadn't paid for it. Browne is a veteran entertainment journalist who knows his stuff (despite making the gaffe of identifying decathlete Bruce Jenner as a swimmer, an error pointed out by several Amazon reviewers but now corrected), but this is a basic account of the pop culture of 1976 without much insight. It's a quick read of an interesting year, but I don't think Browne really gets across his premise.

Ken Burns: The Kindle Single Interview by Tom Roston: This is a worthwhile and revealing longish interview from 2014, and Burns comes off well here. He covers his storytelling/filmmaking philosophies and also shares revealing details of his personal history that shaped him. Highly recommended for Burns fans. NOTE: The Errol Morris Kindle Single Interview is good, too.

The Rolling Stones Discover America by Michael Lydon: There are parts early on in this "Singles Classic" that make you think, uh-oh, this is gonna be an overwritten slog. Lydon seems to be straining at times to be literary, but this is overall an excellent account of the Stones' ill-fated 1969 tour that culminated in disaster at Altamont.  Embedded with the Stones organization (even then it was a machine, as Lydon illuminates), he takes advantage of the access to provide fascinating details of an explosive act at the heights. He even writes about the access itself and how its extent on a given day affects him. It's a self-aware but piercing look at not just the Rolling Stones, but at the nature of fame and the culture of the era. It's short by book standards but a must read if you're into this sort of thing, and it is well worth the $1.99 price for non-Prime members.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week 46 (Special "I KNEW the Patriots would come back and annoy everyone" edition)

1) Netflix: David Brent movie. 'Nuff said. A new Michael Bolton comedy/Valentine's Day special also made waves, and I would give it a shot, but I saw the guest list and thought, "Eh, this is the same people who always show up in this sort of thing." Maya Roseman, Fred Armisen...Is this any good?

It's actually a slow week otherwise, but I have to give Netflix credit because I think I'm going to watch Finding Dory with my kids this weekend. Also, part of me is intrigued (another is appalled) by the announcement that the company is launching a big initiative to merchandise its properties. It sounds ridiculous, really, but I am curious to see what kind of goofy crap they put on the market.

2) NBC: If you wanted to pay tribute to the late Richard Hatch by streaming some old-school Battlestar Galactica, as I did, you couldn't do it on Netflix. You couldn't do it on Hulu. You could only do it on Amazon for $1.99 a pop. NBC has the whole series for free, though. Kudos! And R.I.P., Apollo.

3) YouTube: I did indeed have a little pre-Super Bowl party by watching a random 1981 Steelers/Niners game last week: Original CBS broadcast, with Vin Scully and Hank Stram on commentary, in-game updates by Brent Musberger, and no clutter on the screen at all during the action. Weird seeing John Stallworth get clobbered going over the middle for a pass with no flag or even discussion of the possibility of one.

The kids can have their unboxing videos, their "shopping haul" videos, and their "playing a video game" videos, but I'll take stuff like that, thank you very much. At least I will until YT removes it.

4) Hulu: Golden Girls arrives Monday, and not much else new is going on here, but it's a steady if unspectacular time as the new TV arrives each week after broadcast.

5) Days of Dumont: It added more shows this week, solidifying its status as one of the best free retro channels out there. I enjoyed some more Follow That Man with Ralph Bellamy as a two-fisted P.I. He didn't really use his fists, but he would have.

6) Amazon Prime: Well, I said it would slide once I dropped it, and this one is not long for these rankings. I still respect additions like some PBS Kids seasons and whatever Classic Comedy Teams hosted by Steve Allen is.

7) Shout! Factory TV: The more you see Dick Cavett, the more you appreciate him. His show looks better and better compared to what passes for chat shows today.

8) Tune In: I tell you, no one--and I mean no one--plays more pre-ELO Jeff Lynne than the Deep Oldies station. Every time I "tune in" to that one...

9) The CW: I'm still a few episodes behind, but, folks, I ain't feeling the direction on some of these Supergirl characters.

10) MyRetroFlix: Slow going in recent weeks for this one, but I give credit for adding Hangar 18,  a UFO conspiracy movie featuring Darren McGavin, Robert Vaughn, and Gary Collins. I was stunned to learn this was NOT a made-for-TV movie.  I didn't know Mystery Science Theater used it, either, but I think I'm gonna watch the original version first.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Shameless self-promotion: TV Time again at ClassicFlix

Let's celebrate Lincoln's birthday this year by looking not at Abraham Lincoln the statesman, not Abraham Lincoln the orator, but Abraham Lincoln the television performer!

TV Time: Abraham Lincoln in Sci-Fi Television
    Trivia lovers often point out the eerie similarities between two acclaimed United States presidents who were both struck down by assassins. While an amusing number of coincidences do indeed connect Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, there is at least one huge difference: While Honest Abe is all over classic TV, it's hard to find JFK.

Click right here for the rest, and tell 'em Cultureshark sent ya! Don't you dare miss it!

Hey, why are these channels never in the Streaming Video Power Rankings?

After 45 weeks, you have probably seen some trends emerge in the weekly SVOD top 10--Netflix is almost always number 1, for example--and some prominent channels are often absent while a relative obscurity like Pub-D-Hub is a staple of the list. It seems like a good time to remind everyone, including some of our newer readers, why some of these high-profile streaming video on demand outlets rarely place:

CBS All-Access: I don't watch CBS shows on CBS, so why would I pay 6 bucks a month to see them here? I suppose it's a nice concept, to be able to watch CBS shows whenever you want (assuming you don't have access to an on demand library through a cable provider), but to charge for this stuff, they need a lot more. I just don't get the pitch. Hey, watch our shows plus SOME of our classic content! There are some old series that are intact, but otherwise it's like, here's a season of 90210. Here's half of The Brady Bunch.  Here's more than half of the original Odd Couple. Here's just over half of I Love Lucy. Uh, no thanks. Hulu offers most of the classic content and shows from ABC, FOX, and NBC among many others, for only a few extra bucks a month. This service is way overpriced. Even the free trial is skimpy: One measly week.

NFL Now: I am not even sure if the NFL has a Roku channel right now. It keeps disappearing. When it is around, it offers clips and ads to buy a fuller package. I've hoped for years it would open up the vaults and offer full access to the NFL Films library and original game broadcasts, but for now the league is content to run this as a propaganda outlet and to spend its time removing cool old videos from YouTube even though it has no intention of offering similar content to anyone.

Crackle: The news that Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee was moving to Netflix was only the latest sign that Sony appears to be giving up.  This free service is often not worth even "free" because it is so difficult to navigate. There was a time when it looked like Crackle was serious about adding interesting content each month, but it's been going through the motions for months now.

Filmstruck: It seems to have squandered a lot of the goodwill it generated with its announcement by botching the launch. Now I don't hear anything about this pricy niche service, it still hasn't offered Roku support, and when I tried to check out its library last week, the site failed on two different web browsers.

Brown Sugar: "Like Netflix, only blacker." Even though a lot of its presumed content is available elsewhere or has been around the SVOD block, I'd love to take advantage of the free trial and sample this Blaxploitation streaming service, but so far it's  pretty much PC only.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Hazel: The Early Years: Episode 3, Hazel Plays Nurse

All you Hazel fanfic writers hoping to see Shirley Booth in a nurse outfit, settle down. That doesn't happen in this episode--Hazel doesn't even get to wear the spiffy new dress she bought for Harold's school ceremony--but we do learn that she is "a licensed vocational nurse." It's not brain surgery, she says, but it's the best you can do with night school.

And you DO get to see Don Defore in flannel pajamas as Hazel (with an assist from the local doctor, who confirms her diagnosis) forces Mr. B to bed with that dreaded calamity known as...A COLD.




Yes, the cold is so feared that it sidelines not just George, but his most valued and most annoying client, the "steamroller" himself, none other than Howard Smith as Mr. Griffin! Yes, episode 3 features the historic debut of the semi-regular, and he's grumpy and irritable from the beginning, though at least this time there's an excuse: Poor widdle baby has a widdle cold.

To his credit, Griffin doesn't want to rest up. He wants to do work, so much so that he barrels into the Baxter household, marches upstairs, and starts going over "important papers" with attorney George...



...which leads to Hazel discovering HE'S sick and confining him as well. One of the best things about this episode is the bluster of the menfolk when confronted with Hazel's strong will. Both George and Griffin declare that if anyone thinks they're going to bed, they're crazy, followed of course by a quick cut to them in bed.



Interesting, though, that even in this first appearance, Griffin does a quasi-babyface turn, relenting on a negotiation George conducts over the phone, then telling George Hazel reminds him of his dear, old mother after putting on her wool socks (Nothing weird about any of this, friends). I kept expecting him to go ape over some homemade soup Hazel whipped up, but he only gets to share the croup kettle she got out for Mr. B, so his intense love of her cooking will be revealed in a future episode.

"Hazel Plays Nurse" is a solid effort, with plenty of patented shots of Don Defore being taken aback by what goes on around him. At the breakfast table, before being diagnosed with that devastating cold, he remarks on the "bedlam" around him, which consists of the school bus (driven by prolific character actor Norman Leavitt) picking up Harold. Whoa, total chaos!

"Spare me your so-called witticisms, Hazel."


"Oh, for crying out loud..."

The subtext of the episode, as it is throughout the series' run is the politics of the working class. Fred the milkman complains to Hazel how he has the longest route of anyone because his boss is trying to make him quit so he can give the job to his brother-in-law. Hazel manages to get a phone extension installed in the Baxters' bedroom, and she does so through her connection to Gordy, who is outside working on a telephone pole.  He's booked on a tight schedule  (by "The Man," no doubt), but he agrees to do the work pronto when Hazel threatens to withhold...bowling lessons (I TOLD you to settle down).

Harold's school presentation will feature his reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, to which I say, big deal. Oh, I am not dissing the Pledge, but why is this such an event? My kids say it every single day, yet Hazel and Dorothy are acting like Harold's recital of it is a State of the Union address. Later, with George in bed, Missy insists that Hazel attend the school event because she can't leave George alone. it's a nice gesture because she knows Hazel bought a new outfit for the occasion, but, jeez, it's YOUR son, as Hazel says in so many words. Thankfully, Hazel overrides her boss' orders--why should this be different than any other time--but I don't see why both couldn't go. George has a cold, not dengue fever.

Somewhere in an old lady's sitting room, a sofa is missing its upholstery

Finally, there's a great cold open with George bragging to Harold about his football exploits. "They used to call me End Run Baxter," he boasts. Well, when he gets Scrap Iron Burke to snap the ball to him, he goes End over Tea Kettle:





Monday, February 6, 2017

Brooks on Books: Backstage with the Original Hollywood Squares by Peter Marshall

Peter Marshall has lived a fascinating life filled with a wide variety of accomplishments. If a recent podcast appearance is any indication, he remains active and erudite at age 90, with plenty of stories about his entire career.

This book is not about his entire career, though. After a brief bit of biographical info, Marshall gets right into the story of Hollywood Squares, the iconic game show he hosted from its inception in 1966 until 1981. It's a fun read, packed with anecdotes, trivia, and personal remembrances but also solid history of the series itself.

Marshall talks about the origins of Squares, how he got the gig (replacing pilot host Bert Parks), and shares his views on regulars like Paul Lynde and Wally Cox (a surprising character in many ways) as well as the numerous other celebs who served on the panel over the years. The book is warm--Marshall's memories of the show are almost all fond--and his portrait of the cast and crew as a mostly happy family should please fans. Marshall doesn't go into detail about the drinking that took place on taping days, but he doesn't shy away from it, either, and he has (relatively tasteful) tales of off-camera debauchery that took place when the show traveled on junket-type expeditions or just shot on location. There's a brief anecdote involving Pat Buttram and a prostitute that caught my attention.

It's a surprisingly candid account with some naming of names, but Marshall has genuine fondness for his colleagues and most of the guests. Some celebrities who weren't even on the show don't come off so well.  Take John Wayne, who wrote Marshall an angry letter after being used as a punchline in one episode, saying, "I God damned well resent..." the reference.

The process of making the show and putting together the questions is a compelling tale. The producers weren't allowed to give guests the questions, but they provided bluffs/zingers to use and kind of gave them enough info to know what to prepare their "ad-libs" about if they weren't gonna get assistance from the writers.

There are lots of tidbits in here, but here's a sampling of some of his picks in various categories:

Favorite celebrity square: George Gobel
 
Least favorite: Jackie Mason (long-winded, would interrupt all the other celebrities)
 
Biggest pain in the ass: Tony Randall (He just went on and on one time and was so busy being "witty and erudite" that it slowed the game, and Marshall actually called him out on the air.)
 
Sexiest woman ever on the show: Diana Rigg (She showed up her first time wearing a t-shirt that said TITS. "Classy!)
 
Funniest square ever: Mel Brooks
 
Star with the least understanding of how to play the game: Groucho Marx (Marshall says he kept talking because he thought the show needed to avoid dead air.)
 
The only contestant who later returned as a star: OJ Simpson (No comment.)
 
There is a master list of celebs who appeared as Squares at the end, and I would accuse Marshall of padding, but there's plenty in here to provide good value, and he seems sincere in his desire to provide a record for posterity. Learning that Norman Fell was a good friend of Burt Reynolds or that Richard Burton had designs on Karen Valentine (not that I blame either one of those guys) is almost enough to make this a worthwhile read, but the whole book is an engaging experience and a must for anyone interested in the original incarnation of the classic game show.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week 45 (Special "It's not the Big Game, it's the SUPER BOWL" edition)

While we all sit down to watch commercials on Sunday, let's remember that one of the reasons we fled to streaming video was to flee all the ads on broadcast and cable television.

1) Netflix: Just on additions alone, Netflix is standing tall this week: A new Drew Barrymore series, Finding Dory, The People vs. O.J. Simpson... An intriguing new title is Pioneers of African-American Cinema, a version of the DVD release from Kino spotlighting all sorts of films, including genre efforts and short subjects, from the 1920s to the 1950s. Given the steady decline of archival material on Netflix, this is a welcome surprise.

2) YouTube: It's nice for a grieving Steelers fan to discover someone has uploaded random 1980s game broadcasts this week. Combine one of those with some great 1970s/80s promos and commercials from various channels, and I might have my alternative "Big Game" celebration. By the way, it detracts from the game experience, perhaps, but it's nice to be able to see all the Super Bowl ads here before the game. That way, we can just grab food during the breaks in the game, the way the Lord intended.

3) Amazon Prime: The footage of Joe Frazier singing "Proud Mary" at the beginning of his Greatest Sports Legends episode was almost enough to justify my Prime fee this month. Yet I also enjoyed The Man in the High Castle, and while I did not enjoy Woody Allen's Crisis in Six Scenes, it was my own fault for watching all 6 episodes. I am saying farewell to Prime after this weekend, so it may not place as high for a while, but the arrow is up on this one overall.

4) Hulu: These guys have to be disappointed at the lack of talk about Chance and Shut Eye, right? However, Hulu is making a big push for upcoming A Handmaid's Tale, including a Super Bowl commercial.

5) Shout! Factory TV: Another routine update--a little Jerry Lewis, a little Cavett, a little MST3K--but it remains free, like I say just about each week. Plus this week I enjoyed a show with Cavett interviewing Ted, er, ah, Kennedy.

6) Pub-D-Hub: This week, the Pub added a few episodes of series that I don't see floating around as much: The Americans (a young Robert Culp in this one) and Michael Shayne

7) TuneIn: I heard way more Air Supply this week than any man should in a short period of time. I won't tell you how many songs that is and if it's more than 1.

8) PBS: Quietly offers a solid experience, adding shows shortly after air, then giving you a few weeks to watch them before yanking them or moving them behind their paywall. I enjoyed two solid documentaries this week. Only quibble: The continue watching function doesn't work for me anymore.

9) TubiTV: Another quirky (Quigley Down Under) batch of additions for February, including True Confessions, a movie I think I have intended to watch on 3 different SVODs and probably 4 different times on Netflix alone. Maybe this time I'll actually see it!

10) The CW: My superhero shows are back, and I'm already hopelessly behind again. I will be watching a lot of CW once I lose Prime.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

On the Radio: "You May Be Right" by Billy Joel

I'm gonna get right to it this time: Why in the heck does Billy Joel's character tell a woman, "and you told me NOTS to drive," in this song?

Seriously. Listen to it again. The official lyric is:

And you told me not to drive
But I made it home alive
So you said that only proves that I'm insane

Sure, that's what Big Publishing WANTS us to think. But what Joel actually says is, "You told me NOTS to drive."   What's up with that?

Is it supposed to show how CRAZY this guy is? "Whoa, that lunatic talks like Sheldon Leonard! He IS insane!" (NOTE: I have no idea what that Sheldon Leonard reference means)

Is it Billy Joel's way of slipping in something a little extra edgy? Does it have something to do, somehow, some way, with dynamic range/mixing/some other technical aspect of the recording process I don't actually care about?

Am I crazy?