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
Mrs. Manicotti
"Funny Money" Ralph

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

TODAY on Battle of the Network Shows

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Half-assed Gourmet: The Tony Danza Breakfast

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

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

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

Then I realized I didn't have any breadsticks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

'Mooners Monday #9: Sick Burn Theatre #1

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

Plus I just think it sounds funny in this context.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

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

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

What could possibly go wrong here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it some kind of coded message to the Illuminati?

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

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

Sunday, April 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 7, 2017

Brooks on Books: Poking a Dead Frog by Mike Sacks

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say it ain't so, Leonard Nimoy!

Monday, April 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

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


Down goes Kramden! Down goes Kramden!

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

Art Carney's  no slouch, either.

Interesting journey to the floor for Norton...

The patented quick attempt to regain the falling hat!

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

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

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

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

I spoke too soon about those eyes.

DOWN goes--ah, you get the idea.

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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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