Saturday, July 29, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week #70 (Special "70th anniversary, and by that I mean the 70th one" edition)

1) Hulu: It was Golden Girls and Mary Tyler Moore for me this week. Uh, and also, uh, Rambo and Ninjas and guns and stuff.

But Hulu also announced some interesting things at the TCA tour, including the acquisition of 5 long-running ABC TGIF sitcoms. I loathe all of those shows, but again, Hulu continues to grab catalog content when Netflix has given up on it.

2) Netflix: The Incredible Jessica James is well regarded as an enjoyable romantic comedy movie, but I still feel like people  are sleeping on The Adventures of Puss in Boots. I include myself in that category. A new season just dropped, people! I will make it a point to catch up on it, along with the dozen other Netflix originals upon which I am catching (?).

It's a slow week for Netflix, but I actually enjoyed watching several things on there, and ultimately, these rankings are not only about what's new, but what is ON and what I am--I mean what we are all enjoying. Hulu is surging, though, Netflix, and it's gonna take a little more effort to regain that stranglehold on the top spot.

3) YouTube: PRO Classic TV continues uploading stuff like Cisco Kid and Rifleman, and I continue to be amazed at the amount of old NFL game footage on here. I really, really miss the great channel that had tons of complete vintage MLB games, though.

I also give YT credit for being (apparently) the only channel of any kind anywhere that my kids want to watch. I can't even sell them on Puss in Boots.

4) WWE Network: I always like to give credit where it's due, and uploading dozens of episodes of World Class Championship Wrestling deserves kudos. It's getting to the point where I am tempted to re-up once they fill in the gaps in shows like that.

5) Nosey: Uh-oh. I am really getting into this channel and have now watched several old episodes of Sally. I may have a problem here.

Strike that. I have a problem. The question is whether I can claw my way out of this before I start hitting the old episodes of Geraldo.

6) Days of Dumont: After listening to Jamie Farr on Gilbert Gottfried's podcast tell stories Ralph Bellamy told him about working on Man Against Crime, I turned it to Days of Dumont for some vintage episodes. What's not to love about that sentence?

7) Warner Archive Instant: I am docking WAI for the lack of updates this month, but I just can't stay mad at a service that gives me Don Johnson on Eight Is Enough.

8) MLB.TV: Losing to the Giants and the Padres? Really, Pittsburgh? I may have to adopt a random AL West team or something and start rooting for them so I have something to look forward to each night after the Buccos lose.

9) Pub-D-Hub: I am enjoying the Great Alaskan Mystery serial on here, though I still think it can use more Edgar Kennedy. Granted, I think that about most things made in the 1930s and 1940s...

10) Amazon Prime: That The Last Tycoon series looks kind of cool. Of course, most of the reviews say it isn't that great, so I am not going to get Prime for it or anything, but it looks cool and earns Amazon a 10-spot.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

YOU Make the Call: Eight Is Enough (Part 2)

Yesterday we took a brief look at the legendary star of Just Legal and Blood and Oil and asked if you would let him date your daughter. Today we have another suitor for the Bradford daughters on Eight Is Enough. Only, Don Johnson was dating Mary and was in a committed relationship--so committed that they tried living together.

This guy, though, has the nerve to try to date Susan and Joanie at the same time while being sneaky about it:

He LOOKS like a nice guy--sort of--and he even seems nice to Mary. He's David's roommate and co-worker on a construction site, so he can't be all bad, right?

 But look closely. Do you recognize this man who, years later would go on to terrorize Metropolis? That's right, it's LEX LUTHOR! Stay away, Susan and Joanie!

Fortunately, the Bradford girls figure out themselves what a creep he is, and they give him his comeuppance by...well, it's kind of goofy. They try to make him think that all 5 of them want him, which I guess is cruel when he figures out they're putting him on:

Knowing all this, YOU make the call: Would you let your daughter date this man?

Actually, the better question might be, would you let your daughter date THIS man? Yes, folks, it's time once again for the Grant Goodeve Gun Show:

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

YOU Make the Call: Eight is Enough (Part 1)

Folks, Mary Bradford, eldest daughter of harried but generally decent father of 8 and newspaper columnist Tom, is dating a new guy, and things are getting pretty serious. They want to live together.

I ask you, would YOU let your daughter DATE this guy, let alone shack up with him?

I mean, sure, this doctor in training is helpful at the beginning when Tommy breaks his leg in a football game...

but I don't like the attitude he is giving Tom here:

Still, to his credit, he does make nice with Tom at the end--and, yes, Tom concedes the Bradfords can be stubborn--and seems to be treating Mary right again.

I leave it up to you, readers: Does this man, who may or may not be the iconic star of a future iconic TV series (Nash Bridges, of course) look like someone you would want to date your daughter?

Monday, July 24, 2017

'Mooners Monday #21: The most terrifying moment on the show

Some Honeymooners moments really creeped me out when I was a little kid watching a rerun at 11:30 on a summer night--that moment when Ralph pulls back the curtain in the Xmas episode and breaks character always startled me, and there are all sorts of weird shots in the Lost Episodes--but no single scene in the show's history was scarier than the one that closes "Please Leave the Premises."

In this episode, Ralph sees a guy to get over the problem he's having with his nerves. Driving a bus is making him an angry wreck. Well, that's what HE says. I suspect he wasn't exactly Barney the Dinosaur before he got his spot at the Gotham Bus Co.

Anyway, he comes home all smiles and shares with Ed and Alice the method he has to deal with stress. The idea is to recite a simple saying each time he feels he is losing it. The characters say this a little differently at various points in the episode, but the gist is:

"Pins and needles, needles and pins. It's a happy man that grins." Then you smile, ask yourself what you were mad about, and, voila, troubles vanish.

Needless to say, things don't work out for Ralph, and I'll get into that in a future post, but for now let's focus on Alice's version. She does the rhyme in anger several times in this episode, and each time, it'''s chilling.

(I'm not sure what to make of Norton there, come to think of it)

That one is bad enough, but the episode's final shot is worse. We get a "good" look at Alice, and Audrey Meadows, a beautiful and classy woman, shows us how she can transform into an emissary of Satan himself:

(Warning: This image may be unsuitable for younger viewers)

Is this The Honeymooners or Mommie Dearest? [SHUDDER]

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week #69 (Special "No comment" edition)

1) Hulu: It earns the top spot this week with its recent library deal with Fox. In addition to series like Bob's Burgers and Bones, Hulu is adding the full runs of series like MASH and NYPD Blue. And finally--finally--that "first 3 seasons" nonsense of the MTM shows like Hill Street Blues, The Bob Newhart Show, and The Mary Tyler Moore is ending as Hulu will have all the episodes. St. Elsewhere  is another complete one coming, and that has only been the first season.

Bravo to Hulu for spending some money on pre-2000 TV series. Competition is good, and I'm glad that Hulu is willing to pick up the slack in an area Netflix has abandoned.

2) Netflix: Rogue One is a big add and a reminder of the value of that Disney deal. Maybe Jason Bateman and Laura Linney in Ozark will turn out to be a big success. However, I have seen a lot of negative reviews for their recent high-profile originals like Friends from College. Yeah, it's exciting to see a new series each weekend, but if it's not any good...

3) YouTube: Oh, I've seen some great stuff on here lately, like a 20-minute block of HBO promos and an old episode of WWF's syndicated "A" show. One of the best channels, Gilmore Box, uploaded a ton of great (and by great I mean terrible) opening sequences to forgotten 1990s sitcoms.

Also, speaking of old TV, big ups to PRO Classic TV. Peter Rodgers Organization apparently abandoned its standalone Roku channel and said, "Hell with it; let's just use YouTube," and is putting tons of old stuff up in decent quality for free. We're talking Rifleman, I Spy, My Favorite Martian, and more PRO programs.

4) MLB.TV: As of press time (I love writing that), the Pirates have won 12 of 14 and 6 in a row. It's fun to have MLB when your team actually wins games!

5) Warner Archive Instant: Stay tuned this week for my special look at the continued sketchy dating of the Bradford daughters on Eight Is Enough. Really, though, a movie-centric update for WAI is looooong overdue.

6) Pub-D-Hub: I think I am going to settle down and start watching The Great Alaskan Mystery, the latest addition to the serials category, tonight. Ralph Morgan, Milburn Stone, Marjorie Weaver, and best of all, Edgar Kennedy!

6) Nosey: The world didn't really need a free Roku channel dedicated to episodes of trash TV like daytime talk shows and courtroom shows, but here it is, and--this is going to be a credibility killer, I know--I actually enjoyed it recently. I looked for a "troubled teens" episode of Sally, and lo and behold, I found one right away!

7) Britbox: Added The Young Ones. 'Nuff said. But it also adds the first 7 seasons of iconic Britcom Only Fools and Horses. Will it please add Drop the Dead Donkey so I can throw some money at it?

8) TuneIn: Once again I heard Dave Mason's "We Just Disagree" on Deep Oldies on TuneIn, and it is by no means a deep oldie, but why would anyone complain about hearing it?

9) HBO Now: I probably shouldn't rate them just because DirectTV is running a free preview this weekend, but, hey, so be it. Hacksaw Ridge premieres this weekend. Remember that was actually nominated for Best Picture? I kind of forgot, too.

10) Shout! Factory TV: This week I saw Jerry Seinfeld guest on the old Dr. Ruth Lifetime show, and much to my delight, he was just as much a wise ass as I hoped he would be.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hazel: The Early Years: Episode 5, "Dorothy's New Client"

Conspicuous by his absence in this season 1 episode is Don Defore, AKA Mr. B. We see precious little of him, though Dorothy's desire to pay for the fancy chair she has ordered for him is an important plot point. Can Hazel the show work without Hazel the domestic engineer butting heads (in an amiable, well-meaning way, of course) with her nominal boss? Of course, but the Dorothy-centric episodes are missing something. Well, they are missing Defore, but you know what I mean.

"Dorothy's New Client" is significant for establishing Missy's career as an interior decorator...and that she apparently isn't all that successful at it. She's hurting for clients but doesn't want to be aggressive about hustling for them, nor does she want to mark up cheap items and push them as luxury accessories for would-be clientele. This is admirable but not so good when you need money for a new chair for your hubby, so Hazel butts in as only she can.

Check out the snooty designer who wants Dorothy to work for her. She has no qualms about doing what it takes to get clients:

Hazel's "poker face" at some of her business ideas leaves a bit to be desired:

From a Hazel Burke standpoint, this episode is notable because she actually gets busted in her meddling, proving that she is not the superhuman, infallible force she resembles at times throughout the series. Yes, even Hazel is kind of slow sometimes. She cooks up a scheme n which she cozies up to the new neighbors' domestic and convincing her to give a spiel designed to get her boss to hire a decorator.

The transparent ruse is not one of Hazel's best. Missy figures it out quickly, and Hazel has to haul a-double-crooked-letter back to her place to avoid being caught there in the new place playing puppet master.

It's refreshing to see that rare sign of fallibility, but make no mistake, Hazel is still the queen of the 'hood. When she recruits the new maid for the Sunshine Girls, she makes the group of domestic engineers sound like a bit more than a social group, explaining that they do meetings, lectures (by Hazel herself, natch), minor armed insurrections...OK, I made up the last part of that, but the Sunshine Girls don't mess around, and they prove it by the end of the episode.

See, the Sunshine Girls do a welcome wagon kind of deal in which they do a housecleaning and furniture arranging, and wouldn't you know it? They just happen to illustrate the many ways in which one crucial interior decorating decision can wreck a household.

 I look forward to seeing more of the Sunshine Girls. They are like Hazel's own Special Forces, ready to be deployed on short notice in any crisis.

But back to the boss, and I don't mean Mrs. B. So Dorothy gets her new client after all. Once again, game, set, match: Hazel.

I look forward to seeing more of the Sunshine Girls. They are like Hazel's own Special Forces, ready to be deployed on short notice in any crisis.

Monday, July 17, 2017

'Mooners Monday #20: Let's overanalyze (or not) the politics of "Mama Loves Mambo"

Judging old TV shows by modern standards is ludicrous folly. It's also really dumb. Still, there are some times when I watch the old classics and kind of wince a bit at stuff that would never fly today. More often, I just laugh about it.  Check out the dated gender politics of "Mama Loves Mambo." Just don't get too deep into it, please.

The premise of the episode is that distinguished new neighbor Carlos Sanchez charms Alice and the other women in the apartment, not only with his mambo skills (note: not a euphemism), but with his gentlemanly demeanor. In other words, he actually treats the ladies with respect instead of taking them for granted like they husbands.

Well, the menfolk resent this. Why should they have help out with the laundry or the cooking or to make eye contact and acknowledge their spouses as human beings? After all, they,

Eventually Carlos SHAMES the menfolk (including the proud, decidedly old-school Mr. Manicotti) into thinking, yeah, we got it made and should be thankful. So Ralph and Ed (I hope Mr. Manicotti, too, but sadly we don't see him upstairs saying, "Please-a, bambina, let me-a poosh outta the chair for you!") overcompensate by insisting they do everything for their wives.

And of course they are terrible at it. They are out of practice at handling complex, arcane culinary equipment like pots and saucepans.

Their "excessive"  good manners seen to annoy Alice and Trixie even more, though. The opening of doors, the pulling out of chairs--all are driving the women up a wall. So naturally, instead of asking their hubbies to find a happy medium, they ask the boys to go  back to the way they were--being complete barbarians.

Oh, you!

To his credit, Ralph asks Alice if she's sure, and only then does he start yelling and bossing her around, though he does it with love. After starting in on her, he laughs and says something like, "Now get my breakfast. I'm hungry."

It's all in fun, but it looks a little weird today. Even if you  assume Alice just dislikes the overly obsequiousness of the new Ralph and doesn't actually want him to treat her like a slave, it's a little weird.

Then again, it's also really funny.

But it IS kind of weird.

But it's mostly funny. I feel I should acknowledge it, so I did.

Next time, 'Mooners Monday will look at the single most terrifying Honeymooners episode ever!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week #68 (Special "You know, Summer gets pretty hot" edition)

It's not the heat but the humidity that is gonna keep this post relatively brief.

1) Netflix: Trailing only HBO in total Emmy nominations, Netflix has to be feeling pretty good about itself. Otherwise, a very quiet week content-wise, though Friends from College  might be a big hit.

2) Hulu: Big week for Hulu with Emmy noms for A Handmaid's Tale, plus adding American Dad, Bob's Burgers, and Futurama.

3) Warner Archive Instant: Don Johnson on an old Eight Is Enough was enough to make WAI shoot up the charts.

4) YouTube: The latest "Why are the kids so obsessed with this?" on YT=compilations of clips (I didn't know, either).

5) Amazon Prime: Added the second season of Mr. Robot, which I would really like to see. I don't think Prime Day had much if any impact on prime Video, though it may have earned a bunch of new sucker--er, subscribers.

Also, props for adding audio description to Prime Video.

6) Shout! Factory TV: I went back to Dick Cavett Land this week and enjoyed his trying to show George Carlin how witty he was. It was a nice change of pace from all that Dr. Ruth I had been watching, I'll  tell you that.

7) TuneIn: I heard two Stones songs on the radio this week,"Gimme Shelter" and "She's a Rainbow." Guess which one I heard on Deep Oldies.

8) Starz: I don't give Starz a lot of love on here, but they made a big announcement that they are beefing up their library, focusing on kids and Spanish programming. Sure, it could be an empty promise, but they have specific catalog titles they are adding. So, even though I don't know anything about Black Sails or Outlander, bravo, Starz.

9) MLB.TV: Pirates are heating up, baby!

10) Pub-D-Hub: I don't like to reward streaming outlets for NOT updating, but I like that the Hub said, "No update for this week." It's not great news, but at least they don't leave me hanging.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Brooks on Books: Golden Girls Forever

(Note: this post originally appeared yesterday on Battle of the Network Shows, where you can hear our podcast episode covering The Golden Girls)

Every TV show that runs, oh, more than 5 seasons and 125 episodes or so ought to have its own definitive book, but not many are that lucky. Despite its continued success in reruns and its appeal to multiple demographic groups, I was surprised to see a thick, fancy-looking hardback book devoted to the long-running NBC hit The Golden Girls. Jim Colucci has created what is surely the most comprehensive print collection of  information on the show. It's a slam dunk for anyone who loves the series, but even casual fans will find a lot of interest in here.

The first thing that stands out content-wise about the volume is the access Colucci has gained. Despite its release coming after the death of several key figures, the text makes frequent use of interviews with everyone. He personally interviews bea Arthur, Betty White, and Rue McClanahan and uses archival material for some thoughts of Estelle Getty. He also talks to the producers, writers, and many of the more notable guest stars and supporting players involved with  the show during its 8 seasons.

It starts off with a general history of the show and continues with a selective episode guide. It's surprising that such a hefty book does not include a comprehensive episode guide, but Colucci is not just listing the plots. Rather, he uses the episode chapters to work in other details about the series, how it was made, and the many guests who appeared. If you have a favorite episode, chances are it's included in this section.

Several things stand out from reading this book: 1) Everyone working on The Golden Girls took pride in it and felt they did good work. 2) Bea Arthur could be really prickly as a collaborator. Many stories in here begin with someone talking about how she was cold or distant to them, though they often take pains to say she was a real pro. 3) Estelle Getty's memory issues plagued her from the beginning. Several anecdotes center around her inability to remember lines, an unfortunate circumstance which often annoyed others on the set (including, yes, Arthur).

And I'm not saying this because the author happens to be gay (he mentions this), but there is a significant amount of coverage of the show's appeal in "the gay community," and there is extensive coverage of the fate of Coco, the live-in housekeeper who was axed after the pilot. There are a few appendices asking "Which Golden Girl Are You?" or questions like that, with the respondents being gay showbiz figures. It's no secret that the show has a following in that sector, and I am not complaining, but I will say that while any fan will love this book, gay fans will really  love it.

It's an outstanding piece of work by Colucci and a valuable source of info about a beloved sitcom. The commentary from the cast and creative team is useful, of course, but this book goes the extra mile by getting info from the likes of guest stars (Debbie Reynolds) and even bit players like Quentin Tarantino. I'd be a happy man if every show we covered on the podcast inspired this kind of book--well written, detailed, and offering attractive design and fine production values.

Monday, July 10, 2017

'Mooners Monday #19: The Secret Origin of Carlos Sanchez

Some of you may be shocked/outraged/totally indifferent (hey, I have to be honest) that the winner of our first dance contest, one based on "Mama Loves Mambo," was Angelina Manicotti and NOT the dance instructor who gets the whole Chauncey Street gang moving in the first place: Carlos Sanchez, Mr. Suave himself:

Well, would it surprise you to know that Carlos Sanchez is played by a Hungarian fella named Charles Korvin? He was born Geza Karpathi, moved to the USA in 1940, and made his Broadway debut several years later, according to his obituary in The New York Times. A producer spotted him there, and he soon became a contract player for Universal.

Some of his notable film roles include Berlin Express and Ship of Fools, which his family claimed broke a blacklisting in Hollywood. The latter movie came out in 1965, but obviously Korvin was working all throughout the 1950s in TV, including as Carlos Sanchez.

Let's go back to The Official Honeymooners Treasury, which reports that Korvin lied in his 'Mooners audition and said he could dance the mambo. When he got the part, he went to a Manhattan dance studio for a mambo crash course. Here's another reason to appreciate this fantastic book: The authors interviewed Roberta Weir, the former Rockette who taught Korvin that week.

Weir remembered recognizing the actor right away and struggling to get him up to speed. He was not at all a dancer, she told Crescenti and Columbe:

"He was a charming man, but before he left, I told him, 'I'm surprised you can walk.' He was so uncoordinated. I remember when that show was on the first time and I looked to see what he did, I was embarrassed. I didn't want anyone to know I taught him."

Well, maybe he wasn't the best dancer, but in fairness, anyone would look like a piker next to Mrs. Manicotti. And mambo or no, he sure is dashing!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week 67 (Special "Sgt. Pepper anniversary year" edition"

1) Netflix: It added a few things, like recent PRESTIGE movie Lion (I wish it would add King Leonardo) and a few seasons of Netflix Oriignals, and, hey, if you want to celebrate Christmas in July, Bad Santa 2 is new!

But it's number one because I took the opportunity this week to attack my backlog of things I want to watch on Netflix because AMERICA. USA! USA! USA!

Ahem. Anyway, it serves as my regular reminder that as annoying as Netflix's current direction can be, as tragic as it is that Quincy may never come back (I will never let that go), I still get good value for my monthly subscription.

2) YouTube: You  know, I am a big fan of uploaders altering titles to avoid copyright claims. I am not so big on shrinking the content to one quarter of the screen to do so.

3) Hulu: The Hulu Live TV thing doesn't excite me all that much, but it is growing. More importantly, Hulu is now offering HBO and Cinemax as add-ons. It's always nice to have options.

4) Amazon Prime: This is really just in anticipation of Prime Day, of which I am already sick. Maybe Prime Video will get something cool to commemorate the occasion.

5) MLB TV: Did you know they had a deal last week which sold the service for 10 bucks for the rest of the season? That doesn't do anyone any good now, but it's a pretty sweet deal...even if the Pirates are going nowhere this year.

6) Britbox: Good timing, adding the Roger Moore/Tony Curtis series The Persauders on July 4. The Young Ones is coming later this month, too, and Upstart Crow is new this weekend. If only this and Acorn were one combined super-awesome British streaming service...

7) Highspots: While WWE Network gets all the headlines, this indie-focused SVOD service chugs along, satisfying its customers and steadily adding content. A new Brusier Brody documentary looks interesting.

8) TubiTV:  The July 1 adds aren't so special--A Guy Thing? And I still feel they should be banned from the top 10 just for getting the likes of Gene Simmons' Family Jewels--but they are adds, and Tubi deserves credit for bringing new stuff in each month.

9) Fuzzy Memories (AKA Museum of Classic Chicago Television): There's more than just Chicago TV on here. The Roku channel has recently added some clips from cities like Baltimore, and it's good stuff.

10) Boomerang: I am still not overly impressed, but I give them credit for adding a Roku presence.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

TV Time Revisited (from ClassicFlix)

(NOTE: This article originally appeared on ClassicFlix as part of my regular TV Time column, but only existing members can see the content from me and others there for now. I encourage you to check out the site to see the interesting discs it is now releasing on its own label, and hopefully at some point you'll be able to read my stuff on the new site. If you are looking for a "longform" read on this holiday, please enjoy my look at Ed Asner's "heavy" roles in the 1960s!)

Long before he became America's unofficial grandfather by playing lovable if gruff characters like Carl Fredricksen in Up and Santa himself in Elf, Ed Asner had a long and storied television career. Prior to his breakthrough role of grizzled newsman Lou Grant, Asner guested in a wide variety of series in the 1960s, often playing characters that were nasty, mean, or downright evil. Let's go back to the days when this legendary performer had more hair on his head, more letters in his name (he was often billed as Edward Asner), and maybe more deviousness in his soul.

One of Asner's best guest shots is as the heinous Furman Crotty in The Wild Wild West's, "Night of the Amnesiac." Artemis Gordon refers to him as "The Grand Caliph of Kansas Crime," which may be a cooler handle than "Furman Crotty." In an episode with a lot going on -- Jim West gets amnesia, a desperately needed smallpox vaccine is held for ransom, one of my favorite character actors (George Petrie) makes an appearance -- Asner stands out and he does so by fitting in; by embracing the spirit of the series, he creates an engaging performance.

It's easy to believe Asner enjoys playing the bad guy because we see how much Crotty relishes being the bad guy. He's full of one-liners and cocky smiles. When Artemis Gordon asks where his partner Jim West is, Crotty, about to light up a cigar, casually replies, "Why don't you consult an Ouija board?" Oh, and by the way, Crotty is a federal prisoner during this conversation, which makes his attitude even more remarkable. His control of the vaccine -- and West -- as he knows, gives him leverage to get his release. He tells Gordon he'd like to help find the medicine, but he can't since he's imprisoned. "However," he adds, "I'm certain you can locate it easily enough." After a pause he adds, "Just follow the buzzards." Crotty chews on his stogie and grins as a dramatic musical sting reinforces the notion that he is an evil dude.

Crotty has plenty of classic moments; the way he sneers at the masses and mocks the thought of people dying without the crucial smallpox vaccine. The glee with which he reveals his heinous plan to West and Gordon is also a delight.

I could fill an entire column with Crotty quotes. "Every time I have to kill someone who's family, I get depressed," he says before chomping into an apple. Later, confronting the two agents, he declares, "Welcome to Crotty's Genocide Club -- the only truly liberal establishment of its kind. We'll kill anyone -- no questions asked." The fact that he says this wearing a cowboy hat and a smug smirk makes it better.

The only disappointment in this episode is the climactic fight scene, in which Asner's stunt double manages one impressive sledgehammer swing before being dispatched by a falling curtain. It's an ignominious downfall for such a charismatic foe, and someone with a name as cool as "Furman Crotty" deserves a more dynamic end.

Asner is no less devious but more subdued as an alien leader in The Invaders', "Wall of Crystal". Here, Tagus' soft-spoken nature enhances his sinister leanings. The actor trades the amped-up nature of his Wild Wild West role for a different kind of evil. Tagus (nowhere near as memorable as "Furman Crotty," is it?) is the kind of baddie who speaks clearly but slowly. He smiles with a fake warmth and keeps his hands folded in front of him. His calm persona suit's the series' moody atmosphere.

Roy Thinnes' David Vincent discovers the aliens have powerful crystals that manipulate the atmosphere to resemble that of their home planet...but make humans suffocate in open air. To prevent David (and special guest Burgess Meredith as a crusading TV host) from exposing the plan, Taugus kidnaps brother Bob Vincent (Linden Chiles).

Crotty relishes being evil, but Taugus relishes control. It's a kick to see his interactions with Vincent when he has all the leverage in the form of his captured brother. As Crotty, Asner uses broad gestures, but in The Invaders, when David demands proof his brother is OK before accepting Taugus' demands, the alien pauses, gives a slow smile, and licks his lips. He never raises his voice, but he projects total confidence throughout the scene. Asner is an essential component of a strong, tense Invaders outing.

Asner played many foreign agents in the 1960s, often of indiscriminate "There's a Cold War and you know who we really mean even if we don't name a country" origin and was surprisingly effective with an Eastern European name and sometimes an accent. Hey, it's better than his casting as "Pablo Vasquez" in a 1965 episode of Burke's Law.

In the classic Mission Impossible, "The Mind of Stefan Miklos," Asner is restrained as Simpson, a foreign agent working in the states. I won't even begin to summarize the plot of this episode because it's one of those, "We need to make him think we are trying to make him think we don't know that what he thinks is wrong" deals, but Ed is effective in a smaller part as a man who calls out a comrade, a traitor (to the Americans) named Townsend, as a traitor to HIS country. In contrast to the other roles we've discussed, Simpson is not a vision of self-assurance, but more of a weasel.

My favorite moment of the episode is when Martin Landau's Rollin Hand enters Simpson's glassware shop in the guise of brilliant Stefan Miklos, who has been dispatched by the foreign power to ascertain the truth. The two have never met in person. As Simpson pours a drink, he says, "You took me by--" And Hand/"Miklos" finishes his sentence: "Surprise?" Ooh, that brilliant bit of brainpower surely establishes he's really Miklos. I expected the next exchange to go something like, "Would you like a cup of--" "Coffee?" "Man, it's like he's reading my mind!"

An even finer Cold War villain role is Premier Alexei Brynov in "The Exile," a season 1 episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. At the beginning, a sneering Brynov faces a firing squad in a country referred to later as "The People's Republic." His last words: "Today, my comrades kill me. Tomorrow, I kill them!" Somewhere, watching bootleg ABC transmissions in Russia, a young Yakov Smirnoff's comic worldview was established.

Brynov further establishes his persona by spitting at one of his captors when asked if he wants a blindfold. After his crew frees him in a daring rescue, we see him sniping at them in their hideout. He even lowers his own brother to his knees with a devastating standing wristlock.

Because Brynov claims to have explosive microfilms that could instigate world war, the United States wants to deal with him, and the government sends Admiral Nelson (Richard Basehart) to Brynov's yacht to check things out. However, there is a traitor aboard whose sabotage leads to the destruction of the boat and the survivors cling to a raft for survival. There is little footage aboard the Seaview in this episode, though the sub tries to locate Nelson and vice versa, but it's a fun story because of the showdown between the paranoid Brynov and the upright admiral.

Asner goes with a full-on accent here, but his ferocity and the character's focus on his own survival prevents the performance from lapsing into parody. He deals with his own inner circle with various methods before a final confrontation with his American foe, with both men weak, thirsty, and desperate. We learn early on that Brynov is ruthless, and Asner brings him alive with vivid enthusiasm.

Sometimes it doesn't take a diabolical plot to make an effective TV heel. Take the Dr. Kildare, "Tightrope into Nowhere" (they really don't make episode titles like they used to, do they?), with Asner in a prominent guest spot as Dr. Frank Williams. This doc's bedside manner leaves much to be desired. When a man falls into a coma, Williams gives up on the whole deal and doesn't hide his contempt when Kildare leaves hope alive for the victim's daughter.

"Why don't you make her face it, Kildare?" he says. Deciding that isn't cruel enough, he faces her directly: "Miss Logan, nothing will save him. His body is ravaged by disease, his brain tissue is destroyed -- he is a dead man." At this point, I wanted Janet Logan, played by Mary Murphy, to respond, "So you're saying there's still a chance!"

Instead, she protests, causing Williams to glare and say, "You know what? You've got spunk, Mary. I hate spunk!" (Sorry, you knew it was coming eventually.) Actually, Williams gets a big dressing-down from Dr. Gillespie, but not before his downer of a doc enlivens this episode. Asner delivers just about every line in a flat monotone that underscores the disdain his character has for "hopeless cases." It's a stark contrast to the idealistic James Kildare.

Out of all of Asner's characters' misdeeds in the 1960s, one thing he does in an episode of Route 66 remains the most shocking. In "The Opponent," Asner is Scully, the sardonic trainer of Johnny Copa, a punch-drunk fighter played by Darren McGavin with a bulbous prosthetic nose. The boys take a side trip to Youngstown, Ohio, to see Copa fight, and Buz talks up his childhood friend like he were a combination of Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Curly Howard after he hears "Pop Goes the Weasel."

Scully and Buz don't get along at all, with the former's wise-acre repartee making a bad impression on the lads. Eventually Buz reveals that he bet money on Copa to win the fight, at which point Scully does the unthinkable: He giggles.

I never saw Lou Grant or even Santa Claus giggle. Roar, maybe; bellow, sure. Giggle, though? It's a stunning moment that looms over the rest of the episode, even when the screenplay has the trainer reveal a backstory and explain why he has such a hard shell. That giggle is the one false note in an otherwise moving episode. Minutes later, Scully brings things back into focus by announcing, "I'm going to get a steak." Now, there's an activity that fits Ed Asner.

These are all different series with distinctive parts, and the actor delivers each time. Even within the realm of playing bad guys, Ed Asner shows impressive range in his 1960s guest appearances, portraying cartoonish criminal masterminds, creepy aliens, and flawed human beings who just rub people the wrong way. The star continues to do memorable work today, but it's well worth taking a trip through television history to see his earlier characters.

Monday, July 3, 2017

'Mooners Monday #18: The winner of the dance contest is...

Apologies for skipping last Monday, but we were busy here tabulating the votes in our premiere dance contest. We are proud to announce that the inuaugural 'Mooners Monday Dance Champeen is none other than...

That's right, the lovely and talented Mrs. Angela Manicotti! Was there ever any doubt? After all, as Mr. Manicotti says, "She go-a like THEES! And like THEES!"

Carlos is the instructor, but he holds something back this episode. Ralph and Ed might be favorites in a hucklebuck contest, but this wasn't their day. And actually they might have won if somebody hadn't-a slipped in a Spade Cooley record.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings #66 (Special "Get Your Kicks on It, Sunsjine" Edition)

1) Netflix: I was really upset with Netflix for being all glitchy until I realized that, uh, the HDMI cable in my Roku was loose. It was a subpar week for Netflix adds, and the July 1 adds are not exciting at all, but a bunch of 2016-2017 CBS seasons are now there, and I really liked episode 1 of Glow, so, hey, there you go. Maybe Gypsy with Naomi Watts will be good, too.

Plus Netflix now offers Dolby Atmos, as on Okja. I have no idea what Dolby Atmos is, but it sounds impressive!

2) MLB TV: I watched a lot of baseball this week, and I am not going to penalize this great service for that umpire missing a call in the ninth inning and screwing the Pirates out of a game the other day.

3) Warner Archive Instant: The Courtship of Eddie's Father is a gentle sitcom. Often, gentle means lame, but there's something about ol' Bill Bixby that makes the show kind of work. I just hope that eventually they get rid of the overbearing Nilsson music that seems to intrude on every single scene.

Hey, you know what isn't gentle? Jack Lord's performance in his season 3 Klidare guest shot. Dude is intense.

4) Shout! Factory TV: A slew of Rifftrax additions makes July an interesting time after a lackluster couple of months. I must say, that while it's all "good" and everything, hearing Dr. Ruth giving sex advice to senior citizens on her old Lifetime show may be enough to make me go celibate.

5) Pub-D-Hub: I complained about the lack of commercials in a recent update, and last weekend, the Pub added like 5 big, honking BLOCKS of vintage ads. Coincidence? Perhaps, but just in case, I am gonna make sure to give them props. Hey, thanks for the new episode of Boston Blackie and the newscast footage this weekend, if you're reading.

6) Pizza Flix: I know nothing about 1944's Dangerous Passage with Robert Lowery and Phyllis Brooks (no relation), but the same screenwriter did Out of the Past. More importantly, the poster art makes it look really cool!

Also, I somehow want to see Breaking the Ice with Bobby Breen despite or because of this summary: "A boy leaves home to Philadelphia and sings at an ice rink to raise money for his widowed mother." I hope the Philadelphia crowd boos him.

7) My Retro Flix: Nabinga (1944) with Buster Crabbe may be (OK, probably is) terrible, but I feel I have to give credit to this free channel for adding it.

8) YouTube: Would be higher if I had more time to watch it this week. Also...

9) DailyMotion: ...just saying, there is an alternative sometimes when cool content gets pulled by the zealous watchbots at YT. This came in handy more than once recently for yours truly.

10) Hulu:  There is too much on Hulu to fall out of the top 10 anytime soon, and it did add/re-add some movies, like the old Star Trek films, but Bing Rewards dropped the free month deal from its incentive program. I blame Hulu! Booooooo!