Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Screengrab Theatre #5: Shut your north and south, mate

Not sure how comfortable I am with this bloke joking about our involvement in Vietnam:

On the other hand, wow, did Mike Myers know what he was doing or what when he casted him in Austin Powers?

Monday, October 30, 2017

'Mooners Monday #33: Happy belated birthday, Joyce Randolph

I want to wish a belated happy birthday to Joyce Randolph, who turned 93 last week. It's just not the same without her in those color Honeymooners segments, even though the way Gleason belts the name "JANE KEAN!" in those curtain calls amuses me. Here's wishing good health and happiness to the original (I am not counting Elaine Stritch) Trixie Norton.
Trixie doesn't always have a lot to do, but her interactions with Ralph give us some good eye rolls and HARRUMPH-type moments. This is a quiet yet funny exchange in "Young Man with a Horn," after Ralph has launched his self-improvement program and started making extra efforts to be nice to everyone.
He flatters Trixie, who primps with noticeable delight:
"Hey, you look pretty sharp tonight, Trixie."
"Oh! I was at the beauty parlor this afternoon."

"Yeah, I can tell. They did a good dying job on your hair."
That's a classic look of indignation on Trixie's face.
"Looks real natural," he adds. Trixie says, "Yeah. I'll see you later, Alice. Then she gives Ralph the stink-eye on the way out."
Then a puzzled Ralph wonders what's wrong.
Happy birthday, Ms. Randolph!

'Mooners Monday #32: A final word (for now) on the Gleason DVD set

I'm disappointed at the lack of chatter online about the new Time Life Jackie Gleason Show DVD set, and I still haven't seen the 30-minute infomercial.

I give Time Life Video credit for running this review and response on its site:

Not complete shows!!
from Chicago, IL
About Me Movie Buff
Verified Reviewer
Comments about The Jackie Gleason Show IN COLOR HOST:
Was looking forward to seeing these classic Gleason variety shows in their entirety. Instead we get shows with music numbers cut and in fact in some instances 1/4 to 1/3 of the show is missing. I was especially looking forward to seeing the episode with Bing Crosby as he sang solos of some of his greatest hits of the 1940's "Dear Hearts & Gentle People", "San Fernando Valley" and "Don't Fence Me In". All that remains is Don't Fence Me In! Plus the lengthy (nearly 10 minute) medley of "girls" songs Bing sang with Jackie Gleason is also cut! Time Life owes me...and owes you...the complete shows!!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Screengrab Theatre #4: Liberace Meets the Easter Bunny

You know you're in trouble when Liberace is maybe the third most bizarre thing on the screen:

Screengrab Theatre #3: A main event in any arena in the country

Thanks to the CWF Archives YouTube channel for posting all kinds of great Florida wrestling content, including a 1984 episode with this barnburner:

I have to tell you, the breakdancing before the match was laughable, but the team itself is pretty cool in the ring. One is Brickhouse Brown, and the other is known as "Slick." I was actually disappointed this match was so short.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings #84

A brief reminder since this remains the most popular feature on the blog and I haven't mentioned this in a while: Rankings incorporate a variety of factors, including what I watch, content additions and deletions, and coin tosses. I give extra credit for vintage content, and I judge mostly on the Roku versions.

1) Hulu: The interface still hasn't been fixed, and by that I mean hasn't reverted to what ir was before--the way I liked it, by cracky. My biggest beef now is the difficulty of finding what's new on the Roku channel. The website is still superior.

I have to give Hulu props, though, for partnering with Me-TV to offer free streaming of some of its classic library (H/T to Cord Cutters News for reporting this today). I'm enjoying this season of Gotham. "Huluween" is a nice section for users and an example of when "curation" aids the consumer. Hey, curation is fine, folks, but don't make your whole site dependent on it.

2) Netflix: Would be #1 based on the return of Stranger Things, but I just realized that for the first time in recent memory, I didn't actually watch anything on Netflix this week. Still Stranger Things is huge if the entertainment media complex hype is any indication.

Speaking of the show, is it really as big as it seems to be? It's hard to be sure without reliable numbers, but I have been in several different pop-up Halloween shops this season, and I think the single biggest licensed property in each one (if you consider, say,  Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. distinct properties and not lump them together as "DC Comics") is Stranger Things. Does this mean it's Netflix's biggest show? Well, I don't know--after all, it's a lot harder to merch House of Cards--but anecdotally I think maybe it is. Or at least it's the one most people think is.

Netflix also added an acclaimed Joan Didion documentary, The Hateful Eight, and it premiered an aftershow deal for Stranger Things (and stunned me by not hiring Chris Hardwick to host it). So things are looking good right now. That November lineup looks weak, though.

3) Disney Now: Disney changed its Roku channel to something more episode-centric and less clip-heavy. In other words, it feels more like a useful viewing option and not as much of a promotional tool. Granted, you must authenticate to get the good stuff, but when I told my kids about this, they were all over it. They seemingly forgot that Disney content was on Netflix. I have a feeling when Disney launches its own OTT channel, it is going to make a boatload of money.

4) PIX 11: The Roku app has renamed itself from PIX 11 Archives, yet it finally got off its duff and started uploading some archival material again lately. The highlight this week: A 1978 half-hour retrospective of the Yankees' World Series season, hosted by sports anchor Jerry Girard. Keep it coming, PIX.

Did I mention the end of the Yankees special features a montage of highlights to the sounds of Paul Jabara's disco version of Yankee Doodle Dandy?

5) Pub-D-Hub: Each year, the Hub comes through with a Halloween section loaded up with many of its items of seasonal interest. I recently paid my annual paltry fee, and I am happy to support this consistent and free Roku standout. My screening of the old Batman serial continues with thrills and chills galore.

6) The CW: Supergirl continues its impressive string of featuring at least one embarrassing scene each episode this season. I am glad to watch it for free, though. I wish all networks made it so easy to see their shows without a cable subscription.

7) Shout! Factory TV: Would be much higher, but I think it no-sold my Facebook question asking why the Roku channel hasn't updated in October. I enjoyed another episode of Soul! and a great Starcade installment, but I was crushed by the latter when the winner didn't choose to do the bonus round with the Journey video game.

A highlight of that episode: Before the final round of the game, host Geoff Edwards sets the stage and says something like, "Sean, of course you just have to hope you keep going like you're going. Steve, you have to hope a light falls down and destroys him."

8) Warner Archive Instant: You know content is king in these rankings when WAI earns a spot each week despite not updating its Roku site in months. I did finish season two of Eight Is Enough, though, and to paraphrase Bill Belichik, we're on to season 3. Do you think the coach streams Eight Is Enough in season as background for going over game plans, or does he feel it's too much of a distraction?

9) Brown Sugar: I'd rate this one a lot more often if I knew a way to browse its content without being a member. It sends me emails each week, and while many of what it implies are "new" titles have already been on there, it does appear to be adding things on the regular. Right now I think it has most of the Blaxploitation flicks you would want it to have for Halloween.

9) Nosey: I ventured back into the world of Sally reruns, and though "Mom, You Look Like a Tramp," disappointed me in a sense, I did laugh at the SASSY theme music they played when the moms came back out after their makeover.

(I have a feeling I'm gonna wake up tomorrow and delete this entry from the list.)

10) Amazon Prime: I remember thinking Arrival sounded like an intriguing movie, and the reaction to it didn't diminish my enthusiasm. Yet I confess if I had Prime Video, I'd probably be more wrapped up in checking out the selection of classic game show episodes provided by Buzzr.

Friday, October 27, 2017

My Takeaways from Entertainment Weekly's Family Matters reunion

Allegedly to celebrate Hulu's premiere of the complete run of Family Matters but probably just as an excuse to meet Reginald Vel Johnson, Entertainment Weekly brought the cast together for a photo shoot and interview session. Here are my takeaways, and bear in mind I hated the show and have little interest in watching it on Hulu except maybe to make fun of it:

1) Reginald Vel Johnson at 65 is even rounder and still looks cool.

2) The magazine has no interest in explaining what happened to Jaimee Foxworth (Google it), who was not part of the event.

3) Jo Marie-Payton and Reginald Vel Johnson talk about how they instantly hit it off when the show was casting--"The chemistry was so strong," she says--and I envision a torrid off-camera affair between the Winslow parents.

4) Somehow they manage to go a whole article without bringing up or even hinting at the rumor that the cast was irritated when it became the Urkel Show instead of the gentle family sitcom it was conceived as. How do you not get that in here?

5) EW asks if the cast would be up for a revival of the series, and 4 say yes...but Jaleel White's response is not included! What's the use of a revival without him? Were they afraid to ask him? Did he say no and they just didn't want to bum everybody out by printing it?

6) Family Matters  and ER shot on stages across from each other, and there was a basketball court that White considered his. The hoop was moved, and Goerge Clooney took over the court, and White tells a story of him figuring, "Well, I just have to kick his ass and remind him who this hoop belongs to." I don't know if I believe any of it.

7) White talks about playing Steve Urkel's cousin Myrtle and then crying and his dad telling the show he wouldn't do it again. Several years later, White reports, he walked into the writers' room and said, "If you guys want to do Myrtle again, I'll do it." He adds, "They just cheered."

I'm not sure I buy this, either, but I hope it's true because I love the image of Family Matters scribes puzzling over plotlines, then breaking into euphoric celebrations when told they could do another Myrtle story.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Screengrab Theatre #2: O Solo Margie

One of the best things about My Little Margie is the fact that Gale Storm gets into some kind of goofy costume every other episode. In this one, she impersonates an opera singer because...well, do you really want to know?

Question: Is Margie still cute as a button, or is this just really, really disturbing?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Let's check in on Rolling Stone

Say what you will about Rolling Stone. Say what you will about puns. To me it is undeniable that "What a Foo Believes" is a superlative headline, and I am amazed the mag never used it before.

As for the magazine itself, the story isn't quite as epic as the title suggests, but it's a pleasant look at Dave Grohl (the band, too, but, face it, mostly Dave Grohl), who still comes off as the coolest guy in rock. I just wish he wouldn't smoke as much as he does while hanging out with author Josh Eells.

The highlights are Grohl's trip to Amoeba Records to get an album for his daughter, the account of Paul McCartney recording with the band, and a sincere, spontaneous reflection on Chris Cornell that happens in a quiet moment.

Rolling Stone, like so many other print magazines, is shrinking and shrinking (and, Jann Wenner concedes, is shopping for a buyer). Unfortunately, most of the "long-form" pieces in a given issue deal with politics or global warming. The curmudgeon in me thinks this is because today's music is so terrible that there just isn't enough fodder for significant coverage.

The typical formula is profile of a musician featured on the cover--alternating between hot young artist (usually hip hop or poppy female) and dinosaur rocker (I prefer the latter) and an increasingly tiny review section consisting of several pages of capsule album evaluations and maybe a page each for movies, TV, and books. The mag uses smaller features, like the back page Q&A and various sidebars and tidbits, to work in other old-school artists.

For example, Ozzy Osbourne is the subject of this issue's "The Last Word" interview. Brandon Flowers has a "Q&A." We see Randy Newman discuss "My Life in 12 Songs." All of this is pretty quick and breezy.

I hate to say this, but when an artist dies, we still get remarkable pieces. I can't wait to see the Tom Petty article. Usually a devoted dinosaur rock fan can find at least one solid profile in an issue. Overall, though, I wish that as the magazine's page count got smaller, it didn't also devote so many of its pages to non-music and cultural issues. I know that sort of thing has always been part of the mission and so on and so forth, but for me personally, I would rather read more pieces about musicians, even if it's the same old folks cropping up every few years.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Screengrab Theatre #1: Laugh-in (Well, one of them is laughing)

These two kids look thrilled to be together. I predict a long and happy relationship (And now I know the inspiration for Rosa Diaz on Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

Monday, October 23, 2017

'Mooners Monday #31: Follow-up to last week's post

Maybe I should call this #30.5. Apologies for the short installment, but there is a lot going on here at the new Cultureshark Tower. I do want to follow up on last week's post, in which I reported on the brand-new Time Life release of the 1960s The Jackie Gleason Show. The DVD set has made its way to some of my sources--OK, posters on message boards--and we can confirm several things.

1) Many episodes are edited, with musical numbers and June Taylor Dancers segments apparently getting the ax. Not a shocker, but a disappointment considering it's Time Life and they have a rep for coming through on stuff like this.

2) The Incredible World of Ed Norton backdoor pilot that aired as part of the Gleason show is not included and remains one of the tantalizing still-"lost" pieces of 'Mooners material out there.

3) There are several uncut, complete episodes in the collection.

Many thanks to the posters at the Sitcoms Online Honeymooners message board. Some of these folks really know their stuff, and their reports are invaluable for anyone looking into this box set. The early consensus seems to be that while it's far from peak 'Mooners and much of the content is monologue- and guest-star-centric, it's worthwhile for Gleason fans, though it does leave one wanting more.

Personally, I think it's a shame the June Taylor Dancers, such a key part of the overall Gleason Show experience, are absent. Also, one poster reports there is a color Joe the Bartender sketch with Crazy Guggenheim, but the song is edited out!

Still, Gleason is the Great One, and any DVD release is welcome. The idea of Jackie alongside the likes of Phil Silvers automatically makes this a candidate for my collection.

This might be the best we get of the full Jackie Gleason Show, but I hold out hope that this sells well and encourages Time Life--or anyone--to do some work and release more uncut episodes or even better, as I mentioned last week, black-and-white 1950s installments or even American Scene.

Meanwhile, I'm still on the lookout for the 30-minute infomercial. The one time I want to see one of these things...

Friday, October 20, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week #83

1) Hulu: This one just seems to be trying more lately. It started a Huluween category, it continued the new Sarah Silverman show, and it continued to buy reruns, with Futurama the latest big add. I've been watching Gotham here, and I am looking forward to Too Funny to Fail, a new documentary about The Dana Carvey Show.

2) Pluto TV: Yes, in a huge upset, Pluto comes outta nowhere like an RKO and shoots up to the number two spot, not because of its live programming (which is slowly improving--and it's free!) but because it received a reported $8 million + in new funding this week. Let's hope they use it to get some more licensed content. Pluto is slowly becoming a player.

3) Shudder: I have never subscribed to this horror-on-demand SVOD, but I always try to give credit to outlets that acquire the old stuff, and Shudder is delivering in October, streaming a handful of the most iconic Universal pictures--Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, Frankenstein, and The Bride of Frankenstein.

4) Netflix: I am wary of Netflix's plan to debut 80 movies next year and to mak 50% of its catalog be Originals. Most of the movies will probably stink, and they will get to 50% by continuing to let existing library deals expire.

However, the new movie The Day I Met El Chapo has pissed off Sean Penn, so Netflix must be doing something right. There's also a new Smurfs movie, a new Stephen King flick (1922), and a movie called Wheelman (I really want to like a movie called "Wheelman"), but mainly pissing off Sean Penn is how Netflix earns its stripes this week.

5) Pub-D-Hub: The Batman serial is, as I remembered, a riot, and ain interesting little addition this past week as an episode of quasi-religious anthology show Crossroads with Brian Donlevy as a pastor turned judge.

6) The CW: I have to admit, now that the superheroes are back, I am spending a lot of my streaming time watching CW, but so far, I'm not inspired by the way they're going. Supergirl, you need to get over Mon-El. He wasn't that interesting.

7) YouTube: My kids just want to watch mindless YouTube videos when they are watching "TV." I kind of miss the days when they just wanted to watch mindless cartoon shows.

As for me, I was in the mood to watch the original 1940s Superman cartoons, and they are easy to find, being public domain, but YouTube is the place to find 10 different versions of them at once!

8) Amazon Prime: Red Oak is back, and I;m adding to my list of shows I want to bunch-a-shows-watch (remember, we try to avoid "binge" at this site) when I next get a month of Prime Video.

9) Warner Archive Instant: This week I enjoyed Pillow to Post, one of about 900 movies Hollywood made about WWII-era housing shortages. Ida Lupino was a lot of fun in a role that let her be funny and just generally less...intense.

10) TuneIn: One notable thing about Deep Oldies Radio is the high number of novelty songs it spins. Those are certainly forgotten oldies these days. I don't really need to hear The Detergents' "Leader of the Laundromat" again anytime this soon, but it was amusing the other day.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

BOTNS returns!

Season 3 of Battle of the Network Shows premieres today! Head on over and download this episode, in which Mike and I discuss the season two finale of Eight Is Enough!

You'll laugh! You'll cry! You'll see yet another failed attempt at replicating the "Who's on First?" routine!

And you can see what THIS is all about:

Battleofthenetworkshows.comwww.battleofthenetworkshows.com is the place, and stick around each Thursday for new episodes of chat about TV of the 1970s and 1980s!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

This Sunday night in 1982 brings us intrigue, mystery...and Rick Dees!

Yes, the megastar DJ and composer/performer of Disco Duck used to do a lot of the voice-over work for CBS. That;s him telling us what's ahead on the Eye. I gotta tell you, I want to see more, so I think this promo has done its job:

The questions I have:

1) Who is Stephanie's would-be suitor? Who could be so vile as to make Archie tear a bag. Or is it just that no suitor is good enough for Stephanie?

2) Why the hell is Alex starting a fire on One Day at a Time?

3) Just what in the name of Mel's chili did Henry do to make Vera shove his face into that bowl?

4) Is Tom giving new meaning to the word "cuck" by offering to pay for a hotel room for Helen and her paramour?

5) Can Gonzo and Trapper keep his reunion from turning into tragedy? (I know that Rick Dees asks the exact same question, but that one is pretty straightforward, so I have nothing to add)

(Special thanks to Chuck D's All-New Classic TV Clubhouse for posting the clip)

Monday, October 16, 2017

'Mooners Monday #30: Breaking news of more 'Mooners on DVD

Friends, let's take a break from looking at Head of the House to consider the news. As first reported by buddy Ivan of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear (well, first reported to me, and isn't that what matters?), Time Life has released a giant DVD collection of The Jackie Gleason Show culled from the 1966-1970 CBS run.

Follow the link for details and for some clips, and maybe look out for an infomercial. This is the first time I can remember scanning the TV listings hoping to find a half-hour ad, but I would like to see how the company is marketing this and to check out some footage while I'm at it. Here are the basics: 10 discs, 27 episodes, 20 hours, 7 "new" Honeymooners sketches. This set will bring the remaining number of surviving never-before-released 'Mooners segments to--well, to something very, very low. I'm no expert, but it appears that most everything except for some odds and ends and a 1970 Ed Norton sketch/pilot w/o Gleason (but WITH Al Lewis and Phil Leeds!) is now out there. MPI previously released multiple The Color Honeymooners volumes compiling the show-length installments of the 1960s; this set contains shorter sketches that had not been seen in years, let alone released.

Here's what we don't know yet: Are these unedited, full-length Jackie Gleason Show episodes? The website doesn't say so, and the running time indicates some if not many are edited. Time Life is known for several things: excellent quality, staggering prices, and impressive musical clearances. I am going to go ahead and say we can expect the first. We know the second is true, as this 10-disc set is 100 bucks. Did some of that money go to clearing the music on this variety show? We'll have to wait and see.

I realize the color years aren't for everyone. However, some people turn their noses at the Lost Episodes, and I think those are great. You have to be a pretty well-heeled Honeymooners completist to get this whole set for the new 'Mooners stuff, but Gleason is Gleason. He was more than just Ralph Kramden, and the variety show also featured characters like Reginald Van Gleason III. In addition to The Great One, Time Life touts a number of high-profile guest stars appearing in the collection.

So that's what we know this set IS. Here's what it ISN'T: A collection of the original black-and-white 1950s Jackie Gleason Show. While Time Life trumpets the fact that this material is IN COLOR, I personally have dreamed of uncut full-length episodes of the original home of the Lost Episodes, back when Gleason was in his prime. Don't get me wrong, Miami Beach audiences are the greatest in the world, as the Great One tells us, but I'm more interested in the original New York stuff.

Second on my wish list is American Scene Magazine, the 1962-1966 incarnation of Gleason's variety show before he went to Miami in full living color. I remember WOR in New York showed a half-hour syndicated version of that series, and as a little kid I was fascinated by this alternate view of the man who was Ralph Kramden. There was scuttlebutt years ago that this series was being shopped for potential DVD release. If anyone could do it, it would be Time Life. I bet the company figured the color years with the big guest stars were more marketable.

MPI had the license to this material for years and did increasingly little with it. A deluxe version of this set has the old Lost Episodes, the same material MPI put out a few years ago in a complete set. Does this mean MPI is done with the world of Jackie Gleason? If so, I hope Time Life someday decides to take a shot at the older stuff. For me, the black and white years, even the American Scene episodes, would be a must buy. As it is, I'd loooove to have this set, but it might take a while for me to come up with 100 bucks for it.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week #82

I thought by becoming a cordcutter, I would have a lot more time to watch these streaming video services. Then I decided I wanted to watch the MLB playoffs, and I got PlayStation Vue. So far, I am impressed, but the DVR is funky, and anything I "save" has to be watched in 28 days, even if I keep the service for another month. So now I feel I have to watch a ton of PlayStation Vue.

All of this is a long way of saying--oh, let me just get to this week's chart so I can get back to the My Little Margie I recorded.

1) YouTube: YT does a lot of annoying things, but my kids put on a kid-friendly (and kid-centric) fail video that actually cracked me up. See, a kid was goofing around trying to be a frontman/rock star, he fell, and the kid playing drums did a rimshot with perfect timing. You had to see it.

Plus there is still lots of great 80s wrestling and old TV promos on there. That alone is well worth the $0 a month I pay for the Roku version, and YT gets the #1 spot in a week when the other big ones are still on double-not-secret probation.

2) Hulu: The more I use the new interface on Roku...the more I resent it. It makes it too hard to find new content, and it's another example of the odious trend of telling viewers what they want to watch instead of just letting them access what they really want to watch (see #5 on this list).

That said, the new Sarah Silverman show wasn't really my thing, but it was something different. Plus Hulu keeps adding content, and, best of all, it lowered its base price for new subscribers. Everything is going in the right direction with two caveats: 1) The redesign sucks 2) Where the hell is all that classic Fox TV like MASH  and St. Elsewhere that was announced months ago?

3) TubiTV: Big ups to this one for having the complete run of a series that just might be featured on a podcast that returns with new episodes this coming week...

4) Pub-D-Hub:  The thumbnail for the Batman serial, showing the Caped Crusader in a hilarious mundane pose, makes me want to watch it again, and the Hub is adding several chapters each week. I would also have ranked it high for the Roger Maris Post Cereal baseball cards commercial it added last week, but it also added a Chesterfield Sound Off Time hosted by Fred Allen.

5) Netflix: Still on punishment for the price hike, though the new David Fincher series Mindhunter is getting strong reviews. The latest Noah Baumback film has an outstanding cast and is said to have "the best performance of Adam Sandler's career." Yes, I chuckled when I read that AND when I just wrote it.

6) NBC: I was worried when the Throwback section of the site had September 2017 expiration dates for many of its series, but they now show as September 2018, indicating they are essentially meaningless. You can still enjoy shows like the original Galactica, Knight Rider, and Miami Vice free and with fairly unobnoxious commercial intrusion.

7) Watch ESPN: It's great the PlayStation Vue service lets you authenticate with many individual network apps. In some ways it's a better experience watching ESPN on here than it is on cable. There is a lot on Watch ESPN that is not otherwise available. It's a great resource for catching up on some of those 30 for 30 episodes that have not surfaced anywhere else after leaving Netflix earlier this year.

8) Tune In: You could be having a bad week, a tough day, a hectic moment, or all of those, and then you hear Deep Oldies play Eddie Holman's This Can't Be True, and all is right with the world.

9) Dailymotion: I just discovered all the [REDACTED] cartoons are on here, so I have to watch 'em before the leave. I will say again that DM is a poor, poor, poor man's YouTube, and the Roku version is an afterthought, but it's often a great plan B when something is not on the "mothership."

10) Amazon Prime: I try to add Prime each time it debuts a series which makes me think, "you know, I wish I could see that series," and the new Lore (a reenactment show based on the paranormal/folklore podcast of the same name) intrigues me. What a terrible week it was for Amazon, though, with the current scandals bleeding into the Prime Video world and making people question if the creep running it made big picture decisions based on the creepy things he was doing.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Half-Assed Gourmet: Red Lobster Endless Shrimp

Watch a football game on the weekend, and there's a good chance you'll see an ad for Endless Shrimp, the annual event designed by Red Lobster to honor and celebrate gluttony all across this great nation of ours. After an unfortunate miss last year, I made my triumphant return to the festivities this year, indulging at a local RL which I hadn't patronized in years.

The shrimp was not great this year, but it was very good. More importantly, it was endless--or at least, ending it was my call, not theirs. One disappointing thing this year was the lack of "off-menu" selections. In years past, I could request coconut shrimp, for example--basically just fried shrimp with a different sauce, but hey, it felt like another option.

This year's roster:

Shrimp alfredo: I passed; I didn't need NOODLES filling me up while I was trying to consume a Costanza-esque amount of seafood.

Shrimp scampi: Assuming "scampi" means "drowned in garlic butter," this is always a great option, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I was tempted to order some side dishes off the menu so I could dip them in the scampi dish. Heck, before I left, I almost "accidentally" dropped a napkin in there so I could see what it tasted like scampi-style.

Hand-breaded shrimp: Oh, did I say FRIED a minute ago? Please excuse me. The preferred term on the menu is hand-breaded, which I guess sounds classier and...less heart-attacky. Mind you, when I asked my server for hand-breaded shrimp, she said, "Oh, the fried shrimp? Sure."

Nashville shrimp: YEE-HAW! Basically fried shrimp with some kind of spicy powder all over it, which sounds awful but tastes pretty good.

Mediterranean shrimp: Ah, go from the earthy charms of Nashville to the exotic glamour of the Mediterranean with this selection of shrimp seasoned with, uh, stuff. I think lemon? The distinctive thing about this item is the bed of long-grain rice and the skewers. It was delicious. Not the skewers--I didn't eat those, and I even resisted dipping them in the scampi--but the rice.

So that's 5 choices, which feels paltry, especially when one of them doesn't even interest me. I got my money's worth, though, and I enjoyed the shrimp enough to make me think, "Lord, I regret eating like that...but I will do it again next year."

This Red Lobster let me down in some other ways, though. I sat in a weird quasi-lounge section in the bar with a cushy chair that may or may not have been designed to make me forget how much I was punishing my body. The setting was fine, but the service was not. I think I might have received better service in the main dining area.

My side dish was wrong (I know, I know, but if they are gonna offer a side dish with the Endless Shrimp, I'm gonna take it), my drink refills were sparse, I had to ask for more napkins, etc. Perhaps the biggest flaw was the failure to remove dishes from my table.

Look, I am making it abundantly clear in this post that I know what overkill this whole experience is. Yet I don't need to be reminded of such during my meal by having to stare at my used plates the whole time. It's not like I need a tally to keep score of a competition--it's been years since I did that--so, please, folks, out with the old and in with the new. I mean, you can let the scampi dish linger a bit, but other than that, get that stuff out of there!

Overall, Endless Shrimp remains a winner for one reason: It gives me the opportunity to stuff myself silly. The price has remained constant the last few years. However, I hope to see better service next year and maybe a few additional choices.

Monday, October 9, 2017

'Mooners Monday #29: Head of the House

You gotta love episodes that revolve around Ralph's biiiiiig mouth. Sure, the temptation is to say that means "all of them," but "Head of the House" is a classic example of Ralph shooting his mouth off and getting himself in trouble. In an odd way, though, Ralph deserves some credit in this episode. He says some dumb things, but he doesn't back down.

First let's took a look at old Gleason Players reliable Frank Marth, who is hanging around on the street harassing--uh, inquiring to various passersby for a feature in his newspaper.

Marth played both sinners and saints on The Honeymooners; it's a good bet that if you have a story involving cops, he's gonna be one of the bad guys if not one of the men in blue. His solid everyman kind of look and demeanor suits this inquiring reporter role well. See, in the 1950s, people didn't yet think THE MEDIA was the root cause of all the world's evils.

Still, everyone is just blowing right by him like they owe him money. I guess it is annoying to be accosted on the street when you're hustling off to work. Several citizens speed right past Marth until Ralph and Ed stop for a few minutes to answer the question, who is the head of the household in your family?

Ed doesn't want to make any waves, and Ralph scolds him, launching a diatribe on how HE is the boss and the master of his household. Well, Marth is gonna put all this in the paper. Check out Ralph's reaction:

Ralph's not thrilled, but he becomes defiant and decides to go through with it. Go ahead and print it. What does he care? This is the first time Ralph doubles down on his attitudes.

Of course, talking big around Ed is one thing, but being a blowhard around Alice is another. So when he goes home, he tries to prevent Alice from seeing the paper. I'm surprised that a cheapskate like Ralph wouldn't make Alice fish for day-old editions, anyway.

Norton brings the paper home, though:

How helpful of Ed, ensuring that Alice doesn't miss her hubby's big spotlight in the newspaper. Of course Alice is irritated by Ralph's comments, pointing out that of the handful of men who answered the question, he was the only one who insisted HE was the head of the household.

Would newspapers be in better shape today if they posted correspondents all over the place asking goofy questions? No? You're right. Yet another thing we can blame on Facebook. Who cares about seeing their name and mug shot in the paper of record when they can post pictures of their dinners all over the Internet?

Coming up in future installments: Ralph doubles down again, one of the most famous scenes in series history, and one of the all-time great "minor" 'Moonersverse characters.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings #81

1) YouTube: Will be the "presenting sponsor" of the World Series, and it's really starting to try to get people to pay attention to its paid service. More importantly to me, it was the place to turn to for great Tom Petty clips after the rock legend died this week.

2) Hulu: The big promotional push is really kicking in now with the Anna Kendrick TV commercials showing all that Hulu has going for it right now.

3) The Roku Channel: A free channel from Roku aggregating content from many different free channels, including some on this very list. Put it together and you get a pretty decent selection of content that is easy to use. It would be nice if Roku made this a full-fledged deal and added watchlists and other features.

4) Pub-D-Hub: Strong update last weekend, including an episode of Susie/Private Secretary with Ann Sothern and shorts from Leon Errol and Gil Lamb.

5) Shout! Factory TV: I continue to enjoy Soul! but why hasn't the Roku channel updated with new October content yet? And it's cool that they are streaming horror 24/7 on the website, but it's too bad they don't have a live stream on the Roku version.

6) Warner Archive Instant: Nothing new, but they did make it easier to find some of the horror movies, and Eight Is Enough continues to be awesome.

7) TubiTV: I was going to start a Space 1999 watch on here until I realized 1) I still have residual anger over it replacing Star Trek on WPIX one summer years ago 2) I still have Star Trek episodes to watch and 3) It's Space 1999. However, I did see Shemp Howard in The Knife of the Party this week.

8) BritBox: It looks like this service is trying hard to deliver, including more and more "almost live" episodes of current BBC shows like Red Dwarf (coming next week). Cold Feet is running here, "lost" Doctor Who premiered...Things are really happening over here.

9) HBO: Curb continues, and this weekend's Spielberg documentary sounds interesting even if I assume it'll be  more or less fawning. I enjoyed several things on Hulu's free HBO preview last weekend, including Starring Adam West and two episodes of the anthology series Room 104.

10) Netflix: I'm not going to drop it out of the tip 10, but I don't care how much it added this week--and it actually wasn't all that much--announcing an imminent price increase with a week or so notice is bad form. And I don't want to hear that it's "only a dollar more" or whatever. Netflix is the industry leader, and its increases make it easier for competitors' price increases. Plus I don't worry about how Netflix spends so much money on stuff I don't really care about...UNTIL it raises prices. Then I kind of worry about it.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

TV Promo Theatre: NBC was hurting in 1979

Oof. Look at the NBC lineup on this Thursday night in 1979:

Ok, take out Quincy, M.E. because that show rules, and this episode features Neville Brand as a friend of Monahan's who is accused of police brutality. Klugman's feisty M.E. would last 4 more seasons.

The other series in this promo would not endure.

Hizzoner looks like a show consisting of David Huddleston shouting at people. It flopped, as you can imagine, lasting barely over a month. Yet when researching this, I learned that each episode features a musical number (!) with Huddelston's mayor often stopping the action to belt a song (!)

There isn't much of this out there, but suddenly...yeah, I want to see it!

Mother and Me, M.D. is a terrible title. It rhymes, but other than that...And why have back-to back series with initials in your lineup? Well, there is little info about this one, but it was a failed pilot NBC must have wanted to throw out there. Rue McClanhan, according to her memoir, was under contract for two Movies of the Week and a couple pilots for the Peacock, and Mother and Me...was one of them.

The Innocent and the Damned looks dramatic, all right, and it has John Houseman, which should confer some kind of instant credibility. It was a miniseries that ran (conveniently and intentionally, I assume) right after sweeps. The cast is impressive: Sam Elliott and Gene Barry join Houseman and luminaries such as Michele Phillips and Perry King. It looks like an attempt to blend legal drama and soapy intrigue. Have you heard of it outside of these old NBC promo ads?

Monday, October 2, 2017

'Mooners Monday #28: Young Man with a Horn

I'd like to bring 'Mooners Monday back with a bang, but this episode is one of the...well, let's call it one of the least great of the Classic 39 episodes. I don't have a whole lot to say, so we'll bring this weekly feature back with a toot.

Did one of the boys in Ray Bloch's orchestra slip the boss something?
Maybe the best thing about this one is the repeated sight of Ralph going bug-eyed while trying to hit that high note on the old cornet Alice finds in the closet. By the way, where does Alice get all that stuff? Is there some kind of huge walk-in closet in the bedroom? I just find it amusing that you could find enough stuff to get rid of going through that place.

Other than that, it's an unexceptional outing, though I do like the idea of Ralph making a list of his good points and bad points after being charmed by the old couple who used to live in the Kramdens' Chauncey Street residence.

The old man has made a success of himself, and he gives Ralph his patented key to success: writing down your flaws and trying to correct them. I'm sure there's more to it than that, but I guess you have to watch his PBS special and pay $39.95 for his DVD/book combo.

This screencap from the DVD doesn't do justice to how clear the list is on the Blu-Ray. Heck, it's pretty good on the DVD, too, easily readable if you pause it.

Unfortunately, you don't get any good in-jokes. I always enjoy seeing lists of names on chalkboards at, say, a Raccoon meeting to see Gleason insiders like Jack Philbin included. Here, the funniest thing is the repetition of items like "Too fat." For some reason, I like the last item under "Good Points": "Basically honest when pinned down."

Ralph tries to improve himself, and his quest to hit that high note on multiple levels is endearing. Yet it never really goes anywhere.  It's The Honeymooners, so I am not ripping it, but this would be in my bottom tier of the 39. Even The Official Honeymooners Treasury, the bible to which I keep referring, has little to add. We have a string of true classics (and eventually a string of poloponies) on the way, though!