Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Not making this Flintstones Wednesday yet, but...

Boomerang, the $5/month streaming service that keeps adding new cartoons when really all the subscribers want, I presume, is more of the old stuff, did add a batch of vintage Flintstones episodes last week. I won't complain, but this whole series has been complete for years. It might be more exciting, if less, well, GOOD, if Boomerang added some of the various 1970s and 1980s spinoffs.

Any-Yabba-dabba-doo-hoo, I like how Boomerang describes the show in the email blast it sent describing this development:

Yabba Dabba Doo! More episodes of The Flintstones are now streaming on Boomerang! Join Fred and Barney as they race back to Bedrock for family time, friendly banter, and life's adventures.

Say you have a friend who has been living under a bedrock for the last 100 years and yet is still sentient and capable of listening to you and watching television.  Is that how you would describe The Flintstones to that friend?

"friendly banter"?
"life's adventures"?
"family time"? OK, actually that one isn't too bad.

My favorite is "friendly banter"--like Fred and Barney are hosting a morning chat show.

Monday, January 29, 2018

'Mooners Monday: I have never been prouder of Ralph Kramden

Call Ralph Kramden a hopeless dreamer; a sucker; a fool, even. Call him a lout. Call him a moax.  At times he is all those things and more. In "Trapped," though, Ralph has maybe his finest moment in Honeymooners history.

The bad guys--George Petrie and Frank Marth as two robbing, possibly murderous thugs--have tied up Alice and Ed, and Petrie instructs Marth to give Ralph the works. The criminal leads Ralph into the bedroom at gunpoint, and we get one of the most harrowing moments in series history.

Well, first, we get Ralph trying to turn the tables on Petrie, only to have the fact that he's wielding a water pistol revealed. This leads to one of the better bits of physical comedy the show ever did:

Eventually Norton gets trapped, too. You know slowing the video down and doing these screencaps really shows how awesome Art Carney is.

It becomes almost uncomfortable when we see Alice and Ed tied up, with Alice in particular suffering with anguish as she thinks her hubby is getting pummeled. I mean, was there ever a more disturbing moment in 'Mooners annals?

Yet the tables turn in that never-seen bedroom, and it's Ralph who does the working over. What a great moment this is for our hero, who saves the day and possibly a few lives.

I was amazed the first time I saw this but pleasantly surprised. I don't think I've ever been prouder of Ralphie Boy, He's not just a "sweet kid," but he can handle himself in a scrape, too! Way to go, Ralph! This probably earned him at least 4 or 5 more failed get-rich schemes.

I will say that each time Ralph gives Ed the gun and lets him lead the crooks to the authorities, no matter how times I have seen it, I still think Norton is gonna screw it up and let them get away. Fortunately, that becomes the episode's final surprise!

Overall, there is a lot to enjoy in "Trapped," and it is one of my favorites. I like the odd moments, the unusual sense of peril, and the fact that Ralph gets such a shining moment at the end.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #97

The previous week, I had a lot of time to watch streaming video, but this week, not so much. How will it affect the rankings? Well, I guess I should really know already since I am the one doing them, huh? Here goes:

1) Netflix: I think the worst thing I can say about Netflix this week is that I'm really ticked that The Toys That Made Us A) won't return with its second half of the season for a few weeks and B) hasn't yet been given a second season.

Otherwise, Netflix is doing just enough to justify its price increase, and that's saying something coming from me. It is proud of its Oscar nominations (though no Best Picture nod yet), and it seems to be getting good pub generally, though it's not thrilling to see the first umpteen seasons of Family Guy are leaving in February. Its latest subscriber numbers bested projections.

In the meantime, this week we got a well-regarded second season of One Day at a Time, an Alex Gibney miniseries called Dirty Money that is surely going to depress us all by proving yet again how the system is rigged agin' us, another season of Puss in Boots (we need to make this a thing), and A Futile and Stupid Gesture about the history of National Lampoon. Personally, I'm still getting caught up on a lot of the originals...but I will make time as soon as more The Toys That Made Us appear.

2) Hulu: I am assuming those Family Guy episodes migrate here, like everything else Netflix is ditching (or is it the other way around). Ever since my kids discovered Fabulous Thundermans and Teen Titans Go! on here, it's almost like they forgot all about Netflix.

I only saw a few odds and ends on Hulu this week, but despite a few embarrassing outages last week, Hulu continues to have real momentum that will only increase now that broadcast TV shows return with new episodes.

3) YouTube: The Museum of Classic Chicago Television has really been bringing it lately, though it's a shame that it apparently abandoned its Roku channel. There are a lot of cool old national ads here in addition to the great Chi-centric vintage material.

4) Warner Archive Instant: Several people asked me where I was watching Eight Is Enough, and I told them WAI. Yep, I am doing more to promote the service than its own Twitter account (still dormant since October 22).

5) Boomerang: There is just something really cool about calling Huckleberry Hound "Huck Hound," though I don't really understand what it is.

6) The CW: What's going to happen to all the DC Comics animated shows, like Vixen, when that DC streaming service starts? Those are actually on CW Seed right now, but I didn't watch anything on CW Seed, so I'm asking here.

7) Roku Channel: I enjoyed A Very Brady Sequel here last week, and I must say the interface is decent. This channel should add watchlist and other features as it grows, and the commercial load is a bit obnoxious, but it's free, and Gary Cole is an unrecognized national treasure.

8) WWE Network: The Royal Rumble, an NXT Takeover and more this weekend, but the big deal for me is the story that is adding a ton of old-school Coliseum Video releases in a week and a half or so. I'm so happy about that, I'm not even going to complain about the fact that they announced that at launch but it has taken years to deliver it.

9) Amazon Prime: Not so much Oscar success as it had last year, and in fact, Amazon may be wishing Manchester by the Sea star Casey Affleck would just go away (as he is as it relates to this year's ceremony). Yet I still enjoy finding bizarre content on here, and the Shaw Brothers martial arts catalog looks pretty good on Prime.

10) Stadium: New free (though every time it loads, it asks me if I want to log in) sports channel with some odd content, like Frisbee (excuse me, Ultimate Disc) competitions and Mountain West conference volleyball. It's hard to see what this is all about, and I don't know what the paid site gets you, but it's sports, and it's free. I think. Note: The main Stadium channel is also available, more easily accessible in fact, on Pluto TV.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Half-Assed Gourmet: Little Caesar's has a cheap pizza that is slightly less cheap than its regular pizza

Can you imagine walking into your local Little Caesar's franchise, striding to the counter, and declaring, "I'd like your SECOND-CHEAPEST pizza, my good man"? Well, you may want to do that with pride if you are interested in the new More! More! More! $6 pizza, a pie 20% more expensive than its standard "Hot and Ready" pizza but...well, how much better IS it?

I can't tell you if it's 20% better or not because I haven't had the hot ready in so long. I had the extremely unhealthy deep dish pizzas, including that bacon-wrapped one, a monstrosity that took months off my life (I regret nothing, by the way), and usually avoided El Cheapo. My memory is that El Cheapo is actually Pretty Bueno, though, especially if you get one hot and ready.

They MUST want you to buy the $6 one, right? I guess the profit margin must be better on that even if there really IS more pepperoni and more cheese and more--Hey, what am I doing talking like an economist when the topic is a cheap-ass pizza?

I mean, cheap is cheap, but, man, I would feel like a SUCKER going in there and getting that $5 pizza now. At the least, I would feel like even more of a cheapskate than I know I am--and that they know I am by virtue of the fact that I am in Little Ceasar's. What am I gonna do with that extra buck? buy breadsticks? No. Buy wings? No. Buy Italian Cheesy bread? No. All that stuff costs way more than a dollar. I might as well SPLURGE and get the $6 pizza.

In fact, on my way out after buying it, I almost wished for some poor soul to walk out with a $5 pizza so I could feel superior. "I may not be living like a Rockefeller, but I was able to spare the extra buck and upgrade my pizza!"

So I guess I should give a review of the product, huh? Well, pizza is pizza. Pizza is good. This $6 pizza is good. I really don't know if it's 20% better than the regular one, but it does seem to have a lot more pepperoni and maybe even a little more OOMPH. I would recommend you buy the $6 one but also get the $5 one, and if you like the $6 one better, throw the rest of the $5 one at the next person who asks why you would want to get either instead of "buying REAL pizza."

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

We'll have a...Well, we'll have a time of it, I'll tell you that

I do not remember the incarnation of The Flintstones known as The Flintstone Funnies, but I am pretty sure I was watching it at least some Saturday mornings.

As The Flinstones "franchise" aged, it was like networks felt more obliged to remind everyone that it was funny. "The Flintstones Comedy Hour," "Flintstone Funnies..." What, did kids think it was a documentary?  To paraphrase Bono, "The Flintstone I believe in isn't short on laughs, mister."

What strikes me about this is the change in the lyrics. We will no longer have a GAY old time with the 'Stones. We'll have a GREAT old time.

Hmm...did Anita Bryant force the Flintstones to remove the "gay" reference? Was the possibility for titters and giggles so great in 1982 that--Wait, I was a kid in 1982. Yeah, it's probably for the best that they changed the theme song.

Monday, January 22, 2018

As we continue our look at "Trapped," Ralph has witnessed a couple of murderous bank robbers and is a little jittery:

"Now, look. When I tell you, I don't want you to get nervous, because there's nothing to get nervous about."

'There's a couple of guys out after me. They're gonna kill me." I love the way he says that.

They are after him, and sure enough, as Ralph tries to make his way to the police to tell them he's an eyewitness, the hoods enter the apartment. It's my two favorite Gleason Players, Frank Marth (with a sweet prosthetic nose) and George Petrie.

I never really noticed that nose before, and now I can't stop staring at it. I guess they wanted a way to distinguish Marth from all the times he played cops on the series.

The crooks hold the household hostage, but we also get a visit from one of Gotham's finest, played by stalwart TV lawman Ken Lynch. You gotta appreciate it when the cop talks and looks tougher than the criminals.

Next time, we'll look at what may be Ralph's finest moment ever as we conclude "Trapped."

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 96

1) Hulu: The surprise addition of ER, which I had long considered the biggest show that had never streamed anywhere, cinches another #1 for Hulu. Plus they responded to a question I asked about when those Fox library shows are coming. Oh, they didn't tell me when they were coming, but they acknowledged they were still on tap, and they were friendly about it.

I caught up on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and enjoyed some more Golden Girls reruns this week. I still don't know if The Path is ever gonna be a thing, but fair play to Hulu for trying.

2) Netflix: Any other week, Netflix might be #1 even if I am tempted to knock it down just for Grace and Frankie. GLOW is officially my favorite Netflix Original, and I am already looking forward to the next season. I am not sure if there will be another season of The Toys That Made Us, but there should be. That's an excellent docuseries that kind of came out of nowhere.

3) YouTube: The highlight for me this week was watching Tommy Wiseau's The Room on here. I'm surprised it's still up, albeit with Spanish subtitles, but I am not complaining that I finally saw it. I should be complaining that I sat through the horrible Rolling Stone 10th Anniversary Special, but maybe that's kind of like a rite of passage.

4) The CW: It would be funny if this "Trial of the Flash" storyline lasted as long as it did in the comics, which felt like it was, oh, about 3 years. I haven't seen Black Lightning yet, but it sounds like a solid add to the CW's comic book show lineup. I realize there are other shows on there; I just don't know anything about them.

5) Pub-D-Hub: They have had a few solid weeks of updates, and I enjoyed some old TV shows and a 1929 curio called "Oh, Yeah?" with the buddy team of Robert Armstrong and James Gleason!

6) Shout! Factory TV: I am cautiously optimistic that the Roku issues are finally over, and this week all the old content, plus some new adds for January, are live and viewable.

7) Boomerang: I was a little disappointed by Scooby Doo! and WWE: Curse of the Speed Demon, which was nowhere near the quality of Stone Age Smackdown, but it's nice Boomerang carries it.

8) Amazon Prime: Slides this week after raising its monthly price 2 bucks per,  but I will add Wonderstruck to my list of acclaimed movies I intend to watch but skip over in favor of those 1990 USWA Wrestling episodes that are on there for no apparent reason.

9) Warner Archive Instant: I really have a hard time sitting through Courtship of Eddie Father unless I can somehow block out the music.

10) Acorn TV: Got good pub its first commissioned series, Series 2 of Agatha Raisin; also premiered series 3 of The Detectorists.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Did The Brady Bunch inspire Watergate? (No, but it's a strong post title)

I just didn't have the heart to keep the click bait title as it was without adding a disclaimer of sorts.

I am fascinated, though, by the first season episode of The Brady Bunch titled "Vote for Brady." In particular, I like the sequence in which Mike, looking to help out his ever-lovin' first born in the Fillmore Junior High class president campaign he is waging against Marcia, gives him a tape recorder.

I have kids of my own. I had sisters growing up. I WAS a kid. I have access to YouTube. I have never seen a kid appreciate a gift the way Greg appreciated this tape recorder.

The best thing is the way Greg tests it out. "Testing, 1, 2, 3...Testing, 1, 2, 3...Testing, 1, 2, 3..." I think Mike rolls his eyes a bit as he leaves Greg to his testing.

Now, I think we all thought the same thing the first time we saw this episode: Greg SAYS he's going to use this to broadcast his campaign promises all over the school, but what he is REALLY gonna do is make clandestine recordings of Marcia's campaign and use them to crush her.

Instead, Greg actually dumps his team when they propose the "dirty trick" of smearing Marcia's good name by spreading a rumor about her. Greg threatens physical violence against them.

Every self-respecting campaign manager wears a ribbon that says "Campaign Manager"

What a dope! He could have won the election, then used his power to crush anyone who gossiped about his sister.

Greg doesn't have it in him, neither does Marcia, and we get a sweet if sappy conclusion.

But what if?

What IF the Nixon administration was watching this episode and it inspired not only the secret taping system in the White House, but the entire dirty tricks campaign that ultimately helped bring down a presidency?

What IF?

Just asking. Just asking...

A shot from the deleted scene of Nixon's cameo in Season 4's "The Tiki Caves."

Monday, January 15, 2018

'Mooners Monday: "Trapped," part 1: How about shooting a little pool?

Trapped is one of the better entries in the Classic 39, but I get a lot of enjoyment out of just the first 8 minutes or so. The episode opens in the pool hall, which is one of my favorite non-apartment settings. It starts with Ralph playing pool without Norton, which is a nice change of pace. It's mainly to set up a joke, as Ed enters and rattles Ralph as he is about to set a house record by sinking an 18th ball in a row (is it just me, or does that seem like a paltry house record?), but I kind of like that Ralph doesn't just waste all his time shooting pool with Norton. No, sometimes, like on a Saturday afternoon, he will waste a few hours shouting pool without him.

I enjoy the pool sequences that take place on The Honeymooners. Jackie Gleason and Art Carney were both accomplished players and were trusted to hold their own with a cue when needed (and remember that the Lost Episodes aired live). It looks like there is one little miscue (har har har HAR de har HAR) in this one, though:

Ralph announces he is going to sink a ball in the corner, but he overdoes it, and the ball rockets back out of the pocket. Gleason and Carney just ignore this, though, because Ralph needs to be shooting again for the next gag. Norton sets his cigar down on the table, and Ralph of course leans over to get a better angle and burns himself:

The thing that fascinates me most in this opening sequence, however, is what I believe may be the single most underappreciated joke in series history, and it happens before they start their game. The two flip for the break, Ralph calls heads, and Ed claims victory after a quick toss (and the coin falls off his arm, no less!). As he slinks off with a sketchy, "Tails! Iiiii break!," Ralph challenges him, saying, "Don't you think I should see that coin?"

So Norton grabs the "kern" from his pocket, shows the "tails" side, and Ralph bitterly concedes: "Go ahead and break."

Now, I think this is hilarious (and reminiscent of the "Heads I win, tails you lose" incident that occurs in "TV or Not TV"). The joke is that Ralph accepts this despite there being no way of knowing the coin actually landed heads.

Yet there is nary a peep from the audience. Does the joke not work? I suspect that it just doesn't register for whatever reason. It's too bad. I repeat, it's hilarious! It's also nice to get proof every now and then that Ralph can be as dopey as Ed.

Unfortunately, there is no response. This is why I consider this little bit the single most underappreciate joke in the history of the show. It doesn't earn a paltry response; it earns ZERO response. It stands out as an awkward moment in a great episode.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #95

A combination of weather and other factors led me to indulge in even more streaming than usual this week, so look out, everyone!

1) Hulu: The Handmaid's Tale is a big winner and is being called Hulu's first real original hit. Plus Hulu just keeps adding shows--last week it was Animaniacs and Tiny Toons and Lost; this week it is announced that Living Single, Everwood, and One Tree Hill are on the way. I don't watch any of those last 3 shows, but Hulu really is providing something for everyone in addition to offering next-day broadcast TV.

Stuff I do (and did) watch includes: The Golden Girls, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I Spy (Don't worry, I still loathe Cosby, but I felt like getting back to the reruns), and the compelling original doc Batman and Bill, which is about the creation of the iconic hero but also about a lot more.

2) Netflix: News-wise, Netflix was overshadowed a bit by its competitors' success, particularly at the Golden Globes, but, boy, did I appreciate it this week.  I didn't even get to the new David Letterman talk show yet, but I did get back into Daredevil, and GLOW may be my favorite series of 2017 (never mind the fact that I am watching most of it in 2018). It's getting competition, though, from the delightful docuseries The Toys That Made Us. And for now, Netflix still has some of my favorite old CBS-distributed comfort shows, like Cheers and Star Trek.

3) Amazon Prime: I just discovered that virtually all of the Shaw Brothers movies are on Prime Video. Well, maybe "virtually" is not as accurate as "nowhere near all of them" since the Shaw studio made, what, 800 movies? But the classic kung fu flicks are on there, and I have started checking them out.

Also, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was a big award winner, and Amazon did a cool thing by making the series free to non-subs this weekend. Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams looks interesting.

4) Warner Archive Instant: Yeah, it's still a ghost town, but I saw two classic Eight Is Enough episodes this week (plus a not-so-classic one), and honestly that excites me more than, say, The Polka King premiering on Netflix.

5) YouTube: My favorite find on here this week = the pilot of The New Andy Griffith Show, a series in which Andy Griffith played someone not named Andy Taylor who lives in a small North Cartolina  town not named Mayberry and is visited by Barney, Goober, and Emmett who act like he IS Andy Taylor. Oh, and this Andy has two kids with wife Lee Merriwether and shares his house with a sister-in-law played by Millie Helper.

6) WWE Network: It added almost two years (early 1980s) of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling this week, and that has me tempted to subscribe/

7) Nosey: I'd love to tell you I used some of my extra leisure time this week to watch some of the intelligent, stimulating, and provocative documentary programming on CuriosityStream. But I actually watched 3 or 4 "vintage" episodes of Sally on Nosey.

8) Pluto TV: Because it actually added a Gorilla Channel this week.

9) Boomerang: Magilla Gorilla is much better than I remember, but then, I was like 5 years old when I saw it in reruns. That Mr. Peebles, though, is a real pill. And, Boomerang, I am not interested in these newer series you are touting. Just add, like, every cartoon made before 1990, please.

10) NBC: You know, I saw the first episode of Charles In Charge here the other day, and it is a lot funnier than I expected. I think this is more embarrassing than admitting I was watching Sally. I love that NBC offers so many old shows free of charge and in decent quality, but the commercial load on here is brutal.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Journey Into DVD: The best handball sequence in cinema history?

Is there a better name for a movie than APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER?

I mean, apart from MEGAFORCE?

Let's just leave that one alone. Appointment to Danger may not be the best film noir (or nourish film) of the studio era, but it may have the best handball sequence. Picture it: Alan Ladd vs. Jack Webb. Danger is the subtext, but handball is the game!

I know what you're thinking: How could anything top the glorious theme of...MAIL? And the glamorous yet perilous world of the U.S. Postal Service?

Does THIS answer your question?

How about when we get out on the court?

Things soon get a little contentious:

Then they get downright VIOLENT!

This should be an Olympic sport.

Jackie go night-night!

"I told him I had a good kill shot."

Now, after this kind of action, who wants to see shots of mail?

Oh, OK, we'll take one more look before we end this post:

Monday, January 8, 2018

'Mooners Monday: The Worry Wart

If someone asked me to recommend just one episode of The Honeymooners, I would berate that person for not just watching all of them. However, after thinking for a minute or 10, I might suggest "The Worry Wart." It doesn't feature a wild set piece, nor a wacky costume, nor a memorable blooper. The vast majority takes place in the Kramdens' apartment. I just happen to think it is one of the flat-out funniest episodes of the series and a fine example of how the combination of fine writing and excellent performances create classic television.

Let's give credit to the credited authors of this one, Marvin Marx and Walter Stone. It starts out a little slow, though I am amused by Norton's invitation that the Kramdens accompany he and Trixie to the big antiques show at Madison Square Garden. Once it gets going, though, it has some of my favorite lines. It's simple stuff but effective.

Examining the icebox for "valuable antiques"

I think there are a dozen variations of Ed calming Ralph, then Ed aggravating him again with another remark, but each time is gold. "The Worry Wart" is a great way to observe the greatness of Jackie Gleason and Art Carney.

As you may recall, Ralph gets a letter from the IRS asking him to come down to the office to go over his tax return. He expects it to be a $42 tax refund so he can have a glorious two-week vacation fishing at Fred's Landing (a bit that has inspired years of vacation-related jokes in my family). Instead he frets over the implications of the letter...and frets...and frets.

Ralph's exasperated pounding of the table--"WHAT could they want me for?" is funny for his broad gesture and the reactions of a surprised Norton and Alice:

I like that Alice admonishes him for doing his own taxes instead of finding someone at the barber shop who knows how. Meanwhile, Ed keeps asking Ralph for accessories for the spaghetti dinner he has finagled, and ultimately Ralph blows up when Norton requests bread. Then Norton calms him down, and says first things first, which relaxes Ralph, and THEN Norton says, "First thing was, you was getting me some bread. Where is it?"

Ralph's reaction is great. He actually tells Alice, "Get in the bedroom, because I'm gonna kill him."

Alice and Ed keep attempting to reassure Ralph that it's probably nothing, but he isn't hearing any of it.

Alice: You're not the first person who has ever been investigated.
Ed: You're darn right. The jails are full of them.

Of course Ralph stays up late going over his return. We've all been there, right?

Ralph can't relax, and it's a regular riot each time he explodes. He wakes up Norton, but Ed is a pal and soothes him yet again.

"The worst thing they could POSSIBLY do is put you in the federal pen!"

Check out Norton's slipper
Norton helps Ralph track down discrepancies like reported income, but it doesn't end well.

Ralph: You know what this means, don't you, Norton?

Truth be told, the resolution isn't spectacular, but it IS funny. The strength of this episode isn't the last 5 minutes nor the first 5 minutes, but the hilarious 15 minutes of Ralph and Ed going back and forth in the apartment. It's a perfect distillation of their relationship, and more importantly, it's funny. Those 15 minutes make laugh out loud--literally laugh out loud--multiple times every single time I watch them. For that reason alone, "The Worry Wart" is one of my favorite 'Mooners installments.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #94

These ratings actually are a lot harder to create when I have more time to watch this stuff. Generally the rankings are based on a combination of buzz, new additions, what I have been streaming, and of course a heaping teaspoon of cayenne pepper. The holidays and the weather have given me more time to enjoy streaming video, and this weekend is shaping up to be a shelter-in-place kind of deal, too, so look out next week.

Of course, I could also READ more.


1) YouTube: There is just all kinds of cool stuff on here. Perhaps inspired by my inclusion of his YouTube channel in my 10 Things I Loved post, SeanMc went nuts with the uploads this week. Even better, New Year's Rockin' Eve--1979--helped me celebrate 2018. Chuck Mangione, Rick James, The Village People...Erik Estrada and Lauren Tewes hosting the pretapes...What a time that was.

2) Netflix: Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee has finally premiered, though it irritates me that they are now in "collections" and not seasons. Netflix deserves credit for throwing a bone to people who still  look for catalog content. It added several popular franchises like The Godfather, Lethal Weapon, and Batman. If it could pull that off every month, people like me wouldn't complain about the shrinking library. The conversation about Black Mirror continues. Plus David Letterman's talk show has a premiere date--next week--and an official slate of high-profile guests.

Personally, I am enjoying not only GLOW, which may be my favorite Netflix Original when I catch up, but also One Day at a Time.

3) The CW: Hey, I am all caught up now on my superhero shows. Please, shows, don't give us any new episodes for another few weeks. I still need to catch up on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

4) Hulu: And when I do catch up, it will be on Hulu! My children taking over the Roku and seemingly trying to maintain a perpetual Teen Titans Go/The Fabulous Thundermans marathon might be enough to rank Hulu pretty high; the 2017 documentary Gilbert only helps its case. In a less competitive week, it would be number one. I plan to boost my Hulu watching this week, so put your Bitcoin on it to be higher next time.

5) Amazon Prime: A new addition is a 1961 series called Almanac which consists entirely of old newsreel footage. It took me about 10 minutes to find out what year it was from, too. Cool! I didn't watch the parody Rose Bowl Parade coverage Amazon streamed on New Year's Day, but I think it's a great idea, and I like that Amazon tried something different there.

6) Warner Archive Instant: Back into the rankings as I dive back into Kildare and Eight Is Enough, but--I'm just saying--still no new content in months and still no activity on the Twitter account since October 22.

7) PBS: Thanks for the memory...of letting me watch the American Masters Bob Hope documentary without a log-in.

8) PBS Kids Go!: Speaking of public broadcasting, I didn't realize until this week that you can enjoy a free livestream of the national PBS Kids channel on the Roku through this app. There are a lot of episodes and clips you can enjoy without a log-in, too, so big ups to PBS Kids. Too bad my kids are rapidly growing out of interest in it...

9) Boomerang: And sadly, my kids aren't OLD enough to appreciate something like Magilla Gorilla  on Boomerang, but I plan to work on it.

10) Up Faith and Family: I like to highlight new SVOD services in the rankings, even if I have no interest in them. In this case, I give Up credit because it shows that even wholesome, family-friendly channels are liable to charge way too much for way too little content if they get the opportunity.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Brooks on Books: Of All the Gin Joints: Stumbling Through Hollwood History by Mark Bailey and Edward Hemingway

This is a delightful and unique blend of vintage Hollywood history, gossip, and, yes, booze. I'm no expert on alcoholic beverages, and I thought the drinking content might dominate the text. However, much to my surprise, there is every bit as much pure movie gossip, including some outrageous stories. It's one of the most entertaining showbiz books I read in recent years.

You lushes know who you are, but I am not judging. I think I AM gonna judge old Hollywood, though, which consists of nothing but depraved drunkards. OK, I exaggerate a bit. And the tone of the book is decidedly on the lighter side of binge imbibing and chronic alcoholism. Still...sheesh!

The book divides Hollywood into 4 distinct eras, ending in 1979. Each mini-sized chapter begins with a profile of an individual--actor, screenwriter, director, etc.--and is "chased" with a look at a bar/lounge/some other place where drinks were imbibed. Often a cocktail recipe closes out the section. Hemingway provides brilliant illustrations while Bailey writes the witty and savvy text. Behind-the-scenes accounts of specific productions like Beat the Devil, loaded with anecdotes, make for amusing sidebars.

Yes, everything revolves around alcohol, but, wow, when we talk about movies and booze, we are covering a lot of ground. One way or another, most of the big names and faces in the history of the medium find their way into their book, whether they were alcoholics or not (and many were). You get all kinds of debauchery and bad behavior; a lot of it is hilarious, but some of it is quite sad, even tragic.

A lot of this is familiar to enthusiasts--stories include the trial of Fatty Arbuckle, the near-fatal car crash that forever altered Montgomery Clift's appearance, and Frank Sinatra and Joe DiMaggio's ill-fated attempt to bust into a reputed dalliance of Marilyn Monroe's. Yet the telling of it all is concise and enlightening, and besides, there is a lot on here that is less familiar, at least to me.

There's Steve McQueen taking LSD with Mamie Van Doren, William Holden dangling from a 14th-floor windowsill, Charles Butterworth dressing in drag to enter the Garden of Allah, and Talullah Bankead wooing Johnny Weismuller. There are great mini-histories of long-vanished hotspots like Romanoff's and places that are still around in some form, like the Polo Lounge.

My guess is that the connossieurs out there won't need the recipes for the drinks (many of which were invented by figures in the book), but they will be amused by their origins and the details. The rest of us can sit back and enjoy this tour through the wetter side of filmdom, and if we are inspired to pick up an adult beverage, what's the harm? Apart from some of the terrible things that happen to people who drink too much in the anecdotes in the book?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

10 Things I Loved in 2018

Don't consider this a top 10, but consider it...a 10. Don't consider this a Bo Derek 10, but consider it...Ah, you get the idea. Here are 10 things I loved in 2017. I recommend you check these out, love them, and create your own list of 10 including these exact things at the end of 2018. Just please try to change the wording a bit.

*The Lego Batman Movie: I didn't see all of the superhero movies that came out this year, or hardly any of them, but you'll have a hard time convincing me any of them are better than Lego Batman. It's so good that I am willing to endure 10 more Will Arnett live-action sitcoms (the idea of them, not actually watching them).

*The Terrible Podcast: Minute for minute, kilobyte for kilobyte (OK, I don't know what I'm talking about), no sports podcast--maybe no podcast, period--gave me more joy in 2017 than this Pittsburgh Stillers show, "just a couple of Daves talking Steeler football." In season, they do 3 shows, almost always an hour apiece, and with absolutely no ads or ad reads. It may be the best bargain in 'Burgh sports (insert Mike Hilton comment). Even when my enthusiasm for football dims, I look forward to this podcast.

*The Honeymooners on Blu-Ray: One of my favorite presents last Christmas brought me all kinds of entertainment throughout the year and continues to do so. I remain both delighted it was so cheap on Amazon and also sort of offended that it was.

*Comic Book Fever: See my review here of George Khoury's delightful exploration of seemingly 50% of everything I loved as a kid.

*Eight Is Enough on Warner Archive Instant: This comfort food is the TV equivalent of eating an old sock. Wait, I think I screwed that up. WAI deserves criticism for, uh, not doing anything for months on end, but as long as it has all 5 seasons of EIE, I'm there.

*800 Words on Acorn TV: I signed up for Acorn to watch Doc Martin, but I stayed because of this charming, simple dramedy about an Aussie family that moves to New Zealand. Well, actually I didn't stay, but I will be back eventually. It's also a fun comfort-food kind of show.

*Burger with fried egg: I tried this for the first time this summer and loved it. The truffle fries didn't hurt, either. I had another one recently at a different location, and while I now acknowledge the legitimacy of egg on burger as a concept, it was really the specific location that made the meal so awesome. Plus there was undoubtedly some kind of fattening sauce, butter, and, what, two different kinds of cheese. Dag, I'm hungry now.

*MLB.TV: The Pirates looked awful at times, but this was the first season I had MLB.TV and access to all of the games (well, almost all; let's not get into the inane blackout rules right now) for a whole season, and it was splendid, even if I get sick of seeing the same commercials over and over and over again.

*Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond: I said after I watched this that either Jim Carrey is one messed-up dude or he is a fantastic and pretentious BS artist. Probably a little of both. This documentary showed up late in the year on Netflix and mesmerized me with its combination of Hollywood history, Hollywood ego, Hollywood nuttiness, Andy Kaufman, pro wrestling, and, yes, maybe even a little bit of the human condition.

*SeanMC's YouTube Channel: I love, love, love, old TV promos--I launched a recurring feature devoted to sharing them on the blog this year--and Sean Mc is a reliable uploader of great vintage 1970s/1980s content, much of it absurd hype jobs voiced by legends like Danny Dark, Ernie Anderson, and Casey Kasem. Opening YT and seeing Sean posted a batch of fresh vids is like--uh, I'm out of strained similies, but it's awesome.

Monday, January 1, 2018

'Mooners Monday: PIX 11 Archives with a treasure trove of material

I gave PIX11's Roku channel the coveted #1 spot in my streaming video power rankings this week because it posted 5 vintage Honeymooners-related clips last week, including a 2013 interview with Joyce Randolph, a 1980s news feature on a RALPH (Royal Association for the Longevity and Preservation of The Honeymooners) convention, and more. Much to my delight, the channel added a bunch more stuff this weekend.

If you don't do Roku, you can check out some of the clips here at the PIX Archives Facebook page. Of course this is all in conjunction with the New York TV station's annual New Year's Eve marathon. I have all the episodes on DVD and Blu-Ray, but if I had WPIX, I'd be watching at least some of the 'thon, I'm sure. Click here for the schedule of episodes.

I love that the flagship of The Honeymooners for the last umpteen years keeps this tradition alive. It's not the same as 11:30 every weeknight, but it's something. What's your favorite episode NOT featured in the marathon? For me, the one that stands out is The Worry Wart, which just happens to be coming up next in our chronological look at the Classic 39 (and that will resume soon, I promise). I think Ralph's stress over a summons to come to the IRS creates one of the most purely funny episodes of them all--no costumes or gimmicks needed, just great, great dialogue and performances.

As for those old clips on the Pix11 Roku channel, here are some of my personal faves. Catch 'em before they're gone (though many of these have already been up and can probably be found if you poke around):

*Old PIX promos for the show: Even if it's only a line of dialogue and the great Ralph Lowenstein or Bill Biery reading a brief bit of copy, it gives me a warm feeling.

*The "I'm a Honeymooney" music video, though I would have spelled it "Honeymoonie."

*Soundless footage of someone holding up vintage Honeymooners for-air reels from Viacom. Hey, I thought it was cool.

*An "11 Alive" promo touting the original "Must See TV" lineup: the weeknight juggernaut of Odd Couple, 'Mooners, and Star Trek. I love how it shows people in a diner watching The Odd Couple.

*My favorite: A 1982 commercial for a 3-D broadcast of Revenge of the Creature built around the clip from "TV or Not TV" of Ralph saying he hasn't bought a set because he's waiting for 3-D television!