Saturday, June 30, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #117

1)  Hulu: It added all umpteen seasons of MASH--As I said on social media, finally some concrete evidence that something good came out of the Singapore summit. But why did it take one year after the announcement it had been acquired? Does this mean we'll get the rest of Bob Newhart Show next summer, The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 2020, and St. Elsewhere in 2021?

And I just happened to see this episode this week on Hulu, which is itself to earn a high ranking:

2)  Netflix: It didn't offer much new apart from The Last Jedi, but, hey, it's Star Wars. Netflix gets to brag that, "Hey, we got the Disney movies, yo!" Well, until next year when it loses them. I'm looking forward to season 2 of Glow, which just dropped, and my kids are gonna be thrilled to see another set of Nailed It episodes on the heels of discovering Alexa and Katie last week.

Sure, Netflix had to can an executive for allegedly being cluelessly racist, but other than that, it was a strong week, and the swift action seemed to dissipate any controversy. Hey, maybe he was the guy who authorized getting all those Streisand movies.

3) YouTube: As I compile this week's list, I am enjoying a 1989 Pirates/Cubs Game of the Week telecast from NBC with the great Bob Walk on the mound. Vin and Tom Seaver in the booth. I just love that this exists. YouTubeTV had some outages, but it also unveiled a deal to give viewers 3 free months of its premium service (see Cordcutters News for the details). I  feel I should take advantage of that, but, man, I can't keep track of everything else let alone this.

Uh, except for these weekly rankings, of course. I pay close attention to everything for the purposes of the prestigious top 10.

4) PIX 11: Still riding high on the strength of its 70th anniversary special, but it also posted a timely clip of Justice Kennedy's original nomination. Plus I saw a vintage Magic Garden and in an instant was transported back to simpler, better days when there was no such thing as Netflix and therefore no danger of it streaming Streisand concerts.

5) HBO: Farewell, HBO, and thanks for the entertainment you gave me at a heavily discounted rate. Is HBO worth 15 bucks a month? No, on a regular basis, there is no way it should cost that much. But it is strong, and I got my money's worth while I had it. This week it premieres It, which isn't enough to make me sign back up but is still a fairly big deal.

6) Hoopla: While trying to use my allotted "borrows" for the month from this library-affiliated service, I enjoyed an old Disneyland TV special and The Sultan and the Rock Star, another Disney TV effort, with Timothy Hutton and a tiger!

7) Amazon Prime Video: This may be the only place this week you see someone give Amazon credit for adding two episodes of Robert Montgomery Presents. I think The Closer (complete series) is also new, but it's no Robert Montgomery Presents.

8) WWE Network: I was watching an episode of TNT, and it still amazes me that even as "early" as 1984, The Fabulous Moolah was still holding a championship in the WWF.

9) Slacker Radio: I had some time to listen to some music and put on the TuneIn channel and was prompted to sign up or log in. So I immediately went to Slacker and listened to some good music for an hour or two without logging in.

10) Starz: I signed up for a 7-day trial so I could watch [redacted because it will show up in one of my other ventures soon]. So I will be "seeing Starz" this week! Heh heh!

Hey, these rankings take a lot longer to do than you might think, and I'm often a bit fatigued by the end. Cut me some slack.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Inside that comics grab bag part 2

I am breaking down in more detail the comics I got in a 10-issue grab bag at Ollie's Bargain Outlet. Part 1 is here, and the first closer look is here.

Last time out, I was disappointed to read two comics that left me hanging. I don't think the trend will change this time, but we shall see!

What If Inhumans Infnity Something or Other #1: This is a one-shot associated with a big Marvel Universe crossover EVENT of some kind. I would have loved to have scored an issue of the original series of What If?, but that was not to be. This is What If Black Bolt Betrayed Earth? Since it's an offshoot of a big epic, I am sure it would resonate more if I remembered/knew that event.



The thing I loved about the old What If? was that each scenario more or less culminated in half the characters dying a horrible death. It was a wonderful, morbid series that had all these abominable things happen to well-known characters. This new one is not so shocking or depressing, but it is kind of a bummer.

On one hand, I kind of enjoyed it because I never liked the Inhumans. I liked Black Bolt because he looked cool, but the rest of it annoyed me. Sometimes it was a fun little part of the Marvel U, but other times all their hoity-toity talk about being regal and so superior drove me up my decidedly unroyal walls. The Inhumans acted as if just because Black Bolt had a literal throne his inhuman poop didn't stink.

So it's kind of interesting to see what happens in this Imaginary Story (oops, that's the other company). Yet I just can't get fully invested. This book has that modern Marvel art style that I assume every other of their books has had for the last 15 years. The lettering annoys me. I just can't really get into it. And Uatu is nowhere to be found. It seems like a pointless cash grab rather than the good, old-fashioned gory Faces of  Death that the old What If? was. Thumbs down for this one overall, but as filler for a grab bag, I guess it doesn't offend me.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Today on Battle of the Network Shows!

Just looking out of the window, hearing the podcast show...

That's right it's Good Times on this week's pod!  The Evanses vs. The Haters! James vs. Easy Money! Jimmie Walker vs. John Amos!

Click right here to go to our website, or you can grab the episode wherever you get podcasts. Don't you dare miss it!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Classic Shows That Should Be Streaming: 5 for that new Disney thing whenever it shows up

Disney could really half-ass its new streaming video on demand service when it debuts in 2019, and part of me worries it will be stingy with catalog content. Even without the Fox library, though (much of which is supposed to be showing up on Hulu--still waiting for a lot of that), there are all sorts of great possibilities for Disney Take All Your Money (working title). Here we continue this series of posts with a look at 5 older shows that can be good fits:

1) Every Marvel cartoon ever: Some of these may be locked into other streaming rights deals, but I can't believe this is even in question. I thought for sure that Disney/Netflix deal a few years back meant a bonanza of old 'toons, but in fact, Netflx has dropped animated Marvel product over the years.

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and the 1981 Spider-Man used to be on Netflix, but that was a long time ago.  Lesser seen in reruns is the 1982 Incredible Hulk. And I am sure there is a tangle of rights with the various Fantastic Four cartoons, but so what? Let's get them all. Get the 1960s limited-animation cartoons with the awesome theme songs. Even recent stuff like the endless variations of Avengers series is impossible to keep track of because Disney buries a lot of it. The Marvel animated library should be a big part of the new service.

2) Disney Channel Flashbacks: A long time ago, The Disney Channel was a premium service that offered programming for little kids in the morning, for older kids in the day, for families in prime time, and nostalgia-oriented shows for adults later at night. We're talking shows like Ozzie and Harriet but also clever originals like Mousterpiece Theatre putting vintage Disney shorts in a fun package presented by a tongue-in-cheek George Plimpton. Ready Steady Go was even a thing on the old Disney. Maybe shows like Welcome to Pooh Corner and Dumbo's Circus are dated 30 years later, but you have kids who watched them back in the day now ready to spend $ on this streaming video service. Why not throw them a dose of nostalgia and make some of this available?

3) The Mickey Mouse Club/Zorro: These series also aired on the original version of The Disney Channel, but I give them their own joint entry. I am talking the original TV versions of each that kids saw in the afternoons. Disney gave up on these after abandoning its Vault Disney concept on the channel, and DVDs are looooong out of print. Again, nothing else is happening with these properties. Add them to the new service.

4) Wonderful World of Walt Disney Presents in Color: There are countless variations of the Disney anthology TV show that had a place on network TV for decades. I don't care what you call it or how you organize it--OK, I care a little bit because it could be really confusing--but all that footage should be available. Even in limited doses, it would be great to see Walt himself have some kind of presence on whatever this Disney OTT venture turns out to be. Nature shows, live action, cartoon collections...whatever. Just give it to us in some form with original intros.

5) The Muppet Show: This also belongs in the "I thought this was a no-brainer, but Disney keeps proving me wrong" category. Disney tries everything to reinvigorate Jim Henson's prized creations except  promoting the original series. First the show stalled out on DVD. Then, when streaming video seemed to provide a suitable home, the syndicated variety show remained MIA.

I have no idea why no one seems to want to stream the Muppets, but maybe now Disney is planning on making it a piece of its new offering. The franchise may be a little weakened as a TV and movie thing, but I believe putting up the originals will draw plenty of eyeballs on streaming. The original version hasn't been on Disney Channel in 20 years, so I think it's time for a resurgence of the material that made all these reboots possible.

Monday, June 25, 2018

'Mooners Monday: Before we leave "The Safety Award"...

...can we talk about Alice's dress?

Yes, the dress that was SO special, not only did SHE have to snag it at the department store when she saw it, but somehow Trixie did as well.

I mean, the Kramdens may be in Brooklyn, but I think part of that bowtie is in Queens. That monstrosity would make Ralph look small.

Now, the polka dots are a nice touch and give the outfit some pop, but, really, ladies, is this dress worth arguing over? Maybe one of you could wear the dress and the other could wear the tie. Actually, 4 or 5 of you could wear the tie.

Now, it does strain credibility that Ralph and Ed wind up in the same suit (not inside the same suit, though that might make a nice follow-up to the railcar segment in Unconventional Behavior),'s funny:

Before we leave, one more look at that dress AND another great Norton/Alice double reaction shot to something happening to Ralph off camera:

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #116

1) PIX11: I have sort of a compact with WPIX. If the beloved New York television broadcaster I enjoyed so much as a youth puts something cool on its PIX11 Roku channel, I'm-a gonna rank it. The upload of a recent 70th anniversary special is enough to deserve a high spot--so much fun, so many memories, I only wish it were longer--but there's also a handful of original Magic Garden episodes to stream. Those who know will know how cool that is. 11 is a clear 1 this week!

2) Hulu: I don't know how all the recent upheaval will affect us--new execs, new ownership structure--but let's hope it continues to be aggressive about programming even though it is losing 400 million bucks a month or whatever. This week, Hulu adds a bunch of shows from Viacom networks, including Daria.

Hey, should I start watching Rick and Morty (new season now available on Hulu) even though I have a hundred other shows I want to start watching?

3) Netflix: Is the drop of season 2 of Luke Cage enough to redeem Netflix from its Streisand debacle last week?
No, of course not. However, my kids got a lot of entertainment out of it. So help me, I am starting to kind of enjoy Mr. Young (look it up and realize why I am embarrassed to admit that).

4) YouTube: I am considering starting a movement to declare certain YouTube channels national landmarks that receive federal protection from copyright claims.

5) Highspots: This pro-wrestling-on-demand streamer did a class thing. On the anniversary of Bruiser Brody's death, it made its original documentary on the life and times of the renegade star available for free.

6) HBO: Friends, I am about to conclude my stint with HBO, but I will return to it at some point.  I have been very happy with the service, but then again, it's much easier to be pleased with something that's 5 bucks per (DirectTV Now) as opposed to 15 bucks per (everywhere else). Expect this one to be much higher next week as I race to get some more movies in before I say bye-bye.

7) WWE: In addition to continuing its welcome drop of Mid-Atlantic wrestling from the 1980s, the folks running the Network put together a collection honoring the deceased Vader with impressive speed.
Yes, I have two pro wrestling networks in the list this week. If you want to make something of it, just know that I have mastered several different suplexes and the Daddylock.

8) Prime Video: A quiet week for Prime (Suits season 7 is one of the headliners), but I like the ongoing influx of movies from Shout!, including this must-see with Leo Nimoy:

9) Filmstruck: It slipped out of the rankings for a few weeks, partly because I don't have it right now, but it gave us a solid week of adds including collections devoted to Natalie Wood and to Miss Marple. I tell you, the pre-TCM version of Filmstruck never would have offered a Miss Marple collection.

10) MLB TV: I had an evening to myself and wasted much of it seeing a horribly played baseball game that went into extra innings and ended with the Pirates losing to the Diamondbacks. I don't blame MLB TV, though. I blame the New York Yankees I need a reason?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Brooks on Books: Based on a True Story--A Memoir by Norm Macdonald

Norm Macdonald, standup, host of "Weekend Update" on SNL, and all-around wise-ass, is a funny dude, and it's no surprise that he has written a funny book. The nature of it is a real surprise, though. I guess I should have been tipped off by--oh, the title, for example, and maybe by the fact it was in the non-fiction section at the library instead of in the biography section. Yet I was taken aback that it wasn't actually a memoir.

If you are smarter than me and can pick up on such subtle clues earlier, this is a great read if you understand what he's doing. There are some stories from Macdonald's early life (not a lot) and from his showbiz career, and some of them may even be true, but mostly it's a narrative of a wild, drug-fueled adventure he and sidekick Adam Eget (always referred to by first and last names like that) undergo in an attempt to gamble into enough money to open a ranch. Along the way, Norm tells stories of his life to Adam Eget. Even weirder, there is a ghostwriter character who appears and sometimes writes short chapters as himself. I really don't want to give away more except to say that there is indeed a narrative here, and Macdonald ties all of it together.

The writing is much like you would expect a Macdonald book to be--extremely dry with all kinds of off-kilter jokes. Much of the humor comes from Macdonald staying in character and treating fictional stories like his attempt to court Sarah Silverman as if they were not only true stories, but also as if his own view on them was sincere. For example, he mentions a restraining order she filed and says he couldn't understand it because he was in her bushes and following her every day but never saw a stalker.

Speaking of tying it all together, one of the brilliant aspects of the text is how it rewards you. There are setups that pay off sentences, pages, even chapters later. I also think the book gets better as it goes along. He dispatches his childhood quickly, and things pick up once he starts to explain his career in show business.

There are tidbits about Saturday Night Live, but only casual references to The Norm Show and nothing about hilarious appearances on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. You will be disappointed if you want to hear "the real story" of his dismissal from Weekend Update for making too many O.J. Simpson jokes, but his version in this book is so hilarious, I say, who needs the truth? Some of what he says about the making of cult movie Dirty Work may be true, but a lot of it is "just" funny stories.

I would almost be stunned if Norm took himself seriously, but I didn't expect him to treat his whole life as such a farce. I hope the morphine habit isn't as true as the gambling, at least, but who knows? I don't think I want or need to know. Based on a True Story is a unique and addictive (not as much as morphine and gambling) "memoir" that will please anyone who enjoys Macdonald's type of comedy. What is that type? Ah, don't ask me. Let's just go with "funny" and say that you know what I mean if you like him.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Today on Battle of the Network Shows!

Our ongoing exploration of the TV of the past takes us on a journey into the future as we discuss Buck Rogers in the 25th Century!

Buck faces not just a vampire, but a SPACE VAMPIRE in this memorable episode. Click right here to go to our official page, or you can find it wherever you get your podcasts. Don't ya dare miss it!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Classic Shows That Should Be Streaming: 5 for CBS All Access

We continue our look at old TV shows that make good fits for the major streaming video services with a look at the paid offshoot of the Tiffany Network, CBS. We discussed NBC a few weeks ago, but its competitor takes a different approach. NBC offers tons of content for free. CBS adds tons of content plus some original series for...not free.

CBS All Access offers some intriguing original series, but it has a long way to go to convince me it's worth paying for, and beefing up that back catalog is a great start. I am not talking about all the series that inexplicably are incomplete on here, like The Odd Couple and Taxi, but rather shows that have never been available here in any form.

1) The Honeymooners: Putting aside the fact that it's my favorite show of all time--wait, no, let's not put that aside. I was lucky enough to get the Classic 39 on Blu-Ray a while back at a fantastic price. The fact that we can get it so cheap proves CBS has milked all it can out of the 'Mooners on home video. Why has this never circulated on a Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon, unlike other company stalwarts like Star Trek, I Love Lucy, and The Andy Griffith Show? I don't know, but the neglect means that CBS now has something special to add for fans of classics. The Honyemooners' streaming debut is something worth touting.

2) The Fugitive: You want to talk "binge-watching"? How about when I had chicken pox and got hooked on the show in reruns on A&E? I'm not even going to get into the many times CBS/Paramount screwed this up on DVD, but suffice to say the disastrous moves (and, to its credit, the willingness to make good) ensure that this will never be profitable in that medium.

So why not make this landmark drama available on All Access? It's too good a series not to be available, and we know it's not totally toxic because Me-TV has rerun it. Oh, and this should go without saying, but we want it streaming uncut and not timesped and with the original music, please.

This pic is, uh, not from the official DVDs. Hopefully All Access would have much better quality.

3) Mannix: Bear with me while I make some massive, reductive generalizations here: Old people love old things. Old people love detective shows. Mannix is an old detective show. Old people love CBS. CBS loves old people. Old detectives love shows. Love CBS's Mike Connors--wait, I got lost there.

The point is Mannix, all 8 seasons and 194 episodes of it, is fine old-school comfort food that has not been rerun to death. TV Land in its infancy, Me-TV, Heroes & Icons...Other than that, it hasn't been a fixture in syndication. The first season, with its radically different format (Intertect, anyone?) hasn't been syndicated, and I can understand why. It doesn't match the rest of the series. In streaming, though, when you can pick any episode or watch stuff at random, it doesn't matter. Put it all up there! I think this would be a surprise success for CBS All Access.

4) The Streets of San Francisco: Similar to #3 but police detective-y instead of private investigator-y, less episodes, and even less syndication exposure. OK, maybe it's not that similar.

I can't believe a successful Quinn Martin cop show with location shooting, Karl Malden, and Michael freaking Douglas can't get more play in rerun-land/ At least the whole thing is out on DVD. It ain't going anywhere otherwise, so, hey, CBS, stream it for the masses. Call it The STREAMS of San Francisco! Eh? Eh?

OK, maybe not, but Quinn Martin's name alone means this should be more widely available. So we get this, The Fugitive, Barnaby Jones (speaking of old people), and The Invaders for starters. All complete on DVD, all not tied up as far as I know in big licensing deals, all great fits for All Access.

5) Gunsmoke: Bear with me here. Yes, it seems this one, unlike Mannix, HAS been rerun to death. At any given moment, TV Land, Me-TV or Starz Westerns (or whatever it calls itself these days) is probably running an episode.

AN episode.

Maybe it's showing a few episodes in a row. Well, that's OK. There are over 630 of them.

Gunsmoke is such a massive thing that CBS splits it into several syndication packages, and it's not always as easy as the half-hour episodes and the hour episodes. It has to split those packages into different packages. So there's plenty of Gunsmoke to go around. CBS could upload a few seasons' worth and still offer its All Access subscribers a nice dose of classic Western.

Incidentally, Westerns are still way underrepresented in streaming. Hulu has some stuff, and it's not hard to find public-domain episodes (it's easy to find a lot of Bonanza), but apart from Starz, a lot of the old TV oaters are MIA. Starz is just replicating what it is showing on its cable networks, too. CBS All Access may turn its nose up at the likes of Gunsmoke and Have Gun Will Travel as it pushes The Good Fight, but where's the harm in saving some episodes for streaming? It's not like Gunsmoke is gonna just disappear from the likes of TV Land.

If it does, hey, I bet a lot of cable TV watchers will be overjoyed.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #115

A shocking fall is the big story of this week's rankings, but before we get to that, happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. Sit on your dad butt and watch some dad stuff, and do it without shame!

Oh, yeah, spend some time with your families, too, of course.

1) Prime Video: Amazon gave me a great Father's Day gift by adding the two Adam West/But Ward modern animated Batman features. I saw and enjoyed Return of the Caped Crusaders already but I have been waiting for the rental price of the sequel, with William Shatner as Two-Face, to drop. Well, now, I can stream it as a Prime member. MWAH HA HA HA!

(Really, I'm a law-abiding citizen. I regret the maniacal laugh.)

Also new this week: Yellow Submarine, and while many Beatlemaniacs have it on DVD or even Blu-Ray, I what? It's still the Beatles. I love seeing the Fab Four and Apple getting involved with streaming the catalog, and who knows, maybe they can unveil some unreleased material in this format someday.

Amazon gives us the 3 great B's from the sixties this week: Batman, Beatles, and...Billy Bob! Yes, Billy Bob Thornton (who was actually born in 1955)  returns in Goliath, season two, and maybe soon I will check out season 1.  (In case you're wondering, Prime Video already streams many of the James Bond flicks.)

2) HBO: Seriously, folks, I ask again, does Silicon Valley just totally start to stink at some point? I ask because I finished buzzing through season 2 this week and thought it was as funny as anything on TV in recent years. This and a few movies made it a big HBO week for me.

3) WWE Network: The least exciting thing to me is the Money in the Bank special event airing tonight. There's also an NXT Takeover and a nice Hidden Gems drop on Thursday. What better way to celebrate Father's Day than to sit around with your kids and watch a 1980s match pitting the Road Warriors against the father/son combination of Curt and Larry Hennig? Answer: There is no better way.

4) MLB.TV: The red-hot Pittsburgh Pirates come roaring into this great baseball-ish holiday. MLB has been giving big discounts on this service in honor of the occasion--the holiday, not the Pirates beating the Reds a few times--so take note if you aren't on board.

5) YouTube: Oh, there is some great stuff on here. My favorite this week was finding an old "Reading Is Fundamental" PSA with Ed Asner while I was putting together the YouTube playlist for our Lou Grant episode of Battle the Network Shows. Oh, did I plug the podcast again? Shame on me! But a lot of you clearly enjoyed my linking to the Tom Snyder movie monsters episode (thanks again, Fuzzy Memories TV) earlier this week, and well you should: It was a great hour of retro fun.

6) Hulu: It reportedly lost $436 MILLION in the first quarter of this year. See, Hulu, I told you to put up the rest of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

7) Pub-D-Hub: I've been enjoying some old variety TV on here, like Dinah Shore and Coke Time with Eddie Fisher, which is surpassed only by Shootin' Up with Sal Mineo.

8) Boomerang: Credit to Boomerang for putting together a curated collection of cartoon dads, though it should have added all the Auggie Doggie episodes or, say. Wait Till Your Father Gets Home.

9) DirectTV Now: This service has been buggy and sluggish since adding the DVR feature for Roku, but it did let me see some World Cup action this week without any problems.

10) Netflix: I can't drop it out of the ratings, as I did enjoy some stuff on it this week, but I have to dock it for rolling out a big Barbara--excuse me, BARBRA Streisand collection. Oh, I'm sure fans will love it. I'm not a fan. If Netflix is gonna spend bucks for this kind of stuff, why can't it do something like this with Carol Burnett? And remember when it added all those Albert Brooks movies, had him record a promo clip, and then dropped most of them months later? I guess I shouldn't be complaining about this, but...I am.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Today on Battle of the Network Shows!

I like to think Lou Grant would never listen to a podcast, but Mike and I return to the character (after last week's  discussion of The Mary Tyler Moore show) as we tackle Lou Grant the series!

Politics, the press,'s all here on the Battle of the Network Shows podcast! Click here to go to our website. Don't ya dare miss it!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Behind the Rankings: A gem on YouTube

YouTube is at #2 on the weekly power rankings in no small part because of this gem posted by the great folks behind FuzzyMemoriesTV, now known as The Museum of Classic Chicago Television:

This is an original airing of a rebroadcast (got that?) of Tomorrow with Tom Snyder. This airing is June 18, 1976, and Snyder provides new intros and outros. The theme is "Monsters in the Movies," and Tom chats with Peter Cushing, Forrest Ackerman, and professor/horror historian Leonard Wolf.


This broadcast has all the original commercials. The clip gets off to a good start with this (the ad is cut off, but we see enough to get the gist, I think):

Then look who shows up in an ad for a Chicago job-finding dealy: William H. Macy!

The whole hour is a treat, and Snyder is a fine moderator. The panel talks about the major movie monsters and their histories and enduring appeal. They get into some weird territory at one point, discussing the possibility of an x-rated horror film, and stick around to the end for Snyder's rundown of what is coming up next week on the program!

My favorite moment is a stone-cold-serious Snyder asking, "Were there vampires? People who would suck the blood out of other people?"

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Classic Shows That Should Be Streaming: 5 for DC Universe

Wait, we don't even know exactly when the new DC Comics streaming service will be, so isn't this a bit early? Well, perhaps, but given the reports last week that DC is prepping its back catalog for this service, I am bumping this post up in my ongoing series of Classic Shows That Should Be Streaming.

We also know it is coming "late August" and that some kind of digital comic book/other branding component will be part of this. Several original series are in production now. I am focusing on the old shows, though. Here are 5 that I think DC Universe should carry right from the get-go:

NOTE: I already suggested Batman (1966) for Netflix and Wonder Woman (1977) for Amazon. Wouldn't it be fantastic if DC, which is reportedly "securing rights" to old shows and movies, is going to announce each will be on DCU instead? I may even shell out for this thing if it gets both of those.

1) The Adventures of Superman: From a modern perspective, the first season is great. The rest of the show, especially the later the show went on...not so much. It's Superman, though! It's an iconic TV classic that I think would linger in the public consciousness even without the sordid demise of star George Reeves.

The sad fact is, Warners has never really treated this series like a crown jewel. The DVD releases included some extras, but it didn't seem like there was a desire to invest a lot of money in restoration and supplemental material. A Blu-Ray release looks unlikely at this point. I want to see the new DCU platform step up and make the entire series available and make a big deal out of it. Warner Archive Instant streamed the series for a while, so this one is a definite possibility.

2) Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman: Largely forgotten since it aired, and maybe its serialized nature doesn't lend itself to reruns. It certainly had its highs and lows. Yet it mattered for a while, and I watched it and would like to see it again. It's a part of the legacy of DC's flagship character, and considering it (apparently) has little prospects elsewhere, it should be a part of the new DCU service.

3) The Flash: This 1990s precursor to the current CW staple may have too few episodes (22) to draw huge $ in syndication or streaming, so why not throw the whole run on DC's own joint? Star John Wesley Shipp is a regular presence on the new program (co-star Amanda Pays appears as well), and I would like to see some more credit given to this underrated cult hit.

4) Filmation DC cartoons: I think it's a lock that these will be on DCU. Warner Archive Instant streamed the old Superman with the snazzy theme song, Aquaman, and The New Adventures of Batman (the 1977 series with Adam West and Burt Ward...and Batmite). Throw ALL these on the new streamer, DC, and also the Superboy, Teen Titans, and Atom shorts. I really want to see the late-1960s Batman cartoons, too. Why not? No one else is running this. Here is the chance to do something with them.

5) Justice League/Justice League Unlimited: A lot of people would argue Batman: The Animated Series (streaming...for now....on Amazon) is the crown jewel of the Timmverse of DC animated properties, but the JL cartoons were among my favorite TV shows, period, when they aired. They were on Netflix for years but are now in limbo even though many of the feature films of the modern DC animation area are on Hulu. The show is just too good to not be available anywhere. Its inclusion on DC Universe would give the service a solid fan favorite exclusive.

This is a decent start, right? Take these 5 and the live-action Batman and Wonder Woman series, and you really have something. While we're at it, the 1980s Superboy series is collecting dust, and it would be great to put all the endless variations of Super Friends in one convenient location for our streaming pleasure. Throw all this together, and even someone like me who already watches too much streaming video will have to consider signing up.

Monday, June 11, 2018

'Mooners Monday: More on The Safety Award

Before we go any further, does anyone else think the Gotham Bus Company exterior looks snazzy as all get out? Is that a little bit of Art Deco influence on those doors?

Note Gleason repertory player Frank Marth on the left as the reporter who is covering Ralph Kramden's city safety award honor. This reporter seems to be all over the place! It seems like only yesterday he was asking "men on the street" about their lives at home:

I give him credit for pounding that old shoe leather and working a beat, even if it seems to be about two blocks or so by the Gotham Bus Company.

I give him credit for pounding that old shoe leather and working a beat, even if it seems to be about two blocks or so by the Gotham Bus Company.
Those last two grabs are from Head of the House, but back to The Safety Award. Also in the opening scene: Eddie Hanley, who appears in multiple 'Mooners episodes, maybe most memorably as the "playboy from the roaring twenties" Pete Woodruff in The Man From Space's costume contest. Here is the photographer getting those glamour shots of Ralphie Boy for the article. Slow news day/week/month in Gotham, I take it.
What IS this reporter's responsibility? Is he a traffic reporter? He has too narrow a focus for the general features guy he purports to be. I like to think that he just covers public transportation in New York City or maybe just in Brooklyn...or even better, maybe just the buses.
Of course, it's possible that he just sticks to a narrow beat because he is so often busy with his other duties as a beat cop:

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Behind the Rankings: Boomerang still doesn't get it

Yesterday, Boomerang slipped into the weekly Cultureshark Streaming Video Power Rankings by virtue of adding the rest of The Flintstones. It's great that the whole series is available, and hopefully the later series are on the way. Really, though, what took so long? There's no reason this couldn't have been there at launch. For 5 bucks a month, as I mentioned when I reviewed Boomerang last month, stuff like the complete Flintstones should be a given.

The service got press coverage this week not for adding more classic 'toons, but for announcing new original programming. You know what my reaction to that is? It's the same one I had when I had Boomerang and learned that only some of The Flintstones was streaming:

This piece lays out the Boomerang lineup:

The family-friendly premium video subscription service is serving up new series featuring classic animated characters. Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? brings back the Mystery Inc. gang for some sleuthing adventures with celebrity guests while Yabba-Dabba Dinosaurs! features new stories from Pebbles, Bamm Bamm, Dino and your favorite Bedrock families.

Parents aren't going to pay 5 bucks a month for this stuff. There isn't enough content for the little kids, and the adults who want the old stuff don't care about these new versions. How about you just add more classic Scoob and Flintstones?

Boomerang also announced that the launch of a full Spanish language experience for its users starting Memorial Day weekend. They will also offer families and fans the opportunity to personalize their Boomerang experience through avatar creation and show discovery.  In addition, Boomerang users will have more interactivity with the ability to create and share playlists featuring their personal cartoon favorites along with other features that will elevate interaction with some of Boomerang’s favorite characters.

OK, the Spanish thing is cool. But all the other is window dressing. Better usability of the service would be great. How about just a working watchlist rather than being able to share it?

And how about you just add more classic cartoons from that brontosaurus-sized library?

Boomerang is not going to make it with originals. It is going to make it by luring older folks like me with the archival content. I believe it should try that before spending money on remakes that many (raises hand) are going to be reluctant to even sample.   If Boomerang has some strategy based on holding back content so it doesn't burn through the archives early, well, as I have already suggested, it may be sacrificing viability now by worrying about the future.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #114

1) Netflix: Yes, Netflix is back on top, and it's not because of its originals this week, though I do want to check out The Staircase and its new 3 episodes. Sense8 has a following, but to me it seems like this show that nobody really likes but a lot of people decide to tolerate because it's from the Wachowskis.

The big dog at Netflix, at least in my household, is still The Who Was? Show, and I can't get that theme song out of my mind. I am anxious to see a second season because I am still stunned at how often my kids can rewatch the first batch.

It's fairly slow here otherwise, but I did enjoy The Jungle Book last week, Thor: Ragnarok is here, and I am about to finish up The Toys That Made Us. I'm also trying to set more time aside for the classic shows that Netflix still has, like The Twilight Zone. Head honcho Reed Hastings' casual dismissal of 13 Reasons Why controversy is a little off-putting, but frankly giving a ton of money to Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy is more so.

2) YouTube: Look for a "Behind the Rankings" post next week discussing one of the great things I saw courtesy of  the Museum of Classic Chicago Television YT channel. Here's a sneak peek:

I also have been enjoying one of the best TV programs of all time on YT, but I don't want to say what it is because it's a future BOTNS episode. So for now I just thank the channel that uploaded a September 1985 Expos/Cardinals NBC Game of the Week just for the hell of it.

3) HBO: I'm still loving Silicon Valley, but why doesn't HBO Go have Paterno anymore? That's highly unusual. Does this have something to do with Louis Freeh?

4) Amazon Prime Video: Quietly adding a lot of cult movies from Shout! Factory, such as Starcrash with BOTNS Genius Award Winner Marjoe Gortner. They may be streaming elsewhere, like on Shout's own site, but here they are ad-free.

5) Hulu: My son got a little variety from Netflix by revisiting Teen Titans Go!, which was a fixture in my household in the spring. Personally, I'm getting a little itchy for "new" vintage programming. I will note a Decider article that claimed people were binge-watching the old TGIF sitcoms on Hulu in massive quantities. I credit Hulu for doing well there, but I hope that's not the only kind of show it goes after in the future. Part of me loves the idea of Reginald Vel Johnson somehow becoming "The Face of Hulu," though.

6) MLB TV: It should be much higher based on my viewership this week, but with the Pirates losing so much, I just can't do that. It's almost enough to make me turn to a 1985 Expos/Cardinals game to avoid seeing it.

7) Acorn TV:  It adds Trivia next week, which deserves credit even though IIRC, it's dumping of the charming Irish comedy was one of the things that made me dump Acorn last time I had it. Still hope for a return of Drop the Dead Donkey! Even bigger news: Season 3 of 800 Words is new and tempting me to resub.

8) WWE Network: I started to write that this would be worth it just for the 1980s World Championship Wrestling episodes, but then I remembered that I didn't have the Network for months and only signed up again because of a fantastic bargain. So...yeah, forget I even suggested it. I do enjoy Dusty Rhodes much more now than I ever did then.

9) Nosey: Don't judge me for watching a newly added "troubled teens" episode of Sally on here! No, judge me for taking 5 minutes scrolling through the episodes and trying to remember which ones I had already seen on Nosey. Hey, a watchlist of some kind would be great, Nosey, so I don't have to feel I am wasting my life any more than I already am just by watching this stuff.

For those who care, the episode features a cameo by Joe "Lean on Me" Clark, who is an interesting guest by no Sgt. Julu.

10) Boomerang: This channel got headlines this week for some programming announcements, but it still doesn't "get it." More on this in a short post tomorrow. However, it does get the 10 spot in the rankings because it now boasts every Flintstones episode ever. Well, you should have offered that when you started the channel, but it's good that you finally do.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Recent Movie Roundup

The end of May meant it was time again to scramble to see some high-profile recent releases before they vanished from streaming. Here's a rundown of films I saw in recent weeks:

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016): I swear I watched this on HBO, but I can remember very little of it. The movie takes forever to get to its point and has precious few memorable moments or performances. I just couldn't remember hardly anything about it as soon as I watched it.  It's a shame that this current iteration of the X-Men, which started off with what I think is the best X-flick of them all, has deteriorated into such a dull experience.

Split (2016): M. Night Shamalamadingdong got his best reviews in years for this psychological thriller, but I had low expectations for it. I like James McAvoy, even when he is in disappointing X-Men movies, but I didn't think this would grab me. I started it and, lo and behold, I got wrapped up in it, and I attribute it to McAvoy's performance and, it must be said, some of those Shyamalan touches. OK, the obligatory self-cameo could have been left out, but other than that, the movie just works on a basic level.

After watching it, I read about controversy that the film "stigmatized mental illness." I do not have multiple personalities and don't wish to demonize those who do, but that criticism is absurd and serves as a classic example of people looking for reasons to be offended. Hopefully the controversy was not as widespread or intense as some sources may indicate.

If anything, people should have complained about Shyamalan casting himself as a security guard who loves Hooters.

The Jungle Book (2016): Can you believe this one is already leaving Netflix? It arrived late November 2016, and is leaving about 18 months later. It's more of a pay-cable window (Split and Apocalypse just left HBO) than the longer streaming window I usually expect. That's why I finally got around to seeing it. I won't say it shouldn't have taken me so long--hey, I have had plenty of other movies to not get around to seeing--but I enjoyed this a lot. It's the kind of movie about which people can use phrases like "visually sumptuous" and not annoy me.

The voice acting is excellent. Bill Murray might be the headliner, but Idris Elba is pure menace as Shere Khan. I like that the story gets in and out without overstaying its welcome. It hasn't lingered with me the way the old cartoon did, but things have a way of sticking with you when you're a little kid and not a jaded grouch. Jon Favreau's adaptation is solid entertainment that indicates this "turn all our animated classics into live-action" strategy might have some merit.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Today on Battle of the Network Shows: We might just make it after all!

Today on the podcast, Mike and I discuss The Mary Tyler Moore Show, certainly one of the more acclaimed series we have covered. Yeah, Emmy voters and millions of viewers loved it, but what do we think? What star of another seventies sitcom threatens to steal the third-season episode we analyze?

Click the image to go to the official Battle of the Network Shows website or go wherever you get your podcasts! Don't you dare miss it!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Classic Shows That Should Be Streaming: 5 for NBC

Yes, NBC has its own "app!" You can stream (free of charge but with heavy commercials) all kinds of series for free, including what it calls "throwbacks" like Miami Vice. Since the last installment of this series was so Comcast.NBC/Universal heavy, I want to suggest 5 shows NBC can--nay, should--put on its own service. All are Universal shows that I think are controlled by NBC and would be easy adds.

1) Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: This short-lived series used to be on Netflix but disappeared in the big Universal bye-bye a few years ago. The series may draw mixed feelings nowadays and was never a huge success, but the character is too iconic to be forgotten. This show isn't being used anywhere else. Put it up on NBC as a throwback and let us enjoy it.

2) Kolchak the Night Stalker: Another short-lived series that was on Netflix and then vanished. Unlike Buck, this one still shows up on TV, but it would make a nice addition to NBC's lineup of classic series.

3) Voyagers!: NBC could use some more kid-friendly choices in its Throwbacks section, and this short-lived but fondly remembered time travel series would fit the bill. I assume these first 3 series I named, with their relatively paltry inventory, wouldn't draw huge licensing deals. They're all out on DVD. Why not throw them up on

4) Little House on the Prairie: 9 seasons and hundreds of episodes and an enduring legacy that thrives as long as the books stay in print. LHOP has a long and tangled history on DVD, but it seems like NBC finally got it mostly right and delivered uncut episodes to the fans. Now that that task is out of the way, let's make the show available for streaming. Yes, this is a staple of "family" networks and TV stations, but episodes are usually cut to ribbons. Even with frequent ad breaks, it's better to watch anything without drastic editing and time compression.

5) The Six Million Dollar Man: Time-Life licensed this from Universal and made a prestigious complete series DVD set out of this fondly remembered action-adventure show with sci-fi elements. That was over 7 years ago. There's nothing more to protect as far as that goes, and the individual seasons have been heavily discounted for years at retail outlets like Amazon and Target (when Target still carried a lot old TV show DVDs).

Do the exploits of Steve Austin hold up? Well, maybe not as much as some other series, but the show was a big, big deal back in its day and still has many fans. If it's not going to go to Hulu, would be a fine spot for this one. And that's the bottom line 'cause--wait, that's a different Steve Austin.

If this isn't enough, how about McMillan and Wife, BJ and  the Bear, Banacek, The Bionic Woman...the list goes on and on, and then there are series already streaming but inexplicably for only several seasons, like The Rockford Files, Kojak, and The Incredible Hulk. There's a lot of old Universal TV content not streaming anywhere since the agreements with Netflix expired, and Hulu has not yet stepped it up. NBC could make itself one of the best free streamers out there by adding more of this kind of archival content. I wish it would do it before the 25th century.

Monday, June 4, 2018

'Mooners Monday: The Safety Award

I have to admit, though I love all Classic 39 episodes of The Honeymooners, there are some I love more than others. I didn't have strong anticipation for The Safety Award, which premiered May 19, 1956, when I rewatched it for 'Mooners Monday. It revolves around not one, not two, but 3 big coincidences (OK, two, maybe, but one is a whopper), and I didn't remember it being as funny as it was.

Yet as soon as I started the episode--and this has happened before--I realized, hey, this one has as many solid laughs as just about any other. The story isn't my favorite, but I find myself yukking it up throughout the show. It's a regular riot, in other words.

This week I want to salute one of the lesser-known peformers of the series, the man who plays the City Hall functionary who has arranged the ceremony in which Ralph Kramden will get an award for his impeccable safe driving record with the Gotham Bus Company. Les Damon (center, below) does a remarkable job and steals the entire episode, no mean feat in a story with prominent role for Gleason stalwarts Frank Marth and George Petrie.

Damon projects the solid competence of a man who knows how to get things done and how to keep things moving.  He's cordial but professional, efficient but not overeager. Right away he's credible and bringing high energy to the scene.

And then after a few minor exchanges, he lays everything out for Ralph and surprises the audience with a little bit of business. "Oh, by the way," he adds before going to fetch the judge who is going to present the honor...

"After you get your award, I'll take you upstairs and let you meet the mayor."

He says this with a perfect, "I know you're gonna love THIS tone," and also gives a little theatrical flourish and look as he runs off.  I think this may well be THE single best non-main-cast line reading in the history of the series.

Marth's reporter goes, "Ah ha ha!" And everyone else oohs and ahhs. I love that everyone treats this as such a big deal, but I really love how Damon sells this line. His character is proud of the access he is going to give this civilian and doesn't see a need to hide it.

The guy is perfect. Later, he introduces the judge who gives Ralph the award, and the listens as the man explains the encounter he and Ralph had on the way to City Hall.

He's clearly listening and reacting the whole time. Damon is in several other episodes--he gives a great take after learning he's eating dog food in A Dog's Life--but this has to be his finest moment.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #113

This is a big, big week for streaming. You combine a holiday with the first of the month, and you get time to watch stuff plus new stuff being added. Let's get to it.

1) Netflix: I suppose it would be petty of me to complain that the monthly catalog drop was lame. So I won't. Instead I'll focus on the excellence of The Toys That Made Us, the fact that my kids are still hooked on The Who Was? Show (and have already asked me several times if there is going to be a season two), and series returns like Kimmy Schmidt.

All this plus Coco, a new episode of David Letterman's show featuring Howard Stern, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, and The Flash season 4 slides over to Netflix so I can catch up without commercial interruption. It's amazing that Arrested Development's return is almost--almost, I say, and I realize there are other factors involved--an afterthought. Plus the addition of Joseph Campbell: The Power of Myth is a real surprise.

2) HBO: This is probably the last month I will have HBO for a while, so I am going to watch the [This post is rated PG for mild profanity and adult themes] out of it. The new Blade Runner movie premieres this weekend, but for me it's all about the latest season of Curb Your Enthusiasm  (exceeded my expectations) and trying to catch up on Silicon Valley (becoming one of my favorite shows).

3) Hulu: There was a big shakeup in the upper management levels at Hulu the other day, and I don't know what it means. I hope it has something to do with the inability to develop a hit other than Handmaid's Tale and not a desire to cut back on library acquisitions. Dare I ask if one if these new bigwigs will decide it's finally time to add the rest of St. Elsewhere?

Acclaimed 2017 film I, Tonya tops the list of new adds. Now that summer's here, it's time to add some more classics, Hulu.

4) WWE: I was among those disappointed to learn that the weekly status of Hidden Gems meant maybe one new video a week, not a whole batch, but it's a nice commitment the Network is making to consistent use of its archives. I am having a blast watching old NWA on here.

5) Prime Video: How can I not rank Prime Video in a week in which my podcast talks about The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast, maybe the single most underrated and underpublicized gem on the service? And if you're not into Foster Brooks' drunk act, well, Lady Bird and The Disaster Artist and Wonder Wheel (My word, is this #MeToo  week for the big streamers) premiere.

Plus Babylon 5 surely excites a lot of people. Me, I think it's cool that The Waltons is here in full. Keep these Warner Brothers shows coming, Amazon (and if you'd like some suggestions, click here).

6) MLB TV: Holidays like Memorial Day just make me think of baseball. And how 'bout them Buccos? Jameson Taillon looked good last night.

7) YouTube: I was recommended a video called something like 'Worst Effort Plays: A Compilation," and you know what, YT? I liked it! Good call suggesting I watch a highlight reel of pro athletes not hustling. Credit to the Highlight Heaven channel.

I recommend our Battle of the Network Shows playlist for the Celebrity Roast for a broad view of cheesy and awesome 1970s celebrity culture.

8) Shout! Factory TV: Not a lot new going on here for June, which is a disappointment, but if you are into Black Music Month, check out Soul! for performances by tons of stars of the late 60s/early 70s. And then check out Starcade for performances by kids playing arcade games for more arcade games!

9) NBC: Did you know that Punky Brewster had an episode with Henry addicted to pills? I didn't, but I intend to check it out this week.

10) Dailymotion: Because a friend and I talked about the old Tony Randall NBC sitcom Love, Sidney, and lo and behold, someone actually posted 3 episodes here.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Inside that comic book grab bag Part 1

I recently shared the results of a $6 gamble I took at Ollie's, a purchase of 10 comics books in a "grab bag" package that revealed only two of the titles. Now that I am actually reading the issues, I want to update you and report on how the bag is turning out.

We are off to a bad start.

I'm most excited about the 1982 Superman comic, but I was most curious about The Twilight Zone, written by Superstar Fan Favorite J. Michael Straczynski (he still has that designation? Am I years behind?) and art-ed by Guiu Villanova (no relation to Villanova University). This book fell victim to my own expecations, and I wound up getting a little cranky about it.

So the fault is my own uninformed assumptions, right? No, of course not. It's the book itself.

I picked out the grab bag I did partly because I thought a Zone comic would be cool. I assumed it would be a one-in-done story. I mean, that's what the source material was! It got in and out of there in 25 minutes. Yes, it did a season of hour-long episodes, but I think most would agree that wasn't the Zone at its best; in fact, it's one of those rare series that isn't complete  on Netflix. Ted Sarandos or some big shot there looked at it and thought, "Nah, you can keep that fourth season. We're good with the others."

Yet Twilight Zone #4 (2014) from Dynamite is the end of a multi-part arc. I'm not even sure it is the end; the final pages indicate something else is going on, and a blurb says "Next Month: Episode Two, REWIND."

What's here is competent, and I got some of the gist of it, but I was quite disappointed. And while I didn't necessarily expect to see Rod Serling in the comic itself, his presence sure would have helped.

Plus, as I mentioned in my original post, 21 pages for 3.99? Boy, am I glad this is but one title in a grab bag.

Dead Letters #2 (Boom!, 2014) is also part of an ongoing arc, but that doesn't surprise me. Let's face it, I think we just have to assume any single comic book issue these days is part of some trade-paperback-ready arc. That is why I was hesitant about buying the grab bag and why I wouldn't have bothered had I not known that at least the older Supes book was there. It's also why I stopped buying comic books years ago.

I'm just not the target audience for Chris Visions' art style, and Christopher Sebela's story seems ambitious--a lot of metaphysical/afterlife/mythology stuff--but I just couldn't get into this. I will say that the story seems to spend a lot of time setting up ground rules for this universe, which is good for someone who missed #1, I presume, but leaves you thinking, man, they are sure spending a lot of time setting up ground rules for this universe. Dead Letters #2 is but one small part of what appears to be a dense narrative. So again, I don't think I really got my 60 cents' worth from it.

I tell you what does look cool, though: This Avengers (the TV show, that is) book that a house ad touts near the end. I wish that had been in this grab bag!

True believers, I have a feeling I am going to come back to this theme again as I continue reading the grab bag haul. I will try my best to avoid repeating myself too many times. I will try my best to avoid repeating myself too many times.

So far, I really hope that Superman comic turns out to be awesome.