Monday, October 29, 2018

'Mooners Monday: The Bensonhurst Bomber Part 1

It's been MANY a moon since the last 'Mooners Monday, but it's time to revisit it with one of my favorite episodes (I feel like I say that all the time): The Bensonhurst Bomber.

This is the one in which Ralph, after bullying a little guy named George, is himself bullied by a bigger guy named Harvey (HARRRR-veeee!) and has to fight him. I always considered it one of the single funniest installments, and we'll get into the episode soon, but let me get right to the one thing I do NOT like about it.

I like strong "heels." Growing up, it annoyed me when I watched pro wrestling and saw dominant bad guys suddenly turn to jelly just because the babyface hero pulled his strap down on his singlet or shook his finger. I liked seeing villains get beat, mind you, but I respected ones who managed to stay strong, like Lex Luthor or Doctor Doom, and it frustrated me to see the old cliché that bullies backed down right away when you just challenged them.

Is that really true in actual life? I don't think so. Sometimes, maybe, but just as often, doesn't standing up to a bully delight him (or her) because it's easier to get at his target?

This is why I hate the end of this episode. Ralph, thanks to a ruse concocted with Norton (not really, we discover, but Ralph doesn't find out till after the fact) punches out a guy in front of Harvey to scare off the big guy. It actually works!

Harvey was an interesting character, a blowhard, yes, but one who was really sticking up for his little friend. They did kind of have dibs on the pool table (I don't know the code of the pool hall, but surely there must be some kind of procedure in a place like that for reserving a table when you want to go get something cold to drink), and Ralph brushed off George's concerns.

I never bought Harvey chickening out like that even if Ralph did  slug an even bigger guy (Mike O'Dowd). Ralph's swagger IS funny, and the episode has a great payoff, but it comes at the expense of ol' Harv, who turns punk in record time with too little reason. he practically runs out of the gym.

I do think Ralph's silly laugh when he says this is why he doesn't like to fight--and sometimes he even hurts himself--is classic.

More next week!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #133: Still anticipating Halloween

The biggest fright of all came from the soul-sucking corporate overlords at AT&T.  Imagine being a megacorp so crummy that you make a megacorp as big as Warners look sympathetic.

1) Filmstruck: This week, it added an assortment of films by Jacques Tourneur as well as adaptations of works of Robert Louis Stevenson, but Filmstruck is #1 because AT&T killed it (despite the notices they sent to news sites claiming it was not an AT&T decision, who are they kidding?) because why make a little money when you can shutter something in the hopes of making more money a year down the road?

I can't say I'm surprised that AT&T wants to kill it off and focus on its forthcoming super-big streamer, but why do this now before anything is in place? Filmstruck had finally figured things out this year with the addition of the TCM movies and co-branding, and now it's gone. The TCM stuff may turn up somewhere...eventually. The Criterion stuff may turn up somewhere...eventually. The other licensed titles may turn up somewhere, too. But I really doubt we are going to get anything approaching having them all together in one place. Is anyone confident that the Warners library before 2000 will get any serious consideration in a future SVOD service?

2) YouTube/YouTubeTV:  I enjoyed dozens of ads uploaded by 5-star uploader SeanMc, who sure made up for lost time. Mainly I like having live TV if only for the World Series right now. The refreshing non-stingy approach they take to giving consumers a DVR capability comes in handy when you are occupied with sports all week.

3) CBS All Access: I watched it a lot thinking I would cancel it, and whaddya know, it lured me back in with a special offer to stick around for two months. So expect to see this remain a fixture over the coming weeks as I continue to explore the library shows and shun the new ones.

4) Hulu: To be honest. I didn't watch much Hulu the last few weeks, but I am starting to appreciate it more and more after seeing what else is going on in the streamosphere. Let's hope the current co-owners aren't too eager to start screwing it up.

5) Amazon Prime Video: This is one of those weeks I am thankful for Amazon Prime because it helped me do podcast prep, but there is a lot of other stuff going on, like the quiet addition of Kevin Brownlow's beloved 1980 Hollywood docuseries and a bunch of Classic Albums episodes.

My "What the hell is this?" of the week is this movie from 1988. Whoopi Goldberg, Herve Villechaize, John Heard, Elllott Gould...directed by Rip Torn!

See the source image

6) Netflix: I am glad there is a home for Halloween episodes like the Friends one with Sean Penn and Chandler in the bunny suit and, better yet, Cheers' Bar Wars classics. Still, there is a lot of negativity around Netflix these days. The new Sabrina series is getting good reviews (I don't know if I want to go anywhere near it after seeing what happened to Riverdale), and even the new Adam Sandler standup special is well received. But the big news seems to be the cancellations, the latest being critical fave American Vandals. Is the future of Netflix hundreds of series a year...which are then canceled the next?

7) Pub-D-Hub: What better way to celebrate  Halloween week than by screening a vintage late-October episode of The Red Skelton Show with special guest Virginia Grey?

8) IFC: This app is frustrating in its overall lameness, and the Night Flight short compilation are frustrating in their shortness, but they are fun to watch.

9) WWE Network: I am not boycotting the Network over its decision to go forward with a paid event next weekend sponsored by the Saudi government. I do think it's appropriate to criticize them for it as well as for the cowardly way it has tried to just let the controversy fade away.

However, I made my peace with giving the company money a while ago...and plus I forgot when my renewal date was and it auto-renewed. This weekend's all-female Evolution event is a big deal, and I enjoyed the Last Battle of Atlanta special.

10) Showtime: It lands a spot by virtue of the return of my favorite TV show I've never watched:


See the source image

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #132

Many people appreciate Halloween-themed content this time of year (the time of year being Halloween; I could have phrased that more artfully), but I recognize that some might actually prefer a respite from all the black cats, goblins, and limb-sawing (sorry, I don't like to get into current events on this blog) that runs rampant in October. to you non-horror hounds, I apologize for the extra credit I will give certain channels the next few weeks. I am not a huge Halloween guy, but I respect the channels that try to please those who are.

1) YouTube/YouTube TV: What I *really respect* is free, though. On one hand, I was furious that I essentially missed an entire game of the National League Championship Series due to the global YT outage. On the other hand, they gave me a free week for the inconvenience, which really helps me get over it. If the Pirates were in it, I'd still be ticked, but this certainly makes me feel better.

2) CBS All-Access: I have to admit I am picking the most interesting episodes, but the more I see of the original Hawaii Five-0, the more into it I get. For a series I always assumed was "just" a procedural (not that there's anything wrong with that), it has a good lineup of fairly off-kilter stories. That's goof for All-Access because this new crop of CBS shows is not nearly as interesting.

3) Netflix: Netflix is really cranking out the original series this month, adding new sesasons of Making a Murderer, Daredevil, and premiering a Toni Collette series called Wanderlust (about which I have heard very little)--and that's only on Friday, and that's not even all of it. Yet the cancellation of Luke Cage totally overshadows the generally well received Daredevil season. People are increasingly fascinated by these cancellations of Netflix series.

My kids remain on a totally YouTube jag (this Project Zorgo thing has captivated the youth of America), and that combined with my baseball watching made this one of the lesser-watched Netflix weeks in my household.

Hey, does anyone think Netflix is gaming its recommendations to make itself look better? For example, I don't recall seeing Monty Python as a suggestion until after I started watching it. I wonder if every now and then they see someone has only seen an episode of something and try to slip a recommendation in so we think, "Hey! I was just gonna start watching that! They really know me!"

4) WWE Network: It's under-delivering on classic content overall this month but is coming in strong again with its Hidden Gems, such as this week's upload of The Last Battle of Atlanta, a rare complete house show from the non-WWF territorial days.

5) Pub-D-Hub: I made my annual payment for Pub-D-Hub Gold, and though the team may have slowed down a tick in recent months, I still give it a high recommendation. You can get a lot of this stuff on other free Roku channels, yes, but without commercials? With options to set a playlist and build a queue? I think not. Plus the Hub has added its traditional Halloween section, loaded with movies, TV, cartoons, and commercials in one convenient spot.

6)  Hulu: Quiet week in terms of originals, but the new Fall TV is here (I think that's a plus) and the news that Married with Children arrives next month proves Hulu is serious about dominating 90s reruns. Other series available now include: Mom, The Bernie Mac Show, and Younger.

7) Pix11: This week's archival add is a complete newcast from the night of the 1987 stock market crash--not necessarily something we want to relive, but compelling viewing nonetheless.

8) Prime Video:  I think The Romanoffs is already considered a disappointment, but it's interesting that Amazon is releasing episodes each week rather than all at once. More to the point, Prime added a bunch of old British crime movies, some high-profile hits like the Burt Reynolds The Longest Yard, and the original Addams Family.

9) HBO: I have to give it credit for making a movie about Herve Villechaize, and not just because of my hope that a Herve renaissance leads to Crackle bringing back Fantasy Island (and earning a spot in these rankings)!

10) Filmstruck: This classic movie service put an interesting spin on Halloween with Japanese horror classics, super-old "scary" cartoon shorts, and a Terrence Fisher collection with a half-dozen Hammer films.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #131

1) Hulu: Numero Uno for one reason, and it's not because I think I'm going to start watching one of the telenovelas it just added: After months of me complaining and asking about the rest of the old Fox shows, Hulu finally added the rest of Mary Tyler Moore and St. Elsewhere. So kudos to you, Hulu. Next on the clock: the remainder of The Bob Newhart Show and Lou Grant. But for this week, Hulu gets a pat in the back even if the jury is out on that "ruining TV for you" ad campaign.

2) YouTube/YouTube TV: Folks, I am doing something potentially controversial and combining You Tube proper and the live TV service for the purposes of the least while I have the latter.

I must say, while I don't really "need" a cable-lite package, it is great having the ability to just put on sports at night, and I am enjoying the MLB playoffs. So far, YTTv impresses me and is by far the best value out there as far as features, usability and most importantly channel assortment for the price.

3) Netflix: Netflix continues to throw more content at the wall than I can scrape off with a stick--did I say that right--but I ain't complaining. I finally tried out the new Norm MacDonald show, and, man, after 1 1/2 episodes I think it may be the funniest thing on Netflix all year. You can't tell me Hannah Gadsby and One Day at a Time are any more amusing than Norm and his awesome trainwreck of a talk show.

4) CBS All Access: I really don't care for the new CBS shows I am watching on here, but I sure like the oldies. I hate to say this again, but put Cheers, Andy Griffith, Star Trek, etc. on here and take them off Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, etc., and you would have something totally worth the $$$.  CBS should be (and apparently is, but slowly) bolstering the exclusive classics on here.

5) Prime Video: I suppose I should start talking about new series now, right? The Romanoffs seems too pretentious for its own good, and I doubt I--wait, Christina Hendricks is in it? Well, might be worth at least a look...

Actually, I am more excited about this flood of movies from Shout! Factory, many of them not on Shout's own streaming service, as far as I know. Anyone up for a screening of The Dirt Bike Kid?

6) WWE Network: Another stellar Hidden Gems update complements the old territory show episodes I have been enjoying.

7) Tubi TV:  First Pluto had it--credit where it's due--and now Tubi has...Mac and Me! I need to watch this, folks. Would it make a good double feature with Peter Billingsley's The Dirt Bike Kid?

8) CW: Now that this network has reopened for business (Oh, I know they had shows this summer, but my "stories" are back), it's time to remember that CW gives viewers episodes free on its app. As soon as I catch up on the hundreds of other things on my list, I will be using CW's Roku channel on the regular.

Who am I kidding? I will never get caught up but will watch stuff like The Dirt Bike Kid (Hey, Stuart Pankin is in it, too) instead.

9) NewsOn: Another natural disaster, another reason to appreciate this free aggregator of local newscasts. It really is a valuable channel even when there isn't a hurricane, though.

10) DC Universe: Titans looks horrible, but its premiere has people talking about this new streamer. I'd love to sign up for a month to check out the archive content, but with all the other stuff available, I am in no hurry considering the only real new content is one poorly reviewed episode of this series. DC may have made a mistake launching without more than this.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #130

1) Netflix: Now that my kids finished their Mako Mermaids rewatch--yes, I said rewatch--what else can they run into the ground?

That's a rhetorical question...because I know by the time most of you read this, they will have found something.

2) YouTube: Speaking of...Seriously, anyone else following this "Game Master" thing? A bunch of prominent YouTubers have some kind of ongoing storyline involving hacking, crossovers, to be all makes me feel old. Watching 35-year-old network promos and nodding my head with nostalgic affirmation doesn't make me feel old.

3) Amazon Prime Video: It deserves a high spot for the return of The Man in the High Castle, one of the few streaming shows I am (or WAS) "caught up with," but knowing me, I'm more likely to dive into Shakes the Clown or Nobody's Perfekt with Gabe Kaplan, both new to Prime this week.

4) MLB TV: One more spot in the top 10, not just as a farewell for 2018, but because it made the two tiebreaker "Game 163" events available on Monday.

5) Filmstruck: I have said bye-bye for now but jammed in some Studio One epsidoes and some old cartoons first. When I canceled the sub, I went to fill out their exit survey about why, but there wasn't enough space to explain in detail. So I just typed: ME WISH WERE FREE and then hit Enter.

Props to Filmstruck for making all previous versions of A Star Is Born available, even though I certainly am not at all "into" this phenomenon. More interesting to me: new collections saluting Steve McQueen and Mike Newell.

6) CBS All Access: I am trying to get my money's worth now that I am "stuck" with it for another month, but I still can't bring myself to watch any of that new Star Trek. Much rather watch old Happy Days for the umpteenth time. Hey, at least it's the first time in umpteen years I've actually seen these episodes.

7) Roku Channel: It added the original Lost in Space and the first couple seasons of Green Acres for October in addition to a batch of movies like the original Ghostbusters and Rocky

8) Hulu: I'm not sure how good Into the Dark is, but the idea of a new anthology series based around the seasons and months of the year is pretty cool. Plus new Fall TV is showing up here...even though most of it looks terrible. Yeah, I guess you can see why Hulu is so low this week

9) Shout! Factory TV: I would expect this one to come through with Halloween-related stuff for October, and it added anthology series Thriller, Chiller, and Phyllis Diller   (just kidding on that last one, though if it existed I hope Shout would have it).

10) WWE Network: The Network kicked it up a notch with its Hidden Gems this week, almost making up for a totally lame classic content drop this month. Mainly I am enjoying Mid-South Wrestling on here right now. The Australian show that aired Saturday morning seems like a bore, but it's another "event" for subscribers to watch.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Show us the game--and by that I mean one game

I decided to watch some MLB pennant chase action last week, and I first turned to MLB Network so I could see ongoing coverage of all the games. Then I saw that one game was in the eighth inning, much closer to the end than the other big one, so I decided to go to ESPN--a reasonable move, I think you will agree, since it was its game to show.

As soon as I got there, I saw that both games were side by side on a split screen. Strike one. I would have tolerated that as a temporary thing, but it was like that the whole time--well, until I got driven away by...

Well, before I get to that, ESPN had a huge HUNT FOR OCTOBER banner at the top and similar "screen dress" at the bottom of the screen. This significantly reduced the amount of space available for the actual baseball, which was already less than it should have been because of the split-screen deal.

I might have tolerated even that for more than a few minutes. However, ESPN couldn't resist treating audiences to a little "jocularity." The crew calling the Brewers game started chatting with the crew covering the Rockies game, which wasn't yet on the main ESPN because the FIRST game was still in progress.

Not just in progress, mind you, but in the eighth inning and still very much in play.

So the "gang" in game 1 starts chatting up with David Ross, who I guess was at Game 2, and they all start chumming it up. "Hey, guys, this is great. Baseball should be like this all the time!" or something to that effect was Ross' comment. No, it isn't! Competitive games and pennant races are great, but shrinking the games so that you can't follow any of them is not.

"Rossy, was it like this when you were on Dancing with the Stars?" It was only a matter of time before someone brought up Dancing with the Stars, but I didn't expect it to be so soon. Then they showed a pic of the game 2 announcers waving. All this is going on while the Brewers and Cardinals are in a tense showdown, a showdown hard to follow because of the horrible visual presentation and the inane chatter.

So I turned it back to MLB Network, where rights issues forced them to show 4 or 5 guys standing around in front of a TV and watching a local feed which we could see in the background. That was superior to what was going on over on the other channel because at least those guys were focused on the one game and commenting on it.

This is the kind of thing that has killed Sunday Night Baseball--misguided efforts to lure fabled "casual viewers" with gimmicks, bells and whistles, and an abundance of goofy chitchat in the booth. There was a degree of jocularity on MLB network from the jocks, but it didn't feel forced, and it was in service of explaining the game to the viewers.