In 1975 during Season 5 of All in the Family, the Jeffersons moved out of Queens and “on up” to the East Side of Manhattan. George and Louise Jefferson started as recurring characters on All in The Family when the black couple made the controversial move to a white neighborhood, and next door to the Bunkers.
For many years Archie Bunker fought back and forth with his arch-enemy and neighbor George Jefferson. This is the part where many people would say that the two men were opposite, I disagree. Although the two men were different races, as people these guys were very much the same. George Jefferson was every bit as opinionated, stubborn and bigoted as Archie Bunker, which gave show runner Norman Lear the great idea of giving George played by actor Sherman Hemsley and the rest of the Jeffersons their own show.
Since the Jeffersons needed to be more than just a black version of the Bunkers they were given wealth and success in the form of George’s thriving dry-cleaning business. George decided to move his wife Louise played by Isabelle Sanford and son Lionel played by Mike Evans into a De-luxe apartment building on the East Side of Manhattan. No mention was made of George’s brother Henry Jefferson who had been living with the family in Queens. Henry moved on out and found his own place to live. Who knows maybe Chuck Cunningham was looking for a roommate.
The de-luxe apartment meant new neighbors. George and Louise Jefferson could not have had asked for a better one than the quirky brit Mr. Bentley played by Paul Benedict. Bentley hilariously helps the Jefferson family get accustom to their new home and lifestyle among the wealthy, often introducing them to apartment building gossip and strange customs among the other tenants, like not eating fried fish.
For those who don’t remember we first met Tom and Helen Willis from All in the Family. They are the mixed race couple who are also the parents of Jenny, the woman who is engaged to Lionel Jefferson. When Tom and Helen show up at the Jefferson’s new apartment and announce that they live right upstairs I was as more shocked than George was. How could George not have known they were in that building? George claimed he never knew the Willis’ lived in the same building and would not have moved there if he did.
Regardless of how they got there, George tries to find a new adversary in Tom Willis but the man is so lovable he is impossible for George to fight with. It is a pleasure to watch Tom disarm George with nothing but snobbish charm.
I enjoy this show on many levels. First we see a black family breaking racial barriers to find their place among New York City’s upper class. Finally a show featuring a successful African-American family that is not set in a bad neighborhood.
The show has fun with George feeling very insecure in his new social circles. He constantly struggles with trying to please everyone and fit in, but his wife Louise provides the moral guidance to never let him compromise who he is. On another level we get a different spin on the winning All in the Family formula with George being the loud-mouthed bigot and everyone else disarming him with kindness and allowing him to come to terms with, but never fully accepting that his new family is more diverse and different than he ever could’ve imagined.
I predict George and Louise will have a rock solid marriage and the Jeffersons will be very successful. Who knows maybe someday George and Louise Jefferson will both retire . . . in Bel-Air.
I’ll give the Jeffersons 9 out of 10 Dry Cleaning Tickets from Jefferson cleaners.
This is Len Mihalovich, part-time action hero and full-time TV remote operator for the Bobby Katzen Baby Boomer and Gen X Show. Tune in next time, same Kat-time same Kat-channel.
Did You Know?
Roxie Roaker who played Helen Willis has a very famous musical son. Lenny Kravitz
Paul Benedict who played Mr. Bentley is NOT British.
The character of Henry Jefferson was created because Norman Lear wanted Sherman Hemsley to play George but he had a commitment on Broadway and didn’t appear until two years into All in the Family.
George and Louise Jefferson had a cameo on the final episode of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire as potential buyers for the Banks’ home.
The Jeffersons was the third Spin-Off of all in the family after Maude and Good Times. The Jefferson’s gospel sounding theme song was written and performed by J’anet Dubois a cast member from Good Times.
The first episode of the Jeffersons was done as a live show in 2019 with Jamie Foxx as George, Wanda Sykes as Louise and Will Farrell as Tom Willis. The theme song was performed by American Idol and Grammy Winner Jennifer Hudson.
In our last week in a month of firsts this January we look at the first U.S. television series set in a Mexican-American neighborhood. September of 1974 we’re introduced to a new show on NBC called Chico and the Man. This show stars the duo of newcomer Freddie Prinze and Oscar winning actor Jack Albertson.
Albertson plays Ed or “the man”. Ed is the owner of Ed’s Garage a failing business in a Mexican American neighborhood of East LA. Ed is a grouchy hard-drinking widower who feels he has nothing left to live for. One Day in walks Chico Rodriguez played by Prinze. Chico is a whiz mechanic who grew up in the neighborhood and is looking for a job. He sees the good in Ed and the potential to help him with his business so he won’t take no for an answer. Chico moves in and sets up residence in an abandoned van in one of the garage bays.
The show consists of people coming and going from the garage. Like most sit-coms the characters almost never leave and are only brought conflict from the outside world. At first Ed tries to get Chico to leave constantly by using disparaging racial slurs. Chico being such an optimistic guy rises above that and helps Ed in spite of himself. The young man’s good nature wears Ed down and eventually softens the old man’s outlook on life, and they become a team of co-workers and friends.
Prinze was made for the role of Chico, or should I say this role was made for him. After Freddie’s 1973 appearance on the Tonite Show. Johnny Carson was so impressed with the comedian that Prinze became the first to ever comic to join Johnny after his act for an interview segment.
Freddie was back on the Tonite Show just a year later to thank Johnny Carson for helping him get his start and to announce the premiere of his new show on NBC.
NBC is doing something that has never been done before with this show and they should be applauded. They are providing a positive optimistic role model for people of Latin descent everywhere. However I really wish they would do it without an angry old white guy yelling racial slurs in the background.
Building shows around stand-up comics can translate into solid gold or they can break your heart. It all depends on the person behind them. I predict if Prinze can keep up with this fast paced life he can really do a lot to represent his culture in Hollywood, not just on this show but beyond.
I’ll give Chico and the Man 8 out of 10 Custom Tune Ups from Ed’s Garage.
This is Len Mihalovich, part-time action hero and full-time TV remote operator for the Bobby Katzen Baby Boomer and Gen X Show. Tune in next time, same Kat-time same Kat-channel.
Did You Know?
Freddie’s son, Freddie Prinze Jr. has gone on to star in a number of film and television roles.
When Jose Felicino created the theme for Chico and the Man, he wrote two. The producers couldn’t decide which they liked better so they used them both, one went in the beginning and the other at the end.
Mid-Way through the first season it was decided to add more regular characters. Character actor Scatman Crothers joined the cast as Louie Wilson the singing garbage man. Later Della Reese was added as the garage landlady.
After struggling with depression and drug use, Freddie Prinze shot himself on January 28, 1977. The last episode to star Prinze, titled “Ed Talks to God”, was taped several hours before Prinze’s death. Chico and the Man was cancelled at the end of the fourth season. The show’s ratings declined steadily after Prinze’s death and never recovered.
Continuing our entire month of firsts this January. Last week’s first gave us an on camera belly button, yes it was a groundbreaking moment in television but let’s see if we can do better.
This week’s famous first is a television show produced for children that runs an hour long. In 1969 the Children’s Television workshop gave us Sesame Street. A show where the each episode of the programming contained educational goals.
The show itself is a collection of short educational moments or skits designed to actually use a young child’s short attention span by constantly transitioning content. Kind of a children’s version of Rowan and Martin’s laugh in.
Every episode was brought to you by a letter and number. The skits performed by human actors are composed of street scenes, where the grownups and children speak in a mutually respectful manner. Sometimes the children are taught a lesson and sometimes the grownups are the ones learning. There are live action side skits where one character will teach something to the other. Sometimes these lessons are so obvious to everyone but the person learning that the voices of children in the audience are heard shouting out the answers to give them some help. Most cartoons included are very simple animations except for Superman and Batman helping us learn lessons strategies for conflict resolution.
Sesame Street also has some other interesting characters in the cast called Muppets. The name comes from the nature of the character which is a puppet but partially controlled like a marionette. We have Ernie and his silent friend Burt, Kermit the Frog and a strange blue monster that seems nice but eats everything.
The CTW has a hit on their hands with this show and it will be interesting to see how the creators learn and grow along with the children. I predict quality programming like this will be welcome in our homes for a long time to come. I would love to see more of the Muppets and wouldn’t it be fun to have the humans interacting with them.
I’ll give Sesame Street the number 10.
This is Len Mihalovich, part-time action hero and full-time TV remote operator for the Bobby Katzen Baby Boomer and Gen X Show. Tune in next time, same Kat-time same Kat-channel.
Did You Know?
Last October Sesame Street began its 51st season.
The Muppets never interacted with the human cast originally because they thought it would be too confusing for children. When they finally decided to try it they created the character of Oscar the Grouch and Big bird. Oscar was originally orange and was changed to green later.
Episode #847 is the only episode to be banned by public television. The episode contains Margaret Hamilton reprising her role as the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz
In this story the witch lost her broom on Sesame Street and terrorized everyone until she got it back. The flurry of letters all the stations received from angry parents with frightened children caused the episode to be banned and never shown again.
Ironically a year earlier Hamilton appeared on Mister Rogers to un-scare children about the witch, showing them that she was just an actress playing a role in a costume and didn’t need to be afraid of her.
When actor Will Lee who played Mr. Hooper died mid-season, Sesame Street used Big Bird’s to teach children about grief and mourning a lost friend. Sesame Street presented children with real-life issues to help them cope which is why this show continued to produce ground-breaking television.
Happy 2021 it’s a whole month of firsts this January. This week our famous first is martial arts legend Bruce Lee’s first TV series the Green Hornet.
In September of 1966, producer Bill Dozier is riding a wave of success after his surprise hit TV series, Batman. He quickly came up with another superhero series to bring to the small screen; . . . the Green Hornet.
The Green Hornet started as a radio series back in 1936, then it became a movie serial and a comic book series. The Green Hornet is the story of Britt Reid, a millionaire newspaper publisher who fights crime at night as The Green Hornet. Unlike Batman the Green Hornet pretends to be a criminal to help him infiltrate organized crime.
The Green Hornet is played by Van Williams and his masked sidekick Kato is played by newcomer and martial arts expert Bruce Lee. The show updated the look of the character giving it a unique 1966 contemporary cool to go with the show’s jazzy music. The Daily Sentinel has also grown from a mere newspaper the Britt Reid owned to a TV and radio station too.
Most of the supporting characters like Britt Reid’s secretary “Casey” Case and District Attorney Scanlon know the Hornet’s secret identity. This concept is refreshing, because too many shows have had the hero act like a complete moron in front of all their friends and family in order to keep their costumed identity secret.
Like Batman the car is a star in this show. The Green Hornet…well actually Kato drives a customized Imperial called Black Beauty that is stored secretly by hanging upside down in his garage. Don’t get me started on all the things wrong with that. The Hornet’s other non-violent weaponry consist of a gas gun, throwing darts and an ultra-sonic hornet sting that seems to be able to do whatever the script needs at the time.
The Green Hornet is an attempt to do stories like Batman but without the campy humor. The show delivers interesting and well written episodes. The one thing it needs is super-villains. The Hornet and Kato spend week after week tricking crime-lords and busting up gang activities. This was fine for the Adventures of Superman but since Batman, audiences demand more colorful villains serious or not.
I predict the lack of villains might be the downfall of an otherwise epic TV show.
I’ll give Green Hornet 9 out of 10 Sonic Hornet stings.
Did You Know?
Britt Reid was the great great grandson of John Reid otherwise known as the Lone Ranger
The Green Hornet’s car Black Beauty had many customizations. The more unusual ones were green headlights for night vision and brooms behind the wheels to cover the tire tracks.
The Green Hornet and Kato made a guest appearance of Batman before the first episode of their own series aired.
Bruce Lee lived in the same condo complex as Burt Ward who played Robin on the Batman TV show. Lee trained both Burt Ward and Van Williams in fighting so they would look better on camera.
We are back winding up Super-Cember a whole month of SUPER powered reviews.
Not wanting to be predictable I opted not to do a review of the Adventures of Superman this final week. Instead I’m watching a new cartoon sponsored by General Mills cereal which started a couple of months ago in October of 1964. The show is called Underdog. It is a dog living a surprisingly similar life to Superman.
Voiced by Wally Cox, Underdog is a super powered canine who spends his days as a lowly shoe shine boy with no name. Oops was I not supposed to reveal that?
He has roughly the same powers as Superman but Underdog’s powers come from consuming an energy pill.
TV news reporter Sweet Polly Purebred plays a damsel in distress who often needs to be rescued by underdog
Bad guys in this show range from witches to aliens or many times Underdog’s two arch enemies Riff Raff a 1920s gangster style dog and Simon Bar Sinister, an evil mad scientist much like Lex Luthor and his assistant named Cad Lackey.
The show is fun and by now you’ve heard enough that to tell underdog often speaks in rhymes. There are double meanings hidden in many of the scripts, lots of Superman parodies, and the theme song is in a word FANTASTIC.
As always I have a few issues with the show. The first is the world is a mix of talking dogs and regular people in this world which makes it a little hard to follow. Also Underdog has an almost legendary disregard for property damage he causes fighting evil.
My biggest problem with the show is a more real time issue. Since this cartoon block is shared with Tennesee Tuxedo, Go Go Gophers, Commander McBragg and a few other shorts, it leaves the Underdog segments cut very short, and often makes a story four parts airing across two shows. The story parts seldom air in order. If you start the hour block with parts 3 and 4 of a story then you end with 1 and 2 of another story. It makes the stories hard to follow.
I predict we will be singing about Underdog for years to come.
I’ll give Underdog 8 out of 10 Super energy pills.
Did You Know?
The theme was a surprisingly popular hit and was sang Acapella on the TV show Scrubs.
Most modern cuts of this cartoon have edited out the Energy Pill so as not to encourage children to take pills they find around the house.
The theme song has a little used second verse alternated among the shows.
We are back with more Super-Cember a whole month of all Super Heroes all the SUPER time.
It’s October of 1957 and Walt Disney has launched a new show called Zorro. Zorro which means the fox in Spanish is a story of a masked avenger in 1820s California who defends the oppressed settlers from the evil Spanish occupation army. The character was created as a pulp fiction hero back in 1919 and later made famous in 1920 with the silent Douglas Fairbanks movie titled The Mark of Zorro.
The series stars newcomer Guy Williams as Diego De La Vega otherwise known as the bandit Zorro. His mute manservant Bernardo is played by famous mime artist Gene Sheldon. ~ music interlude
The show’s villains are Captain Monastario played by Don Diamond, and the comic relief is done by the rollie poley Spanish Sgt Garcia who is played by Henry Calvin. Sergeant Garcia is a likeable guy. Evil and corrupt when it suits the script and jolly and jovial when he doesn’t have to be evil. One of the better of the Spanish Army characters.
The Zorro episodes are written like a pulp novel come to life. The evil Captain Monastario is using an obscure law that states if someone is a traitor to the Spanish throne then everything they own reverts to the government and is up for grabs. The Captain goes around trying to frame farmers and land owners to build his evil empire. Diego’s father writes to him in Spain where he is going to school. Diego and his manservant immediately set sail home to California in order to help.
On the ship Diego demonstrates this he is extremely skillful with a sword or as he calls it being a man of action. He reasons on the voyage home that he can’t fight the entire Spanish army by himself, and will have to change him image so he can attack the army in secret. Bernardo felt left out and wanted to trick people too, so decides he will pretend to be deaf as well as mute.
The episodes are done in one stories but when you watch them back to back like I did with the first six you can see that they are a continuation of the same story. Zorro never definitively wins and Monastario never really is stopped.
Zorro may win the day but he is a long way from a total victory. This is one of the things I admire about the show. Most TV shows that are on now are done in one type of stories but seldom carry elements forward from one show to the next. This is not as serialized as a soap opera but the stories are better if you tune in from week to week.
That being said, yes there are a couple of things that bug me about the show. It would have been huge if Bernardo only pretended to be deaf and mute and could talk and hear the whole time. This would have been a fantastic secret to keep, and would prevent Guy Williams from having to recite both sides of every conversation while Bernardo jumps up and down like a street performer in a subway entrance.
And speaking of not speaking. Everyone on screen keeps saying Bernardo is dumb and not mute. We used the word mute in the pilot episode but after that his condition seems to have degraded to dumb for some DUMB I mean stupid reason. I’m surprised Mr. Disney let that one get by.
Other than my issues with the speech impaired, I like this show. Zorro is a very clever super-hero western. This series in my opinion is much more compelling than the Lone Ranger as you get to know Diego as a person and not just as the persona in the Zorro costume. Zorro also has a fair amount of cool stuff for a western. He has a secret cave, the fastest horse in the village, a sword a whip and a black costume. The essentials for every masked crime fighter.
Masked identity, secret hide-out, and fast transportation. Something tells me we might be seeing that type of combo again on TV. I predict that this role will be career defining for Guy Williams, and he won’t just get Lost after playing Zorro and hopefully it will turn into a Bonanza for him. Speaking of Bonanzas… early reports tell us that Walt Disney now has a big hit with Zorro. Who knows, maybe Walt will take all the money from this successful show and build himself a castle.
I’ll give Zorro 9 out of 10 Z marks slashed in fine expensive leather chairs.
Did You Know?
A few months before he got the role of Zorro Guy Williams was thrown from a horse and injured his shoulder. As part of his physical therapy he took up fencing.
It was Walt Disney original intention to fund the construction of Disneyland with the profits from the Zorro TV show.
Guy Williams couldn’t sing, so Bill Lee who sang the theme song dubbed over William’s voice.
Pulp Writer Johnston McCully intended Zorro to be a one-off character. In response to public demand he was immediately commissioned to write 60 more stories after his first tale was complete.
Yes I tried to count it all but I couldn’t. 5 TV shows, 4 cartoons, over 40 movies internationally, Over 100 pulp stories, roughly 65 stage productions, countless comics, toys and trading cards. People can’t get enough of this character.
Zorro was a career defining role for Guy Williams. After Zorro Guy joined the cast of Bonanza to become a series regular, but immediately after that Parnell Roberts changed his mind about leaving the show so Guy was written off the show. After Bonanza he went on to star as John Robinson in Lost in Space and eventually get upstaged by Jonathan Harris’s character of Dr. Smith.
Welcome to Super-Cember a month where we look at super shows with Super Heroes.
Its 1975 and the Wonder Woman pilot episode was a smash hit. When I first heard about it I’ll be honest, I was skeptical because we really haven’t had a good super hero TV series since they cancelled Batman back in 1968.
Rest easy this one is done right. Set in 1942 during World War Two the story follows Amazon Princess Diana as she fights crime and helps war hero Major Steve Trevor defeat the Nazi infiltration of the United States.
Wonder Woman is super hero fiction the way it should be. Lynda Carter former Miss World USA of 1972 plays the lead role masterfully. This speaks to her talent as an actress as this is essentially the biggest role in Carter’s career so far. He co-star is Lyle Waggoner who you can’t forget from his run on the Carol Burnett show. Waggoner has a tough role to play being Steve Trevor. Essentially he is a male damsel in distress but he has to do it without coming off as helpless, weak or whiney so he continues to win the favor of the audience. After all if the audience doesn’t think he is worth saving then why would we care if Wonder Woman spends the whole show trying to rescue him.
One more character rounds out the cast which is Secretary Etta Candy who plays Wonder Woman’s best friend and provides comic relief for the series. Etta is played by Beatrice Colen who we all recognize as the Arnold’s Drive In waitress Marcia on Happy Days.
Unlike Batman the stories in this Wonder Woman TV show all have regular looking villains. They are mostly spies and evil scientists. They are always trying to steal something from the United States for the Nazis framing it around a beauty pageant or a war rally. Sometimes that valuable history changing item is Major Steve Trevor himself and other times it is an invention or plans for some device we’ll never hear about again after they get it back.
The characters of this show are solid, the stories are fast paced but the show is lacking in two areas. The action is limited for two reasons. First the show probably needed to have more of a budget than it did. Stock footage scenes of a truck blowing up after we clearly see a car driving off a cliff are hard to ignore and a frequent example of what I’m talking about. Also the restrictions of the fight scenes from the network. Men can’t hit women and Wonder Woman can really only kick or push people or the show gets deemed excessively violent.
Watching this show I gained a lot of respect for Lynda Carter. She played this character as a strong independent woman swimming upstream against a prevailing undercurrent of sexism throughout the show’s scripts. I admire her for that, even more so because I remember reading a lot of articles in various entertainment magazines about how difficult some found her to work with. What many people may not realize is that she seemed difficult because she refused to compromise or give into the sexism of the script’s dialog. Seriously you could make a drinking game out of the sexist remarks made while watching this show.
That aside Wonder Woman is a fun show, not to be taken too seriously but merely enjoyed.
I predict this show will represent a career defining role for Lynda Carter. I see this character going on to be even more famous and loved by generations to come.
I’ll give Wonder Woman 7 out of 10 Golden Lassos of truth.
Did You Know?
Lynda Carter came up with the twirl to change costumes. It was later adopted by the DC cartoon Justice League Unlimited.
Comic book writer Charles Moulton created Wonder Woman’s golden lasso which compelled people to tell the truth. Scientist William Moulton Marston created the prototype for modern lie detector equipment…. And …… they were the same guy.
In an early role Oscar Nominee Debra Winger played the recurring character of Wonder Woman’s younger sister Drusila.
After a week off NO-vember has suddenly turned into NO-Cember. We have one left over review of shows that didn’t quite make it, but could’ve and should’ve been successful.
To recap we looked at Battlestar Galactica, a great show that only ran one season, and was cancelled with decent ratings due to a very high budget. We looked at Salvage 1, a solid sci-fi show which didn’t survive because it couldn’t compete with hit shows like WKRP and Little House of the Prairie. Then there was Planet of the Apes which had a great concept that fell victim to bad writing.
Our last under-achiever is a show called Paper Moon which premiered in September of 1974 a little over a year after the Black and White Oscar winning film of the same name was on the movie screens. The movie was a hit and ABC couldn’t wait to produce a TV series. They grabbed Oscar Winner Tatum O’Neil to reprise her role as Addie, but instead of her father actor Ryan O’Neil they cast Christopher Connelly in the lead role of Moses Pray, crooked bible salesman.
The show centers on the further adventures of Addie and Mose as they drive around 1936 Kansas and try to con people in order to make a living. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, Moses Pray was a bible salesman who swindled recent widows into buying an overpriced bible that he claimed their dearly departed husband had ordered but never paid for. Addie is a child he picked up when her mother died because nobody else wanted her. Addie is convinced that Mose is her father, but since her mother kept company with a number of gentlemen callers there is no way to be sure. The pair enjoyed a great chemistry in the movie. Mose although a con-man was easily swindled by other con-men as well as the occasional prostitute. Addie quickly picked up the bible business and the quips made by the pair back and forth made you forget that Addie was only 9 years old.
The TV show differed from the movie in small but significant ways. First the TV show was in color which took away some of that vintage feel of the black and white film. I imagine that TV audiences would not have the patience for a prime time show in black and white when competing shows were in color. Tatum O’Neil was adorable at 9 years old but now at 12 she looks a lot different than she did in the film. In the movie she was a precocious child keeping a crooked con-man from doing something stupid, now in the TV show she is a pre-teen trying to be everyone’s moral compass.
Christopher Connelly tries hard as Moses Pray but just doesn’t have the charisma of Ryan O’Neil, however that isn’t the worst of it. It seems that 1974 TV shows come under much more scrutiny in than movies. Having a show follow a man and girl around as they commit crimes every week was obviously more than a family network like ABC could tolerate.
The show effectively watered down both characters. Mose stayed away from drinking, prostitutes, and stopped conning innocent people. The only time Mose and Addie ran a con was to right some sort of wrong, or trying get something back that was taken by someone who was shown as being evil.
Because of these morality restrictions placed on the writing by the network the show lost all of the edge it had in the movie. The stories devolved into, what odd job can we give to Mose this week to get them out of trouble.
I predict this show will be strangled to death because of network and sponsor restrictions.
I’ll give Paper Moon only 4 out of 10 Gold Leaf embossed bibles.
Did You Know?
When speaking with a number of people about Paper Moon the unanimous response was “I didn’t know they made that into a TV show”.
In 2020 Tatum O’Neil remains the youngest Oscar winner at 10 years old for her role in the 1973 Paper Moon film.
They couldn’t get Ryan O’Neil for the show, but Christopher Connelly was the next best thing. Connelly had played O’Neil’s stand-in for many years and was cast in the role of O’Neil’s brother on Peyton Place.
We’re going ape today with more NO-vember. This whole month I’m looking at shows that didn’t quite make it, but could’ve and should’ve been successful.
In February of 1968 20th Century Fox came out with a film called Planet of the Apes. After 4 movie sequels, books, comics, trading cards and action figures everyone is still going bananas over these apes. Now in 1974 it shouldn’t be a surprise that CBS would launch a TV series.
The TV series differs from the film because the humans are less like wild animals and more like second class citizens, almost slaves. Some might say this is because of the events of the 5th movie changing human history. Others like myself would say it is easier to get a better story if the majority of the actors are intelligent people for an hour a week instead of grunting cave-men.
We have two new astronauts in this one Alan Virdon played by Ron Harper and Pete Burke played by James Naughton. Both characters are somewhat wooden in their roles. Roddy McDowall treats us by returning to this franchise and playing Galen a chimpanzee that is sympathetic to the humans and betrays his society to help them escape the evil Gorillas and Orangutans. Booth Colman plays Councilor Zaius not to be confused with Dr. Zaius from the movie, but I bet the writers want you to make that mistake because actor because TV actor Booth Coleman tries very hard to sound like his movie counterpart Maurice Evans. Actor Mark Lenard steals the show as General Urko the militant gorilla chasing the two humans and a chimp all over the remains of the California Coast. This part is played better than any of the movie counterparts.
The series is set 3085 which is a little over 400 years after the 5th movie, battle for the planet of the apes, but the writing of the show acts like it takes place after the first film, because Zauis says that he’s encountered astronauts before. That isn’t correct because the original ship that started it all won’t land on Earth for another 900 years and on the other side of the United States. Come on people do your research with all the Apes swag out there this isn’t hard.
I love the ape franchise, I read the books, watched all the movies over and over, even the bad ones. This TV show is just too hard to swallow. First why make Zaius and Urko so much like their movie counterparts when the time difference is over 900 years. Also, why set this California rather than New York like the movies. My guess is it is because location shots were easier and cheaper. However these things open up a huge gap that I cannot overlook.
The weekly episodes follow the two astronauts and the chimp Galen on the run from General Urko and Dr. Zauis who essentially rule the world. Planet of the Apes becomes a fugitive kind of story line where the good guys run from village to village helping different humans each week. The humans are discriminated against by the apes, which is clearly a metaphor the writers are sneaking in about racial discrimination and prejudice. Clever right? Wrong. Looking at the humans in this show, every village, every guest star, every extra in the background are all Caucasian. California is a pretty diverse place right now, but the show would have you believe that all along the entire California coast in the future there were no people that were Asian, Hispanic, black, middle eastern or of any other descents? This is a major flaw in the show’s core philosophy.
Another huge flaw is that most every week the astronauts give the humans some new discovery. The astronauts show the humans how to plant crops, make a fence, tie a net and make butter. The apes and humans of the future might not be up on physics and medicine but they are not stupid. They have horses, saddles, guns but nobody knows how to make a fence? “Oh bless you now our cows won’t escape.” Seriously? And what kind of training does their version of Nasa have where they know how to shoe a horse and type match blood for transfusions. A pretty broad spectrum of training in this space program.
I predict the writers will only be allowed to make a monkey out of this franchise for one season. This is one time in NO-vember this is not as much of a budgetary failure but more a good concept falling victim to bad writing.
I’ll give Planet of the Apes only 4 out of 10 Bananas
Did You Know?
The last episode appears in the DVD collection but was never broadcast as part of the regular series in the US only in the UK
Galen is the third character Roddy McDowell has played in this franchise and admittedly his favorite.
Return to Planet of the Apes was a 13 episode animated series that would come out in 1975. It would finally give us a girl astronaut and a working space ship. The animation was rough but the stories tried to fill in a lot of the blanks about the mutants and apes overthrowing the world.
We are back in NO-vember. This whole month I’m looking at shows that didn’t quite make it. They aren’t shows that suck, these are shows that could’ve and should’ve made it.
In July of 1978 there was a movie called Battlestar Galactica debuting in theaters. One year after the smash release of Star Wars it was obvious producer Glenn A Larson wanted to cash in on the space craze.
What made this movie different than Star Wars was the length. It had a run time of two and a half hours, because it was planned to be re-released as a TV pilot in September. This was a smart move from the producers standpoint as the Fall TV previews became free advertising for the theatrical release.
In September after all the waiting the Battlestar Galactica pilot hit the airwaves. If you were one of the few not to see it in the theater first you were in for a surprise. Movie quality special effects on a network TV show. Apogee was hired to do the special effects, it was a new company made up almost exclusively of ex-Industrial Light and Magic employees who left George Lucas after the release of Star Wars. So if you think that Battlestar Galactica has that Star Wars feel to the effects, it was because it was mostly the same people and equipment.
Battlestar Galactica was more space opera with some action and adventure thrown in. As the opening states, somewhere out in space there were tribes of humans. 12 of them actually, each tribe relating to one sign of the Zodiac. After decades at war with a race of robots called the Cylons, Councilor Baltar was able to negotiate a peace treaty.
All the colonies gathered on the planet Caprica and anxiously awaited the Cylons to show up and be friends. What they didn’t know was that Baltar had betrayed the human race and the Cylon forces were there for the biggest sneak attack in their history.
All the planets were destroyed and most of the human race. One Battlestar, the space equivalent of an aircraft carrier had survived and gathered up any working space ships to form a small escape fleet.
The colonists heard legends of a 13th colony known as Earth. They reasoned if they could flee there certainly their fellow humans on Earth could defend them from the Cylons.
The shows subsequent episodes show the colonists being chased through the galaxy by these evil robots, who by the way look very cool all in chrome with a moving red light for an eye and Darth Vader shaped helmets.
The cast is a huge ensemble. Lorne Greene plays commander Adama. He brings the same wisdom and authority to this character as we all enjoyed in Bonanza. Richard Hatch plays his son Apollo, you might remember him as the guy who was not Michael Douglas on the Streets of San Francisco. Some minor veteran actors won co-star roles on this show. Laurette Spang played Cassiopeia she was formerly Richie Cunninham’s girlfriend on Season 1 of Happy Days, John Colicos plays Count Balatar. Colicos played just about every evil Klingon for years on Star Trek, and finally Jane Seymour as Serena who was also a Bond girl.
There are also a fair amount of newcomers in this huge cast. Herb Jefferson Jr plays Lt Boomer, Anne Lockhart plays Sheeba, and many others who all have to grab screen time away from the breakout star of this show Dirk Benedict who plays Lt. Starbuck.
The effects are solid, basically the best in the business because of the movie budget. The music also the best in the business because of John Williams. The acting is good but the large cast makes it hard to follow at first. Kind of like meeting a girlfriend’s family for the first time during a large wedding. It is difficult to tell who is going to be important and who is going to fade into the background over time.
As I alluded before the plan of running to Earth didn’t seem like a solid or rational one. In their culture the 13th colony was at best a rumor. It is like saying well if we can’t live in the US anymore, lets try and go find Atlantis and live there. We have no idea where it is, but we’ll fly around until we find it. Hope its still around.
In a later episode the Galactica actually got a transmission from Earth. Yay good news there is an Earth and the fleet is heading in the right direction.
The bad news, it was a video feed from the 1969 Apollo moon landing. Ironically Starbuck was too romantically involved during his time on monitor duty and he missed the broadcast. Guess this futuristic society didn’t have the ability to record the footage. These people can build killer robots but they can’t make a VCR?
The show makes a few missteps. First the later episodes fall victim to reusing the movie footage of space battles so much it has become formulaic. This is the problem with shows with big casts, elaborate sets and fancy costumes, they also come with big budgets. How many sci-fi shows have fallen victim to budget limitations? You’d think producers would learn.
Later, the scripts seem to start getting written around the budget constraints. The Galactica crew often stops on many Earth- like planets that look a lot like Barstow California instead of battling it out with the Cylons in space.
And the Cylons what a missed opportunity there. What happened to the race of reptiles that made them? Why do they want to kill all the humans? These things are only ever alluded to and bear much greater explanation.
I predict the budget of this show will eventually choke it to death. Does it mean it has no future, no but someday in the future when it can get out from the shadow of Star Wars this story can be told the right way, with more Cylons.
I’ll give the Battlestar Galactica 7 out of 10 Colonial Cubits that Starbuck won in a poker game
Did You Know?
Most of the major cast members are still very active on the comic convention circuit and loved to talk about the show. I’ve run into almost every major cast member with the exception of Lorne Greene and John Colicos.
George Lucas and Industrial Light and Magic sued the show for plagiarism and copyright infringement.
Although Battlestar was cancelled after a single season, Larson created a way to do a follow up series with a much lower budget. Galactica 1980 was set on Earth, yes they finally got there, but as we feared 1980s Earth was not ready for them. Lorne Greene was the only series regular to return for this sequel show.
In 2004 the Sci-Fi channel released a Battlestar Galactica reboot. It did so well they created a regular series that lasted 4 seasons after that with a spin-off show called Caprica which showed how the Cylons came into existence.
While it’s great to review classic old TV shows that we all remember fondly like MASH or the Odd Couple, sometimes I like to use this space to tell you about some shows that you might have never heard of. There was a lot of good TV out there and you may have missed some of it.
So that brings us to the first show of NO-vember. For the rest of this month I’m looking at shows that didn’t quite make it. They aren’t shows that suck, these are shows that could’ve and should’ve made it.
As we all know Andy Griffith had a legendary run on the Andy Griffith Show from 1960 to 1968. After 8 years he left the show to pursue a movie career. He found a number of roles after being sheriff of Mayberry for so long.
In 1971 CBS launched the New Andy Griffith show which didn’t have the magic of his other show and only lasted 10 episodes due to extremely low ratings. In 1974 Andy played similar type villain roles on ABCs movie of the week. One of the more notable ones was called Savages where he played a sociopathic hunter who in the middle of a hunt decided to hunt down his guide.
In January of 1979 Andy Griffith starred in a very popular ABC Movie of the Week called Salvage. In Salvage he was cast in the role of junkman Harry Broderick who is the owner of Jettison Salvage junk-yard. Harry had a dream to one day go to the moon. Harry’s plan was to gather up all the equipment NASA left abandoned there, bring it back to Earth and sell it. Harry and his team use items in the junkyard to build a single-staged rocket called the Vulture. A privately built space-craft? Like that could ever happen. The role of Harry is a character which allowed Andy to bring back his home-spun charm yet again to a TV series.
Harry recruits an ex-NASA pilot Skip Carmichael played by Joel Higgins, who was kicked out of the astronaut program for his unsafe theories about rocket fuel consumption. Oh yeah that sounds super safe. The other key member of Harry’s team is Melanie “Mel” Slozar played by Trish Steward who is a Hollywood explosives expert. Mel is in charge of making fuel for the Vulture out of the dangerously unstable and very fictitious Mono-hydrazine.
The character of Mel is one that could steal the show. She plays down her sexuality in favor of intelligence and like Harry has a can-do attitude about everything. It is refreshing to see this type of supporting character shine so brightly even when next to someone as dynamic of a presence as Griffith.
In the pilot the Vulture rocket is assembled from very identifiable junkyard items, and blasts off from the junkyard located in downtown LA. The Vulture makes it to the moon but not without the notice of the FBI and a fair share of reentry problems.
Fortunately Harry just happened to hire a bunch of laid off NASA engineers who prior to the launch were happy to use their PHDs to drive forklifts around a junkyard. When the Vulture finally lands after a successful mission Harry decides to keep everyone on to keep chasing high-profile salvage items, and the TV series Salvage 1 was spawned.
In an early opening of the first show we see Harry bargaining with a man selling a plane. It is a World War on Camel in mint condition. After Harry buys it he makes three phone calls. One to a collector restoring a plane where he says he has the perfect engine. Another to an aviation themed restaurant to which he sells the propeller, and the last to a museum where he sells the body of the plane. Harry triples his investment and this scene gives you a sense of how he makes his money and uses that smooth Andy charm we’ve been missing for so many years. To quote Andy Griffith on how he sees the character of Harry, “He is a dreamer, loyal to friends but also a con artist who will take advantage of a situation.”
Later episodes have the team either treasure hunting or problem solving. In another episode a California town destroyed by drought hires Harry to Salvage water, so the team goes to the Artic Circle and gets an iceberg. In another they use the Vulture again to bring back a gold plated satellite.
The premise of Salvage 1 is fun science fiction, the cast is solid but not all the shows are winners. Salvaging a satellite, an ice berg, even a haunted house are all great but there are other things they chase like a robot, a big foot and an alien that are just a little too far-fetched even for a series like this.
The budget constrains for this show are very obvious. The writers also seem to struggle with ways to work a space craft into the plot each week, and also to find just the right thing for Harry and his team to chase. They are often losing site of the idea that Salvage 1 isn’t a show about finding the treasure it is about giving the audience the thrill of the hunt.
My predictions, well.. Although I’d love to have a toy Vulture rocket on my desk I don’t know if this show will make it. Salvage 1 goes up against a Monday night lineup of WKRP and Little House of the Prairie. Salvage 1 is good but I fear it isn’t Les Nesman or Half-pint good.
I’ll give the Salvage 1 6 out of 10 junkyard rockets filled with Silver Spoons
Did You Know?
It was always fun to look at the Vulture rocket and see what pieces of junk you could identify. The capsule was from a cement mixer the landing struts had large truck tires on them and the thrust control was the automatic gear shift from a Ford Pinto.
This role was essentially Trish Stewart’s big break after a few minor guest spots she retired from acting. Joel Higgins however went on to co-star with Erin Gray of Buck Rogers fame in the sit-com Silver Spoons.
Noted science fiction writer Issac Asimov was hired as a script consultant.
Salvage 1 aired for 2 seasons, which was 20 shows. 16 shows were televised in the US and the remaining 4 were televised in the UK. I have never seen the last 4 and but remained determined to Salvage them myself.
I try to start these reviews out by giving you an idea of where these shows came from. Back in 1938 cartoonist Charles Adams came up with a comic strip about a fictional household called the Addams family. Now in September of 1964 the series was adapted by MGM to a live action TV series on ABC. Not to be outdone CBS approached Universal Studios and expressed concern about losing market share to this monstrous new show. Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher the team who brought you “Leave it to Beaver” came up with the idea of a working class family who didn’t know they were really monsters.
The show was pitched as immediately having an edge over the VERY similar Addams family because the classic Universal Studios movie monsters from the 40s were still very popular, very recognizable and very copyrighted by Universal. The main characters used the likenesses of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf man and The Bride of Frankenstein, and made them all into a sit-com family.
The casting was instantaneous as the show runners wanted and GOT the established sit-com team of Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis formerly of “Car 54 Where Are You.”
The show stars Herman Munster, played by Fred Gwynne, a Frankenstein’s monster who worked his 9 to 5 job as an undertaker. Apparently working in the basement of a funeral home was the one place that Herman Munster looked better than his customers. Al Lewis played Herman’s father-in-law Dracula affectionately known as Grandpa. Herman’s wife Phoebe was played by Joan Marshall who looked a little too much like Morticia Addams for the CBS attorneys not to be horrified. They had a werewolf son Eddie played by Happy Dermin, and a normal niece Marilyn played by Beverley Owen. The pilot was shot in full color and promptly rejected by CBS.
This happens a lot in the world of Television you don’t always get it on your first try so some changes had to be made and a new pilot filmed. They did some minor rewrites and recast Herman’s wife now named Lily with 10 Commandments co-star Yvonne DeCarlo and also recast an unknown actor Butch Patrick as the new Eddie. There were also some visual changes, Lily looked very much like a vampiric bride of Frankenstein while Eddie’s look got more wolfier. Also in 1964 while vivid color is all the rage, this series regressed to black and white to keep with that 40s horror movie feel.
It’s rare thing to mix horror and comedy but here it’s done well and there is a huge payoff. The Munsters don’t know they are monsters. They are shocked when everyone is afraid of them which is funny to the audience because to us they seem friendly and not scary at all. This is the secondary focus of every episode while the primary one seems to be either the human plotline where Herman overhears something and it immediately leads to a funny misunderstanding or the monster plotline where Grandpa mis-speaks a spell or one of his mad scientist experiments goes wrong.
The big laughs from this show come not from the scripts but from the cast. Al Lewis and Fred Gwynne steal the show with one-liners, ironic humor and visual affectations that just make you giggle. Gwynne who normally stands at 6 foot 5 without 6 inch lifted boots plays an imposing Monster, but his face betrays him as a gentle giant. Lewis keeps the zingers coming one after another, sometimes commenting on the various horror props in the show and sometimes just being a natural comic.
Marilyn’s boyfriends all run off at about 30 miles an hour as soon as they meet any member of her family. This is not entirely a bad thing as 18 year old Marilyn seems to, for some reason gravitate towards dating 40 year old men. Often these dates come off as looking more creepy than the Munsters themselves, but the family put us with it since everyone thinks that the beautiful Marilyn is so ugly she can’t land a man.
My prediction for this TV show is this is as good as it gets. Unlike the Addams Family it is the cast members of the Munsters that drive this show and not the situation. All the Munsters with the possible exception of Marilyn are irreplaceable and key to the show so any attempts at reanimating this show in the future are as doomed as Marilyn’s love life. I could be wrong who knows someone might even resurrect the theme song.
I’ll give the Munsters 9 out of 10 Horrified Marilyn boyfriends.
Did You Know?
Pat Priest replaced Beverley Owen as Marilyn after the first 13 episodes.
My son and his friends just found that the song Uma Therman samples the Munsters theme.
The Munster’s Hot Rod coach could not fit Fred Gwynne in costume so he was never shown getting in or out of the driver’s seat.
From 1987 to 1993 Al Lewis opened an Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village called Grandpa Munsters.
Fred Gwynne carried over 40 pounds of padding when in costume. A special compressed air cooling hose had to be used to keep him from fainting.
The Munsters did very few in costume appearances due to the constraints Gwynne had. A 1964 Marine land commercial and the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade that same year being the exceptions.
There is nothing wrong with your television set, as a matter of fact there is a lot right with it if you are watching the Outer Limits on ABC. When the new TV season started in September of 1963 Sci-Fi fans got a taste of great writing and spooky camera work with the new show the Outer Limits.
It is easy to compare this to the Twilight Zone as both TV series are anthologies with a different story every week. Where the Twilight Zone was mystical and ironic, the Outer Limits is all about hard science fiction with a fair amount of aliens and cold war drama thrown in.
Some of the more memorable episodes of this first season are The Hundred Days of the Dragon where the Chinese government launches a cold-war type attack on the United States with a sneaky plot to replace key executives and a presidential candidate using futuristic mask technology. These agents would then be able to take over the United States from within. Although this episode was very well acted and had a very dramatic tone. This plot seems almost Manchurian and seems somehow familiar. Instead of all this R&D to develop this mask science. Since these are company executives run public companies couldn’t the Chinese government simply buy shares in the companies and effectively take them over that way? Maybe if someone in the Chinese government took a US Economics course instead they could’ve saved a lot of work.
Another episode that was a little off beat was The Zanti Misfits. A colony of aliens from the planet Zanti agrees to a prisoner exchange program and dumps its political prisoners in a ghost town in the middle of a desert. These dangerous dissidents run into bank robber Bruce Dern who was using the town as a hide out. The show runners tease us the entire episode about the dangerous secret of the Zanti Misfits. We don’t see them until the last few minutes of the show. Very quickly the audience figures out the secret the Zanti were hiding. The big secret is that this show has a very bad budget for special effects.
One of my favorite episodes was the Man Who Was Never Born. It stars Martin Landau as a plague survivor from the future who travels back in time to kill the man who developed the disease so it never happens. Something goes wrong and he lands during a time where the scientist hadn’t been born yet and now has to kill the woman who will become the scientist’s mother. Of course the woman is beautiful and nice so he falls in love with her. I guess if the show was 30 mins instead of an hour that would allow the writers to make her a more a nasty runny eyed more realistic character so Landau would have no conflict. Hats off to Martin Landau on this one as the emotion of the episode and the acting keep you glued to the screen. If you only ever watch one episode of this show make it this one.
My prediction for this TV show is the best is yet to come. The writing on this show gets better and better as we progress through it and I see no reason for that to stop. Keep your eyes on actors like Robert Culp, William Shatner and Martin Landau as they bring a lot to every episode that they’re in.
I’ll give the Outer Limits 8 out of 10 rubber eyed mutants.
Did You Know?
The Episode I-Robot where a robot goes on trial for murder had two endings filmed with both verdicts. Different TV channels would air different outcomes.
The episode Architects of Fear which had Robert Culp transform into an alien to stage a fake attack. The monster was considered so scary that many local stations chose to black out the final scenes showing the alien. Was it that scary? Well, I stand by my earlier comments about the poor effects budget.
The show was cancelled after the second season because ABC moved it in the schedule so that it ran after Lawrence Welk. Lawrence Welk viewers tended to be older and weren’t interested in a sci-fi series like this. Ratings tanked and the show was cancelled at the end of Season 2.
The episode Soldier involves a soldier from the future who goes through a time-vortex and saves the life of a present-day woman from an enemy soldier from the future. Sound familiar? Writer Harlan Ellison sued James Cameron for plagiarism when the movie Terminator was release. Cameron lost and admitted that many elements from this episode were used and credited Ellison as a creator.
I wish I could start this review with some clever relevant opening like Carl Kolchak did at the beginning of every episode of the 1974 series The Night Stalker.
Something like: “Bobby Katzen a man who uses a time machine. When tempting the primal forces of time that mankind isn’t made to understand all you achieve is certain doom”.
Nope that is not how Kolchak would do it. Let’s me try this once more.
It’s 1974 and The Night Stalker series premiered on ABC. The Night Stalker began as most watched of ABC’s “Movie of the Week” in 1972. Later in 1973 ABC would do something unheard of and follow the hit movie up with a sequel titled The Night Strangler.
Our story centers around a grumpy aging newspaper reporter named Carl Kolchak played by Darren McGavin. Kolchak is an abrasive crime reporter who worked for a newspaper in Las Vegas. While investigating a story involving a serial killer, Kolchak figured out that the murders were being committed by a real vampire. Nobody believed Carl when he told them, not even his editor Tony Vincenzo played by Simon Oakland. You might remember Simon Oakland as the guy that Rob Stone hated in his review of Psycho.
The police were working against Kolchak trying to cover the murders up. His newspaper editor was too scared to print any of his stories. Kolchak should’ve dropped it but still he had this need to find out more. He is a sole believer in a world of skeptics, armed with nothing more than cross and a sharp stick Carl Kolchak cornered the vampire in his lair. It was about the second or third time that Kolchak drove the stake into the vampire’s chest that the police finally showed up and arrested him. Kolchak made a deal to leave Las Vegas instead of being charged with murder. He then went to Seattle with his editor Tony who was also fired as part of the cover up, and they started a very similar process at another newspaper. Actually it was a better process because the Night Strangler movie didn’t have a vampire and was a much more complex story.
After Carl and Tony were similarly run out of the Seattle, unemployed and disgraced they headed to Chicago to work for the Independent News Service. A low budget news wire agency who apparently aren’t big on employee background checks. That’s the end of the movies and where our television series begins.
The stories as Darren McGavin put it are in “a monster of the week format”. Kolchak encounters a Vampire Call-Girl, Ghosts, Greek Gods, Demons, a Mummy, witches, a zombie and even a werewolf. What I love about the writing is it isn’t just a story about a werewolf, they put the werewolf on a swinging singles cruise, imagine the possibilities.
Even though like many shows in the 1970s it suffered low budget, some episodes are well done, timeless, and downright scary. The pilot is one of the better shows where Carl confronts Jack the Ripper. What is relatable about Kolchak is that he’s scared and clumsy, much like I would be if I were hunting monsters. In this episode he is hiding in Jack the Ripper’s closet and gets so overcome with anxiety and he runs out of the house screaming, if you look carefully you can see the ripper actually stop and shake his head before chasing Kolchak.
In another show a memorable moment is when a Warlock tries to take Carl’s soul in exchange for his wildest ambitions and more. The warlock changes his mind when he reads his mind and discovers that Carl’s greatest ambition is a new desk chair. Carl Kolchak is a simple man with almost no friends. For as much trouble he gets in with the police and his newspaper it is a miracle he hasn’t been fired yet, but I guess it would be a pain to change cities again. Carl wears the same seer-sucker suit, straw hat and old sneakers in every show. You might think to yourself, weren’t you just in a sewer fighting a swamp monster? How bad would that suit smell? Wait, It looks clean now…Again, forget it the physics don’t work in this TV show either.
Other than Tony Vincenzo the supporting cast consists of a newspaper theater critic Ron Updyke and Miss Emily the newspapers elderly advice columnist. These people are not friends, because Kolchak is too abrasive to everyone to have friends. These characters merely exist Carl to explain things to so the audience can follow along.
I predict this series itself with X-ceed X-pectactions and become an X-ceptional classic. Kolchak will be a career defining role for Darren McGavin but perhaps Santa Claus will bring him another recognizable role for Christmas.
Kolchak is a timeless classic the show is the best it can be. So I’ll give The Night Stalker 10 out of 10 angry ulcerated editors.
Did You Know?
The Night Killers was the third Movie of the Week ordered. It was about robot models in Hawaii, but alas it was cancelled when ABC decided to make the Night Stalker a series instead.
The series name was changed from The Night Stalker to Kolchak: The Night Stalker after a legal dispute between ABC and creator Jeff Rice.
The Night Stalker series was Chris Carter’s inspiration to create the X-Files.
Jeff Rice’s book portrayed Kolchak different than the TV version. The TV Kolchak was tamer and more likeable. The book Kolchak was an abrupt hard drinking reporter, who somehow had more sex than a fruit fly in biology class.
The network ordered 26 shows but they only produced 20. McGavin walked after 20 due to creative differences. There were three scripts written but were never shot. Moonstone books published them.
This week’s TV show was based on a comic book. Holy Mid-Season replacements Batman! In January of 1966 the TV adaptation of Batman premiered on ABC. The show was different in many ways. First you would expect a show made from a super hero comic book to be an action adventure themed show, but this was designed as a sit-com. It was a campy experiment by producer and announcer William Dozier and in my opinion it paid off.
Batman stars Adam West as Bruce Wayne a millionaire whose parents were murdered by criminal and has vowed to spend the rest of his life fighting crime in his home of Gotham City. Don’t tell anybody but he is also Batman. His trusty teen-aged side-kick is Robin the boy-wonder played by Burt Ward. Robin often states the obvious for the audience framing it around his catch phrase of Holy…. Insert catch phrase here.
The supporting cast is Alan Napier who plays Alfred the butler. After all if Bruce Wayne didn’t have a butler he would get thrown out of the millionaires club. And yes Gotham City does happen to have millionaires club for him to be kicked out of. Other supporting actors are Neil Hamilton as Commissioner Gordon and Stafford Rep as Chief O’Hara. The police don’t do much in this show but Commissioner Gordon did have the good sense to deputize Batman and Robin so they are not technically vigilantes.
Then there’s the villains. Famous celebrities from stage and screen lined up around the block to play a villain on this show. Stand-Up comic Frank Gorshin was the first as the Riddler, Burgess Meridith starred as the Penguin, and Caesar Romero flawlessly portrays the insane Joker. They were all from the comics but there are many other bad guys that were created specifically for the series that were every bit as entertaining. My favorite custom villain is King Tut portrayed by Victor Buno. Tut was a professor at Yale who gets knocked on the head with a brick during a peace rally and turns evil. I’ve never been to a peace rally at Yale but clearly you need to keep your head down.
Millionaire Bruce Wayne spends a fair amount of his income on Bat equipment it would seem. From a nuclear powered Bat-Mobile housed inside a technology rich Bat-cave dug right underneath stately Wayne Manor, to the various bat-cycles, bat-go carts, bat boats, bat copters. Seriously how none of these subcontractors ever figure out that Bruce Wayne is Batman… Holy spill the beans, did I just say that on the air. I hope the Joker isn’t listening.
What makes this show so unusual is the theme of the shows. Holy double meanings, I’m not talking about the opening tune whose words are so easy to remember, but the writing of the show. As a kid it would seem like a super-serious crime drama but adults appreciate it on a different level. The campy over the top acting and dialog are what drives it to be funny most of the time when you aren’t expecting it. The sets and props contribute greatly to the campy theme. One show has Batman pouring alphabet soup into the bat computer to decode secret messages. When Batman and Robin find the villain hide-out and the announcer says “in a Seldom-Used Warehouse across town”, you will then see them enter a building where the sign actually says “A Seldom-Used Warehouse”.
This villains are always shown with a tilted camera angle. They are crooked right? So their camera angles are always shown that way.
The scripts revolve around the villain’s plot that particular week. Catwoman may be going back to school, or the Penguin is running for mayor, or maybe the Joker will challenge Batman to a surfing contest. All the henchmen are named for the crimes that week and are dressed in a henchman costume conforming to that particular villain. The best are Catwoman’s henchmen in the groovy leopard shirts and cat ear hats, and the worst have to be King Tut’s men in full Egyptian tunics. I’ve always wondered do the henchmen have to provide their own uniforms or is there a store they send them all too? Maybe it’s like working at a sub shop when they give you the first work uniform but you have to buy extras you might need.
The show runs for a half hour but is on an unprecedented 2 consecutive nights a week. Even though most episodes end in a cliff-hanger death trap waiting for the caped crusaders you don’t have to wait more than one night to see how it plays out. Usually the resolution is some sort of silly defense that Batman foresaw but the audience never would. Like when the Penguin dropped Batman and Robin in a vat of acid and Batman replies “Good thing we remembered to wear our acid-proof costumes”. Why is that ever a wardrobe choice? Should all their costumes be acid-proof? And how were their eyes, faces and Robin’s exposed legs protected? Like most TV shows the physics doesn’t work either, but here it is often good for a laugh.
I could go on and on about this show but suffice it to say is it is a super-groovy show to watch and perfect for what it is a unique campy super hero sit com. I predict great bat-things for this show ahead. Maybe there will be a bat-movie, or we’ll get to see Ace the bat-hound or Barbara the bat-girl someday.
Holy perfect scores, I’ll give Batman 10 out of 10 flying bat-a-rangs of justice.
Did You Know?
In 1998 I was stuck in an elevator with Yvonne Craig who played Bat Girl in Season 3 of the series. Every fan-boys dream.
This show had some famous musical guests. Chad and Jeremy and Leslie Gore both had singing numbers during their respective run-ins with Catwoman.
There were so many celebrities at the time who wanted to be on the show they had to add a sequence where when climbing up a wall a star would pop his head out and talk to Batman and Robin. This resulted in the first on-screen appearance of martial arts legend Bruce Lee would be when he popped his head out of the window dressed as Kato alongside the Green Hornet?
The pilot episode had Batman in a bar and Jill St. John slipped some liquor in his orange juice. One sip and Batman was hammer, the result is he invented a new dance called the Bat-Tusi. This dance was kept famous over the years by John Travolta in the movie Pulp Fiction.
I’ve reviewed TV shows that are based on Movies, Books, Radio Shows and even a Broadway play. This week I’m reviewing a TV show that was based on another TV show. It’s 1960 and ABC made a bold move this past September. They put a cartoon on during prime-time television. Everyone knows that cartoons are strictly kids’ stuff that you watch on Saturday morning, right? Wrong.
The Flintstones as the catchy theme song says are a MODERN stone-age family brought to you by Hanna-Barbera who created the likes of Tom and Jerry, Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear. This show is more of a sit-com, than a cartoon. A real sitcom starring cartoon cavepeople. The show is set in the stone-age town of Bedrock and has its residents doing modern things with items that cave people might use. You’ll see them use a baby elephant as a vacuum cleaner, a clam shell razor, a pelican trash can, and I don’t want to know what animals you’d find in a Bedrock bathroom.
Fred Flintstone, voiced by Alan Reed is a “Bronto-Operator” at the Slate construction company. Yes he drives a brontosaurus around all day doing his construction job. In my opinion this is the best job in the world. At my work this particular career choice has come up for discussion. We fantasize about being Fred Flintstone when 5 o’clock rolls around you get go slide down the dinosaur and completely forget about your job until tomorrow. You go home, grab the neighbors and go out and eat huge ribs. Best job ever.
Fred’s best friend who lives in the cave next door is Barney Rubble. Barney is voiced by legendary voice actor Mel Blanc. Mel created the voices for Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and many other famous characters. Rounding out the cast are the two cave-wives. They provide a voice of reason and spend most of their time trying to civilize their wacky caveman husbands. Fred’s wife Wilma voiced by Jean Vander Pyl and Barney’s wife Betty voiced by Bea Benaderet.
The episodes are written to take full advantage of the fact that this is a cartoon. Fred and Barney have the freedom to do crazy things. In one show Fred gets a magic book and makes the wives disappear. Fred and Barney take off for a night alone, believing that the ladies actually disappeared and weren’t just hiding in the back of the cave. In another episode Fred and Barney fake sick to get out of the opera, but then find themselves without a car, so they use a primitive helicopter that Barney made out of rocks and wood in his garage. The show is funny and very well written with lots of adult oriented humor.
At this point in the review I usually complain about things that don’t make sense in the show. Since this is a cartoon with cavemen flying home-made helicopters, there’s nothing in these stories that should make sense. Just one thing that jars the audience at the end of each episode. The primary sponsor of this show is Winston Cigarettes, and they have a commercial at the end of the show, where Fred and Barney sneak back behind the cave for a Winston smoke break. This is jarring because the show is in color and the commercial is in black and white. Come on Winston, color television has been around almost a decade now, you can’t rely on everyone watching on a black and white set. This is 1960 not the stone age.
I predict the Flintstones will EVOLVE into a great show that will be with us a very long time. Maybe the TV show will even get some famous guest stars. How cool would it be to see this as a live action-movie?
I’ll give the Flintstones 9 out of 10 chewable vitamins.
Did You Know?
In a 1985 Interview with Playboy Jackie Gleason confessed he thought about suing because this show was based on The Honeymooners. He didn’t because he was so impressed with it, that he didn’t want to be the man who took the Flintstones away from the rest of the world.
This show was littered with cameos and cross overs in the initial 6 season run. Darrin and Samantha from Bewitched, Ann Marg-rock, Stoney Curtis and the Beau-Brummelstones just to name a few.
The Flintstones have inspired many products and some are still with us today. Sure I’m glad I didn’t deposit any money into old stone bank, but I did eat my fair share of Flintstones chewable vitamins growing up and to this day you will usually find some form of Coco Peebles cereal in my house.
The Flintstones had many catchy tunes that you can find many people singing even today.
As we start 1979 off as a fresh new year we’re saddened that the Captain America TV show starring Reb Brown was cancelled. Fear not everyone CBS has come up with some southern fried fun with their new show called The Dukes of Hazzard. This show is based on the 1972 movie Moon Runners where Waylon Jennings, the Balladeer and Narrator introduce us to two Georgia cousins that drive around in a fast classic car, running illegal moonshine for their Uncle Jesse all the while staying one step ahead of the evil county commissioner Boss Hogg.
This show picks up basically where the movie leaves off with some notable changes. The main characters names have been changed to Bo and Luke Duke and the name of the town has been changed to Hazzard County. In the pilot we’re told Bo and Luke are two cousins who were arrested and Uncle Jesse made a deal with the government to stop making moonshine if the boys would be given probation. This means they can’t carry guns, and as the theme says they fight the system like two modern day Robin Hoods and it is a pretty literal reference, because apparently the state of Georgia does not consider firing arrows with dynamite attached to them as a weapons violation. This series has its morality upside down as all the villains are the police and political figures and the heroes are those trying to do the right thing even though it may not be the legal thing.
Bo Duke played by John Schnieder and Luke Duke played by Tom Wopat have such a great chemistry together you’d think they were related in real life. Denver Pyle plays the family patriarch Uncle Jesse who isn’t in the fray very much but still ends up being everyone’s moral compass. Cousin Daisy Duke played by Catherine Bach got the short end of stick as all the sexuality from her part was greatly diminished after the 5th episode when the timeslot moved from 9pm to 8pm which was the designated network family hour.
The villains in this show clearly have the better parts. The bumbling, cooing Sherriff Roscoe P. Coltrain is played by James Best whom you may remember from guest appearances on the Andy Griffith show. Best does a great job as a sometimes corrupt sheriff who is bitter about being cheated out of his pension. His partner in crime is Boss Hogg the Hazzard County Commissioner, the big-bad of the show.
Rounding out the cast is Sonny Shroyer as Deputy Enos Strate the only honest cop on the force keeps the sherrif from becoming too evil. Cooter Davinport the mechanic and friend of the Dukes owns the only auto repair shop around. He has more work than he can handle fixing up the crashed cars.
I’ve saved the best cast member for last. The 69 Orange Dodge Charger named General Lee. Bo and Luke have dreams of going on the Nascar circuit and this is the souped-up car they intend to win with. All episodes have at least 2 car chases, and it seems like every bridge in Hazzard County is not only washed out but the debris has been fashioned into a perfect jump ramp for the General Lee to use.
Let’s put the physics of this aside. Let’s not think about how these cars can make all these jumps and not get totaled. Let’s not talk about how the police can get into so many car accidents and never get hurt. Let’s not even mention the fact that every authority figure in this county is so corrupt that at the end of every show they have to forgive all the crimes that the Dukes have committed in the last hour. The show is all about car chases and trying to stop Boss Hogg from doing something evil. That’s what it is, that’s all it is but heaven help me I can’t look away.
Although fun, I predict this mid-season replacement is too unrealistic to get renewed for the next year. It just won’t catch on. People will never want to buy t-shirts, watches, miniature General Lee cars and short shorts.
I’ll give those Duke Boys 8 out of 10 jumping General Lees.
Did You Know?
Ben Jones who played Cooter the mechanic was elected to Congress in the state of Georgia after the series ended.
The two main actors walked off the show at the end of season 5 because they wanted a share of the merchandising which had an annual value of almost 200 million dollars. The network replaced them for an entire season with two other look-alikes they wrote off as cousins. When the ratings tanked the networks paid to have Tom Wopat and John Schneider come back.
The character of Deputy Enos Straight got his own spin-off show for one season where he moved to California and joined the LAPD.
Daisy Duke’s Daisy Duke shorts are now in the Smithsonian. The short shorts created a fashion trend. After episode #5 the network moved the show to 8pm also known as the family hour. As a result the network sensors required that actress Catherine Bach wear nylons under the shorts so it would be more family appropriate.
The General Lee the show’s 1969 Dodge Charger got more fan mail than any member of the cast. There wasn’t just one car. Jumping the cars the way they did actually totaled them. At an average of 3 jumps per episode they went through over 280 1969 Dodge Chargers. It wasn’t until they couldn’t find any more to buy that they started using miniatures in the last season.
That Boss Hogg took a trip to Phoenix Arizona and tried to buy Mel’s Diner on the TV show Alice. Boss Hogg and Deputy Enos both appeared as guest stars on that show in a rare cross-over.
This week we are taking a look at a new TV show called M*A*S*H which originally got its start from a book. Dr. Richard Hornburger under the pen name Richard Hooker wrote a book called MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors in 1956. Later in 1970 it was adapted into a movie and now in 1972 it recently premiered on CBS.
I never had the pleasure of reading the novel or its subsequent follow-up MASH Goes To Maine but I did see the MASH motion picture and this series overall is a fine extension of it.
The TV series centers around a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital or MASH unit during the Korean War in 1950. The two main characters, Captain Hawkeye Pierce played by Alan Alda, and Captain Trapper John MacIntyre played by Wayne Rogers open the show driving golf balls into a mine field. This opening shot speaks volumes as it underscores the two doctors’ silliness and contempt for their current situation. The chemistry between these two characters is very strong as the lightning fast quips are not only hilarious but also seem unending.
The focus of most of the hazing are the series “bad guys” Major Frank Burns played by Larry Linville and Major Margaret Hot Lips Houlihan played by Loretta Swit. Burns and Houlihan take over the roles of their movie counterparts quite adeptly. Houlihan’s repressed sexuality and Burn’s general craziness make them wonderful targets for Hawkeye and Trapper’s pranks and abuse.
This MASH unit is commanded by Col Henry Blake played by MacLean Stevenson. Stevenson in my opinion plays the role far better than his big screen counterpart. This Colonel Blake shows the audience that he is a simple doctor placed in command of a field hospital and has no idea what he is doing. The entire unit would fall apart if it wasn’t for his scary efficient company clerk Radar O’Reilly.
Speaking of Radar, rounding out the show’s cast is Corporal Walter Radar O’Reilly played by Gary Bergoff. Bergoff is exactly like his movie counterpart because he IS his movie counterpart. He is the only actor who made the transition from the movie to the TV show. I don’t know what it would be like to have somebody else play Radar and I frankly never want to find out. Radar knows what is going to happen before it does and keeps the whole unit running.
I could spend the rest of the show listing this huge ensemble cast here. With so many characters it is hard to write for all of them and it was obvious they had to be paired down from the original roster. Instead of being tied down by the Book and Film, creator Larry Gelbart phased out many of these movie characters and brought in recurring ones that were a better fit to the theme of his new TV version of this story. Characters from the movies like Painless the Dentist, Ugly John, Nurse Dish, Captain Oliver Spear-chucker Jones all start to fade into the background outshined by the main stars. Their parts started with very little lines and don’t survive more than a couple of episodes. Instead we see the birth of new recurring characters created by the TV show. There was the camp Chaplin Father Mulcahy and Corporal Klinger who wore dresses to try to get out of the army on a section 8.
The series starts with a pilot episode that is strictly in alignment with the movie and over the next few weeks we see subtle changes to the tone of the show. Korean versions of 1950s hits were constantly playing in the background of the first few shows. It is obvious it set too fast of a pace for the show and detracted from the seriousness of the operating room scenes so that soundtrack faded away. Also in the first few shows we see the doctors stop hiring Koreans to work for them doing laundry and other chores. After the fifth episode where they spoke out against it, their houseboy Ho-John mysteriously disappeared from the cast. Listen carefully and someone will tell you they sent him to college in the US.
Sit-Coms in a war time setting are very hard to pull off but MASH does a great job with it. I could sit here and knit-pick Hawkeye and Trapper picking on Frank and how in the true military there would be dire consequences for sedating a senior officer but let’s be honest it was funny to watch and in the end that is really all that matters.
I predict this TV show MASH might last longer than the Korean war did. AfterMash who knows what will happen to some of these new stars. Henry Blake will be in command of the 4077 forever and Trapper John will grow old enough to look like Parnell Roberts.
I’ll give the MASH 9 out of 10 unsoiled bedpans.
Did You Know?
Actor Gary Bergoff’s left hand is deformed and he spends most of the show trying to hide it.
“Goodbye Farewell Amen” remains the most watch series finale of all time.
There is an episode of MASH that was never aired. It was not picked up by CBS and no one has seen it in over 40 years. It has to do with a number of soldiers standing in the cold so they would get sick and be sent home from the war. This was actually done during the Korean war and CBS decided not to draw attention to it by airing the episode.
Last week we talked about the Odd Couple, a television show that got it’s start as a Broadway play. This week we’re looking Perry Mason which was originally a radio show that ran from 1943 until 1955 and later was adapted for television in 1957.
For those of you who have not heard about this new show, Perry Mason played by Raymond Burr is a fictional defense attorney who has never lost a case. Mason has a small but faithful team helping him. First, his secretary Della Street is played by Barbara Hale also we meet the ultra-cool private investigator Paul Drake who is played by William Hopper. Together the three investigate the mysterious crimes Mason’s clients are accused of. Perry usually gathers just enough evidence to disprove District Attorney Hamilton Burger played by William Talman.
This show is a very serious detective courtroom drama. The actors all play this 100% seriously, no jokes are told until the last 60 seconds of the show, for that matter there are very few times anyone cracks a smile. This lack of emotion leaves everyone’s performance including Burrs coming off as very dry.
As a detective show the writing is complex and well thought out. Each show starts with a client intro and setup, then followed by an investigation segment usually with Perry with Drake running around asking questions or give a reality check on behalf of the audience. Mason and his crew spend a lot of time reconstructing the events of each crime in between the dozens of cigarette we see being smoked on screen. All the while the audience gets to watch the trio work the crime scene and look for clues, but we never get the full explanation of what they find until the courtroom scene towards the end of each episode. If I were on Mason’s team this would irritate me to now end, however the show follows this formula faithfully and it usually works very well.
All of this works fine, it’s the courtroom part that I have some issues with.
There are three legal items I’d like to spend a minute to talk about:
1) Tampering of evidence. This means the lawyers on either side are not allowed to touch, switch, mark or otherwise alter any items used as evidence in a trial.
2) The right to discovery. This means that all those surprises we see on the show, new evidence or strange tests that Perry Mason comes up with are not legal. In our legal system both sides have the right to know what evidence or arguments the other side plans to make so they can properly prepare. If that does not happen the magic words “Objection: discovery” will get these things knocked out of the court.
3) Ex parte communication means that whenever Perry Mason talks to the Judge or jury outside of the courtroom about the case the other attorney has to be there or there is a risk of a mistrial.
In the first 4 episodes of this show all these things have taken place. Also, since Perry Mason never loses a case that also means the DA Hamilton Burger seldom wins. Since in Perry Mason’s world all of LA County seems to have only Hamilton Burger to prosecute them, won’t we be surprised if he doesn’t get re-elected next year? I don’t advocate crime or framing someone else with a crime, but if you have to do it then don’t go watch the trial.
How many Perry Mason shows end with, “it was that man that man over there who did it”. Followed by the judge saying “bailiff arrest that man”. Thus the new suspect is apprehended, Perry Mason wins again and justice is served.
Most audience members will be unaffected by Attorney Mason courtroom transgressions and will appreciate this complex drama for what it is. A very enjoyable done-in-one episode story. There appears to be no order needed to watch these in and little character development from one show to the other.
I predict Raymond Burr will be very successful, some might say irreplaceable as Perry Mason spending a lot of time on his feet in the courtroom. Let’s hope in his next role Raymond Burr gets to sit down a little more.
I’ll give the Perry Mason 6 out of 10 surprise witnesses.
Did You Know?
Perry Mason and Della Street had a love interest? It was actually mandated by the sponsor Proctor and Gamble that this be a serious show and there be no love interest. It wasn’t until the Perry Mason movies much later on that they shared an on-screen kiss.
Before Perry Mason, Raymond Burr was considered a B-movie actor and appeared in such Hollywood classics as Gorilla at Large and Tarzan and the She-Devil. One of the reasons he was cast in the lead is that he was a relative unknown and the studio could get him fairly cheaply. Just prior to Perry Mason Burr appeared as reporter Steve Martin in the original Godzilla movie.
Perry Mason actually lost a case? Well he lost two. Now before everyone starts calling in and saying all the others besides the “Case of the Witless Witness” in May of 1963 were overturned there is one other one that everyone has overlooked. In an episode of the Flintstones in September of 1963 Barney and Betty Rubble went to court to win the orphan Bam Bam for adoption. They went up against a rich man who had hired the best lawyer money could buy. His name was Perry Masonary and he had never lost a case. In the middle of the trial the rich man found out his wife was pregnant, the judge ruled in favor of the Rubbles and Perry lost again. Unfortunately they didn’t get Raymond Burr to do the voice it was done by John Stephenson who also played Mr. Slate and was a guest on the Prime time Perry Mason show.
Many people assume that television shows get their start as an original idea in the producer’s head and then get made into a pilot to be sold or passed on by the networks. But often movies are adapted for the small screen to capitalize on their box office popularity. With all my searching the only TV series that I could find that was a direct adaptation of a Broadway play was Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple”. To be fair the play was also made into a film in 1968 which is what most people remember, but the play came first. In September of 1970 this play was made into an ABC TV series.
The concept is very simple:
Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?
Oscar Madison plays Jack Klugman one of the two stars of this show. You may remember Klugman from various guest TV appearances on shows like “The Twilight Zone” but most notably he was a stage actor and in 1965 he replaced Walter Matthau in playing the role of Oscar Madison on Broadway in… you guessed it, the Odd Couple.
Oscar Madison is a man who has been divorced from his wife for a number of years and enjoys living by himself. He’s a slovenly easy-going sports writer who enjoys life, gambles too much, is always broke, and often eats spoiled food. He does however have a very big heart, so when his friend Felix Unger was thrown out by his wife and had nowhere to go Oscar agreed to take him on as a roommate.
As Oscar Madison, Klugman is faced with a difficult role. Most normal people tend to be inherently sloppy, and don’t need to see someone on television emulating things they would like to change about themselves. Knowing this Klugman and the writers make Oscar’s slovenliness go way over the top. Oscar’s bedroom is a disaster and he hides food all around his apartment. Looking beyond all of this required characterization Jack Klugman is immediately and unquestionably the most likeable character on the show. He is an every-man that the audience can easily imagine themselves being friends with.
Tony Randall is the true star of this show as photographer Felix Unger. You may remember Randall for his appearances in the TV show Mr. Peepers in 1955 or from one of my favorite films….hands off this one Rob Stone…the 7 Faces of Dr Lao where he played 7 different characters. As Felix Unger, Randall is the polar opposite of Oscar Madison in many many ways. Felix is a photographer who is very neurotic and a hypochondriac. Felix is also a gourmet chef, a fan of the Opera and many other of the finer things in life. Felix is fussy and fights hard to get his way which usually works its way into most of the show’s plots.
To say that both actors in the series do a fine job in these roles is a huge understatement. The dynamic between these two characters takes off like a runaway train. This also explains the distinct lack of any real supporting characters worth mentioning other than their friend Murray the Cop who’s chief role seems to play poker and drive them around in his police car. There also really aren’t many episodes that focus on Felix and Oscars jobs. In the play they were both newspaper writers, the TV series changed them to a Sports-Writer and a Photographer, but honestly you could make these two anything else… maybe even a Coroner and a Judge and it wouldn’t make any difference. The chemistry is in the characters not in the plot-lines the rest of the episodes seemed to just seem to write themselves around these two strong well developed characters.
I predict these two actors will do well in this show but it will cast a huge shadow over the rest of their careers. Klugman and Randall were both born to play these roles and have a unique chemistry that I’m sure will define their careers if not their friendship for years to come. It will also create big shoes which many will try to fill but I don’t see anyone ever playing a better Felix and Oscar.
I’ll give the Odd Couple 10 out of 10 honking nasal sprays.
This is Len Mihalovich, part-time action hero and full-time TV remote operator for the Bobby Katzen Baby Boomer and Gen X Show. Tune in next time, same Kat-time same Kat-channel. But for now, don’t touch that dial, because Bobby is back.
Did You Know?
CBS has edited out almost all of the music in the DVD releases show so as not to pay royalties, and HULU is omitting episodes with guest stars for similar reasons?
While out for a run, I ran into Tony Randall pushing a baby carriage at the North Falmouth Garden center in the late 1990s? I thought it was his grandchild and oops! In fact it was his daughter. At 75, he had married a 25-year-old woman and this was his daughter Julia who was born in 1997.
Klugman and Randall were best friends in real life? In 1988 when Jack Klugman lost his vocal cords to throat cancer, Tony Randall helped him get back into acting. Touring the country to raise money for Randall’s theater group.
When I said I was going to review an Irwin Allen show last week everyone probably assumed I was going to review Lost in Space. Irwin Allen created Lost in Space and created some truly GROUNDBREAKING television in 1965. However in order to keep up with the popularity of the Batman TV show, the decision was made after Season 1 to change Lost in Space from serious science fiction to more campy funny space adventures.
Everyone is familiar with Lost in Space and associates it with being campy. But what if that hadn’t happened? What if Irwin Allen was allowed to tell a true science fiction story about travelers from Earth marooned on a strange planet? Now in 1968 with the premiere of Land of the Giants, it seems Irwin Allen is granted his wish for a do-over.
Land of the Giants is the story of a sub-orbital futuristic airline flight from the year 1983. The spacecraft Spindrift is caught in a strange magnetic space storm and crash lands on a planet where everything is twelve times larger than on Earth.
The visual effects are simple but clever in most cases, and crude in a few other places. The shots of the “little people” are taken from a camera angle looking down, and the views of the giants are shot from an angle looking up. This creates a visual distinction of who is on what side. Other standard Hollywood tricks like matted shots are combined with a very over-used fake giant hand on a crane to round out the list of special effects. Man, woman, black, white, every giant had this same Caucasian fake hand. If you look closely you can actually see the cast jump into the hand when they get “grabbed” by the giant.
The cast consists of no big stars, just character actors that you may have seen in the background of many network television shows. Gary Conway plays Captain Steve Burton, Don Matheson is millionaire inventor Mark Wilson, Stefan Angrim is a boy genius Barry Lockridge, Don Marshall plays co-pilot Dan Erickson, Heather Young is flight attendant Betty Hamilton, Kurt Kasznar is Admiral Alexander Fitzhugh, and my FRIEND Deanna Lund who plays heiress Valerie Scott.
The characterizations are typical for an adventure series. Captain Burton is written as the stereotypical leader, but somehow Conway does not come off as likeable enough in the role. As luck would have it the millionaire inventor on the flight also owns the company that built the spacecraft so he offers the promise to fix the ship and get everyone home. Valerie Scott is a spoiled strong-willed heiress who’s job it seems is it to point out the dangers all around them to the audience. Co-pilot Dan Erickson is underused to the point where he, like flight attendant Betty are completely written out of some shows. Matheson as inventor Mark Wilson shows strong leadership skills, is very likeable, but is NOT the leader of the group. This is often the source of conflict as Wilson oversteps quite a bit.
Lastly the passenger list is rounded out with a young boy, Barry Lockridge, his dog chipper and a very nervous Admiral Fitzhugh who we discover has stolen 1 million dollars from somewhere before leaving Earth. The temptation here would be to replicate Fitzhugh into a Dr. Smith type character, however Kasznar as Fitzhugh goes far out of his way to not be Dr. Smith. Some stories do demand that Fitzhugh mirror that character from time to time, but though cowardly, selfish and complaining, he contributes to the group and goes out of his way to protect his friends.
Giant land goes largely unexplored, probably because the cast was made to do all their own stunts and the chief complaint was all the rope climbing they needed to do every episode. I realize it is called “Land of the Giants” and not “Land of things conveniently located next to each other” but there is SO MUCH CLIMBING. Really I don’t need to see all seven cast members climb up the rope. I really don’t. So much of the show is consumed with the cast coming and going from the ship to the point of interest, and back, it takes too much time and doesn’t help the plot.
The John Williams theme song is snappy and worthy of his talents but the rest of the soundtrack is not of the same caliber as Lost in Space.
In the pilot episode the Giants don’t speak, which is clever but does little to advance the story, so that is changed in the very next episode. Most episodes follow a formula and almost always revolve around the chance to go back to Earth or capture. The capture stories usually involve the “little people” bargaining their freedom in exchange for teaching a skill to the giants that is common on Earth but conveniently missing in the Giant’s society.
Land of the Giants has all the elements needed to succeed as Season 1 Lost in Space did but never really takes off, mostly due to the writing. I remember watching this show with my family and enjoying it very much. I predict the audience for this show is not going to GROW beyond that of a small but loyal cult status. I’m not saying this show is bad actually many episodes are very enjoyable but like my high school guidance counselor used to like to say… it is not living up to it’s potential.
I’ll give Land of the Giant 6 out of 10 rope climbing little people.
Did You Know?
In the review I mentioned that Deanna Lund was my friend. I was not friends with her in the conventional sense. Let me explain.
One of my cousins was a receptionist for a talent agency. One day Deanna Lund came in. They chatted and somehow the topic of her crazy cousin with the video club came up. Deanna was so taken by the idea she wrote me a letter right in the office and handed it to my cousin to send to me along with an autographed photo. I wrote her back telling her more about the club and that WLVI channel 68 in Worcester was one of the few channels running Land of the Giants and everyone wanted me to record it for them.
Deanna later mailed me autographed photos for everyone in the club, and she enrolled me in her fan club “Friends of Deanna Lund”. Deanna Lund new-letters came regularly in the mail as did more autographed photos. Later she also mailed me a copy of her novella “Valerie in Giant-Land” asking for my opinion on her writing. Later Sadly I lost touch with her after about 5 years later when I had stopped doing the club and she was helping someone get their business off the ground. Deanna Lund died in 2018 she was a wonderful person who adored Land of the Giants Fans.
Love American Style was an anthology of funny romantic comedies that ran from 1969 to 1974. In February of 1972 the show ran an episode called “Love and the Happy Days”.
Happy Days was a story about a family in the mid-1950s who were one of the first ones on the block to get a television set. The teenage son Richie and his friend Potsie tried to use this as a “chick magnet”.
In September of 1974 Richie, Potsie and the whole Cunningham family were back with their own show. Ron Howard is perfectly cast for the lead role. Very quickly you forget him as Opie Taylor child star of the Andy Griffith show and become totally immersed in his role as Richie Cunningham. Richie’s friends Potsie whom we met in the Love American Style pilot is played by Anson Williams and new friend Ralph Malph played by Donny Most are just as naïve and are often the source of getting Richie into even more trouble. The three work well together as the characters are all very similar both in upbringing and life experience… or lack thereof.
The writing for the first season of Happy Days was insightful. Richie and his friends face the various challenges of being 1950s teenagers whose parents won’t let them do anything. In these first few shows the boys got their first car, Richie dated a girl with a reputation, they got into a drag race, a a stag party, pledged a club, and we’re introduced to a new friend named Fonzie.
Arthur Fonzarelli also known as the Fonz is the cultural leader of the group. He is a little older with much more life experience than of the gang, and the boys will often seek out his advice. Fonzie is played by Henry Winkler. Although this character started the show with a very minor role, he quickly replaced Potsie as Richie’s conduit to making bad choices in 1955 Milwaukee. Initially Fonzie dressed like James Dean in Rebel without a cause but later donned a leather jacket to make him look more like the typical 1950s greaser.
To watch Fonzie in this first season of the show is to watch the birth of a breakout character. Henry Winkler as Fonzie is cool, the kind of cool that defines cool for a generation. The chemistry between Ron Howard and Henry Winkler was far better than with Howard and present co-star Anson Williams and this fact did not escape the notice of show-runner Garry Marshall. In only took a few episodes until we start seeing Fonzie not only appear in every show but he was often the focus of many of the episodes. A particular favorite of mine was Fonzie drops in, where he re-enrolls in high school.
The rest of Happy Days is a great ensemble cast. The parents are under-used but every once in a while actor Tom Bosley playing Richie’s dad Howard Cunningham, who was a recast from the pilot plays offers some timeless wisdom to let his son Richie see the error of his ways. Also Richie’ Mom played by Marion Ross will come to the rescue in some common-sense unexpected way. Richie’s younger sister Joanie played by Erin Moran also recast from the pilot has a sharp wit and is often very funny when she routinely exposes Richie’s schemes to his parents. Richie’s older brother Chuck was also a recast from the pilot and it seems is only in the show to stay true to the original Love American Style episode. He quickly moves out of the Cunningham home and the show. I wouldn’t be surprised if he soon becomes a distant memory even to his own family.
Enjoy the show for the 1950s family fun that it is and don’t take it too seriously. The writers called it Happy Days because it is remembering the good aspects of growing up in the 1950s and not focusing on the negative things at the time. In this version of 1955 Milwaukee there are no racial tensions, no ethnic slurs, no cold war, and the only crime we see is drag racing and rumbles.
The flaws in the show are the inaccuracies. Look back shows are always fun but have trouble keeping true to the original timing of events, often drawing on things in the future because they may be a better fit and the audience for the most part won’t notice. For example although the show was set in 1955 you often heard Splish Splash by Bobby Darrin which was recorded in 1958 and Bye Bye Love from 1957. Perhaps the jukebox at Arnolds Drive-In uses the same time-machine as the Bob Katzen show.
I predict this show will go on for a few more seasons and be successful, but eventually the boys need to graduate from Jefferson high and the audience will outgrow their antics. Fonzie is a great character and I expect to see more of him, but his cool will wear off eventually. After all I don’t see future generations putting his leather jacket in a museum or anything.
I’ll give Happy Days 9 jumping sharks out of 10.
Mission Impossible premiered in September of 1966. A few months before that my father was asked to be part of a test audience during a trip to New York City. He watched the pilot in a chair with two buttons. He was to press the one in his left hand if he was enjoying the show and the one in his right hand if he was not.
He told me he kept the right button down the whole time because he didn’t like the show and found it hard to follow. This is surprising as he was always a fan of the spy genre.
Fortunately I don’t agree with his comments at all. Mission Impossible is a refreshing look at a spy television show. When I first came upon it I was afraid we would be seeing James Bond turned into an American TV show. This is not the case at all.
The show cleverly sets up a covert government operation at the beginning of each show with a narrator giving an overview and then the messaging device exploding immediately afterwards. Then Dan Briggs played by Steven Hill, the head of the Impossible Mission Force will review a stack of resumes and select his team from the pile of possible part-time operatives.
One high point for me is the team. These people are not trained agents as you would expect in a show like this. These people are all very successful in their respective fields and really don’t need to moonlight working for the secretary of defense. Apparently they are just very committed citizens who feel the need to defend the United States from covert attacks from fictitious countries like Santa Rosa or Valeria.
In the pilot Roland Hand played by Martin Landau is an actor and master of disguise, Cinnamon Carter played by Barbara Bain is a top model, Willy Armitage played by Peter Lupus is a circus strongman, Terry Targo played by Wally Cox is a safe cracker, and Barney Collier played by Greg Morris is a man who owns an electronics company. In the third scene of every show they gather together in Brigg’s apartment to tell the audience “the plan”. The rest of the show follows the plan with two plot threads.
I talked about plot threads last week but didn’t expand on it. Let me take a second to explain. When writing for an ensemble cast, everyone needs to have something going on, but not so much it is hard for the audience to follow. In Dick Van Dyke, the main character was presented with a problem, he would circulate around his home, then to his work. It was a single thread so the audience would follow the character on his journey as he interacted with the entire cast a little at a time.
Mission Impossible uses two threads. The first is the interaction with the villain or mark, establishing trust or expertise with them. The second the audience gets to watch the setup of gadgets or tricks designed to fool the mark. The fun part is the audience gets to be in on it. This greatly adds the suspense of the show as we never know if the mark will catch on.
The gadgets often don’t fit or go wrong, but that is also part of the suspense and part of the fun. The gear is not incredibly high tech and just barely state of the art. I’m sure they are limited to whatever Barney had laying around his electronics store at the time. No super-high tech gadgets here, just real stuff anyone could buy, which again part of the fun.
The acting can be a little stiff at times. As a matter of fact Steven Hill’s portrayal of mission leader Dan Briggs is so flat that you could literally replace him with a white haired actor next season and no one would really notice.
One problem is the characters don’t get developed any further as we go through each episode. Martin Landau does a great job at disguises but later becomes a card shark, sleight of hand expert and whatever else is needed. Greg Morris as Barney is the epitome of 60s cool. He and Peter Lupus who plays Willie do all the heavy lifting in the show, both literally and figuratively and it will be easy to see them become fan favorites. Barbara Bain needs to decide if her character Cinnamon Carter is more like Emma Peel from the Avengers or Ginger Grant from Gilligan’s Island as she is not able to walk the line and be both.
Overall I’ll score the show at 7 frozen TV dinners out of 10. The writing is solid and provides some of the most intriguing stories on television. The theme song is catchy and the cast all work well together.
The flaws are… first as I said no individual character development from one episode to the other. Next, the cast are all too good at their jobs for being part timers, also there is not enough variation in selecting team members. Lastly I would love to see some consequence to being a guest star agent. They never fail or get killed on a mission. The show is already suspenseful but sacrificing a good guy would make the audience jump out of their seats.
I predict that mission impossible will CRUISE into a very successful franchise. Who knows maybe they’ll even get to make a movie out of it.
At first glance this new situation comedy the Dick Van Dyke show seems like a normal family sit-com not that unlike Leave it Beaver or Father Knows Best. However if you look closer it is really more of a biographical piece about series creator Carl Reiner’s real-life experiences as the head writer for “Your Show of Shows” with Sid Caesar.
The lead cast member is Rob Petrie played by Dick Van Dyke whose character is patterned after Reiner. Petrie is a suburban New Yorker and head writer for the fictitious “Alan Brady Show”. Rob’s wife Laura (originally Laurie) Petrie is played by Mary Tyler Moore. Moore is not a exactly a newcomer but you may not remember as the dancing Hot Point Girl or her various appearances as background characters on a number of other shows. Moore although much younger than Van Dyke plays a believable role as the worried mother and harried wife to a tee all the while maintaining a unique suburban sexuality. The pair play very well off of each other. Van Dyke’s small bits of physical comedy are a treat to watch, and there is something written into most every show. However, the one to keep your eye on is Mary Tyler Moore because I’ve got a feeling she’s gonna make it after all. There are other background characters but I won’t mention their son or the neighbors as they are more or less scenery like Rob and Laura’s twin beds or a carefully placed ottoman to trip over.
When Rob Petrie goes off to work the stage is reset from him being a family man trying to keep everyone at home happy to a head writer trying to, well… keep everyone at work happy. Rob has a writing staff of two aspiring performers who clearly settled for writing for a television show. They eagerly trot out singing and dancing numbers at any party but are clearly slacking when seen in the writer’s room. Staff writer Sally Rogers is played by comedienne Rose Marie. Sally is a wise-cracking rough around the edges gal who is so funny she scares away any potential boyfriends. Sally being single is one of the on-going jokes that this show severely over-uses. The other writer Buddy Sorel is played by Morey Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a scene stealer in this show, he delivers lightning fast quips usually at the expense of their middle manager boss and producer of the show Mel Cooley played by Richard Deacon. If Amsterdam is the voice of comedy for this show then Deacon is the microphone the pair have perfect timing and a hilariously adversarial relationship.
At the top of this fictional TV show pyramid sits boss and prima-donna Alan Brady played by series creator Carl Reiner. Reiner isn’t actually in the show a lot, but arguably he kept the best character for himself. Reiner has a ball as Alan Brady pushing everyone in his staff around, making unreasonable demands, and all the while searching for the perfect toupee. Reiner cast himself as the villain in this show and the results are hilarious.
Much like the Alan Brady show which is sometimes a talk show, sometimes a musical variety show and sometimes just a comedy there is a lot going on in Rob Petrie’s life but the story lines are fairly simple and most together nicely in the end. My diagnosis is that this show will go far.
I’ll give this TV show 8 rewound vhs tapes
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