Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Friday, October 16, 2020
Sunday, October 11, 2020
First time watching the pilot for THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E. in decades. I remembered that Mary Ann Mobley preceded Stefanie Powers as a very different, more sophisticated April Dancer but I had totally forgotten that Norman Fell, of all people, was the original Mark Slate! It's even said he had mentored Napolean Solo years earlier. April comments that U.N.C.L.E. regulations require agents of his age to have a desk job. Age jabs occur throughout. Perhaps the later Slate as played by Noel Harrison is this one's (English) son? Who knows? It's never said.
Tuesday, October 06, 2020
Saturday, October 03, 2020
See that man on the left? That's Alfred Eisenstadt, a once-famous photographer for LIFE magazine. That's him on the right, as well. What's that? You thought that was someone else on the left? It's not. The classic 70s history of LIFE's coverage of Hollywood, LIFE GOES TO THE MOVIES, reprints an article in which Eisenstadt was made up by makeup legend Wally Westmore to look like various movie and TV people, "that" man being one. Personally, I've never thought it looked all that much like him, although it's clearly recognizable whom he's meant to be portraying. But every year on the anniversary of that man's death, or the anniversary of his birth, or just in sometimes made-up quotes from him in memes, that picture turns up. They say it IS him. They never take it down if I tell them otherwise. They never acknowledge it, and more and more people--also thinking it IS him and ignoring me--continue to share the photo. There are at least two BOOKS I know of that inaccurately include that photo...on their covers!! I don't even know why I'm posting this as it will likely be ignored by all except those who already know.
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
HOT IN CLEVELAND was a TV series I ignored for all six seasons it aired on TV Land, between 2010 and 2015. The one exception I made was for the highly publicized MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW reunion episode.
Ignoring it turned out to be a big mistake on my part. As of yesterday, I have now finished watching all 129 episodes and the series has safely ensconced itself into my all-time Top 10 favorite sitcoms list!
Why? The writing. That and the absolute fearlessness of the regular cast—Wendie Malick, Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Betty White. If you’ve ever imagined what a completely uncensored sitcom might look like, this was it, and, in the great tradition of Lucy and Viv, the talented actresses had no problems whatsoever in making their characters look silly or unattractive or even—in this case—slutty and underhanded. Anything for a laugh. Literally, ANYthing for a laugh!
I wished I’d kept track of how many men these women—all four of them—slept with on the series, but then I realized that would go against the purpose of the series, which is to show that women of any and all ages are sexual beings and that their lives and desires are valid.
There are a couple of shows that aired LIVE, there’s a fully animated episode, there are several behind-the-scenes episodes and blooper episodes.
Loaded with in-jokes and references to classic television programs, one of the best things about HOT IN CLEVELAND is its endless parade of high-profile guest stars from classic TV. Georgia Engel and Dave Foley are semi-regulars in later seasons. Soap goddess Susan Lucci appears or is name-checked often as an exaggerated version of herself. Here’s a partial list of others that were so much fun to see again:
Mary Tyler Moore
Pat Harrington, Jr
Ed Begley, Jr
Cedric the Entertainer
And that’s just SOME! In the case of a few of these actors who have since passed, their appearance on HOT IN CLEVELAND turned out to be their last acting role!
All in all, I was impressed, amazed at the risks they took and got away with, and ashamed to admit that I never thought it worth checking out until it had been off the air for five years. It’s often compared to THE GOLDEN GIRLS but I watched that series and other than the basic “four women” setup and the presence of Betty White (as a VERY different character) I really don’t see the comparison. Don’t get the impression that it was all sex jokes and barbed jabs at aging, either. Every step of the way, the show displayed more genuine heart than I’ve seen on a TV series in years. I highly recommend HOT IN CLEVELAND.
Sunday, September 27, 2020
ABC STAGE 67 premiered with a lot of advance press in the fall of 1966 but didn't last beyond one season. Shifting time slots undoubtedly played a part but the real problem was the same as with any anthology series--Some episodes were great, others not so much.
Another reason was that some of the announced episodes that sounded very promising ended up not materializing at all, such as a tribute to Mike Nichols, then riding high for directing the Broadway play, LUV.
The Mike Nichols show was announced as being the premiere but as it got closer, a one-hour comedy called THE LOVE SONG OF BARNEY KEMPENSKI (originally planned as BERT KEMPENSKI's NEW YORK) took its place. Written by Murray Schisgal, ironically the author of LUV, it starred Alan Arkin, who had, himself, just scored in the feature film, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING. A combination of absurdist comedy and New York City travelogue, Arkin is a charming delight throughout, flitting from one thing to another, often seeming to be aware that an audience is watching. You can find it on YouTube.
So the show was off to a good start. Another episode featured an all-new musical comedy adaptation of the venerable play, THE CANTERVILLE GHOST. The A-list cast included Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Sir Michael Redgrave, Frankie Howerd (in his only appearance for American TV, I believe), GILLIGAN'S ISLAND's Natalie Schafer, Tippy Walker (from THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT) and Peter Noone, Herman from Herman's Hermits! The book and music was by the folks who had created FIDDLER ON THE ROOF!
Sounds good, doesn't it? VARIETY called it "spiritless" and "soggy" and "a waste of a considerable amount of good talent." I'd have to agree with all of that. It didn't help that they attempted to make the whole thing campy for no apparent reason. THE CANTERVILLE GHOST, too, is available for your verdict on YouTube.
I haven't watched it yet but RODGERS AND HART TODAY shows up in two parts on YouTube. Originally advertised as showcasing the most popular modern singers of 1966--including Nancy Wilson and Tony Bennett--interpreting the composing duo's classic numbers, it looks as though someone informed the producers that those folks--wonderful as they were--really weren't the most popular singers of 1966. In its final form, the vintage Broadway songs are sung by The Supremes, the Mamas and the Papas, Bobby Darin, and Petula Clark, who arguably WERE amongst the most popular singers of their day.
There's one intriguing episode that does NOT seem to be currently viewable anywhere. Sci-fi writer Robert Sheckley was also popular at that time, having written the hit movie THE 10TH VICTIM, then in theaters. ABC STAGE 67 hired him to write THE DIE-OFF, described in ads as "a new hair-rising, original drama." Retitled THE PEOPLE TRAP prior to airing, it told the story of a near-future America described as, "a time of great shortages of air and food and land and housing. Conception of children must be approved by the Pregnancy Police. A history teacher and his wife (Stuart Whitman and Vera Miles) face the consequences of an "unlicensed pregnancy."
Described as "cameo performances," there were reportedly appearances by this diverse cast of co-stars--Cesar Romero, Connie Stevens, Pearl Bailey, Mort Sahl, Jackie Robinson (!) Michael Rennie, Estelle Winwood, Betty Furness, Mercedes McCambridge!
Other episodes of ABC STAGE 67 included Rick Nelson and Joanie Sommers interpreting the music of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, a story in which Anthony Perkins lives in a department store, and Truman Capote's CHRISTMAS MEMORY, perhaps the best-remembered one of all.
But again, as with all anthologies, inconsistency is the enemy, and the series, unique as it was, ended.