Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Can 2 divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?

With CBS airing a new version of THE ODD COUPLE starring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon beginning tomorrow night, here's a post from 2008 when I was just starting to watch season 4 of THE ODD COUPLE on dvd, and I declared that the show, in my opinion is the second greatest American sitcom ever. That's right, I said it.
After MARY TYLER MOORE, no other US sitcom is more consistently funny, well-acted or holds up as well over the years. Based on Neil Simon's Broadway play and adapted into a 1968 feature starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. The TV version, starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall premiered on September 24, 1970 and ran for five seasons in a variety of timeslots on ABC - usually on Thursday or Friday nights. The series was never a Top 10 hit, and actually was in danger of cancellation every season it aired. The first season is quite unremarkable, having been filmed with one camera and an added laugh track. The show really came to life in season two, when a live audience was added to react to the mis-matched antics of Oscar and Felix.
The show really took off in popularity in the late 1970s when syndicated reruns aired on local stations. Channel 11, WPIX air four episodes a night. Two in early evening and two at 11PM. I watched them all, repeatedly. And watching them again now on dvd is, to quote a friend of mine "a sheer delight".
What makes the show so great? Well, Felix and Oscar are such great, unique characters - and because of that, so many later sitcom characters borrow freely from them. You can certain see traits of fastidious Felix in Sheldon from BIG BANG THEORY and Niles from FRASIER. Oscar's grouchy brashness has influenced a whole generation of cranky comedy curmudgeons, notable EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND's Frank Barone. While the show lacked continuity in so many instances (don't get me started!), the interplay between the two leads and excellent supporting players make this the best thing Garry Marshall has ever been part of. While the show "jumps the shark" with celebrity guests (Monty Hall, Howard Cosell, Paul Williams, etc.), it makes up for it with clever plots that incorporate the guest stars into the world of Felix and Oscar. Since Felix is a portrait photographer and Oscar is a sportswriter, it makes sense that they encounter these folks in New York City. Why not? I once rode in an elevator with Howard Cosell. He had big ears. AND I was a contestant on the most recent version of LET'S MAKE A DEAL! (Even though that happened in L.A. and Billy Bush-yuck!-was the host, but Monty was there. See photo below)But enough about me. While I was watching the classic PASSWORD episode recently, with guests Betty White and Allen Ludden, I wondered if any other MARY TYLER MOORE alumni ever appeared on THE ODD COUPLE. With a little research I discovered that in addition to Betty White ("Herself" on OC,"Sue Ann Nivens" on MTM), there was Bill Quinn ("Dr. Melnitz" on OC,"Dr. Walter Richards," Mary's dad on MTM), Penny Marshall ("Myrna Tuner" on OC, "Paula" on MTM), Barbara Colby ("Monique" the drunk bartender on OC, "Sherry" the hooker on MTM) and the late, great Brett Somers ("Blanche Madison" on OC and "Aunt Rose" on MTM). Not bad, considering the shows aired on different network during roughly the same period.
Both actors won Emmy Awards for their roles. Jack in 1971 and 1973, Tony in 1975 - after the show was cancelled. The duo reunited for a misguided 1993 CBS TV-movie called THE ODD COUPLE: TOGETHER AGAIN. I guess ABC's miserable MARY & RHODA reunion movie was payback. Jack and Tony had become best friends in real life, and after Tony's death in 2004, Jack wrote a memoir about their relationship, called Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship. The book has been hailed as a touching portrait of a professional partnership that, in the end, became deeply personal. The book includes over 50 photographs, many from Jack and Tony's private collections, and a DVD of never-seen-before outtakes from THE ODD COUPLE.
In the 1980s, THE ODD COUPLE was revived - with an an almost all African-American cast. Demond (SANFORD & SON) Wilson is Oscar and Ron (BARNEY MILLER) Glass is Felix. THE NEW ODD COUPLE could have been a descent show if they didn't decide to recycle scripts from the original series that were already considered classics by fans of the show. Ironically another black version of a Neil Simon play, BAREFOOT IN THE PARK only lasted 12 episodes on ABC in 1970, also airing on Thursday evenings. I'm holding out for a new version of THE SUNSHINE BOYS with James Earl Jones and Samuel L. Jackson.

And now it's 2015 - and THE ODD COUPLE is back on Thursday nights - this time on CBS. Will the third time be a charm?

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Douglas Michael Show with Juul Haalmeyer

Here's a Juultide treat from 2009.SECOND CITY TELEVSION or SCTV in all it’s incarnations (in syndication, on NBC and on Cinemax) is remembered as one of the funniest TV series of all time.This outrageous Canadian sketch comedy import launched the careers of such greats as John Candy, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Catherine O’Hara, Harold Ramis, Martin Short, Dave Thomas, Joe Flaherty and a few others – including Juul Haalmeyer. Chances are if you've ever seen a SCTV sketch, you've seen Juul's work.Juul Haalmeyer was SCTV's resident costume designer, who was also featured on the show as the choreographer of Melonville's top dance troupe, the Juul Haalmeyer Dancers, a pathetically incompetent ensemble of variety show dancers made up mostly of writers and crew on SCTV. I consider Juul one of my comedy heroes and a unsung TV legend!!!Over the years, Juul also worked as a costume designer for many movies, TV shows, theatre and concert productions. He's done all the classics from ALL MY SONS to LONG DAYS JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, his designs have dressed everyone from Jack Lemmon to Alice Cooper, from Shari Lewis to Jethro Tull, from Dolly Parton to Anne Murray, from Bobby Vinton to Bobby Bittman! It is with great honor that I welcome my guest, Juul Haalmeyer!!!
DOUG: Hi Juul, first of all let me say thank you for all the laughter you and the folks at SCTV have given me over the years. The show is a true classic. I watched it from the very first episode (on WOR TV channel 9 in New York) to the very last Cinemax episode. In fact I subscribed to Cinemax just to watch SCTV! Now exactly when did you join the show?

JUUL: Well, unfortunately I didn’t do the first season because there just wasn’t enough money; and I thought that there was way too much material to get out per week for me to be able to handle. It just looked too scary and daunting and I thought I’m not going to kill myself over a show! That’s my biggest regret with SCTV because it did turn out to be the most rewarding and enjoyable experience of my career.DOUG: Well, thankfully you we able to join the show for season 2. I read somewhere that it took 100 hours a week to make one of the 90-minute NBC shows. Is that true?

JUUL :Yes it did, and sometimes more. It was a real slog, and after each three month cycle, you just had to scrape yourself off the floor and pray the next cycle would be easier. But it never was; it just kept growing bigger!DOUG: Bigger and BETTER-If you ask me! So who was your favorite character or player to design for?

JUUL: ALL OF THEM! The cast of course were all very special people and each one of their characters were very endearing. The challenge came in the situations they wrote for themselves as to how complicated the sketch would become from a wardrobe point of view. Could not have done it without the incredible help of Luigi, the head cutter at Malabar costumes, Eva Richter, who always had an impossible shopping list, and my mother, Trudy Haalmeyer, who cut and sewed everything on set.
DOUG: With all the crazy folks that passed through the doors of SCTV - was there any character that stands out as being the most creatively challenging? I somehow think John Candy as Divine must have been a case where you had to top what the real Divine was already wearing!

JUUL: Again, it was my support staff that saved my ass on everything; whether it was "Shake and Bake" (twenty nine period costumes in primary colours in three days) or Edith Prickley as Queen Elizabeth (the first with two days notice),Divine as Peter Pan, or Divine On Ice; You name it! The challenge was always the time frame within which we had to get it together, and again, my team deserves all of the credit.

DOUG: That Divine On Ice number - Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me is still one of the most hysterical things I've ever seen. And you and the boys are featured prominently in that segment. So, how did the Juul Haalmeyer dancers come about?
JUUL: Well, you can’t hire people to be as bad as we were, so when Lola Heatherton needed dancers she (Catherine O'Hara) remembered that I had done musical theater. But they would let me sing, turn the light off, and yank me offstage, because I just didn’t move well, as you’ve seen. It became a group of writers, sometimes cast, grips, propmen, whoever was available that day. God, it was fun though. Nice to know that anytime you need a bad actor, loud singer, or really lousy dancer, you can depend on someone on your crew to come through! Voila!
DOUG : Did you ever have any formal dance training?

JUUL: What are you smokin' dude?????? Of course not! I did take a Dancercise class one year to get some excess poundage off, which worked, at The Roland and Romaine Academy of Dance,but they always made me move to the back of the class because I always farted with the first bend down in the warmups!
DOUG: That's hysterical. What makes you think I was smoking something while watching SCTV? LOL. It's great that people all over the world are rediscovering the magic of Juul Haalmeyer!JUUL: I'm on Facebook now (I had never heard of it before), and guess what turned up? A Juul Haalmeyer Dancer fan club based in ICELAND! I hope they're not just now getting SCTV! I have gotten more notoriety from the bad dancing than anything I have ever done as a costume designer in the last 40 years.
DOUG: Iceland! How cool is that? Do you keep in touch with any of the cast members?

JUUL: Not really. It was great to see all of them at a very generous 'Benefit of Laughter' reunion show they did last year to set up an SCTV alumni fund for ailing participants of the show. I did get to work on the Disney film COOL RUNNINGS (1993) with John–which was a real privilege and an absolute blast. Ten weeks of poker and dominos in the sun!DOUG: Aside from the charity performance, do you think there would ever be a SCTV REUNION SPECIAL? And if so, would the Dancers come out of retirement?

JUUL: I don’t think that’s in the cards, with everyone’s careers as diverse as they are, but it would be nice. As for the dancers, I don’t think we can get enough day passes issued out of retirement homes at the same time to let all of the dancers come together again! Although I hear that Ellen Degeneres wants to challenge us to a Dance Off!

DOUG: LOL - I'd love to see you and Ellen go at it! So, what have you been up to since SCTV left the air? Are you still doing wardrobe these days?

JUUL: In a way. I still have my costume company, Homemade Tarts, and I rent out vintage clothing to the movies, but I don’t do any designing anymore; couldn’t handle the stress of it all. Back in those days they were all wonderful people to work for who appreciated your craft, but now the shows are mostly in the hands of bean counters, who just want to get it done as cheaply as possible, to heck with creativity. I stopped about nine years ago after I won an Emmy for NODDY AND FRIENDS, a childrens show for PBS.DOUG: That's awesome. Belated congratulations on that Emmy! And lastly, is there any truth to the internet rumor that you are going to be on DANCING WITH THE STARS?

JUUL: Ha Ha! That was a very clever and funny piece someone posted and I got over one hundred e-mails from people who actually believed it! Had a lot of fun with that one! Found the guy who wrote it and he’s just a big fan of the show.

DOUG : Well, you never know with internet rumors. Once something is out the in the universe, it could very well happen! Thanks again for being a guest and being so entertaining!
JUUL: Thank you, It’s been great talking with you!

Friday, December 19, 2014

My Wall of Christmas Music

Here's an old chestnut from 2010...

Regular visitors to the humble home of Dougsploitation know that the "LP wall" is a revolving gallery of the finest long playing record art imaginable. The holiday season is always the hardest time of the year to decide what records to frame because I own so many great ones - and I acquire new ones each year. This year's six:
Not to be confused with the STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL, Christmas in the Stars is the STAR WARS Christmas Album. I found this recently at Amoeba Records, and didn't have time to listen to it before it made it to the wall. It features the original voices of R2D2 and C3PO!
As a companion I have the soundtrack to the 1977 Nelvana animated holiday special, A COSMIC CHRISTMAS featuring songs and music by Canadian Crystal Gayle lookalike Sylvia Tyson.
Christmas: A Gift of Music Vol 3 featuring a creepy collection of Christmas dolls and a selection of songs from a variety of artists from Dinah Shore to The Korean Orphan Choir. Those orphans can really sing!
Next up is last year's favorite Sing with Marcy. I won't go on about her again. I swear.
Santa and the 3 Bears is another animated soundtrack. This one is from a 1970 low-budget theatrical release which turned up on local stations in the late 70s as an hour-long special. The album came with a dimensional Santa decoration (still intact) !
Last, but certainly not least is Elvin The Little Black Elf from 1982, described as "A Musical Christmas Special About Our Newest Christmas Hero." I don't think the special was ever made, but it's nice to know the soundtrack was released. I love Elvin. Here's a few of my other favorites that didn't make this year's wall.
Four exciting Christmas adventures of THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN. Bionics and Christmas go together like Superheroes and Christmas...
Exciting Christmas Stories starring Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. I miss Peter Pan Records.
Christmas at Home starring a big, scary baby.
Christmas with the King Family...one of my childhood obsessions.
Christmas with Colonel Sanders - he brought the world greasy, artery-clogging fried chicken so therefore he must know a lot about Christmas.
So much so that he even had another Christmas album - though it looks like the old guy may not make it through the evening.
Speaking of not making it through the night, I always read this album's title as "Merry Christmas from the Hillside Stranglers."
And finally, one of my all-time favorites, Imagine the Joys of Christmas presented by Sylvania light bulbs and featuring a family that clearly forgot to pay their electric bill. Sad.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

King Family Revisited

Last night I met Cam Clarke, son of the great Alyce King. Here's a rerun of a post from Easter 2009.When I was a kid I was obsessed with The King Family.The King Family was this humongous group of clean-cut, mostly-blond, well-dressed white folk who sang cover versions of songs made famous by other people. These were mostly showtunes, spirituals and patriotic songs like Climb Every Mountain, He's Got the Whole in His Hands and America the Beautiful. Sometimes they all dressed alike and sometimes they even dressed like royalty!
The King Sisters (Donna, Yvonne, Louise and Alyce) and their extended musical family had their own ABC prime-time variety series from 1965-66. It was sort of like THE LAWRENCE WELK SHOW if Lawrence had fathered everyone.

In all, some thirty-seven members of the King family, ranging in age from seven months to 79 years, were featured on the show. I wanted to be one.

A short-lived 1969 revival, also on ABC, focused on the younger, hipper King Cousins. Don't they look cool? Back in 1969, channel 11 in LA ran a special Thanksgiving themed hour featuring the King Family - right after an hour of THE BARBARA McNAIR SHOW! Man, sometimes I wish I had a time machine. Actually, I do - it's called PBS.
After this blog post original ran in April 2009 I received several emails and comments from people who also grew up watching the King Family. additionally, a producer of a King Family Christmas special for PBS contacted me.  Visit their officiall website here for more info about the talented clan. Also the DVDs of the shows and specials are available through Cam Clarke, son of Alyce King. Visit his website for more info.