Monday, November 26, 2012

THE BIG EVENT: Christmas Around The World?

From last year....

NBC once had a weekly Sunday night "showcase" called THE BIG EVENT that featured movies, miniseries, and specials. While some shows were big events, others were just slot fillers. Not sure what to make of CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD. You decide.
90 minutes of celebrations from 22 countries..that's BIG. Sponsored by McDonalds...that's BIGGER! Hosted by William Conrad? That's BIGGEST! Featuring Vikki ("It Must Be Him") Carr, MGM legend Gene Kelly, French mime Marcel Marceau, Fifth Dimension refugees Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., acclaimed International actress Liv Ullman, TV legend Dick Van Dyke and comedy genius Jonathan Winters. That's pretty BIG. Introducing Scott Beach and Larry Finlayson. Yes - Scott Beach, the original voice of Garfield the cat! And Larry Finlayson - who went on to star, nothing. Looking up Misters Beach and Finlayson on IMBD, you will discover that Scott did much voiceover work and some on-screen acting before his death in 1995 - but Larry doesn't even have a listing. As a matter of fact, this entire show doesn't not have an IMDB entry! How can that be? It even had a TV Guide "close up"... oompah band and Maude Frickert??? And this is not on IMDB? Where's the justice people?
Now I'm beginning to wonder if this show ever even aired at all. It's not on Jonathan Winter's resume, there are no screen shots, just an illustrated TV Guide ad and a clip art nativity scene. I mean if Vikki Carr isn't still talking about it...maybe it was all a dream. Maybe Larry Finlayson didn't exist? Perhaps it was all a McDonald's junk food induced nightmare. But come on , how cool would it be to hear the Trinidad steel drum cover of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Disturbing TOYS FOR TOTS ad...

Yes, I know that Love Is... was a popular and adorable comic strip back in the 1970s and I know that TOYS FOR TOTS is an important charity... but really did the two concepts need to meet?
What were they thinking? Naked children in a local Los Angeles TV GUIDE ad promoting a toy collection for Christmas? Somehow I don't think this would fly today...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

WE WON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Again)

So happy to be re-posting what I did four years ago. Not only am I thrilled for four more years of Obama, but all the other victories for women, for the LGBT community, for legalization of weed and other progressive ideals - and for the failure of the hateful racism of the Tea Party, the super PACs, religious fanatics, Ayn Randian politics, rape-obsessed old white men and lying, tax-evading billionaires. This is a wonderful day to be an American. Let's all move FORWARD!

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Here's a post from a while back...
Another ABC MOVIE OF THE WEEK gem from the Warner Archive Collection, BAD RONALD (1974, directed by Buzz Kulik, a veteran TV director, who would later helm over many epic miniseries including FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, RAGE OF ANGELS, GEORGE WASHINGTON and JACKIE COLLINS' LUCKY/CHANCES) is based on a novel by John Holbrook Vance.
BAD RONALD tells the tale of geeky Ronald Wilby (Scott Jacoby, later Dorothy's son Michael on GOLDEN GIRLS), who lives with his overbearing and obviously ill mom (PLANET OF THE APES star Kim Hunter) and has an over-active imagination.
Mom gives Ronald a new toolbox for his birthday, but things start to go bad for Ronald when he dresses to impress a popular girl at school, who snubs him when he shows up at her pool party.
On the way home, Ronald encounters the first of many Jan Brady lookalikes.
This bratty blond on a bicycle teases Ronald so much that he schmushes her face.

During the schmushing, the girl accidentally falls backwards and cracks open her head on a cinderblock.
What does our boy Ronald do? He buries her and goes home, where his mom is waiting. When he tells mother what he did, she comes up with a plan!
Mom decides to hide Ronald in the downstairs bathroom - and soon Ronald uses his new tools to put up a wall where the door should be - HGTV style!
 A small doorway in the kitchen pantry is Ronald's way into and out of his luxurious new studio apartment!
When the cops show up looking to question Ronald, Mrs. Wilby tells them he's run away.
It's not all bad for Ronald. He gets to skip school and eat chocolate all day.
He also gets to work out and write his epic fantasy novel.
And he gets to paint life-size murals featuring characters from his dreamworld Atranta, an added bonus is that since there's a toilet in this middle of his room - he gets to crap whenever he wants!
Things take an unfortunate turn for the worse when his mom has to go into the hospital for a simple gall bladder operation. Unfortunately, Mom never makes it back home.
That's when Mrs. Kravitz-like nosy neighbor Mrs. Schumacher becomes the bane of his existence.
Ronald uses his drill to forge holes throughout the house, and soon a new family, the Woods, with three Brady-like daughters moves into the house with dad Dabney Coleman (9 TO 5).
 Ronald watches the Woods and takes an interest in one of the Jans.
It's interesting how he is able to pan and zoom from his peephole.
While the Woods are out of the house, Ronald decides to drink their milk and see how they've redecorated.
Of course, Mrs. Schumacher catches a glimpse of him...and falls backwards to her death.
Luckily he knows how to bury people real good. So, now Ronald is responsible for two accidentally deaths. Bad Ronald! Bad!
It turns out that one of the Woods girls is dating the brother of the dead bicycle girl. So what happens when the Mr. and Mrs. Woods parents go away for the weekend?
I'm not gonna tell, but let's say it involves some light bondage involving the said boyfriend,
some of Ronald's life-size paintings and a screaming teen-age princess (who looks like Jan Brady).
All while I'm wishing that Ronald would have taken advantage in being trapped in a bathroom and cleaned up a bit.
 Check out BAD RONALD, an enjoyable and twisted 9 outta 10 old-school thriller.
Also, if you want to read the original novel, it is back in print - in hard cover from a publisher called Andreas Irle. You can purchase the book here and buy the exclusive dvd here.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Doug's TV Time Machine: Variety Edition

A while back I began hosting informal monthly gatherings at my house where a bunch of us guys sit around watching old TV. Not just any old TV, not your run-of-the-mill TV Land reruns, but rare, odd and intriguing TV shows. I invited a select few friends and told them to bring any old, cool TV shows or clips that they might wanna share. These nights have now been dubbed TV TIME MACHINE and are now just about my favorite thing in the world. Where else but in my own living room could I be entertained by gems from TV's past like these...
PINK LADY AND JEFF - The notoriously bad NBC variety series that aired on Friday nights in the spring of 1980. This six-episode concoction from the warped minds of Sid & Marty Krofft has given me more laughs over the years than just about anything. From it's deer-in-the-headlights hostesses Mie and Kei to their "round eyed" co-host Jeff Altman, this DONNY & MARIE-like hour was designed to entertain us as we laughed along with the trio as they grow accustomed to each other and their traditions. Unfortunately, the offensive pandering makes the duo (who were chart-toppers in their native Japan) seem like awkward victims of a cruel prank. My lord, they even made them wear tee-shirts with their names on them so audiences could tell them apart! Celebrity guests included Bert Parks (he must have been real big with the kids in 1980), Sherman Hemsley, Sid Caesar (another teenybopper favorite), Donny Osmond, Larry Hagman (Jeez - how did they ever get HIM?), sex monkey Greg (BJ & THE BEAR) Evigan, Hugh Hefner (WTF?), Lorne (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) Greene, Boomer (NBC's answer to BENJI), Red Buttons, Florence ("I'll do anything as long as I get to sing" Henderson, Jerry ("Is this a telethon?") Lewis, Alice Cooper, Roy ("Pretty Woman") Orbison and Bobby ("Blue Velvet") Vinton! Ernest (Jim Varney) even shows up in a few episodes. Blondie "appears" in Episodes 1 and 4 via their videos for "Shayla" and "Eat to the Beat" as does Cheap Trick with "Dream Police". The highlight of each episode is when the gals attempt to phonetically sing popular English-language songs like "Boogie Wonderland," "You Needed Me," "Le Freak," and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". The forced comedy moments between the duo and painfully unfunny Altman are only topped by the gratuitous hot tub scene at the close of each hour. Pure trash TV nirvana. I recall asking a girl in high school if she watched this show and her response was, "Doug, are you gay?"
A couple of notches above PINK LADY on the quality ladder is THE LOLA FALANA show. The Vegas superstar headlined a series of ABC specials during the mid-1970s which highlighted her vocal prowess and sexy body. Along with guests like Bill Cosby, Billy Dee Williams and Redd Foxx - Lola's show was the hippest place in town. Odd comedy sketches featuring Pat Morita are unwatchable, but the musical numbers featuring absolutely amazing costumes and wildly inventive choreography place these four crowd-pleasing hours up on the mantle of must-see TV. At a recent screening, even the token straight guy was yelling out "fabulous1"
Mitzi Gaynor is the queen of the TV Variety Special. I've blogged previously about the PBS special which featured clips from all her network outings. Now, thanks to a friend, I have seen two of those specials in their entirety.
Mitzi: A Tribute to the American Housewife (1974) and Mitzi...and a Hundred Guys (1975) are two incredibly entertaining hours of television. Packed with great guest stars, over-the-top costumes and brilliant dance numbers that showcase the barrel of dynamite that Mitzi was (and still is!). For my birthday tribute to Mitzi from last fall, go here.
All joking aside, Cass Elliot was a tremendous talent. From her years as a member of The Mama & The Papas to her great performance in the PUFNSTUF film - Cass was on the brink of superstardom when she tragically died. Her groovy 1969 ABC special, THE MAMA CASS TELEVISION PROGRAM featured wonderful performances by Cass and guests like Joni Mitchell and the late Mary Travers (looking beautiful here). This here is a "flower power" variety hour.
Requisite guest stars include loud-mouth comic Buddy Hackett and the then-married Martin Landau and Barbara Bain (stars of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and later SPACE: 1999). An odd, yet enjoyable hour.
Speaking of odd. LUCY CALLS THE PRESIDENT - more of a sitcom special than a variety special - is a strange hour indeed. Rather than revisit any of her previous Lucy characters, here Ms. Ball casts herself as Lucy Whittaker, a housewife who is expecting a visit from President Jimmy Carter. Along for the ride are familiar cohorts like Vivian Vance (sadly performing with a post-stroke slur), Gale Gordon (as a staunch Republican), Mary Jane Croft, Mary Wickes and newcomer Ed McMahon (as Lucy's husband).
There are a few genuine laughs along the way, mostly at Gale's expense, and Lucy's standby physical schtick always manages to resurface. Two other 1970s specials: LUCY GETS LUCKY (with Dean Martin) and THREE FOR TWO (with Jackie Gleason) are also curiosities best viewed with the fast forward button pressed. Lastly, in the variety category, we were treated to a 1969 episode of THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW.
This episode featured veteran World War II performers Martha Raye and Betty Grable as guests and is notable because it was the first appearance of AS THE STOMACH TURNS, the long-running soap spoof.

Oddly, the sketch was about the LAST episode of the soap, and how the show tied up it's loose ends. In the real world CBS's AS THE WORLD TURNS ended in 2010 - 40 years after Carol's "prediction". Well, that's my TV Time Machine trip for today.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Brady Bunch Variety Hour

Here's a blast from the past...
I'm a Brady buff from way back. I watched every version of the show RELIGIOUSLY. From the original run of the show on ABC Friday nights to the terrible BRADYS GO TO THE WHITE HOUSE TV-movie on Fox - if it had BRADY in the title, you can bet that I'd be there watching.
Somewhere in between Filmation's BRADY KIDS cartoon and the underrated BRADY BRIDES there was a little blip in the Bradyverse called THE BRADY BUNCH VARIETY HOUR. This surreal Sid and Marty Krofft concoction from 1976-77 was a glittering dream come true for this Brady fan - it had everything I loved about TV at the time. Bradys! Tight pants! Musical numbers! Synchronized swimming! Guest stars! Fake Jan!
Yes, that's right, Fake Jan - Ms. Geri Reischl, who sang and danced her little heart out trying to make us forget about Eve Plumb. Geri almost did, and paved the way for Fake Cindy (Jennifer Runyon) and Fake Marcia (Leah Ayers) in later reunion shows.
I recently had to opportunity to watch a 45-minute compilation of episodes that a co-worker at Warner Bros. had converted to DVD. This "best of" tape features everything that so great and horrible about the VARIETY HOUR all in one place. It features highlights (and lowlights) from the original special plus the 8 subsequent episodes.
About a week after I watched this amazing DVD, I got an mind-blowing book, LOVE TO LOVE YOU BRADYS as a gift. This book details everything you would EVER want to know about the BRADY BUNCH VARIETY HOUR. Written by cast member Susan Olsen (Cindy) and co-author Ted Nichelson, this tome is a must-have for any serious Brady lover.
Behind-the-scenes dirt includes how musical theater veteran Florence Henderson (Mrs. Brady) took the show VERY seriously, how Barry Williams (Greg) thought he was going to be the star of the show, and how high on cocaine Maureen McCormick (Marcia, Marcia, Marcia) was during many of the tapings!

Other great stories include how they hid Robert Reed's lack of musical-comedy talent and how "special guest star" and devout Christian Ann B. Davis (Alice the maid) blatantly ignored her gay co-star Rip Taylor the minute when the camera wasn't rolling.
Ironically, a week after I got the book, another friend lent me a copy of the same compilation tape and I recently re-waatched it with other friends. It just gets better and better.
Sure, the show made no sense in the Brady universe - why on Earth would an architect and his family host a variety show???
It was named the worst variety show in the history of television in the book BAD TV, by Craig Nelson and TV GUIDE once crowned it the 4th Worst Show of All-time, but that just makes me love it and the Bradys even more. In addition to the book, check out this groovy website.