Sunday, January 17, 2021

Top Ten #103

1) Betty White: Happy birthday to America's Sweetheart, the legendary Betty White!

2) Name That Tune: FOX has a new version on the air, and no disrespect to Jane Krakowski, but how can you beat the original--uh, any of the originals. I think there were a dozen different versions, but you get my point.

3) Rising Damp: Friday I gave BritBox an A for 2020 partly because of adding series like this, an "of its time" sitcom that I hadn't seen in years. Really I'm just a sucker for this old opening:

4) James Earl Jones: Happy 90th to James Earl! Does anyone else wish they could see:

5) Don Robertson: Speaking of great voices, R.I.P. to the longtime CBS voice, the man who delivered, "This is CBS," as well as countless voice-overs for CBS Sports, from the championship events to, well, this:

6) Nancy McKeon: She was on Mindy Cohn's podcast this week and said the most common misconception about her was that she knew all about motorcycles. Turns out she does NOT! I am crushed. Next thing you know, Henry Winkler will tell us he couldn't assemble a cycle 

7) National Healthy Weight Week: It kicks off now! I know someone who could help us all celebrate this:

8) George Burns 90th Birthday Special: 35 years ago tonight, CBS celebrated the nonage--the noneg--the nonagg--the 90-year-old comedian's birthday with the likes of John Denver, Steve Allen, Billy Crystal, Bill Cosby, and...

9) Super Night at the Super Bowl: CBS aired this entertainment extravaganza on this night 45 years ago. Andy Williams and Jackie Gleason hosted, and stars included Joe Namath, Bob Newhart, The Pointer Sisters, and O.J. Simpson (Cosby now becomes the second-most notorious person mentioned in this list).

Oh, how I want to see ALL of these specials (there were 2 more after this), but here is a clip from the 1978 one, the only thing I could find on YT:

10) Peter Mark Richman: R.I.P. The prolific actor was in many, many shows, including the Dynasty season 3 episode we discussed here.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Happy National Fig Newton Day!

 It's January 16, so of course it's time to celebrate Fig Newton Day here in the USA.

Has that ever happened to you?

Friday, January 15, 2021

Over Easy: It wasn't ALL about eggs

In our deep dive into the 1980-1981 TV season, we discussed the phenomenon of Over Easy on PBS, a daily magazine show aimed at seniors. Well, believe it or not, folks, the show wasn't ALL about eggs, despite what our speculation might have indicated.  Here is proof in the form of two descriptions from the Tuesday, September 16, 1980 listings of a TV Guide:

The next page has an example of something that has always confounded me: The listing for a particular program referring to another entry of the same program/episode at a different time (sometimes a different day).  This was 1986.  Were people figuring out by hand all this stuff fit on the pages? What went into that?

"See 12 noon Ch. 28 for details."  No! Why should I have to look all the way back on the preceding page? Just give me the info here at 3:30!

Thursday, January 14, 2021

This Day in TV History: A memorable debut and a GENIUS guests on Cannon!

On this night 45 years ago, NBC premiered The Bionic Woman, its high-profile spinoff of The Six Million Dollar Man. "Welcome Home Jaime" was the first part of the pilot; the second installment aired the following week.  After two seasons on ABC, the series moved to NBC for one last go-round.

Elsewhere on the dial, CBS' broadcast of an all-new Cannon episode, "The House of Cards," featured guest star and BOTNS favorite (and namesake of the Genius Award) Robert Pine! Dabney Coleman and Pernell Roberts also star as "a small-town newspaperman takes on a dual identity and fakes his own murder."  Roberts is the newspaperman, Coleman is--well, I don't know, but I assume he is a jerk, and Pine is a sheriff.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Streaming services and classic TV in 2020--Report cards! Part 6

Today we conclude our long-running series grading the major streaming services on how they handled classic TV in 2021. OK, OK, stop applauding! Let's hope 2021 brings lots of surprises for those of us who enjoy older stuff, especially from the BOTNS era of the 1970s and 1980s.

Shout! Factory TV: Hard to give this one a grade. The company is responsible for bringing a lot of rarities into the streamingverse, like The Tim Conway Show. Yet it's tempting to just wait for the same shows to go to platforms like Amazon Prime Video or Tubi, where they often show up later and are easier to watch and track. Shout! went months without adding much of anything TV-wise, but it doesn't drop a lot, either.  Its content is great, but the app itself isn't impressive. That  has been true since the beginning, though.

Most pleasant surprise: The onslaught of Johnny Carson shows (yes, edited for music, but still) on streaming services is due to Shout! getting the rights.
Biggest disappointment:  A general lack of activity for much of 2020, when streaming content was desired more than ever. Also, does Shout! have streaming rights to some of the out-of-print stuff it released on DVD, like It's Garry Shandling's Show? How about super-expensive material like Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman?

Grade: B. I am factoring in the fact that it makes so much of its holdings so widely available.  I hope Shout! kicks it up a notch in 2021, but how can I complain about a company that made Ace Crawford, Private Eye available this year? Many streaming services would not want to touch a short-lived flop like that.

CBS All Access: This one underwent massive changes in 2020 as its parent company expanded its offerings to include programs from BET, MTV, etc.  But how much of it was classic TV? Not very much.  I stopped even checking CBS All Access until suddenly it dumped The Love Boat on the service without fanfare.

Unfortunately it still has only a handful of episodes of Happy Days, to give an example. Many series are either MIA, period, or just missing a bunch of episodes. Other than Love Boat, CBS is focusing on adding movies, kids' shows, and other things while still giving its vast TV catalog short shrift. 

Grade: D+: Love Boat elevates this in a year of inactivity, but I am optimistic that the upcoming rebrand to Paramount Plus will mean more is on the way. The sharing of many shows with Pluto may be a good sign: Give live-streaming to the free Pluto, save on demand for the paid Paramount Plus.

Roku Channel: This free service has a lot to offer, and remember, you can watch it online without a Roku. What it doesn't have is a watchlist function.  It's clunky and hard to find material.  However, it continues to surprise by licensing shows from a wide variety of sources. 

Recent additions like The A-Team and Magnum P.I. are not rare, but it's cool to see Roku grabbing some NBCUniversal content and putting it on a free channel (part of the deal to get Peacock on Roku?) More surprising adds included Head of the Class from Warners and Hazel and Benson from Sony, none of which had been anywhere else. Plus Roku also dips into the world of black and white with shows like Tombstone Territory and is willing to put up short-lived rarities like Good Morning, World.

The biggest drawback is the lack of transparency about what is coming and going.  The tenendency to get several seasons of a series and rotate them out instead of just putting the whole thing up is irritating. Still, while Roku Channel is unsophisticated as an actual streaming video service, it offers appealing content for classic TV fans every month.  That lack of transparency and drawing from multiple sources makes this one of the most constantly surprising channels.

Grade: B+: Maybe Roku will get some of the unused Warner library as part of its deal with HBO MAX so we could see series like Alice, Night Court, Harry O, Eight Is Enough, Gilligan's Island...

Crackle: It's telling that when Mike and I consider shows to cover on the podcast, when we see one that's on Crackle, we try to figure out ways to watch the show without actually using Crackle. The Chicken Soup for the Soul people took over this one from Sony, but they didn't make it any less of a hassle to use.

However, they are licensing shows from places other than just Sony--shows like My Favorite Martian and Father Knows Best. they continue to draw on the likes of What's Happening!! from Sony, making this a fairly consistent proposition: You're gonna find something you want to watch on Crackle...and then try to figure out if anyone else has it. It has a similar issue to Roku Channel, too, in that it has individual seasons and not full series, then rotates seasons out without notice.

Grade: C+: It has some good stuff, and it is free, but, wow, that auto-play when you launch it has to go. Here's hoping they work on Crackle in 2021 and make it more user friendly so we can all enjoy our Starsky and Hutch reruns.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Streaming services and classic TV in 2020--Report cards! Part 5

Today we continue to grade the major streaming services based on classic TV on those services in 2020.  We have a few big winners today.  FREE, even if it has ads, is always going to boost the grades a bit.

Pluto TV: Pluto was a free and pleasant time waster until CBS/Viacom bought it, and in 2020 it really started loading it up, adding numerous channels to its 24/7 live-streaming lineup with content from the company's vast empire. There is a Garry Marshall channel and a Love Boat channel in addition to all kinds of other options.

The problem is that, at least on Roku, it's still to hard to customize the channels to get rid of all the stuff you don't like (and with this lineup, there is a ton of that for anyone).  The live guide is limited, and there is no DVR, so it's limited to something sort of replicating cable TV.

However, the on demand section is more stocked than you think. For example, all of Three's Company is available in addition to having a 24/7 live channel. Too Close for Comfort is another option. It appears CBS is saving stuff like Happy Days for CBS All Access, but there is a nice assortment of free material on demand here, though they can improve the interface.

Most pleasant surprise: There are a lot of Classic Doctor Who story arcs available on demand; I thought that show was exclusive to BritBox.
Biggest disappointment: I thought that the revamps would make it easier to filter out stuff like the multiple Roblox channels. Also, I am sure this is a perception thing, but it sure seems like all the channels I want to watch have commercial breaks at the same time.

Grade: A.

Tubi TV: Similar to Pluto, but totally on demand and with a more sophisticated user interface and a bigger library.  This free service is now owned by Fox, but since that Fox library is now with Disney, it licenses all its content, and it often surprises.  In addition to carrying stuff that many other places have--the Shout! catalog, the FilmRise and Stephen Cannell stuff--Tubi continues to get interesting programs from the big guys.

The big example for me is the surprising addition of the 1988 Ruby-Spears Superman and the 1977 New Adventures of Batman cartoons several months ago.  I was disappointed when DC Universe didn't carry those at its launch, and it never added them.  No one else had ever streamed these particular animated series. After this addition, I was more excited about the DC material on Tubi than the DC material on DC Universe!

You have to dig for content a little here, and I hope more comes in 2021, but this is an under-the-radar service that has a lot to offer, including more 50s and 60s material than many competitors.  And did I mention it's free?

Most pleasant surprise: I mentioned it already, but to throw another one, Tubi also has Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels and Chuck Norris' Karate Kommandos. I'll say this for WarnerMedia: If it's not gonna put shows like that on HBO Max, I am glad it's willing to loan them out.
Biggest disappointment:I wish it were easier to find what I am interested in and to dismiss what I am not.

Grade: A.