Friday, September 30, 2016

Show Notes: Episode 2: The White Shadow, "The Death of Me Yet?"

*This episode premiered Monday, March 11, 1980, at 8:00 P.M. on CBS.

*Other episodes we mention in our conversation include: “One of the Boys” (Peter Horton is a new teammate who is homosexual), “ME?” (Thorpe gets VD), “Gonna Fly Now” (Phil Jefferson, the equipment manager, gets slipped PCP), “Here's Mud in Your Eye” (Jackson is outed as an alcoholic), and "Salami's Affair" (Self-explanatory).

*Lou Grant, an hourlong drama set in the newspaper industry and featuring social issues of the day, aired on CBS from 1977 to 1982, winning Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series in 1979 and 1980.

*Guest star James Cromwell, who was in tons of 70s TV and in numerous movies before his breakthrough role as the farmer in Babe, was also in a first season episode, playing a different character. He was billed as “Jamie” Cromwell in 1984's Revenge of the Nerds.

*Beany Williams, who plays Willie Jackson, has only one other credit on IMDB, and not even as Willie, but as “student” in a later White Shadow episode. His post-acting life and current whereabouts remain a mystery.

*The NBA's Clippers were in San Diego during this time. They moved into Los Angeles and the Sports Arena in 1984. USC did play home games here, though, until 2006, and for a while it housed the Lakers and UCLA. Now the Clips and Lakers share the Staples Center, and the Arena didn't have a real sports franchise home after USC left. Sadly it was demolished in June.

*Bob Cousy and Bill Russell, both Boston Celtics icons, were two of the best players in NBA history. The Bill Russell-hosted SNL episode Rick mentions is from season 5 and is available for streaming on Hulu Plus and Seeso.

*Frank Bonham wrote several of the “urban” youth novels Rick enjoyed as a kid, books such as Durango Street and Viva Chicano.

*In their discussion of failed sports TV shows, we forgot one of the most critically acclaimed examples, Friday Night Lights.

*Ken Howard's untimely death came after we recorded this episode.

*”What We'd Like to See” begins at 38:23.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Episode 2: The White Shadow "The Death of me Yet?"

This week, we discuss Episode 22 of Season 2 of The White Shadow "The Death of me Yet?" The Carver High basketball team tries to win the city championships while grieving the loss of one of their own and worrying whether Coach Reeves will leave Carver for a job at a fancy college. Also, What We'd Like to See!

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Further Viewing: The Incredible Hulk "The First"

In his quest for more Incredible Hulk, Mike made an intriguing choice in picking a Jack McGee episode to write about yesterday. I sought out the story that he brought up at the end of our podcast--a tale of two Hulks called "The First," which originally aired in the middle of the series' fourth season.

The beginning of this two-parter is produced like a horror movie, with a group of young people up to hijinks experiencing car troubles and having to stop at "the old Clive place," a spooky old house, to look for a telephone. The two boys and two girls who are paired off send the poor fifth wheel to the basement, where he starts playing around with equipment for no reason ("Hmm, this giant lever could be a telephone. Let me mess with it") and is killed under mysterious circumstances.

Two things jump out right away: 1) Film buffs will of course recognize that the name of Dr. Clive, the deceased owner of the old house/mad scientist who tampered with nature, is an homage to...Clive Owen, of course, who was only a teenager when this episode aired, but surely the writers knew he would play a doctor in The Knick 25 years later.

2) It's always tragic when a young man is savagely murdered in the basement lab of a domicile with an unsavory reputation, but look at it this way: If HE didn't get it, the other four would have gone somewhere, "had relations," and been punished by a serial killer in true slasher-pic fashion.

A year later, David Banner--er, David Barr--enters the area investigating the reports of another green-skinned monster there years earlier. He encounters some friendly but guarded locals (Lola Albright and, in a real standout, Harry Townes) and learns the truth about Dr. Clive's experiments and the cure he may have developed for what I will call Hulkitis but, sadly, no one else does in the episode.


There's a lot to dig into in the two parts of The First. Townes' character, Dr. Clive's former assistant, has some real depth, pining for the former fiancée of his boss (Albright) and admitting to a strong lust for the raging beast that turns men into Hulks. It turns out his Dell Frye (film buffs will of course recognize that the name of Frye is an homage to...Glenn Frey, who the writers knew would pass away the same year I watched this and built this in as a sort of Easter egg for the future) was the former Hulk, not Dr. Clive, as we expected.

Townes is bullied by ignorant local yokels. crippled by arthritis, and generally powerless. So when David Barr refines the cure, he doesn't want to take it. He wants to go green!

What really interests me, though, is the Dell Frye version of Hulk. This monster is leaner, taller, more ragged-looking, with bushy eyebrows and even wilder eyes. He is also prone to wearing flannel or denim shirts that hang kind of loosely. This Hulk (Dick Durock, later to play the titular Swamp Thing on USA in the 1990s) looks nothing at all like Townes, but, hey, neither does Lou Ferrigno look like Bill Bixby.  But--and this may be just me--you know who this monster reminds me of for some reason?

My thanks to the Pinterest user who posted this cool pic

That's right, Jerry Reed.

I began to think of Frye Hulk as Jerry Reed Hulk, which led me to envision a spinoff. I'd call the show The Good-ol' Ever-lovin' Freewheelin' Hulky Boy. In this series, Jerry Reed would play the title character (and sing the show's theme song, natch) as a down-home rebel who roams the American southeast looking for good times and getting into bar fights and scrapes with the law.

Instead of a tenacious reporter following him around, Hulky Boy would be paired with a well-meaning but physically unimposing sidekick, played by James Hampton. Hulky Boy and Bubba would find adventure and a little TV-PG action each week.

Don't get me wrong, The First (though oddly edited in spots, and sloppy in the sense that when Durock's shirt rides up in the fight scenes, you see his back isn't green) is a cool episode, offering a climactic Hulk vs. Hulk showdown that is well worth the price of admission. Yet I can't help but think about The Good-ol' Ever-lovin' Freewheelin' Hulky Boy now.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Further Viewing: The Incredible Hulk "Proof Positive"

"You're like an alcoholic when it comes to the Hulk, and the way you're gonna be cured is to give him up entirely."
--Pat Steinhauer

After we discuss an episode, we often end up watching others from the same series. In the case of The Incredible Hulk, I went looking for the one element missing from "747"--hard-nosed reporter Jack McGee (Jack Colvin). The only regular character on the show besides David/Hulk, McGee spent the series pursuing the Hulk story for tabloid rag the National Register. In the pilot, David utters the immortal line "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry" to McGee, which appeared in the opening credits each week. From the beginning, McGee has run-ins with David and the big Green guy, but he can't get the proof he needs to bust the story wide open (even what amounts to a publicity still of the Hulk running through Times Square can't persuade nonbelievers). Too bad he didn't take a certain airline flight.

In my own search for McGee, I hit the jackpot with "Proof Positive" (season three, episode 13). He doesn't just play an important role. The episode steps away from David's wanderings to focus its attention on McGee and his hard-boiled life in Chicago. In fact, Bill Bixby doesn't even appear in this episode except in flashbacks. A double plays David in the climactic chase, and the Hulk-out features still photographs.

The episode opens in a dream sequence of McGee and the Hulk in a desert. McGee awakens in a sweat in his studio apartment (adorned with African masks). After a stock-footage tour through Chicago, meet crusty, wild-eyebrowed Register editor Mark Roberts (Walter Brooke) and office weasel Garland (Charles Thomas Murphy). Garland clearly has it out for Jack and reveals to Roberts that McGee has missed an important interview with a politician's assistant, who's taken her story to a competitor. It turns out McGee has missed a number of scoops his pursuit of the Hulk. That might change, however, as Roberts explains that the publisher, on a four-month honeymoon with wife number ?, has sent a replacement, his daughter Pat Steinhauer (Caroline Smith).

When McGee and Roberts meet with her, she lays down the law. She wants to make the Register respectable. No more stories about UFOs and green giants! Hard news only and stop underestimating their loyal housewife audience. How does and old-school hack like McGee handle this edict? He argues, then goes to the roof of the building and starts throwing file photos off it. A co-worker spots him from the ground below and warns Roberts and (call me) Ms. Steinhauer. Roberts tells the co-worker to call the rescue squad and police and to "Get a photographer out there!" We've already had indications that McGee suffers some kind of Hulk-related PTSD--his dream, envisioning the Hulk smashing Ms. Steinhauer's glass desk--so the audience believes he might throw himself off the roof. Instead, he uses the threat to try to negotiate with Ms. Steinhauer. If he can prove the Hulk exists, she'll let him keep the story.

Of course, she backs off once back in her office, telling him every story plays the same way (in unintentional comic book Hulkspeak): "Hulk sighted, Hulk destroys, Hulk disappears." She tries to convince McGee the Hulk represents some psychological problem ("Don't tell me," McGee sneers, "you minored in psychology") while McGee regails her with stories of episodes of old (for not appearing much in the actual episode, the Hulk appears a lot--we might get more Hulk destruction in this episode than any other through the virtue of recycled clips). He tells her he's "tried everything from the obvious to the obscure" and how much the Hulk has damaged his life--he barely noticed when his girlfriend left, and he hasn't voted in two years! He also meditates on the apathy of witnesses: "They all think he's part of the show, or they don't want to get involved."

The episode continues this back and forth about the Hulk's validity and McGee's obsession. After another desert-themed dream, McGee awakens, and not long after, Ms. Steinhauer calls him at home, using the alcoholic metaphor and urging him to try other stories for a while. He gives it a go (even getting permission to call her Pat), but Garland taunts him with a lead from Gary, Indiana. McGee considers it, even calling the airline to purchase a ticket (more on this later) but decides against it after flashing on images of Pat instead of the Hulk. In a noir-lit late-night meeting at the office, he confesses this to Pat, suggests they might feel things for each other. They don't resolve anything, but home, Jack gets a call from the Gary, Indiana, tipster. He can't resist and ends upquitting has job and booking a flight the next morning, where Pat meets up with him.

Will she finally believe him? Will he take down the Hulk with a tranquilizer gun? Will they address their feelings? I won't spoil any more, but the climax involves goggles, hardhats, a furnace, and a tumble down stairs.

As a kid, I probably hated this episode. What kid wants to watch a show about newspapers? On the other hand, it does include a lot of Hulk footage, and I give credit to the producers for recognizing that they couldn't focus 100% of the show on McGee. As an adult, I enjoy it quite a bit and in general tend to enjoy when a show (or a comic) takes time out to spotlight a supporting character. McGee, a character who usually ranges from annoyance to villain, becomes a human being driven in a similar way as David. Now he falsely views the Hulk as a murderer, but he also seems after some truth rather than glory. Pat (call me Ms. Steinhauer) proves a good foil, driven by her own desire to prove herself not just in a man's world but as a rich man's child given a job through privilege. The show sticks to its themes, and Colvin gives his usual fine, slightly sweaty performance as McGee. You believe his obsession, even sympathize with it even if it leads him to damage his life and sometimes say rude things to Pat. In a remake today, would the roles reverse somehow? Would McGee find himself a reporter forced to follow the story by a click-bait-driven editor, or could it play the same way--McGee pursuing the click-bait while a new editor wants to buck the trends and focus on "real" news?

Some final random thoughts:
  • The rooftop scene loses a few points because the view includes rolling California hills and what looks like farmland. Remember, this episode takes place in Chicago.
  • Ooh, that Garland!
  • Choice dialogue one: 
Roberts: Do you take [your coffee] black?
Pat: No.
Roberts: Learn.
  • Choice dialogue two:
Roberts: He's on a flight to Gary.
Pat: Gary, Indiana?
Roberts: Gary, Indiana.
Pat: We sound like a Broadway musical.
  • At one point, Garland rattles of some fact sheets to Roberts, asking whether to keep them. They include the Gary, Indiana, tip (no), a cauliflower diet ("Cauliflower? No."), and a "Schneider follow-up." I'd like to believe this has something to do with Schneider from fellow CBS show One Day at a Time.
  • If you don't know your geography, Gary, Indiana, lies roughly an hour outside of Chicago. As I write this, it would take an hour and four minutes (54 without traffic) to an hour and twelve minutes (51 without traffic) to drive from O'Hare International Airport in Chicago (the airport McGee uses) to Gary Chicago International Airport. I obsess over this stuff the way McGee obsesses over the Hulk (don't get me started on how it takes twenty minutes to get anywhere in the D.C. area on Homeland).

  • Finally, in doing a little research, I learned that Jack Colvin performed in a comedy duo with Yvonne Wilder in the mid to late 1960s. They appeared on many of the variety shows of the time and performed a farewell show at Carnegie Hall, yet the Internet has little useful information on them, but you can learn more at the Jack Colvin Archive. They later reunited on 1980s sitcom Gimme a Break. Below, you can watch a video of their first TV performance on The Hollywood Palace in 1964.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Show Notes: Episode 1, The Incredible Hulk, "747"

*"747" premiered Friday, April 7, 1978 at 8:00 P.M. on CBS.

*To clarify, The Incredible Hulk is currently on Hulu as well as on Netflix.

*Despite Rick's faulty memory, the show was not rerun on FX (which did air reruns of The Adventures of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman!) but it was on the then-Science Fiction Channel, as Mike recalls.

*Brandon Cruz (Kevin) was Joey Turner in The Bad News Bears before guest-starring in "747." His breakthrough role was as Bill Bixby's son on The Courtship of Eddie's Father, a gentle family sitcom airing 1969-1972 (3 seasons) on ABC.

*The Treasures of King Tut tour, showcasing relics discovered in Tutankhamun's Egyptian tomb, was a big phenomenon in the 1970s and in the USA from 1976 to 1979. Don't worry; just listening to this podcast episode does not make you eligible for the Curse of King Tut.

*According to Wikipedia, some of the scenes in "747" were used in Airport 75,  a movie also made by Universal. Sadly, Charlton Heston does not Hulk out while trying to land the plane in Airport 75.

*The great Ed Peck (1917-1992), whose Captain Brandes guides David through the attempted landing, played many police officers over the years, most notably recurring Fonz nemesis Officer Kirk on Happy Days. The episode Rick references is Season 4's, "A.K.A. The Fonz."

*The reference to David choosing aliases that all include "David" is from Tony Danza playing characters named "Tony" on Taxi, Who's the Boss, Hudson Street, The Tony Danza Show, and of course his iconic role as Tony Soprano (just kidding on that one). Mike references Sonny Crockett going undercover as "Sonny Burnett" on Miami Vice.

*The episode Mike mentions at the end of the discussion with the other Hulk and all the other cool stuff is the two-part fourth season episode "The First."

*The TV Guide Game begins at 41:51.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Episode 1: The Incredible Hulk "747"

Join Rick and Mike as they discuss The Incredible Hulk "747," (Season 1, Episode 7). Thrill at actor reunions, giant cups of coffee, King Tut, 1970s airline travel, and a giant green man flying an airliner! Also, The TV Guide Game!

Check out this episode!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Welcome to Battle of the Network Shows!

Welcome to the official home of Battle of the Network Shows, the podcast that takes you on a journey through the television of the 1970s and 1980s. Each Thursday, your hosts Rick Brooks and Michael Cowgill--longtime friends and longer-time TV watchers--share a fun, spontaneous discussion about a single episode.

The rules are simple: Mike or Rick (or a listener) suggests a series and an episode, and then they talk about it for the first time on the show. We're not necessarily discussing the best shows or even our favorite shows each week, but the shows we grew up watching. Do they hold up today? Sitcoms, dramas, superheroes, even commercials--If they aired on television between, oh, about Nixon and Reagan, they're fair game for our show.

Also, look for bonus segments like "The TV Guide Game," in which we look at old listings and try to guess what we would watch and pick a night of viewing; and "What We'd Like to See," in which we discuss interesting programs we missed back in the day.

You can learn more about us and the show by checking out our special Primetime Preview Episode right here!

Our first season begins Thursday, and you can check back here each week for new episodes or subscribe via RSS, iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and TuneIn Radio. Here on our website, we'll post teasers and extras for the podcast, plus articles and comments about TV of the seventies and eighties. We hope to make this a fun and rewarding destination for TV lovers, and we'd love to get your feedback and suggestions for future episodes.