Tuesday, December 27, 2016

TV Guide Game Ephemera: Holiday Special Edition

Some images from the December 8-14, 1979, edition of TV Guide that we used in the "TV Guide Game" for our "Holiday Special."

A couple of Christmas hams!
We kid, Charlotte. We love ya!
"How can I compete against all of those people?
They even have a giant Santa!"

And now a few other holiday-themed ads and random curiosities.

Yogi, Scooby, and Fred with Pat Boone?!
Good thing this aired an hour before
that Christmas murder movie.

A couple cell-animated Rankin-Bass classics (labeled such by CBS).
A Close Up for this "amusing animated fantasy" from Rankin-Bass.
I love the "([Paul] Frees again)" credit.
What's Christmas without Hope,
and apparently, what's a Christmas
special without Adam Rich?!
If Art Carney says he likes Mel's infamous chili,
I call Blarney Kilakilarney on it.

More drawings of talk show hosts.
Not sure, but I think Dick Cavett won.

Eight tracks, people.
Eight tracks.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Show Notes: Holiday Special

*Rankin-Bass' The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold aired December 23, 1981...and then, as far as we know, not too many times afterward until ABC Family resurrected it each year.

*I complain in this episode about holiday specials airing earlier and earlier each year, and in fact, A Charlie Brown Christmas was on December 1 on ABC this year. However, it was also on last night--a respectable December 22. Rudolph was on Saturday, December 10, which is acceptable, but why do they bury these on the weekends now?

*When Mike refers to Rudolph's Shiny New Year as the Avengers of Rankin-Bass, he means Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July, a 1979 special teaming the two title stars and also featuring Santa Claus and Jack Frost.

*Star of The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold Art Carney is, of course, best known for his role as Ognir Rrats' father in the NBC TV special Ringo. Peggy Cass, who plays Blarney's wife Faye, was a star of stage, screen, and games shows. Dinty Doyle is voiced by Ken Jennings (not that one). It seems like Dennis Day, who had been in two previous Rankin-Bass specials, would have been a natural for this role.

*Kilarney is a real place: Located in southwestern Ireland, it is still going strong. In fact, according to Wikipedia, "In 2011, it was named Ireland's tidiest town and the cleanest town in the country by Irish Business Against Litter."

*The Family Circus panel debuted in 1960 and is still running today under the stewardship of creator Bil Keane's son Jeff. It is in over 1,500 newspapers. Unofficially, it's been ridiculed in over 1,500 blogs.

*The ages of the kids in the Family Circus are as follows: Billy, 7; Dolly, 5; Jeffy, 3; PJ, Zero-1.

*Kukla, Fran, and Ollie was an unscripted puppet show created by Burr Tillstrom and airing from 1947-1957 on several different outlets. The show was technically simple but remarkably sophisticated.

*Check the YouTube playlist for promos and clips featuring many of the shows and stars mentioned in this week's TV Guide game, plus several full-length Christmas specials!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Holiday Special

In our first ever Holiday Special, we try to unpack the complex mythos of Rankin-Bass' The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold, then make a heartwarming visit to the Keane family in A Family Circus Christmas. Plus a holiday-themed "TV Guide Game." A note to our listeners loyal and new. This marks the end of season one, but we'll return in January with a look back on season one and details on season two. Stay tuned and happy holidays!

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Further Viewing, Ghosts of Christmas Past Edition Vol. II: The Six Million Dollar Man "A Bionic Christmas Carol"

In our second look at TV shows riffing on Dickens' A Christmas Carol, we focus on The Six Million Dollar Man? Family Ties made some sense, and surely shows like Happy Days and ALF might have gone this route, but The Six Million Dollar Man? Yes, The Six Million Dollar Man. Despite the science fiction trappings, however, we get a fairly grounded variation of the story with a bevy of recognizable guest stars. "A Bionic Christmas Carol" aired December 12, 1976, as part of season four, less than a month before "Death Probe Part I."

Steve arrives at Oscar's office for their annual Christmas Eve lunch before flying home to Ojai for Christmas with his family. Oscar--or should we say Scrooge in this case--has bad news. He needs Steve to visit an aerospace company working on a Mars life support system. They've had a number of accidents, and the OSI suspects sabotage. Steve lodges a complaint via some bionic vandalism of his present for Oscar.

Then we meet the true Scrooge of the episode Horton Budge. One of TV's greatest curmudgeons Ray Walston plays Budge with all the grump, bluster, and officiousness one would expect.

"Here's your Christmas bonus.
Now endorse it back to me."

Dick Sargent (the second Darren from Bewitched) plays Budge's chauffeur Bob Crandall, who owes some kind of debt to Budge, immediately returning a Christmas bonus to help pay it off. Budge explains to Steve that he's doing everything within the specs for the project. He also lays down the law about Christmas--no Christmas tree for the Mars test subject stuck in a tank for Christmas, no office workers singing carols on their own time, and fewer workers to save on double pay. Something goes wrong with the Mars test, and Steve has to use some bionic door busting to save the test subject.

Later, Crandall gives Steve a lift to hotel and ends up inviting him to a Christmas dinner he himself won't get to celebrate (he has to go back to the plant in case Budge needs him). Steve buys some presents for Crandall's kids, hears townspeople gossip about Crandall's cheapness, and then at the Crandall home immediately bonds with the three kids (played by future Oscar nominee Quinn Cummings, future Eight is Enough moppet Adam Rich, and, um, another kid).

L-R: Adam Rich, Quinn Cummings, some other kid.

He even uses some bionic jumping and chopping to sunder a branch from the top of a tree for a makeshift Christmas tree and offers Christmas wisdom to the kids (more wishes come true at Christmas than any other time of the year).

More importantly, he learns the truth of the Budge-Crandall situation. Budge is Crandall's uncle, and a few years ago when Mrs. Crandall had health problems, Budge wouldn't help. Crandall, then Budge's accountant, helped himself and has been paying for it ever since. Steve arches an eyebrow in thought.

How can he help?

It takes a while, but we finally get into the Dickens motif. After stopping in town to rent a Santa costume from the school janitor (it makes sense in the show), he bionic runs to the plant. Budge has gone home ill, but Steve runs tests on the materials, even doing some bionic speed reading and bionic calculating (if only the Death Probe had been a calculator). Budge has done everything within specs...but just within specs, so the project has no room for error. Steve heads off to confront Budge, learning that he's sick. He sends Crandall home, then hears a delirious Budge hollering for help. Steve runs in just time to catch Budge after he falls over a banister.

Budge has ODed on some sort of medicine (he's been chugging the stuff all episode), and the doctor gives him an antidote. The antidote contains a sedative, and that creates a problem. Steve and Crandall must keep Budge awake for three hours or risk him slipping into a coma. Still delirious, Budge thinks the angel of death caught him when he fell. Steve sees his opportunity. Using Dickens as a starting point and dressed as Santa Claus, he takes Budge on a journey.

First stop, a headstone. A few minutes before, Steve had lifted up a paving stone and bionically carved this as a symbol of a future that could happen.

Next, they head into town, where some carolers try to get Budge to join in. He takes a program and stuffs it in his pocket, even admits they sound nice, but when it comes to singing, he won't...budge. Ha! Finally, they head over to the Crandall house to eavesdrop. Mrs. C speaks some hard truths about Budge, but Crandall, having seen his uncle so ill, worries.

Then Santa Steve takes a bionic leap onto the porch roof so they can spy on the kids. Yep, just two men sitting on the roof of a porch, peering into a window at three children. Weird of course, but it also risks pulling the Santa beard off Steve's plan. Unlike a usual Christmas Carol tale, Steve and Budge aren't ghosts. They're real guys sitting up there. Oldest child Elsie offers some practical wisdom about ol' Uncle Budge, that sometimes people who love you don't get you presents, but she also questions his love. Outside, Budge says, "Oh, but I do love you all," and prays, telling God he will change his way.

Will he, though? After sleeping, he wakes up raring to get back to his hard work and explaining to regular shirt-open-to-his-navel Steve that an accident of birth doesn't mean he should love the Crandalls. Yep, same old Budge...until he finds that Christmas carol program in his pocket. Then we get the Scrooge epiphany and soon enough Budge in the Santa suit, toys for the Crandall kids, forgiven debts (no goose, though), and Budge's first steps into becoming a sociable human being. Miracles do happen on Christmas! Even Steve and Oscar mend fences.

"Why does this suit smell like burning wires?"

While this episode didn't offer the actors the chance to role-play quite the way many of these do, it fits in nicely with many of the wandering hero type shows like The Incredible Hulk. We know Steve Austin tends to do the right thing, but between this and his philosophical musings at the end of "Death Probe," we also see a warmhearted, thoughtful guy underneath all the circuitry, transistors, and solid masculinity. Surely Steve Austin didn't need bionics to become a hero. He had it in him all along...just like Horton Budge.

One mystery remains, though. What did Oscar get Steve for Christmas? Actually, two mysteries. We've confirmed the bionic mustache, but now I'm wondering about the chest hair.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Further Viewing, Ghosts of Christmas Past Edition Vol. I: Family Ties "A Keaton Christmas Carol"

TV shows have long had special holiday-themed episodes, and for Christmas, many go to that old gem A Christmas Carol for inspiration. Today and tomorrow, we'll look at two shows we covered on the podcast that did their own versions of A Christmas Carol. Up first, Family Ties "A Keaton Christmas Carol," which aired December 14, 1983, a mere month and a half before "Say Uncle."

The episode opens with most of the Keaton clan finishing up trimming the tree and naturally in a festive mood. Alex hasn't appeared, but when he does, well, maybe he should have stayed away. He's in a mood. He doesn't like Christmas and considers it a lot of baloney. He's so cranky that he forgot to pick up Jennifer's cough medicine, suggesting he'll pick it up tomorrow until Elyse reminds him that tomorrow is Christmas and all the shops will be closed. He even refuses to pose for the traditional family photo, thinking it dumb that to strike the same poses every year.

Upstairs, he yells out his window at some Christmas carolers, mutters a "bah, humbug," and settles in for a long winter's nap. Instead smoke billows through the room, and Jennifer appears decked out in red, only she's not Jennifer. She's the Ghost of Christmas Past, and she takes Alex on a journey...downstairs...but downstairs to a living room from ten years before.

We see a young, cheerful yet cheerfully Republican Alex (he takes some time to call the Watergate investigation a witch hunt) who loves Christmas.

Sure he and Mallory and even baby Jennifer recognized Steven through his Santa disguise, but they all have a good time, and lil' Alex even suggests that they turn their photo poses into an annual tradition.

Back in bed, the Ghost of Christmas Future pays a visit in the guise of Mallory (no time for the Ghost of Christmas Present here).

She shows him a grim, dare I say, dyskensian future, and the cast gets to have fun playing older versions of themselves. The Keatons (and apparently the world) have fallen on hard times. To make ends meet, Elyse does other people's laundry and Jennifer farms dirt in a wheelbarrow (the family's only form of transportation). Mallory's on baby number four, and Steven looks like he wandered in from the set of A Christmas Carol movie.

Only Alex has had success, becoming a tycoon who lives in New York. He arrives in a helicopter, crushes the wheelbarrow, and strides into the house looking like he wandered in from the set of a 1930s comedy--fat, bald, pinky-ring-wearing. Real Alex panics as the sight of all this (the meanness and the baldness) and promises to do better. Of course, a modern audience knows this only represents a possible future. After all, Brian Bosnall's Andy doesn't even get mentioned! (Hmm. Maybe Alex should have stayed a jerk.)

"Grovel before your master!"

The episode ends with a changed Alex excitedly offering lame gifts to everyone. He had to get them from 7-Eleven, so he had limited options (most notably a six-pack of cough syrup for Jennifer--I hope she used it up before Uncle Ned visited). Although they don't understand his behavior, the family accepts their goofy gifts in the spirit Alex intended, and he opens the door to his last present--the carolers!

It wouldn't be a Keaton Christmas without some orange juice...
or any day of the week.

"Six-pack of cough syrup or orange juice,
six-pack of syrup or orange juice?"

While this episode doesn't reach the heights of "Say Uncle," it offers plenty of laughs, the fun of seeing young Alex, and of course a heartwarming lesson--don't act like a scrooge or you might lose your hair. Sure, we don't ever learn why Alex hates Christmas, and it frankly seems a little out of character, but the writers and the cast get to have fun with the characters, casting them in an absurd light they couldn't otherwise, all while imparting some warmth and wisdom. Who can say, "bah, humbug," to that?

Merry Christmas, Ubu, Merry Christmas. Good dog.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Elves Are Busy...

We're busy editing a spectacular double-sized holiday special for next week, so no episode this week. In the meantime, catch up our extra content right here or on our YouTube channel and check out the snazzy a Christmas version of our theme song below.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Your chance to Skate with the Stars!

Before we leave the classic "Roller Disco" episode of CHiPs, let's give you one more chance to...

It's Nancy Kulp, Cyndi Williams, and Robert Pine, AKA Gertraer. Yeah, it's not a great pic, but how many times are these 3 in the same location?

Hey, it's Todd Bridges!

It's Earl Holliman, JoAnne Worley, Tina Louise, Lee Meriwether, Richard Paul, Johnnie Ray, and Ruth Buzzi!

Get down, Victor French!

It's the ever-dashing Robert Mandan!

"Jimmy Tyler" and his band!
Jon Baker, peacemaker:
Guys, did you enjoy this episode?

I thought so!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Presenting the CHiPs Roller Disco All-Stars

Before we start the festivities, a moment of quiet reflection for Ponch and Jon, who were humbled by Jim Brown and Fred Williamson earlier in the episode:

Come to think of it, how about a moment of quiet reflection for Jim Brown and Fred Williamson for being put in this situation:

I give you the comedy insurance fraudster team of Larrys Storch and Linville:

Bill Daily is a man of the 1970s:

So long, suckers!

Roller disco wasn't ALL bad, folks:

Come back tomorrow for your chance to SKATE WITH THE STARS!