Friday, April 30, 2021

And so this is Arbor Day, and what have you done, APPLE TV PLUS?

I tell you what you have not done: You have not added It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown to your streaming service. You delighted me (because I happened to have Apple Plus; to be fair, you angered many who didn't) by adding the Big Three Peanuts holiday specials in 2020, then continuing to sprinkle in some in 2021. So far we have seen the New Year's, Valentine's Day, and Easter specials.

But what about Arbor Day?

I think many people still believe this is a fictitious program that people use to mock the ubiquity of Peanuts holiday shows. Yet it really did premiere on March 16, 1976, on CBS.

I wish Apple would unveil all the Peanuts shows, not just a handful of the most famous ones, and even if you don't make Arbor Day (which of course, contrary to Sally's assertion above, celebrates famed Revolutionary War hero Justice Arbor) a huge deal, wouldn't you like to see how the Peanuts gang tackles it? Fortunately, the shows aren't too hard to find if you look around, though Warner Brothers never did give comprehensive, coherent releases of all of them on home video. 

But does anyone know where to find The Stockard Channing Show?

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Inside the Guide: A classic double feature on ABC

 From 1981, here's a half-page display ad touting a Sunday night double feature on ABC:

What a combo! Benji and Bond! That's a natural double feature, right? And I must have been too young in 1981 to appreciate that the original Benji was the most entertaining family picture of the time. I bet the dads who sat through Benji just might have appreciated the entertainment value of Live and Let Die.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

RetroFan #14 is here!

It's time for a quick look at the latest issue of TwoMorrows' fantastic bimonthly magazine, which is back in stores but available here for subscription and highly recommended. issue #14 focuses more on the 1960s than the BOTNS era, but there is plenty for folks who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s or are just interested in that time frame.

"Star Trek: The Lean Years" is an entertaining look at the period between the original series' cancellation and The Motion Picture's premiere. What kept the franchise going apart from The Animated Series? Why was did Gold Key make Uhura blonde in one of its Trek comics? OK, the article answers one of those but not the other.

There is also a fun piece about TV tie-ins that no kid would want, but I beg to differ. I would have loved a Kojak toy car!

Part 2 of the story about the World Famous San Diego Zoo appears here along with an extensive section of cool behind-the-scenes photos from 60s TV shows like Batman and The Dick Van Dyke Show. You can also learn about Bigfoot, Van Williams, The Saint, and much more. It's always a highlight of my week to get this magazine, and I recommend it to all fans of our podcast.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

3 classics I'd like to see streaming in May 2021

The lists of May additions for most of the big streaming services are out , and there aren't a lot of interesting older shows on them. HBO Max appears to have abandoned catalog titles for another month, Peacock isn't announcing anything cool, and Netflix...Well, I can't mention Netflix and vintage with a straight face.

However, as I write this, Tubi, Crackle, Roku Channel, and others are still on the clock (Does Paramount Plus even bother listing the handful of non-current CBS programs it adds each month?), and there are often surprises from the paid services. We already have good news with the announcement that Shout! TV is adding CPO Sharkey and several Don Rickles specials. But I want more, more, more, and so here are 3 nice additions I'd like to see when I scan my Roku on Saturday morning:

The Incredible Hulk: Why does this series have such a low profile in the streaming era? The character is popular and in the public eye thanks to the MCU, yet right now it isn't available after NBC quietly dropped it from its own app. It has its flaws but also has some great episodes, and I'd think someone could market it or do something with it. I thought it would be a natural for Peacock, but it isn't on the May list. Maybe it will show up on Tubi alongside other Universal genre shows of the era Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica. 

Maverick: It's outside our time frame, but the show is the ancestor of The Rockford Files, yet outside of a limited stint on Warner Archive Instant, I don't think it has streamed anywhere. We all know how disdainful the various streamers are of "old" shows, but, come on, James Garner! This is a popular Western with a devoted fanbase, and while MeTv runs it each week, I bet the episodes would look great uncut on HBO Max. I bet they'd look better than The Nanny. Even if it returned to Starz, it would at least be something to watch with those constant cheap subscription deals they throw out so often.

Riptide: I never really watched this in its original run, but it would be nice to have the minor NBC hit of the mid Eighties available somewhere.  This series doesn't get mentioned anywhere, and I don't the last time/place it had a significant run, but it's a part of 1980s TV history. This one seems to be a good fit for Hulu, and it comes to mind because of the reports that Sony TV shows would be coming there as part of the new massive deal with Disney. Hopefully the shows include some from the 20th century.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Murder, She Wrote Monday: The "Earth-Prime" work of Jessica B. Fletcher

Not only does Jessica Fletcher write successful novels in character on the TV series Murder, She Wrote, but she is also a prolific author in this world--yes, our world, which I like to call Earth-Prime after my misspent youth reading DC Comics. Donald Bain is credited as the co-writer, but I like to think he just transcribed Jessica's audiotapes since she is too busy solving murders to sit down and type out manuscripts. Of course, since Bain died in 2017, he probably isn't even doing that anymore.

According to Wikipedia, Jon Land took over the series after Bain's passing, and now 3 books are scheduled under the name of Terrie Farley Moran, or "Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran," that is. It's amazing that the books roll on 25 years after the television show signed off.  The first novel appeared in 1989, and then there was a gap until 1994, but since then there has been at least one and often more than one new mystery novel every year except 2017, and given what happened then, that's understandable.

(In case you're wondering, Bain died of congestive heart failure and not under suspicious circumstances involving one of Jessica's relatives.)

Has anyone here read any of the books? I picked up a few cheap paperbacks at a used book store a while back. To think I mocked the show when it aired back in the day, yet now I watch reruns each week and paid actual money for two novels based on it! When my girlfriend and I picked these two up, we thought it would be fun to read them aloud, and given that they are written in the first person, that does sound like quite a diversion. We haven't read them yet, but someday!

Here are the two I have, from 1995 and 1997, respectively:

Brandy and Bullets features some kind of attempt to bring "high art" and culture to Cabot Cove, so that sounds fun. Murder on the QE2 sends Jess on a free cruise she earns for giving mystery-writing lectures on board. I'm not sure that all this will work without the special guest stars and luminaries like The Bos, but I do plan to give it a try!

Next time we'll go back into the episodes with one of my favorite titles of the series so far.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Top Ten #117

1) The 1986 Academy Awards: I wasn't a regular Oscar watcher at the time, and seeing what movie won most of the awards reminds me of why I didn't pay much attention (I still haven't seen Out of Africa), but it's still a surprise to see this host pairing: Alan Alda, Jane Fonda, and Robin Williams!

2) LeVar Burton: Landed a gig guest-hosting Jeopardy! after a popular fan petition. You know what this means? My dream of getting Bob Eubanks to host Reading Rainbow is still alive!

3) Bugs Bunny: MeTV is running a poll to determine our favorite Bugs cartoon of all time and why it's Slick Hare.

4) Telephone Day: Reach out and touch someone!

5) Mission Impossible: My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to mention that Decades has a marathon this weekend without resorting to a trite reworking of the show's tagline.

I don't choose to accept it!

6) Wide World of Sports 20th Anniversary Special: Not to be confused with the 25TH Anniversary Special we talked about on the podcast, this aired in prime time on ABC 40 years ago tonight. Did Evel Knievel ride on stage in a motorbike in this one? Huh? Did he?

No, seriously, I'd like to know, because I'd watch it if he did.

7) Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom: RFD-TV picked up the series this month and is showing reruns and then posting them on YouTube

8) Mitzi...Roarin; in the 20s: This 1976 TV special featuring Mitzi Gaynor, Ken Barry, and Carl Reiner, is now on Prime Video because, well, who cares why. It's a 45-year-old show about a time period 100 years old, so be thankful it's there!

9) Charlie's Angels Deluxe Hideaway: Because I gotta admit, this looks pretty sweet:

10) Oscar Madison: Probably the only Oscar I will feel like watching tonight.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

This Day in TV History: Stockers with Terry Bradshaw

40 years ago tonight, NBC nudged a pilot into its Friday night lineup of a Harper Valley P..T.A. rerun and The Gangster Chronicles: Stockers, a comedy from Johnny Carson Productions starring former BOTNS featured personality Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Terry Bradshaw. Mel Tillis co-starred as Terry's sidekick; the two were stock car racers traveling the country, seeking adventures and trying to stay one step ahead of a tireless bill collector (Robert Tessier) who's hunting them down).

Bradshaw was on the downside of his career, but was it realistic to think he could leave the NFL for acting full time at this point? This Steelers Depot piece indicates it was a real possibility. The QB had already been in Hooper and Cannonball Run, and his entertainment aspirations were well known. By the way, the director of both those pictures, Hal Needham, also did this pilot, which was a clear effort to get some of that country/outlaw chic of the era exemplified by The Dukes of Hazzard and Smokey and the Bandit.

(How in the world did Terry not earn a Batty nomination in our season 6 for his performance as himself in Greatest Sports Legends?)

The show was a mess, reportedly, the broadcast didn't do well according to this report, and thus the show was not picked up for the Fall schedule. It couldn't overcome repeats of I'm a Big Girl Now (ABC) and The Incredible Hulk (CBS), and so Terry Bradshaw returned for the 1981 season. The Steelers finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season. The Hall of Famer played in 1982, then retired after missing most of an injury-plagued 1983 season.

Unfortunately this remains a What I'd Like to See entry for now. Bradshaw himself doesn't think I should try to find it, telling Rolling Stone last year:
They should not watch an old TV show I did called Stockers. Absolutely not. It was a show on NBC. It’s horrible. The pilot was a takeoff of Cannonball Run.
I’ve never heard of this. Why was it so bad?
Bad. It was bad. Bad writing. Bad acting. You just name it. The music in it was even bad! How can you have bad music?

Friday, April 23, 2021

Promo Theatre: What the heck is "Live-In"?

At first glance, this promo is kind of off-putting:

However, after you see it, it just becomes outright laughable, and not in the sense of, "Hey, that new sitcom is going to make me laugh a lot and for the right reasons!"

I love the tagline, "It's hard to live with temptation."

Live In did not live on after this premiere.  It lasted only 9 episodes from March to June 1989 at 8:00 on CBS. And does this somehow seem a little off brand for 1989 CBS, or is it just me?

CBS was having trouble finding stability in that 8:00 timeslot on Mondays. Look at the shows that started there in the Fall after Scarecrow and Mrs. King as CBS kept moving established hits around and pairing them with flops:

1986: Kate & Allie

1987: Frank's Place

1988: Major Dad

1989: Newhart

Spring 1989: Live-In

1990: Uncle Buck

1991: Finally Burt Reynolds stabilizes the night with Evening Shade.

Stars Lisa Patrick and Chris Wells didn't catch on with America as an Australian live-in domestic engineer and the hormonally charged high schooler who wants her to be more than just, uh, his maid. In this spot, Wells seems to be trying a little too hard but lacking something. Patrick seems charming enough, but the nation just didn't want a show about a horny teenager relenttlessly hitting on his housekeeper.

Wells had several regular gigs after this, including a stint on Falcon Crest and a spot as a regular on 1990's single-season sitcom Married People. Patrick has very few credits besides Live-In. You failed her, CBS!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Happy Earth Day and Happy Byron Allen Day!

It's also Byron Allen's birthday. The two have a lot in common. Both have been around for what seems like forever. Both are massive forces with their own gravitational pulls. Uh...both have been featured on NBC?

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

This Day in TV History: Geraldo vs. Al Capone's Vault

35 years ago tonight, in a live television extravaganza, Geraldo Rivera explored the long-untouched vaults of notorious gangster Al Capone and found some dusty bottles. The flop was a huge embarrassment but a ratings success if a constant joke that followed Rivera around for years.

The Mystery of Al Capone's Vaults was a two-hour syndicated special that took viewers into the bowels of Chicago in search for Capone's lost treasures. A team of experts went in with Rivera, including personnel designed to deal with possible dead bodies! Tribune Entertainment distributed the show, and I remember my beloved Channel 11 in New York airing it. One of the producers was Doug Llewelyn from The People's Court.

For further reading, this Mental Floss oral history is fun, and Noel Murray provides perspective on the event at The AV Club. He references the Floss story and adds detail on Rivera's status at the time (looking for a comeback after a highly publicized exit from ABC) and the impact of the event.

Let's take this opportunity to squash one persistent but false rumor: This gentleman was not involved with this special in any way, shape, nor form:

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Promo Theatre: Two of Us and Private Benjamin on CBS

In the 1980-1981 overview episode of our most recent season, we talked a bit about two midseason programs on CBS.  To be fair, many shows ended up as "midseason" debuts of sorts because of the writer strike we discussed, but this pair of sitcoms wasn't even in the "waiting in the wings" section of that season's TV Guide Fall Preview. 

Here is a vintage promo for the shows:

Each premiered April 6, 1981, but while Benjamin had some modest success, earning an Emmy for co-star Eileen Brennan and lasting parts of 3 seasons, Peter Cook's Two of Us was canceled a year later despite being retooled to add Tim Thomerson when it made the Fall 1981 schedule.

Here is a promo for the premieres of the two shows:

Monday, April 19, 2021

Murder, She Wrote Monday: Episode #3-4: One White Rose for Death

It's entirely possible for Murder, She Wrote to deliver a well-produced, professional, solid episode and for that same episode to leave me kind of flat. Such is the case with episode 4 of the third season, "One White Rose for Death," which suffers from being thematically similar to season 1's "Death Takes a Curtain Call." To be fair, in "real life," almost two years separated the two installments, while in "me watching the show on streaming today" time, it was way less.

"White Rose," like "Curtain Call," features a practitioner of the fine arts involved in Cold War/Communist Bloc intrigue and possible defection. Yet this episode lacks one key element of the earlier story: William Conrad! The former Cannon (and many other wonderful things) is one of the best guest stars of season 1 and is not approached by anyone in this season 3 show. Oh, "White Rose" has plenty of fine actors such as Bernard Fox, but it doesn't have a guest as fun as Conrad.

It's an interesting setup this time out. Jessica is attending a concert in Washington D.C. by a famed East German violinist (Jenny Agutter) and suddenly gets entangled in a situation with her old pal British agent Michael Hagerty (palpable sexual tension between Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury, folks); they hole up in the British Embassy, where a murder is committed! The Embassy itself is a pretty cool set and the kind of thing you just don't see in Cabot Cove, yet by this point in season 3 I am anxious to get a Cove episode again.

There isn't anything wrong with this one--the art direction and the performances are impressive, and the mystery is fine--but it lacked something for me. I really do think it felt a bit too familiar overall after having seen the Conrad episode, which was more entertaining. This one is a reminder to me that I am not really watching MSW for quality television and airtight mysteries. I'm watching it for the entertainment value of the guest stars, and the ridiculousness Jessica finds herself in each time out. So while I admire the international intrigue and geopolitics of this episode, it falls short of top tier for me despite being probably the best-acted one I can remember seeing in some time.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Top Ten #116

1) It Takes Two: Thanks to one of the new members of our Facebook group, Trevor, for posting a link to the first epsiode of this short-lived Richard Crenna/patty Duke sitcom. it's worth a look if only for this theme song by BOTNS fave Paul Williams and Crystal Gayle!

2) Nipsey Russell: It's National Poetry Month, everyone! In my opinion, we haven't really had a decent poet laureate since Nipsey and maybe Leaping Lanny Poffo:

3) Fred Astaire: The AFI tribute special to the legend aired on this day in 1981.

4) WrestleRock Rumble: Because another of our Facebook group friends, Geno, mentioned this last week, and I never want to miss an excuse--uh, chance--to post this. Talk about POETRY!

5) Diana!: On April 18 1971, Diana Ross starred in her own special to promote a new solo album. along with guests Danny Thomas, The Jackson 5, and Bill Cosby. It's reportedly the first time Jacko, who did a Sinatra impersonation, performed solo on television.

6) Lineman Appreciation Day: Props to all the linemen out there:

7) Check It Out!: Not only is this show the talk of our group (Well, OK, I tried to make it happen, but would you believe it missed it by that much?), but the first season is on Pluto TV. This has to have one of the worst theme songs ever, a "try hard" attempt at 1980s-style rap that, unfortunately, sets the tone for the show:

8) Martin Short: He's a national treasure, I tell you--not my nation, but so what? Enjoy this clip the Carson estate posted this week:

9) National Columnists Day: We can't let this day go by without posting a pic of the great DVP as Thomas Bradford of the Sacramento Register!

10) Felix Silla: R.I.P.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

This Day in TV History: Farewell to The Brady Brides!

40 years ago, a nation already reeling from the assassination attempt on President Reagan, the recessionary economy, and the recent loss of North Carolina in the NCAA basketball championship game suffered one more setback as NBC broadcast the final episode of The Brady Brides.

Our extensive coverage of The Brady Bunch in our season 8 opener didn't have much time to cover all the spinoffs, but, well, Brides of them. I can't in good faith defend the effort, which put Marcia and Jan together as newlyweds who had to move in together with their respective husbands to afford a house of their own. Ann B. Davis reprised her role as Alice, but didn't live with the gals. She just hung out and cleaned up sometimes, I think. Florence Henderson became a semi-regular, too.

The series was conceived as a TV movie at first, but NBC, perhaps desperate for content in this strike-altered season, decided to split it up into "episodes" and run it as a multi-week event. Is there where HBO Max got its first ideas for the Snyder Cut?  The 3 half-hours did well on Friday night in February, so NBC went ahead with the regular series after a week's absence, but it only lasted a couple of months.

Barrry Williams' book Growing Up Brady and other sources imply that the success of the 3 split-up episodes instigated the regular series, but it seems likelier that they changed course during the production of the movie. Lloyd Schwartz indicated they really hustled to get a series on the air, and they must have because just two weeks after the opening "arc"/movie, they had a string of new episodes ready. 

Note that, as reviewer Stuart Galbraith points out in his take on the 2019 epic Brady DVD set:

 The ninety-minute reunion film featured the entire original cast (for the only time after the original series ended). It was shot on film and goes through the usual paces. However, after Marcia (Maureen McCormick) and Jan (Eve Plumb) actually get married and the show seems to be reaching its obvious conclusion, everything shifts in the last half-hour to the siblings' anticlimactic antics as newly marrieds, on a set that, suspiciously, looks like a standard three-camera sitcom family room. (The first hour of the show is a one-camera, 35mm job, like the original series.) My guess is that the show was originally conceived as a one-hour special, but then Schwartz talked the network into letting him add another 25 minutes that would serve as a backdoor pilot. Sure enough, the series that followed, The Brady Brides, was exactly that, a typical sitcom filmed before a studio audience. It lasted only seven episodes.

Whatever the case, the series didn't last, and while those involved blamed a network regime change and Grant Tinker not caring for the show, I think it's proof that apart from the original, audiences like one occasional dose of the Bradys more than repeated weekly ones. On numerous occasions, someone brought the gang back for a movie or special, got great ratings, and was then disappointed when the ensuing ongoing project didn't  stick. As far as I know, nobody went into a pool in this version of the Bradys, which makes it inferior to the infamous variety show.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Happy (early) birthday, Daffy Duck!

Multiple sources cite April 17 as Daffy Duck's birthday, but were gonna celebrate a day early!  The character debuted in Porky's Duck Hunt on this date in 1937 and went on to a great run in films and TV...sullied somewhat, IMHO, by his relegation to a stooge for Bugs Bunny after many of the most famous Chuck Jones Looney Tunes.

Let's celebrate this day with a look at Duck's underappreciated work as a spokesman for public service causes:

Daffy was a fixture on Saturday mornings for years and even had his own program for a while on NBC. Is that theme song inspired by the Wing and a Payer Drum Fife Corps version of "Baby Face"?

Thursday, April 15, 2021

We got a collective extension, but it's still Tax Day

 So why not watch two of the greats help us out?

Do you think the IRS had any trouble getting stations to run its PSAs? I doubt it! 

Looking at this 1977 spot with modern eyes, you can't help but lament the fact that two of the most innuendo-spouting performers of the era recorded a "clean" public service announcement. There's not even one suggestive comment about Rue helping Norman "get an extension." She says nothing when he uses the phrase "tax package." Sure, Fell's character makes a mild alimony joke, but it's rather tame. What a missed opportunity!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

This Day in TV History: Celebrate Easter with the Berenstain Bears

Disclaimer: In our ongoing effort to avoid potentially divisive and/or controversial topics, we are in no way going to address the Mandela Effect and the chance that it may have been Berenstein Bears at one point.

On this day 40 years ago, NBC looked ahead to Easter (Is Easter the most variable holiday of them all? It's been a week and a half this year, but in 1981 it was the upcoming weekend) with this new original animated special,:

The special was third of 5 annual Berenstain bears cartoons aired during the "dark years" of NBC. I haven't seen it in a while, but it is not at all hard to find if you want to check it out (sorry for the flashback to yesterday's post, and the official Bears Facebook account has posted the video free for all to see.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Hey, Check It Out, it's Don Adams' birthday!

One of the most fascinating yet underreported aspects of 1980s television is the off-network first-run sitcom. We talked about What a Country! a few seasons ago, and in our TBS episode we discussed Rocky Road, but there are so many more to remember or discover.

On what would have been the late Don Adams' birthday, take a look at his 1980s sitcom Check It Out! Apparently exclamation marks were big in the world of non-network sitcoms back then. Let's all revisit the Canadian series with this 1985 promo (Yes, we have to!):

This is filled with things that are supposed to look funny--no, make that zany--but don't really inspire confidence that the series itself is going to provoke laughter. As a result, I declare this promo an utter failure, but then they didn't have much to work with apart from star Adams' incredulous mugging at the "zany bunch of employees." That's right, folks, the USA Network voice-over guy really describes them as zany. Nice try, and no disrespect to the great Alan Kalter, but the promo copy is really straining to suggest ensuing hilarity.

It's amazing to me this show lasted 3 seasons and over 60 episodes. Produced in Canada for CTV, it made its way to the USA on, as this promo proclaims with pride, the USA Network. What a country, indeed.

The sitcom was an adaptation of Britcom Tripper's Day produced jointly by DLT Entertainment (the production company that hit it big with Three's Company) for the two networks, making this the best Canada/USA team-up since..uh, I dunno, something with Alpha Flight and the X-Men? In 1986 the reruns hit syndication, but while it aired on New York's Channel 5, I remembered it only as a USA show and totally forgot it was anywhere else.

I didn't forget the show itself, though...try as I might.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Murder, She Wrote Monday: Episode 3-3: Unfinished Business

One of my favorite performers of the early days of television is Don DeFore. Smooth and professional, he was a perfect foil for the titular Hazel and an enjoyable regular as Ozzie (of Ozzie and Harriet, natch) Nelson's neighbor Thorny. He even seemed polished in grittier work like movies Too Late for Tears and Southside 1-1000.

It was a big pleasant surprise to see him pop up in "Unfinished Business," a Murder, She Wrote that debuted October 12, 1986. For one thing, I don't remember him being in much at all post-Hazel, let alone 15 years after the fact. For another, his resort proprietor is kind of unkempt. Disheveled Don DeFore is not a frequent presence in my TV memory!

Just by existing in this one, he steals the whole thing from an impressive roster of character actors. Pat Hingle is prickly as a retired lawman trying to solve an old case, J.D. Cannon is the local lawman who gets involved when a new murder occurs at the lakeside cabin resort DeFore owns, and Lloyd Bochner is a doctor who may be involved somehow. All this plus Erin Moran and Hayley Mills!

What interests me is that, speaking of "that guys," series regular William Windom gets a little bit of a showcase for his Seth character.  Dr. Seth is of course Jessica's "close personal friend," and she works to clear him on some serious charges at this declining resort--but what secrets is Seth hiding? I like seeing Windom have a bit more to do than make sarcastic (yet genteel) comments about the idiots in Cabot Cove.

The woodsy setting is a nice change of pace, and the performances are fun, but the story is lacking.  The resolution is a real head scratcher that doesn't bring a satisfaction closure to everything. The plot is credited to longtime scribe Jackson Gillis, who knows what he's doing, but we had to try to cobble together an explanation that made some kind of sense. Maybe some key scenes were excised in post production.

But, hey, Don DeFore with stubble! Turns out this is his next-to-last role, followed only by an appearance on St. Elsewhere in 1987. I never expected to see him on Murder, and it points out the real joy of the show: the surprise of seeing who turns up each week.

Viewers in 1986 may have thrilled to a Tom Bosley/Erin Moran reunion. It's interesting to see Sheriff Tupper out of his jurisdiction, another nice change of pace.  I still think this episode could have been much better, but this was one where the guest cast carried the program and made it a solid outing.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Top Ten #115

1) Murder, She Wrote: Murder Monday debuted here on the site last week with a look at Jessica under the big top (as a lion tamer? a sword swallower? You will have to click here to find out) and will be back tomorrow!

2) Mason Reese: Here's a birthday that will make a lot of people feel old: Former child acting sensation and pitchman Reese is 55 today! As a treat, enjoy the failed TV pilot Mason uploaded by Reese himself! It's a total misfire, so much so that ABC burned it off on July 4 two years after its production:

3) Starsky & Hutch/Charlie's Angels/Partridge Family: These 3 are among the new old series just added to Tubi TV--or partially so. Pity the poor soul who has already torn through the first couple seasons of Charlie's Angels and now has to wait for season 3.

4) Police Story: Decades is having a marathon this weekend but not, much to our chagrin, showing the episode with Michael Learned.

5) Louise Lasser: Happy birthday to the star of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and also one of the most notorious episodes of Saturday Night Live.

6) Larry Holmes/Trevor Berbick: This fight for the WBC Heavyweight Champeenship of the world aired live on HBO on this day in 1981. I won;t reveal who wins (the fight is online if you want to watch it), but the bad blood lingered and led to this bizarre moment in 1991:

7) National 8-Track Tape Day: Rock on!

8) Crash Island: This NBC movie debuted 40 years ago tonight. The cast features a group of young actors, Warren Berlinger, and Meadowlark Lemon because he was everywhere!

9) Jem: The prices on these just-announced Super 7 action figures will likely be truly, truly outrageous, but they do look good:

10) Walter Olkewicz, Anne Beatts, james Hampton:  R.I.P. to all. 

Here's Olkewicz ducking out of Bill Tush's show to go bowling:

Beatts was responsible for so much comedy in the 1970s and 1980s, including of course the short-lived but fondly recalled Square Pegs:

Here's the late James Hampton in a 1970s spot:

Saturday, April 10, 2021

This Day in TV History: Two short-lived comedies debut on CBS

OK, these two interesting but failed sitcoms actually debuted 40 years ago yesterday, but you can understand why we wanted to give Digger Doyle the spotlight on Friday. So today let's look at the two programs that preceded that episode of Magnum P.I. on April 9, 1981.

At 8:00, CBS began the night with the premiere of Checking In, Marla Gibbs' spinoff from The Jeffersons.  Maid Florence becomes the "executive housekeeper" at a swank New York City hotel. The T.A.T. Communications (soon to be Embassy) program also featured Larry Linville as Gibbs' boss, who sounds like a classic Linville-style foil; and Liz Torres, but the most interesting regular to me is R&B singer Ruth Brown!

The series is rarely seen, though one episode made it onto the complete series set of The Jeffersons as a bonus feature. Gibbs returned to the flagship program after a paltry 4-episode run on the spinoff. That season's TV Guide Fall preview issue lists this one in the "In the Wings" section and says CBS calls the then-titled Marla Gibbs Show "a definite replacement series."

After Checking In, another sitcom appeared for the first time: Park Place with Harold Gould as a lawyer who runs a NYC clinic offering free legal aid. Of course the lawyers on staff are themselves in need of various forms of aid! It lasted a mere 5 episodes.

Brooks and Marsh's Complete Directory to Prime Time Shows says that Park Place was inspired by "urban gang comedies" like Barney Miller and Taxi. The capsule description amuses me with its rundown of all the character types who make up Gould's staff of young lawyers:

"Jeff O'Neil, the naive eager beaver; Howie beach, the status-seeking opportunist; Jo Keene, the aggressive women's libber; Mac MacRae, the wheelchair-ridden Black Vietnam veteran; and Brad Lincoln, the inexperienced young Harvard graduate trying to obtain some recognition from his peers. Frances, the efficient but spaced-out secretary; and Ernie, the hip receptionist, round out the cast."

That show must have written itself with such an array of rich characters!

One more note: This episode has one of the best behind-the-camera name combos ever. It was created by Reinhold Weege, whose Starry Night Productions later got a hit with Night Court; and directed by longtime vet and former The Bob Newhart Show star Peter Bonerz.

Friday, April 9, 2021

This Day in TV History: Magnum Meets Digger

Mike here taking a crack at the history books and a quick look back at one of our favorite episodes of one of our favorite shows, featuring two of our favorite stars! 

Forty years ago, the Magnum P.I episode "J. Digger Doyle" premiered on CBS, bringing together Tom Selleck and his magical mustache with BOTNS four-timer(!) Erin Gray. I don't like peanut butter, but if I did, I imagine the fabled mixing of chocolate and peanut butter might go over as well as this pairing. As a bonus, the episode includes a good deal of Orson Welles as the voice of Robin Masters.

Of course, we discussed the episode at length on the podcast. In short, some bad guys want to steal Robin Masters' latest manuscript, and Gray's Digger Doyle arrives in Hawaii as an at-first undercover security agent. Digger and Magnum go through a whole range of emotions together, and Gray and Selleck play them all with great ease.






Anger and betrayal

More ooh-la-la-la

More annoyance

Good times!

Some notable trivia courtesy Magnum Mania! (where they rate this episode number 11 in their top 40).

  • If things had worked out, this episode could have led to a Digger Doyle series for Gray. Alas, they didn't, and she went on to star in Silver Spoons, but we can dream.
  • The first use of Higgins' full name Jonathan Quayle Higgins III.
  • The first time TC called Higgins Higgy-Baby.
  • The episode complicates but--at least according to Magnum Mania!--doesn't put the kibosh on the Higgins is really Robin theory.
If you haven't seen the episode, we give it our highest recommendation! Rick has his dreams about making Ed McMahon a BOTNS five-timer, but personally, I'm more interested in finding a way to give Erin Gray that "honor." 

Hmm. Maybe we can find an episode of TV's Blooper's and Practical Jokes featuring Gray and Bill Lucking and make everyone happy!

Thursday, April 8, 2021

This Day in TV History: Hardhat and Legs (1980)

On this night 40 years ago, CBS' Wednesday Night Movie was an encore presentation of 1980's Hardhat and Legs.  Yes, this movie is exactly what you think. Here is the summary from Google:

An amorous construction worker begins a complicated and humorous romance with an attractive sex-education teacher.

The stars are Kevin Dobson and Sharon Gless. Can you guess which one plays the construction worker and which one the attractive sex ed teacher?

IMDB fleshes it out a bit more. Gless' character is a socilaite, and Dobson's hardhat has a gambling problem.

Co-written by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin (yes, that Gordon and Kanin; this was the first movie they wrote together since 1952's The Marrying Kind), this sounds so lovable in its old-fashioned title and premise. For what it's worth, it receives several positive viewer reviews on IMDB, and it must have done something right if CBS reran it a year and change after its February 1980 debut.

it does sound a little dated, though, doesn't it? But that didn't define CBS in 1981. Let's look at what preceded it on April 8, 1981.  OK, it's an episode of Enos titled...uh, "The Shaming of the Shrew." Never mind!

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

A word on Warner Archive

There is a lot of ambiguity about the status of Warner Archive. Oh, it's cranking out Blu-Rays in 2021 and probably into 2022, but as for its viability as a long-term concern, no one is really sure in the wake of the WB shop website (which was run by a third party for years) and the layoff/reassignment of key employees like George Feltenstein.  There are reports that Feltenstein, the heart of the division, is a consultant with the company, but when answering listener mail on the recent final podcast, he couldn't give an emphatic reassurance that WA would continue to thrive.

Why am I bringing all this up? Well, the fact that it was the final podcast is concerning. I will miss the guys and their insight into not only new releases from the WA, but also home video in general and film restoration.

Unfortunately, for quite some time now, Warner Archive has concentrated on Blu-Ray upgrades, apparently in conjunction with an ongoing restoration and preservation effort for the vast Warner Library and the need for product for HBO Max. That is spawning a lot of great discs, but the "unfortunate" part is a good deal of  the original mission of the WA was to put stuff out on DVD with an MOD model that put all kinds of obscurities into the hands of consumers.

The television-on-dvd efforts led to a lot of long-buried shows from the BOTNS era seeing a little daylight. I admit I found the Archive prices a little much for many of the shows which would have been blind buys for me, but I was an enthusiastic (albeit ultimately disappointed as the company abandoned it) supporter of Warner Archive Instant, a wildly idiosyncratic streaming on demand service scrapped when Warner gained a corporate parent that didn't want to deal with it.  That led to Filmstruck, which scraped away most of the rarer movies and TV shows, and then that was killed off.

One of the shows that the guys at WA championed early was Search, one of our favorite shows of the era and partial inspiration for our podcast. I watched that on Warner Archive Instant along with programs like Flo, Beyond Westworld, The Man from AtlantisThe Jimmy Stewart Show, The Practice (1976), Harry O, Bronk... Good luck finding any of those on HBO Max.  That's not even including the TV movies on there (and on DVD through the archive) and the pre-1970 series like Dr. Kildare, Cain's Hundred, The Man from Shenandoah, and Maya

Where is all this stuff now? Still in the Warner vaults. Mr. Novak season 1 came out several years ago, and season 2 doesn't seem to be on the horizon as WA concentrates on animation and more recent fare. It's good that something like Head of the Class is remastered for disc and for HBO Max, but I miss the days when you could get something like McLain's Law out of nowhere. There are so many BIG WB shows not on streaming right now that I don't think we'll ever get the smaller ones. The final Warner Archive podcast is another reminder of all the stuff we won't get to see anymore, but at least most of these shows I mentioned here are still available on good, old DVD...for now.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

By popular demand (sort of): More on I''m a Big Girl Now

Friend of the show Dann mentioned on our Facebook group that the short-lived 1980-1981 sitcom I'm a Big Girl Now also included Sheree North and Marty Short. Well, one of them makes the cut in this TV Guide Fall preview close-up:

In the absence of actual full episodes to watch, I can only conclude that the best thing about this show is that it gave Ernie Anderson a reason to say 'I'm a big girl now!" The pro he is, Anderson emphasizes the word big each time he recites the title.

Here's another promo, this one for an episode premiere 40 years ago this Saturday:

Monday, April 5, 2021

Murder, She Wrote Monday: Episodes 3-1 and 3-2: Death Stalks the Big Top

My antennae go up whenever an hourlong TV show has a two-parter. Sometimes it leads to a gem, but often it means stretching out a single-episode with filler. Sometimes a radical change in the show's premise or an expansion of the milieu warrants more time--we will see an example later this season--but does "Jessica goes to the circus" really need a two-parter?

The short answer is no, but "Death Stalks the Big Top" is a fun outing nonetheless. It doesn't really take advantage of the traveling circus theme, though, even with the extra running time, and here's one big waste: How in the world do you have BOTNS fave Greg Evigan as a guest star and not have him sing?

The episode has a bizarre structure: We start in Washington D.C. as Jessica arrives in town for the wedding of her niece (a young Courtney Cox). On a flimsy pretext, Jessica flies right back out of there to track down a relative (this is all on late hubby Frank's side)  presumed dead. I think she just wants to get away from her niece's snooty, annoying family, but Jessica has a mission that takes her into the world of the circus and of course gets her involved with a murder and an obnoxious small-town D.A. (Ronny "No relation to Courtney" Cox).

The main guest star is Jackie Cooper, who is likable enough and gets some showcase scenes.  The circus is really more like a carnival, and we are supposed to think of them as tight-knit carnies who don't like outsiders. There is some family intrigue, an annoying kid, and MURDER!

Here is the best reason to see this episode: In order to get a foothold in the closed-off circus community, Jessica "goes undercover" as a local general store owner. To get in character, she dons outlandish clothes and some kind of Southern accent. It works--both to get an "in" and to double me up with laughter. Even before season 3, my better half and I enjoyed joking about Jessica's endless array of nieces and nephews, so we had a good laugh about that, but nothing tops that glorious scene.

I haven't mentioned guests Marty Balsam, Florence Henderson, and Laraine Day, who seem underused even in a two-parter, but Gregg Henry has a nice juicy part as one of the local law enforcers. Did this need to be a two-parter? No, it didn't, but it's entertaining enough even if lacking the showcase Evigan performance for which you keep waiting.

Next time on Murder, She Wrote Monday: William "Seth" Windom gets a run for his "That guy" money, and one of my favorite old-school actors makes a surprise appearance.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Top Ten #114

1) It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown: Happy Easter, everyone! It's time for me to revisit this one for the first time in years now that it's on Apple Plus--much like I finally saw the Valentine's Day special again this year. Next on the clock is the Arbor Day show, so come through for us, Apple!

2) Fred Astaire: With all due respect to Chuck Brown, that special is Snoopy-centric, so I consider Astaire, the narrator and host of The Easter Bunny Is Coming to Town, to be "Mr. Easter."

3) Johnny Carson: How about another look at the suave Carson as host of the Academy Awards, which we mention on our bonus episode this week?

4) The Bermuda Depths: This Rankin-Bass live-action TV movie had about 5 different release dates listed for its new Blu-Ray release, but I am pretty sure it's out now. The off-kilter fantasy doesn't have Fred Astaire, but it does have Connie Sellecca!

5) Here Comes Peter Cottontail: This other Rankin-Bass Easter special premiered on this day in 1971. It was hosted by Danny Kaye, not Fred Astaire.

6) Nancy McKeon: Happy birthday!

7) Vitamin C Day: Celebrate with a nice glass of orange juice!

8) Godzilla and King Kong: The two stars face off this week in the new HBO Max premiere film, but they had their showcase programs back in the day (to say nothing of the underseen Godzilla vs. King Kong vs. Fred Astaire). Remember the big presentation of the 1976 Kong film on NBC:

And of course the King of the Monsters had his own NBC cartoon series:

9) Police Woman: Decades is running a marathon this weekend, but sadly not showing the one with Michael Lerner. Nor is there an episode with Fred Astaire on the docket.

10) Craig T. Nelson: Happy birthday! Here's a glimpse of the 1984 Call to Glory:

Saturday, April 3, 2021

This Day in TV History: Friday, April 3, 1981

Today we take another look at TV 40 years ago via the TV Guide from the Dallas/Fort Worth area for that week. Let's go back to Friday, April 3, 1981, and see what was happening.

What better way to start this post--nay, the weekend--than with a hilarious hour of comedy?

ABC followed that with 1979 TV movie Vampire. In her weekly look at TV movies in this issue, Judith Crist refers to the production's "only distinction--beyond wasted talents--being that Richard Lynch's handsome vampire is a blond hailing from Hungary instead of a brunet from Transylvania."

Nothing else warranted a display ad nor close-up on this Friday night. NBC offered Harper Valley P.T.A., The Brady Brides, Nero Wolfe, and its time filler--uh, public affairs program NBC Magazine with David Brinkley.

CBS was the big dog on Fridays in 1981, and on this night it had new episodes of The Incredible Hulk, The Dukes of Hazzard, and of course Dallas.

Here's an interesting "Remember this was 1981" note: At 11:00 Central time, so midnight on the East coast, CBS was scheduled to air an NBA Western Conference playoff game! Well, at least it wasn't tape delayed. Looking back at the schedule, this must have been either the Rockets and the Lakers or the Suns and the Kansas City Kings.

ABC had an episode of Fridays with Father Guido Sarducci and Jefferson Starship, and on NBC late night, Skip Stephenson and Byron Allen hosted a Midnight Special with guests CCR and Waylon Jennings, plus for some reason a look at ABC series Vega$. A little earlier on channel 11, viewers at 10:00 got a chance to see one of the most famous TV episodes of all time:

Friday, April 2, 2021

This Day in TV History: Thursday, April 2, 1981

With the aid of the same TV Guide we used in this week's bonus episode, let's look at what happened on the airwaves 40 years ago today--Thursday, April 2, 1981:

Perhaps the biggest event is the premiere of a short-lived but acclaimed TV show that has come up on the podcast several times. It's Michael Lerner--wait, no, it's Michael Learned--in the debut of Nurse:

The only NBC program to get a display ad is My Father, the Circus King, a special showcasing famed tiger trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey circus.  The documentary is through the eyes of his son, and the special is under NBC's Project Peacock banner promoting specials aimed at young audiences.

On ABC, there's a new look to Thursday night's lineup, as this ad tells us:

As we mentioned yesterday in our Show Notes for this week's bonus episode, the attempted assasination of Ronald Reagan earlier in the week had caused pre-emptions. One of them was this scheduled episode of Mork, and you can see why when you see the capsule:

Remember that this is a Dallas/Fort-Worth edition, and so the times are Central.  You can see here that CBS had a cool-sounding episode of Magnum leading in to that Nurse premiere. Preceding that, on The Waltons, John-Boy is promised a job at the university "if he can create a television department." I want to see that one!

NBC had a two-hour Flamingo Road after the circus special. ABC followed its leadoff comedies with Barney Miller, Taxi, and a 20/20 with Geraldo Rivera reporting on terrorism from the Middle East.

Elsewhere on the dial, the PBS affiliate, channel 13, had Sneak Previews, Paper Chase, and a National Geographic spotlighting the National Parks. Outside prime time, independent station channel 39 had a Wonder Woman rerun with Joan Van Ark and Ted Shackelford! At the same time on channel 21, Yvonne Craig guested on The Wild Wild West.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Show Notes: TV Guide Game (March 30, 1981 listings)

*Here is a look at the cover of the issue we use for this week's game: The March 28-April 3, 1981 Dallas-Fort Worth edition. Specifically we look at  Monday, March 30.

*The video playlist for this episode is right here! It's worth it just to hear Ernie Anderson ask, what's up with Pat Benatar?

*Special shout to our listeners in the Central time zone!

*The assassination attempt on President Ronald Regan occurred at about 2:30 in the afternoon, and network coverage of the ongoing events pre-empted much of the scheduled programming.

*The Bugs Bunny Easter Special premiered April 7, 1977 and was bumped for news coverage on this night. CBS resumed programming at 9. The show had a storyline about the Easter Bunny being ill and showed selections from 10 different classic toons like Rabbit of Seville and Robin Hood Daffy.

*The MASH episode was one that was pre-empted by coverage of the President Reagan situation. According to this site, the original episode, "The Life You Save," was replaced with one that did not deal with a sniper attacking the camp. "Life" eventually ran May 4.

*The Lou Grant episode, a rerun, is the fourth-season opener, "Nightside." You can catch it in the aforementioned video playlist.

*The NCAA final is Indiana beating North Carolina 63-50, led by future Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. The NCAA made the decision to play just 30 minutes before scheduled tipoff, and the game started a bit late.

*The Sportsworld boxing showcase on NBC featured Chris McDonald, a Silver medalist, stopping Steve McDonald on the undercard of an Atlantic City event from Bob Arum headlined by Bobby Czyz and also featuring future heavyweight contender Tony Tucker.

*Show Business is a pilot for a new magazine program; in some markets it would air after the Oscars. 

*The 53rd Academy Awards were moved to the enxt night and were indeed scheduled for a 10pm EST start.

*It appears that after Wendy and Me and before The Sunshine Boys,  Oh, God! George Burns was not a regular presence on TV. After the success of Oh, God!, he was a fixture, appearing often on all 3 networks and in 1985 presenting the anthology George Burns Comedy Week.

*Speaking of Rona Barrett, as we do in this episode, Tomorrow was pre-empted Monday night because the original episode was looking at the influence of gangs on Reagan's cabinet (?) according to that same MASH site.

*Here's a little dose of culture if you aren't into the options Mike chose: