Saturday, July 31, 2021

YouTube playlist: The Last Ninja paves the way for...the next ninjas

The ninja craze hit all aspects of pop culture in the 1980s, as we mention on this week's podcast looking at The Master. One thing we did not discuss is the 1983 TV movie The Last Ninja. It was far from the last, and maybe closer to the first on high-profile network TV!

IMDB says simply: A story of an art dealer who leads a double life as a ninja.

The lead is Michael Beck because of course in 1983, the networks would go with an American dude as a titular ninja.  He plays Kenjiro Sakura. Why not?  Beck also stars in The Warriors, Xanadu, and one of my personal faves: Megaforce!

Giving the movie "Eastern cred" are the likes of accomplished performers Nancy Kwan and Mako. And go further down the cast, and you find John Laroquette and Irene Tedrow!

The Paramount-produced movie premiered July 7, 1983 on ABC against repeats (Magnum, Simon & Simon, Fame, Gimme a Break) but finished third in the 9:00 hour and barely edged the Fame rerun for second in the 8:00 hour. 

This cool article explains the "occidental master" trope and notes that the movie was produced by one of the original Kung Fu's creators. The author says it's thought this was a pilot for a series but NBC's Master beat it to air. In fact, this article is such a thorough review that I am not going to read all of it. I think I want to see this one myself first!

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Master video playlist is now live!

After listening to this week's podcast, continue exploring the ways of The Master with our video playlist! Just click below to see commercials (Lee Van Cleef did a lot more than I realized!), network promos, fights, and more! And you better believe there will be ninjas! All this and another glimpse or two of the OG (Original Genius) himself, Robert Pine!

And remember, you can visit our official YouTube channel anytime to hear all of our previous episodes and dedicated playlists for each one!

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Show Notes: Episode 9-7: The Master

*Special thanks again to Ryan for suggesting this show topic!

*One ninja show we didn't mention is 1983 TV movie The Last Ninja, which premiered July 7, 1983, on ABC.

*If anyone laments the fact that we didn't cover the dirtbike episode of the series, may we suggest you click here to get your fix?

*The Master aired 13 episodes, January 1984 to August 1984.

*'Fat Tuesday" is the sixth episode of the series, premiering March 9, 1984. As we mention on the podcast, it aired Friday nights on NBC.

*On this particular night, NBC followed it with Legmen and The New Show. ABC had Benson, Webster, Blue Thunder, and Matt Houston. CBS had a repeat of The Dukes of Hazzard, then new episodes of Dallas and Falcon Crest.

*Lee Van Cleef (1925-1989) had a pacemaker installed in the early 1980s and already had lingering effects from a severe car accident in the late Fifties. The Master was his last TV role, but he was in several feature films after the show.

*Timothy Van Patten is still around and is a prolific television director!

*Will we take this opportunity to put the Robert Pine commercial in the video playlist this week? You bet your steak and Lowenbrau we will!

*Remember what Austin Beaumont says: "The proximity of success!"

Yeah, we still don't get what he was going for there.

*Apparently you can drive during MardiGras, at least according to this site.

The key to driving during Mardi Gras is patience. When parking, make sure you pay attention to posted signs. What’s more, do not block hydrants, driveways, sidewalks, or fire lanes, and do not park on a neutral ground (median) or within 20 feet of a crosswalk, intersection, or stop sign. 

*The other "Legman" with Bruce Greenwood was John Terlesky, who was a regular on several other series before becoming a productive director--like TVP!

*Show creator Michael Sloan's book is available here in softcover. Sloan is married to actress Melissa Sue Anderson. This is from the official Bear Manor Media (we love Bear manor here!) description:

In “One More Thing, Sir”, Michael Sloan brings his extensive knowledge of the television business to this charming, personable memoir of his years of bringing such iconic TV shows to life as McCloud, Columbo, The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, B.J. and the Bear, The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E., Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mysteries, Call of the Wild and The Equalizer.  

Notice what series is not mentioned?

Episode 9-7: The Master "Fat Tuesday"

Nothing says New Orleans like Mardi Gras, and nothing says Mardi Gras like ninjas, and nothing says ninjas like Lee Van Cleef and Timothy "Salami" Van Patten facing off against a BOTNS favorite in a shocking heel turn! Join us as we look back at NBC's short-lived attempt at cashing in on the eighties ninja craze The Master.

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

CBN: The original Must-See TV (Inside the Guide)

The original "Must-See TV" in my household in the 1980s was the late-night classic lineup on CBN--yes, that CBN, the Christian Broadcasting Network.  The draw wasn't the endless showings of The 700 Club, the flagship program, but the 1950s television it ran. Look at this 1984 TV Guide page and check out the CBN listings:

That's You Bet Your Life at 11L30, followed by Burns and Allen, Jack Benny, I Married Joan, Love that Bob!, Bachelor Father, and on the next page Life of Riley closes out the awesomeness before we get "back to normal" with another showing of--you guessed it--The 700 Club.

I don't want to offend anyone, but while I wasn't into Pat Robertson's showcase, I would have "tolerated" all kinds of religious programming if it paid the bills for stuff like those programs listed above. CBN gave me most exposure to most of those shows, and my dad and I enjoyed staying up late sometimes and checking out some old-school comedy.

I just picked up a 1988 issue from the same market (not that it matters since CBN was a national cable channel), and some of these shows were still around, albeit with some changes.  Remington Steele was on at 11.  Medical Center  and Quest aired later in the night.  And CBN showed other Westerns on the weekends--not just Gunsmoke and Bonanza, but lesser-seen ones like Broken Arrow and The Monroes.

So I tip my hat--and make it an Old Groucho beret--to that 1980s CBN and its commitment to classic TV at a time when you had lots of it in broadcast syndication, but no digital subchannels, no streaming, and little TV on home video.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Promo Theatre: NBC is Proud as a Peacock!

Because we love network promos around here and also because we love late Seventies/early Eighties NBC, here's a 1980 "Proud as a Peacock" spot.  Another old favorite makes a "blink and you miss him" cameo about 7 seconds in, too:

Yep, Marjoe Gortner from "Speak Up America!"

And Luther Vandross on vocals! What a promo.  Look at the stuff they're hyping, though. Aside from the theatricals, there aren't a lot of hits in here.

But they're proud! UH-HUH!

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Top Ten #126

1) The Baseball Bunch: Listen to this week's new podcast episode, and go back to the 1980s, a time when, as we all know, there was nothing at all wrong with baseball--no scandals, no illicit drugs, no labor .stoppages...just the fun of the game and zany antics.

2) Johnny Bench: Kudos again to the man who was not only one of the best catchers of all time, but one of the best hosts of a kids' show produced by MLB of all time.

3) Tommy Lasorda: "When I pitched and was gonna pitch against a team that had guys on it like Bevacqua, I'd send a limousine to get the [BEEP] to make sure he was in the [BEEP] lineup because I'd kick that [BEEP] any day of the week."

"Uh, Mr. Lasorda, all I asked was how you felt about being #3 this week."

4) Rhoda: Decades is running a marathon this weekend, and the show isn't streaming anywhere, so, viewers...this is your last chance!

5) Really Raquel: I watched this 1974 TV special recently, and I will say is that the title should have a comma before and a question mark after 'Raquel."

6) Head of the Class Season 3: Boy, it's like the Head of the Class DVDs come out earlier and earlier each year. Don't the kids to get to have a summer anymore?

7) The Love Boat: Let's try to get a minimum of several references to this series in our Facebook group each week.

8) National Hot Fudge Sundae Day: Anyone remember the show Hot Fudge?

9) Chet Lemon: I'm glad he comes off as a nice guy on The baseball Bunch because I think this has to be one of the best names of 1980s baseball--no Shooty Babbitt, but then, what is?

10) Jackie Mason: R.I.P.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

YouTube Spotlight: No, there wasn't a "Johnny Bench Show," unfortunately...right?

When I was collecting clips for this week's Baseball Bunch playlist, I got a big surprise when I saw a video from singer Lyn Christopher's official channel:

Note that the title of the clip says "Johnny Bench Show." What? There WAS a Johnny Bench Show?

Well, no, not quite. Though Bench was on many entertainment programs, including his multiple-episode run on Hee Haw, he never had his own talk show, per se.

Or did he? Christopher herself lists The Johnny Bench Show as one of her appearances when recounting her resume on social media, and makes it distinct from The Mike Douglas Show. Note in the clip below, Johnny refers to "Mike." Yet this doesn't look like the Douglas show.

Was this a pilot or test run that didn't get picked up? I can't find any info on a Johnny Bench Show. Does anyone have any knowledge about this?

Here is a brief bit of the interview they did:

Christopher released one album (self-titled) in 1973 with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley on backing vocals!

Friday, July 23, 2021

The Baseball Bunch playlist is live!

After hearing us do the podcasting equivalent of throwing around the ol' horsehide for about 40 minutes, continue to enjoy The Baseball Bunch with us by watching our video playlist! In addition to the Chet Lemon episode we discuss (most of it, at least), when you click below you will find commercials, PSAs, talk show appearances, singing, and of course HIJINKS from the San Diego Chicken!

And remember you can visit our official YouTube channel anytime to hear past episodes of the podcasts and specific playlists for each one of them. BOTNS fever--catch it!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Show Notes: Episode 9-6: The Baseball Bunch

 *The Baseball Bunch aired August 1980-Fall 1985 in first-run syndication, then had exposure in reruns. The episode we discuss aired in 1980 or 1981.

*The excellent Sports Illustrated article we reference is right here.

*NBC broadcast the MLB Game of the Week from 1957 to 1989, with exclusive rights from 1966 till it lost the package. Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola became the #1 announce team in 1983. Bob Costas and Tony Kubek were the #2 team in that stretch.

*The first player to get a contract with an annual salary of a million bucks per year is Nolan Ryan, who signed a 4-year contract with the Houston Astros as a free agent after the 1979 season.

*Was baseball best in the 1980s? You tell us!

*Listen to us discuss the Punky Brewster 1984 NLCS episode here.

*To learn more about Chet Lemon, click here.

*Lance Parrish was in Diff'rent Strokes' "Baseball Blues" in season 7. Teammates Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker were in "A Sense of Debt" from season 4 of Magnum P.I.

*I think Mike thought Kevin McReynolds was the "Peanut" he was remembering, but Jim "Peanut" Davenport was a player, coach, and manager in the San Francisco Giants organization, including in the Eighties.

*The epic Braves-Padres brawl went on and on, and here is the ninth-inning action. We'll put a condensed version in this week's playlist! Here is a contemporary account of the saga from Ron Fimrite.

*Johnny Bench is a two-time MVP, 14-time All-Star, and was a first-year no-brainer entrant into the Hall of Fame in 1989.

*The San Diego Chicken, AKA Ted Giannoulas, returned to the Padres' ballpark in 2019. Here is an article on his origins with the Padres.

*Thanks for listening, and remember, have fun!

Episode 9-6: The Baseball Bunch "Chet Lemon"

Summer in America means baseball, so break out the peanuts and Cracker Jacks. For a few years in the eighties, Major League Baseball made an educational baseball show for kids--The Baseball Bunch. Johnny Bench, the Famous Chicken, the Dugout Wizard, and guest Chet Lemon teach the Bunch about shagging flies, eating right, and more.

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

This Day in TV History: Make Your Own kind of Music with the Carpenters

50 years ago tonight, NBC premiered a summer variety series starring Richard and Karen Carpenter, Make Your Own Kind of Music. In addition to the brother/sister act, Mark Lindsay was a regular along with Tom Patchett and Jay Tarses. That comedy team went on to write for and produce TV like The Bob Newhart Show and Buffalo Bill before splitting in the mid 1980s and doing stuff like The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd (Tarses) and ALF (Patchett).

The show lasted 8 episodes, and each one started with the theme of the letter "A" and went through the alphabet. The series aired 8:00 P.M. on Tuesdays, replacing The Don Knotts Show. In September, NBC revamped the night, with Ironside  at 7:30 (replacing The Bill Cosby Show) and the debuting Sarge with George Kennedy at 8:30.

I don't know if there are a lot of full episodes of Make Your Own Music floating around, but there are a lot of highlights on YouTube!

Monday, July 19, 2021

RetroFan #15 has lots of BOTNS-adjacent material!

It's time for my regular unsolicited, uncompensated reminder that TwoMorrows Publishing's RetroFan exists, is awesome, and that it has a new issue out. Issue 15, with Ricky Nelson on the cover includes a look at Evel Knievel toys of the Seventies, an article the infamous "rural sitcom purge," and a piece on The Muppet Show. If that ain't enough, Andy Mangels has a comprehensive story on Filmation's Super 7!

And while we're at it, I just snagged the new issue of its sister pub, Back Issue, and the theme of this one is TV tie-ins of the (comic book) Bronze Age. Included are the likes of Sledge Hammer, Emergency, and V!

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Top Ten #125

1) Alice: Can you believe it took till our ninth season to get to this sitcom? Or is it harder to believe that this sitcom lasted 9 seasons itself?

2) Crisis on Infinite Norman Lears: The fantastic event Mike and I have alluded to on the podcast (and by alluded to, I mean BS'ed about and thought it sounded funny) became one step closer to reality this week when Amazon dumped multiple Lear series onto its Prime Video and IMDB-TV platforms. Great move, Amazon, and you saved a lackluster July for classic TV fans. Now how about making IMDB-TV shows free for those who actually pay for Prime?

3) Vic Tayback: Mel Sharples rules! Sure, he's stingy, grouchy, and chauvinistic, but that usually lasts for only about 22 minutes, and he's much better in the last minute or two.

4) Marvin Kaplan: I'm sure the late great character actor would have been honored to learn he topped my Power Rankings of Diner Regulars. He's also #1 on my list of TC's Gang Members:

5) Linda Lavin: I guess we should give the star of the show some love, huh? I mean, the show is called Alice, not Mel, Henry, nor Flo. Wait, that last one sounds familiar.

6) "Kiss my grits!": If you could pick one phrase to epitomize the rise of "Southern chic" of the late 1970s, it would probably be something else--maybe a Billy Carter quote? But this one would be no lower than number 6!

7) Tommy and Vera: Honestly, I feel bad about leaving them out so far. Tommy wasn't even in the episode we covered!

8) Audrey Landers: Happy birthday to someone who, as you might imagine, shows up a lot in the shows we cover for the podcast. In fact, I think I have seen her a handful times just in things we are doing this season!

9) Jackee: Because a waiting room I was in happened to have Days of Our Lives running, and I saw her and thought, "Hey, it's Jackee!" Good a reason as any to put her in the top ten, right?

10) R.I.P.: Paul Orndorff, Charles Robinson, and a special word for Rebecca Schaeffer, who was killed on this day in 1989.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

YouTube Spotlight: The cast of Alice having a good time

We alluded to it on the podcast, and chatter still has it that the set of Alice wasn't always the most harmonious one. That's why one of my favorite clips from this week's playlist is this one below, one that shows the cast members having a good time and enjoying each other's company--at least as far as I can tell!

By the way, the source of this video, the LindaLavinOfficial channel, is a treasure trove of clips from the BOTNS era, and I am sure glad it's around and uploading such a wide variety of rare material.

I'm not sure why the upload doesn't note the origin of the clip--maybe to avoid the copyright police--but this is from Dinah!, and Shore would appear on the series in its fourth season. According to, this episode premiered October 4, 1978.

Friday, July 16, 2021

The Alice playlist is now live!

After listening to this week's episode, revisit the world of Alice and beyond by checking out our video playlist! Just click below to see promos, commercials, music and more! You'll also see the trailer for Kiss My Grits, breakdancing in Mel's Diner, and all kinds of singing! Plus Vic Tayback in a pantyhose ad!

And remember, you can always visit our official YouTube channel for all of our past podcasts and episode-specific playlists for each one!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Show Notes: Episode 9-5: Alice

 *There's a newwwww pod in town, and it's feeling good! OK, I'll stop now.

*Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974) with Ellen Burstyn was a big hit. Burstyn won Best Actress at the Oscars, but the movie also won a nomination for Original Screenplay for writer Robert Getchell. Diane Ladd, later Belle on the series, won a Supporting Actress nomination for playing Flo in the film.

*Mother, Juggs, and Speed (note the extra "g") was the adaptation of the Raquel Welch/Harvey Keitel/Some other guy film. ABC burned off the unsold pilot in August 1978. The name change was due to concern from the network that a female character have a double entendre name. See, "Juggs" is not a reference to breasts because it is a nickname derived from her surname, Juggston.

*Alice aired an impressive 9 seasons and 185 episodes.

*"Mel's Recession" is episode 23 of the second season. It premiered Sunday, April 2, 1978 on CBS prceding the series premiere of Dallas and following 60 Minutes, Rhoda and short-lived On Our Own.

ABC had The Young Pioneers and a presentation of High Plains Drifter.

NBC led off with The Wonderful World of Disney (part 1 of The Barefoot Executive), followed by Project UFO and TV movie Love's Dark Ride.

*The E! True Hollywood Story of Alice ***

*The waitresses by season in which they were featured:
Alice and Vera 1-9
Flo 1-4 (left midway through 4)
Belle 4-5 (left midway through season 5)
Jolene 5-9

*Rick's Power Rankings of diner regulars:
1) Henry: Clear no-doubter number one (Marvin Kaplan)
2) Earl (Dave Madden)
3) Charlie (Ted Gehring)
4) Chuck (Duane Campbell)
5) Jason (Patrick Cronin)

*Rick's Power Rankings of series catchphrases:
1) Kiss my grits!
2) Stow it!
3) Dinghy broad!
4) When donkeys fly!
5) Mel's self-satisfied chuckle

*The 1982 feature film Kiss My Grits stars Bruce Davison, Susan George, and Bruno Kirby. The action flick is not connected to Alice. I love this description of the Jack Starrett-directed movie from a commenter on Letterboxd: "Basically a Hee haw version of Out of the Past."

*Here's some info on Flo's favorite catchphrase. According to this piece, the show changed from the original, "Kiss my honeydew," which flopped.

*Thanks again to friend of the show Kevin for inspiring this show idea!

*For the record, I still do kind of want to buy season 5.

Episode 9-5: Alice "Mel's Recession"

In a season two episode of the long-lived Alice, diner owner Mel receives bad news from his accountant and decides he has to give one of the waitresses "the sack." In the ensuing struggle to keep their jobs, the ladies all end up at Mel's fortress of slobitude. We dive into this, the characters' transition from the big screen to the small screen, and Rick's mild obsession with the show.

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

This Day in TV History: Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!

50 years ago tonight, A's slugger Reggie Jackson gave the NBC audience the highlight of the night with a towering home run in the annual MLB All-Star Game! Here are Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek on the call:

And here is the original televised opening of this star-studded game.  I mean, yeah, the All-Star Game by definition has some starpower, but this one featured 22 Hall of Famers, including both managers.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Top Ten #124

1) Dick Van Dyke: The venerable screen icon was on fire in this week's PSA episode of the podcast. He proved he could do much more than testify to the importance of ottoman avoidance. Here's DVD in action again:

2) Timer: The enigmatic figure at the heart of so many essential Saturday morning PSAs. Actually, he was in the heart in some of them.

3) Sugar Ray and Tommy Hearns: Two more stars of our latest podcast; I am still hoping someone will unearth a lost pilot featuring those two teaming up to take down drug traffickers.

4) Bob McGrath: OK, so one website lists today as his birthday, and I reserved a slot for him on the list, only to find out apparently he was born June 13? Well, you know what, Bob McGrath deserves a spot on ANY top ten list!

5) Alfonso Ribiero: What can I say? He was never Carlton to me. He was that kid singing his heart out in this spot:

6) Sela Ward: Happy 65th! She's no Bob McGrath, but at least she was actually born on this day!

7) Bruce McGill: Happy birthday to the great character actor who was the focal point of one of the great episodes of Miami Vice, "Out Where the Buses Don't Run." Check out this cool fan-made trailer for the episode:

8) 7-Eleven: July 11--Get it? Yes, it's 7-Eleven day! It's not just for giant slushies and stale hot dogs anymore. It sells stale burritos, too!

9) The Newlywed Game: Debuted this day on 1967 right in the buh...eginning of the week.

10) R.I.P.: Chick Vennera, Richard Donner, William Smith

Saturday, July 10, 2021

You Tube Spotlight: More PSAs

This week, we included all the spots we discussed in our YouTube playlist, so instead of highlighting one of those, we'll use this space to show a couple more public service announcements!

First up, here's the one I bet many of you thought was a lock for our podcast when you saw it was an all-PSA episode. Just because we didn't include it doesn't mean it's not one we know and love:

Next up is another PSA from the legendary Dick Van Dyke. He knew about a lot more than just fire safety!

Friday, July 9, 2021

The PSA episode video playlist is now live!

If you want to see all of the public service announcements we discuss in this week's episode, you're in luck because they are all right here in this week's video playlist!

You'll see Dick van Dyke, Sugar Ray and the Hitman, Timer, Ed Asner, a bunch of heartwarming kids, and more! Plus get a look at Gary Coleman playing with fire, and hear McGruff singing about the dangers of drugs!

And remember, you can visit our official YouTube channel anytime to hear past podcasts and episode-specific playlists for each one!

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Show Notes: Episode 9-4: PSAs!

*Welcome to the newest edition of the show notes, brought to you this week from the home office in Pueblo, Colorado! We mean no offense to the fine people of Pueblo despite some of my hearsay on the podcast. Enjoy this look at what the place has to offer.  There is still a government office there!

*ARE TV stations required to show a certain amount of PSAs each broadcast day? It's confusing, as this site points out:

Here. for example, is a passage from a public relations handbook prepared by a large association for its members: “Television and radio stations are required by the Federal Communications Commission to allocate a certain amount of time to public service.”

Not so, says the National Association of Broadcasters, Washington: “Broadcasting is under no obligation to grant time to any specific group. There is no law which says a station must devote a fixed amount of time to community organizations.

The same website says the average station airs 200 PSAs a week!

*The Timer spots began on ABC in 1975. Longtime voice vet Lennie Weinreb voiced the character, who was created and animated by DePatie-Freleng. The character actually appeared earlier in two Afterschool Specials in 1973 and 1974 (voiced by Len Maxwell in the former).

The USDA currently recommends 3 cups of dairy each day, possibly including lower-fat cheeeses like part-skim or reduced-fat varieties.

*Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns II ("The War") took place June 12, 1989 in Nevada. I screwed up the result on the podcast; the rematch was a controversial draw, while Sugar Ray won the 1981 fight by TKO.

*BOTNS makes no claims nor assertions regarding substances used by either of the parties in the aforementioned PSA.

*Learn more about the NFPA here!

*Anyone remember these?

*The Instititute for Mental Health Initiatives may indeed be out of action according to this.

*You can check out XCrimeDogX here.  You can check out McGruff singing "Crack and Cocaine" here and in our YT playlist this week:

*The credited production company on the Dough Nuts is Greengrass Productions, which worked on a lot of ABC Weekend Specials.

*RIF is still around and active!

*I'm not convinced that IS John Vernon in the "Bookmobile" RIF ad, but it's possible. Does anyone know?

*Credit to YouTube commenter Louis Garrison for pointing out Wendell Brown is the star of that ad, but Brown is not credited with a role in Claudine. Is it possible two child actors were conflated here?

*The great oral history of the Star Wars PSAs is right here.

*Remember to not ever tell a lie (not even small ones)!

9-4: PSAs

Along with entertainment and advertising, public service announcements, or PSAs, filled the airwaves in the seventies and eighties. This week, we pick a range of them to discuss, featuring lessons on nutrition, health, safety, and morality, plus music, celebrities, animated characters, and Droids. Most importantly, we might all learn a little something along the way.

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

5 guest appearances Ethel Merman should have made

Ethel Merman has become the breakout star of this season of BOTNS, and if she hasn't, well, I am gonna try my darndest to make it happen. As much joy as her performance in Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July gave all of us, it's tough to top her late 1970s disco album and subsequent disco TV tour that took her all the way to The Tonight Show. And of course there is this:

But it's difficult not to think about what might have been--the missed opportunities of TGV appearances Merman could have but did not make. Here is my list of 5 appearances I wish we got, concentrating on her disco/Rankin-Bass era up until her death in 1984.

1) Saturday Night Live: I confess this as much for the stories as for the television. Imagine the backstage hijinks, the chaos, the general awesomeness of Ethel Merman partying with John Belushi all week.  You have a larger-than-life icon who consumed all the air in the building, let alone the room; someone with a legendarily voracious lust for life...and Belushi. Would 30 Rock still be standing today?

2) Three's Company: My pitch to you: Merman plays Stanley's long-estranged sister, who coms to town to make up with her brother...and ends up trying to make time with Jack! 'NUFF SAID.

3) CHIPS: Notice I don't spell it CHiPS. You know why? Because when Ethel Merman is on, everything has to be ALL CAPS!

Longtime listeners of the podcast already know how well this cop show does disco and celebrities. Merman would have been the biggest guest star of all. Well, except for maybe Uncle Miltie.

4) Buck Rogers: Don't tell me you can't picture it.

5) Soul Train: Can you really be considered a legend in the musical corner of showbiz if you never appeared on Soul Train? Nothing against Merman, but many would argue no. Duke Ellington...Nat King Cole...Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart--All legends with one glaring gap in the resume. It boggles the mind that Merman wasn't on the Train to do her disco version of Alexander's Ragtime Band.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Murder Monday: Episode 3-6: Deadly Gold

After the amusing title of the previous episode, "Corned Beef and Carnage," Murder, She Wrote goes for raw impact with the follow-up, "Deadly Gold!" What a great title. Says it all. And this episode, which originally aired November 9, 1986, does indeed offer death...and gold, or at least the promise of it.

Yet with all that's going on in this one--sunken treasure, intrigue in Cabot Cove, BOTNS icon Grant freakin' Goodeve--I am too distracted by the presence of one man, the great Leslie Nielsen. Oh, it's not that I can't accept him in serious roles after seeing him ham it up in Police Squad and The Naked Gun. No, it's that 1) he plays a yacht owner looking for treasure a mere year and a half removed from playing a respectable ship captain in Season 1's "My Johnny Lies Over the Ocean." It was much less than a year and half for me watching these in 2021.  So it's distracting to see Nautical Nielsen so soon after his indelible first-season appearance.

And number 2) I can't help but wonder when I see Nielsen on MSW, did he bring know, the thing on set with him? Oh, I'll just say it: Was Leslie Nielsen walking around the production of a Murder, She Wrote episode while working his infamous fart machine?

Admit it, once that thought is in your head, you find it difficult to think about anything other than Angela Lansbury's reactions. How about The Bos himself, AKA Amos Tupper? The mind reels!

It's a shame because it is a fun episode, though Grant Goodeve is underutilized. Nielsen's David Everett is a roguish former flame of Jessica, and the show keeps us guessing as to his intentions/motives/general character all the way through. He is in debt, involved with shady loan sharks, and has assembled an interesting crew of partners to search for possible treasure. 

Oddly, the recently deceased Robert Hogan appears as new town doctor Wylie Graham, who is taking on a role at the hospital. It's odd because this episode seems to set up the character as a professional (and personal--does he have eyes for Jessica?) rival for William Windom's Seth Hazlitt, yet he only shows up once more in the series, several episodes later. Hogan returns several years later as a different character, so I guess Graham was just a concept that the show abandoned.

"Deadly Gold" is a fun episode that deserves an attentive watch. Good luck giving it one, though, while trying to bury the notion of that fart machine.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Top Ten #123: Special Independence Day AND Christmas in July edition!

1) Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July: We had a lot of fun this week talking about this underappreciated (?) Rankin-Bass special and enjoying our Christmas season just a little bit early!

2) USA! USA!

3) The Bicentennial: 45 years ago tonight, network TV went all out for the Bicentennial, including a new Bob Hope special and Happy Birthday, America on NBC; Walter Cronkite and various celebrity co-hosts on CBS presenting fireworks and celebrations, and ABC's special on the West and a 1972 movie about immigrants in the 18th-century Midwest, The New Land.  OK, maybe ABC didn't go "all out."

4) Ethel Merman: One of the only stars who could upstage The Mickster, Ethel won our hearts in Christmas in July and didn't even have to resort to disco to do it! A year before, she wowed 'em with her performance on Sesame Street Christmas. Could Ethel be the Queen of Christmas?

5) Ed Bernard: Happy birthday to the veteran character actor. Let's take this opportunity to enjoy this awesome theme song again:

6) Cheers: Look out, my duties and responsibilities--I have resumed my Cheers watching!

7) Little House on the Prairie: The series moved from Peacock's Premium tier to, uh, it's Un-premium tier, meaning it's free with ads. It's not an earth-shaking development, but July is such a weak month for "new" vintage TV on streaming that this counts as big news.

8) Quincy, M.E.: This series should be on Peacock, but fans will have to settle for it being back on COZI. If you can't summon the courage to care about that, then, Mister, we have a big problem, and I'm gonna take it all the way to the top!

9) William Shatner: The announcement last week that William Shatner would host a show on RT America and the subsequent backlash somehow doesn't even make it into the top ten of bizarre Shatner stories.

10) R.I.P.: Stuart Damon of General Hospital, Ray MacDonnell  of All My Children, and John Langley (co-creator of COPS).

Saturday, July 3, 2021

YouTube Spotlight: Ethel Merman, Disco Queen

When we first stumbled upon this video, it was bizarre, nonsensical, and inexplicable: Ethel Merman performing a disco version of Alexander's Ragtime Band to a live and TV audience of children:

However, now that we know Ethel starred in Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July, as we discuss on the podcast this week, and that this performance took place not too long before that special was in production...

Nah, sorry, it's still bizarre, nonsensical, and inexplicable. And I love every second of it!

The song was a little--I don't like to use the word "dated" on a site devoted to classic television, so let's say it was a little traditional even in 1978. Even the hearty discofication of it can't change the fact that, "the bestest band what am, oh, my honey lamb," isn't gonna sound cutting edge. I doubt it did when it was written.

Ethel gives this her all, though, and if you look hard enough, you can see, or at least imagine, genuine enthusiasm from an appreciative disco-and-ragtime-crazy cross-section of America's youth. The playlist for the podcast features her singing this on The Tonight Show, but this performance is even more amazing. What better way is there to celebrate this Independence Day weekend than to celebrate Ethel Merman's attempt to cash in on watching this again and again and again...

Friday, July 2, 2021

The "Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July" playlist is now live!

After listening to this week's podcast, continue celebrating Christmas in July by watching our video playlist for this episode! Click below for Rankin-Bass clips, network promos, and of course Ethel Merman! All this plus vintage holiday-themed commercials from 1979!

And remember you can check out our official YouTube channel anytime for past podcasts and episode-specific playlists for each one!

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Show Notes: Episode 9-3: "Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July"

*Christmas in July is not an official holiday in the USA, but feel free to celebrate with us anyway!

*Special thanks again to James and Lucille for supporting the show!

*Our Season 4 episode covering Popeye Meets the Man Who Hated Laughter is right here.

*Frosty's Winter Wonderland debuted December 2, 1976.

*This special premiered November 25, 1979 on ABC at 7:00 P.M, followed by Mork and Mindy and the TV Movie When She Was Bad...  CBS had 60 Minutes, Archie Bunker's Place ("barney and the Hooker"), One Day at a Time, and the theatrical film Oh, God. NBC led off the night with Wonderful World of Disney, followed by an airing of Smokey and the Bandit and Prime Time Sunday.

*Huge Oversimplification Dept.: The "family hour" guidelines for network programming came out of the prime-time access rules which gave network programming time back to local affiliates. The idea was to encourage more "public interest" and family-oriented programming. When that didn't really happen, the networks got "back" the Sunday 7pm-8pm hour with the proviso that it be used for public affairs/family programming.

*Johnny Marks is the songwriter who wrote "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

*Shirley Booth is not in this special, but she appears as Mrs. Claus in The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974). Darlene Conley, a long-running soap star (notable for a long Emmy-winning run on The Bold and the Beautiful as Sally Spectra) took on the role for this one. The Mickster is Santa in Year Without as well as in this one.

*Jack Frost's own special premiered December 13, 1979, or over two weeks after his debut on Christmas in July. As Mike said off air, Rankin-Bass really was ahead of Marvel with this whole "shared universe" thing, introducing the character like this and priming the audience!

One note: Paul Frees voices Frost in this one, but in the actual Jack Frost special, the role is played by...Darlene Conley. No, it's Robert Morse.

9-3: Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July

A Christmas special in July?! Not just any Christmas in July special either. This 97-minute Rankin-Bass special might have it all...literally. Ancient history rears its head when an evil king wakes from a long slumber. If he succeeds, Rudolph could lose his shiny nose, Frosty and family could melt, Santa could lose Christmas, Ethel Merman could lose her circus, and the world could plunge into an eternal winter! Happy Christmas in July!

Check out this episode!