Sunday, October 31, 2021

Celebrate Halloween with past episodes of Battle of the Network Shows!

If you're on the mood for some Halloween-themed (or close enough) podcast listening today, may we suggest these episodes of Battle of the Network Shows? Just remember kids are out there tonight, so if you have earbuds on, let's be careful out there!

Enjoy all of these podcasts...if you dare! And we posted this last year, but I think we can make this a tradition as we wish you Happy Halloween:

Top Ten #139: Special "Now it IS Halloween" Edition!

1) It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: After decades, it remains the essential animated Halloween special, and it keeps its charm each time I see it. It still bothers me, though, that actual adults are giving out rocks to any little kid:

2) Halloween is Grinch Night: The great Fuzzy Memories YT channel posted a tape of a showing with original commercials, so you can relive our Season 5 look at the special (and the controversy!) and watch the original:

3) Hammer House of Horror: Decades has a Weekend Binge of the 1980 anthology series that, as we all remember, put Fred Williamson in a different macabre situation each week.

4) Killing at Hell's Gate: 40 years ago tonight, CBS aired this TV movie starring Bob urich, Deborah Raffin, Joel Higgins, and Lee Purcell. Urich's face at the end of this clip sells it for me:

5) Kojak: If we can step away from the Halloween theme for an entry, Get TV is now running the 1970s cop show.

Hey, wait. Kojak likes...lollipops, which many will give out for trick-or-treating tonight! There we go!

6) Dan Rather: One of the most notable Halloween birthdays is the 90-year-old newsman, someone we discussed a bit in our 60 Minutes episode.

Now more than ever, we need...Courage.

7) Almond Joys and Mounds: What's a CBS Special Presentation without incessant plugs for these candies (ones I didn't even like despite wanting to after watching all the ads)?

8) McDonald's Gift Certificates: I always thought this was an underrated Halloween handout. Maybe you'd get a small ice cream cone or something relatively inconsequential, but the point was, it gave your folks an excuse to go to McDonald's.

9) R.I.P.: Val Bisoglio: Obituaries focused on his role as the dad in Saturday Night Fever, but I remember him primarily as Danny on Quincy.

10) R.I.P. Joanna Cameron: Always and forever the real Isis!

Saturday, October 30, 2021

And now a word from THEIR sponsor: Ray Bolger for Safeway

If he only had a brain...and a can of garbanzo beans...and a cucumber...and a flank steak...

Any similarity between this 1978 Safeway grocery store ad and The Wizard of Oz is purely intentional:

Scotch Buy was the chain's store brand, apparently replaced long ago by other, better names. Is Scotch Buy supposed to suggest...value? Among the products the store offered under that banner: beer! Can you imagine heading down to your Safeway on a Friday night for a six-pack of Scotch Buy beer?

Well, Ray Bolger, then in his mid-seventies, seems to enjoy the overall brand if not the beer.

Friday, October 29, 2021

This Day in TV History: NBC and Disney

NBC stands out to me in the programming lineups from 40 and 50 years ago tonight. In 1971, NBC celebrated the launch of Walt Disney World in Florida with a primetime special called--straightforward enough--Grand Opening of Walt Disney World. An alternate title is Disney World--A Gala Opening.

The official park opening festivities took place October 23-25, with footage shot then for this variety special starring Julie Andrews, Glen Campbell, Jonathan Winters, and Buddy Hackett. Bob Hope makes an appearance because of course he does. It's easy to find online, so we went ahead and embedded a video here, but, boy, would it be great to see a version of this on Disney Plus.

40 years ago, it was Season Premiere Night on NBC, with all of these shows beginning their new seasons:

Harper Valley PTA kicked off its second season with BOTNS fave Mills Watson in "Make Room for Uncle Buster." 

At 8:30 NBC debuted new sitcom Lewis and Clark, a Gabe Kaplan vehicle that tanked.

9:00 saw the fourth-season premiere of Diff'rent Strokes, in which Willis decides it's time for he and his girlfriend (Janet Jackson) to take the next step.

9:30 is the series premiere of Gimme a Break!

Finally, Hills Street Blues returns for a second season at 10:00 with "Hearts and Minds" with Danny Glover in the guest cast!

Thursday, October 28, 2021

This Day in TV History: "Love, Sidney" premieres

40 years ago tonight, NBC premiered the series version of its earlier (in fact, only two weeks earlier) TV movie Sidney Shorr: A Girl's Best Friend, which itself was adapted from Marilyn Cantor Baker's short story.  The show lasted only two seasons.

Swoosie Kurtz replaced Lorna Patterson in the series, and there was another big change: Shorr, openly gay in the movie, did not discuss his sexuality in the show, reportedly because NBC got preemptive complaints when the premise was announced. 

Notice how TV Guide describes the character in its preview; instead of using the wink-wink "confirmed bachelor" business, this piece is open about Sidney's orientation, some of the skittish reaction, and NBC's strategy:

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Happy National Navy Day!

The United States Navy celebrates is official birthday October 13, until about 1970, historians believed it was October 27. The Navy continues to commemorate its members past and present on October 27, even while celebrating its history on the 13th, so we will do so as well!

As someone proud to call several close relatives veterans of the Navy, I am happy to take a moment to recognize the branch today! But because this is a TV website, I think we should also recognize the Saturday Night Live parody of that recruitment campaign. It's funny that the comments on the post on YT are filled with veterans talking about how spot-on and hilarious it is!

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Promo Theatre: CBS--Looking Good?

CBS' 1979 promo campaign was "Looking Good!" It's a generic slogan, but one that can serve its purpose if in fact the network IS looking good. 

This particular promo makes you doubt the veracity of the expression:

CBS is sounding good with the great Danny Dark, who I associated with NBC growing up but who was the voice of the Tiffany Network before that. Looking good, though? 

The Last Resort lasted a mere 16 episodes; creator Gary David Goldberg scored a couple years later with Family Ties. As for Struck by Lightning, did anyone ever utter the phrase, "Hey, Jack Elam! Looking GOOD!" I personally love the idea of Elam as a modern-day Frankenstein's monster, but the show itself had an even shorter run than Resort.

Then we get TV movie Sex and the Single Parent. You know, I just don't want to see that.

Monday, October 25, 2021

This Day in TV History: DVP and baton twirlers (not together)

40 years ago tonight, TV viewers received an interesting assortment of Sunday evening programming, including a Halloween-set episode of Alice and a Trapper John M.D. episode titled "Hate Is Enough." Not having seen the latter, I can only wonder if that pun is appropriate for a story involving the KKK.

The most interesting programs are on the other networks. ABC starts at 7:00 with a special, Whatever Became Of...  Our old friend Dick Van Patten hosts this update of multiple celebrities from the recent past. This picture is from Vincent Terrace's Television Specials:

Other stars featured include The Monkees, Danny Bonaduce, Spanky McFarland, and Brigitte Bardot. DVP welcomes guests like Donna Dixon, Phyllis Diller, and his partner in crime Adam Rich from Hate is En--er, Eight Is Enough. The show has a theme song by Bobby Sherman and is a Dick Clark production, and somehow that doesn't surprise me one iota.

NBC's main attraction is made-for-TV movie Twirl, a saga about baton twirling in Texas and the pressured relationship between two girls (Lisa Whelchel and Erin Moran).  The complete movie is easy to find online, but here's a rather suggestive promo for a 1984 rerun:

How far will they go? How far WILL THEIR PARENTS GO?

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Top Ten #138: Special "almost Halloween" edition!

1) The Munsters: We did maybe the last of our Season 9 Power Rankings on Friday, with little controversy over the top choices, but Friend of the Show Dann Fox asked about The Standells. We left off celebs playing themselves, but they certainly warrant a mention, so here they are, ladies and gents, and note that an actual Standell appears to be present in the comments for this clip!

2) Aloha Paradise: In case you missed our post earlier this week, Gilmore Box uploaded the intro to an episode of this 1981 flop, and it's a glorious Love Boat  ripoff...from the people who did Love Boat! I know I've had a long crusade to get Quincy on streaming video--maybe I need to yell at Asten more--but I may have to set that aside to get Aloha running somewhere.

3) The Horror Hall of Fame: Vincent Price welcomes guests like John Carradine to celebrate classic horror movies and performers in this 1974 ABC special aired under the Wide World of Entertainment banner.

4) Dark Night of the Scarecrow: This memorable CBS movie premiered 40 years ago tonight.

5) National Bologna Day: Yeah, we could go with the kid spelling, but how about something different:

The important thing is that we all celebrate bologna.

6) Soul Train: This week saw an announcement that the Soul Train Music Awards will return in November on BET and will take place at the Apollo. I'd like to think somewhere Don Cornelius is seeing this news and wishing us all peace, love, and exploitation of intellectual property!

7) Snoopy at the Ice Follies: Anything on ice is fun, right? Right? 50 years ago tonight, NBC hoped we'd think so. There isn't a lot out there about this first of multiple Peanuts ice specials, but I found this cool blog post that has a publicity picture and info about the Columbia Gas sponsorship of this and other entertainment specials. I find it amusing that according to this post, the company gave customers a newsletter called Gaslight.

8) Maggie: 40 years ago tonight, ABC premiered sitcomt Maggie from the mind of popular columnist Erma Bombeck. The cast included Miriam Flynn as a Bombeck type, James Hampton, and Doris Roberts.

9) Fortune Dane/Starman: Crackle's latest additions to its streaming lineup are these 1980s short-lived ABC series with Carl Weathers and Robert Hays respectively.

10) R.I.P. Peter Scolari: We talked about his work as Michael on Newhart right here, but he had a prolific career and left a big mark. Check out the cast in this 1991 Disney Channel movie:

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Fire safety isn't just for Dick Van Dyke

In our PSA episode this season we explored the, many spots Dick Van Dyke did for the National Fire Protection Association. Well, not to be outdone, the International Association of Fire Chiefs present their own message in 1979: 

Who are the members of the International Association of Fire Chiefs? Do they have a cool meeting place like the Hall of Justice in some exotic location?

Whatever the case, they know their fires safety. I hope they appreciated the work of Dick Van Dyke and that there was some mutual respect there. The Chiefs are focusing on prevention while DVD talks about reaction. I think there is plenty of room for both approaches!

Friday, October 22, 2021

Power Rankings: The Munsters!

This might be the most ludicrous attempt yet in our exclusive series of power rankings. Because there are so many incredible characters? Er, not quite. On the contrary, the series relies on a small core of individuals, and it's hard to fill out a credible list of 10, not to mention the obvious separation at the very top.  The lack of recurring characters on The Munsters (Sorry to Herman's boss Mr. Gateman, who just missed the list) means we had to break our rule and include several people with a mere one appearance. 

With all that in mind, we're doing it! The Munsters episode of the podcast this season was our first official look back at the pre-BOTNS era, so we want to pay tribute to the series with an arbitrary ranking of the characters! We will incorporate The Munsters Mini-Movie but not other movies, Munsters Today (still waiting for you to let that one out again, NBCComcastUniversal), etc. So, no, Roger from Munster, Go Home, played by Original Genius Robert Pine, is not eligible.

And remember how this works: This given week, if these characters were to face off against each other on a neutral court in Transylvania, who would win? Let's get after it because this might be a road after the top several entries!

1) Herman Munster: The top spot is a battle between two individuals, and while I won't argue with anyone who wants to put Grandpa at #1--I mean, it's Al freakin' Lewis--this is Fred Gwynne's show without a doubt. Even Grandpa is funnier in his scenes with Herman due in part to Gwynne's reactions.  Yet Herman itself is a hilarious and memorable character in his own right, which is a great achievement considering he is based on an even bigger icon--and I don't mean Francis Muldoon.

2) Grandpa: And give Lewis credit because he is also amazing in his own right while serving as the perfect foil for son in law Herman. He's one of the great supporting characters in sitcom history and a solid runner-up to the star of the show.

3) Lily Munster: No disrespect to Yvonne De Carlo nor to the rest of the cast, but there is a huge dropoff after the top two. It's through no fault of the supporting castmembers; the creative team just figured out what the heart of the series was and ran with the dynamic duo (Hey, maybe someday we should do Batman...). De Carlo did have some spotlight episodes, and Lily had her share of good lines, but many times she was more of a point guard, distributing assists to the heavy hitters.

4) Eddie Munster: I'm on record as having been irritated by many child characters when I was watching reruns as a child, so I give Butch Patrick his props because Eddie was one of the better ones out there. Many of the show's best episodes revolve around Eddie, so he earns his number 4 slot.

5) Marilyn Munster: Beverly Owen...Pat Priest...Talk about "thankless role." Marilyn was fine, but she barely got more than the one-joke premise of her being the outcast of the family--a good joke, but Marilyn is this high due to her status as regular and the overall lack of depth.

6) Spot: The faithful family pet got his chance to shine in 1973's The Mini-Munsters, the only core character to get a boost from that Saturday morning movie (I wasn't a big fan of the teenage rockin' Eddie).

7) Uncle Gilbert: If there's one character whose underuse is abominable, it's Uncle Gilbert, whose reveal in the one episode in which he appears is one of the great moments in the show's history.

8) Dr. Dudley: The Paul Lynde version of the Munster family doc is the one that gets him the eight spot, but Dom DeLuise did take on the role in the second season.  Lynde's 3 appearances helped establish the role "civilians" would play in the series.

9) The Raven: He's just like one of the family! In this family, the ability to land a wisecrack or 3 comes in handy. Mel Blanc's voice helps make it a memorable part of the household.

10) Uncle Charlie: That handsome devil may look like Herman, and he may kinda sound like him, but he ain't no Herman. However, he's kind of a likable rogue, right? Twin brother Uncle Charlie's spot makes "Knock Wood, Here Comes Charlie," one of the standout installments of the classic sitcom.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

What We'd Like to See: Aloha Paradise

 I'll take, oh, let me see...every episode of this, please:

The great Gilmore Box YT channel posted this opening this week. I like that he describes it, with some diplomacy, perhaps, as "similar to Love Boat." Yes...similar, all right. Even the Steve Lawrence theme song sounds derivative...and I love it!

Believe it or not, this ABC anthology/comedy/drama lasted a mere 8 (of 13 produced) episodes. If you're concerned about the show ripping off Love Boat, maybe this will make you feel better: It's from Love Boat producers Aaron Spelling and Douglas Cramer! There's no index in Spelling's memoir A Prime Time Life, so the only reference to the show I can see is in his annotated filmography in the back, where he just says it was their attempt to do Love Boat at a Hawaiian resort.

Harry and Wally's Favorite Shows gives the series a measly half-star rating, calling it a "sappy effort" and noting Debbie Reynolds is "annoyingly chipper as manager of the resort." Well, Reynolds was no fan, either; according to Wikipedia, she said "it had the worst scripts ever," in a 1986 newspaper story talking about her guest appearance on a then-current episode of Hotel

ABC put this one at 9:00 Wednesdays in early 1981 against movies on CBS and the Diff'rent Strokes/Facts of Life combo on NBC, but it soon yanked it for socially relevant (and even shorter-lived) drama The American Dream.  By Summer, ABC had  added a Wednesday Night Movie to its lineup, and in September it debuted a new-look evening schedule featuring Greatest American Hero, which also debuted in Winter 1981; new Fall show The Fall Guy; and yet another Winter 1981 debut, Dynasty

As for Aloha Paradise, guest stars include Gene Rayburn, Batty winner Jessica Walter, Red Buttons, Joan Fontaine, and Bert Convy. CBS owns the show, so maybe someday if Paramount Plus has a Crackle-like revelation and starts emptying the vaults, we'll see it on there.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Retro Fan #17 is here!

Time for another unsolicited, uncompensated, but not unearned plug for TwoMorrows' RetroFan magazine, which for the first time in memory hit my mailbox before the digital copy subscribers get early.  So it was a big surprise this time, and I didn't know much about the contents, either.

This Halloween-themed issue doesn't have a ton of BOTNS-era TV material, but it does feature an interview with Dark Shadows star Lara Parker.  Members of our Facebook group will not be surprised to learn that I just saw her in a two-parter of Galactica 1980 as well (not covered in the interview, much to my chagrin, though her appearance on Kolchak is).

In addition to plenty of other Halloween-themed material, like a piece on Aurora model kits, a history of mad Monster Party, and an extensive look at The Haunting, there's a story on the original George of the Jungle and an appreciation of Jan Smithers (not that we need prompting to appreciate Jan Smithers).

It's all in the usual attractive, colorful package, and each issue comes highly recommended by this here podcast. Check it out, and tell 'em BOTNS sent ya!

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

This Day in TV History: All-Star Circus and Swingin' Singles

What a night of TV it was 50 years ago tonight! Truly something for all of us.

On Tuesday, October 19, 1971, CBS offered a Hawaii-themed (and recorded) edition of The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour with guest Jack Lord, an episode of Lord's Hawaii Five-0, and an all-new Cannon with a young(er) Vic Tayback!

ABC began at 7:30 with guests Billy Dee Williams and Robert Foxworth on The Mod Squad, then a made-for-TV movie called Suddenly Single. IMDB says, "A newly divorced man finds it difficult to get used to the single world." Check out the cast behind star Hal Holbrook:  Margot Kidder, Michael Constantine, Agnes Moorhead, Barbara Rush, Cloris Leachman, Harvey Korman, David Huddleston, and more! Marcus Welby closes the evening on ABC with part 1 of a crossover with Owen Marshall.

Perhaps my personal favorite single program is over on NBC, not the new Ironside at 7:30, nor an episode of The Funny Side with Gene Kelly at 9:30. The draw for me is All-Star Circus at 8:30.


Ed McMahon hosts an hour of circus highlights filmed at Circus Benneweis in Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition to his hosting duties, McMahon, a former Philadelphia TV clown, dons his costume and makeup to perform (with three other clowns) classic pantomime routines between such international acts as Eric Brenn and Taras Bulva and His Seven Tigers.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Happy birthday, Pam Dawber!

The actress is 70 years young today. We praised her work in an often-thankless spot on Mork and Mindy in one of our earlier pod episodes.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Top Ten #137

1) SCTV: We did another round of power rankings this week, and this one may have been the toughest yet with the depth on this series. What do you think about the list?

2) Fantasy Island: This season we discussed Roarke's first (that we see) confrontation with Satan, but 40 years ago tonight, the follow-up, The Devil and Mr. Roarke, premiered on ABC, with Roddy McDowall returning and using Julie to force another showdown. 

3) Working Stiffs: Just this week I listened to Michael Keaton's appearance on Bill Simmons' podcast, and it was worth another bizarre reference to Cheers being "super dated" to hear a minute of discussion on this forgotten Keaton/Belushi sitcom.

4) William Shatner: Became the oldest man in space. Are we 100% sure he's human? Next up, let's pay tribute to his iconic TJ Hooker role by letting him be the oldest human to go on a ride-along.

5) Wonder Woman: Decades has a marathon of the series this weekend.

6) Bing Crosby: The legend's estate signed a deal that will b-b-b-bring in beaucop bu-bu-bu-bucks--oh, yeah, and help keep his name out there and preserve his legacy.

7) Elvis and the Beauty Queen: NBC debuted this TV movie 40 years ago tonight. Don Johnson played the King with support from Stephanie Zimbalist:

8) Return of the Rebels: Also premiering tonight 40 years ago, this TV BIKER movie features Barbara Eden reassembling Jamie Farr, Robert Mandan, Don Murray, and Christopher Connelly to counter a gang led by Patrick Swayze! OK, I gotta see this one!

9) National Pasta Day: Carb up, everyone!

10) R.I.P. David DePatie: He helped bring a lot of animation to TV over the years.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Happy National Department Store Day!

October 16 is a day to celebrate retail shopping--like we don't do that enough the rest of the year. Still, it's nice to take a minute to remember my favorite stores of old, like Hills. It was where the toys where, you know.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Happy birthday, Linda Lavin!

Today is the birthday of one of the iconic female performers in TV history, one who headlined one of the biggest and beloved sitcoms the medium has ever seen. Yes, we're talking about Linda Lavin, though Lucille Ball was born on this date, too.

We just discussed Alice in our most recent season, and Lavin was the star for all 9 seasons--no small feat. She has a distinguished career on stage and screen beyond the long-running CBS comedy, but I want to commend her for her awesome YouTube channel, which has behind-the-scenes clips and specials galore.

Happy birthday, Linda Lavin!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

This Day in TV History: TV movies and baseball

40 years ago tonight, CBS and ABC took different approaches to countering the National League Playoffs (Expos vs. Dodgers) on NBC. ABC broadcast an original movie with a veneer of prestige, a biopic of an important figure of the 20th century:

Jaclyn Smith was nominated for a Golden Globe for playing Jackie, and the movie also picked up 3 Emmy nominations in side categories. James Franciscus (JFK), Donald Moffat, and Rod Taylor also star.

Meanwhile, CBS, after Mr. Merlin and WKRP, showed The Two Lives of Carol Letner, which pretty much sounds like trash.  I know which movie I'd want to watch, and it ain't on ABC!

The above promo is taken from a rerun from 1984, when Meredith Baxter-Birney and Don Johnson were parts of bigger and better things. Also in the cast is the great Dolph Sweet, who is also in Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy! Stalwarts Robert Webber and Graham Jarvis appear, too. This one just seems like fun...for the viewer. Maybe not so much for Carol Letner.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Power Rankings: SCTV

OK, so we have ranked casts/characters of some other series we covered in this ninth season, but surely we're not foolish enough to attempt to do so with the cast of SCTV, right?

Aha! We ARE that foolish! Well, I am, at least.

This is a difficult task, ranking the cast of SCTV, a series with a massive amount of talent and a wide variety of skills and strengths. Yet do it I must. Anyone who was a regular performer during the series' run is eligible. Remember the criteria: If these castmembers fought each other today in Killarney, Ontario, who would win?

1) Dave Thomas: Already this is impossible! AARGH! Thomas gets number one because he seems like a quintessential "glue guy," and it's nice to reward them every now and then. Other performers may have bigger fame outside the show, but in some ways, Thomas IS SCTV.

2) Rick Moranis: Then again, so is this guy. See how tough this is? Moranis' high spot is personal; I think for me his appearance to hilarity induced ratio may be the highest on the show.

3) Joe Flaherty: One of the more underrated performers of not just this show, but the time period.

4)  Andrea Martin: Why is it everyone on this list feels "underrated"? Can an entire ensemble be underrated? Martin truly is one of the outstanding talents of her generation, and on other shows, she would be even higher.

5) Eugene Levy: It's amazing that in some ways his "modern" successes overshadow his SCTV work. Well, we're not forgetting it.

6) John Candy: Might seem a little low, but we're ranking him on SCTV only, and many of his iconic sketches just didn't click for me as those of some of the others.

7) Marty Short: Again, he is a beloved performer, but his prime was away from the show, and being number 7 is no shame on this list.

8) Catherine O'Hara: Another solid glue performer, but she doesn't have that one brilliant character like Thomas' 

9) Harold Ramis: Gets a spot based on his OG status.

10) Tony Rosato/Robin Duke (tie): Tough list to crack, and besides, their stints were so short that many don't realize they were on this show as well as SNL.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

This Day in TV History: Taste of Evil (1971)

50 years ago tonight, ABC premiered original movie A Taste of Evil, and if you think the title is great, consider the cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Roddy McDowall, Arthur Connell, William Windom, and Barbara Parkins. 

We don't usually embed full movies/episodes here, more for practical reasons than anything else (they are liable to get yanked at any time), but this one is all over the place though not officially on home video. The dark story focuses on a 13-year-old rape victim who, after a long stint in a sanitarium, returns to a troubled home and finds more traumatic experiences.

A Taste of Evil has an impressive pedigree behind the camera as well. Director John Llewellyn Moxey is like the Spielberg of network TV movies, and screenwriter Jimmy Sangster did Hammer movies like Curse of Frankenstein

Elsewhere on the networks on Tuesday, October 12, 1971, CBS led off with Monkeys, Apes, and Man from National Geographic at 7:30 and followed it with new episodes of Hawaii Five-0 and Cannon. NBC had new installments of Ironside, Sarge, and The Funny Side. ABC bookended the movie with new Mod Squad and Marcus Welby.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Happy Chris Columbus Day!

This is of course Columbus Day, an occasion when all Americans come together to celebrate the legacy of one of our finest filmmakers, Chris Columbus. Of course we all know him as the man behind Nine Months and Stepmom, but did you know he also created a cartoon series in 1986?

I don't remember watching this one, but it has an impressive voice cast: David Lander, Pat Carroll, Howard Morris, John Stephenson, Henry Gibson (not doing Boris Karloff), Pat Fraley, Nancy Cartwright...Even Gino Conforti is a regular!

So on this Columbus Day, let's take a moment to think about the great man's lesser-known achievements. Fire up an episode of Galaxy High School.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Top Ten #136

1) Mr. Merlin: We wrote about this short-lived sitcom earlier this week when it celebrated its 40th anniversary. I'm not sure many people were clamoring for it on Crackle, but I for one am glad that stuff like this is available.

2) National Handbag Day: Stylish fashion accessory? Self-defense weapon? Why not both?

3) William Shatner: It's really going to happen: A 90-year-old is going into space. I bet Shatner himself thought it was a ridiculous idea until he heard they were gonna ask George Takei.

4) 1971 Country Music Awards: Aired this night 50 years ago! Charley Pride was the big winner, but I can't find a clip of him on the show, so enjoy Jerry Reed:

5) National Metric Day: You know, I'm still not feeling it. I like seeing these old Schoolhouse Rock-ish PSA segments, though!

6) Flip Wilson Show: Time Life just announced a big DVD set of the Flipster's highly rated but underseen (today) variety show, and because it's them, start saving up now.

7) Vega$: I read that this week's launch of CSI Vegas disappointed. Only one move left, CBSViacomParamount: Put reruns of THIS on Paramount Plus!

8) HBO World Championship Boxing: I just finished the cool docuseries The Kings, which made me nostalgic for the good times I had watching the action in the squared circle on Home Box Office. Too bad the documentary was on Showtime! Well, I give them credit for making it, of course.

9) Happy New Year's Day, Charlie Brown: You might be thinking, why this special NOW in Halloween season? Well, reports indicate Apple Plus is developing a new Peanuts special tied to the holiday, and I say, OK, but we already have one!

10) R.I.P. Alan Kalter: I don't want to diminish his stint as announcer on The Late Show, but, jeez, so many of the stories I saw about his death neglected to mention anything else. The big one for me: His work as a voice of USA Network. I loved the way he introduced this one:

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Happy birthday to the Sagal twins!

Can you believe the Sagal twins, who epitomized youthful cuteness, or maybe cute youthfulness, are 60 years old today (That's 60 years each, not total)? Well, you should considering Double Trouble premiered in 1984! We're all getting older, folks.

The NBC sitcom lasted only about one year/2 seasons/23 episodes on NBC, but reruns seemed to stay on USA Network forever. Yeah, that's right: FOREVER.

But you know what? I kinda wouldn't mind watching one or two today, even though I don't remember watching the show back then so much as having it on. Earlier this year, I mentioned Double Trouble as one of 10 female-centric shows I'd like to see streaming somewhere. It's not Women's History Month anymore, but it is the series' birthday!

Friday, October 8, 2021

Another cool toy car: THE MOD SQUAD

I haven't been a big Mod Squad watcher, and in fact I don't remember it even being on much when I was growing up. TV Land showed it for a while, and I saw some of it when Aspire ran it a few years back, but the series has a relatively low profile these days. 

This is a cool-looking package, though:

In fact, this collectible is about 75% packaging! I still like it, though. Who can resist that iconic 1970 Plymouth GTX?

OK, I admit, as neither a Mod Squad guy nor a car guy, I can't tell you much about the Plymouth GTX, but it's up on my wall and makes a nice affordable TV display item.

The series has been available complete on DVD for some time, but it hasn't hit a major streaming site. Actually, I did try to watch an episode on YouTube several months ago, bookmarked it, and then found it was yanked.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

This Day in TV History: Mr. Merlin debuts

40 years ago tonight, CBS premiered Mr. Merlin, a show set in present-day San Francisco and featuring Barnard Hughes as the legendary wizard training a replacement so he can retire. In the meantime, he's running an auto garage as a civilian. Why not?

Up against The Greatest American Hero and Real People, the series didn't do too well, and it was moved to Monday nights at midseason. There is was up against...That's Incredible.

Mr. Merlin lasted but a single season and was not well regarded, but like many other shows in the Sony vaults, it is now streaming on Crackle. I watched the pilot last night, and there's a certain charm to it. There aren't a lot of great laughs, and it's all a bit too silly, but, hey, they tried. It's an 8:00 sitcom aimed at a younger crowd.

Also in the cast are Elaine Joyce, glammed up (maybe a bit more than you'd think for an 8:00 sitcom) as "Alexandria," who passes along "their" messages to Merlin and vice versa. It's not clear at first who "they" are, but they are powerful. Clark Brandon, also known as Jo's boyfriend Eddie on Facts of Life, is the dopey apprentice Zac, and remember Throb? Jonathan Prince from that syndicated sitcom is Zac's pal Leo.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

This Day in TV History: WOR debuts in New York

I talk often on the podcast (and here) about my beloved New York TV stations I watched during my youth. WPIX 11 was my favorite--I mean, come on, Honeymooners!--but a close second was WOR 9, which was less hip, less energetic, and somehow more New Jersey than PIX, but it had one big advantage over WNEW 5: It had WWF wrestling!

On this day in 1949, WOR-TV started broadcasting with Game 1 of the Yankees-Dodgers World Series. Its official debut with regular programming started the following week, but I want to celebrate the channel's birthday today because I am in the mood to think about old NY television. To be fair, I always am!

WOR started its decline in 1987 when it added a W and corporate owner MCA made it "Universal 9." It outright jumped the shark when it became a UPN station in 1995. It had a great run for about 40 years, though.

Some of my favorite programs on Channel 9 back in the day include: 
*Romper Room
*Joe Franklin
*Tic-Tac Dough
(I watched a lot of the game shows on there)
*New York Mets baseball and Kiner's Korner
*The Morton Downey Jr. Show (It was a natural transition from Romper Room)
*The Howard Stern Show

Most notable: It was the station that got me hooked on pro wrestling with All-Star Wrestling Saturday mornings, Championship Wrestling Saturday evenings, and shows like Wrestling Spotlight sprinkled in as well. I grew to love NWA on TBS much more, but it all started with the WWF on Saturdays.

WPIX had more of my favorite shows, and WNEW had more cartoons, but Channel 9 had the wrestling. WPIX soon added some of its own to get into the game, but as far as I knew, WOR was there first, ensuring that decades later I would still remember it with fondness.

Happy birthday, WOR!

Monday, October 4, 2021

BOTNS Investigates: Crackle and the disappearance of its shows (updated 10/5)

This summer saw an explosion of short-lived vintage TV on Crackle--some of it beloved, some of it surprising in its addition, some of it just bizarre. it felt like anything in Sony's vaults was fair game, and Crackle became the most surprising and interesting SVOD service out there.

Then came October 1. As I checked to see what new material was added, I discovered that while a few things might be new--That Girl, for one--most of that cool stuff added over the summer was now gone!

Bridget Loves Bernie, Camp Runamuck, Hawk, Occasional Wife, The Fantastic Journey...all gone. Even series that had been on a little longer like My Two Dads were no longer there. Because I am in the habit of checking Crackle multiple times a week, I can report that some series like Mr. Merlin, Living Dolls, and UPN Chris Hardwick-starrer Guys Like Us (!) were on Crackle a day, maybe two, before vanishing.

I went to the source and asked Crackle's customer support. Here is our exchange: 

What happened to the dozens of rare shows you added recently, like Hawk, Melba, Occasional Wife, etc.? It's like overnight half of your TV library disappeared without notice. Are they off temporarily?


Thanks for contacting Crackle Support. We change our content the first day of every month and we are glad to hear from our users and consider every show & movie they suggest to us. Some movies and shows are only available for a limited time due to agreements with programming providers. Please check back as it may return another time. The best way to stay up to date on Crackle’s programming is to sign-up for our newsletter emails on your account settings.

Any request you send is going to be analyzed by the Programming Team.

We hope you continue streaming shows & movies on Crackle.

Crackle Customer Support

Obviously this is not the whole story. Most of these series were added in scattershot fashion at random times during the month. Many were missing episodes. The Famous Teddy Z debuted with the first handful of its episodes, then finally added the rest...only to be purged with so many others in October. There's no way someone licensed Guys Like Us for two days.

This weekend, a few shows, like Melba, returned. Others were added, like The Beverly Hillbillies and Bonanza--but that's no gain. It's the same public domain episodes available all over the place. Where are the rarities like Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice (yes, there was a TV show)? 

My theory was that the shows had a "soft opening" and weren't really supposed to be there. It's tough to tell since Crackle doesn't seem to promote complete lists of what is coming each month. I also thought shows were temporarily pulled to give them time to assemble more episodes and then re-add them. Yet the service rep didn't want to admit that if true. Plus Melba is still only there in partial form.

What is going on here? Why offer so much and then yank it without warning? BOTNS will continue to monitor this developing situation!

UPDATE 10/5: Most of the shows have returned to the service after an absence of several days, and in fact Crackle issued a press release listing them among the many new shows coming to the service in October. In fact, there are several more coming soon according to this.

That's all well and good, but I still wonder what happened. And if the series were coming right back after a temporary break for some reason, why not just tell me that instead of spitting out some corporate gobbledygook? How about something like, "Hey, don't sweat it, they'll be back soon. In fact, we're also getting Crazy Like a Fox, which might make a fun episode for your podcast!"

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Top Ten #135

1) The Rockford Files: We revived our ninth-season opener this week with our exclusive power rankings of the characters this week, and number one may surprise you!

Well, no, actually, it won't.  But number 8 might!

What do you think?

2) Art Hondros and the many stars of BOTNS: Please check out this brilliant artist, creator of the awesome new design in our store!

3) Madlyn Rhue: Happy birthday to the late Madlyn Rhue, who of course we know as Fences from Poor Devil.  Since no one has yet compiled her scenes from that one, here is this:

4) Ricardo Montalban: One of our favorites from this past season sat down with TCM for an extensive interview in 1995, and it's a recent addition to its YouTube channel:

5) National Boyfriend Day: You know who makes a nice, reliable boyfriend? George Glass. Jan really lucked out when she met that guy, didn't she?

6) Captain Kangaroo: Bob Keeshan's seminal show premiered on this day in 1955 and entertained many kids throughout the 1970s and 1980s. 

7) Jack Wagner: Happy birthday to the former Frisco Jones, and thanks for giving me an excuse to post a Solid Gold clip!

8) Red Flag: The Ultimate Game: This movie premiered 40 years ago tonight on CBS. The cast includes Barry Bostwick, William Devane, and Joan Van Ark, and how 1980s does that sound?

9) Night Court: The reboot just got a series order from NBC. Please, please, please let this be a way to get the original on HBO Max or Peacock (HBO Max can do better, IMHO, than Family Matters, Step by Step, and Full House, all of which are new on there this month)!

10) Soul Train Thanks to Mario500 (check out his site here) for passing along this episode of the It's Been a Minute podcast (adapted for the web for your reading pleasure, too) appreciating the long-running show that we just discussed this season!

Friday, October 1, 2021

Power Rankings: The Rockford Files!

We're going through the big shows we covered this season on the podcast and sharing our exclusive Power Rankings, and this week it's time to look back at The Rockford Files, that beloved NBC P.I. show that kicked off our ninth season.

Remember how this works: I look and think, if these characters all squared off in my rumpus room in Oswego, who would win? With that said, let's get to it.

(Note that for the purposes of this list, characters had to be featured in at least two episodes)

1) Jim Rockford: No brainer here. James Garner created one of the most popular characters in TV history.

2) Dennis Becker: Sure, Dennis doesn't always act the way we want--at first--but he usually comes through despite getting yelled at by his superiors. Overall he's a great pal for Jim, and I gotta feel for the guy when things go south for him, which is about every other episode.

3) Beth Davenport: Another one of those characters who it just seems had to have been in more episodes than she was (33), Beth is practical, assertive, and a great match for Jim. She makes each episode better.

4) Rocky: I didn't totally "get" Jim's dad (not to be confused with Jim's Dad from American Pie) until watching a bunch of episodes, but he's an essential part of the series. It clicked for me seeing The Four Pound Brick recently, which is probably my favorite Rocky episode.

5) Lance White: Tom Selleck's "charmed life" rival PI makes only a couple appearances but remains one of the show's most memorable figures.

6) Rita Kapkovic: Rita Moreno won an Emmy for prostitute with a heart of gold Kapkovic. OK, I am selling the show and the character way short with that glib description. She's a likable and charismatic guest star who has great rapport with Rockford and seems to have had potential to become a semi-regular.

7) Marcus "Gabby" Hayes: This smooth-talking PI may be one of the more underrated things Louis Gossett Jr. has done in his career. I would love to see more than just the two times he showed up to make life difficult for Rockfish--uh, Rockford. I'm looking ahead to...

8) Gandolf "Gandy" Fitch: The episode "Just Another Polish Wedding" shows what the proposed Gabby and Gandy show would have been like, and you know what? It would have been fun! Isaac Hayes is tough to look away from as the troubled Fitch, and his calling Jim "Rockfish" never gets old, but let's be honest: The character is an a-hole at best and a felon at worst.

9) Richie Brockleman: Admit, he kind of grows on you, right? He did get his own spinoff, and it didn't work, but don't blame Dennis Dugan. You can blame him for Big Daddy.

10) Angel Martin: When I researched the series for the podcast, I got the impression that Angel was a much more divisive character than I had expected. I put myself in the "little goes a long way" camp while enjoying his occasional appearances. A list like this without him would be incomplete, though.

Also receiving votes: Chapman, Diehl, "Anthony Boy" Fred Beamer