Tuesday, November 30, 2021

This Day in TV History: Brian's Song premiers on ABC

50 years ago tonight, the nation learned...that men could cry.

Real-life subject Chicago Bears RB Brian Piccolo had died of cancer not a year and a half earlier, so the tragic situation was still fresh in minds when this dramatization of his career and friendship with Gale Sayers debuted.

Well, maybe not exactly, but one of the weepiest male-oriented TV movies of all time had a big impact and is still remembered with fondness today. In 2021 it isn't quite the cultural touchstone it was in the 1970s, 1980s, and even 1990s, but Brian's Song was a go-to reference for many years. It's not streaming anywhere officially, but that is more a sign of the lack of respect for TV movies than any lack of anything with Brian's Song.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Dream Theater: Arrested by Norman Fell

Last night I dreamed I was arrested by Norman Fell.

This wasn't Fell as Mr. Roper, mind you, but levelheaded law enforcement type Fell who appeared in shows like 87th Precinct, Dan August, and most recently for me, Murder, She Wrote.

I wish I could remember the details, but I know I was innocent (sure, that's what they all say), and that Fell himself was somewhat apologetic, but he had no choice. Also, my grandmother was outraged that a major national restaurant chain (I won't mention it because it has been excellent for me) false-advertised something. She was angry enough to take a big ad flyer and bring it in so she could point it out to Fell, who shrugged it off.

If I 'm not mistaken, a since-forgotten teenage girl scored a novelty hit shortly after Ocean's Eleven with "I Wanna Be Arrested by Norman Fell."

I wanna be arrested by Norman Fell
Just me and Norm in a little cell
He's the guy who makes jail time feel so swell
I wanna be arrested by Norman Fell

You know, I might be mistaken.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Top Ten #143

1) Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: The new TCM documentary King of Cool does a fine job covering Dean's lengthy career, but it gives scant mention to the roasts. To compensate, you can listen to our podcast on the subject.

Jimmie Walker liked the show!

2) David Cassidy: Man Undercover: The latest short-lived TV series added to Crackle's roster of short-lived TV series!

3) Knight Rider: Check this out, on the way from Super 7. It's an action figure for those who know the real star of the show was not the car, but the Hoff.

4) Alan King's Thanksgiving Special: This premiered November 25, 1980, and was just uploaded by Fuzzy Memories. It's slow going for a while despite BOTNS fave DVP, but the last full segment, in which King mocks the Fall TV lineup, is great. 

6) Earth II: The ABC TV movie premiered this night in 1971, confusing half the country who thought they had missed Earth I and the other half who thought it was about the Justice Society of America.

7) French Toast Day: It better include sticks!

8) Automan: I haven't yet heard the Retroist's new podcast devoted to the show, but I am betting he doesn't do a deep dive into the Laura Branigan show like we did!

9) Soul Train: The record for the longest Soul Train line was broken last week. Just when we think humanity has reached physical performance, courageous individuals like these come along and push our species beyond its assumed limitations.

10) Ahmad proposes to Phylicia: Today is the 35th anniversary of the most romantic moment in the history of...NBC's pro football coverage:

Saturday, November 27, 2021

This Day in TV History: Darkroom premieres on ABC

40 years ago tonight, James Coburn welcomed ABC viewers to the Darkroom as the horror/fantasy anthology premiered. Mike and I talked about the series right here.

The debut episode features Robert Webber, who also stars in the Rockford Files episode we cover in our Season 9 premiere. (Could we be hearing more about Webber in this season's Battys)? Darkroom lasted a mere 6 additional episodes and was off the air in the summer, but we think it deserves another look.

Like most (all?) genre shows, it has a cult following, but it has no home video release. It's in streaming limbo now as one of those Universal-owned shows that, for no known reason, was available on for a while but has not appeared on Peacock yet.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Things for which I am thankful

I used a lot of space on this site complaining about various things this year, but I think given the holiday, it's a good time to show some gratitude.  Of course Mike and I are thankful for all of you who listen to the podcast, visit us here at the website, and participate in our official Facebook group--not to mention those of you who supported us by purchasing some of our stuff at our merch store.

I am thankful that in a time when not everyone shows reverence for catalog material (trying to keep it positive here), Crackle and Tubi are licensing older material on a regular basis and making it available for free. Much of it is even in the original aspect ratio!

I'm thankful that for most streaming services, the default is to run older programming uncut and not to hack it up as if it were on broadcast TV.

I appreciate that enough copyright holders let enough go to make YouTube the user-generated television history archive that nobody else will create.

I'm grateful for the home tapers and collectors who saved all that stuff that they and others upload to video-sharing sites!

I like that I can still find cool stuff at affordable prices even as prices of high-end graded collectibles like baseball cards have gone through the roof.

I am thankful for the presence of One-Armed Pat Morita:

I'm beholden to the folks who kept their TV Guides for so many years, enabling me to assemble a collection of them decades after they were published.

I feel indebted to authors who create interesting TV reference books and the publishers who support them.

I love that we've been able to keep this podcast going for 5 years through various life changes and issues, and I love that it's still as fun now as it was at the beginning.

Finally, I am thankful that this exists:

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving from Battle of the Network Shows!

From all of us to all of you...Happy Thanksgiving!

If you have some spare time for audio on this festive occasion, here are some Thanksgiving-themed episodes from our archives. Thanks for your support, and keep watching this space for the Season 9 batty Awards!

Have a happy and safe holiday, everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

This Day in TV History: Thanksgiving specials on CBS

40 years ago tonight, CBS led off the Monday night with a pair of animated seasonal specials. At 8:00, the classic A Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving had its annual showing. Following it was an interesting program I do not remember: No Man's Valley.

The environmental-themed program is produced and directed by Peanuts vets Lee Mendelsohn and Bill Melendez. Vincent Terrace describes it in his Television Specials: When a construction crew begins building on the sanctuary of a rare breed of California condors, the birds feel their lives are threatened. The story related their efforts to find No Man's Valley--a place where they can live in peace.

Oddly, Terrace lists the premiere date as September 12, 1983. Maybe it was rerun? 

The cast includes Arnold Stang, Richard Deacon, Joe E. Ross, and Art Metrano (!) in addition to voice actors extraordinaire Henry Corden, Hal Smith, John Stephenson. I don't recall this show, but I plan to check out since Fuzzy Memories was nice enough to post it.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Happy birthday, Rodney Dangerfield!

Today is the 100th birthday of Rodney Dangerfield. He'd have a joke about that, but we're just gonna remind you that even while he was big in movies like Caddyshack, he was killing it on The Tonight Show, was a fixture on HBO with what seemed like about 24 consecutive annual Young Comedians specials, and was a regular presence on television.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Top Ten #142

1) Battlestar Galactica: With me getting the game and also reading a book about the series, could this show be gaining momentum heading into Batty season?

2) MASH: I read on Sitcoms Online that ME-TV is replacing Columbo on Sunday nights in part with MASH. It's great that a national outlet is willing to take a chance and give more exposure to such an underseen little gem.

3) Love Boat cruise: If this doesn't get people back to cruises, what will?

4) COZI CONDENSED BOLD: The hottest show in reruns stays in the Top Ten because it's still featured on the Cozi homepage.

5) Riptide: Decades is running a marathon this weekend. Man, I think this is shown even less than MASH.

6) Norma Rae: 40 years ago tonight, Cassie Yates took on Sally Field's title role in this unsold pilot based on the award-winning motion picture. They really didn't like it. They really didn't like it.

7) [SPOILER] shot J.R.: The nation learned the identity of J.R. Ewing's would-be killer on this date in 1980. The Dallas installment beat The Fugitive finale to become the highest-rated television episode of all time, lasting as such until the finale of that obscure, rare comedy MASH.

8) Tweety: A Tale of Two Kitties, released November 21, 1942, features the first appearance of Tweety Bird, so we can celebrate his 80th birthday today. I STILL want Sylvester to destroy him, though.

9) National Stuffing Day: Personally I think it's one of the most disgusting Thanksgiving foods, and I was bombarded with commercials for it all year round:

10) R.I.P. Gavan O'Herlihy: Farewell, Chuck Cunningham...again.

Art LeFleur:

Dave Frishberg, writer of many memorable Schoolhouse Rock songs:

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Batty chatter: What I'm hearing

We're smack in the middle of Batty season, and I am consulting with some of our favorite newshounds to get the inside scoop. We're talking people like Rona Barrett, Lou Grant, and Hector Ramirez!

It's time to empty out the notebook and share some of the gossip and rumors that are swirling around this year's Batty Awards. Please remember that this is all as yet unsubstantiated and should not be seen as verified reporting.

We're hearing that Robert Conrad is lobbying for a Batty nomination despite not appearing in Season 9...and also being dead for nearly two years...Multiple venues lobbied for the prestigious honor of hosting the ceremony, but word has not leaked out yet. Word is multiple tangible arenas are frustrated with having to compete with intangible ones like Season 5's astral plane...

Chatter is that as usual the Outstanding Male category will be loaded this time out...Look for a new twist on a familiar category...Several categories have been dropped from the Season 8 list, including, I am sad to report, Outstanding Rick and Outstanding Mike. Hey, maybe those ones could have stuck around a bit!

I'm told Vic Tayback's representation had to be talked out of a scheme to promote him for Outstanding Male by dropping chili out of an airplane...Folks speculating about the possibility that a Genius winner--OG Robert Pine--could be in contention for a competitive batty for his role in The Master...

Tayback's costar Linda Lavin, rumor has it, is asking for a hefty fee to show up at the ceremony and sing. She charges double to show up and not sing...Longtime Batty observers are closely watching how The Munsters, an older show linked to BOTNS through Mini-Munsters, is treated. "If series and performers from that era are eligible, that might crowd out your Holmes & Yoyos," said one industry vet. Has she SEEN the Facebook group?

Fear not dreaded supply chain issues, folks, because word is the BOTNS logistics team stocked up on random number generators many months ago...Any concern over the integrity of the listener-voted awards is unfounded, says one person familiar with the process. "Tamper with the results? We almost forgot to put up the polls," he said...

Due to the long gap between Battys, producers are reportedly mulling how to handle a long list of names for the In Memoriam segment. It's believed that one suggestion, to read the names like John Moschitta, was only a jest and not a serious proposal...

Friday, November 19, 2021

Happy birthday, Meg Ryan!

60 years ago today, once-promising television actress Meg Ryan was born in Connecticut.

After standout commercial work and early gigs on an ABC Afterschool Special and Charles in Charge, plus recurring roles on As the World Turns and Wildside, Ryan seems to have mostly left the business, returning after a suspicious gap in her resume with some minor appearances and voice-over work. What in the world was this charming and talented performer doing in the late 1980s and 1990s?

Thursday, November 18, 2021

It's the Great American Smokeout!

For over 50 years, the third Thursday in November has been designated the Great American Smokeout, a day to encourage people to kick the habit. Cigarette ads were a staple of television up until New Year's Day 1970, when a Virginia Slims spot on The Tonight Show became the last cigarette ad on the public airwaves after a federal ban.

To me the most memorable anti-smoking ad remains this Yul Brynner spot that ran after the actor died of lung cancer in 1985:

Here is BOTNS Season 9 star Natalie Cole (from our SCTV episode) for the Smokeout event:

Here is that Virginia Slims ad. Note that future Hill Street Blues star Veronica Hamel appears in it:

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

On the Road: Pasadena Toy Expo Part 3: The BSG game

One of my finds at that toy show I attended recently is this vintage Battlestar Galactica board game, in great condition and complete:

We have not been able to play this game yet, but here are my first impressions: This looks so generic that I can't help but think there was an existing structure that Parker Brothers altered to "fit" BSG. I doubt this is much fun to play (though I want to play it)!

Yet the box is cool. It is an officially licensed product. It's unfortunate that no images of the show's characters appear anywhere in the packaging, components, or game board, but at least there are Vipers and Cylon Raiders.

Next up: The continuation of my quest for an elusive Galactica 1980 game.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Murder Monday: Episode 4-21: Deadpan

We haven't had an official "Murder Monday" post since July, but writing about a semi-Halloween episode recently got me going again, and then Dean Stockwell's death days after I saw a standout episode featuring him felt like a sign.

Season 4 had been murderous, yes, but not as magnificent as previous ones.  Yet my wife and I saw "Deadpan," a couple weeks ago, and it is probably the best we've seen in months! So if you're here wondering why I skipped from early in Season 3 to the end of Season 4, just shrug it off and accept it--you know, kind of like some of the  plot points in a typical Murder, She Wrote.

"Deadpan" is another "Jess in the Big City" story, with our dear J.B. Fletcher visiting New York to attend the premiere of Mainely Murder, a Broadway play loosely based on her work.  When she sees the dress rehearsal, she discovers just how loose an adaptation it is; a veteran producer (Carole Cook) demanded rewrites, and hapless playwright Walter (Miles Chapin) acquiesced without bothering to tell Jessica.  

Walt's a beloved former student of hers, but he doesn't come off well in this episode. I want to see the students Jessica didn't care for every now and then. Where is the brooding slacker that showed up on rare occasions and challenged her like a know-it-all?

When our novelist extraordinaire asks why the play now has witches in it, reminding everyone it's set in Maine, not Massachusetts, she is told that they have broadened the setting to include "perceptual New England."  This is one of the best lines of the series! You better believe I am using "perceptual ___" in daily life whenever I can.

The play is horrible, and everyone knows it, but a rave review from the city's big newspaper-based drama critic lifts everyone's spirits at the premiere after-party, taking the sting out of the brutal pan by the city's big television-based drama critic. The fun is short lived, though, when the newspaper critic is found dead...and his bitter rival, the TV guy, is found standing over him with a gun in his hand!

As smug, arrogant TV critic (that is, critic of drama on TV) Elliott Easterbrook, Dean Stockwell is brilliant. It's one of the most enjoyable performances I've seen on the series and by far the highlight of "Deadpan." It's fun to see Jessica parry his condescending remarks. You can tell she is pleased with herself when she gets him with a Moliere quote. Tom Clancy wouldn't have done that!

The rest of the cast is distinguished by Lloyd Bochner as a pretentious director and Rich Little playing it straight as the show's PR guy who, in an amusing moment, says he can imitate the writing style of the town's theater scribes and often sends lazy ones prewritten stuff they can use. I don't know how John Wayne and Johnny Carson look when they're penning grocery lists, but I am sure he nails them, too. Eugene Roche is entertaining as the lieutenant who investigates, and I expected him to be a lot crustier with Ms. Fletcher than he ended up being.

"Deadpan" has it all--a goofy premise, snarky insults, oddball characters, and one of the best "I did it" speeches I have seen. Stockwell is hilarious and perfect in his role. All this plus Jessica learning how to use computers (!) in a key plot point makes this a fantastic MSW outing whether you are a fan of the show or just a perceptual fan of the show.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Top Ten #141

1) One-armed Pat Morita: I promised to reveal one more find from the Toy Expo today, and it's time to deliver:

I love this figure. No arm? No problem! (Or as Friend of the Show Dann said in our Facebook group, "Wax on, arm off.") It gives Morita gravitas, I dare say. And while this is a Karate Kid figure, I choose to believe it's from 1987 ABC cop show Ohara, and that gives me an opening to share one of my favorite clips again:

2) Brian Keith: Today would have been the 100th birthday of the late actor, and perhaps it's no coincidence that Decades is running a Hardcastle and McCormick marathon this weekend!

3) Fantasy Island: It's the 40th anniversary of the premiere of the episode in which Paul Williams wants to have a harem. Is it a spoiler to say it doesn't go the way he intends?

4) Seat Belt Day: On National Seat Belt Day, much love to the Crash Test Dummies, who gave so much so that others might live.

5) Pickle Day: Less essential to our collective safety but no less important--well, maybe just a bit less important--is this chance to celebrate...pickles.

6) Michael Learned: ME-TV ran a story explaining how she got her first name. Great, now can someone explain "Learned"?

7) COZI CONDENSED BOLD: I went to Cozi TV's website to check out what was new, and at the bottom, Highway to Heaven was labeled COZI CONDENSED BOLD. It may still be. Go check it out! And Check It Out! is not on Cozi, but I think there is hope for it if Cozi Condensed Bold can get a spot in its lineup.

8) NCAA Basketball: College hoops are back, but to me they will never be better than they were on ESPN in the 1980s:

9) Murphy Brown: The series premiered on this date in 1988. Boy, that reboot sure didn't take, did it?

10) R.I.P. Dean Stockwell: The veteran performer's passing happens to coincide with my watching a standout performance of his--one I will discuss tomorrow.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

This Day in TV History: Duel and Strike Force

November 13 is a big day in milestonish (?) TV history. The broadcast networks gave us interesting viewing options both 50 years ago and 40 years ago tonight, and the most prominent is 1971 made-for-TV movie Duel, directed by a young Steven Spielberg.

I think this in consideration for a podcast slot someday, so I won't go into depth, but the thriller with Dennis Weaver is still remembered fondly today in its own right, though the notoriety of being one of Spielberg's early works helps!

Preceding it on ABC was Bobby Sherman's Getting Together, and after it was Roger Moore and Tony Curtis in The Persauders. Remember that TV movies often fit in 90-minute slots in those days.

CBS had its usual monster Saturday lineup--mostly. All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, each in their second season, were supplemented by Funny Face with Sandy Duncan and The New Dick van Dyke Show with Hope Lange. Oh, yeah, and Dick Van Dyke. Mission Impossible closed out prime time.

NBC led off with The Partners, a sitcom with Don Adams (plus BOTNS fave DVP--not to be confused with DVD--in a supporting role); and The Good Life with Larry Hagman and Donna Mills.  At 9:00 the network broadcast the 1967 John Wayne movie The War Wagon.

Friday, November 13, 1981 has CBS with another iconic lineup: The Incredible Hulk, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Dallas

NBC led off the night 40 years ago with NBC Magazine hosted by nesman Jack Perkins, then followed with two specials: More TV Censored Bloopers and It's Only Human. The first stars Dick Clark, natch, and the latter is a compilation of human interest stories hosted by Barbara Eden and Reggie Jackson!

ABC offered a new Benson and a Guiness Book of World Records special before the 90-minute premiere of Robert Stack in Strike Force, a short-lived action show about an L.A.-area combination of law enforcement groups. Somehow, this series actually received a manufactured-on-demand DVD release several years ago!

Friday, November 12, 2021

On the Road: Pasadena Toy Expo part 2: What did I actually get?

On Monday, I talked about the Pasadena Toy Expo last weekend in Maryland and "the ones that got away," better described as "the ones that were too expensive for me to even consider if I wanted to go home with more than one thing." Today, let me show off some of the toys I did get. Note that members of our Facebook group saw some of these pics earlier this week!

First up, "Don't Call Me Robby" Robot from Lost in Space in talking ornament form along with an unnamed Dalek. The latter does not talk but does have the awesome plunger thing that is an essential feature for any Dalek.

And here, from left to right, BOTNS icon Willie Stargell (from Greatest Sports Legends), Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, Contract Hall of Famer Bobby Bonilla, and star of The Jeffersons and Diff'rent Strokes Reggie Jackson.

Here is a great assortment of Jetsons figures, and I gotta track down an Elroy and a Mr. Spacely now:

"And Jessica Drew!"

"Who are three characters who have never been in my kitchen?" Not much else links these 3, but I love them:

I'll reveal one special acquisition in the Top Ten on Sunday, and I will have more--yes, MORE--items to share next week, but these are some of the cool toys I grabbed last weekend.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Happy Veterans Day!

We hope everyone has a tremendous day, but we give special thanks and tribute to our nation's veterans. Here is a 1982 look at the opening of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

This Day in TV History: The First All-American Ultra Quiz airs in 1981

You may be asking yourself, what the heck is The First All-American Ultra Quiz? Well, I can tell you this: There isn't a second.

NBC aired part one of this special 40 years ago tonight, with the follow-up coming a week later. It's an adaptation of a Japanese format. Look at what this preview clip promises: A THOUSAND people, locations all around the world, and DECAPITATION for the losers?

Dan Rowan and Dick Martin hosted this show, which started in Los Angeles, featured segments from multiple locations, and ended with a live segment in the second episode. A summary on IMDB indicates it's only 932 contestants, who are then whittled down to 84 at the game's beginning at Dodger Stadium. Hey, false advertising, NBC!

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Happy birthday, Lou Ferrigno!

Today Lou Ferrigno turns 70!

It's a special milestone for us because just over 5 years ago, our very first official episode of the podcast focused on The Incredible Hulk. So really, the big guy has been with us from that beginning. That's kind of an endorsement, right? You don't think so? Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry. 

(Come on, you gotta give me that one!)

Happy birthday, Lou!

Monday, November 8, 2021

On the Road: Pasadena Toy Expo in Maryland

The first official adventure for Mr. and Mrs. Brooks (AKA Friend of the Show Laurie) was a trip to Maryland for the Pasadena Toy Expo, so named because--I have no idea why. It has nothing to do with the Rose Bowl; imagine my embarrassment when I showed up in Pasadena, California expecting to see a toy show.

Fortunately, we were able to turn around and head all the way back across the country to the actual site in Maryland, where over 70 vendors sold toys in all varieties of condition: unopened, new, old, used, and downright gross (Hey, I bought some of those). Fresh off my reading of Rack Toys, I was hoping to find some of the cool 1970s/1980s items pictured in there, or at least similar things. 

We were surprised that there weren't quite as many 1970s/1980s TV/movie toys as we expected. In approximate order of abundance, here are the most common toy categories we found: 1) Funkos 2) Star Wars 3) GI Joe 4) He-Man.  Beyond that, there were a lot of newer wrestling and Marvel Legends, and Lego was popular as well.

There was a lot to see, though, and it was a friendly, inviting atmosphere--crowded but not so packed you couldn't browse with comfort. As far as BOTNS-era TV items, there were more big-ticket items than the loose, affordable ones I would hope to find. Now, I did buy some cool items and will reveal some of those in future posts, but today I want to list some of what was there that I did not buy. 

First, I repeat that we had a fantastic time. Unfortunately, now that we have discovered and appreciated the event, it is moving to a different location next year. It is doubling in size, though, so we might have to try to make it even if it is a longer trip!

Yesterday in the Top 10, I mentioned the Welcome Back Kotter paper dolls, so I won't repeat them here. What follows are some of the cool things that stand out, with pictures taken of similar items from the net and not actual items from the show:

Little Rascals Porky and Buckwheat (Mego)

The Waltons Grandma and Grandpa (Mego)

Charlie's Angels lunchbox

Six Million Dollar Man doll (this one was autographed by Lee Majors)

Bionic Woman doll

The A-Team lunchbox

LJN Hart Foundation

Police Woman doll

MASH action figure (saw several of these at one table):

Welcome Back Kotter Barbarino doll

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Top Ten #140

1) The Fonz: Henry Winkler is auctioning off one of the iconic jackets his Happy Days character wore. Wait, isn't there one at the Smithsonian, at least one other that was auctioned before...How many of these danged things are there?

2) Daylight Savings Time: We'd never be so trite as to suggest you spend the extra hour listening to one of our past episodes.

Why don't you go for the bonus episodes so you can listen to TWO of them?

3) Crazy Like a Fox: Crackle added a batch of the series for November, but although all are labeled "Season 1," it's a mix of episodes from both seasons in no apparent order whatsoever. How can new fans appreciate the show if they can't follow the intricate continuity from the beginning?

(For the record, I mocked this show when it was on and never watched it, but Adult Rick thinks, hey, Jack Warden? I should give this one a shot.)

4) ESPN Classic: ESPN is now finally pulling the plug in an official way after letting the once-great channel die for over a decade. Bring back Classic Sports Network!

5) Michael Sloan: He has a new book from Bear Manor Media about a revival of Kung Fu, so naturally we ask, where's the book on The Master?

6) Welcome Back Kotter: My wife and I went to a toy show yesterday, and somehow one of the most represented BOTNS-era programs was WBK. For example, someone had these:

7) Bob Hope: 50 years ago tonight, NBC aired the comedian's latest special, which co-starred Jack Benny, the Osmonds, and John Wayne. Wayne appeared in an All in the Family spoof!

8) 12 Angry Men: Reginald Rose and the Journey of 12 Angry Men by Phil Rosenzweig, a new book spotlighted on the TV Confidential podcast, talks about this seminal work. Mike, this is a clear sign we should continue our longtime bit of creating new juries with various themes!

9) George Wendt and John Ratzenberger: One of my favorite YouTube uploads of the week is this compilation of their segments cohosting a 1985 episode of Friday night Videos:

10) R.I.P. William Lucking: He has prominent roles in two episodes we talked about on the show: Voyagers (as Babe Ruth!) and The A-Team.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Rack Toys: My 5 favorites from the great new book by Brian Heiler

Yesterday I shared my praise of the reissue of Brian Heiler's great Rack Toys book.  Today I list my favorite items shown inside its pages. If I had to narrow it down to 5 favorites from the book, I'd choose these ones. 

Note that I am considering only toys featured in the "TV and Movie Superstars" chapter, and series like Space: 1999 and Josie and the Pussycats are spotlighted in other parts of the book. You have to check them out in the pages of Rack Toys to believe some of these (and please do get the book to see the pictures):

*Police Woman Crime Lab Play Set: Not just Angie Dickinson, not just her and Earl Holliman, but Ed Bernard and Charles Dierkorp adorn the packaging, all smiling and happy for kids to simulate their adventures. My favorite item is the sad-looking little bottle labeled "alcohol," but don't sleep on the plastic scissors.

*Trapper John M.D.  Medical Kit: What gets me about this is that Trapper isn't even pictured on the package. Instead we see Christopher Norris' "Ripples" nurse character pictured atop an assortment of items including what I guess is a toy medical bag replica with a screenshot of the show on the front so that it sort of resembles a TV set.

*Matt Houston ID Set: Need I say anything? The existence of this has to fill your heart with joy. There isn't a lot to it, but the sweet keychain must have made it a worthwhile purchase.

*The Love Boat Barber Shop Kit: Oh, come on! Like YOU never yearned for a detailed look inside the barber shop on the Pacific Princess!

*Mr. Smith Money Set: This is the single most inexplicable thing in the chapter, and of course I love it. I assume someone thought the notorious flop might score with the kiddie set. In case you don't recall Mr. Smith, here you go:

Happy National Play Outside Day (Redux)

 (Note: This was supposed to publish Saturday, November 6, but due to a technical error--I botched it--it ran Wednesday morning. Please accept my apologies and enjoy National Play Outside Day on its true milestone date, now with a bonus embedded commercial.)

Yes, it's National Play Outside Day, which is the first Saturday in November, just in time for...the temperature to start falling dramatically. Well, hey, kids can bundle up, right?

What better way to get pumped up for playing outside than by watching The Baseball Bunch, which you recall we talked about this season.

Could The Baseball Bunch be in line for Batty consideration? Will there be a Batty for Outstanding Demonstration of Outside Play? Stay tuned!

If football is more your thing, how about picking up one of these sweet Nerfs?

AND if you aren't into those sports, why not just pretend it's summer and get this one out of the garage:

Friday, November 5, 2021

Book review: Rack Toys by Brian Heiler

Rack Toys is a welcome reissue of a book originally published about a decade ago--welcome because I had that first edition but lost it. Thanks to Heiler, the proprietor of Plaid Stallions, one of our favorite websites and YouTube channels; and the Nacelle Company's new foray into book publishing, we can get this great-looking book again.

The majority of this trade paperback is good-quality photographs of 1960s-1980s "rack toys," items that were usually inexpensive, often cheap, and sometimes unlicensed. Of particular appeal to BOTNS listeners is the spectacular section on television and movie toys. Leafing through this chapter will expose you to (as the old comic book ad for other kinds of novelty toys touted) things you never knew existed. 

There are some introductory remarks by Heiler discussing his own personal connection to the phenomenon of rack toys, and Nacelle founder Brian Volk-Weiss provides a warm foreword, but the pictures are the attraction.  This volume looks great and is something easy to get sucked into, but there isn't a ton of detail about the toys themselves or the brands (Note that besides TV, there are sections devoted to superheroes, monsters, and other subjects). 

One unfortunate aspect is that the captions that make up the bulk of the written word are riddled with typos and some apparent formatting errors that leave off a few things here and there. The book would have benefitted from a good proofreading after the first edition's release.

But who cares? It's mostly captions and pictures, but what glorious pictures, and Heiler does bring the same mix of bemusement and wonder he does in his outstanding Toy Ventures videos.  I give Rack Toys a strong recommendation and only wish that a second volume is in the works.

Tomorrow I will list my 5 favorite TV-related toys from the book, but here is a vintage commercial, courtesy of the Brick Mantooth channel, spotlighting some of the Planet of the Apes items that are depicted in Rack Toys:

Thursday, November 4, 2021

This Day in TV History: The Fall Guy premieres on ABC

November 4, 1981 was a crackerjack night of action and adventure on ABC with the second-season premiere of The Greatest American Hero, an entertaining baseball-themed story titled "The 200-Mile-an-Hour Fastball," and the series debut of The Fall Guy.

A two-hour movie kicked off the show. introducing Lee Majors as Colt Seavers, a stuntman and bounty hunter! heather Thomas and Douglas Barr formed a team with him. I think the series is largely forgotten these days, but it aired 5 seasons and 113 episodes.

The Fall Guy was never a prestigious program, but TV needs its Fall Guys as much as it needs its Hill Street Blues...maybe even more so. The Glen Larson/Fox production was a solid performer for its first 4 seasons. For a while some of the series was on Hulu, but now only the first season is even available for digital purchase, and the DVDs stalled out at season two (and that season only got an international release).

Episodes are floating around online, and Decades runs it on occasion, but the series is mostly MIA from streaming, home video, and broadcast. Well, we're bringing it BACK!

Actually, no, we have no power to do that, but maybe we can talk about it on the show someday. Hopefully someone will pick it up and become an official purveyor of the series.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

What's "new old" on streaming video in November?

Yes, new old, meaning what BOTNS-ers shows are new to the various streaming video services this month?

HBO Max has a habit of surprising by overdelivering each month, and it did again, but that's the good news, plus the fact that the service added several pre-2000 series Monday. The bad news? Apologies to fans of these series, but that batch consists of The Parent HoodHanging with Mr. Cooper, and Dawson's Creek. Martin and The Jamie Foxx Show are also new. Fans of Black sitcoms of more recent vintage are getting their money's worth, but where is the pre-1990 stuff like Night Court?

So far, there isn't a lot to get excited about, so let's hope that some channels like Crackle and Tubi--services that aren't good about providing accurate and timely lists of new additions--come through with some cool things later. Also, HBO Max has a habit of delivering more than it announces each month.

Crackle did finally add Crazy Like a Fox, which was on its list for October AND a list for November, but wither Fish, which was supposed to be there in October and was not on the November list? It does now have Savages, a 1970s TV movie with another non-Mayberry-ish Andy Griffith role.

Tubi has added Canadian low-budget horror comedy The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, just in time to miss Halloween!

Roku Channel surprised by adding all seasons of Diff'rent Strokes, but unfortunately they are the same (mostly) edited-for-syndication episodes Prime Video got a couple months ago.

Speaking of HBO Max, the good news is that the service added several pre-2000 series today. The bad news? Apologies to fans of these series, but it's disappointing that the batch consists of The Parent Hood, In the House, Hanging with Mr. Cooper, and Dawson's Creek. I'll ask again, where is Night Court? Or anything pre-1990. 

Nothing new on Acorn, Britbox, Shout! TV, Paramount Plus, Peacock, nor Netflix this month. It's always a pleasant surprise when Boomerang adds anything. Starz didn't add another "Throwback" series--maybe in January.

Crackle did finally add Crazy Like a Fox, which was on its list for October AND a list for November, but wither Fish, which was supposed to be there in October and was not on the November list? It does now have Savages, a 1970s TV movie with another non-Mayberry-ish Andy Griffith role.

So far, it's a disappointing month, but maybe we'll see some new additions as the month continues.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

This Day in TV History: Born to Be Sold (1981)

40 years ago tonight, NBC premiered the TV movie Born to Be Sold with Lynda Carter, and, though I don't mean any disrespect to the somber subject matter, each time I see the title I think of Born to Be Wild or I read it as Born to Be Bad, and I think of Lynda Carter in bad-ass motorcycle gear, and I...Where was I, again?

In reality, Carter was fresh off her stint on Wonder Woman and played a crusading social worker trying to bust up a baby-selling ring. The cast features Harold Gould, Dean Stockwell, Ed Nelson, Lloyd Haynes, Philip Sterling, and Sharon Farrell. 

This vintage TV Guide ad is all over the web. The movie itself is easy to find online.

Note that is central time in the ad. NBC preceded the movie with a new Little House on the Prairie.

ABC offered a new That's Incredible! including an 8-year-old fiddler. Is that really incredible? The Vikings and Broncos followed on Monday Night Football.

CBS' lineup consisted of Private Benjamin and The Two of Us, then MASH, the third-season premiere of House Calls (surprising it had 3 seasons and 57 episodes), and the fifth-season premiere of Lou Grant.

Monday, November 1, 2021

My Halloween TV watching last week

I geared up for the holiday with a mini-festival of Halloween-related TV episodes. Here's my ranking of what I saw:

7) Bewitched, "To Trick or Treat or Not to Trick or Treat":  The title is indicative of the lack of effort I think went into this one, but I never was a big fan of the series. Without Uncle Arthur, the Halloween episodes fall flat for me, and this one relies on the Endora/Durwood dynamic that always annoyed me.

6) Mork and Mindy, "A Morkville Horror": We already have the Jay Thomas era, the show is not quite the same as it was...and it's only the second season! I found this a routine episode with both the manic and the maudlin of the series on display. Tom Poston works hard in this, and Exidor fans get a lot, but I didn't get into this one much.  It is good for Halloween spirit, though, if you need it.

5) The Facts of Life, "The Halloween Show": The series was already on fumes by Season 5, and this is a by-the-numbers story of the gals thinking Edna has killed someone for meat. I know that sounds outlandish, but it plays out just as you'd expect. What elevates it over the preceding two sitcoms are Charlotte Rae at her most over-the-top lilting, a nice turn by veteran character actor Ian Wolfe, and one of my favorite TV cliches of all time:

Annoying side character Roy has a spooky costume on, and he jumps out and yells at Jo, who, continuing to munch her apple without breaking stride, gives him a casual, "Hi, Roy."
And then of course most good sitcoms will give you the aggrieved, "How did you know it was me?" from the person in the costume.

4) Murder, She Wrote: Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble: Laurie and I stepped aside from our usual Murder Mondays to jump just a bit ahead to this Season 5 effort that isn't directly a Halloween episode but that does involve 300-year-old local lore; witchcraft; ghosts; and scariest of all, a young Bill Maher rocking a spectacular 1989 hairstyle.

It's an amusing episode also featuring Roddy McDowall as an arrogant author. The Cape Cod episodes don't always have the flashiest guest casts on paper--no offense to Maher and McDowall, who are both entertaining, nor to Dee Wallace and Christopher Stone and Brad Dourif--but they often provide the most amusing stories. This one was even funny on purpose sometimes, and I recommend it, though the supernatural stuff is more treated as a historical thing than a true Halloween thing. And, hey, that cast sounds a lot deeper now that I write the names down.

3) MASH, "Dreams": it shouldn't surprise you that this offbeat--nay, surreal--episode is directed and partly "conceived by" Alan Alda. The main characters, including not just the surgeons but Klinger and Mulcahy, experience haunting nightmares during an intense run of surgeries and ensuing sleep deprivation. This Season 8 installment of the show is distinctive and creepy, and while some might find it a tad pretentious, I say by the eighth season, why not do some different things?

2) Starsky and Hutch, "The Vampire": I think you're either with this show or you're against it, and this is a classic example: Saxon's compelling turn as the title character and moody atmospherics like cool Seventies spooky music coincide with comedy like Huggy selling vampire protection kits and the guys picking up women at a singles bar. Me, I love this one.

1) The Simpsons, "Treehouse of Horror II."  OK, we don't really consider The Simpsons in our timeframe, but we do consider it awesome, and it started in our era. This is the one with the Monkey's Paw story. 'Nuff said. It's a clear numero uno and still hilarious after 30 years.