Monday, February 28, 2022

Revisiting my 2021 streaming "wishlist" for Black History Month

As we say goodbye to February (All together now: "Bye-bye, February!"), let's take a look at the list of 10 shows I suggested could appear on streaming video in February 2021--Black-themed shows of the BOTNS era to mark Black History Month. My original comments are below, sans the original embedded YT clips, with 2022 updated comments in bold: 

Soul Train
 As much a fixture this show is in the national consciousness even today--witness BET's fictionalized portrayal of Don Cornelius and the show's place in society--it has never been available on streaming as far as I know. There are hundreds of hours of a fantastic time capsule just sitting in CBS Viacom's vaults, part of the vast library of music history MTV Networks' parent company bought to (presumably) keep away from potential competitors.

Unfortunately, if BET, which has a fictional series based on the original series, maintains the Soul Train Music Awards, and has its own streaming service that has plenty of room for archival content, isn't going to do anything with the show, we'll probably never see it except in clips and retrospectives. I guess the best we can hope for is that CBS continues to ignore uploads of the show to free video sharing platforms.

That's pretty much exactly what has happened. No progress that I know of on this despite continued strength as a nostalgic "brand."

Frank's Place: Hey, speaking of shows CBS Viacom owns but isn't doing anything with, consider Tim Reid's short-lived but critcally beloved 1980s dramedy. BET aired reruns years ago, but it is missing in action right now, with nary a hint of a DVD release. How about popping this one on BET+, especially if doing so avoids the thorny music clearance issues that may preclude a home video effort?

No word on this, and Paramount Plus, which in a better world would be a home for it, seems to think Black History Month is better celebrated with recent reality shows than with series that actually got critical acclaim.

The Flip Wilson Showit received limited "best of" DVDs that are now long out of print, and the reruns are MIA on cable and GET-TV. It's time to bring it back in some form, preferably original hourlong cuts with music, but even the half-hour Best ofs are welcome.

A super-expensive best-of set is available from Time-Life, which may be a harbinger of the show turning up elsewhere or at least in less-super-expensive trimmed-down sets.

Julia and Room 222: I pair these two because Aspire had them at launch, and it's easy to understand why. The shows have a certain middlebrow patina of virtue, and if that sounds like a knock, hey, I especially love Room 222, and it irritates me that the network has dropped both shows (Julia turns up every now and then).  Julia is known more for being "groundbreaking" in its depiction of Diahann Carroll's titular young professional Black woman, but its gentle nature and charm make it an easy watch. As for Room 222, Shout's season 1 DVD flopped, perhaps because consumers rejected the non-"remastered" prints, but perhaps because quality shows without bug syndication presence just don't always sell.

The good news is more episodes are popping up on YouTube, but there's no indication of any other DVD releases nor Aspire showing them again. However, I could see Fox-owned Tubi pulling them out of the vaults someday and showing them. So it's a little more likely than it was last year at this time, I think.

Paris: This 1979-1980 CBS police drama has an impressive pedigree; created by Steven Bochco, it also gave James Earl Jones his first role as a fictional TV series regular.  It's not well regarded, but this description in Brooks and Marsh's The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows makes me want to see it even more:

What Paris lacked, unfortunately, was a little bit of believability. James Earl Jones, a highly respected actor, strutted through this role speaking in booming, stentorian tones as if it were Richard III.

Isn't that exactly what you want from James Earl Jones? This is an MTM show that should be accessible in the vaults somewhere.

No change here.

The New Odd Couple I can't make a strong case for this, but, come on, it's Basically I'm just a sucker for anything Odd Couple.

I still think the OC name makes it a possibility with all the obscure stuff coming to streaming, but as mentioned, Paramount seems to have no interest in doing anything with shows like this. Maybe it will license them out someday.

The Gary Coleman Show: We talked about the whole Gary Coleman phenomenon a bit on our Diff'rent Strokes episode, but as big as the child star was, not much apart from the sitcom is still around.  There are many TV movies still unavailable, and while Boomerang did show reruns of this cartoon series featuring Coleman as an angel (itself adapted from one of those movies, The Kid with the Broken Halo), it's not currently streaming anywhere.

No sign of this one.

I Am the Greatest: The Adventures of Muhammad Ali: Speaking of NBC cartoons, this 13-episode show was a flop, but it did feature the voice of Ali himself. In a time when a new book and/or HBO documentary about the boxing legend comes out every other month, to say nothing of the cult popularity of Mike Tyson Mysteries, it's surprising this isn't out there.  Maybe the ownership--it was produced by an independent company--are in dispute?

No change here, either, despite Ali still being a frequent topic of documentaries.

Get Christie Love!The TV movie that spawned the series is in public domain, or must be because it was a staple of every dollar store's "media" section in the DVD era, but since some scattered cable runs, I have only seen a batch of episodes on Brown Sugar when it launched.  The show is a watered-down version of films like Cleopatra Jones, what? 

Nothing happening here.

I also mentioned The Insiders, but that doesn't seem on the way anytime soon. Overall, not much happened with this list, but we did see an explosion in short-lived series hitting streaming, mainly on Crackle with the likes of One in a Million. Free streamers like Crackle and Tubi continue to surprise us with new titles each month, so maybe some of this will appear eventually. And maybe Paramount will finally do something with Soul Train. Flip Wilson's arrival on DVD isn't priced for value, but it's something.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Top Ten #166

1) One of the Boys: The noble YouTube uploader who gave us the 1982 Mickey Rooney/Dana Carvey/Nathan Lane sitcom a few weeks ago has been struck down by--corporate haters? Bots? The Scatman Crothers estate? Who knows? It may have been something else the account had posted that caused external forces to interrupt our critical reappraisal of the show.

All I know is life is a little less joyous without all of this:

2) ALF: Shout Factory announced it purchased worldwide multimedia rights to the character and the entire ALF-brary, hinting that it would eventually rectify the home media situation in which only syndicated edits exist on official DVD. One person said this was the event ALF fans had been waiting for. You know who's not thrilled by this news? Cats.

3) Stefanie Powers: ME-TV ran an article this week saying that the Eighties positioned her "as the most interesting woman in the world." Then it quoted a 1960s article and a few other sources talking about things she may or may not have actually done and failed to make much of a case for her ever being the most interesting woman in the world.

You be the judge by reading it here!

4) Jennifer Slept Here: Geno in our Facebook group reported an enjoyable and surprisingly meaningful through the short-lived sitcom, and I plan to take a look myself. I won't mention where to find the episodes, but let's just hope they don't end up like One of the Boysi.

5) Tom Snyder: Tom Who?, a documentary about the late-night icon, is now in production. Let's just hope they include that priceless footage of Jerome Smith!

6) Rascals and Robbers: On this night 40 years ago, CBS aired a TV movie about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn...with Anthony Michael Hall as Huck!

7) Freddy's Nightmares: Here's an interesting new streaming add, a combination of lesser-known show and lesser-known platform: Screambox now has the 1988-90 syndicated anthology.

8) Search: We celebrated the 50th anniversary of the TV movie that launched one of our favorite series this past week. Man, that's pretty wordy. Why can't I be as smooth as Hugh Lockwood?

9) International Polar Bear Day: What would YOU do for a Klondike? Would you wrestle a polar bear?

10) Anna Karen: R.I.P. to the On the Buses star.

Friday, February 25, 2022

RetroFan Magazine delivers (delivered) another fine issue

The latest issue of RetroFan came a little later than usual because of shipping delays, but I didn't mean to ignore it, lest you think the ish was a letdown. It was lighter on 70s/80s content than many others, but it still had a lot of great reading.

Andy Mangels has a spread of Christmas cards sent out by animation studios, and it's maybe the most BOTNS-era-ish piece in the mag. It was no less fun for hitting my household after the holidays. Well, maybe about 10% less festive, but no less fun.

Cover girl Barbara Eden's interview focuses more on Jeannie and less on Harper Valley PTA, but that's no surprise. The most surprising article for me is the interview with former child actor and cartoon voice actor Tommy Cook, who was one of the organizers of the Battle of the Century TV event waged between tennis pros Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. He dismisses talk Riggs threw the match, but he does say he took it lightly, and he also doesn't put King in a very positive light.

There is a look at Hanna-Barbera superhero toons of the Sixties, and the mag expands its horizons a bit with great stories on the old Monster Times publication, 8MM film collecting, and "how to draw" books. Overall, what it lacked (relatively) in 70s/80s content, #18 more than made up for with the eclectic nature of the subject matter. Once again, TwoMorrows' great magazine comes highly recommended. Check it out here if you can't find it in your local bookstore!

Thursday, February 24, 2022

What We Saw: TLC (1984 NBC unsold pilot)

The Museum of Classic Chicago Television YouTube account continues to bring us fantastic rarities and interesting broadcasts, almost always with original commercials and presented as originally aired. One that struck my eye was the unsold pilot "TLC," a sitcom set at a nursing university in Philadelphia:

Jim Vallely and Jonathan Schmock went on to all sorts of things, including behind-the-camera work on Arrested Development and Real Time with Bill Maher, respectively, and were in other shows, but who else remembers them as one of the weirdest comedy teams of the 1980s, The Funny Boys?  After this effort failed, they joined the cast of another NBC show, Double Trouble, presumably to up the zany in that sitcom's second season.

Double Trouble, then in reruns of its first season, kicked off this August night, followed by repeats of Jennifer Slept Here (shout-out to our Facebook group) and The Facts of Life. Then St. Elsewhere followed this broadcast of TLC

CBS had an episode of newsmagazine The American Parade and a rebroadcast of movie Bare Essence, which had been picked up as a primetime soap and failed already on NBC.

If this sounds like NBC and CBS burning off programming, well, it is. Not only is it August, but ABC was showing the popular 1984 Summer Olympics from Los Angeles this week.

As for TLC, it's kind of an odd piece. Some of my thoughts:

*The fact that the Funny Boys are the first and only male enrollees isn't emphasized the way you'd think it is. You'd think they would really hammer that point home.

*That said, Mary Garripoli as the love-starved student fixated on Vallely's character ought to have given royalties to Wendie Jo Sperber from Bosom Buddies.

*Jessica Walter seems to be enjoying herself as the heel dean with a heart of gold. 

*It's funny to see Ritch Shydner cast as a musclehead!

*There are some moments that hint at something, but things seem to happen too quickly in this pilot, almost like we are seeing a drastic cutdown of a longer episode.

Thanks again to the Fuzzy Memories account for bringing such cool stuff on a regular basis!

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Streaming Video Report Cards for 2021: Part 5

 It's time to finish off this sprawling series of posts! I'll be concise!

Peacock: B (Last year B+): Uh-oh, it's hard to be concise because this is one of the toughest to grade. It remains modest compared to some of the giants, yet it did a lot more adding than subtracting in 2021. Most of the classic content shows up on the free tier (Good Times is a notable exception), and I still find Peacock's ads to be the least obtrusive of the major commercial-supported streamers. 

There is so much missing from this service, which presumably has access to the Universal library, including many series that were pulled from the NBC app but have not made it over here yet. Where is The Equalizer? The Incredible Hulk? And of course I have been asking for Kojak and Quincy for a long time. However, Peacock added some of these types of series at the end of the year, like Miami Vice and Knight Rider, so it gets some credit for steady (if too slow) improvement.

Britbox: A (Last year: A): It didn't have quite as strong a year as it did in 2020, but it continued to add without subtracting much, bringing in the likes of Red Dwarf, Open All Hours, and Brideshead Revisited. All this and a relatively clean interface, no ads, and no constant changes to annoy its customers. I think it is running out of 70s and 80s content, but hopefully it has some things in mind for 2002.

Roku Channel: B- (Last year: B+): Yeah, there is a lot of stuff on here, but Roku made it harder to find what was new, it continued cycling content in and out without enough transparency, and it remained more a casual "let's see if we can find something" spot than the destination it could be. I do like Roku making an effort to get stuff from multiple sources, shows like A-Team and Starsky and Hutch and Magnum P.I., and they just added a watchlist-type function, but in 2021 I thought this one slipped a bit overall. However, it's still free, and it looks like Roku is continuing to try to improve and not giving up on older material. I just think this could be more.

YouTube: A+  (Last year: not ranked): The biggest treasure trove for lovers of our era of TV is still YouTube. It does have ads, material can be yanked at any moment, and a lot of uploaders deliver imperfect material like syndicated or sped-up versions of episodes. Worse, many distort the material, like messing with the aspect ratio. That said, there is tons of rare television here that you really will not find elsewhere, and it's all free. Sometimes you get what you pay for, but there is always something to see, and it's fun going down the various rabbit holes and finding out, "Hey, it's THIS!" I spent a lot more of my streaming time in 2021 trying to catch rare specials and programs before they are gone, and I expect that will continue in 2022.

Monday, February 21, 2022

It Was 50 Years Ago Today, Burgess Meredith Taught the Band to Play

50 years ago tonight, the TV movie Probe premiered on NBC. The movie led to the series Search, which we discussed back in this episode. The show has a soft spot in my heart (and Mike's, too, I'm sure) because I associate it with our deciding to do a podcast.

Burgess Meredith, Hugh O'Brien, and Elke Sommer were in the cast in the movie, which followed an episode of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. The story introduces us to World Securities Corp., a private security/investigations firm that uses all kinds of sweet technology in its work. When the series proper began on September 13, it changed its name to avoid conflict with a public broadcasting program.  It also began rotating O'Brien, Tony Franciosa, and Doug McClure as the leads.

I'm partial to the Hugh Lockwood episodes with O'Brian/ "The Murrow Disappearance," the premiere episode, is one of those and also the one we selected for the podcast, but the whole series is entertaining and recommended if you can find it. Warner Archive released it on DVD and streamed it on its Warner Archive Instant service. Probe is available as a separate DVD release.

It all started 50 years ago tonight, and though Search only lasted one season, it gave us a movie and almost a couple dozen fun hourlong installments. Today we salute the show, and the movie that launched it, once more!

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Top Ten #165

1) President's Day Weekend: Let's honor the man who led all 3 major networks at various times: BOTNS favorite Fred Silverman.

2) The Honeymooners Valentine Special: I celebrated the holiday with this 1978 comedy special. Yes, everyone is older and a little slower, but it's still the 'Mooners. Plus, unlike the Color Honeymooners of the Sixties, Audrey Meadows is onboard. The 1970s specials have an appeal the 1960s episodes don't quite offer, at least in my book.

3) Code Red: Crackle continues to run away with the streaming wars. Its latest addition is this 1981 Irwin Allen firehouse drama starring Adam Rich and Lorne Greene. Greene is a station chief who, I assume, puts out fires started by Rich.

4) Marla Gibbs: Gibbs is featured in an extensive Hollywood Reporter profile/interview. Read it, or she'll threaten to quit. Or at least sass you.

5) One of the Boys: After we talked about the show here on the site, a YouTube account posted many of the episodes. I'm not saying there is any correlation, of course. Just in case, anyone have Aloha Paradise?

6) Sandy Duncan: Happy birthday to someone so upbeat and positive, even Valerie Harper must have sent her a card each year.

7) Rhoda: Decades has a marathon of the show this weekend. It goes right up to the point when Sandy Sandy Duncan took over and it became Rhoda's Family.

8) The Adventures of Nick Carter: Debuting 50 years ago tonight on ABC, this 1972 TV pilot movie stars Robert Conrad, Broderick Crawford, and Shelley Winters set in 1912 New York City!

9) National Love Your Pet Day: Why not show your pet your love by serving some Alpo? Here's Chief Lorne Greene to explain:

10) How the West Was Won: Tubi TV recently added this 1970s series. Didn't Thomas Jefferson win it in a crooked card game?

Friday, February 18, 2022

Happy birthday, Cybill Shepherd

I guess Shepherd wasn't the "cool one" on Moonlighting (That was Curtis Armstrong, of course), but it would have been a duller show without her. Check out this non-paywalled (yay) 1986 profile Rolling Stone did of her back when she was "being hailed as the next Carole Lombard."

Happy birthday, Cybill Shepherd!

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Streaming Video Report Cards for 2021: Part 4

After I gave out high marks last time for free streamers Crackle and Tubi, it's time to get grumpy again. Remember my complaint about Amazon Prime and IMDB? We have a similar situation with CBS Viacom (Or is it Viacom CBS?) and its two main streaming video on demand services, Paramount Plus and Pluto.

Pluto is the free, ad-driven offering that has bulked up its library in the last couple years. It now has a robust selection of on-demand programming to go along with its seemingly endless array of themed 24/7 live-streaming channels. Sounds good, right? And it's all free!

Yet if you look a little closer, it's not quite as good as it looks. Some of the streaming channels only have limited selections of the series they have, sometimes the shows are syndicated cuts (that is, chopped up for commercials), and, as I found out to my horror in 2021, it even happens on the On Demand part of the site.  Three's Company on demand consists of the hacked-up versions of the show, unfortunately.

But again, it's FREE! And this is the only legit place you can see any episodes of The Fugitive streaming.

Wait, though, why is Pluto the only place you can see some episodes of The Fugitive, plus other shows like Webster (How many times have those shows been linked before?) when its parent company has a big pay service it is promoting? Well, I guess the strategy is to give all the library content to the free, ad-crammed service, and save recent reality show reruns for the "prestige" outfit.

Paramount Plus added very little of interest to vintage TV fans in 2021, even while it was adding such material to Pluto. There is some crossover, with shows like Perry Mason showing up on Pluto as well as Paramount Plus, but, you know, last I checked, PP didn't even have the whole run of the show, but you know who did? IMDB-TV!

If you're not a fan of Star Trek or a handful of other franchises the company pushes, there isn't much to be hopeful about here. Pluto is a mixed bag, but all things considered, it's getting better. If I subscribed to Paramount Plus, though, I'd be really peeved that so much stuff was only on the free service.

Paramount Plus: F (Last year: D+ as CBS All Access): The change in branding did not signal a wave of interesting content. Unfortunately, this one has some decent material, but most of it has been there for years. Classic TV-wise, this earns a solid F for effort.
Pluto: B (Last year A): The Three's Company thing and the strategy of Paramount really annoyed me, so I can't give it an A again, but really it had a decent year and is about what it was in 2020 but with more stuff, and that's a good thing.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

This Day in TV History: Tragedy and Homecoming on NBC

40 years ago tonight, NBC brought us a couple of old reliables. The new special of the evening, Johnny Goes Home at 10:00 P/M. EST, featured Tonight Show host Johnny Carson going to his hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska, where he takes viewers on a tour of his hold haunts and experiences a surprise 56th birthday party!

Now, I haven't seen this special yet, but part of me thinks, "Man, Johnny must have hated that!" Yet the official description of the program describes it as, "something Johnny wanted to do for a long time." Well, if he says so! He certainly wouldn't have done it if he didn't, not at that point in his career.

Before that special, it's a two-hour Little House on the Prairie at 8:00, one that illustrates the almost comical level of misfortune that hit these characters. In "Days of Sunshine, Days of Shadow (Part 1)," according to Ultimate70s, "As Caroline awaits the arrival of her first born, the marriage between Laura and Almonzo faces its first stern test when he falls seriously ill with diphtheria and later suffers a crippling stroke while trying to get his crops in during a hailstorm."

Wow, diphtheria, stroke, hailstorm--that's almost a whole row of Little House Tragedy Bingo! I hope Johnny Carson finds more success in his return to the heartland. And good luck to Caroline with that whole first-born thing, but I know on Little House we can't take anything for granted.

It's business as usual on CBS this Monday night, with its comedy lineup of Mr. Merlin, Private Benjamin, MASH, and House Calls--wow, one of those shows sure stands out, doesn't it--preceding a Lou Grant. ABC showed That's Incredible! and The Jerk.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Top Ten #164

1) Valentine's Day shopping: Only one day left! As a reminder, all past episodes of Battle of the Network Shows are free. If you need a last-minute gift idea, just download an episode of your choice, thoughtfully selected for your loved one, and share the love!

2) The Berenstain Bears' Comic Valentine: It premiered on NBC this night 40 years ago. So, wait, what day did The Berenstein Bears' Comic Valentine premiere? I can't find it anywhere for some reason.

3) The Big Game: Looking at the halftime entertainment and the possible commercial options makes me think we really, really need this to be a good football game this year.

4) Gumby: The beloved and flexible icon was purchased by FOX, which intends to ruin--uh, revamp the character for a new generation. And by the way, that's Gumby--Not Gum. GUMBY.

5) National Cheddar Day: Might want to celebrate that with a big mess of cheese fries for the Super Bowl. Or cheese enchiladas. Or cheese wings. Or cheese pigs in a blanket. Yep, I'm already hungry.

6) Denzel Washington: Congratulations to the St. Elsewhere star on his latest Oscar nomination. Hey, I wrote Oscar and Super Bowl in successive entries. Living on the edge!

7) Judd Hirsch: He was on WTF with Marc Maron this week, but unfortunately didn't come off as irascible as I hoped. However, he did tell a funny story about saying he couldn't play "Alex Taylor" on Taxi and said in auditions they needed to come up with a different name for the character.

8) Logan's Run: The short-lived TV series is now on Tubi along with V: The Series.

9) One in a Million on Crackle: I had kind of a surreal experience watching the second episode. With several minutes remaining, it ended in the middle of a scene, with the Sony logo coming up and everything, and then the fourth episode loaded up on autoplay.  I have decided that somehow this is an indication that the sitcom was way ahead of its time and that Crackle's presentation of it is simulating the wild experiments the series executed when it originally aired--you know, abrupt endings, skipped episodes...

10) Merlin Olsen: This week I enjoyed a YouTube video of the 1988 AFC Championship pitting the Bengals against the Bills. At one point, Bills cornerback Derrick Burroughs gives a forearm shiver to Bengals WR Tim McGee, earning a penalty and ejection. The NBC broadcast focuses on this incident for several minutes, and during one replay Dick Enberg points out we don't know what happened right before that, and Merlin takes exception, saying there's no excuse for it. It sounds like he's admonishing Dick, and I love it.  Merlin wants us to be better!

Of course he DOES quickly add, "Unless he's slugging Cris Collinsworth. Then it's totally justified."

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Streaming Video Report Cards for 2021: Part 3

Our first two installments in this series were full of regret, disappointment, and anger. Yet we stream classic television to get away from those things. So today let's make this a little more upbeat and praise some of the good ones.

Free with ads is where it's at now. Netflix and even Hulu have abandoned classic TV, and the free streamers are picking up the slack, digging deeper and deeper into the back catalogs that the major services--even the ones controlled by the rights holders of those shows--don't care about.

Crackle A (Last year: C+):  Yes, Crackle is still a pain as a usable service. When I go there to watch something, or even just to look and see what's new, I shouldn't have to be assaulted by an auto-playing Spider-Man movie with Dopey Maguire. But, oh, what an amazing B.J. and the Bear-size haul of old material is on here now!

It continues to get older shows like Dobie Gillis but is really impressing by digging deep, deep, deep into the Sony vaults and streaming the likes of Mr. Merlin and Melba. It is doing more with the Sony library than Sony did when it owned Crackle.

There are downsides. Crackle long was in the habit of rotating seasons in and out for shows like Starsky and Hutch, and I don't understand that strategy. Is it really that much more lucrative to share T.J. Hooker with other places like Roku Channel if you give each one a couple of seasons? I doubt it.

Now, though, Crackle often doesn't even bother adding more than one season (Still waiting for more Crazy Like a Fox) and it often throws up incomplete seasons. Hey, whatever, they seem to say. We'll just put up what we got for now. And sometimes they do add episodes later after they dig them up from whatever underground mine that stores treasures like It's Your Move. I like this approach. It's frustrating to get incomplete seasons, but the fact is it's either this or YouTube, and quite possibly it would get pulled from YouTube at some point. Crackle did a whole lot of adding and not a lot of subtracting in 2021.

Tubi TV: A- (Last year: A): The biggest negative? Tubi has some short licensing agreements. The two DC cartoons it added last year that delighted me disappeared months ago (and went nowhere else, which is why HBO Max is so disappointing). Like Crackle, it rotates some seasons out and sometimes only gets a couple seasons at a time of a long-running show.

But it also has Battlestar Galactica and Family and (just added, not from 2021) Bret Maverick--3 shows not streaming elsewhere and controlled by 3 different media giants not affiliated with Tubi's parent Fox. So we should appreciate Tubi's zeal to snap up things and (usually) present them relatively unaltered.  

I give it an A- instead of an A because I fear it's become harder to find and to keep track of this stuff and because it often doesn't stick around very long and leaves without much warning. There is room for improvement there in 2022, but then again in the case of all the Warner Brothers material, it's quite possible it's either enjoy it a little while here or never see it at all.


Friday, February 11, 2022

Happy birthday, Conrad Janis!

Happy 94th birthday to Batty-nominated (for Outstanding Conrad) Conrad Janis, perhaps best known as Mindy's dad on Mork & Mindy but also an accomplished jazz musician and star of such series as cult favorite Quark. Wait, Quark just turned up on Crackle. Now it's his birthday. Is it fair to say Conrad Janis is...having a moment?

Janis' Beverly Hills Dixie Band appeared with Jerry Lewis on the MDA telethon in 1984:

Thursday, February 10, 2022

This Day in TV History: Greatest American Hero, "The Shock WIll Kill You" premieres

40 years ago tonight, The Greatest American Hero premiered the episode "The Shock Will Kill You." This happens to be the GAH episode we discussed on our podcast. We really liked it!

It's worth seeing "The Shock" just for Bill and Pam's Batty-nominated fashion choices, but you get an episode filled with action, laughs, and maybe even a monster!

FilmRise has made the episode available for free with ads on YouTube:

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Streaming Video Report Cards for 2021: Part 2

Last week I started issuing my grades for the major streaming services and how they did with 1970s/1980s television shows in 2021. It wasn't all that fun, and today we have some more bad news, but let's get to it. 

Amazon Prime/IMDB TV: A/F (Last year: B+): How to grade them? I'm gonna tell you right now that even though we're looking at 2021, the recent price hike announcement for Prime is prominent in my head. The problem I have with Amazon is not only did it seed its free, ad-supported IMDB-TV with lots of older shows, it moved many shows that were on Prime and made them exclusive to IMDB-TV. So paid customers have to watch the same material with ads the same as all the non-members. That is bad business to me. I wrote a lot of this last year, but it got worse in 2021. One of the shows I praised Prime for adding, On Our Own, is now found on, you guessed it, IMDB.

Plus some shows just vanished, period, probably due to licensing agreements and whatnot, but the fact is with shows moving, leaving, being reclassified, etc., it is a constant struggle to keep track of what is on and what isn't on here.

The good news is there is a ton of stuff on here. The bad news is, it's hard to find, and if you are a paid member of Prime, you get very little consideration. The addition of some Norman Lear shows was an exciting event, but somehow Prime got syndicated versions of Diff'rent Strokes. It's rare to just get one show without strings on Prime.

Shout! Factory TV: D+ (Last year: B):  It added some Don Rickles stuff and little else as it slowed down considerably from previous years. It does gets credit for offering free streaming and for licensing so much of its holdings to various outlets. Plus it didn't lose anything that I noticed. So it gets some credit for that. Overall, though, it looks that Shout! has devoted its resources to movies, and it isn't adding as many of those, either.

Today's theme, then, is streaming services NOT getting the benefit of the doubt like they did last year. This is starting to get a little depressing. I tell you what, we will revisit this series in a couple days, and I promise I will share at least one GOOD grade. I can't guarantee I won't complain about something else, though.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

This Day in TV History: Head to the circus with Bixby and Cruz

50 years ago tonight, in addition to the Winter Olympics from Japan airing on ABC and the debut of The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine on NBC, viewers could check out an original special at 8:00. The stars of The Courtship of Eddie's Father  hosted Budapest Circus Festival.

This seems like an odd thing to exist, period, let alone to run against the Olympics. Then again, coverage was different then; NBC had just one hour of highlights in prime time. After 8:00, that's it, and it's time for a repeat screening of 1965's A Rage to Live.

Back to Budapest, though. Bill Bixby and Brandon Cruz actually went to Hungary and shot some footage of them touring the city. The special commemorates "the opening gala of the new completely automated Grand Palace of Circus," according to the listings at Ultimate The Fest was a regular event featuring various circus acts, and it apparently continues to this day. This special was shot at the 1971 version.

I had a hard time finding information about this special, which isn't in one of my go-to reference books, but I did see an enthusiastic review in the "TV Scout" column in the Suffolk-News Herald. The note mentions the performing hippo, a trapeze artist who stands on his head, and highlights, "Bixby participating with Miss Alda, the world's finest lady barber. Wait till you see her and Bill's expression as he watches her prepare to work on him." It seems less enthusiastic about the travelogue component: "Also a few shots of Bixby and Cruz wandering around Budapest, where this was filmed."

The column also notes that producer Greg Garrison was working up till air on the Feldman show, so no one was really sure what would be in the 30-minute distillation of what was originally going to be the first of a series of 90-minute episodes. Art Carney and others "have a chance of making it on"!

(Note: This post should have run February 7 but is premiering February 8 because of technical difficulties, as in I somehow had difficulty and botched the posting)

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Top Ten #163

1) Prime Video: It announced an upcoming price hike, which I'm sure means it will make all the IMDB-TV content it has available without ads to people who PAY for the Prime service, right? Right?

2) David Letterman: An official YouTube channel with tons of clips from the NBC and CBS runs premiered this week. A grateful nation rejoices...yet still crosses its fingers that Don Giller's channel with the full episodes will survive.

3) New shows on streaming in February: Gimme a Break!, Quark, and One in a Million are the standouts, showing up on Tubi, Crackle, and Crackle, respectively.

4) Dolly Parton: Congratulations to the icon for making the nominee class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and for being named host of the upcoming ACM Awards. At some point Dolly went from go-to joke reference to national treasure.

5) Black History Month: How many times do I have to tell everyone: Know your Shirley Hemphill, America!

6) National Frozen Yogurt Day: Enjoy a cold one and tell 'em BOTNS sent you!

7) Megan Gallagher: Happy birthday to the former China Beach star, who also appeared in Slap Maxwell:

8) Pat Summerall: While we're all thinking about football this time of year, let's give some love for John Madden's partner, who had his own NFL backlground, his own iconic broadcasting career, and his own hardware store to shill:

9) Winter Olympics: Hey, they started! I haven't been as ignorant about the events and competitors in an Olympics since...the Summer Olympics last year. It just ain't what it used to be.

10) Howard Hesseman. R.I.P: Decades will honor him with a WKRP marathon today. I have no problem with that, but wouldn't it be cool if someone was a bit more adventurous and showed something like this:

Friday, February 4, 2022

Happy birthday, John Schuck!

Today is the 82nd birthday of the great and oft-talked-about (especially on our Facebook group) but not quite podcasted about by us John Schuck! Munsters Today eluded us last season, but could we finally get some vintage Schuck on the show sooner than later? Stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy this:

Thursday, February 3, 2022

This Day in TV History: Tootie Ramsey is "Starstruck"

40 years ago tonight, NBC gave us a window into the dark side of adulation as Tootie Ramsey became...Starstruck

We talked about the episode on the podcast.  In fact, this episode is so important in the annals of TV history that we posted about it on the 35th anniversary 5 years ago!

It offers Jermaine Jackson among many other things. Hey, I wonder how Edna Garrett feels about Get Back?

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

The Number Two shows of the 1970s and 1980s

It's 2/2/22, and to mark the date, I look back at the BOTNS era's number-two shows; that is, the series that finished the season as the second-highest-rated series according to Nielsen.  

The way I see it, the true twos--shows that peaked at that spot on season-end charts but didn't finish at 1--are the following:

The Flip Wilson Show
Sanford and Son
The Waltons
Rich Man, Poor Man
The Dukes of Hazzard
Family Ties
A Different World

Let's go through and discuss the ones as well. That's the lot in life of a two, isn't it? Always second fiddle.  But many of these twos, as we shall see, were also ones. And we might even get into some threes! OK, that's enough math. I meant to do a simple list post, and this got out of hand.

(Number twos in bold below)

1970/71 and 1971/72: The Flip Wilson Show is one of the biggest semi-forgotten hits of the 1970s, and it finished second behind Marcus Welby one year, then All in the Family (with Welby third) the next before starting a drop that would lead to a flame-out. Welby  has the distinction of being the first ABC series to finish a season as #1.

1972/73: NBC had another big hit with Sanford and Son, but like the Flipster, it couldn't unseat All in the Family. Wilson was 12 and Welby 13 this season, by the way.

1973/74: This season, CBS' The Waltons edged Sanford for second behind ratings king All in the Family. Welby was out of the top 20, and Wilson was on the way out, period, after a big slide and behind-the-scenes strife.

1974/75: This time, The Waltons slid down a bit, and Sanford edged new sensation Chico and the Man for #2, but they were all still playing catch-up to All in the Family.

1975/76: Rich Man, Poor Man was officially #2, but if you don't count minseries, Laverne & Shirley gets the honor of being runner-up to All in the Family. Chico slid down to 25, while Sanford remained a top 10 show and The Waltons were 14--still strong but losing ground due to the rise of ABC and its shows with younger appeal.

1976/77: After 5 years and some timeslot changes, All in the Family (#12) finally lost its grip on numero uno, replaced by Happy Days. Laverne was #2 again, with the ABC Monday Night Movie third. The Waltons slipped just one spot, while Sanford and Son was now out of the top 25. Chico and the Man had its season interrupted by star Freddie Prinze's death and was on the way out.

1977/78: This year, Laverne barely beat Happy Days, so the latter took its turn as #2. Three's Company was a bit behind each of them.

1978/79: Three's Company moved up to second and was not far behind top-rated Laverne at all. Happy Days settled for a tie with Mork and Mindy at #3. Showing the strength of the top ABC comedies, Angie and The Ropers scored top ten spots with their limited runs.

1979/1980: 60 Minutes ascended to the top and Three's Company returned as #2.  As we discussed on the podcast, Mork and Mindy plummeted out of the top 25. An even bigger drop hit Laverne & Shirley after a timeslot change (one that pitted them against the aging Waltons!). Happy Days was still in the top 20 but had peaked.

1980/81: CBS was feeling good again (and LOOKING good!), as Dallas finished #1, and it wasn't even close. It was close for second, where Dukes of Hazzard beat 60 Minutes. Laverne climbed back up somewhat after another timeslot change, and Happy Days stayed about level, but while Three's Company remained top 10, ABC's biggest show was The Love Boat.

1981/82: 60 Minutes was #2 behind Dallas. Interestingly, Three's Company was a tick behind The Jeffersons at #3. This was the last season Happy Days and Laverne were in the top 20.

1982/83: The top shows switched, and now Dallas trailed 60 Minutes. On ABC, Three's Company and Love Boat were still top 10 shows. NBC's A-Team and its abbreviated first season gave that network its first top 10 finisher since Little House a few seasons earlier.

1983/84: A flip-flop at the top again, and now 60 Minutes was #2 behind Dallas. 2-4 were all very close--Dynasty and The A-Team were right up there. And right behind them was a show you might not guess at #5: Simon and Simon.

1984/85: It's Cosby time! But The Cosby Show isn't #1 yet. No, it's Dynasty reaching the top, with Dallas right behind it and the Huxtables third. 60 Minutes, A-Team, and Simon and Simon are all still top 10.

1985/86: NOW it's Cosby time. Family Ties is runner-up, and Murder, She Wrote peaks at #3 for the season ahead of 60 Minutes. Fading A-Team is all the way down to 30. Dynasty and Dallas are still in the top 10.

1986/87: Family Ties again behind Cosby Show, with Cheers at #3.

1987/88: Sitcoms rule this season with A Different World trailing Cosby. MSW and 60 Minutes are the non-coms in the top 10.

1988/89: Roseanne vaults the NBC shows to finish #2 behind Cosby. Dallas is down at 29.

1989/90: Cosby and Roseanne tie for #1, so you could count Cheers #2, but it's technically third, just ahead of A Different World.

The way I see it, the true twos--shows that peaked at that spot on season-end charts but didn't finish at 1--are the following:

The Flip Wilson Show
Sanford and Son
The Waltons
Rich Man, Poor Man
The Dukes of Hazzard
Family Ties
A Different World

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Streaming Video Report Cards for 2021: Part 1

I'm revisiting the series of posts I did last year evaluating streaming video on demand, but this time I am not going to bother as much with things like research and reason. I'm going to buzz through these quicker and rely on my gut. How did these outlets do by 1970s and 1980s TV in 2021? Where do they stand now?

Last year's grade is in parenthesis:

Netflix: F (Last year: F+): It cropped the big acquisition it had, Seinfeld, and I think a lot of us actually forgot it was on there. I will admit the streamer gave us a stunning surprise at the end of the year, but as much as I enjoyed revisiting it for the podcast, Knight Rider isn't the kind of show that redeems 11 months of neglect for older television. It proves that anything is possible, but it doesn't seem to auger any wave of vintage shows coming anytime soon.  At Netflix the prices go up, but the catalog goes down!

Hulu: D (Last year: B+): It feels like Hulu is still in a holding pattern while everyone waits to see how Disney and Comcast divvy this up, but I think Hulu has given up on classic TV beyond what it already has. By the way, what it already has went way down with the losses of Seinfeld, the Star Trek shows, The Twilight Zone, and Andy Griffith. It's not Hulu's fault that CBS wants stuff for its own streaming properties, but it's not like Hulu is doing anything to replace it. Fortunately it still has all that FOX/MTM stuff like Mary Tyler Moore. Come to think of it, isn't it about time it got something like Rhoda? Hulu gets a coasting D but has fallen way behind the free services.

Disney Plus: D- (Last year: D): It gets that much based on adding The Muppet Show early in 2021, but, wow, is Disney stingy with its vault. One might have hoped production delays on new shows might have encouraged a focus on library content, but somehow Disney got worse in 2021. It would be one thing if Disney was doing anything with Hulu, but, nope, it's time to accept that the company just doesn't care about its archives and that most of what we are gonna get, we already done got.

HBO Max: D- (Last year: D+):  Warners is very slowly adding TV series to the service, but most of them, like ER and Batman: The Animated Series, are past our time frame. Don't get me wrong, as an overall service, HBO Max is great (content-wise; the app is another story), but for what it charges, it should and could do better with older stuff than adding the occasional Head of the Class. Super Friends is great, but that was long overdue. I do think we'll get a few high-profile BOTNS-era series on here in 2022, but we are better off hoping the shows are licensed to other services that do commit to library programming. On the bright side, it looks like HBO Max is backing off the dreaded "rotating content" idea and not cycling its stuff on and off just for the heck of it.

It wasn't all bad in 2021, though, and I'll get to the good eventually, but these are 4 high-profile services that totally snubbed lovers of vintage television in 2021.