Sunday, March 31, 2024

Top Ten #295: Special Easter Edition!

1) Easter: Enjoy the holiday! If you want to revisit our season 10 opener, The Easter Bunny Is Comin' to Town again right here.

2) Major League Baseball: CATCH IT! 

3) Upstairs, Downstairs: The series finale of the original version aired on PBS 50 years ago tonight.

4) Shirley Jones and Richard Chamberlain: Happy 90th to each!

5) Wrestlemania: The first of the annual events happened on this date in 1985 and culminated a week of promotion all over the place, including NBC.

6) The Black Gold Awards: 40 years ago tonight, this syndicated awards show aired in many markets. It was hosted by Lou Rawls and honored excellence in R&B music. Michael Jackson won pretty much every award--but not all:

7) National Prom Day: Celebrate responsibly! Maybe you'll be lucky enough to enjoy a tune.

8) The Movies: 50 years ago tonight, ABC aired part 1 of a two-part special celebrating the history and legacy of Hollywood films. How much could they talk about when Paternity was still 7 years away?

9) March Madness: 40 years ago today, the Final Four featured Georgetown vs. Kentucky and Houston vs. Virginia. the big men in those games: Patrick Ewing, Sam Bowie, Akeem Olajuwon, and Olden Polynice (Yes, UVA actually got to the Final Four the year after Ralph Sampson left).

10) R.I.P. Louis Gossett:

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Top Ten #294: Special Springtime Edition!

1) Spring: I'd say it's been a long, cold Winter, but it really kind of flew right by. Warm weather brings all kinds of goodness, like midseason replacement series. You generally think of those as debuting in January or somewhere in Winter, but shows like Dallas premiered in April. 

Does Dallas really feel like a Spring show? No, but it doesn't seem Summer-y, either. Winter? I think it's just one of those all-time Fall shows.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, Spring! Married with Children premiered in April, too,

2) Norman Fell: Today would have been the 100th birthday of this icon! That's a whole lot of "building shelves."

3) Pretty much everyone on Head of the Class except Dan Schneider: No explanation necessary. I do kind of wonder what Brian Robbins, who was linked with him for years professionally, is thinking.

4) Women's History Month: To educate myself before the month is over, I think it's time I finally dove into that TV Guide with Donna Mills on the cover. 

5) Byron Allen: The bad news is, he may not get Paramount. The good news is, he might save $24 billion he was putting together! Byron, call us up. Maybe we can do business together.

6) People Are Funny: This show hosted by Flip Wilson premiered on NBC 40 years ago tonight. After Charlie and Company, Flip might have pronounced the title as People ARE Funny.

7) Donna Pescow and Robert Carradine: Happy 70th to both of them! It was Robert Hays who co-starred with Pescow in Angie, but we celebrate him anyway!

8) Entertainment Tonight: Imagine our delight when we came across a new upload of the show with the original cast led by Ron Hendren! Most of the ads are removed, but one that remains is for Paternity, the same movie Burt was plugging when we covered the program.

9) Ernie Hudson: It's good to see the star of The Last Precinct headlining the #1 movie this weekend.

10) R.I.P. M. Emmet Walsh and General Hospital stars Beth Peters, Robyn Bernard:

Monday, March 18, 2024

What a false alarm! (Accidentally wrong-dated this earlier)

 I like checking Just Watch for new additions to streaming, but it's not a perfect site. It lags behind a bit, and it is at the mercy of the information it pulls. Last week, I was looking over new additions to Plex, and I saw a thumbnail consisting of an old TV Guide cover.

Wait, that's Larry Hagman! Can that mean that Plex is showing The Good Life, Hagman's 1971 sitcom with Donna Mills as husband and wife who pose as servants because--Well, I'm not really sure.

I clicked through and saw that, yes, the listing indicated that was the show. Amazing! Well, Plex added WB's original Kung Fu before anyone else had it, so it's not impossible. Lorimar co-produced it, so Warner Brothers might have it (Actually, I believe Screen Gems owns the rights). I reasoned, well, maybe it really is on Plex!

Only thing is, that's not the Good Life Plex has. It's not even the 1975 Britcom of the same name (itself easy to find). I went to Plex itself and started playing it, and after a few ads, I saw some kind of reality show about pastoral life, I think. I didn't see credits, and I was too disappointed to bother to find out. 

As a group of famous Brits once sang (I wonder which The Good Life they enjoyed), I should have known better. I did, actually, but I let myself feel hopeful for a moment.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Top Ten #293: Special St. Patrick's Day Edition!

1) St. Patrick's Day: Happy birthday to all the Patricks out there!

(Actually, Patrick Duffy does turn 75 today.)

2) Murder, She Wrote: The series had several episodes set in Ireland, but one of its best-titled is set here in the States: "Corned Beef and Carnage." I mean, anything I can tell you about the plot can only disappoint, right?

3) Magnum P.I.: The series gets the spotlight in a revamped episode of long-running podcast The Retroist this week, plus Friend of the Show Ian talks to Babs Greyhosky, writer of multiple episodes, on his Ian Talks Comedy podcast.

4) Oppenheimer: I'm surprised to hear everyone making so much fuss out of this 1980 BBC series lately. Was there an atomic incident or something?

5) Saturday Night Live: 40 years ago tonight, Billy Crystal hosted with Al Jarreau as the musical guest. I don't remember this particular episode, but I have a sinking feeling that at some point Billy tries to imitate Al.

6) Lesley-Anne Down: Happy 70th!

7) 6 RMS RIV U: This TV movie premiered 50 years ago tonight, based on a play by Bob Randall. Carol Burnett and Alan Alda meet when both respond to an ad for a river-view apartment.

8) NCAA Hoops: March Madness is among us. This year, BOTNS will continue its tradition of not hosting a pool.

9) American Parade: We the Women: This installment of CBS News' series of documentary specials celebrating the Bicentennial premiered 50 years ago tonight. Hosted by Mary Tyler Moore, it focused on the Suffragette movement in 1920.

10) Sledge Hammer: Catchy Comedy runs episodes of this and Police Squad all day today.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

What We Saw: The 1984 Academy Awards

I wasn't feeling a strong connection to the 2024 Academy Awards, so with the help of YouTube, I went back in time and watched the 1984 Academy Awards this weekend. What is funny is that by choosing a nice round number for the anniversary--40 years ago!--I picked a night that celebrated a crop of movies with which I connect even less.

Before I address that, let me share the one thing that stands out to me most when watching the Oscars of 40 years ago. It's not the greater star power. I could comment on that, but it would be "grumpy old man out of touch with today's movies" kind of stuff, and I don't want to rip on today's crop of influencers--er, stars. Besides, they gave us exactly the kind of star I might yearn for, Al Pacino, and that didn't turn out so well.


No, the one thing that stands out today is the lack of reaction shots. It is noticeable throughout the entire program, but check out the opening, which contains the best part of the night, Johnny Carson's monologue:

Current awards shows have the tendency to find someone faking a smile or doing a mock pout (or, OK, I concede it happens--showing genuine emotion) after just about every single bit. It's not even every bit, but lines within a bit if presenters are on stage. Look at how, during Carson's segment, the director shoots it like a talk show monologue. The camera is on him almost the entire time. It's almost alarming! Yet I find it refreshing. I like the emphasis on the host and, throughout the ceremony, the people on the stage.

There aren't a lot of great moment for me in this show because I STILL haven't seen most of the big winners, and, boy, you can bet I didn't see them yet. This Oscar night illustrates how the movies of 1983 are a big gap for me. I never saw Terms of Endearment, Tender Mercies, Fanny and Alexander, The Dresser, and even--gasp--The Right Stuff (haven't seen it straight through all the way). I have never seen Silkwood nor Yentl (I actually tried to avoid that one when it was on HBO all the time in the Eighties) nor Educating Rita nor Cross Creek. Therefore a lot of the winners and races don't resonate with me much 40 years later.

Here are some movies of 1983 I DID see: Return of the Jedi, Flashdance, Trading Places, WarGames, Octopussy, Staying Alive, Sudden Impact, Mr. Mom, Risky Business. Those happen to be the other 9 of the top 10 movies (excluding Terms) of 1983. I am not making a popular vs. critical darling argument, just pointing out that I did see a lot of the movies of that year, but somehow I missed most covered at the Oscars. 

I would be more excited about Local Hero, King of Comedy, or others if we are talking critical faves. If we are talking person faves, well, young me saw Superman III and National Lampoon's Vacation.

I am not saying what the Oscars SHOULD HAVE honored, just that I don't have an affinity for what the show did honor. But would it have killed them to nominate Private School so Phoebe Cates could get an invite?

Shirley McLaine's speech is well remembered (Is it one of the first commenting on how long the show is?), and many of the "lesser" awards yield sincere and affecting (if not starpowered) speeches.

Actually, one thing that strikes me is how Carson makes multiple jokes about how people don't really care about those awards--maybe right on the edge of going to insulting. Carson himself is a clear highlight in his final outing as emcee. He is funny, appealing, and always in control.

A highlight is Cary Grant's appearance. Talk about class and star power!

Overall, it was not a great show, but it was a nice watch on a lazy Sunday...broken up into multiple clips in a convenient playlist. Seeing the 215-minute long ceremony at once without breaks might be a bit too much, at least without bigger roles for the likes of National Lampoon's Vacation (To be fair, Christie Brinkley does appear as a presenter).

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Top Ten #292: Special "Casablanca is still my favorite" Edition

1) The Academy Awards: One of the biggest nights in television is when the people who make movies get together to brag about how much more important they are than those who make television!

2) Little House on the Prairie: COZI is celebrating the series' 50th anniversary all month. We celebrated the series' unending misery and misfortune in this episode.

3) Shogun: The acclaimed FX miniseries hasn't caught the whole nation's attention the way the original did, though it is off to a good start.

4) The Incredible Hulk: The pilot movie premiered in Fall 1977, but the first "regular" episode, boxing story "Final Round," was March 10, 1978 on CBS against two reruns: Rockford Files on NBC, the second half of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble on ABC.

5) Sharon Stone: Happy birthday to the actress perhaps best known for her appearance on Magnum P.I..

6) Conference championships: 40 years ago, sports on TV featured a host of NCAA hoops title games, including the final of the long-gone Metro Conference and an OT win for Georgetown over Syracuse in the Big East.

7) Mario Day: Nintendo would have us believe otherwise, but I think today is designed to celebrate Mario Cuomo, who dominated TV pundit shows every few years by thinking about running for president.

8) WNEP Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: 40 years ago, The New York Times ran an interesting piece about this station and how it was spending money on community service and a robust local news staff to get an edge on its competitors. 

Hey, it interested me! After all, this channel was my ABC affiliate when I was growing up. It was also my source of this (the host of which is featured in the article):

9) Daylight Savings: This is the bad one, the one where we lose an hour. That's one less episode of Little House to me and you. Do you think the Ingalls family ever messed around with the clock? It was more like Life Savings Time every episode on that show.

10) R.I.P. Steve Lawrence, Jean Allison: Allison was in an amazing array of 70s and 80s TV shows, including St. Elsewhere, Adam-12, Emergency!, Gunsmoke, Charlie's Angels, and many more.

Lawrence is known as a crooner, but he first stood out to me as the co-host of this:

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Top Ten #291: Special "in like a lion" Edition!

1) Sony's Classic TV Rewind YouTube channel: In what looks to be yet another dry month for catalog TV on streaming, it's time to appreciate this channel, which has stepped up its pace of uploading full episodes lately. Just this past week, it gave us "A Coffin for Starsky," famous Charlie's Angels installment "Angels in Chains," and several episodes of the rare Norman Lear Palmerstown, U.S.A. Hey, the guy in the thumbnail looks familiar:

Now, do I still wish Sony would make its library available on other outlets at a rate of more than one episode per series every week? Yes, I do, but this is sort of like a Sony TV channel, and it's free with uncut episodes.

2) Moonlighting: We didn't get a "Moonlighting Monday" check-in on our Facebook group page this week, but the Stuck in the 80s podcast interviewed Glenn Gordon Caron last week, and today is the anniversary of the series premiere on March 3, 1985.

3) Video Soul: A recent upload of a 1986 episode is a refreshing trip back in time. Host Donnie Simpson and Freddie Jackson have a casual but insightful chat throughout the program. At one point they discuss the differences between Black and White audiences in an intelligent way, not in a "Evening at the Improv" way. The music videos are typical of what BET was playing at the time and I would think are rarely seen anywhere today. Also, look at how relaxed the whole presentation is as it focuses on the personalities and not obnoxious graphics, ad billboards, and musical cues.

4) "Swan Song": Here is a cool milestone: 50 years ago tonight saw the debut of this episode of Columbo with special guest star Johnny Cash! Extended segment below:

5) The Young and the Restless: The looooong-running daytime soap was just renewed for another 3 years.

6) Leap Day: How did you all spend the "extra" day this year? Watching old TV? In other words, business as usual?

7) Barney Martin: The character actor who found fame as Jerry's dad on Seinfeld would have turned 100 today!

8) Superstars of Comedy Salute the Improv: Speaking of the Improv, this comedy special aired 40 years ago tonight on Showtime:

9) Danica McKellar and David Faustino: Happy birthday to two performers who played two iconic yet quite different TV teens.

10) R.I.P. Richard Lewis, Ole Anderson: