Entertainment / Media

Women of the Apocalypse: Helen Mirren

Forever Young

In 1975, Helen Mirren participated in a saucy and friction-filled interview with the BBC's Michael Parkinson. She was England's sexy ingenue at the time. There was quite a bit of verbal sparring between the two as Helen chose to define herself rather than allow others to do that for her.

Some thirty years later, Parkinson interviewed Helen again. Notice how the vibe has changed now as Helen over the preceding 30 years has remained sexy in every way yet has redefined the term in the process.

Age of Consent

One of Helen's first major screen roles was in Age of Consent with James Mason. where she played a Lolita type waif. She is charming and gorgeous.


Mr. Trololo Guy

The Real Reason Why the Soviet Union Collapsed?

Stephen Colbert helped to make Eduard Khil a viral video phenomenon not long ago.

Colbert presented one of the most amazing and bizarre lip-sync performances of all time. And since his Comedy Central debut, Khil, born in Smolensk, Russia, has come to be known as Mr. Trololo Guy.

Khil didn't think the actual lyrics this song were all that interesting:

"I'm riding the prairie on my stallion, a mustang as such, and my sweetheart Mary now knits a stocking for me, a thousand miles away from here."

Probably a good call to go with the tro-lo-lo approach.


And just as US singer Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up video became fodder for the clever minds that create YouTube mashup videos, intriguing variations of Mr. Trololo Guy's spirited 1976 performance are all over the internet.

Here are our favorites...


Creepy TV

Being Human is our favorite TV series about all things unhuman

The series -- a kind of Three's Company for the supernatural underworld -- examines the joys and trepidations of a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost sharing a flat in England. It answers the age-old question, can't we all just get along?

Being Human
(the BBC original not the SyFy clone) is smart, witty and intriguing. And Ghost Annie can haunt us anytime.

But the series got us thinking about Creepy TV back in television's more Golden Days.

Creepy TV Hosts

Rod Serling was the best known but there were a slew of program hosts who introduced programs with a chilling and enigmatic monologue.

Alfred Hitchcock: Alfred Hitchcock Theatre

John Newland: One Step Beyond

Roald Dahl: Way Out

Boris Karloff: Thriller

Comedy of Terrors

Before Cable TV and Netflix the only way to see classic scary movies was on some local TV station late on a Saturday night.

These movie nights were often hosted Halloween-style by someone with a way-over-the-top tongue-in-cheek approach to terror.

The talented Elvira. Mistress of the Dark, arguably the most successful of these hosts, went on to national fame and, we hope, fortune.

Here in the Midwest we had Svengoolie and Son of Svengoolie.

When a local Chicago station came up with the idea for Screaming Yellow Theatre, they hired local disk jockey Jerry G. Bishop to host the show.

Jerry concocted the part-beatnik, part-hippie character Svengoolie to do comic bits and sketches during the scary movie breaks.

Enter the Son of Svengoolie

When Jerry G. left the show in the late 1970s, he handed over the reins to one of his young writers, the brilliant and hilarious Rich Koz. He's kept the franchise going, one way or another ever since.

Rich was originally billed as the Son of Svengoolie until a number of years later he was bequeathed, by Jerry G., the full Svengoolie monicker. Now we know him as Sven.

If we were asked to name the funniest five people on television, Rich would be at the top of our list. The man is a genius.

Putting on the Boot

Boogie-Woogie Bogeyman of Berwyn


Behind the Music: Le Petomane

The Regurgitator

Stevie Starr has found fame and perhaps fortune by swallowing things and then throwing them up on command. Coins, cue balls, tennis racquets, whatever. Stevie turned dry heaves into high art.

But as crazy as Starr's act is, there was one in the early 20th Century that was crazier still.

Classical Gas: Enter Le Petomane

Joseph Pujol enjoyed a successful decades-long stage career by releasing gas from his anus on cue. Pujol performed crowd favorites like O Sole Meo by forcing air out of his rectum on time and in tune.

He also used his talent to do animal impressions and to simulate battlefield artillery.

Hell, by using a rubber tube, he could even play La Marseilles on the ocarina.

And the man was versatile. It's reported that he could blow out a candle from several yards away.

Pujol was billed as Le Petomane, the French Flautulist. What he did, however, was no school boy prank.

During a swimming accident as a young boy he discovered that water had somehow been sucked into his rectum.

By manipulating his sphincter and abdominal muscles, he was able to force the water out at high velocity.

By learning how to suck in air rather than water, Pujol realized that he could do something that had never been done before -- something that the world was waiting for.

He was sitting on a gold mine.

You see, the air streaming out of his anus was fresh -- well relatively fresh -- air as opposed to the intestinal outgassing that we're all more familiar with.

This was an act he could take on the road.

Before long Pujol was at the Moulin Rouge tooting up a storm for the likes of Kings and Queens.

It's reported that even Sigmund Freud was a fan.

We have no idea if the audio clip below captures a real stage performance by Pujol from the early 1900's as the uploader claims.

But if this is Pojul, we wonder just what the hoopla was all about.

This isn't exactly what we'd call a virtuoso performance.


Fiomily Unplugged: Up Close and Personal

We first came across the amazing Fiomily about a year or so ago.

We were blown away by the talent of the two young sisters, Emily and Fiona. We said then and we say now that watching them grow as musicians is like watching John and Paul finding their musical way back in Liverpool so long ago.

They were just kids when they started posting their covers songs on YouTube. Now they are blossoming into lovely young women and impressive artists in their own right.

They recently conducted a Q and A session for their fans. Check it out below.

It's refreshing to see the wit and humor of these young ladies when they set the guitar down and step out from behind the microphone.

We can only ask, if there's room on the stage for Justin Bieber, surely there must be a record company out there that wants to offer Fiomily a contract.

They deserve to be heard, don't you think?


Sinval Fonseca: The Coolest Man in Brazil

Sinval is the Brazilian Renaissance Man Who Does it All

Sinval paints, plays a million different musical instruments, sings, records and produces videos of his creations.

As we've said before, we'd like to be Sinval when we grow up.

We got an email from Sinval not long ago and he was kind enough to attach this video of his unique rendition of the classic In the Mood.

Enjoy more of Sinval's mellow music...

Bossa Nova Redux

Ah, Brasil Bossa Nova!


Oh Say Can You ...Sing?

The Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott (Off) Key

It's not all Christina's fault.

The Star Spangled Banner is one of the most difficult songs to sing. A singer needs an incredible vocal range to hit all the notes.

The mistake that most acapella singers make is to start the song too high up the musical scale.

In those cases, there is that look of panic that sets in about halfway through when the singer realizes that he'll have to reach into the stratosphere to comment on the rocket's red glare.

And that's of course if he even remembers that line about the rocket's red glare.

Everyone kind of thinks that he or she knows the lyrics but in truth, maybe not so much...

And that's just the first verse. What about...?

On the s
hore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Yeah, try that on for size to kick off your next sports event.

The vocal range is extreme and the lyrics are somewhat obscure. And if that wasn't enough, the melody is derived from an old English drinking song.

Yes, Christina may have flubbed some of the lines at the Super Bowl but compared to others who have attempted and failed to deliver, she did pretty darned well.

Comedian Roseanne Barr

Olympian Carl Lewis

Contest Winner Natalie Gilbert

What starts out as a disaster here actually turns into a sweet moment. The way the coach and the spectators come to the aid of a fellow American in need says perhaps more about patriotism and loyalty than the forgotten lyrics.

Even the special effect guy helped out on the rocket's red glare part.


Spy vs Spy

James Bond was the most famous spy of all until Valerie Plame got her burn notice.

Our favorite of the cinema secret agents was always Derek Flint as portrayed by the ever-cool James Coburn.

Our Man Flint was, for our money, the best 007 spoof. It was just outrageous enough to be fun, with enough action to be a great ride.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E

James Bond creator Ian Fleming was in on the ground floor of NBC's The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Originally pitched as Ian Fleming's Solo, the show became something different by the time it found popularity on the small screen. And Napoleon Solo wasn't solo at all with Illya Kuryakin as his sidekick.

S#*! My Man From U.N.C.L.E. Says
Not only did the Man from U.N.C.L.E save the world every week, he gave William Shatner the early opportunity to hone his overacting skills. And as an added bonus, in the cast of the Project Strigas Affair episode was the future Captain Kirk AND the future Spock.

Check out William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy together before they blasted off for the final frontier.

The closing credits thanked the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement for their cooperation with the program. NBC attorneys probably had to set up some kind of on-paper bogus organization just to be able to say that and get away with it.

Robert Vaughan showed up a few years later in England-based The Protectors.

Secret Agent / Danger Man / The Prisoner

Sean Connery got the James Bond role because Patrick McGoohan turned it down.

Patrick wanted to do something with a little more gravitas. The smart and sophisticated Secret Agent (titled Danger Man in the UK) was TV's answer to 007.

The Johnny Rivers intro was recorded to make the show more palatable to US audiences.

Proving that the David Hasselhoff can absolutely destroy almost anything the least bit creative just by getting close to it, listen to the Hoff's version of this TV show's iconic theme if you dare.

It's pretty bad. It's real bad.

It's very, very bad...

In England, the show used a classy instrumental theme.

Patrick McGoohan maintained that the character Number 6 in The Prisoner was not John Drake from Secret Agent.

But, then again, would a secret agent ever reveal his true identity?

The Saint

Roger Moore was never our choice for 007 but he really seemed to find his stride as The Saint's Simon Templar.

But Roger Moore wasn't just James Bond and the Saint. He was Beau Maverick, Ivanhoe and a bunch of other TV characters in his time.

The Avengers

We never got the point of this show. It was too campy, too tongue-in-cheek.

And what was the deal with the derby and the umbrella?

Steed and Emma Peel never interested us. We preferred Dempsey and Makepeace.

No, they weren't really spies but we'll use any excuse to show a clip that includes Glynis Barber.


Album Covers: The Not-So-Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Not even the Beatles could get away with this one...

Even the biggest entertainment act of the 20th century had to back back when Capitol Records nixed their butchered babies album cover.

The Suits were a little queasy about the concept. And the subdued expressions of the group on the album cover, as released, seem to suggest that they weren't all that happy about the more conservative approach.

Sweet Mother of God!!!

We're thinking if you threw Edgar Winter, Elvis Costello and Rosa Klebb in a blender this is pretty much what you'd get.

Heino is some kind of German folksinger who may explain why so many people in Germany are ga-ga over David Hasslelhoff.

Liebe Mutter translates into Dear Mother, just in case you were wondering.

Not exactly Peter, Paul and Mary ...

We're not sure which one of this trio is Maddy.

And we're also not sure that an accordion and an organ offer the most diverse musical accompaniment, but there it is.

To be fair here, it looks as if this album cover was created from a candid snapshot and not the result of an elaborate photo session.

That said, the cover does have a disturbing funereal vibe to it.

Will Ferrell channelled music groups like this one on SNL.

We couldn't find any recordings of Maddy and the Boys but we imagine they sound something like this.

And speaking of Jesus Use Me...

The Faith Tones

We weren't completely sure whether this is a bona fide album cover or not.

It has such a strange, twisted thing going on here that it might have been some kind of spoof.

There's something about the nuclear mushroom cloud of a hairdo of the Faith Tone on the left and the thousand yard stare of the Faith Tone on the right that seem odd.

And the lighting on the faces is just wrong somehow.

"Use me for what exactly?" is the question that comes to mind.

American Gothic Meets Children of the Corn

Good God! Who the hell's hand is that on her shoulder!!!

It ain't the guy behind her. It's too low for him, too far away for the guy stage right and wrong hand for the guy stage left.


The most disturbing thing about this cover is that it's for Mike Terry not Michelle Terry.

Are you sure Elton John started out like this?

Somebody call 911

We're pretty sure that whatever is going on here is illegal in at least 42 states, though not necessarily in the one where this album was released....

Again, somebody call 911

This may be some kind of comedy album. A very vulgar one, we would imagine.

First of all, Old Jacinto should lose the hat. A hat like that is always a bad choice.

If Thomas Edison had worn a hat like that we'd still be reading by gaslight.

Imagine Neil Armstrong making his small step on the lunar surface wearing that hat.

Imagine JFK asking us not what our country could do for us, but what we could do for our country wearing that hat.

But, of course, that's not the only thing wrong with the album cover. This peeping tom and his slavering ebullient grin is never going to impress the ladies. No way.

Especially wearing that hat.

Not exactly the Sopranos...

Don't these guys look like they're high-tailing it from some low-rent drive-by in South Jersey?

At least, that's what we hope they're doing.

But seriously, who-the-hell's hand is that???!!!


It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Superman

Up, Up and Away

You can talk Spider-Man, Iron-Man and X-Men all you want but Superman was the old-school original.

And if Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster hadn't come up with the idea for the Kryptonian alien back in 1932, there might be no such thing as a graphic novel today.

Superman has been flying to the rescue in some media or another for nearly 80 years.

Oddly enough, this iconic super-hero started as a hairless Lex Luthor-type megalomaniac bent on world domination.

In 1938, Siegel and Shuster retooled the idea and transformed the character into a hero.

Some think the inspiration for the invulnerable and bullet-proof Superman was a tragic incident in which, just one year before the character's first comic book appearance, Jerry Siegel's father died during a robbery attempt.

The Superman who made his debut in 1938 was patterned after the swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks.

Comic Harold Lloyd was the template for Clark Kent.

Ten years after the first comic book was published, Superman hit the big screen as a movie-serial.

Special effects in those days involved using a cartoon image for Superman's flying scenes.

And yes, that's Noel Neill as Lois Lane. And Tommy Bond, as Jimmy Olsen, looks just like what you'd think a cub reporter would look like back in the 1940s.

The late, great George Reeves brought the character to TV in the early 50s.

Baby Boomers were unaware of the movie serials of the decade before. For millions of mid-century kids, this was the definitive Superman.

This wasn't the first time George Reeves was Gone with the Wind.

When the first Superman comic books were just hitting the newstands, George was cast as one of the twin red-headed suitors of Scarlett O'Hara.

Christopher Reeve takes flight.
Forty years after the first Superman comic book was published and thirty years after the first Superman movie serial, Superman was again on the big screen.

In 2006 Superman was rebooted, this time with Brandon Routh wearing the cape.

And it looks like another Superman reboot is in the works.

This time with the guy who rebooted Batman at the helm.


Tragedy Tomorrow Comedy Tonight...

Brian Regan

Dave Allen

D.C. Curry

D.C. Curry - Common Sense
Funny JokesFunny VideosDaniel Tosh Stand-Up

D.C. Curry - Mama's Backhand
Funny JokesFunny VideosDaniel Tosh Stand-Up


Pinky Lee and the Day the Mirth Died

He was the biggest and one of the first idols of the Baby Boomer generation.

He hosted a TV show watched religiously each afternoon by a big chunk of 73 million post war-born kids.

He was Pinky Lee.

He was an explosive combination of high jinx and high-energy hilarity.

And he was the guy that Pee Wee Herman mostly likely channeled to create his Playhouse character.

The Day the Baby Boomers Cried...

Exactly fifty-five years ago, on September 20, 1955, while doing a live commercial in front of a studio audience of adoring kids, Pinky Lee collapsed in a writhing heap on the stage floor.

He had just jumped up in a signature move to click his heels to show just how strong and vital he was as a result of using the sponsor's product.

He landed badly and began to crumple to the floor.

For millions of his young fans the last words they heard him utter were, "Somebody help me..."

He didn't die that afternoon on live television as many of the urban legends suggested.

The story was that he had a bad reaction to a medication he was taking for a non-life threatening condition.

But something did die that day.

Pinky Lee's career for one.

By the time Pinky had recovered enough to return to the air -- several months later actually -- a new afternoon show had captured the attention of the fickle Baby Boomers.

The Mickey Mouse Club was the new kid on the block and afternoon children's TV would never be the same.

Guys with funny hats and big bowties wouldn't be en vogue again until Pee Wee had his Big Adventure.

Pinky Lee had boarded the last clown car out of town.


Real Men

Way before there was Man Vs. Wild...

... and Deadliest Catch...

..there were Men's Magazines.

We're not talking Playboy and Penthouse here. We're talking about magazines that reminded men of the rewards and risks of manliness on a monthly basis.

There must have been hundreds of these periodicals back in the 1950s and 1960s.

And each cover portrayed the hero of the month captured in some dramatic splash-screen moment of ultimate danger, larceny and/or lust.

Each cover was some kind of strange Thematic Apperception Test designed to suggest what was happening, what had just happened and more importantly, what was about to happen in the midst of ultimate intrigue and high adventure.

Man to Man December 1960

First of all, we don't think the name Man to Man would work the same way today as it did back in 1960.

Secondly, we have absolutely no idea what's going on here.

The guy hanging by his ankles is definitely not having a good day. But then again, the guy in front of the apparently blissed-out character wearing the party hat seems to be learning just what Man-to-Man is all about.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

And all the while, the old ball-and-chain hyper-buxom Kaiba Wong watches it all with that cool, detached haughty sneer.

And just what lesson did Cliff Wrede teach her?

We think Cliff's wisdom was to keep at least a car length's distance between you and guys with funny hats.

Battle Cry March 1960

Looks like this ship was hijacked on the way to an I-Dream-of-Jeannie convention.

Apparently back in the 60s, getting lashed to the riggings of a ship was pretty common.

Our favorite callout: Fraulein Brigade: They didn't use guns! Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

True Men Stories August 1957

Okay, this is a bit of a stretch, isn't it?

The flying rodents look a lot like squirrels. Treacherous, blood- thirsty killer squirrels, yes. But just squirrels, right?

Men May 1955

Maybe it's a better idea to just shoot the monkeys instead of trying to club the crap out of them with your rifle.

Man's Adventure December 1964

Looking like some lost episode of She Spies, this cover is tough to decipher.

Apparently woman in the Maidenform Bra has just shot a German soldier in the back of the neck while seducing him and now has decided to cross-dress her way to freedom.

Meanwhile, her buddies are in the process of strangling, rifle-butting and groin-kicking the soldier whose helmet is really not helping him at the moment.

But what really catches the eye is the callout for one of the stories inside: She Loved A Rotting Corpse -- Only the Dead Could Arouse Her Passion.

True Action February 1970

Hogan's Heroes was never like this.

The caption reads...these rugged Yank soldiers devised a plan that would blast themselves out and land them in the beds of Europe's most voluptuous women.

Now that's a plan!

Wildcat March 1960

For some guys, the fun never stops.


Weekly World News

Couple Flees Talking Bear!

Long before there was The Onion, there was an outrageous tabloid called Weekly World News.

The name sounds innocent enough but this publication made the National Enquirer look like the Manchester Guardian.

The newspaper existed somewhere out there in the media ecotone that lies between what most people thought was truly ridiculous but what some twisted few out there believed was hidden, conspiratorial truth.

Bat Boy was a running gag.

Bat Boy was a hideous half-human, half flying rodent creature who was somehow discovered by WWN every few months or so doing some crazy thing or another.

The magic behind WWN headlines was to take something totally preposterous and then give it an added nonsense that somehow, ironically, lent a bit of twisted credibility to the whole thing.

Reporting that a talking bear had been discovered just wouldn't have been enough of a story for WWN.

No, they needed an angle with that special something. How about a couple fleeing a talking bear?!

Now that's a headline!

And doesn't it make you wonder just what the bear was saying?

Maybe, "Hey you! Come back here!"

Weekly Word News ceased publication in 2007.

Bigfoot needs love, too!

It's clear in the photo that the lumberjack is not just love-smitten but suffering from a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome as well.


What really caught our attention on the lumberjack-love front page was the story at the top of the page.

If you can't read the small print under the photos of the sneezing man it says, "Reginald Kaulman reenacts his hurricane-force sneeze for photographers."

Hurricane-force indeed! His now bald as a cue-ball wife says, "it was worse than Hurricane Andrew."

Now that's bad.


Once again, in keeping with the WWN protocol, just having Einstein's brain come to life just wouldn't be enough, now would it?

But if it destroyed Cleveland, now you're talking!

Interesting that Bush renaming the planets falls below the fold.

A little off the top?

Things were always exploding in the WWN world. If it wasn't a patient exploding on an operating table, it was a man's head exploding during a trim.

It could have been worse for this guy, of course. Reginald Kaulman could have sneezed his hair off.

Perhaps the one story WWN got right.


You Bet Your Life: Groucho, Johnny and Bill

Groucho Marx was one of the funniest entertainers of all time.

What's most amazing about Groucho is that he was, off the cuff, as witty and funny as the scripted characters he played in the Marx Brothers movies.

In the 1950s, he hosted the TV game show, You Bet Your Life.
Well, it was kind of a game show. Actually, it was a half hour showcase of Groucho at his ad-lib best.

The core of the show was Groucho conversing with the contestants, producing some of the best television ever.

No Failure to Communicate here...
After being Groucho's sexy foil on You Bet Your Life, this contestant, actress Joy Harmon, went on to fame as the Car Wash Girl in Paul Newman's Cool Hand Luke, a character known well by every adolescent Baby Boomer male.

The rumor was that actual filming of You Bet Your Life ran for an hour or more. But after all of Groucho's racy bits were edited out, the show clocked in at thirty minutes.

Who Do You Trust?

Before he hosted the Tonight Show, Johnny Carson was the host of a TV show very similar to You Bet Your Life called, Who Do You Trust? and for a time, Do You Trust Your Wife?

Young Johnny showed the promise of the TV master to come, but he seemed surprisingly restrained and very shy compared to the irrepressible Groucho.

In the game show's second season, Ed McMahon joined the show as Johnny's announcer and sidekick. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

But Who Do You Trust? wasn't Johnny's first television gig. A very young and very skinny Johnny hosted Carson's Cellar on a local station.

In this clip you see the possible beginnings of the famous "How cold was it?" routine immortalized years later on the Tonight Show.

Interestingly, after Jack Paar left the Tonight Show, it was Groucho, who had done time as one of the show's substitute hosts, who introduced Johnny Carson as the new star of the program.

You Bet Your Life Redux

Late in his life, Groucho suggested to Bill Cosby, then a young struggling comic, that he might be the perfect host for a reboot of You Bet Your Life.

In the early 1990s, Bill hosted his own version of the show.
Cosby seemed to channel the spirit of Groucho but the program never found an audience and was canceled after only one season.


If Star Wars Was a TV Show, What Show Would It Be?

Editing is Everything
When it comes to film and television, the individuals most responsible for setting the mood for what we watch is not necessarily the screenwriters, actors, directors, producers, or lighting specialists.

It's the editors who make the crucial difference in how we feel about what we watch on the big or small screen.

And it's in trailers for coming attractions and intros to TV shows that editors can have the greatest impact on whether we'll choose to devote and hour or two of our lives to what's being submitted for our approval.

Editors weave together certain video clips and music tracks that can instantly communicate whether we're about to watch a deep drama, a thriller or a comedy.

The editors let us know whether we should be prepared to scream, laugh or cry.

Star Wars: A Different Beginning

We all know Star Wars as an iconic science fiction/fantasy franchise.

But in the videos below, talented editors (amateurs we assume) used clips of the movie, themes from popular TV shows and signature graphics to create videos that totally alter our expectations about the Star Wars we're about to see.

Star Wars / The A-Team

The A-Team Original

Star Wars / Dallas

The Dallas Original

Han Solo, P.I.

The Magnum P.I. Original

Star Wars / MacGyver

The MacGyver Original

Star Wars / Airwolf

The Air Wolf Original


Calling All Cars: Dragnet, M-Squad and Police Squad!

Just the facts Ma'am
When Jack Webb brought his popular radio show, Dragnet, to the infant medium of television in the early 1950s, many people had their doubts about the switch.

Webb insisted on bringing pretty much the whole radio production cast, crew and staff to the TV version.

That just wasn't the way things were usually done in those days.

Radio and TV were seen as two very different media.

Indeed, Radio's Matt Dillon, William Conrad, lost the shootout with James Arness for the starring role in TV's Gunsmoke.

But Webb stuck to his guns and Dragnet became one of the most iconic programs of TV's Golden Age.

Webb played Dragnet's lead character, Joe Friday, as a no-nonsense, by-the-book LA cop.

(Actually the closest Joe Friday came to saying "just the facts ma'am" was probably "All we know are the facts, ma'am.")

The ominous nine-note musical intro to the program became synonymous with grim, grey flannel law-enforcement.

M Squad
The success of Dragnet encouraged other TV crime dramas, one of which was M Squad, starring Lee Marvin, as Detective Lt. Frank Ballinger.

M Squad had a lot in common with Dragnet but also had some very key differences.

Both shows were about plain-clothes detectives working in big cities, Friday in LA and Ballinger in Chicago.

But while Joe Friday was strictly by-the-book, Ballinger was more of a maverick, bucking the system where necessary to ensure that justice prevailed.

Accordingly, M Squad's theme song, in sharp contrast to the blaring staccato of the Dragnet theme, was a jazzy number, composed by none other than jazz great, Count Basie.

Police Squad!

And some 25 years later, the filmmaking trio of ZAZ (Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker), still flush from their satirical success with the film Airplane!, used M Squad as a template for one of the funniest -- and most short-lived -- TV comedies of all time.

The opening sequence, action, music and narration of Police Squad, was a direct lift from the old M Squad show.

Police Squad!, starring Leslie Nielsen, was cancelled after only 4 episodes. But for a month the program was an excellent send-up of the hard-bitten cop shows of the 50's.

The central character of Police Squad! was Detective Frank Drebin, played by Leslie Nielsen in his second configuration.

The New Breed
The first configuration of Nielsen was the super-serious actor. Nielsen even starred in the Quinn Martin production, The New Breed, in 1961. His character on that program, Detective Lt. Price Adams, was every bit as street tough as Joe Friday and Frank Ballinger.

The third configuration of Nielsen, as we've seen in his later films, is the lovable Inspector Clouseau-like goof, who is the butt of every joke.

Police Squad! was built around the second configuration of Nielsen; the one who played the doctor in Airplane!; the sane too-serious inhabitant of an insane world.

Naked Gun
Though Police Squad was yanked quickly from the TV schedule, the concept had success on the big screen as the Naked Gun trilogy, where Nielsen swapped out the straight-laced TV version of Drebin for the buffoon version the character.

(Yes, that's OJ as Drebin's partner.)

Stan Freberg gets into the act.

But M Squad and Police Squad! weren't the only productions that Dragnet inspired.

Stan Freberg, one of the great comedic minds of our time, spoofed the Dragnet series on radio with a dead-on, dead-pan and hilarious take on the old Jack Webb cop show.

Also Check Out:
The Conan TV Show that might have been: Lookwell!


Fiomily is in Parallel Worlds

The Fabulous Fiomily singing about Parallel Worlds.

We've said it before but we think the talented and beautiful Emily and Fiona are the Lennon and McCartney of the new millennium.

When John and Paul were lads in Liverpool, they were primarily doing covers of Top 40 hits as they improved their skills as musicians and singers.

And all the time, these early Beatles brought a passion and an energy to the songs they sang that made us stop and listen to the lyric as we swayed to the rhythm.

Fiomily has a similar musical gift and we're glad that through YouTube and MySpace, that they're sharing it with the world.

Here's the original Eliot Minor version of the song.

And here's a bonus. Fiomily singing -- of all things! -- Honky Tonk Women.

This is a darned good cover. And there's something about Fiona singing about meeting a gin-soaked bar-room queen in Memphis that is just too precious.

See more of the Fabulous Fiomily here:

Fiomily Back-to-Back

Fiomily Sing the Beatles

Fiomily Encore


Mr. Peabody's Sherman and Speedy Alka-Seltzer

There was something especially sad about the recent passing of Gary Coleman.

Though a talented entertainer, some portion of his celebrity was inextricably linked to the fact that he was a man-child of sorts.

A hormonal condition kept his adult persona in a body that we perceived -- and chose to continue to believe far longer than we should -- was that of an adolescent.

Gary Coleman's general situation was shared by at least two other actors during the mid-20th century.

Walter Tetley

Most Baby Boomers knew Walter Tetley as the voice of the red-haired and bespectacled Sherman, Mr. Peabody's pet boy on the animated Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

Though Walter was in his mid-forties at the time, Sherman certainly sounded like a 12 year old.

Like Gary Coleman, Walter was affected by a condition that limited the natural growth and maturation process. Walter's body never transitioned through puberty.

The generation preceding the Boomers had already been introduced to Walter as the voice of Leroy, the precocious nephew on the Great Gildersleeve radio show in the 1940's.

During the same decade, Walter also voiced the comic radio character Julius Abruzzio, the delivery boy on the Phil Harris and Alice Faye Show.

Julius was, as a teenager, the oldest of Walter's most well known characters.

That gave him more room to maneuver. Played with a thick Brooklyn accent, Julius was a total wise-ass who traded insults with Phil and was lust-struck for Phil's wife Alice.

Walter tried to make the jump from radio star to movie star but the breach was too great.

His child-like voice and the face moviegoers saw on the screen just did not mesh.

Walter was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident in 1971 and was wheelchair-bound until his death four years later. There are reports that after the accident he lost his home and lived out his final days alone in a trailer.

Check out some of Walter's hilarious radio work at OTR.net one of the premier old time radio sites.

Dick Beals
Baby Boomers know the voice of Dick Beals, though they probably haven't heard it for a long time.

Dick sang the Plop Plop Fizz Fizz jingle as Speedy Alka-Seltzer. He was also the voice of both Gumby and Davey of Davey and Goliath.

Like Walter Tetley, Dick never experienced puberty and the resultant deepening of his voice.

None of this appears to have slowed Dick down, however. Though 4 feet 7 inches tall and weighing less than 70 pounds, he's often a guest at Old Time Radio conventions, does motivational speaking and was a licensed pilot.

These days, he spends time relaxing on his yacht, appropriately christened, Think Big.


Sinval Fonseca: Master of Arts

I love the art in general, I have the music as hobby and the painting as profession.

As told to Apocalypzia in November 2009

We've said it before and we'll say it again. When we grow up we want to be Sinval Fonseca.

Sinval is the true renaissance man of the creative arts. Painter, musician, singer -- he does it all.

It's been awhile since we featured him so we showcase him today, doing that which he does best.


Conan's TV Show that Might Have Been: Lookwell!

After Batman, Before Tonight, Before Late Night
Long before he battled with Jay Leno over NBC's Tonight Show, Conan O'Brien was a television writer and producer, and was one of the brains behind the long-running Fox hit, The Simpsons.

During his producer days, he and Robert Smigel (more about him later) shot a pilot for a TV comedy called Lookwell.

The very funny premise -- a has-been over-the-top actor assisting the police in solving crimes -- was a perfect fit for the show's star, the post-Batman Adam West.

The pilot aired on NBC in the summer of 1991 but the show was passed over by the network.

That's too bad, in retrospect. By making the successful transition from a serious actor to a comedic actor, Adam West -- and Leslie Nielsen for that matter -- has done so well what William Shatner has made a lot of money doing but has yet to perfect, IOHO.

Here's the Lookwell pilot, if you'd like to check it out.

Robert Smigel, Conan's partner in crime on Lookwell, has a pretty impressive resume on his own.

As a writer on Saturday Night Live, Smigel helped to pull that show back from the cancellation brink in 1986. He is perhaps best known, though, for his puppet character, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.

Hey, here's an idea for a TV pilot. Don Rickles and his pet dog, Triumph. What do you think?


Friday the 13th: Mama and Other Scary Women

SCARY is one thing but CREEPY...well... that's another thing all together.

SCARY is that twisted, disfigured face that juts out from the shadows when you least expect it.

CREEPY is something that starts with your own imagining of horror and dread that steams into overdrive, anticipating the very worst that you can possibly conceive.

When you're watching a truly CREEPY movie, you become the producer, writer and director of your own terror.

And what you imagine, fueled by your own unspoken fear and latent guilt, is generally far more terrifying than anything the filmmaker could possibly come up with.

Mama is a recent film short by Andres Muschietti, a protege of Guillermo Del Toro, the mastermind behind the Pan's Labyrinth and The Orphanage.

The film is only about three minutes long. Watch it and see if, in just a few moments, you don't enter a very CREEPY world.

The Exorcist
The Exorcist was arguably the CREEPIEST film ever made. The clip below was not included in the final cut.

In the film as released, the fully-possessed Regan never left her room. Consequently, her bedroom door was the gateway between the world that we know and the depths of hell itself.

For that reason, director William Friedkin may have thought this scene of Regan doing her SPIDERWALK down the stairs didn't fit the framework of the film.

The scene is, however, about as CREEPY as you can get.

The Others
If you like CREEPY movies and you haven't seen
The Others, get to Netflix or Redbox right away. It is a masterfully done exercise in all that is genuinely frightening.

The line, "I am your daughter" is the epitome of all that is CREEPY.

The Abandoned
The Abandoned is one of our favorite CREEPY movies. Like The Others, it turns the tables on what is real and what is not. And those Doppelgangers are just freakin' freaky CREEPY.


Bess Motta: Women of the Apocalypse Series

The 20 Minute Workout

Back in the days of leotards, big hair and high-impact aerobics there was a TV exercise show called the 20 Minute Workout.

Bess Motta was one of the hosts of the show and was arguably the best broadcast aerobics instructor of all time.

She was the epitome of high-energy, inspiration and charm. While other aerobics leaders shouted out there instructions, Bess would sing, dance and strut.

Her workouts were daily metaphors for all that was steamy, sensuous and sexy.

We're not even sure how her signature move at the 7:25 mark of the first video shown here ever got past the censors, but we're glad that it did.

A Star is Born
She clearly overshadowed others on the program and caught the attention of the casting folks for James Cameron's iconic film, The Terminator.

Bess played Ginger Ventura, Sarah Connor's gorgeous and iguana-spooked roommate.

Fans can see Bess at Chicago Comic Con, August 20 - 22 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.

God Bless the USA.
While Bess was charming American audiences in the 80's, take a look at what the Soviets were watching.


The Baby Boomer Beat: When Clothes Made the Band

Rock on George. One time for Ringo...

Baby Boomers came of age in the 1960's and 1970's, and the music they danced to was the pulsing backbeat of a generational party that lasted for two decades.

But this was no come-as-you-are-party.

Just as Baby Boomers experimented with new ways to experience the worlds of politics, protest and pills, they also dared to push the limits of fashion and in doing so became, perhaps, the wackiest dressed generation since the Elizabethan era.

Nowhere was this more evident than the rock bands of the day, who in turn inspired their fans to dress even wackier.

Yet, the clothing some of these acts wore was often organized around some kind of theme. These weren't just strange looking outfits but rather a group-supported costume; a uniform that helped to establish the brand of the band.

Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs
They were around for a long time but the band was arguably a one-hit wonder with Wolly Bully.

But the Bangles could have used those outfits for Walk like An Egyptian 20 years later.

Paul Revere and the Raiders
In these outfits they would be the darlings of the Tea Party today, don't you think?

Gary Puckett and the Union Gap
It takes a brave group to embrace a Civil War theme to sing love songs.

The Temptations
This group started out in suits and ties, then by the late 70's all that changed, radically.

Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells
Hey, let's face it. The song Lady Marmalade absolutely demands outfits like these.

The Beatles
Somehow we're thinking just a few years before this video was made, the Beatles, in their black leather jackets and duckbill haircuts, would have laughed and said rude things if they'd seen this band on the telly.


Star Wars Auditions: Snake Plissken Meets Laverne's Shirley

Stars Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

- Released in 1977
- First film of a double trilogy
- Produced with a budget of $11 million; earned $460 million in the US
- Winner of 7 Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor (Alec Guiness) and Best Film

A New, New Hope

The first Star Wars film, later titled, A New Hope, might have been a very different movie with a different cast. Take a look at how the film might have turned out with an alternate approach to casting.

Kurt Russell as Han Solo
Kurt Russell would later get his chance to play a Han Solo-like character in the Escape From New York series.

Cindy Williams as Princess Leia
Cindy Williams actually turned in a pretty good audition here. She seems to get the idea of campy drama.

Robby Benson as Luke Skywalker
Robby comes off a bit too much like...well...Robby Benson.

Andrew Stevens as Luke Skywalker
Andrew Stevens doesn't seem to be sure whether he auditioning for Star Wars or Hamlet. Geez! Chillax, dude...


To the Batcave: TV's Batman Auditions

Before Christian Bale, George Clooney, Val Kilmer and Michael Keaton, Adam West was Hollywood's definitive Batman.

The ABC TV series, Batman, premiered in January 1966 and ran for over two years.

Different from virtually every TV show before or since, Batman, for two seasons at least, aired twice a week in half-hour segments, connected by a cliff-hanger scene reminiscent of the old 1940's movie serials.

Adam West and Burt Ward were cast as Batman and Robin and for awhile the show was a campy cult hit.

Though West and Ward seemed like naturals for this over-the-top mashup of action and humor, they weren't the first choices for the roles.

Lyle Waggoner almost snared the role of Batman.

Maybe everything worked out for the best though. Within a few years he was a member of the comedy ensemble of the popular and iconic Carol Burnett Show.

Anyway Lyle kind of got his shot at TV superhero stardom after all when he co-starred with Lynda Carter on Wonder Woman in the 1970's.

Take a look at Lyle's audition for Batman and compare it to that of Adam West.

Who would you have chosen?


For Men Only: Bollywood: Hollywood-Style

Girl From India (1982)
Somewhere between the 1982 film Girl From India and and the 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire, men outside of India learned what men inside of India had known for a long time.

India is alive with beautiful and talented women.

Some of our favorite actresses of Indian descent:

Freida Pinto Slumdog Millionaire

Suleka Mathew Men in Trees, HawthoRNe
Born in Kerala, India

Archie Punjabi The Good Wife, Bend it Like Beckham
Raised in Mumbai, India

Parminder Nagra ER, Bend it Like Beckham
Born in Leicester, England

Navi Rawat Numb3rs
Born in Malibu, CA

Devika Parikh Three Rivers, The West Wing, 24
Born in Gaithersburg, Maryland

Rhona Mitra Party of Five, Boston Legal, Gideon's Crossing, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, The Gates, Nip/Tuck, Etc...
Born in London, England

And did we mention Rhona Mitra?


William Castle: The Poor Man's Alfred Hitchcock

Step Aside Ed Wood

Ed Wood certainly got a lot of attention for making movies that were so bad they were absolutely compelling. After all, Plan 9 From Outer Space is arguably the best-worst movie of all time.

But William Castle was no slouch either.

Castle was the producer/director of dozens of B-movie horror films.

But more than that, he was the king of movie gimmicks.

Whether it was wiring theatre seats with electric buzzers, having skeletons zip through the audience on clotheslines at dramatic plot points, or offering fright insurance for movie patrons, Castle worked every trick in the book and invented new ones of his own.

And like Hitchcock, Castle also made an appearance in most of his films.

While Hitchcock generally made a short quiet cameo somewhere in his movies. William Castle often opened his films with a brief intro letting you know just how SCARY!! the film you were about to see truly was.

Though it's hard to believe it based on just how bad some of his black and white films were, Castle did eventually break into the big-time with one movie, starring Mia Farrow, that many regard as a classic.

Castle produced the 1968 thriller, Rosemary's Baby.

He wanted to direct it was well but the studio wanted someone with a better reputation to take the helm. Roman Polanski got the job but, of course, that's another story.

3D glasses? No! A special color-coded Ghost Viewer!! for 13 Ghosts

Lloyd's of London Fright Insurance anyone?

In Mr. Sardonicus, Castle gave you a chance to vote on the fate of the lead character with a thumbs-up/thumbs-down ballot card.

Homicidal had a 45 second Fright Break! to give you a chance to leave the theatre if you were too scared to sit through the rest of the movie!


Remembering the Cyrkle: Red Rubber Ball and Turn-Down Day

They weren't exactly one-hit wonders.
They actually scored two Top-Forty records. And they were lucky enough to sign with the most famous band manager of all time.

Back in the early 1960s, Don Dannemann and Tom Dawes were the founding members of a US music group called the Rhondells.

After being brought to his attention by a business partner who heard them in New York, Brian Epstein, who you'd think would have his hands full managing the Beatles at the time, took the group under his wing in 1965.

But the band's name didn't work for Epstein. He changed it to the Circle. Beatle John gave the name a twist of Lennon by suggesting a quirky spelling based on a certain roundabout back in England.

Red Rubber Ball, co-written by Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel, was Cyrkle's biggest hit, reaching #2 on the Billboard TOp 100 List. Turn-Down Day also cracked the Top-Twenty.

A short time later Cyrkle was the opening act for the Beatles during their 1966 US tour.

After their tour duties were done, however, with Epstein having little need for a US connection, they didn't get much attention.

By 1967, Cyrkle had disbanded.

The group's founders each went separate ways but both went on to compose commercial jingles. Tom Dawes, who passed away in 2007, wrote the famous Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz jingle for Alka-Seltzer.

Cyrkle had some guts
Their shall-we-say unique rendition of the Beatles I'm Happy Just to Dance with You seems odd to the ear but we give them credit for putting their own stamp on such a popular song by such a popular group.

The Cyrkle version...

The Beatle version...

Tom Dawes: 1944-2007


A Comedy No Longer?: Home Alone Recut as a Thriller

With Kevin as Killer...

With Kevin as Victim ...


Star Wars and The Exorcist As They Might Have Been

Star Wars meets the Star Trek Reboot...

The Exorcist as a Christmas Comedy...
(Language Alert...)


The Seinfeld Recuts: Beyond Yadda Yadda Yadda

We've all been there.

The thrilling TV trailer for a new movie seems to have nothing to do with the film that we see at the multiplex.

The reason is that the people who produced the movie are most likely not the same people who produced the trailer.

And the Trailer Producers are only focused on getting us to buy a ticket, whether we get what we thought we came for or not.

So what power do these Trailer Producers have anyway?

Seinfeld was one of the most popular TV comedies of all time. Most of us know the show and the characters pretty well.

But take a look at what might happen if the Trailer Producers were tasked with pitching Seinfeld for different genres.

Inspiring Melodrama...


And a little fun with Seinfeld as the 300!


More Arnie Prank Calls

We think our Twitter buddy @jerrybattiste is ready for some more Arnold Schwarzenegger prank calls so who are we to disappoint him!

Want more?: If Arnold Schwarzenegger Made Prank Calls...


(Original February 9, 2010 Post)


If To-Catch-a-Predator Chris Hansen Made Prank Calls...

Just once we'd like to see this guy busted in a police sting operation...

We know there are some real creeps out there but something about what Chris Hansen does on NBC that just feels a little dirty, doesn't it?

Here's what someone thought his prank calls might sound like.


If Al Pacino Made Prank Calls...

Psychologia Apocalypzia

Prank phone calls are cruel and funny in a sadistic way but they are also a portal into the human psyche.

Why do we -- as evidenced in these clips -- allow ourselves to be harangued, insulted and ridiculed by a cold call from some guy who calls himself Richard Roma?


Life is But a Dream: Abed, Cinemania and the Silver Screen

I like movies. Do you like movies?

I mean do you really, really, really like movies?

The 2002 documentary Cinemania follows days-in-the-life of several New Yorkers who really, really, really like movies.

These moviegoers structure their days around the 3 or 4 movies that they plan to see each day ... every day.

Yes, that's right. Every day.

They haunt multiplexes, art houses and movie festival screenings to see just about every piece of motion picture film ever developed.

As one of the subjects in the documentary suggests, film is a substitute for life, an alternate reality no less real than the flesh and blood world.

Viewing this film is a little like watching the people featured on Hoarders on their day off.

The subjects come off as pathetic and hopeless for a time until you realize that...

(1) they are fulfilled by their obsessive hobby and...

(2, and this is a big 2) their addiction to movies is not that far out of line with average television viewing.

Statistics show that in the US and UK, TV viewers watch an average of 28 hours of television each week.

28 hours!

Thats more than one full day each week sitting in front of the television.

That's 70% of a normal work week in front of the tube.

Maybe we are the maniacs

The Cinemaniac who watches three films a day (and let's assume that the movies are 90 minutes long as was the case for many of the classic flix) doesn't spend much more time watching movies than the average American or Brit does watching TV.

Except for the fact that of those 28 hours of TV viewing, about 9 hours are commercials.

Yeah, that's right. Unless you're zapping through with your DVR, you're spending one full work day each week watching ads.

So maybe the Cinemaniacs aren't so pitiful after all. At least they're doing something they love to do in a way that they love to do it.

Abed the Ultimate Cinemaniac

The character Abed on NBC's excellent comedy Community is indeed a Cinemaniac himself. Film provides an organizing framework for his worldview, his life.

And Danny Pudi, the actor who plays Abed, has an uncanny ability to morph into and out of TV and movie personae.

See him as Mad Men's Don Draper....

And the stereotypical Southern Sheriff in every cop-buddy movie you've ever seen...

Cinemania Postscript:
(The cantankerous yet lovable) Roberta (Hill), died on July 18, 2009 shortly after her 73rd birthday. Roberta was born in Washington, DC to Dorothy Dyar Hill and Robert Lindsay Hill. She was a consummate collector and animal lover. When she moved to New York in 1983, her love of cinema took center stage. She has been a fixture at almost every film festival and movie house in the City ever since, as captured in the film Cinemania (2002). She was a true New York character and will be missed by many.
(From the New York TImes: August 9, 2009)


Hey! Aren't These the Same Movie?!

Maybe it's a new genre...

The attractive female lead discovers that the guy she's interested in is a cold-blooded undercover operative.

Actually that was the formula for a lot of spy movies, the James Bond series in particular. James (Avatar) Cameron's True Lies used that cinematic conceit also.

We're seeing that setup in more and more rom-coms lately.

Maybe it's the new hybrid. The guys in the audience get action and explosions, the ladies get romance and everybody has a good laugh along the way.

This summer, opening within weeks of each other are two movies which, based on their trailers, seem almost clones of each other.

This June, it's Kutcher-Heigl vs Cruise-Diaz...

The Killers Ashton Kutcher/Katherine Heigl Opening June 4

Knight and Day Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz Opening June 25

By the way,
wasn't that kind of the setup for The Bounty Hunter a few months back?


William Shatner: $#*! My Captain Says...

WIlliam Shatner is a versatile actor.

What else could explain why, as Captain James Tiberius Kirk, he created one of the screen's most enduring and beloved characters while in every role since he comes off as a low-budget huckster and a third-rate Leslie Nielsen wannabe?

Yeah, yeah we know that he got all kinds of accolades for playing that insufferable windbag on
Boston Legal. But true Trekkers squirmed and fidgeted at the thought of Captain Kirk playing attorney Denny Crane.

Hell, TJ Hooker was bad enough.

And don't get his former Star Trek cast members started. The late James (Scotty) Doohan didn't have much good to say about him and George (Sulu) Takei doesn't sound like much of a fan either.

This fall Shatner will star in the new situation comedy $#*! My Dad Says allegedly inspired by authentic Twitter Tweets.

After generating so much enmity with former cast mates, maybe Shatner is the perfect choice to play the cantankerous star of the program, which, based on the promo clip, looks like a train wreck waiting to happen.

When we saw that he was returning to television this fall, we were reminded of a video clip of Wil Wheaton, who played young Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Wheaton's recounting of his first -- and perhaps only -- meeting with William Shatner is priceless and may possibly shed light on some of the issues others have had with him.

The audio in this clip is pretty poor but you can read the text of the clip here.

The language is a strong here but, as Wil Wheaton points out himself, it's integral to the story.


The 2009 TV Season: Comedies: A Retrospective

The new 2009 Fall TV season is almost over and ready to go toward the light like Jack, Kate, Sawyer and even Melinda Gordon for that matter.

Back in September we posted that we were pulling for some of the new comedies but had doubts about others.

Based on our record here for picking hits and misses, you wouldn't want us putting together your stock portfolio.

Here's our previous post, edited with the benefit now of hindsight, in

cbs logo
Accidentally On Purpose
Our undying love for Jenna just could not save it

We've been madly in love with Jenna Elfman ever since Dharma and Greg but we wonder if the pregnant cougar angle is enough to carry this show. Can Jenna's likeability and charm turn this newcomer into a hit?

Welcome to the Future! Video-in-Print? Is this even possible?!

By the way, CBS is introducing its entire fall line-up in an innovative high-tech way. They've teamed up with Pepsi to produce what they claim is the first Video-in-Print promotion. You'll be able to watch video clips of CBS shows embedded in the pages of a magazine.

Watch for a groundbreaking issue of Entertainment Weekly at the newstands.

ABC is bringing back Fox's 2008 bomb
Back to You, sort of...

back to you

Spare Parts
ABC has blown out its entire Wednesday schedule for new shows made primarily of parts stripped from Fox's failed and disappointing Back to You. Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton and Ty Burrell, all stars of the 2008 Fox series, headline CBS's Wednesday night lineup.

We pegged this catastrophe as a loser and it was one of the first shows to go

Kelsey Grammer seems to be working a theme here.
In 2008, Fox's Back to You was about a Frasier-type character -- a big time TV news anchor -- who lost his job and had to come back to the town where he got his start.

Hank is about a Frasier-type character who loses all his pre-financial-crisis riches and has to move back to the town where he got his start. Maybe Kelsey's plan is to continue to work this theme until he gets it right.

The Middle
This show still seem like a tepid redux of Malcolm in the Middle to us but fans love it

Why does this show seem awfully familiar? Maybe the title should be Malcolm in the Middle without Malcolm but Co-starring a Kid to Remind You of Dewey.

The always-talented but ever-grating Patricia Heaton, late of Back to You, stars.

Modern Family
We pegged this as a loser but it seems to be going strong

Ty Burrell, also fresh on the heels of the disappointing Back to You, is one of the co-stars of this ensemble comedy which, for some odd reason, reminds us of CBS' Rules of Engagement.

Cougar Town
We doubted that this show would had any legs either but it has done well

Cougars are obviously big this season. Friends' Courtney Cox stars in a show that will have to work hard not to be a one-trick pony.

nbc logo

Jay Leno
We only wish that they had already cancelled the New Tonight Show by now...

NBC is, quite simply, betting the farm on the new Jay Leno Show. If it succeeds, NBC execs will be seen as absolute geniuses. If it doesn't... well... for NBC's sake, it better work.

jay leno

fox logo

Another show that we wanted to succeed that has long since bit the dust

Carl Weathers, the great CCH Pounder and ex-NFL star Michael Strahan team up for Fox's new non-animated comedy, Brothers. Actually, Strahan doesn't seem to come off worse than other sit-com stars in this clip. Does this show have a chance?

The Cleveland Show
With the golden touch of Seth MacFarlane, this show was bound to be renewed

Fox continues their all animation Sunday programming, swapping out Mike Judge's King of the Hill for Seth MacFarlane's The Cleveland Show.

Cleveland was the best choice for a Family Guy spin-off because he's one of the few characters not voiced by the already way-overworked MacFarlane. But the real question is, can Cleveland carry a show without Quagmire as a sidekick? Giggity-Giggity.


Your Department of Tourism: Hastily Made Style

Living on the air in Cincinnati...

CBS TV's WKRP in Cincinnati was possibly more popular in syndication than in its original network run.

WKRP was a small, quirky radio station in the not-too-big, not-to-small town of Cincinnati, OH.

There are a lot of those cities across the USA that aren't New York City but aren't Podunk, IA either.

And for a number of them, there are Hastily Made tourism videos that don't exactly make you want to book the next flight out to visit these towns.

Check some of them out...

Cleveland leads the nation in drifters!

Detroit: Our football team went 0-16!

Come on, let's all go down to Boston (No!)


OMG! The Worst Ever Movie Lines: The Ryan O'Neal Edition

The One and Only Ryan O'Neal
Ryan O'Neal was, at one time, one of the most popular movie stars in Hollywood. For his performance, opposite Ali McGraw in Love Story, he was nominated for an Academy Award.

He was very nearly cast as Michael Corleone in the 1972's The Godfather. And, believe it or not, he was a contender for the role of Rocky in the original Rocky.

Maybe why he never got those roles ...

And why Ryan would have been a lousy choice for Star Wars ...

But why Ryan might have actually been a good choice for the Troll series ...


For Women Only! Who's Hotter Than Who?

McDreamy or McSteamy? Grey's Anatomy
mcdreamy mcsteamy

It's the Ultimate Rorschach Test
What starts out as Who's Hotter than Who? is ultimately an experiment in self-discovery.

It is a journey within, where our reactions reveal more about ourselves than the images and characterizations we judge.

As they say, there are no right or wrong answers here. Your opinions are all that matter.

We provide no analysis, conclusions nor judgments about your choices.

But we're betting that when you've finished reviewing this list, you'll learn something about yourself. (We did in the Men's Only version)

And, hey, it beats looking at inkblots!

Email us to tell us about your choices.

Shawn or Gus?

Napoleon or Illya? The Man from UNCLE

Neal or Peter? White Collar
white collar

Darrin #1 or Darrin #2? Bewitched

Luke or Han? Star Wars
star wars

Dean or Sam? Supernatural

Dean or Jerry? Martin and Lewis
martin lewis

Sheldon or Leonard? The Big Bang Theory
big bang

Crockett or Tubbs? Miami Vice
miami vice

Starsky or Hutch? Starsky and Hutch
starsky and hutch

G or Sam? NCIS LA
ncis la

John or Paul? The Beatles

Butch or Sundance? Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
butch sundance

Butch or Sundance? The Real Butch and Sundance
butch sundance

For Men Only! Who's Hotter Than Who?

It's the Ultimate Rorschach Test
What starts out as Who's Hotter than Who? ends as an experiment in self-discovery.

It is a journey within, where our reactions reveal more about ourselves than the images and characterizations we judge.

As they say, there are no right or wrong answers here. Only your opinions -- and mine.

mary ann

We provide no analysis, conclusions nor judgments here about your choices (or our own).

But we're betting that when you've finished reviewing this list, you'll learn something about yourself. (We did.)

And, hey, it beats looking at inkblots!

Email us to tell us about your choices.

Britta or Annie? Community

annie britta


Jennifer or Bailey? WKRP in Cinncinatti

bailey wkrp

Janet or Chrissy? Three's Company
three's company

joyce dewitt

Janet or Terry?
Three's Company
three's company

Still Janet!
joyce dewitt

Xena or Gabrielle? Xena, Warrior Princess


Electra Woman or Dyna Girl? Electra Woman and Dyna Girl

catwoman halle berry

Cagney or Lacey? Cagney and Lacey
cagney lacey


Lucy or Ethel? I Love Lucy
lucy ethel


Laverne or Shirley? Laverne and Shirley
laverne shirley


Betty or Veronica? Archie Comics


Wilma or Betty? The Flintstones


Addison or Naomi? Private Practice
private practice

Addison! ...no, wait... Naomi!...no...uh... Too Close to Call... Tie!
private practice

Leia or Mara Jade? Star Wars: Expanded Universe
leia mara jade

Mara Jade!
mara jade

Men of the Apocalypse: Drifters

The Fugitive:
An innocent victim of blind justice...freed by fate to search for a one-armed man..freed to run from a policeman obsessed with his capture.

You don't see this kind of character on TV much anymore more but in the mid-20th century it was one of the most popular of all.

The Drifter...
He -- always he -- had no home and was constantly on the move, whether driven by need for excitement, justice, survival or inner peace.

And over the course of each episode, strangers would become friends or lovers as the Drifter found some lost jigsaw piece of his own self-mystery.

The Seven Types of Drifters:

The Running Man Drifter

The Running Man Drifter is accused of a crime he didn't commit and must find the true killer to prove his innocence.

Ripped from the same cloth as The Fugitive was the Incredible Hulk series. David Banner was the sci-fi twist of Richard Kimble.

Banner's first name was Bruce in the comic book that spawned this series, but that wasn't considered macho enough for TV.

Like Kimble, David/Bruce Banner ran to escape those who had falsely accused him.

On the way, he experienced one extreme wardrobe-malfunction after another.

The Gadabout Drifter

Warner Brothers cornered the market on old-west drifters in the 50's.
Maverick was a classic Gadabout, always in search of whiskey, women and a fast hand of five-card stud. This Drifter was motivated by thirst for risky adventure.

James Garner portrayed Bret Maverick, a card shark with a heart of gold. But because each episode took more than a week to crank out, Bret's brother Bart -- played by Jack Kelly -- was soon introduced. Most episodes featured Bret, some featured Bart.

Roger Moore, playing English cousin, Beau, joined the show when Garner left over a contract dispute.

Oh yeah, the WB was turned down by their first choice for Beau, Sean Connery.

The Crusader-Drifter

The Crusader Drifter was a man on a mission.
He was a tortured soul who could not rest until every wrong had been righted and every perp put in prison.

Batman never left Gotham and Superman stayed close to Metropolis. But the Crusader Drifter was always journeying from town to town, hoping to be there when justice had to be done.and there was no one else there to do it.

The Crusader-Drifter sometimes had a sidekick.
The Lone Ranger had Tonto and Batman had Robin. But the Crusader Drifter's sidekick was generally motivated by loyalty to his Kemo-Sabe, as opposed to the same kind of justice-jag that spurred on the main character.

The Lonesome Road Drifter

This kind of Drifter wasn't running from anyone nor toward anything .
He was called by the open road, that endless ribbon of highway.

He wasn't yet ready to settle down and he had the money and means to take some time to ... drift.

On CBS's Route 66, Tod Stiles and Buz Murdock restlessly searched for adventure in an inherited convertible Corvette, which was somehow always the latest model each of the show's four seasons on the air. (Chevrolet was a sponsor).

Route 66 was the last chance for viewers to see a regionally diverse America that just doesn't exist anymore. As stars Martin Milner and George Maharis commented in interviews, "Now you can go wherever you want ... and it's a Denny's"

The Dead-Man-Running Drifter

This Drifter has only so much time and he's trying to grab for all the gusto he can.

He wasn't out to save the world yet each week he found a way to bring resolution or meaning to lives he touched as he wandered from one city to the next.

NBC's excellent, but ironically short-lived, Run For Your Life starred Ben Gazzara as Paul Bryan, a man afflicted with a never identified terminal illness.

Paul Bryan now had to squeeze thirty years of living into one...or two...

The "If I'm Not Me Who Da Hell Am I?!" Drifter

This Drifter suffered from some kind of amnesia.
He had no idea who he was. All he knew was that he had to keep on the run because someone, for some reason, was trying to kill him.

Coronet Blue was a short-lived series in the mid-60's. It didn't last long enough for the lead character to figure out his mystery.

The main character crawled out of the ocean, cold, alone and afraid, with no memory of his past and only the knowledge that he was being pursued by dangerous people.


Do you think if the series lasted longer he might have discovered that his real identity was that of Jason Bourne??!

No one described this Drifter better than Arnold...

The Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Drifter

Like, far out, man
This Drifter was like, you know, tired of that whole button-down corporate thing, man. He had to, I don't know, like bust loose and maybe like, you know, find himself and stuff.

Maybe he would, maybe find some chicks along the way and dig that groovy scene. But then he'd have to cut out, like space. Leave, even.

Like, you know?

Seinfeld's The Marriage Ref: Yadda Yadda Yadda

I see dead people...all the time...
After seeing the M. Night Shyamalan film, The Sixth Sense, I saw it again the very next week. I was sure the movie had cheated its brilliant conceit somewhere along the way. It hadn't.

Could a movie be this good? Could a filmmaker be this brilliant?

Then I saw M. Night's subsequent movies, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village. One hokey, sophomoric bomb after another.

If those movies had been that bad, could The Sixth Sense have possibly been that good?

Not that there's anything wrong with that...
Jerry Seinfeld's long-running NBC hit, Seinfeld was the bedrock of Must-See-TV in the Go-Go 90's. It redefined the TV sitcom and was the fountainhead of ongoing syndication and DVD franchises.

Jerry Seinfeld has a secure position in the TV Comedy Hall of Fame, right?

Now, I'm starting to wonder...

The first chink in the armor was that shorter-than-intended series of embarrassing Microsoft commercials.

While many viewers expected a clever pushback to the long-running PC/Mac Apple campaign, what they got was rambling stream-of-consciousness, featuring Seinfeld and, surprisingly, an equally funny (or unfunny) Bill Gates.

Then came the Marriage Ref.

Seinfeld produces this curiosity but he isn't really identified as the star of the show.

Tom Papa plays Ryan Seacrest to a judging panel of three celebrities that more-often-than-not includes Seinfeld.

And what are they judging?

Pre-recorded -- most definitely scripted/directed -- vignettes of couples playful sparring over one insipid, trivial thing or another.

Then the panel judges spout off what sounds like scripted ad-libs that generate surreal and wholly unbelievable laugh-track-enhanced studio audience guffaws.

Note to Marriage Ref producers:
Compare the quality of your celebrity quips with those of NBC's vintage Hollywood Squares.

How could NBC replace one night of the disaster that was the Jay Leno Show with a program that accomplishes the seemingly impossible feat of being less funny and less clever?

How indeed.

Here's what the critics are saying about The Marriage Ref:

NPR / Linda Holmes: "terrible" ... "heinous"
(Interesting since The Marriage Ref does have the vibe of a witless version of NPR's "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me!")

Time Magazine / James Poniewozik: "the most God-awful mishmash of a comedy-variety show to lead into local news on NBC since immediately before the Olympics."

NJ.com / Alan Sepinwall: "ugly, unfunny, patronizing mess."

Maybe the Must-See-TV Seinfeld show just wasn't as funny as I thought it was...

Groundhog Day, Canadian-Style, eh?

It all started in Pennsylvania back in the 19th or maybe even the 18th century.
In the past, the ritual, which may have its roots in the German Candlemas, has involved badgers and bears.

Today, in the US and Canada, the celebration centers on a groundhog and whether or not the skies are cloudy or clear on an early February morning.

If the groundhog sees his shadow we get six more weeks of winter. And if he doesn't, we get...let's see...six more weeks of winter.

Canada Peg, our way-up-north correspondent, files this story about Groundhog Day and how Canadians use rodents to judge the duration of winter.

(Some of you will remember Canada Peg's excellent Sarah Palin song parody, North From Alaska.)

Take it away, Peg!

Groundhog Day -- Dateline: Canada

The States has good old Punxsutawney Phil
I know there are a few others scattered about the country. Here in Canada there are also a few:

Shubenacadie Sam

Our Nova Scotia claim to fame, and of course, the best groundhog in Canada, is Shubenacadie Sam (that's shoe-been-ock-uh-dee with no accent on any syllable, to you normal folk.)

Wiarton Willy

Ontario, the California (biggest province) of Canada, has Wiarton Willy (wier-tonne). He's always wrong, but he does get the most press. (Far bigger population base. )

Balzac Billy

Balzac Billy of Alberta is the nuttiest, and not cause he's a squirrel. Nope. He is a guy in a groundhog suit. How's that for one heck of an embarrassing resume stuffer for an actor: crawl out of your hibernation hole and act like an idiot.

Good thing old Honore Balzac is long gone, or he would sue: after all, the French get really upset when made fun of in any manner, and this should qualify. I'm almost surprised some Quebecer hasn't already shot the dude.

Manitoba Merv

The cheapest celebration centers around Manitoba Merv, a lousy puppet! 'Nough said.

Of course, our favorite Groundhog Day was Bill Murray's excellent 1993 comedy

Subliminal Surrender: No Laughing Matter

benson hedges

Behind the curtain, beneath the veil...
Vance Packard wrote about the power of embedded, subliminal advertising messages in his landmark book, The Hidden Persuaders, published in 1957.

He hypothesized that advertisers motivate us to buy in ways that only our slavish subconscious mind can comprehend.

Do you see the hidden message in the ad above?
Do you see the provocative optical illusion that some believe changes the entire meaning of the ad? More about that in a bit.

When Subliminal goes Supraliminal
But it isn't just in advertising that the media plays tricks with the mind. And sometimes the cues are embedded in what we hear as opposed to what we see.

Dancing to the music
Music background in TV and films may not be subliminal in the technical sense but it still seems to slip beneath the radar of consciousness, doesn't it?

It's always there in the background nudging us this way or that, suggesting what we should think, how we should feel.

The driving pulse-pounding intro theme to CBS's NCIS LA meshes with the frenetic jump-cut visuals to tell us what to expect for the next hour.

Does the music merely reflect the excitement level of the show or does it, in large part, create it?

Without the music are we left only with images to two guys smiling at each other while they run around, pointing toy pistols?

Laughter from nowhere
But even more subliminally supraliminal is the sitcom laugh track, the strange invention of Charley Douglass.

First used only to sweeten the laughter of an actual studio audience, the laugh track, sometime around Hogan's Heroes, took on a life all its own. It continues to be the haunting, ubiquitous background noise of nearly every TV sitcom.

Speaking of haunting, some of the laughs you may hear on laugh tracks today were recorded nearly 60 years ago. The laughing dead...now there's a creepy subliminal image...

The TV laugh track doesn't have the power to make us laugh but it does inform us that (1) we are watching a comedy and (2) what that actor just said is funny. Even if it isn't funny. Or perhaps better said, especially if it isn't funny.

After all, if it were funny, why would we even need a laugh track?

Let's play around with this idea of laughter from nowhere. What happens if we have a little fun with it?

Deadwood (HBO)

HBO's excellent frontier drama, Deadwood, had it's lighter moments, but by no stretch was it a comedy. But what happens when a laugh track is added is eerie and surreal.

Doesn't it actually start to feel like a sitcom?

(Remember this is Deadwood, so the language is graphic to say the least)

Deadwood as a Comedy - Watch more Funny Videos

Big Bang Theory (CBS)

This clip has been making the rounds on the web over the last week or so. The Big Bang Theory is a highly rated, well-produced comedy but there's something strange about its vibe when the laugh track is scrubbed from it.

We're not really aware of the unnatural pauses between lines when laughs fills the spaces. Without laughter, the action seems to freeze freakishly between patches of dialogue.

Friends (NBC)

Friends was one of the most popular TV comedies of all time. But can you tell that from watching this laughtrack-less clip?

So what is it really that we're laughing at?
Does something seem funnier when we're given evidence that others have found it funny? Isn't that why the laugh track is there?

Why are so quick to surrender to the hidden command?

Is this all just another example of we call Psycholgia Apocalypzia?


What do you see in the Benson & Hedges ad at the beginning of this post?
Get the surprising and shocking story here.

Internet Phenoms: Then and Now

Tay Zonday

Then: Chocolate Rain
Tay Zonday's Chocolate Rain video was released almost three years ago. By the end of 2009 it had 46 milliion YouTube views and a few dozen spoofs, including one by John Mayer.

The song is an interesting combination of poetry, melodic repetition and Tay's surreal baritone voice.

Now: "You You You"
Today, Tay Zonday is focusing on original music and is also finding some success in acting and social commentary.

His video You You You was released last November.

Marie Digby

Then: Like a Star
In the summer of 2007, Marie Digby released a short video clip of her cover of Corinne Bailey Rae's Like a Star. For better acoustics, she recorded it in her bathroom on a Mac Powerbook.

Despite these limitations, Marie displayed awesome talent and amazing potential.

Now: Avalanche
Marie isn't just like a star now. She is one. She's released three studio albums that have spawned seven singles.

She's responded to allegations of astroturfing by saying that her early homemade video clips were required to make up for a lack of promotion by Hollywood Records, whom she had previously signed with.

Personally, we don't care. We're just happy this great young talent is getting exposure..

Gary Brolsma

Then: The Numa Numa Guy

Gary's Numa Numa video was a shot heard round the world. In 2004, Gary used his bedroom webcam to make a video as he lip-synced the song "Dragostea din tei" by Moldovan pop band O-Zone.

Something about Gary's arm-waving and eye-brow cocking struck a chord with YouTube viewers worldwide. The video got an amazing 700 million hits. VH1 named Gary the Number 1 internet icon.

Now: The Numa Network Guy
Gary's homemade video actually inspired Dan Balan, formerly of O-Zone, to re-issue Dragostea Din Tei, as a new single "Sugar Tunes Numa Numa."

Gary has launched The Numa Network on the web which offers videos and other original programming, like the Kristy Storms Show:

Dr. Karaoke

Michael Jackson's Beat It
(After the rather long intro, the singing kicks in at about 0:48 in the timecode. It's worth the wait.)

We enjoy showcasing undiscovered or lesser known talent here.
We're huge fans of Fiomily, the young sisters, Emily and Fiona, who do such amazing covers of new and classic rock.


And we think Sinval Fonseca's smooth one-man-band Bossa Nova is refreshing and fantastic.

Then came Dr. Karaoke.
Dr. K Chaudhry is something else again.
We don't know exactly what to make of him and we're hoping that maybe you do.

Dr. K, like Fiomily and Sinval, loves to crank up the webcam and belt out a song. At least that's what we think he's doing.

If this is a joke, he's carried it a pretty long way.
Dr. K. has dozens of Karaoke covers online, and that's just the stuff in English.

There must be hundreds of clips out there of Dr. K singing along with songs which we assume are in his native Hindi.

And that's not even getting into his online astrology predictions.

If nothing else, he is unique, no?

The Eagles' Hotel California

The Beatles' Yesterday

Abba's Dancing Queen

The Legend of Lucky Losers

Jeff Zucker - President and CEO of NBC Universal



Under Zucker's command, NBC plummeted from being ranked first among the top three networks to fourth among the top four. Yeah, that's right.

The Los Angeles Times calls Zucker's bungled attempt to placate NBC affiliates with his late-night shifting of Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien "one of the biggest debacles in television history."


Zucker will continue to lead the NBC/Universal joint venture currently in the works between General Electric and Comcast

Jay Leno - The once and future host of NBC's Tonight Show



Jay Leno, pointman of one of the most conspicuous failed experiments the history of modern media, hosted fully one-third of the 2009 NBC primetime schedule with tired jokes, bland sketches and a distinct lack of show prep.

Leno, at least as of this writing, looks poised to wrestle the helm of the Tonight Show back from Conan O'Brien, in order to resume his position as King of Late Night.

Ben Bernanke - Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve

Ben Bernanke was head of the Fed as the global economy suffered the worst financial meltdown in nearly a century.

He's the genius who came up with the Bernanke Doctrine, recommending that the way to stave of deflation is to print more money and pay zero interest on it.

Says Bernanke:

The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press, that allows it to produce as many dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost. Under a paper-money system, a determined government can always generate higher spending and, hence, positive inflation.

Along with former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Bernanke was the target of fraud allegations in 2009 issued by the New York State's Attorney regarding improprieties in the acquisition of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America.

Bernanke was not only reappointed to the position for another term but was named Time Magazine's Man of the Year.

Lovie Smith - Head Coach of the once redoubtable Chicago Bears.

Smith has registered losing seasons for half of the six years of his coaching career in Chicago.

He has an overall winning record of just barely over .500

His key strategy/tactic on the field is to "make plays." Yeah, that pretty much his entire game plan.

After leading the Chicago Bears to an ugly 7-9 losing season for 2009 and with many Bears fans demanding that he be sacked, Smith was the last man standing after the entire coaching staff was fired.

The 2009/10 TV Season So Far

cbs logo

CBS is the big dog of the major TV networks...at least until American Idol kicks off
Looking at the TV season to date, 13 of the top 20 shows of the 2009/10 season are on CBS.

Four of the top ten TV shows are CBS dramas: NCIS (America's favorite program with over 20 million viewers each week), The Mentalist, NCIS LA and CSI.

The news isn't all good at CBS
Three Rivers was an early cancellation and several other shows -- Cold Case, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Gary Unmarried and Accidentally on Purpose -- may be on shaky ground.

Even The Good Wife, which would be a sure-fire hit on any other network faces an uncertain future on the high-powered CBS.

good wife

Dancing with the Stars
America's third most popular program is ABC's top rated show -- Dancing With The Stars. (The DWTS results show is seventh in season-to-date rankings.)

The network has two dramas in the top ten -- Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy. The last season of Lost -- kicking off after the first of the year -- should bolster the network.

Hank Yanked
One ABC show, the embarrassing Hank, is already gone. Several others -- Ugly Betty, Better Off Ted, Eastwick, the forgotten and Scrubs may soon be on the chopping block.

House rules
House, ranked 12th in overall popularity, is currently the only Fox program in the top 20 but Simon Cowell & Company will change all that in a couple of weeks.

Brothers struggling
Fox has several shows that may be on life support. Til Death and Dollhouse are struggling.

Also, Brothers, the Fox sitcom that we find refreshing and funny, may be on borrowed time.

Nothing to brag about
If it weren't for Sunday Night Football, NBC would have no shows in the top 20. That's right. Zero.

And the regular football season will be history come January.

Medical malpractice
Two of the dramas that NBC was banking its revival on -- Mercy and Trauma -- may soon be DOA.

But anemic ratings are only part of NBC's uncertain future. Some have suggested that the recent acquisition by Comcast may be the beginning of end of NBC.

Is that possible? Will NBC follow in the footsteps of the WB and UPN?

Sources: tvbythenumbers.com, zap2it.com

TV Western Themes: Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

The Lone Ranger
For many Baby Boomers, The Lone Ranger wasn't just a western, it was the western.

The Rawhide theme is perhaps the most iconic of all TV westerns. The lyrics don't really refer to the show itself so much as they do to the life of a cattle wrangler at the time.

Some people think the Blues Brothers' cover is pretty good.

After his successful run on The Rifleman, Chuck Connors returned to television as Jason McCord, an officer booted out of the army on charges of cowardice.

The intro, probably the best part of the series, depicts McCord's cashiering.

Bat Masterson
This theme seemed longer, and probably more interesting, than the show it described.

The Rebel
Despite the fact that the Confederate side of the US Civil War wasn't terribly popular in the 1950's, this series was a moderate hit at the time.

The theme song was performed by Johnny Cash.

The Wild, Wild West
Calling this show a western is a bit of a stretch. It was actually developed to capitalize on the 1960's spy craze. The lead character, James West, was a secret agent in the 1800's who had more gadgets than James Bond.

Though the TV series was popular, the 1999 cinema version, starring Will Smith, was no hit at the box office.

Jim Bowie
Because the rule was that every person who died at the Alamo had to have his own TV show, this program hit the airwaves for a short time.

Jim Bowie wasn't exactly as popular as his Alamo amigo Davy Crockett, though.

Clint Walker, who looked to be about 8 feet tall, starred in this series which has to have had the saddest theme of all TV westerns.

Clutch Cargo: You Call This a Cartoon?

clutch cargo

Who would have guessed this cartoon would become a hit?

Who would have thought this was even a cartoon?

Calling Clutch Cargo animation is a stretch. This kid's series, launched in March 1959, was basically a static storyboard with a human mouth.

Even South Park is more life-like than this.

Airplane pilot-Clutch and his pal Spinner and dog Paddlefoot travelled the world in search of adventure in one stagnant episode after another.

The shall-we-say unique nature of style of Clutch Cargo has made it an easy target for spoofing.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: The End of Radio's Golden Age

The Golden Age of Radio died on September 30, 1962
Commercial radio was born on November 2, 1920. Several months before, amateur radio operator Dr. Frank Conrad was approached by leading radio manufacturer, Westinghouse, with the idea of setting up a radio transmitting operation in Pittsburgh that would later become KDKA.

On November 2, KDKA broadcast the news that Warren G. Harding had won the race against James Cox for the US presidency.

The birth of the radio spot
Two years later, a New York real estate developer paid to advertise his services on the radio. The new medium had found its revenue stream.

The world's four decade long love affair with radio
For the next 42 years, the world enjoyed a passionate love affair with radio. Families huddled in darkened living rooms listening to drama, comedy and news with only their imaginations to fill the spaces between the spoken words and static.

All that came to an end the evening of September 30, 1962. The world had been lured away from radio by a younger, more exciting lover. Those darkened living rooms were now lit with the cathode-ray flickering of television.

Johnny Dollar
On the night of September 30, those few people still listening to radio heard The Tip-Off Matter, the final installment of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, a radio series with a 13 year run.

The Bogart-like lead character was Johnny Dollar, a freelance insurance investigator with an action-packed expense account.

Most episodes began with Johnny taking a phone call requesting him to investigate a high profile insurance claim. After a few moments of hesitation, Johnny, imagining the beautiful women in the exotic locale he was beckoned to, would agree to take the assignment.

Johnny's expense account was the spine of the adventure as he chronicled the cost of cab rides and booze to ply necessary information from the crimson lips of some femme fatale.

Over the course of the series run, eight actors played the role but most old-time-radio fans agree that Bob Bailey was to Johnny Dollar what Sean Connery was to James Bond.

Something in Bailey's voice and the way he portrayed the cool demeanor of Johnny Dollar made the character his alone.

As good as Bailey was, he didn't make it to the end of the run. When production of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar moved from California to New York in 1960, Bailey decided to stay where he was.

Two years later, with Mandel Kramer in the title role, Johnny Dollar completed his final investigation.

By the end of that evening, commercial radio, as listeners had known it for over 40 years, ceased to exist. After September 30, 1962, dramas, comedies, variety programs and quiz shows faded from the airwaves.

The medium became the home of Top 40 music, 24-hour news and controversial talk.

Radio lived on but its Golden Age was over.

You can listen to nearly 500 installments of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar on the excellent old time radio site: OTR.net.

SCTV Classics: Perry Como, the Schmenges and More


SCTV: One of Canada's Best Exports

Offering some of the best television sketch comedy ever, SCTV was built around the premise that viewers were watching the programming of a local Canadian TV station.

This high-concept offered the flexibility of lampooning the entire range of drama, comedy and variety shows on the tube as well as movies, news and documentaries.

The cast of the comedy troupe varied over the run of the series but every member could be counted on to bring his or her A-game every week.

Perry Como
Perry Como, a popular TV singer in the 50's, hosted one of the first weekly programs broadcast in color.

Known for his relaxed singing style, Perry was spoofed by SCTV in one of their most well-known parodies. That's American Pie's Eugene Levy doing the impersonation.

It's been reported that Perry thought this bit was hilarious.

Yosh and Stan Schmenge
Before John Candy was a movie star he portrayed, among a thousand other characters on SCTV, one half of the Czechoslovakian polka act, the Schmenge Brothers.

Ronco: Shower and Blow Dryer in a Briefcase
You don't see this kind of commercial too much anymore but there was a time when TV ads for useless gadgets like Pocket Fishermen and Clappers were all over the place.

SCTV's genius was to take an existing TV premise that was already silly and push it just a few clicks into the absurd.

Be sure to notice what happens to the post and the tree behind Martin Short in this bit.

The Farm Film Report
Who else but SCTV would mash-up an early morning TV farm report with movie reviews about blown' up stuff real good!

That's Joe Flaherty on the right.

English for Beginners
Catherine O'Hara and Andrea Martin were, without a doubt, two of the funniest people ever on television.

5 Neat Guys
SCTV looked at all the commercials for records and cassettes of middle-of-the-road-mediocre music acts and, once again, nudged the concept into the ridiculous range.

What's truly funny about this spoof is that it's not that far off from an ad that might have actually run on TV at the time.

The 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special

This Jedi Never Returned

The producers of the
Star Wars Holiday Special believed the magic of the film franchise would make this TV extravaganza a seasonal classic with the same cachet as "Miracle on 34th Street."

Things didn't work out that way. The special had a single airing on November 17, 1978, then made the jump to lightspeed on its journey into oblivion.

But what, indeed, would Christmas be without hearing Princess Leia sing the
Life Day song to the tune of the Star Wars theme.

This special has been the target of much lampooning, but the message is worthwhile, the cast committed to their character roles and Carrie Fisher has a very nice voice.

Hey, Hey They're The Monkees!


Here They Come...
Back in the 1960s, NBC, in an effort to capitalize on the success of The Beatles, came up with the idea of a TV show about a rock band called The Monkees.

But The Monkees weren't just copycats. Their I'm a Believer was the top charting single in 1967 and, that year, the TV band sold more albums than The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined.

Lip Service
Everyone knows that the network, at least at first, didn't want the actors to play their own instruments but it looks like producers weren't sure if they trusted the vocal talent of the cast either.

Here's an early take of the TV shows opening with Micky, Mike, Davy and Peter lip syncing their way through the intro while other singers and musicians did all the heavy lifting.

The Finished Product
When NBC let the group get in front of the microphones, they cranked out a far more lively version of the theme, don't you think?

Related Apocalypzia Posts:

davy jones
The Night a Monkee Upstaged the Beatles

My Brief Conversation with John Lennon

john lennon

John: "Whot's 'appenin' brutha?!"

Me: "You're John Lennon."

John: "That's right, mate."

In an interview, John said he got two questions all the time while living in New York -- "Are the Beatles getting back together?" and "Aren't you John Lennon?"

Though John Lennon was world famous, identity was a frequent topic for him.
In his song Nowhere Man -- which he wrote about himself -- John seems to be asking Who am I? Who is John Lennon? The lyric answers that question with another question -- Isn't he a bit like you and me?

In A Hard Day's Night, there is a scene where a woman suspects John may be THE John Lennon. But after talking to him, she assumes she is mistaken...

hard day's night

MILLIE: Oh, wait a minute, don't tell me you're ...

JOHN: No, not me.

MILLIE (insistently): Oh you are, I know you are.

JOHN: No, I'm not.

MILLIE: Well, you look like him.

JOHN (examining himself in the mirror): My eyes are lighter.

MILLIE (agreeing): Oh yes.

JOHN: And my nose...

MILLIE (starting to walk away): You don't look like him at all.

Sometime in New York City: The Night I Met John Lennon
Until long after midnight I wandered the streets of mid-town Manhattan. I was a kid in a candy store, on my own for the first time in my life in a city that made my own Chicago look like a small town.

I couldn't believe that a city could be so alive, so filled with people, lights and action after 2AM.

I wanted to see it all -- Fifth Avenue, Times Square, Central Park, Broadway...


More lights, the roar of traffic and the constant hum of people all hurrying somewhere in the middle of the night. But further down on Broadway there was dark building that caught my attention.

The Ed Sullivan Theatre
I approached it and saw that it was the old Ed Sullivan Theatre. David Letterman's Late Show is broadcast from there now but this night, so many years ago, it was empty, dark and abandoned.

I stood there under the historic marquee, peering through the entrance door windows trying in vain to see inside.

All the time I was thinking, this was where the Beatles first performed on their first American tour when 73 million Americans tuned in to see the Fab Four on television.

A car approaches...
It was then that I noticed that a car had pulled up behind me and parked at the curb. The rear passenger window rolled down slowly. I could hear laughter and talking inside. Someone stuck his face out of the window and spoke to me.

It was a man who I had seen on television, in movies, in magazines and on album covers. It was the man who had taught me how to play guitar by listening over and over to the dozens of hit songs he'd recorded.

It was the man who -- with the three other members of his band -- got his superstar start in the very building that we were now in front of.

The Liverpool accent was unmistakable.

John: "Whot's 'appenin' brutha?!"

Me: "You're John Lennon."

John: "That's right, mate."

The face receded from the car window. After a few more moments of laughter and chatter, the vehicle pulled away.

What just happened here?!, I thought. Had I just met John Lennon in front to the Ed Sullivan Theatre? Was that possible?

And if it was possible and if it had indeed happened, couldn't I think of something better to say than what was clearly obvious to him?

Me: "You're John Lennon."

Disbelief, Doubt...
When I got back to Chicago and told my friends what had happened, they didn't believe me. It didn't make any sense. It was too surreal to be true.

After awhile I almost began to doubt it all myself. But there really was no question...

Seeking out the Master
It was many years later that I read that while John lived at the Dakota in New York City, new bands would seek him out. Aspiring rock musicians all wanted an audience with the man who had helped to change the face of music.

And sometimes he would take them on a tour of his city. But there was one place they all wanted to see -- the Ed Sullivan Theatre.

By some strange coincidence, the night I roamed the late night streets of New York happened to be a night that he was, no doubt, giving some new band a tour.

And all I could come up with to say to him was...

Me: "You're John Lennon."

Identity and the Last Dark Day at the Dakota...
But I was reminded of that brief -- though in retrospect quite poignant -- conversation a few years later, reading about the night John was shot.

He was semi-conscious and bleeding profusely as the police rushed him to the hospital. Officer James Moran tried to keep him from slipping into the darkness by talking to him, trying to keep him alert.

"Do you know who you are?," Officer Moran asked. John, moaned and nodded as if to say ... yes.

My very brief conversation with John Lennon suddenly took on special meaning to me.

Yes, indeed John... You're John Lennon...

John Lennon 1940 - 1980


Flash Gordon vs Luke Skywalker

flash and skywalker

A longer time ago in a galaxy not so far away...
...there was a star-wars-sized battle between planets Earth and Mongo. Flash Gordon, a character created by Alex Raymond in 1934, single-handedly took on Ming the Mercilous -- ruler of Mongo -- and his army of minions.

Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's biological dad but Flash Gordon may indeed have been his cinematic great-grandfather.

Flash Gordon started in the 1930s as a comic strip but is best known as the first science-fiction movie serial. Buster Crabbe -- the Olympic-champion Michael Phelps of his day -- played space hero Flash Gordon.

Buster was obviously in high demand during his acting career. He's the only actor to have played Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and Tarzan -- the top three comic strip heroes of the 1930s.

When George Lucas was contemplating Star Wars, he considered rebooting Flash Gordon. Fortunately, he decided to go his own way and create his own epic storyline, adding his own genius to the genre.

Flash didn't have Luke Skywalker's X-Wing Fighter but he did have a way to get around the galaxy (even if his rocket ship did sound like a Hoover vacuum cleaner...)

Ming the Mercilous (with way too much starch in the collar) was Darth Vader and the Emperor rolled into one
Bearded and dishelved Dr. Zharkov was to Flash what Obi-Wan was to Luke Skywalker -- except Zharkov would sell out to the enemy at the drop of a space helmet.

Clearly, Ming saw himself as a player but Flash was having none of that...

Dale Arden = Princess Leia?
Dale was the leading lady of the series but she lacked all the feisty, spunkiness of Princess Leia. She, like Dr. Zharkov, was also awful quick to throw Flash under the bus.

Enhanced Interrogation Planet Mongo Style
Dale Arden -- played by a different actress in this episode -- does about all that Hollywood directors gave actresses to do in 1930s movie serials, scream and faint.

Doesn't the guy with the wings on his helmet have a great laugh?

Question of the Day: If a fight between Flash Gordon and Luke Skywalker broke out at the Mos Eisley Cantina, who would your money be riding on?
(No rayguns or light sabers allowed)

Bond vs Bond: The Connery / Craig Showdown

connery craig


Our Best Bond post giving Daniel Craig the edge of Sean Connery produced quite a debate.

Well, not so much a debate as an outcry from loyal Connery fans. We feel that Craig's portrayal is truer to the character in the Ian Fleming novels. That's our story and we're stickin' with it.

Connery: The Quintessential Bond
We do that though with full deference to Sean Connery who we referred to as the Quintessential Bond. Without Connery, there would be no franchise today for Craig to enjoy. Connery had a massive impact on the role and the culture.

We know. We were one of the many young boys who spent hours in front of a mirror trying to get that left eyebrow to arch without the right one going up with it. Seriously.

Spotlight on Sean
Given all that, we felt that we hadn't given Sean nearly enough credit for his remarkable achievements with the role. So after giving Daniel Craig the spotlight on Monday, we thought today we'd show some deserved respect to Connery, Sean Connery.

Let's start with the two actors in question.

Daniel Craig: "Connery is my favorite Bond"
In a 2005 interview, Connery called Craig a "terrific choice" for the role of Bond. "He's a good actor. A completely different departure." But before the release of Casino Royale, Daniel Craig, in interviews, praised Sean Connery as his favorite Bond and commented that he was a big fan of the actor as a child.

And from Pierce Brosnan; "Goldfinger was the first movie I ever saw"
Pierce Brosnan also spoke of his great admiration for Connery. Somewhat ironically, Sean's Goldfinger was not only the first Bond movie Pierce ever saw, it was the first film he ever saw on the big screen. "Little did I think that I would be playing the role someday," he's quoted as saying.

Who's the Best Bond -- Poll Results
A joint poll conducted earlier this year by HMV.com and getcloser.com determined that Connery was not only the favorite Bond, but that he bested Craig by a two-to-one margin!

sean connery graph

Not everyone liked Sean...
While we are great fans of Sean Connery's portrayal there is one person who thought he was an absolutely dreadful choice for the role. That would be character-creator Ian Fleming. Fleming is quoted as saying he was "looking for Commander James Bond, not an overgrown stuntman."

Physically, Fleming pictured a guy who looked like a less attractive version of 1920s songwriter Hoagy Carmichael.


O--kay... Hmmm. Maybe Fleming didn't have as good a fix on the true character of James Bond as we thought...

How About James Bond Movie Themes?

HMV.com and getcloser.com also conducted a joint poll rating the themes of James Bond movies in March 2009.

Favorite James Bond Theme Songs:

Live And Let Die - Paul McCartney and Wings
Goldfinger - Dame Shirley Bassey
Diamonds Are Forever - Dame Shirley Bassey
Nobody Does It Better - Carly Simon
James Bond Theme (Dr. No) - John Barry Seven and Orchestra
We Have All The Time In The World - Louis Armstrong
GoldenEye - Tina Turner
View To A Kill - Duran Duran
Living Daylights - A-Ha
James Bond Theme - John Arnold (ANI)

Goldfinger #2?!
We reacted to these poll findings much the way that many readers reacted to our picking Craig over Connery. Dame Shirley Bassey's Goldfinger taking second place to Paul McCartney's Live and Let Die is wrong on so many levels, don't you think?

For our money, we'd move Tina Turner's Goldeneye somewhat higher on the list.
Tina captured the Bassey growl yet made the song her own.

We notice that Matt Monro's From Russia with Love is nowhere to be found here on the list of best bond themes ... and rightfully so.

Apoc Post 11/23/09: Seven for 007: Who Was the Best Bond of Them All?

Seven for 007: Who Was the Best Bond of Them All?


Scene from Goldfinger (1964):
Bond is strapped to a table. A razor-thin laser beam blazes its way ever closer to Bond. In mere seconds he will be sliced in two, the hard way. Amused and slavering, the evil Goldfinger, the man with the Midas touch -
a spider's touch - looks down on it all.


Do you expect me to talk?!

Goldfinger: No, Meester Bond. I expect you to die!

For some reasons, Bond villains like to call 007, Meester Bond.
It's required. That pseudo-deference somehow makes the bad guys seem more menacing. Try it. Meester Bond. See? You sound scarier already.

Since Ian Fleming first created the character way back in the early 1950s, a number of actors have played Bond on the big screen. Here's our ranking of the seven best, in reverse order.

7 George Lazenby The Forgotten Bond -- On Her Majesty's Secret Service

George seemed like a nice enough guy.
He somehow got caught in the negotiations-crossfire between Sean Connery and the Bond producers and ended up with the job, looking more shaken than stirred.

Connery had just left the role for the first time when George came on board for his single Bond mission, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Connery, afterwards, returned to the franchise for the embarrassing Diamonds are Forever.

George was a little stiff on screen. Maybe if he'd had a longer tenure, he'd have had the chance to loosen up a little.

6 David Niven The Recommended Bond -- Casino Royale (1967)

That 1967's Casino Royale was the worst Bond film ever is an understatement.
This movie may be the most confounding piece of cinema ever. But David Niven's special pedigree earns him a position in this ranking ahead of George Lazenby.

You see, when the character was about to make the leap from the printed page to the big screen, Niven was author/creator Ian Fleming's personal choice for the role. It's even rumored that Fleming developed the character in his novels with David Niven in mind. And if that wasn't enough, two of Fleming's Bond novels actually mention David Niven, as an actor, by name.

Niven's personal blessing from Fleming earns him this ranking position, but in no way excuses this confused, meandering mess of a movie.

5 Roger Moore The Cartoon Bond -- 7 Films

roger moore

Roger Moore made James Bond more of a caricature than a character.
What Adam West brought to Batman is what Roger Moore brought to James Bond. Connery's replacement spawned the campy, cartoonish era of the series.

But Moore's contribution is not to be overlooked. He sustained the franchise for seven films.

Moore's stuntmen were in their own way more important to those seven films than he was. The Spy Who Loved Me had this iconic chase moment that Moore didn't even need to leave his trailer for:

4 Pierce Brosnan The Madison Avenue Bond -- 4 Films


Pierce Brosnan would have been Bond sooner but couldn't because of his NBC TV show, Remington Steele.
By the time he got the role, the whimsical side of of his TV persona was gone. Brosnan was more realistic in his portrayal and a welcome relief from the tired tenure of Roger Moore, but seemed to be a somewhat detached, walking showcase for dozens of product placements and merchandising tie-ins.

3 Timothy Dalton The Bad-Timing Bond -- 2 Films

timothy dalton

Timothy Dalton's problem was timing.
Dalton was actually one of the first actors considered to take over the role the first time Connery walked. He turned down the offer to play 007 in On Her Majesty's Secret Service because, at only 23 years old, he thought he was too young for a license to kill.

Less gimmicky, more gritty
He was also offered For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy but turned them down, apparently because he didn't like the whimsical direction the franchise had taken. If he was going to play Bond, he wanted the films to be less gimmicky and more gritty.

He got his wish with The Living Daylights, a box office winner. His second Bond movie, Licence to Kill, had a sluggish reaction in the US but did well worldwide. Goldeneye was to be next but a five-year long dispute among production companies held up the project. Dalton got tired of waiting and Pierce Brosnan got the call instead.

2 Sean Connery The Quintessential Bond -- 7 Films

What? Number 2?!
By all rights, Sean Connery should be Numero Uno. After all, he invented single-handedly not just the role but the modern spy genre. For 50 years, every TV and movie spy has been a variation of Connery's theme. Connery made Bond a household name and made 007 everybody's lucky number.

But though Connery starred in arguably the best of the Bond films, like Goldfinger, Thunderball and Dr. No, he was also in Diamonds are Forever, a double-oh-dreck effort as bad as anything Roger Moore ever released.

Toward the end, his boredom with the role was undeniable. It just didn't seem like Sean was having fun anymore. His non-canonical return to the role in Never Say Never Again was a treat for his fans but had a certain I'm-only-doing-this-for-the-money feel to it.

1 Daniel Craig The Rebooted Bond -- 2 Films and Counting...

daniel craig

Back to the Basics

The James Bond that Ian Fleming created wasn't a suave, wise-cracking playboy. He was a hired killer, a blunt instrument designed to inflict a mortal blow as necessary for Queen and country.

The producers were lucky to be able to reboot the franchise with a film based on the novel that launched the Bond books. They used that opportunity to retool 007 in a manner more aligned with the original concept.

Daniel Craig offers a new minimalist take on 007, respectful of the characters roots yet aligned with today's post-Cold War realities.

Ironically, our choice for the best Bond of them all is also the shortest of them all. The actors who have played the role are all over 6 feet tall. Though there are a range of estimates of Craig's height, all register under the 6' mark.

connery craig
Bond vs Bond: The Connery / Craig Showdown

Other Choices
Other actors had a shot at playing 007. Check out the screen tests for Sam Neill and James Brolin

Sam Neill

James Brolin

Apocalypzia Question:
Now that the Bond series has been rebooted should some of the Fleming books that became Moore movies be remade with Daniel Craig?

Star Trek: Where No TV Pilot Has Gone Before

The JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot grossed over $380 million this year, with $75 million in US ticket sales its opening weekend.

Take that Rick Berman!

The Great Bird of the Galaxy
Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek franchise spawned numerous TV series, movies, books, cartoons, graphic novels and just about every other brand of media for over 40 years. In fact, Star Trek is credited in the Guinness Book of World Records as having the largest number of spin-offs of all shows in television history.

But when this galactic juggernaut was launched on the Desilu backlot few were convinced that Star Trek's continuing mission would continue at all.

Live Long and Prosper
The initial pilot for the original series (TOS) starred Jeffrey (King of Kings) Hunter. That one didn't go so well so most of the cast was dumped and another pilot was shot, this time with William Shatner in the Captain's chair. The rest is future history.

But that second version of the show got some tweaking before it hit the airwaves and we doubt that the series would have lived long or prospered if that hadn't happened.

Here's a glimpse of what TV audiences did not see back in 1966. If they had, what's your guess that we'd be talking about Star Trek 43 years later?

Here's what we noticed in this never-broadcast version of the pilot...

Typical Run-of-the-Mill Theme Music
The theme song in this pilot could have been used for any cop show in the mid-1960s. Though we're sure it was intended to be exciting, the music comes off as routine and tedious.

For some reason the female soprano singing "ahhh-AHHHH-ah-ah-ah-ah-AHHHH" in the iconic theme eventually used for the show just sounds outer-spacey.

Space: The Final Frontier
The opening monologue got a major rewrite after this version of the pilot. What rambles on here for a full minute was eventually tightened up to be a textbook example of an effective mission statement. Never before had an infinitive been split so courageously.

Space...the final frontier
These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise
Its five year mission
To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations
To boldly go where no man has gone before...

Smirking Spock
This is a different Spock than the one that Trekkers came to love and revere. Smirky and pompous. Our should we say even more smirky and more pompous?

Spock's Eyebrows
And speaking of Spock, his eyebrows were defintiely going rogue in this pilot. Either that or the third round bell had rung and they were crawling back to their neutral corners.

No Bones About It
No Leonard (Bones) McCoy here. Instead we get Paul Fix as the ship's doctor, though he's seen only briefly in this clip walking past the camera. His greatest claim to TV fame was playing the alcoholic Marshall who always ran to Lucas McCain for help on the 1960s series The Rifleman.

Special Bonus: Gary Lockwood
You may have noticed Gary Lockwood here. Lockwood has a unique place in science-fiction lore, having appeared not only in the launch of this historic TV space show but also starring in the historic space film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The Wrath of Lucy
Star Trek, The Original Series, ran for only three years but there was pressure to shut the show down in its first year.

Who saved the day for the crew of the Enterprise?

None other than Lucille Ball -- head of production company Desilu -- who believed in the show and allowed its mission to continue.

Casino Royale: Then and Now: Nelson, Barry Nelson

casino royale 1954

No, the first actor to play James Bond on the screen wasn't Sean Connery.
But you knew that already. You knew that way back in 1954 there was a LIVE production of Casino Royale on US television on a program called Climax!

Barry Nelson played Jimmy Bond, an American spy. American? Viewers wouldn't accept a Brit as a suave, debonair secret agent, would they?

More Schlitz than Absolut
Actually, Nelson played Bond more as if he'd been created by Dashiell Hammett -- or even Damon Runyon -- than Ian Fleming. This Bond was more of a Schlitz beer guy than a Absolut martini guy. In this TV adaptation of the first Bond novel, there was no M or Q or Miss Moneypenny. Just Jimmy.


Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre
You say Barry Nelson isn't your idea of great casting for Bond? Maybe not, but the long-term success of the franchise has hinged as much on the casting of the villain as the hero, and this early production may have hit that one out of the park. Peter Lorre seems perfect in the role of the cipher, Le Chiffre

This is how James, sorry, Jimmy Bond was first introduced on the screen...

And this was the climactic scene...

The one that got away
If you enjoyed the 2006 Daniel Craig version, you can probably thank this TV production for it. Because Ian Fleming had already sold the rights for this Bond script, Casino Royale wasn't included in the film franchise package that producers Broccoli and Saltzman acquired a few years later. It was through this loophole that the god-awful David Niven spoof with the same title made it to the screen in 1967.

Rebooted, not stirred
Had it not been for the Barry Nelson version, Casino Royale would likely have been the first big-screen film of the series and Sean Connery's debut in the role. As it was, when filmmakers wanted to reboot the movie franchise, the movie rights to the book that started it all were available and Bond was re-introduced and reborn.

Things have changed in 52 years...

Men of the Apocalypse: Sci-Fi Edition

Who You Gonna Call...?
We're already on record stating that if all hell breaks loose we'd feel safer if our Top Ten Women of the Apocalypse were guarding the ramparts. But that doesn't mean that guys should be left totally out of the equation.

We've already identified the secret agents we would choose to be on the front lines in an end-of-days struggle and in this post we look at the heroes of sci-fi movies who in our opinion would be our go-to-guys in the Mother-of-All-Battles against unspeakable evil and devastation.

The Night of the Living Dead: Duane Jones as "Ben" 1968

Movie Storyline:
A NASA space probe explodes generating radiation which not only re-animates the dead but turns the slow-walking corpses into fleash-eating ghouls. Ben is the unlikely saviour for a group of strangers barricaded in an isolated farmhouse.

"They're coming to get you, Barbra!"
There were certainly zombie movies before this one, but George Romero's 1968 The Night of the Living Dead (NLD) is arguably film-zero for modern zombie-apocalypse cinema and the template that shaped the genre for the next four decades.

Mister Romero's Neighborhood
Greorge Romero -- who before this film had worked as a director for Mister Roger's Neighborhood -- admits that he ripped off Richard Matheson's I Am Legend to turn what, in early drafts, started out as a horror-comedy flick into a film that stunned audiences with its skin-chewing savagery.

Ben Takes Charge
At the center of the mayhem is the character Ben, played by the La Sorbonne trained stage-actor Duane Jones. Ben's courage and intelligence are all that stands between a ravenous brigade of zombies and a motley crew of strangers trying to escape.

Why does Duane (Ben) Jones qualify to be one of the Sci-Fi Men of the Apocalypse?
Ben is the epitome of the apocalyptic leader. He is cool under fire yet forceful when required. He's the kind of character in a movie who when faced with the riskiest of propositions for rescue usually gets that great cliche line: It's the chance we'll have to take!

Duane Jones was even cool about playing the hero of a movie that spawned the entire sub-genre of zombie apocalypse movies. He went on to head the Theatre Department at the State University of New York at Old Westbury. The Duane L. Jones Recital Hall there is named for him.

His role in NLD broke Hollywood stereotyping, representing the first time a black actor was cast as a non-ethnic lead in a major US motion picture and the first time a black actor had the leading role in a horror film.

Mr. Jones is quoted as saying, "It never occurred to me that I was hired because I was black. But it did occur to me that because I was black it would give a different historic element to the film."

The Blob: Steven McQueen as "Steve" 1958

Movie Storyline:
Gelatinous meteor goop consumes an entire town one resident at a time until Steve, a 28 year old teenager, convinces the authorities to act.

Steve single-handedly saves his hometown and the world from the most dangerous mass of strawberry Jell-O ever. It was curious casting to have McQueen play a teenager in this movie but it wasn't the last time this kind of thing happened. Eight years later, at the age of 36, he played a young teenager in the opening scenes of Nevada Smith.

No matter. This was his movie debut and the start of one of the biggest film careers of the last half of the 20th century.

Not exactly a film to brag about
The Blob was a surprise-hit horror movie though a number of people who were involved with it chose to leave it off their resume. Steve McQueen didn't seem to say much about the movie and it was also the only time that Terrence Steven McQueen went by the stage-name Steven. (His Vampire Diaries grandson goes by Steven R. McQueen.)

Even Aneta Corsaut who played Steve's girlfriend, and went on to play Andy of Mayberry's girlfriend Helen Crump, didn't exactly brag about her participation in the film.

Aneta Corsaut

Rain-blobs keep falling on my head...
But the most deafening silence comes from the two young men who wrote the 50's rock-and-roll inspired theme song for the movie. When audiences heard it in 1958, it would have been hard for them to believe that these two guys would go on to write some of the most beautiful and enduring music of our time.

A long way from The Look of Love, Burt Bacharach and Hal David made their film-score debut with the title track, Beware of the Blob. Take a listen...

Why does Steve (Steve) McQueen qualify to be one of the Sci-Fi Men of the Apocalypse?
Number one, he's Steve Freakin' McQueen, for goodness sake. He's the guy who wrote the book on Cool.

And number two, this is one of those movies that's so bad, it's good. It is both an awful 1950s B-movie and the perfect parody of an awful 1950s B-movie, all at the same time.

The Incredible Shrinking Man: Grant Williams as "Scott Carey" 1957

Movie Storyline:
Scott, a normal-sized guy, is briefly engulfed by a radioactive cloud that causes him to shrink so much that he has to do battle with his house cat and, before it's all over, a basement spider.

The Incredible Shrinking Man was a different kind of horror movie. There was no monster terrorizing the town. The real problem was the lead character himself. This story is more closely aligned with true science-fiction in how it explores what happens when the very foundation of a person's self-identity is stripped away from him.

And let's face it, getting smaller is no guy's idea of a good time.

Why does Grant (Scott Carey) Williams qualify to be one of the Sci-Fi Men of the Apocalypse?
Setting this movie apart from others of the genre is a transcendent final voiceover scene in which rapidly-shrinking Scott Carey articulates the majestic unity he discovers between the microscopic and the macroscopic, the earthly and the ethereal, the logical and the spiritual:

"The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet, like the closing of a gigantic circle. And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears locked away and in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God there is no zero. I still exist."

Apocalypzia's Men/Women of the Apocalypse Series:

Top Ten Women of the Apocalypse
mara jade
Mara Jade: Star Wars Expanded Universe

Men of the Apocalypse: Secret Agents
our man flint
Derek Flint: Our Man Flint

Hedy Lamarr: Woman of the Apocalypse
hedy lamarr
Hedy Lamarr

The Shaggs: My Pal Foot Foot

My Pal Foot Foot
Even in the smoky, drugged-out haze of the late 60's music scene, the Shaggs' My Pal Foot Foot just didn't have what it takes to be a hit song.

But here we are talking about it some forty years after it was recorded. That says something that certainly can't be said for the thousands of forgotten one-hit-wonders that have come and quickly gone in the meantime. The Shaggs -- Dot, Helen, Betty and Rachel Wiggin -- made their mark in pop music history.

foot foot
Drawing by Dorothy Wiggin: Foot Foot was the name of the family cat

Winning us over?
The Shaggs are easy to ridicule yet we find ourselves gradually won over by their innocent charm. They weren't trying to sound bad but felt compelled by love for their overly-ambitious Dad to strum guitars and beat drums when they likely would have preferred to hang out with their friends.

And who among us can't identify with the lengths often gone to in order to earn Dad's approval?

Not enough can be said here about the brilliant video that D. Sticker put together for this song. It has fun with the song somehow without really making fun of these young singers.

And it's an interesting yet surprising compliment to the Shagg's that their original version is arguably superior to the Deerhoof cover of My Pal Foot Foot, recorded years later.

My Cutie
It appears that the Shaggs had matured a bit as musicians and songwriters by the time My Cutie rolled out. It's really not a bad tune about teen angst. We see this song as kind of their Rubber Soul period -- eschewing the hard rock edge for a softer lyrical focus. The closing guitar riff is classic Shaggs though.

There's an unsubstantiated rumor that Neil Diamond, who reportedly took an interest in the Shaggs' music, is playing rhythm guitar on this recording. We don't believe it but the guitar does sound a lot better here.

The Shaggs - Still Rockin' It


Want More of The Shaggs?: It's Halloween!

The Shaggs -- It's Halloween!


They were the Jonas Brothers of the Swingin' 60's
Actually that isn't true at all. As far as we know the Jonas Brothers weren't forced by a somewhat overbearing father to reluctantly pursue a painful and talent-challenged musical career to fulfill some fortune teller's strange prophesy.

The Shaggs were.

Known today as the best worst rock band ever, the Shaggs were made up of the Wiggin sisters -- Dot, Helen, Betty and later Rachel. From 1968 through 1975, the Shaggs performed some of the most celebrated god-awful music in the history of humankind.

So bad it's kind of compelling
The Shaggs' music was so bad that, in its own way, it's endearing. What it lacked in tempo and tuning, it tried to make up for in both innocence and a brash audacity.


Mistake? What mistake?
An engineer who worked the studio sessions for Philosophy of the World, their first album, reports that he was gobsmacked when in the middle of recording, one of the Shaggs stopped playing because she made a mistake. How, the engineer wondered, could she sort the mistakes out from the rest of it?

Their most famous release is their seasonal favorite, It's Halloween!

You can listen to it right here. Please note, there is no video in this YouTube clip except for the title slide.

Want to hear more from the Shaggs?
Sure you do, because the My Pal Foot Foot song and video are just too strange to miss.

And by the way, here's the lyrics to It's Halloween so you'll be all set for Karaoke night!

It's Halloween

It's Halloween
It's Halloween
Its time for scares
Its time for screams
It's Halloween
It's Halloween

The ghosts will spook
The spooks will scare
Why, even Dracula will be there

It's time for games
It's time for fun
Not for just one
But for everyone

The jack-o-lanterns are all lit up
All the dummies are made and stuffed
By just looking you will see
It's this time of year again

It's Halloween
It's Halloween

All the kids are happy and gay
There doesn't seem to be a cloud in their way
But when it's over and they've had all their fun
They'll wish that Halloween had just begun

Oh, there are witches, goblins, Frankensteins and zombies
And there are tramps, Cinderallas, pirates, angels and gypsies
So let's have lots of fun and give many cheers
For Halloween comes but once a year

It's time for games
It's time for fun
Not for just one
But for everyone

It's Halloween
It's Halloween
It's Halloween
It's Halloween

It's Halloween!

How The Dark Knight Almost Didn't See the Light of Day


No Funny Business
In 1954 Fredric Wertham wrote a book that changed an industry almost overnight. Seduction of the Innocent was a scathing attack on comic books and the potential danger their horrific images and storylines posed to young children.

The firestorm of controversy that flared after the book's publication resulted in the creation of the Comic Code Authority (CCA), a trade-sponsored internal censorship review board established to restore confidence in the industry.

Had this last ditch effort to save the business not been successful, Spider-Man, Superman, Batman and the entire Justice League for that matter, might never have survived past the Eisenhower administration.

In the spirit of Halloween, here are some of the kinds of ghoulish comic books that sent Wertham into a tizzy...

adventures into weird
Come on, seriously. Who hasn't had this experience?
You stumble out of bed after a particularly rough night and schlep into the bathroom. You turn on the light, look in the mirror and see something grotesque staring back at you wearing your pajamas.

James Lileks and his Institute of Official Cheer has taught us all about comic book cover perspective. We imagine he would be the first to point out that the horrified woman couldn't possibly see the image in the mirror from where she's standing but she's horrified nonetheless.

black cat
No this isn't an anti-smoking ad but it certainly could be.
We're not sure why this poor guy is so surprised that it wasn't such a good idea to jam a radioactive tube in his mouth. Certainly whoever handed him this stick of radium was either suffering the same effects or protected by a lead-lined haz-mat suit. Either one would be a tip-off.

And what about whoever carefully stenciled the word radium on this side of the tube? He can't be looking too good about now either.

crime detective
Real Police Cases?! Really?
Yeah, we're sure this was ripped from today's headlines. The guy in the brown zoot suit is so shocked by the gorilla that the force of his hair standing on end has ejected his fedora from his head.

His fellow gunsel -- with the stogie flying out of his mouth -- is just ticked that he was given bad intel. After all, no one told him it was this kind of gorilla. Whatever this kind is.

And why for Pete's sake would a gorilla have a safe full of greenbacks? Wouldn't you guess it would be full of bananas?

Yes, we know this cover isn't especially ghoulish but we couldn't pass up the idea of a gorilla smart enough to have an apartment yet too dumb to arm the burglar alarm when he stepped out for the evening.

fight against crime
Overstating the Obvious
We don't think anyone would argue with the gun moll that a volley of tommy-gun bullets wouldn't be faster-acting than drowning the cop in what looks to be green sludge.

And certainly anyone who would first consider green sludge instead of a tommy gun as the best way to do away with this cop is most likely crazy.

And as for the joining your partner comment, that pretty much looks like a done-deal at this point.

haunt of fear
The Haunt of Fear! Now there's a cool title.
We don't know what it means but it certainly sounds scary. We're not exactly sure why bow-tie guy is so upset by his UPS package. Judging by the lion's head mounted on the wall, disembodied craniums aren't a big problem for him.

What really strikes us about this cover is the list of cameos featured in the issue. You get the lovable Old Witch, for one. But in addition you get the Vault-Keeper and as an added bonus you get the Crypt-Keeper, who pretty much looks like the Vault-Keeper without the green doily on his head.

Soupy Sales 1926-2009: Gone, Not Forgotten

soupy sales

One of our all time favorites...

Milton Supman, born in 1926, had two older brothers nicknamed Ham Bone and Chicken Bone. Milton, in time, became known as Soup Bone, which was later shortened to Soupy. When he became a disk jockey, years later, he took on the last name Sales and Soupy Sales, the entertainer, came to be.

Soupy Sales made getting a pie in the face a high art form.
His afternoon children's TV show was as enjoyable for Moms and Dads as it was for their kids. And it's hard to say just who was having more fun, the viewers who watched his show or Soupy himself.

Remembering the Great Soupy Sales...

Frankie (Original Jersey Boy) Valli

Pookie Sings the Blues

Fess (Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone) Parker

Alice Cooper
Soupy's sons may have had a hand in getting Alice Cooper on the show. They're musicians who have played with David Bowie, Todd Rundgren and Iggy Pop.

Soupy and the Stripper
Kids never saw the R-rated version of this prank the crew played on Soupy (and YouTube has pulled the raw edit after we originally filed this post). But here's Soupy telling Bob Costas about the time the crew punked him on live TV, along with the censored video.

Jesters in the Wind: Gone, Not Forgotten

Stand-Up Comics: Laughter from Beyond the Veil
These funny gentlemen in their short years on Earth made us laugh and forget -- in a seven minute set -- the trouble and strife in our own lives.

We remember them here today, amazed that, even though they are gone, these brilliant comedians continue to amuse, engage and entertain.

Life is short. Enjoy...

Mitch Hedberg

Sam Kinison 1953-1992

Bill Hicks 1961-1994

Richard Jeni 1957-2007

Also see Angels in the Wind; Gone Not Forgotten

No Hit Blunders: A Brief History of TV's Quickest Cancellations

kutcher beautiful life

2009's Fall TV season is only a few weeks old but already has two casualties.

Proving that sometimes four million Twitter followers just aren't enough, Ashton Kutcher's The Beautiful Life on CW was the first to go, followed by NBC's Southland which hadn't even had its official fall premiere yet.

But Hollywood is a tough town and always has been.

1969 ABC Turn On gets Turned Off During the Premiere
Hoping to leverage off the wild success of Laugh In, George Schlatter and ABC launched similar-but-different Turn On in 1969, guest hosted by Tim Conway. To say the show was not well received is an understatement.

The cast threw a party in LA the night of the show's first and only airing. Accounting for time zones, Turn On was seen first by audiences on the East Coast. But by the time it was showtime in California, the show had already been cancelled. The premiere party suddenly became a wrap party. Ouch.

1979 CBS Co-Ed Fever Flunks Out the First Day of Class

co-ed fever

National Lampoon's Animal House was hot and every TV network wanted a piece of the action.
CBS offered Co-Ed Fever in 1979, a half hour sitcom about a previously all-female college that changed its admission policy to admit males.

The pilot was given a special pre-season airing but the show was cancelled before its official scheduled premiere. In retrospect, this was probably good news for David Keith, one of the shows stars. The cancellation freed him up to launch a respectable movie career, including such films as The Great Santini and Officer and A Gentleman. Heather Thomas, also in the cast, went on to do several seasons on Lee Major's The Fall Guy.

1993 CBS South of Sunset Goes South

south of sunset
Remember Cody McMahon ... that cool detective on that early 90's show?
No, you don't. Nobody remembers Cody McMahon or South of the Sunset, the show that was to be the career changer for Eagles front man Glenn Frey.

Maybe it was a surprise that the show was yanked after only one airing. Glenn was not only a rock star but had been associated with the cult-hit Miami Vice, appearing in one of the episodes and performing two hit songs for the shows iconic soundtrack.

But the premiere was pre-empted in some areas for news coverage of fires raging in Malibu. Also, Miami Vice had been off the air for several years by the time South of Sunset hit the airwaves and perhaps many viewers had already forgotten about Smuggler's Blues and You Belong to the City.

Fortunately for Glenn, Hell froze over shortly after and he was free to rejoin his Eagle buddies. Ariel Spears, also in the cast, went on to a long successful run on Fox's MadTV.

1966 ABC Tammy Grimes Show Should Have Been Bewitched...But Wasn't

tammy griimes

Making History
This show made TV history in 1966 as one of the first sitcoms booted after only four airings. That. of course, doesn't sound like very many now, but back then networks held off much longer before dropping the axe on a scripted drama or comedy.

Ironically, the stars of this cancelled show were kinda sorta almost the cast for one of TV's most successful shows.

The program, scheduled as a lead-in for Bewitched, was a showcase for then-popular Tammy Grimes who starred as a rich heiress squandering her money while her banker tries to rein in her wasteful spending. Her character's brother was portrayed by Dick Sargent, who sometime after the shows demise, went on to be the second Darren on Bewitched.

For further Bewitched irony, it's reported that Tammy Grimes, with the right of first refusal, had turned down the role of Samantha in the soon-to-be-hit series.

But a show somewhat similar to the Tammy Grimes Show also premiered that season.
ABC's The Pruitts of Southampton, starring Phyllis Diller, certainly wasn't a monster hit, but it stayed afloat longer than the Tammy Grimes Show. Maybe the show's relative success had something to do with Diller's fun, campy, over-the-top show intro. Marvy-poo!

DOA at CBS: Accidentally on Purpose: Can This Show Be Saved?

accidentally on purpose

First of all, we are huge fans of the smart, sexy and playfully sassy Jenna Elfman.
We looked forward to her return to network TV on the sitcom, Accidentally on Purpose. But somewhere between when this show was pitched to the network and its premiere on CBS this fall, something went terribly wrong.

According to the Comedy Centric, each airing of the show has registered lower Nielsen ratings than the previous episode. And if that wasn't bad enough, the show is losing the audience of its lead-in, How I Met Your Mother (which, by the way. might have been a better name for Jenna's show).

So what's the problem?
It isn't as if Jenna isn't trying. She seems to be working hard to keep the sinking ship afloat with her considerable charm and comic timing.

But creating greater drag than her lift is an unfortunate amalgam of poor casting, poor scripting and a poor premise.

Perhaps the greatest disappointment is the casting of Jon Foster opposite Jenna.
Not because he's so weak in the part (though he certainly is) but because we -- and we're sure the network -- expected so much more from him.

Jon, in his career, has kind of hit the Cougar jackpot, so to speak, making his debut as the love/sex interest of Kim Basinger in 2004's The Door in the Floor.

In that film, Jon held his own against the talented likes of Kim and Jeff Bridges. His portrayal of a teenager in a Summer of 42 romance with an older woman is what gives this well-done film both heart and soul.

And therein lies the problem.
We're sure that the producers and the network expected him to bring the same level of sensitivity and energy to this show. He didn't.

Not to say that Jon is the only problem.
The show seems to be searching each week for a reason for being. Why do these two people live together? What attracted them to each other in the first place? Why should we care?

Chuck Lorre to the rescue?
With the success of Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, Chuck Lorre -- the brains behind Jenna's Dharma and Greg hit -- is the reigning master of TV's Odd Couple genre. When we first heard about Accidentally on Purpose, we hoped that Lorre might be associated with it in some way. He isn't.

But perhaps even he couldn't sort this one out at this point.

Come on, Jenna. We're pulling for you. Make us proud.

jenna elfman

To Hell and Back ...

heather west


If you're a fan of Hell's Kitchen, you already know that the winner of the current season has been named.

In a hard fought three-way battle between Ariel, Kevin and Dave, the last remaining female was eliminated, setting up a showdown between cocky Kevin and Dave, the one armed bandit.

The ultimate prize for this season was a job as the head chef at the Araxi Restaurant in Whistler, Canada, just in time for the upcoming winter Olympics.

And the Winner Is...
hell's kitchen
...Slow-takin' but good-cookin' Dave Levey

After injuring his arm early in the competition, Dave -- forearm cast and all -- fought on valiantly, rarely displeasing the mercurial Gordon Ramsay, and shutting out one contender after another.

Dave deserved to win and we hope that he enjoys his new job as head chef at the Araxi. In fact, we hope he actually ends up in the job he was promised.

The Ballad Of Heather West
Heather West was Hell's Kitchen's Season 2 winner. That's Heather being congratulated by Chef Ramsay in the photo at the top of this post.

She faced down 11 competitors in her successful bid to win Hell's Kitchen for the promised job of being the executive chef of the Terra Rossa at the Red Rock Resort Spa and Casino in Las Vegas. The job she was given at the Terra Rossa was Senior Chef -- a few notches down. A year later, after her 1-year contract was up, she was no longer employed there at all.

According to Reality Blurred, Rock Harper, winner of Hell's Kitchen Season 3, was the first person to actually get the prize job being competed for. He took the promised job as head chef of Terra Verde at the Green Valley Ranch Resort.

Michael Wray, winner of Season 1, was given the prize options of apprenticing under Chef Ramsay in London or being set up in his own restaurant. He reportedly chose neither.

Lemons from Lemonade
But not to worry about Heather. She landed a job on the Hell's Kitchen crew as one of the show's sous chefs who are basically assistants to the contestants. That's Heather in the background of the photo below, her head just over the shoulder of the poor soul in the foreground being reamed by Chef Ramsay .

And our question is...
Is it worth going through hell to wind up as just another unheralded sous chef for the competition that was to launch your career, there only to help other aspiring hopefuls achieve their dreams?

I guess we'd have to ask Heather that.

Creepy Children's TV

No Wonder Baby Boomers Have So Many Issues

Most everyone who grew up in the 1960s can tell you about the eerie Outer Limits episode about space bugs with human faces. The Zanti Misfits was the title of that episode. Talk about your flesh-eating bugs!

Of course, that was supposed to scare kids out of their wits. What happens when we're frightened by something that supposed to be innocent and benign?

Last August we took a look at some very scary TV Shows seen by Baby Boomers when they were kids that were actually offered as that generation's version of Sesame Street.

Here are a couple of other examples of kid's shows that suggests what Nickelodeon might be like if Stephen King was the program director.

What the Hell is This?!
How'd you like to have the kids curl up in from of this video right before bedtime?

Mark Twain, reportedly, went into a deep depression shortly before his death. His last work -- which was never completed -- was The Mysterious Stranger, which was adapted for this animated film. The alternate title for the original work? The Chronicles of Young Satan. Lovely.

The Bizarro Wiggles
We think the Wiggles are scary enough in human form but these ghastly finger-puppets are just plain disturbing, don't you think?

What are your examples of supposedly innocent TV that scared the bejeezus out of little ones?

Angels in the Wind: Gone, Not Forgotten

mary travers

In Memoriam
Years ago, we were fortunate enough to meet Mary Travers. She was as warm and gracious as she was talented.

Touched by Mary's recent passing, we take this opportunity to remember her and to salute other gifted women -- all taken too soon -- whose music and songs have touched our hearts. kindled our memories and fired our imagination.

Mary Travers 1936 - 2009

The Song is Love
The delicately entwined folk harmonies of Peter, Paul and Mary were blessed by the vibrant Mary Travers.

Mary's voice -- so different from the sparkling soprano of Joan Baez -- was rich and imbued with a passionate urgency, demanding that she be listened to and ultimately understood.

Laura Nyro 1947 - 1997

Laura and the Thirteenth Confession
Before she was in her mid-twenties, Laura Nyro had already written hit songs for the Fifth Dimension, Blood, Sweat and Tears and Barbara Streisand. But as gifted as she was a songwriter and singer, it would possibly be more accurate to describe her as one of the superb poets of our time:

Emily, you're the natural snow, the unstudied sea, you're a cameo.
And I swear you were born a weaver's lover, born for the loom's desire.
Move me, oh sway me. Emily, you ornament the earth for me.

Minnie Riperton 1947 - 1979

Perfect Angel
Minnie Riperton's vocal range spanned over five octaves, including what's known as the whistle range. As a member of the Rotary Connection, her angelic voice was majestic as it soared into the high registers of heavenly harmony.

Her classic solo album, Come To My Garden, is, in our opinion, one of the most beautiful and romantic ever recorded.

Tammi Terrell 1945 - 1970

tammi terrell

Ain't No Mountain High Enough
Tammi Terrell's magnificent romantic duets with Marvin Gaye defined her short career. Her music added its own special magic to the mighty Motown Sound.

While on stage during a concert in Virginia in 1967, she collapsed in Marvin's arms. A few years later she succumbed to a brain tumor. But her beautiful music lives on.

Eva Cassidy 1963 - 1996

Eva Cassidy dared to cross the boundaries of musical genres. The haunting masterpiece which was her voice graced folk, rock, soul and jazz with equal ease and brilliance.

Even though much of what she sang had already been made famous by others, she made each song she performed uniquely her own.

The New Fall TV Season - 1989: A 20 Year Retrospective


It was Twenty Years Ago Today...

Last week we previewed the new dramas and comedies launching on the major TV networks this coming fall season.

We thought it would be interesting to take a quick look back at the network promos that ran 20 years ago to introduce the 1989 Fall TV season.

How did the ratings shake out that season?
Here are the
top ten shows in 1989-1990:

1. The Cosby Show (NBC)
2. Roseanne (ABC)
3. Cheers (NBC)
4. A Different World (NBC)
5. America's Funniest Home Videos (ABC)
6. The Golden Girls (NBC)
7. 60 Minutes (CBS)
8. The Wonder Years (ABC)
9. Empty Nest (NBC)
10. Monday Night Football (ABC)

CBS didn't have a single scripted program in the top ten. Nor did FOX, which had just come on the scene a few years before.

Interestingly, NBC premiered, perhaps, the biggest and best hit show in television history on July 5, 1989, but didn't think it was good enough to make the cut that fall season.

cbs logo
The CBS promo was working some kind of social responsibility vibe, as if that had something to do with its programming.

Jon Cryer is the notable survivor here.
Today, he's the co-star of CBS's Two and a Half Men, one of the highest rated comedies on television. In 1989, he starred in the short-lived Famous Teddy Z, based on the real life story of a man who worked his way up from a talent agency mail room to being Marlon Brando's agent.

nbc logo

It's clear in this promo that Bill Cosby was the king of NBC in 1989. But Jerry Seinfeld was the prince waiting in the wings. His show premiered that summer and had such a shaky start NBC took it off the schedule and tried to palm it off on an unimpressed Fox. Jerry and the gang weren't considered good enough to be scheduled for a September start until 1991, their third season.


This is a pretty poor quality video clip so allow us to sum it up for you.
A bunch of highly paid actors who hadn't been seen before 1989 and who haven't been seen since, laughing and mugging to a much-too-up-tempo generic music ditty.

fox logo

In 1989, Fox was running only three nights of programming and would not have a full seven-day-a-week schedule until 1993. Their promo song has the interesting lyric -- no looking back 'til we're on top. That achievement came in May 2008 when -- powered by American Idol and Super Bowl XLII -- Fox was crowned TV's highest rated network.

Yes, that's Johnny Depp in there as the star of the new 21 Jump Street along with some of the people whose voices would help make The Simpsons one of the longest running shows in TV history.

From Annette to iCarly: The Torch Is Passed to a New Iteration

icarly annette

What Goes Around, Comes Around
There's a good chance that if you know the young lady on the left, you won't know the young lady on the right, and vice versa.

They do have a lot in common. Both are pop culture icons, both symbolize energy and charm, and both helped put the organizations they've worked for on the map.

The Mouse that Roared
Baby Boomers will recognize Annette Funicello, the real reason for watching Disney's Mickey Mouse Club during its four year run on afternoon TV in the mid-1950's.

World War II's boom children were crazy about all the Club's Mouseketeers but it was Annette who captured the heart of the generation.

The Big Cheese
The Mickey Mouse Club (MMC) lured a huge share of the 70 million baby boomer kids, providing a cross-promotional platform for every piece of the burgeoning Disney empire.

With MMC on the TV schedule, other Disney programs like the Wonderful World of Disney, Davy Crockett and Zorro could be pitched to loyal adolescent viewers five days a week.

In fact, profits from the Mickey Mouse Club program, reportedly, helped Walt Disney stash enough cash to fund the launch of Disneyland.

Annette's curly brunette locks and perfect smile were, literally, money in the bank.

New Mouse in the House

miley cyrus

If Annette was the first reigning queen of the Disney's TV dynasty, Miley Cyrus is its current monarch. Her Disney-Channel hit show, Hannah Montana, is viewed by an average of 4 million people each week.

She released two albums which debuted at #1 and, last year, Forbes found a place for her on their list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

What Annette was for Disney in the mid-1950's, Miley Cyrus is today.

But now there's a new icon in town.

In the Nick of Time
Today's generation of kid's will recognize the photo of Carly (of iCarly) above, known off-screen as Miranda Cosgrove. She's causing quite a stir of her own.

iCarly is Nickelodeon's monster hit show about kids doing their own variety show on the web.

Last May, 6.5 million viewers tuned in to see a special iCarly episode, making it that week's top show among all cable sports and entertainment programs. And that includes the NBA Playoffs that iCarly was up against.

Look out Disney Channel. Led by iCarly, Nickelodeon, this spring, was the top-ranked basic cable network with kids.

Though only six months younger than Miley Cyrus, Miranda Cosgrove -- and the iCarly powerhouse franchise -- is the fresh face that seems poised to give the Mouse a run for his money.

Take that Hannah Montana!

Bonus Material:

Who is iCarly's Walt Disney?

Walt Disney himself crafted and shepherded the first episodes of the Mickey Mouse Club. And rumor has it that he was the voice of Mickey Mouse in the show's intro.

So who's the brains behind iCarly?

Answer: Dan Schneider, better known as Dennis Blunden on the ABC sitcom, Head of the Class (1986 - 1991)

He's also the creative force behind a string of other children's TV hits, such as: Zoey 101, Drake & Josh, What I Like About You, The Amanda Show and Kenan & Kel.

That's Dan sitting at the stone-age PC in the photo.

head of the class

Mouseketeer Roll Call - Life After Hanging Up the Ears

Darlene Gillespie
In 1997, received probation for shoplifting charges. In 1998, sentenced to two years in prison for a check-kiting scheme. Indicted on fraud charges in 2005.

Cheryl Holdridge
After MMC, played a variety of roles on TV, including Wally's girlfriend on Leave It To Beaver. Died 2009.

Bobby Burgess
bobby burgess
Spent many years as a lead dancer on the Lawrence Welk Show.

Doreen Tracey
Frank Zappa's publicist, amateur weight-lifter, 1976 centerfold model for Gallery magazine.

Cubby O'Brien
cubby o'brien
Drummer for Lawrence Welk Show, Carol Burnett Show and the Carpenters.

Karen Pendleton
(Pictured with her daughter)

Semi-paralyzed in a 1983 auto accident. Later earned a Masters Degree in Psychology. Most recently reported to be the Director of Independent Living in her hometown.

Lonnie Burr

Ph.D in English Literature, extensive entertainment career as an actor, director, writer and producer.

Other Apocalypzia posts about Children's TV and Books:

1950s Children's TV Shows. Baby Boomers Beware..!

Fun with Dick and Jane: The Monocultural Garden of Verse

The Night a Monkee Upstaged the Beatles

beatles with ed sullivan

Sunday, February 9, 1964

Television changed that night and hasn't been the same since. That night an estimated 73 million people tuned in to see the Ed Sullivan show, the largest TV audience to date.

Those viewers saw the television debut of a British singing act that would go on to be one of the biggest singing sensations of all time.

That act was...Davy Jones!

Davy Jones?!

davy jones

Yes, two years before the Monkees caught The Last Train to Clarksville, Davy Jones originated the role of Artful Dodger in the Broadway Musical Oliver, and earned a Tony nomination in the process.

On February 9, 1964, Davy and other members of the cast performed one of the songs from the play on the Ed Sullivan Show. Davy was, in a strange way, the warm up act for the Beatles that night.

Laughlinentertainer.com quotes Jones:

I was on The Ed Sullivan Show the same night as The Beatles ... I saw all the screaming girls and I thought, I want a piece of this action. I like screaming girls.

Hey, Hey We're the Monkees
In 1966, NBC debuted The Monkees television show as what many thought was essentially a low rent version of the Fab Four to capitalize on the mania of the 1960's British invasion.

But the four guys they picked were more talented than anyone had imagined. Though they were initially pressured by network execs to front for studio musicians, Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork were persistent about making their own music.

Richer than Paul McCartney
By the way it was reported in 1997 that rock star Davy Jones' net worth -- at nearly $1 billion -- had surpassed that of Beatle Paul McCartney.

Davy Jones?!
No, not that Davy Jones.

Early in his career, David Jones, who most of us know as David Bowie, had to take on a stage name so as not to be confused with the -- at-that-time more popular -- Monkee.


Other Apocalypzia Posts about the Beatles:

Meet the Beatles...Again!

(Pete) Best of the Beatles

The Bleeping Truth

TV Fall Preview - The New Dramas

tv viewing

The new 2009 Fall TV season is almost ready to roll.

Join Apocalypzia for a fast preview of the dramas debuting on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox and CW. Is your soon-to-be new favorite show on the list?

cbs logo

NCIS Los Angeles Tuesday 9/8c

Looks like a solid NCIS spin-off. (Why not call it NCIS LA?)

The Good Wife Tuesday 10/9c

The Gov. Mark Sanford story? Julianna Marguiles is back and may have a hit.

Three Rivers Sunday 9/8c

Organ donors, organ recipients and the doctors who love them.

Welcome to the Future! Video-in-Print? Is this even possible?!

By the way, CBS is introducing its entire fall line-up in an innovative high-tech way. They've teamed up with Pepsi to produce what they claim is the first Video-in-Print promotion. You'll be able to watch video clips of CBS shows embedded in the pages of a magazine.

Watch for a groundbreaking issue of Entertainment Weekly at the newstands.

The Forgotten Tuesday 10/9c

Not exactly Cold Case -- let's call it Warm Case

Flash Forward Thursday 8/7c

Lost without the island

Eastwick Wednesday 10/9c

Charmed: The Sequel

nbc logo
Trauma Monday 9/8c

ER al Fresco

Mercy Wednesday 8/7c

Nurses with an edge

fox logo

Glee Wednesday 9/8c

The Nip/Tuck team tries musical dramedy.

cw logo

Three of the new CW dramas (including two Fox retreads) look like the same show with different titles.

90210 Tuesday 8/7c

How is 90210...

Melrose Place Tuesday 9/8c

...any different from this show...

The Beautiful Life Wednesday 9/8c

...or this show?

The Vampire Diaries Thursday 8/7c

TV Twilight

Apocalypzia previews Fall Season Comedies

TV Fall Preview - The New Comedies

The new 2009 Fall TV season is almost ready to roll. Join Apocalypzia for a fast preview of the comedies debuting on CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox.

We're pulling for some of these shows, but we don't see any breakout hits. What's your take?

cbs logo
Accidentally On Purpose
We've been madly in love with Jenna Elfman ever since Dharma and Greg but we wonder if the pregnant cougar angle is enough to carry this show. Can Jenna's likeability and charm turn this newcomer into a hit?

Welcome to the Future! Video-in-Print? Is this even possible?!

By the way, CBS is introducing its entire fall line-up in an innovative high-tech way. They've teamed up with Pepsi to produce what they claim is the first Video-in-Print promotion. You'll be able to watch video clips of CBS shows embedded in the pages of a magazine.

Watch for a groundbreaking issue of Entertainment Weekly at the newstands.

ABC is bringing back Fox's 2008 bomb
Back to You, sort of...

back to you

Spare Parts
ABC has blown out its entire Wednesday schedule for new shows made primarily of parts stripped from Fox's failed and disappointing Back to You. Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton and Ty Burrell, all stars of the 2008 Fox series, headline CBS's Wednesday night lineup.

Kelsey Grammer seems to be working a theme here.
In 2008, Fox's Back to You was about a Frasier-type character -- a big time TV news anchor -- who lost his job and had to come back to the town where he got his start.

Hank is about a Frasier-type character who loses all his pre-financial-crisis riches and has to move back to the town where he got his start. Maybe Kelsey's plan is to continue to work this theme until he gets it right.

The Middle
Why does this show seem awfully familiar? Maybe the title should be Malcolm in the Middle without Malcolm but Co-starring a Kid to Remind You of Dewey.

The always-talented but ever-grating Patricia Heaton, late of Back to You, stars.

Modern Family
Ty Burrell, also fresh on the heels of the disappointing Back to You, is one of the co-stars of this ensemble comedy which, for some odd reason, reminds us of CBS' Rules of Engagement.

Cougar Town
Cougars are obviously big this season. Friends' Courtney Cox stars in a show that will have to work hard not to be a one-trick pony.

nbc logo
This new show stars the clever Joel McHale and SNL/movie veteran Chevy Chase. Because E Channel's The Soup has given so many other TV programs grief, the pressure is on for Community to live up to its hype. Otherwise, Joel will end up in the awkward position of having to trash his own sit-com on The Soup.

By the way, there's one bad omen for Community. An official NBC promo for the show describes Joel as the host of Talk Soup. Oops.

Jay Leno
NBC is, quite simply, betting the farm on the new Jay Leno Show. If it succeeds, NBC execs will be seen as absolute geniuses. If it doesn't... well... for NBC's sake, it better work.

jay leno

fox logo

Carl Weathers, the great CCH Pounder and ex-NFL star Michael Strahan team up for Fox's new non-animated comedy, Brothers. Actually, Strahan doesn't seem to come off worse than other sit-com stars in this clip. Does this show have a chance?

The Cleveland Show
Fox continues their all animation Sunday programming, swapping out Mike Judge's King of the Hill for Seth MacFarlane's The Cleveland Show.

Cleveland was the best choice for a Family Guy spin-off because he's one of the few characters not voiced by the already way-overworked MacFarlane. But the real question is, can Cleveland carry a show without Quagmire as a sidekick? Giggity-Giggity.

The Show Must Go On

milton berle

The Original Must See TV.
Jerry Seinfeld used to be the King of Must See TV. But in the TV's Golden Age, someone else wore that crown. That someone was known as Mr. Television. That someone was Milton Berle, who developed his comedy chops in Vaudeville and the Borscht Belt.

During the Eisenhower administration, people across the USA started buying TV sets just to watch Milton Berle on Tuesday nights. There was a time that no one was bigger than Berle. And he would have been quick to tell you that Elvis Presely made his TV debut not on Ed Sullivan but 5 months before on Berle's show.

elvis presely

So what's Uncle Miltie's Apocalypzian angle?

One winter long after his TV career was over, Milton Berle played Chicago's Empire Room, one of the last great night clubs of an earlier era. The room was routinely sold out during his two week run, but one night, the city was hit with one of its killer snow storms. At showtime, The Great Empire Room, was nearly empty.

The stage manager came to Berle's dressing room to give him the bad news. No audience, no show. "How many people are out there," Berle asked. "Only four," was the reply.

Milton Berle said, "I don't care. They came here for a show and, damn it, they're going to get a show."

And a Show They Got.
Milton Berle went out that night with his full accompaniment of singers, dancers and musicians and put on the same great show he did when the room was SRO. And never once did Milton Berle refer to the size of the crowd.

A young kid working the props to make some college money learned something that night, never thinking he'd be blogging about it years later.

If you're a true professional, you're never playing to the crowd.
You're connecting with individuals, no matter how large -- or small -- that group might be. Whether you're playing for a packed house or not, you show up with your best material and give it your best shot.

berle tv

Mr. Television taught us something about the nature of Apocalypzia that night, so long ago...

(And yes, there is a naughty pun somewhere in this post...)

Read other Apocalypzia posts in the Entertainment / Media category

Men of the Apocalypse - Secret Agents

Daniel Craig as James Bond - Neither Shaken or Stirred

daniel craig

If anyone understands the dark inner workings of an apocalypse, it's Bond, James Bond.

Daniel Craig was considered an odd choice for Bond franchise. He wasn't tall, he was blond and relatively unkown. Apparently, we're very picky about who saves us from certain destruction.

While Sean Connery's Bond was strictly Cold War, Craig's Bond -- patterned more after the Ian Fleming novels than the previous movies -- exists in a world where we've seen actual acts of terrorism more heinous than anything Goldfinger, Largo or Blofeld ever imagined.

And as for Bond villains who threatened global destruction if not paid huge ransoms, who would have thought it would be a POTUS, not an evil scientist, to scare the beejeezus out of us all with the threat, "If you don't give me $700 billion by next week, "this sucker could go down.""

Our Man Flint: James Coburn
our man flint

James Bond wasn't the only guy who knew his way around an apocalypse.

Enter Derek Flint. Saving the world with a cigarette lighter with 82 different spy gadget functions. Eighty-three, if you want to light a cigarette.

Our Man Flint was intended as a Bond-spoof but, in retrospect, the movie stands tall as the Roger Moore years took the 007 franchise into the cartoon zone.

Starring the late, great James Coburn, the film captured the go-go energy of the 60's and melded it with way-over-the-top but enjoy-the-ride film fun.

The World's First Ringtone?
But Our Man Flint has another great claim to fame. The movie introduced the world to possibly the first and arguably the coolest ringtone, ever!

Patrick McGoohan: Cold War Cool


The Original Danger Man

When it comes to Cold War spies, Patrick McGoohan's John Drake was, arguably, the coolest. He dismissed Bond-type gadgets and was rarely, if ever, sidetracked by femme fatales while on the clock.

Patrick McGoohan, himself, was so cool that he turned the role of James Bond in Dr. No. He wanted to play a different kind of spy, one who used his brain more than his trigger finger.

Thus TV's John Drake was born. Drake didn't save the world from evil scientists and meglomanics. He negotiated the rusting iron-curtain apocalypse in ways that we imagine that Cold War spies may really have done it.

Not a Number, A Free Man
Sadly, on January 14, 2009, Patrick McGoohan passed away.

Read the Apocalypzia post: Top Ten Women of the Apocalypse

The Do-It-Yourself Apocalypse

Armageddon! The Apocalypse! The Freakin' End of Days!

Will it all go down as Mike Hughes predicts in his innovative animated video, Apocylipto..?

Maybe you see the Apocalypse playing out differently.
If you do, why not express yourself at Xtranormal.com, a website that allows you to create animated movies from text and point-click maneuvers?


That's right. Release your inner Pixar and show the world your cinematic talents from the comfort of your own keyboard. There's a premium option, but there's a lot at Xtranormal you can do for free.

This could be your big break.
Xtranormal allows you to be the director, writer and producer of your own piece of movie magic. You choose the actors, the camera angles, sets, music, the works. Share it with your friends when you're done or upload it to YouTube.

Xtranormal's Felicity Van Der Bucks helps us cope with the econopocalypse.

Coming Soon
We've tried our hand at this new tech and we'll be sharing our attempt in a future post. If you decide to give it a go, submit links to your work to Apocalypzia. We'll post the top three that we think best capture the Apocalyzian attitude and spirit.

Lights... Camera... Action!

Read other Apocalypzia posts in the Entertainment / Media category.

Classic TV Stars Sing! ...Almost...

From myconfinedspace.com

Beam Us Out of Here, Scotty!

If William Shatner's 1978 rendition of Rocket Man wasn't a bona-fide Sign of the Apocalypse, we don't know what was. Somehow we survived that and a whole host of other singing TV stars along the way.

TV Westerns

Lorne (Ben Cartwright) Greene - Bonanza

It's a little hard to believe that someone with as rich and mellifluous a speaking voice as Lorne Greene could have sounded quite this ragged when he tried to belt out the Bonanza theme. Maybe Little Joe and Hoss could have done backup. By the way, looking at this photo, who knew that Adam was so short?

Star Trek
William (James Tiberius Kirk) Shatner - Rocket Man
We imagine the people in the audience wish they could have used Priceline plane tickets to get them the hell out of there before Shatner chewed up all the scenery during this performance. The good news for Shatner was that he found his niche and 30 years later he's still at it on Conan O'Brien's Tonight Show.

Leonard (Mr. Spock) Nimoy - Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town.
Your choice. Does Spock deserve the Alien Nerve Pinch to spare you from listening to this...or do you want to give a poor Vulcan a chance? For our money, he represents the USS Enterprise a little better than Captain Kirk.

Star Trek, The Next Generation
Brent (Data) Spiner - Toot Toot Tootsie
It's obvious Data has acquired his emotion chip as he belts out this 1920's hit. Don't you wish he'd done a number like this as the yellow-eyed android on Next Gen?

Miami Vice
Don (Sonny Crocket) Johnson - Heartbeat
Sonny Crocket may have relied a bit too much on the hook to get him through this too-long number. Actually, we don't think Don did a bad job singing, but the song itself is a little repetitive, even for the mid-80's. Keeping up with the heart idea, he followed up this release with a song called "Heartache Away"

Philip (Rico Tubbs) Michael Thomas - Just the Way I Planned It
This video screams 1980's MTV, doesn't it? Don Johnson's wing man tries his best here without too much to work with.

Read other Apocalypzia posts in the Entertainment / Media category.

Eurovision vs American Idol

American Idol is Big.
You don't need us to tell you that. But we can certainly tell you that when it comes music competitions, something is bigger. Much bigger. You guessed, it. Eurovision!

Bigger than Idol?!

Oh, yeah. Eurovision is an international music competition that's been around for over 50 years. It's global viewership registers as high as 600 million people, not just in Europe but in Asia, the Pacific Rim, North America, Australia and just about every other place on the planet.

Momma Mia!
Never heard of Eurovision? Maybe not, but we bet you've heard of Abba. That singing group won Eurovision 1974 with their soon-to-be hit song Waterloo.

Maybe you can help us out.
We think it's possible that the same guy who won American Idol last season won Eurovision 2009. If they're not the same person they must have been separated at birth.

They both seem to like vests, white shirts and stringed instruments. This is definitely doppelganger territory, don't you think?

Eurovision 2009 Winner - Norway's Alexander Rybak
Rybak's I'm in Love with a Fairy Tale was the big winner the last time around. Wide eyed enthusiasm must count for a lot in Eurovision judging.

American Idol Winner 2009 - USA's Kris Allen
This is the guy who won Idol last time, right? I guess they can't all be as memorable as Taylor Hicks. Anyway, we think if he grew his bangs out, he could, at least, stunt double for the Eurovision guy.

Get ready to be Rick Roll'd
In our opinion, neither one of these guys should have won. Apocalypzia's vote goes to...

1950s Children's TV Shows. Baby Boomers Beware..!

Yoo Hoo, It's Me... My Name is Pinky Lee... Somebody Help Me!

pinky lee

September 20, 1955 -- A Generational Apocalyptic Moment.
That was the day Baby Boomers learned that sometimes bad things happen to good people.

Pinky Lee -- the frenetic, atomic-powered host of a popular children's show -- had a heart attack and died an agonizing death on live television.

Not So, Actually.
Okay, he didn't really have a heart attack and he didn't actually die that day. He did, however, have a bad reaction to nasal drip medication and he collapsed on camera. For millions of kids watching, it was easy to think the worst.

"Somebody Help Me..!"
During a live commercial, he said "Grow up to be big and strong like me" or words to that effect, then jumped to click his heels. He landed badly, staggered and cried out, "Somebody help me..."

The screen went dark and that was the end of Pinky Lee. Not the man but the brand.

After a long convalescence, his comeback was thwarted by the fresh success of the Mickey Mouse Club, the new afternoon go-to show for kids.

End of Innocence - More Bad News for Mid-Century Children
A few years later, Superman's George Reeves would prove to be not so invulnerable, after all. And only a few years after that, a young president would never return from a trip to Dallas. Pinky Lee was an early lesson to Baby Boomers that even the mighty can fall.

Plunk Your Magic Twanger, Froggy


TV Exposes Young Baby Boomers to Grim, Haunting Images of Hell.
Andy's Gang, an early 1950's kid's show, may have been a horrific glimpse through the dark portals of the very depths of Hell itself.

The star of the show was a demonic hand-puppet named Froggy the Gremlin, conjured up by host, Andy Devine, with the strangely suggestive chant, "Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy"

Revenge of the Jedi
Froggy, frozen-featured and lurching, exhibited the Jedi-Master ability to force his victims to do things (embarrassing things, humiliating things, awful things) against their will. His raspy, gutteral voice, repeating the phrase "you will, you will," was the stuff of nightmares.

Echoes of Timothy Leary: Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out...
Some journalists have even suggested that Froggy's exhortations planted seeds of rebellion into the adolescent collective consciousness of a Baby Boomer generation that would later turn-on to drugs, tune-in to counter-culture and drop-out of society.

That may be a stretch but there is something evil and twisted here. And that children-of-the-corn audience and their cacophonous clammer is truly blood curdling, isn't it?

Read other Apocalypzia posts in the Entertainment / Media Category.

Historical Hulu

martin and lewis

Yesterday can teach us a lot about Tomorrow.

In the spring of 2009, Alec Baldwin and Seth MacFarlane appeared in TV ads promoting Hulu, the NBC / Fox joint-venture offering streaming-video of hundreds of television programs.

Old Time Radio.
While Hulu is a leading-edge resource for video, Ken Varga has done much the same for old-time radio. Ken is the man behind the Old Time Radio Network Library (otr.net), an amazing resource for fans of early radio. And -- while Hulu is making noise about possibly charging for content -- Ken's resource is FREE!

The Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.
There was a magical era in radio before it devolved into political ranting and 24-hour news programs. Ken's Old Time Radio site is a time machine that looks back into the pre-apocalyptic world and chronicles the manner of things that made audiences laugh, cry or think in days gone by.

But if you're thinking this could only be of interest to people with shawls and rocking chairs, think again.

TV's Golden Age Had its Roots in Radio.
Many of the shows of TV's Golden Age were video versions of radio programs.

I Love Lucy, one of television's early smash hits, began on the radio in a slightly different form as My Favorite Husband. Once the show made it to television, what Lucy and Desi did with a multi-camera format, a live studio audience and syndication is still the gold standard for TV comedies today.

lucille ball

OTR.net boasts over 12,000 episodes of hundreds of programs, including dramas, comedies and variety shows. This is a true Radioland filled with actors, characters and storylines that would be lost without the work of people like Ken Varga.

Before James Arness ever fired a six-shooter in TV's Gunsmoke, William Conrad was watchful and a little lonely as he patrolled the streets of Dodge City in the radio version. Doc Adams was portrayed by Howard McNear (yes, Mayberry's Floyd the Barber on TV's Andy Griffith Show.)

Hi-Yo Silver!

The Lone Ranger rides again in Radioland and Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police (also with Mayberry's Howard McNear) guards its global frontiers.

lone ranger

Scary Stuff!
Sci-fi settings and twist endings of TV's classic Outer Limits and Rod Serling's Twilight Zone were preceded on radio by programs like Dimension X and Inner Sanctum.

inner sanctum

What's Amos and Andy got to do with Leave it To Beaver?
Amos and Andy is there in Radioland, too. This long running radio program stirred considerable controversy over the years with regard to concerns about racial stereotyping, but Amos 'n' Andy has a surprising connection to TV's Leave it to Beaver.

leave it to beaver

Cultural Resource.
Don't be put off by a somewhat utilitarian look the first time you visit Ken Varga's site. As we understand it, OTR.net is funded primarily -- if not entirely -- by donations. That means there are no ads cluttering the site.

Ken has created an invaluable cultural resource. So if you find it interesting and entertaining, think about letting him know with a donation.

Sometimes to see what's ahead, it's worthwhile to look behind. You never know what you might find there.

Should The Farrelly Brothers Reboot the Three Stooges?

three stooges

They weren't the Marx Brothers and didn't pretend to be.

They were Harry Moses Horowitz, Louis Feinberg and Jerome Horowitz. But if you know them at all, you know them as Moe, Larry and Curly. The Three Stooges.

Putting the slap in slapstick, their endless series of 20 minute shorts poked fun at a society stratified into the hoity toity upper-class above and the great unwashed hoi polloi below.

Their humor was hardly universal, but it was unique. They copied no one and no one copied them. At least not until the Farrelly Brothers got this crazy idea to make a movie about the trio.

There's Something About Larry
The word is that the Brothers Farrelly have been thinking about a Stooges reboot since they were working on Kingpin back in 1996. Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest was the working concept.

farrelly stooges

You've all heard by now that Benicio del Toro (Moe) and Jim Carrey (Curly) have signed on for the film. Sean Penn, set to play Larry, left the project in 2009, reportedly, for personal reasons. Other names rumored to have been considered for Stooge roles are Russell Crowe and Johnny Depp.

The Stooge-fan Farrellys believe that the task of bringing the trio back to center stage has fallen to them. After all, who else could pull it off?

three stooges biopic

Been There, Done That

In 2000, Stooge-fan Mel Gibson produced a made-for-TV movie about the Stooges. In fact, not long before Emmy-Award-Winner Michael Chiklis created the role of Vic Mackey in FX's The Shield, he was getting pies in the face as Curly in this TV movie.

Chiklis, Paul Ben-Victor and Evan Handler did a fairly uncanny job of channeling the Stooges...

The Originals
If you like, you can look at the real Moe, Larry and Curly below. For a head-to-head comparison, the first scene in the clip above is a recreation of the scene at 1:20 in the timeline.

The Fake Three Stooges
The word is that the Farrellys are looking to make, not a biography, but a present-day reboot the Stooges.

Really? Isn't that like an updated big-screen reboot of the Dick Van Dyke Show, starring Will Ferrell?

For their fans, Moe, Larry and Curly weren't just characters but were the result and consequence of the grinding years of vaudeville and the hardships and hard knocks of illness and exploitation. From all this, a distinctive brand of comedy was born, particular to these performers, and particular to that place and that time.

Apocalypzia thinks that the Stooges should be allowed to rest in peace.

Your thoughts?

Top Ten Women of the Apocalypse

Who You Gonna Call?

If the dreaded apocalypse ever comes, who would you want to protect you?

You can have all the Batmen, the Spider-Men and the Iron Men. If push ever comes to shove, we choose Girl Power to ward off the forces of evil.

Apocalypzia names it's first ever Women of the Apocalypse Hall of Fame.
To build this list we chose actress-characters that we'd want on our side when the chips were down.

We also gave special consideration to the impact the actress-character might have had in helping to push the frontiers of females as compelling action heroes.

Let's start the countdown...

10 (Tie) Halle Berry as Catwoman

Making the Top Ten by a Whisker
When accepting the 2005 Golden Rasberry Award for Worst Actress (Catwoman also won for Worst Picture, Director and Screenplay), Halle reportedly thanked Warner Bros. for "putting me in a piece of ****, god-awful movie." We can respect that kind of honest self-appraisal.

Catwoman was indeed awful but Halle's charm and charisma at least helped us get through it. But more importantly, Catwoman cracked the diversity whip in the exclusive corridors of the Justice League.

And perhaps it helped her prepare for the role of Storm in very succesful X-Men franchise. And, certainly, Halle's Catwoman was more memorable than Michelle Pfeiffer's anemic portrayal in Batman Returns.

10 (Tie)Yvonne Craig as Batgirl

Tied for 10th place is another character from the Bat-Universe.
Many people don't remember Yvonne Craig today but in the 1960's she was a TV pioneer who helped break through the glass ceiling for heroines.

On ABC's Batman, Yvonne was one of the first women to play a super-hero (yes, we know the Bat-crowd has no super powers) in a series on an ongoing basis. In doing so, she helped pave the way for women who would come after.

Truly devoted TOS Star Trekkers out there may also recognize Yvonne as the all-green psycho Marta in the "Whom Gods Destroy" episode.

9 - Joanna Cameron as The Mighty Isis

"Oh zephyr winds which blow on high, lift me now, so I can fly"
Because Isis predates Wonder Woman, Joanna Cameron pushed TV frontiers as the first star of a weekly live action series with a female super hero.

This Saturday morning show was filled with positive messages for kids. Isis was kind, strong, good and had legs that could drive an adolescent boy to distraction. Trust us on that one.

Kelsey (Frasier) Grammer has reportedly acquired the rights to the character and may be planning a cinema reboot.

8 - Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy

Getting Her Kicks
Sarah Michelle's Buffy doesn't just slay vampires, she kicks their evil ass in the process.

Joss Whedon's television reincarnation of Buffy converted a big-screen cult hit into a TV powerhouse.

And Sarah Michelle could teach Chuck Norris a few things about roundhouse kicks.

7 - Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman

Lynda Carter wasn't taken too seriously back in 1975 when Wonder Woman debuted as a TV regular primetime series. Many saw the character as a sexy, campy joke.

But from our POV, Lynda was building on the foundation Yvonne Craig and Joanna Cameron created years before and, at the same time, helping to shape the female-action-hero future by offering a blueprint for Number 4 on our list.

6 - USS Starship Enterprise as NCC-1701-(A-D)

USS Enterprise
TV Acres

The Enterprise was as important a Star Trek character as any of the other cast members.
As is the case for most military ships, the Enterprise was clearly perceived as female. The voice of the late, great Majel Barret Roddenberry as the ship computer reinforced the persona.

It was the Enterprise that allowed the Star Trek crew to go boldy where no one had gone before and it was, indeed, the Enterprise that brought them home safely to Earth. She deserves credit for that. Engage!

See the Enterprise in Action:

5 - Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Aliens


"Get away from her, you bitch!" -- Ripley to the Alien Queen holding young Newt captive.
The lead character in the Aliens series was originally intended to be a male. Sigourney, however, made the character all her own.

Driven by a powerful maternal instinct, Sigourney's Ripley had depth and nuance, allowing us to experience both her bravery and her terror.

See Ripley in Action:

4 - Lucy Lawless as Xena, Warrior Princess


"Don't talk. Fight!"
Xena was like TV's next generation Wonder Woman. The Warrior Princess series broke all the rules of female action stars and invented a few new ones.

The Xena universe was about justice and honor. And long before the BBC's Torchwood, Xena was bravely testing the gender-bending boundaries of its main characters.

Producer Sam Raimi must have learned something about super-heroes from this series. He went on to develop and helm the wildly successful Spider-Man franchise.

See Xena in action:

3 - Carrie-Ann Moss as Trinity in The Matrix

"Dodge this!"
Carrie-Ann Moss brought bullet-time beauty to the Matrix. On the cusp of the new millennium, her no-nonsense approach to the character Trinity gave new dimension to female action stars.

We definitely want Trinity on our side at the End of Days, if only to see her do that cool wall-flip thing.

2 - Milla Jovovich as Alice in Resident Evil

milla jovovich

The Power of Beauty, the Beauty of Power
Milla Jovovich is a supermodel who, in her action films, seems to defy the notion that she is a supermodel.

Milla could easily have made a more-than-comfortable living just selling cosmetics but instead she decided to help redefine the dirty, gritty Zombie Apocalypse film genre.

And she does it in style...

1 - Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator

Sarah to the twisted endoskeleton: "You're terminated, *****er!"
How could Apocalypzia not choose Linda's Sarah Connor? After all, the second movie of the Terminator franchise was sub-titled Judgment Day.

Linda's Sarah, like Sigourney's Ripley, was a strong female character prepared to go to the limit to save her child and the rest of humanity along the way.

Over the course of two films, Linda transformed her character, emotionally and physically, from a shy server at an IHOP-type restaurant to the last defense against rise of the machines.

Apocalypse? Been There, Done That...
Linda's Sarah represented another giant leap forward among female action stars and was someone we'd definitely want on our side when the apocalypse churns the Lake of Fire.

Honorable Mention: Mara Jade of Star Wars

mara jade

Mara Jade isn't in any Star Wars movie but in the expanded universe (EU) of fan-fiction, spin-off novelizations and video gaming, she's a heavy hitter. In fact, she's reported to be the only Star Wars EU character to be canonized by Lucasfilms.

In this alternate world, Mara Jade was originally on a mission to kill Luke Skywalker but ends up marrying him.

How Popular is Mara Jade?
Tweeterwall recently pitted Twitter avatars of Star Wars characters against those of Star Trek characters in an online poll. It was a rout with Stars Wars locking the Trekkers out of every top spot. And the overall winner?

The beautiful and mysterious
Mara Jade!

Who is your candidate for Women of the Apocalypse? Let us know!

The Bleeping Truth

lenny bruce
Lenny Bruce

We've all seen it.

Someone on your favorite TV reality show (if there is such a thing) freely uses profanity in a comment.

Sometimes a lot of profanity.

What the F(bleep)k?!
Basic cable usually bleeps out obscenities with provocative surgical precision. The first and last consonants of the offensive word are often left in as if only the otherwise meaningless string of letters in the middle have the true power to offend.

This is how the media chooses to protect our delicate sensibilities while striving for the kind of edginess that will crank the Nielsens.

Of course on the other side of the issue is the person on camera who feels that he or she can say whatever they want because it's someone else's job to make sure the offending words don't go out over the airwaves. But that 's a whole different issue.

Things We Said Today
How responsible is the media with respect to what they lay on our table? Paul McCartney made an insightful point as he responded to an interviewer who seemed to neither understand the answer that McCartney gave him nor the question he asked McCartney in the first place.

Beatle Paul lectures the reporter on responsibility but he just doesn't seem to get it.

Things have come a long way in a short time. It wasn't so terribly long ago that the late Lenny Bruce had a reputation for being the "dirty comic." Bruce's stand-up act was raw but nothing compared to what you might hear today on a Comedy Central Celebrity Roast.

Bruce was even once arrested in Hollywood in the mid-1960's for using the term "schmuck" in his act.

Sarah, We Hardly Knew Ye

palin campaign

The apocalypse came early this year for the Governor of Alaska.

Our good friend Canada Peg sent us this outstanding song parody to commemorate Sarah Palin's resignation. We like to think of it as Sarah's Swan Song.

It's sung to the tune of the Johnny Horton classic North to Alaska.

Crank up this YouTube video for a kind of Karaoke background and then sing along with the lyrics below.

Johnny Horton's North to Alaska

North Was Alaska: The Sarah Palin Saga
(Lots of Apologies to Johnny Horton)

Way up North, (North in Alaska)
Way up North, (North in Alaska)

North was Alaska,
She's goin' south, the Rush is on.
North was Alaska,
She's goin' south, the Rush is on.

Lil' Sarah left Wasilla in the year two thousand eight,
With the First Dude, her partner, her kids, and Bristol's mate,
They crossed the stage in St. Paul, the crowds they went insane,
So the hockey mom from nowhere joined Maverick John McCain.

She stuck to script and winked and waved to huge crowds far below,
Till she talked to Katie Couric as she mushed malapropos,
With her mind and tongue a-running wild in a language known to none.
Yes, John McCain was a mighty man but with her he came undone.

Her words ever winding
Resigning, they're finding

North was Alaska
She's headin' south, the Rush is on.

Way up North, (North was Alaska)
Way up North, (North was Alaska)

North was Alaska,
She's goin' south, the Rush is on.
North was Alaska,
She's goin' south, the Rush is on.

She returned to Juneau, the land from whence she came.
Said: "Todd, you're a-looking at a gov'ner flushed with fame,
I'll trade away my office; I'm just buried in this state,
For a good point guard knows when to pass & dead fish float too late."

A mandate needs a woman to obfuscate the mind,
Remember a foxy Patriot gal's so hard to find.
I'll build up a warchest to get me my new home
In that big White House in DC so very far south of Nome.

Her words ever winding
Resigning, they're finding

North was Alaska
She's headed south, the race is on.
North was Alaska,
She's goin' south, the race is on.

Way up Yours, (North in Alaska)
Way up Yours, (North in Alaska)
Way up yours ---

palin wink
"You betcha!"

For more posts in this category go to Entertainment / Media.

Batman to the Rescue!


Admit it ...

If you were in apocalyptic danger and could call anyone in the Justice League to come to your rescue (other than Superman), you'd call Batman, wouldn't you?

Of course, you would. You'd call Batman even though he's unique among other DC Comics super heroes because ... he has no super powers. He just works out and eats right.

But still you'd use your distress call to summon him rather than the Flash, the Green Lantern or Aquaman. (No, Marvel's Spidey isn't in the Justice League.)

Batman Begins
Since Bat-bursting onto the comic book scene in the spring of 1939, Bob Kane's Caped Crusader has evolved into the Dark Knight. He's been booted and rebooted as a comic book, a movie serial, a television show, several cartoon series and the generally successful movie franchise.

The rumor is that Johnston McCulleys's Zorro -- who also had a secret identity, a cave and a loyal butler --was an inspiration for the character.

As for sidekicks, there have been three Robins - Dick Grayson who went on to be Nightwing when he grew up, Jason Todd who was killed by the Joker and finally Tim Drake.

In film versions, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney and Christian Bale have all worn the pointy-eared cowl.

But don't leave 1949's Robert Lowery off the list...

That was almost as bad as 1997's Batman & Robin that warranted this apology from the guy who directed it...

Potter, Harry Potter...

harry potter 2001

One for All and All for One...

Just as the character's in J.K. Rowlings' Harry Potter books matured along with the young audience who read them, we've watched the cast of the film series -- and the characters they play -- move through their teenage years and into young adulthood.

And over the years, we feel that we've gotten to know these 21st Century Three Musketeers.

Wikipedia reports that Alfonso Cuaron, director of The Prisoner of Azkaban says Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) is "the likely future star out of the Hogwarts trio."

Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) has grown from a promising child actress and pretty girl to a very talented artist and a lovely young woman.

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) will be ready to step into the 007 role when his countryman Daniel Craig is ready to step down.

harry potter 2009

Quidditch Quickfacts:

The first five films of the Harry Potter series became the highest grossing film series of all time ($4.5 billion) until Daniel Craig's efforts pushed the James Bond series ahead. The Half Blood Prince may indeed give Harry the top spot again. Game on, Mr. Bond.

Steven Spielberg was involved in discussions early on with the idea of directing an animated movie with Haley Joel Osment (Sixth Sense) voicing Harry. (J.K. Rowlings' choice for director was Monty Python's Terry Gilliam. He didn't get the job and apparently is still not happy about it.).

The first film in the series is, for most of the world, titled as is the book it's based on -- The Philosopher's Stone. It was released in the US as The Sorcerer's Stone.

The Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone premiered on November 16, 2001, just two months after the 9/11 attacks, to a world ready for something positive and uplifting.

At least two more films are scheduled for the series. The final book (The Deathly Hallows) will be split into two movies, currently titled Part 1 and Part 2.

Daniel Radcliffe was 11 years old when he starred in the first film of the series and will celebrate his 20th birthday the week following the release of The Half Blood Prince.

In 2007, Emma Watson successfully negotiated a doubling of her salary for the final films of the franchise.

Rupert Grint won the role of Ron Weasley by making a rap video for his audition.

The filming of The Deathly Hallows movie(s) began in February 2009.

J.K. Rowling is actually a pen name. The publishers of The Philosopher's Stone believed that young boys might be reluctant to read a book written by a female author. So Joanne Rowling -- called Jo by everyone who knows her -- concocted the non de plume J.K.

Jo's net worth is currently estimated at about $800 million.


The Scream

This has probably happened to you.

And if it hasn't yet, it will. You'll be watching some seemingly innocent video on YouTube. Perhaps it's described as an optical illusion or as authentic ghost footage.

Just as you're settling into it, a horrifying image is flashed on the screen often accompanied by a shrill scream. Sometimes the image is horrible and macabre. Some twisted, ghoulish image.

These little audio/visual surprises are known as screamers. And even if the image is not necessarily frightening, the shock alone can give you a start.

phantom of the opera

SCREAMER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The following video is presented for instructional purposes only. It is a screamer and the horrifying shock kicks in at about :14 seconds. Do not watch this unless you want to experience a scary screaming Screamer!


What possesses someone to do something like that?
Stunts like this remind us that (1) the web is in many ways still a frontier town and (2) the average emotional age of some people who post video on the web is about 12.

How to Protect Yourself...
It is a strange kind of long distance assault. One way to protect yourself when YouTubing is to scan the comments before viewing before viewing. But you knew that. And if you're that first to be pranked, you might leave a warning for the viewers to follow.

Though we disapprove of people posting video in such a disingenuous manner, there is one exception that we give a thumbs up to.

Getting Rick Roll'd!

Abbott and Costello Meet Deadwood's Al Swearingen


The Last Laugh, Indeed...

Laughter is a great sustainer in apocalyptic times, offering needed relief from stress, tension and despair. Laughter is authentic evidence of apocalypse in the true revelatory sense of the word. The irony of light within darkness, darkness within light.

The classic Who's on First? burlesque sketch, popularized by Abbott and Costello, was a delicate dance of miscommunication and malapropism. It's humor and sense of comic timing, indeed, transcends time.

We're big fans of HBO's departed Deadwood here at Apocalypzia. If Yes Minister/Prime Minister is what Shakespeare would do with a political sit-com, Deadwood would be his offering about the Old West.

A beauty of Deadwood was its ability to so skillfully mix intense drama with moments of inspired comedy. We believe that its writers may have been paying homage to a classic radio comedy sketch in a scene between the profanely ingenious Al Swearingen and Mr. Wu, with his unfortunate one-word English vocabulary.

Abbott and Costello -- Who's on First?

Deadwood -- Wu's on First...
Deadwood dialogue, though magnificently written, can be quite raw, so be warned if you decide to watch the following clip. But if you do, let us know. Is Mr. Wu channeling Lou Costello?

Best of The Beatles


What's wrong with this picture?

If you can't guess, a guy named Pete Best can tell you.

Pete (second guy from the right, as if you didn't know) was the drummer in the most successful band in history up until maybe about a half an hour before it became the most successful band in history.

Love Me Do
Most Beatlemaniacs have heard the story of how the Beatles recorded a version of Love Me Do, their first number one hit, with Pete. Producer George Martin wasn't pleased. Pete was kicked to the Liverpudlian curb and the song was re-recorded with a new guy named Ringo.

We imagine that every time Pete steps into an elevator these days he sticks his fingers in his ears terrified that he might be reminded about that cruel twist of fate four decades ago. But have you ever heard the Pete Best version of this Beatles classic?

Put yourself in George Martin's shoes for moment and listen to what he heard.

What would you have done?

That was ... interesting ...
Somehow the Four Lads from Liverpool never sounded so lethargic and so ... well, ordinary. The drumming seems somehow disconnected from the rest of the music - especially after about a minute in. And by the end of the song, Pete kind of goes off on his own somewhere.

This version helped us to appreciate just how important RIngo was to the unique sound and signature of the Beatles.

Here's Love Me Do as it was released on October 5, 1962. It became the band's first number one hit in the US in 1964...

Ringo was almost a Nowhere Man, too
Ironically, the story is that George Martin didn't like Ringo's version either. The single released used a session drummer named Andy White, with Ringo playing tambourine.

And as for life after Pete's rock and roll apocalypse... He worked for a bakery and later spent 20 years as a civil servant.

BTW, Andy White, Wikipedia reports, is today a drumming judge for the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah...

PS: Happy Birthday, Ringo! - July 7

The Daily Mail

In Search of Lance Lawson

Looking for a Hero

James Lileks is, in our opinion, a contemporary zeitgeist archeologist and a premier social historian.

We should explain that.

Lileks' clever Institute of Official Cheer website uses matchbook covers, hotel postcards, comic books, Sears catalogs and more to paint a fascinating picture of our cultural evolution over the last 50 years. This is no dry, dull college history lecture. Setting politics aside, James Lileks is as witty as all get out and as funny as hell.

Enter Lance Lawson
Mr. Lileks' website introduced us to Lance Lawson, the lead character of a newspaper comic strip that ran in the 1940s. And boy do we need Lance now.

Lance was like a mash-up of Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe and Robert (Da Vinci Code) Langdon. But while it took those guys hours and/or hundreds of pages to solve a mystery, Lance did it in four comic strip panels. FOUR PANELS!

lance lawson

Time's a wastin'
With all that's going on in our apocalyptic world these days, we really need a guy who could step in and get to the bottom of things fast.

Have you figured it out yet?

Do you know why Lance feels justified in man-handling the dirty crook masquerading as a pig farmer?

The solution printed at the bottom of the newspaper page explains Lawson's reasoning ..

The farmer called the pigs Hampshires but they were Poland Chinas.

Yeah, we knew that...

Shakespeare Couldn't Have Done Better

Yes Minister

Yes Minister / Yes Prime Minister
If the Bard of Avon had written a half-hour comedy show about the true nature of modern government, he couldn't have done a better job than the 1980's BBC series Yes Minister or it's sequel, Yes Prime Minister.

Yes Minister (1980 through 1984) and Yes Prime Minister (1986 through 1988) address the topics of bank bailouts, government leaks and political scandals, making these series as relevant and topical today as they were 30 years ago.

There were a total of 38 episodes, penned by Sir Anthony Jay and Jonathon Lynn in this award winning series.

Yes Minister BBC

As for the main characters, Jim Hacker is in Parliament (and later is elected Prime Minister), setting policy with the short-term goal of being re-elected.

Sir Humphrey Appleby, assigned as Hacker's Permanent Secretary, is a bureaucrat -- civil servant in British-speak -- executing Hacker's policies with the long-term goal of adding to staff and budget.

Clashing Needs
Both want the best for Queen and Country, but, as they grapple, they expose the extent to which government is the difficult output of the clashing needs of short-term politics and long-term bureaucracy.

Bernerd Woolsey, Hacker's chief of staff, is an everyman character, who is inspired by Hacker's compassion but, as a civil servant himself, is constantly reminded by Sir Humphrey of bureaucratic reality.

Politics: Universal and Timeless
Yes Minster / Yes Prime Minister goes beyond the arcane and curious inner workings of British government and lays bare the genuine nature of Politics Apocalypzia, whether in London, Washington DC or your local Town Council.

The late Paul Eddington played Jim Hacker and the late Nigel Hawthorne - brilliant in The Madness of King George - played Sir Humphrey Appleby. Derek Fowlds, not in the clip below, played Private Secretary, Woolsey.

Is President Obama a fan of Yes Minister? You decide...

Zombie Apocalypse

resident evil

Zombie Jamboree

Zombie Movies!

The dead, in droves, come back to quasi-life, to roam the earth in stumbling slow motion, ravenous for human flesh and threatening the living with a fate worse than death. Each attack swells the zombie ranks until only a small renegade band of healthy living humans remains. Against overwhelming odds, the apocalyptic battle for humanity is on.

The Film That Started it All
The 1968 black and white cult film, Night of the Living Dead, directed by George Romero, wasn't the first zombie movie. White Zombie, released in 1932, holds that honor, followed by Zombies on Broadway. But Romero's NOTLD was the first film of a sub-genre now known as Zombie Apocalypse. We're not just talking zombies, we're talking zombies on a mission of world domination.

(Don't have time to watch Romero's original classic? Check out Jennifer Shiman's amazingly accurate 30-second cartoon version in Bun-o-Vision. You have to see it to believe it!)

Romero cranked out five films in the NOTLD series. But as his film franchise and the zombie apocalypse genre grew, the zombies got faster, smarter and meaner.

The Resident Evil film series, adapted from the popular video game, is a prime example of the current generation of zombie apocalypse. In the previous millennium, zombies threatened to take over the world. Post-2000, zombies have seized control and we humans are trying to wrest it back.

The Lighter Side of Zombie Apocalypse
But a movie that successfully meshes the apocalypzia mindset with the apocalyptic zombie film is the brilliant Shaun of the Dead, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Its special genius is that it's more of a romantic-comedy with megalomaniacal zombies in it than it is traditional zombie apocalypse.

And, after all, if we can laugh and love our way through the apocalypse, how bad can it possibly be?

Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon

Death in Threes?

Whether cosmic or coincidence, this week Apocalypzia is reminded of the continuing discussion concerning the apparent synchronicity of celebrity deaths.

Associated Content
Celebrities Die in Threes Many Believe; the Meaning of Three

Deaths in Threes: Is There Any Truth to This

The FDH Lounge
Celebrity deaths in threes

Art's Strange World
Celebrity Deaths

Farewell Tour...

michael jackson
Michael Jackson
1958 - 2009

farrah fawcett
Farrah Fawcett
1947 - 2009

ed macmahon
Ed McMahon
1923 - 2009

It's Official: Jump the Shark Has Jumped the Shark


Jump Street...
When Fonzie ski-jumped a shark it was a mortal blow from which ABC's Happy Days never really recovered. Jon Hein immortalized Fonzie's stunt with jumptheshark.com, a ragtag, irreverent and refreshing interactive TV chat site that changed the culture.

As Hein, originally explained it, there is sometimes a defining moment in a TV series that is a decisive turning point. It is a moment at which quality shifts inexorably to terminal mediocrity.

This change is often showcased by some bizarre out-of-character event, like a tough guy from the backstreets of Milwaukee jumping over a shark on water-skis, wearing a leather jacket.

That was the moment that Happy Days, literally and figuratively, jumped the shark.

Jumptheshark.com became a vibrant, user-driven website where people shared ideas and opinions about the rise-to-fall moment of TV shows from Desperate Housewives all the way back to I Love Lucy.

(Was Miami Vice ever the same after they blew up the 1973 Midnight Black Ferrari Daytona Spyder?)

Sold to TV Guide
But in 2006, the site was sold to Gemstar's TV Guide. The site's beloved dishelved look was replaced with a gussied-up version, peppered with ads for the very TV series being trashed in the chat.

No longer a true feedback channel to Hollywood, Jon Hein's magnificent creation was suddenly in the belly of the beast. But the worst, however, was yet to come.

Jumptheshark.com just takes you to tvguide.com/jumptheshark now -- a superslick corporate website with an ArmorAll sheen, authored by professionals, with all the punch and edginess of the fawning zap2it.com. Oh, you can still post comments to the articles, but it's just not the same.

Now that jump the shark has been pretty much flushed, what new phrase can capture our imagination?

Nuke the fridge just didn't have any traction, did it?

Goofy's Holler

Beyond Wilhelm
A few days ago, Apocalypzia took a hard look at the Wilhelm Scream, the shriek heard by more people than any other in the history of humankind.

Well, if Wilhelm's Scream is the most famous scream of all, Goofy's Holler is arguably the funniest.

Granjitsingh thinks so. In his YouTube clip commentary below, he can hardly get the words out without breaking up.

The Art of Skiing
Goofy's Holler, voiced by yodeler Hannes Schrolle (possibly pro bono), was introduced in the 1941 Disney cartoon, The Art of Skiing. The yodeling in the foreign language clip below is funny enough, but Goofy's signature scream kicks in at about 19 seconds into the video and his extreme scream comes at about 56 seconds in.


Meet the Beatles ... Again!

Beatles For Sale
We at Apocalypzia have long been fans of the Beatles and even had the surreal experience, once upon a time, of meeting one of the Fab Four -- of all places -- in front of the historic Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York.

Their original vinyl catalog was re-released on CDs in the 1980s. Now comes word that the digital catalog will be re-re-released this year. This time digitally remastered.

How do we all feel about remastering the Beatles?

We always thought that their recordings were somewhat haphazard in the assignment of voices and instruments to the stereo field. The sounds seem to come at you from random directions at times, with all the voices on the left and drums and guitars on the right.

Maybe this wasn't recording engineering at its best, but it isn't as if their popularity suffered because of it.

In fact, however the music was recorded and whatever imperfections were there within, it touched, inspired and energized a generation.


George Lucas remastered Star Wars years after its original release and incorporated state of the art CGI that wasn't available in 1977. That made it more technically cutting edge, but did it make the movie any better?

Did Star Wars fans like the movie because the special effects were perfect? Or because it was a refreshing and entertaining retelling of the hero's journey?

After all, how much more than enough do we need?

New is good but maybe we like some things just the way they were.

BTW, Paul: They say it's your birthday... Gonna have a good time... Happy Birthday to You!

The Wilhelm Scream


"Not an Ouch. A Real Scream..."
Since the Harry Truman Administration, this iconic scream has been the shriek heard round the world, appearing in over 140 movies -- and counting.

Hollywood sound editor, Steve Lee, thought to be the responsible for the cult status of the Wilhelm Scream, explains that during the shooting of the 1951 film, Distant Drums, a scream was dubbed into a Jaws-like scene where a man was attacked by an alligator.

The director made it clear he didn't want an ouch, he wanted a real scream. The actor gave his all on the fifth take and the rest is history.

Wherefore Art Thou, Wilhelm?
But it was the 1953 film Charge at Feather River that gave the scream the name that would stay with it for over half a century.

In one scene, a man on horseback, identified as Wilhelm, gets an arrow in the leg. When Wilhelm cries out, it's the scream from Distant Drums that you hear. Not only that, the same scream was used in at least two additional action scenes in the movie.

Why is Wilhelm Still Screaming?
Sound editors who got a kick out of the deathly triple-tone scream began sneaking it into other movies as an industry-wide inside joke.

Then Ben Burtt, the sound design specialist for Star Wars and Indiana Jones, started using the scream in every George Lucas blockbuster. Before long, everybody wanted to get on the Wilhelm bandwagon.

The scream became the tongue-in-cheek go-to-sound effect for nearly every movie character who falls to his death.

Chrisofduke offers an excellent YouTube compilation of the Wilhelm Scream that begins with its three uses in Charge at Feather River.

Scream On!
Snappygalbladder offers the YouTube compilation below that includes a couple of the same scenes as above, but really underscores the range of movies that have used this famous piece of audio.

This compilation even includes a bonus song about the Wilhelm Scream during the closing credits:

Who Recorded the Original Wilhelm Scream?
Actually no one is really sure but Steve Lee believes it was Sheb Wooley. Sheb had a minor role in Distant Drums but also did a lot of movie scream-work on the side.

The Wilhelm Scream wouldn't be Sheb Wooley's only claim to fame. JohnnyThunderzzz reminds us that Sheb was a one-hit-wonder in 1958 with the song Purple People Eater.

Wilhelm Watch
Have you heard the Wilhelm Scream in a movie or television show lately? Let Apocalypzia know.

Will Project Natal Change Everything?

The 3D Experience
Ever since the first Viewmaster, we've been fascinated by looking at things that weren't there that looked by-gosh like they actually were. B-movies with the cardboard red-green glasses, IMAX theatres with the bulky Atom Ant headgear, even those Magic Eye books that left you cross-eyed after twenty minutes. We've done them all.

And it may not be too long before, you don't have to go to the IMAX to get the Full Monty 3D experience. Jonathan Merril reports that 3D is coming soon to your living room.

But there is some other fascinating stuff going on out there in the virtual reality world.

GE has developed a do-it-yourself 3D generator to help raise global warming awareness. All you need is a computer, a webcam and a printer.

But Johnny Chung Lee is the Man!
Back in 2007, Johnny Chung Lee figured out a way to hotwire a Nintendo Wii -- and with a few items from Home Depot -- to enter a whole different freakin' universe. Amazing!

Now Johnny's working in the Applied Sciences Group at Microsoft and he's one of the masterminds behind Project Natal.

Beyond Natal
The question is -- what happens when 3D technology converges with the no-controller Natal experience? It could happen sooner than we expect. After all, Johnny Chung Lee has figured out both pieces of that puzzle already.

Are Johnny Chung Lee and the other programmers like him the Thomas Edisons and the Alexander Graham Bells of the 21st Century?

And more importantly, how will we, as sentient and conscious beings, come to define reality now that technology can play such an influential role in the process?

Our Man Blagojevich

You've Come a Long Way, Blago.
In 1999, during the Kosovo War, Rev. Jesse Jackson and a delegation that included then-US Congressman Rod Blagojevich negotiated the release of three American hostages with then-Serbian/Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic.

Success in these high-stakes wartime negotiations thrust Blagojevich onto the world stage and was the bedrock of a promising future for the Illinois congressman.

Having married into a powerful political family also seemed to have put Blagojevich in Illinois' catbird seat. Even his JFK-esque hairdo suggested that this man was going somewhere.

In 2002, he was successful in his bid to become Governor of the Union's 5th largest state, at a time when a Governorship was the most reliable path to the White House.

From Hero to Zero.
We don't need to rehash the trouble that Blago has run into in the meantime. As we all now know, he could end up being the fourth Illinois Governor in the last 50 years to do hard-time and the second Illinois Governor in a row to go to the Big House.

But as we've all seen, over and over again, the story of how Blago found himself in trouble is far less bizarre than the story of what he's done to get out of it.

He has, by his own efforts, created his own reality show that has played out on Good Morning America, the Rachel Maddow Show, the Late Show with David Letterman and just about every other show on television.

Let's face it, Blago is bigger than Omarossa ever was.

Somewhat of a national hero ten years ago, Blago is now a national joke of his own design.

After being denied the opportunity to participate in NBC's summer-filler reality show , I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, (a show title that pretty much encapsulates his legal defense) his wife Patti -- former First Lady of the state and daughter of Chicago City Alderman Dick Mell -- filled in for him.

For the good people of Illinois, it's hard to tell which is worse: watching Patti speed-chewing tarantulas or the utter humiliation of seeing her, in the midst of the oddly-assorted cast of Z-list celebrities, trying to earn enough money to feed and clothe her children as legal fees drain the family bank account.

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

What Lesson Do We Learn From This?
It's all too easy to pile on Blago and Patti, and we've all had a good time making them the punchline. But Apocalypzia asks the question, regardless of the merits of this investigation or the particular personalities involved, what is it that we can learn from all this?

How is it that we can so easily elect the undeserving and the unprincipled to high office?

And what makes us so eager to make media darlings of those among us who should receive the very least attention?

Your thoughts?

From Pong to Amuso

Boop .... Boop ... Boop ... ... ... Boop
Videogames started out as something you plugged into your television to play. Who would have thought that one day they might replace television altogether?

Way back in 1975, Atari's Pong, like some alien pod from the future, was a r-e-a-l-l-y slow game of table tennis played with flecks of moving light booping against each other on your TV screen.

Pong was the ridiculously simple vanguard of a Tekwar-type revolution that took the world by storm. Pinkgodzilla.com reports that, with Sears as its distribution arm, over 150,000 Pong units were sold during the 1975 Christmas season alone.

Evolution ... Revolution
Somethingawful.com reports seven generations of videogame development, morphing and evolving bit-by-bit from the Pong games of yesterday to the high-def, three-dimensional, riff-screamin' Wii-driven Rock Band's of today.

But all of that has a lot to do with plugging some game into your television. What about the games that are actually taking the place of television?

Enter Amuso
Online social games are seen by some as a recession-resistant anomaly during the current economic apocalypse. BusinessWeek reports that the number of players around the globe jumped from 50 million to 250 million in the last year.

And Amuso, launched out of Barcelona in the fall of 2008, is helping to change the game.

Unlike the online version of Texas Hold 'Em, Amuso is more like a genuine TV game show, allowing you to play for points or, if you're ready for the challenge, real cash and prizes.

Beyond TV
For fans of Amuso, who needs Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune? And who needs to plug (Air) Guitar Hero into the TV?

And if you're really enterprising, Amuso claims to allow you to channel your inner Goodson and Todman and create your own online games for fun and profit.

Who knows? Maybe you can create an American Idol-type juggernaut online. It could happen.

Come on Down!
Are you playing Amuso or one of the other social games out there? Share your experiences with others here at Apocalypzia.

Was Anonder Patient Zero of the Blogosphere?

In the Beginning...

In the pre-apocalyptic world, long before blogs, tweets and FaceBook, there was Anonder's Journal, which was, simultaneously, mundane and fascinating.

Every few days or so Anonder, a thirty-something, semi-retired computer programmer, would reveal the intimate details of his day to day existence on the web.

How intimate?
Very. Everything from his hopes to his fears and from his bedroom (with others or alone) to his bank account.

This was all happening within that ecotone where, and when, the concept of the personal and very private diary was slowly transitioning into that of the very open and globally accessible blog.

Anonder's site is still up though he hasn't posted to it in many years. The simple text on a plain grey background is a reminder of the frontier days of the world wide web before flash, or even graphics for that matter.

Social Networking Pioneer
Anonder was one of the pioneer's of social networking, daring to share himself with the world in a way that seems common now but was anything but common not so long ago.

Of course, it's possible that there really was no Anonder. That, instead, he was a fictional character created to make us believe that he was who he said he was.

There's no Anonder on Facebook, and everyone is on Facebook. That, alone, may be proof positive that he never really existed.