Is it “Binge” Worthy?

I am a sleep technologist full time.  Naturally, when I see articles related to sleep, I read them.  The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recently took a survey to find out what keeps us up at night.

_104369445_0b19b561-f45c-479e-bb41-501094d14f19

Coming in at #4 – Playing video games.  59% of men and 42% of women do it.

Coming in at #3 – Watching sports.  The survey says that 60% of us sometimes choose sports over sleep. (75% were men, while 45% were women)

The second thing that keeps us up at night is reading.  According to the survey 71% of women and 61% of men lose sleep because they couldn’t put down a book. (Personally, I LOVE when a book keeps me interested like that!)

So what was the #1 thing that keeps us up at night?  No surprise – Streaming TV shows or movies. A whopping 88% of us do this!  Of that group, 95% of the people were between 18 & 45 years old.

24 % of people in the survey said they usually are angry with themselves for putting entertainment over sleep.

The results got me to thinking.  As someone who rarely gets enough sleep because of my job, what TV shows would I consider to be “Binge Worthy”?

Since the birth of television, there have been thousands of TV shows!  With the availability of many of those shows on DVD and on streaming sites, which ones would I actually think about streaming or binge-watching?  I decided to break it down by decade.  I wrote down the first four shows from each decade that came to mind down.  So, here are the shows that I could easily “binge” watch:

The 1950’s

honeymooners

Jack_Benny

twilight

PerryMason

The 1960’s

TheDickVanDykeShow

trek

mission

smart_title1

The 1970’s

sanford

mash-title-960x590

wkrp

columbo_title_screen

The 1980’s

cheers

dukes

Night_Court_-_Opening_Screenshot_of_caption_and_NYC_skyline

TNG_head

The 1990’s

friends

raymond

seinfeld

70's

The 2000’s

On_the_next_Arrested_Development

office

30 rock

House

Now it’s your turn.  If you want to Google it – go ahead, but I thought it was more fun to just think of the decades and write down the first ones that came to my head.

What are YOUR “binge worthy” shows??

untitled

 

Favorite Films – The 90’s

film-reel

This blog is a continuation of a series I started a week or so ago. Somebody had the idea to post a list was to consist of your favorite films from each year of your life.  So, you start with your birth year and move ahead year by year and list all the films from each year.  A post from the Avocado site came up in my “Reader” list of blogs that had the same principle, but with one exception – you can only pick one movie from each year. My last “movie” blog focused on my favorites from the 1980’s and this one will feature the 1990’s.

As I looked through the films for this decade and was actually surprised.  I thought that the as I moved forward, I’d have less films to talk about.  I was wrong.  Picking one favorite from each year is going to be tough.

1990.jpg

1990 had plenty of sequels, one of which will end up my pick for favorite.  Eddie Murphy was back with Another 48 Hours.  Bruce Willis offered up Die Hard II.  Almost 20 years later, The Corleone family returned in Godfather III.  The second installment of Young Guns was in theaters and Sylvester Stallone returned as Mr. Balboa in Rocky V.  Johnny Depp was Edward Scissorhands, Kevin Costner was Dancing with Wolves, while Sean Connery was underwater with the Hunt for Red October.  Julia Roberts was “hooking” in Pretty Woman, Harrison Ford was Presumed Innocent, and Macaulay Culkin was left Home Alone.  Comedies included Nuns on the Run, Madhouse, and Kindergarten Cop. The film adaption of Stephen King’s Misery will have be forever fearing sledgehammers!

I am going to catch some flack for this not being my favorite of this year.  Goodfellas is a great film!  It is.  “You’re Italian, Keith!  How can Goodfellas NOT be your pick?”  It doesn’t matter.  It’s my list.

My pick for favorite of 1990 is the conclusion of the Back to the Future series – Back to the Future Part III.

original.jpg

What can I say, I love these characters.  By the end of Part II, I was wondering just how things were going to wrap up.  While the end is a bit contrived and falls a bit flat, everything else I enjoyed.  I enjoyed how in the old west we see the beginnings of the town, the clock tower (which plays such a big role in the first film), and the earlier family members of the characters.  The suspense of getting that train up to 88mph had me on the edge of my seat in the theater.  Loved this trilogy and it remains one of my all time favorites!

1991

In 1991, there were silly comedies (Naked Gun 2 1/2, Hot Shots, Soapdish, and What about Bob?), action films (Robin Hood, Hook, and Thelma and Louise), and thrillers (Backdraft and Silence of the Lambs).

It is hard to pick one favorite for this year.  As someone who has been fascinated with the JFK assassination, I really enjoyed Oliver Stone’s JFK.  I had read so many books about the various conspiracies.  What a stellar cast!   Robin Williams put on an amazing performance in The Fisher King.  I admit, when I rented this film, I expected a comedy.  It was a very powerful story.  See it if you haven’t!  Billy Crystal and Jack Palance are just great together in City Slickers.  “I crap bigger than you” remains a favorite movie quote!

My pick for this year may come as a surprise to those who have read previous blogs.  Why?  Because I have complained so often about Hollywood running out of ideas!  I have bitched about how they are remaking everything!  This is one of those exceptions.  YES – it is a remake of a TV show, but this is also an instance of a good remake. The Addams Family.

the-addams-family-today-inline-191010_4e994c28ed52f12b34bfe768ad4a4b19_fit-760w.jpg

I think what makes this such a good movie is that the cast is true to the characters of the cartoon and the TV show.  Raul Julia is brilliant as Gomez.  Anjelica Huston is spot on as Morticia.  Christopher Lloyd is great as Fester.  Christina Ricci is the perfect Wednesday.  The film is funny and fun.  I wasn’t so keen on the sequel, but this one was a blast (and a film I have to watch every October!).

1992

1992 brought the return of Michael Keaton as Batman in Batman Returns, Whitney Houston was a superstar in The Bodyguard, and who can forget Sharon Stone in basic Instinct?  Honeymoon in Vegas was ok, but had a great soundtrack! Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei are just wonderful together in My Cousin Vinny while Tom Hanks coaches Geena Davis and Madonna in A League of Their Own.  We are also introduced to Wayne Campbell and his friend Garth in the SNL based Wayne’s World.

This almost was my pick for favorite – A Few Good Men.  Such a great story, with a great cast, and powerful performances!  Tom Cruise, Kevin Bacon, Demi Moore, Kevin Pollack, and Jack Nicholson are all superb in this film! My favorite, however, has to go to Disney’s Aladdin.

ad172c1e-215f-459d-8fe7-18d0f1580b97

Why?  Two words – Robin Williams!  I have heard of the many hours of voice stuff he recorded for this film that was never used.  I can only imagine the wonderful ad-libs he did in the studio!  Friend Like Me is on my iPod and it gives me chills every time I listen to it.

1993.png

1993 comedies included Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men In Tights, Wayne’s World II, Loaded Weapon, Groundhog Day, So I Married an Axe Murderer, and Mrs. Doubtfire.  Another comedy that is a must watch (especially for the bloopers at the end) is Grumpy Old Men. Drama/Thrillers included John Grisham’s The Firm, Jurassic Park, and In The Line of Fire.

1993 brought two films that are considered classics that I have never seen.  One of them, I have a reason, the other, I don’t.  Schindler’s List and the Sandlot.  Schindler’s list is one that I will watch – but I have the book and I want to read it first.  The Sandlot I have heard quoted 100 times, I just have never had the chance to sit and watch it.  I will – eventually.

Twice in the same decade, I am picking a remake – a remake of a TV show again.  My pick for 1993 is The Fugitive.

INTRO.png

Harrison Ford does a great job playing Richard Kimball.  I loved the original series.  Tommy Lee Jones is just hilarious in this.  It truly is a great film and one I can watch over and over again.

1994.jpg

Jim Carrey dominated the year with three films – The Mask, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and Dumb and Dumber.  Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks, was a wonderful film!  It had a great soundtrack and it was cool to see how they put his character into scenes from history.  I could watch Jamie Lee Curtis over and over in True Lies.  Dennis Leary is so funny in The Ref.  It is one of those forgotten Holiday movies that I just love.  Another forgotten film from this year is The Shadow.  It is based on the old radio show, which was based on a comic book.  Alec Baldwin stars in it and I thought it was very well done.

My favorite film from the year, hands down, is The Shawshank Redemption.

Shawshank-Featured

Based on a Stephen King short story, it remains one of my favorite films.  Prior to seeing it, I knew King had wrote it.  I had always associated him with horror films, so I never saw it.  I am so glad that I was convinced to watch it.  If you have never seen it – you should!  It is a masterpiece!

1995

1995 comedies featured SNL stars Chris Farley (in Tommy Boy) and Adam Sandler (in Billy Madison).  Mel Gibson starred as William Wallace in Braveheart. Tom Hanks first uttered “Houston, we have a problem” in Apollo 13.  He also starred as Sheriff Woody in the first installment of Toy Story. Robin Williams is stuck in a board game in Jumanji.  There was a remake with a twist – The Brady Bunch Movie.  What made this work, was that the cast is still stuck in the past, while living in the present day.  It wasn’t hilarious, but it worked.

Again, here is a film that you would think should be THE pick for this year.  Casino with Robert Deniro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci.  It truly is a great film, but my pick is The Usual Suspects.

Suspects

I remember my grandmother used to watch Perry Mason and guess who the killer was all the time.  Some movies, you can guess the ending, but this one caught me completely off guard.  I never saw it coming.  That is the reason I picked this one.  Watching it the second time, I noticed all the things I missed throughout the first viewing.  It is such s good film.

1996

Comedies from 1996 include Leslie Nielsen in Spy Hard, Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore, and Jim Carrey as The Cable Guy. Drama/Thrillers included Ghosts of Mississippi, A Time To Kill, and Primal Fear.  Tom Cruise appeared in Mission: Impossible (which I hated, because it was really all about his character while the TV show was more of a team effort).  We first saw that stupid ghost mask in the first Scream movie, and Sean Connery starred in The Rock.

Before naming my pick for 1996, I will mention in passing a movie that was loaded with big name stars, but was just awful – Mars Attacks.  Urgh!

My pick for 1996 is again, a remake.  The Nutty Professor.

2876514_thenuttyprofessordinnertable_jpeg10805446e5728eb275aa3bbe92c4c44f

I want to say first of all that I LOVE the Jerry Lewis version of this movie.  It is my all time favorite Jerry film.  When I heard that he gave his blessing to this film, I gave it a chance and I am glad I did. While Jerry’s version takes a nerd and makes him a cool jerk, Eddie’s version takes an overweight, shy man and makes him a thin pompous jerk. Kudos to Eddie Murphy, who plays his entire family!

1997.png

My list of 1997 films is a short one.  I’m not sure why.  There were some films that stood out, though.  Two presidential movies this year – Absolute Power with Gene Hackman and Harrison Ford in Air Force One.  Nicolas Cage was a con in Con Air and starred with John Travolta in Face/Off.  Jim Carrey is very funny in Liar Liar and Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith star in the first Men In Black.

Almost nabbing the pick for the year is Mike Myers in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.  It’s a funny and silly spy spoof and while many of the jokes are childish, the character is one that I found very funny.  My pick for the year, however, is Titanic.

4dd3224df07e6a9a6664da966db0d88f

Let me say this – I hated the whole Jack/Rose love story BS in this film!  It doesn’t make it a bad film, I understand why it was done. I think they thought no one would go see the story of the sinking ship without something “new” in it.  At any rate, as someone who has been intrigued by the story of Titanic since I was in elementary school, I was amazed at the details of the ship.  After the film came out they had a magazine that compared the shots from the movie with pictures from the real ship – it was neat to see just how close the set was to the real ship.

I had read the story of the Titanic many times.  We read Walter Lord’s A Night To Remember in high school.  The minute by minute account was so accurate.  When I saw Titanic, I was left speechless.  There were all the people I had read about.  I will never forget watching it and seeing a passenger falls and hit the propeller on their way into the water – wow.  I left the theater in complete silence.  I got in the car and wept.

1998

1998 saw Stephen King’s Apt Pupil come to the big screen, Robin Williams was wonderful as Patch Adams, and Pixar showed us A Bug’s Life.  SNL and SNL actors were prominent in comedies.  Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan starred in A Night at the Roxbury, while Adam Sandler was The Wedding Singer (with Drew Barrymore) and The Waterboy (with Henry Winkler and Jerry Reed).  Norm MacDonald and Artie Lang star in one of my favorite comedies (though many people found it NOT funny) – Dirty Work.  Finally, Antonio Banderas is excellent in The Mask of Zorro with Catherine Zeta Jones!

My pick for 1998 is the powerful D-Day film – Saving Private Ryan.

saving-private-ryan-main-review-1

This movie is about as real as it gets.  D-Day was a bloodbath.  This is such a powerful movie.  It leaves me in awe every time I see it.

1999.jpg

As we reach the end of the 90’s, there are plenty of great movies in this final year of the decade.  Comedies included the return of Austin Powers in The Spy Who Shagged Me, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo,  Big Daddy, Analyze This, and Office Space.  Adventure films included The Mummy, True Crime (the book was better), Sleepy Hollow, and Deep Blue Sea (Love the scene where Samuel L. Jackson gets it!).  For kids (and adults) Woody and Buzz are back in Toy Story 2 and Episode 1 of Star Wars (The Phantom Menace) graced the screen (and left adults wanting to kill Jar Jar Binks!).

My pick for favorite is based on the Stephen King novel – The Green Mile.

91pcpX7NWvL__SL1500_-1068x580

This remains one of my favorite films.  I cry like a baby at the end every time!  What an amazing story!  This is one of those rare instances where I have seen the movie and never read the book.  I am not sure how different the film is from the book, but the book remains on a shelf at home in the “to be read” stack.  Writing about it for this blog has just moved it up to the top of my list to read.

In closing

I have a feeling it will become easier to pick films in the decade ahead.  As I move into the 2000’s, I know for a fact that I have seen less movies.  I got to the point where I didn’t want to go to the movies to pay $10 to see a crappy movie.  It was happening was too often so I started watching less movies.

19 more years to go …. See you next time!

0000701_large-film-reel-tin-can_550

 

 

Some Favorite TV Episodes…

the-phil-silvers-show

This blog is my entry in The Fifth Annual Favorite TV Show Episode Blogathon, which is being hosted by Terence Towles Canote and his site, “A Shroud of Thoughts.” Terence has also written a book entitled “Television: Rare and Well Done – Essays on the Medium”.  He writes about TV’s “Golden Age”, westerns, the spy craze of the 1960’s, and a whole lot more.  It is available on Amazon.

His page can be found at: www.mercurie.blogspot.com/

The guidelines for this Blogathon stated that the shows being written about must be at least 25 years old, so you couldn’t write about anything after 1994. There are many participating in this blog and you can read their entries here:

http://mercurie.blogspot.com/2019/03/the-5th-annual-favourite-tv-show.html

To the tube ….

In all honesty, I could have written about countless episodes from countless shows. I may actually try to make it a point to write more about single episodes of shows in the future.  For this blog, there were TV episodes that immediately came to mind and the issue for me became “Which one should I write about?”  I narrowed the list down to four, and Terence said it was perfectly ok to write about all of them!  The shows I have chosen will give you a glimpse of early TV in the 50’s, classic Sci-Fi from the 50’s, and a groovy look at the 70’s.

Three of the four shows that follow are sitcoms.  One of the shows is a drama (which I will talk about more before that episode’s write-up).  I believe TV Guide once said that a good sitcom needed some specific things:  Good characters (even if they are static and predictable), an interesting and relatable plot, structure, believable dialogue, and conflict.   The sitcoms I am writing about certainly have each of these things.  I’d like to add one more element to this:  a pay-off.  Like a good joke, some of the most memorable episodes have a great pay-off at the end.  Some pay-offs are better than others.  Some pay-offs are funny, some are serious, some simply make a point.  Watch for each of these elements as you read about my four choices.

The Honeymooners

The Honeymooners first appeared on TV as a short sketch on the show Cavalcade of Stars on October 5, 1951. When the show moved to the CBS network and became The Jackie Gleason Show in 1952, the sketch continued.  It became a full half hour sitcom in October of 1955 and ran for 39 episodes, which are now referred to as “the Classic 39.”

The show was about Ralph Kramden, New York bus driver, and his wife Alice. They live on a tight budget in a rundown apartment. Ed Norton, a sewer worker, and his wife Trixie live upstairs.  Ralph and Ed are great friends – they bowl together, belong to a lodge, and work together on “get rich quick” schemes. (If this friendship sounds familiar – yes, this show was the blueprint for the cartoon, The Flintstones!) The first TV episode I am writing about is Show #1 of the Classic 39 – TV or Not TV.

The_honeymooners

The Honeymooners – TV or Not TV (Originally aired October 1, 1955)

Trixie tells Alice that their TV set is broken, and they need to get a new one. Alice points out that while they are getting their second TV, the Kramdens have never owned one.  Trixie suggests that Alice try to butter Ralph up by giving him the “pipe and slippers” routine.  She tells her to go out of her way to make him feel special and then, when the time is right, ask him for a TV.

When Ralph gets home, Alice puts the plan in action. She brings him slippers, calls him “sweetums” and “Sweetheart face”, brings him the paper, and is acting more loving than normal.  Ralph is immediately suspicious.  He figures she is being extra nice so he won’t go bowling or that her mother is hiding somewhere in the apartment.  She insists that this is not the case and asks what she can get him to drink.  His response is priceless, “Let me have what you’re drinking.  I want to get loaded, too!”

Once she feels he is comfortable, she says, “Oh, by the way, Ralph…” to which he immediately jumps to his feet! “Ah ha!  I knew there was a ‘by the way’ in there somewhere!  What’s ‘by the way’?”  She tells Ralph that the Nortons are getting a new TV and wants to know why they don’t have one yet.  Alice says that Ralph goes out at night to play pool, go bowling, or go to the lodge he belongs to while she is left to look at the ice box, the stove, the sink, and the four walls of her kitchen.  She pleads, “Well, I don’t wanna look at that icebox, that stove, that sink and these four walls.  I want to look at Liberace!”

When Ed Norton comes in, Ralph immediately yells at him and calls him a troublemaker.  He says that because they are getting a new TV, Alice wants one, too.  Ed confesses to Ralph that he was actually hoping that he could borrow some money from him.  He tells Ralph that the new TV’s are expensive and he really can’t afford to get a new one and no one will give him any more credit. This is when Ralph gets an idea that leads to the wonderful comedy of this episode.

Ralph says that he can’t afford a new TV and Ed can’t afford on either, so he says they can both pool together their money and buy one together.  He says it will solve all their problems.  Ralph can still go bowling, Ed can watch his Captain Video shows, and Alice can watch TV while he is away.  Ed begins to question why the TV automatically ends up at the Kramden’s house.  So Ralph suggests flipping a coin to see where the TV ends up.  “Heads I win, tails you lose,” Ralph says.  It comes up tails – so Ed loses.  Ralph pockets the coin and when Ed suddenly says, “Wait a minute” Ralph thinks Ed has figured out he’s been duped.  Nope.  He just wanted his coin back.

In the next scene, Ed is in front of the TV watching Captain Video.  He is wearing his space helmet, adjusts his disintegrator gun, and recites the Captain Video Pledge.  This is the final straw for Ralph.  He says that for three days he has watched nothing but “space shows, westerns, cartoons, and puppet shows” and tonight he wants to watch a movie.  He turns on a romantic movie and in the middle of it, Ed calls it silly and switches the channel back to Captain Video.  Ed then switches it back to Captain Video. It is like two school children fighting back and forth.  Ralph finally yells at Ed to “get out” and Ed reminds him that half of the set is his, and if he goes, half the set goes with him.

foreverfunny-04

They finally look in the paper to see if there is something that they both can agree on.  They find a boxing match to watch and once it is on it looks “fuzzy”.  Ed suggests that Ralph take the antenna and move it around the room.  He has Ralph move all over and out into the hallway.  One he is out in the hall, Ed locks him out, switches the channel to Captain Video, puts back on his space helmet and listens to Ralph banging on the door!

The next few scenes are among my favorites.  We see Ralph in front of the TV dozing off while watching a movie.  Alice calls to him from the bedroom and says he needs to get to bed because he has to work in the morning.  He shouts back that he is watching The Late Show.  He continues to doze and Alice again calls to him.  He finally gets up and turns the TV on.  His eyes are half closed, and instead of walking through the bedroom door, he walks into the hallway.  In a very funny moment, we hear a bunch of crashing and banging.  Alice runs out of the bedroom to find Ralph walking back in holding his head.  He simply says, “I fell down the stairs.”  As they walk in the bedroom, Alice yells at him for staying up late instead of going to bed.

What follows is one of the best scenes in this episode.  All is quiet and the door to the Kramden’s apartment opens and in walks Ed.  He is in his robe and pajamas and carrying a bag.  He turns on the TV and we hear the announcer say, “And now for the Late, LATE, show.”  Ed pulls out a huge submarine sandwich from the bag and begins to eat as some scary music plays from the TV.  While Ed is eating, there are gunshots and a woman screaming from the TV.  Ralph comes flying out of the bedroom and sees that Ed is watching TV.  He is furious and tells Ed to get out of the apartment.  Ed again argues that he owns part of the set. The argument continues and Alice comes out of the bedroom.

6a00e54ffb0bef883401b7c72ed827970b-800wi

When Ralph laments “Why does all of this happen to me?” Alice reminds him that he is the one who was too cheap to buy a TV and so he conned Ed into going in on a set with him, so he could get one for half price.  Alice then says that she doesn’t understand them.  She reminds them that they are good friends and they don’t have any troubles when they bowl or shoot pool together.  She asks them why they can’t get along now.  This, of course makes them both feel awful and they apologize to each other.  Ed asks Ralph if he can stay and watch the end of the movie.  When Ralph hears about the movie, he pulls up a chair next to Ed.  As the movie plays, they both doze off and fall asleep.

Alice returns to the kitchen and finds both men asleep.  She gives them both a blanket and says, “I’ve gotta admit it, Ralph.  For once in your life, you’re right.  We should have never gotten a television set.”

honeymoonersTVORNOTTV-e1459562281248

One of the reasons this is one of my favorite episodes is because of the scene where Norton sneaks in to the apartment to watch his movie.  Jackie Gleason did not like to rehearse.  He read the script and performed it once – when the camera was rolling.  When you see this scene, you will notice Art Carney begins to laugh when Ralph comes running out of the bedroom.  It was the first time doing the scene together and it cracked him up.  It is such a quick moment, and you really have to watch Carney when it happens.  The pro that Art was, he is able to recover quickly and finish the scene.

_______

The second TV Episode I am writing about is also an episode of the Honeymooners and was also part of the Classic 39.  This episode gives us a look at the Norton’s apartment.  Compared to the Kramden’s, the Norton’s look like they are doing much better financially.  It is much nicer, it has a much more updated feel, and he has a machine to record records (which had to cost him a pretty penny).  We also get to see just how much Ralph and his mother-in-law dislike each other, which is one of the reasons this episode is a favorite of mine.

The Honeymooners – A Matter of Record (Originally aired January 7, 1956)

Ralph is excited that he has two tickets to the Broadway hit play, “Murder Strikes Out.”  It is a play that has everyone talking!  It has a chills, thrills, and a surprise ending! Ralph is excited because he has always promised to take Alice to a real Broadway show and he can finally do it.  He tells her to get dressed because they are going to make a date of it.

Alice asks if the tickets are for that night and Ralph tells her they are.  She tells Ralph that she cannot go because her mother is coming over for a visit.  He cannot believe that she would give up a night to go to a real show because her mother is coming.  She tells him that it is impossible and that she cannot go because he mother is going to arrive any minute.  She suggests that Ed Norton go with him.  Ed agrees and goes up to change.

Ralph is more and more angry at the thought of Alice not going because of her mother.  It is obvious that she and he do not get along with each other.  He cannot believe that he is going to the play with a “space cadet” because of her mother.  He bad mouths her and Alice says that she knows her mother isn’t the easiest person to get along with and tells Ralph that is no reason to act the way he is.  He tells her that he acts that way because “Your mother is a blabbermouth.”

This word is obviously not one that Alice likes at all and tells Ralph to stop calling her that.  He replies, “All right, you’re the expert on crossword puzzles.  Give me another word for blabbermouth.”  He then explains why he dislikes her so much.  He tells Alice that from the moment she arrives until the moment she leaves, she’ll be talking about why she should have married one of her other boyfriends, why he is so fat, and why there isn’t new furniture in the apartment.  He says she is nosy and “if there is one thing I hate, it’s a nosy blabbermouth!”

With this Alice delivers an ultimatum.  “Now listen Ralph.  I am warning you for the last time. You call her that once more, and when my mother leaves here tonight, I just might go with her.” Ralph tells her he won’t say a word to her or her mother.  Alice says that would be fine because there won’t be any arguments that way.  Ralph then asks, “You think because I don’t say a word, there won’t be an argument?  I’ll bet you a million dollars that she won’t be in this apartment three minutes before she starts an argument! I won’t have to say a word!”

With this there is a knock at the door and Alice’s mother comes in. As she enters, in a very funny move, Ralph grabs the alarm clock and sets it for 3 minutes.  He holds up three fingers to Alice as if to say, “She’s got three minutes!”  As soon as mother is in the door, she complains that Alice lives too far from the subway.  She slams Ralph by saying that she guesses that they can’t do better with the rent they can afford and how important it is to have a husband who is a provider.  She then says that Alice looks think and accuses her of not eating – she even goes a step further to slam Ralph by insinuating that maybe she’s not getting enough of the food in the house.  With each little jab, Ralph gets more uncomfortable and rolls his eyes.

hqdefault

Just as predicted, Alice’s mother then begins to talk about an old boy that “used to be crazy” about Alice.  She tells him how tall and handsome he is and then jabs at Ralph again saying, “I guess a man doesn’t have to get fat if he doesn’t want to.”  She then goes a step further and says “of all the boys you brought to our house, he’s the only one I had any use for.” (Ralph had obviously been to her house – so we have yet another jab at him.)

Alice pours her mother a cup of coffee and asks Ralph if he wants some, but he just grunts (keeping his promise not to say a word).  Her mother asks what’s wrong with him, and Alice tells her he is fine and that he is going to the Broadway show.  When she tells her mother the name of the show, she brushes it off and simply says “oh that.”  Ralph continues to be agitated as Alice’s mother says that her neighbor has seen it.  She goes on about how it was supposed to be suspenseful and give you chills and thrills, and then says, “and all that stuff about ‘don’t tell your friends the surprise ending.’  Well it was no surprise to Mrs. Finley (the camera is on Ralph as Alice’s mother is about to spoil the whole thing). She knew the whole time that it wasn’t the uncle who committed the murder – it was the husband!”

What follows is the moment that brings this episode to my list of favorites:

record18

As if on cue, as soon as Alice’s mother ruins the ending of the play, the alarm clock rings.  The three minutes are up and Ralph is done.  He stands up and slams his hand on the alarm clock to shut it off.  He turns to his mother and in classic Jackie Gleason style yells, “YOU.  Are a Blabbermouth!  A Blabbermouth!  You!  Blabbermouth!” and then tells her to get out!  Throughout his rant Alice is trying to get him to stop.  Alice’s mother get’s up and leaves.  Ed walks in as Alice walks out.

31893414ef7d429dc75da0651cf20627--the-honeymooners-tv-land

Ralph tells Ed that Alice’s mother ruined it all for him.  He tells Ed the outcome of the play.  That doesn’t bother Ed, who still wants to go.  When Ralph questions why he’d want to go now that he knows the ending, Ed says he’ll watch it right up to the end and then get up and walk out.

In the next scene, we see Ralph sulking because Alice is still at her mother’s house.  She’s been gone 5 days and Ralph is miserable.  He tells Ed that if he could find a way to talk to her, he would pour out his heart to her and she’d forgive him.  Ed has an idea.  He pulls out a recorder and tells Ralph he can record an apology on a record and that way, Alice will know exactly how sorry he is.

As Ralph begins to apologize to Alice.  He tells her how miserable he is without her there.  He then even apologizes to her mother.  As he does so, he says that “she doesn’t mean the things she says.  It’s just her nature. She doesn’t mean to be mean.  She’s just born that way.”  The more he talks about his mother-in-law, the more angry he becomes.  It’s like he is reliving the entire moment all over again.  As he continues, he gets louder and angrier.  “When she spilled the beans about the end of the play, I shouldn’t have got mad at that.  I should’ve expected it from her. I know how she is.  It’s never gonna be any different Alice! She’s gonna be the same old way, Alice!  She’s a Blabbermouth! ….”

A_Matter_or_Record

Ed jumps in and stops him and asks him what he is doing.  He explains that every time he thinks of her mother he flips. He tells him to stop thinking about her mother and to think about Alice.  Ed puts his last blank record on the recorder, leaves the room at Ralph’s request and Ralph records a very heartfelt apology.  We really see the tender side of Ralph as he records this.  When he is done he calls Ed back into the room.  Ed begins to cry because he has been listening.

Ralph gives Ed Alice’s mother’s address and he addresses the envelope.  Ed asks his wife to hand him the record from the recorder, and she hands him the first record! In the next scene, Ralph is questioning Ed – Did he send it?  Did he send it to the right address? He cannot figure out why Alice hasn’t come home.  There is a knock on the door and it is one of the members of Ed’s stickball team.  He tells Ed that one of the members can’t play the next day because he has the measles.  The boy also says that Ed’s wife told him he’d be down with Ralph and that she was upstairs talking to Alice.

Ralph is excited because she is in the building and MUST be coming home.  He tells Ed to go back upstairs so he can be alone when Alice comes back.  He thanks him for mailing the record.   When Alice comes in, she is quiet.  Ralph asks if she got the record and says he meant every word.  She looks at him and says, “So my mother was born mean, huh? It’s in her nature, huh?  Once a blabbermouth always a blabbermouth ….”  She tells him she is glad he sent her the record because now she knows how he really feels and leaves. Ralph pleads as she leaves and tells her she got the wrong record.  After she is gone, he calls up to Ed Norton to come down.  He wants to tell him “how it came out.”  As the scene fades out, Ralph is smacking the stick from the stickball boy on the kitchen table awaiting Ed’s arrival.

The next scene opens with Ed entering Ralph’s apartment.  Ralph angrily tells him to leave.  He calls him a menace and tells him to leave.  Ed informs Ralph that Alice is coming back.  He took the right record over to Alice’s mother’s house and played it for her.  He tells Ralph that she cried and cried and forgives him.  He tells Ralph that she is on the way home, and will be bringing him a steak for dinner.

There is a knock on the door and it is someone from the Health Department.  He asks if there are any children living there.  Ralph says no.  The doctor explains that there is an outbreak of measles in the building and names off the children who have it – all of who are on Ed’s stickball team.  The doctor asks if Ralph has ever had the measles and he says no.  He gives him a quick exam and says he has them now, and explains that he probably caught them from hanging around Ed.

When Alice finally arrives home, she is prevented from entering by the Health Department doctor.  Ralph begs the doctor telling him that he hasn’t seen his wife in three weeks.  Ralph reluctantly tells Alice to go back to her mother’s until the outbreak has subsided.  Ed tells Ralph how impressed he is, sending his wife away so she don’t get the measles, especially when he really wants her there.  He says how sad it is tat he’ll be there alone to cook and clean.  Ralph grabs the stick, begins to slam it on the table and says, “She didn’t leave me with the mess, stickball coach!” and yells at Ed to put on the apron.

I think that this is just another example of a great story and great writing.  The story has twists to it (wrong record mailed, catching the measles) and we get to see not only the typical angry Ralph, we get to see the tender side and just how much he and Alice love each other.  We also see some wonderful gestures from Ed as Ralph’s friend.  It is just a great all around episode with some very touching and very funny moments.

______

My third pick for favorite TV Episodes comes from the pen of Rod Serling.  It also comes to us from The Twilight Zone.

market

Personally, I think Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone was such a big hit because of the formula it followed.  Each episode started with a sort of teaser – something to introduce you to the characters or the situation.  This was usually followed by a narration by Rod.  You then have “Act 1” which furthers the story and identifies the “conflict”, if you will.  “Act 2” the characters try to resolve the conflict, we are led to the climax, and the fake or false resolution and the pay-off/twist at the end.

This is far from original, as many radio shows in the 1940’s followed this same format.  You can give a listen to Suspense, The Mysterious Traveler, or The Whistler to find examples of this.  Rod, obviously listened to a lot of radio growing up to the radio and was influenced by this.  He used some of the same elements as he wrote shows for the Twilight Zone.

If you had to pick a show from the Twilight Zone series that exemplified a “classic” episode, Time Enough At Last would easily be one of the choices.  It has characters we connect with and feel for, it has a plot that is believable (and very possible at the time it aired), very real dialogue (Rod was very particular about making sure the words spoken by the actors were genuine), and a very ironic twist at the end.

The Twilight Zone – Time Enough At Last (Originally aired November 20, 1959)

As the story opens, we are introduced to Henry Bemis (played by the amazing Burgess Meredith), a bank teller who sees the world through “Coke Bottle” glasses and loves to read.  As a matter of fact, he is reading on the job, and his reading has caused him to not give enough money to his customer.  He is so enthralled by the book he is reading, he even asks his customer if she’s read it.  He goes on about the characters and the story, but by the time he looks up from the book, she has already left.  No one seems to be as interested in the book as he is.

TEAL cap1

Reading on the job is taking a toll on his work.  He is reprimanded by his boss, the bank president who tells him to read on his own time.  He is told that is he is caught reading on the job again, he can basically look for another job.  Reading is also getting him in trouble at home.  His wife detests that he spends so much time reading and has basically told him it is not allowed at home.  His wife is a real witch who says that when he is reading he is “sacrificing conversation”. (In all honesty, she isn’t very pleasant and I can’t imagine conversation with her being pleasant either.

She tells Henry that they are going to visit friends.  He grabs a book from under a couch cushion and sticks it in his jacket pocket.  His wife asks him what is in his pocket and he acts like he has no idea.  It is a book of poetry.  She asks if he would like to read her something from it.  He gets excited that she is interested to hear poems and he opens the book to find that she has gone through with a pen or pencil and scribbled out every word on every page of the book.  He is visibly upset by this and she grabs the book and rips out the pages and throws them on the floor.  He drops to the floor and begins to scoop them up.

I love the opening narration from Rod Serling:

“Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers. A bookish little man whose passion is the printed page but who is conspired against by a bank president and a wife and a world full of tongue-cluckers and the unrelenting hands of a clock. But in just a moment, Mr. Bemis will enter a world without bank presidents or wives or clocks or anything else. He’ll have a world all to himself – without anyone.”

The next day, we see Henry look at the clock, grab his book and newspaper, put up his “this window closed” sign, and he heads off to read at lunch.  We see him walk to the basement, he enters the bank vault, pulls the door shut and sits down to read.  The newspaper headline foreshadows what is to come:  “H-Bomb Capable of Total Destruction”

While in the vault, Henry is knocked unconscious by a huge shock wave.  When he wakes up, he walks upstairs to find total desolation.  The bank is in ruins there is complete destruction.  As he wanders outside, we hear the eerie sounds of howling winds and see a smoldering landscape.

267227

As he wanders through what is left of the world, the Rod Serling narration returns:

“Seconds, minutes, hours, they crawl by on hands and knees for Mr. Henry Bemis, who looks for a spark in the ashes of a dead world. A telephone connected to nothingness, a neighborhood bar, a movie, a baseball diamond, a hardware store, the mailbox that was once his house and now is rubble; they lie at his feet as battered monuments to what was but is no more. Mr. Henry Bemis, on an eight hour tour of a graveyard.”

As he continues to walk and examine the rubble, he finds what is left of his mailbox.  He calls to his wife, but there is no answer.  It is becoming more and more obvious that he is the last man on earth.  On the bright side, there is plenty of food.  There are cans of food available in the remains of grocery stores.  Sadly, he is alone.  He even states that the “worst part” is “being alone”.

timeenough

As time continues to pass, despite Henry telling himself that it’s ok, he is desperately searching for someone – anyone!   He wants to find something to do and someone to do it with. He stumbles on what is left of a sporting goods store and on the ground he sees a revolver.  He thinks of the terrible loneliness, picks up the revolver and decides to commit suicide.  As he puts the gun to his head, and notices in front of him the remains of the public library.

time-enough-at-last

He runs to find books – hundreds of books!  He picks them up and reads off titles and authors.  He has hit the jackpot!  He can get lost in the stories of romance, adventure, and more!  There is no one to tell him whether he can or cannot read!  No one is there to tell him what to read and what NOT to read!  He has found the mother load of books and they are all his for the reading!

He stacks the books into piles.  He has 12 piles for every year.  Each pile contains the books that he will read for that month.  He has piles for years to come.  He has planned it out and is excited to know that he will be able to spend the rest of his days lost in books.  He was a man who never had enough time to read.  As he sits on the library steps he says that “the best thing is there’s time.  There’s all the time I need.  All the time I want.  Time.  Time.  Time!  There’s time enough at last!”

40

We see Henry Bemis in a moment of perfect jubilation, and it all changes in the blink of an eye.  He sees a book on the stairs, and as leans down to reach for it, his glasses fall from his face and the lenses break.  He searches for them with his hands and eventually finds the frames.  He lifts them up and the lenses, which are cracked, fall out and fall to the ground.  In the classic Twilight Zone twist, Henry says simply,  “That’s not fair. That’s not fair at all. There was time now. There was all the time I wanted…! That’s not fair!” He bursts into tears, surrounded by books he will never be able to read.

8c1927100d6524fbf8e80efe6ec5aa1b

As powerful as this is, what makes the ending even more powerful is the final narration of Rod Serling:

“The best-laid plans of mice and men – and Henry Bemis, the small man in the glasses who wanted nothing but time. Henry Bemis, now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself. Mr. Henry Bemis – in the Twilight Zone. “

It’s interesting to note that the final narration may be a tip of the hat to actor Burgess Meredith’s acting credits – he was in the 1939 movie “Of Mice and Men”.  Rod Serling must have liked him as he, and Jack Klugman each starred in 4 episodes of the series.  He is also in the episodes Mr. Dingle The Strong, The Obsolete Man, and Printer’s Devil.  he also appears in the Twilight Zone movie.

Why is this one of my favorite TV episodes?  To me it is just perfect.  I don’t care how many times I see it, I am always blown away at the ending – and ending that I know is coming, and yet, still love it.  It is a masterpiece!

_____

My final entry to this blog is a selfish one.  For 30+ years, I worked on the radio as an on air personality.  So I guess it makes sense to give a nod to one of the greatest “radio” oriented TV shows, WKRP in Cincinnati.  This sitcom is funny to watch whether you work in radio or not.  It’s a bit funnier if you work in radio, because you truly know someone just like each of the characters of this show!

1176700233_1

While in radio, I worked as a Program Director (Andy Travis’ job on the show), Promotions Director, Music Director, Assistant Program Director, Production Director, and even held the position of General Manager (Arthur Carlson’s job on the show) for a short time.  Usually, the Promotions Director and the Program Director get together to come up with an promotional idea for the station – usually a giveaway or something like that.  A Salesperson (Herb Tarlek on the show) then goes out to find a sponsor to tie in with the promotion.  It is then executed on the air with the personalities (Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap on the show).

This episode made my list of favorites because, first of all, it has all the great things that a good sitcom should have (mentioned above), second, I’ve had to deal with radio promotions that didn’t go as planned, the pay-off of this episode is one of the greatest in television, and finally, the premise of the show is based on a real event!  Over the years, the origins are not quite clear, but MOST of the stories say that a radio executive named Clarke Brown who said that an Atlanta radio station did a similar promotion where the turkeys were given away.

As I stated, the pay-off to this episode is so good, it really is the reason why it makes all the “best of” lists.  The story is a slow go to get there.  The first act of the episode sets up the premise and it isn’t until halfway through the show that we start to see where it is going and finally get to the pay-off.

WKRP in Cincinnati – Turkey’s Away (Originally aired October 30, 1978)

General Manager Arthur Carlson just wants to be a part of things.  His mother owns the radio station and he is managing it.  He is nosing around the on air studio, he is asking questions of everyone and Program Director, Andy Travis is hearing all about it.  “You gotta do something about Mr. Carlson…”

The station had just recently flipped formats to a rock format, and Mr. Carlson is starting to feel left out of the day to day operations, and a bit unappreciated.  He seems to be up in everyone’s business.  We learn that Mr. Carlson has come up with a Thanksgiving promotion and only he and Herb know about it.  There is a lot of concern among the staff, but Andy is ok to let Mr. Carlson have his promotion.

As the stage to the second act is set, Les Nessman, WKRP’s newsman has now been brought in to go to the spot where the “event” will happen and broadcast live.  We still don’t know what the secret promotion is!  We just know it will be big and Les will do a play by play.

les-wkrp-2

The pay-off begins when Les begins his broadcast from the Pinedale Shopping Mall. As he begins to broadcast, we see Dr. Johnny Fever, Venus Flytrap, Andy Travis, and Bailey Quarters in the studio listening to the broadcast.  Les begins by saying:

“I’m here with hundreds of people who have gathered to witness what has been described as perhaps the greatest turkey event in Thanksgiving Day history. All we know for sure is that in a very few moments there are going to be a lot of happy people out here.”

Les_Nessman_s_famous_line_0_62626750_ver1.0_640_360_1542828528695_62834713_ver1.0_640_360

It is obvious by his play by play that he has really no idea what is about to happen either.  He says he hears the sound of a helicopter.  Andy is also intrigued as he asks those around him, “A helicopter?”

In a very funny moment, Les says there is something being pulled behind the helicopter.  It is a banner.  “and it says H a p p y… T h a n k s… giving… from W… K… R… P!” What is funny to me (as a radio guy) is that he reads it, and even though he works for the station, he drags out the call letters one at a time…..” Even the people in the studio at the station are trying to help him drag out the call letters!

Note:  The Hindenburg was a huge airship that literally exploded and the disaster was broadcast on radio.  When the writers wrote Les’s broadcast, they had that broadcast in mind.

For what happens next, here is the script of Les’s broadcast courtesy of http://www.imdb.com:

Les Nessman:  “What a sight, ladies and gentlemen. What a sight. The ‘copter seems to circling the parking area now. I guess it’s looking for a place to land. No! Something just came out of the back of a helicopter. It’s a dark object, perhaps a skydiver plummeting to the earth from only two thousand feet in the air… There’s a third… No parachutes yet… Those can’t be skydivers. I can’t tell just yet what they are but… Oh my God! They’re turkeys! Oh no! Johnny can you get this? Oh, they’re crashing to the earth right in front of our eyes! One just went through the windshield of a parked car! This is terrible! Everyone’s running around pushing each other. Oh my goodness! Oh, the humanity! People are running about. The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement! Folks, I don’t know how much longer… The crowd is running for their lives. I think I’m going to step inside. I can’t stand here and watch this anymore. No, I can’t go in there. Children are searching for their mothers and oh, not since the Hindenburg tragedy has there been anything like this. I don’t know how much longer I can hold my position here, Johnny. The crowd… (Silence)”

19-WKRP-turkeys-away.w700.h700

Richard Sanders, who plays Les, is brilliant in this scene.  You can totally see the horror in his face as he realizes what is happening.  That, along with his wonderful read of the dialogue, makes this a very believable story!

Johnny Fever, in shock as are the rest of the staff in the studio, turns on the microphone once he realizes they have lost communication with Les and in a brilliant live ad-lib says:

“Thanks for that on-the-spot report, Les. For those of you who’ve just tuned in, the Pinedale Shopping Mall has just been bombed with live turkeys. Film at eleven.”

We then see Jennifer, Andy, and others fielding complaint calls.  Les walks in and he is stunned and in a state of shock.

wkrp-9

When asked what happened, Les replies:

“I don’t know. A man and his two children tried to kill me. After the turkeys hit the pavement, the crowd kind of scattered but, some of them tried to attack me! I tried to jam myself into a phone booth. Then Mr. Carlson had the helicopter land in the middle of the parking lot. I guess he thought he could save the day by turning the rest of the turkeys loose. It gets pretty strange after that.

When Mr. Carlson and Herb walk in to the station, they look like they have been through hell.  Their clothes are torn, there are feathers on them, and they look disheveled.  Mr. Carlson is in disbelief!  He tells the staff that he doesn’t understand how it didn’t work.  He tells them that he had planned it out down to the last detail. He went as far as to say, “It was perfect!”.

wkrp-8

Mr. Carlson and Herb walk into his office and the rest of the staff continue to ask Les about what happened.  Terrified, Les says that it was like the turkeys mounted a counter attack and were “organized”.  The credits of the show begin to appear on the screen and then we have the classic pay-off.  Carlson emerges from his office and says the ten words that make this episode a classic:

“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”

2

As I said, it was a slow build up, but the pay-off remains one of the most quoted lines from the show.  As mentioned earlier, the episode is based on a real radio station event.  In real life, the turkeys were thrown off trucks to listeners, and sadly, the results were about the same.

_______

I chose these episodes after thinking on it for about 5 minutes.  In that time I came up with about 15 episodes and narrowed it down to these.  After I made the decision, I realize that I could have written about my favorite episodes of Perry Mason, Sanford and Son, Mission: Impossible, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Get Smart, The Monkees, and the list goes on and on….  These were just the ones that hit me immediately.  I suppose it is nice to know that I will have a few in the bank for next year’s blogathon.

I want to thank Terence for indulging me and allowing me to write about four episodes instead of one.  Thank you for reading!

How about you?  What is YOUR favorite classic TV episode??

 

 

 

 

Birthday Tribute to “Fred”

If you have read my blogs in the past, you know that it consists of a mixture of pop culture things (like movie, TV and music thoughts) and personal things (radio stories, school memories, and things from my childhood).  As I thought about today’s blog topic, I realized that without this man in my life – this blog would probably not exist!  I guess I didn’t really realize it until now. As I scrolled back over the blogs of the past, I see just how much influence he has had in almost ALL of them!  I am talking, of course, about my dad.  Today – is his 72nd birthday.  So here are some birthday thoughts for dad.

In March I wrote a blog about his musical influence.  My musical taste is very broad, because I was introduced to so many different genres by him.  He introduced me to rock and roll with the music of Little Richard, Bobby Darin, Roy Orbison and Elvis.  He introduced me to the “Great American Songbook” with music from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Bing Crosby.  He introduced me to Jazz with Louis Prima, and Ella Fitzgerald.  He played me music from Johnny Paycheck, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard to introduce me to country music.  The list goes on and on … but what about other influences?

Movies

I could spend an entire week writing about the various movies he introduced to me!  As far as the classic films, most of those were introduced to me because he saw that they were playing on the Monday Night Movie on regular TV or something.  You have to remember VCR’s and DVD players were not a staple in the home yet.  You also have to remember that I grew up at the time where “pay TV” was just being incarnated.  One of the first pay services was “ON TV”.  It came on channel 20 at like 8 or 9 at night.  They put an antenna on your roof and it unscrambled the signal so you could watch movies.  I remember one time I wanted to record Smokey & the Bandit – but as I said, VCR’s were not for home use yet.  The last showing of it on ON TV was at 1am one Friday night.  My dad actually stayed up with a cassette recorder in front of the TV and recorded the audio for me.  What makes this even better is there were scenes that were so funny to him, you could hear him laughing in the background as the movie played.

With Cable TV came The Movie Channel and HBO.  As more and more channels became available, American Movie Classics, Turner Classic Movies, and others were the way to watch them. So he’d tell me “You gotta watch AMC at 3 today – they’re playing ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’!”  Growing up, I remember hearing my dad talking with my grandparents, my Uncle Tom, or his friends about actors and actresses and the movies they were in.  “Great Movie!” or “What a great flick!” I’d hear him say.  Well, if he thought it was great – I wanted to see it!  Movies I remember watching – only because I had heard him talk about them included The Godfather, White Heat,  Little Caesar, Key Largo, Patton, Midway, The Maltese Falcon, and Night of the Hunter.  Many of these were films that I’d walk in to the living room and dad would be watching and he’d tell me about them and catch me up so I could watch it with him. I was introduced to Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, The Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello, Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Mitchum, Burt Reynolds, and SO many actors just be casually walking into a room where he was watching TV!

The Godfather Part 1 & 2 and Patton are probably some of my favorite films.  I remember watching Godfather the first time trying to keep all the names straight.  Don Barzinni, Don Stracci, Luca Brazi, Sonny, Fredo, and Tom Hagen were all characters that I had to remember (amongst many more).  Dad was there to explain so many things to me as I watched this film the first few times through.  I have found myself doing the same thing when I sit and watch it with someone who has never seen it.  (On a side note, for one class I had to read books and write book reports for it.  I remember dad wrote a book report for me on The Godfather! He got an A!)

TV

Look through my DVD collection and amongst the movies are entire series of classic TV shows.  This, again, is a direct result from my dad’s influence.  I remember watching re-runs of The Honeymooners on channel 50.  I remember when dad told me that Ralph Kramden and Sheriff Buford T. Justice from Smokey and the Bandit were the same person!  I don’t know if I would have known that as a 7 year old!  I remember staying home sick and watching re-runs of the Dick Van Dyke Show on channel 9 out of Canada.  I knew about Carl Reiner because he was one of many cameos in the movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (which should have been mentioned in the movie section of this blog).  The other stars of “Mad World” were also known to me because of my dad:  I knew Mickey Rooney from a flick called Quicksand he rented.  I knew Milton Berle from The Dean Martin Roasts and other TV appearances. I knew Jonathan Winters from a classic Twilight Zone episode (Loved watching TZ with him).  Among the other “classic” TV shows he introduced me to:  The Untouchables, F-Troop, The Munsters, Car 54, Where Are You?, McHale’s Navy, Perry Mason, Combat, Star Trek, Hogan’s Heroes, Mission: Impossible, and Get Smart.

With the availability of video rentals, I remember dad bringing home TV shows that were not shown on TV anymore or shown late at night.  You couldn’t really watch The Little Rascals, Laurel and Hardy, or The Three Stooges on TV unless you stayed up late for comedy classics – which usually was on at 11pm or midnight.  With the VCR, though, we could go to the store and rent them!  I had listened to Jack Benny and Amos and Andy on cassette tapes of old radio shows (again, thanks to dad), but now I was able to see these TV shows – and they were amazing! I used to love watching these shows with him.  One thing I always love seeing is my dad laughing and these shows (and a couple I will mention in a minute) always made him laugh – I mean big belly laughs!

I guess you could say that I grew up at a time where some of  the “current” shows are now considered classics.  Those shows, my brother and I watched on a weekly basis and watched in re-runs.  These shows included The Love Boat, Mork & Mindy, Happy Days, Lavern and Shirley, The Dukes of Hazzard, Emergency!, Welcome Back, Kotter, All In the Family, The Jeffersons, The Carol Burnett Show, Barney Miller, Fantasy Island, and Charlie’s Angels.  Some of those dad introduced me to, while others he really couldn’t stand.

Sanford and Soupy

The one show that I will forever associate with my dad is Sanford and Son.  These shows, no matter how many times we see them remain funny.  I can be on the phone with my dad and say, “So last night I watched “the piano movers” and we will both start laughing!  Years later, we can quote this show to each other and still crack each other up.  Why do we and can we bond over this show? Perhaps it’s the fact that the show is about a father and son and their relationship.  I remember how I thought it was odd that Lamont always called Fred, “Pop”.  I never used to call my dad that, although somewhere over the years, dad has become “Pop” to me.  I call him that all the time now.  As a matter of fact, he still often calls me “Lamont”!  It is not used flippantly, I use it as a genuine term of endearment!  He’s my Pop – and I use it with much love and affection!

Another show that dad introduced me to was The New Soupy Sales Show.  He grew up watching Soupy at lunch time.  My grandmother often told stories of how Soupy would say “Tomorrow, we’re having bologna sandwiches for lunch” and if dad didn’t have them, he was pissed!  Soupy’s new show on channel 20 was pretty much just like the old show.  It was full of puns, bad jokes, clips of old movies, funny horoscopes on the radio, the Words of Wisdom, and his friends White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie and Hippy.  It may have been on right after school and before dad came home from work, because I don’t recall him watching it too much with me, however, when it became available on video – we talked about it just like we talk about Sanford and Son.

Traits of a Good Dad

When I became a father, I remember reading something about what makes a good dad.  Let me say here that none of us is perfect.  My dad was not perfect and neither am I.  My point is that when you look at these things, we can assess things we are doing well, things we can improve, and things that we will start doing.  As I think back on those things – I can see where I strive to achieve those things and, at the same time, can see a lot of those things in my own father.

For example, a father must be a good disciplinarian.  All dad’s love their children, but you know and I know that you can’t let them get away with everything.  Dad was this way.  The old story about mom saying “Wait till your father get’s home” and the child being scared to death?  Yep!  That was me!  You didn’t want to make dad mad!  I would say I made him mad more than a few times.

One time in particular I remember telling him I was spending the night at a friends house.  I was out with my girlfriend at the time.  We were still in high school, and it was a weekend.  We had no money, so we weren’t going to a hotel or anything like that.  We just planned on staying out all night.  I don’t remember how he found out, but  I remember getting a page from the friend who I said I was staying with and he asked why my dad thought I was there!  I think my girlfriend’s mom had called my house or something.  At any rate – I was in BIG trouble! Dad’s punishment was a fair one (even though I didn’t think so at the time).  He proved a point and I NEVER did that again.  He let me know that he was in charge.  Another time, I got in trouble at school for something.  We had a meeting with the teacher and he said what he would go on to tell every teacher afterward in parent teacher conferences, “If he gets out of line again, you have my permission to smack his ass!” (Yes, this was back before a teacher giving the kid a paddle was considered wrong).

A good dad allows his kids to make mistakes. Dad watched me make a TON of them, but he knew that if I was going to learn, I needed to make those mistakes.  He’d never let me make a mistake that was life threatening or would put me in danger, but he’d let me make mistakes that he knew, when all was said and done – I’d mature and learn from it.  While there were things he questioned, he never really interfered.  I learned a lot from that – even though there were times I wish he HAD said something!

A good dad has an open mind.  Times change.  The way that things were done when he was growing up, well, they may be handled differently now (the paddling in school is a good example).  He respected that and embraces it to a degree.  As someone who loved all kinds of music, I will never forget the time he called me into the living room to play me this “cool song” he heard and liked.  It was “Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-lite.  The song was not like anything he’s ever played for me, but he liked it and played it at DJ jobs!  He embraces change!

A good dad teaches his kids to appreciate things.  Those things can be anything.  My dad certainly taught me how to appreciate family and friends.  He taught me how to appreciate good music, movies and TV.  He taught me how to appreciate what you have and the importance of living within your means.

A good dad accepts that his kids aren’t exactly like him. This may or may not have been a lesson he learned from my grandpa.  My dad had always been very accepting of my brother and I.  While we all have a lot of similarities, we are all SO very different.  He respects that our religious and political views may not be the same as his.

A good dad spends quality time with his children. This is one of those things that is difficult to do in today’s society.  We spend so much time working and trying to get things done, that we often spend the hours we are not at work doing these things.  As a divorced father with limited time with my boys, I really try hard to make the time we spend quality time, even if it is just a car ride.  Some of my favorite memories with my dad are just him and I throwing the ball around in the front yard.  That meant more to me than he will ever know!

A good dad leads by example.  Dad was never really the “Do as I say, not as I do” kind of guy.  He was a hard worker and knew the importance of providing for our family.  I never once thought of growing up and not having a job.  Dad wasn’t always perfect in this area, but because of that, I was also able to take some of the things that I didn’t like him doing (like smoking) and not doing them.

A good dad is supportive and loyal.  I am sure that in my 30 year radio career, my dad probably thought “he needs to get out of that career and find something more stable”.  If he thought it – he never once told me that!  He was nothing but supportive!  If I ever came to him with something that he questioned, he might ask a question or two regarding the opposite viewpoint, but that was it.  He might ask “are you sure you want to do this” or “have you thought about what might happen if…”, and then he let me decide.  Whatever the decision, he supported it.  I have a great respect for that.

A good dad is someone who challenges his kids. I’m sure that there were many ways that dad challenged me.  I know there were times I wanted to quit something and he gave me the pep talk to keep going.  I cannot recall specific incidents, but I know they were there.

A good dad is a teacher.  While dad taught me how to throw a “submarine” ball and how to swing a golf club, he also taught me some valuable lessons.  One of the things I have hoped to do is to write down some of those lessons and pass them down to my own children.  To illustrate my point: there is a cartoon I saw once of two guys standing in front of three piles of stuff.  The one guy asked what they were.  The second guy points to the first pile and says, “this stuff is the stuff my dad gave me that I want to pass on to my kids.”  He points to the second pile and says, “this is the stuff my dad gave me that I don’t really need.” He points to the third pile and says, “this is my stuff that I want to pass on to my kids.”  That’s the way it is – as a father, you take things that you learned from your dad and keep the stuff you want to share, throw out what you don’t, and then add stuff of your own.

A good dad protects and provides for his family.  When times were tough and money was tight, my dad would DJ or play in the wedding band to bring in extra money.  I remember as a young boy my dad going back to college to get a degree so he could move up in his place of employment.  It took me over 20 years, but I also decided to go back to school to better provide for my family.  I know that my dad would do anything for us, and I would do the same for my family.

Finally, a good dad shows unconditional love.  I read where this is the greatest quality of a good father.  Even though his child may let him down, upset him, make him mad, disrespect him, and disappoint him … the love remains constant.  Not to get theological, but it is one of the great principles spoken of about God in the Bible.  It says that no matter how much a child of God angers Him, ignores Him, or disappoints Him – His love is never ending and ever present.  THAT is the kind of love a father has for his children.

I am lucky that I have never had to question whether or not my dad loves me.  He has done so much for me during my lifetime and continues to do so.  I can only hope that he knows how much he is appreciated.  I can only hope he knows how thankful I am that he was chosen to be my father.  I can only hope that he knows of the impact that he has made on me.  I hope that he will never have to question how much I love him.

10547924_10204569378177917_4105626192597065036_o

Thanks, Pop, for being such an amazing man!  Thanks for being a wonderful example to me.  Thanks for everything you have done to support, encourage, accept, and love my family.  Today, I wish you a very happy birthday and wish you many more in the future!  I love you, Pop.

“Lamont”

 

 

 

 

Tube Tunes….

sanford 1

Today, Quincy Jones turns 85.  He is a legend in the music business.  He is a record producer, actor, conductor, composer, musician, TV & film producer, instrumentalist, magazine founder, entertainment company executive and humanitarian.  He’s worked with some of the best musicians and produced some of the biggest albums in history.  He has worked with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson.  Call my crazy, but despite all of the things Quincy Jones is known for – I remember him for one thing – he recorded the Sanford and Son Theme song!

There was just something cool about this theme song.  The opening bass line followed by the catchy melody.  To this day, I laugh when I see a beat up truck driving around, I will sing the Sanford theme out loud!  In an episode of Scrubs, JD and Turk are having a serious discussion, that eventually ends up with them singing and dancing to the Sanford theme!  Recently someone did a “mash up” with Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines and, you guessed it, the theme to Sanford and Son.

Today, many shows don’t even bother with a theme song.  You see the credits scroll on the screen while the show is in progress.  This is sad.  A TV theme song kind of sets the mood for the show.  It will be a song with catchy lyrics or a melody that you can hum along with.  Today, lets go back and look at some of my favorite theme songs from TV’s past.  When we’re done – tell me your favorites that I may have missed.

The 50’s

Two of the earliest themes on my list come from shows considered classics.  First, The Andy Griffith Show.  This catchy tune is one that you can whistle along with.  Even without looking at a screen, whistling it makes you picture Andy and Opie walking with their fishing poles to the lake.  Second, The Dick Van Dyke Show.  What’s not to like about this one?  You only have to wonder whether or not he’s gonna trip over the ottoman when he walks in the house.

Then there is the Twilight Zone.  The haunting guitar part that plays those same four notes over and over is scary as hell!  As a kid, I remember freaking out when it was on.  Today, as I listen to it, it is perfect for the show.  It was the perfect music to play while Rod Serling explained that we were entering another dimension.  I can’t tell you how many times something obscure happens and I start humming the theme song!

Another one of my favorites was the theme to Perry Mason.  It was written by Fred Steiner who said he wanted to capture Perry’s sophistication and toughness.  The song is actually called Park Avenue Beat and it is a bluesy “piece of symphonic R&B”.  The song was re-recorded for the Perry Mason TV movies and was used by the Blues Brothers band while out touring.

Another theme song that I absolutely love, has a Blues Brothers tie in, too.  Peter Gunn is a private eye.  The initial base line accompanied by low brass instruments screams sleazy private eye.  It’s a great piece.  The song actually plays in the first Blues Brothers movie as the brothers are driving through Illinois.  They do a fine cover of it.

The 60’s

The shows of the 60’s and 70’s had some of the best theme songs!

The theme to Mission: Impossible is instantly recognizable.  It was composed by the great Lalo Schifrin.  What’s neat about the song is that it is in 5/4 time.  From the opening note – you can see the fuse light up and begin to burn.  It’s such a cool piece of music.  I was glad that they used it in the movies with Tom Cruise (even though I disliked them).

Wanna sing along with the theme to Batman?  You only need to sing the word “Batman” and you got it!  Neil Hefti, who was a composer and arranger, composed the theme with it’s simple guitar lick and vocal.  It was a hit for Hefti, The Ventures, and the The Marketts.

William Dozier, creator of Batman, also created the Green Hornet.  Even though the show didn’t last long, the theme song is memorable for a few reasons.  First, it is based on the classical piece, The Flight of the Bumblebee.  Second, playing the trumpet on the song is the great Al Hirt!  Classic!  One that you will hum for days.

Who can forget the theme to the Monkees?  “Here we come, walking down the street.  We get the funniest looks from, everyone we meet….”  Hey!  Hey!  They’re the Monkees!  For this show, they gathered 4 guys with little or no musical experience and made them a band.  The show appealed to kids and adults alike.  It was fast paced with quick jokes and 4 lovable characters who featured many of their hit songs on the show.

In the 60’s the guitar played a big part in theme songs.  Think about this, The Munsters theme had such a catchy lick that was sampled for the song Uma Thurman by Fall Out Boy.  It was cool enough to sample for one of today’s hit songs.

One of those great guitar theme songs was to Get Smart.  The opening sequence changed a little from season to season, but it always included Don Adams walking through a corridor with sets of doors one right after another until he finally makes it to the payphone that gets him into CONTROL headquarters.  Love this song and it never fails, if I am ever walking down a long hallway – I will almost always start to hum this song.

I mentioned the Ventures earlier, and they have one of the coolest theme songs – Hawaii 5-0.  It was a huge instrumental hit for the band.  It’s a great balance of guitar and horns.  The use of the tympani drum and the pyramid effect by the horns in this song is masterful!  It’s one of those theme songs you instantly crank up.

The 70’s

Disco was in and some theme songs were just “funky”.  Two examples of this are Barney Miller and it’s spin-off, Fish.  The funky bass in the two theme songs is prominent and sets the tone for the them.  The guitar melodies blend in and make them two themes that you could listen to over and over.  The horns in Barney Miller continue to crescendo to the end of the song itself.  It started slow and funky and ends in such a way that when it’s over you are disappointed cause you want more.

Norman Lear was a staple of 70’s TV.  He created All In The Family, Maude, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, Good Times, and the list of his credits goes on and on.  The Jeffersons was a spin-off of All In The Family.  George Jefferson is “moving on up” to a bigger and better life and that’s where the theme song sets you up.  It tells you the story.  The theme song was written by Ja’net Dubois (of Good Times) and Jeff Berry and sung by Dubois and a gospel choir.  Her vocal is amazing and so is the song.

How do I describe the theme song from What’s Happening!!?  As the show opens, the main characters are running down a sidewalk bouncing a ball.  The music kinda sounds like a ball is bouncing and then the soprano sax jumps in.  It’s odd, but it’s catchy.  It’s also written and composed by one of the most respected men in music – Henry Mancini!

The 70’s introduced us to the superhero Wonder Woman.  I do not know a boy alive who did not have a crush on Lynda Carter.  Much like the Batman theme, this theme repeats the character’s name a few times, but then expands on how wonderful she is.  There is a funky little bass line that drives the song and I can’t really remember much more because I was watching Lynda Carter run ….

Welcome Back, Kotter was the show that introduced us to John Travolta.  It was a comedy about a guy (Gabe Kaplan) who goes back to his old neighborhood to teach.  The show was originally going to be called Kotter.  The title was changed, however, because of the theme song.  It was written and recorded by former lead singer of the Lovin’ Spoonful, John Sebastian.   The song hit the charts and went all the way up to #1.  This song give you the feel of the “folksy” 70’s.

The 80’s

There are so many great theme songs from the 80’s!  Let’s start with Night Court.  Night Court’s theme song throws me back to the 70’s because of that funky bass open.  You also have that soprano sax melody.  It’s not a long theme, and when it’s done, you wish that you could find somewhere an “extended club mix”.

Police Squad only produced 6 episodes and it was cancelled.  It starred Leslie Nielson as Lt. Frank Drebin.  At the time, the network didn’t think that a show like Police Squad would be something an audience would want to watch (so they could catch all the jokes – remember, this was done by the guys who gave us the movie Airplane!).  The theme song was accompanied by a voice over announcer reading the credits.  He would also announce tonight’s guest star (who would always die during the credits) and give the name of the episode (which never matched with the title read on the screen).  Thankfully, when the Naked Gun movies were made, the kept the theme song.

In 1980, Urban Cowboy hit theaters and country music was all the rage.  It only made sense that we’d have a country comedy show on TV.  That show was the Dukes of Hazzard.  Talk about big name singers – Waylon Jennings sings the theme song, and he was also the show’s narrator.  The song was released as a single in August of 1980, and it went to #1 on the Billboard Country Charts!  Yee-haw!

The 90’s

It is here that we begin to see the decline in the use of the TV theme song.  As a matter of fact, it became a habit to edit them down to 10-30 seconds from the already short 60 seconds.  There are some that stand out for me though from this decade.

Tim Allen’s Home Improvement was a show based on his comedy act.  His grunts and vocalizations intermingle through the theme song, almost as if they are a part of the musical score.  The theme song almost sounds like a “work” song, both in sound and in tempo.

Seinfeld was one of those shows who used a theme song for a while, and used it at the end of the show, but often times especially in the show’s later seasons, it was shortened.  The bubbly, poppy, twangy bass, and silly feel will forever be associated with the show about nothing and it’s silly characters.

From the opening guitar of “I’ll Be There for You” by the Rembrandts, you are in New York with Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Joey, Phoebe and Monica.  The theme to the show Friends was an international hit.  It was a song that was requested on radio and used at wedding receptions to introduce bridal parties.  The song is heavily influenced by the Beatles (I Feel Fine) and the Monkees (Pleasant Valley Sunday).  It was originally just one minute long, but the band went in an recorded an extended version, which became a radio hit.

Who could forget It’s Garry Shandling’s Show?  The show, in itself, was silly.  Garry interacts with the cast, but often will interact with the studio audience as well.  It was just so weird.  The theme song is just as weird.  It’s a bouncy song that basically references itself (this is the theme to Garry’s show) and tells you how it came to be (Garry called me up and asked if I would write his theme song) and then asks how you like it (we’re almost halfway finished how do you like it so far?).  The melody is so catchy, you can’t help but want to sing (or whistle) along with it.

Wrapping up

With the TV theme song becoming more and more absent from TV…what are your thoughts?  Which ones did you love growing up?  Which ones do you still sing?  Which ones did you hate?

Now it’s your turn – I look forward to seeing your comments.