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.

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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

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The 1970’s

sanford

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wkrp

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The 1980’s

cheers

dukes

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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??

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Three Birthday Tributes

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Today I would like to salute three of my closest friends.  I guess, in a way, I am taking the easy way out by including all three of them in one blog.  I am doing it this way because they all celebrate birthdays this month.  So here are some thoughts on three great guys.

Joe – October 15

Joe is my Polish brother.  He says that I am his Italian brother.  The great Red Buttons used to joke that “there is only one difference between the Polish and the Italians – One year of high school!”  We truly are like brothers.  Joe and I met in junior high school.  We had band 1st hour.  It was in this class that I also met Steve K, who you will hear about shortly.  We all hit it off immediately, and have been friends ever since.

In high school, I used to pick Joe up and drive him to school.  He used to run out of the house with a bowl of cereal in his hand.  I remember that cereal was Fruit Islands.  They don’t make it anymore, but the commercials had some guy saying “Ayumma yumma”.  Not sure why, but I will always remember that.

All of the guys I am talking about were in band.  Steve K, Joe, and I all graduated the same year.  Steve M, graduated before us.  Joe and I were band officers.  We were both librarians.  That meant we were responsible for all the music.  We copied it and made sure the parts were placed in the right folders for band members.  Our senior year, Joe was head librarian and I was band president.  We spent many hours after school working on music and hanging with the band director and custodian.  We were probably more of an annoyance than anything!

Bill, the custodian, was such a cool guy!  He invited us to his wedding!  We used to pick a day and he would make sure not to bring lunch that day.  We’d order a pizza from Sorrento’s and eat it in the band room.  We’d sit around telling stories and laughing.  Such fun times!

There was a brief period where I switched from trumpet to tuba.  Joe was the lone tuba player.  I played tuba at the commencement ceremonies for the class of 87, and then played it briefly for marching band.  I was asked by the band director to switch back to trumpet.  He said we needed more trumpets – but now that I think about it, maybe I was just a real crappy tuba player!

It seems like Joe and I have been golfing and bowling together for as long as I can remember.  I remember bowling at this little hole in the wall dump in St. Clair Shores with Joe.  It was always such fun there, and we are still friends with many of the folks we met there.  Eventually we joined a league at Pastime Lanes.  It was there we made more friendships, and I watched him bowl a 300 game.  Pastime is long gone, but we still have many memories there.

Steve K, Joe and I all golfed for Senior Skip Day.  Steve borrowed our buddy Wayne’s golf clubs.  On the first tee, he hit the ball, but the club head broke off the driver.  The club head went farther than the damn golf ball!  Joe and I laughed like hell!  One time Joe and I were golfing in Lapeer and there was an electrical wire that went across the fairway.  What are the odds that one of us would hit that?  Joe did.  He teed off – it hit the wire and dropped like a stone in the fairway.

We used to play pinochle over at Joe’s parents house till all hours of the night.  Their house was just one of many houses that hosted pinochle nights.  Eventually, he and his sister moved into their own place and the card games moved there.  We’d sit around drinking Bud Light listening to 580 CKWW or WCXI and play cards all night.  So many nights of crazy conversations about music, movies, and TV.

Steve M – October 19

Steve and I had probably met before, but we really got to know each other because of Alumni Band.  I remembered that alumni had played once or twice at homecoming while I was still in school.  When I graduated, I wanted to make sure that the tradition continued.  So I bugged the band director and we threw it together.  The first year was a small group.  The second year it was a little bigger. It was a way for us to get together and play and have fun.

Steve and I hit it off immediately.  We both were trumpet players.  I knew his younger brother, Jeff, because he was my brother’s age.  He was also a DJ and did weddings and we loved to talk music.  He hosted some alumni band BBQ’s and was a key part in the success of the group.

I am not sure exactly how we ended up DJing together.  I think it was because he had a light show and I didn’t.  I brought him along and we ended up having so much fun, we kept doing it.  Little by little we added things to the gigs we did.  We both did this stupid Blues Brothers intro to kick off dancing.  I had this bad Elvis wig and would go out and sing to a female wedding guest (story about the wig in a sec).  We had blow up instruments and silly cardboard things we’d hold up while we danced.  We had a friggin blast!!

One time, Steve had his truck backed into the garage.  He had the tailgate glass up and I went inside to comb the Elvis wig down.  I used to put it on my head and comb it down before I put it on this stupid Styrofoam head I had.  I was in his bathroom combing and I heard the truck start and all of a sudden a huge crash.  I walked to the door of the garage and saw that the tailgate glass had caught the garage door and shattered all over the place.  I stood there, wearing that dumb wig, and asked what happened.  At the time, it wasn’t funny (It was raining, we were running late, when we got the gig, Steve had forgotten his shoes, so I went to Kmart to buy him a pair, it was a mess!).  We look back now and Steve will still laugh, “You were standing there wearing the King’s hair!”  After weddings, it was tradition to grab White Castle hamburgers!  Some of my favorite gigs were DJing for cancer benefits or VFW steak outs. When Steve M was living in his apartment, his crazy neighbor (who we called Fruit Loops) used to always come out when we were loading or unloading for DJ gigs.  I wonder what happened to her….LOL

Steve M, Steve K, Joe, and I spent many nights singing karaoke.  We used to have so much fun.  We’d go to these two dive bars – McGee’s and Grady’s.  We’d drink, sing songs and laugh like hell.  We all had specific songs we used to do.  We used to have these guys who’d get up and sing that we’d make fun of.  There was a guy who looked and sounded like Bela Lugosi!  He’d sing Let Me Call You Sweetheart with that accent!  Then there was “Opera Man”.  We called him that because every song he sang, he’d sing it like he was one of the Three Tenors! I would sing harmony for Steve M on Losing My Religion a lot.  We’d have such a fun time!  Now, he is actually hosting karaoke every week at a few places.  I’m over due to get out and sing!

Steve K – October 28

Steve and I became friends in junior high, in the same class as Joe.  Here’s the thing – we almost didn’t stay friends.  Admittedly, we all kind of picked on Steve.  We razzed him – a lot.  Steve and I both played trumpet.  Now I am not sure why he found my trumpet to be better than his.  I do know that he would often switch his with mine.  Well, one day he was walking in the band room and he dropped “his” horn and bent the bell.  I laughed.  We all did.  I probably said something like “You idiot!  Nice job!” or something like that.  He looked at me sheepishly while I laughed and said, “Uh, Keith….this is YOUR trumpet.”  My laughter stopped and I grabbed him by the throat!  Our band director, Mr. Mest, came running over and pulled us both into the office.

Steve and I were in 2nd hour with each other.  After the “incident” we went to the next class.  I was still upset about the whole thing and kept egging him on throughout the class.  I was calling him names, and just being an ass.  He finally got up and walked over to me as I was talking to our buddy Warren.  He grabbed the desk I was sitting in and literally flipped it over – with me still in it!  It totally took me by surprise! Needless to say, we both were sent to the office.  I don’t know if detention was given or not, but I know we both got “yellow slips”.  This was bad, I just don’t know or remember how bad.

I think our dad’s ended up having to talk to each other about the incident and arrangements were made to take care of the horn. I think we both got a “talking to” by our dads and we stayed friends.  We always seemed to be together.  We sat next to each other in band for as long as I can remember.  I often call Steve “Norton” because he reminded me so much to Ed Norton on the Honeymooners.  He’d say some of the silliest things.  We’d laugh all the time.  That Senior Skip Day, he even golfed like Norton did in that episode of the Honeymooners!

The only real time I got in trouble in band class was with Steve.  The other trumpets always waited for us to bring up our horns.  They never seemed to count the rests.  So Steve and I were talking and saying “Let’s bring up our horns early and fool those guys.”  Well, we were rehearsing for band festival and the band director was in no mood for jokes.  He stopped the music and asked what we were talking about.  When I told him he simply pointed to the door and said “Bye.”  We were told to wait until after rehearsal and then talk to him afterward.  We both felt like crap.  You just didn’t tick off the band director – not when festival was the next day!  We were allowed back to rehearsal shortly afterward, but we both still felt stupid!

We’d spend hours in the car driving around.  I would make “driving tapes” and we’d pile in and spend the night driving around the neighborhood.  We’d cruise Gratiot and look at girls.  We’d drive with the windows down, jamming to our favorite songs and singing at the top of our lungs.  We’d harmonize to Huey Lewis & the News, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Ford, and so many other artists.  It was what we did!

He was with me when I got my first speeding ticket (on my way to Sam’s Jams) and he was with me when I had my first car accident.  I was driving in my ’79 Caprice Classic (ok, my dad’s ’79 Caprice Classic) and it had rained.  I was going to his house to drop him off.  I made the left turn and the roads were wet.  I began to go into a skid (rear wheel drive).  I remembered Driver’s Ed class “turn into the skid”, and I did.  Too bad I was literally in front of a parked car when I turned into the skid.  I slammed into the front of this car!  Steve’s mom called my dad.  I was in shock.  I knew I was a dead man.  My dad drove over and walked right past me and looked at the car.  I heard him mumble under his breath “There’s about $1500 worth of damage here.”  I later said, “You didn’t ask about me at all!” to which my dad replied, “I saw you standing there – I knew you were ok!”

I don’t recall if it was our senior year or not, but we had a band trip to Cedar Point.  I am not a ride person.  Steve, me and Chris walked around most of the day probably looking at girls.  We stumbled on this “You Be the Star” booth.  This was LONG before karaoke was a thing.  You went into a sound booth, put headphones on and sang to an instrumental track of a song.  Then, you got a cassette tape of your recording.  I think we did Twist and Shout, Steve did Mack the Knife (which would become his karaoke theme song), and we all did Hip to Be Square by Huey Lewis.  The song had just come out and he said he knew it, so he sang lead on it.  Chris and I sang the “Hip.  Hip.  So Hip to be Square” lines in the background.  I think I may still have that tape!

At my graduation party, my dad and some of his band buddies set up and played music at the party.  My dad had typed up the lyrics to Weird Al’s parody of La Bamba (Lasagna) and his band played it while me, Joe and Steve all sang it.  Steve was leaving to go to basic training soon after we graduated.  It was sad to know my buddy was going to be leaving.  I’m not sure what happened, but he never ended up staying in the navy.  He did, however, move to one of the Carolinas for awhile.  I’d get in trouble for long distance calls to him talking about stupidity…LOL.  He would tell me all about these silly sweepers he’d hear on a station called The Frog out there!

When he moved back to Michigan, Steve also used to DJ with me.  He would bring these crazy songs I had never heard before and want me to play them.  Sometimes they’d work, sometimes they didn’t.  One day, Steve M and I were DJing at the VFW right by Steve K’s house.  He came to the event.  He was dancing like crazy on the dance floor.  I think his wife wanted to go home and he wanted to stay.  She left and went home.  He had to call her later to come pick him back up because while he was out on the floor dancing he split his pants!  Typical Steve.  Stuff like that happened to him all the time!  That is one of my favorite Steve stories.

He was always my pinochle partner when we played with my grandparents (and when we played with Tonya, Michelle and the gang).  You could always count on him having the Ace of Clubs!  A trickless is when you and your partner take every possible trick in the hand.  Steve and I pulled one against my grandparents once.  It pissed my grandpa (who was very competitive) off!  The next hand, we pulled another one!  That was the end of the card playing that night!  Grandpa was done!  Somewhere, I still have the yellow legal pad with those back to back trickless hands written on it!

One day, we were all playing cards at Tonya’s house and the “F You’s” were flying around the table.  Steve meant to say, “F You and the horse you rode in on”, but instead said “the horse you rode on in.”  I am not sure why that made us all laugh so hard, but it did.  To this day, I say it wrong – because of Steve!  I am sure I could devote an entire blog to some of the silly things Steve has said.

He recently had a stroke.  That being said, he is recovering well.  I have to tell you though, when I heard the news I was scared!  This is my buddy and I can’t imagine not having him around.  When I went to the hospital to see him, I was like all emotional.  I hid it very well, but here is a guy, one of my closest friends,  who was my age (not even 50!) and this happened to him.  I was happy that he was ok, and that the prognosis was good, but just knowing that it could have been a very different outcome freaked me out.  It was an eye opening experience.  I guess that’s why I am writing this blog.

I want these three guys to know how glad I am to have their friendship.  We all share a love of music.  We all have the same taste in movies.  We all love a funny joke or pun. We have all shared silly conversations, as well as deep serious conversations.  I have one blood brother, but I am blessed to have these guys as brothers and friends.  In 30+ years, I have been lucky enough to share laughter and tears with these guys.  All of them stood up in my first wedding and I stood up in Joe’s and Steve K’s weddings.  We can go months without chatting and then pick right up where we left off.  Conversations always include laughter, movie quotes, and a whole lot of love.

Even though two of them have already celebrated theirs, and one is a few days away – Happy Birthday, Boys.  I love you guys!  Thank you for being such amazing friends for so many years!

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Joe, my brother Chris, Me, Steve M. Jeff, and Steve K at my first wedding.

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Beers are overdue!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Favorite TV Episodes…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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! ….”

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.”

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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)”

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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.

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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!”.

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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!”

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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.

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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??

 

 

 

 

“Life is better when you are laughing”

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A comedian’s job is to make people laugh.  Legendary comedian Milton Berle once said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.”  Charlie Chaplin said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”  Victor Borge said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”  In a nutshell, laughter is an important part of a happy life.

According to a new survey, the average American laughs 8 times a day.  That seems a bit low to me, and I really hope that you are “over average”.  The survey has also compiled a list of answers to the question:  What makes us laugh?  Here are the Top 10 “universally funny things” that make us laugh.

10. Watching people trip or fall.

Let’s face it, this is always funny – unless it is you or me falling.  Pratfalls, slip and falls, etc…have been making people laugh since the silent films of the 1920’s.  Prior to YouTube and the internet, American’s Funniest Home Videos was loaded with people falling!  When people fall – people laugh.

9. Puns.

A pun, by definition, is a joke exploiting the different possible meaning of a word or the fact that there are words which sound alike but have different meanings.  When a banana goes to the doctor because it wasn’t peeling well … you have a pun.  I have a group of friends on Facebook who appreciate good puns.  We are forever posting “punny” things on each other’s Facebook page, or sending each other puns.  Often, a good pun is just what I need to start the day.

8. Bad photos of people.

I, for one, always find it funny to look at bad pictures of me.  Go ahead and pick up your high school yearbook and there are no shortage of bad photos that you can snicker at.  There are websites that you can find that offer you hours of entertainment by looking at bad mug shots, bad family photos, and people wearing wacky clothing.  http://www.peopleofwalmart.com is one of those websites.

7. People mispronouncing words.

As a radio guy, this is always funny to me!  I remember one day I had not read through a particular script before having to read it on the air.  Instead of saying “testosterone”, I pronounced it “test-ost-er-own-ee”….. it was like I was talking about some kind of pasta or something!  It was hilarious!  MANY old time radio comedies had people say things wrong on purpose to get laughs.  It was prominent on Amos and Andy, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly, and Abbott and Costello.  Of course, those were scripted mispronounciations…..the ones that are not planned are even funnier.

6.  Knock Knock Jokes.

I have to admit, I find this interesting.  Outside of elementary school children, I don’t know of many folks telling knock knock jokes.  I guess they are still good enough to be in the Top 10.

5. Dad Jokes.

This can almost be included with number 9, because most dad jokes fall into the “pun” category.  A dad joke is typically a corny or predictable joke that are usually not very funny. As a matter of fact, the more unfunny, the better.  They are often told to get a groan out of the audience.

Example: I hate jokes about German sausages!  They’re the wurst!

4. Reality TV.

The fact that this is high on the list is kind of amazing to me.  Sure, there was a point where I could watch Duck Dynasty, and shows like that and laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of them, but not so much anymore.  Many reality shows are pure garbage today.  I don’t enjoy any of the “talent” shows anymore.  The only reality show I enjoy watching are shows like “Live PD”, which at times can still make me laugh.

3.  Memes and animal videos.

Why these two are lumped together, I don’t know.  Memes are like comic strips.  They can be very funny.  There are even apps that allow you to create your own memes.

Animal videos can be very funny – with or without narration.  There are no shortage of cat videos that will make you bust a gut on the internet.  One of my favorite animal videos is from some British show where they dub in voices for the animals! That’s funny stuff!

2.  Sitcoms on TV.

Here is where I agree and disagree at the same time.  To be fair, there are some very funny sitcoms on TV today, but many are just predictable and unfunny.  Much of the humor is crude and contrived.  There are some newer shows that made me laugh out loud consistently (like 30 Rock, That 70’s Show, The Office, and Arrested Development), but most of the current sitcoms are just not funny to me.  As old as they are, and as many times as I have seen them, shows like The Honeymooners, Sanford and Son,  and WKRP in Cincinnati still make me laugh out loud.

1. Things our kids say.

I couldn’t agree more!  I am actually glad that this tops the list.  My sons have said some of the funniest things (many of which I talked about on the radio).  I love the Facebook memories feed, because many times I am reminded of those things that they’ve said years later.  It doesn’t have to be your own kids, either.  Kids are always saying funny things (which is why there was a hit show called Kids Say the Darndest Things)!  The mind of a child and they way they look at the world and see things will always produce a laugh!

Your Turn

Ok, what makes you laugh?  I want to know.  Have a story to share about one of these ten things?  Was there something that you felt should have been in the Top 10, that wasn’t?  Let me hear about it!  Let’s share the laughter … the world needs lots of it!!

 

Toon Tunes …

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As I stated at the end of yesterday’s blog – I could easily write an entire blog about Cartoon Theme songs.  Some readers messaged privately with suggestions, while others commented on Facebook.  So, I sat down and gathered some thoughts and have come up with a list of some of my favorites.  In doing so, I noticed that some cartoons were great cartoons, but their theme songs were just not that memorable to me.  Those I will omit.  Perhaps they are some of your favorites, and again, feel free to add them to my initial list.

 

The Classics

“Overture, curtains, lights. This is it, the night of nights.

No more rehearsing and nursing a part, We know every part by heart

Overture, curtains, lights. This is it, you’ll hit the heights

And oh what heights we’ll hit … On with the show, this is it!”

 

Every Saturday morning, we’d sit in front of the television and hear Bugs Bunny and his cartoon pals sing this song as the Bugs Bunny Show began.  Cartoon after cartoon kicked off with the Merrie Melodies or Looney Tunes theme.  We watched Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Sylvester and Tweety, The Roadrunner, Wile E Coyote, and countless others make us laugh with sticks of dynamite and anvils.  Oh, what a time to be a kid! 

 

Outside of the Looney Tunes, Hanna Barbera churned out a lot of the classic cartoons we all have come to love.  In 1958, kids were introduced to Yogi Bear and his pal Boo Boo.  The theme song told us that he was “smarter than the average bear”, and he was!  No Pic-a-nic basket was safe!  Yogi was a take off of Art Carney’s Honeymooners character Ed Norton.  Daws Butler nails the voice perfectly.  From opening theme, you know you are in for some great fun with Yogi trying to outsmart Ranger Smith.

 

Speaking of the Honeymooners – Hanna Barbera literally stole the entire show idea and just set it in the stone age.  That’s right, The Flintstones was a direct rip off of the show.  It worked.  It was the first prime time cartoon show and it did very well.  The adventures of Fred and Barney commence after we are introduced to them via the theme song “Flintstones!  Meet the Flintstones, they’re the modern stone age family!”  Fred and Barney also would up on Saturday morning cartoons with newer versions and varieties of the 1960’s show including a cartoon about their grown up kids Pebbles and Bamm Bamm. 

 

My buddy Vince immediately mentioned the theme song to Jonny Quest in response to my last blog.  As far as theme songs, this one is awesome.  Quest first appeared on TV in 1964 and from the moment it starts you get the feeling something big is coming.  There is a sense of urgency in it.  You are joining him on an adventure!  In my 30 years of radio, I have heard this theme song as background music for contests, traffic reports, and more.  Why?  Because it is one cool theme song!

 

In 1962, Hanna Barbera took us on another travel through time.  This time is was the future. “Meet George Jetson” … the theme starts by introducing us to each member of the family.  We are wowed with flying cars, tubes that allow people to travel from one place to the other, folding cars, and more.  The Jetsons lacked some of the luster of the Flintstones, but it still was a success and a favorite of kids my age.

 

There were MANY incarnations of Scooby-Doo.  The best one in my opinion was Scooby Doo, Where Are You?  Some cool teenagers and their dog always seem to stumble on a mystery – and solve it!  So many bad guys would have gotten away with it, “If it hadn’t been for those meddling kids”!  “Scooby doobie doo – Where are you?  We got some work to do now…”.  Not only did they have a cool theme, they often had another song that would play during a chase scene!

 

I want to mention a couple more 60’s cartoons to mention before moving on.  I mentioned Henry Mancini in my blog yesterday, he is responsible for one of the all time greatest cartoon themes:  The Pink Panther.  It was the theme to the 1963 movie, and also used for the cartoon starting in 1964.  There are so many things that make it such a magnificent piece, but the one that stands out is the tenor sax solo.  It is perfection!  The song was released as a single and was a top 10 hit.

 

Part of the Pink Panther show was the Ant and the Aardvark.  It is a very Tom and Jerry/Cat and Mouse type cartoon.  John Byner does the voices for the cartoons and his choices were to do the ant in a Dean Martin-ish voice, while doing the aardvark in a Jackie Mason-ish one.  The theme reminds me of a Dixieland-swing song.  The theme song basically plays as an underscore throughout all 17 of the series cartoons, and you will be humming it for a few hours after you’re done watching!

 

In 1967, Hanna Barbera offered up The Abbott and Costello Cartoon show.  These cartoons were unique in that Bud Abbott provides the voice for himself.  Costello had passed away in 1959, and his voice was provided by Stan Irwin.  I don’t recall the cartoon itself much, but I can recall the opening sequence and the music of the theme.  The only words spoken …..well, yelled, during the theme are “Hey Abbott!” by Costello.

 

The Super Heroes

 

What kid doesn’t want to be a super hero?  I know we did.  We spent Saturdays after cartoons were done pretending to be Batman, Superman, etc…  We could watch them on the Superfriends show.  Very heroic music would play as actor Ted Knight (of Caddyshack and the Mary Tyler Moore Show) introduced us to each of them.  There were a few different Superfriends shows – one featured Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog, another featured The Wonder Twins, and another featured some of the lesser known heroes. 

 

The Super Heroes had some of the best theme songs.  Underdog’s theme was one I can still sing to this day:  “When criminals in this world appear, and break the laws that they should fear, the cry goes up both far and near for Underdog!”.  Wally Cox voiced Underdog and spoke entirely in rhyme.  He was always trying to save Sweet Polly Purebread from Simon Bar Sinister and Riff Raff. George S. Irving was the narrator of the show – he is known for playing The Heat Miser in the holiday special The Year Without a Santa Claus. It is one of my favorite theme songs.

 

Who was your number 1 super guy?  Well, Hong Kong Phooey, of course!  He tells us so in the theme song!  It’s another Hanna Barbera classic!  The theme is sung by Scatman Crothers, who many may know from the Shining, Sanford and Son, and other films.  He plays Penrod “Penry” Pooch, a janitor who is a Kung Fu Master, thanks to his Hong Kong Book of Kung Fu.  The theme reminds us that he is quicker than the human eye, and he’s got a groovy style – ah, the 70’s!!!

 

The all time best super hero cartoon theme song has got to be, hands down, Spiderman!  We all know the story of Spiderman – Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and gets his super powers.  I love that this is referenced in the theme song:  “Is he strong?  Listen, bud, he’s got radioactive blood!”  That is brilliant writing right there!  We all love Spidey, and we know that he’s got our backs…..after all, he is our “friendly neighborhood Spiderman”.  There is only one version of the theme that is as cool as the original – be sure to check out Michael Buble’s version of the theme song!  It’s pretty sweet!

 

One Full Musical Toon

 

I have got to give praise to a cartoon that is entirely musical.  This is a cartoon that has been referenced by friends I grew up with as well as my kids.  That cartoon is “The Three Little Bops”.  It’s a modern day take on the Three Little Pigs. 

 

What makes this cartoon so memorable is that these three pigs are now a musical trio playing jazz for clubs (House of Straw, House of Sticks, and finally, the House of Bricks).  The Big Bad Wolf is also a musician….but not a very good one.  He keeps trying to join the pigs and they keep telling him to beat it because his playing is awful.  The crowds don’t like his playing either.  At first, he is kicked out of the house of straw, so he “huffs and puffs” and blows the place down.  He does the same for the house of sticks.  The house of bricks, however, is a bit more of a challenge.  “I’ll show those pigs that I’m not stuck, if I can’t blow it down, I’ll blow it up”.  He attempts to light the fuse on a big tub of TNT, and the fuse is blown out.  He moves farther away from the target and lights it again, but he’s too far from the building and as he is carrying it back, the TNT explodes – and takes him with it. 

 

The narrator states, “The Big Bad Wolf was really gone and with him went his corny horn.  Went out of this world without a trace, didn’t go to heaven, was the other place”.  We then see the wolf down there playing his horn brilliantly.  One pig notes, “The Big Bad Wolf, he learned the rule – you gotta get hot to play real cool!”  The wolf’s spirit, with his horn float up through the floor and join the pigs on the end of the song. The pigs lobby card now reads “The Three Little Bops Plus One”. 

 

The music for the cartoon is done by the great Shorty Rogers who was a jazz composer and trumpeter.  The vocal is done by the one and only Stan Freberg.  This cartoon is fun, jazzy, hip, and so well written!  Another thing that makes this cartoon unique is that Mel Blanc was under contract with Warner Brothers during this time and his voice is not used in the cartoon at all (at least according to all the sources I checked). 

 

Now it’s your turn.  Which cartoon theme songs were your favorites? 

 

That’s all folks….

 

 

 

 

 

Four Songs – Four Friends

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Last night at work I was listening to my iPod on shuffle. I have 4800+ songs on it and would have more if the hard drive that I stashed all the tunes hadn’t crashed. Last night a string of 4 songs in a row played and each of those songs brought me back to a specific memory regarding 4 of my best friends.

Song 1 – Green Onions – Booker T & The MG’s

When I hear this song, I immediately think of my best friend since elementary school. Jeff and I met in 2nd grade. He used to come up and hang out with me when I worked at my first radio station. He’s always ask me to play Green Onions. “Why the hell is it called Green Onions?” we often asked. Who knows, but it’s one of those great instrumentals!

Jeff and I listened to some crazy and silly songs growing up. Some of the ones that come to mind are Gimme Dat Ding by the Pipkins, Bread and Butter by the Newbeats, Beans and Cornbread by Louis Jordan, Ain’t Got No Home by Clarence “Frogman” Henry, I’m a Nut by Leroy Pullins, Show Me How To Dance by the Bingo Boys, and Ponderous by 2NU. Just looking at the list of those songs makes me laugh out loud! There are stories for each of them!

I can’t hear Sweet Emotion or Same Old Song and Dance by Aerosmith without thinking of Jeff. He always went over to the jukebox at the place we shot pool and played those songs. Another one that always makes me think of him is the Sanford and Son Theme by Quincy Jones. I think we’ve both used that as a ring tone for each other on our phones.

More recently, he played some crazy song I had never heard before – Saved By the Bell by Roy C. Tell you what – I’ll let you find it and listen to it….if you can describe it….please do in the comments!

Song 2 – Softly As I Leave You – Frank Sinatra.

This song is one that sits me at a kitchen table playing Pinochle with Joe. We’d be listening to 580 CKWW and the big band songs on there. The DJ was Don Alcorn and we listened to him a lot. He would often close his show with this song. Pinochle would usually go one for hours after Don went off the air.

Another song that makes me think of Joe is GI Jive by the Spitfire Band. It was another song we’d hear on 580, but we switched around a bit too. Sometimes we’d be listening to classic country on WCXI.

While in high school, we discovered that each of us appreciated Weird Al Yankovic’s music. Yes, both of us believe him to be a musical genius. Sure, anyone can write a parody song, but Al also wrote some pretty awesome originals, too! Al’s album, Even Worse, was released in April of 1988. We were in our final months of high school. “Fat” was probably the biggest hit on the album, but at my graduation party Joe, Steve and I all got up and sang Al’s parody of La Bamba – Lasagna. My dad had a few of his old wedding band players (and some cousins) bring their instruments and they played music at the party. Dad knew he was gonna have us do this and he had the lyrics ready for us to sing from (not that we really needed them). I will always remember us singing that.

Other songs that remind me of Joe: K-Mart Blues by Tom “T-Bone” Stankus, UHF – Weird Al, Santa Must be Polish by Bobby Vinton, Bus Stop by the Hollies and any Sousa March or random Polka!

Song 3 – Mambo #5 – Lou Bega

Steve and I spent MANY hours wasting gas and listening to music. I can’t tell you how many “driving tapes” I made. Cassette after cassette of songs we liked. The list of our favorites seemed to get bigger and bigger every time one of us heard a new song. Steve listened to songs like I did, he’d hear things in them that mostly went unnoticed. Sometimes he’d hear stuff that NO ONE ELSE heard, but then after telling you about it, that would be ALL you could hear! Mambo # 5 is a good example of that. Now, get the chorus in your head:

“A little bit of Monica in my life, a little bit of Erica by my side
A little bit of Rita is all I need, a little bit of Tina is what I see
A little bit of Sandra in the sun, a little bit of Mary all night long
A little bit of Jessica here I am, a little bit of you makes me your man”

Good. Now, when that part of the song plays – start singing the theme to I Dream of Jeannie. It totally fits! And thanks to this clown, I can never NOT sing it! LOL

Because of our many hours of driving (and wasting my dad’s gas), I could list at least 100 songs that make me think of Steve. Mack The Knife by Bobby Darin is one because he’d always sing that when we’d go sing karaoke. Viva Las Vegas (by Elvis and ZZ Top) was one of our favorite driving songs, as was Shake, Rattle and Roll by Big Joe Turner. He was the one who first played me Keep Your Hands To Yourself by the Georgia Satellites.

Huey Lewis and the News Sports album was one of our favorites. Songs like I Want a New Drug and Bad Is Bad were great sing a longs. We also added Hip To Be Square and Whole Lotta Lovin’ by Huey to our tapes after Fore was released. I remember Steve, Chris and I were at Cedar Point and before Karaoke was a “thing”, you could go and sing to instrumental tracks and make a tape of it. We paid big bucks and recorded Hip to Be Square with Steve on the lead vocal. Yeah, it sucked. LOL.

One last one for Steve – Rag Mop by the Ames Brothers. It’s a song that we used to hear on 580 and were familiar with because of an episode of The Honeymooners. Our school put on this Lip Synch contest and Steve and I did a “sketch” to Rag Mop involving a chalk board. At some point I was supposed to flip the chalk board over to show the other side of it and the leg of it broke. I still laugh about this. Great tunes and a good friend!

Song 4 – Tubthumping – Chumbawamba

This one hit wonder was a big one and we played it at a lot of weddings. My partner at those weddings was another Steve. We DJ’d many gigs together and those gigs remain some of my favorites. We had so much fun, and the guests could tell! We were having as much fun as they were. We choreographed some dumb dance to go along with this song and looking back at it, we must have looked pretty ridiculous! When ever I hear this one it makes me think of him.

Since we DJ’s together, you can imagine that there are plenty of songs that make me think of him. We used to open our gigs as the Blues Brothers, so the instrumental “Can’t Turn You Loose” always brings back memories of “Jake” coming out with his briefcase handcuffed to his arm, hugging “Elwood” and kicking off the gig.

We spent a lot of time hitting the Karaoke bars singing too. As a matter of fact, he is still hosting karaoke often. One of the songs that he sings is Big Ten Inch, a song originally done by Bull Moose Jackson, but better known to younger folks by Aerosmith. I didn’t even know they had that song at Karaoke, but I laughed like hell when he sang it!

I remember harmonizing with him on songs like Losing My Religion by REM and All My Loving by the Beatles. I remember dancing and jamming with fake instruments to Jump, Jive’ and Wail by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, doing the Chicken Blister to Blister in The Sun, and grabbing a microphone and making up stupid names to yell when he sang What’s Your Name by Lynryd Skynryd.

Four songs – Four Friends

Jeff and I have been friends for 40 years. I have been friends with Joe, Steve, and Steve for over 30 years each. That’s a lot of time, a lot of music, and a lot of memories. Each one of these guys stood up in my wedding and their friendship through good times and bad has been so important to me. We’ve shared many laughs, many tears, and many beers together. I am so lucky to have these guys in my entourage.

I hope you guys treasure our friendship as much as I do!

The Great One

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Jackie Gleason was born today in 1916.  He was one of TV’s Pioneers.  When television first came into being and there was only three channels to choose from, guys like Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, and Jackie Gleason provided comedy entertainment.

The Life of Riley was a big radio comedy hit which starred William Bendix as Chester Riley.  When it made the transition to television (like many radio shows), Jackie Gleason took on the role because Bendix was under contract at RKO Radio pictures.  Gleason appeared in 26 episodes from 1949-1950.  In the following seasons, Bendix returned to play the character, whether or not Jackie was pushed out, or just had no desire to play the character is unclear.

In 1950, Jackie was given the role of host on Cavalcade of Stars, a variety show that began airing in 1949.  In 1952, the program was renamed The Jackie Gleason Show and continued to be a hit.  It featured a monologue by Jackie, singing, dancing, sketch comedy and a variety of his characters (Joe the Bartender, Reginald Van Gleason III, Charlie Bratten, Rudy the Repairman and the Poor Soul).

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During the run of the show, one sketch seemed to really stand out – The Honeymooners.  It featured Ralph Kramden, a New York bus driver and his wife Alice, as well as his upstairs neighbor Ed Norton.  The sketch was so popular, that Jackie put the variety show format on hold and in 1955 shot 39 half hour episodes of The Honeymooners, making it TV’s first official “spin off”.  Those episodes, often referred to as “the Classic 39” remain in reruns today.  In 1956, The variety format returned and continued until 1957.

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In 1961, Jackie co-starred with Paul Newman in The Hustler.  He played famous pool player Minnesota Fats, a role which earned him an Oscar Nomination.  Jackie grew up playing pool as a young man and was very good at it.  He told Johnny Carson in a Tonight Show interview that a lot of his personal experiences were drawn upon to play the role in The Hustler.  Cool side note, Jackie makes all his own trick shots in the film.

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In 1962, he wrote, produced and starred in Gigot.  It is a film in which he plays a mute janitor who becomes friends with a prostitute and saves her and her daughter.  The movie did not do well, but it was remade in 1984 as The Wool Cap, a TV movie, starring William H. Macy as the janitor, and it received good reviews.

In 1977, Jackie returned to the big screen in one of his most memorable roles – a foul mouthed Sheriff from Texas in Smokey and the Bandit.  His performance as Sheriff Buford T. Justice made the film a hit at the box office.  In an interview with Larry King, Burt Reynolds said that the only way he’d do Smokey and the Bandit, was if they brought Jackie in to play Buford.  (Buford T. Justice, by the way is the name of a real highway patrolman that knew Burt’s dad).  Gleason was given a lot of freedom to ad-lib his lines during the film.  He contributed a key scene to the film as well.  He suggested to director that he and the Bandit should have a scene together, but he doesn’t realize he is talking with the Bandit.  It remains one of the great scenes in the film.  There were two sequels, which were box office bombs, and the last one helped coax Jackie out of retirement for one last film.

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In 1986, Jackie had his last big screen role co-starring with Tom Hanks as Max Basner in Nothing in Common.  He was in failing health, but kept his health issues private.  He found out that he had terminal colon cancer.  He did not want to take the role, but director Garry Marshall coerced him into taking it by reminding him that if he did not appear in this movie, the final item on his filmography would have been Smokey and the Bandit III. That was enough to get Gleason back in action one last time. “You can’t go out on Smokey and the Bandit III.”

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Gleason died in June of 1987 at age 71.  Thanks for the laughter, Jackie!

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