Shout! Factory did us all a favor with its recent DVD reissue of The Electric Company. Even though I watched the show religiously in my youth (strictly for entertainment value, since I already knew how to read), over time I had forgotten how good both the adult and youth casts were. This DVD set brought back lots of good memories of what was an otherwise turbulent period in my life.
The menacing set of eyes in the image above belong to Mr. Morgan Freeman, then just part of the Company, but now an Academy Award-winning actor with a long resume of great roles to his credit. The other performers in the picture, members of the youth cast, are June Angela, the late Gregg Burge, Steven Gustafson and Bayn Johnson - four fifths of the "Short Circus" lineup from 1973-1975 (to me, its golden era).
Except for a few cast fine-tweaks after the first couple of years - including the departure of Bill Cosby - the adult cast became a finely tuned repertory company that could hold its own with the "Saturday Night Live" gang in the comedy department. Judy Graubart, in particular, is a very funny lady. In all, I like to think of "The Electric Company" as the hipper, smarter younger sibling to "Sesame Street" - and its bastard child as well, since it didn't have the longevity or fundraising oomph as "Sesame".
If you click on the link above, you too can relive those 5:30 weekday afternoons where the Blue Beetle tried to make things right, Fargo North decoded, Jennifer of the Jungle hung out with Paul the Gorilla, and the air was filled with piercing screams of "HEY YOU GUYS!"
As the dust clears from Torino, time to assess the Winter Games just ended.
I usually love watching the Winter Games - I got really hooked in '76 - but I wasn't as engaged this year as I was the last time around, the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. The difference was perhaps due to the changes in my life this year, because watching the Olympics was one of Nancy's favorite things to do too. While I did have a week at home to watch due to winter break at school, I really didn't care much about the last week's events. I even skipped the closing ceremonies - but then, so did most of the athletes. (I watched instead the "Dancing With The Stars" finale. Glad to see Cheryl Burke and that what's-his-name she was dancing with win the thing.)
Back to Torino...
What I liked: The women's curling team. Love those Johnson sisters! The curling coverage (anchored by Don Chevrier and Don Duguid) was like an island of honest television amidst all of NBC's other rah-rah hype. Also, happy to see Apolo Anton Ohno finally hit the gold, and Julia Mancuso with her tiara was a refreshing presence during the games - and she got a gold medal, too.
What I didn't like: Bode Miller. What a jake. Pocket the Nike money, then underperform for your country. Two also-rans, 3 DQ's - the Olympic Spirit, 2006 style. And the "should have stayed home" award goes to Michelle Kwan, hanging on to the last thread of her talent as a figure skater. It's time for the Emily Hughes generation to take over, and you should have known that, Michelle.
There was no one moment that defined the 2006 Games for me, unlike 2002, where Emily Hughes' older sister Sarah turned a lot of heads and won a lot of hearts with her great night of skating in Salt Lake City. 2002 was the Year of Sarah Hughes. I can't find anyone to hang that sobriquet on this year. Hopefully 2010 will be better.
Among the reparations ABC received for letting Al Michaels move over to NBC for their new Sunday Night Football franchise (where John Madden will also be in residence, making him one of the few men who's worked for all four major networks doing football - first CBS, then Fox, then ABC, now NBC):
NBC/Universal has given back The Walt Disney Company the rights to Oswald, The Lucky Rabbit.
WHAT? An eighty-year old cartoon character? Yes. Disney lost the rights to Oswald in the late 1920's when Universal installed Walter Lantz as the series' producer. Lantz continued to make Oswald films for years afterward, while Disney created another character - Mickey Mouse.
Now Disney's got Oswald back in its camp. What's Disney gonna do with Oswald? Stay tuned.
Having worked with advertising for nineteen years and watched various commercials, good and bad, for over 40 years, I feel qualified to give this once-over to last evening's Super Bowl XL advertising efforts.
Burger King "The Whopperettes" - Yes, it's the old Burger King song, and the "Have it your way" tag line is back in force. Unfortunately, the creepy plastic-faced Burger King is in this ad, and the "Whopperettes" are this Busby Berkeley-esque dance squad all dressed as various burger toppings and condiments who literally (and painfully) fall into place on a giant Whopper. It's a girl on girl on girl sandwich, eventually. The narrator at either end of the commercial is immediately identifiable as Alan Kalter, the announcer on David Letterman's show. But what ultimately troubles me about this ad is the plastic-faced King character, and the fear that if "Have It Your Way" is back, can HERB be far behind?
Update: I've been told that the girl representing the top of the bun, whose face the camera lingers on for several minutes, is the lovely Brooke Burke, who was last seen as host of "Rock Star: INXS" last summer. Hopefully I'm not getting her mixed up with Brooke Burns, who hosted the USA version of "Dog Eat Dog".
Pepsi/Sierra Mist - Jay Mohr, who just announced his engagement to Nikki Cox over the weekend (why do guys like him get all the babes?), is the agent, which is reminiscent of that TV show "Action" he did a few years ago. Sean Puffy P Daddy Diddy Combs (or whatever he's calling himself this week) is reluctant to record with the Diet Pepsi can, but he does, and the usual forced hilarity ensues (such as in the spots last year where Diddy traded in his wheels for a Pepsi truck). Pepsi mounted a similar spot with Jackie Chan where the "stunt double" for the Diet Pepsi can is a Diet Coke can, which immediately gets crushed. (Coke is making so much out of its association with "American Idol", so they feel no need to associate themselves with the S.B.)
Much funnier was the spot for Pepsi subsidiary Sierra Mist, where the ubiquitous Michael Ian Black plays an air traveler stopped by security guard Kathy Griffin, who makes fake beeping noises while wanding Black so she can get his Sierra Mist. Griffin is just so naturally funny, the spot works. This one deserved its first quarter placement.
Degree "Stunt City" - All ads which feature "DO NOT ATTEMPT" disclaimers are immediately disqualified from further discussion. Likely we'll see this during the 2006 World Series of Poker, which Degree was all over like stink on Mike Matusow last year.
Nationwide "Gondola" - Taking a page out of Geico's book, it's a fake ad for shampoo featuring what-the-heck-does-he-do-anyway? guy Fabio. But we see the reality that Fabio is actually old and wrinkled, driving home the sponsor's message "life comes at you fast". So do birds, right Fabio?
Toyota "Camry Hybrid" - I'm sympathetic here, because I just bought a Camry convertible. It's a little boy asking his dad why the 2007 Camry Hybrid is such a great car. Simple and effective. Too bad you have to wait for the '07 Camry.
In the race for SUV superiority, Cadillac "Escalade" is as ostentatious as Toyota is practical, and we don't understand what supermodels have to do with marketing an obnoxious truck that gets about 4 MPG and will probably someday run over the kid whose dad drives the Camry. Ditto Hummer "Monsters" with its two Japanese horror-movie monsters who fall in love. Ford "Escape Hybrid" splits the difference with its ad for its SUV hybrid with Kermit The Frog (where's the puppeteer?).
Honda "Ridgeline Mudflap" - That naked lady you see on the mudflaps of trucks hops into the new Ridgeline and sees that other mudflap icon, Yosemite "BACK OFF!" Sam, behind the wheel. (Don't worry, Warner Bros. sanctioned it.)
Pizza Hut "Jessica Simpson" - That's HUT with an "H", Mrs. Lachey. And get out of here with your bastardized Nancy Sinatra song. You too, Latifaht.
Emerald Nuts - This company, which made its first big marketing splash with the Bowl a few years ago, gives us a contrived spot that spells out its name with some sentence about eagle-eyed druids under the stairs. Geez, like that sentence we remember the planets with...
Bud Light "On The Roof" - DQ'd, "Do Not Attempt" sitting in a lawn chair on your roof. I won't even GO on my roof, much less put a lawn chair up there. None of the other Bud Light spots were noteworthy. In fact, none of the beer spots were any good this year. Even Budweiser's Clydesdale spots had a "been there, done that" quality.
Warner Bros. "Poseidon" - Since when is May 12 SUMMER? By the time the real summer starts, your movie will probably have made its $20 million and moved on.
PS "Best Defense" - A genre of spot which seems to have begun with Supes ads is the WHAT THE HELL ARE THESE PEOPLE DOING spot. It shows people doing everyday things like swimming, taking out the garbage, and even giving a good night kiss. But they're all wearing biohazard suits! WHY? Of course, this is because people would be better protected by cleaning with the sponsor's products. Duh.
Myron Waldman was an animator of extreme durability throughout the classic era of cartoons and well into the television era. He has died in a Long Island hospital months short of his 98th birthday.
Waldman was one of the last living links to the Fleischer Studios, with many credits on Betty Boop and Color Classic cartoons. He was one of the few men who believed in that era that women could animate as well as men and promoted Lillian Friedman to an animator's position in his unit, at the parallel time that Walter Lantz was opening the same sort of door for La Verne Harding on the West Coast.
G. Michael Dobbs has more information on his blog.
We are pleased to reopen the NJ Transit Bus Fan Page after an absence of about, gee, a year and a half? New pix and roster info forthcoming.
And I am pleased to announce the official blog of The Puzzle Brothers. We are going to be discussing our puzzle related activities in excruciating detail on this blog and hopefully be self-publishing our own pathetic creations that no editor dares touch. Enjoy!
We try desperately to steer away from blogs that take excessive liberties with language as I am, after all, a teacher of very small children who should not be exposed to bad language. A bad word once in a while isn't going to kill an otherwise entertaining blog. However, should one of these blogs ever turn into a filth-fest, it will be removed... and it has happened in some cases. Just be warned, fellow bloggers. Language originating from this blog will be always on the safe side. Thanks... --DM