Thursday, October 30, 2008

Roger Ebert's Blog

We like Roger Ebert. We think he's an incisive film critic and someone who doesn't deserve the medical hell he's been through for the past several years. Lately, I've been taking to commenting on his blog, and he's been known to respond. Not only for that reason, but Roger is now taking his deserved place of honor on our Blogroll.

Roger's been taking a lot of heat lately for reviewing a film he only saw eight minutes of (he since saw the entire movie and revised his review). I did the same thing some 30 years ago, and if you look for the post where Ebert says he's done talking about the controversy, you can see for himself what he said.

I now vow I will never see "Last Year at Marienbad". Ever.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Baseball Season Is Now Over For Everyone Else

And I'm no happier than I was weeks ago when the Mets were eliminated. It's going to be a long, long winter.

Estelle Reiner Dies

Mother of Rob, wife of Carl, and responsible for one of the greatest punch lines in all of cinema...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Red Sox Nation, We Feel Your Pain

This Mets fan feels your frustration in leaving the bases loaded in the eighth inning. That was our season in a microcosm, and unfortunately that was yours too.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Website Update

We have now found and restored the final 36 posts from the earliest days of our blog. We are now complete going all the way back to the origin date of our blog, July 29, 2001. Happy reading!

Gov. Palin on SNL

Even though her chances of getting elected don't look that great, it was fun to watch Sarah Palin having a little fun last night on SNL. She appeared in two skits in the show, the "cold open" where she appeared with Lorne Michaels, Tina Fey, and walk-on guests Alec Baldwin and Mark Walberg, and again in Weekend Update with Amy Poehler (who looks ten months pregnant) and Seth Meyers. Here's her Update turn, courtesy of NBC. Of course, Amy steals the sketch, but it's kinda fun to watch Gov. Palin bopping around to the music.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Master Ninja Theme Song

Ignore the visuals - this is the original, as heard on MST3K.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Two Giants Leave Us...

Edie Adams.

Jack Narz.

Did these two titans ever occupy the same space on our mortal coil? Well, they now have something in common: an October 15, 2008 death date.

Alphabetically, Edie Adams is first. She was an actress, model, singer, comedienne, and trustee of the Ernie Kovacs video library. Edie wasn't Ernie's first wife, but she was his most beloved partner. Edythe often showed up on Ernie's television productions, including his early 1960's ABC specials which capped his career (and were for the most part preserved on black-and-white videotape). She continued her career after the horrible car accident in January 1962 that took Ernie's life. (Ernie spun out his Corvair station wagon, which didn't exactly prolong the life of the car that eventually became a Ralph Nader target.)

Jack Narz, from Louisville, Kentucky, was an influential early television announcer on shows like "Space Patrol" and "Life with Elizabeth", then branched out into game and quiz show hosting. His "Dotto" daytime show was the show that blew open the quiz show scandals, when a standby contestant was spotted studying a list of answers. There were a lot of people whose careers were either ruined or curtailed by the scandal, but Jack Narz was one of the few who continued his successes uninterruped, with shows like "Seven Keys" and "Video Village".

In 1969, Narz began a series of assignments for Goodson-Todman, including the newly-syndicated "Beat The Clock", then a syndicated version of "Concentration" (Gene Wood took over "BTC" for its final seasons), and a CBS network show, "Now You See It". Additionally, Narz still worked as an announcer, working such shows as "Card Sharks" and another CBS network version of "Beat The Clock" hosted by Monty Hall. He often appeared on other G-T shows' panels like "Tattletales" (with wife Doe, who was one of the first women to serve as a flight attendant), and "Match Game". Jack also did a lot of appearances with brother Tom Kennedy on shows both men hosted. Tom would pop in on Jack on "Beat The Clock" one week, then Jack would visit Tom on "It's Your Bet" the next.

Jack had been in extremely ill health, suffering two massive strokes in the last three weeks of his life, and suffering renal failure. But Jack fought to the end, and even with his glory days behind him, enjoyed telling stories of his successes and meeting fans enthralled by the GSN reruns of his 70's shows.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

CBS Promo for "Spin-Off"

Here is a selection of filmed CBS promos for game shows airing in the 1975 season. There are promos for "The Joker's Wild", "Spin-Off" and "Now You See It". What's especially significant about the "Spin-Off" promo is it's probably the only footage you'll ever see on the show.

Presumably, the tapes were found a few years ago for "Spin-Off"'s 55 or so episodes (the show only ran for 11 weeks) at WCBS in New York, but no one is jumping at the chance to air them again, presuming the tapes are in airable condition.

When "The Joker's Wild" went off the air in June 1975, "Spin-Off" was its replacement. One of the very few network game shows from the New York-based packager Nicholson-Muir Productions, it was said to be an early TV adaptation of "Yahtzee". Married couples competed, answering questions to win the right to spin five displays in front of them. The displays flashed numbers at the rate of 17 different numbers from 1-6 per second; I'm presuming that the displays weren't totally random, like "Press Your Luck"'s patterns on its game board which in one case were studied and conquered, but the faster flash rate of 17 per second probably thwarted any attempts at memorization. Whichever couple made the best hand won the game and cash, with two out of three earning the couple the chance to play the Super Spin-Off for $10,000.

"Spin-Off"'s pilot was shot at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York, with veteran game show producer Willie Stein as showrunner and veteran soap opera director Bob Schwarz at the helm. The series was produced at Television City, and Jim Lange hosted, fresh off his stint hosting "The Dating Game". However, the show was not able to overcome NBC's "Celebrity Sweepstakes" in the ratings, and after just a few weeks on the air, "Spin-Off" spun off into TV oblivion, to be replaced by a newer, more exciting show from Bill Carruthers Productions called "Give n Take", hosted by - surprise - Jim Lange.

While Nick Nicholson and Roger Muir blew their chance at network TV game shows, they had plenty of minor successes in syndication, with shows like "The Money Makers", "Pay Cards", "Super Pay Cards", "The Shopping Game" (perhaps their rarest show, hosted by Art James and produced for a little-carried early cable network named SPN that also aired public-domain movies from Poverty Row studios, reruns of "I Married Joan" and auction programming), and the later version of "Howdy Doody" (Muir was a producer of the show when it was an NBC property, and Nicholson briefly played Clarabell). Nicholson and Muir also were the credited creators of Chuck Barris' "Newlywed Game". Another hallmark of these N-M-P shows was their reluctance to tape in Hollywood or New York - "Pay Cards" was done in Cincinnati, "Super Pay Cards" in Canada, and "The Shopping Game" in Nashville.

Here are the promos - if you listen carefully at the very end of the "Spin-Off" promo you'll faintly hear the first few bars of Nicholson's appropriately whirling-dervish-like electronic theme for the show.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Time Out For A Popeye Cartoon

This is a 1945 Popeye cartoon called "Mess Production" directed by Seymour Kneitel. It's got an unbelievable (and unbelievably uncredited) music score by Winston Sharples, who by this time had totally supplanted Sammy Timberg as the musical director for the studio. The last minute has some great music cues including Popeye's romantic stupor and his final walk through the factory, a faster reprise of cues already heard in the cartoon.

It also benefits from the three regular performers of Popeye, Bluto and Olive - Jack Mercer, Jackson Beck and Mae Questel - at a time when various other performers were temporarily doing the Popeye voice like Harry Welch and even Mae Questel.

We haven't the foggiest idea what they're making in this factory, all full of dangerous gadgets which could kill any character at any time. The various scenes of Olive walking on suspended girders (and what are they doing in an already built factory?) call to mind one of the earliest Popeye cartoons, "A Dream Walking" (which was animated in part by Seymour Kneitel).

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Lloyd Thaxton 1927-2008

We mourn the loss of fellow blogger Lloyd Thaxton, who hosted a highly successful dance party show on TV in the 1960's and was also the producer of the NBC consumer-watchdog show, "Fight Back With David Horowitz". We will continue to have Lloyd's most entertaining blog in our Blogroll at right.

LA Times obit

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Manuel Marinade

From this article, covering the hiring of Jerry Manuel as permanent manager of the New York Mets....

We have to grow from every time that we get as close as we get and don't make it, and we have to review and kind of marinate on why we didn't make it.

See? He's already steeped (or marinated) in Mets tradition. He's talking like freaking Casey Stengel.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


As joyful as the fall can be, the month of October always comes in melancholy for me. It was three years ago today - October 1, 2005 - that I lost one of the most amazing ladies who ever found her way into my life, my first wife Nancy, to complications from breast cancer that metastasized into bone cancer, then brain cancer, over a period of several weeks. Nancy, who had been a teacher at DHS Regional School - Ocean Campus in Toms River, devoted her life to the mentally handicapped, as a teacher, respite care provider, and sponsor. Nancy eventually lost both breasts to cancer, and later her life.

In some cruel irony, Nancy passed away on the first day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is therefore recommended that you find out more about breast cancer and its insidious ways by reading up on the latest medical information at your favorite medical provider, then making a donation to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. It is also recommended that you get yourself checked. Men too!

(The picture above was one of the last pictures I ever took of Nancy, at the very first Toms River Fest in late July 2005.)