Sunday, September 30, 2007

My Problem Is, You Never Do Anything With Me

Lois Maxwell has died at the age of 80. I always felt a bit sorry for her in some of the later James Bond movies, though my sympathy was totally misplaced: there's no reason to feel sorry for someone who has a role in the longest-running movie series of our time. But it wasn't fun to watch someone who was clearly too old for the part trade quips with various James Bonds who were also clearly too old for the part. (Granted, it would have been way worse to see a 95 year-old Roger Moore flirting with a younger Miss Moneypenny.)

The character of Miss Moneypenny in the movies is, I take it, a combination of the Moneypenny from the books with Bond's secretaries, Loelia Ponsonby and Mary Goodnight. (Just writing down those Ian Fleming character names makes me smile. The man came up with the craziest names since Dickens.) Fleming's idea was that anyone who would be a secretary in the secret service would be a little emotionally detached from the agents; she'll flirt with them but no more, because she doesn't want to get emotionally involved with a man who will probably be dead soon. Maxwell, one of those intercontinental actors who were in plentiful supply in the '50s and '60s -- she was Canadian, mostly lived in England, but appeared in American and Italian movies too (she was Amneris -- the acting, not the singing -- in the 1953 movie of Aida) -- nailed the role perfectly in Dr. No; her best part in the series was in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Worst Series Retool Ever?

As you can probably tell from my previous posts, I'm quite fascinated by shows that get retooled, especially when the retool happens in the second or third season. When a show gets overhauled late in its run, it's not as interesting, because those are usually done to cope with the departures of key cast members. What I'm talking about is what happens when a relatively new shows changes the cast, the setting, and even the premise. The idea is always that the show has the potential to be a hit, but to do so, it needs to add certain elements that will theoretically make it more appealing.

The thing is, this almost never actually works. The viewers they gain from the new setting or new demographic appeal almost never outweigh the viewers they drive away by changing everything so quickly. It worked with Newhart, but Newhart's retool happened very gradually; the new characters and new setting weren't all introduced in the same episode, and it took over a year for all the changes to be implemented. That helped regular viewers get used to the changes while bringing in new viewers. But when a show starts a new season and the sets are different, the supporting cast is different, the style is different -- I'm not saying it never works, but it certainly has a high probability of disaster.

So what is your nomination for the worst of these retools, either in terms of how bad the changes were, or just how stupid an idea it was to change the show? The classic example, of course, is Mork and Mindy, because as was explained in comments to another post, ABC and Paramount took a huge hit show and retooled it into a much less popular show.

But I think another retool from the same era may be even worse: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. You'll recall that the first season of this Glen Larson production was the cheesiest thing ever: bad '70s fashions in the future, an annoying robot sidekick (voiced by Mel Blanc, who didn't even bother to make up an actual voice for the character; that was basically just his real voice), and lots of space T&A. But it combined everything people liked in the late '70s and early '80s: cornball humor, action, robots, sci-fi, and jiggle TV. The abbreviated second season had a serious and depressing setting, serious and depressing plots, a serious and depressing supporting cast, and few female guest stars. I'm not saying Buck Rogers was a good show in its first season, though it was better than the second. What I'm saying is that I don't understand the logic: how did anyone think the show would get more popular if they included less humor, action and sex appeal? It would be like retooling Star Trek to make Kirk suicidal and celibate, and replacing every member of the crew with that alien from the Filmation cartoon.

TRANSCRIPT: "Diary of a Cavpag Madman" by Conrad L. Osborne

I decided to transcribe Conrad L. Osborne’s memorable and very, very long stream-of-consciousness review "Diary of a Cavpag Madman," one of his last pieces for High Fidelity and certainly one of his most unusual. It's too long to post here, so I put it up on a makeshift webpage; click the following link to read it. Unfortunately the page is having some problems reproducing accent marks, quotation marks, and so on, for reasons I don't understand, but I'll try and fix it when I get a chance.

Click here to read DIARY OF A CAVPAG MADMAN by Conrad L. Osborne.

Part of the background to this review was that for a decade or more, opera recordings had been stripped of any connection to actual opera houses. Most operas were recorded in London, because it was cheaper to record there. And instead of real opera orchestras like the Vienna Philharmonic or the La Scala orchestra, the companies turned first to symphony orchestras (London has more orchestras than any other city, so there was always one available) and then to ad hoc pickup groups. The recordings Osborne is reviewing here were made in London with the National Philharmonic Orchestra, which did not actually exist -- it was a group formed from players from all the London orchestras, assembled purely for recordings. James Levine, who made a lot of these London-based opera recordings in the '70s, later recalled that he'd spend a large part of the session simply teaching the music to the players, because while the orchestras were excellent, many of the musicians hadn't played the music before and they certainly hadn't played it together. Add in the necessity to schedule the recordings around the busy schedules of relatively few singers (Pavarotti and Placido Domingo were on just about every Italian opera recording made in the '70s), and it's no wonder these recordings didn't sound anything like real performances; they weren't anything like real performances. Today, most opera recordings are made in conjunction with stage or concert performances, so while they have their own flaws, they do kind of sound like everybody has worked together before.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Never Was There a Momentary Lull

I've commented before on the fact that My Fair Lady is a direct adaptation of the 1938 movie version of Pygmalion. Alan Lerner initially downplayed this and talked as if the additional scenes were his own idea, but eventually he wrote that the key to adapting Pygmalion was "following the movie more than the play." Other people had tried to adapt Pygmalion and, apparently, focused too much on Shaw's original play; by incorporating the movie's extra scenes, the ending (which Shaw didn't write) and the mid-point crisis from the movie (the Professor Karpathy scenes, which provided the story with an actual villain), Lerner came up with a viable musical. It wasn't the first show to succeed by leaning heavily on the movie version as a source; The King and I is basically a direct adaptation of the script for the movie Anna and the King of Siam, but the writers of that movie didn't get any credit anywhere in the show (kind of shabby, but not unusual for Rodgers and Hammerstein, who didn't like sharing credit).

Anyway, I strung together side-by-side comparisons of three scenes from Pygmalion with their counterparts in My Fair Lady: the marbles gag, Karpathy's identification of Eliza as a "fraud," and the ending. The biggest difference, obviously, is that everything is bigger and longer and slower in My Fair Lady. Pygmalion is a very fast-paced movie (only 99 minutes), and it was done as a contemporary 1938 piece -- which may not have been the best choice, but it probably wouldn't have been in the budget to do it as a period piece. My Fair Lady was always supposed to be a lavish-looking period piece; even though the original Broadway production actually had a rather modest budget, director Moss Hart and designer Oliver Smith made it look sumptuous and huge, and of course the movie version was a big-budget affair all the way. So the marbles gag is twice as long in My Fair Lady as it was in Pygmalion, and even though the ending is exactly the same, it's stretched out much more.

The most interesting comparison is between the Karpathy "revelation" in Pygmalion and in My Fair Lady. In the new scene written by Shaw for Pygmalion, Karpathy explains that Eliza can't be English because "only those who have been taught to speak it, speak it well." In My Fair Lady, the scene ends before this (I believe that in the original production they actually had the act break here) and Higgins tells us what happened in the "You Did It" number. This is a case where the musical improves on the original movie -- adding some extra suspense and giving Eliza a chance to actually be there when this is discussed.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"The" Chappelle's Show?

This New York Times article on TV-on-DVD really doesn't have anything new (I was mildly surprised to find that TV-on-DVD sales are up instead of down; somehow it seemed otherwise, what with all the shows being abandoned in mid-run), but it does offer this chart of the top-selling TV shows on DVD through the end of last year.

The high ranking for Sex and the City is partly due to HBO's inflated pricing.

KotH Protest Too Much

IGN has a pretty good article on voice-over actors on King of the Hill, interviewing some voice-over people who don't get interviewed all that often, like Lauren Tom and Breckin "Not the Same Person as Seth Green" Meyer. They also spend a lot of time talking about Tom Petty's role as Lucky, which kind of depresses me because I still think that's the biggest mis-step the show took in recent years.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Phyllis, Phyllis

I recently found a rare VHS tape with the first two episodes of Phyllis -- the second spinoff from Mary Tyler Moore. Since this show hasn't been on in a while, I thought I'd upload the pilot to DailyMotion for those who are curious to see what the show was like.

Unfortunately neither the pilot nor the second episode feature the show's most popular character, Mother Dexter (Judith Lowry). The pilot does have Barbara Colby as Phyllis's boss and the ex-lover of her late husband Lars. (If you take into account everything we've heard about the unseen Lars, including the fact that he had an affair with Sue Ann and his sticking Phyllis with no insurance, you kind of have to conclude that he was the worst husband ever.) After three episodes, Colby was murdered; her part was re-cast, but all the same, the emphasis had to shift away from Phyllis's job and toward her life with her husband's family; finally she just changed jobs altogether.

The show collapsed in the second season when Lowry died; with the most popular supporting character gone and with Phyllis looking increasingly cursed (Jane Rose, who played Audrey, died only two years after the show went off the air), it couldn't sustain its initial success. But it also had the problem of putting Phyllis at the center of a show. Usually on an MTM sitcom, the lead character is more normal than everybody else. But Phyllis was one of the weirdest people on Mary Tyler Moore; Mary and Rhoda both stood around and gaped at her endless self-delusion. If you look at the pilot of Phyllis, it's clear that the writer/creators Ed. Weinberger and the late Stan Daniels are trying to keep the qualities that made Phyllis interesting, but that means in practice that for much of the episode, other characters are playing straight man to her, instead of the lead character playing the straight man to the other eccentrics. That was why the introduction of Mother Dexter helped the show, because she was the only character who could make Phyllis look normal by comparison. But even so, as the series went on, Phyllis's character had to be softened to make her a more plausible sitcom lead, and when the show was canceled, some insiders expressed the opinion that it had softened Phyllis to the point of losing what made her popular in the first place.

Still, Cloris Leachman is great, and you can see why MTM and the network would have wanted to give her a spinoff: she was only available for a few episodes a year on Mary Tyler Moore (she was always credited as a "special guest star" when she appeared), and by giving her a show they could have her for a full 22 episodes. Perhaps it would have worked out better to create a new character for her, but that's hindsight, and anyway the audience probably wouldn't have accepted her as a non-Phyllis character at that point. The show also gets points for retaining Lisa Gerritsen as Phyllis's daughter Bess (who had a fairly prominent role in the very earliest Mary Tyler Moore episodes, but didn't appear very often in subsequent seasons) and for casting Henry Jones, who was so great in Frank Tashlin's The Girl Can't Help It and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Oh, and I've frequently offered praise for Stan Daniels' theme song.

Here's the prologue (with the guy who played the minister in "Chuckles Bites the Dust"), title sequence and Act 1:

And here's Act 2 and the closing credits:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

No Parking Hare

Don't know how long this cartoon will last online, but it's good to see it again. "No Parking Hare" (1954) is one of the last cases of a Warner Brothers director semi-remaking a cartoon by another director (another example is Chuck Jones remaking CLampett's "Porky's Pooch" as the first Charlie Dog cartoon, "Little Orphan Airedale"). Bob McKimson and writer Sid Marcus basically remade Chuck Jones's "Homeless Hare," and, surprisingly, came up with a cartoon that is as good as or even better than the original. Marcus, who wrote a bunch of cartoons for McKimson that year, came up with some very imaginative gags -- like the "Raven" sequence with the construction worker's crazy reaction to the electrical shock -- and put some life back into McKimson and his animators. It's too bad that the WB studio shutdown happened at that point, effectively ending the McKimson-Marcus partnership (when the studio reopened, McKimson was working with Tedd Pierce again).

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Paul McCartney Must Be Turning Over in His Grave

In honour of the release of Across the Universe -- or as it will soon be known, Sgt. Pepper The Movie Without The Bee Gees -- The Associated Press asked various Film Festival attendees what their favorite Beatles song is.

Jimmy Carter gives by far the dumbest answer -- "Imagine" is not a Beatles song, it's not profound, and its popularity in Cuba doesn't mean what he seems to think it means -- which is good, because sometimes I think I'm getting too politically one-sided and it helps to be reminded that I find Jimmy Carter annoying.

Runner-up for dumbest answer, only because he at least named an actual Beatles album beforehand, is Michael Douglas, who also names "Imagine" and pretends that he wants a world without possessions. He doesn't.

Jude Law's comment is more apropos: "No, it wouldn't be 'Hey Jude.' I've got so many memories of that song being played. Thank God, it's a good song. It would be terrible to be named after an awful song."

The good thing about the Beatles is that in spite of the air of '60s Boomer nostalgia that surrounds a lot of discussion of their work -- hence movies like Across the Universe and various Boomers who think "Imagine" is profound -- the actual songs really do transcend the period in a way that a lot of iconic '60s music and entertainment doesn't. I attribute this to the songwriting of Lennon/McCartney and Harrison, who always seemed to go for fairly timeless themes and influences, whether it's the traditional AABA pop-song structures they used, or McCartney's various pastiches of every style of popular song, or Lennon's Lewis Carroll nonsense lyrics. (The Lewis Carroll influence means that whereas most '60s "psychedelic" songs sound horribly dated, something like "I Am the Walrus" feels sort of timeless because it actually has its roots in 19th century nonsense verse.) That may be why movies and revues don't usually succeed when they try to put these songs in the context of the '60s mythology -- these songs aren't really '60s songs any more.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Silver's Good Enough For Me, Mr. T

Reading about the upcoming Sweeney Todd movie, I remembered that I always derived a lot of silly, juvenile amusement from the fact that Mrs. Lovett calls the title character "Mr. T" a couple of times. Of course this was 1979, long before Rocky III made "Mr. T" mean something else, so the creators of the show can't be blamed for that. But what's their excuse for calling characters "Buddy and Sally" in Follies? or Stephen Sondheim's excuse for using the expression "Sorry, Charlie" (in Merrily We Roll Along) without apparently realizing that it's a Star-Kist reference? Or for that matter the creators of Kiss Me Kate for calling a character "Lois Lane?" Sometimes it seems like people who write musicals should be a little more aware of what's going on in popular culture, just so they can avoid stuff like that.

However, if Mr. T were cast in Sweeney Todd, it would be way better than with Johnny Depp. Think of how much better his big number, "My Friends," would become:

This is my van,
No car can catch it.
Why should I fly
When it beats any plane,
My van,
My big black van.
Don't touch my van,
Maybe you'd scratch it,
And if you did,
I'd be bringing you pain
Very soon,
Respect my van.
It gave the slip
To Colonel Decker,
Plus those other Colonels
And also General Fullbright.

My van is cool,
Wish it was private.
Those other guys
Need a van of their own.
This van
Is not their van.
Murdock, that fool,
Once asked to drive it.
Asking me that,
He deserved to be thrown
To the moon.
Lay off my van.
We can outrace
The Dukes of Hazzard,
Then we'll beat the Bandit,
And maybe Buford Justice.

MRS. LOVETT (countermelody)
It is indeed, Mr. T,
If your teammates need, Mr. T,
Speed, Mr. T,
A van of their own
Ain't as good.
Hannibal would wilt in a Pontiac.
Murdock's wacked out, Mr. T,
You were right to shout, Mr. T,
That he deserved to be thrown
To the moon.
Wish you would.
And them Dukes
Haven't a chance with you
And your custom GMC,
Mr. T.

(Mr. T finishes his repairs.)

MR. T: At last I can drive to the youth center again!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Compare and Contrast

In the comments to my Miller-Boyett post, asks about how Full House was re-tooled before it aired. I don't know much about it, but Wikipedia says that the original idea was for the three guys to be comedians. And there was an unaired pilot with a different actor whom Bob Saget was brought in to replace. And I recall reading that there was an even earlier version of the pilot script by different writers (MTM refugees and Who's the Boss? creators Blake Hunter and Martin Cohan) that didn't get used.

Anyway, one thing I forgot to mention about Miller-Boyett shows was that they all had insanely long opening sequences with uplifting theme songs. Once the Laverne and Shirley theme became a hit, no matter how farcical the show was, the song always had to be some huge inspirational thing about standing tall on the wings of the family everywhere you look, because out of the blue the sweet insanity will come to you. But when they re-tooled the show, they'd always go back and shoot new footage for the title sequence and re-tool that as well. Observe:

Angie, season 1:

In season 2, the setting is different and a character has been dropped, so most of the characters are brought back to the location in Philadelphia to shoot outdoor footage -- I guess the theory being that if they change the setting again, they won't have to re-shoot footage of people eating hot dogs outdoors. Also, the first season executive producer is already gone. And the song has been remixed.

Perfect Strangers season 1, when they were working at a crummy job, focuses mostly on how two guys both came to Chicago pursuing a dream and nothing's gonna stand in their way, even if they have to work a crummy job, yada yada.

And then the opening credits everybody remembers, which are almost entirely about how awesome these guys lives are and how successful they are (they get to go to ball games, run around in revolving doors, and just generally live in Chicago the way Ferris Bueller lived for only one day).


DVD releases of older TV shows and movies are slowly winding down; with DVDs not selling as much as they used to, there are a lot of shows and movies that aren't going to get out of the vaults. One hopes that some studios will take the obvious step of licensing out the titles they don't want to release. That's what Universal seems to be doing. Criterion will be releasing Ernst Lubitsch's early '30s musicals with Maurice Chevalier -- made for Paramount but owned by Universal -- in its low-budget Eclipse line. And Universal has slowly started letting Hart Sharp Video have some old TV titles for its "TV Guide Presents" line, first Banacek and now, glory of glories, the syndicated seasons of Charles in Charge. I hope this becomes a trend; we're not going to see big-studio releases of obscure old movies and cheesy '80s TV shows, so why not let small companies have them?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Jane Wyman

The Yahoo headline for her obituary calls her "Ronald Reagan's first wife," which makes me wince a little, because she deserves to be remembered for much more than that. She was a fine actress in every genre, an Oscar winner for Johnny Belinda, a fine singer who didn't do nearly enough musicals. Her movies with director Douglas Sirk, star Rock Hudson and producer Ross Hunter, Magnficent Obsession and All That Heaven Allows, almost single-handedly re-invented the "woman's picture" and re-defined an entire studio (Universal would spend the next decade and a half making movies like this). And she introduced herself to a new generation on a prime-time '80s soap, Falcon Crest.

Here she is with Bing Crosby introducing the Oscar-winning "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening":

And here's her solo number from her second movie with Crosby, Just For You:

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Retoolers

I happened upon this 199 Time Magazine article about the Urkel phenomenon, and what caught my eye was this passage about the producers of the show, Miller-Boyett productions (originally Miller-Milkis-Boyett), the producers of some of the cheesiest and most popular "family" sitcoms ever. Explaining their method, the author writes:

But they have gained a reputation in TV circles as expert fix-it men, skilled at tinkering with shows and playing up the elements that work. Their legendary success was boosting the role of Fonzie, the greaser with a heart of gold, in Happy Days. "Basically, the concept of a show is merely a vehicle to get it launched," says Boyett. "What keeps it going is the ability to present characters people want to follow."

That reminds me that these guys -- whose shows were usually evil but phenomenally successful -- could write a book on how to re-tool a sitcom: almost every show they were ever involved with was substantially re-tooled in the middle of its run, sometimes several times. Like their mentor Garry Marshall, they didn't do the whole artistic-integrity thing and would basically do anything to keep a show on the air, whether it was bowing to network demands, playing up any character who became popular, or changing the setting. Let's look at some of the shows produced by Miller-Boyett or some variant thereof (Miller-Milkis, Miller-Milkis-Boyett -- basically, Miller, a former assistant to Billy Wilder, was the constant factor in all this):

- Happy Days: one of the most famous and successful (commercially anyway) re-toolings ever. Then it was re-tooled several times to adjust for the departure of Ron Howard and the departure/return of Joanie and Chachi.

- Laverne and Shirley: they moved the whole show from Milwaukee (Miller was from Milwaukee and it was presumably his idea to set these shows there) to Hollywood, then did it for a year without Shirley (or Lenny).

- Mork and Mindy: Completely overhauled in its second season.

- Angie: this was one of the few older-demographic comedies this team did (Bosom Buddies, which underwent a mild second-season re-tool, was another). Since all their shows were attempts to cash in on the success of something else, I suspect that this was done in response to the launch of ABC/Paramount's Taxi, which briefly made it OK for the network to do smart adult comedies. Then Taxi's ratings tanked and they abandoned that pretty quickly. Anyway, despite a successful first season, Angie had a new setting and had dropped some characters by the time the second season started.

- Perfect Strangers: early on, Larry and Balki were working for a mean shop owner played by Ernie Sabella. In the third season, they were working a big glamorous Chicago paper. Apparently the producers had decided that people didn't want to see the characters working a depressing dead-end job like Laverne and Shirley; this was the '80s and audiences wanted successful people.

- The Hogan Family: one of the most notorious and publicized re-toolings of the '80s, started as a show with Valerie Harper and wound up as a show about Sandy Duncan.

- Going Places: a show I never saw, but which according to the linked article had the characters change jobs/settings in the middle of its short run.

- Family Matters: the focus of the Time article that started this post; it starts off as a Perfect Strangers spinoff and suddenly it's a show about Urkel, whom the producers embraced just as they once embraced the Fonz.

Just about the only show on that list that didn't get heavily re-tooled was Full House, and even that got changed a lot before it first aired (change of premise, and an unused pilot with a different actor).

I don't have much to say to sum up, except that Tom Miller and co. are a test case for what producers can accomplish if they don't really care what their shows were originally supposed to be about. If they throw the whole integrity and plausibility notion aside and just rejigger every show to emphasize whatever the public likes at a given point, they can actually be pretty darn successful. Frightening, but successful.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Choose Your "A-Ford" Pun

Dave Kehr, who first broke the news about Fox's upcoming Ford At Fox box, now has all the information about the set, contents and special features. It doesn't have all of Ford's Fox movies -- some of the surviving silents are missing -- but it does have 24 movies, some of Ford's wartime documentary work, and a new feature-length documentary. The official studio release is here.

Everybody will have an oddball favorite among the movies that haven't been previously released on DVD. Mine is Tobacco Road. Yes, it's a sanitized version of the book and play, but it's like a satire of The Grapes of Wrath by the same people who made that film (Ford, producer Darryl Zanuck and writer Nunnally Johnson) -- the dark side of the people that they were sentimentalizing the year before.

Now, given the price of the set, how many reviews will include some variant of: "Get it if you can a-Ford it?"

Little Rich

After all the Richie Rich bashing, I should give equal time to Jerry Beck, who has compiled some stories from the early, "cool" Richie Rich.

Leslie Cabarga and I spent the summer mining the Harvey Comics vaults and cherry-picked the best of the original Richie Rich comics of the 50s and 60s for a new trade paperback volume due out next month. This is the second of several high quality Harvey Comics reprint books we are compiling for Dark Horse.

I don't know, though. Those early stories were certainly better drawn than the ones I grew up with, but they still have the problem of pretending that Richie, a privileged little snot, is some kind of hero. I mean look at that sample Jerry posts. Richie's beating up some poor underprivileged schmuck. I know that guy is probably a "crook" (in Richie-speak), but maybe he wouldn't have to steal if Richie would give him some money and a decent meal instead of breaking his bones.

Update: Commenter Andrew asks: "Out of curiosity, Jaime, do you feel the same way whenever Uncle Scrooge thwarts the Beagle Boys et al?" First of all, I didn't mean the above with absolute seriousness, or indeed any seriousness at all. In other words, no, I don't think that the "crooks" in the Richieverse are in fact tragic victims of society.

But I should probably clarify that I don't actually have a Marxist attitude toward fictional millionaires. I do not begrudge Scrooge McDuck, nor Bruce Wayne their tremendous wealth. I'm not even all that bothered when Daddy Warbucks does The Full Benito and has his goons take criminals out back to be executed. But Bruce Wayne has other qualities to offer besides wealth, Daddy Warbucks isn't the star of the strip, and Scrooge is a funny miser. Richie's like Scrooge if we were supposed to admire him for no other reason than being an insane miser who likes to keep piles of cash in his house. So, no, he's not an evil capitalist exploiter of the martyred proletariat. But he is annoying.

If you want to know what makes Richie so annoying, I can't sum it up better than this one-page gag recalled at Man vs. Clown:


[Richie is walking on his estate with his asshole cousin, Reggie Van Dough. Richie's chauffeur Bascomb is working on one of the Rich family's luxury automobiles.]

Richie: Bascomb is the greatest mechanic in the world! He can make anything run!


Reggie [pointing at pile of rags]: Oh yeah?! Let's see him make that pile of rags run! Haw, haw!


Richie [whispering; pointing to pile of rags]: Uh, Bascomb...

Bascomb [wiping hands on rag (not from pile); steely look of determination]: I'll take care of it, Master Rich.


Bascomb [sternly; hands on hips]: Excuse me, sir, but I think it's time you moved along!

Vagrant [fleeing; very tattered and filthy]: Chee! Can't a guy find a place to sleep around here?!

Reggie [flabbergasted; sweat drops flying]: A TRAMP!!!

Richie [doubled over with merriment]: Yep! And Bascomb made him run! Ha! Ha!

So, yeah. The joke is that Richie Rich kicked a homeless man off his property.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Update Ken Furie, music editor for the now-defunct High Fidelity, has a post up about Conrad L. Osborne's great article "Diary of a Cavpag Madman," the definitive piece about how Pavarotti the brilliant young singer became Pavarotti the media star. He also talks about how the piece came to be published intact:

About all the credit I can claim for the "CavPag Madman" piece is giving C.L.O. the records to review--unless you count getting the thing into print, and getting it into print intact. (In fact, this was no small feat, but that's another story. Okay, if you must know, I had to threaten to quit. I knew it was a weak bargaining chip--the next time I used it, or at the latest the time after that, it was taken not as a threat but as an offer, and accepted--but this time, at least, it worked, more or less.)

I do recall talking to Conrad while he was working on the, er, "review," and being told that it was taking a strange form, which he projected would represent "either a breakthrough in criticism or the final flipping out of C.L.O." (I suggested there was no reason why it couldn't be both.)

Oddly enough, he was most prominently associated with an aria that wasn't really right for his type of voice: "Nessun Dorma" really needs a bigger, more heroic voice. But Pavarotti made that aria work for him anyway, because he used his voice very intelligently and could always figure out how to make an aria display his voice to best advantage, even if he really shouldn't have been singing it.

One piece that was perfect for his voice was the "Ingemisco" from the Verdi Requiem. One of the things that helped make him a star was his appearance in Herbert Von Karajan's La Scala film of the Requiem, with Leontyne Price, Fiorenza Cossotto, Nicolai Ghiaurov, and Henri-Georges Clouzot (The Wages of Fear) directing the cameras. Pavarotti was a last-minute replacement for Carlo Bergonzi, and this film -- along with the commercial recording of the Requiem he made in Vienna that year with Georg Solti -- was a huge boost for his reputation.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"I gaze upon the glory of THE PRICE IS RIGHT and I see the face of America, and it is divine. Plus, you know, hot chicks on sports cars." -- Barney

I'm glad there's going to be a DVD set for The Price Is Right, but how do you pick "the 20 best episodes?" What makes a good episode of TPIR? Is it one where somebody manages to win an unusual number of fabulous prizes, like winning both showcases? Or is it a show where something silly happens, like that one where the yodeling "Cliffhanger" guy gets stuck?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Unkind Cuts

One thing I like about the DVD reviews at Sitcoms Online is that they provide timings for the episodes. (TV Shows on DVD does this too, but they don't review as many shows.) This is useful because it helps identify which episodes have had musical sequences cut, or had syndication versions included by mistake.

CBS/Paramount is the most notorious studio these days when it comes to edited releases. The Sitcoms Online reviews of some recent releases indicate that The Odd Couple Season 2 probably hasn't had any major edits (all the episodes run over 25 minutes), Sabrina the Teenage Witch Season 2 has probably had a few episodes hacked up (there are a few episodes that run 30-60 seconds shorter than the rest, which usually means that they cut a scene with someone singing a song), and Bosom Buddies Season 2, apart from the expected absence of "My Life", has a couple of musical sequences missing -- people on the message board have identified one of the missing sequences as the cast singing "Yakkity Yak." (Paramount also cut Yakkity Yak" from a couple of Happy Days episodes.)

The upshot is, if you see any favorite old show in syndication, record any episode with any musical content. You can't be sure that your favorite scene will make it onto DVD.

Also, Paul Mavis at DVD Talk shares my affection for Bosom Buddies season 2, pointing out that it was one of the first mainstream sitcoms "to incorporate the whole ironic, self-reflexive, pop-culture referencing humor then found only on Saturday Night Live or at comedy groups like Second City or The Groundlings, or in movies like Animal House and Caddyshack."

Very Uplifting

Nothing much to post today, and I hope you're out doing something instead of sitting in front of the computer. So here's the all-time greatest "signing off the air" promo, from Joe Dante's masterpiece Gremlins II.