Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for : The Twilight Zone!!

In my opinion, one of the greatest anthology series, of all time, was The Twilight Zone.

Created, hosted, and narrated by the chain smoking Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone ran on CBS from 1959 to 1964.

With a penchant for "twist endings", Twilight Zone was a show that could not only make you think, but could also make you question what you thought, as well. Serling was a script writer who was way ahead of his time in not only writing, but in social commentary. Many episodes were allegorical and reflective of the turbulent time in which they were made.

The actors who appeared on the show ran the gambit from silent movie icons like Buster Keaton, to great character actors such as Burgess Meredith and Andy Devine, to future film and television icons, such as William Shatner, Elizabeth Montgomery, and Robert Redford. One of my favorite episodes was Time Enough at Last.  Burgess Meredith played a reclusive bookworm who wanted nothing more than to be
alone and read his books. Being a bank teller, he would go down to the vault on his lunch hour and read....until one day he hears an explosion as he sits in the vault. He goes back upstairs to find the's the last man on earth due to a large, nuclear, proliferation.....and, strangely enough, that makes him very happy. Now, he'll have time to read his books with no interruptions. As he's cataloging all his new found books he drops his glasses and they break. The show ends with him kneeling in the middle of a pile of books, sobbing, with his broken glasses in hand.

Not only was The Twilight Zone a favorite show of mine, but it was very influential in my writing. There's nothing I love more than a "twist" ending or something that makes the reader think "Wow, didn't see that coming." I always (well, almost always) enjoy a show that makes me think and The Twilight Zone did just that without being too "preachy" or "cerebral".

The next time you see that signpost up ahead that tell you you're coming up to the Twilight yourself a favor and stop on just may learn something.

Honorable Mentions: Time Tunnel, Three's Company, T.J. Hooker

Tune in tomorrow for a visitor from another planet who I've talked about before.....

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for : Smorgasbord of Shows!!

O.k, today's letter just had way too many shows that I used to love as a kid so, instead of highlighting just one, I decided to touch on multiple shows as to not go too long with this post.

So, here we go....

School House Rock: I would always flip over to ABC between shows to make sure I caught these. Of course, this was back in the days before DVD....even back before the days of VCRs. I could sing almost all of them by heart....still can, actually.

Sanford and Son: A t.v. classic starring Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson as a father and son who own a junkyard business. A lot of social commentary with a lot of laughs. Fred Sanford and his son, Lamont (the Big Dummy!) were constantly bickering about how they should run their businesses....usually, with comedic results.  The highlight of the show, for me, was when Aunt Esther (played by the great LaWanda Page) would visit. "You fish eyed fool!"

The Saint: A very young, pre-James Bond, Roger Moore plays Simon Templar. Gentleman thief, conman, detective, and helper of those in need. A British show, hard to find these days, but well worth the watch if you can.

Sapphire and Steel: Another Brit show, along the lines of the old Doctor Who for BBC production values. Starring Joanna Lumley and David McCallum as elemental time agents. Members of an agency tasked to keep the integrity of "time" intact. Each member is an element with special abilities. Lumley is Sapphire and McCallum is Steel.

The Six Million Dollar Man: Another show I could go on and on about. One of my absolute favorites, as a kid. Of course, you have to understand...this was back in a time when sci-fi was scarce on t.v....especially on prime time. Lee Majors stars as Col. Steve Austin who, after an accident, is brought back from the brink of death by a government agency who implants biological electronic (bionic) parts into his body to replace his destroyed limbs. Going to work for the O.S.I (Office of Scientific Intelligence), Austin and his boss/friend Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) help keep the world safe from all manner of threats.

Star Trek: Pick your flavor...the original series, the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, or Enterprise....I, pretty much, enjoyed them all. The franchise endures even though some of the series don't always deliver one hundred percent. If it's Star Trek, it's a good bet I'll watch it.

I could go on for pages, but I think you get the idea. I used to watch a lot of t.v., as a kid, and much of it started with the letter "S" :D

Honorable Mentions: Sea Hunt, The Streets of San Francisco, Sha Na Na

Tune in tomorrow to enter a place of both things...and ideas......

Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for : Remington Steele!!

Back in the mid 1980s, it seemed that private investigator, Laura Holt, had a problem. She was a more than capable investigator but, gosh darnit, she just couldn't seem to be taken seriously.....because, well, she was a woman.

"I know", she thought, "I'll create a fictitious boss....a fictitious male boss...and then I'll be taken more seriously."

And that's exactly what she did. The snag came when her fictitious boss, Remington Steele (whom she named after a typewriter and football team) walked right into her life.

That's the basic premise of Remington Steele, which ran on NBC from 1982 to 1987, and starred Stephanie Zimbalist (the daughter of veteran actor Ephram Zimbalist Jr.) as Laura Holt and Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele.

Steele, who's real name is never given, was nothing but a conman and thief with an encyclopedic knowledge of classic movies and could always seem to find a correlation between the current case they were working and the plot of an old movie. When he's mistaken for Ms. Holt's fictitious boss, he takes the ball and runs with it, seeing the opportunity to make some money. Seeing that the fake "Mr. Steele" is, actually, good for business Holt decides to keep him around with the usual romantic comedy/drama/police procedure type happenings ensuing.

One of the best parts of the show, for me, was Doris Roberts as Holt's crass secretary, Mildred Krebs. Many only know her as Ray Ramono's mom on Everybody Loves Raymond, but to me she'll always be "Ms. Krebs"

Just as with Tom Selleck losing out on the role of Indiana Jones because of shooting conflicts, the same thing happened to Pierce Brosnan. He lost out on the opportunity to play James Bond, inheriting the role from Roger Moore, due to scheduling/contractual conflicts with Remington Steele.

That, in my opinion, was the James Bond franchise's loss.

Remington Steele had something for everyone. Action, romance, comedy, drama, and a cast that exuded great chemistry. For me, it'll always be a classic.

Honorable Mentions: Real People, The Rifleman, The Rockford Files

Tune in tomorrow for a show that.....begins with the letter "S" :P ('s totally up in the air!)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for : Quantum Leap!!

"Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the quantum leap accelerator and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own, and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so, Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home."

In going through the alphabet to see if this theme could support the A to Z Challenge, my pick for "Q" was a no-brainer. Quantum Leap has always been one of my favorite shows for many reasons....I'm a sucker for time-travel stories, I'm a huge sci-fi nerd as well as I like "period" type shows/stories. Throw in the fact that they took the time travel theme to a whole new level and did something that hadn't really been done before, and I was hooked from the get go.

I've always considered this the "little show that could". At first, I think, it had a tough time finding it's target audience and, to be honest, I'm not sure if it ever, truly, did, but it found enough of an audience to keep it alive and kicking for five awesome seasons. I mean, it had quite a few obstacles to overcome, the least of which was the confusion of just how, exactly, Dr. Sam Beckett bounced around time.

Dr. Sam Beckett (played by Scott Bakula) was the head of a government funded time travel experiment in the New Mexico desert. Here he had brought together the best minds on the planet as well as built a ego laden supercomputer named "Ziggy". Ziggy was fed every scrap of knowledge that there was and knew she (it thought of itself as a 'she' as well as having a female voice interface) was the smartest thing on the planet. She helped Dr. Beckett and his team create Project: Quantum Leap. When the government threatens to cut the funding, due to lack of tangible results, Beckett decides to try a test run....on himself. Now, the intro states that he "vanished", but.....not really. Basically, what Beckett did when he traveled through time (or "leaped", as they called it) was switch places with someone else....usually the person he was "sent" to help. He kept his own body, but some sort of aura kept him looking like the original person. Dr. Beckett was lost in the time stream until Ziggy was able to get a lock on his unique brain patterns and send help.

The "help" was in the form of a hologram that only Sam could see and hear.....a hologram of his friend and government contact, Admiral Al Calivecchi (played by Dean Stockwell). Did you ever notice that almost every show Donald P. Bellisario produces always has some sort of Naval character in it? Anyway, Al was a womanizer who had lived quite an interesting life before joining the Navy and raising up the ranks. An orphan who ran away to the circus, he had been married four or five times and had a wealth of life experience to help Dr. Beckett along his way. Al informed Dr. Beckett that Ziggy was working on a way to get him back home, which was 1990-something, if I remember correctly. Anyway, until they could get him back, he was to help those who had stumbled in history and help them "put right what had gone wrong".

The main problem, though, was that Sam had what they termed a "swiss cheese" memory due to the time leap. He could remember some things, but not others. As the show went on, his memories filled in and he remembered he was a child prodigy, held six doctorates, could speak six languages and knew four dead ones, and a martial arts expert. Oh yes....and that he had a wife waiting for him back in the future.

When Sam looked into the mirror, after a leap, he'd see the face of the person he had leaped into. Most of the times it was a man but, sometimes, it was a woman and, once, a monkey. Even though Sam could see Al, the holographic chamber where Al stood was in the Project facility and the person who Beckett had switched places with was kept there, in the "Waiting Room". The white walls and futuristic look of the room had many of the switched people thinking they had been abducted by aliens after they got back to their rightful bodies.  I think this was where a lot of the viewers got confused and put off many who weren't  true sci-fi fans.

When he's informed that even Ziggy can't figure out a way to get him back and he's still leaping around, Sam becomes convinced that God is steering him to who needs help and that theme continues all the way to the end of the series.

I could go on for pages about the ins and outs of this show and the themes/issues it addressed, but I'll spare you that and just say if this one of those shows you've never seen before, give it a look....I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Honorable Mentions: The Quest, Quincy, Q.E.D

Tune in Monday for the tale of a made up p.i. named after a typewriter....

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for : The Prisoner!!

Of all the British television shows I've every watched, I don't think any have ever made me think more than The Prisoner.

The series, created by star Patrick McGoohan, ran for seventeen episodes from 1967 to 1968 in the U.K. The allegorical show was always meant to be only seventeen episodes long and wound up being one of the biggest cult hits in Brit t.v. history.

It's hard to sum up this show in just a few sentences, but here goes....

A secret agent (we're never, actually, told his name), played by Patrick McGoohan, decides he's had enough of the espionage business and decides to quit. The only thing is, he's way too valuable and knows too much to just let loose into the world. His superiors want to know exactly why he's leaving and what he knows. Just in case it might come back to haunt them in the future. To that end, he's abducted and taken to a place you can't find on any map called, The Village.

In The Village, no one has a name and everyone is a number.

He is Number Six.

The Village is run by Number Two, who takes his orders guessed it....Number One. The Number Twos (they were, usually, replaced each episode for failing to break Number Six) and their cohorts spend the seventeen episode run of the series trying to trick, cajole, bribe, and threaten Number Six into revealing his reasons for leaving the spy game.  Meanwhile, Number Six spends the series trying to escape and/or topple The Village and return home.

Besides the usual "foot soldiers with guns" method of keeping people from vacating the coastal Village,
Number Two also employs something called "Rover". A huge, weather balloon looking, thing that chases attempted escapees down and engulfs them before returning them to The Village. Originally, Rover was supposed to be a mechanical, vehicle, type of device, but budget constraints forced the production crew to improvise so an old weather balloon was used in place of the high tech.

The show touched on all sorts of topics, though "authority versus individualism" seemed to be the overall theme.

I first discovered this how in a book talking about the all time great science fiction shows. Having never heard of it, at the time, I found it at the local Blockbuster (yes, it was that long ago) and, after renting the first, went back and got all seventeen.

I don't think I've yet to see a series as thought provoking as The Prisoner and, if you're a fan of sci-fi, you owe it to yourself to sit down and watch this series.

As they say in The Village......"Be Seeing You."

Honorable Mentions: Police Woman, Peter Gunn, Petticoat Junction

Tune in tomorrow to see how someone can look in the mirror and see a reflection that's not their own....

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for : The Odd Couple!!

What happens when you pair an OCD, 'neat freak', photographer with a sloppy, cigar smoking, sports writer?

You have The Odd Couple, of course.

Based off of the play by Neil Simon, The Odd Couple introduces us to Felix Unger (played by Tony Randall) and his friend Oscar Madison (played by Jack Klugman) and asks the question...."Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?"

The answer, I guess, was.....maybe?

The Odd Couple ran on ABC from from 1970 to 1975. Strangely enough, it was cancelled after every season, but then picked up again after the high summer re-run numbers.

If you liked to laugh, what wasn't to love? You had neat freak Felix, who like things orderly and clean and you had Oscar Madison who just didn't care. Oscar's room looked like a tornado had tore through it and smelled like cigar smoke. Felix, on the other hand, had a room that looked like it had just been photographed for Better Homes and Gardens.

A couple of notable reoccurring characters were "Murray the Cop", played by a pre-Happy Days Al Molinaro and Myrna Turner, Oscar's secretary, played by a young, pre Laverne and Shirley, Penny Marshall (sister of producer Garry Marshall)

This show always made me laugh and was one of the first to make me realize just what a "sitcom" was supposed to be. I'd always get perturbed about the crazy situations that came up..."But Mom, why doesn't Felix just tell Oscar to clean out his own ashtrays instead of doing it behind his back?"

"That just wouldn't be funny, dear."


It took a while for me to develop my sense of humor....some might say it's still yet to fully develop.

Honorable Mentions: The Outer Limits, Once Upon a Time, On The Rocks

Tune in tomorrow to find out why I am not a number....

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