Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Are me 'n Robot Hull the only doofuses on the face of this earth who remember WHEN THINGS WERE ROTTEN with any sort of seventies-inbred fondness? A product of the boffo 1975-1976 television season (perhaps the best season for television since 1962-63, although a few nebbishes will say '71-'72 had 'em beat all hollow), WHEN THINGS WERE ROTTEN sure burst out of the gate with some of the biggest network push seen on television since Sandy Duncan or at least Paul Sand's own woosh in the footrace of fame. I guess that ABC was banking plenty on this 'un along with Howard Cosell's own SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE hoping that the pair of 'em would help boost the net outta their perennial dungeon, but whereas the Cosell SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE turned more or less into a repeat of ABC's 1963 Jerry Lewis fiasco (plenty of advance hype and no audience) ROTTEN was the new JAMIE McPHEETERS...something that I'm sure most insiders thought had the oomph and pizzizz to be a definite shoe in but was either too good, too obscure or too sight-gagged for the standard television view of the day whose brain might have become too tapioca'd by repeated viewings of PETTICOAT JUNCTION coupled with a few CELEBRITY TENNISes tossed in for good measure. (And where does that put DON ADAMS' SCREEN TEST???)

Too bad about that, because after watching the entire thirteen-episode run of the series (something I could never have hoped to have done at the time considering the abnormal amts of homework thrusted upon me during my bootstrapp'd days) which were, surprisingly enough, lifted from some ancient A 'n E 'casts I gotta wonder just why this show flub-a-dubbed the way it did. Anybody with a leftover testicle for brains'd've thunk it'd be a big hit considering how it mixed standard mid-seventies sitcom fare and fast-paced whacko humor courtesy creator Mel Brooks (who surely was hoping that recent  BLAZING SADDLES/YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN box office bonanza'd translate into big time Nielsens), and given how it was about time for a return to mid-sixties weird fantasy sitcoms a la THE MUNSTERS a show like this seemed custom made for the big sitcom revival I sure was hoping for. At least it sure made a biggo imp. on me, especially the way it mixed and matched hotcha GET SMART-styled humor with pre-Bicentennial whiz custom made for a suburban pudge like myself who was just starting to get a grasp on the good 'n cheezy side of life as it manifested itself in used record bins and flea market traipses during one of the more fruitful periods in Ameriga extant.

Great choice of cast with former Hymie the Robot Dick Gautier in the starring role and future late-seventies ABC regs Dick Van Patten and Bernie Kopell (himself an ex-SMART alumni!) as Friar Tuck 'n Alan-a-Dale respectively doing their best to keep the show from becoming too snide for the more stody members of the viewing community. Richard Dimitri's so boffo in the twin role of Puerto Rican Merry Man Renaldo and his prissy twin brother Bertram that I sure wonder why the Mel Brooks and spinoff cadre of the late-seventies didn't put him to use other'n a brief role in the mockobrooksian WORLD'S GREATEST LOVER. As for Peter Sabin as Big John least there would be a few years of bit parts on THE LITTLEST HOBO and maybe even a PASSWORD PLUS if yer lucky, and why the roles of Little John and Will Scarlet weren't filled I dunno, but Billy Barty and Fred Travalena mighta had some steady work if somebody had only thought about that!

Can't complain about Misty Rowe taking a brief sojourn away from HEE HAW in the role of Maid Marion even if you can tell she's trying to ape Madeline Kahn when the precise moment arises (and there's nothing wrong with that even if you couldn't stand the original). Can't argue with success and while I'm at it future MONSTER SQUAD vampire Henry Polic II (who Bill Shute was raging against with an atypical fag-hating rage back when Polic was hosting a short-lived ABC daytime game show) does a pretty good Harvey Korman as the Sheriff of Nottingham making me wonder if the guy sat through at least ten showings of BLAZING SADDLES straight while taking notes. Well, I guess if you couldn't get the real thing imitations would be good enough (after all, this was tee-vee) and the pair do rise to the occasion especially since they're doing this for Wednesday night prime time and not the silver screen.

Another tasty treat that's in store for those of you hungerin' to cop a sight of this series are the myriad asst. of great guest stars. Old timey tee-vee fans like me were (and remain) heartened that the likes of Carl Ballantine (McHALE'S NAVY) and Joe E. Ross (CAR 54) showed up briefly but impactly if you know what I mean. And, in an episode directed by none other than Marty Feldman, Dudley Moore plays a Middle-Eastern prince from an olive oil producing nation that's part of OOPEC who chooses to wed Marian as part of a trade agreement. Considering the vast array of talent on both sides of the set and the smart ability to try pleasing not only the doofuses but the snide humor lovers and the intellectual bores you woulda thought that this show'd stayed at the top of the ratings for a heap long time, but I guess it was too good to last which is why you eventually saw Gautier taking on bit sitcom roles for years on end kinda like the way Louise Lasser (whose own MARY HARTMAN MARY HARTMAN was a '75 breakout hit) was doin' the same despite being Ameriga's Sweetheart a good year or so earlier.

But at least we got these thirteen episode to glom, and I'll forever (or at least until I croak) cherish the great sitegags and snoot humor and weirdo gags and literalisms taken to their bizarrest levels every time I give these discs a spin. You might too...I think a legit version without the poor editing and "bugs" is wallowing around out there would do yourself a favor to snatch it up, y'know...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

no it's not just you and Robot Hull....I can still sing the theme song to the show, and I have not seen it since it originally aired...