Thursday, January 30, 2014

Last week's IT'S ABOUT TIME review had me scouring the Bill Shute stack for this particular platter of boob tube pleasure, a collection of various tee-vee pilots of shows that did, didn't and sorta got made into series that weren't anything you'd care to call "hits". Far from that, as two of the following programs lasted a good one year, one a few months with a different cast, and another didn't even make it to production if my sources are correct. But they all have something that I haven't seen in television for quite a long time, mainly interesting premises done up without any airs of socio-political preachiness or modern-day post-decadence that never came off funny, innovative or entertaining in the slightest. Naw, these shows are pretty much more of that good ol' mindless entertainment that we always tuned into week after week with an eagerness akin to Sam on the scent of a dog in heat. And if these programs were indeed brain-dead then call me Karen Quinlan and put me on life support because I got much more sit down and engross yourself jollies outta these shows that I got outta alla the positive gay role models and action-less talkity-talk "comedies" that I've had the mis-pleasure to come in contact with these past thirtysome years!

I remember program #1 THE UGLIEST GIRL IN TOWN very well. When it originally aired back in 1968 I faithfully tuned into this ABC series under the delusion that it had one of the funniest premises ever, that of a guy disguising himself as a gal romping around in Olde London Towne! This was before I knew about CHARLEY'S AUNT and a whole slew of safe 'n acceptable transvestite humor that made up a good portion of classic moom pitcher comedy, but my DANIEL BOONE-watching uncles (that was what UGIT was up against) wouldn't have any part of it...they all thought I was some sort of weirdo for liking the thing. Sheesh, I didn't even know what a sissy was back then but I sure got branded as one for watching this rather innocuous series that wouldn't even rate a rerun on the homo cable channel, and if we only knew about those sordid stories that were circulating about Fess Parker at the time---hoo boy!

All kidding ass-side, watching the debut episode of this comedy did bring back some faint if fun memories, mostly those of how I used to sit in front of the tee-vee watching just about anything even if it was something that didn't quite mesh with my pre-double-digits idea of what existence was to be for a suburban slob such as I. Peter Kastner is about as annoying as Peter Scolari and Tom Hanks were in ABC's more successful trans comedy BOSOM BUDDIES, but the fastly-fading star still plays it halfway decent enough as the goonoid up-and-comer who falls for an English actress and follows her to London posing as a successful model loosely patterned after Twiggy.

However, the entire production has that typical late-sixties ABC mind-numbing feeling to it that used to make that perennial #3 network the butt of many a Johnny Carson monologue, what with it trying too hard to be up-to-date and hip while retaining that snooty quality that made THAT GIRL such a toughie for me to sit through once I got older and began to understand things more clearly. Of course it's better'n anything I've seen in the past XXX years and a nightly syndication run-through would serve me much more better'n any of those talkie comedies sans slapstick and soul you've seen since CHEERS, but as far as I can tell the only way anybody'd be able to see THE UGLIEST GIRL IN TOWN these days is strictly grey market! And really, I sorta wonder about the other fans of this show---oh sugar!

Highlight: the closing credits which featured a brief appearance by none other'n Marty Feldman acting his typically loonybin self with "Tammy" and his girlfriend! Kinda makes me wanna search out some disques of his MARTY FELDMAN COMEDY MACHINE series complete with the phony MONTY PYTHON-styled opening animation!
In no way do I remember CAPTAIN FATHOM, and in fact an internet search of this 'un only brought up a mid-sixties offering from the infamous Cambria Productions, best known for the Syncro-Vox technique used on the CLUTCH CARGO and SPACE ANGEL cartoon series (you may also remember 'em for the THREE STOOGES cartoons which had live action wraparound segments!). Dunno if this ever went into actual production (though the presence of "place commercial here" slides points towards the possibility of a 26-week run), but if it did t'was all the better for any goofoid fart-spewer of a kid tuning in for some cheapazoid entertainment. CAP was a tasty bit of standard mid-fifties low-budget undersea entertainment featuring a nuclear submarine, typical manly types (as well as a cute enough pre-feminist type gal all alone with a bunch of guys who haven't seen a woman in months----hmmmmm) and more fish'n SEA HUNT and FLIPPER combined! If you like underwater adventure with loads of Dell Comics-level excitement and plot development you'll go for this! While watching, I imagined myself some eight-year-old turdburger tuned into some small UHF station (the same one that's now all part of an all-shopping network) in 1956 wondering whether to go to the kitchen for a flulffernutter sandwich or stay tuned for SOLDIER OF FORTUNE.
MR TERRIFIC! Heck, I didn't even know that Wilbur himself Alan Young starred in the pilot episode, but he's in this 'un along with famed character actor Edward Andrews making a rare television appearance (that's an old Don Fellman joke) as the head of some typically mid-sixties top secret spy organization. Maybe if the former MR. ED star had been chosen for the actual series 'stead of Stephen Strimpell (who really was making a rare television appearance in this four-month-long series!) more people would have tuned in because I know I woulda, what with the lovable actor playing the Clark Kent role only turning into a superhero with the aid of a pill gulped down whenever called upon to do his country's doody.

Don't have any copies of the legit series to compare this 'un with, but with that boffo mid-sixties sitcom combination of Young and Andrews I don't see how MR. TERRIFIC coulda failed with the populace. With its adherence to various 40s/50s comedy traits with that mid-sixties oomph that would soon devolve into plop, a Young-led MR. TERRIFIC woulda been a must-see for any self-respecting suburban ranch house slob such as you or I. Young is perfect in the Stanley Beemish role (here a shoe salesman 'stead of gas station attendant) while Andrews retained that overblown pomposity that characterized a whole slew of his previous and future television appearances on everything from THE TWILIGHT ZONE to THE DORIS DAY SHOW!?!?!?!??! I get the feeling that if CBS execs bought the original pilot MR. TERRIFIC woulda been at least a two, perhaps even three season smash that sure woulda looked great on the afternoon tee-vee schedules of the seventies before it all went lezbo talk!
Y'know, for the life of me I can't remember a doggone thing about CAPTAIN NICE other'n fans like Bill Shute regaling me with fond tee-vee memories of watching this one-season wonder. Of course I do have one good excuse for not tuning in since back then NBC sitcoms didn't quite gel with me---guess they were just too clean-looking and sophisticated for my second grade mentality or something. I mean, I wasn't even a GET SMART fan until its last season on that network right before it did a final capitulation on CBS looking even more out of place as the seventies were revving up, and if a now-classic series like that couldn't make a dent in my turdly existence how could CAPTAIN NICE hope to register a blip on my seven-year-old bean?

All these years later I gotta say that CAPTAIN NICE is a halfway decent, watchable show even if it does have that sterile feeling to it. That guy who used to be on ST. ELSEWHERE plays the squeaky-clean if muddled hero while Alice Ghostly turns up as his mother and none other than Byron Folger stays hidden behind a newspaper as pop. Paula Prentiss' sister shows up in the mix too. An' yeah, I can sit through this but there just ain't any zap or oomph to this one that there was on BATMAN which as ya know started that whole superhero camp craze which even had stuck up English Lit profs reading comic books.  From what I can see, this is one of those series that I'm sure the "old" kids (y'know, the ones who were pushing the double digits) mighta liked, but for us kiddies who were still pondering the intellectual significance of BEWITCHED...too heady!
Kudos to Bill for sending these fave raves my way. They sure beat watching ABNORMAL FAMILYFELCH PATROL and the rest of the prime time schedule we never could escape from that's for sure. More if you can, pliz?

1 comment:

Bill S. said...

Glad you enjoyed the shows, especially THE UGLIEST GIRL IN TOWN. A You Tube search will usually find you 4 or 5 other episodes, in fair-poor quality. WHERE are the grey-market sellers of old TV shows when we need a set of the complete run of UGLIEST GIRL IN TOWN? I'm guessing Sony owns the rights to this, as a Screen Gems's unlikely to see a DVD release,sadly, although stranger things have come out of the woodwork.
Peter Kastner was in this and Francis Coppola's YOU'RE A BIG BOY NOW and a few other things, but went back to Canada after that, where he worked steadily and also, I think, taught acting/drama. And wouldn't it be a thrill to take an acting class from the man who starred in THE UGLIEST GIRL IN TOWN. I've always been a big fan of's a shame he did not get bigger breaks (B.S. I LOVE YOU did not exactly set the world on fire). He has a lot of charisma, and anyone who can make such an outlandish concept as THE UGLIEST GIRL IN TOWN work should get some kind of award.
"You don't have to be a
Mia or Sophia
This is the Year Of The Clown"...

Funny how the discards of the 1960's, such as the pilots on this DVD-R, blow away 95% of what's on today...


ps, if there ever is a DVD-R release of this show, you'll know what you will be getting for Christmas that year...