Saturday, September 25, 2010


Now that there's a DVD player up and running here at BLOG TO COMM central my television viewing woes are pretty much gone for good! No longer do I have to limit my boob tube watching to the occasional old time movie or episode of SNOOPER AND BLABBER, for now I can see but a few of my favorite series which, thanks to some astute purchases and nifty gifts, have made their way to my very home! Yes, why should I have to suffer through boring talent searches or Rachel Maddow grimacing like she has a sideways turd stuck in her pooper when I can see all of my youthful favorites with the mere flick of a switch, and what's best about it is that I can watch what I want and when I want it, no ifs ands or it's way past your bedtimes like there were when I was six! If you want me to be hip about it, let's just call it "funtime television programming on demand!"

I never thought in my wildest dreams that I'd ever get to own the entire run of the boffo GOMER PYLE USMC series, and over a year after purchasing the thing and making my way through DVD player hissyfits I've finally got to see these top notch laugh-inducers once more. True as you all know there are a few important bits and pieces that have been edited out ever-so-slightly (and at times maybe not-so) out of these DVD's due to copyright infringements that have popped up in the years since these shows were being rerun unto dust, but still the hefty meat and potatoes of this wonderful series remain bringing back fond memories of rushing off homework just so's I could catch the afternoon airing of this classic military sitcom.

What really strikes me about PYLE is the great ensemble cast which works well and in tandem to the point where I could have seen Jim Nabors and Frank Sutton working together for years the same way that Jackie Gleason and Art Carney were being used again and again even after you thought their general natures would have worn themselves into the ground. The entire series does have that nice lilt about it as well, with a better application of mid-sixties aesthetics in a late-sixties world which fortunately transcended a lot of the pratfalls that sitcoms had fallen for by that time. (You might not remember just what a rut late-sixties television was in, and if not maybe a few BOLD ONES reruns could refresh your memory!) Frankly, I only wish that the series had continued for a few more years or at least until the big CBS purge of '71 so's we could have enjoyed a few more good seasons of GOMER 'stead of that variety show of Jim Nabors that eventually replaced this 'un way back in that suggestive year of '69!

Lessee what else have I been watching on the Dee-Vee-Dee about the classic FERNWOOD 2-NIGHT!!!! Who but the most picklish could forget this (as the critics say) "zany" summer replacement for the then-rampaging Norman Lear soap opera MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN, with Martin Mull as the ever-slimy host of Fernwood channel 6's late night talk show who came off more like a discount sex therapist than a television entertainer. Fred Willard played the typically dull announcer/sidekick Jerry Hubbard while Frank DeVol as Happy Kyne led the studio band, and in between the usual snide asides about late-seventies local television and its lack of quality (yay!) there was plenty of that typically tasteless yet necessary humor that I know would kill those kind of people who think I am a kluxer kleagle or at least a fellow sympathizer. Really, nowadays you can take on ethnic blue collar workers, their families and their beliefs because there's nobody sticking up for them thus they're "fair game" for network hussies and lamebrain comedians, but just try poking fun at Jews, gays, refugees and people with Spinal Bifida like they do here! It sure is a refreshing change from today's totalitarian climate, and considering that "People For The American Way" founder Lear produced the whole shebang only goes to show you he really hates all those queers worse than Archie Bunker!

By the second season the show moved to California as part of the new UBS network (motto: "we put U before the BS"!!!) and called itself AMERICA 2-NIGHT. With the change came all sorts of new guest stars ranging from Jack Jones to Peter Frampton, real lifers (I guess) intermingling in with the stars of this bogus series which only made the program more out-there especially if you were watching late-night after a hard day and you had trouble telling realty from fantasy! My fave episode of this batch just happens to be the one where instead of regular programming they ran a special entitled UBS, THE FIRST FIFTY WEEKS which introduced us to some of the programs that were also being run on this fledgling network like THE WHITE SUPREMACY HOUR and FUN WITH GYNECOLOGY.

Another one-time fave I've been working my way through's been the first season of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. At a time when my obsession for various television programs was perhaps at its height, SNL entered into the fray making late-night viewing all the more appealing, or at least better than the dudsters that would run on THE CBS LATE MOVIE let alone the captioned ABC news broadcasts on PBS that my dad'd watch since he was always too busy to espy the real thing. Looking back I can see how I was suckered into the charm, and a guy who was still reading old MAD and HELP magazines certainly would be attuned to the level of humor this show was exuding probably because just about everybody who was involved in the production of this 'un were weaned on those same magazines and got their chops honed while working for NATIONAL LAMPOON in one facet or another.

However, after all these years I tend to agree with CAN'T BUY A THRILL's Russell Desmond when he called NBC'S SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE a grown up hippie show. Not that there's a definitive post-hippie air to it at times, but (as we probably all discovered at different periods in our viewing) the show was pretty much of, for, and aimed at the pseudo-revolutionary/self-backpatting denizens who would sorta waft around in the ether until settling down into whatever disgusting forms they now tend to exist as. And boy, were they uptight as Patti Smith learned when they were begging and pleading for her not to cuss up a storm when she was the musical guest on the Ron Nessen-hosted episode. Patti said that Mike Douglas gave her a lot more slack which is why the venerable talk show host reigns tops in her book and she thinks the SNL people are a buncha fleshapoids.

Still, it was nice to relive a few interesting growing up late-night moments here and recall that those very early shows were quite different than the monster SNL would rapidly evolve into. The early episodes with the always retch-inducing George Carlin, Paul Simon and Rob Reiner have this more relaxed I don't care if this show flops attitude with none of the hosts partaking in the scant comedy skits, acting more or less as distant announcers overseeing the fray being created by these gosh-it-all kids who were so excited about staying up after eleven and taking all the drugs they could imbibe. The early shows also had multiple musical guests which translates into "thank goodniz for fast forward buttons" unless you actually think that Billy Preston and Janis Ian were truly representative of that mythical 18-34 age group's musical tastes of the time. Come to think of it, the usual choice of musical acts on the show, from James Taylor to Leon and Mary Russell (whatever happened to that marriage?) does show a particular hippie mindset that proves just how devolved what was passing for a youth sound had become by that time.

Also of "interest" are the short Albert Brooks films which actually hold up lo these many years later (and was that Dabs Greer playing the redneck in the "Black Vet" segment of the new NBC season spoof?) as well as that Muppet feature with the strange future world mutations which sure didn't kick up a lotta merchandising power like Mr. Bill eventually would. Still, this first season did have many a moment and skewered old shibboleths brutally unlike in later seasons, and even if we have to put up with cheap emotional tugs at the 'strings like Louise Lasser all giddy and gosh-it-all because only a year ago she was a nobody ex-wife of Woody Allen and here she is Ameriga's Sweetheart it does bring back a lotta old feelings, at least for myself about being half-awake at one in the morning really enjoying myself for once in my life in this hazed, ennui-filled way. But I feel alright, so it must be OK.

Game shows have always been a fun part of my growing-up years and one of the funniest I remember from the seventies has been THE MATCH GAME. Anyway Bill Shute sent me a collection of MATCH GAME highlights that have been collected on DVD and it sure is another memory jogger, although whereas SNL brings back late-night memories of being a lonely kid stuck watching Tee-Vee on a Saturday evening when he shoulda been out getting stoned, MATCH GAME brings back funtime memories of not having any homework to do so's you could sit in front of the boob tube all afternoon before getting ready...for an evening of funtime viewing which wasn't so bad then like it is now. Genial and rapidly aging Gene Rayburn hosts with his "hip" long hair and great whiny voice as the panel of celebrities (Richard Dawson, Brett Sommers, Charles Nelson Reilly and a gaggle of whatever sitcom stars and outta-workers could make it) do the best to double up on the already double entendres. Ahh, the Golden Age of boobs and butt jokes, and "blank" could mean just about anything, but don't say the first thing that comes to your mind or else you'll get thrown off the air!

Next up on today's viewing schedule is HOWDY DOODY via a two-DVD set which was sent me by none other than Lou Rone last Christmas (he got the HUMBUG collection which I know he has poured through and enjoyed as much as I). Now I wasn't around when the original show was making it big but I do remember the BIG HOWDY DOODY REVIVAL of the early-seventies and even bought Jillery a Howdy necklace for her birthday which she hated because she thought Howdy was grotesque (and look at that pic of tell me that visage didn't come from some old pagan fertility fetish!) Anyway the necklace got sold at a flea market ten or so years later and the best thing about it is I got to keep the money for it, but on the whole that early-seventies Doody revival was pretty alien to me since I had no idea of what the show was about and the way Buffalo Bob Smith was playing up to the hippie generation that grew up on Howdy was kinda creepy! After all these years I see it all as harmless nostalgic fun even if the program, from what I saw, seemed to lack a lotta the same warmth and hominess that one could find in a cheap morning fulla old cartoons that some program director threw in indiscriminately since what do toddlers know about aesthetics anyway?

This set features picked and chosen early episodes of the show, unfortunately none with the original Doody who kinda looked like that baby from ERASERHEAD grown up but enough kiddie hijinx are to be found. It's a good enough selection I guess, though I would have preferred some of the later hour-long Saturday AM episodes that were in color or maybe a few clips from when Don Knotts was a regular would have livened it up a bit. Maybe even some on-air malfunctions would have made me crack up, like the time the little boy peed into the lit Jack-O-Lantern! Whaddeva, this is early Tee-Vee kiddie viewing at its finest unless you count all of those local kid shows where some smartass would tell the host to "eat it!" and how much of that is lost for all time I do not know.

(One more personal aside...the whole Howdy Brouhaha reminds me of when my mother, for some odd reason, thought that I was watching Howdy front-and-center when that show was long gone from the scene by the time I knew how to twitch a knob! I mean, she would continually make remarks about how when I was a little tyke I was always watching i, really getting into the show like any good preschooler would and I'd respond by saying that it wasn't me but Jillery who was of the proper Howdy Doody age group. Anyway my mother had this strange fondness for HOWDY DOODY being such a great children's show the same way she still recalls CAPTAIN KANGAROO as being such a proper program to raise strong and upright children...that is until one day I happened to be watching that episode of HAPPY DAYS where THE HOWDY DOODY SHOW comes to Milwaukee and Richie tries to get a snap of Clarabelle the Clown without his makeup. Mom got an eyeful of the part where the kids are singing about Clarabelle and remarked that this was the stupidest thing she ever saw! So much for warm and fuzzy memories!!!)

Onto something more...I dunno, "mature"??? How about ABBOTT AND COSTELLO! Y'know, I never was a big fan of these guys when I was growing up, probably because the first time I ever heard of 'em was via a Gold Key comic book that featured the animated likenesses of the two venerable comedians! Sheesh, twelve-year-old me was so outta-the-loop that I thought A&C was a mere comic book/cartoon creation until my folks told me otherwise! Of course their feature films didn't exactly win me over (the later ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET _______ flicks never did make it to local tee-vee but the World War II-period ones were plentiful) and when I discovered that the pair had a television series whilst flipping through some prime-time tee-vee reference book at the library sometime in the seventies I merely though "hokay" and left it at that, thinking that their foray into the cathode connection was probably about as important as FIBBER McGEE AND MOLLY's!

Little did I know at the time that the A&C show was perhaps the pair's main claim to fame and not quite the obscurity that I believed it to be. When the thing finally aired locally in the late-eighties I naturally was hooked, and all these years later it's sure grand not only owning the entire series on disque, but being able to watch 'em whenever the desire arises which I must say is pretty durn often!

As many have said (Billy Miller comes to mind), it's sure better watching Bud and Lou doing their oft-repeated skits and such surrounded by a copasetic set of stock players rather'n the Andrew Sisters, and no matter how many times I get to see Joe Besser as Stinky pinch Lou or Mike the Cop blow his stack these shows retain that straight-outta-the fridge freshness that I just can't get outta...say, one of the later episodes of BEWITCHED. And what's best, since the local station used to run A&C unexpectedly (read: "To Be Announced") thus screwing up the syndication queue for me now I can finally observe episodes that I missed such as the one with noted character actor Percy Helton as a bum who has Lou hiding a recently procured chicken! And hey, there are a few of these shows that just knock me offa my seat no matter how many times I watch 'em, such as the one where some bank robbers trick Bud and Lou to stand guard while they make a heist, or the time when Lou answers a quiz show question correctly while the pair had snuck into Mr. Fields' room leading to some pretty funny mixups! And who can forget the pathos-laden time when Lou serves his guests ant paste thinking it's antipasto and gets kicked out of his own birthday party! Hey, Chaplin never could convey the same level of pity and sadness Lou exudes on that one, especially in that surprisingly compassionate scene with Hillary Brooke which always seems to tear my soul in half.

Finally for today is one that I've been waiting to see for quite some time. Actually the episode that I really was waiting to see wasn't in this particular volume (season one part one) but at least I got to catch this particular program once again. Not that I would consider BURKE'S LAW to be an exemplary series to re-discover...I mean it's a blooming Aaron Spelling production fercryinoutloud, but considering the time and place this one was produced ya know it's not gonna have the simpering eighties prime-time look of shows like DYNASTY!

Of course the whole premise behind BURKE'S LAW is ridiculous; I mean how many millionaire detectives do you know of who get to handle the chic-est of cases while being driven around in a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud? I believe BURKE'S LAW was voted worst cop show by a gaggle of cops themselves (BARNEY MILLER and DRAGNET were voted the most realistic), but then again hey, this is television we're talking about where nothing has to be real. Even the news is phony if you ask me (and getting a gander of it recently I wonder just how the fantasy overtook the reality by such a wide margin) so why pick nits about a slightly campy cop show where the chief of the El Lay homicide bureau gets to romance pretty suspects upsides and down between a whole number of fistfights with thuggish goons who never seem to get the better of him!

Former Matt Bastardson himself Gene Barry got the lead with old hand Regis Toomey as the elderly wizened cop and Gary Conway the young flash novice. and they do a pretty good whacko job of it intermingling with the guest stars, some whom like the then-Mrs. Spelling Carolyn Jones pretty much absorb the entire episode (she playing a grand total of four parts as lookalike sisters) while others like Sammy Davis Jr. only make brief one-scene appearances if only to pad the show out while proving yes, they can. And of course this ain't an intellectually-stimulating brain-tease of a show but it's pretty lively and it won't make you snooze like you did through PERRY MASON which you watched only to see the long-forgotten actors making some of their last great stands.

Oh, as for the episode I wanted to see, it was this particular one from the second season called WHO KILLED THE THIRTEENTH CLOWN which I vividly remember seeing plugged on the local tee-vee station about a good five or so days before it finally aired. The promo featured this scene where all of these clowns are getting out of one of those teeny weeny automobiles and the next to the last clown turns to the final one telling him to hurry up and get out only to find said clown dead with blood trickling down his head! Believe-you-me, that really unnerved me that whole week to the point where I practically begged my mother not to let me miss that show! Naturally when it did air there was a lotta grown up talk and other things I didn't understand so I gave up on it and we switched stations. Of course this program had been tingling in the back of my brain for all these years, and before I check out I think it would be prudent to give it an eyeballing, along with doing a lotta other things I haven't quite gotten around to yet.


Serena WmS. Burroughs said...

"Okay, let's hear it for Henshaw!" "Gomer Pyle, USMC" was also notable for inspiring Vincent D'Onofrio's character's nickname in "Full Metal Jacket" and for including in its cast Ronnie Schell, "America's Slowest Rising Comedian"...

Oh, on the topic of "Match Game," Doug Gillard of Children's Crusade and Gem fame pointed out the similarity of one of U2's "Achtung Baby" songs to the "Match Game" music.

In the CLE area Channel 43-2, which during the day and evening runs mostly MGM features under the name of This-TV, airs episodes of "Bat Masterson" and "Sea Hunt" in the early morn, which is pretty good time travel for me...I just wish that they would show "T.H.E. Cat," "Hawk," and "The Time Tunnel"...

Christopher Stigliano said...

Unfortunately since I don't have a digital tee-vee (plus we've stepped up to a satellite dish about eight years ago) I can't get any of those digital stations that show weather, old programs that the same stations don't run anymore etc. At least I can pick up MY-YTV which is a digital station owned and operated by WYTV-33 that runs a lot of the old reruns they used to air in the seventies during the afternoon hours. Unfortunately the picture is stretched out like silly putty for some reason but it's nice to know that those horrid Tina Cole-period episodes of MY THREE SONS live on at least somewhere...

Anonymous said...

"from James Taylor to Leon and Mary Russell (whatever happened to that marriage?)" Mary was Mary McCreary who was a member of Little Sister, a group of interest to Sly & Family Stone fans. In a recent MOJO magazine Russell sorta implies that she got all( most anyway) of his fortune. I am in my fifties and you have completely nailed that dull, hippy vibe of early SNL.The behind the scene stories of SNL are much funnier than the show ever was. Found you at the Hound Blog, keep up the good work!
Doug NJ