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More of a curiosity than anything else
Since 20th Century Fox found some success with a TV version of its 1970 military black comedy film "MASH", Paramount tried to find similar success with a TV version of its own 1970 military black comedy film, "Catch 22".
Richard Dreyfuss stars as Captain Yossarian, a bombardier who has completed his required number of missions and is on his way home. His plane stops for refueling on Pianosa (the base in the movie) where he learns all about the (possibly mythical) "catch-22" and engages in the usual standard issue military sitcom hi-jinks.
As with the TV version of "MASH," most of the characters from the film appear (although unlike TV "MASH," no actors from the film version of "Catch-22" appear). Also, like TV "MASH," the R-rated movie hi-jinks are considerably toned down for broadcast TV (in the movie, for example, Captain "Aarfy" Aardvark commits murder to cover up a rape. Suffice to say, nothing like this happens in this show). It's mostly harmless, early 70's sitcom stuff.
Dreyfuss is quite good as Yossarian. It's always fascinating to watch future award winning movie stars act in shows like this, because it shows a certain Hollywood meritocracy at work: Dreyfuss just seems to be acting on a whole other level than everyone else in the show (you can see the same phenomenon when you watch an episode of the Steve McQueen western "Wanted Dead of Alive").
Now, the movie version of "Catch-22" isn't all that good. It's certainly not as good as "MASH". This pilot isn't that great either, but quite frankly, it's about on a par with the "MASH" pilot (which was only OK), although I think the "MASH" cast is a lot better overall. But after watching this, you can see why ABC passed.
Third Time's the Charm
It took three tries, but they finally got it right. Not good, mind you (The Love Boat could never be "good."). But taken on its own terms, this pilot hits the right notes.
Kopell, Grandy and Lange were all wisely held over from The Love Boat II, while Gavin MacLeod and Lauren Tewes are piped aboard as the third captain and cruise director. As cruise director Julie McCoy, Tewes provides the same level of acting ability as Diane Stilwell from The Love Boat II (that is, they're both good actors), but she has real chemistry with the rest of the cast, something Stilwell couldn't manage. MacLeod nails the captain role. Ted Hamilton (captain number one) is too stiff, while Quinn Redeker (captain number two) is too serious and dramatic. MacLeod is the only one of the three who seems to understand that he's in a situation comedy. So while the basic outlines of the role are the same (tough ex-naval officer), MacLeod brings some real warmth to the part, along with an always present twinkle in his eye. He makes all the difference.
As for the rest of it, pretty much the same in tone and structure as the second pilot, but ABC didn't put as much money into this one so it's only 90 minutes long (including commercials) and has no real cruise location footage, just a few shots on the deck of the (docked) Queen Mary and a few on and around the (docked) Pacific Princess.
First Season Only
Zack and Cody Martin (Dylan and Cole Sprouse) are twins who live in a suite on the 23rd floor of the swanky Tipton Hotel in Boston, where their divorced mom Carey (Kim Rhodes) works as the lounge singer.
The first season, is by far the best of the series. I'm not saying it's great by any means, just the most watchable. Most of the stories revolve around the twins using the hotel as their personal playground, much to the annoyance of the hotel's manager, Mr. Moseby (Phill Lewis). This leads to a lot of really broad, physical comedy, the sheer volume of which overcomes some of this show's very serious shortcomings (such as the rather poor acting of the Sprouse twins. Let's face it: they're just don't have any real acting talent).
Aside from the lead actors, the rest of the cast, including Ashley Tisdale and Brenda Song (as spoiled heiress London Tipton) are game. Token adults Lewis and Rhodes are fine, although Rhodes is generally relegated to straight man duty for now (she would become a much wackier character by the third season, but by then, the show is not really worth watching).
Strangte, alternate universe episode
Jobless former schoolmaster Bernard Hedges takes a job as an escort (no hanky-panky, just go on a platonic date, collect ten pounds and a free meal in a post restaurant) in order to make ends meet, causing a bit of strain in his relationship with his wife Penny.
Unfortunately, this was the last appearance for John Alderton as Bernard Hedges, and it's not a very satisfying wrap-up for the character. It's an odd episode in several ways. None of the "gang" appears. Bernard and Penny get a visit from their old friend Henry (who gives them the escort service contact). Henry is clearly written as a recurring character with whom the audience is already familiar (Bernard mentions that he and Penny have known him for a long time), but he's never been seen before, either in this series or in "Please, Sir," so his scene is kind of awkward.
In fact, the whole episode us kind of off-kilter: It gives every appearance of being an unused script for another series, or perhaps a pilot for a Bernard Hedges series.
The Love Boat II (1977)
Better than the first pilot
Hijinks abound aboard a ten-day Mexican cruise aboard the "Pacific Princess."
The second of the three "Love Boat" pilots. While it's not quite on target, it's a big step up from the first pilot for a couple of reasons.
First, the entire regular cast has been replaced, and overall the new crew exhibits considerably more charm and chemistry than the previous actors could muster. This is especially true with Bernie Kopell, Fred Grandy and Ted Lange, replacing Dick Van Patten, Sandy Helberg and Theodore Wilson as Doc, Gopher and Isaac, respectively. Somewhat less effective are Quinn Redecker the captain and Diane Stilwell as Sandy Summers, the cruise director. Redecker plays the captain very straight and very seriously, as though he were in a drama. Stilwell is a perfectly fine actress, and a distinct improvement over Terri O'Mara from the first pilot, but she just doesn't seem to click with the rest of the cast.
Secondly, the production itself is a lot smoother. I don't know if it's the addition of Aaron Spelling as producer, or a new director or what, but none of the dodgy editing, poor staging and bad acting that ruined the first pilot are evident here.
The stories themselves follow the same basic pattern as before (and thereafter), and the guest stars, including Craig Stevens, Hope Lange, Robert Reed and Marcia Strassman are all fine. But one thing I do miss (and I imagine Spelling is responsible for this) is the mildly ribald tone of the previous pilot. Starting with this movie, and continuing on through the third pilot ("The New Love Boat") and the series, things become more romantic and family-friendly. No more cracks from the cruise director about how she'll "do it" in the purser's lounge and no more jokes about reminding the ship's printer to put the "s" in "horse racing."
Still, though, a not bad pilot.
If you really need to kill 30 minutes, this will do.
Fish-out-of-the-water sitcom about rural Texas teen Jessie (Debby Ryan) who moves to Manhattan to take a job as an au pair.
Another one from It's a Laugh Prodcutions, which also supplied The Disney Channel with both Zack and Cody shows. Now, "The Suite Life on Deck" was not was exactly appointment television, but it looks like an Alan Ayckbourn comedy compared to "Jessie." Ryan was perfectly fine as backup to the Sprouse twins, but lacks the charisma necessary to carry a show. The direction lacks sharpness, the writing is rote and the cast shows little comic timing. With a few episodes under its belt, "Jessie" will find its sea legs, but no matter how you slice it, this show doesn't have a lot going for it. I doubt this is ever going to be more than a mildly pleasant time waster.
The Love Boat (1976)
TV Movie featuring several stories about passengers on a Mexican cruise.
This is the first of the three "Love Boat" pilots and is pretty much a disaster on every level.
The biggest problem here is the casting. Quite frankly the regular cast is just terrible. They have no chemistry as a group and of the bunch, only Dick Van Patten (the doctor) and Theodore Wilson (Isaac the bartender) turn in what I would consider decent performances. Ted Hamilton is a total stiff as the captain. And Terri O'Mara, playing the cruise director, has a perfectly pleasant screen presence, but her acting leaves a bit to be desired (although, my understanding is that ABC saw "The Love Boat" as a star-making vehicle for her and specifically requested her casting).
The production seems to have had some significant problems: Director Alan Myerson appears to have been fired mid-production, since he is credited as co-director along with Richard Kinon in a couple of the stories while Kinon receives sole credit on the rest. And there's a fairly prominent end credit for separately written and directed (by Kinon) "Special Material."
The one thing I did kind of like, though, is the overall tone of the movie. Unlike the other pilots and the series, this movie is (by 1976 TV movie standards) fairly risqué. O'Mara's cruise director tells Doc that she's bored with being all goody-goody and may just "do it in the purser's lounge" to shake things up a little. You'd never hear Julie McCoy say that.
Still, despite everything, ABC liked the format enough to green light another TV movie/pilot the following year.
The Good Guys (1968)
Not great, but strangely memorable
I was pretty young in those days, but I definitely remember this series. It's a decent, mildly amusing, middle-of-the-road sitcom, about on the level of "I'm Dickens, He's Fenster" (which was made by the same producers and which bears more than a passing resemblance to this series). Bob Denver and Herb Edelman play (respetively) lifelong best friends Rufus and Bert. Bert and his level-headed wife (played by Joyce Van Patten) own a diner (the imaginatively named "Bert's Place") somewhere in downtown Los Angeles. Rufus runs a one-man taxi service (complete with a custom taxi designed by George "Batmobie" Barris), although it's hard to tell how he makes a living, since he seems to spend almost all of his time hanging out at Bert's Place. The two of them have typical 1960's sitcom misadventures, usually involving get rich quick schemes. Denver and Edelman have decent chemistry, and the stories, while repetitive, are OK, but the ratings must have been pretty soft right from the start, since halfway through the first season, since former "Gilligan's Island" co-stars Alan Hale and Jim Backus were added to the cast in recurring roles. The first season was shot on film in front of a studio audience.
The ratings ultimately justified renewal, but the second and final season brought wholesale changes to the show. Hale, Backus, the taxi and the studio audience disappeared as Bert and Rufus became business partners and moved the diner to a beach front location. The stories became much more silly and slapstick, and the series lost whatever charm it had. 17 episodes into the second season, it was canceled.
This is the final series in Bob Denver's CBS sitcom hat trick (the others being "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" and Gilligan's Island" ). Denver held an ownership interest in the show through his production company, and was an uncredited executive producer. The story is that Denver felt shafted by the producers of "Gilligan's Island" (imagine that), so he negotiated a very lucrative back-end deal for this series. He would have made a Thurston Howell-sized pile of money from the reruns, but, unfortunately for Denver, after the series was canceled, it was never syndicated. So much for the pile of money.
Denver, who had been a fixture on CBS prime time sitcoms for ten straight years, never had another prime time network series, although in 1975 he appeared on a CBS Saturday morning live action sitcom, "Far Out Space Nuts." A couple of things worth noting: Jerry Fielding's outstanding title tune, which is far more musically interesting than most TV theme tunes, and Reza Badiyi's charming opening credits sequence. Fielding also wrote the catch theme music for "Hogan's Heroes" and Badiyi will always be remembered for the title sequence for the original version of "Hawaii Five-O," the best title sequence in the history of American television, bar none.
Bottom of the Barrel
This is one bad show. How bad? It makes Zack and Cody look like Ibsen. No, really, it's that bad.
The setup is typical sitcom. Carly (ineptly played by Miranda Cosgrove) lives in Seattle with her guardian, her older brother. Carly and her best friend Sam (Jennette McCurdy) along with their pal Freddie (Nathan Kress) produce an absurdly popular web show, iCarly. Hilarity ensues.
Nothing here makes any sense, even for a TV show. Carly's brother is an artist, but in true TV fashion, lives in a very expensive looking loft apartment that in real life would cost millions of dollars. Of course, Carly could be paying for it, since iCarly is so successful that Carly herself has lost count of all the money she's making (e.g. six-figure product endorsement deals). Which is strange, since the show itself is nothing more than lame skits and mugging, and not really worth watching at all.
Now that I think about it, the whole show is nothing but lame skits and mugging. The writing and production are bottom of the barrel, even for a basic cable sitcom. None of the acting is top notch, but you can't expect master class level performing in a Nick sitcom. Still, I am amazed that Miranda Cosgrove is as big a deal as she is, considering this show is her claim to fame. She may very well be the worst lead actor in any TV series on any network right now. She has no charisma, no acting range no sense of movement. Every single other actor is far better than her, so I can imagine how good they all must feel at the news, just out, that Cosgrove has signed a "mid seven figures" deal for one more season of this drek.
Bewitched: Daddy Does His Thing (1969)
Dick York's swansong
Last episode filmed by Dick York is a patchwork mess, but it's nobody's fault, really. York was only able to film one scene before he collapsed, was carted away in an ambulance and left the show for good, so the producers had to come up with a whole new episode based on the couple of minutes of film in which York appeared. Thus, what was supposed to be a brief gag involving Samantha's father Maurice temporarily turning Darrin into a mule (because he's stubborn) takes over the entire episode: That way Darrin could be played by the mule and they wouldn't need York at all. They almost pulled it off, too. Elizabeth Montgomery is so good that she's actually able to recreate the chemistry she had with York with the mule. You can really buy the idea that this animal is the man she loves. Unfortunately, due to the loss of York, the actual plot of the episode, which involves Maurice giving Darrin some of his powers is lost, as is a subplot involving Samantha's special announcement (which would have been that she was pregnant).
York himself looked pretty rough throughout this season - when he was well enough to appear - but he looks particularly bad here; thin, pale and in obvious distress. In fact, he hardly moves, spending nearly his entire scene standing in one spot.
Dick Sargent replaced York the following season, but he didn't have the same on screen chemistry with Montgomery that York did and the show's ratings took an immediate hit and never recovered.