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Stay Tuned (1976)
Your Post-Game Chuckle
What a welcome arrival to CBC's programming this show was. After wasting most of my Saturday nights watching Keon, Ellis, Ullman, Sittler and the rest of the Toronto Maple Leafs blow another hockey game, I was ready for some laughs. If there was enough time between the end of the game and 11:00 news, "Stay Tuned" provided them in spades!
This was NOT a Second City production, but the show depended heavily on Second City performers. I don't recall many from the cast, but Eugene Levy and Jayne Eastwood definitely stand out in my vague memory.
My favorite episodes were when the cast did a spoof of the 1958 cinematic sci-fi stinker, "Queen of Outer Space", starring Paul Birch. The actual film was screened (sound muted), while actors provided improvised dialogue from an off-screen venue, a unique concept at the time. After that, I always watched out for them to do another film this way again and I believe for a time they made their film spoofs a regular segment.
This idea was the probable predecessor to the brilliant and popular Mystery Science Theater 3000 concept that has entertained so many of us these many years later.
The time-slot was the worst possible for any program in Canada, because it aired after Saturday night hockey, which with 1970's trademark bench-clearing brawls and etc., often ran past 10:30 pm. This meant the show itself had anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes of airtime, depending on the length of the preceding game/punch-fest. I guess the only good thing about the time was that the show drew in viewers like me, disillusioned and frustrated hockey fans who went on to become huge fans of SCTV and SNL.
If any old CBC employees kept a video of the "Queen Of Outer Space" spoof, I'd be interested in purchasing a copy. This brilliant satire is one of those golden memories from my childhood.
Maurice Richard (2005)
Best Hockey Movie Made So Far
I have been a hockey fan for almost 40 years and have collected almost every dramatic film ever made about the sport. But, I'd have to say that "The Rocket" is far and away, the best one ever made. The cinematography is stunning, the acting spellbinding and the story gripping. It tells the story of a simple and tortured man who drives himself to excel at the sport he loves. It leads him to become the reluctant hero of French-Canadian culture, self-perceived as being held back and oppressed by the anglophones.
Roy Dupuis, who portrayed Maurice in no less than two other cinematic projects, perfectly captures the fire and intensity of the man in a most fitting, if not THE crowning tribute, to the legend of Maurice "The Rocket" Richard. Biname goes to great lengths to duplicate the look and feel of the late-30s, on into the mid-50s and certainly captures the collective agony and anger of early-to-mid 20th century French Canada.
Julie LeBreton is beautiful and amazing as Richard's wife, Lucille. Notable also are the cameo appearances made by NHLers Sean Avery (Bob Dill), Vincent Lecavalier (Jean Beliveau); Mike Ricci (Elmer Lach), Ian Laperierre (Boom Boom Geoffrion) and Stephane Quintal (Dollard St. Laurent). What "Slap Shot" proved, "The Rocket" confirms. Pro hockey players are damn good actors!
I realize funding for this movie was brought up in the infamous "Sponsorship Scandal" that dissolved former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberal government in 2006, but you can't fault it at any level. It was worth every cent used to make it and it will be hard for Canadian cinema to duplicate this level of quality ever again.
Thierry la Fronde (1963)
Something To Sling About
This was a great adventure series out of France that appeared during the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation "after-school" kid's TV series, "Razzle Dazzle". Thierry was not only an unmatched sling man, but the savvy leader of a band of French rebels during the Hundred Year War.
Jean-Claude Drouot portrayed Thierry of Janville, who begins the series as a young lord betrayed out of his title and property by conniving steward, Florent, played by Jean-Claude Deret. Actress Celine Leger played his love interest, Isabelle. Joined by his friends, Thierry becomes a "Robin Hood" type of character and fights undercover to end the iron rule of the ruthless Brits.
I remember the adventure was top-notch and very watchable. Thierry La Fronde was unique in that it portrayed the English as the bad guys and the French as the heroes. In Canada, we were used to English television portraying the Brits and the Yanks as the heroes. The dialogue was often hard to follow because, being dubbed into English, the lip movements often didn't match the spoken words.
I hope this isn't giving anything away, but the last episode had the most disappointing ending I can ever recall seeing on TV and I hope to one day see the series again to see if things really turned out the way I remembered.
Laughs From The Book Of Exodus
Bob Kane created Batman to be a creature of the night, but in the 1950s comics became so macabre (with be-headings, torture and other select anti-social behavior), the comics code authority came into being. It made comic books conform to such ridiculous restrictions, its a wonder the genre ever survived beyond 1960. The writers of the Batman TV show probably HAD to sling "camp" just to stay sane.
William Dozier had passed over such talents as Lyle Waggoner, to hire Adam West (Bruce Wayne/Batman) and Burt Ward (Dick Grayson/Robin) to be the show's stars. The real stars were the Batmobile and the criminals: Catwoman (Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt), Joker (Cesar Romero), Riddler (Frank Gorshin), Penguin (Burgess Meredith), Egghead (Vincent Price), Mr. Freeze (Otto Preminger) and many, MANY more! Batman and his teen sidekick Robin the Boy Wonder, were depicted as pristine, out-of-touch do-gooders, who seemed to be fighting a losing battle against hip and groovy criminals. I loved the Batmobile and of course, the labeling of every gadget in the Batcave, including the Batpoles (one labeled "BRUCE" and the other "DICK") always killed me. I laughed myself off my chair during the episode where philanthropist Bruce Wayne is awarded "The Golden Calf". You have to read the Book of Exodus to get the gag here. A little mashugginah with your coffee...?
Every boy who watched the show wished they had a Shakespeare head they could flip up to switch open a wall, revealing a secret entrance to a more exciting life! The Dynamic Duo's rationale for solving riddles, or clues always left me snickering to the point of near-death.
Then I'd revive myself by watching tomorrow's thrilling conclusion! What a Bat-hoot!
The Green Hornet (1966)
Introducing The Legend Of Bruce Lee
This was meant to be an action-adventure series about the grand-nephew of Texas Ranger John Reid (better known as The Lone Ranger) and a stacked luxury car named "Black Beauty", but ended up being a vehicle for the great Bruce Lee and his amazing exhibitions of the martial arts.
While it didn't have the hilarious campiness of William Dozier's other series "Batman", it did have some goofiness about it. I recall one show featuring Canadian actor Larry D. Mann as some kind of freaky space dude who landed at Britt Reid's home to negotiate their takeover of humanity through the Daily Sentinel. This episode also showed Reid interrupting his TV station's programming via some broadcast console in his living room (yeah, no home should be without one) to warn viewers to take shelter and stay calm.
The fact they had this false floor in Britt Reid's garage that clamps onto that bitchin' sports car, so that the floor can turn upside down and allow Black Beauty to roar out and save the day was kinda fun. Oddly, the Reid estate seems to be within a block of a seedy area of Central City, as Green Hornet, Kato and the rolling arsenal fly out from behind a billboarded wall, onto a conveniently abandoned street!!
Of course, we can forgive all the wacky inconsistencies of the show, when we see the great Bruce Lee in action. Well worth sitting through all the silliness just to see that. How sad sexy Wende Wagner watched her career nosedive after Green Hornet. I always liked the idea of a fighting reporter like Mike Axford. Britt Reid must have been a one-of-a-kind publisher, because I just couldn't imagine a maverick like Axford working for control-freaks like William Randolph Hearst.
Did I mention that I liked Bruce Lee?
A Face in the Crowd (1957)
Lonesome Rhodes - Andy Taylor's Evil Twin
I saw this film for the first time about 7 years ago and was blown away by the amazing performance by Andy Griffith. Thank goodness he did this before he became a household name. I can now see how typecasting can limit an actor, as I just never gave him any credit after "Andy Of Mayberry" and "Matlock". I had no idea of the immense range this man possessed.
It has been written elsewhere that the show was based on the phenomenon of Arthur Godfrey and that is possible. I think what happened in this Elia Kazan masterpiece was a demonstration of the power of mass media to lead people to believe what you want them to believe and blind them to what you deem convenient for them to be ignorant of. As Hitler put it, "the bigger the lie, the more likely the people will believe".
This show raises a number of issues we need to be aware of today. As a medium, television has great potential. However, it has never been close to what it should have become since 1957. The medium made Lonesome Rhodes an icon in the eyes of the people, but in reality, he was a megalomaniacal monster. One hearkens back to when Hitler used the television in Nazi Germany for mass-hypnotism and public desensitization so he could take the world into his fiendish grip. Are the powers controlling TV manipulating us like puppets, until the day they hold our very lives in their hands?
My Favorite Martian (1963)
1963 - A Space Modesty
This was as rather cute little 1960s morality play about a friendly Martian who crashes his flying saucer on earth and is discovered by Tim O'Hara, a newspaper reporter. Tim takes him in as his "Uncle" Martin and promises he will harbor him until he can repair his craft and go back to Mars.
Uncle Martin gets his way by his extraordinary telepathic and telekinetic powers. He also is a philosopher, scientist and mind control expert. He never does anything wrong intentionally, but always seems to betray himself by his misunderstanding of the ways of our world. Still, he and Tim are a formidable team and each show always had me chuckling.
The recent movie version isn't even worth commenting on. It was thoroughly putrid and was just a way for the studios to relieve you of your hard-earned dough. Watch ANY remakes of 1960s TV shows at your own peril. You read it here first!
A Fair Truckin' Show
I remember these shows best from when my local CBC-TV affiliate rebroadcast them on Saturday mornings in the early to mid 1970s. Growing up on a farm, I preferred spending rainy Saturday mornings in the summer watching "Cannonball" over throwing around bales of hay. The concept was easily summed up as being the continuing adventures of two long distance truckers.
The product of busy Normandie Productions (Canadian-based creators of "Hawkeye & Last Of The Mohicans" and "Tugboat Annie"), "Cannonball" starred American actors Paul Birch (Mike Malone) and William Campbell (Jerry Austin). The supporting cast was largely made up of Canadian thespians. Besides its Canadian run, the show was also syndicated to Britain, United States and Australia.
The show was hard for me to classify, because of how highly formulaic TV had become by the 1970s."Cannonball" wasn't a crime show, a comedy, a drama, wasn't news, current affairs, or soap opera, but it was watchable. As I recall the truck driven was marked as follows "C & A TRANSPORT - TORONTO - MONTREAL - WINNIPEG - NORTH BAY - NEW YORK". U.S. networks created the following shows that ripped off the concept: "Movin' On" (1974-76), "B.J. And The Bear" (1979-81) and "Lobo" (1979-81).
William Campbell gained notoriety later in life when he was implicated in the "Paul Is Dead" Beatles rumor of the late 1960s. Also Judith Exner, notorious ex-lover of both mob boss Sam Giancana and President John F. Kennedy, was wed to Campbell until 1958.
There Must Be A God
My favorite line: "Gentlemen, you can't fight here! This is the War Room!" Peter Sellers at three times his best. George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Slim Pickens, Keenan Wynn and James Earl Jones made up this amazing cast.
All I can say is that truth is stranger than fiction. In light of what is coming out about the secret societal connections of the U.S. President, Britain's PM and all world leaders, the writers appear to be dead on, suggesting a residual Nazi influence on the powers-that-be. Instead of having childish custard cream pie fights in the "war room", the elite who plan to rule the world are secretly dressing up like Santa Claus and whooping it up at the Bohemian Grove. Disgraceful.
With the megalomaniacal powers out there making the blunders they continue to make, you wonder how we could all still be here today. There has to be a God!
This Hour Has 22 Minutes (1992)
Great Cast, Top Notch Humour
I never really "got" the humour in this show for a few years, but lately I have really come to enjoy the wit and political savvy of the performers and writers. I wasn't a big fan of Rick Mercer, except for his "Talking To Americans" specials, which are just spectacular.
Twenty-Two has arguably overtaken Royal Canadian Air Farce as Canada's top comedy show, mostly because of great cast changes at Twenty-Two and recent ill-advised ones at Air Farce. I think both shows tried at one time to be more or less like one another. To me "This Hour" seems more like Saturday Night Live, only funnier. The transition seemed to happen about the time Gary Pearson joined the writing staff. This would be a boffo show if they let Gary join the cast. Just a suggestion!
Like I said earlier, recent cast changes are working for the show. Gavin Crawford has marvelous range, except for his rather disjointed rants. Mark Critch's impersonations of Canadian talk show host Mike Bullard and CBC-TV commentator, Rex Murphy have me rolling on the floor in utter delirium. The loss of Shawn Majumder, creator of that lovable Raj Binder character, might leave a hole that can't be filled. Over the years, I have fallen in love with Cathy Jones. She just gets sexier and sexier.