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mrb1980

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200 reviews in total 
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Another Example of the "1970s Sitcom Disease", 13 November 2016
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've never been able to understand why people loved 1970s sitcoms. They were laughably predictable, unfunny, and had the same scripts every week.

I've coined the term "1970s Sitcom Disease", which had the following symptoms: 1. Predictable characters; 2. Screaming laugh track for unfunny lines; 3. Same script every week; 4. Running gags; 5. Lowest-common-denominator productions.

Jack Soo made bad coffee in "Barney Miller"; Redd Foxx grabbed his chest for a feigned heart attack at least once a week in "Sanford and Son"; John Ritter fell down repeatedly in "Three's Company"; Carroll O'Connor flushed his toilet on "All in the Family" every week; and so on and so on. Lots of people apparently thought this stuff was funny, because these gags were written into every episode, often multiple times. Each tired gag was always followed by a thunderous peal of fake laughter.

"Sanford and Son" was pretty much the same every time. Junk dealer Redd Foxx would do something stupid every week to place himself and his level-headed son Demond Wilson in trouble; there were lots of cheap laughs as Foxx flailed around in his predicament; then Foxx would outwit some dumb (usually white) bureaucrat or bad guy and win the day. The story was always the same.

If you think watching Redd Foxx clutching his chest with one hand and waving his other hand around is high comedy, this is your show. Watch this stuff if you like, I have better things to do. And that includes just about anything.

Smile (1975)
Sharp and Trenchant Satire, 7 November 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This spot-on satire of local beauty pageants is not only a great time capsule of the mid-1970s, it's an acerbic and winning satire of pageants and small-town life in general. The setting is the Young American Miss pageant, where girls vie for the ultimate prize while enduring a series of humiliating and dehumanizing behaviors courtesy of pageant sponsors, officials, and judges.

The adults include Bruce Dern (acting as a judge in his customary sleazy role), Barbara Feldon (the eternally upbeat director of the pageant, who has immense personal problems), Michael Kidd as a cynical and grouchy choreographer, and Geoffrey Lewis as the befuddled and weak-willed pageant producer. The contestants include Melanie Griffith and Colleen Camp. The entire cast acquits itself very well, but the biting script really puts this one over. This movie's one of the best satires of the 1970s, if not the best. Be sure to catch it.

Incredibly Far-Fetched, 2 October 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This History Channel show appears to rely on two bases: 1) everyone loves a mystery, and 2) archaeology is cool. The problem isn't the premise of the show (hidden archaeology of North America), it's that its ideas are so wildly improbable that they're impossible to believe.

The shows all start out the same: there's an unsolved historical mystery, so intrepid geologist Scott Wolter goes forth to solve the riddle in the most dramatic way possible by unearthing mysterious evidence. The main sticking point: Wolter tries to make his "evidence" fit whatever "mystery" he's investigating. In almost all cases, there appears to be no connection at all. It's really pretty embarrassing at times.

As a geologist myself, I'll admit that my profession can be fairly unexciting. There's generally nothing mysterious or exotic about what I do at the office. By stretching credulity to its utmost limits, Wolter manages to demonstrate that his various diggings, explorations, and travels really don't amount to much. I like a mystery as much as anyone else, but come on, this show is pretty ridiculous.

Mr. Mom (1983)
Entertaining Yet Simplistic and Sexist, 24 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This tale of the early 1980s recession has Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) losing his engineering position with a Detroit automaker, which requires his wife Caroline (Teri Garr) to go to work in the advertising business. Caroline naturally is quite successful while her predictably inept husband has all kinds of trouble managing a household full of young children. Caroline's boss Ron Richardson (Martin Mull) has eyes for her, while Jack's lecherous neighbor Joan (Ann Jillian) has eyes for him. The story is wrapped up in a predictable manner, and everyone seems okay at the end.

The plot--as usual in these kinds of films--requires that the male character (Keaton) be a complete and utterly inept loser while the female character (Garr) is very professional and can do no wrong. It's a common theme in movies nowadays, and was beginning to become common in 1983. A visitor from outer space who watches this movie would conclude that men are so stupid that they couldn't possibly exist without the wise guidance of women. It's really pretty offensive at times.

Jillian and Mull are great as the second leads (maybe better than Keaton and Garr) and the story moves along quite quickly. If you can get past the "stupid man" part of the plot you'll likely enjoy "Mr. Mom", but remember that it doesn't reflect reality at all.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Out of Many Contenders, Probably the Worst Jerry Lewis Film, 19 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Way...Way Out" is, in my opinion, Jerry Lewis' worst movie. That's quite a claim, when you consider he also made "The Big Mouth" the following year. It's one of those 1960s "sex comedies" which is so timid and restrained that it doesn't even really deserve that description.

After an interminable time of discussing an upcoming space flight, Jerry and Connie Stevens are U.S. astronauts that fly to the moon, where they are joined by two Russian Cosmonauts, played by Dick Shawn and Anita Ekberg. I tried hard to find something humorous after the astronauts arrive on the moon, but alas, there was nothing. The movie rambles on to an inconclusive ending without a chuckle in sight.

Lost among the bad acting and poor script are some pretty good actors, including Brian Keith, Dennis Weaver, Robert Morley, and James Brolin. Keith's turn as an arrogant and autocratic army general is so bad that it's genuinely embarrassing. The entire cast seems to have saved their careers' worst performances just for this movie.

I had read really scathing reviews of "Way...Way Out" but I had to see it for myself. Yes, the reviews are correct, it's that bad, maybe worse. This horrifically bad movie makes "Hook, Line, and Sinker" look like brilliant dramatic art. Just as an experiment, you should watch "The Big Mouth" and "Way...Way Out" back to back on a rainy day. I take no responsibility for your actions, but be warned that you may end up calling a hotline for severely depressed people.

Wonderful, Under-appreciated 1960s Chronicle, 6 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Back in the 1970s Aaron Spelling brought us such execrable TV shows as "Charlie's Angels", "Starsky and Hutch", "Fantasy Island", "The Love Boat", and others. Spelling didn't attempt to promote the shows as great dramatic art, preferring to produce (as he called it) "candy for the mind". These were shows that had cardboard characters, childish plots, stupid dialogue, and no real value. Spelling was very perceptive, since he realized that when people came home from work, they wanted something simple and unchallenging, with no real plot or substance.

"American Dreams" ran from 2002 to 2005 and had intelligent plots, great acting, good cinematography, and complex characters. I guess that's what its problem was—people had to actually think while they were watching, instead of drooling over Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith or watching David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser screeching around town in a hot red car while acting out insultingly sophomoric scripts every week.

"American Dreams" told the story of a middle-class Catholic family in Philadelphia during the mid-1960s. The show was basically a soap opera, with many intertwining plot elements every week. The show's story began in 1963 and featured such subjects as the Kennedy assassination, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the Beatles, sexual orientation, the U.S. space program, and many others. The intelligent scripts were enacted by a dynamite cast of virtual unknowns, all portrayed against the backdrop of Dick Clark's "American Bandstand". Viewers didn't have to tolerate great quantities of snickering, suggestive dialogue, car chases, or constant gunplay.

The show lasted three seasons and unfortunately never achieved top ratings. The cast members were uniformly excellent and included Brittany Snow, Tom Verica, Will Estes, Gail O'Grady, Vanessa Lengies, Jonathan Adams, and many others. The younger members of the cast were surprisingly professional and believable, but everyone performed at a very high level.

It's a shame that "American Dreams" was canceled after only three seasons. I suppose people would rather watch John Ritter fall down and Suzanne Somers jiggle in "Three's Company", because that idiotic show lasted a lot longer. That's unfortunate, but it does indicate why American prime time television is so bad and why our expectations are so low.

The Possessed (1977) (TV)
Adequate Though Pedestrian 1970s TV-Movie, 17 April 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Possession-type movies were quite popular in the 1970s thanks to "The Exorcist". In this TV-movie, clothing, papers, and people are bursting into flames at a girls' boarding school, so it's ex-priest Kevin Leahy (James Farentino) to the rescue. He tangles with the school's administrators, including the evil Louise Gelson (Joan Hackett). Although not unexpected, the nail-spitting/vomit/immolation sequence is quite a bravura finale. The movie's conclusion is a little muddled, apparently purposely so. Fine actresses Ann Dusenberry and Claudette Nevins also star.

First broadcast in May 1977, this film also starred fourth-billed Harrison Ford, in his final role before becoming a worldwide superstar thanks to his appearance in "Star Wars" a few weeks later. He plays a handsome biology teacher who unfortunately finds himself locked in a room and on fire. Ford's brief appearance is a little disappointing, but how could the filmmakers have known he'd be incredibly famous in just a couple of weeks? This TV-movie is an interesting time-filler, but you've seen it all before. Try to catch it for a brief glimpse of young and pre-stardom Harrison Ford.

Star 80 (1983)
Intense and Disturbing, 1 April 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This story follows the tragic story of Dorothy Stratten from her Vancouver home, to Playboy centerfold, to the beginnings of movie stardom, then to her violent death at the hands of her estranged husband, Paul Snider. There's no way to make this subject matter happy, so be prepared.

Because most viewers know how the story will end, watching this film is very chilling. In addition, Eric Roberts' disturbing (but authentic) performance as Paul Snider will stay with you for a long, long time. Mariel Hemingway stars as the young and innocent Stratten, while Cliff Robertson has the role of Hugh Hefner.

The final scene, filmed in the house where the murder actually took place, is very difficult to watch. The movie is very well directed and acted. Eric Roberts' performance should have resulted in an Oscar nomination, but no one who plays a character this creepy would ever be nominated. This very good movie will haunt you for days after you watch it.

Good Episode About a Leukemia Case Study, 19 March 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While it's treatable today, back in the 1950s leukemia was a true death sentence. The word must have been a really scary one to someone recently diagnosed, because medical science could do very little back then.

Young and expecting couple Estelle and Larry Collins (Beverly Garland and Lee Marvin) learn from Dr. Konrad Styner (Richard Boone) that Estelle has leukemia and has a limited time to live. Determined to save the baby, Estelle and Larry consent to life-prolonging treatment. The baby's born in a rather tense sequence and Estelle dies, after which Styner and his assistant proceed to puff on cigarettes (!).

The idea of Garland and Marvin as a young couple seems a little odd but it certainly worked well in this fine episode. However, during the show I kept thinking of Garland in 1950s monster movies and Marvin in violent war films! Boone is fine as always, even though he has a face made for radio. Anyway, this is a good first episode in this fine medical series.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Neat Little Film Noir, 6 February 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Strange Bargain" doesn't have any big stars, but its cast is very capable, the direction is good, and the script is excellent. It's a story of a suicide gone wrong, which is a little unusual.

Sam Wilson (Jeffrey Lynn) is approached by his boss Mr. Jarvis (Richard Gaines), who tells Sam that he's going to kill himself. In order for his family to collect insurance, he has to make his death look like murder. Jarvis gives Wilson $10,000 to fake the murder, but things don't go the way anyone plans. There's a neat little twist at the end and Sam reunites with his faithful wife Georgia (Martha Scott).

Lynn, Scott, and Gaines are great, as is Harry Morgan as a wise police detective. The little-known Katherine Emery is very good as Jarvis' conniving, grasping wife. As many reviewers have noted, Scott, Lynn, and Morgan reunited in 1987 for a TV episode to recreate their parts. It's a good treat for those who love late 1940s films, and it'll keep your attention at all times.


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