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A Sunday night treat!
I was glued to this show when it aired in 1968-1969, and was so disappointed when it was cancelled. I know some might take issue with the mix of animation and live action, but this was made 50 years ago at this writing, and the technology wasn't there, period. Given that, I thought Hanna-Barbera really did something innovative for prime time television.
And the plots weren't at all bad.
I give special credit to the main cast for making this show really work. All of them, from Kevin Schultz to Ted Cassidy, made this show special. It should have done better, being the lead-in to the Disney anthology series, but all three networks had a very competitive night on Sundays, and I am sure this series didn't come cheap, especially with all that green screen work they had to do, because of the animation. By comparison, an episode of The FBI looks like a real bargain basement in terms of production costs.
That said, however, this was a special show that deserved better, especially given how it pushed the production envelope and given its fine cast!!!
The F.B.I.: Survival (1974)
An interesting ending
The final first-run episode ever to air for this series involves Lewis Erskine and Chris Daniels trying to take an escapee in the desert, with the latter falling off a ledge. The story involves keeping Daniels alive as well as dealing with their prisoner.
What we have is a character study that is a contrast to so many of the other FBI stories. It's not my first choice for a series finale, but that's how it goes.
What's prophetic is that, in Act II, Chris Daniels (played by Shelly Novack) mentions the the idea that he might end up dying so soon. Eerily, Mr. Novack would die of heart trouble four years after this airing.
The episode benefits from good casting, of course, with Julie Gregg, Jon Cypher and Dabney Coleman. Overall, a good production, but not my choice for the final episode of the series.
The F.B.I.: Tower of Terror (1973)
Reminders of other TV shows
"Tower of Terror" is a very good outing for The FBI, and it represents the one episode that veteran screenwriter Jackson Gillis wrote. Gillis was involved in such shows as Lost In Space, Perry Mason and Adventures of Superman. Set in Minneapolis (hometown of AOS's Lois Lane, Noel Neill), some of the scenes echo those from shots taken from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which ran concurrent there.
We have milquetoast Michael Staley (Mario Rocuzzo) planting a bomb in a high-rise, in an effort to free his platoon leader, and then sending a note to the FBI. What follows is an episode with tension, and fireworks between the platoon leader (Victor French) and Inspector Erskine (Efrem Zimbalist Jr). Erin Moran makes another appearance here, just before she became famous on Happy Days.
Sadly, the politics of Watergate and age led to the show ending in September 1974, but the series clearly kept its quality, and managed to get this episode from one of Hollywood's finest writers!
Vague memories of this
I have a hazy memory of watching this episode, but clearly remember The Three Stooges. This episode sounds like it needs some serious re-airing, because of its cast!
Among the treats were Rowan and Martin, a month after their "Laugh- In" special aired, and three months before their ground-breaking series began. Dick Shawn also makes an appearance, right at the time he had his breakthrough in "The Producers."
But this episode also marks the acting debut of comic Steve Martin, who has a role as Simon the Pieman. While his first major success was as a writer for "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," it's interesting that he acted here! Same as well for Jim Nabors, whose hit series also aired on Friday nights, but on a different network!
The series wasn't bad per se, but it still seemed like an imitation of Walt Disney's anthology series, and it also suffered from a bad time slot. I remember at the time it seemed like a letdown after the previous season, which had "The Green Hornet." Anyway, the episode here is a most interesting one, with a LOT of talent!
Batman & Robin (1997)
1997 version of the 1966 series
"Batman & Robin" clearly has the campiness of the 1966 "Batman" series, especially of Season 2. I had that feeling when I read about this movie in South Carolina in June 1997, and remembering Yvonne Craig as Batgirl.
That said, it's not the 1989 "Batman" movie, nor 2005's "Batman Begins." But if you take the movie on its own terms, it is really entertaining. If this movie has comparisons to the 1966 series and movie, it is light years ahead when it comes to its special effects and fight scenes. They are very well crafted.
Yeah, the villains were, um, weird. But Uma Thurman was so gorgeous to look at, and Arnold Schwarzenegger showed Mister Freeze in a human manner not unlike what George Sanders did when the character surfaced in the 1966 series. Despite the puns, he still brought some humanity to the role.
As for the heroes, there seemed to be a little more than just a hint of something homoerotic. If this is the case, I honestly don't care. What I REALLY liked was that Bruce and Dick learned immediately of Barbara's role as Batgirl. That was a welcome relief to the "Batman" series 50 years ago, when the whole bit of the Dynamic Duo not knowing of Batgirl's secret identity got stale rapidly and instead became annoying.
And I give credit to the screenwriters and George Clooney for not playing Batman as some sort of clown. That was precisely the thing that really ruined the 1966 series toward the end.
I've seen worse movies than this. And I like it enough that I got a Blu Ray disc of this movie. Just take it on its own terms, and I think you'll have a fine time!
Cover Girl Models (1975)
A time capsule in more ways than one ...
"Cover Girl Models," taken at face value, is a really cheapskate production that makes the 1959 Fox movie "Holiday For Lovers" look like "Gone With The Wind." It has a low-rent American cast and locales in The Philippines that masquerade as Singapore and, to a lesser extent, Hong Kong. It gets low marks for being a "thriller" and for its cheesy violence.
That said, it gets higher marks for being a time capsule in more ways than one might think. Filmed after Richard Nixon's resignation, it captures the seedier side of 1970s American cinema, with skin exposure that one doesn't find as much anymore. You get to see women's breasts all right. Sadly, the same is said as well of the clothing styles from that era, and also the hair styles. While men's suits look better today, the women here seemed to have more tailored hairstyles. Dull plot, but the memories of 1975 are a welcome watch, especially for those who lived through that time period.
It's a Bikini World (1967)
"It's a Bikini World" isn't Oscar-caliber material, but it's hardly the worst beach movie out there. If there's anything to be said about it, the movie has a certain atmospheric charm about it.
Judging from its appearance, it looks like it was shot in very late 1965, when it would be cloudier in Los Angeles. Granted, when the movie came out in April 1967, it was already dated just from the bands that it featured, but it had the dated thing in common with Warner Brothers' "The Cool Ones," released the same month.
And I hate to be disrespectful toward the memory of Annette Funicello, but I liked seeing Deborah Walley in the lead female role. Tommy Kirk does a decent job, and I love seeing Sid Haig as well.
Yeah, I admit it, I enjoy watching this.
Laugh-In: Episode #4.11 (1970)
Desi, opposite Lucy
A measure of how "Laugh-In" could be so cutting edge for its time is its having Desi Arnaz as a special guest star. Ten years after he and Lucille Ball divorced, he appears opposite her, on a competing show, on another network.
That said, his performance is an interesting one. His hair has clearly been dyed, since he had gone gray a while before 1970. There are times he seems tired, and his heavy smoking had some effect on his voice.
That said, he is definitely fun to watch! He manages to get in some music as well. Though he had scaled back his show business activities by this time, it would have been interesting if he had a regular venue such as "Laugh-In." Four years later, he would give an even better performance on "Ironside," proving he still had that spark in him. And ironically, his (and Lucille Ball's) daughter, Lucie Arnaz, would appear on "Laugh-In."
Mission: Impossible: The Deal (1972)
Change in focus by 1972
By the time "The Deal" aired at the end of 1972, Mission: Impossible had gone through a LOT of changes. Of the original cast, only Greg Morris and Peter Lupus remained, and the IMF team had gone to dealing with organized crime.
That said, this episode is a taut one with a terrific cast. Here, we have LLoyd Bochner, Van Williams, Robert Webber and Lana Wood, among others. And Peter Lupus gets to shine here with a subplot in which he is wounded and taken in by the bad guys.
This episode moves at a fast pace, and keeps you in suspense. However, as we all know, this was the final season for the series. Still, not a bad way to end its run.
I clearly missed seeing this as a youngster (I was alive in 1967), but seeing this pilot almost 50 years after its initial airing is a revelation.
While the special itself was crude, it is immediately clear the show would be picked up. It was indeed very different from the usual comedy show, and it reflected the sensibilities of that memorable year of 1967, which is 50 years ago as of this writing.
While Gary Owens is absent here, some of the elements are already present, such as the cocktail party. One thing I liked with this special and with Season 1 was the New Talent portion of the program. Ruth Buzzi, who remained with the show to the end, turns in a memorable performance here. We also have the news segment as well!
Getting back to the crudeness of the show, some of the bit sequences play out like something from "The Banana Splits," which would air a year later on the same network as "Laugh-In" (and would factor in a crossover bit in fall 1968). Overall, this is truly worth a watch, because of its historical value! And it has value, since I remember television from that era, having grown up in that time.
Laugh-In: Episode #6.20 (1973)
Better than average for the sixth season
Casting, plus a cool dance sequence on an airliner set, makes this episode a standout after a string of routine episodes.
While Ernest Borgnine is the name guest star, John Wayne makes a welcome appearance here, as do Don Rickles, Arthur Godfrey and Slappy White. Mr. Borgnine shows a fine range by playing Dr. Watson!
And speaking of the dance sequence, the cheerleaders make a welcome appearance as well.
A fine entry for a series approaching its end.
Laugh-In: Episode #6.18 (1973)
By the end of January 1973, it was clear Laugh-In long had its best days behind. While it was fun to have Angie Dickinson as a guest star, one can tell that such skits as the Farkel Family had run out of steam.
Season 6 was marked by the departure of George Schlatter and Ed Friendly as executive producers; Dan Rowan and Dick Martin took over the role. With it came a major cast turnover, and one may wonder if this may have hurt the series.
The season started off decently, especially with a bunch of cheerleaders who appeared in the first few episodes. They were clearly absent by this time. Like it or not, the series was playing like a pre-recorded version of Saturday Night Live that was running on tired blood. In all fairness, jokes remained topical as ever.
But despite the appearance of Angie Dickinson, it was clear the end of the road was approaching.
Laugh-In: Episode #6.3 (1972)
William Conrad makes this a TEN
Much can be said how "Laugh-In" was in sad decline by late 1972. And it's true it wasn't the same as it was when it first started.
But what a difference a guest star can make.
William Conrad, who had a hit show on CBS, "Cannon," clearly showed his comedic chops. If you see this episode, be sure to see the skit where he dons different hats at a small NBC affiliate. It is hand down one of THE funniest skits, if not the No. 1 funniest skit, in the show, ever. Most of the time, the show's amusing, especially given how it's topical, but this skit is pretty timeless--and incredibly manic! Mr. Conrad also MORE than holds his own in the rest of the show, too. It makes me wonder what it would have been like had he been a series regular.
And speaking of William Conrad, he seems more known for serious crime dramas. However, remember also that he was INDEED the narrator for "Rocky and Bullwinkle." What a truly funny man!
Well worth a watch!
Laugh-In: Episode #6.4 (1972)
It's Lucie's turn
Two years before this episode, Desi Arnaz made an appearance on Laugh-In. This time around, it was his daughter Lucie's turn. And it's a little different here. While it may seem like Desi's outing might have come off as strange, given that it was opposite his ex- wife's show (and was so noted on that 1970 outing), Lucie Arnaz was still a cast member of "Here's Lucy." Seems remarkable, given that she was appearing on two shows on two different networks.
That said, in both instances, both father and daughter did well on the show (he in 1970, she in 1972). Lucie's bits are very funny, and she has a charming song and dance bit with Dick and Dan.
Laugh-In's look at adult entertainment was a very timely thing for 1972 (and I remember!), but by the standards of today, the attitudes seem so quaint and somewhat immature. And it shows how attitudes and the adult entertainment industry have changed.
Overall, the show seems to have hit a stride with its new routines, such as the cheerleaders. We also see a return of Gen. Bullright! Definitely a good outing!
Laugh-In: Episode #6.1 (1972)
They tried, but it was hit and miss ...
The season debut of Laugh-In for 1972-73 went off to an interesting start with what was essentially a football-style kickoff with Gary Owens announcing a new cast, as well as the returning regulars.
Two things stand out: The new cast and, for the first time since Season 1, a view of the audience. And for the first time, we get to see the audience participate in the show.
The problem is that the cast changeover is so extensive that there's no real sense of continuity. Sure, we have Ruth Buzzi and Lily Tomlin, but it would have helped to have had a few more veterans to lend some continuity. But maybe the other problem was that the show was showing its age, and devolving into a pseudo-Bob Hope comedy show. And the times were changing.
But the episode also has its hits. It has a great lineup of guest stars, starting with John Wayne, who is given quite a bit to do. Same with Jill St. John, who isn't a talking head in this episode, but actually has some fun moments. And we get to see the cops of Adam-12 get to crack up as they blow take after take! Finally, the dancing girls are real eye candy.
Overall, it's hit or miss, and a far cry from early 1968.
What a difference a week makes ...
"Chris's New Year's Eve Party," unlike the episode from the week before, is a delight to watch. One great early scene has Lucy and Vivian doing the Watusi with their sons, and it has everyone else smiling and laughing while they waltz!
Then a crisis erupts at Chris's party.
Lucy, Viv and Harry play out a Charlie Chaplin skit that is a gem. Lucille Ball, Vivian Vance and Dick Martin (yeah, that guy from Laugh-In) do a great job here. The first two would have been teenagers when the silent movies were in their heyday, and Dick Martin would have been young enough to remember some of Charlie Chaplin's later silents.
The skit brings up something interesting: Silent movies were beginning to be appreciated again in this time period. During this time, Harold Lloyd was doing presentations of his films and trying to renew appreciation for old films. And an ocean away, Mr. Chaplin was a real-life father of teenagers, and became a father for the final time in 1962.
This episode is such a contrast to the one from the previous week, and was a great way to end 1962!
"Together For Christmas" starts out decently enough, but it ends up being a terribly uncomfortable watch. It is actually one of the worst made-for-Christmas episode ever made by a TV series.
What makes this painful is the scene where Lucy and Vivian are destroying Christmas trees. The rest of the script isn't too good, either, which is a real shame. Season 1 of "The Lucy Show" is hands down the best, and especially when Desi Arnaz was helming the production. That makes this episode all the more inexcusable.
The one good thing this episode has is the Christmas caroling at the end. It reminds one how much better this episode could have been, especially with a better script.
Laugh-In: Episode #4.14 (1970)
Debbie Reynolds makes this show
This episode from 14 December 1970 seems to be a little better episode overall than many of the offerings for the 1970-71 year, but Debbie Reynolds really brings something special. Fresh off of her year-long sitcom, she manages to be funny, as well as sexy.
You also get to see skits involving Planned Parenthood, as well as Burbank Airlines, plus guest spots from Bing Crosby and Jack Cassidy.
Watching her (as well as Desi Arnaz from a previous episode) makes me wonder how it would have been if she had been a series regular. God knows she's funny here!
Actually, the regular cast is fine, and I especially enjoy Johnny Brown, who as of this writing is still with us.
Anyway, the episode is overall a little better than average in terms of material, but Debbie Reynolds is a standout!!! RIP.
Coda to "My World, and Welcome To It"
I remember the time period when this movie came out. I never got to see the film at that time, which is too bad, because I liked the 1969 William Windom series, "My World, and Welcome To It." Both had roots in James Thurber, and both used live action and animation.
OK, so maybe this isn't Jack Lemmon's greatest movie. And I suppose it would not resonate with audiences in 21st century America. But you had to be there to really understand.
As it is, both Jack Lemmon and Lisa Gerritsen give great performances, and Jason Robards' appearance is always welcome. This is not a movie for everyone, but it is well worth a watch!!!
Great show for the first three years, but after June 1970
"Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" came in like a breath of fresh air when it first surfaced in the latter part of 1967. Maybe the idea wasn't totally new, but by television standards, it was VERY different.
I took to it immediately as a kid, in part because I was already hip to certain things (such as how SQUARE CBS was!), and how the show poked fun at so many things. Season One had a special raw quality, though seasons two and three were fun to watch as well.
Sadly, despite such GREAT talent as Johnny Brown and Lily Tomlin, the show started to run on tired blood when Season Four began. Maybe it was the very onset of the 1970s, because so much changed. The series began to look a little dated in Season Five because of the onslaught of such programs as "All In The Family," and by then, the ratings began to sag. And then it was all over by 1973.
No matter. When it was good, it was and IS fantastic! And it brought plenty of amusement to my life. It was also very innovative in other ways, such as having the Banana Splits (a children's show) appear on the show in 1968. Imagine, having children's and adults' programming come together like that. It was never done before.
And I am thankful for this.
Laugh-In: Episode #4.1 (1970)
Trying to stay fresh
The first episode of "Laugh-In" clearly was trying to be fresh by making some small changes in format, larger changes in cast and just shaking things up.
While Art Carney made things very amusing, it seemed like the show was starting to get a little tired. It seemed like the show was losing some of the spontaneity of the early episodes. Too bad, because so many of the new performers were and are quite good, such as Johnny Brown and Barbara Sharma.
Perhaps it's because it was the first new episode of the 1970s, but it sure seemed like the show's pace had slowed. Sorta like a prehistoric version of NBC Saturday Night Live.
"The Walls of Jericho," which I did not see in 1967, but my brother did, is a very solid entry in The Time Tunnel. I finally saw this almost 50 years to the day on Cozi TV, because I was awake and could not sleep.
I'll plead guilty to wanting to see this because Myrna Fahey was in the episode (as was Lisa Gaye). First, this was a very well done episode, and I was amazed at how Lee Meriwether's character was a skeptic when it came to Biblical matters. This episode could pass in 1967, but very likely not today because of America's current climate.
That said, it was a great episode, and the cast did well. Kudos to both Ms. Fahey and Ms. Gaye, and RIP to both ladies. The former left us WAY too soon (1973), and the other shuffled off last year (2016).
Laugh-In: Episode #2.9 (1968)
The Banana Splits appear ...
By the time this "Laugh-In" episode aired, the show had become so established that it was attracting major performers such as Rosemary Clooney and Victor Borge.
One remarkable thing about this airing is that we get to see the Banana Splits appear! You rarely ever got to see Saturday morning characters (Hanna-Barbera ones) appear on a prime-time show, let alone the hottest TV comedy series. But I guess the producers knew that kids were watching this show (I was one of them in 1968!).
Anyway, the show had settled into its ways by this time, for better or worse. Seeing the Hanna-Barbera characters was fun!
Channeling Batman ...
"The Night of the Feathered Fury" has its share of being over the stop, starting with Victor Buono himself. Count Mazeppa is a character not entirely unlike King Tut from the 1966 Batman series, but he has some sort of supernatural power that one never got to see in Gotham City.
And Batman didn't have Michele Carey.
I know that Buono never appeared on the series after this episode, but this is still well worth a watch. Speaking of Ms. Carey, she plays an unsavory character who ends up turning to gold, then vanishes like a puff of smoke, just as Jill St. John would herself do on the same date exactly one year earlier on Batman!
Overall, maybe not the best script or story line, but Victor Buono and Michele Carey alone make it worth 10/10!
A timepiece on so many levels, and not just the 1920s ...
"The Night They Raided Minsky's" is a sheer delight to watch. It is definitely a timepiece in so many ways. On one level, it is a tribute to the Burlesque of the 1920s (it's set in 1925). Here, we get stellar performances from Bert Lahr, who died during shooting; Jason Robards; Norman Wisdom; and Joseph Wiseman, among others.
But on another level, it's also a timepiece of late 1967, and we see that in the sense of wonder that Britt Ekland's character experiences. It runs like a sort of "Alice In Wonderland" for the Jazz Age. You can also see that in the photography from '67 as well. It is also a timepiece in that it was a film that no longer obeyed the Hays Code, which was ending around this time.
And it's also a timepiece in that some of the New York exteriors used for filming were torn down after shooting ended. As stated earlier, it was Bert Lahr's final performance, and it is a memorable one. Had he lasted to the end of the shoot, his character would have loomed larger, but that was not meant to be.
As it is, the movie could have turned into a disaster, but skillful editing turned what might have been a sow's ear into a gem of a film. Highly recommended.