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WKRP in Cincinnati: Love Returns (1978)
Season 1, Episode 8
Love is never Perfect
22 November 2017
Like all shows that experiment with the genre into which they were born, WKRP takes chances. This is a reunion story between Travis and singer Linda Taylor. They had a relationship before she became famous.

A critic's responsibility is to answer 3 questions: What was done? Was it done well? Was it worth doing? What was done is described elsewhere on this site. I won't belabor it.

"Was it done well?" is more complicated. The press conference scene is awkward. It conveys the necessary information and allows the re-connection between Travis and Linda, but the dialog involving Les and Sternworthy from WPIG makes Les out as a total idiot. That blatant a characterization is overblown and unnecessary, to say the least. He could ask innocuous questions like what instrument does she play, but the rest of that exchange borders on the stupid. (Or perhaps crosses that border.) In the intimate scene between Andy and Linda, the timing is off, and the incidental music is timed so poorly that it is more a distraction than an enhancement. The handling of the plot resolution is considerably more successful and enhances the rating of the episode as a whole.

Was it worth doing? This judgment makes all the difference. They tried to do something very important by revealing Andy's past and the alternate path his life could have taken if he hadn't latched on to the 14th station in a 16-station market and made a home there. We get insight into his character, and his character grows.

Daring to do something different risks mixed success. "Who is Gordon Sims" is one of the strongest episodes in the entire series. Venus's monologue at the episode's climax is riveting and very not funny and his character grows significantly as a result. "Love Returns" attempts to perform the same function for Travis. It isn't as successful as an episode, but it WAS worth doing because it accomplished what it set out to accomplish.
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Trying to function in the no-mag world
4 September 2017
As I expected, the reviews of this movie are extremely binary. Some people liked it to loved it. Others hated it to one degree or other.

I unreservedly fall into the first category. It isn't a perfect movie. Few are. But it's imaginative and fresh. We begin with a world that we're familiar with. We understand the wizarding and muggle/no-mag worlds. The script can be imaginative and original without having to justify anything that happens or explain its context. The audience already expects such activities.

Certainly the plot isn't fresh. It's ground has been trodden many times before. But that's part of its charm. The world is familiar and the plot is familiar, so Rowling could take her wizarding world and make an entirely new story unconfined and unconstrained by the monumental Harry Potter history. Perhaps it was written for a slightly different audience. After all, Rowling is likely feeling very limited as a writer if all she is allowed to write is a continuation of a story that she has already told. The universe she created is diverse and complex. She should be allowed to explore it from other points of view.

I do wish that the marketing of the movie had been less reminiscent of Harry Potter. I applaud the relative lack of pyrotechnics in the movie and its more muted volume than most movies have these days. But from the advance publicity, I suspect that some people went to the movie with unrealistic expectations.

So kudos to the movie and its fresh look at the wizarding world. I applaud those efforts, and the movie gets my "thumbs-up" from me.
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Spider's Web (1982 TV Movie)
Things that go bump in the night
23 June 2016
Agatha Christie wrote numerous novels and short stories. She wrote this one as a play. Its original title, "Clarissa Finds a Body", more closely captures its mood, its spirit, and its off-center sense of humor. gridoon2016 commented that it isn't much of a movie. That much is true. Plays must follow a different set of rules and constraints than movies do. You have to judge it on its own merit. Long ago I learned the three jobs of a critic:

To explain: 1. What was done? 2. Was it done well? 3. Was it worth doing?

The first point is easy. It's a classic Agatha Christie murder mystery, drawn directly from the genre that made her famous. Its structure is predictable the way most classic murder mysteries are predictable.

As for was it done well, its mood differs from most of its genre because it has tongue firmly planted in cheek throughout, right from the opening wine-testing sequence. Christie originally wrote the play for an actress who was tired of playing "heavies". She wanted something fun. This masterpiece definitely qualifies. Penelope Keith in the starring role brings to it that level of sarcasm and fun, infused with a bit of panic from time to time. So the plot takes a fresh look at a familiar genre.

Was it worth doing? It's a diversion. It's fresh and it's familiar -- a good combination. It's fun. It's suspenseful. And the ending should satisfy most murder-mystery buffs.

So give it a chance. But be a little patient. Plays often take a little longer than movies to set themselves up, and this one is no exception.

Incidentally, I also have a copy with the Tammie Grimes introductions. Like many program decisions, this one offers yin and yang. On the positive side, it gives you much more information about Christie and her work and about this play. On the negative side, Grimes' sides interrupt the flow of the narrative. Which version is better is entirely a matter of personal taste. But give it a chance. It's worth it.
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Mission: Impossible: The Ransom (1966)
Season 1, Episode 8
It's not healthy to be one of Briggs' friends
19 June 2016
As others have pointed out, this one doesn't start with a tape, but with a gangster who kidnaps the daughter of one of Briggs' friends as a hostage to be exchanged for a stool pigeon being held under police guard so he can't testify before a grand jury. Like many of the Briggs episodes, this one includes a lot of improvisation, because matters don't proceed exactly according to plan. It also features a doctor who is obviously a "regular" IMF partner, although he appears only in a couple of episodes. It's tight, suspenseful, and keeps you guessing.

One negative. The actor playing the girl's father isn't as believable as I'd have liked. He seems to go between trying to call the police despite Briggs' warning that doing so will guarantee his daughter's death and trusting Dan and his crew without the emotional depth to make the transition believable. Still, the deviation from the standard formula is refreshing. MI did a few episodes like this during its run. I'd have liked a few more. But I don't want to take anything away from this little story. It's a winner.
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The Paper Chase: The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1978)
Season 1, Episode 11
A flawed jewel
28 May 2016
I agree with the comments from planktonrules. This episode epitomizes attempts by the series (especially in the first season) to address legitimate controversial questions with intelligence and balance. Kingsfield's original anger with Logan's question is a study in overreaction. Out of character. I wish they'd found another approach to set matters in motion. That said, the way the plot unfolds is disturbingly realistic and disturbingly familiar. That things got out of control and away from the original point is inevitable in such volatile situations. We see it all the time in the world around us. The last scene adds believable closure to the story. To have left it out would have have cheated the audience of a more optimistic perspective in solving such problems.
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The Paper Chase: An Act of Desperation (1978)
Season 1, Episode 13
Swan song
28 May 2016
This is one of the most interesting episodes of the entire series. That Brooks always came off as superfluous is obvious to anyone who's seen the shows. With the exception of the first episode, he rarely did anything that justified his recurring-character status. Again I find myself agreeing with planktonrules. Instead of simply writing him out, they gave him a powerful story about the pressures facing law students (and medical students) who can't bury themselves in their schoolwork without distraction. Throughout the series they show you Hart coping with the pressures of balancing his financial problems and his academic pursuits. Not everyone can succeed under those conditions. An excellent episode with a logical and appropriate resolution.
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WKRP in Cincinnati: Jennifer and the Will (1981)
Season 4, Episode 8
The best episode from season 4
2 January 2016
I agree with the other reviewer who stated that this episode is the best of the fourth (admittedly weakest) of the show's 4 seasons. I don't give 10 stars easily. But this one nailed it, with lots of surprises.

The episode demonstrates how this show could be serious when necessary without losing its sense of timing. I've always thought that other critically acclaimed shows that try scripts where someone dies make much too light of the death. They turn it into farce. Here, dealing with the death is the whole idea -- with far better sarcasm than you'd expect they could get away with. Jennifer wins her battle, savoring the victory without sacrificing any of her sense of humor.

CBS never really liked the serious episodes. And sometimes they didn't work so well. But "Who is Gordon Sims? from the first season is brilliant. It gave us all a taste of what it might have been like for a black man fighting in Vietnam. "Never forget." And there are many others.

But the show could show poignancy even in episodes that are mostly manic comedy. The widely acclaimed "Turkeys Away" (NOT my favorite by any stretch) contains one scene that few viewers ever saw before Shout Factory!'s recent restoration. If you have a complete copy, check out a quiet but hilarious scene between Johnny and Venus in the DJ booth about Carlson's last promotion -- and I'm not going to tell you what it was. I don't know that anybody would consider it a spoiler, but it is SOOOO absurd that it needs to surprise you.

A wonderful episode of one of my all-time favorite shows.
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A very pleasant surprise
18 December 2015
I will try very hard not to spoil anyone's enjoyment of the first episode. (Incidentally, the introduction in the Kindle version of Childhood's end -- and probably the latest print edition as well -- includes a major spoiler, which is a criminal act. Should you buy the book, skip the introduction until AFTER you've read the book and/or seen the series.) As other people have said, the premise revolves around some apparently benevolent aliens who invade, declaring an end of war, hunger, climate change, hatred, and the other banes of 21st century society. Most people love the idea, but pockets of opposition rise up from people who feel threatened in one way or another.

The twists and turns in the plot are complex, complicated, and often subtle. The surprise is that the series manages them very well.

The script was quite remarkable, adapting the 60-year-old novel and weaving its complexities more deftly than I had expected. The romantic aspects were largely invented for the series. Like most of Clarke's science fiction contemporaries, 20-something "boys" in the science fiction world were geeks (we called them nerds) who had little understanding and less experience with "girls". Simple ignorance explains why they had so few strong women characters. The film version brings the story into the present and at least attempts to restore the balance.

Many factors worked against this film. The film is visual to some degree, but it is mostly dialog and atmosphere. For some of us, it was an amazing novel that raised some provocative questions and didn't answer them. For me, when I heard that someone was turning the long-loved book into a movie, I reacted with skepticism, uttering my mantra over such things. It would be good or it would be terrible. It was unlikely to fall anywhere in between.

I suspect it was a difficult film to sell to advertisers -- the lifeblood of the industry. There was a lot of mystery and adventure, but little or no pyrotechnics. It might not draw a sufficient audience to justify such ambitious projects. I noticed a large number of house ads and station promos in the breaks instead of paying commercials. To the credit of the producers, writers, and director, they didn't compromise the material to draw a bigger audience. As a result, the story takes time to unfold, and some audience members might not be patient enough to stick it out. But if you want to see a genuine attempt to put a seminal and unconventional novel on the home screen, give this a try. It isn't perfect, but it was well worth the effort -- and it's well worth your time.
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41 (I) (2012)
The best time-travel movie you've never heard of
28 November 2015
Like some of the other reviewers, I came upon this film completely by accident. And like one other reviewer, I planned to watch about 10 minutes and watch the rest another time. But the movie pulled me in and stayed with me until the end.

It's a most unusual time-travel story. Although some of the concepts have been used before, this takes them in a different direction. It's a quiet, slow-paced movie, so if you're looking for quick action, you'll find it in short supply. But the atmosphere is as important as the plot progress and the dialog. It reminds me a little bit of David Gerrold's "The Man Who Folded Himself".

If you're looking to settle down and watch something out of the ordinary -- and you're willing to give it your attention and accept its pacing -- you'll find it very rewarding.
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Executive Stress (1986–1988)
Where is Region 1????
24 May 2015
Don't get me wrong. I can complain about very little about this series. Penelope Keith is wonderful. I have to admit that I prefer Geoffrey Palmer as Donald. Peter Bowles characterization is less bewildered and more condescending, which changes its comic timing. Even so, the series is far better than the vast majority of all the drivel you see on TV. Its portrayal of the publishing industry is suitably sarcastic and wonderfully satirical. Having said that, I rarely award anything a rating of 10.

My biggest complaint is that the DVD is available ONLY for Region 2, so those of us who live in the Western Hemisphere are left in the dark (so to speak).

SOMEBODY PLEASE ISSUE THIS DVD FOR REGION 1. Maybe Shout Factory, or some other company that cares more about authenticity than sales volume.
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Nightfall (1988)
One out of 10 is too many
31 January 2015
I suppose it doesn't make any sense to actually review this movie, because I have nothing new to add. As with many of the other reviewers, Isaac was always one of my favorite authors, and I always wanted to see something of his come to the big screen. Like many others, I never saw it in the theater, but rented it at a video store. (I only had BETA video tape machines, which gives you some context.) The original Nightfall (not the Robert Silverberg version) was always one of my favorite stories. I did watch the whole film -- in disbelief. I can't honestly say that this is the worst film I've ever seen -- but it IS in the running. It's also the primary reason I avoided watching The Bicentennial Man for so long. I was unwilling to subject myself to another abomination. That movie, however, is wonderful.

If you see this one, unless someone is torturing you and forcing you to watch it, turn it off, read a book, go jogging, take a shower. It's probably 20 years since I saw it, and reminders of it still make me cringe with disgust. I see that a few reviewers found some "redeeming social value" with this movie. I too have had words of praise for movies that some people can't stand. In this case I have to agree. This one is a cross between a turkey and a dog and inherited the worst traits of each.

In two words, avoid it.

You've been warned.
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Barney Miller: The Psychic (1981)
Season 7, Episode 11
Foolishness at its best
28 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Few actors bring genuine lunacy to the screen better than Kenneth Tigar. The first time I ever saw him was in Barney Miller's "The Werewolf" where again he played the title character. This episode, like others in this particular motif (the time traveler in "The Child Stealers" comes to mind), the humor hinges on the fact that everyone is skeptical at first and gradually he proves he's the real deal. Suspension of disbelief.

The other actors and story lines in the episode are excellent as well, but interactions with the psychic enhance them beautifully. Tigar knits the ensemble together perfectly, which is a neat trick for a guest actor. The script is quite excellent, but without Tigar's timing I don't think it would have been so satisfying. Few other actors could have pulled it off and made it believable.

Side note (I'm not sure if you'd call this a spoiler): I long ago tired of Inspector Luger. More often than not he's merely annoying. But he got his comeuppance in this one and I had to cheer.
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Adventures of Superman: Rescue (1952)
Season 1, Episode 9
Another mini-40s B-movie
19 January 2015
This episode is a classic example of the way Superman was handled in that wonderful first season. The creators of Superman's first season never knew anything about television. They were weaned on 40s B- movies, so that's what they wrote. The show wasn't intended for children. TV Guide at the time listed it as "Adventure". Lois Lane is the crack, reckless hard-nosed reporter she was supposed to be at that time. This one is her story. Superman shows up only at the end. (I sure hope nobody regards that as a "spoiler". That's pretty much the way every episode ends.)

Oh, the show has a few "cutesy" bits to keep Clark Kent from knowing what's going on. And sometimes the $3.50 budget shows. But the plot is generally uncompromising and believable. The location scenes (which could have been done on a back lot) for the Pennsylvania coal mine are believable and consistent for the time. The only word to describe it is "gritty". Which is exactly what the writers intended.
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Adventures of Superman: Mystery in Wax (1953)
Season 1, Episode 16
Dark and frightening
27 December 2014
Other reviewers may be correct that "most people" regard the second season as the best. For me, at its best the first season was better than any of the others. Part of it, of course, is the "40s" look of Lois Lane and that she was Clark's equal (if somewhat impulsive) as a reporter.

But there is an important distinction between the first season and what came later. The show was NOT billed as a children's show. In TV Guide, it read "Superman -- Adventure". Very much in keeping with the film noir B movies that were the previous haunts of Superman's writers. These shows stand the test of time.
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Neat Mystery
27 December 2014
Richard laid out the plot pretty well. I have no argument with that part of what he said. But I believe that in this case the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Yes, the premise is somewhat absurd. Why wouldn't the crooks use a process that would keep the cops from finding out ?

This episode was done in 1951. Television was in its infancy. The writers knew nothing about writing for television. (That's all TV writers, although they didn't all come from the same roots.) These writers had all cut their teeth writing B movies in the 40s. So The Adventures of Superman -- especially in the first season -- consisted primarily of 25-minute B movies, many of them film noir. But they do ask you to suspend disbelief. In this case, they ask you to grant them the absurd premise, because if you do they will weave a cute little mystery.

So I give this one an "A" for effort. And if the initial premise is a bit far fetched, it lets them tell a good story.
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All That Glitters (1977– )
I agree with the kudos
28 December 2008
To say this show was ahead of its time is a gross understatement (as others in this forum have already noted). It ran as an independent show, after Mary Hartman Mary Hartman in many markets, which put it on between 11:30 and midnight in Vermont where I saw it. That it has never been available in any form on video is a crime (although I have a few other candidates for that particular crime). Lois Nettleton, Jessica Walter, and Gary Sandy were outstanding in their portrayals, although my favorite remains Chuck McCann as a harried house-husband. Of all the male actors, he captured his character best. Whether the audience was ready for the show will remain a mystery, since few people ever had the opportunity to see it. But WOULD SOMEBODY PLEASE BRING THIS OUT ON DVD??? Thanks in advance
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Otherworld (1985)
CBS didn't know what they had
2 February 2007
This show tried to take a different road from most. A story of a family who fell through a "hole" into an alternate reality, it took that premise in directions that most have never tried. It contained some of the most sophisticated writing that science fiction television had seen up to that time, with a deceptive subtlety couched in satire. Part allegory, part drama, part family, with frequent "winks" to the audience (characters spouting lines that seem to convey that they know more than they are supposed to, but the lines that follow add a more consistent context). CBS never knew how to promote it. "Rock and Roll Suicide" (in which the kids -- stuck in a place where the entertainment is REALLY boring -- invent rock and roll) is a sociological commentary on non-conformance with several stabs at dogmatic religion (the Church of Artificial Intelligence to be precise). "Mansion of the Beast" is essentially a retelling of that fairy tale. The show is not completely successful. Series television is inevitably a crap shoot. You try your best. But its fresh outlook, intelligent scripting, and tongue-in-cheek humor put it a cut above most. It deserved more of a chance. Also, although the episodes as they ran on the Sci-Fi channel were deftly cut, some of the humor was lost. Pity. I recently learned that there are 5 episodes that never aired. Let's bring this one out on DVD with the missing episodes included.
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