Thursday, December 25, 2008

Worst Gift Ever

I searched Ebay for a good hour today looking for what would be the worst bit of sitcom merchandise ever and let's just say there are more candidates than American Idol.

The out and out winner had to be these promotional Alf records from Burger King, which feature hits such as "Melmac Rock" and "Melmac Girls", you get where this is going. The seller of this auction mentions that they've never been played, what a surprise.

How could you not just want to listen to these rare gems? I'm sure they've aged well.

I hate to leave on such a high note but this is the last SD post for the year, I will return in January after getting reaquainted with these people who call me "Daddy".

Thanks for your support and I'll see you in the New Year...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, Ya Big Dummies!

Charles Dickens masterpiece "A Christmas Carol" is a yule tide tradition and of course, sitcoms ripping it off is also a tradition. It's a cheap way to make a quick buck before going to the Hollywood rap party. So I thought I'd present the greatest rip off adaptation of a Christmas Carol ever made, "Ebenzer Sanford".

The line about "Heart full of Christmas, face for Halloween" still makes me laugh...

G\\Redd Foxx bless us, everyone....

Monday, December 22, 2008

TVs Scariest Dad

Last week, Rob (from the wonderful Aquaman Shrine) suggested to me that John Amos from Good Times would be TVs scariest pop and I thought it would be an interesting topic. James Evans was the first TV dad that I can remember that genuinely yelled at his kids, I remember not liking his character much as a young padawan. He never truly scared me though, maybe it was the fact that he threatened and yelled so damn much. He never belted the kids like he promised too and I always got the feeling Florida kind of ruled that house in a kind of "Lady MacBeth" way.
If this wasn't solely a blog about sitcoms, I'd have to give the title to Guy Williams, the Dad on "Lost in Space". Something about Guy's performance on that show scared me, he never seemed to comfortable working with kids.

But for me, TVs scariest dad had to be Dan Lauria from the Wonder Years. It wasn't what he did but what he didn't do that I found, well, realistic. I admired the show and Lauria for this portrayal, he's the most realistic TV father I've ever seen.

Jack Arnold had an air of quiet malevolence, his family tiptoed around him, he hated his job and he had a temper. Also, he looked like a real "Dese, Dose and Dem" type! While it wasn't anything quite like my homestead, I have to say that the Wonder Years hit me at home more than once with this guy.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sweet, I'll say....

I have to honest with you, I have little to no nostalgia for the TV series "Gimmee a Break" as it stands although I always liked the Dad, played by veteran character actor Dolph Sweet.

Sweet was a grizzled mountain of a man who would at home with a fedora and a shot glass in front of him. His entire career is almost always cops, look him on IMDB, his characters are always named "Detective" or "Sherrif" and there's a reason, this guy looks like a cop!

Naturally for "GAB" he was "Police Chief Carl Kanisky" and he brought his gruff stage presence to the show and mostly played it straight, the straight man never gets enough praise in my book.

Sadly Sweet passed away during the show's 1985 season and even more sadly, they kept the show going and going. I lost interest after that but I don't think the show resembled it's original incarnation much.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Merch: Sweathog Grease Machine

This is a little bit of an obscure item that I didn't even know got released. This "Sweathogs Grease Machine" was made by the king of "rack toys" Azrak Hamway International or AHI for short.
Kind of weird considering i don't remember any Sweathog owning a car but I'm sure these sold for $0.59 so who gives a crap?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Animated: Mork

This morning over at Topless Robot, fellow contributor Chris Cummins put together a list of the Worst cartoons based on Television shows, while he seemed to forget about M*U*S*H, most of it is spot on.

In number one position is a Mork and Mindy cartoon, wow, I totally forgot this existed until he mentioned it. Now all the pain comes flooding back, thanks Chris! You'll be getting my therapist's bill for this gutpunch of woe you have unleashed today.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Finales: Good Times

I guess you should always be happy when shows get an ending but in the case of Good Times, should you pleased when the show get a super happy ending?

The Evans clan were pretty real when the show began but by the end, everybody won the lottery! Game over. Why do I hate the fact that they had a happy ending?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cartoons: The Oddball Couple

The Odd Couple was enough of a TV hit it inspired a cartoon knock off in the Depatie Freleng produced "The Oddball Couple". As a kid this was on Sunday morning and right before "Superfriends" so I never missed.

It was rather predictable fair, a messy dog and a neat cat isn't exactly going to be award winning. I have no desire to see anything past this starting.

Neil Simon was credited!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Merch: Good Times JJ Doll

I really like much of the output from Shindana but this one seems a bit weird, JJ in his pajamas was likely a big seller though.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Goodbye Mr Bentley

Sad news last week, veteran character actor Paul Benedict passed away at the young age of 70. Most people knew him as Mr. Bentley, the gentle but somewhat bumbling neighbor to the Jeffersons that proved to be a comic foil for George. While this is his most recognizable piece of work, he had a pretty distinguished career.

If you grew up in the Seventies, you'd recognize Benedict as the "Mad Painter" character on Sesame Street, the guy who painted numbers on bread with ketchup in vignettes.

Benedict also suffered from a rare condition called "acromegaly" (much like fellow actor Rondo Hatton, although less severely) which can distort your facial features, Benedict seemed to use this to his advantage as he was instantly recognizable on screen.

His post Jefferson's career included some success on broadway as both an actor and a stage direct and work in some popular films such as "A Mighty Wind"

As a kid, Mr Bentley was my favorite character, although I was convinced he was also the "Galloping Gourmet".

Friday, December 5, 2008

Spin Offs: The Ropers

I'm bittersweet about the Ropers honestly, mostly because while I do find Norman Fell hilarious and always have, it probably wasn't the wisest idea to take these two out of Three's Company and expand the "Roper Verse".

Just like "Three's Company" was based on a British Counterpart, (called "Man About the House") , "Ropers" was based on "George and Mildred" which is essentially the same thing. Both Ropers move to an upscale condo, both have yuppie neighbours and both Mr. Ropers don't want anything to do with sex with their wives.

The show was also my first introduction to actor Jeffery Tambor, who would later pop up in two of my favorite comedy series of all time.

My big problem with the show is likely that it removed the Ropers from "Three's Company" and they were replaced by Don Knott's Mr Furhley character. While the Ropers had some subtle charm, Knotts just went all "Cheaplaffs" for Furhley and the show became more cartoonish than it had to be.

I can't believe I just wrote a long ramble on the Ropers, I need some friends...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Merch: Shotz Beer Truck

Boy this kind of stretching it, a Shotz Beer Truck from Laverne and Shirley. I don't know if they ever showed one of these on the series ever but this is what it would look like.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Canadian: Learning the Ropes

How could I have forgotten mentioning "Learning the Ropes" earlier? Oh because it's completely forgettable that's why. Another Canadian attempt to crack into American TV "Ropes" stars Lyle Alzado as a single dad who works as a principle and masquerades as a Wrestler by night, hoping never to be discovered.

As I recall, that's the plot of every episode, zany as they come, eh? If you haven't already watched the (unbelievably long) opening for yourself, it's not some MadTV sketch, it's a real show.

Even the title sounds like something "Troy McClure" would star in. Anyway, if you were into Wrestling, you'd get to see celebs like Ric Flair or the Road Warriors. If you somehow missed the sweet siren song of "Sports Entertainment" you got weak plots and canned laughter, so it's win/lose!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Syndicated: Small Wonder

If you ever want to end an argument that society as a whole may be getting dumber, just blurt out the sentence "Small Wonder ran for four seasons!". That's it, game over, nobody can come back from that.

What is Small Wonder you ask? You're a lucky person if you don't know. It's a curious throwback to the 1960's and the concept of "My Living Doll" where an inventor builds a robot and then sort of adopts it. In this case, Ted Lawson builds an android that looks like a little girl in order to sell it as a servant (That's not all creepy) and then decides to keep it as the daughter he never had.

The Lawson family always run the risk of being caught mostly because VICI talks and acts just like a robot. The big danger is Ted's next door neighbor and boss, Brandon Brindle, their daughter Harriet is truly the most frightening child ever seen on TV.

The whole show is just surreal, you'd swear it was created recently to be a back story on "Arrested Development" or something but you can't make this shit up. It used to play on Saturday mornings in my area, which probably was wise considering children are the only people that could possibly be placated by this.

The show never explained why the VICI bot was getting taller but then again Star Trek never explained why data suddenly had a gut either....

Friday, November 28, 2008

Merch: Welcome Back Kotter Puzzle

Yeeesh! You're supposed to want to put Puzzles together, this offers no incentive to do so. I imagine that it was easy to find this puzzle in stores until about 1992.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Get a Life: Chris Moves Out

Yeah, that's right, I'm going to blog about one of my favourite s hows of all time, Get A Life, not once but frequently. Even though I think season one of the show was brilliant, I'm much more fond of the Second Season.

Probably because when it returned as a mid season replacement in 1992, the series seemed to have this "we know we're cancelled" attitude about it. Chris moved in with alcoholic ex cop Gus Borden (The Wonderful Brian Doyle Murray) and the show took on this weirder, much darker tone.

In this season, Chris falls in love with an escaped convict, travels back in time, decides to stalk a girl, gains radioactive super powers, makes his friend leave his family and of course, adopts an alien being.

While his parents were still around, the interplay between Chris and Gus was really key to this season. If you ever watch the cartoon "Flapjack" (which stars Doyle Murray) you'd swear it was animated version of GAL.

Each episode this season also ended with a violent death for Chris, he was shot, stabbed, dropped out planes, one had his friends rip off his head and start playing kick ball.

We'll never see the likes of this show again so it deserves to be celebrated, here is the season 2 opened "Chris Moves Out".

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shortlived: Brothers and Sisters (1979)

I don't have any video for this series and I'm really just going on happy memories here. Following the 1978 smash success of "Animal House", all three networks embarked on their own "crazy fraternity" sitcoms.

ABC actually hired much of the Animal House cast for their reunion series, "Delta House" (which I'll eventually get to), CBS created something called "Co-Ed Fever" (which ran one series) and NBC offered "Brothers and Sisters"

The show revolved around Randall, Checko and Zipper, three slacker types who lived in the basement of a frat house on the fictious ground of Crandall College. William Windom played the crusty Dean Larry Crandall.

I was eight when the series premiered and I never expected to be remember it's name let alone find an episode. I recall it was pretty funny but then again I was eight. Like all of the Animal House inspired sitcoms, it didn't even last a season.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Spin Offs: The Tortellis

Spun from the loins of the mega successful "Cheers", "The Tortellis" is a good lesson for those wishing to make TV gold, sometimes interesting background characters don't make for interesting foreground characters. We've seen this on "Fish" , "The Ropers" and the entire career of Jack Black.

That's the big problem with "The Tortellis", while Carla's ex husband Nick (Dan Hedaya) and his freakish bride Loretta (Jean Kasem) made for funny episodes of Cheers, nobody really wanted to follow them around all day.

The show is set in Vegas, where Nick opens up a TV repair business, one episode centered around Nick having to eat a bug because of TV commerical boast. Not exactly the gang in Boston is it?

Despite a strong lead in with Night Court (which meant I was watching, I'll explain my Markie Post thing some other time) The Tortellis lasted a pitiful half season. Kind of a mercy killing really.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Forgotten: Angie

What happens when a working class Italian girl marries a waspy weathly guy? Hilarity that's what!

Angie was a modestly successful show centering around Donna Pescow (who would later make "Out of this World" on which I'll pontificate on later) and her marriage to a pre "Airplane!" Robert Hayes. It was the typical "snobs vs blue collar" thing and honestly, somebody just reworked this show a few years later to make "Dharma and Greg". I used to watch Angie and for a while ABC played it during the day as well, then it just went away. The only episode I remember off hand is one where Jimmie Carter came to visit (the President's visit was off screen, cowards!)

Merch: Mego Ralph Malph Doll

(Image stolen from As much as I was a fan of Happy Days, I pretty much called it quits on the merch after I got my Fonzie doll. I had little to no desire to pad out my cast of characters. Did anyone want this doll? Like, did somebody see the commercials and write Santa with "GIVE ME A DONNY MOST!"?

I got to interview Neal Kublan former VP of Mego toys a few years ago and he pretty much told me that few children, if any, did.

As an obsessive compulsive adult, I must confess that the doll in this picture is mine and that I also own a carded one too. I am filled with shame (and gravy) about this.....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Canadian Sitcoms : The 80's

The 1980's saw CBC with one of it's bigger successes in 1981 with "Hangin' In" which revolved around a Toronto drop in center. It was slice of life comedy that didn't get too whacky or insulting, it's Monday night lead into "Newhart" was prime and the series lasted 6 years.

I had an arial around that time, so I watched the series pretty regularly but for the life of me I can't remember much about it other than I didn't mind it.

Which is not the case with Snow Job, which I had a clever alternative name for (try and guess). Snow Job wasn't funny, at all. Set in a Quebec ski lodge, the show tried hard to be both funny and Canadian, they didn't do either.

It limped along two years and had Tony Rosato (fresh from Saturday Night Live and SCTV) as a guest star. Laughless!

CTV followed up with Check It Out, which was from the same UK TV Producer that made the original versions of "Three's Company" and "Too Close for Comfort", both gigantic hits. Instead of using homegrown talent, they landed veteran comic Don Adams for the part (Apparently Adams was paid a fortune).

Set in a grocery store in "Anytown USA", Check it Out followed the misadventures of grocery store manager Howard Bannister (Adams) and his crew of misfits, all the stereotypes were there, the gay cashier, the slutty cashier, the weasely assistant and of course, the idiot stockboy.

Check it Out was too whacky for it's own good but there were far worse things on US television at the time, so it's probably one of CTV's best (mind you, it's standing next to "The Trouble with Tracey") I had friends who would attend tapings of this back in the day as it was filmed about 15 minutes from our houses.

It ran for three years and later I went to college with the sister of Simon Reynolds, who played Murray the stockboy. he's actually gone on to have a terrific acting career.

The decade closed with Misquito Lake, CBC's kick at the can. I'm not sure what went wrong with this series, it wasn't a lack of talent. Mike McDonald is one of Canada's premiere comedians and Dan Redican was hot off his long stint with the Frantics.

The show was set in Cottage Country and revolved around McDonald and his family, Redican played his neighbour whose wife "Arlene" (whom we never saw) would use a whistle when she wanted Redican's attention. Misquito Lake obviously didn't let McDonald and Redican into the writing room because it was poor at best.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Spin Offs: After MASH

After MASH was an example of a network getting greedy, MASH had the good graces to end after a whirl wind event night on television, it went out with a tremendous bang. It should have ended there but of course, there might be something to be mined from the characters and the premise.

So, they gathered up whatever stars they could from the original MASH and used the premise that Colonel Potter, Sergeant Klinger, and Father Mulcahy find themselves together once again, this time at a veteran's hospital.

The results were mixed, all of the guys were great on MASH but without the other characters it came out rather flat, the show tried to exploit it's connections to the original series as much as possible even RADAR made an appearance but in the end it was all for naught.

After MASH limped along for another season before being cancelled, it was good but not great and certainly not the worst "post-sitcom" ever created. That my friends, likely belongs to "Joey".

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shortlived: Homeboys in Outer Space

One thing I love about a fledgling network is it's willingness to take risks, Fox was the first in my memory (sorry I'm not of the Dumont generation) finding success for every ten failures, it made it's mark with off the wall shows like "Married with Children" and of course, "The Simpsons". It made sense that when the WB and UPN launched they also would take a few chances with some off the wall ideas.

"Homeboys" premiered in 1996 and pretty much has one of the worst titles a show could have, I mean you could see that on your channel information guide and think "that's probably not for me".

The critics panned the living crap out of it, so it was a must see for me, I love a train wreck. The trouble was, it was funny, I mean stupid as hell but still, everybody needed to lighten up on it. How you could not like a show whose main star was named "Flex"? The charge was made that it enforced racial stereotypes but I don't know how serious you could really take this show.

James Doohan was along for the ride as Pippen, basically he was a more drunkerer version of Scotty (Get the joke, Scotty Pippen?). Anyway, like it was destinied to, the crew of the "Space Hoopty" were sent packing after 21 shows, which makes "Homeboys" America's longest running Sci-Fi sitcom by my count.

I still sometimes use the word "shabdibs" to describe money, nobody ever gets it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Worst Sitcom Replacement Characters Ever

It's no fun when your favorite character leaves a hit show, it's even less fun when a network tries to replace him with a new face. It's always got that substitute teacher thing going on, even if the person is funnier and more interesting, the whole chemistry of the show seems out of place. Sometimes it works, other times it's just TV diarrhea, here is some of that diarrhea:

Roger Phillips (Happy Days) After Ron Howard left Happy Days to pursue some "pie in the sky" fantasy of being a director (whatever), the network shipped him off to Alaska via some shitty phone call gag and beamed in cousin Roger to live with the Cunninghams. Roger was a teacher or something, I can't remember but he was too cheap to rent an apartment.

It's not really actor Ted McGinley's fault his character sucked so much, the show was getting old, the Fonz was no longer cool and they had given up pretending it was set in the 60's. He jumped on board a sinking ship, then he did the exact same when he leapt onto the last season of Love Boat a year after Happy Days died.

Charlie Richardson/Randy Peterson (That 70's Show) :When Topher Grace left "That 70's Show" to go to Africa, it was like pulling the plug on a bathtub, the series started getting sucked down the drain. Fox tried to plug the leak first with the uber lame Charlie at the tail end of season 7, introducing him three episodes before the finale.

Coming to their senses, they killed Charlie off in the first episode of season 8 and added the slick Randy to the cast. Randy immediately went for Donna, which the audience didn't want to see and the show went out with a whimper. Eric returned and claimed Donna in the finale. Season 8 of that 70's show was 12 hours of your life you wanted back.

Raul Garcia (Chico and the Man) - Freddy Prinze's suicide after the third season of his popular hit sitcom "Chico and the Man" should have left the network with one option, a dignified cancellation. "Chico" was hardly an ensemble piece, it was a two man act and all they had left was a straight man in Jack Albertson.

However, networks are greedy and they decided to give it another shot, their solution to the loss of Chico? An adorable little orphan in the form of child actor Gabriel Melgar. Talk about a lot of pressure to put on a kid, fill the void of the series star. Just to make sure the bandaid stuck on the deflating show, Charo joined the cast, woo-ho, that'll fix everything. "Boy" and the Man was given it's walking papers.

Nobody (Laverne and Shirley)- In the final season of Laverne and Shirley, star Cindy Williams was ousted and while the show remained titled "Laverne and Shirely", it simply was Laverne waltzing around on the starting. The resulting episodes are sad as we all began to realize that LaVerne was likely to die alone living with hundreds of smelly cats.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Britcom: Shelley

Here is one I was fond of but never realized how long it lasted. Shelley starred Hywell Bennet as James Shelley as an over educated, unemployable man in the late 70's UK. At the start of the series, Shelley is living with his pregnant girlfriend Fran who he later marries.

The fun of the show is that Shelley is just so mad at the world, his rants are terrific and righteous, this wonderfully lazy man goes on his own personal crusade.

Later seasons had Shelley's wife leave him (which would probably happen in real life to this type of guy) and move to Canada. The show then began a focus on Shelley and the menial jobs he had to get in a recessed economy. The show just didn't have it's spark anymore for me and I gave up.

I didn't see Bennet again until I rented Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" and I almost didn't recognize him. When I googled this show today, I was alarmed to find out it ran for ten seasons! It must have changed it's course somewhat and pulled out of the tailspin that it was in.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Shortlived: Open all Night

Another one from 1981, Open All Night centered around Gordon Feester (George Dzundza) a schlub who managed an all night convenience store along with Robin (Bubba Smith), Gord was married to Gretchen (Cult Movie Queen Susan Tyrell) and lived in an apartment with his very weird stepson, Terry. It may have been based on the classic Ronnie Barker britcom "Open All Hours", I'm not sure.

Open all Night was one of the funniest TV shows I had ever seen, a mid season replacement, I was kind of bummed to find out it was doomed. It had a weird flavour to it that is way, way more prevelant now. It also had this sort of depressing nature which just worked, the Feesters were far from perfect or successful and episodes often ended on downers like the entire contents of the store being stolen (save for the Slurpee machine, which Bubba Smith manned, despite having no cups).

Terry, the stepson was played by
Sam Whipple, a character actor who people might remember as grown up Jughead from the Lamentable "Archie return to Riverdale" TV movie or the repairman Elaine plots to kill on "Seinfeld". Whipple was genius on this show, playing Terry like a complete freak, I was saddened to find out while looking up info on the series that he's been dead for six years.

David Letterman would also pop up on the show as a customer who constantly needed directions. It's a shame that Tripe (IMO) like "World According to Jim" is readily available on DVD but I'll have to search high and low for a wonderfully bleak show such as this. Can I get a l'il help video pirates?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vic Tayback my heart

It's about time that I share my likely unhealthy obsession for the late Vic Tayback, who is memorable to a generation as Mel, the gruff cook on Alice.
Mel is a beloved figure but his Hollywood career prior to Alice was playing heavies and jerks in shows like Star Trek and Man From U.N.C.L.E, I mean, look at the guy! I bet a career in comedy was the last thing on his five year plan but somehow he pulled it off.
Oh, Vic you are sincerely missed, I even will suspend my disbelief and pretend Martha Raye could possibly be your mother.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Yay! 30 Rock

I'm always worried that when I like something, it will get cancelled, it happens more than I care to mention, so I'm happy to see my favorite show getting along with critical praise if not outrageous ratings. Above is a clip from last Thursday that had me do a spit take, even though I knew it was coming. Liz gets out of jury duty.

Last Night on Fox: A weird thing occured, American Dad trumped the shit out of Family Guy with a double fisted Kill Bill/Warriors parody. Dammit, that was so full of win.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Shortlived: Best of the West

Here's a show I haven't thought about in many years, Best of the West. An old west based sitcom, it didn't last very long on ABC. Some of the names associated with it went on to other things, Joel Higgins went on to Silver Spoons and Meeno Pulice went on to Voyagers! (his half sister is Punky Brewster).

The most famous cast member to most however might be "Frog" played by Tracey Walter, better known to most as "Bob the Goon" from the first Batman movie.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Canadian Sitcoms : The 70's

Seeing as I'm Canadian, I would like to exploit the one weakness we seem to have when compared to Americans, we can't seem to make a decent sitcom to save our lives. Despite the fact that Canada exports a ton of comedians to the US and we're obviously adept at sketch comedy, sitcoms have never been our forte.

The earliest attempt I remember was the Trouble with Tracy, mostly because CTV wouldn't let you forget and played the show for years on the Saturday morning ghetto. To call it banal is an understatement, in the age of Norman Lear, the producers of "Trouble with Tracy" were simply updating scripts from a 1930's radio series called "Good Aces"

Many believe that the series was simply produced to appease Canadian Content laws and therefor, quality control was at a minimum. Whatever the case, we were force-fed this dung for the entirety of the 1970's and then YTV picked it up in the late 80s. Judge for yourself, if you dare......

Perhaps Canada's greatest success in the 70's at achieving the sitcom was King of Kensington, set in the multicultural neighborhood of Toronto, it had a "we're trying our best to feel like All in the Family" thing going on and well, it wasn't terrible.

I like watching King of Kensington now because of all the Toronto based guest stars, from Mike Meyers to John Candy to Guy Big from Hilarious House of Frightenstein. You'll occasionally see faces from Canadian commercials and such, kind of fun.

Coming Soon: Part 2 The 80's (ecccchhhhhhhh!)


I'm not really sure why I would add another blog in addition to my work on Plaidstallions and Mego Museum. I guess because while some people are passionate about Politics, I'm passionate about Sitcoms, since I was a kid I have loved them.

The name for this blog came to me while doing the dishes, so it's got to be good.

My interest has waned over time, sorry I can't get into "2 and a half men", but I still have plenty of opinions about the situation comedy that nobody in their right mind would pay me for or likely read. Stay Tuned.....