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.....