Wednesday, December 30, 2020

You Know The Voices: Marvin Miller & Paul Frees (1958)

 From season 5 of The Millionaire:

Paul Frees, the voice behind the title character, John Beresford Tipton, essays a dual role in this episode, stepping away from the microphone to play a friend of "The Thorne Sisters". Paul appears at the 13:25 mark. Marvin Miller, in his role as Tipton's personal secretary, Michael Anthony, paints the picture.....

Howard McNear, radio's Doc Adams on Gunsmoke, would land the defining role of his career 2 years later when he was cast on The Andy Griffith Show.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

From Primetime to Daytime: Fonzie vs. The Mob (Happy Days, 1978)

 I gotta tell ya, I am gettin' the feelin' this might've been what inspired ABC to commission Hanna-Barbera to adapt Happy Days into a Saturday morning action comedy cartoon (Fonz & The Happy Days Gang, 1980-2).

See, during season 6 of Happy Days, someone got the idea to have a small time mobster and his goons show up in Milwaukee and take over Arnold's, now owned by Al Delvecchio (Al Molinaro, ex-The Odd Couple), but Da Fonz (Henry Winkler) has other ideas.

Since complete episodes ain't available online for posting, we'll take you right to the climax, as Fonzie duels, if ya will, with The Claw.......!

It was this sort of non-violent solution that led to Happy Days Gang, although that series was really a reboot of 1972's Josie & The Pussycats in Outer Space. Winkler, in particular, didn't want violence on Happy Days, and kept the fight scenes to a bare minimum (i.e. Fonzie & Carmine's double mule kick to the Red Devils in "Joanie's Weird Boyfriend" a year and a half earlier).

Rating: B.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Retro Toy Chest: Remember Screwball? (1972)

 In an attempt to compete with Mattel, Kenner, et al, when it came to games, Hasbro, now the industry leader in toys, introduced Screwball in 1972. Unfortunately, this puzzle game was a flop, as it was off the market about as fast as it arrived.

Mel Allen narrates this ad, featuring Earl Monroe (then with the Knicks), Bob Griese (Miami Dolphins), & Tom Seaver (Mets) competing with an ordinary dude.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Countdown to Christmas: Hardrock, Coco, & Joe: The Three Little Dwarves (1951)

 Here's an oddity that some of you might not have seen-----unless you lived in Chicago or suburban Pennsylvania.

"Hardrock, Coco, & Joe: The Three Little Dwarves" is a stop motion short from 1951. Yes, this pre-dates all those Rankin-Bass classics by more than a decade.

No rating. Just a public service.

Merry Christmas, everyone. We'll see you on Saturday.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Game Time: Butch Hartman on The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour (1984)

 We've seen animation and comics legends such as Stan Lee and Chuck Jones appear on To Tell The Truth. As The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour begins 1984, a future animation legend appears as a contestant.

Butch Hartman was just 19, a college student, when he appeared on the show, which aired on January 3, but taped a couple of weeks prior. Mind you, this was a few years before he began working for Cartoon Network and, later, more famously, Nickelodeon. 

I think this is why Butch would later use game show motifs in his cartoons (i.e. Fairly OddParents).

How no one thought to think of Fat Albert as an answer to that Dumb Donald question, I'll never know.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: A Summer Song (1964)

 Chad & Jeremy were the featured guests on American Bandstand on Thanksgiving weekend in November 1964, performing "A Summer Song". I realize, yes, it's kind of odd that this was being played in that period between autumn & winter, but, you know the music business.......

In memory of Chad Stuart, 79, who passed away on Monday.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Countdown to Christmas: The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives (1933)

 Set in the depression, Hugh Harman & Rudolf Ising's "The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives", a 1933 Merrie Melodies entry, sees Santa take an orphan to the North Pole.

The funniest part is that this was released in January 1933. Go figure.

No rating. Just a public service.

Getting Schooled: Captain Kangaroo teaches about vaccination (1979)

 With vaccines for COVID-19 soon to be available to the general public, I thought it might be a little appropriate to bring forth the following from Captain Kangaroo.

In this 1979 spot, the Captain (Bob Keeshan) uses a little reverse psychology on Mr. Moose (Cosmo Allegretti), who has a phobia about shots, or, perhaps more specifically, needles, something that was in fact common with kids then, and probably now, too, especially with the anti-vaccination movement.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Animated World of DC Comics: Batman vs. Two-Face (2017)

 In 1964, Adam West (ex-The Detectives) and William Shatner (ex-For The People) filmed a pilot for Alexander The Great, which ABC was producing through their in-house production company, Selmur Productions. However, the final product wasn't satisfactory in the eyes of network suits, and it wasn't until four years later, after Batman had ended its run, and Star Trek was nearing the end of its 2nd season, before Alexander aired.

Nearly 50 years later, West & Shatner were together again, this time in "Batman vs. Two-Face", the sequel to "Batman: Return of The Caped Crusaders", and, unbeknonst to either actor, it would be West's last role, as he passed away prior to the film's release.

Writer-producers James Tucker & Michael Jelenic decided that the traditional origin of Two-Face, his split personality emerging after he'd been scarred with acid, wasn't tragic or dramatic enough for a 21st century audience. Instead, you add Professor Hugo Strange, conducting an experiment at Gotham City Prison, in which he intended to extract the "essential evil" from the villains in prison (i.e. Joker, Penguin). I think you'll get the idea from the following trailer:

Wally Wingert does a good job impersonating the late Frank Gorshin as Riddler, and you get two Catwomen for the price of one. Not only does Julie Newmar return from the last film, but Lee Meriweather, who filled in for Newmar in the 1966 "Batman" movie, appears briefly as a public defender who ends up wearing a familiar outfit in her final scene. Steven Weber (ex-Wings, iZombie) is heard as Alfred once again.

It's the kind of fun you had when you were a kid, or as an adult watching the reruns.

Rating: A-.

Countdown to Christmas: Run, Run, Rudolph (1959-2020)

 The legendary Chuck Berry released "Run, Run, Rudolph" all the way back in 1959. Nearly 30 years later, it was covered by Canadian rocker Bryan Adams on the 1st "A Very Special Christmas" CD.

With classic Christmas tunes being reissued as animated videos these days, it should surprise no one that someone with enough imagination would bring "Rudolph" out, and give Chuck a flying car......

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Toons You Might've Missed: Melvin Danger, Private Eye (1972)

 We all know that Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home started as a back-door pilot on ABC's Love, American Style before beginning a 2 year run in syndication (1972-4).

However, it wasn't the only entry Hanna-Barbera produced for the series.

Prior to "Love & The Old Fashioned Father", the Father pilot, H-B also served up Melvin Danger, Private Eye, about a bumbling private eye who was a master of disguise. The episode was rebroadcast in the winter of 1973, and retitled, "Love & The Private Eye".

Behind the Humphrey Bogart mimic as Danger is Richard Dawson (ex-Hogan's Heroes, Can You Top This?), who would also contribute to H-B's adaptation of Oliver Twist, "Oliver & The Artful Dodger", for the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie. Len Weinrib plays the chauffeur. John Stephenson and Mitzi McCall (Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm) are also heard.

A bumbling detective? Master of disguise? H-B revisited the concept with a funny animal twist five years later with Undercover Elephant (part of CB Bears).

No rating.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Daytime Heroes: Bozo The Clown in Square Shootin' Square (1962)

 Bozo The Clown (Larry Harmon) pulls into a ghost town, and encounters a couple of crooks. Paul Frees voices the sheriff and one of the crooks, if not both of them, in "Square Shootin' Square".

Note that the intro is complete, unlike other clips, which lack the credits.

Co-author/producer/director Paul Fennell, like Harmon, also worked on Popeye shorts, which explains the gap between new episodes between 1959 and 1962.

Rating: B.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Mumbly in The Great Graffiti Gambit (1976)

 Back in the 70's, graffiti wasn't considered a form of art by law enforcement. Instead, it was filed under vandalism, and in some places, still is.

Mumbly (Don Messick) matches wits with Graphooey (Len Weinrib), a French artist who intends to hold the city ransom for $1,000,000, likely because no one recognizes his "genius".

Here's "The Great Grafitti Gambit".

Another week, another frustrated villain. Yawn.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Countdown to Christmas: Our Gang in Good Cheer (1926)

 Let's take a trip to the silent film era for this next entry.

Our Gang shorts were distributed through Pathe during the early years, with the series launching in 1922. Joe Cobb and Allen Hoskins are the best known players from this group, appearing in 1926's "Good Cheer", as the kids learn all about Santa while helping capture some thieves at the same time, all during a driving snowstorm.

About the only place you'd find this and the rest of the Our Gang silents that have survived would be on Turner Classic Movies, as the silents weren't in general syndication when ye scribe was growing up in the 60's & 70's.

Rating: A-.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Rare Treats: Remember Captain Vitaman? (1968)

 We all know that Jay Ward's studio developed a variety of cereal mascots (i.e. Cap'n Crunch) for Quaker in the 60's. King Vitaman, introduced in 1970, might never have made it past Ward's drawing board if not for an earlier Vitaman.

Captain Vitaman arrived on the scene in 1968 in a short-lived series of ads in which the hero would magically appear, and his "aides", vitamins A-D and Iron, would be given sentient form (and the predictable voices of Bill Scott, June Foray, Daws Butler, & Paul Frees).

YouTube poster Richard Anderson (no relation to the late actor) postulated that the Captain himself was voiced by Mission: Impossible star Peter Graves. Judge for yourselves, peeps:

Of course, we know what happened next. Quaker ditched Captain Vitaman for King Vitaman, and the rest is history.

Countdown to Christmas: Santa Baby (1953-2020)

 The late singer-actress Eartha Kitt recorded "Santa Baby" all the way back in 1953 for RCA. It's been covered by a number of artists, including Madonna, LeAnn Rimes, Taylor Swift, and, most recently, Ariana Grande.

Continuing a recent trend of animated videos of songs by artists no longer with us (i.e. Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra), here's a clever toon with Eartha, circa 1953, around the time she recorded "Santa Baby".

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Countdown to Christmas: Shell and Charlie Brown (1991)

 To mark the VHS release of A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1991, Shell Oil Company obtained a license to promote the video, using Charlie Brown & Linus, plus Snoopy, driving a car, for a commercial.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Getting Schooled: Barney & The Backyard Gang (1988)

 Most of us may be familiar with Barney & Friends, which was a PBS staple during the 90's and early '00's. What you might not know is that there was a DTV series that preceded the show by 4 years.

Barney & The Backyard Gang was a series of videos produced periodically between 1988-91. Actress Sandy Duncan (The Hogan Family) starred in the first three as the mother, but departed prior to the 4th DTV, a Christmas themed entry about Santa Claus.

Barney's theme song was a riff on "Yankee Doodle". The producers of Roger Ramjet did the same thing for their theme song more than 20 years earlier.

We'll look at PBS' Barney & Friends another time.

No rating. Just a public service.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Countdown to Christmas: Frosty Returns (1992)

 Frosty The Snowman returned in an all-new special for the first time in several years in 1992's Frosty Returns.

The basic plot starts off the same way as the 1969 original, only this time that magic top hat that brings life to Frosty (John Goodman, Roseanne) comes from a young, aspiring female magician (Elizabeth Moss). Executive producer Lorne Michaels (Saturday Night Live) stocked the supporting cast with SNL alums Brian Doyle-Murray and Jan Hooks, and SCTV veteran Andrea Martin. Jonathan Winters (ex-Smurfs, Mork & Mindy) is the narrator.

If some of the children's character designs look familiar, credit that to veteran Bill Melendez, who co-produced & co-directed the special, a rare non-Peanuts project for Melendez. Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh composed the music.

1976's Frosty's Winter Wonderland, which Rankin-Bass had set up as their sequel to the original Frosty, was essentially ret-conned out of existence with this show.

And to think that the song that started it all turns 70 this year.

Rating: B-.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Countdown to Christmas: A Goof Troop Christmas (1992)

 "A Goof Troop Christmas" (italics mine) ended up being the series finale. Originally packaged in syndication with some older shorts, including Donald Duck in "Toy Tinkers", which we screened the other day, this should stand by itself.

No rating. Just a public service.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Countdown to Christmas: A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)

 The Muppets of Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, & Fraggle Rock come together in 1987's A Muppet Family Christmas.

Everyone gathers at home of Fozzie's mom for one big Christmas wing-ding, journeying through an ice storm. Jim Henson (Kermit, Ernie, Rowlf) appears briefly at the end of the show.

No rating. Just a public service.

Countdown to Christmas: Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas (1992)

 Nearly a decade after his debut, Inspector Gadget resurfaced on NBC for his first and only Christmas special.

Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas sends the cyborg sleuth (Don Adams), as oblivious as ever, to the North Pole, where Dr. Claw (Frank Welker) has Santa Claus (Welker) abducted so Claw can have defective toys made to discredit Santa.

Adams & Welker are the only original cast members returning. Maurice LaMarche had taken over the role of Chief Quimby in season 2 of the original series, and reprises here.

Typical Gadget silliness.

Rating: B-.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Steal Away (1980)

 Robbie Dupree was a fresh face---and voice, of course----on the pop music scene in 1980, and landed a pair of hits  with "Hot Rod Hearts" & "Steal Away".

Robbie performs "Steal Away", with Cornelius Bumpus (Doobie Brothers) on saxophone, on The Midnight Special:

Strangely, Robbie disappeared from the charts after "Hearts" ran its course, only to return 7 years later when he recorded "Girls in Cars" for the then-WWF's "Piledriver".

Toons You Might've Missed: Amos 'n' Andy in The Rassling Match (1934)

 Freeman Gosden & Charles Correll spun off their hit radio show, Amos 'n' Andy, first into a feature film, "Check & Double Check", then a pair of animated shorts produced by the Van Beuren studio. Don't be looking for this on cable anywhere, given that in today's society, it'd be considered politically incorrect for the characterizations of African Americans depicted here.

Anyway, Andy gets talked into taking up wrestling......

Amos 'n' Andy would eventually transition to television, with an all-African American cast, but wouldn't be too successful, either. Gosden & Correll would get one season with a funny animal knockoff, Calvin & The Colonel, working once again with Joe Connelly & Bob Mosher (Leave it to Beaver, The Munsters) in 1962, and that, too, ran for one season.

Rating: B--.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Literary Toons: Treasure Island (1973)

 In discussing Filmation & Warner Bros.' adaptation of Oliver Twist the other day, we noted the studios had previously collaborated on another adaptation a year prior.

Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island has the same cast, headlined by Davy Jones (ex-The Monkees) as Jim Hawkins, and also including Larry Storch, Larry D. Mann, and Jane Webb.

Jim was given a pet mouse just so they could eventually sell toys if this were to be repeated years later.

No rating. Just a public service.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Countdown to Christmas: All I Want For Christmas is You (2020)

 Country music legend Dolly Parton has a new Christmas album, "Holly Dolly Christmas", which includes a duet cover of Mariah Carey's 1994 hit, "All I Want For Christmas is You". Her singing partner? Tonight Show host and College of St. Rose alum Jimmy Fallon, who's no slouch as a singer, either, given his impersonations of Neil Young, Dennis DeYoung, and Kenny Rogers, the latter in teaming with Dolly's god-daughter, Miley Cyrus, to cover "Islands in The Stream".

Let's see how many couples call for this version this year.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Rare Treats: Jack & The Beanstalk (1967)

 If you've ever wondered what was the motivation behind Hanna-Barbera's live-action/animated hybrid adaptation of Huckleberry Finn in 1968, you simply go back about a year and a half or so to 1967's musical adaptation of Jack & The Beanstalk. The classic tale had been adapted for the big & small screens before, with a previous TV adaptation headlined by Joel Grey 11 years earlier. Abbott & Costello did one in 1952 for Warner Bros., instead of Universal, when the latter studio couldn't fund the project.

Producer-director-star Gene Kelly had worked with Bill Hanna & Joe Barbera nearly 20 years earlier, when they animated a dance sequence with Jerry Mouse for "Anchors Aweigh". Yes, this is a rarity in that Hanna & Barbera didn't direct this entry.

Young Bobby Riha plays Jack, but his singing voice is dubbed over by Dick Beals (Frankenstein, Jr., Space Kiddettes, etc), whose previous singing experience is mostly Alka-Seltzer commercials. Kelly is Jeremy, a salesman whom Jack befriends in a deal involving a certain set of beans. Other voices include Ted Cassidy (Frankenstein, Jr., ex-The Addams Family), Leo DeLyon (ex-Top Cat), Janet Waldo (with Marni Nixon doing the singing), and Cliff Norton.

I had faint memories of seeing this as a youth, and seeing the Abbott & Costello version got me thinking about this offering.

Coincidentally, this premiered on a Sunday night, either pre-empting or airing in back of Wonderful World of Disney. Bobby Riha would later act & sing in a Disney movie ("The One & Only Original Family Band"). Gene Kelly would later shill for Sylvania when not on the dais with Dean Martin.

Rating: B.

You Know The Voice: Olan Soule (1954)

 Here's an in-show ad from Captain MIdnight as Dr. Aristotle "Tut" Jones (Olan Soule) explains the origins of the show's sponsor, Ovaltine:

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Remembering Pat Patterson (1941-2020)

 Today's generation only knew him as a comedy relief character during the WWE's "Attitude Era". Older fans knew about a French-Canadian emigre who made his first inroads in the US with the late Ray Stevens as 1/2 of the original Blond Bombers, winning the NWA & AWA tag titles before he came to the then World Wrestling Federation in 1979.

At that point, Pat Patterson, managed by the Grand Wizard (Ernie Roth), earned his first singles title in beating a fellow future Hall of Famer in Ted DiBiase. Vince McMahon & Bruno Sammartino describe the action.....

The promotion then created the Intercontinental title, and invented a fictional tournament in Brazil, where Patterson won the title. He'd soon lose the North American title, and would drop the IC title to Ken Patera in 1980.

After his initial retirement in 1984, Patterson moved into the broadcast booth, working with McMahon for a few months. However, he was caught up in the controversial scandal involving a lesser known announcer, Murray Hodgson, among others, and was let go in 1992. At that point, Patterson, who had also created the Royal Rumble, launched in 1988, was now working backstage as one of McMahon's chief lieutenants, and was brought back as a comedy character in 1997.

His fighting days long over, Patterson came out on the series finale of the WWE Network series, Legends House, in 2014, even though most in the business knew about his being gay all along.

Earlier this morning, it got out that Patterson had passed away at 79 after a bout with cancer. WWE will do a tribute to him tonight at the earliest at the start of NXT, and AEW likely will do the same on Dynamite.

Rest in peace.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

You Know The Voice: Joe Alaskey (& friends)(1990)

 While I don't know how many contestants on Match Game, through its nearly 60 years of existence, came from the 518, we actually had a panelist from the district.

That would be Joe Alaskey (ex-Out of This World, Couch Potatoes), who got to appear during the 1st week of the 1990 revamp, airing on ABC. The Watervliet native was a few months away from the debut of Tiny Toon Adventures, which cemented his status as a primo voice actor.

Also on the panel: Sally Struthers (ex-All in The Family), who voiced Pebbles in 1971's Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm before commitments to Family, among other things, took her off the show, and Charles Nelson Reilly, charter member of the Match Game Hall of Fame, if ya will. Reilly was a long ways removed from taking over the role of Frank Frankenstone (The Flintstone Comedy Show, 2nd series).

We've reviewed this iteration of Match Game over at The Land of Whatever. Thankfully, the more recent iteration, with Alec Baldwin, is a throwback to the glory years of the 70's.