Saturday Night Live

It started out as Saturday Night… Saturday Night Live title belonged to ABC for a show hosted by Howard Cosell who was out of his league. ABC let Saturday Night have the Live part after Cosell’s show was over.

Who was the best cast through the years? This is a question that is debated over and over again. The people arguing usually picks the cast they grew up with. I grew up with Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo. Personally, I always thought the original cast was the best and it wasn’t even close. John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Chevy Chase (though I liked his replacement better…Bill Murray), Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris and my favorite overlooked cast member Laraine Newman.

Why do I like the original cast the most? They tried new things and went out on a limb. Some of the skits succeeded some didn’t but they were different from anything on TV at that time…and also at this time. That cast pushed the envelop to use a worn-out phrase but in this instance it is true. Lorne Michaels guided the show and even the musical guests were usually hip bands and artists unknown to the general public and some are legendary now. No way would Michaels ever dream of that now…he usually gets whoever is the most popular to draw in the ratings. He could not do what he did in the 70s anymore because of ratings…and it is sad. Michaels also used the complete ensemble. It was not the Eddie Murphy and the Joe Piscopo show of the early eighties. It was about getting an unknown cast and building them and all of them having a shot…not a star-driven show that gave all the best bits to the stars.

A lot of the skits are now famous… Ackroyd’s Bassomatic, the Samurai, the uncomfortable but funny Word Association with Richard Pryor, The Mr. Bill Show, Weekend Update, Roseanne Rosannadanna, Land Shark, Bag of Glass, The Wild and Crazy Guys, the Coneheads, The Lounge Singer, Mr. Mike, The Blues Brothers and many more.

The writers for the show were not in the Carol Burnett comedy vein..they were not in the current SNL vein either. The style was more aggressive, especially with Michael O’Donoghue. He was a comedy trailblazer with National Lampoon and added dark humor to SNL. Other writers were Franken and Davis, Rosie Shuster, Alan Zweibel, Marilyn Miller, Anne Beatts, Herb Sargent, Tom Schiller and also Ackroyd and Chase.

The two members that didn’t get as much publicity as the others were Newman and Morris and are not as well remembered today. Newman and Ackroyd were the best character actors on the show…they could play anyone.  That cast tried to test all the limits. SNL has turned into just another comedy show through the years. The original group also did some serious skits along with comedy and trips into the bizarre (See Mr. Mike). …It separated the original from any other cast.

There were other great casts but none resonated like the original to me. It was also the timing of when they debuted…and look at the talent in that cast…

The host each week was usually under the radar actors, writers, musicians and sometimes athletes. You usually didn’t see A-list actors but if you did they were carefully chosen. The one big mistake was Milton Berle…how he got to host I don’t know but that is the only show of the first five years I will try to avoid… He was that bad.

I like the feel of underground the first five years had but you can only be that for so long…popularity takes over. Those first 5 great years (the first four were great…the fifth good) set the foundation that holds to this day…just without the daring and danger…in other words, it has become vanilla like the rest of the world.

Cheers to the show that introduced Acapulco Gold to a television audience.

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The Bassomatic…something you cannot explain with words.

The best Star Trek parody…

Needless changes to the original Star Wars

In 1977 a New Hope (then just called Star Wars) came out. It blew out records and changed Hollywood. The original first 3 came out at a perfect time. Science Fiction was not a sure box office hit then and it’s a wonder George Lucas got it made. Some of the script writing was iffy but as a whole, it was a wonderful saga. Not only were the movies good but the merchandising went crazy.

The prequels I just didn’t like. The feel of the originals was gone. Lucas said he wanted a change but he changed it just to another space flick. Anakin Skywalker played by Hayden Christensen just wasn’t right. Either bad casting combined with a bad script but to me, he was not convincing. He did do better in Revenge of the Sith but still, in my opinion, it wasn’t where it should have been. Ewan Mcgregor was wonderful as Obi-Wan and the standout to me in all the prequels.

What Lucas did to the original three re-releasing them caught backlash from fans. Changing some scenes…where Han shoots first and adding more decoration throughout the films. What made me upset is Lucas only offered a poor quality DVD set of the original three in 2006 without the changes. One dedicated fan Petr Harmáček spent half a decade tracking down high-quality prints of the 3 original films and put them back together and it’s called “Star Wars Despecialized Edition” that you can download. Petr did a great job with these and it shows you how great these looked when they were released.

There was no need for extra CGI decoration when these movies were re-released. I have nothing against CGI but I do like to see the films as the audience did way back when. When I went to see “The Force Awakens” I knew within the first 5 minutes that Star Wars had the same feel as the first ones. I also liked Rogue One and The Last Jedi…The Last Jedi got some complaints but I still liked it. It was a great send off for Carrie Fisher.

 

Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton

Charlie and Buster were two of the best screen comedians ever to walk the earth. They both had similar upbringings. Buster and his family in American vaudeville. Charlie worked in British music halls. Charlie rose to stardom in silent movies in the 1910’s beginning with Keystone, Mutual (where he made his best short comedies)  Essanay and then he confounded United Artist with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and W. D. Griffith. After that Charlie went into full feature films.

Buster started silent shorts in 1917 with Roscoe Arbuckle. After Roscoe broke out on his own so did Buster….he did some more short films which were brilliant. He then went into full features. Buster was just so different than anyone else. He was so still while the world moved into chaos around him. He was a brilliant actor-director and also writer which he often didn’t take credit for doing. If Buster would have just made “The General” his place in film history would be cemented. The same can be said of Charlie Chaplin and his masterpiece “The Gold Rush.”

There was no competition between the two in popularity. Charlie won hands down over Buster and probably everyone else in comedy and drama. His character “The Tramp” was internationally loved. All in all, Keaton was a better filmmaker. They were two different comedians. Chaplin would reach for pathos…sometimes a little too much. Keaton seemed much more real. Keaton’s sight gags were incredible and sometimes dangerous to his health…like have a front of a building that weighed a ton (so it wouldn’t twist in the wind) fall on him with the upstairs opening clearing him around 2 inches on each side. He never smiled because it would have ruined his character. Both are worth watching and with Keaton’s films like Sherlock Jr…you wonder how he did some of the things he did with the primitive camera’s they used.

Both were funny men. The other big comedian was Harold Lloyd but he was more of an actor playing a comedian….he was really successful though… second to Chaplin in making money.

 

Charlie and Buster older both appear in Charlie’s Limelight.

Land Of The Lost

I watched this as a kid and loved it…I also learned a new word…Chroma Key…they used that to do the special effects.

The plot was that a family…the Marshalls…Rick, Will, and Holly are out rafting apparently and suddenly they go through an open portal to a different universe. A world with dinosaurs, crystals, pylons and time doors. They find a cave to hide in after waking up in the raft to a very bad looking T-Rex looking down on them.

Yes, the special effects were bad regardless of Chroma Key or whatever…It did have two redeeming qualities… The writing and the introduction to Sleestaks and which were really cool lizard-like things that could not hit a broad side of a barn with their crossbows…and

The stories. This show used a lot of the writers from the original Star Trek… With the pylons, skylons, different crystals that controlled time, the weather and everything else. The acting could be sketchy at times but Spencer Milligan as Rick Marshall was really good.

I always wished they would remake this with modern effects with the same storylines. They actually had some good sci-fi stories in this show. People who criticize the look of the show must remember that this was a Saturday morning show….the budget was low… I still would rather watch this…bad effects and all to the awful 2009 movie of the same name…

This was made by Sid and Marty Krofft. They had some of the strangest shows for kids…they were unique, to say the least.

Wikipedia

A number of well-respected writers in the science fiction field contributed scripts to the series (mostly in the first and second seasons), including Larry Niven,[6] Theodore Sturgeon,[6][7] Ben Bova,[6] and Norman Spinrad, and a number of people involved with Star Trek, such as Dorothy “D.C.” Fontana,[6] Walter Koenig,[6][8][9] and David Gerrold.[6] Gerrold, Niven, and Fontana also contributed commentaries to the DVD of the first season.

Marshall, Will, and Holly
On a routine expedition
Met the greatest earthquake ever known.
High on the rapids
It struck their tiny raft.
And plunged them down a thousand feet below.
To the Land of the Lost.
To the Land of the Lost.
To the Land of the Lost.
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Life On Mars…

2006 Life on Mars is simply great. Now I’m talking about the BBC original version… NOT the American version. Sometimes I wonder why instead of remaking a series as great as this… why not just show the superior British version in America in prime time? Do they think that it would be impossible for people to understand British accents? Why remake something that is inferior to the original?

The plot is a cop (Sam Tyler) in 2006 gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973…he doesn’t know if he has traveled through time, going mad or in a coma. When he wakes he is a cop in 1973 and has to deal with a non PC world that is vastly different from where he just came from… People do things with feel more than data gathering etc.

Great characters and stories make this the best show of the 2000’s to me. It only lasts 16 episodes and all of them are top notch. This show did have a spinoff… Ashes to Ashes…basically the same story above but with a female detective going back in the 1980s but she does meet most of the same characters except Sam. Ashes to Ashes does have its moments and it does wrap up all the reasons for  Life On Mars….but it doesn’t top it.

Almost better than the series is the soundtrack…. Performers from Atomic Rooster to David Bowie. A few songs that caught me by surprise that I thought how have I missed these all of my life?

Green Acres

One of the most surreal shows to ever be on television.

I was too young to catch this show when it was on originally. I never thought too much of it but I started to watch it later on in life. At first look, it looked like a rural show with country humor….wrong wrong wrong. Yes, it was wacky but it broke through the 4th wall… You can see it’s influenced in the Simpsons and more shows. Poor Oliver was surrounded by crazy people and the craziness infected him at times. The show takes place in the fictional town of Hooterville…they never reveal the state but it doesn’t matter. The characters of this show were classic.

It’s really hard to describe this show. It was intertwined with 2 other shows…The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction…BUT it’s nothing like those other two. Not in the same zip code or planet. Basically…a New York Lawyer with his rather ditsy socialite wife moves to the country. He bought…or got conned into buying a broken down farmhouse (The Haney Place?) with his dreams of being a farmer. I will say the first few episodes kinda follows a normal sitcom template but then it gets really surreal. This is one show that would work today with no problem.

This website is a great acres resource.

The characters

Mr. Haney – Probably the biggest con-man in television history. He will stop at nothing to make a buck and he finds a sucker in Oliver many times.

Eb – The somewhat slow farmhand that calls Oliver and Lisa mom and dad much to Oliver’s annoyance. He asks for everything but gets out of work as much as he can…plus he tells Oliver what a bad farmer he is….

Mr. Drucker – out of all the residents of Hooterville  he is at times the most normal of the crazy lot…but that is not saying much. He operates the general store, post office, the newspaper and is the the notary public. I’m sure I’m missing something else.

Fred and Doris Ziffel – Fred and his long suffering wife Doris. They have no children so they raise a pig named Arnold as a child. He goes to school and does every kids do.

Arnold – The pig which is probably the character best remembered to the public.

Hank Kimball – My favorite character hands down…you talk about short term memory…this guy has it. He is the county agent and helps…or something like that Oliver with his farm.

Ralph and Alf Monroe – Two inept carpenters that are brother and sister and the sister’s name is Ralph. They work on Lisa’s and Oliver’s bedroom the entire show’s run and never gets it done.

Oliver and Lisa Douglas – It’s a wonder that the show didn’t end up with Oliver in an insane asylum after dealing with everyone in Hooterville. Lisa, as the show goes along starts think and act like the Hooterville residents. Lisa is a terrible cook to say the least that specializes in hot cakes…that are used to seal cracks and as a head gasket and she cooks a great hot water soup.

Eleanor – Oliver’s and Lisa’s cow. About the only good deal they ever got from Mr. Haney.

Some more info on Green acres.

 

Best Sitcoms of the 1970’s

The 70’s were the golden age of sitcoms. I am a sitcom connoisseur…these were my favorite in no particular order.

Barney Miller – The writing for this show was great. The setup was great in getting character actors in this show week after week because you would have a shop lifter, a flasher, a robber… usually no criminal too bad.

Mary Tyler Moore – Ground breaking show with great writing. The greatest sitcoms had a great ensemble of actors and actresses. This one seemed so natural that it seemed that you knew these people in real life.

Taxi – This one did not receive the praise that it should have at the time it was on. Reverend Jim is one of the great characters of television.

WKRP – This show rocked…literally…Some great music and a great cast.

All In The Family – Very topical and it probably would be harder to follow for younger people now but they would get the points. This is probably the most un PC show of the 70s. That makes me like it all the more. It exposed bigotry but also had a caring side to the show. The family fought but they were a close family.

The Bob Newhart Show – Bob’s dry sense of humor and the relationship with his wife Suzanne Pleshette seemed legit. The cast of quirky characters drove Bob crazy which showcased Newharts comedy.  This show should not be confused with the 1980s Newhart…this is the one where Bob is a psychologist…some people get them mixed up but this one is the best in my opinion….nothing against Newhart at all. Newhart had the same theme but to me this one has the best writing and more believable characters.

Good Times – The first sitcom that featured an all black cast. When I was growing up my mother and father had divorced. I was a latch key kid living with my mom and she worked three jobs and I didn’t get to see my father much. I was a white kid living in the country but John Amos’s character was a great father figure. He could go from happy to angry in 5 seconds. I know some people had a problem with Jimmie Walker’s character but I knew people like him even in a rural country school. When John Amos left…the show was never the same.

The Bob Newhart Show’s kitchen…Love that kitchen

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If you could have dinner with 9 people dead or still living…who would they be?

My list is pretty shallow sounding vs what some people would say… like Lincoln, Washington… Nope…no politicians, generals, or leaders…

1: John Lennon – He could be a walking contradiction but so were a lot of British rock stars but he was very intelligent and a superb songwriter. He loved to shock at times but could be very warm, generous and very honest. After he was killed his legend made him out to be some saint…he would have been the first to say he was not one….he didn’t suffer fools well.

2: Babe Ruth – What a guy… To me the best all-around player…Not only was he one of the best power hitters he was also a great left-handed pitcher…I would love to talk to him…get some dogs and beer and enjoy my time with the Babe. Yes, others have broken some of his records…but do they have 94 wins? On top of everything else… he had a huge personality.

3: Harpo Marx – The Marx brother that is my favorite. Yes Groucho is better known but Harpo was one of the most decent guys you could ever be around…he also hung out with the Algonquin round table crowd in the 1920s with writers Alexander Woolcott, brilliant playwright George Kaufman and many more. Harpo came from a very poor family at the turn of the century and he came to know some of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century.

4: Buster Keaton – Probably one of the best filmmakers of the 20th century. He gets overshadowed by Charlie Chaplin. Buster didn’t fake his gags…he didn’t cut away from shots…what you saw on film is what he did. He was a brilliant filmmaker.

5: Charlie Chaplin – Charlie and Babe Ruth were two of the best known celebrities of the 1920s. Charlie’s character The Tramp is still one of the most recognizable characters in history.

6: Jackie Robinson – Yes he was a Dodger and I’m a Dodger fan…but it’s more than that. He had to take so much abuse that probably contributed to his early death. He was a pioneer and should have been just another player if not for stupidity.

7: Keith Moon – I would prepare myself and sleep for as long as possible the day before and then try to keep up with him for as long as possible.

8: Clara Bow – My favorite actress hands down. The original and the only IT girl and could say more with her actions than anyone else with words…she lit up the screen.

9: Keith Richards – The only living member of my wishlist (though some would argue that fact) Keith is just cool period. If I had to describe rock and roll to an alien… I would hand them a copy of Brown Sugar and a picture of a 1972 Keith Richards… I love that he has survived…God Bless you, Keith.