Are You Being Served?

A fun British sitcom that aired from 1972-1985. This comedy is not subtle…it’s obvious and in the open.

The show is about a department store called Grace Bros. owned by the elderly Grace brothers. It is operated with the British class system. The show highlighted the Menswear and Womenswear departments and also the Floor Walker the pretentious Captain Peacock. It also featured the incompetent floor manager…Mr. Rumbold.

The Women’s department was run by Miss Slocombe. A lady that is known for her hair color changing every day and the love of her pussy cat…they get a lot of mileage out of that. She tries to elevate herself over the working class but that is just what she is…Her assistant is the young very pretty Miss Brahms who talks with a cockney accent and is proud of being thought of as working class.

The head of the Men’s department is Mr. Granger who is older and near retirement and seems to be in a sour mood most of the time. Two more men work in the department… The junior in the department is Mr. Lucas who is always late and flirting with Miss Brahms, never has money and always has to wait his turn before he can serve anyone and make money because the other two men have seniority, The other man is Mr. Humphries…probably the most popular character of the show. He hints at being gay every episode but never comes out and says it…this is really played up…remember it is the 70s. The writers go for the obvious jokes many times but it’s still funny.

The Grace brothers owned the store and “Young” Mr. Grace was in fact not young at all. He was stingy and he always had a very young attractive girl by his side.

The maintenance guy Mr. Mash and Mr. Harmon were great. They would make the devices to advertise the merchandise. Sometimes the machine they made would blow up or show some naughty things to the customers. They were union and they thumbed their nose at the everyone.

Mix these personalities and you got a funny show. The purpose of the sitcom basically was to expose the class system and to parody it.

The customers that shopped at Grace Bros department store usually left disappointed. The phrases I remember the most are “Are you free?” and while having a customer try on pants that obviously doesn’t fit…You would hear an employee say don’t worry ”They’ll ride up with wear.”

Some of the cast left and past away during the run of the show. They were replaced with different characters and the show went on. When the show ended in 1985 a spin-off was made called Grace and Favour.

The core cast was strong and the show was very good until the start of the 80’s and like most shows, they were reaching more for stories and repeating themselves. In 1979 when Trevor Bannister who played Mr. Lucas left it started to go down.

The sitcom had 69 episodes and a movie in 1977… well, you can say 70 episodes because in 2016 a new episode was made with different actors playing the same characters.

I wouldn’t compare this to Fawlty Towers because Fawlty Towers was better written… but this is a fun sitcom nonetheless. I remember it when I was young being broadcast on PBS. It is worth a watch if you like British humor.

The cast was

Mollie Sugden – Miss Slocombe

Frank Thornton – Mr. Peacock

John Inman – Mr. Humphries

Wendy Richard – Miss Brahms

Nicholas Smith – Mr. Rumbold

Trevor Bannister – Mr. Lucas

Arthur Brough – Mr. Grainger

Harold Bennett – Young Mr. Grace

Larry Martyn – Mr. Mash

Arthur English – Mr. Harmon

James Hayter – Mr. Tebbs

Alfie Bass – Mr. Goldberg

Mike Berry – Mr. Spooner

Kenneth Waller – Old Mr. Grace

 

 

 

 

Wait Til Your Father Gets Home

An adult primetime cartoon in the early seventies. The father is voiced by Tom Bosley who is better known as Mr. C or Mr. Cunningham. In this show, he voices Harry Boyle.

This program was about the Boyle family who had a common-sense father, a loyal wife (Irma), a lazy hippie son (Chet), a progressive thinking daughter (Alice) and a younger more conservative son (Jaime) who predated Michael J Fox on Family Ties.

Harry has conservative views from the fifties but he is not overboard while his two oldest children have no intention of following the rules and morals of their father’s generation. The youngest son is just out for money.

The show also features an ultra-right winged conspiracy-minded McCarthy influenced neighbor (Ralph Kane) who resembled Richard Nixon (to me anyway) and he is always thinking the communists are out to get him and his neighbors.

The show ran 3 seasons from 1972-1974 with a total of 48 episodes.

If you lived in the seventies or if you are a student of the seventies… you might enjoy it. What I remember most about it was the theme song. I was too young to get the references…I just remember, hey it’s a cartoon and it’s not Saturday morning or a Disney special.

One thing that struck me about this show was the minimalist animation. The backgrounds were simple but effective.

The show is topical just like the show that inspired it…All In The Family but All In The Family is classic…this is not.

It is a fun time capsule. It is not for everyone.

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Alone in the Wilderness

When someone brought a DVD of this for me to watch. I thought it was going to be boring. I ended up watching it twice in one sitting. It will draw you in.

A 50-year-old man named Dick Proenneke is in Twin Lakes Alaska in 1968 and films himself building a retirement cabin. He starts out by staying in a friends cabin. He starts gathering wood and making some of the tools he uses on the way.

This man…is a real man. if he needs a spoon…he starts carving himself out one. He builds this cabin and makes everything including wood hinges for the door. He gathers rocks from somewhere down the lake and brings them back…at then he starts building his chimney.

He is by himself and sets up the camera everywhere he goes. He goes out fishing when he is hungry and hunting for meat for the winter only taking what he needs.

He makes most every from scratch. He uses his tin canisters for different things. He buries one and covers for a refrigerator. The only help he receives is a pilot friend of his that lands every now and again to deliver supplies. He is a master craftsman, to say the least.

It doesn’t sound that special but I have watched it 2 more times since the night I watched it twice. He makes it look so easy.

He filmed enough to have a few more short documentaries which were released but nothing matches that first one. This man made me feel like a mouse. He is so talented and tough.

He ended up staying there until 1999 and then left to live with his brother at age 82. Dick passed away at 86 in 2003. The cabin is still there and is in the National Register of Historic Places.

MatchGame 73-79

I’m not big into game shows but this one was my favorite. When I was at my grandmothers I would watch Match Game. This was the one I looked forward to. The questions were written for the dirty minded… you could see what the celebrities wanted to write down but they had to stay somewhat clean. Dick DeBartolo from Mad Magazine wrote most of the questions so it had that humor.

Mary liked to pour gravy over John’s ______

It was fun for the celebrities and from the documentries I’ve seen they would film 12 episodes over a weekend and drinks would be flowing at lunch and dinner. The styrofoam cups you would see them drinking from  would sometimes be vodka instead of water on air.

The regulars I remember were Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly and Richard Dawson (until he left for his own show). The others that would be on the show occasionally were Betty White, Fannie Flagg, Joyce Bulifant, Nipsey Russell, Marcia Wallace, Patti Deutsch and more.

Sometimes the celeberties would have so much fun that I would feel sorry for the contestant trying to win money when the celebrities would write joke answers. Richard Dawson and Charles Nelson Reilly would usually be serious on the answers.

So many women would pick Dawson because he was the best player and because they wanted to kiss him if they won…or lost really…That was a glimpse to his future game show.

Gene Rayburn was the host and he would hold everything together barely. It really did seem Rayburn was having a great time.

I remember Richard Dawson’s last week on the show. He wore dark glasses and would not smile. He seemed bored (he had started to do Family Feud by this time) and serious. Turns out that he wanted off the show but they would not let him…After that final show of him being sullen and not smiling…he was gone.

The game was also changed because of Dawson. In the last round more times than not he was picked…well he was good… The producers changed the rules and  made people spin a wheel to see which celeb they would get in the final round.

They would push the censors as far as they could for the 1970s…I watch it whenever I can…

 

 

 

 

Evel Knievel

Whenever I see red, white, and blue not only do I think of the flag but I think of Evel Knievel. A hero to many in the 1970s… He is responsible for more broken arms, legs, bruises, bumps, scrapes than anyone… Kids setting up homemade ramps and then jumping them with their bicycles. I said kids…it wasn’t exclusive to boys because I do remember some girls jumping also.

Riding down hills standing on your seat, popping wheelies, jumping ramps with your buddy stupidly laying in-between. We wanted to be Evel Knievel jumping over those cars or busses.

He was THE Daredevil… There are Daredevils around today but no one has reached the popularity that Knievel achieved. Not only did he jump and crash he looked cool jumping and crashing. He was like a cool Elvis in a jumpsuit jumping various objects.

Another big part of the Evel Knievel experience was the toys. There were not many kids who didn’t have that windup motorcycle (the Stunt Cycle) and Evel Knievel doll…Make a ramp and wind up the Stunt Cycle with the little Evel riding and they would shoot out and go. There was also a truck, a dragster, and the skycycle…I’m sure there were more I’m missing. I only had the Stunt Cycle.

Evel made over 75 jumps ramp to ramp. He didn’t fail many times…but one of his failures made his career.

Caesars Palace Jump… this one hurts to watch. Evel jumped over the fountain and then crashed as he landed on the ramp wrong… then tumbled like Stretch Armstrong rolling down a hill. His body was like rubber when it hit the pavement. 

The Caesars crash jumpstarted his career as the networks would play the crash over and over again.

Snake River Canyon… I remember the build-up to this jump…Everyone was talking about it…it ended up being the most anti-climactic out of all his jumps… No motorcycle of course…he was basically in a rocket and the parachute prematurely opened and Evel drifted to the bottom of the canyon.

Evel did jump the shark so to speak…

The Shark Tank…no, not the Fonz… It was not televised but in a practice run, Evel jumped a shark tank and then hit a cameraman coming off of the ramp. It did injure the cameraman.

Evel left a huge footprint in the seventies. He played hero to a lot of people.

His son Robbie has made a career out of doing the same thing. The interest isn’t there as much anymore. There is no more must-see TV with anyone jumping vehicles. Maybe it’s because Evel was the first on that level to do what he did and the timing of when he did it. With Vietnam, inflation, Watergate and the aftermath, he was embraced by adults and kids at a time when people needed a distraction.

I still ride a bicycle at a park sometimes for exercise…I can still see in my mind those old wood planks we used as ramps held up by a brick and I want to do it but… I think I’ll just look for another Stunt Cycle.

Gunsmoke the Early Years

I grew up watching the hour-long color episodes (seasons 12-20) of Gunsmoke in reruns and I liked the show. Now I’m watching the first 6 seasons…they are black and white and very different. There is no Festus or Newly…we have Chester (Dennis Weaver) and he is a refreshing character. They just never played these episodes on television when I was younger. There still is Doc Adams  (Milburn Stone)and a very young good looking Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake).

These episodes dealt with murder, rape, human trafficking, and plenty of Matt Dillon (James Arness) decking bad guys with his fist or the butt of his gun. They are 30 minutes long which is great. They got to the point quickly. Some of the stories were grim but it matched the look of the series.

I was surprised at how rough, violent and authentic they were and that is not knocking the later episodes but there is a difference. The violence was toned down as the series continued.

The later color episodes centered more around the guest stars and the old black and white ones centered more on the local cast of Dodge City.

Have Gun Will Travel was also on CBS along with Gunsmoke. You will see some of the same character actors and sets. Some Have Gun Will Travel scenes were filmed in a redecorated Long Branch… Too bad there wasn’t a crossover at least once.

Chester…I’ve always liked Dennis Weaver as an actor…in McCloud, Duel and anything he was in… He brings his character Chester alive as a real person. Chester had a limp on the show and Dennis Weaver said he would take yoga classes so he could do things like putting on a boot look believable with a bad leg…he also put a pebble in his boot on his right foot so he would not forget which leg was lame.

Chester could be lazy but he was invaluable and loyal to a fault to Matt Dillon. Dennis Weaver left the show after the 9th season with no explanation on what happened to Chester as was the way back then with TV shows.

If you are a fan and have seen only the later episodes…check these out.

Freddie Prinze

Freddie became a star practically overnight and burned brightly…but unfortunately, it was only for a brief amount of time.

Freddie Prinze was a comedian whose real name was Frederick Karl Pruetzel. He was born in 1954 in New York. His mother was of Puerto Rican descent and his father was of Hungarian roots…two things he used in his comedy.

He worked in clubs in the early seventies and then he got his break. He appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson on December 6, 1973, and Johnny called him over to his couch to talk to him. That was a dream to performers then. Being called to the couch meant Johnny liked you and could make your career. Remember no internet or other exposure to this big of an audience. He became a star overnight. Freddie was 19 years old.

Within a few months, he was starring with Jack Albertson on the hit show Chico and the Man.

The show had a supporting cast of Scatman Crothers and Della Reese. It had a cool factor with teenagers at the time because of Freddie. Chico and the Man was not a great sitcom but a good one that captured a talented young comedian on his way up.

Freddie came out with a 70’s catchphrase “Looking Good” with a comedy album of the same name. He appeared in one TV movie called The Million Dollar Rip-Off and an HBO On Location: Freddie Prinze and Friends.

Freddie suffered from depression and he had a dependency on drugs that kept growing like his fame.

Through all of this, he got married and had a son…the actor Freddie Prinze Jr… His wife started to move toward a divorce and a despondent Prinze shot himself in a hotel room and died the next day on January 29, 1977, only 3 years after his introduction to the world by Johnny Carson.

People don’t remember how big Freddie was then. He was so young and vibrant when he made it…he was just 22 years old when he died.