TV Draft Round 7 – Pick 3 – Dave Selects – Downton Abbey

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Dave at https://soundday.wordpress.com/

The Brits seem to have a knack for making high-quality TV shows that stand the test of time. Max already looked at one of the funniest comedies of all-time, Fawlty Towers, and for my next pick I look at a British drama that I, like most of North America, fell in love with unexpectedly – Downton Abbey. Like Fawlty Towers, part of their secret of success was for it to not overstay its welcome, nor rush out vast quantities of inferior episodes.

When Downton Abbey first appeared (2011 in North America, a few months after its debut in the UK), there was quite a buzz about it. At the time, my sweetie and I were still a long-distance relationship and she talked about it enthusiastically every week; it had become her first “must-see” show since Friends ended, I think. But despite her great reviews and descriptions of it being believable and full of surprises, I was a bit skeptical. After all, it was basically a story about British nobility set a hundred years ago. That didn’t grab my fancy right away. Anyhow, when we ended up together, the series was midway through its run, and she wanted to keep watching, obviously. After a couple of episodes, I was not only hooked, but needed to go back to the start to find out how they arrived at their present “point B” – see what the “point A” was in effect. I’m very glad I did. It’s become one of my all-time favorite shows, and right now, she and I are trying to watch the series together again before it disappears off Netflix next week (I won’t mind buying a season or two on DVD since we likely won’t run through all six years of it before June.)

For those who somehow aren’t at least vaguely aware of the show (which might be difficult in this day and age given the media hype about the subsequent movies of it which have been made), Downton Abbey looks at one big British noble family in the early-20th Century, the Crawleys (who through the eccentricities of British protocol are also referred to as “Granthams”). I’m no expert on nobility, but to simplify, it would be fair to suggest they are like a lower-end royal family, living in a huge, stately erstwhile castle (the namesake of the show) on a huge estate, with a small village being part of their holdings. However, they’re also responsible for the upkeep of the land and village, so it’s not all a champagne and caviar carefree life for the Crawleys. The show involves the lives of their family, as well as the servants who work for them in the Abbey – a cast of cooks, maids, butlers, footmen and so on who are every bit as interesting as the landowners. And yes, it’s better than that sounds!

The Crawleys are headed by Robert, played by veteran actor Hugh Bonneville who seemed to be born for the part, a middle-aged, traditional man who is dubbed “Lord Grantham.”  He’s married to an American though, Cora, who brought a good deal of cash…and an air of comparative casualness… to the estate. They had three daughters, eldest Mary, middle Edith and youngest Sybil, who were all in their late teens or early-20s when the show began and each quite a handful for their parents in their own way. And the scene-stealer, and probably the real power in the family, Robert’s mother, termed the “Dowager”, played with some of the best lines in the entire series by superstar of the British screen, Maggie Smith.

Meanwhile, “downstairs”, the household staff is run with a stern frown and hand from Carson, the aging and ever-so traditional butler; and Mrs. Hughes, the softer and slightly more progressive head of the female staff. Under them are a host of various positions – head cook Mrs. Patmore, her assistant cooks, scullery maids, the conniving Mrs. O’Brien, the head maid and her bedroom maids, ladies’ maids, footmen and valets. Among the most interesting of them are Mr. Bates and Anna; Lord Grantham’s personal valet and the daughters maid and attendant. Bates comes in with a limp and a dignity second only to Carson…and the combination of impeccable discretion and devotion to the job paired with a murky background and a vaguely sinister air around him. Bates seems loyal to a fault but also a man you don’t want to get on the wrong side of. Robert once notes to Carson when they hear a rumor Bates had stolen silverware on another job, “I could more imagine Bates an assasin than a thief.”  He and Anna, sweet but sharing his devotion to the job, fall in love…with complications.

The show was created by Julian Fellowes, who’d won an Academy Award before for Best Screenplay for the loosely-similar themed Gosford Park. A stickler for detail, he hired a member of the Royal Family’s household staff (a historian in himself) as an advisor. As one actor, a minor character in the show pointed out “there were definitely a few times when I was told to sit differently or take my hands out of my pockets. And every meal, we’re reminded ‘You shouldn’t hold a fork this way’.” If an earl’s daughter had to know which fork and spoon to use for every course, and how to hold them precisely, so too did the Downton actors portraying them. One of the few complaints thrown at the show is that most of the staunchly Church Of England family seem somewhat anti-Catholic and the very few Black people who appear are tolerated, barely, only in a role as entertainers. As the Washington Post put it, Lord Grantham is “xenophobic…but at least historically accurate.”  There were coaches for accents, and historians deciding on accurate costumes for all, staff and nobility alike.

Fellowes’ attention to detail, as well as glorious cinematography, elegant sets and English countryside scenery, helped make the show popular. How popular? Well, in Britain, where it ran on ITV, during its third and fourth seasons, it averaged nearly 12 million viewers a week, or one in five adults in the land. Over here, despite being on PBS, it drew over five milllion a week, their biggest success since Ken Burns’ Civil War series. Since then it’s been seen in over 200 countries, sold in the millions on DVD and been a big draw for Netflix, besides launching the spinoff movies.

But the authenticity was only one of the minor selling points that make it a must-see. (The following few paragraphs do contain a few spoilers, beware if you haven’t seen the whole series.)  There were many others, many having to do with the universal themes it depicts. Fashions, slang, music, even common values change, but things like workplace backstabbing, marital discord and problematic children will always be with ut.  They might have been British, and living a century ago in either privilege (the Crawley’s and their friends) or servitude (the staff), but there was lots in their lot we can still relate to. Like the problematic kids.

Early on in the series, Lady Mary, all of 22 or 23 at the time, is seduced by a handsome Turkish ambassador visiting the estate…who happens to have the misfortune of dying whilst “with” her in her bed. A scandal like that could bring shame on the entire family and render her “un-marriageable”…so of course her jealous younger sister Edith sends off a letter spilling the beans to the dead man’s embassy. Sybil, the youngest is arguably the prettiest and definitely the kindest of the girls, but also a rebel who wants to work, vote and eventually falls for the family’s driver, a servant and worse, a common Irishman. The family has to reconcile whether their love for doing things properly – bluebloods marrying bluebloods – is more important than their love for their daughter and her spirit.

Robert and Cora have to deal with ups and downs in their marriage, and things like downsizing. So much an unwelcome catch phrase of the past couple of decades, even then it became a necessity in their household as revenue dwindles while staff numbers kept rising on the estate. The at times toxic workplace environment is all too familiar. Footmen scheme against each other, the kitchen maids waste time trying to attract the footmen who inevitably seem interested in someone else, some sneak out to smoke and gossip on the clock…change the décor and background music and it could believably be a modern hotel or office. Carson at times has to hold his nose and be pragmatic and advance less-qualified people just to quell in-house staff battles and keep the peace.

And of course, the world is changing. It was changing in 1922 just as it is in 2022. During Season 2, World War I is raging and Lord Grantham’s son-in-law and heir to the estate is in the trenches with a previously disliked footman from his estate. Then the Spanish flu wipes out people on the estate as well as in the town. Sadly, when the show first came out around 2013, many assumed pandemics were as much ancient history as the hand-cranked phonographs they listened to music in Downton with. Robert and Carson hate change and have trouble dealing with the reality of the new world, brought to their doors by newcomers like Matthew (the middle-class lawyer who ends up marrying Mary) and worse, Branson, the Irish chauffeur reluctantly brought into the family fold. Most of the female staff seem a little more pragmatic and reluctantly open to the inevitable. Even telephones are viewed with suspicion – “is this an instrument of communication or torture?” the Dowager scowls while looking at the household’s first one, noticing the young people’s fascination with it.

Speaking of which, the old Dowager had some of the most memorable lines of this or any other series of late; the master of the subtle insult and way of putting things in proportion despite her displeasure – when the man dies in Mary’s bed, she notes “it could only happen to a foreigner. No Enlgishman would dream of dying in someone else’s house.”  When Cora smiles at her after one of her other comments and says “I’ll take that as a compliment,” the dowager sniffs “then I must have said it wrong.”  Little wonder she won three Emmys on her own for the Best Supporting Actress role in it.

But most importantly, it was well-written and the characters realistic. Rather like All in the Family that Paula covered this week, it was fairly written and the characters, rich and poor alike had both redeeming and negative traits…although some had more of one than the other!  And they’re full of surprises. Bates can’t stand Thomas, the footman who has tried to force him out (to make room for his own promotion) by trying to implicate him in some household thefts. The valet threatens to punch Thomas’ pearly teeth out the back of his head when he toys with a kitchen maid he has no interest in. But when another footman tries to blackmail the household and force Thomas out without any reference for the “crime” of being gay and not concealing it well enough, it’s Bates who rallies to his defence. Few saw that coming. He’d just spent time in prison for a crime he’d not committed but was set up for and feels for others who are being punished for things for which they’re not guilty, and that overrides his personal dislike for Thomas. As the years go by, we see the characters grow (except for the unfortunate ones killed off along the way – another factor in its unique success,Fellowes wasn’t afraid of rocking the boat and eliminating even popular characters…did we mention Sybil was the most popular of the daughters?) – and weather storms they face, dealing with a new world they’re not quite prepared for. Which might make them very much like us and those we know, work with and love.

A history lesson, well-written, well-acted, well-shot, and with enough cliffhangers and unexpected twists to make it a roller-coaster. No wonder the show, through its six seasons and 52 episodes, won at least 15 Emmys, was named by Elle the “best TV show” around and has resulted in two popular big screen movies so far (by the way, I saw the first, and while a perfectly nice-looking and interesting film, it was a bit pedestrian and lacked much of the intrigue of the TV series.)

A great show, and a great reminder to me that sometimes great things come in unexpected places.

TV Draft Round 7 – Pick 2 – Lisa Selects – Trailer Park Boys

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Lisa at https://tao-talk.com/

TPB1

l.-r.: Julian, Bubbles, Ricky

I know that originally I was going to write about the mixed martial arts series, Kingdom, but it had too much of a Ray Donovan vibe, so I decided to write about Trailer Park Boys, a beloved series that I haven’t watched all episodes of but have watched dozens of them. The series started out with a movie pilot first in 1999, where the boys are introduced. Between 2001 and 2018, twelve seasons were made. Set mostly in Nova Scotia, Canada with also some in New Brunswick; but to be honest it doesn’t matter what geographical location it is set at because what matters is that it is set a trailer park. There is a wealth of very cool trivia on the show at imdb. This is one piece about “the” trailer park :

The first 4 seasons were filmed in different trailer parks in Nova Scotia, Canada. The pilot was filmed in Spryfield, Nova Scotia. The first season was filmed in Sackville, the second in Dartmouth, the third in Lakeside, the fourth in Dartmouth again (in a different park than the second). For the Christmas special and season 5 and onward, they have used a park they purchased in Dartmouth.

OK, where do I begin to talk about the varied residents of the fictional Sunnyvale Trailer Park?It’s probably best to introduce the three main characters, Ricky, Julian, and Bubbles, best friends from way back, all of them pretty shiftless petty criminals who love to smoke weed and scheme their harebrained schemes. Around them revolves an endlessly entertaining cast of characters. You wouldn’t think life in Sunnyvale could sustain a pilot movie and twelve seasons, but the comedic genius of creator, Mike Clatterburg, and through the comedic skills of the cast, its shine has not only been sustained but rebooted for new audiences to love and laugh with when Netflix added it to the roster.

Characters
John Paul Tremblay plays Julian. Dark hair, handsome, and always carrying a glass of rum and coke with clinking ice. He often comes up with ideas that sound like they might work if he had a crew that wasn’t so bat-sh*t crazy in their various ways. Inevitably, the plan goes awry, and if he and the crew are lucky all they get out of it is caught. Several times though, Julian is sent back to prison. He knows his boys will wait for him to get things going again once he’s out. Julian is fairly unlucky in love. He’s tried a few relationships but they aren’t sustained.

Rob Wells plays Ricky. Ricky is hands-down the most outrageous and shifty one of the three guys. Ricky has a potty mouth, and I’ll admit it took me a bit to get used to his profanity. Another bit of trivia from imdb about that:

Throughout Season 1 to Season 7, including the Christmas Special, but not the movies, the word “fuck” is said a total of 1,284 times (averaging 46 times an episode). The word “shit” is said a total of 967 times (averaging 31 an episode). From all uses of the words, 74.3% of the time, it is said from Ricky.

TPB2

l.-r.: Lucy, Sarah (in the back,) Mrs. Leahy, and Trinity

Ricky is the only one of the three that has a family. His on again, off again girlfriend, Lucy, played by Lucy Decoutere, lives most of time with her friend, Sarah, played by Sarah Dunsworth, who is always trying to talk Lucy out of having anything to do with Ricky; yet the chemistry is strong between Ricky and Lucy and they always keep getting back with each other, if only for a night. Ricky and Lucy have a daughter, Trinity, played by Jeanna Harrison. Ricky adores Trinity and makes it his mission – when he’s not scheming with his buddies or in prison – to teach Trinity the ropes about life in the trailer park. The things he teaches her are wildly inappropriate for a child or anyone who hopes to lead a law-abiding lifestyle. Ricky’s dad, Ray, played by Barrie Dunn, also lives in the park. Ray is in a wheelchair and collects disability checks from the government, but at some point you begin to wonder just how disabled Ray is. Another aspect of Ricky is his educational aspiration. Ricky has only made it to Grade 6, and his dream is to go on and get his Grade 7. Finally, Ricky is a smooth talker extraordinaire. You will be amazed at the things Ricky is able to talk his way out of!

Mike Smith plays Bubbles. I think part of the reason Bubbles has the nickname he does is his thick coke bottle bottom glasses which look like big bubbles over his eyes; the glasses give the effect of blowing his eyes way out of proportion to his face through magnification. He has a particularly humorous and endearing way of talking. Bubbles lives in a garden shed in somebody’s yard and has two great passions: shopping carts and kitties. He nabs the beat up carts that have rolled into the gully from the edge of the mall parking lot. I know he fixes them up and I think he sells them back to the mall. Bubbles is a soft touch for kittens and has turned his shed into both a sanctuary and a shrine to them. Bubbles has a strict moral sense about things and often speaks the voice of reason when it comes to some of Ricky and Julian’s schemes. Even so, he can be convinced to bend a little, and when he’s in, he’s in all the way. His love for his buddies is consistent and unshakable. In a later season, we meet Bubbles’ alter ego in the form of wise-cracking and cruel ventriloquist puppet named Conky.

Now that the three “boys” and a few others are introduced, it is time to meet some of the other residents of the park.

TPB3
Randy and Mr. Jim Leahy

John Dunsworth (Sarah’s real-life dad) plays Mr. Jim Leahy. Jim is married to the owner of Sunnyvale, Mrs. Barb Leahy, played by Shelley Thompson. Jim is a “whole hog” functional alcoholic that is seldom, if-ever, sober. Jim is the manager of the trailer park, who is ever-vigilant about trying to bust the boys while they are carrying out their schemes, but is also extremely unsuccessful in doing so. They are just too wily for him. Jim is also gay. Jim’s somewhat younger lover is Randy, played by Patrick Roach. Randy has been a gigolo in the past, regardless of gender. He’s an opportunist. Randy’s trademark is white pants that ride under his big beer gut, which is always in view as Randy seldom (never?) wears a shirt. I can’t remember if Randy drinks, and it seems he’s trying to get Jim to slow down. Randy gets very sexually adventurous with Mr. Leahy. He also acts as Mr. Leahy’s joined-at-the-hip (in more ways than one!) sidekick in trying to bust the boys. When Mrs. Leahy catches on about Jim and Randy, they break up and she starts a relationship with Sam, played by Sam Tarasco. Sam is a veterinarian that can be handy to patch the boys up when they get into scrapes. Sam likes to grill out and have picnics.

TPB4

Cory and Trevor

Just when you think Ricky, Julian, and Bubbles have reached the bottom (or is it the top?) of the trailer park food chain, there is Cory, played by Cory Bowles, and Trevor, played by Michael Jackson. Cory and Trevor idolize Ricky and Julian and are on stand-by to assist in carrying out scams with them. Most of the time they don’t question their roles; yet even when something tells them it’s not a good idea, it doesn’t take much convincing to get their help.

TPB5

Tyrone and J-Roc

Aspiring rappers J-Roc, played by Jonathan Torrens and Tyrone, played by Tyrone Parsons, have their own entrepreneurial side schemes going on which are usually separate from the boys’ but sometimes they intersect.

Last but not least are law enforcement who keep getting called by Mr. Leahy, who used to be a police officer and so has somewhat of an “in” with them, to investigate the crimes the boys are involved with, but again, the boys are too slick for the law. Officer George Green, played by George Green is one; Detective Ted Johnson, played by Jim Swansburg, is another.

The format of the show is that a camera crew follows the boys around to document what living in a trailer park is like. Without going into the nitty gritty of the plots, now that you’ve met the characters you can imagine what kinds of hilarious plots they get engaged in. Although the show clearly is making fun of people who live in trailer parks, and with the folks in this show, they are definitely worthy of being made fun of, you also get to love each and every one of them.

I don’t think you can find these DVDs at your local library. They are being streamed on Netflix. You can probably find some out on YouTube. They are well-worth hunting down.

Genre: Comedy
Grade: 10
Etc.: Warning: extreme profanity; drug (weed) and crime-oriented themes; LGBTQIA+ friendly; some crazy gun play
Awards: 4 wins and 22 nominations

Warning: lots of profanity in the video

Sources:
imdb trivia
Julian, Bubbles, Ricky image
Lucy, Sarah, Mrs. Leahy, Trinity image
Randy and Mr. Leahy image

TV Draft Round 7 – Pick 1 – Paula Selects – All In The Family

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Paula at http://paulalight.com

I’m extra-excited to do this write-up because not only was All in the Family one of my favorite shows way back when, but it’s also one of the few that stands the test of time. So many other shows that I enjoyed in my youth are impossible for me to watch now because they are so full of sexism and jokes that just fall flat. AITF was unique in that it took the common bigotries and stuffed them into the character of Archie Bunker so the rest of us could see how ridiculous they were. (Sadly, many of them persist regardless.) But in his way, Archie was lovable, and he did end up changing, especially after his wife Edith died and he went on to the spin-off Archie Bunker’s Place.

AITF was a sitcom created by Norman Lear. It debuted on CBS on January 12, 1971 (over 50 years ago!) and ran for nine seasons. The show was based on a British sitcom Till Death Us Do Part, and it was produced by Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin. Carroll O’Connor played the main character Archie Bunker, Jean Stapleton played his wife Edith, Sally Struthers played their daughter Gloria, and Rob Reiner played Gloria’s husband Michael Stivic. Most people will recognize the opening theme song “Those Were the Days,” which Archie and Edith warbled off-key, thus beginning each episode on a funny note. [My source for this post is Wikipedia.]

The writing touched upon many issues that had previously been avoided on network comedy: abortion, anti-Semitism, homosexuality, rape, religion, cancer, menopause, etc. Due to its bravery in tackling these topics, AITF has been regarded as one of the greatest series in history. It also went from meh Nielsen ratings in the first season to No. 1 during summer reruns and afterward. The Writers Guild of America ranked it as the fourth-best written TV series ever.

The premise of the show is that Archie, a middle-aged working-class white man in Queens, NY, has the perpetual grumps toward his family, his neighbors, and the world in general. He is narrow-minded and conservative, and he views people strictly through his prejudices and stereotypes. One of the most frequent targets of his snide asides is his son-in-law Michael, a graduate student with a Polish background. Archie calls him “Meathead,” and Michael earnestly tries to enlighten Archie about new cultural ideas resulting in much hilarity for the audience.

To save money, the Stivics live with the Bunkers, so there are plenty of opportunities for the two men to butt heads, over topics major and minor.

Gloria is often exasperated with their arguments, but since she’s a feminist, she’ll take a stand on issues relating to women’s rights. She also gets particularly incensed at the inconsiderate way Archie treats her mom. For her part, Edith tries to keep the peace in their home by ignoring Archie’s nasty comments.

Another frequent target of Archie’s snark is a family of black neighbors, the Jeffersons. George Jefferson (played by Sherman Hemsley) is hilarious in his own right and ends up successful and wealthy enough to move out of the neighborhood to a posh place. The Jeffersons is a spin-off of AITF (there are many!), with George and Louise living in a luxury building (kinda similar to the one in Only Murders!).

If you’ve never seen AITF, I highly recommend checking out a few eps. Personally, I never get tired of stumbling across a clip here or there. This is one of my favorites, and it never fails to make me laugh.

~*~

Paula Light is a poet, novelist, flash fiction fan, cupcake connoisseur, mom, grandma, cat mommy, etc. Her blog can be found at http://paulalight.com.

TV Draft Round 6 – Pick 8 – Max Selects – The Gong Show

Drinking out of a garden hose, learning math and grammar from Schoolhouse Rock, playing pong, walking on the shag carpet in our bare feet, wearing mood rings, walking through beads instead of doors, and watching the Gong Show. That is what a lot of us were up to in the 1970s as kids and adults. 

I watched this show and Dialing for Dollars on our local NBC affiliate when I was around 10 years old. Only in the seventies could this show happen. It was like amateur hour at a high school with celebrities judging the event for laughs. This show was so bad it was good. That is the heart of the show…so bad it’s good… If an act was bad…which many were the judges would bang a gong to show their dislike.

The winner would win $516.32… union scale at the time. It wasn’t about winning…it was about being in front of millions of viewers. The show ran from 1976 to 1978 and was in syndication for years and years. The show had a total of 501 episodes. 

Chuck Barris was the emcee of this grand extravaganza. Some of the acts were bad and they knew it, some really thought they were good but were bad and a very few were actually good.

A few talented people appeared on the show at different times. Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman), Steve Martin, Cheryl Lynn, Oingo Boingo, Michael Winslow, The Unknown Comic,  and more. It’s fun spotting a future star in reruns. 

The judges included  Jamie Farr, Jaye P Morgan, Arte Johnson, Rip Taylor, Phyllis Diller, and Anson Williams. Jaye P. Morgan was fired off the show near the end of the show’s run. She often attempted to strip on the show, and usually got stopped. Except for one time, when she unbuttoned her shirt and flashed everyone while the camera was on her. 

My favorite part of the show for some reason was a stagehand who would dance named Gene Gene the Dancing Machine. I also remember the popsicle twins. How the censors let the Popsicle Twins get through I don’t know… they were shown on the east coast but their segment never made it to the west coast. 

The Gong Show was finally canceled because NBC warned Barris to tone down the racy elements of the show…he never did. The popsicle twins and Jaye P Morgan’s flashing didn’t help.

In the last show, Barris played in a country band called the “Hollywood Cowboys” and sang a modified Johnny Paycheck song “Take this job and shove it” and gave NBC the finger…which they blocked out of course. 

Barris had his hand in a lot of shows. In 1965, he launched “The Dating Game,” which revolutionized TV game shows. Next came “The Newlywed Game,” “The Game Game” and a Mama Cass special, among others.

Chuck Barris, in his book, Confessions of a Dangerous MindAn Unauthorized Biography, claimed to have been an assassin for the CIA. His wife said:  “After I met Chuck, I read the book and I didn’t really place any judgment on it one way or the other. Chuck and I never talk about whether he really did it.” He would never answer when asked if it was true or not. In 2002 George Clooney directed a movie about the book.

Maxene Fabe wrote in TV Game Shows, that Barris was “the first man in America to realize how desperately ‘ordinary’ people want to be on television.” Hmmm…sounds like it holds true today with all of the reality shows that are on. 

In 1980 “The Gong Show Movie” was released and it was written, directed, and starred Chuck Barris. The TV show was revived in 2017 and 2018 for twenty episodes with Mike Myers as host.

Chuck Barris passed away in 2017 at the age of 87. 

When you think back on shows you watched when you were younger and you get a chance to watch them now…it’s usually different than you remembered…not this one. This one is exactly how I remembered.

TV Draft Round 6 – Pick 7 – Mike Selects – The West Wing

The West Wing

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Mike at https://musiccitymike.net

The West Wing

Binge-watching The West Wing (1999-2005) was the best Social Studies lesson I have ever received. Episode-after-episode, I learned more about the inner workings of the US Government through the realism depicted in this series than any classroom lecture or textbook could ever have taught me. It’s been a while, and with all of the crazy politics our nation has recently seen, maybe it’s time for a revisit to see how this television series seemed to make it work better than it has been lately!

Created by the brilliant Aaron Sorkin, the show gives such a detailed look inside the working wing of the White House that you feel like you labor there along with the all-star cast. It also doesn’t take long to realize how dedicated and committed of a profession it is and why many staffers fail to survive the full four-year (let alone eight) term of their president. I know I wouldn’t buy too many tickets for concerts or baseball games since it’s a given that some foreign or domestic crisis is gonna have you working late or on the weekend.

However, giving credit where it’s due, as well-written as each episode was (especially the Sorkin ones), the true success of The West Wing came from its incredible roster of talented actors.

Marin Sheen is absolutely perfect as the much-loved President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet. Playing a Democrat, he never shows an overt partisan disdain for the “other side” that is too commonplace in Washington these days. It’s said that he was modeled somewhat after Bill Clinton who is often claimed to be our last true “moderate” in the White House. On the silly side, I also just loved how Jed would step outside onto the patio and relax with a smoke. It somehow made him seem more real. Was this inspiration for Barrack Obama who was said to have done the same?

Over the show’s seven seasons, we see the nation and the world go through all sorts of wild stuff and watch how the president and his team get into action. Voting matters were most interesting. There’s usually first the strategy for developing the solution followed by creating to the path to get the necessary votes in Congress. How the staff keeps the tabs on the later was always fascinating. Then there is the communications part where we see the influence of the communications director adeptly played by Richard Schiff who works with his lead speech writer, first played by a surprising at the time, amazing Rob Lowe, and later by an equally fine Joshua Malina. Seeing the speech writer in action reminds the viewer that some of those great presidential quotes came from someone else’s pen.

Actor John Spencer plays the chief of staff and gives insight into what is likely the most important role in the White House. Sadly, his untimely real-life death had to be worked into the storyline. He was replaced by actress Allison Janey’s character who we previously got to know in the equally important, and highly visible role of the press secretary.

And you will also love the First Family, albeit a small one, with Stockard Channing as the First Lady and Elisabeth Moss in her television debut as their daughter Zoey. The young lady gets a good share of screen time when she gets into a relationship with her dad’s aide Charlie played by the delightful Dulé Hill who would later star on the series Psych.

Since we are dealing with politics, there are of course a scandal or two as well as everyone’s favorite time of year, the elections! After making it through Bartlet’s eight years, we do see someone new get into the Oval Office, but I won’t spoil that for you. But be sure to watch for one of my favorite television scenes of all time when the unrecognized losing candidate of the Presidential Election on the morning after his loss is asked to give them his first name at Starbucks! The series then ends on the hopeful reconciliatory note whereby this member of the opposing party’s cup of coffee is followed by an offer to join the new Cabinet. If things could only be more like this today in the real D.C.

TV Draft Round 6 – Pick 6 – John Selects – The Unicorn

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by John from https://thesoundofonehandtyping.com

    A short-lived but very enjoyable show was The Unicorn, which aired 31 episodes over two seasons on CBS. Walton Goggins played Wade Felton, a widower with two daughters, 14-year-old Grace (played by Ruby Jay) and 12-year-old Natalie (played by Makenzie Moss). As the pilot opens, Wade is digging through a chest freezer, looking for an approprite dinner among the many that were prepared for them during his wife Jill’s hospitalization and death a year earlier. The house is a mess, dogs are sleeping on the counter, and the girls are sitting in the living room, watching TV and playing with their phones, saying “yes” or “no” toi whatever their father digs out of the freezer. Two of Wade’s friends, Forrest (played by Rob Corddry) and Delia (played by Michaela watkins) are watching the disorder in the Felton home and are worried about their friend, who seems to be living life on autopilot.

    They discuss this with another couple, Ben (played by Omar Miller) and Michelle (played by Maya Lynne Robinson) and come to the conclusion that Wade needs to get back out into the world and start building a social life, specifically that he needs to dating again. A fortyish widower with an established career (he’s a landscape designer), a home, and two daughters make him a “unicorn,” considered a prime catch on the dating scene, a rare established and stable man.

    Wade is reluctant at first, then on the evening he pulls the last prepared meal out of the freezer, the enormity of his situation catches up with him and leaves him practically catatonic. He agrees to complete a profile on a dating site, and when he submits it he’s bombarded with messages from women. When he tells his daughters that he intends on starting to date again, Natalie freaks out, thinking that he’s going to replace their mother. Grace calms her down, saying that their father deserves a life.

    Thus begins Wade’s saga of trying to balance being home for his girls and finding love in a dating scene that has changed significantly in the twenty years he’s been out of it, all while carrying the grief that losing his wife has brought about. At times poignant, at times hilarious, we see him deal with trouble at home, disastrous dates, his struggles with introducing himself to women he sees and would like to date, breakups, being fixed up, navigating the bar scene, and so on.

    One thing I appreciate is that, unlike a lot of sitcoms, Wade isn’t treated like an idiot by his daughters. He’s believable as their father, and they’re believable as sisters. In one episode, Grace is giefvn the lead role in her school play, Little Shop of Horrors, by a director who was simply trying to be nice because her mother had died. Wade at first tells her that if she wants to quit the play, it’s all right, not wanting to see his little girl look like a fool, but then reminds her that her mother would make her see it through. Naturally, she does a fantastic job as the female lead.

    You can find the show on the Paramount+ application and website; I purcheased it on the Amazon Prime website. That might be the only way to see it, at least until one of the classic TV stations picks the show up, if in fact they do that. Perhaps one weekend it’ll air on the “Decades Binge.” We can only hope…

TV Draft Round 6 – Pick 5 – Keith Selects – Get Smart

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Keith at https://nostalgicitalian.com/

It’s time for my next pick in the Hanspostcard TV Show Draft. My next pick is sort of a guilty pleasure. So many of the gags are ones you see coming a mile away, but they still crack me up. It is another one of those shows that was loaded with great guest stars and a solid cast. My next pick is Get Smart.

In the early 1960’s, America got their first look at James Bond and the secret agent/spy genre took off in full force. In 1965, Daniel Melnick, who was a partner in the production firm of Talent Associates in New York City, decided that it was time for a TV series that satirized James Bond. He approached Mel Brooks and Buck Henry to write a script about a “bungling James Bond-like hero.”

mel and buck

Mel said that Talent Associates had a pool table. He and Buck met at the pool table and while playing discussed the show. Mel says, “I knew we could do this thing together because we couldn’t stop babbling about things like the Shoe Phone and the Cone of Silence. These things just rolled out of our mouths.”

Henry said they created the script for the pilot in about three months around the pool table. “We decided on a secret agent named Smart – Maxwell Smart – and gave him, as his most sterling quality, a remarkable lack of insight. Nevertheless, since he was our hero, he would always win out despite his inspired inefficiency. We also gave him a number, which all operatives must have.” The number they chose was 86, which was chosen by Melnick and derived from the slang expression “to eighty-six someone.”

The show was pitched to ABC. The pitch was pretty much exactly what the show ended up being: Max would work for the Chief, the head of the Washington-based US intelligence agency Control. He would have a beautiful and brilliant young partner known only as Agent 99. Loaded up with gadgets, they would fight against the evil agents of Kaos, an international organization seeking world domination.

Originally, Mel Brooks considered playing Smart himself. Orson Bean was also considered. ABC decided that if it aired the show, Tom Poston (best known for his work on the Steve Allen Show and Newhart) would star as Agent 86. ABC liked the pilot, but wanted to change things up. They wanted Max to have a mother and a dog on the show. Brooks hated the idea of Max coming home to his mother at the end of every show and explaining everything to her. When they told ABC “no,” they passed on the show calling it “un-American.”

They took the script to NBC. NBC had already spent all the money allotted for making pilots. Grant Tinker was contacted about the show and was told that he “had to” read the pilot. “I read it and I just loved it. It was exactly the kind of thing that makes me laugh.” He called the head of programming at NBC and convinced him to come up with the money for one more pilot. They did so one one condition – Tom Poston, who was not under contract at NBC, would be replaced by Don Adams, who was.

The Cast

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Maxwell Smart – Agent 86

You have to wonder how Max keeps his job! He is extremely clumsy and forgetful. He’s forever on the Chief’s last nerve, yet he always wins. He is a proficient marksman, skilled in hand to hand combat, and incredibly lucky. Believe it or not, he is one of the top Control agents!

Once Don Adam’s was brought in as Max, many of his routines from his stand up act were incorporated into the character. He had used his “Would you believe…” before, but it became a staple on Get Smart.

Smart: At this very moment, 25 Control agents are converging on this building.

Kaos Agent: I don’t believe it.

Smart: Would you believe 2 squad cars and a motorcycle cop?

Kaos Agent: No

Smart: How about a vicious street cleaner and a toothless police dog?

Agent 99

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Played by Barbara Feldon, whom Buck Henry says he fought for from the beginning. Despite some sources, the creators of the show and Feldon herself say that 99’s real name is never mentioned. Originally, they wanted her to be Agent 69, but Henry says, “We knew it would never get past the censors. So 99 was our little joke.”

99 is another of Control’s top agents and often works together with Max. One had to wonder what an intelligent and sensible woman like 99 sees in a goofball like Maxwell Smart!

The Chief

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For the Chief, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry wanted someone who would “personify authority and grave intensity all while delivering ludicrous information with a stern voice and fatherly demeanor.” They had seen Ed Platt in North by Northwest and Rebel Without a Cause and knew he was their Chief.

He is the head of Control. He oversees all of Control’s activities and missions. He frequently speaks to the President over a direct line. He considers 86 and 99 to be Control’s best agents and his best friends, even though Max seems to be a continuous thorn in his side.

Chief: All we know is that they threaten to wipe out the city containing our finest intellectual minds and greatest leaders!

Max: Well, at least Washington is safe.

Larabee

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Larabee (played by Robert Karvelas) is the Chief’s right hand man and assistant. In all honesty, he is even more slow-witted and incompetent than Max! Don Adams said that they used Larabee for the jokes that were “too dumb for Max.” Despite his stupidity, his unwavering dedication and extremely simple mind make him an indispensable government employee.

Hymie The Robot

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Hymie (played by Dick Gautier) was a robot originally designed by Kaos to battle against Control. However, in his first appearance on the show, Max mistakes him for a rookie Control agent and takes him under his wing. When Hymie is ordered to kill Max, Hymie shoots his creator instead. Max then reprograms him to work for Control.

Hymie often takes things literally. When told to get a grip on himself, he grabs himself. Many jokes of this type were Hymie oriented (“Kill the lights,” “Grab a waiter,” “Hop to it,” “Knock it off,” and so on.

Agent 13

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Agent 13 (David Ketchum) is forever spying from odd places. You will find him in washing machines, in mailboxes, file cabinets, lockers, fire hydrants, and other small places. He is loyal to Control, but often complains about his assignments. Though he complains, he always gets the job done intercepting messages, overhearing plans, and often coming to Max’s rescue.

From 1965-1966, Agent 44 was played by Victor French and was also confined to small spaces like Agent 13.

Professor Carlson

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Carlson (Stacy Keach Sr.) is a Control scientist and inventor. He often presents Max with gadgets that will be used on his assignment. Carlson succeeded Professor Parker who was played by Milton Selzer.

KAOS

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Maxwell Smart calls Kaos “a monstrous organization of evil dedicated to the destruction of the free world and the systematic subjugation of every man, woman, and child on this planet. Kaos Agent Omar Shurok describes it as “the international organization of evil formed in 1904 in Bucharest , designed to foment unrest and revolution throughout the world.”

Ludwig Von Seigfried

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Seigfried (played wonderfully by Bernie Kopell) is described as “the merciless, fiercely conceited, preeminent Kaos kingpin” who “considers himself vastly superior to his underlings and his adversaries.” He is also described as “undeniably sinister, shrewd, underhanded, conniving, contemptuous, haughty, scornful, and explosive. He considers all Kaos agents thick-witted, nitwits, fools, incompetents, bunglers, dummkopfs, dunderheads, and sissies, and he is easily angered by the slightest display of incompetence or silliness.”

Seigfried (on the phone with Max): Your Chief was just silenced by a pistol butt.

Max: That’s a little drastic, wasn’t it, Seigfried? Couldn’t you have just shushed him?

Seigfried: We don’t SHUSH here!

Shtarker (or Starker)

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(King Moody) He is Seigfried’s ruthless, but often inept henchman. Shtarker is the Yiddish word for a “strong-arm man” or a “tough guy.” He certainly is a towering bodyguard, but he is nothing more than a goofball.

Gadgets

Throughout the show there are many gadgets. No doubt, many of these were inspired by the James Bond series. There are too many to list here, but there are a couple that have become synonymous with the show.

Shoe Phone

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Mel Brooks is credited with coming up with the idea for the Shoe Phone. It came to him one day when every phone in his office started ringing and he took his shoe off and began speaking into it.

In 2002, the prop shoe phone was placed on display in an exhibit called “Spies: Secrets from the CIA, KGB, and Hollywood” which featured real and fake spy gear in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Cone of Silence

Buck Henry claims to have come up with this recurring gag.

Whenever something needed to be discussed that was sensitive, Max would insist on Control’s protocol of using the Cone of Silence. It was designed to keep whatever was discussed audible to whoever was in it. However, it almost never worked. Many times the people under it could not hear each other, or couldn’t understand what the other was saying. Sometimes they had to yell so loud that the people outside the Cone of Silence could hear better than the ones under it.

Catchphrases

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Get Smart contributed many catchphrases that were popular among viewers. “Would you believe…” which I already mentioned was just one of them. Others were:

  • “Missed it by that much.”
  • “Sorry about that Chief”
  • “I asked you not to tell me that”
  • “….and LOVING it!”
  • “Of course, the (such and such). Just one question. What’s the (such and such)?
  • “The old (such and such) trick”

Passwords

Sometimes a password was needed to enter Control buildings. Other times a sign and counter sign was needed.

Passwords include:

  • Ricardo Montalban hates tortillas
  • Herb Alpert takes trumpet lessons from Guy Lombardo

Signs/Countersigns include:

Sign: Camptown ladies sing this song

Countersign: Doo-dah. Doo-dah.

Sign: Camptown racetrack five miles long

Countersign: Oh Doo-dah day.

The Show

Get Smart aired for 5 seasons. The first four seasons were on NBC and when faced with cancellation, it moved to CBS for it’s fifth and final season. In the final season, the show “jumped the shark” and 86 and 99 got married and had kids, which many say is what killed the show.

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Afterward

In 1980, Don Adams starred in the theatrical film, The Nude Bomb. It lacked much of what made the show so good. Max is not working for Control, 99 is not present, and it lacked all the fun of the show.

In 1988, many of the original cast reunited for Get Smart Again, a TV movie that aired on ABC. It reunited 86, 99, Larabee, Hymie, and Agent 13. Seigfried and Shtarker return as Kaos agents. It was more true to the original series and it helped spawn a short-lived weekly series on Fox in 1995.

Why I Picked It

Today, we are bombarded with all kinds of shows on TV that try to push a political or social message. Get Smart makes me laugh. It is one of those shows that I wish didn’t have a laugh track (the only thing I hate about it). I love to watch the interaction of the characters and enjoy the guest stars. It’s one of my favorite guilty pleasures.

The theme song is one of my favorites, too! When I worked at one hospital, I used to have to walk down a long hallway and I would often find myself humming the theme! Silly, yes! Incidentally, it is interesting to note that in 2010, TV Guide ranked the opening title sequence at number 2 on its list of Top 10 credits sequences as selected by readers. It’s classic!

Thanks for reading!!

TV Draft Round 6 – Pick 4 – Dave Selects – Ed

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Dave at https://soundday.wordpress.com/

Illusionist David Copperfield once made the Statue of Liberty seem to disappear in front of a live audience.  Perhaps I should give him a call and see if he could make a terrific TV show reappear.

In this day and age of bargain-priced DVD sets of just about everything ever to grace or disgrace the boob tube screen, cable networks galore and a new streaming service every week offering up even old chestnuts like Green Acres and Dad’s Army for insomniac subscribers, you’d think a hit show from this century would be easy to find. Hard to avoid even, perhaps. Particularly if it starred one of the leads in one of this decade’s most popular shows,  was created by TV “royalty” and kicked off the careers of a couple of movie stars plus the star of the most popular sitcom going these days. Sadly you’d be wrong.

Despite having Modern Family‘s “Claire’ (Julie Bowen) as the female lead, being the first place anyone saw Jim Parsons (now Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory) or Justin Long on the screen, despite being a product of David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants,  and having the Foo Fighters do the theme song, Ed has become a ghost. TV’s equivalent of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker – well-loved but known these days only through rumors, memories of old-timers and grainy photos. That bugged me back in 2005 after it ended; it bugs me more now. It was one of the few shows of that era that I made a point of watching every week …ironically until the finale, on a night in which I was working and …yes, my VCR malfunctioned!!

 Ed (not to be confused with the similarly-titled movie, Ed TV)  was a rather brilliant but hard to define show that ran for 83 episodes from 2000 through early 2004 on NBC. It was a dramedy before that term – or genre- was well-known. A drama with a sense of humor; a comedy that at times could be heart-wrenching at times. Lovable, Relatable. Quirky as Seinfeld but a version where the characters weren’t obnoxiously self-absorbed and were dropped into a small town.  It was also could be seen as something of a male bookkend to The Gilmore Girls which debuted the same autumn. Just like Ed, Lorelei and Rory, those Gilmore Girls had oddball small-towners to contend with, lots of music and main characters looking for love. Unlike Ed, however, The Gilmore Girls live on in Walmart discount video bins, Sunday afternoon reruns and most notably, in a limited four-episode resurrection from Netflix. All accomplished while averaging only a little over half the number of viewers as  Ed scored in its first run. The TV gods aren’t always fair.

Ed was several shows in one really, a somewhat risky proposition for TV of the day.  Romance, workplace dramas, lightweight legal eagles. Sounds messy, yet it worked. Wonderfully.

The central story was based on Ed Stevens (played by the affable Canadian actor Tom Cavanagh, little known outside of his homeland at the time. In Canada he starred in a series of popular Labatt beer ads in the ’90s) and his search for love.  Ed was a big money, big city lawyer, we’re told, who had one bad day. A missed comma in a business contract cost his firm millions and led to him being fired. When he returned home early after being sacked, he found his pretty wife in bed with a stranger.  Ed decides he’s had enough of that life, and – cue the TV show’s beginning – returns to his hometown, Stuckeyville, a smallish town in Ohio stuck in a Frank Capra movie.

Having tasted a good deal of failure in his life, but also some success after his school days, he decides to look up his high school crush, Carol (played by Bowen.) He falls back in love with her and spends four seasons wooing her with up-and-down results and the sexual chemistry of David and Maddie from Moonlighting…another show someone should cover here, by the way!

Of course, just as in real life, there was more to both their lives than their oft-thwarted attraction to each other. Ed needs to do something to keep busy and as he’s a lawyer, he goes into practise in Stuckeyville. But instead of working on behalf of big business, as in his past life, he looks after the town’s good people … the gal being sued by her lecherous used car dealer boss for back wages after she turns down his advances; the beloved Stuckeyville Stan, magician whose tricks are being explained to the town by a malicious rival… even Carol’s boyfriend (played by a pre-Mad Men John Slattery) when the rival was falsely accused of causing a car crash. In short, the good guy everyone loves.  Oh, and since he liked bowling, he decided to buy the town bowling alley and work from there!

Stuckeybowl offered up its own storylines and weird but pleasant characters and stories, most notably the good-hearted Phil, (Michael Ian Black), the highly ambitious but quite so clever manager. Kind of like a slightly less obnoxious and better coiffed Kramer, Phil always seemed to have plans which were big on dreaming but not quite so much on practicality. He of course tested Ed’s patience but the lawyer grinned and bore it, being far too nice to fire people.

Carol had become a school teacher since Ed left town, and the other half of the story  involved her work and the high schoolers she taught, as well as her co-workers, including her best friend Molly and in the first couple of years, Slattery as the principal and her beau. Two of the high schoolers are Warren and Diane, high school nerds played by Justin Long (before the Apple ads) and Ginnifer Goodwin, some nine years before they sizzled together in He’s Just Not That Into You.  Warren has a thing for Carol, which frustrates Ed, but doesn’t stop him from trying to help the youth find his way … and see that his soulmate is his classmate, Diane.

And of course, Ed has a school buddy too – Mike. Mike is now married and a young doctor struggling to win respect from the townspeople and the crusty old doctor, Dr. Jerome whom we always expect to prescribe leeches or bloodletting. Of course the old goat gets Mike’s goat… while quietly admiring and pushing the young one to be the best he can be.

Mike and Ed hang out together and relive their youth, often with a running series of “ten dollar bets” in which one bets the other ten bucks to do something crazy. Mike bets Ed he can’t meow loud enough in a park to make a stranger turn around, bets Ed he won’t play “It’s Raining Men” on his bowling alley jukebox on a busy night and so on. Ed inevitably is not one to turn down a challenge.  At the end of the day, they all tend to hang out in the neighborhood pub, The Smiling Goat, rather like the characters in How I Met Your Mother socialized at their bar, albeit with a lot less intoxication in Stuckeyville. Oh, and yep, …Mother‘s Neil Patrick Harris showed up on Ed too, as a competing bowling alley lawyer. Jim Parsons, Rena Sofer and Kelly Ripa all made appearances before becoming household names.

 For all the laughs and romance, from time to time the show broached serious material. Perhaps a decade before it became trendy or even polite, it dealt with obesity with sensitivity, with Carol’s friend Molly (Jana Marie Hupp) being a little curvier than most and at times fighting prejudices because of it. Then there was Mark, a school kid who was largely unpopular and always self-conscious because of his own  more-than-ample weight, leading him to consider gastric bypass surgery (which the actor, Michael Genadry had in real life.)  Fast forward to today when This Is Us is called “brave” and ground-breaking for having plus-sized Chrissy Metz as one of its stars.

Critics adored Ed. I did too. I’d happily buy a box set of it on DVD… were such a thing available.

The rest of the public liked it, but not as much as the critics and I. It typically ranked in the middle of the ratings, with an average of between 10 million (in its first season, when it was in an unfavorable Sunday night slot against The Simpsons and Touched by an Angel) and 8 million in its last few months. It bears mentioning that if a show had those numbers these days, it would be a blockbuster hit. The aforementioned This Is Us averaged 5.4 million viewers at its peak, according to Nielsen, about the same as the apparent breakout hit of the decade, Black-ish. Even stalwards like Grey’s Anatomy dip below 10 million some weeks.

All of which might make its cancelation  marginally understandable …after all, how many quirky characters can one small town offer up, and sooner or later we knew Ed and Carol had to figure out what we all knew –  that they belonged together.  What makes no sense is that the show has disappeared into the ether in a time when almost every program ever made is available in any number of formats.

Fans and creators Rob Burnett (formerly the head writer at Letterman) and Jon Beckerman have constantly been reported as disappointed to quite pissed off the show hasn’t made it onto the DVD shelves or Netflix playlist yet.  We’re told problems with doing so abound, owing to the show’s unusual production (David Letterman’s company, NBC and Viacom were all part-owners and distributors creating some problems on figuring out the copyright, costs and revenue-sharing)  and with another one of the show’s appealing features – the music.  It seemed there was always music playing on the show. In the bowling alley, in the cars, in the bar… even background music to serious walks in the snow to think!  A number of great tunes, largely ’90’s alt rock ones but including at time everything from classic rock to old fashioned torch songs, appeared in the show. I used to try and track the songs episode by episode. It was a chore! From K’s Choice to Weezer to the theme by the Foo Fighters…even a big set with a song by Toronto’s Blue Rodeo (there were a few nods to Cavanaugh’s real-life Canadian background, including him drinking the Labatt’s beer he once pitched at his bar) . It made the show as good-sounding as it was looking. But…, all that music, as the creators of WKRP In Cincinnati likewise found out, makes the legal work more difficult. Every musician or publisher needs to be individually negotiated with in terms of future royalties, which is why a lot of non-descript elevator music appears in WKRP videos instead of the old Foreigner, Earth Wind and Fire and Stones stuff you might have remembered hearing Johnny and Venus spin. So far, no one’s seemed to find it worth trying to do the paperwork and make all those calls to have it happen and from what I understand, the music in the bar and the bowling alley wasn’t an overdub…it was actually being played on the set while they filmed, making covering it up much more difficult.

Whatever the reason, I wish they could put the differences aside and sign some papers and bring back Ed for those of us who remember it fondly. The sweet, gentle comedy was especially refreshing by the second season when the world was thrown into disarray (the season premiere was scheduled for Sep. 12, 2001 and was pushed back by three weeks by… well, you remember) . Its light-heartedness and big-hearted message seems needed and once more.  Paging David Copperfield… or maybe Viacom and NBC should go bowl a few frames and get a certain small town lawyer to draw up the papers.

Although Ed is still unavailable streaming or on DVD , I do see that a number of episodes of it have appeared on You Tube recently. I haven’t yet checked them out, so I can’t attest to how high the quality of picture or sound is, but it gives me some encouragement that the show may not be lost entirely now.

TV Draft Round 6 – Pick 3 – Lisa Selects – My Name Is Earl

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Lisa at https://tao-talk.com/

My Name Is Earll.-l.-r. Catalina, Darnell, Joy, Randy, and Earl

My Name is Earl (2005-2009) 96 episodes, originally on NBC.
S1 24e
S2 23e
S3 22e
S4 27e

Starring:
Jason Lee is Earl Hickey, the star of the show and also acts as narrator. Earl has been a no-good boozer, junkie, thief, and all-around sleazebag; he has hurt a lot of people along the way. When Earl wins the lotto, against all odds, he thanks God and commits his life to steps 8 & 9 in the 12-step program, where you make a list of those you have wronged and make amends to them. The whole premise of the show is how he seeks out and finds those he has harmed and tries to make amends to them, if possible.
Ethan Suplee is Randy Hickey, Earl’s needy brother and faithful sidekick.
Jaime Pressly is Joy Turner, Earl’s ex-wife, who is now married to Darnell. Joy is a ditzy blonde, loud, and has a lot of unfulfilled dreams. She has some charm but it takes awhile to find her heart.
Nadine Velazquez is Catalina, a friend of Earl’s and a maid at the hotel Earl and Randy eventually live at.
Eddie Steeples is Darnell “Crab Man” Turner, Joy’s husband and a cook at the bar that they all like to hang out at. Darnell is a cool guy with a certain type of zen wisdom to him. I can’t remember why, but he is in a witness protection program.
Trey Carlisle is Earl, Jr. Funny thing is, he looks just like Darnell.

Well-known actors that put in appearances for mostly one or two episodes: Burt Reynolds, Beau Bridges, Michael Rapaport, Craig T. Nelson, Marlee Matlin, John Leguizamo, Norm MacDonald, Ben Foster, Erik Estrada, Geraldo Rivera, Montel Williams, Clint Howard, Dax Shepard, Jon Favreau, Juliette Lewis, Christian Slater, Amy Sedaris, Roseanne Barr, John Waters, Charles S. Dutton, David Arquette, Jerry VanDyke, Betty White, Danny Glover, Joan Van Ark, Bernie Kopell, Don Swayze (Patrick’s brother,) Howie Mandel, Paris Hilton, Scoot McNairy, Michael Pena, Tiffany Haddish, Trace Adkins, Timothy Olyphant, and Morgan Fairchild. There are dozens upon dozens of other actors that show up also.

Directors: directed by a long list of directors
Writers: Gregory Thomas Garcia wrote all 96 but there is also a long list of contributing writers for the show
Genres: comedy
Synopsis: As stated above, Earl wins the lotto, decides to get clean, then determines to find those he’s done wrong to during his druggie villain days and try to make amends to them. Earl has done a fearless inventory and has made a list. As he has hurt many along the way, it’s a long list. His sidekick brother, Randy, sometimes helps but often mucks it up. Joy and Darnell are always in the picture in some way to either help or hinder. The voice of reason in what is often chaos is Earl’s friend, Catalina.
Impressions: It’s been awhile since I saw the show, but I remember it fondly. I remember laughing often and also being genuinely touched in the serious moments when Earl and those he wronged have their small moments of truth, sincerity, and what some might call mutual spiritual redemption and/or peacemaking. I like the often-messy atmosphere of real life, where anything can and does happen. Jason Lee as Earl stole my heart from the beginning.
Grade: 9
Awards: Won 5 Primetime Emmys. Another 10 wins & 74 nominations.

From imdb trivia:
The items in Earl’s list shown during the opening sequence read as follows: – 56: Stole liquor from liquor store. – 57: Told Joy Dan Dodd messed himself on the (rest cut out of frame). – 58: Fixed a high school football game. – 59: Everything I did to Dad. – 60: Pulled fire alarm – 61: Stole Mom’s car (but I gave it back). – 62: Faked death to break-up with a girl. – 63: Wasted electricity. – 64: Spray painted the bridge. – 65: Cost Dad the election. – 66: Let mice out at school play. – 67: Stole beer from a golfer. – 68: Blew up mailboxes. 69: Cheated on school tests a lot.

TV Draft Round 6 – Pick 2 – Paula Selects – Tell Me Your Secrets

Tell Me Your Secrets

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Paula at http://paulalight.com

Tell Me Your Secrets

I recently binged this thriller drama series on Prime, and I have to admit that I have a love/hate relationship with it. None of the characters are likeable, not even in a Tony Soprano funny but loveable mafia thug way, but it was hard to look away from the show. The story was strangely compelling, and I needed to know what happened to these fictional people I didn’t like at all! I guess that makes the writing successful.

The series was created by Harriet Warner and premiered on Prime in February 2021. There are four main characters: Emma Hall (played by Lily Rabe), Mary Barlow (Amy Brenneman), John Tyler (Hamish Linklater), and Peter Guillory (Enrique Murciano). I would also argue that there is a fifth main character, shown only in flashback, and that is Christopher (Kit) Parker, played by Xavier Samuel.

The show begins with the imprisoned Karen Miller agreeing to give up some info on Kit Parker, her former boyfriend who is also in prison for murder, and thus Karen is rewarded with a new identity as Emma Hall and placed into witness protection. One of the first problems for Emma is that due to PTSD she is able only to summon up vague flashes of unreliable memories, though it appears she is trying to cooperate with Peter, her parole officer. Some of her flashbacks make her appear to be an accomplice to Kit’s abductions/murders, and other times she seems like a victim who narrowly escaped, though Emma isn’t sure and neither are we. Peter sets her up in an old house in Saint James, Louisiana, which is located conveniently close to his own residence. It turns out that he has an unsavory history involving some other locals, and this takes a while to untangle, and he seems creepier as time goes by. Emma finds work in her former profession as a hairstylist, and she makes a few friends as well as enemies. Soon Emma becomes romantically involved with a local police officer, Tom Johnston (played by Marque Richardson), which brings a new set of complications. We also discover that Kit killed himself in his cell after reading a goodbye letter from Karen (who is now Emma), and Emma’s reaction is confusing. Did she love him, or was she terrified by him? Maybe both.

Simultaneously, back in Texas, Mary is obsessed with finding her missing daughter Theresa. She believes that, unlike Kit’s other victims, Theresa is still alive somewhere. Her husband and son disagree and urge Mary to accept that Theresa is dead and move on, but she refuses. John Tyler, a convicted serial rapist who has done his time, shows up at Mary’s foundation one day for a meeting and offers his services to help women feel safer, as he says he knows all an abductor’s tricks, and supposedly his motivation is redemption for his past crimes. Mary says no thanks because he won’t specifically focus on Theresa, but a bit later in the episode when Mary offers him a job with an expense account to find Karen (Emma) instead, John agrees. It is driving Mary nuts that the system is helping Karen (Emma) create a new life after they failed to find Theresa ~ and Mary believes that Karen (Emma) helped Kit with his abductions.

OK, so this might be an unpopular opinion, but I actually found John to be the most interesting character, though of course he’s still a bad guy overall. But his motivations are layered, while the other characters are much less complex. Mary is just an annoying beyotch, though I can certainly understand her unrelenting focus on her daughter. Emma grates on my nerves with her wishy-washy behaviors and bad decisions. Peter begins to seem more and more sinister as the episodes roll on and not in a sexy way despite his appearance. Some of the side stories are fascinating in their own right, such as the complex dynamics within one of the town’s prominent families, the Lords. Bodie Lord (played by Richard Thomas) has an increasingly dramatic role in the second half of S1. Emma has a run-in with Bodie’s daughter Rose (Chiara Aurelia), due to breaking up a fight, and her mother Diana (Katherine Willis), due to a hair coloring mishap, but Emma and Rose eventually become friends. The girl Rose was fighting with turns up dead, and when Emma shows Pete where she found the body, the body has disappeared. Meanwhile, John methodically runs down every possible lead within Karen’s former life to try to locate her in the present time with her new identity. It’s fascinating how he manipulates people, and you can easily see how his skills can be used for bad or good.

But what absolutely blew me away, and made the whole series worthwhile, was the E10 season finale. In no way did I ever see that coming! Honestly, I don’t know how the writers could top that shocker in a second season, but we’ll see. So far, no word on whether S2 will be happening.

Side note: some may find the storyline involving Bodie particularly relevant due to the current SCOTUS leak regarding Roe v Wade.

~*~

Paula Light is a poet, novelist, flash fiction fan, cupcake connoisseur, mom, grandma, cat mommy, etc. Her blog can be found at http://paulalight.com.

TV Draft Round 6 – Pick 1 – Max Selects – The Twilight Zone

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Max at https://powerpop.blog

There are a few older shows that a younger generation has heard of…I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show, Bewitched, All In The Family, and a few others…but The Twilight Zone…  most generations have actually watched. It still stands up today.  I was reminded of how great of a show it was when I recently went through every episode on this blog.

The Twilight Zone contained 156 episodes and I graded them on a 1-5 scale and out of those episodes…I only had 4 total episodes that were under a 3. How many TV shows have that kind of ratio? Not that I am the official grade on The Twilight Zone but there are not many bad ones…even in IMDB’s 1-10 ratings there are only 3 episodes graded below 6.

I’ve seen reviews on every episode and they differ like night and day. People get passionate talking about this show. “Hey, do you know the one where all the guy wanted to do was read but broke his glasses?” “Yea but what about the one with Captain Kirk…oh yea I mean Shatner in the plane with the monster on the wing?” “How about the one where the humans find the alien cookbook that was called To Serve Man” “That’s a good one but do you remember the episode about the beautiful woman getting her bandages off of her eyes and everyone else is ugly?”

I’ve read reviews of my personal favorite episodes and they might be the polar opposites of someone else. They are all over the map because they mean something different to everyone.

The way Rod Serling handled social injustice, racial bigotry, the Cold War, McCarthyism, consumerism, and hatred with a science fiction twist was outstanding. He did this without preaching, exaggeration, or shoving his views on people. He used the art of subtlety that has been lost through the years. It was the way he could convey these thoughts that didn’t drive people away from the message… but brought them closer to it. In turn, he brings us closer to each other.

In a 1959 interview when the show just started, Mike Wallace suggested to Serling that by working on this series he had “given up on writing anything important for television.” Wallace missed the point of the show entirely. Serling DID write important material for the show…but through science fiction. It’s the only way censors and advertisers would allow it.

This show is hands down my favorite TV show of all time. I never get tired of it….even after over a year of posting about the show. Rod Serling was a fantastic writer and he picked some great writers like Richard Matheson, Earl Hamner Jr, Charles Beaumont, and  George Clayton Johnson to contribute to the show. The show ages well and the black and white only adds to it.

The Twilight Zone has been revived a few times. In the 80s and 2000s but they didn’t come close to the original. A movie was made in 1983 called Twilight Zone: The Movie but again… it didn’t scratch the surface of the original series.

TV can be a vast wasteland but Serling believed TV could matter. He refused to cater to the lowest denominator. He wrote intelligent stories and screenplays to challenge his viewers. He went to battle with the network censors, executives,  and advertisers to improve and protect the show. He succeeded in creating a show that still resonates today.

You could always depend on a twist in the smart scripts. Sometimes the guilty finger would point at the viewer… we would find out who the monster really was… it would be us… the human race. We all know the twists now, but the sense of justice is why The Twilight Zone is still relevant, and we keep coming back for more.

“There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space, and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call The Twilight Zone.”

“A sickness known as hate; not a virus, not a microbe, not a germ – but a sickness nonetheless, highly contagious, deadly in its effects. Don’t look for it in the Twilight Zone – look for it in a mirror. Look for it before the light goes out altogether.”
― Rod Serling

TV Draft Round 5 – Pick 8 – Mike -Selects – Mad Men

05 Mad Men

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Mike at https://musiccitymike.net

Mad Men

As was the case with my previous draft pick, Breaking Bad, AMC’s Mad Men was one of the few other shows in recent memory whose brilliance found me watching regularly as it ran every week. Mad Men also undoubtedly holds the record for the show generating the most morning after talk in the office.

If the show is unfamiliar to you, the “Mad” is short for Madison Avenue and the series is a look at the high-pressure world of advertising centered in Manhattan in the 1960s. Pun intended, “mad” is also an apt description of the behavior the “men” in the show exhibit.

In assessing Mad Men’s appeal, there are several reasons for my loving this show. The first no doubt has to do with my age and having lived through its period setting of this historic decade. Visually, through the styles of dress and the décor of both home and office, the show brilliantly captures of the feel of the era. Like another current show that I enjoy, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I am just captivated by the vibrant imagery that so captures the visuals of the 60s. Perhaps it’s just my long-lost nostalgia for those days?

Although I had yet to join the work force until the late 70s, Mad Men also so accurately depicts the office politics as they were back then. First and foremost were the ways men treated women and the way alcohol was a primal part of the business world back then. It was also a time when it seemed like everyone smoked and without ever getting a mean look, they smoked everywhere.

Front and center was Jon Hamm’s lead role as Don Draper, a man whose behavior was as easily despised as his creativity was admired.  The train wreck of his career from his puzzling self-destructive behavior, fueled by his booze-driven lust for women, was inevitable. You see it coming and wonder when he will hit bottom and whether he will recover.

The rest of the cast is equally appealing, and the ladies really steal the show in terms of presenting the evolution of women through the decade. This was true both at home through the character of Draper’s wife Betty played by January Jones and at work by the sexy but savvy Joan Harris played by Christina Henricks and the naive but otherwise smart, Peggy Olson, played by Elizabeth Moss. Joan struggles and eventually attains success despite having to overcome the beauty nature has given her while Peggy ultimately overcomes the hand she was dealt from her sheltered upbringing.

As for the other guys, John Slattery’s Roger Sterling was akin to Draper in terms of despicability while Vincent Kartheiser’s Pete Campbell faults took the cake due to the massive layer of immaturity that he could never overcome. And what a delight to see Broadway legend Robert Morse come out of hiding with a recurring role and even gift us with a dream sequence musical number!

The top appeal of Mad Men however though may be how actual history gets interwoven into its storylines. It was fun to see notable events and figures pass through as it was for emerging fashions and changing trends. All this also created great viewer anticipation as the years flew by. You knew that sooner or later we’d see JFK, The Beatles, and the space program.

And without spoiling anything, actual advertising history makes its way into one of the greatest endings in TV series history. Mad Men also featured one of the most infectious opening sequences of all time combining slick instrumental music to a clever graphic animation.

Kudos to show creator Matthew Weiner for seven brilliant seasons. Deservedly, Mad Men won 16 Emmys. It’s another show that I look to repeating in its entirety.

TV Draft Round 5 – Pick 7 – John Selects – CSI: Miami

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by John from https://thesoundofonehandtyping.com

  • Show: CSI: Miami
  • Network: CBS
  • Seasons: 10, 2002-2012

When CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (also known as CSI: Las Vegas) turned out to be such a hit when it debuted at the start of the new millennium, its producers said, “Hey! Let’s do a whole lot of them! Same thing, just in different cities!” Or perhaps it was the suits at CBS who said it. Anyway, no doubt they got together and decided that the second show should be set somewhere with a lot of violent crime and a lot of good-looking people (primarily women) running around scantily clad. So, they chose Miami, associated (rightly or wrongly) with illegal trade in both drugs and firearms and with lots of good-looking people running around in swimwear. As an added bonus, Miami is a city with a large Caribbean population, thus bringing that demographic into play.

The result was a show that played heavily on stereotypes and featured much more blood and carnage than its predecessor. Unlike its predecessor, which relied heavily on quirky crimes and equally quirky CSI’s solving them, CSI: Miami relied primarily on stories of gang wars waged by opposing drug kingpins who spent most of their time lounging by their swimming pools, surrounded by pneumatically-gifted and surgically-enhanced women in skimpy swimwear, while their footsoldiers went out and wreaked havoc on each other, and often innocent bystanders. Okay, that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but the longer the show was on the air, the more one-dimensional it became.

The Miami-Dade CSI’s were led by Lt. Horatio Caine, played by NYPD Blue alum David Caruso. David obviously prepared for the part by watching all of the “Dirty Harry” movies and episodes of (the original) Hawaii Five-O, because the character of Caine came off as a cross between Clint Eastwood and Jack Lord, in other words, a laid-back hard ass.

Just as the original CSI had Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) as a counterpart for Gil Grissom (William Petersen), the original plan was to have Caine have a female counterpart as well. After Sela Ward (who eventually joined the cast of CSI:NY) turned that role down, the job was given to Kim Delaney, another NYPD Blue alum. She was gone after ten episodes, officially because there was “no chemistry” between her character and Caine. Rumor had it, however, that Caruso wanted her out.

Assisting Caine was Calleigh Duquesne, a petite, blonde, blue-eyed, and stunningly beautiful young woman played by the equally petite, blonde, blue-eyed, and stunningly beautiful Emily Procter. Calleigh was originally from New Orleans (although she sounded like she was from North Carolina, as is Ms. Procter) and joined the Miami CSI’s as a ballistics expert. The appeal was obvious: a beautiful blonde Southern girl who liked guns. Calleigh’s father was a down-on-his-luck attorney from New Orleans who drank a lot.

Calleigh had an on-again, off-again relationship with fellow CSI Eric Delko, played by Adam Rodriguez. Delko was a dedicated and responsible CSI who was frequently called on to don a scuba suit and look for evidence underwater. Tim Speedle (played by Rory Cochrane), on the other hand, though he was an excellent CSI, was a bit blasé about maintaining his pistol, which eventually led to his death. He was replaced by Ryan Wolfe (played by Jonathan Togo), who was obsessive-compulsive about maintaining his gun (and just about everything else).

Halfway through the series, a second female CSI, Natalia Boa Vista (played by the quite lovely Eva LaRue), was added to the cast to run around with Calleigh to crime scenes dressed as though they were going to a nightclub, in revealing tops, white pants, and high heels. Lt. Frank Tripp (played by Rex Linn) was a semi-regular member of the cast who was finally added to the permanent cast.

The Miami CSI’s were more likely than their Las Vegas counterparts to get involved in doing actual police work. With Caine in particular, you wondered “is this a CSI or a plainclothes cop?” Many of the relationships in the stories were with Caine, either family members such as Yelina Salas (played by Sofia Milos), who was his sister-in-law, and Julia Winston (played by Elizabeth Berkley from Saved By The Bell), who played a woman he had had an affair with, resulting in a son (played by, of all people, Justin Bieber).

For all of its faults (and I’ve barely scratched the surface here), CSI: Miami was fairly well-received, doing fairly well in the ratings and earning its share of awards, and it continues to be popular in syndication. The stories were generally well thought-out, although the execution was at times heavy-handed.

TV Draft Round 5 – Pick 6 – Max Selects – The Andy Griffith Show

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Max at https://powerpop.blog

There has been so much written about this show and the writing will never stop. It was a show about the quirky citizens of a fictional town called Mayberry. The Andy Griffith Show is not just another show. The series will be around long after we are gone and still being discovered by future generations.

Some of the love I have for the show is about escapism. The low pressure of living in Mayberry is attractive. A place where you are allowed to live slowly and friends are only a few miles away. Nowadays our lives are so full of technology and rush that it would be tempting to walk through the screen to join Andy and Opie fishing out on Meyers Lake.

andy1.jpg

Mayberry was based on a small North Carolina town called Mount Airey where Andy grew up. Griffith has also said that although the show was in the sixties, Mayberry had a 1930s-1940s feel to it. When I’m asked where I grew up, I’ll say in a town kind of like Mayberry and they get what I’m saying.

The episode that best explains the show is… Man In A Hurry. A businessman’s car breaks down two miles from Mayberry on a Sunday. He has a business appointment in Charlotte the next morning. He walks to town and finds it deserted until church lets out. The garage is also closed on Sunday. Gomer is working but can only pump gas and Wally refuses to repair the car until Monday. The stranger can’t believe the pace of life in Mayberry and everyone’s lack of urgency. Andy tries to talk him into spending the night and getting the car fixed on Monday… he won’t have any of this non-sense… first but then he slowly realizes what great lives these people lead and ends up staying a little while longer than he could have.

Andy Griffith and Don Knotts were a great comedy team. I wish they would have made a few movies together. Knotts wanted to do that but Griffith always backed away from it. You can put them up there with other great comedy teams. Andy was a great straight man and Don played off of him well.

I’ve seen parents play episodes to their kids for lessons, schools play episodes for students, and heard of preachers writing sermons around episodes. The humor wasn’t dirty but it wasn’t sterile either. Most if not all of the first 5 season episodes are classics. It’s a show that you can catch at any time. During a rainout, between movies, and a binge-watch.

Dillards

The show offered a little of everything… One of the things I liked was the bluegrass music of The Dillards who appeared on the show as the Darlings. Denver Pyle played Briscoe Darling Jr. and played the jug with the Dillards. They were and STILL are a bluegrass band that tours and releases albums.

Andy had many girlfriends throughout the show. There was Ellie and she gave Andy all he could handle. Ellie, unfortunately, left after the first season. He saw the county nurse Mary Simpson (My favorite), Peggy McMillian, and then he met Helen Crump. Personally, I never liked Helen as much. Her nickname from some fans was Helen Grump because she could be a grump quite often. Andy ended up marrying Helen in the last season.

Thelma Lou was one of my favorite characters of the show. She put up with Barney’s shenanigans but was always there for him. Barney was foolish for letting her go but they finally got married. It didn’t happen on the show’s original run but they finally tied the knot in the reunion movie.

Aunt Bee

Then there was Aunt Bee Taylor. She took care of Andy and Opie and made sure they were fed well and came home to a clean house. Aunt Bee had a smile for everyone unless you got on her bad side. She could be stubborn and formidable when angered and she commanded the utmost respect from everyone. She was in a way, everyone’s Aunt.

Gomer and Goober

The two characters from Wally’s gas station were Gomer Pyle and Goober. Goober was a great mechanic and Gomer mostly filled your tank up with a story to go along with it. They were not the sharpest tools in the shed but both had hearts of gold and added to the show’s comedy.

Opie

Andy’s son from his only marriage was Opie Taylor. You never found out how Opie’s mother passed away but she did before we got to meet the Taylors. Opie is a super kid and Andy raised him the right way. He is kind and polite and when he does something wrong he usually had the sense to recognize that and correct the problem.

Otis Campbell

Otis Campbell… Otis was a good guy with only one problem. He was the town drunk. Andy and Barney knew him so well that they let Otis grab the jail key and let himself in when he was a bit intoxicated. During the reunion movie made in the 80s, he had given up the booze and was selling ice cream.

Seasons 1-5 were in Black and White with Don Knotts as Barney Fife. Don’s last season was the 5th season and seasons 6-8 were in color.  I have all of the Griffith Show episodes but I will admit…I don’t really watch the color episodes as much as the black and white ones. Yes, there are some good later episodes but it’s Andy. He walks around Mayberry like he is owed money. Andy later admitted on many of the later episodes he was going through the motions.

He started to get a little tenser on screen in the 5th season but Barney was still there and kept things light. In the 6th season with Barney gone, Andy acted impatient with his fellow quirky citizens where at one time he enjoyed them. The show just changed dramatically with color. It remained at number 1 but it just wasn’t the same.

It was one of the most successful television shows ever. The Series went out on top and had a successful spinoff called Mayberry RFD.

In the early 70s Mayberry RFD and other shows such as  The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Mister Ed, Lassie, Petticoat Junction, and Hee Haw were canceled because of the rural purge the network did… everything that had a tree got canceled it seemed. More important shows were coming like All In The Family and others but there was always room for others. In syndication these shows do great.

So follow me to Mayberry and don’t look back.

TV Draft Round 5 – Pick 5 – Dave Selects – Emergency

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Dave at https://soundday.wordpress.com/

TV shows are of course, first and foremost entertainment. But once in awhile they rise above just that and can actually create change for the better. Maybe even save lives. Recently, I’ve rediscovered one such show… and a lot of memories from my childhood!

Over-the-air station COZI-TV shows nothing but oldies. It’s the television version of a Golden Oldies radio station. Andy Griffin, Magnum PI, MASH… they’re all there. And recently, a fave of eight, nine-year old me, Emergency.

Emergency was the brainchild of Jack Webb, no surprise to those who had watched his earlier show, Adam 12, picked earlier in this by Max. The two had a similar overall feel and they even showed up in cameos on each other’s shows occasionally. While Adam 12 showed the day-to-day routines of two L.A. cops, Emergency dealt with an L.A. fire station, the goings on within it and on their runs. In particular, the show which ran on NBC from 1972-77 (plus six made for TV movies through 1979) focused on two paramedics who although firemen, responded to medical calls and were trained in medical care. Roy Desoto (actor Kevin Tighe) was the blonde, easy-going one while his partner who set many a lady’s heart a-flutter (and would later be immortalized in a Tubes song) was John Gage, played by dark and oft-brooding Randolph Mantooth. The rest of the firemen on their shift at “Station 51”, as well as the doctors and nurses of the local hospital ER were supporting characters. Those included real-life husband and wife Bobby Troup and Julie London, both of whom had music careers as well as acting ones; they portrayed the senior doctor (Dr. Early) and head nurse (Dixie) at the local ER the rescue squad took patients to. The plot outline was not unlike Adam 12, with its two patrol car cop buddies who spend a lot of time discussing life and responding to nuisance calls interspersed with a few high-tension emergency calls.

On Emergency, we follow along with John and Roy as they deal with mundane, everyday issues like John’s insomnia or Roy’s wondering about where to take his kids on holiday, interspersed with a few siren-screaming runs to heart attacks and snakebites, and fewer still infernos to respond to and help people survive. It really gave a feel for what it was like to be responding to a factory on fire, or trying to resuce people stuck in a car that was at the bottom of a cliff, or be surrounded by huge wildfires the whole department was trying to contain. Of course, like Adam 12, it was full of afros, moustaches and conservative morality… youth smoking “grass” laced with pesticides freaked out and confounded doctors with their life-threatening illnesses; doctors jumped in to keep lying parents from their frightened and bruised children while doling out counseling about dealing with stress. (It did, however, coming a bit later than Adam 12, miss out on stripy bell-bottom fashion and bad guys who said things like “you’re a jive cop!” or “say your prayers… I’m gonna send you to pig heaven, copper!”)

Part drama, part light-comedy, mixed with a small amount of action… it’s a far reach from the action shows and movies that are in favor now. But somehow, it worked. We cared about the characters lives… and learned.

Emergency was made by sticklers for detail. Mantooth said “Bob Cinader, who (co) created and produced the show said ‘we’re not going to make anything up. We have to get all the rescues from real fireman’s logs.” Mantooth and Tighe both took real paramedic courses, although they didn’t take the tests to be certified as such, and rode along with real L.A. firemen extensively. The exterior shots used a real L.A. fire station (Station 127 in Carson) and a real hospital nearby. Producers got to borrow an authentic L.A. pumper truck ( the Engine 51 in the show) and apparently, on a few shots forgot to relabel it as such, meaning the eagle-eyed viewer could sometimes see Station 51 responding in a differently-numbered truck. Driven by an actor, Dick Hammer, who played… Dick Hammer. You see, Hammer not only used his real name, he played his own role in real life – he was an actual L.A. fireman, thus having fire training and a license to drive the large vehicles. They opted for realism, which certainly helped us believe the episodes and feel engaged.

Roy and John, the paramedics, went to their medical calls in a modified pickup with all sorts of medical supplies, and radios to the hospital. Since they had medical training, they could undertake medical procedures like give IVs or CPR with the doctor’s instructions over the radio. At the time, the paramedic trucks were new and few and far between, so L.A. couldn’t loan them one. Thus the show got the blueprints and built an authentic replica themselves, and stocked it with the real equipment the true first responders used in the day.

It was interesting. It gave us a look at the ordinary work of fire-fighters and paramedics and some of the crazy calls they had to deal with. And in a small way, it changed the world.

Not only did Emergency pave the way for later, more action-packed shows like E.R. and Station 19, it changed society as well.

ME TV point out that when the show first aired, there were only 12 – one dozen – fire departments with paramedics in the entire country. (I was surprised to read that my particular hometown in Canada was the very first in that country to have paramedics in their fire department, that being in 1971). Then California governor Ronald Reagan had only signed legislation allowing for firemen to be trained as paramedics the previous year and L.A., Seattle and Miami were the only notable large urban areas in the U.S. with them at the time. What’s more, ambulances were largely nothing more than taxis for sick and injured people. The personnel on them did little besides get the patient to doctors and help down the road. By the end of the show in mid-’77, fully half of all Americans were within 10 minutes of responding fully-trained paramedics. Lives were saved…. and one has to imagine that Emergency was behind it. It’s hard to innumerate, but oral history suggests a lot of fire departments and city councils got on board to train their firemen and supply them with medical gear when people started wanting their town to have its own John Gage, Roy Desoto and Squad 51. A University of Baltimore study says “ample evidence suggests a conclusion that the TV show was a primary factor that fueled…paramedic training.” EMS World call Randy Mantooth the “goodwill ambassador” for their profession and point out “for all the popularity of classic shows such as the Honeymooners and Gunsmoke, the number of people they inspired to become bus drivers or sheriffs was probably small.” Not so Emergency. Schools offering the training to be paramedics saw a surge of applicants shortly after the show premiered.

Pretty cool. A little bit campy, a little comic, a little bit educational. Bits of high excitement, and lots of cool retro vehicles and fashions. I still enjoy it. What’s more, it was a show that changed history and made life safer. And still is interesting to watch close to 50 years on. Methinks we’ll never be saying that about the Kardashians.