Merie Earle and Burt Mustin

I grew up watching these two elder character actors. I did a post on Burt Mustin earlier but I always liked Merie Earle also. I’m going to cover both in this one. If you are a child of the 60s, 70s, and 80s you probably know these two. I first remembered Merie on the Waltons as a character named Maude but she was on a lot of things.

To my immense disappointment…Burt and Merie never appeared together on screen from what I can find. They were in some of the same tv programs but not the same episode.

Merie Earl was one of the cutest older ladies I’ve ever seen. She didn’t start acting till she was 77 years young. She was born Goldie Merie Ireland on May 13, 1889. She grew up in Columbus Ohio. She got married in 1909 and moved to New York because of her husband’s job as an engineer.

After her husband retired they moved to California to be near their daughter. Her husband Lawrence Nathan Earls passed away in 1954. Marie was later discovered by an agent while performing in a play at a Methodist church. In 1967 she started to do print ads for Polaroid. In 1967 she took the jump to motion pictures. Her first film role was in  Fitzwilly starring Dick Van Dyke.

She went on to perform on television and TV movies in the 60s, 70s, and yes into the 80s! She was on tv shows such as Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, All In The Family, Alice, Whiz Kids, etc.  Merie worked until she passed away in 1984 at the age of 95. What an incredible woman…Burt Mustin had more credits but he was a bit younger than Merie. She had no formal training and she said she was sometimes snubbed in auditions.

Merie Earle on going to auditions: “They’re old-timers in show business, so they just kind of snort and recite all their Broadway credits and film credits and things like that, that doesn’t bother me, though, and sometimes I even beat them out for the parts. But if I don’t, that doesn’t bother me too much either. It doesn’t take much money for me to live, anyway.”

On her acting style… “Oh dear, I guess I don’t have any acting style, All I try to do is just to be myself.”

Merie Earle2

What a life Burt Mustin lived. He didn’t start acting until he was 67 and he appeared in over 150 film and television productions. I first remembered him as Gus in Leave it to Beaver, Judd in The Andy Griffith Show, Bonanza, The Monkees, Gomer Pyle…the list is too long. He was also at the first World Series in 1903 to root on his hometown team, The Pittsburgh Pirates playing against the Boston Red Sox.

Burt was born on February 8, 1884, in Pittsburgh. After graduating from the Pennsylvania Military College in 1903 with a degree in engineering, Mustin became a car salesman. It was a rather new profession.  He also worked for the Better Business Bureau, Mustin dabbled in amateur acting and singing. He belonged to the Barbershop Harmony Society and popped up in productions by the Pittsburgh Opera.

Mustin and his wife eventually retired to Arizona. In Tucson, the retiree took in a role in a local production of the play Detective Story. William Wyler — who would go on to direct Ben-Hur, Roman Holiday and Funny Girl — happened to catch the show and offered Mustin a role in his screen adaptation of Detective Story.

Thus, Burt Mustin made his screen debut at the age of 67 in 1951 and acted until he died in 1977 at the age of 92.

Below is Burt… on the Johnny Carson show talking about being at the first World Series.

Where is… The Zuni Fetish Doll from the Trilogy of Terror Now?

I did a few “Where is” posts a year or so ago and they were fun. I thought I would add this to the list. Most 1970s kids know this doll from the 1975 TV horror Trilogy of Terror. Karen Black starred and played 4 different charters in this horror anthology. Three stories are interwoven together. The first is about a college student infatuated with his teacher. The second is a paranoid tale of two sisters – one good, the other evil, and the third one is about a tribal doll that comes to life and terrorizes a woman in her apartment when it’s golden chain comes off. 

Zuni Doll - Trilogy of Terror - Imgflip

It’s the third one that most people remember although the first one is really good also. This doll terrorizes Karen Black’s character Amelia in her apartment and they did a good job on the special effects. They showed the doll just enough and not too much to make it look real. The story was based on Prey Prey written by the great Richard Matheson. In this presentation…this story is called Ameilia. 

I watched this again for the 6th or 7th time and I wondered…did one of the dolls they used to film this survive? Yes, one survived and it was sold at auction. According to different sites… In 2019 when the Zuni doll went up for auction at “Profiles in History” a few years ago, it was expected to go for a price in the $12,000 to $15,000 range. Instead, it sold for more than $200,000! Including the buyer’s premium, the doll was purchased for a total of $217,600.

If you want one of these dolls (a copy of course) a little more affordable…you can get one on ebay. It would be a good conversation piece…just don’t turn your back on it. 

If you want to see the other “Where Is” objects…go to https://powerpop.blog/70s-games-items-and-events/

Here is the doll now…he doesn’t look bad for being 47 years old. 

Zuni Doll Now

The Complete Anthology… if you want to see JUST Amelia…go to 45:50

TV Draft Round 10 – Pick 8 – Dave Selects – Storm Chasers

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

First, I’d like to thank Hans for coming up with the idea for this event, way back when, and especially Max for inviting me in and keeping it going when circumstances prevented it from continuing on the original website.

So many shows, so little time… the fellow participants have described quite a few shows that are new to me but sound interesting and I hope to watch some of them in time. I had lots of options for my final pick. I thought of Frasier, but I believe someone else might still give it a look before the end. Likewise, I was tempted to do another ’90s fixture…one which keeps going more reliably than the Energizer Bunny, The Simpsons. It gave me many, many laughs through the years and while it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a new episode (if keeping track, there are now 728 to choose from) in its prime, the first nine or ten seasons, it was one of the most consistently intelligent, witty and influential shows of its time. But there’s so much there, it seemed an overwhelming topic to dig into!  And I had planned to review the British series Cracker, a psychological drama about a deeply-troubled, drinking, gambling, womanizing psychiatrist (played by the great Robbie Coltrane, pre-Harry Potter fame) who gets called on by Scotland Yard to help the police to come up with psychological profiles of notorious criminals to help them “crack” tough cases. It was gritty, realistic (for one thing, sometimes the “bad guy” somehow won ) and suspenseful. But it’s been so long since I watched it, I’ve forgotten a lot about it. So instead I’ll opt for a guilty pleasure, and dip my toe into the “reality TV” sector, look at the radar and go for Storm Chasers.

Ordinarily, I have no time for the concept of “realityTV”, especially since I tend to think of most of it as the most un-real TV out there. I have zero interest  in keeping up with any Kardashians, don’t feel like being a peeping tom on ten bitchy, beautful young things thrown into a big house together and am not sure if I could survive one episode of Survivor, let alone 30 seasons of it. But Storm Chasers happened to have some redeeming features and played on one of my personal fascinations – severe storms and especially tornadoes.

In a nutshell, Storm Chasers followed around real-life teams of, you guessed it, storm chasers, in a sort of reality version of the movie Twister. It ran on Discovery Channel for five years from 2007 through 2012, for a total of a mere 36 episodes. That movie, coupled with rapidly advancing technology both in radar (current dopplar radar can show not only type and intensity of precipitation falling but things like wind direction and any debris that may be flying around in the air) and portable electronics led to a boom in “chasing” as a hobby in the ’90s and early-2000s. You’ve probably noticed that every time there’s a severe weather outbreak, TV and internet news quickly have film footage of tornadoes touching down and with luck, ripping up only open countryside. While occasionally this comes from ordinary folks who look out their back door and say “holy crap! Tornado…”, the majority of the videos come from a relatively small number of professional chasers who spend their spring and summers traveling around the country, looking for severe storms to document.  Reed Timmer has become one of the most unlikely celebrities around merely by doing that for years and putting out books and videos on the storms. And he was one of the stars of Storm Chasers.

Although the lineups changed a little from year to year, most seasons had three “teams” of chasers, if you will, each with slightly different goals. Timmer set forth to capture great videos and still photos of storms for TV news and publishing his own books and calendars.  Somewhat similar, the cranky Sean Casey was commissioned to make an Imax film on tornadoes and was singularly focused on that, trying to meet deadlines and not go over-budget doing so. Then there was Tim Samaras and his team, something of a different breed. Serious meteorologists, Tim wanted to help science know more about severe storms and routinely tried to get just one step ahead of tornadoes, deploy portable probes full of instruments then scoot off, hoping the tornado would go right over top of the probe and document things like wind speed and air pressure inside one. This is especially useful as if we want to build storm-proof structures, it’s helpful to know what kind of conditions they really need to withstand. One relatively new finding for instance, is that though pressure is low inside a tornado, it’s not low enough to “explode” buildings from inside-out. Opening doors and windows in fact will add to your home’s damage in a storm, not prevent it.

As you can imagine, the three teams knew each other and often crossed paths… they all had the same information and typically were able to interpret the weather much the same as one another. They’d study the weather maps and radars the night before, and set out early aiming to where they figured the best chance of severe storms were going to be on a given day. Mostly they filmed in the traditional “tornado alley” of the Great Plains states (Texas and Kansas more than any others) but at times they’d venture out east of the Mississippi as far afield as Alabama… something they don’t like doing so much, as they point out, because the hilly, forested terrain makes it more difficult to see storms a ways away compared to the open Plains.  Much of the time, they were trying to get to the same storm as the others, a few minutes ahead, to get the ultimate photos.

stchasers tiv

Among the show’s stars were the vehicles. Both Casey and Timmer drove heavily-modified trucks full of instruments, radars, screens and more and turned into virtual tanks outside to withstand storm damage. Casey’s “TIV” – Tornado Intercept Vehicle – was a heavily modified Ford F-series diesel truck , fortified with steel plates upto 1/4” thick, bullet-proof, inch-plus thick plexiglass windows and four hydraulic legs which could come out and anchor the vehicle. It had sirens and a loudspeaker, to help alert people to oncoming storms, often before police were aware of the building storm. It weighed 14 000 pounds, and a replacement one he had built successfully withstood 175 MPH winds in one Kansas storm.  Timmer had something similar, but for all that, he still got bloodied one time when hail smashed his windshield. Bullet-proof doesn’t always equal Kansas hailstone-proof it seemed!  Surprisingly, Samaras the scientist and his team drove more ordinary pickups with their probes in the back and relied on getting out of the twisters’ way just in time.

I loved the action of the show, because I love storms. They’ve excited me since I was little. And each episode showcased some incredible storms. Even the ones in which they didn’t get to see a tornado were often spectacular, lightning shows with hail, pounding rain, howling winds. And I learned a bit about the actual science of the thunderstorms. Educational “reality TV”…go figure.

The chasers showed several things. Storm-chasing is largely a young mans field. Although Timmer’s girlfriend tagged along with him from time to time, they were mostly young guys, fueled by energy drinks and junk food who one imagines might have been skateboarding or jumping off cliffs if not following thunderstorms. And it showed it was a dangerous pursuit. Even forgetting about the tornadoes themselves, they came perilously close to being hit by lightning more than a few times while standing out in a field filming. Hail smashed through the thickest of windows and could make roads impassably slippery. In one episode two of their vehicles got stuck in the same country road, made into a muddy quagmire by the downpour. And even with good eyes and  the best radars, a tornado can touch down unexpectedly or do a sudden 180-turn and take them by surprise.

Casey eventually got his film made. The show was canceled after season 5, and Samaras was said to have been pleased as while he liked the show’s potential, he felt it spent far too much time on the inter-personal drama between the crews and not enough on the actual science, something I concur with. He successfully planted a few probes in the path of tornadoes and added to the knowledge of the field, but sadly demonstrated that the hobby is anything but play. He, his grown son and another team member died in a massive Oklahoma tornado a year after the show ended. It seemed their un-reinforced car made a wrong turn and got overtaken by an unexpectedly huge and violent funnel. It put any ideas for a future series aside…but amazingly, seems to have done nothing to quell interest in storm-chasing among amateur meteorologists and videographers across the nation.

TV Draft Round 10 – Pick 7 – Lisa Selects – Yellowstone

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

TV Series Draft, Lisa’s Pick for Round 10 on Saturday, July 2, 2022: Yellowstone
(2018-2022) 4 seasons, 40 episodes, originally on Paramount channel

Picture1

The Dutton Family l.-r.: Lee, Kayce, John, Beth, and Jamie

Here we are, at the tenth and final round of sharing our favorite TV shows, across times and genres. We have compiled a fantastic go-to list when we are on the lookout for excellent TV viewing. Thank you, Max, and every blogger who has participated in it, for carrying on where Hans (and Kirk) left off.

And now I present to you my final choice for the draft, Yellowstone. Did I save the best for last? Perhaps. I loved watching Westerns as a kid, but it has been a struggle to find modern day TV shows that measure up to the old gold. Yellowstone not only measures up, but it takes the viewer far beyond the simplistic plots of the old shows. It looks at the past, present, and future of grazing cattle along vast swaths of land that used to be free and traveled by countless indigenous tribes who relied on the American bison for just about everything. It shows how an almost certainly more menacing threat than ranchers and their cattle is challenging the land: developers who want to build casinos, high end housing, and strip malls across the terrain and who know how to play just as dirty as the ranchers did when they took it from the tribes.

I’ve lived in Michigan all of my life and have traveled out west only a couple of times and then only by plane. I have no idea how accurate all of the positions being portrayed from all of the angles are in the series, but I do know that Taylor Sheridan, whose brainchild Yellowstone is, has a reputation for doing his research and also has lived experiences that lend authenticity to them.

Picture2

Taylor Sheridan

Director: 8 different directors, with Taylor Sheridan and Stephen Kay directing the most, with 11 each. Writing credits go mostly to Taylor Sheridan and John Linson who are credited on all 39 episodes; four others have credits on a few of the episodes.
Genres: Western, drama
Synopsis: The plot of Yellowstone (the name of the fictional ranch of the show) revolves around three major forces that are in varying states of conflict with each other. The central focus is upon the John Dutton Family who have a working cattle ranch with thousands (forgot exactly how many) of acres they own. They have a bunkhouse where the ranch hands live year-round as well as a separate cabin for the head ranch boss. John Dutton is the patriarch and has 4 children as the series opens. His wife died when the kids were young. Each of his children are employed in the business of keeping the ranch operating. The second major force is the Indigenous tribe that is working hard to find a way to get some of the Dutton property back in the hands of the tribe, or at minimum put a casino up. The third major force are various developers from here and there that see the area as a goldmine for developing houses for the wealthy, rich strip malls, and yes, casinos and an airport to bring the customers in and out.

Within each of these arenas are a cast of characters that come and go (especially with the developers.) How these groups strategize and work at various times for, against, and with each other is what keeps the plot ever-fresh and exciting. Also explored are the ways the groups strategize within themselves, particularly with the Dutton family.

The Dutton Family

Picture3

John Dutton

John Dutton (Kevin Costner) is the patriarch of the family and the owner of the Yellowstone Ranch. His wife died when the kids were younger and he’s never remarried. A closer statement might be to say he’s always been married to the ranch and always will be. John is a strong silent type but he speaks when he needs to. He is an expert at delegating power, but he always has the last say. He loves all of his children; some might say how well each serves the ranch determines how much he loves each.

Picture4Lee Dutton

Lee Dutton (Dave Annable) is the oldest Dutton son and is in line to take over for his dad when the time comes. He’s John’s right-hand man and the most like his father in his passion for Yellowstone and getting his hands calloused out on the range.

Picture5

Jamie Dutton

Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley) is the family attorney and has political aspirations. Jamie wears nice suits and seems different than the rest of the family. He’s hard-working and an excellent protector of the family’s legal interests. His sister hates him and his dad seems to be perpetually disappointed in him, no matter what he does.

Picture6

Beth Dutton

Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) lives far away in a big city when the story opens. Her profession is corporate takeovers and acquisitions and she is very well-paid for it. She’s as close as a human piranha as it is possible to be without having scales. She does her homework and is a consummate strategist; when a company is in her sights, it’s a done deal. Beth also raises the bar for verbal viciousness; not anybody you’d want to get on the wrong side of in a conversation or a business deal. Beth eats men like most people eat popcorn. Beth has an abiding hatred for her brother, Jamie, and she has a soft spot for Ranch Boss, Rip.

Picture7

Kayce, Monica, and Tate

Kayce Dutton (Luke Grimes) is the baby of the family. Kayce saw active duty in Iraq and came back a changed man. Kayce fell in love with and married Monica (Kelsey Asbille) and they had a baby, Tate (Brecken Merrill,) who is about 8-10 years old when the story opens. Kayce wants nothing to do with his family, the ranch, and all of the trappings of success that brings. As the series begins, Kayce lives on the reservation with Monica and Tate with Monica’s grandfather (sorry, forgot his name.)

Yellowstone Ranch Cowboys

Picture8

Rip

Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) has worked at Yellowstone since he wandered in as an angry delinquent teenager. Yellowstone is his life. Rip is the boss of all of the cowboys (regardless of gender!) who live in the bunkhouse. He gets to live in his own plush cabin as a perk for the position. Rip has John’s unwavering trust. Rip also has the respect of his underlings as he never asks them to do anything he isn’t ready, willing, and able to do. Rip does not suffer fools lightly. Rip has a (mutual) soft spot for Beth.

Lloyd (Forrie J. Smith) is the top cowboy in the bunkhouse. Lloyd’s grizzled, seasoned, and often gets the responsibility of breaking the new guys in. Lloyd’s been all over the place as a cowboy but he’s been at Yellowstone for quite awhile.

Jimmy Hurdstrom (Jefferson White) comes to the ranch as a favor to Jimmy’s grandpa and has been living a rough and criminal lifestyle up until that point. Jimmy knows nothing about being a cowboy and doesn’t seem real interested in learning about how to become one, at least at first.

Colby (Denim Richards) and Ryan (Ian Bohen,) are two of the cowboys that are stable, good at what they do, and who keep the ranch rolling along. Others come and go and are more problematic in one way or another, such as Walker (Ryan Bingham) and Teeter (Jen Landon.)

Indigenous Tribe

Picture9

Chief Thomas Rainwater

Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) is the Chief of the Tribe. He’s a wonderful leader who genuinely has the good of the Tribal Members at heart. He is up against formidable forces, including the Dutton Clan who has deeds that aren’t easily gotten around to the land that was stolen from Tribal use back in John’s father’s time. Chief Rainwater also has to contend with the rolling cavalcade of slimy developers that sleaze in and try to wheedle deals with him that will only benefit the developers when all is said and done.

Picture10

Mo Brings Plenty

Mo Brings Plenty (Mo Brings Plenty) is Chief Rainwater’s right-hand man. Mo is both trained security but also one the Chief depends on to get things done that call for finesse.

Ben Waters (Atticus Todd) is the tribal law enforcement deputy that investigates crimes that happen on the reservation. We learn that many crimes are brought out to the “res” when they don’t want people looking too closely. Ben and his force are spread thin and there is a feeling it is intentional by unnamed institutions off of the reservation.

Felix Long (Rudy Ramos) was Chief before Thomas Rainwater became Chief. He’s still in the picture with the tribal decisions but his ways are different than the new Chief.

Developers
As I said before the developers come and go and they are always interesting; yet they all want the same thing: to take the land and exploit it for human use and to line their pockets.
Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston)
Roarke (Josh Holloway)
A.G. Steward (Timothy Carhart)
Bob Schwartz (Michael Nouri)
Malcolm Beck (Neal McDonough)
Teal Beck (Terry Serpico)
Torry (Wole Parks)
Caroline Warner (Jacki Weaver)
Willa Hayes (Karen Pittman)

Assorted Other Players – pawns on the chess board
Governor Perry (Wendy Moniz)
Sheriff Donnie Haskell (Hugh Dillon)
Travis (Taylor Sheridan)
Summer Higgins (Piper Perabo)

Impressions: I love the way this series is put together. It’s a show where a lot of different perspectives and philosophies about land use are presented, with arguments both for and against for pretty much all of them. The show leaves it to each individual viewer to decide for themselves how they feel about any of the topics. I am left with a feeling that I’ve been better educated about the situations regardless if my position has moved or not. The setting in such a vast wide open space with an endless sky above is probably the main character in this series. I love seeing it even if it’s only on a TV screen. It makes me want to protect its beauty. I like watch ranching up close. The cattle, the horses, and the camaraderie of the bunkhouse when the work day is done.

The characters in Yellowstone are larger than life and how they interact with each other draws me in. By the end of the 4th season, I have to admit I care about each one of them. I’m not sure if there will be a 5th season, but I do know if they build it, I will watch. Taylor Sheridan has my respect for bringing his vision to reality and so do each of the actors that make it jump off the screen.

Warnings: there are quite a few episodes where guns are used. There are scenes of cattle being branded and horses being broken that might upset some people. There are scenes of men and women fighting (fist fights not battering) and some pummeling by men on men for punishment. There are situations of implied violence. There are scenes of sexual interaction between men and women and brief nudity.

Grade: 10
Etc.: filmed in Montana and Utah. The Chief Joseph Ranch (https://www.chiefjosephranch.net/) serves as the John Dutton home.
Awards: 5 wins and 17 nominations

The first video is a tender-hearted highlights reel:

The next video has more action:

The last one is one of my favorite scenes:

Sources:
top image
Taylor Sheridan image
John Dutton image
Lee Dutton image
Jamie Dutton image
Beth Dutton image
Kayce, Monica, and Tate image
Chief Thomas Rainwater image
Mo Brings Plenty image

TV Draft Round 10 – Pick 6 – Paula Selects – Frasier

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

FRASIER

Frasier is a spin-off from Cheers, starring Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Frasier Crane, a psychiatrist who leaves Boston (where Cheers was set) to return to his hometown of Seattle as a radio show host. Costarring is David Hyde Pierce as Frasier’s brother Niles, also a psychiatrist, and it’s amazing how much the two actors resemble one another. They’re both drolly hilarious as well and play off each other superbly ~ though the writers didn’t originally intend for Niles to have such a large part, they reconsidered after discovering how much Niles added to the show. John Mahoney (RIP) plays their father, Martin, a retired cop, who frequently argues with his sons, and there are two funny women on the show in recurring roles ~ Peri Gilpin as Roz (Frasier’s producer) and Jane Leeves as Daphne (Martin’s caretaker/physical therapist). The show won 37 Primetime Emmy Awards, which was a record at the time. It also won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series for five consecutive years. Supposedly there is a “revival” coming at some point, starring the brothers. The original ran for 11 seasons, beginning in 1993 and ending in 2004.

If you recall, during Cheers Frasier was married to fellow psychiatrist Lilith (wonderfully played by Bebe Neuwirth), and they are divorced when Frasier begins, with Lilith having primary custody of their son Frederick. Immediately thwarting Frasier’s plans for a wild single life is his father, injured on duty, and requiring 24/7 assistance. Frasier brings Martin and his annoying dog Eddie to live with him, and they hire Daphne, a British caregiver. Niles makes frequent appearances, and one recurring motif is that his wife Maris is an impossible person, whom he constantly complains about, yet we never see her face (same as Norm’s wife on Cheers). Niles falls in love with Daphne, and eventually he leaves Maris and marries Daphne. Frasier and Niles are snobby intellectuals (though endearing in their inability to solve their own problems while helping others), and Martin is more of a “regular guy,” so that dichotomy generates clashes. Lilith makes several appearances on Frasier under various premises, from calling in to his radio show to sleeping with Niles due to despair that her next husband left her for a man.

One amusing piece of trivia is that Frasier had announced on Cheers that his father died. That had to be retconned into the Frasier universe by revealing that Frasier had lied about his father dying. The fab theme song “Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs” was composed by Bruce Miller and sung by Grammer. Though the show is very Seattle-centric, only one episode was actually filmed there; the rest were shot at Paramount Studios and around Los Angeles. (All info from Wikipedia.)

~*~

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 10 – Pick 5 – Keith Selects – The Untouchables

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

untouchables_artwork

We have reached the final round of the Hanspostcard TV Show Draft. I want to take a moment and thank Max from the Power Pop Blog for taking up the reigns and helping us continue this round in Hans’ absence. It truly has been a fun draft!

For my final pick, I have gone back to another classic – The Untouchables. The show ran from 1959 to 1963 and starred the great Robert Stack as Eliot Ness. It is hard to imagine anyone but Robert Stack in the role of Ness, but believe it or not, Desi Arnaz had originally offered the role to actor Van Johnson. Supposedly, he wanted double what they were offering to pay for the role, and it ultimately went to Stack.

When asked about the character some years later, Stack said, “Ness was a precursor of Dirty Harry. He was a hero, a vigilante in a time when breaking the law meant nothing because there was no law because Capone owned Chicago, he owned the police force.”

Robert_Stack_Eliot_Ness_1960

The show was based on the book of the same name written by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley. Brian De Palma would use the book as the basis for his 1987 film of the same name.

According to Wikipedia:

The series originally focused on the efforts of a real-life squad of Prohibition agents employed by the US Department of Justice and led by Eliot Ness (Stack) that helped bring down the bootleg empire of “Scarface” Al Capone, as described in Ness’s bestselling 1957 memoir. This squad was nicknamed “The Untouchables” because of its courage and honesty; squad members could not be bribed or intimidated by the mob. Eliot Ness himself had died suddenly in May 1957, shortly before his memoir and the subsequent TV adaptation were to bring him fame beyond any he experienced in his lifetime.

The pilot for the series, a two-part episode entitled “The Untouchables,” originally aired on CBS’s Westinghouse Desilu Placyhouse (and was introduced by Desi Arnaz) on April 20 and 27, 1959. Later re-titled “The Scarface Mob”, these episodes, which featured Neville Brand as Al Capone, were the only episodes in the series to be more-or-less directly based on Ness’s memoir, and ended with the conviction and imprisonment of Capone. CBS, which had broadcast most of Desilu’s television output since 1951 beginning with I Love Lucy, was offered the new series following the success of the pilot film. It was rejected it on the advice of network vice president Hubbell Robinson. ABC agreed to air the series, and The Untouchables premiered on October 15, 1959. In the pilot movie, the mobsters generally spoke with unrealistic pseudo-Italian accents, but this idiosyncratic pronunciation was dropped when the series debuted.

The weekly series first dramatized a power struggle to establish a new boss in Capone’s absence (for the purpose of the TV series, the new boss was Frank Nitti, although this was, as usual for the series, contrary to fact). As the series continued, there developed a highly fictionalized portrayal of Ness and his crew as all-purpose, multi-agency crime fighters who went up against an array of 1930s-era gangsters and villains, including Ma Barker, Dutch Schultz, Bugs Moran, Lucky Luciano, and in one episode, Nazi agents. On many occasions during the series run, Ness would blatantly violate suspects’ Fourth Amendment rights with no legal ramifications.

The terse narration by gossip columnist Walter Winchell, in his distinctive New York accent, was a stylistic hallmark of the series, along with its ominous theme music by Nelson Riddle and its shadowy black-and-white photography, which was influenced by film noir.

a-new-kind-of-series-prZK3LGvFiV-BxP8SbfCnU5.1400x1400

The series produced 118 episodes which ran 50 minutes each. Though the book chronicled the experiences of Ness and his team against Capone, and in reality the Untouchables disbanded soon after Capone’s conviction. The series continued after the pilot and book ended, depicting the fictitious further exploits of the Untouchables against many, often real life, criminals over a span of time ranging from 1929 to 1935.

The show came with some controversy. Italian-American groups protested over what they felt was an unfair presentation of their people as Mafia-types. “We are plagued with lawsuits after certain shows” one of the show’s producers Josef Shaftel explained, noting that the series was “heavily insured against libel.” With good reason – the first lawsuit against the show was instigated by Al Capone’s angry widow. She didn’t like the way her deceased husband was made into a running villain on the show and wanted a million dollars for unfair use of his image. (She lost.)

The FBI and J. Edgar Hoover were ticked off too. They were the ones who collared the famous names that Ness was supposedly busting each week on TV and they rightfully wanted credit for it. The second episode of the series, for example, depicted Ness and his crew involved in the capture of the Ma Barker gang, an incident in which the real-life Ness played no part. The producers agreed to insert a spoken disclaimer on future broadcasts of the episode stating that the FBI had primary responsibility for the Barker case. Even the Bureau of Prisons took offense, complaining that the show made their treatment of Al Capone look soft.

The show itself was considered one of the most violent television shows of its time. Of course, by today’s standards it’s not that bad, but it was violent enough at the time to spark protests from parents who were worried about their children seeing this violence.

TBDWEDE EC020

My Thoughts

This is one of those shows that I just love! Robert Stack’s delivery of almost every line as Ness is perfect. He won an Emmy in 1960 for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series for his portrayal of Ness.

Despite the fact that many of the stories are fictionalized to work the Untouchables into them, they are great! The show really was a forerunner to shows like The FBI, Crime Story, and even Hawaii 5-0. I love the film noir feel of it. Every episode plays like a good 50 minute movie.

The Lebanon Pennsylvania Daily News said of The Untouchables: “Between the hard-nosed approach, sharp dialogue, and a commendably crisp pace (something rare in dramatic TV at the time), this series is one of the few that remains fresh and vibrant. Only the monochrome presentation betrays its age. The Untouchables is one of the few Golden Age TV shows that deserves being called a classic.” It really does hold up well.

As I have mentioned before, one of the things I love about these old shows is seeing big stars (who are not quite yet stars) show up. In regular roles throughout the series you could see Raymond Bailey (Mr. Drysdale on the Beverly Hillbillies), Barbara Stanwyck, Barbara Nichols, Ed Asner (Lou Grant), Harry Morgan (Col. Potter on MASH), and Henry Silva.

The list of guest star appearances is long and amazing. They include: Jack Elam, Paul Frees, Jim Backus, Sam Jaffe, Martin Balsam, John Dehner, William Bendix, Whitt Bissell, Charles Bronson, James Caan, James Coburn, Mike Conners, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Norman Fell, Alan Hale Jr., Brian Keith, Jack Klugman, Cloris Leachman, Jack Lord, Lee Marvin, Telly Savalas, Elizabeth Montgomery, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Redford, Ricardo Montalban, Rip Torn, Jack Warden, Dick York, Cliff Robertson and so many more!

"The Untouchables"Paul Picerni, Robert Stackcirca 1961

You know, they play reruns of Law and Order on TV all the time. Many of the shows I have seen numerous times. I know what’s going to happen, yet I still watch (a lot like my previous picks – Perry Mason and Columbo). The Untouchables is a show that could very easily be rerun like a Law and Order. It is that good.

I love Walter Winchell’s narration

And I love the theme song!

It has been so much fun writing on some of my favorite shows. It’s been just as fun to read about the shows picked by other members of the TV Show Draft. I hope you have enjoyed my picks…

Thanks for reading!

TV Draft Round 10 – Pick 4 – Liam Selects – BoJack Horseman

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

header

BoJack Horseman (2014-2020) – Netflix

BoJack Horseman is a comedy series that satirizes the vapidity of Hollywood (or “Hollywoo” as it is known in one of the show’s running gags) and the Southern California lifestyle.  But it also is a deeply human show that realistically deals with depression, substance abuse, generational trauma, and other human vulnerabilities.  Oh, and it’s also an animated series about a talking horse.

Raphael Bob-Waksberg created the show and served as showrunner (as well as a writer and voice actor) while illustrator/cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt was the show’s production designer. BoJack Horseman ran for 6 seasons with 77 episodes on Netflix and was later syndicated on Comedy Central and MTV2. Every episode opens with a fantastic title sequence set to a groovy jazz funk tune.

Let’s meet the main characters!

Main Characters

bojack

BoJack Horseman (Will Arnett) – an anthropomorphic horse, BoJack became famous and wealthy starring in a 1990s sitcom about a horse who raises three human orphan children called Horsin’ Around.  As the series begins, BoJack is living on his past success while trying to revive his career.  He suffers from depression and alcoholism and his deep bitterness has made him cantankerous. I’ll be perfectly clear here that BoJack does some despicable things and it’s a testament to the show that he still manages to be a sympathetic character.

diane

Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie) – a human writer of Vietnamese origin but raised by an adoptive Irish American family in Boston. As the show begins, Diane is hired to be a ghostwriter for BoJack’s memoir.  Despite her introversion and repulsion at BoJack’s womanizing, they become close friends. They share a bond of suffering from depression and a neglectful upbringing.  A running gag in the show is that Diane’s ringtone is the voice of various public radio personalities.

mr-peanutbutter

Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) – an optimistic and outgoing Labrador retriever who starred in a 90s sitcom that was a knockoff of Horsin’ Around. He believes this makes him BoJack’s peer and never understands why BoJack resents him.  Mr. Peanutbutter is introduced as Diane’s fiancé and they eventually marry.  His character began as kind of one-note joke of the type of person who would irritate BoJack but evolved over the course of the show into a more complex character.

todd

Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul) – a human young man who has been living as houseguest on BoJack’s couch for several years before the show begins. BoJack verbally berates Todd but secretly considers him a close friend. Todd has a quirky personality and frequently comes up with various wacky ideas (often working with Mr. Peanutbutter), and a penchant for “failing up” when these ideas succeed.  He’s also something of the conscience of the show having a way of confronting BoJack in the most disarming way. In season 3 he comes out as asexual and over the rest of the series learns what asexuality means for him.

princess-carolyn

Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) – a Persian cat who is BoJack’s agent and a former girlfriend.  Princess Carolyn represents the struggle for women to “have it all” working hard to eventually start her own agency and adopt a child.  Sedaris’ voice work is particularly notable on the show especially when she’s frequently given tongue twisters in her dialogue.

Supporting Characters

sarah-lynn

Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal) – a human actress who portrayed the youngest child on Horsin’ Around.  Sarah Lynn falls into the former child actor trope of seeking pop music stardom and engaging self-destructive behavior.  It’s revealed that she looked to BoJack as a father figure and was traumatized by his antisocial behavior.  When they reunite when Sarah Lynn is an adult it unfortunately leads to a codependent relationship and a downward spiral to the worst thing that BoJack does in the entire show.

herb

Herb Kazzaz (Stanley Tucci) – a human who served as the initial producer for Horsin’ Around and a friend of BoJack’s.  When Herb’s homosexuality becomes public, BoJack does not support him when the network removes Herb from his job. At the beginning of the series, Herb is dying of cancer and is reunited with BoJack and they have to deal with their troubled past.

hollyhock

Hollyhock (Aparna Nancherla) – a teenage horse who believes she is BoJack’s illegitimate child and comes to Hollywoo to have BoJack help find her mother.  BoJack grows attached to Hollyhock as one of his few living relatives but as often happens in this show, there’s trouble in their relationship.

beatrice

Beatrice Horseman (Wendie Malick) – a horse who is BoJack’s verbally abusive mother. A lot of the trauma that BoJack deals with is traced to the cruel parenting from Beatrice and his father Butterscotch (also voiced by Will Arnett).  The show depicts BoJack and Beatrice’s hostile relationship in her final years with several flashbacks to BoJack’s childhood and even to Beatrice’s life before BoJack was born.

margo-martindale

Character Actress Margo Martindale (Margo Martindale) – a real life human actor voices a criminally insane version of herself who gets involved in absurd schemes with the main characters.

Okay, I have a feeling that the description of the characters makes the show sound kind of like a bummer.  But it is also wildly funny with clever dialogue and endless sight gags.  And the characters who are animals frequently exhibit their animal characteristics in creative ways. The show also pushes the boundaries with what an animated show can do.  Some of the standout episodes include:

  • “Hank After Dark” (Series 2, episode 7) – a thinly-veiled take on Bill Cosby that involves the way that media and the entertainment industry collude to protect sexual predators.
  • “Fish Out of Water” (series 3, episode 4) – a brilliant experimental episode where BoJack attends a film festival under the ocean that is done almost entirely in pantomime with fantastic visuals.
  • “The Old Sugarman Place” (Series 4, episode 2) – BoJack visits his mother’s dilapidated family vacation home and flashbacks of Beatrice’s childhood trauma are shown.
  • “Stupid Piece of Sh*t” (Series 4, episode 6) – We hear BoJack’s inner monologue as he goes about his daily activities offering insight into his depression and self-destructive behavior.  This episode hit me hard.
  • “Free Churro” (Series 5, episode 6) – the entire episode is BoJack delivering a rambling eulogy at his mother’s funeral, and it’s powerful.
  • “A Quick One, While He’s Away” (Series 6, episode 8) – none of the main characters appear in this episode where an investigative reporter unearths BoJack’s hidden secrets by talking to various ancillary characters.
  • “The View From Halfway Down” (Series 6, episode 15) – BoJack has a near-death experience which results in a surreal, nightmare vision of meeting with several deceased family members and friends.

One more thing I have to point out is that an incredible amount of talented people who lent their voices to this show. A selection of celebrities who provided voices to one-time or recurring characters:

Patton Oswalt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Matthew Broderick, Jane Krakowski, Olivia Wilde, Ilana Glazer, J.K. Simmons, Aisha Tyler,  Maria Bamford, Adam Conover, Keith Olbermann, Wyatt Cenac, Kristin Chenoweth, Cedric Yarbrough, Ken Jeong, Keegan-Michael Key, Jason Beghe, Brandon T. Jackson, Lisa Kudrow, Abbi Jacobson, Ben Schwartz, Philip Baker Hall, Lake Bell, Andre Braugher, Angela Bassett, Stephanie Beatriz, LaKeith Stanfield, Hilary Swank, Stephen Colbert, Anjelica Huston, Chris Parnell, Fred Savage, Amy Schumer, Tatiana Maslany, Garry Marshall, Ali Wong, Liev Schreiber, Ricky Gervais, Jeffrey Wright, Mara Wilson, Lorraine Bracco, Candice Bergen, “Weird Al” Yankovic, RuPaul,  Kristen Bell, Whoopi Goldberg, Randall Park, John Leguizamo, Eva Longoria, David Sedaris, Daveed Diggs, Issa Rae, Wanda Sykes, Audra McDonald, Gabe Kaplan, Richard Lewis, Stephen Root, Samantha Bee, and Alan Arkin.

Some celebrities who provided voices to animated versions of themselves:

Naomi Watts, Wallace Shawn, Henry Winkler, Paul McCartney, Scott Wolf, Daniel Radcliffe, Lance Bass, Jessica Biel, Leonard Maltin, Zach Braff, Felicity Huffman, Sir Mix-A-Lot, and Laura Linney.

If you’re interested in reading more about BoJack Horseman, I wrote a review of each season at the time they were released.

TV Draft Round 10 – Pick 3 – Mike Selects – The Time Tunnel

The Time Tunnel

For my final pick in these ten rounds of fave TV shows, I gave in to my childhood memories and selected The Time Tunnel, a show that had me spellbound as a ten-year old during the 30 episodes of its single season 1966-67 run. After seeing the 1960 film version of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine on television, I became fascinated with the concept of time travel which made The Time Tunnel the perfect show for me.

The Time Tunnel was the product of the legendary Irwin Allen who had previously produced and directed two other highly acclaimed TV series: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space. Allen, who would also go on to produce two film blockbusters with The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974), cited The Time Tunnel as his favorite television production even though the previous two were deemed more successful.

The sci-fi storyline deals with the U.S. Government’s creation of the technology to allow a person to travel through time. The series follows two of the lead scientists, played by actors James Darren (then still a young handsome heartthrob) and Robert Colbert. After an unplanned initial time transport, the two are stuck travelling back and forth in time while the team at “Operation Tic Tok” are able to hear and view them through the scientific wonder of the Tunnel that sent them on their journey. The team struggles to bring them back, and instead, somehow manage to grab them at the end of each episode, sending them somewhere else in time, just in time, to thwart some kind of danger they got themselves into.

Many years later, I did a revisit to The Time Tunnel via DVD and was surprised how well it held up for a show produced in the late 60s. And, after a recent rewatch of the debut episode, I found the special effects rather impressive for those days, including the recurring graphic segment employed when they were spinning through time. However, I did feel that the show was full of some unnecessary exaggerated nonsense. Would it at all be logical that this project would be so massive to necessitate an underground desert complex that went 800 stories underground and employed a team of 12,000 with Fort Knox level security? 

Then there was the overuse of the Hollywood device of coincidence. How could it be that their uncontrolled random time travels would always land them at famous historical event at such precise locations and moments? For example, landing on the deck of the Titanic during its maiden voyage or inside a rocket being launched into space during its final countdown? Wouldn’t they have had as much of a chance to wind up in a bathroom in the Bronx?

Nonetheless, seeing them interact with history obviously made for great suspenseful plots although there was no respect for time travel’s cardinal rule of not altering history and thereby changing the timeline for the future. Allen also made for better television by economically embellishing the historical references with existing footage from feature films. Another interesting aside was that one of the technicians was played by actress Lee Meriwether, the winner of the 1955 Miss America Pageant.

As I young child, I was fascinated with The Time Tunnel and couldn’t wait to see where they would wind up going in next week’s episode. Unfortunately, the one place these two time travelers never made it to was back home since despite the show’s success, it’s future did not include a second season.

TV Draft Round 10 – Pick 2 – John Selects – The Avengers

The Avengers was a British TV series made by Associated British Corporation and ran for six seasons between 1961 and 1969. That came as a surprise to me, because I only remember the last two seasons. More on that later.

The one constant character in the series was John Steed, the bowler-hatted, Saville Row-suited, umbrella-carrying member of an unnamed British organization that simultaneously fights crime and deals in espionage and counter-espionage missions. Steed was played to perfection by Patrick Macnee.

Surprisingly, Steed was not the original lead character in The Avengers. That honor goes to David Keel, a physician whose fiancee was murdered. He was determined to find her killer when he crossed paths with Steed, who was after the same man for a different reason. By the end of the second episode, Keel and Steed had formed a partnership. Keel was played by Ian Hendry.

After the first season, Hendry left to go into movies (notably the Vincent Price classic Theater Of Blood) and the series was re-tooled with Steed as the lead character. His first partner was Venus Smith, a nightclub singer with no background in crime fighting or espionage. She was smitten with Steed, which was the only thing that kept them together. Venus was played by Julie Stevens.

His next companion was Mrs. Catherine Gale, an anthropologist who was an expert in judo and had a penchant for leather clothes. Cathy had been widowed in Kenya, and saw her work with Steed as service to her country. Some of the first Cathy episodes in Season 2 were originally written for Keel, and his lines (with modifications as needed) were simply given to Cathy. Cathy was played by the amazing Honor Blackman.

Cathy was unlike any other female character on British TV at the time. She was older (in her early-mid 30’s) and, because the scripts for her were originally written for Keel, was more mature and apt to argue with Steed. The attraction between the two of them became obvious, particularly in the third season, although it never got past the flirting and innuendo stage. At the end of the third season, Ms. Blackman was cast as Pussy Galore in the James Bond film Goldfinger, and left the cast.

At about the same time, the American Broadcasting Corporation in the US signed a deal with Associated British Corporation to co-produce the show, with ABC (US) airing all the new episodes. ABC (UK) agreed to shoot the new episodes on 35mm film rather than videotape, resulting in a clearer picture and better sound.

Honor Blackman’s replacement was Diana Rigg, as Mrs. Emma Peel.

The demeanor of the show changed with Mrs. Peel’s debut. Compare the theme music from the first three seasons, written by Johnny Dankworth:

with the theme music from seasons 4-6, written by Laurie Johnson:

The relationship between Steed and Mrs. Peel was more playful, the cases a little more absurd, the technology more advanced. Season 4 was shot in black and white, while seasons 5 and 6 were produced in color.

Diana Rigg left the series at the end of the fifth season. The story was that Mrs. Peel’s husband had been found in the Amazon jungle and he was brought back to England and reunited with his spouse, who then left Steed and rode off into the sunset with her husband. She was replaced almost immediately by Tara King, played by Linda Thorson. Here is that scene.

Unlike Cathy and Emma, Tara (nicknmed “ra-boom-de-ay” by Steed) was a trained (but inexperienced) agent of Steed’s organization. The flirtation between her and Steed was more pronounced, and the cases even more absurd.

I didn’t start watching the show until the fifth season, when ABC in the US ran it on Friday nights. I was twelve at the time, and while it’s unclear whether Diana Rigg in her leather catsuit brought on puberty in me, it certainly fanned the flames.

Our local religious broadcaster (who also shows reruns of Steamboat) has been running the episodes of Seasons 2 and 3 (plus the two or three episodes of Season 1 that still exist) pretty much nonstop for several years now. I seem to remember that Hollywood Video had a number of the videocassettes of those seasons on their shelves until they went out of business, and for some strange reason I believe that the station bought those VHS tapes and has been showing them nightly…

Now, for your listening pleasure, all the opens and closes for the series.

This is the last of my draft picks. I hope you’ve enjoyed them!

TV Draft Round 10 – Pick 1 – Max Selects – Are You Being Served?

A fun British sitcom that aired from 1972-to 1985. This comedy is not subtle…it’s obvious and in the open. The three UK sitcoms I’ve watched the most are Fawlty Towers, The Good Life, and Are You Being Served. My favorite by a mile is Fawlty Towers but this one is a lot of fun.

The show is about a department store called Grace Bros. owned by the elderly Grace brothers. It is operated with the old British class system. The show highlighted the Menswear and Womenswear departments and also the Floor Walker the pretentious Captain Peacock. It also featured the incompetent floor manager…Mr. Rumbold. As far as the class system…it’s hard to believe that once upon a time this was in effect. 

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

What happened to the original cast of Are You Being Served?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The original show is still popular in syndication after all of these years. 

The Cast

Mollie Sugden - Wikipedia

Mollie Sugden – Miss Slocombe

Are You Being Served?: S5

Frank Thornton – Mr. Peacock

John Inman - Wikipedia

John Inman – Mr. Humphries

Miss Brahms - Wikipedia

Wendy Richard – Miss Brahms

Nicholas Smith (Actor) ~ Life Story & Biography with Photos | Videos

Nicholas Smith – Mr. Rumbold

Trevor Bannister - Wikipedia

Trevor Bannister – Mr. Lucas

Temporary Layoffs - The World of TV: Are You Being Served? Week: This is  Your Department- Part Two

Arthur Brough – Mr. Grainger

young mr grace (@digitalpeacock1) / Twitter

Harold Bennett – Young Mr. Grace

Larry Martyn

Larry Martyn – Mr. Mash

British Comedy: Are You Being Served? list

Arthur English – Mr. Harmon

The Percival Tebbs Memorial Roadside Attraction

James Hayter – Mr. Tebbs

Alfie Bass

Alfie Bass – Mr. Goldberg

Are You Being Served? (UK) 10x07 The Pop Star - ShareTV

Mike Berry – Mr. Spooner

Kenneth Waller

Kenneth Waller – Old Mr. Grace

TV Draft UPDATE

Tomorrow morning we will kick off our last TV draft round! We have 8 more TV Shows coming…we all want to thank you… the readers who have made this possible and a fun experience. I also want to thank the bloggers who have reviewed all of these shows and we have covered every decade from the 1950s until now. Below are the picks that began in January and will end on July 3. Thank you… Paula, Lisa, Dave, John, Keith, Mike, Liam, Vic, Hanspostcard (who started it), and Kirk for all of the reviews below.
Round 1 TV Show Who Posted Home Site
1. Doctor Who Vic https://cosmic-observation.com/blog-posts/
2. The Sopranos Mike https://musiccitymike.net
3. Bozo’s Circus John https://thesoundofonehandtyping.com 
4. Barney Miller Max https://powerpop.blog
5. The Wire Kirk https://slicethelife.com/
6. Police Squad Keith https://nostalgicitalian.com/
7. Only Murders in the Building (OMITB) Paula http://paulalight.com
Round 2
1. The Odd Couple Mike https://musiccitymike.net
2. Cartoon Town John https://thesoundofonehandtyping.com 
3. Fawlty Towers Max https://powerpop.blog
4. Rockford Files Kirk https://slicethelife.com/
5. Mission Impossible Keith https://nostalgicitalian.com/
6. Firefly Vic https://cosmic-observation.com/blog-posts/
Round 3 TV Show Who Posted Home Site
1 Hogan’s Heroes John https://thesoundofonehandtyping.com 
2 Seinfeld Mike https://musiccitymike.net
3 Starsky & Hutch Vic https://cosmic-observation.com/blog-posts/
4 Perry Mason Keith https://nostalgicitalian.com/
5 Upload Paula http://paulalight.com
6 Lovecraft Country Lisa https://tao-talk.com/
7 King Of The Hill Dave https://soundday.wordpress.com/
8 Adam 12 Max https://powerpop.blog
Round 4 TV Show Who Posted Home Site
1 Breaking Bad Mike https://musiccitymike.net
2 The X-Files Vic https://cosmic-observation.com/blog-posts/
3 Columbo Keith https://nostalgicitalian.com/
4 Six Feet Under Paula http://paulalight.com
5 Shameless Lisa https://tao-talk.com/
6 Friends Dave https://soundday.wordpress.com/
7 Monkees Max https://powerpop.blog
8 JAG John https://thesoundofonehandtyping.com 
Round 5 TV Show Who Posted Home Site
1 Sisters Vic https://cosmic-observation.com/blog-posts/
2 30 Rock Keith https://nostalgicitalian.com/
3 One Day At A Time Paula http://paulalight.com
4 Ray Donovan Lisa https://tao-talk.com/
5 Emergency Dave https://soundday.wordpress.com/
6 The Andy Griffith Show Max https://powerpop.blog
7 CSI: Miami John https://thesoundofonehandtyping.com 
8 Mad Men Mike https://musiccitymike.net
Round 6 TV Show Who Posted Home Site
1 The Twilight Zone Max https://powerpop.blog
2 Tell Me Your Secrets Paula http://paulalight.com
3 My Name Is Earl Lisa https://tao-talk.com/
4 Ed Dave https://soundday.wordpress.com/
5 Get Smart Keith https://nostalgicitalian.com/
6 The Unicorn John https://thesoundofonehandtyping.com 
7 The West Wing Mike https://musiccitymike.net
8 The Gong Show Max https://powerpop.blog
Round 7 TV Show Who Posted Home Site
1 All In The Family Paula http://paulalight.com
2 Trailer Park Boys Lisa https://tao-talk.com/
3 Downton Abbey Dave https://soundday.wordpress.com/
4 Life On Mars Max https://powerpop.blog
5 Burn Notice John https://thesoundofonehandtyping.com 
6 Friday Night Lights Mike https://musiccitymike.net
7 The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show Liam https://othemts.wordpress.com/
8 The Honeymooners Keith https://nostalgicitalian.com/
Round 8 TV Show Who Posted Home Site
1 New Tricks Lisa https://tao-talk.com/
2 SCTV Dave https://soundday.wordpress.com/
3 WKRP In Cincinnati Max https://powerpop.blog
4 The Two Ronnies John https://thesoundofonehandtyping.com 
5 Star Trek: Voyager Mike https://musiccitymike.net
6 Siskel & Ebert Liam https://othemts.wordpress.com/
7 Sherlock Keith https://nostalgicitalian.com/
8 Curb Your Enthusiasm Paula http://paulalight.com
Round 9 TV Show Who Posted Home Site
1 Jeopardy Dave https://soundday.wordpress.com/
2 Saturday Night Live Max https://powerpop.blog
3 Riverboat John https://thesoundofonehandtyping.com
4 Suits Mike https://musiccitymike.net
5 The Kids In The Hall Liam https://othemts.wordpress.com/
6 Arrested Development Keith https://nostalgicitalian.com/
7 L.A. Law Paula http://paulalight.com
8 Resident Alien Lisa https://tao-talk.com/
Round 10 TV Show Who Posted Home Site
1 Max https://powerpop.blog
2 John https://thesoundofonehandtyping.com
3 Mike https://musiccitymike.net
4 Liam https://othemts.wordpress.com/
5 Keith https://nostalgicitalian.com/
6 Paula http://paulalight.com
7 Lisa https://tao-talk.com/
8 Dave https://soundday.wordpress.com/

TV Draft Round 9 – Pick 8 – Lisa Selects – Resident Alien

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

Picture1
Yes, I am being contrary by changing my mind yet again from the list I started out with. Instead of Showtime’s City on a Hill, which is an excellent series and recommended, I’m going with one that I just watched the first of two seasons of and plan on watching the other as soon as I can find it. The name of the series is Resident Alien and it airs on the SyFy Channel. It is based on a Dark Horse comic ( https://www.darkhorse.com/Comics/19-670/Resident-Alien-1) by Peter Hogan and Steven Parkhouse, and written for the screen by Chris Sheridan with 11 others getting screen writing credits. There have been 8 different directors for the 18 episodes made so far.

Picture2

Genre: comedy; drama

Picture3

Setting: The story is set in the fictitious town of Patience, Colorado, but it was filmed in and around Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. There are frequent drone shots of a small community nestled among snowy mountains (which I just learned at imdb: The expansive overhead shots that they often play at the beginning of new segments, which show most and sometimes all of the the town, set in the midst of the surrounding mountains, are pictures of Telluride, Colorado.) Watching TV shows set in small towns in the mountains is the next best thing to being there. Actually the setting brings back pleasant memories of another small town setting of one of my favorite shows of all time, Northern Exposure, set in Cicely, Alaska (but actually filmed in Roslyn, Washington.) While I’m thinking about it, the setting is just one similarity between the two shows.

Starring:
Alan Tudyk plays the main character, Harry Vanderspeigle. The real Harry is a doctor who has a wonderful cabin right on the shores of the lake of the town. When the alien’s ship crash lands in the snow of the mountains, the alien comes across Harry’s cabin, kills him, and assumes his form. The ET is on Earth for a mission, which is to arm and detonate a doomsday device; as the galaxy is sick and tired of humans and their terminally toxic foibles. The plan was to land, arm the device, and leave. Now that the spacecraft is damaged and pieces are strewn that need to be found in the mountain snow, not to mention the doomsday device is also lost, it will take ET some time to fulfill his mission.

Picture4

Asta Twelvetrees

Sara Tomko plays Asta Twelvetrees. Asta is a nurse at Dr. Hodges, the town doctor’s, practice. As the story opens, we learn that Dr. Hodges has been found dead in his office. Asta was very close to Dr. Hodges. When Harry is enlisted by the mayor to fill in for the deceased doctor until a replacement can be hired, Asta and Harry get acquainted with each other. Thankfully, Asta is a very open-minded and accepting person, as Harry is one hella odd duck. Asta’s dad runs the town’s restaurant. She has relationship and other family issues that are often plot lines.

Picture5

Deputy Liv and Sheriff Mike

Corey Reynolds plays Sheriff Mike Thompson, who has given himself the nickname, “Big Black,” which is both ironic and funny as hell. Sheriff Thompson is an egotistical but lovable person who, as one of the few black people in the town, has to make sure he is nobody’s fool because he’s representing. Sheriff Thompson’s sidekick, Deputy Liv Baker, played by Elizabeth Bowen, is just that to him, a sidekick. Deputy Baker is never taken seriously by him and is often verbally abused by the sheriff. All Deputy Liv wants is to be taken seriously as a law enforcement officer. She’s got real skills, but nobody seems to notice them.

Picture6

D’Arcy

Alice Wetterlund plays D’Arcy Bloom, who is a bartender who once was a contender for an Olympic medal in some winter sport until she got a terrible injury that brought her back to her hometown. She and Asta grew up together and are best besties. D’Arcy develops a terrible crush on Harry once he’s on the scene and is willing to take a lot of unwitting insensitivity on Harry’s part (or should I say the alien in Harry’s form, who knows nothing about social cues of humans.)

Picture7

Ben, Kate, and Max Hawthorne

Levi Fiehler plays Mayor Ben Hawthorne, who is benevolent, yet often out of his depth, especially when dead bodies start turning up here and there. He does act decisively in appointing Harry as the interim doc. How could he know that Harry is an ET in human clothing? Ben is married to Kate, played by Meredith Garretson, who is loving wife and mother with an inquisitive mind. Ben and Kate’s young son (I think he’s around 10 years old,) Max, is played by Judah Prehn. We learn that Judah is one of that rare percentage of humans who is able to see what the ET who is camoflaged as Harry really looks like. Of course he freaks out the first several times he sees him. He does his best to convince others in the town of what Harry really is, but everyone thinks it’s his overactive imagination. Much of the plot of the first season revolves around Max proving to others that Harry is an ET and Harry trying to kill Max (although not all that seriously. This is a comedy, after all.)

Picture8
Sheriff Mike and Dan Twelvetrees

Gary Farmer plays Dan Twelvetrees. Dan is Asta’s father and owner of the town’s cafe. Dan raised Asta as a single parent and did a good job of it. The cafe is a frequent meeting place for the main characters.

The rest of the cast are good also, but in describing them I might give away important plot points.

Synopsis: The show revolves around ET/Harry learning how to pass as a human until he can get his ship reassembled, find the doomsday device, and head back to his home planet. In the meantime he has to keep people from believing Max. As Harry integrates into his community there are ongoing funny situations and other events that arise that keep things entertaining.
Impressions: There is a lot to like about, “Resident Alien.” Foremost is Alan Tudyk as Harry/ET. He’s already got a sort of strange look, and his range of odd and goofy expressions are impressive. He knows just how to play this character to bring him to life. I truly adore the two female leads, Asha and D’Arcy. They are both strong women who have been through significant challenges, yet they came through and are there to be supportive community members in their little town. I also adore the interactions between Sheriff Mike and Deputy Liv, which make for a lot of funny scenes. I also think Mayor Ben is one of the better roles. Not only is there a lot of material for him as mayor but there are multiple family situations that show up over the season; most significant is how he and Kate deal with Max when he insists that Harry is an ET. Speaking of Max, he is simply wonderful as the sharp-minded kid who isn’t going to be outwitted by some old ET. I’ve already talked about the setting. The plots are slow-paced and creative. The humor is pervasive and often dark, yet there are some dramatic and poignant moments dispersed along the way.
Grade: 9
Awards: 1 win and 10 nominations

Sources:
top image
Dark Horse comics
imdb
Atlas of Wonders
image Asta
image Deputy Liv and Sheriff Mike
image of D’Arcy
image Hawthorne Family
image Sheriff Mike and Dan

TV Draft Round 9 – Pick 7 – Paula Selects – L.A. Law

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

LA Law

LA Law

 Welcome back to Max’s Power Pop! Today I am discussing the legal drama series LA LAW, which ran for eight seasons – from September 1986 to May 1994 – and was based around a fictional Los Angeles law firm called McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak (later Becker was added to the name). Filming took place in downtown Los Angeles. Steven Bochco and Terry Louis Fisher created the popular show; it won 15 Emmy Awards, four of which were for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series. Fisher was fired from the show during the second season and filed a lawsuit against Bochco and the studio, creating a legal drama within a legal drama.

“The show contains many of Bochco’s trademark features, including an ensemble cast, large number of parallel storylines, social drama, and off-the-wall humor. It reflects the social and cultural ideologies that were occurring when the show was produced in the 1980s and early 1990s, and many of the cases featured on the show dealt with hot-button issues such as capital punishment, abortion, racism, homophobia, sexual harassment, HIV/AIDS, and domestic violence. The series often also reflects social tensions between the wealthy senior lawyer protagonists and their less well–paid junior staff.” ~ Wikipedia

The eight main characters on the show pictured above were played by the following actors (first row, left to right): Jill Eikenberry as Ann Kelsey (associate/partner), Richard Dysart as Leland McKenzie (senior partner), Harry Hamlin as Michael Kuzak (partner), and Michele Greene as Abby Perkins (associate). On the second row, left to right, we have Michael Tucker as Stuart Markowitz (associate/partner and husband of Ann Kelsey), Alan Rachins as Douglas Brackman, Jr. (managing partner/interim senior partner), Corbin Bernsen as Arnie Becker (partner), and Jimmy Smits as Victor Sifuentes (associate).

Additionally, there were a number of recurring roles, such as Susan Ruttan as Roxanne Melman (secretary), Susan Dey as Grace Owens (deputy district attorney, etc.), and Blair Underwood as Jonathan Rollins, an associate who cross-examined a man to death (one of my favorite scenes!). The show also featured relatively unknown guest stars that went on to greater success, such as Jeffrey Tambor, Kathy Bates, David Schwimmer, Bryan Cranston, Kevin Spacey, William H. Macy, Christian Slater, Steve Buscemi, and Lucy Liu. There were also some famous faces who appeared as themselves in cameos, such as Buddy Hackett and Vanna White.

The show presented so many interesting and varied storylines about the law, business practices in general, romantic and other relationships, and family life. I particularly enjoyed the episodes where Roxanne had a significant role. Unfortunately, LA Law ended abruptly after the eighth season without any wrap-up or finale. Shows about lawyers remain a popular theme though, and there have been many other legal dramas since LA Law, including Suits, with our favorite duchess Meghan Markle, and Better Call Saul, the prequel sequel to Breaking Bad.

~*~

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 9 – Pick 6 – Keith Selects – Arrested Development

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

logo

My ninth pick in the Hanspostcard TV Show Draft is a show that consistently made me laugh out loud – Arrested Development. I know going into this blog that it was a show that not everyone “gets.” I recall going to work raving about the show and how much I laughed at it. I encouraged others to watch it. Some got it and most didn’t.

In almost everything you read about the show, it is referred to as “a cult classic.” To a degree, I guess that may be true. I remember how giddy I got when a couple people in my sleep program also were big fans of the show. We were constantly quoting it in class as many stared at us like we were freaks. Maybe we were.

Before continuing, let me say that I chose this show based on the 3 seasons that aired on Fox. I am aware that years later, two more seasons were produced by Netflix (where you can see the entire 5 seasons). As a fan of the show, I watched the two additional seasons, and while there were some funny moments, and while I loved seeing the return of the cast/characters, it lacked so much of what the first three seasons had. That being said, let’s move on …

Ask me the question, “Just why is Arrested Development so good?” or “What makes the show so funny?” and I cannot give you an answer. In preparing to write this, I did a Google search of those questions. There were many Reddit forums and fan sites that come up with personal opinions about it, but none of them really has a solid answer. After all, “comedy is subjective.”

1260849_arrested-development - Copy

The Origins of the Show

In 2002, Actor/Director Ron Howard had the idea to create a TV comedy that would involve using handheld cameras and shoot sort of like reality TV. It was to have a look of a documentary, yet be a comedy. NBC’s The Office was shot this way and often referred to as a “mock-umentary.”

He met with some people at Imagine Entertainment to discuss the idea and Mitch Hurwitz mentioned the fact that there were a lot of corporate accounting scandals that were in the news (like Enron and Adelphia), and the story of a family that went from rags to riches might work. Howard liked the idea and had Hurwitz begin writing the series. After creating the story’s characters and plot line, he had a pilot script done in January of 2003 and the first episode was shot just two months later. Howard acted as the show’s narrator and in the opening credits welcomes viewers to the “story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together. It’s Arrested Development”.

The show is about a family – albeit a VERY dysfunctional family. I think that is what makes this whole show work. Watching each of these characters, with their own insecurities and idiosyncrasies, interacting with each other allows for comedy to flourish. (It also will cause you to see members of your own family as members of this one!) Add to brilliantly funny “cut-aways,” narrator comments, and strong comedy writing and you have a show that will make your sides hurt from laughing.

In a nutshell, the show follows the formally wealthy Bluth family as Micheal (Justin Bateman), the only responsible Bluth, tries to keep them and their company from going completely bust while desperately attempting to set a good example for his teenage son (Micheal Cera). The family includes imprisoned father George (Jeffrey Tambor), hypercritical matriarch Lucille (Jessica Walter), failed magician Gob (Will Arnett), spoiled sister Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), and man-child Buster (Tony Hale).

intro-1651005977 - Copy

Wikipedia describes the show this way:

The plot of Arrested Development revolves around the members of the Bluth family, a formerly wealthy family who continue to lead extravagant lifestyles despite their changed circumstances. At the center of the show is Michael Bluth, the show’s straight man, who strives to do the right thing and keep his family together, despite their materialism, selfishness, and manipulative natures. Michael is a widowed single father. His teenage son, George Michael, has the same qualities of decency but feels a constant pressure to live up to his father’s expectations and is often reluctant to follow his father’s plans. He battles with a crush he has on cousin Maeby, which developed from a kiss she gave him as part of a prank.

Michael’s father, George Bluth Sr., is the patriarch of the family and a corrupt real estate developer who is arrested in the first episode. George goes to considerable lengths to manipulate and control his family in spite of his imprisonment, and makes numerous efforts to evade justice. His wife, and Michael’s mother, Lucille Bluth, is ruthlessly manipulative, materialistic, and hypercritical of every member of her family, and constantly drinks alcohol. Her grip is tightest on her youngest son, Byron “Buster” Bluth, an over-educated (yet still under-educated) mama’s boy who has dependency issues and is prone to panic attacks.

Michael’s older brother is George Oscar Bluth II, known by the acronym “Gob” (pronounces like “Job” in the Bible).  An unsuccessful professional magician whose business and personal schemes usually fail or become tiresome and are quickly abandoned, Gob is competitive with Michael over women and bullies Buster. Michael’s twin sister Linday is spoiled and materialistic, continually seeking the center of attention and leaping on various social causes for the sake of vanity. She is married to Tobias Funke (David Cross), a discredited psychiatrist-turned-aspiring actor. Tobias is a self-diagnosed “never-nude” (a disorder comparable to gymnophobia) whose language and behavior have heavily homosexual overtones to which he seems oblivious and which are the center of much tongue-in-cheek comedy throughout the series. Their daughter is Mae “Maeby” Funke (Alia Shawkat), a rebellious teen with an opportunistic streak, who seeks to defy her parents for the sake of attention, and otherwise pursues boys and power, and furthers her complicated relationship with George Michael.

The supporting cast and characters are just as strong and developed as the main ones. Those include Jeffrey Tambor as George Sr.’ identical twin Oscar, Liza Minnelli as Lucille Austero (or Lucille 2), Carl Weathers appears as himself (and is hilarious), and Henry Winkler as the family’s attorney Barry Zuckerkorn. Other guest stars include Ed Begley Junior, Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Charlize Theron.

One Reddit user said:

I’ve never found another sitcom on TV that assumed its viewers had concentration spans and didn’t need to be spoon fed things. The producers were more than happy to let a brilliant joke sail past half the audience rather than overexpose it so everyone watching understood. They were not only happy to include subtle references to episodes that occurred a year or two before they were happy to throw in references to things that were going to happen later in the season. And all without a laugh track or excessive mugging to the camera to tell us when to laugh.

Of course being subtle and extremely clever on its own isn’t enough to make a good sitcom. Arrested Development also benefited from brilliant stories, very clever writing and perfect performances from the entire cast.

The countless in-jokes, references to other jokes and jokes that reference jokes that are referencing the in-jokes. The show is so layered that there are literally hundreds of clever idiosyncrasies within each episode. Like someone said earlier, the viewer feels rewarded when they get a joke that refers to an earlier episode.

One of the things I still love about the show is that it gets better with each viewing! I can watch an episode again and find jokes I had missed before. It is constantly offering a “pay off.” It is different from say Friends or Fraiser, in that every time you watch an episode again, you find a comedy “nugget.”

_96103752_coctailpartygetty - Copy

There are many fantastic running gags on the show. Rolling Stone wrote a very nice article on them. You can find that here:

https://www.rollingstone.com/tv/tv-lists/arrested-development-the-funniest-running-jokes-48542/the-banana-stand-46247/

There is also a great Watch Mojo Top 10 list:

Visual gags and word play were often a source of laughs on the show. I remember one gag that really pushed the envelope and left me laughing and wondering how they got away with it at the same time:

One of the silliest gags on the show is the Bluth Family Chicken Dance, which is mentioned in the video above. It is not something they all do in unison, let me be clear on that. Each member of the Bluth family has their own – very unique way – of dancing like a chicken. This is often used when insinuating that another family member is chicken or scared of doing something. I’m including this video, because in the one above, some of the “set up” to the full family dance was omitted.

In the middle of the third season, it was clear that viewership was down and the show was probably going to be cancelled. As a matter of fact, Fox pulled the show from the November sweeps that year AND cut down the order for 22 episodes to just 13 (something which became a joke throughout that third season.)

In 2004, the show was nominated for 7 Emmy awards and won five of them.  It won for Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series, Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. It was praised by critics for being one of the funniest shows on TV, but the ratings never really lived up to that hype.

I was excited to write about this show, but now that I am reaching the end, I feel that I have in no way, shape, or form done it justice. I just don’t know how to do that. It is a show that makes me laugh out loud, yet I cannot fully explain why. It is a show that you will either love or hate – based on what you find funny.

Remember at the beginning of this blog I asked: “Just why is Arrested Development so good?” or “What makes the show so funny?”

In an interview with The Guardian, Justin Bateman may have the answer! He explained the key to what makes Arrested Development so hilarious is how seriously the characters take their ridiculous lives. He states that the sitcom is actually more like a drama for its ensemble of characters. The comedy, he feels, comes from the fact that the Bluth family has no idea how funny they really are.

“This is not funny to anybody inside the show. This is a drama to them. Almost like an animal documentary, where you’re watching these freaks, and how they gather their food, and how they make their house. And let’s make sure we all whisper because we don’t want these folks to know how much we’re laughing at them.” – Justin Bateman

Thank you, Bluth Family, for all the laughs!

TV Draft Round 9 – Pick 5 – Liam Selects – The Kids In The Hall

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

The Kids in the Hall

CBC Television (1988-1995)

HBO (1988-1992)

CBS (1993-1995)

Amazon Prime Video (2022)

The Kids in the Hall are a sketch comedy troupe based out of Toronto, Canada.  You could say they are the Canadian Monty Python.  Or perhaps, the Canadian Saturday Night Live? Like Monty Python, they are an all-male group of 5 writer/performers (the Pythons had six) who create edgy sketch comedy often bordering on the absurdist, and frequently don wigs and dresses to portray female characters.  Like Saturday Night Live, their show was produced by Lorne Michaels and performed in front of a live audience (albeit, it was not broadcast live).  But at the heart of things, The Kids in the Hall are their own thing, creators of something outside the mainstream of comedy of the 1980s and 1990s and capturing the ethos of Generation X, paralleling the rise of alternative rock at the same time. A recently released documentary about the Kids calls them Comedy Punks.

Let’s meet the Kids!

Dave Foley (b. 1963) is the member of the troupe who feels most mainstream in his comedy approach, but that is on a relative scale.  His boyish good looks were often contrasted with antisocial behavior, such as a surgeon who kills all his patients or an axe murderer, both of whom get away with it because of their charm.  He was also considered the “hottest” of the Kids when dressed as woman. Not surprisingly, later in his career he starred in the American sitcom NewsRadio, and provided voices for the Pixar movies A Bug’s Life and Monsters University.

Bruce McCulloch (b. 1961) is probably the weirdest of the Kids in his comedy approach.  Inspired by art movies, his surreal monologues and filmed pieces evoked a mood of absurdity rather than just telling jokes.  Outside of the Kids in the Hall he has recorded music and directed several movies and tv shows.

Kevin McDonald (b. 1961) is probably a lovely person in real life, but has a talent for playing really annoying characters.  A lot of his self-deprecating humor contains a dark undercurrent of the volatility of his childhood growing up with an alcoholic father.  McDonald has provided his voice for the Disney movie Lilo & Stitch and its spinoffs and had a recurring role on That 70s Show.

Mark McKinney (b. 1959) specialized in creating characters and is probably the Kid most similar in comedy style to Saturday Night Live (and he did in fact join the cast of SNL from 1995 to 1997).  His most notable characters include Mr. Tyzik the Headcrusher and the Chicken Lady. Outside of his work with the Kids he’s appeared in numerous movies and tv shows, the strangest of which is Guy Maddin’s The Saddest Music in the World.

Scott Thompson (b. 1959) performs comedy informed by his gay identity with a definite emphasis on using comedy to advance LGBTQ equality, which was very bold in the 1980s and 1990s.  Most notably, he reclaimed the effeminate gay man stereotype through his character Buddy Cole who delivered hilarious monologues.  He also frequently portrayed Queen Elizabeth II, one of the rare celebrity impersonations on The Kids in the Hall.  His other work includes appearances in many movies and tv shows, including a regular role on The Larry Sanders Show.

Foley and McDonald met in the early 1980s in the Toronto comedy scene and became a writing and performing team.  Their partnership is the strongest among all the Kids and has remained so throughout the troupe’s history.  Meanwhile, McCulloch and McKinney met in Calgary where they performed with a group called The Audience.  Moving to Toronto to expand their opportunities, McCulloch and McKinney met Foley and McDonald and in 1984 they formed The Kids in the Hall.  The name came from an old Sid Caesar gag blaming bad jokes on the young writers who hung around the studio. Their shows in Toronto’s comedy clubs became a big attraction.  Thompson saw them perform and pretty much willed himself into a spot in the group. Early sketches like “Reg” showcased their humor style at its most sick and twisted.

Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels saw the Kids perform in 1985 and hired McKinney and McCulloch to come to New York to be writers.  Eventually, Michaels determined that it would be better to keep the Kids together as a group and worked to get them their own show.  The pilot for The Kids in the Hall broadcast on CBC Television in Canada and on HBO in the United States in 1988, followed by a full series of 20 episodes in 1989-1990.  Enhancing the Gen X zeitgeist, the Toronto alternative rock band Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet provided the theme song, “Having an Average Weekend,” as well as the music to interstitials between sketches and performing live for the studio audience.  The band’s music is described as instrumental surf rock, however since the Shadowy Men recorded a track called “We’re Not a F*****g Surf Band,” so we’ll have discover a new genre for them.

The Kids and the Hall had several recurring characters, but carefully avoided the SNL habit of overexposing them to please the fans.  Characters appeared when they had a very good and very funny reason to be there.  A number of sketches revolved around the company A.T. & Love with characters ranging from an incompetent boss (Foley), hard-pressed businessman Danny Husk (Thompson), and the secretaries Kathie (McCulloch) and Cathy (Thompson). These characters had the versatility to appear in sketches together, on their own, or with a completely different group of characters. Another series of sketches focused on rebellious Gen X teen Bobby Terrance (McCulloh), his more conservative parents (McKinney and Foley), and his best friend, the stoner Bauer (Thompson).

While Thompson was the only gay member of the troupe, sketches with LGBTQ characters were common, including scenes of men kissing men when that was taboo on American TV (one of the many things that got edited between CBC and CBS transmissions).  The recurring sketch “Steps” featured three gay men discussing the issues of the day where the audience was laughing with them not at them. Despite the Kids being all men, they never saw dressing up in wigs and dresses as funny in of itself, unlike say Milton Berle. Instead they did their best to portray women as fully-formed characters and offer an honest female perspective.  Dave Foley even has a good attitude toward menstruation.

After five seasons and 101 episodes, the Kids were ready to pack it in, physically exhausted and drained of ideas. The final episode broadcast on April 15, 1995 showed them being buried alive in a shared grave.  The next step naturally appeared to be making movies, and in April 1996 they released Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy. The making of the film was a miserable experience for everyone involved and tensions ran high, especially toward Foley who everyone resented for signing a contract to star in NewsRadio while they were working on the film. The movie bombed although some fans consider it a cult classic (I am not one of them).  The Kids went their own ways for a few years but with reruns of the show in constant rotation on Comedy Central, the troupe’s fan base grew bigger than ever.

By 2000, tensions had eased enough to bring the Kids back together, this time returning to the stage for a North American Tour.  Performing in front of live audiences again energized the Kids creatively, and they were able to resume their close personal relationships as well.  The Kids went on the road for more tours, introducing new sketches.  In 2010, they returned to TV, stepping beyond sketch comedy for the first time in the darkly comic 8-part miniseries Death Comes to Town which aired on CBC.  I hadn’t heard of this series until recently so I haven’t watched it yet but I hear it’s good.  Just this May, seemingly out of nowhere, the Kids in the Hall TV series returned for season 6, with 8-episodes streaming on Amazon Prime.  While the Kids have physically aged, they haven’t lost a step and the new episodes are as funny as ever.  The final episode ends with the Kids getting buried again, but I think we’ll see the Kids in the Hall again soon! Until then, here’s one of my favorite sketches, “The Night of the Cow”