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 9 – Pick 4 – Mike Selects – Suits

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

Suits

Yes, it’s that show that featured Prince Harry’s American wife, actress Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex if she’s not yet been sent to exile for being so gripey. Let me just get it out of the way and say that she handled her acting duties about as well as she has her time as a member of the British Royal family. Nuff said.

After that odd intro, I’ll further confuse everyone by adding that I am also selecting a series that I quit on after Season 7 of its nine seasons. While that had to do mainly with the exit of some of the show’s best lead characters, it also can be said that Suits was a show that was great when it was good and awful when it was bad.

Suits is a New York City-based legal drama that follows the pursuits of Harvey and Mike. The former, played by Gabriel Macht, is a handsome, uber-confident, high-powered corporate attorney.  The latter, played by Patrick Adams, is a young man with an eidetic memory who despite lacking the necessary credentials, works as an attorney alongside his boss Harvey. Keeping the truth about Mike hidden becomes as interesting to the story lines as do the cases and settlements that these two gents win together.

If reading this at all interests you in Suits, I highly recommend that you at least watch the fabulous debut episode whose storyline shows how Mike manages to get where he is working at a major NYC law firm without having a law degree or passing the Bar Exam on his resume.

Down the road however, the show’s writing had its ups and downs, likely due to the host USA Network’s inability to sport a steady team of writers. But great characters and strong acting really made this show what it was. Among the strong roles were Rick Hoffman as the eccentric but loveable attorney Louis, Sarah Rafferty as the drop-dead gorgeous and highly competent legal assistant Donna, and Gina Torres as the cunningly clever and insightful managing partner Jessica.

I guess Macht’s Harvey character is what I enjoyed most about Suits. He’s the kind of guy that’s easy to look up too. Highly driven and devotedly adept at his occupation, he doesn’t like to lose and usually doesn’t. And even though he works just about around the clock, he has this admirable wholeness to his personality. He’s the consummate New Yorker who knows the best hot dog cart and where to get a great cup of coffee. There are autographed Michael Jordan (presumably a one-time client) basketballs in his office along with a turntable and a huge collection of vinyl, Let’s just say that Harvey depicts “corporate cool” at its best.

Of the show’s flaws, it’s easy to spot that the Suits is not filmed in NYC (it’s Toronto) and it dove me crazy how in just two seconds flat someone is able to get the gist of a legal brief shoved in their face. These peeves aside, the legal squabbles are interesting as are their solutions. There are also interesting plot lines involving partnership in-fighting, Louis’s many neuroses, and Mike’s romance with Rachel (played by the future Duchess). However, every so often there was a script that was a dud, and after Mike left, the show lost its appeal.

So, while not a series I recommend watching from start to finish, there’s enough greatness in Suits to poke around a bit. I’m sure that my love for all things NYC and my once desire to be an attorney have something to do with my love for the show. Give it a try if you haven’t.

TV Draft Round 8 – Pick 5 – Mike Selects – Star Trek: Voyager

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

Star Trek: Voyager

Let me begin by saying that I really don’t care much for science fiction. My family can confirm how I am on record for falling asleep in the movie theater for Star Wars and Lord of the Rings movies. I guess my brain finds little appeal for fantasy. So, what is it about Star Trek: Voyager that makes it different?

Well, this attraction started with Star Trek: The Next Generation which my family and I watched together and which I would likely pick as a favorite should there be a second round to this draft. Together, we binge-watched all of TNG on DVD, and in true geekiness, kept a spreadsheet where we rated each episode on a 1 to 5 scale. Our watching continued with Voyager, but our nerdom didn’t include the spreadsheet after Mom dropped out.

So, this leaves me to try and explain both how Star Trek overcome my disdain for sci-fi and why I favor (ever so slightly) Voyager over The Next Generation.

I guess what makes me somewhat of a Trekkie, is how these shows extend the history of our planet into the future and explore the unknown expanse of our galaxy. We see the development of technology (some of which has since come to pass) and experience the remarkable acceleration of the speed of travel (unlikely to ever happen). As a child, I always enjoyed books about the future and Trek provided me with a continuation of this fascination. Perhaps my attraction takes root in the fact that there is some probability to some of what is presented in Trek.

On the other hand, as the name itself implies, Star Wars focused more on wars and battles with much more emphasis on alien fantasy rather than the evolution of Earthlings.

As for The Next Generation, everything about it was fabulous and more than satisfied my needs. The casting was perfect, the technological advances were exciting and sometimes realistic, and the stories were fantastic. However, while the same can be said for Voyager, there was just something about it that attracted me even more.

As brilliant as Patrick Stewart was as Captain Jean-Luc Picard on TNG, so was Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway on Voyager. Let’s just stop there and call it even. Likewise, both casts matchup well with Data on TNG and Seven of Nine on Voyager getting the nods as my favorites. Touché again.

But perhaps what puts Voyager over the top is simply the passage of time, both fictionally in the scripts and, as to the tools available for filming. As to the former, Starfleet technology advanced especially in the use of the Holodeck, a recreational device in which crewmembers freely interacted in an imaginary setting of their choice. To the latter, TV special effects just got better and for the first time in the Trek series were enhanced through the use of CGI (“Computer Generated Images). TNG had made a giant leap however in this regard when compared to the original Star Trek series which at times often completely lost the feel of traveling through outer space.

Voyager lasted seven seasons (1995-2001). It started just after and ran concurrently with Deep Space Nine which failed to catch my fancy along with the other subsequent Trek series that have maintained the franchise. So, if like me, sci-fi is not your thing, like me, you might find enjoyment in Voyager. On the other hand, if you regularly attend Trekkie conventions, where do you rank Voyager amongst the Star Trek canon?

TV Draft Round 7 – Pick 6 – Mike Selects – Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights

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

Friday Night Lights

Back in the 1960s when I attended high school in New Jersey, high school football was important, but as I would later realize when I moved to Texas in the 1970s, maybe just not that important. While we went to all the games and rooted for our friends on the field, outside of a pretty lame pep rally at school on Friday afternoon, there wasn’t that much more to it. And if you looked hard the next day, you probably could find the box score in the Sports pages of the local morning paper.

Although I was warned, I still could not believe it until I saw it myself, that in Texas, the local TV stations showed filmed highlights of high school football on game nights. It also seemed that locals talked more about their favorite high school team than they did about the Cowboys or the Oilers. Then there were these large football fields all over town where on Friday nights in the fall and winter you would get stuck in traffic and yes, see those stadium lights!

This Texas phenomenon was dubbed Friday Night Lights and first memorialized in a 1990 non-fiction book that chronicled a small-town team in Odessa, Texas. In 2004, it was adapted for the big screen and was later made into the fictionalized television series that ran five seasons from 2006-2011. After the television version captured my heart on several levels, I went back and watched the movie only to quit after about 15 minutes. It was no match for the television series, and I just could not let it spoil my love for what I had seen on the small screen.

It goes without saying that having a love for football will make Friday Night Lights a more enjoyable experience, but the show does more than just portray Texas high school football. It features one of the best television families of all time with Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton playing parents to both their own child as well as the high schoolers they coach and counsel, respectively.

The show includes just about everything those high school years were about in addition to football. You see all the ups and downs of being a teenager in the 1980s brought on by social pressures and challenging relationships and of course the inevitable interference from sex, drugs, and alcohol. In addition to the coach’s family, there are several other family dynamics in play with storylines to follow.

Then there’s the football! As far as fictionized sports go, the drama of each season as well as of individual games is expertly depicted creating both the excitement of victory and the heartbreak of defeat. The show also works in all the behind-the-scenes stuff very well including the interfering influence of the local community and the pressure felt by the players, some of whom dreamed of playing in college and beyond.

Like any good show, Friday Night Lights is packed with emotion and runs us through cycles of bringing us down with setbacks later lifting our spirits through redemption. It’s a roller coaster ride for sure and features many great young actors who shine throughout the series. The show also deserves acclaim for its filming technique where most scenes were shot in a single take giving it a more natural feel.

Although it never scored a touchdown in the ratings, Friday Night Lights was a critical success, and it eventually received some Emmy nods in its final two seasons. The show is a must if you like football but don’t mind remembering how tough it was to go through school. I’m glad I gave it a try because it was well worth it despite bringing back some old memories I’d rather forget.

PS – There is one quick personal story that is too memorable for me not to share. While in the middle of obsessively streaming this show on-line, I took a respite from the annual East Nashville Tomatofest event on a hot summer’s afternoon to watch an episode in a coffee shop. Can you imagine my surprise when I walked out the door and immediately came upon actress Connie Britton, then star of the Nashville TV series, walking by pushing a baby stroller!

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

The West Wing

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

The West Wing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TV Draft Round 4 – Pick 1 – Mike Selects – Breaking Bad

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. The remaining 7 rounds will be posted here. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Mike from https://musiccitymike.net

Breaking Bad

Like many other TV bingers these days, there are few, if any, series that I watch in real time. After all, who has the patience to wait a week (or at a season’s end, over the summer) for the next episode to see what happens next in a suspenseful show. However, I did make an exception for the wild escapades of high school chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine maker Walter White on AMC’s Breaking Bad.

Why? Well, the plot was just so unique and more so, its production, especially in terms of camera work, was nothing short of spectacular. The ways that producer Vince Gilligan found to use the camera were ground-breaking. Come on, who would have ever thought of filming from the inside of a refrigerator!

Before I get to the tragic tale of Mr. White, there’s also the music. I don’t think I have ever been so taken by the impact of soundtrack songs like I was in Breaking Bad.  There are two magic moments that come to mind. I still get chills running down my spine when I think of how Tommy James & the Shondells’ “Crystal Blue Persuasion” and Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” were used to such stunning effects. For the unfamiliar, it may help to know that Mr. White’s “product” had a unique-to-meth blue color. And the Badfinger song’s opening line of “Guess I got what I deserve” show appropriately set the show’s final scene. (Kudos also to local Nashville band The Silver Seas for getting their fab song “Catch Yer Own Train” into Season One.)

As with my fave series, The Sopranos, here we go again with White and his former student and now partner-in-crime, Jessie Pinkman, falling into the unavoidable anti-hero role. However, seeing all this suspense and drama from a first-person perspective was the only way to go for Breaking Bad. And how could you not resist rooting for a guy who simply was trying to get some extra money together for his family before he died of cancer.

What really makes the show so habit forming is how what starts out as such a simple innocent way to make a few bucks steamrolls into a monster enterprise attracting a cadre of despicable characters. This includes the metamorphosis of meek Walter into the evil Heisenberg. Even his demure wife gets into the act to help when the couple finds itself with an accumulation of cash larger than most banks. While the show is full of violence galore, it’s these same things that also gives the show more laughs than you’d ever expect in a crime drama. For me, the funniest moment was when screwball meth-head Badger explains how the pizza place they just ordered from passes on the savings by not cutting its slices.

But, Breaking Bad also uses the often employed, but head-scratching literary device of coincidence.  What are the odds that a guy who takes up making meth in Albuquerque, New Mexico would also have a brother-in-law who is the local head of the DEA who heads the task force hunting down the guy behind the new blue meth showing up on the streets! I’ll save the spoilers as to how these two end up.

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, as Walter and Jesse respectively, both put in career-defining roles. And the supporting cast was just as spectacular, including Bob Odinkirk as sleazy lawyer, Saul Goodman, who would wind up with his own spin-off show, Better Call Saul, which is just about to start airing its final season.

I hope that all fans of the show did get to see the enjoyable El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, a Netflix sequel to the show that continues the story of Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman character. And as for the prequal of Better Call Saul, we fans look forward to hopefully seeing White and Pinkman appear on the show as its timeline moves forward and the show runs its course. And on a possible sad note, maybe we will find out why Saul’s lady friend, Kim Wexler, never made it to the Breaking Bad days.

In concluding, let me just say that this show is just so darn good that it is no surprise that in 2013 it entered the Guinness World Records as the most critically acclaimed TV show of all-time. That’s no surprise since how many shows have ever achieved the success of having each episode followed by a live recap and analysis show every week!

TV Draft Round 3 – Pick 2 – Seinfeld

Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. The remaining 8 rounds will be posted here. We will have 64 different TV Shows by 8 different writers. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Mike from https://musiccitymike.net

Seinfeld

I must begin by saying that I’m puzzled as to why it took me so long to decide what my next pick in the TV series draft would be. The number of Seinfeld YouTube clips I’ve watched should alone justify making the “show about nothing” my #3 overall pick.

My history with Seinfeld however is odd in that I did not watch a single episode in real time until I viewed the underwhelming series finale at a private corporate event on their then-expensive big screen. By then though I had at least seen some reruns but had yet to become passionate about the show. But not too long after the series ceased, I got hooked by watching many more reruns and running through my Dad’s DVD collection when I visited my folks. Watching Seinfeld soon became highly addictive for several reasons upon which I will elaborate.

Seinfeld ‘s obvious attractions are of course that it is very funny, all the characters are incredible, and like my prior two series picks, it is set mostly in New York City. And to that last point, the show’s brilliant production never once makes you think that it’s all done in a Hollywood studio. It really feels like it’s all happening in the Big Apple.

Remarkably, I have always been fascinated by how timeless Seinfeld is. Despite the lack of cellphones and the presence of Jerry’s dated haircut and his old Macintosh computer visible in the background, the storylines just seem so relevant to whatever decade you are watching them in. Relationship issues, comical character failures and the unabashed selfishness exhibited by the four main characters are things we can all forever relate to and laugh about.

Seinfeld’s impact on popular culture is also unprecedented. For a show that is now more that 20 years expired, there are so many expressions that are now accepted vernacular. Aside from the obvious “Yada Yada” and “No soup for you!”, quite often, personal situations have made me recall and reference old episodes. One recent example dealt with someone who was perpetuating an obvious lie until when like George Costanza, “He finally reached the end of the Hamptons!” Amazing how many people I said this to remembered that car ride ending in a walk when George didn’t admit to his fiancé’s parents that he didn’t have a house in the Hamptons until they all reached the Atlantic Ocean.

Each Seinfeld episode typically had three or four concurrent storylines and we often forget the classics that intersected with one another.  One was when the injured squirrel, for whom George paid for surgery to impress a girlfriend, got snatched away by a hawk during Kramer’s mock Merv Griffin Show. (After he found the old TV show set props in the trash bin.) On the same “show,” Jerry also was outed for drugging his girlfriend so that he could play with her rare vintage toy collection.

Being a baseball fan, having George work for the Yankees and seeing some real-life Yankees and Mets playing themselves on the show was something special. In fact, if I had to pick my favorite episode, it would be the one in which George suggested the Yankees wear cotton uniforms since cotton fabric breathes. Then came the problem when the non-polyester uniforms shrank making play difficult. This was also another great multiple story line show in which the gang watches the hapless Yanks from an Atlantic City hotel room where Jerry also accidently drowns the trained doves from Miss Rhode Island’s talent act. (Kramer was coaching Jerry’s girlfriend for the pageant.)

Writing about this show makes me want to watch it right now. It also makes me ponder where did Kramer get the money to live on and how many girlfriends did Jerry have? It’s hard to imagine what life would be like without the ability to go back and visit Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer on a regular basis.

Finally, while there never was an official Seinfeld reunion show, there was a short segment on Seinfeld co-creator Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm where we did see the show’s main four characters in the future. Here’s a look at those snippets all combined in a clever update that makes you long for some more new Seinfeld. Maybe someday.