TV BLOG - 160
I'M BACK (TO THE EIGHTIES) WITH MORE RANDOM STUFF
Speaking of Netflix I wonder how they'll fare when / if the Post Office stops Saturday delivery? Netflix processes DVDs on Saturday so a returned DVD on Friday, arriving at Netflix on Saturday, means a new DVD at home on Monday. I'm on the 4 DVDs at a time plan. In general, I get 7 - 8 DVDs a week for $24.00 a month. That's less than a buck apiece, not a bad deal. With no Saturday I'll prolly get around 6 a week, that's about 20% less a month; closer to a dollar each, still a good price but those 2 extra DVDs tend to come on Saturdays giving me something to sit down and watch as opposed to having it on while I work as I do now. Aren't you sorry you asked? You didn't ask?!?
Hey Sarah Palin! now that you've raked in $12 million dollars on your new career, whatever that is, it's imperative that your new Discovery Channel show, which is getting dismal advance notices, is a hit. For $50,000 and a first class ticket to Somewheresville, I'll say in my Neilsen book that I DVRed your show and watched it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can make the check out to the IRS.
Great report on Fresh Air yesterday about a new CD release of a Halloween concert by The Plimsouls that took place at the Whiskey A Go-Go in 1981. At that time I was writing a Punk / New Wave article exploring the local scene for an LA bar rag. I saw the Plimsouls a couple of times (at least) while I bounced around the scene; you may remember them from the 1983 movie Valley Girl where they performed their biggest hit 'A Million Miles Away' (the movies were always years behind the music scene).
In 1981 all of us plugged into the LA music scene were riding a wave of excitement over what looked like the music industry finally turning it's eye towards the local bands. The Knack had a huge hit a couple of years earlier but they turned out to be one hit wonders and the industry was looking for another Eagles, Rolling Stones or Fleetwood Mac. They hadn't yet realized what seemed so obvious to those of us on the ground - the dinosaur age was over. So what if a band has one of two hits and then moves on?
Because of The Knack's initial success the record companies were only interested in bands with a pop sound they could identify with. Which left out the groups I was working with; bands like The Cure and Joy Division could only have come from overseas. As such, The Go-Gos got signed, despite barely being able to play their instruments, and hit in a massive way. Suddenly the clubs were peppered with coked up A&R guys looking for the next big thing (and the record company guys got the best coke). The Plimsouls were a shoo-in, the finest songwriters and performers around for that slightly New Wave, power pop sound. But they also had street cred and the respect of almost everyone in town, even those who professed to hate pop music (they would later become Motley Crue fans). That Peter Case and the group didn't make it out of the gate, despite a fantastic debut album and plenty of promotion from KROQ, was a mystery to me but then we started to see the pattern. The record companies just wouldn't give the push these bands needed, instead pouring their resources into reviving the dinosaurs with six month long recording dates and expensive tours that lost millions, hoping they would plotz out one more top ten hit, while some of the greatest bands in music history withered and died. I'm looking forward to hearing that Plimsouls concert, they were a small part of my reckless youth - I swear KROQ played A Million Miles Away every morning for five years at least - and love them for it.
Larry King's wife wants a divorce, she says he was hitting it with her sister. What?!?!? I guess when you have money and fame you can pretty much do anything as long as you surround yourself with the proper low class individuals.
That reminds me, in the fall of 1980 I met this guy and we started talking. He went on and on about how he was starring in a new show for CBS that was going to debut mid-season and, because he was new in town, he was obsessed with the idea that once the show aired he wouldn't know who wanted to be his friend genuinely and who just wanted to become friends because he was on a network TV drama. He needn't have worried - he was sufficiently shallow that he never would have known the difference anyway. Besides, the program he was on, Breaking Away starring Shaun Cassidy based on the highly acclaimed movie, only lasted a couple of months during the winter of 1980-81.
TV NEWS: South Park creators Trey Parker & Matt Stone are planning a Broadway show based on the Book of Mormons. The return of Glee was a ratings hit. Will Conan tape his new show from the soundstage NBC spent $50 million to renovate for his short stint as the Tonight show host? That stage was home to The Jack Benny Show back in the day.
Jack Benny - who can forget the Great Frank Nelson when he would go up against Benny, here's an example from late in their careers:
Thursday, April 15, 2010 7:59am
IN A HURRY
Just to prove there's nothing too obscure to write about, Sean Carolan writes about a previous post: I worked with Bill-Dale on a sketch comedy show at Rutgers back in 1981, and happily followed his edge-riding work at The Livingston Medium in the mid-80's after I'd segued over to college radio, and then commercial radio. He was an absolute genius, and I read your appreciation of him this morning with an equal mix of surprise and excitement.
I think he's really dead, though. At least, I'm pretty sure.
(Just starting up a new Modern Rock station on HD FM out here in NJ, too. I'm going with "Modern Rock" because "Alternative" and "Indie" are now well-defined genres, and I just wanna play some damn Devo.)
Yeah, I suppose if BDM was going to come back he would have done so in the mid-1990s when there might have been someone still around to give a flip. (Come to think of it, I'd like to hear some Flock of Seagulls.)
Conan O'Brien will return in November at 11:00 - but not on FOX as expected but on TBS.
Fake police officer and serial woman abuser Steven Seagal is being sued by a former assistant for sexual trafficking and distributing drugs. Who didn't see that coming?
Eddie Carroll, the second voice of Jiminy Cricket has died.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010 7:30am
Wanna see what Michael Jackson's face would have looked like if he hadn't had all that work done?
Speaking of funny faces - remember on the Match Game when announcer Johnny Olsen made the pitch for studio audience tickets they used to morph two celebrity faces together to make one silly face? Someone out there is a fan and has a page filled with those faces.
Oh now this is funny - remember my rant on how I don't watch broadcast TV anymore? Well, guess who just got selected to be a Nielsen family? Wonder if it'll throw things off if I return it blank?
Sunday, April 11, 2010 8:30am
Not long ago I was going through a box from my mom's attic and I came across a manila envelope that still contained the fat, stapled publications that arrived in the mail one sweltering summer day in 1978.
I'd read a review of a fanzine called AFTA a few weeks earlier and ordered issues one and two, the latter was hot off the press. Both measuring 8 1/2 x 5 1/2, the first issue ran almost 100 pages, the second was split into two 104 page books. This at a time when 60 pages was a huge deal for a fanzine.
Even more of a feat when you consider most of the pages in AFTA are two columns of single-spaced, 6 point type, not much bigger than what you'd see in the fine print of an ad. All of this for a run of 200 xeroxed copies with colored paper for the cover.
This bulbous creation was crammed with articles on everything from comics, music and comedy albums, movies, TV shows, and other pop culture benchmarks mostly written by the editor and publisher Bill Dale Marcinko.
The very first page of that premiere issue tells the story of the 'death' of Bill Marcinko written by his 'brother' Dale. It was all a hoax, a stunt that Marcinko cleverly used to publicize the launch of his magazine. It worked as the death was widely reported before AFTA was published and the news of the hoax garnered ink in the fanzines of the day as well.
That first issue, which cost all of 99 cents, also contained a George Perez interview, movie news, comic book reviews, and an article on Fernwood 2Nite which delighted me because I was a fan of the show and nothing had been written about it anywhere in the mainstream press. (Bill Dale professed a fascination with the Barth Gimble character, host of America 2 Nite and twin brother of the murdered Garth Gimble on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman - a character that returned from the dead in a sense.)
He talked about why he shitcanned promised articles on Butty and Vaginica, a report on the sex lives of the Archie characters, and something about Adolph Hitler's Burger Camp which he said drew pre-publication protests. Who knows if that's true or not.
Issue #2, actually two separate magazines costing $1.49, came with a raisin taped to the center of the second volume, that's how perverse this guy was. Inside was an episode guide for America 2Nite, more of the George Perez interview, 17 pages of letters, movie reviews (Desperate Living among them), Bill Dale interviewing himself, and much, much more. All under a cover by Jack Kirby - Bill Dale noted he'd get "points for tackiness" for running a very critical piece on Jack Kirby's 1970's Marvel work in that issue under a donated cover from the artist.
After reading those two (three, really) thrilling issues in the blazing Southern sun sitting by a pool that summer, I wrote to Bill Dale Marcinko and expressed my admiration. I was surprised to get a response and find out he was a year younger than myself. His letters to me were thoughtful, informed, filled with energy, and more than a little flirty. I only wish I'd saved them; we corresponded spottily by mail over the next couple of years, he was always genuinely glad to hear from me and vice versa.
Another death hoax came a year or so later with issue #3 (which was professionally printed and standard magazine sized) when Bill Dale earnestly reported that Ziggy creator Tom Wilson had committed suicide and mailed his last submission to the cartoon syndicate that day - an illustration of Ziggy hanging by a noose from a tree. There are people today who swear that actually happened but it sprang from Bill Dale's imagination into urban legend via the last issue of his low circulation publication.
I'll never forget the impact those hand crafted magazines had on me, when I started my first web site (that eventually morphed into this one) I had AFTA and Bill Dale's snarky attitude in the back of my mind.
Some time during the 1990s I even searched for Bill Dale Marcinko to see what he might be up to but, not having the magazines in hand then, I had no idea where to start. I thought surely he would have a web site, his rapid fire style was perfect for the internet.
After pouring over the magazines the other day I thought to google Bill Dale Marcinko again and discovered the sad news that he died in a house fire in 2005. His address was the very same as the return address on my package, the house on Crater Avenue in Wharton, NJ where he was raised.
There are some glowing tributes to him on the web, he influenced a lot of people with those 3 self-produced fanzines and later as a raconteur at Rutgers in the early-1980s where he breathed new life into a moribund student newspaper, sparking outrage and apparently running afoul of the administration because of it. I can only imagine.
AFTA stood for Ascension From The Ashes, referring to his faked demise that launched the whole enterprise. Because of his penchant for death hoaxes some of his friends expect to see Bill Dale Marcinko, Elvis, and Jim Morrison strolling down the avenue one day. I think not, despite the fact that he has a Facebook page that was clearly created post-mortem.
Bill Dale captured the zeitgeist of his times with a rare voice that still sings in my head some forty years later; he synthesized what was uniquely wackadoo about the 1970s so perfectly and then walked away leaving behind only his printed echo.
I don't think I'll read too much more in these magazines, at least not right now. I feel sad for the Bill Dale Marcinko I briefly 'knew,' someone who was eager to share secrets and spark intimacy, who's youthful exuberance pounced from the page and remains there to be rediscovered.
Sunday, April 11, 2010 7:20am
The character of Grady was introduced in season three, he basically replaced Bubba (Don 'Bubba' Bexley) as Fred Sanford's Ethel Mertz. After the 18th episode of the third season Grady replaced Fred himself when Redd Foxx walked off the series in a dispute over money and other issues.
Unfortunately for Redd Foxx Sanford & Son earned its highest ratings while Whitman Mayo was mouthing his lines. If I'm not mistaken the episode of Sanford & Son embedded below is one of the highest rated TV shows of all time.
It was natural for NBC to want a spin-off from their biggest hit and who better than Grady, at least from their standpoint.
A pilot was incorporated into a bonus 25th episode to finish out Sanford & Son's fourth season, one of the rare, unfunny shows of the period. In it, Grady moves from Watts to upscale Westwood to live with his daughter, her husband and their two kids.
Grady was readied as a 1975 mid-season replacement, the first production from Bud Yorkin after his split with Norman Lear. A theme song that was close to the Sanford theme was composed, titles were created using the same font that Sanford used, and the same guys who wrote and produced many of the best early Sanford storylines penned the opening script.
What could go wrong? A lousy timeslot for one thing - against The Waltons and Barney Miller - and a bland supporting cast, with the exception of Haywood Nelson as Grady's nephew.
Grady was never a well thought out character anyway, just a utilitarian player with no remarkable qualities, so the series lasted just a few weeks, from December 1975 - March 1976. Mayo's last episode of Sanford & Son would be the first of the fifth season; after his show flopped Grady was nowhere to be seen until The Sanford Arms debuted and quickly disappeared in 1977. He also appeared on two episodes of Sanford in 1981. (Haywood Nelson moved over to What's Happening!! in 1976 from the same producers as Grady.)
Whitman Mayo was a regular on two short-lived series - Hell Town in 1985 and The Van Dyke Show in 1988 and was a guest on dozens more.
In early 1996 Conan O'Brien instigated a national search to find Whitman Mayo and had the actor on his show after weeks of build up. Coincidentally, Whitman Mayo died in 2001 at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta where he taught drama.
Friday, April 9, 2010 4:35am
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