Archive for June, 2018

by Adam Ferenz

This police sitcom, set in the 12th precinct of Manhattan, ran for eight seasons in the 1970s and 1980s, telling the story of the detectives that worked there. While Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire may be the dramas that get the work of detective work the most accurate, some detective and uniform police still point to this series as the one police show that is the most realistic, because here, the tedium of bookings, arrests, paper work, transfers, boredom and bad coffee never ends. With the vast majority of the series taking place in the squad room-or Barney’s office-the series takes on the feel of a stage play, and it has both the scripts and cast to pull this off.

The series earliest episodes occasionally gave the audience glimpses of Barney’s home life, and that of the ever-tired and grumbling Fish-a memorable Abe Vigoda-but quickly realized these were not working, and that the series could only distinguish itself by becoming work oriented, and work centered in a way few programs have ever been. There were recurring players, often recurring characters, making the precinct seem like a real place. Prostitution, murder, robbery, assault, including domestic abuse, and even rape and drug use, as well as selling, were among the many crimes Barney’s detectives handled. The series tackled social issues with a sly grin, and a sigh, often through the deadpan reactions or musings of detective Deitrech, played by Steve Landesberg. Just as often they would be made through Ron Glass’s Detective Harris or Max Gail’s earnest, naïve-to a point-Detective Stan Wojciehowicz, a former marine who becomes one of the more humanitarian among the squad. Easy humor could just as often be found with Carl Levitt, brilliantly played by Ron Carey as a case study in denied rewards. Holding it all together was Barney himself, played by Hal Linden, who was father, brother, friend and boss, depending on which needed to be applied to a given situation. (more…)

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by Adam Ferenz

This long-running British institution has been around since 1963, onscreen for thirty-six complete series, plus a tv-movie and a year of specials. The program has been both praised and dammed, beloved by fans and loathed by the same. We could talk about the switch to color between series 6 and 7, the runs of Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, the era of producer John Nathan Turner, the Wilderness Years, the failed re-pilot of the 8th Doctor movie starring Paul McGann, or the successful return of the show under the aegis of Russel T. Davies, lead by Christopher Eccleston as the 9th Doctor. We could even talk about the Moffat era that followed, or the case of the missing and incomplete serials. Who our favorite companions or assistants were-and whether either term is truly appropriate-and when the UNIT stories are set. As you can tell, there is a lot going on here. Instead, as with so much of the show, it is best to recount a personal tale, rather than a summary or deep analysis. So, here is this author’s experience with the series.

I am currently 37 years old. I first came across Doctor Who when I was a child, about two or three years old, and PBS would run old serials from the Pertwee and Tom Baker eras of the series in omnibus form on Thursdays and Saturdays. I would see books in stores. And then, one day, when I was about 9, stories stopped coming on pbs, but the books kept coming out. Nothing more was on television, for me, until a tv film in 1996, which I would not see until almost fifteen years later. Indeed, it was not until the current run of Doctor Who, brilliantly brought back to the screen by the gifted Welsh writer and producer, Russell T. Davies, and ably played by the magnificent Christopher Eccleston, arrived, that I even gave the series any thought for years and years.

Even then, I only occasionally saw bits and pieces and I knew they had changed Doctors. Finally, I had heard good things about this current run, then in its third year, and I caught up. And I never stopped watching. I went and bought all the dvd’s that were available. I bought them as they came out, both from the current run and the original 1963-89 run. I got the TV film when it arrived, finally, after years of rights issues, on region 1 disc. I got other people hooked on the show. Friends, family, people I barely knew in classes I was taking at the time. And they got other people hooked. Doctor Who is not just a show. It is also a bit of a social contagion, but of a very fun sort. (more…)

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by Samuel Juliano IV

Batman: The Animated Series aired from 1992 to 1995 on Fox Kids with 4 seasons and 85 episodes.  The show was created by: Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Eric Radomski, and Alan Burnett.  The show followed the beloved character of DC comics Batman(Voiced by Kevin Conroy)  and his crusade against crime in his hometown of Gotham.

Batman has one of the best rogues’ galleries in superhero history right up there with Superman, Spiderman, the X-men, and the Flash.  The portrayals of these villains in the show prove that.

The Joker ( Voiced by Mark Hamill) is arguably the most popular super villain of all time.  In the show he first appeared in the episode “Christmas with the Joker” This episode also has the first appearance of Robin (Voiced by Loren Lester).  This Episode tells the story of how Batman and Robin save Christmas from being ruined by The Joker.

Other great episodes featuring the joker are:  “The Last Laugh” which is about the Joker releasing laughing gas into Gotham so he can steal without any trouble.  It features a hilarious scene involving Alfred (Voiced by Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) wrecking Wayne Manor while intoxicated by Joker’s laughing gas.  The Episode also features one of the Joker’s most memorable lines to me which is: “You killed Captain Clown. You killed Captain Clown!” “Be a Clown” is about Joker kidnapping Mayor Hill’s son Jordan out of revenge for Hill giving a comparison between Joker and Batman.  This episode gives a heartfelt message that warns us against parents neglecting their children. (more…)

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(UK 1962 60m) DVD1/2

Aka. Elgar – Portrait of a Composer

We walk like ghosts

p  Humphrey Burton  d  Ken Russell  w  Ken Russell, Huw Wheldon  ph  Kenneth Higgins  ed  Alan Tyrer  m  Edward Elgar

Peter Brett, Rowena Gregory, George McGrath, Huw Wheldon (narrator),

It seems strange to think that when Ken Russell’s groundbreaking and career pointing dramatised documentary went out in 1962, the lives of composers on screen was limited to cinematic biopics such as the awful A Song to Remember and Gance’s moody Un Grand Amour de Beethoven.  Half a century on we can look back and see it as a watershed; without it we wouldn’t have had the other Russell composer pieces on large and small screen that would occupy most of his work for the next decade or so.  

Elgar was different to what would follow.  The Debussy Film had the irreverence that would characterise, and to some flaw, The Music Lovers and Lisztomania, while Song of Summer – Deliustook a look at the composer that would look ahead to his Mahler.  Elgar was more than any of these, but watching it fifty years on, with its strait-laced account of a man unable to make a name for himself in pompous late Victorian and Edwardian England, it reads remarkably like the spoof documentaries so common today.  What it succeeds in doing is dextrously mixing still photos and newsreel and early film footage with silent tableaux recreations, all accompanied by the great man’s music to create a symphonic melding of music and visuals, including rolling tracking shots of Elgar as a boy on a pony or a man on a boneshaker moving through the Malverns.  It not only gets to the heart of Elgar, to whom, as Wheldon’s narration tells us, “musicis in the air…all around me”, but in doing so he also succeeds in creating a quite literal family album of Britain at the height of its imperial power and at the start of its imperial decline.  The composer is seen to be an artist in tune with the mood of the time, but in a country whose hierarchy are out of step with it, a composer who is feted in Germany but not at home, and who came to taste a bitter irony in the years that followed, almost prophesying the cataclysmic doom to come with the death of Edward VII.  Here was a man who wrote the most patriotic of all British pieces, only to loathe what it had come to represent, abhor the idea of his country at war with the country he held such affection for and gratitude towards, given honours that meant little to him and which he had buried with his wife in her coffin.  (more…)

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DICK CAVETT title card

By Robert Hornak

There’s a simple comfort in watching someone you like talking to anyone, even in the distancing, quasi-glib tones of the professional raconteur. This is the reliable through-line of Dick Cavett’s entire run on television. But there’s also the reliable surprise factor, like the joy of hearing an aging Elsa Lanchester call Isadora Duncan an “untalented bag of beans.” And then there’s the tightrope feeling you get when you see Cavett-turned-fanboy, welcoming guest John Huston onto the stage with the awe-struck anticipation of a high school reporter, only to watch the host’s flop-sweat drop when the great film director only wants to dole out single-syllabic blurps through his broad, cigar-puffing grin. But whether you’re watching for the love of Cavett or his guests, what you typically get is a healthy serving of smart, refined conversation, usually in doses much deeper than the pre-packaged, eight-to-ten-minute dollops served by your Carsons, Lenos, and Colberts. Especially today, in the era of YouTube clips in steady drip on a Facebook feed, all tantamount to unsatisfying sound bites, kicking your feet up for a Cavett interview is like washing your brain with a college blue book. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

With only two days left to the 2017-18 school year, preparations are in place for the summer program which in these parts runs from July 2nd till July 31st.  Some of us are also planning August vacations, though for those not tied up in July those expectations are far more imminent.

The presently running Greatest Television Series Countdown will continue until its finale in mid-July.  Many thanks to the writers and those placing comments.  After a sluggish span it has really started to pick up on all counts.  As announced previously this will be the only film project of 2018 at the site after Part 1 and the AFOFF were similarly showcased over the past year.

Lucille and I watched three films in theaters over the past two weeks.  (My apologies for the rare miss with the MMD last Monday, but not seeing that happening again anytime soon): (more…)

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by Adam Ferenz

This seminal sitcom, set in a fictional newsroom at a tv magazine show, FYI, tells the story of the recovering alcoholic Murphy Brown-the great Candice Bergen-and how she negotiates her way through a life she seems incapable of appreciating. The series may have gone on several seasons past its best by date, but when it was at its best, few comedies of the era could match it. That is an important distinction, because unlike other classic comedies of its era, such as Cheers, Wonder Years or, later in its run, the prime years of Seinfeld, Murphy Brown was a series rooted in the topics of the day. Being a political series, there was little way around it, since the show was centered on a news magazine.

Yes, the series lost much of its steam once the Bush/Quayle administration was no longer around to mock, but while it was, the series was about the sharpest, most insightful comedy on air, taking aim at left and right-but mostly right-leaning politics. The birth of Murphy’s child, Avery, named after Murphy’s mother, who had been played by the magnificent Colleen Dewhurst until her passing, created a firestorm in the media about “family values” and brought the series increased visibility.

For the series early run, the first four or five years, in which creator Diane English was in charge of the proceedings, this was one of the smarter, more astute sitcoms on the air. While it never approached the level of pop culture sophistication of a WRKP in Cincinnati, or the workplace realism of a Barney Miller, the series nevertheless carved out its own niche. Never as elegant as Cheers or Frasier, as outright funny as Seinfeld, as comforting as Golden Girls or as convention defying as the late, great Frank’s Place, instead Murphy Brown was like its central character. (more…)

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