Thursday, July 21, 2011

TV Trivia: Nightingales

After being ABC's golden child for two decades, Aaron Spelling's contract with the network was cancelled in the late 80s (ABC was jokingly called the Aaron Broadcasting Channel for a time). Spelling still had two shows airing, Dynasty and Hotel, but the network felt he was becoming a thing of the past. Brandon Tartikoff who ran NBC approached Spelling for an idea for a new series. NBC was known for their higher tier programing such as Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere and Tartikoff thought something more escapist would help balance the lineup. Spelling gave him a one sentence pitch:

"Student nurses in Dallas in the summer and the air conditioning doesn't work so they sweat a lot!"

Tartikoff loved it! When he brought Spelling to NBC to discuss the new project he actually rolled out a red carpet to his office, gave Spelling flowers and there was even a marching band to perform The Yellow Rose of Texas!

The show would be called Nightingales and it would have a pilot movie and then a 13 episode run. It failed miserably, but points to Tartikoff for not just respecting Spelling's talent but for treating the king of television like the royalty he truly was.

I've never seen Nightingales, and in fact had only heard of it when I recently picked up a copy of the book Three Blind Mice by Ken Auletta (which is where I got this story). Here is the main title sequence, which features aerobics, surgery and Suzanne Pleshette:

Before it aired, when everyone knew it would be a hit, the show was dubbed "the silver nipple!" Gotta love 80s TV!

One more bit of trivia: Nightingales starred Suzanne Pleshette and Barry Newman who also appeared together in the 1982 TV movie Fantasies. You can read my reviews here and here.

By the way, the above TV ad came from Vintage Toledo TV. Check them out, they have lots of great pics.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dallas Remake is a Go!

It's true, you can't keep a good villain down!

TNT is picking up the Dallas Reboot, and the pilot is scheduled to air during the summer of 2012.

Why, oh why, do I have to wait until next summer?!? Oh well, I think things are looking good so I plan on sticking it out. The people behind this production seem pretty interested in honoring the show's original fans while creating a new battle between Christopher and John Ross. Granted, I wish these two guys looked old enough to run a big oil corporation, but I will not complain. I'm just too damn excited!

Here's a sneak peak:


Thriller: Dial a Deadly Number (1976)

Original Air Date: May 1st, 1976

was a British television series comprised of stand alone episodes that ran the length of a film (well, a tele-film, which is about 74 minutes). This show often aired on my local channel when I was growing up, but Dial a Deadly Number is the only one that really stuck with me. I had actually forgotten I’d even seen it until about 10 years ago when I flashbacked to a scene from an unknown movie featuring a sneaking marauder breaking into someone’s bedroom and slicing their wrist while they slept. The wound was just deep enough that it left one gruesome ouchie. The scene chilled me as a kid and it resided somewhere deep inside my rolodex of creepy horror images. At the time I remembered it, I started to recall other scenes, and it took me years to find out that I was actually mashing up this Thriller episode with Scream, Pretty Peggy. Without giving too much away, the last scene of both films are visually similar, only one culprit is male while the other is female. Once I saw Peggy, I was able to separate the distorted images and I finally ID’ed an actor, Gary Collins. Then I had to go back through his filmmography and filter through the titles and descriptions. The second I came across the words Dial a Deadly Number a little bell went off in my head and all that remained was locating a copy.

What one does for their love of the scary stuff.

So here I am, over 30 years after my initial viewing of Number, and it was just a creepy as my haunted childhood memories.

Gary Collins is Dave Adams, a down on his luck out of work actor (is there any other kind?) who turns con-man when someone dials the wrong number. Mistaking him for a psychiatrist, Helen (Gemma Jones) begs the good doctor for help. She is disturbed by vivid dreams that she has committed murder, and she is worried this means she will kill in the future. Adams schmoozes his way into her life, but ends up taking more of an interest in her sister. Ann (Linda Liles) is the older, prettier and more charismatic sibling and she gives clues into Helen’s disturbed past, but he’s more worried about getting into Ann’s pants that he doesn’t realize he might end up paying for his misdeeds with his life.

Dial a Deadly Number is a methodical and exceptional thriller with lots of stark imagery, thanks to Helen’s rather vivid and gruesome “dreams.” The story may feel a tad predictable, but it’s so well acted and paced that the scares remain genuine. Brian Clemens penned the entire series and how he came up with so many unique and suspenseful stories is anyone’s guess.

Despite being shot on video and usually contained within a few sets (and a couple of outdoor shots), Thriller looks and feels great. I always thought the video quality on anything that wasn’t a soap opera or sitcom added something eerie to any movie, and shows like Thriller are obviously attached to that feeling. Gary Collins appeared in three episodes of the series. I’ve seen one other, which is called Only a Scream Away, and he plays a completely different character. He co-stars in that one with my boyfriend, the late David Warbeck, but I think Number did such a, uh, number on me as a kid that it edges its way to the front of my favorite Thriller episodes! Sorry David, I still love you.

Only Season One of Thriller has received a DVD release in America, but you can buy the whole series at the UK Amazon site (just make sure your have a player that accepts Region 2).

Thriller has had a long and complicated history with American television. ABC originally picked up several episodes to air late at night during what they called the Wide World of Mystery. This programming ran inside ABC’s Wide World of Entertainment block which was the network’s attempt to rival the late night popularity of The Tonight Show. Several unrelated projects were run, including In Concert, and a re-cut version of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. This setup was popular in the beginning (read this Time magazine article featuring some quotes from glowing executive Michael Eisner, who was then Vice President in charge of program development), but it soon fizzled out, and ABC eventually dropped almost everything except the movie programming, which was re-titled ABC Late Night. Other re-runs of popular shows like Fantasy Island also aired, but it petered out pretty quickly and this block of late night programming only ran from 1973 – 1976. While Thriller was often featured in this setup, there were a lot of American productions, many of which remain quite obscure. Nightmare at 43 Hillcrest actually had a VHS release, but it’s probably The Cloning of Clifford Swimmer that I see referenced most often. I think Alien Lover also had a VHS release because I remember once seeing it selling on Ebay for over $100!!! That’s how rare most of the non-Thriller titles are! Aside from a smattering of information at IMDb, there is very little online regarding the series of films. Dial a Deadly Number was apparently not a part of the Wide World of Mystery, so this is what they call a tangent.

If you are interested in learning more about ABC's Wide World of Mystery (and really, who isn't?), check out these links:

ABC Creates The Wide World of Entertainment (from Old TV Tickets)

Marketing Thriller (from Media Gems)

An AV Maniacs message board discussion (with some links to photos of several TV advertisements!)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Johnny Depp is Kolchak?!?

Maybe... Maybe not.

According to this article on Johnny Depp's company Infinitum Nihil is developing a Night Stalker film with Disney. There is no word yet on whether Depp will actually star in the film or if he'll remain behind the scenes.

While Depp is a wonderful actor and the right age (how can that man be 48?), I'm not sure he's quite what I envision when I think about someone besides Darren McGavin walking in Kolchak's shoes. Well, I didn't imagine Stuart Townsend either, and I liked the reboot series well enough. It seemed more like its own incarnation and that helped, but if they are going to make a big screen film, I hope they stick more to the original. Let's keep Kolchak grizzled, please!

Must See Streaming Movie of the Week: Jealousy (1983)

Network: ABC
Original Air Date: January 23rd, 1984

While Netflix is surrounded by controversy for changing their layout and raising prices, it’s hard for me to tear myself away from them because their TV movie selection can be pretty tasty stuff. Granted, their new setup makes finding these great movies a big fat pain in the ass. Luckily, they seem to want to semi-appease their customers by returning to their regular look. Although when that change takes place is anyone’s guess. They’ve removed the Made for TV movie tag, which I was so in love with, from their streaming selection and re-tagged many of these films simply as TV Shows. WTF, right? If you use the Browse DVD option, you can sort of filter it, but not really. And as proof of that I can tell you that the movie I’m linking to today isn’t there. That’s what those of us stuck in the 80s call seriously lame, dude.

I stumbled upon Jealousy by pure accident. And I was glad I did. I had never heard of this film, which features Angie Dickinson in three different dark romance stories. Each of these women have some serious and deranged issues all dealing with, you guessed it, jealousy!


In the first story Angie plays Georgia, an upper class woman who is married to the hunkadelic Daniel (Paul Michael Glaser looking hotter than ever). He is the stepfather to Georgia’s daughter Heather (Julie Phillips) and their relationship is just close enough that Georgia begins to worry the two are having an affair. Her erotic fantasies get the better of her and she finds herself obsessed with their alleged trysts.

I have to be honest, I forgot this was an anthology and when the segment got to the climax (ha! pun intended!), I couldn’t believe how the story was unfolding so quickly. The twist ending was a total surprise that, in retrospect, worked perfectly.

Melodie likes to watch

The second episode is a bit silly but even weirder than the first. Angie is Laura and she’s just married a man named Merrill (Richard Mulligan). He’s crazy with the dough and Laura is looking forward to indulging in life’s best at his palatial estate. Laura hasn’t met Melodie yet and Merrill is worried the two will not get along. Melodie is either Merrill’s daughter, mother, friend, assistant or maybe another wife, but it all remains to be seen until Laura moves into his mansion. Melodie’s reveal is slightly predictable, but this segment is still an outrageously unusual little short full of dark humor.

Susan Tyrell rocks the plaid!

In the third segment Angie is Ginny, a small town bar singer whose biggest fan is Bobby Dee (David Carradine). He’s also her creepiest admirer and he’s decided that if he can’t have her, no one can. I thought this would be the weakest segment, and it surely feels like the longest one, but the build-up is strong and tense, making the last five minutes a knock out!


Jealousy feels a lot like Danielle Steel wrote some episodes for The Twilight Zone. The movie was written and directed by Jeffrey Bloom who is probably most famous for directing Flowers in the Attic, but I would remiss if I didn’t mention his work on the cult classic Blood Beach or Darkroom (he wrote the episode Catnip). Cinematographer Gil Hubbs really works the camera, keeping everything soft and romantic while adding just the right amount of tension and darkness to keep the feel a little off-center. Hubbs would go on to work with with Bloom on Starcrossed (1985), The Right of the People (1986) and then Flowers. It's been years since I've seen Starcrossed, but I seem to recall that same dream-like vibe running through the film.

Jealousy is streaming on Netflix, and is definitely worth checking out if you like your love stories laced with with a little acid!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hungry for Content? Here's a Link!

The above photo is a look at my favorite caveman slasher killer. He is the Hermit from Memorial Valley Massacre, which I reviewed for Retro Slashers. Enjoy!

I actually have a review that is 90% done and I have another look into a infamous TV movie going up on another site soon. Will post a link when all is said and done! Who knows, maybe I'll have newer new content up by tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Update! It's a Scorcher!

I would like to say there is lots going on here at Made for TV Mayhem, but what I mean is I wish there was lots going on. Not sure it's the exhaustion from the move or just the damn heat, but I feel like I am swimming in glue. Sexy, no? Unpacking has also added to my woes, as I find that although my TV movie collection has found a home in my new office, the rest of the stuff refuses to unpack itself. The nerve! So tonight I have links and a new poll!

If you look to your right you will see I chose this month as Women in Prison month. There have been some surprisingly gritty small screen WiP flicks and I'm currently working on a review of one. I fudged it a bit and added Charlie's Angels because the episode Angels in Chains is so damn iconic, it just can't be left out. I also decided to skip the newer Lifetime-esque films, even though I love them because that's a whole other poll! The wheels are turnin'...

As for last month's poll, it's no surprise that Don't Be Afraid of the Dark didn't just walk away with top honors, it ran down the street and into another county! This House Possessed was a distant second and almost all of the films got at least one vote, except for poor Bay Coven, which is really quite good. I was surprised by that one!

If you are looking to escape the heat (and aren't we all?), please stop by Joanna Wilson's Christmas TV Companion blog where she is having Christmas in Joo-lie! She is concentrating on our favorite holiday TV from the 90s and has oodles of guest bloggers lending her a hand. Please stop by often to see all of her updates. Who knows, maybe you'll even catch a chill!

I have some new reviews at Retro Slashers, so please stop by and read my thoughts on The Boogens and Silent Rage. And if you are so inclined, please join RS's Facebook page. We try to post there daily, so if you are all nostalgic for slice and dice, this is the place for you!

And finally, I will be returning to the Movies about Girls podcast this Saturday at 8 pm EST where we will be talking about those awesomely bitchy Heathers! Turn in, turn on and drop out!