Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Murder, She Wrote Meets Parker Stevenson... and it was heaven

I keep no secrets here at Made for TV Mayhem so I will confess that my current obsession is Murder, She Wrote. After many years of dismissing J.B. Fletcher as a detective for the geriatric set, I came to understand the pure magic of Cabot Cove. Sure, lots of people get randomly murdered, making New York City look like Disneyland. But I call that ambiance. You never know when the local crab shack is serving up a pot full of mysteries!

I'm also not shy about how boy crazy I am, and there's been lots of tasty treats popping up in old Cabot Cove. I recently watched an episode with the delish Jared Martin, and the pilot does indeed feature Bert Convy (I will be covering that episode in the future, mark my words). But CBS really cashed in their machismo chips when they got Parker Stevenson to appear in a season 2 episode called Sticks and Stones. Parker is great as Michael Digby, an interloping travel writer who invites himself into Jessica's house and life. At first he seems like one of those obnoxious ne'er do wells, who have no appreciation for small town charm, but he quickly becomes J.B.'s confidante after a couple of murders are committed.

I've always thought Parker had a great sense of comic timing, but because he's so damn heavenly, I think it tends to get overlooked (as I'm looking him over, you dig?). He's so much fun in this episode, and if I didn't completely lust after him already, I would be completely lusting after him.

Let me set the scene here... There is yet another random murder in Cabot Cove, followed by a series of crank letters which sets the town into a tizzy. After another murder (set up to look like a suicide, but by season 2 we knew better), Jessica is on the case, and she enlists Michael as a tasty lure for Lila (Betsy Palmer).

Let's take a look at Michael, shall we?

Michael's goofy entrance

You can tell he's a nerd because he totally wears glasses

He's a ridiculous person because he tucks his pants into his boots (or maybe it was just the 80s. Tough call)...

Hey, this goofy guy could totally be a male model

But he's also a silly, sloppy drunk!

No comment!

Even Jessica wants him!

Who am I? I'm the interloping ne'er do well, that's who!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bernard and the Genie (1991)

Network: BBC
Original Airdate: November 23rd, 1991

I have a long history with Lenny Henry. I first discovered him in high school when The Lenny Henry Show used to air on Bravo (hey, anyone else remember when Bravo used to show nothing but uncut, commercial-free foreign films and British comedies? Good times). I was going through one of my typical teen angst moments, which lasted from ages 14 – 19 (and then some) when I caught an episode of the show and did something I never did in those bygone goth days… I laughed. Henry’s humor sometimes borders on the silly but it’s always effective, and dammit, he’s just so friggin’ lovable. I was instantly smitten and followed his career as best I could in those pre-internet days. A few years later, when I realized I didn’t have to wear black on the outside because black was how I felt on the inside, Bernard and the Genie was released on video. At this point I was working at a video store, and I’m certain the second the film shipped to our store, I checked it out. It was the very first time I saw Alan Cummings and like Henry, I instantly feel in love. The combo was perfect for this sweet little Christmas film.

Cummings is Bernard Bottle, an up and coming art dealer who gets dealt a bad hand of fate, thanks to his greedy boss, Charles Pinkworth (Rowan Atkinson being appropriately sleazy). In one day, Bernard is blacklisted from the art world and dumped by his girlfriend, who has left him for his best friend. And right before Christmas! Thank goodness when the ex cleared out his place, she left this weird little bottle which produces a big black genie named Josephus (soooooo Just Our Luck)! Of course, not every one of Bernard's wishes turns out perfect, but a wonderful friendship is formed between goofy djinn and man!

This is one of those zinger movies you either love or hate. The jokes fly faster than the speed of light, and it helps if you are familiar with some of the British references such as Melvyn Bragg (Bragg was also a fixture on Bravo as the host of the excellent South Bank Show), and if you love the 80s the way I do, you will love the Bob Geldof cameo! Regardless, Bernard and the Genie works because of the chemistry between the forever likable Henry and uber-adorable Cummings. I had not watched this film for many years when I decided on a whim to give it a go earlier this week. I can’t even tell you how much I still enjoy it. It’s so sweet natured and genuinely funny that I still find myself laughing out loud at many of the jokes. I would say it’s the perfect holiday film for those who tend to get blue around Christmas. I don’t mean to quote Bernard, but it will make you as happy as Michelle Pfieffer’s underpants! Now, that’s fab!

For more Christmas on TV Mayhem, click on the following links:

Terror on the 40th Floor
A Mouse, A Mystery and Me
The Gathering (written by guest blogger Joanna Wilson)
Nestor, the Long Eared Christmas Donkey

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Come Get Your Rankin-and-Bass-On!

Hey guys, with Christmas right around the corner (I know, I can't believe it either), I thought I'd re-post a link to a review I contributed to the beyond awesome Christmas TV History blog. I wrote about my all time favorite Rankin and Bass special, Nestor, the Long Eared Christmas Donkey. I actually gave the film its annual spin the other night, and it's still one of the sweetest and most moving films I have ever seen.

And now it's your turn. What is your favorite Rankin and Bass special? I know almost everyone will say Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer, but please leave a comment and share a little Rankin and Bass love!

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Darkroom: The Bogeyman Will Get You (1981)

Network: ABC
Original Air Date: December 4th, 1981

Darkroom was a short lived television series which premiered in 1981 and enjoyed a short but sweet six episode run (featuring 16 stories) before sailing off towards obscurity. Aside from rerunning on the USA Network in the early 90s, this clever anthology series seems to have all but disappeared.
Darkroom came out at just the right time for my budding love of being scared silly. I was ten when I first saw The Bogeyman Will Get You and through the many years of sampling other warped products, it stuck with me because it was clever and subtlety creepy. This segment was written by Robert Bloch and starred a then-unknown Helen Hunt as well as the famous child actor Quinn Cummings (who was way too old for dolls when she appeared in The Babysitter the year before). These girls play sisters who tend to let their imagination run away with them. This might come in handy when a darkly handsome man from their past shows up. Not surprisingly, as soon as he appears in town the first body washes up in the local lake. He’s hiding something alright, and Hunt will soon find out that his secret is not quite the one she was expecting.

How I adored stumbling upon this treasure one dark Friday night. At the time, I was not aware that it was an episode of Darkroom, but when I began to dig back into my TV-laden memories, this was one of the first things which appeared before me. It was some years later that I was able to actually re-watch the episode, and it’s only gotten better with age, even if the end reveal is a little ridiculous (in fact, I think I remember chuckling a little back then too). It’s all about the build-up, baby, and there’s lots of sneaking around through dark rooms to make this episode a rather exciting watch.

 James Coburn was the host of Darkroom but when the show reran on USA I believe his host segments were removed, probably to make room for more ads. That is truly a shame, since I think we can all agree that Coburn can turn on the sinister factor when needed!