Monday, December 31, 2012

The Wolf-boy Subgenre on TV... It exists!











Stalk the Wild Child
Network: NBC
Original Air Date: November 3rd, 1976


Lucan Pilot
Network: ABC
Original Air Date: May 22nd, 1977


Is it a forgotten piece of television history that feral children were all the rage in the 1970s? The tele-film Stalk the Wild Child aired in 1976 and was followed by the short-lived series Lucan in 1977. Both featured boys who were raised alone in the wilds of the forests, with nothing but their wits and a few scary dogs to keep them company. While Stalk delves into the psychological underpinnings of this horrific situation, Lucan just sort of makes the kid grow up to be all cute and good-natured (when he isn’t kicking ass). OK, so both of them grew up to be cute. Cutie pie feral men. Wow. Now that’s a sub-genre.


There have been plenty of legends throughout the centuries, but Francois Truffaut’s film Wild Child may have been the biggest influence on Stalk the Wild Child. Ben and Joseph Bottoms play Cal, a kid who is somehow left to his own devices in the forest. Dr. Hazard (David Janssen), a behavioral psychologist “adopts” Cal and hires a beautiful speech therapist named Maggie (Trish Van Devere) to teach him how to speak. For the most part, it would seem Cal is in good hands… until he grows up. He attends the premiere of Dr. Hazard’s film, which posits Cal as gawky, scary and idiotic star. Cal feels completely exploited by the doctor and seeks solace with a con artist publisher who plans to manipulate Cal in a whole new way. This leads the wolf boy to question what it really means to be civilized.


Joseph Bottoms, who plays the older version of Cal, brings a sympathetic touch to the young boy who people can’t stop taking advantage of. The frustrating ending rests on Cal’s redemption instead of exposing the “civilized” adults as the culprits. They, in fact, remain in his life in a positive way. Will Cal ever learn?


Stalk the Wild Child is an awfully catchy title, and it was the third one producers came up with, opting out of using either Feral or Running Free (which was dumped because it sounded too much like Born Free), and the film was a runaway success upon it’s initial release, landing in the top spot of that week’s Neilsen’s with over 14 million viewers. Aside from the connection to Truffaut’s Wild Child, Stalk may have made a nod to the Indian Wolf Boy, Dina Sanichar, who lived in the 1800s. Like Cal, he was found by hunters and repositioned back into society. Unlike Cal, Dina never was able to speak. I know this tele-film skates on the thin ice of TV movie reality, but I prefer the idealistic end in comparison. Hey, that’s how I roll.


Lucan debuted less than a year later in 1977. It wasn’t as interested in probing the psyche of a young boy reared by a pack of wolves, concentrating instead on Lucan’s kindly disposition and ability to make his eyes glow before he kicks ass. Lucan is far more reminiscent of The Incredible Hulk, as he goes in search for his birth parents. What he ends up finding instead are some mixed up people that he can help through his folksy ways. Or something like that.


Initially, a kindly college professor, who turns out for once to actually be kindly, adopts Lucan. As a young adult, the wolf-boy attends the college his father works at. The school is hesitant to let Lucan continue his education there, despite the fact that he had developed into smart young man and is a decent case study who brings some notoriety to the college. One academic monkey even insinuates that Lucan might use his beastly powers to overcome some of the co-eds so he can make little feral babies. Lucan loses his protection when a car hits his adopted father, and he escapes his life as an experiment and hits the road, looking for work, his family and insights into the world. He works in opposition to Cal in the respect that Lucan is allowed to tap into his primordial resources in an effort to teach lessons to the various people he meets. It’s a far sweeter tale and the pilot features the irrepressible Stockard Channing as Lucan’s first friend.


The most common aspect that both Lucan and Stalk share, aside from being feral children, is that each adopted parent films the rearing of their children. In Stalk, it is done to further the career of the so-called kindly doctor, whereas we see the father in Lucan act like a father. In fact, when Lucan watches the movie, he is not ashamed. Poor Cal. That kid cannot catch a break! Otherwise, these movies are very different, with Lucan taking on a much lighter tone. Honestly, I am grateful for that! However, in both films, viewers only have to endure and accept the very basic of scenarios, as both of these browbeaten, weatherworn kids go from dirty little dog-boys to hunky geniuses! This, my friends, is why I love TV.




When ratings meant something!

(Lucan ad courtesy of The Classic TV Archive)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Loving Look at the Chronically Outraged Pathologist: Jack Klugman (1922 - 2012)


I was so sad to hear about Jack Klugman's passing last week. Klugman was a mainstay in my house and I loved him as both Oscar Madison and the incorrigible Dr. Quincy. He did a lot of other amazing things as well, such as 12 Angry Men and a fantastic episode of Insight titled Packy, where he crossed over to the other side only to greeted by a God who look an awful lot like Bob Newhart! But I think it's Quincy M.E.  that will always have my heart. My mother was a nurse and a mystery lover, so Quincy played all the right morbid notes for her. I rediscovered the show during the summer of 2009 when it ran on a local channel and I've seen almost every episode.

I do podcast segments for the Movies About Girls show, and actually recorded a Quincy-centric segment earlier this year as a way to help celebrate Klugman's 90th birthday. I was hoping he'd have 90 more, but that, unfortunately, was not in the cards. He did leave us so much to cherish though, and I decided to post a transcription of my podcast segment below. RIP Jack, you are loved and missed.



Since Jack Klugman just hit the big 9-0 on April 27, I thought it was high time we paid a little tribute to one of the best and most aggravating shows in television history, Quincy M.E. It was the best because Klugman exudes charisma. Despite the middle age paunch and hound dog face, he was charming enough that you could see how he might have been able to bed a bevvy of babes. He was also infuriating because he often spewed a lot of self-righteous crap, and it was a bit ironic to see a forensic examiner act like God. The whole point is to save people, not dissect them. But all is forgiven because Quincy was 8 seasons of criminological heaven. It’s true!


Quincy was the creation of the great Glen A. Larson and was inspired by both a Canadian TV series called Wojeck and a real life LA coroner named Thomas Noguchi, who must have been one bad ass coroner! For trivia buffs, Noguchi was called Coroner to the Stars and he actually performed Marilyn Monroe’s autopsy. Lest we forget, Quincy was also a precursor to shows like C.S.I. The series originally ran in the NBC Mystery Movie lineup as 90 minute TV movies along with shows like Columbo and McCloud, but was popular enough that it was soon turned into a weekly series.


It was fairly formulaic and here’s a short list of what happened in every episode:
  • Someone dies and it looks like natural causes or was a murder that got pinned on the wrong person. 
  • Quincy notices something is wrong and cries murder. His boss, Asten (John S. Ragin) gets upset and yells at Quincy.
  •  Quincy goes to his favorite gin joint called Danny’s and gets drunk and investigates whatever crime he thinks has been committed.
  • Quincy always proves he’s right and solves the crime. Asten groans. 
  • Quincy puts his arms around a woman who serves no other purpose except objectification.
 End of episode.


To be fair, the series did have some unique turns, such as when one Hispanic character called her husband a Taco Head, or there was the time Quincy put a poisonous snake on a stick and tried to attack someone with it. And I guess that’s where the charm of Quincy lies. He just does whatever he wants, he’s always right and he gets laid a lot. Sounds like Madonna.

Quincy’s partner was named Sam and he was played by Robert Ito. It should be noted that Ito was well into his 40s during the show’s run, although he always looked around 35 to me. OK, maybe that’s not that interesting to note, but there you go.

Part way into the series run, Quincy became all about social justice and by the last season, the show was totally off the cuff and completely amazing. My favorite of the holier than thou episodes is called On Dying High. Roger Miller, who narrated my favorite Christmas special, Nestor, The Long Eared Donkey, plays a musician named J.J. who decides to freebase before a performance and accidentally sets himself on fire. He runs onto the stage in full flaming glory, right in front of Quincy and the world. Shocking enough, as he plays one of the cutest donkeys ever in Nestor, but Quincy is able to save J.J. and then give him a bunch of speeches about the horrors of drug abuse, which I think J.J. must know by now. Anyway, Quincy gets all crazy about the disturbing nature of casual drug use in the 80s, but it seems almost every self-righteous speech is given while he’s stirring up his next cocktail. I don’t think Quincy understood irony.


The most infamous episode of Quincy is, of course, Next Stop, Nowhere, which showed the world the evils of punk rock. I’m pretty sure punk rock was not as big of an issue in 1983 as it was in, say, 1977 and anyway, Chips beat out Quincy on the punk scene with their 1982 episode called Battle of the Bands. And let’s face it, wasn’t Quincy’s brand of renegade forensic-ism a little punk rock itself? Like I said, irony escapes this man.

Oh well, Quincy was determined to end the horrors of punk after a guy is killed by an ice pick while slamming! I actually remember watching this episode when it first aired and it seemed so edgy. Now it's pretty silly but truly, the punk rockers make so much more sense than Quincy. They say "there is no tomorrow, only yesterday’s pain." Totally deep, man. This episode is also rumored to feature Courtney Love in the club scenes, but I didn’t see anyone kicking Quincy in the stomach. And it’s episodes like these that made people refer to Quincy as the chronically outraged pathologist.


The last episode of the series wasn’t really a Quincy episode at all. It’s about a construction worker played by Alan Fawcett, who was the host of Putting on the Hits, which was a super awesome lip synching show that had this great performer who did both Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross singing Endless Love... But I digress... So, Alan gets his arm ripped off in this crazy accident and it’s re-attached by Dr. Gabe McCracken, who was played by Barry Newman, whom I adore.

Anyway, McCracken was intended to be a spin-off but it was pretty bland despite the fact that some guy got his arm severed off of his own body. I don’t remember Quincy being in the episode hardly at all, and I’m sure die hard Quincy buffs were peeved at how the series ended. Time for a reunion movie? I think so.

Our favorite drunk coroner is currently streaming on Netflix, so what are you waiting for?

Klugman in a bar, seducing a woman in red. This is exactly how I want to remember him. 
 
You can also check out my image gallery for the Quincy episode Hot Ice, Cold Hearts.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Petticoat Junction: A Cannonball Christmas


Now that I’m finally on vacation, I have not been able to find a better way to unwind than with episodes of Petticoat Junction. When I was but a wee Amanda By Night I watched the Beverly Hillbillies and was a fairly voracious Green Acres fan, but I had never bothered to sit a spell at the Shady Rest. I am not sure why, but I don’t recall this show rerunning in my neck of the woods. Such a shame too, because I think growing up with the Bradley girls in charge of fashion would have helped me greatly. As it stands, I remain a victim to acid washed jeans and am a newfound fan of Petticoat Junction.

Life at the Junction was syrupy sweet and innocent and made for a nice antidote to the tumultuous 60s with its bright and hopeful stories. Heck, it’s still an antidote. Give me Uncle Joe over Dexter any day (I know, I’ll catch hell for that, but I gotta follow my heart).


I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate the holidays than with a Christmas episode of my new favorite show, and I made it so. A Cannonball Christmas is from the first season of the series, airing, appropriately enough, on December 24th of 1963. I have only been watching the color episodes from 1965 on and was not familiar with the actresses playing Bobby Joe and Billie Joe. They really don’t have a big part in this episode, so I'm kinda still unfamiliar with them. The main focus falls on the engineer and conductor of the local steam train affectionately called the Cannonball as they go up against a big city Scrooge set on making a name for himself by ruining the little train that could.


Things are always hopping at the Shady Rest when the holidays hit. This year is no different as Kate (Bea Benaderet) and her girls (Jeannine Riley, Pat Woodell and Linda Kaye) are hustling and bustling in an attempt to get the Cannonball decorated in time to sing carols from their beloved train. However, Homer Bedloe (Charles Lane) is set on ruining the holidays for all of Hooterville. To reinstate himself as VP of C&FW Railroad, he’s going to prove how inept the Cannonball crew is. The Bradleys band together in an attempt to save the day but are ultimately rescued by a Santa Claus whose one gift is to stop Bedloe in his tracks.


Despite the fact that I have never seen any of the black and white episodes of Petticoat Junction, I have to say this was surprisingly consistent with the later ones. Sam Drucker (Frank Cady) is (not so) secretly in love with Kate, the girls are knockouts who will only use their feminine wiles in the most innocuous ways possible, and Uncle Joe is moving kind of slow. In short, I loved it. Although I do miss the hunky Steve Elliot (Mike Minor) giving guff to his tomboy-turned-Stepford-wife Betty Joe. But I guess that’s for another blog post!


According to my handy Tis the Season guide, this episode was remade in 1968! I might get my Mike Minor Christmas cheer after all! Rawr!

Happy Holidays everyone!

Read more holiday reviews:

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


Thursday, December 20, 2012

500 Posts! And it's Convy-rific!

Holie Molie!

I made it! I'm shocked and thrilled I've gotten this far with my obsession for retro TV!

A big thanks to everyone who stops by to see what goes on inside of the head of a Bert Convy stalker! Oh yeah, and to read about television of yesteryear. I thought I'd celebrate with Bert because he's the mascot and my muse. I can't think of a more studly way to do it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

2/12/2013 = Hardy Boys Season 3!


I'm beyond excited about the DVD release of the last season of The Hardy BoysShout Factory is releasing Season 3 of the series on February 12th, 2013. For a mere $15.99 you can complete your collection and all will be right with the world.

Or at least all will be right with your Hardy Boys DVD collection. And isn't it about the little things?

You can pre-order the box set now!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Five Reasons You Should be Watching General Hospital


As some of you may know, I was a big One Life to Live fan, but my fandom was cut short when the suits at ABC cancelled my story. I migrated over to General Hospital because it was announced that some of the OLTL crew was heading to Port Charles. I used to watch GH back in the 80s and a little into the 90s, so I was excited to see who had survived and what was left of the actors from their heyday. I’ll be honest, I thought this current mobster ridden version of GH was a mess. When I started watching it earlier this year, the series was dealing with the Woman in White and some guy with a fedora. The pacing and dialog was hackneyed. I know it’s hard getting into a show like GH when it’s been on for years and has a ton of history, but I’m not going to lie - It was bad.

Fast-forward 10 months: Now I am knee deep in romance and suspense and could not be happier with the show. It recently moved to a new time slot, inviting much speculation about its future. Actually, there’s been a lot of gossip going ‘round about the future of daytime dramas in general. It looks dim guys, but let me tell you that there is still plenty of great entertainment to be had. And here are five reasons why you should check out GH:


The One Life to Live Characters are awesome!

OK, I’m biased on this one, and it’s actually my number one reason to tune in. However, I am not deaf to the negative reaction the migration has caused among some die-hard GH viewers. In some ways I get it, maybe I’d have my own nose out of joint if the same thing had been done to OLTL. But in the end, I think this addition only makes the show more fun, and it gives us fans a nod that we have not been forgotten. That said, the three main recurring characters from OLTL: Starr, McBain and the delicious Todd Manning have been wonderful additions to Port Chuck. There’s been a backlash regarding McBain cheating on Natalie, but Soaps in Depth recently featured an article on yo-yo relationships and highlighted the couple’s tumultuous history. I think sometimes we want to remember certain couples as perfect - and don’t get me wrong, when Vicki and Clint separated, I was devastated, but soap life goes on. I grew to love every single one of Vicki’s husbands (Sloane, I still miss you). I do like McBain and Sam together and I think it will be nice to watch a new relationship blossom.

That said, Todd is the real standout on the show. Roger Howarth has some insanely wonderful comic timing, and I’m glued to my seat every time he's is on screen. Even though I’m not a huge Carly nut, I have to admit that they make an interesting potential couple. I’ll be tuning in tomorrow for sure!


The mobster stuff isn’t as overwhelming as it used to be!

I heard through the sudsy grapevine that GH survived the ax because the ex President of ABC Daytime, Brian Frons had a serious hard-on for mobsters. But GH was never The Sopranos. It has some great hunky bad guys, but a mob war turned some people away. Many of those gangsters remain amongst the locals, but they are more focused on other issues. I’m not quite sure how you rid Port Charles of the mob clans, because characters like Sonny and Johnny remain extremely popular (while also being just as unpopular). Steve Burton who has played Jason Quatermaine/Morgan recently left the show after spending over 20 years as that guy with the anime hair and a black tee shirt. I know he was a very popular character, but this will probably level the mobster stuff a bit more. I think they’ve done well to give Johnny a guilty conscience and in the end this will diffuse a lot of the gunplay. If I could have suggested one thing regarding these changes it would have been to focus on the Quatermaines. And they did! Monica and Tracy are awesome and beloved characters who have been enjoying some well deserved screen time.

On a side note, I was extremely sad to read of John Ingle’s passing. Ingle had played the loveable curmudgeon Edward Quartermaine since 1993. The show wrote in the death of his character and featured a voice over from the late actor, as well as one from Anna Lee, the actress who played his wife Lila. Lee died in 2004, so it was pretty amazing how they worked her into the episode. Kleenex, please!

The stories are insane and insanely gripping!

It might be impossible for me to actually tell you everything that’s been going on since February because sooooo much has happened. From Robin’s fake death to Anna and Luke sharing some bed time, to the whole Kate/Connie story to Patrick’s drug abuse to learning the surprising truth about Lisa Niles’ death to Jerry Jacks poisoning the town’s water supply, to the awesome latex Duke mask to the sweet and romantic Ellie/Spinelli/Maxie triangle, most of the stories have kept my head appropriately spinning at the end of every episode. The stories are fantastic and rolled out at lightening speed. The way the Jerry Jacks story unfolded was a work of complete daytime artistry. I don’t have clever words to describe the tremendous leaps and bounds the show has grown, so I'll just say it is fantastic.


The acting is great!

OK, I know. Soaps are famous for running the continuum of great to horrible acting. Even actors who normally knock it out of the park have bad days, especially now with the new one-take policy that seems so popular on these daytime shows. So I just want to focus on one actor in particular who has done an incredible job with his storyline. Jason Thompson plays Patrick Drake and recently he lost his wife (who isn’t really dead) and then became addicted to drugs (which he beat fairly easily) and has now become a crush for a sweet new character. Since I just stepped into Port Charles only earlier this year, I found that Patrick's story was the one that instantly captivated me. Perhaps some of that is due to the fact that I’m still quite familiar with Robin Scorpio, who was his wife, but I think most of it boils down to Thompson’s performance. Also worth noting is that he plays Noah Drake’s son. Noah was played by Rick Springfield and I do admit, I see a nice resemblance between the two. I love the Drake history on the show and I’m pleased they are rolling out Patrick’s story slowly, so we can feel the process of grief and recovery along with him. That’s what daytime is all about really. If it can’t get to the heart of our deepest emotions (good and bad), then it’s a failed experiment, but Thompson makes the whole thing a success.

And as a sidenote: Todd is hilarious! Wait, I think I already said that. He's also adorable, in case you were wondering. 

Soap Opera Digest named General Hospital as the Most Improved Soap!

And they aren’t the only ones heaping praise on the once beleaguered sudser (I loved writing that sentence). The Hufington Post and even Hollywood Reporter have written some very encouraging things about the series, and it continues to rise in the ratings.


I would be fooling myself if I thought the soap genre had an infinite lifespan. These are dark days. Soaps are expensive and don’t garner the huge numbers they used to. However, that does not mean that we have to go gently into that good night. Indeed, we should be kicking and screaming the entire way. There are still a few million passionate fans out there and this has been an interesting time to have something called the interwebs. I’ve been watching some wild dissension among fans, mostly because we are in a panic. Sometimes the knee jerk reactions from fans are even more dramatic than the soaps themselves! However, aside from those dark bits of negativity, which the net is unfortunately prone to, the internet is also a great way to have your voice heard. I have actually emailed everyone from network execs to advertisers in an effort to let them know how important the genre is to me. If you like soaps, you should take a shot on one of the four remaining shows. We have hit a high with stories, acting and pacing. This is a great time to rediscover love in the afternoon!

Update: And as luck would have it, One Life to Live and All My Children may, like so many characters from their shows, rise from the dead. Check out this breaking news article about the shows going online here!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

New Christmas Poll, Links and Other Sundries


OK, OK, I'm pushing it a bit with sundries. Indulge me. I've got a new poll on the right hand sidebar dedicated to Rankin and Bass Christmas specials. I think Rudolph and his red nose will blow the competition out of the water, or off of the sled, if you will. My vote goes to Nestor, cuz that's how I roll.

By the way, have you read the review I wrote about Nestor, the Long-Eared Donkey for Christmas TV History? He's the best.

And for the record, last month's Monkees poll ended in a tie. Daydream Believer and Pleasant Valley Sunday cleaned up!  Good picks, people!

Recently, I did a podcast with the Movies About Girls crew. This podcast is a spinoff called TV Shows about Girls. We reviewed the Avengers' episode A Touch of Brimstone and it was absolutely insane and amazing. I also just guested on another offshoot of the podcast called The MAG Down Under Variety Hour First Annual International Christmas-tacular. No links yet. This one goes up on the 24th, so I will post that link when it's available. I don't want to give too much away, but it's probably one of the dirtier holiday specials out there. Also, some of us did a rendition of Band Aid's Do They Know it's Christmas, and I got to be Simon LeBon. Be warned though... I was absolutely horrible. But it was fun and I don't regret it. There!

I've got some new stuff coming up, including movie reviews and a couple of articles about the love in the afternoon genre. What can I say? Tune in tomorrow.

Oh, and here we are singing Do They Know it's Christmas:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Must See Streaming Movie of the Week: Cry for the Strangers (1982)


First of all, please let me apologize for my lax posting of late. I don't know why every school semester seems harder than the one before, but lately I feel like throwing my laptop out the window!

However, I finally see a light at the end of my academic tunnel. And after a week long nap, I should be ready to take on the world again! But for now, let's find pleasure in the little things, shall we?

Netflix is currently streaming Cry for the Strangers, which stars Patrick Duffy with a nice beard. He's a new guy on a small island and, of course, something creepy and strange is afoot. Honestly, I think this film is only moderately successful but worth checking out if you like a scruffy Duffy or John Saul. Plus, the 80s, man. Those were good times.

Anyway, I wrote a brief review of the movie here, so feel free to check it out if you need a little more info. And I do mean a little, that has to be one of my shortest reviews ever!

OK, back to the books. See you guys on the other side!