Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

The best part about trudging ahead into the great unknown of 2010... it's always 1970-something here! Uh, or 1980-something... well, you get the picture!

Have a great New Year and be safe, K? The last thing we need is another Smash Up on Interstate 5, you dig?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Random Factoids

Along my travels, I have come up with some neat-o-rooni television trivia. A lot of it is really random and doesn't mean squat, so I thought I'd group some of them together. Here goes:

Did you know:

In the early 80s, a made for television movie cost $2 million and a theatrical cost $4 million to produce...

Or, maybe you already knew this:

Fame is the Name of the Game (NBC, November 26th, 1966) was the first television movie that also served as a pilot (the series was called The Name of the Game and ran from 68 - 71)...

Perhaps you were also aware:

The short lived series Beacon Hill (CBS, 1975) was the Americanized version of Upstairs, Downstairs...

Hey, guess what...

48,000,000 watched Tiny Tim marry his bride on The Tonight Show

You should also be informed of this:

The ABC Movie of the Week came in #6 during the 1970/71 season and moved up to #5 for the 1971/72 season! YAY ABC! It was usurped by NBC in 1972/73 when the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie hit the Top Five!

Check this tidbit out:

During the 1977/78 season of Eight is Enough, it cost $350,000 to produce an episode. The 1978/1979 season cost $400,000 and the 1979/80 season cost $430,000. Not bad...

Who could have guessed:

... that to give each actress star billing in the made for television movie The Day the Women Got Even (NBC, 12/4/80) JoAnn Pflug, Georgina Engel, Tina Louise and Barbara Rhodes had their names featured on a rotating wheel?

More The Day the Women Got Even trivia:

The movie was a pilot and was originally called Every Wednesday...

And finally:

In 1977 9,341,000 color sets were sold as opposed to 6,090,000 B&W sets.

Who knew? Well, you do now! I have empowered all with more useless TV knowledge. I feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Afterschool Special Bonanza!

A Matter of Time
Original Air Date: February 11th, 1981

First Step (aka She Drinks a Little)
Original Air Date: December 23rd, 1981

Tough Girl
Original Air Date: October 28th, 1981

Since my first semester back in college has finally finished, I thought it was appropriate to watch a few Afterschool Specials, because I party just that hard!

Brentwood was kind enough to release several Afterschool Specials on DVD and I popped on the Class of ’81 – ’82 just for kicks, yo – and wow, what a bummer! The first disc featured a mother dying of lung cancer and another mother killing herself because she hits the bottle too hard. Great-googily-moogily! Well, who said the early 80s wasn’t all about the drama. Or is that the glamour? Shoot.

A Matter of Time stars one of my all-time-favorite-actresses-who-doesn’t-work-anymore-but-should-because-she-rocks-so-hard, Karlene Crockett (Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker, Two Loves for Jenny) as a teen coming to terms with her mother’s sudden and terminal illness. This is serious stuff, kids, and it’s handled sensitively. Not a lot of laughs here. It also features a rather young Rob Lowe (who rocked Schoolboy Father) basically staring at Karlene for long periods of time. Oh Karlene, where are you?

Not cool

The subject matter is definitely bleak and is played out in a fairly realistic way, which is not how I wanted to spend my first week of the Christmas Break, you dig? This episode is less about mom’s death and more about how her daughter learns to accept her new identity in life, and not live under her mother’s fading shadow. Poignant, gripping stuff maybe best served as fodder for one of those rained out depressed days.

The second episode on the disc is called First Step and features another underrated actress, Amanda Wyss, who is probably most famous for her appearances in A Nightmare on Elm Street and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Me, I know her best from the awesome killer baboon flick Shakma and for her short stint at the beginning of This House Possessed (aka The Best Movie Ever!). Here she plays Cindy Scott, a wannabe actress hoping to land a part in the school play. She is also tending to her mother’s (Bonnie Bartlett) awful drinking binges. Mom even shows up at school drunk as a skunk during Parent’s Day throwing Cindy into an embarrassed tizzy. And I don’t blame her! Bartlett is top-notch as a lush, where she is sometimes funny and sometimes utterly frustrating.

For a good time call Cindy's mom!

Like A Matter of Time, First Step goes for the gut, albeit landing softly, but the episode doesn’t end happily. Instead, it’s about Cindy coming to terms with her mom and realizing that helping her only enables her more. She finds it’s better to let go than it is to try to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. I love when Mom gets up on stage after Cindy’s debut screaming, “That’s my daughter!” Awesome.

Tough Girl is the third episode on the disc and it’s my favorite. It stars Karin Argoud who looks like Jill Schoelen after a tough weekend. She is best known to me as Vint’s Valley Girl-esque daughter on the original Mama’s Family when it aired on NBC. She didn’t do much past that, which is too bad. She’s adorable and quite talented…

She's a knife-carrying-kulot-wearer. That must be a crime!

Here she’s Renie Lake, a knife-wielding, hard as nails high school kid dealing with her tumultuous broken home situation. After getting busted with a friend for grand theft auto and drugs, she’s sent to live with her suburban dad and his new family. Renie has an extremely hard time fitting in until she meets Jan Redner (Greg Koppel) an adorable wannabe high school vet who happens to also be deaf. But even though he can’t hear, he listens to Renie better than just about anyone and she finally forms a legitimately healthy relationship. That is until she finds out Jan is leaving their little suburban paradise for Penn State in the fall. This sets Renie on a little expedition which she later realizes is her finding herself. Awww Renie, we always loved ya!

Tough Girl works because of Karin’s awesome performance. I mean, she looks really rough, although I don’t agree with everything she does. In a continuing sub-plot Renie basically taunts Wally (played by Laurence Lau who never seems to age!) to a point that is just uncalled for. I mean, yeah Wally is, like, kind of a jocked out dork, but he’s cute and his name is Wally and he meant no harm, Renie. Seriously.

The last episode in the set is called the Night Swimmers and I’ll be damned if I just couldn’t get through it. Sorry Jason Lively, maybe next time!

I will totally go out with you Wally!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Mouse, A Mystery and Me (1987)

Network: NBC
Original Air Date: December 13th, 1987

OK, how adorable is this? Some kid sees a department store Santa (played by Dick Van Patten) being kidnapped, so he rushes to his neighbor's house. His neighbor is the one and only Jill Roberts (Darcy Marta) a famous teen mystery novelist (wow!). Turns out she co-writes her books with a little mouse who chooses to remain anonymous. He's so cute and his name is Alex the Mouse (voiced by the wonderful Donald O'Connor!). Jill and Alex the Mouse are certain there is a simple explanation, but investigate so as to not disappoint this fairly unannoying kid...

The purse is apparently so desirable, she charges him rent! New Yorkers!

Turns out some department store employees weave tangled webs and after Jill accuses the wrong person of the crime (Sam Hall, played by the incredibly awesome Lloyd Bochner), she and her totally 80s bud end up in a big old mess. Can Alex the Mouse save Jill and Sam and Santa and the crazy 80s girl in time for Christmas?

By the way, what the effe are Puffalumps?!?

Whoops! Got off track...

A Mouse, A Mystery and Me was completely unknown to me until today when I was researching television Christmas specials which may be of interest for the yuletide blogging I wanted to do. It's not that odd, since I was past the age of cartoons by the time this aired, but still... it's kind of just a blip on the old classic TV radar. And that's too bad, because it's adorable, if a little too simple. Of course it's less than 30 minutes long, so perhaps uncomplicated was a wise choice. Currently, you can watch A Mouse, A Mystery and Me online! It's a delightful little show and is perfect for the rodent lover in your life!

Why don't you come up and see me sometime?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Must See Streaming Movie of the Week: The Spell (1977)!!!

The Spell used to be some kind of rarity. I was surprised to see it streaming online at Hulu and Netflix. I am glad they picked up this little Carrie wannabe. The cast is awesome. Lee Grant plays the mother of a dumpy 15 year old girl named Rita (Susan Myers), who gets taunted at school constantly. Luckily, she's picked up some witchcrafty stuff and uses it to wreak havoc on anyone who tells her No. Sounds a little like Madonna, don't it? Anyway, her dad (James Olson) and sister (a very young Helen Hunt) don't like Rita that much either, so guess who falls under her spell? Also, mom has a friend that Rita dislikes, and let me tell you, the outcome ain't pretty! Jack Colvin from the Incredible Hulk shows up too as a parapsychologist (seriously, that must be the best job in the whole wide world!) but doesn't do more than act serious and stare down Lee. Still, we love him, don't we?

My daughter has the worst habits! Where did she pick them up?!?

Fairly low key little slasher with competent effects, The Spell is a good time for TV movie lovers. I actually prefer the other Carrie rip-off, Jennifer a little more (plus that one has Bert Convy!), but I think The Spell will enchant those who remember when this first aired on NBC way back on February 20th, 1977. It was a very good night for television, indeed.

Rita, you're time is U.P.

Piece of trivia: I took a class taught by the writer of this movie. His name is Brian Taggert and he's probably best known as the guy who wrote Visiting Hours (also with Lee Grant). What a wonderful man. I honestly had no idea he'd written this! Go Brian!!!
The Spell in Spell-o-scope:

Read more about The Spell at Kindertrauma

Sunday, December 20, 2009

While I've Been Away...

OK, finals are done and behind me. I got my 48 hours of catch up sleep and I have not much to say except I was pleased as punch to see I won a pretty neat writing contest. The theme – in 75 words or less, describe an odd TV Christmas special you love. I wrote about A Very Brady Christmas. What other oddball holiday TV movie rocks so hard? None, I say. Anyway, that was pretty cool. The contest was held at The Christmas TV Companion Blog, which is a, uh, companion to the book The Christmas TV Companion Book. I suggest you check out the blog, I think you’ll find the book is something worth purchasing. It’s not only a perfect stocking stuffer, but also something you, as tv freakazoids, would cherish yourselves, all year long!

I also won a Kindertrauma tee! How cool is that?!?

What a good week! And now school is O-V-E-R! It's all TV Movies, Cheers and Frasier from here until February! I am going to be doing some lists (or at least one that I know of for sure), so I'm really looking forward to this break!

Also, for those of you who haven't picked up the TV movie DVDs at Warner Archive, Christmas came early for me last night at a party where some kind soul gave this penniless woman both Bad Ronald and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark! I put on Dark and I can tell you, the print is amazing. Grab a copy if you can. The kind soul btw, was my good friend Heidi at Pretty Scary. How well she knows me. Thank you sweetheart!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Gone Fishin' Folks!

I know tears are welling up in your eyes, but I will only be gone for a short while, so I can study, study, STUDY for my upcoming finals.

I'm very excited about the weeks coming directly after finals, when I plan to get caught up on some awesome Made for TV Mayhem. I found a very rare film and can't wait to re-visit it (I haven't seen it since I was five!). And I sense a little romance in the air, so expect some woo-worthy small screen love-fests!

See you in a couple of weeks!

PS: This is me right now:

Or perhaps this is more accurate:

Whichever it is, it ain't pretty!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Anatomy of a Seduction (1979)

Network: CBS
Original Air Date: May 8th, 1979

1979 was a great year for romance. Or so they tell me, cuz, you know, I was 9 and stuff. Some great love stories played the small screen, such as the incredible tale of underage lust known as Sooner or Later, a little ditty about older people who find love and tragedy called Valentine and the epic time travel love story The Two Worlds of Jenny Logan. Love was in the air, in the wood paneling and floating inside the bottoms of our bells…

Sexiness is just about to ensue...

I’m just going to put it out there - I detest the term Cougar. I hate the phrase MILF almost as much, but find some slight humor in it, so I’ll let it slide (lucky you, MILF). I remember a time when women chose to be dignified rather than all out skanks. Yeah, I said skanks (that’s a word I like!), and you know sometimes they actually dated younger men… and it seemed OK. Tawdry, sure. But tawdry is alright, I mean, who doesn’t love tawdry? Let me pick a random year - Oh, say 1979 and let’s pick a movie. I dunno… Oh, how about Anatomy of a Seduction, where the filmmakers throw a little decorum into the Spring/Fall scenario, and up the hot factor with one Jameson Parker as the young stud in question.

Susan Flannery is Maggie, a divorced woman with a teenage son working at an architecture firm. It seems everyone around her is divorced and on the make. Her best friend is Nina (Rita Moreno who owns the show), another divorcee who is content with Mr. Right Now. Nina’s son Ed (Jameson Parker who was 32 but played a 20 year old, and quite well), comes home for the summer. He’s a Princeton student of architecture, so Nina fixes him up with Maggie. Of course, Nina only meant as an intern, but one thing leads to another and before you know it Ed and Maggie are hot to trot.


At the beginning of the film, Maggie is an extremely dignified, but rather uptight, career woman. When Ed begins to impact her life, she starts doing things she long put behind her, like going on amusement park rides and roller skating. Ed also takes her to the ballet and to plays and is sophisticated enough to appreciate the things the wiser Maggie enjoys. Of course, all good TV-movie-things must blow up in someone’s face, and boy does it ever! When Maggie’s son and Nina learn about the illicit affair, it gets real ugly and Moreno has the scene of her life just emoting the hell out of it! God, I love that woman!

Eventually, Maggie has to take the reins of the situation and determine not only what she wants but also what is best for Ed.

I admit it, I loved every second of this movie. It’s a great little romance flick with wonderful acting, a sweet story and roller skating! What’s not to love? Flannery is great as the sophisticated Maggie. The character commands respect and Flannery delivers. She makes Maggie relatable while also playing her as a bit of a super woman. She never flounders, always knows what to say and can handle any situation. Parker is also really good. He was so adorable in this movie, he made me want to giggle. I loved the slow development of their relationship and watching his schoolboy crush turn into something far more powerful… and believable. Maybe I was just up for a little romance, as I have been known to be, but this really fit the bill.

You can watch Anatomy of a Seduction online at Hulu.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Paul Wendkos 1922 - 2009

I just got the sad news that prolific television and film director Paul Wendkos has passed away. Wendkos was no stranger to the world of made for television movies, having directed several outstanding films.

Currently, you can watch Cocaine: One Man's Seduction on Fancast.

Here's a list of his TV movies from the 70s (with some stills of his credits in the movie):

Fear No Evil (1969)
The Brotherhood of the Bell (1970)
Travis Logan, D.A. (1971)
A Tattered Web (1971)
A Little Game (1971)
A Death of Innocence (1971)
The Delphi Bureau (1972)
The Family Rico (1972)
Haunts of the Very Rich (1972)
Footsteps (1972)
The Strangers in 7A (1972):

Honor Thy Father (1973)
Terror on the Beach (1973)
The Underground Man (1974)
The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975):

Death Among Friends (1975)
The Death of Ritchie (1977):

Secrets (1977)
Good Against Evil (1977)
Harold Robbins' 79 Park Avenue (1977)
Betrayal (1978)
A Woman Called Moses (1978)
The Ordeal of Patty Hearst (1979)

His prolific TV movie career went into the 80s where he made the following:

A Cry for Love (1980)
The Five of Me (1980)
Cocaine: One Man's Seduction (1983)
Intimate Agony (1983)
The Awakening of Candra (1983) name but a few!

Of course, Wendkos is best known for making The Legend of Lizzie Borden starring Elizabeth Montgomery. It was the movie that shot her out of the sitcom world like a rocket. Wendkos seemed rather comfortable handling genre work such as Borden, and he proved he had a deft hand with esoteric themes when he made The Haunts of the Very Rich, which boasts one of Robert Reed's best performances.

He was only nominated once for an Emmy for directing The Taking of Flight 847: The Uli Derickson Story (1988). I find it a little hard to believe that he wasn't nominated for more stuff. He made some incredible movies. Again, proving how sadly underrated the made for television genre is, even by its peers.

I found this short obituary about Wendkos that is worth checking out if you are unfamiliar with his work.

What a truly sad loss. I am a big fan of his films.

Thanks to Marty at Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot for letting me know about this.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

TV Trivia: It's Deadly!

Did you know...

...that someone died on the Dick Cavett Show?!?

It was June 8th, 1971 and respected playwright Jerome Irving Rodale (aka JI Rodale), who was a staunch advocate of living green and eating healthy, had a heart attack only moments after telling Dick, "I'm so healthy, I expect to live on and on."

The episode never aired, but the whole thing was caught on tape. Currently, that footage (including the paramedics rushing the stage) remains in Dick Cavett's custody.

You can read all about that night on Dick Cavett's blog for the New York Times.

The Dick Cavett Show was amazing. The following clip is a segment of Dick interviewing John Cassavettes, Peter Falk and Ben Gazzara. Peter Falk is adorable, btw (in case you didn't pick that up from some of my other blog posts!).

Watch Ben, John, Peter and Dick here:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Vega$ on DVD!

OK kids, before we go too crazy, this release of Vega$ on DVD is just Volume One of Season One. I can't say I'm really hip on this new version of releasing TV shows on DVD, but I've been waiting for Vega$ to become available in some format for about as long as I can remember.

The show, which ran three seasons holds a special place in my heart. Being a kid in 70s Vegas, I remember the hubbub over this show and grew up hearing my schoolmates say things like, "Yesterday Dan Tana drove past us on the freeway!" It was no less than awesome.

The show itself I hardly remember, except to say the cast was uniformly great, Greg Morris is a babe equal to Urich and Bart Braverman is the shizz-nit.

I did a cursory search to see if maybe this was available for streaming, but alas, you have to Netflix or buy. It's worth it though. It's one of the great late 70s cop shows. One that hardly gets the note it deserves and it's an excellent chance to remember both Morris and Urich, two wonderful men who left us way to soon.

Piece of trivia: Greg Morris apparently loved living in Vegas because he stayed there until his death in the 90s.

The thing about Vegas is that it's a city that is ever-changing, and with the release of this long-awaited DVD, I feel like I can actually go home again.

TV Trivia: Condominium (1980)

Did you know...

... that the miniseries Condominium was produced for syndication but aired on HBO six months before it was able to play on any syndicated channels?

Condominium was produced by Operation Prime Time, which was a company who made original television movies for independent stations. It was actually partially bankrolled by these various channels meaning they weren't allowed to air their own film which they paid to have made! What a tangled web we weave OPT...

Anyway, it's a pretty awesome movie. You can read my review of Condominium here.

And here's a fancy-schmancy picture gallery:

And one more for good measure:

Uber hawtness is in the room!