Tuesday, January 29, 2013

TV Spot Tuesday: Magnum P.I.

How could I let Tom Selleck's birthday go by without sending him a little love?

If you have been visiting my blog for awhile, you probably know that I am devoted to both Tom and Magnum P.I. It's kind of funny that I've never really written about anything specific about the series, but every year when Tom's birthday rolls around, I tend to look back fondly on my all time favorite private eye show.

I was a fan of Magnum P.I. from the beginning, but I didn't really get my Selleck-on until the series went into re-runs around the mid 80s. It's not like I had an a-ha moment or anything, but at some point my casual fandom turned to a psycho obsession! OK, maybe I was still a few crazy thoughts short of a restraining order, but I was definitely heavily involved with following Magnum's adventures in Hawaii. I loved the camaraderie he had with Rick, T.C. and yes, even Higgins, and I enjoyed that the characters remained fairly consistent throughout the run of the series.

But this is about promos, so instead of waxing poetic for a few more paragraphs I am going to post some links to two other birthday posts I did, which you can read here and here. I'm also making a mental note (and maybe a belated New Year resolution) to dedicate something to Selleck when it isn't his birthday!

Anyway, I love you Tom. Have a wonderful day!

And now for the promos:

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Just the other day someone asked me if I watch anything new, and my instant response was a simple "No." I realized about 10 seconds later (because I am always late to the game) that I do watch new TV, and not just that, good TV. I loves me some General Hospital and Dallas, and I'm thrilled to see that each one is enjoying some well deserved success.

Recently, and like many of their characters, soaps have also found a way to come back from the dead. Both All My Children and One Life to Live are gearing up to rise like a phoenix from the ashes. Oh yes, they are returning. They will be seen in an online format. And let's face it, it seems only logical that soaps, which are considered a groundbreaking form of entertainment, would step over into the world of internet streaming. It's great to see the unfairly maligned genre move forward into new and bold territory! While I'm sketchy on all the deets, I hear that these shows are hoping to go into production soon, and should be airing in the spring.

The other day the interwebs were alive with casting news for the shows. You can read about who has signed on (thus far) for the roboots of All My Children and One Life to Live for yourself. And since I'm giving out so much advice, I think you should also sign up to the OnLine Network, which is where it looks like these shows will be streaming.

And, as if that wasn't the greatest, most awesome news ever, Dallas is gearing up for season two, starting January 28th! They are writing in J.R.'s death, and it looks like he's going out with a bang.  Lots of friendly faces are returning to bid a fond adieu to the best bad guy that ever graced a television screen, so expect to keep your hanky nearby. I'm trying to avoid spoilers, so I'll leave it up to you to fish, er, google for any info you think you might want to know about the upcoming season.

If you are like me and don't have cable, the fine folks at iTunes will be selling episodes for your enjoyment! 

Just to cover all my bases, here is a link to an article I wrote about why you should be watching General Hospital!

And (finally) for kicks, I joined twitter. If you want to hear my incessant ramblings about TV movies, 80s music, soap operas, cute retro machismo, or other nonsense, please follow me!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

TV Spot Tuesday: Flamingo Road

If you haven't noticed, I've been in the mood for love lately.

While I almost always enjoy a scary TV movie, I also like it when my small screen treats are soapy and sudsy and full of over the top romance. The 80s was the perfect coming of age era for me because so many day and night time shows brought on the melodrama but good!

Although I missed it in its initial run, I remembered Flamingo Road well. I am from Las Vegas and we had our own Flamingo Road (next to the Flamingo Casino as you might have guessed), and for years I assumed that was where the show took place. Silly me! Apparently there are a gazillion roads with the same name, and this series, which debuted on May 12th, 1980 on NBC actually took place in Florida (although it was shot in Sam Dimas, CA). The road symbolized the right and wrong side of the tracks, and characters from both sides intertwined in tales of heat, lust and revenge!

Inspired by the 1949 film with the same name (and starring Joan Crawford), Flamingo Road was intended to be NBC's answer to Dallas or even Falcon Crest, but did not do so well in the ratings. At then end of it's second, and final, season Neilsen listed it as the 68th most popular series of the year, out of 105. Despite it's middling ratings, Flamingo Road tried to find a niche for itself on daytime, but the move never materialized and the series ended on a cliffhanger.

Flamingo Road had an amazing cast, including Cristina Raines, Mark Harmon and Morgan Fairchild who said her character was a "real bitch" (as if we'd assume anything else). The promo below also shows a studly John Beck, who would go on to play Mark Grayson on Dallas. Other wonderful faces included Kevin McCarthy, Howard Duff and Woody Brown. This series seriously needs a DVD release!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bad Ronald: The Novel

Although I’m sure there are exceptions to every rule, it’s impossible for me to believe that there are fans of 70s TV movies that aren’t head over heels in love with Bad Ronald. The film really set the standard for how insidious claustrophobia can be translated to the small screen. And of course, I’m not gonna lie, Scott Jacoby is adorable. But that's a side note... Bad Ronald is so ingrained in my memory that I can’t imagine it being done any other way, nor could I envision another actor eliciting sympathy for Ronald the way Jacoby did.

As many of you know, Bad Ronald is an adaptation from the book by prolific scribe Jack Vance. Vance was best known for his sci-fi tales, but toiled in many genres. Writing under his real name John Holbrook Vance, the author mostly eschews his more fantastical writing (although it’s also embedded here with Atrana), and writes a far darker tale of isolation, rape and murder than the movie could ever hope to strive for.

Yeah, you heard me. Rape! And not just one young lady falls prey to Ronald’s misguided attempts to forge a relationship. We are talking serial rapist and killer! And Ronald’s stature, which is described as bulky and slightly overweight did not bring up the willowy (and don't forget dreamy) Jacoby in any way for me. In so many ways Bad Ronald the book is nothing like Bad Ronald the movie. It certainly remains true to the premise, but while Ronald was accidentally bad in the film, he owns his bad in the novel.

While I was reading the book I began to flashback on films like Last House and the Left, and I find Ronald has a much stronger kinship with those dark and dirty 70s grindhouse films than he ever will with his bastard small screen step-brother. That’s not to say the novel isn’t engrossing. It is. In fact, it was disturbing and amazing and it was nearly impossible for me to put the book down. Vance’s blunt prose and claustrophobic setting threatens to strangle the reader at any minute.

In the novel, Ronald and his mother are sociopaths who have little concern for the victims or justice. Mrs. Wilby only feels embarrassment when she encounters the mother of poor Carol Matthews (i.e. Victim #1), and it is apparent that whatever broke up her marriage was most likely her own fault. Her overprotective parenting and unwillingness to punish Ronald leaves a dark legacy after she passes. After her death, Ronald finds himself further isolated and he enjoys existing as the ghostly shadows of violent memories and unanswered questions. That he could so readily disappear sets up the period well. Vance often refers to hippie culture, and the Woods, who are the family that move in after Mrs. Wilby’s death, take on the conservative voice against the subculture. Although the daughters embody a sort of late 60s/early 70s youthful nature (the middle daughter is a bit of mystic, and even admits that she might have been interested in Ronald under different circumstances), there is a sense that perhaps Vance was making some commentary on the state of broken marriages and lost youth from this era. The Woods are stable, if not well off, and seem happy in their nuclear family-land. Ronald, of course, destroys all of that.

Despite how gripping and suspenseful I found the book I still had a very hard time resisting comparisons to the movie, which is so much a part of my everyday retro loving lexicon! I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but because I could not separate the two, I was slightly disappointed by Vance’s book. However, that's my fault... I missed my curly headed Ronald that came packaged in the adorable Scott Jacoby body! And I digress again...

Long since out of print, the book goes for anywhere from $80 – 200 on Amazon. It recently became available through Kindle for less than 6 bones, so as you can imagine, I was all over it. I love to read the original source of TV movie adaptations, and I’m surprised that someone thought they could make Bad Ronald TV friendly. But they certainly did, and it lives on in our collective childhood traumas.

The book should be read. If you have an easier time separating the adorable Ronald of the small screen from the sociopath that inhabits the novel, more power to you. I guarantee you that either way, you are in for a suspenseful good time!

You can read my review of Bad Ronald the movie by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

TV Spot Tuesday: Scruples!

Welcome to the first installment of a series I'll be doing for an indefinite period of time.

Who doesn't love old TV spots? No one, that's who! I thought it would fun to feature commercials/promos/etc, with a bit of commentary and hopefully some TV Guide Ads, if I have them (or can locate them).

I thought I'd start the whole shebang off with Scruples, which was the popular 1980 mini-series that ran over three sultry nights on CBS starting on February 25th, 1980. Based on Judith Krantz's best selling novel, Scruples was a devilishly salacious read, and a pretty good tele-film, especially considering what they couldn't show! My goodness...

Lindsay Wagner plays the awkward Billy Ikehorn, a young woman who finds herself (and her fabulousness) as a teenager in Paris. She marries rich, and when her old hubby kicks the bucket Billy makes a name for herself in the high-end of fashion retail. She takes a gorgeous Spider Elliot (the great Barry Bostwick who can do no wrong) and Valentine (Marie-France Pisier, who is so gorgeously ethereal, I could not take my eyes off of her) along for the ride.

Scruples is incredible. I watched it one sitting recently because I simply could not turn it off. It is available through Warner Archives, and quite frankly, buying the DVD is only an investment in your happiness.

The TV spot posted below pretty much captures everything I love about the film. Tons of wonderful small screen faces (Robert Reed, I'm looking at you), glamour oozing off the screen (that's not as gross as it sounds) and lots of sudsy melodrama. It's high class trash, and that's the way I like it!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Chain of Passion Part 2: Harlequin Adaptations and the Shades of Love Series

Here is part two of my look at Romance TV movies. If you were curious about part one, you can click on this link , or just keep in mind that the mid 80s were all about the revolution of Romance Theatre on VHS and hot kisses in cool rain. OK, you're set! Enjoy!

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Showtime took a shot at bringing the passion and moniker of the Harlequin romance books to the small screen in 1986. The first film, Love with the Perfect Stranger, starred Marilu Henner as an American businesswoman who finds love and adventure in Italy. Such a no-brainer. Sign me up!

From Harlequin's At the Midnight Hour

The Harlequin films were a co-production between Harlequin Books, Showtime, Video Ventures and Yorkshire Television, Ltd. Harry Chandler, who was in charge of Showtime’s program development remarked that “romance was something the audience wasn’t getting,” and that it was a “good compliment for male orientated programming, like boxing.” And how!

At the time, Harlequin romance novels accounted for 35% of all book sales! What a great market to tap into and in 1987, Showtime also aired Cloud Waltzing and Dreams Lost, Dreams Found. There have been over a dozen Harlequin movies released to date, some of which aired on Showtime, while the rest were televised in the 90s as Sunday afternoon movies on CBS. Lest we forget that the success of these films is often considered the precursor to our favorite television for women, Lifetime.

Thank. You. Harlequin.

The success of the Romance Theatre distribution and perhaps the release of the Harlequin movies prompted the creation of the Shades of Love Series in 1987. Shades has a somewhat dicey history. Co-producer L/A House, which was run by Kenneth Achity saw great potential in the market. However, every source I checked has a different story on where Shades was originally released. Some say the series was made for television, others say they were produced for the direct to home video market and still there are others who claim some were made for cable TV and also made for video! Geesh! Can anyone clear this up?

I’m a huge Shades of Love fan. This Canadian series of films featured many a hunky and familiar TV face, such as Dack Rambo, Simon MacCorkindale and the swoon-erific Parker Stevenson. The female love interests were lesser-known Canadian actresses. The idea was that the viewers could envision themselves in the female role, and fantasies would ensue! Shades had much higher production values than Romance Theatre, and a bit of nudity which I assume was to entice the boyfriends/husbands who were forced to watch it. Hey, everybody wins, right?

The 80s were a great place to find love in the afternoon, on cable and on video. It’s unfortunate that most of these movies have fallen by the wayside, with the exception of the latter round of Harlequin TV movies, which are mostly available on DVD. Below are my recommendations for the Shades of Love and Harlequin series, should you so desire. And it’s all about desire, right?

Shades of Love:

Make Mine Chartreuse: Yes, this is perhaps the worst titled movie ever, but boy, is it ever romantic and fun! Chartreuse converted me into a complete Joseph Bottoms lover. He plays a romance writer who falls for a pretty business executive (played well by Catherine Colvey). Their careers keep getting in the way of the sexy stuff, but by the end, you know these two are destined for long nights of… um, chartreuse, which is the name of a drink in the movie. OK. It’s still romantic and silly and all those things that make me giggle. I love.

Honorable Mention: I like all of the Shades of Love movies I’ve seen so far, and I’m going to mention two more.  

Champagne for Two: This was the first movie in the Shades series I saw and it is just the cutest movie ever (yes, that’s my critical review of it). It’s sweet, the leading lady is great and the love interest (Nicholas Campbell) is pretty damn sexy. See it!

The Rose CafĂ©: Full disclosure: It’s really not my favorite in the series, but it does feature Parker Stevenson as the perfect leading man. The lead actress (Linda Smith) is a bit grating, but Parker smoothes the whole thing out with his luscious locks and gorgeous blue eyes. I’ve seen this one probably more than the others in the series because I just can’t get enough of Mr. Stevenson. And I’m thinking I need to give it another spin soon!

Harlequin: I haven’t seen as many of these, so I’m only able to recommend one, but it’s great.

Change of Place: This piece of fluffy goodness is about a top model that has to go into rehab so she asks her mousey art historian twin sister to replace her! No joke. Rick Springfield owns the fashion house she works for, and love blooms amongst the shoulder pads and stonewashed jeans. I bought this movie on a whim because I adore Rick, and I was happily pleased with it. The lead actress, Andrea Roth is gorgeous and talented and I was rooting for her the whole way.

And just cuz it’s my blog, here are some Danielle Steel adaptation recommendations:

Daddy: Yes, I know this is not the fan favorite of Steel’s wonderful tele-films, but it’s the one I watch the most. Patrick Duffy is fantastic as the happy family man who has his life torn apart when his cold-hearted wife (Kate Mulgrew playing one of the most dislikable characters I have ever come across) leaves him. He ends up meeting the gorgeous Lynda Carter, and the story is just so darn engaging and well done. It’s a perfect rainy afternoon movie, and one I love with all my heart.

Secrets: I can’t say enough good things about this one. It’s pretty over the top, featuring a story about a nighttime soap where the actors’ lives are just as melodramatic as their characters. This is a fast and fun flick. And I have to give a nod to Stephanie Beacham who appears in both this and A Change of Place. I so want to be her!

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Chain of Passion Part 1: Romance Theatre

I started to write an article about Romance Theatre and found that I kept adding and adding information until I finally had written about RT, Harlequin adaptations and the Shades of Love series. I decided to break my article up into two smaller bite sized pieces, with some recommendations at the end of each post. Enjoy!

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It was the early 80s and everything was pastel-ish and perfect. Soft wavy hair fell down the slim, brown shoulders of young, nubile actresses as they kissed their leading men, who were often rippling muscles underneath tanned flesh. It was a great time for love, wasn’t it?

Well, on TV for sure.

In my real life, I was about 10 and obsessed with the Hello Kitty stickers that I collected from Rainbow Station. It was the only thing that I wanted to be near when I was that age. But I became an adult and quickly realized that I had grown up too late. I missed those ruggedly handsome men of yesteryear. My only recourse was to seek out made for TV romances. OK, maybe that wasn’t my only option, but short of building a time machine, I felt limited.

For whatever reason, I have never been particularly impressed with theatrical love stories, yet, I find the small screen romance offerings beckoning me. Honestly, I’m not sure what the difference is, but that’s how the world revolves for me. Maybe it's those addictive Danielle Steel adaptations where cupid first struck me with his bow and arrow (thank you, Lifetime). Who knows? All I can say now is that I love, love, love TV love.

When I was a kid, I remembered a syndicated series that featured week-long novella-type stories. I watched a couple of them over summer break and then quickly forgot about them. Flash forward to 2005 and I’m in a video store in the middle of nowhere. They are blowing out their vhs collection and I stumble across something called Isle of Secret Passion. Hey, for $4.95 I figured I couldn’t lose. When I searched for it on IMDb, I came up with nuthin’ and began to feel like I had a very rare item in my possession. The three actors listed, Patch MacKenzie, Michael MacRae and Zorah Lampert were all known to me because of their work in horror movies (Graduation Day, Madhouse and Let’s Scare Jessica to Death respectively). I was excited. I popped it on and instantly, Louis Jordan and his beautiful accent flooded my airwaves. He spoke only of love, and I listened. And I remembered the Romance Theatre from my youth. It was a wonderful moment. I was reborn. OK, maybe not reborn, but the whole thing was awesome, trust me.

Photo from David Hedison's website

As luck would have it, the vhs box had a list of titles for other Romance Theatre episodes, and my journey began. When the series originally appeared on the home video market, it caused a couple of modest waves. The show might have been edited down to fit into an approximate 100 minute running time, but with ads, the 5-episode anthologies probably ran that exact length. However, I believe Jourdan was definitely edited down because I have a memory that he appeared in every episode, but he’s only featured at the beginning of the tape here. This is disappointing because I could hear him speak of nothing but love all day! Swoon, right? Right. 

These newly converted episodes were shot on video romance movies that captured the essence of love in the afternoon. They were melodramatic and slightly over the top, and boy were they focused on love! There were no side conversations about Reganomics or the housing market or anything. They were wonderful.

The movies often featured early performances from actresses who were just around the corner from success. Case in point, The Awakening of Cassie starred an adorable P.J. Soles, and Bayou Romance featured a super cute Annie Potts! Oh, and hey, is that Deborah Forman I see in Love in the Present Tense? Yup.

In an interview about Romance Theatre, Louis Jourdan commented, “Here we see glamorous men and women caught in seemingly hopeless romantic situations. The characters are often slaves to their passions, saying and doing foolish things. This is not high tragedy or great art -- none of these tapes has any redeeming social value. What they do offer is fun and entertainment -- and the suggestion that they are probably closer to real life than most of us would care to admit. How many times have you said of your own love life, ‘I can’t believe this; it’s just like a soap opera?’”

Ummm, Jourdan rocks!

This is Jourdan rocking (oh, and speaking only of love)

Prism Entertainment released the movies and they were considered the wild card of the new home video industry. A 1986 article about the new VHS business model reported that the series originally released six titles and sold over 100,000 copies! Six more titles followed afterwards.

Life was good in 1986, that’s all I’m going to say here.

Courtesy of Vintage Toledo TV

If you think you are in the mood for love and own a decent VCR, may I recommend the following for your rainy Sunday afternoon pleasure?
Love at the Top: This entry in the Romance Theatre collection is somewhat interesting because, unlike Bayou Romance, Love in the Present Tense and a few others, it does not feature an actress who went to become famous. However the wonderful Janice Page is featured as the owner of a lingerie business who needs a smart woman to help get her line cracking. Glynnis Kidwell (such a romance novel name!) must decide between business and pleasure when she becomes friendly with Kyle Durant, who is up for the same position as her. Get it? Position… I have to admit, Kyle may start off unlikable, but I was rooting for him by the end of the film. He’s totally hot too. The lead actress is only OK, but overall, I think this Romance Theater episode is a lot of fun.

Honorable Mention:

Lights, Camera, Action, Love: OK, this one also does not feature a leading lady who went on to stardom, but it hits all the right romance notes, and the casting of the gorgeous Gary Hudson as one of sexy suitors left me sighing all the way to the end.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Amanda By Night News

This is a short post to update everyone on some new things happening at the Casa By Night.

I wanted to remind everyone that I'm the shorts film programming assistant this year for the Housecore Horror Film Festival in Austin. You can join their Facebook page if you want to follow the festival. I'm really excited about this opportunity, and not just because it gives me an excuse to watch a lot of horror movies!

I also neglected to post a link to the MAG Down Under Variety Hour's Christmas-tacular! I was the tone deaf guest. Despite my horrible singing voice, it's pretty fun. Give it a listen!

And finally, I'm so thrilled to announce that I just joined the Classic TV Blog Association! This association seeks to establish a community of retro TV lovers, as well as promote all that wonderful programming that can fall by the wayside all too often. I have added a section on my sidebar with a link to the Association (just click on the image) as well as links to the participating sites. Check them out and be sure to tell 'em Amanda By Night sent ya!

School starts on Tuesday and I'm both excited about it and dreading it at the same time. I have really enjoyed my short winter break. I got in some decent TV movie watching and I hope I can slowly begin to roll out some reviews and a couple of themed articles I am in the midst of preparing. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!