Friday, March 22, 2013

Valerie Harper Blogathon is a Go!

 OK guys, here is the blog roll:

The Broadcast Archives at the University of Maryland got in the act with a gorgeous three piece article on Valerie's Career. Click on the links for part one, part two, or part three

Christmas TV History takes a spirited look back at the Rhoda episode Guess What I Got You for the Holidays

Craftypants Carol whets her appetite on Food and Rhoda and Carol also gives us a good look at Rhoda's fabulous apartment

The Daily Grindhouse visits The People Across the Lake 

The Eyes of Ben Sher tells us how he can Love Someone He's Never Met

Go Retro visits The City and also a glimpse at how Rhoda got her iconic look 

How Sweet it Was gives some love to Valerie, and Rhoda... etc.  

Kindertrauma wants to make sure we Don't Go to Sleep

Michael's TV Tray explains why Rhoda was everyone's best friend

Modern Kiddo tells us why Valerie is her Hero

Moon in the Gutter lets us in why our Queen of TV is Rhoda the Beautiful

And, Made for TV Mayhem (i.e. Me) gives Valerie center stage for TV Spot Wednesday and I chose   Goodbye, Supermom as the Must See Streaming Movie of the Week!

Update (8/22/2013): Here is a post I did on Rhoda and Joe for the Me-TV Blogathon called (Re)Construction Worker Wanted: Reconsidering Joe Gerard!

A big Thank You everyone who submitted a post. These are wonderful love letters to one of our favorite small screen ladies.When I sent out links to these posts via Twitter, I added the hashtag #WeLoveValerie. First of all, it's kind of amazing that I am figuring out how to use Twitter, but aside from that, I can not think of three other words that mean more to me right now. It's true, we love you sooooo much Valerie! Thank you for everything!

Must See Streaming Movie of the Week: Goodbye, Supermom

Network: CBS 
Original Air Date: January 1st, 1988

Valerie Harper stars in a tele-film that attempts to speak to the tug of war women had with deciding whether or not they should become corporate powerhouses or impossibly perfect housewives. It’s a comedy, and the film makes fun of several issues, including an outdated, but cute, joke about punk rock hair! But the heart of the film is about a successful executive named Nora (Harper) who dreams of giving up her career in exchange for the suburbs and PTA meetings. She’s married to an equally successful exec named Jack (Wayne Rogers) and the two struggle with how to raise their children in a world of late 80s problems.

Well, sorta late 80s. While Goodbye, Supermom (aka Drop-Out Mom) seeks to address a then-very modern issue, it relies on the superficial black and white dreams made from 1950s sitcoms. That Nora meets her mother in a classic TV themed diner must have been purposeful, as it captures the old school fantasy world of conservative ideology. And yes, that’s as deep as I’m gonna get.

While Goodbye, Supermom comments on these fairly heavy-duty issues, they do so with tongue in cheek. Harper was actually worried that the film would not connect with viewers, and in an interview she said, “I was more afraid the movie was elitist, since the husband and the wife were both making $100,000 a year. But they both hated what they were doing. She’s a corporate flack for a really piggy defense contractor. It’s about finding a balance in one’s life.”

The facile world of living life as a corporate shilling takes on cartoonish proportions. Nora is a PR executive who handles a female musician client named Virgin (hello, Madonna!) and Jack attempts to aid a crooked evangelist who wants to become governor. Both sides are exaggerated and silly, elevating those moments to social satire. Nora’s BFFs are just as superficial, looking to have nose jobs called “The Lee Remick” and dating any and every man who looks at them twice. It makes suburban domesticity look rather attractive, but the problems encompassed in the space of home life are tame, and not as engaging.

However, what does work is Jack and Nora’s marriage. I loved how they fought but no one came off as the enemy. Jack is really well written and it was nice to see the husband not turn out to be a louse. His biggest problem is that he seems to be allergic to life in the suburbs! Likewise, Nora really wants to do right by her family, even if she’s no good at cooking (and what was up with the veal theme?). In an interview with Rogers he talked about how his character wants to support her decisions but worries that he’s losing the woman he loves. He said, “The drop in our family income isn’t something that figures in his reaction… The essence is that he doesn’t like the change in her.” I love when Jack consoles Nora by telling her that it’s OK that she’s not a great housewife – He always wanted to be a great ball player but that didn’t happen either. That he equated his sports ambitions with her desire to be Mrs. Cleaver showed a lot of respect and I loved it.

Overall though, the film is too uneven. It’s elevated by the charm of both Harper and Rogers, and the flat out satire is a hoot, but it doesn’t seem to know where to place the humor in some scenes. However, if late 80s tele-films are your bag (and really, they must be or you wouldn’t be here), Goodbye, Supermom is a great trip back in time. It's currently streaming on Netflix! And please, could someone really open up that TV themed restaurant?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

TV Spot Wednesday: 10 Reasons to Love Valerie... and So Much More!

Let's face it people, there is just too much to talk about when it comes to Valerie Harper and how much her work means to me. Since it's TV Spot Wednesday (normally TV Spot Tuesday), I decided to let Valerie speak for herself. I've posted 10 promos for her various television series and TV movies. I'm interspersing the clips with some quotes and bits of trivia for you... OK, OK! And some newspaper grabs... What can I say? I went crazy!

Which TV spot is your favorite?

Mary Tyler Moore Show:

Did you know... Valerie’s parents divorced when she was 17 and she moved around a lot. She danced at Radio City Music Hall while she was in high school.

CBS Promo 1973:

In her four years on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Valerie won 3 Emmys!

Check out what TV Guide had to say about Rhoda in their 1974 Fall Preview Issue
Rhoda on Nick and Night:

Did you know that 52 million people watched Rhoda marry Joe, and their separation a short time later made the newspapers! David Groh said he actually received hate mail when he left Rhoda for his own sitcom called Another Day in 1978. Apparently audiences didn't want to see him married to another woman (Joan Hackett played his wife)!

From a newspaper article on Rhoda's pending divorce

 Rhoda and Phyllis 1976/77 Promo:

She received a standing ovation after taping the first episode of Rhoda.

Mary and Rhoda (2000):

On life after Rhoda: “You can be typecast in everyone else’s mind but you’re okay as long as you’re not typecast in your own mind, and I’m not.”

Can you believe it? 18 million people watched Mary and Rhoda when it originally aired on February 7th, 2000! 

When Mary Tyler Moore got married in 1983, Valerie Harper, Ed Asner, Ted Night and Georgia Engel were among the guests! 

Valerie Promo:

Valerie was well aware of how Hollywood looks at older actresses. In an interview she said,“The market value of actors goes down as you get older. A 16-year old is better than a 19-year old. We are pieces of meat. But we mustn’t regard ourselves as such. People see me as a product, a box of corn flakes. I fight not to be a product.”

Night Terror (1973):

Oh yeah, and check out this awesome review for Don't Go To Sleep (1982):

Along with Dennis Weaver, Valerie is the cofounder of Love is Feeding Everyone (now called Nourish the Planet), which is an organization interested in helping out the homeless.

Invasion of Privacy (1983):

Her theatrical debut was as a Hispanic woman in Freebie and the Bean.

Newspaper promo for People Across the Lake
Trailer for A Friend to Die For (aka Death of a Cheerleader, 1994):

Quote from TV Guide: “There’s a reason why I’m acting. “I’m saying ‘Look at me.’”

Newspaper promo for Stolen: One Husband
Silly Valerie didn't believe she had the right It factor to lead her own series. In an interview she said, “Why am I pretending to be a star? I’ll never be a star. Mary is a star. John Wayne is a star. I feel good about Rhoda, but I’ve left something terrific.”

There's been a lot of love going around for our girl Valerie, so I invite you to check out the other posts for the Valerie Harper Blogathon


Friday, March 15, 2013

Valerie Harper Blogathon Badges

We're just a few days away from the start of an awesome blogathon! I've been getting some great feedback on the facebook page, in the comments section and via email, and added a couple of more names to the list of participating sites! You will find several badges below for the thon if you'd like to write something yourself or promote it. Of course, you are not obligated to use any of these, but they are here and ready made! There's a lot of Valerie love going around, so I'd like to make sure everyone knows they are invited to the party!

There are no rules to this event, just keep it positive and help us celebrate this lovely and talented lady! And again, feel free to contact me via facebook, in the comments section or you can email me if you'd like me to add your name to the list! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Get Ready: Valerie Harper Blogathon Next Week!

Valerie Harper has been a small screen mainstay since the early 1970s. She won our hearts with Rhoda and has remained there through numerous made for TV movies, her series Valerie and several other guest appearances. Always a beautiful and welcome presence, several bloggers are celebrating her life and career from March 19th – 22nd. Please stop every day next week for updates and links and feel free to write something yourself. Just post a link in the comments section, or you can email me your link. Next week is all about Valerie, so put on your favorite headscarf and join in the fun!

Participating Blogs/Websites:

Christmas TV History
Craftypants Carol
Daily Grindhouse
Go Retro 
How Sweet it Was
Michael's TV Tray
Moon in the Gutter 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Isn't It Shocking? (1973)

Before John Badham became the iconic director behind Saturday Night Fever (1977) and War Games (1982), he cut his teeth on the small screen. Badham worked mostly in episodic television and Isn’t it Shocking? was released in 1973 and was his second foray into the world of tele-films (his first TVM No Place to Run aired the year before). Shocking was broadcast on October 2nd under the popular ABC Movie of the Week moniker and, according to Michael Carol’s excellent and aptly titled book, The ABC Movie the Week Companion, it is considered to be one of the first horror-comedy hybrids (although I might argue that the hybrid dates back at least to the 1927 film The Cat and the Canary). Even without that tidbit, Shocking stands for an interesting time in the tele-film as it began to grow in popularity, enticing bigger named, respectable stars and genre-friendly stories.

Case in point, Alan Alda, who was then America’s Sweetheart on M*A*S*H (or at least a neo-Groucho Marx) plays Dan Barnes, the bored and somewhat unproductive sheriff of a little idyllic community called Mount Angel. His odd secretary Blanche (Louise Lasser from Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman fame) keeps his days interesting, but he’s looking for more exciting pastures over the hill in Horse Creek. Dan wants a younger crowd, the folks at Mount Angel are mostly elderly, and he feels stagnated in a town that is just moving too slow. However, the pace picks up quickly when a madman starts killing off several of the over-sixty crowd.

Shocking is shocking simply because of the dark subject matter. Considering the brutal deaths (well, brutal by television standards) and revenge motif, in some ways the film meets the criteria of a proto-slasher, which are films that predated the 80s slasher craze but still embody many of the same components. It also plays on other slasher tropes with the set-pieces and excellent music score by David Shore, who heightens the tension with creepy strings thrusting through the airwaves. And it’s got an incredibly inventive piece of weaponry – the killer uses a heart attack machine! Basically a primitive defibrillator, the killer literally shocks his victims to death. But there’s one thing that slashers – and most horror films in general – have shied away from and that is focusing on the death of elderly characters. While there are no overt shots of violence, the murder scenes are intense merely because of who the victims are.


We are given very little information about most of the victims, but Jessie (Lloyd Nolan in a terrific role) who is one of Dan’s co-workers also falls to the murderer’s incredible killing machine. He has just enough screen time to allow his character to embody a sense of humor and vulnerability which amplifies the tragedy of the rest of the murders. His death is particularly gripping because you get a real sense of the father-son relationship he had with Dan. Unlike the victims of slasher films who tend to feel like caricatures, we understand the murder victims in Shocking have sons, daughters, husbands and wives.

The old timers in Mount Angel are also shown as vibrant and vital members of their community. In a montage we see the town is brimming with busy merchants and farmers. Even the crazy cat lady (played by the wonderful Ruth Gordon from Harold and Maude) is doing chores (in fact, I think she’s churning butter)! In a world where so much weight is placed on superficial beauty, Shocking is a time capsule of when real people populated films, and it is refreshing. And if we’re going to stick with slasher tropes, Ruth Gordon must be the oldest Final Girl in horror film history!

Filmed around Salem, Oregon, Shocking has a lot going for it. Aside from the scares and laughs, there is an amazing edge-of-your-seat car chase that ends with the killer decimating Dan’s police vehicle! Television movies never really got their just dues for camera work, and admittedly many films are static, thanks to low budgets and shortened shooting schedules. Cinematographer Jack Woolf does a fine job capturing the more tense moments, but he works best by just letting the actors interact with each other. Shocking is about the characters and there are several medium shots featuring two actors which is often framed with one person closer to the camera and the other a few steps back, sometimes obscured by shadows, allowing for more focus on the emotions. Also, the shadowing becomes symbolic of a dark town secret.

Alan Alda was perfectly cast. He proved his ability to mix comedy and drama on M*A*S*H and while he is more befuddled and less prone to snarky one liners, Alda captures a real sense of frustration, often comical and sometimes tragic, in his performance. While Louise Lasser never became a household name, she was a familiar presence in film and television and this is one of her best roles. She’s infuriating with her oddball sense of humor and style, yet uniquely adorable in those Mary Hartman braids! Together, Alda and Lasser have chemistry to spare, and the scene which solidifies their attraction for each other is saved for the hysterical last moments, as the credits roll, making a nice break from the bleak murders.

Screenwriter Lane Smith wisely separates the humor from the violence and manages to imbue an eccentric ambiance throughout the town. This was Smith’s television debut (his first film, a theatrical, was the interesting but flat 1972 James Garner mystery They Only Kill Their Masters) and he would later adopt a more serious approach, penning far less humorous small screen thrillers throughout his career (including the excellent Strange and Deadly Occurrence, which also twists an ideal life in the country into something terrifying). By today’s standards, Shocking probably seems earnest and tame, perhaps even a bit timid, but that was the struggle of television when they first made their foray into motion pictures. Badham concentrates on the characters but he doesn’t build his thrills traditionally. For a horror film on television, he doesn’t pull any punches with his subject matter and while he opts for less-is-more with the visuals I can’t imagine handling this type of film any other way.

I’ve seen Shocking a few times and always love it a little more with each viewing. Aside from its original airing and a few re-runs, this movie has all but disappeared from the minds of television viewers. It’s interesting that such a high caliber actor like Alda could have a film this obscure, but it symbolizes the eternal purgatory most TV movies find themselves in. Every time I watch it, I am drawn to the characters and the budding romance between Dan and Blanche. I pity and fear the killer and I wish I could back to the day after this movie aired in 1973 so I could find the nearest water cooler and discuss this wonderful little gem of a film.

I've written about Shocking before when I made a list of the Top 10 TV Movies that Need a DVD Release. This was my #1 pick, so get on it Hollywood!

You can read another great review of Shocking at The Classic Film and TV Cafe.

This review originally appeared on Retro Slashers (well, truthfully, it actually first appeared on a school paper, but RS was the first to publish it).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

TV Spot Tuesday: NBC Friday Night March 14th, 1980

Ad courtesy of the Here's Boomer website
I'm not saying that March 14th, 1980 was the best night for television in the history of the world, but you know, I'm not saying it wasn't either.

Check it: You start out your night with an adorable episode of Here's Boomer. He's America's new Benji... sorta. Anyway, he's adorable and looking to win your heart. Done. This was actually an airing of the first episode of the series, which lasted from 1980 - 1982. It was a spinoff of the popular TV movie, A Christmas for Boomer, and I remember watching the show, although I recall so little about it now. I have a feeling at that time in my young life I was trying to be Miz Cool and pretended that Boomer wasn't completely adorable. What a fool I was. In this episode, titled Molly, Boomer helps a little girl with some sort of mental disability. He does that cuz he's adorable. Did I mention he was adorable?

Ad courtesy of Vintage Toledo TV
Then, Blair gets into all kinds of hijinks on an episode of The Facts of Life titled Emily Dickinson. In the episode that aired on this night she steals a - you guessed it - Emily Dickinson poem, and of course, gets caught. I guess Mrs. Garrett needs to give our favorite Breck shampoo girl a good talking too. I really love the very early episodes of Facts of Life where all the girls were hanging out. I loved Molly's spunk and Tootie's skates.

Image courtesy of Vinnie Rattolle's Cult Oddities
The evening wraps up with Pink Lady and Jeff, which is the infamous short lived television series featuring stand up comedian Jeff Altman and the Japanese disco duo Pink Lady. It's disco galore and a lot of weirdness in between. I just guested on The Movies About Girls podcast this past weekend and Pink Lady and Jeff was the topic of the day! This episode featured Larry Hagman, which makes it totally amazing (even though I haven't seen it...yet).

What can I say, NBC you really had your stuff together in 1980! Here is the promo spot:

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Dallas Chit Chat at the Paley Center!

Breaking News: The cast and crew of the new Dallas are getting together tomorrow to discuss all things scandalous! Since March 11th, is Larry Hagman Day, and it's also the day the series will officially say good by to J.R. Ewing, I think this Paley Center event will make for a great companion.  Make sure to bring your kleenex!

If you are like me, and don't live in LaLa Land, you can still watch the event via the live streaming link! So there's no excuse - throw on your favorite neckerchief and become part of the show! Panel begins at 1:50 Pacific Time. Be there or be square, yo!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

TV Spot Tuesday: Fantasy Island

In celebration of mid-terms, I'm kind of cheating this week (ha!) by throwing together something that deserves a lot more attention. Time is becoming less and less of an option for my blog this semester. Ugh. I'm surprised it even still speaks to me.

While I was procrastinating (which I do pretty well), I stumbled across some great promos for Fantasy Island when it became part of ABC's late night roster. I adored Fantasy Island. Still do. For whatever reason, I recently had a memory of how exciting my Saturday nights seemed once Love Boat got rolling (hey, I was an easy-to-please kinda kid!), but after all the frivolity and hijinks on the high seas ended it always seemed something dark was looming over Mr. Roarke's island. Not that I minded, but I did have to shift gears every so often when some weird fantasy backfired. Looking back, the show could not have been lighter, and many of the episodes were every bit as silly as the Love Boat, but I dunno, my 8 year old brain processed it like I was watching a David Lynch movie or something!

Image from Vintage Toledo TV
Anyone else remember when Roarke went toe to toe with Satan (Roddy McDowall)? Or when Tenille sans Captain headed to the island in search of her true love only to find out he was half-dog/half-man? Or what about when Annette Funicello brought her ventriloquist doll to life, only to find out she was a lot leggier and way more dangerous?

I know! This is good TV peeps.

Rawr... literally
Ricardo Montalban was simply perfect as Mr. Roarke. Sexy and enigmatic, I remember a friend of mine once saying, "He could fulfill my fantasies any day." We were racy kids. Apparently Aaron Spelling was determined to get Montalban as the star on one of his shows, after guesting on some of Spelling's other projects. Montalban thought he was joking, but Fantasy Island would become the first series for the actor. The show was a hit and lasted seven seasons, running from 1977 - 1984. Montalban's partner in crime, Herve Villechaize left the series in 1983, and the show did not last to much longer after his exit. I think Fantasy Island has held up rather well because it's charming and deceptively simple.What better way to escape from something like... oh, I don't know... midterms, than with this slice of TV heaven? That's a rhetorical question, but I'm sure you know the answer.

Image from Vintage Toledo TV
Enjoy the following promos: