Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Christmas Present for Everyone: Robert Urich in Winter Wear in Vega$!

I was hoping to get in my annual holiday post, and thought that there was no better way to celebrate the season than with a gorgeous Robert Urich wearing a bunch of incredible sweaters!

I know, I know. Christmas cheer for everyone!

Don't worry, Dan Tana. We also love you for your mind.
The Vega$ episode Christmas Story originally aired on December 17th, 1980, and places Dan Tana in the middle of small town seasonal mystery and intrigue when he takes his girlfriend Rocket (the lovely Lindsay Bloom) to what looks like a cozy ski resort just outside of Reno, only to be greeted by a young girl claiming to be his daughter! Is he the father? Where is her mother? Who will survive and what will be left of them?

Does it matter, because Urich looks oh-so-heavenly in his array of colorful sweaters, scarves and ski wear. Luckily, this episode of Vega$ is really quite sweet, so if you can get past the drooling over Urich stage, you are in for a treat!

Check out my image gallery, and happy holidays!

Looking for more small screen Christmas offerings? Check out the following:

My Very Merry MeTV Blogathon posts:

Kojak: How Cruel the Frost, How Bright the Stars
Father Dowling Mysteries: A Christmas Mystery

And my reviews of:

A Mouse, a Mystery and Me
An American Christmas Carol
A Very Brady Christmas
Bernard and the Genie
Petticoat Junction: A Cannonball Christmas
Terror on the 40th Floor

A guest review post from Joanna Wilson of Christmas TV History:

The Gathering

I also did a guest review I did for Christmas TV History:

Nestor, The Long Eared Christmas Donkey

Finally, The Made for TV Mayhem Show recorded two holiday podcasts. You can check them out on the website, or via iTunes.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

TV Movie Marathoning!

Oh, the glamour! 

I made it through another semester, and to celebrate, I watched a gaggle of TVMs! I thought it would be fun to jot down some brief thoughts on each film, making it a one-woman-blogathon!

Eyes of a Stranger 
Network: NBC
Original Airdate: December 7th, 1992

First up was this early 90s curio starring the babe-a-licious Parker Stevenson and the gorgeous Emma Samms as an upper class couple who run afoul of a two-bit hoodlum (Michael Easton), and his lovely professor/girlfriend (Joan Chen, working some nifty silver flats in the last scene). The couple's lives collide during a rainstorm, and all paths lead to accidental murder, badly thought out cover-ups, some not bad small screen sex scenes and exploding boats.

Written and directed by Richard Friedman, the mastermind behind the goofy but lovable Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge, Stranger is a bit of a convoluted mess. The worst issue was the timeline. For example, Samms finds a videotape on a boat, and after some major mayhem, the boat is burnt to a crisp, and then at least two days pass before the tape comes into question again. Samms tells someone she found the tape yesterday, which would have been impossible.

It’s also ridiculously predictable, but watchable because of the cast, and the overall confident and slick look of the film. I wouldn’t be surprised if a sexier version of this movie exists, but was edited for television. It has all the markings of those early 90s erotic thrillers that I enjoy so much. Interesting then, that it was produced by Doris Keating, whose father directed such films as The Diary of Knockers McCalla and Fanny Hill Meets Dr. Erotico. I don’t necessarily recommend this to anyone except the Samms or Stevenson completest. Since I fall into the latter, I can’t really complain. Stevenson takes off his shirt just enough to keep me interested! Yes, I'm superficial, and easy to please.

Valentine Magic on Love Island 
Network: NBC 
Original Airdate: February 15, 1980

As if Supertrain wasn’t enough of a disaster for NBC, the execs tried to put a spin on Love Boat and Fantasy Island yet again in this choppy, and chaotic romantic comedy that is somewhat watchable and sometimes fun, but not nearly as great as the similar Three on Date.

Eight singles visit Love Island in the hopes of becoming four couples, and… hmmm… if I do my math correctly, yeah, I think we do end up with four couples. I guess that’s a testament to how haphazard the whole thing is, that I had go back through my mind to remember what happened (and the movie just ended 10 minutes ago). Still, gotta love (even if just a little) anything that stars Bill Daily, Lisa Hartman, Dominique Dunne, Christopher Knight, Janis Page, Adrienne Barbeau and Dody Goodman, right? And that’s just part of the game cast, who make the most of the crap material they were handed. (Random trivia: This was the second time Knight and Dunne appeared in a TVM together. The other telefilm was 1979's Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker)

Paige is the Mr. Roarke who mixes up her “white” magic in the hopes of helping people reach complete coupledom (or consciously couple as the young kids might say). Of course, there has to be a little mismatching and mischief first, where little to no hilarity ensues, but there’s a pretty cool costume party. Unfortunately, this Dick Clark production does not have a good beat and I had a hard time dancing to it (see what I did there). But, like the small screen sucker I am, it was good to finally see it.

Sorry, Wrong Number 
Network: USA
Original Airdate: October 11, 1989

This movie has been on my “To Watch” list for what seems like forever. A TVM based on a theatrical film, which was based on a radio play sparked my interest, and yes, I like Loni’s TVMs quite a bit (thinking of My Mother’s Secret Life right at this moment!), and it’s a USA Original… and… and… well, you get my drift. Despite mixed reviews, there are some films I simply need to see for myself. Luckily, although this remake isn’t, like, the best movie ever or anything, it’s a pretty fun timewaster with a surprisingly suspenseful ending.

Loni is Madeline, a Dynasty-rich invalid who has a wild New Year's Eve getting her lines crossed over and over again. Overhearing two men planning a murder of an unknown woman in Madeline’s neighborhood, this housebound heiress starts to uncover the mystery behind her strained marriage, and the real danger that lurks just outside of her door. Slick and confident, Sorry is also helped by a wonderfully capable cast including Patrick Macnee, Hal Holbrook, and OMG hawt Carl Weintraub. It’s not like you don’t know where this one is going, but the wonderful pacing and crisp and glamorous aesthetics are well worth a look. My favorite of the three films I watched.

I also took two naps. It was a great day.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Very Merry MeTV Blogathon: Kojak: How Cruel the Frost, How Bright the Stars

This blog post is part of A Very Merry MeTV Blogathon hosted by The Classic TV Blog Association. Check out the blogathon schedule here and make sure to check out all of the great MeTV holiday programming here!

Call me crazy, but I normally do not associate Christmas season programming with gritty cop dramas. I’m funny that way. Luckily, my hesitancy was quickly put to rest just a few minutes into Kojak’s How Cruel the Frost, How Bright the Stars, which manages to capture all of the bleakness of a holiday in a crime ridden city while also catching some of the magic of hope and happiness that permeates the season.

The depressing setting of a NYC police department is brightened up slightly by a Christmas Eve party, but these cops aren’t going to be drinking spiked eggnog tonight, as they are all on duty and covering several potentially dangerous situations. Kojak (Telly Savalas) is on the lookout for a man who randomly shot at a pretty and sassy brunette in a low rent bar, one of his underlings who is mourning the death of his wife has developed an itchy trigger finger on a stakeout, and Detective Stavros (Telly’s brother George Savalas) is looking after a privileged but kindhearted heiress who thinks her unemployed boyfriend might commit a crime so he can afford to give her an extravagant gift. Although all lives do not perfectly collide on the eve of Christmas, there are strange intersections where love and is both captured and lost, and Telly ends the episode proclaiming to the streets of New York City, “Love thy neighbor, baby!"


Abby Mann, who created Kojak, was no stranger to courting social dramas and was probably most famous for writing Judgment at Nuremberg. He won an Emmy for his Kojak pilot TVM script, The Marcus Nelson Murders, and the series became a staple of television for five seasons, running from 1973-1978. Granted, it was often full of a stark sense of gloom and doom, but that melancholy was punctuated by brilliant dialog and a masterful performance by Savalas, who commanded every frame he appeared in.

According to Savalas, he wasn’t acting at all. In an interview he remarked, “Savalas and Kojak - we’re the same guy. Hey, you think it’s going to be different, baby, you’re wrong. You don’t walk onto a TV set and create a character like me in five minutes. Even I know that. I have to be Telly. I have to play myself by whatever name. Otherwise, I’m in trouble.”

And boy, was Savalas great at being himself. The character of Theo Kojak charmed his way into our living rooms, and left us with that fantastic tagline, “Who loves ya, baby?” which can apparently be used for people you actually care about or criminals, depending on your situation. Kojak's got your back... uh, baby!

And, the supporting cast was just as good. I remember Kojak introduced me to Kevin Dobson, who I would later fall in love with on Knots Landing. In this holiday episode you can also grab an early look at both John Larroquette (credited as Sailor) and Veronica Hamel who plays a woman much too young for the lollipop addict. But mostly, Kojak is matched up with the ready-to-party Loretta (Jesse Welles), who, despite her superficial veneer of living a life of dances that never end, finds her own bit of sadness amongst the falling snow and Latin music.

Originally airing on December 21, 1975, this episode might have been one of the more poignant looks at Christmas that year. And certainly one of the most memorable. Catch Kojak on MeTV tonight (December 9) at 9 PM EST and PST and 8 PM CST and MST. I promise, he will love ya, baby!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Very Merry Me TV Blogathon: Father Dowling Mysteries: The Christmas Mystery

This blog post is part of A Very Merry MeTV Blogathon hosted by The Classic TV Blog Association. Check out the blogathon schedule here and make sure to check out all of the great MeTV holiday programming here!

Although it doesn’t capture the milieu to a T, I always considered Father Dowling Mysteries to be a part of the cozy mystery movement of the late 1980s. Of course, Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote, the rebel and trendsetter that she is, gave America a nice antidote to the glitzier, neon-soaked detective shows of the same era. I’m not saying she’s the first to serve murder with a comforting cup of tea, but she certainly set the tone that would be followed by a lot of fun small screen sleuthing. Matlock and Diagnosis Murder were two other ridiculously popular shows that veered slightly from the formula, but still managed to make murder and mayhem seem like a warm crocheted blanket. Father Dowling also had all of the right ingredients to knock it out of the park (and even featured MSW regular Tom Bosley who exchanged his sheriff’s badge in Cabot Cove for cleric gear in Chicago). With its untroubled tempo, church setting and laid back “Let the Father do the driving” mystery stories, Dowling was an underrated charmer. But because of a galdurn writer’s strike and a network switch, the good Father was lost in the scheduling shuffle and ended after 3 seasons (the first two only half seasons), producing 42 episodes.

The setting and occupation of the main characters made a Christmas episode either the most obvious idea ever, or the worst thing that could happen (depending on your threshold for murder on the holiest of holy days). Luckily for fans of Father Dowling, it was done just right, with an attempted murder, a couple of pistol packing Santas, and the amiable and capable Nun-named-Steve keeping watch over a trouble little boy. The holiday was in full swing, and it was good times indeed.  

The Christmas Mystery, which originally aired on December 13, 1990 on ABC, opens with the season going strong, and the local department store desperate for holiday help. So fraught in fact, that they will hire you on the spot and put you on the sales floor immediately, or, apparently make you a security guard and hand you a gun! Single mother Wendy (Anne Kerry Ford) is desperate for work and relieved that the store wants her to start straightway, but she’s due to pick up her shy son, Brian (played by twins Christian and Joseph Cousins) from the airport. She asks Father Dowling for some assistance and he sends Steve (the completely adorable Tracy Nelson) on her way to retrieve Brian. However, while Wendy is changing for work, a security guard from the store knocks on her door, insinuates that the two have met somewhere previously, and then shoots her point blank!

Merry Christmas, right?

Back at the church, everyone becomes worried about Wendy and through a series of random, only-on-television events, Steve ends up stepping in for Wendy at the store. Steve does two things while she’s there: 1. Fix a doll for a kindly old woman, and 2. Sniffs out a Santa with a gun! This girl is on it, they should hire her full time! Meanwhile, Dowling visits Wendy’s home and finds her sprawled on the floor, possibly at death’s door. But while connecting the pistol-packing Santa to Wendy may seem like a stretch that can only happen with the greatest of faith, Father Dowling and company are on the case, and should have things wrapped up just in time for gift giving!

Fast, good-natured and perhaps a little trivial (in a good way), The Christmas Mystery is absolutely delightful, and must be viewed with a cup of eggnog and a cat snuggled at your feet. Strife has never been so fun, easy and overloaded with major shoulder pads!

This episode may stand out to small screen connoisseurs for a few different reasons. The Christmas Mystery was written by the great Brian Clemens, who gave us The Avengers, and the excellent British anthology series Thriller (check out my review for Dial a Deadly Number). If anyone can spin a twist, even a mild one, into something substantial, and even menacing, Clemens is the one. When it is revealed how Wendy knows her attacker and how her son is involved, there’s a great “GULP” moment. And even though it’s followed by a mediocre maybe-chase that ends in a storage room, the thrill is still there.

The Christmas Mystery was also directed by TV stalwart James Frawley who is probably best known for directing the bulk of The Monkees brilliant two-season run. There’s no psychedelic chaos here, but it is wonderfully paced and kept light as air with fun performances and a few interesting set pieces. But what kind of retro TV blogger would I be if I didn’t sing the praises of Tom Bosley who was one of the friendliest faces of 1980s television! From Mr. C to Amos Tupper to Father Dowling, Bosley was always a sight for sore eyes and a great treat to watch. Although, I would have to say this is really Nelson’s episode. Steve throws herself into the mix, never loses her cool and although Dowling inevitably saves the day, I’m pretty sure Steve could have done the same.  

The Christmas Mystery is airing tonight (December 7th) at 9 PM EST and PST and 8 PM CST and MST on MeTV, so grab your eggnog and favorite kitty, and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Catching up!

Ack! I've fallen behind... And I can't get up (I've got a million of 'em!).

But seriously, folks... Sad face (see Nestor for example). So, I wanted to do a quick housecleaning of the haps.

We have new info posted about the upcoming Made for TV Mayhem Show holiday podcasts, which we'll be recording next week. You can check it out here.

PS: I know I don't have an RSS feed here, and I also know my other page isn't really navigable yet. I'm hoping when this semester ends, I'll be able to create crosswalks, links, feeds, etc. Thank you everyone who keeps visiting this page. I'll also be updating it with more classic TV reviews soon. I miss it here. 

Speaking of which, The Classic TV Blog Association has teamed up yet again with MeTV for A Very Merry MeTV Blogathon, which is actually underway. I'll have two posts going up next week (Father Dowling Mysteries and Kojak, cuz who loves you during the holidays, baby?), and you can get the full schedule here!

Also, not TV related, but I have an essay featured in the new ebook The Movie that Changed My Life, which was edited by the amazing Staci Layne Wilson. I opted to write about Killer Party. This book is for charity and proceeds go to Reel Girls School which helps young women between the ages of 9 - 21 learn about film production. The ebook is only $2, so help a sister out, K? And please leave a review, we'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Hey, what's up? I mean, what is up? An Update!

Just the kind of personal assistant I had in mind!
I hope everyone had a fantastic Halloween and is celebrating their sugar coma with lots of good television. I can't believe it's November and we're already staring down 2016! Again, I haven't had as much time to spend on my blog, but there's lots of good things cooking, so here is a list of what's happening right here, right now!

I have a new slasher film review up at Hysteria Lives! I gave The Unnamable a rewatch and loved it just as much as when I was obsessed with it back in the 90s! Check it out if maniac monsters are your thing!

The Made for TV Mayhem Show is rolling along, and we recently covered The Midnight Hour, to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Next up is Bad Ronald and an early 80s sexy tele-thriller called Through Naked Eyes! Here is the podcast's contact information if you'd like to leave feedback! And dude, we're on iTunes!

A couple of weeks ago I was a classic television panelist on a YouTube series called Cosmoetica, which is hosted by Dan Schneider. I was accompanied by one of my podcast co-hosts, Dan Budnik, and Mitchell Hadley from the great It's About TV. Fun! You can watch below:

I've also been working on a few other projects, which has me stretched a bit thin, but in all the right ways (that totally sounded dirty, but it's not). Of course, I visit the blog's facebook page daily, so always feel free to stop by and talk TV. I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Jeepers Creepers! TV Features! A Retrospective on Classic Made for Television Movies and the Halloween Season, Part III (1977-1980)

The witching hour is upon us! Here is part III of my retrospective on classic TVMs made for the creepiest of holiday seasons. (here's are links to part I and part II). This is definitely more treat than trick! Enjoy!

Murder in Peyton Place
Originally aired: October 3, 1977 on NBC
Starring: Dorothy Malone, Ed Nelson, Tim O’Connor

Featuring plenty of familiar faces from the original Peyton Place series, this potboiler focuses on the deaths of the characters Mia Farrow and Ryan O’Neal played in the original. For those who like their Halloween movies served with soap and cheese. (Note: I finally caught up Murder about two summers ago. It's z'oh-right, with some great fashions!)

Killer on Board
Originally aired: October 10, 1977 on NBC
Directed by: Philip Leacock
Starring: Claude Atkins, Patty Duke, George Hamilton

Another Love Boat Gone Bad TVM, except instead of a human face masking a killer, this one involves a deadly virus that is wiping out the roster of familiar actors. And yes, George Hamilton is still very tan.

The Night They Took Miss Beautiful
Originally aired: October 24, 1977 on NBC
Directed by: Robert Michael Lewis
Starring: Chuck Connors, Gary Collins, Sheree North, Victoria Principal

Some lucky criminals who hijack a plane carrying products for chemical warfare also end up abducting five hot beauty contestants! Wow, sometimes crime does pay! Beautiful women, a grand heist and polyester, Night is certainly silly but is so well-intentioned with genuine performances that it’s hard not to enjoy this honest little effort. (Note: I finally saw this one about 2 summers ago, and it's definitely worth catching. Check it out on Amazon Instant Video)

KISS Meets Phantom of the Park
Originally aired: October 28, 1978 on NBC
Directed by: Gordon Hessler
Starring: KISS, Anthony Zerbe

Simply the most over-the-top film on the list, KISS plays a band charmed with special powers. Exactly what these powers do is beyond me, but when Gene Simmons sneers the word "Starfire" as a star shoots out of his eyes and onto a lovely girl’s face, you know you’re in for some real good stuff! The story is basically about a mad scientist played by Anthony Zerbe, employed by Six Flags Magic Mountain, who creates some of the most realistic robots ever made. They’re so realistic in fact, you’d swear they were real. When Zerbe’s assistant catches wind of his sinister plan, he becomes a robot too. Enter the assistant’s girlfriend, Melissa (Deborah Ryan), who enlists the help of KISS, who just happen to be performing there, to help her solve the mystery.

Produced by Joseph Barbera of Hanna-Barbera fame, and featuring many of same sound effects they used in their cartoons, Phantom is a pretty great time capsule. Lots of awkward teens dress like their idols and prance around Six Flags with abandon. My favorite scene features the late Brion James as a biker harassing other Six Flag tourists. I also love the scene where KISS is performing “Beth” as someone tampers with their powers…

Devil Dog: The Hound 0f Hell
Originally aired: October 31, 1978 on CBS
Directed by: Curtis Harrington
Starring: Yvette Mimieux, Richard Crenna, Kim Richards, Ike Eisenmann

Crenna and Mimieux pick up a nasty little dog who is more interested in doing evil bidding for his ultimate master than playing catch. An odd choice for director Harrington (Who Slew Auntie Roo?), this ludicrous idea is livened by good acting and a sense of fun, making this movie just like Halloween candy, sweet and empty, but always a treat.

Stranger in Our House (aka Summer of Fear)
Originally aired: October 31, 1978 for NBC
Directed by: Wes Craven
Starring: Linda Blair, Jeff East, Lee Purcell

When you think of Wes Craven, you don’t necessarily think of TV Movies, but Craven gave the small screen three pretty good horror films, Invitation to Hell, the superb Chiller and this awesome little potboiler. A frizzy headed Blair plays the spunky heroine who fights for her family’s survival when her creepy cousin, Julia (Lee Purcell) moves in. Seems Blair is the only one who can see through Julia’s bewitching personality but it might be too late. Now, how did Blair see anything through all that hair?!? (click on title for review)

Originally aired: October 7, 1979 on ABC
Directed by: E.W. Swackhamer
Starring: Richard Lynch, Jason Miller, E.G. Marshall

A modern day vampire yarn featuring Richard Lynch as the seductive bloodsucker stalking innocent prey through the streets of San Francisco. Vampire is most notable for being co-written by prolific cop show creator Steven Bochco! It’s also a lush and gothic horror film that gives Richard Lynch a well-deserved chance at showing off his sexy side. Strangely enough, it works.

The Death of Ocean View Park
Originally aired: October 19, 1979 for ABC
Directed by: E.W. Swackhamer
Starring: Diana Canova, Martin Landau, Mike Connors

Neato! A Swackhamer double header (see above)! He also directed this disaster-of-the-week melodrama with a twist; a real park was demolished for the fictional hurricane. All in the name of art, right? Lots of familiar faces run around in a total panic, which is always fun.

Disaster on the Coastliner
Originally aired: October 28, 1979 for ABC
Directed by: Richard C. Sarafian
Starring: Lloyd Bridges, Raymond Burr, William Shatner

A disgruntled railway employee arranges for two oncoming trains on the same path to collide, unless his unscrupulous employer admits that they were fully responsible for a similar collision which killed the vengeful man’s wife and child. The resentful widower is played by Paul Smith who was Bluto in Robert Altman’s Popeye! Maybe it’s not edge-of-your-seat, but Disaster remains a great and fabulous popcorn thriller.

Revenge of the Stepford Wives 
Originally aired: October 12, 1980 on NBC
Directed by: Robert Fuest
Starring: Sharon Gless, Julie Kavner, Don Johnson

Veering slightly from the original Stepford Wives and skipping out on most of the satire, Revenge does offer a nice, strong female spin. Entertaining, if not particularly scary, Sharon Gless plays a reporter doing a story on the town of Stepford, a place with little divorce and even less crime. She befriends Julie Kavner, the only other woman in town who possesses an interesting personality. Little by little, Gless begins to unravel the mysteries behind the idyllic Stepford but she may be in too deep to go back. Revenge does offer the women of Stepford a chance to dish out some well deserved comeuppance but is even more far-fetched than the original, and might even be a little crazier than The Stepford Children but not nearly as crazy as The Stepford Husbands. (Update: This series needs some serious reevaluation. Is Husbands really crazier than Children?!? I must find out!)

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Originally aired: October 31, 1980 on NBC
Directed by: Henning Schellerup
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Paul Sand, Meg Foster

Basically a creepy horror movie made for kids, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was a great way to end the 70s and bring fans of TVMs into the next decade. A pretty close adaptation of the Washington Irving classic, Goldblum is perfectly cast as Ichabod Crane and although it lacks in scares, there is still something so sinister about the Headless Horseman, and it naturally evokes terror in the audience, however slight.

Read Part I
Read Part II

Happy Halloween, ya'll!