A Quiz, Sort Of

The Web site of the Springfield News-Leader has a tile that presents it as a quiz:

However, the title gets more to the point: These 16 television shows, movies are set in Missouri — but were they filmed here?

The majority of the series [Ozark] is set in the dark, ominous Ozarks, but critics didn’t hesitate to point out that hardly any of the episodes were filmed in Missouri. The majority of the series was filmed in Georgia, according to IMDb. As for the lake scenes, most of these were filmed at Lake Allatoona, a reservoir similarly shaped to the Lake of the Ozarks about 45 minutes northwest of Atlanta.

In recent years, “Ozark” may have been at the top of people’s minds when it came to how Missouri was showcased by Hollywood, but there have been several other award-winning television shows and movies set in the Show Me State — some of which, like “Ozark” weren’t actually filmed here.

Perhaps the journalist is disappointed that she does not have the opportunity to see stars on location, but the article points out that Georgia ladles tax breaks and incentives on production companies. One wonders if this is supposed to serve as a call to action for Missouri to also ladle out tax money so Shia LeBeouf can fly in and film for a couple of days before flying out.

However, since it was presented as a quiz, I must ask myself: How did I do? The sixteen from the article are:

  • The Act
  • Sharp Objects
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri
  • American Honey
  • Gone Girl
  • Switched at Birth
  • Winter’s Bone
  • Up in the Air
  • Waiting for Guffman
  • Road House
  • Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
  • National Lampoon’s Vacation
  • Paper Moon
  • Meet Me In St. Louis

I’ve seen five of sixteen.

The list skews to recent and to piss-on-Missouri stories and includes a number of entries where a scene nominally appears in Missouri in a larger travel film. Coincidentally, the latter overlap a lot with the films on the list I’ve seen.

The journalist does disclaim:

Note: There have been countless television shows and movies set and filmed in Missouri. This list is not exhaustive.

However, if one goes to the AUTHORITY (the Wikipedia entry Films set in Missouri), one sees this pretty much is the pattern: Piss on Missouri or just passing through. Guardians of the Galaxy? Deep Impact? I have seen these films, and they might have a scene in Missouri, but to say they’re set in Missouri is a stretch.

I am glad to see One Night At McCool’s is listed. But Larger than Life is not. The latter falls in the “Passing through” category, with a scene in Kansas City, and something that was filmed in St. Louis–Mike and Todd, both veteran actors of The Courtship of Barbara Holt, were extras in a scene that did not make the final feature.

At any rate, I’m not much into movies, books, or articles that piss on the heartland or where the writer is from (after the writer has moved to the big time). So I probably won’t watch Winter’s Bone (although I did just check movie accumulation posts to make sure I hadn’t already bought the DVD somewhere) but I do have the book in the stacks somewhere (I ordered it from ABC Books during the LOCKDOWN).

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Television Report: The Best of Groucho: You Bet Your Life (1961)

Book coverI picked this DVD up at a church garage sale four years ago (which, come to think of it, was the last time our church had a garage sale, it seems). I watched Duck Soup and Horse Feathers in 2021, but I guess my recent viewings of old Twilight Episodes got me more in the habit of watching a couple of old shows in an evening instead of watching a film. So it continues here.

This show aired the same time as the Twilight Zone episodes: 1961ish, when television was still black and white. Color was coming a couple years later, although widespread penetration would continue into the 1970s–both my beautiful wife and I remember secondary television sets in our homes were black and white.

At any rate, this DVD features two episodes of the game show wherein a set of couples essentially play one category’s worth of Jeopardy! and try to amass a higher dollar amount than other participating couples. Each round begins with Groucho reparteeing with the couples, and this really amounts to about half of the show. Then the couple gets to choose questions from a category that they’ve previously selected with dollar amounts up to $100. If they get it right, the amount is added to their score, and if they get it incorrect, an amount is deducted–so you can see how I compare it to Jeopardy! At the beginning of the show, the duck drops down with the Secret Word, a common word, and if either of the contestants mentions it, it is also added to their score. The winning couple gets a crack at a question of higher value at the end of the program, and if no one gets it right, the value increases for the next program. That’s basically it. Groucho hamming it up and a couple of questions for contestants in between.

I found one particular thing interesting. The show looks to have three cameras: One on the contestants, one on Groucho, and one wider view. Most of the show uses camera’s one and two, but when they begin the question and and answer period, they go to the wider shot for a second, and the announcer comes in, and the viewer sees how small the set is. The contestants are on the left, the announcer has a hanging mike on the right, and Groucho is on the right, and the space between them is that of a small kitchen table (although they’re standing, and it’s not actually a table). Compared to modern game show sets, it’s tiny and intimate.

So I found it more interesting as an artifact of what was on television sixty years ago and because I like Groucho Marx more than a quiz show, although I did okay and the questions were, again, akin to the things you would find on Jeopardy! today. Maybe a little dated, but certainly closer to my wheelhouse than modern trivia nights. Where, I guess, I do okay which is not winning.

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Television Report: The Twilight Zone Volume 21

Book coverWell, the joke is indeed on me, as I said when I reviewed Volume 19:

I’m clearly not watching them in order–well, it will become obvious when I finish the next volume and its number is not higher than 19….

Even though I shuffled them into the cabinet instead of keeping them together, I somehow ended up pulling them out in order. Well, unless there’s another one that I haven’t spotted which is somewhere in the middle of the volume numbers. Which is, again, not akin to order in the actual television series as each volume includes episodes from different seasons of the original series.

The wingspan of this volume is wider than the others; it includes an episode from the first season as well as from the fifth season whose opening was the one used on the syndicated program when I was growing up, so the one I associate most with the series.

At any rate, this volume includes:

  • “Mirror Image” from the first season where a woman at a bus station finds that the man at the counter and a woman in the restroom mention encounters and conversations with her that she does not recall, and she has checked her suitcase–or has she not? When looking in the restroom mirror, she sees through the open restroom door herself sitting on the bench outside. A friendly man, played by Martin Milner (who played Tod on Route 66, some episodes of which I watched in 2021 and I mentioned here and here), listens to her story but agrees with the station manager that she must be crazy. After the nice policemen take her away, Milner’s character sees himself run out of the bus station door. And he pursues his mirror image but loses him outside. And the episode ends, not with a DUN DUN DUH! but without a resolution. More speculative.
  • “Dust”, a message-based episode. The son of an immigrant family accidentally runs down a girl in an old west town and is sentenced to be hanged. The grasping peddlar who sold the rope to hang the young man also sells the superstitious father a bag of magic dust–a fake–to save his son. At the actual hanging, the father throws the magic dust at the townspeople, and his actions and words cause them to rethink the hanging. A message program again with no DUN DUN DUH!
  • “Five Characters in Search of an Exit” finds several different people in a featureless cell from which they seemingly cannot escape until a new resident convinces them to make a human pyramid to reach the edge where they discover they are toys in a toy collection bin in Victorian England. A nice bit of speculative work here even with its DUN DUN DUH!
  • “Ninety Years Without Slumbering” features an elderly man who believe he will die if his grandfather clock stops, so he tinkers with it constantly. His family, with whom he lives, makes plans to get rid of the clock to prove to him that it is not the case. AND IT IS NOT THE CASE! A reverse DUN DUN DUH?

An interesting collection, especially with the inclusion of something from the first season which might have been the strongest, before Serling and crew were driven by necessity to churn out more boilerplate and genre-adhering shows.

Still, my television watching these days has pretty much been confined to black and white, and it’s probably not at a personal loss.

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Television Report: The Twilight Zone Volume 19

Book coverThis is the second volume of this collection that I’ve watched this month (the first was Volume 6). I’m clearly not watching them in order–well, it will become obvious when I finish the next volume and its number is not higher than 19–but this set of DVDs does not really have the episodes in any order, either, skipping through the seasons–and seemingly focusing on later seasons.

This disc contains:

  • “A Most Unusual Camera” wherein a couple of two-bit thieves knock over an antique store only to come up with cheap knock-offs, but they do discover something–a camera that takes photos a few minutes into the future. They figure out a way to monetize it–take it to the horse racing track and take a picture of the winner board before the race is run. They make a pile of money, but end up getting–their just desserts? In a totally tacked on twist.
  • “The Jungle”, wherein a project engineer who has been to Africa to scope out a hydroelectric project finds that his wife has become very superstitious, and they fear the magick of the shamans in a tribe opposed to the project. After a night at a bar, he has to walk home after car trouble and finds New York City turning into a jungle around him.
  • “The 7th Is Made Up Of Phantoms” wherein a National Guard tank crew finds itself on the path to the Battle of Little Bighorn with past events occurring to them in the present–or have they gone back to the past? This one ends with them cocking their modern weapons and charging down a hill into the battle. Which seems like a tactically poor decision. I mean, they abandon the tank and then do not use cover or concealment to approach but run down the hill close together. Maybe they taught things differently in the National Guard in the 1960s.
  • “Uncle Simon”, where a shrewish niece takes care of her wealthy but abusive uncle but is prohibited from entering his lab. When she accidentally kills him, she discovers that the will says she must take care of her uncle’s creation: a robot that comes more and more to resemble her uncle in its abusive behavior toward her.

So it’s a little better than Volume 6 in that it’s not both formulaic and sharing very similar topics, but by the end of the original series, Serling’s well must have been running dry and the stories were but a single quick DUN DUN DUH! at the end away from things you’d have seen on other programs in other genres.

I guess that’s the real story arc of most open-ended television series: they start out with imagination and promise, and after a couple of seasons the grind of producing a weekly show and probably network penny-pinching leads to weakened episodes and related viewer disappointment, ratings drops, and cancellation. I guess with modern television, they have a story arc to carry through a series, but the related knock is that they pad that story arc out with insignifica to fill a whole season.

At any rate, these programs are 60 years old at this point and can still hold my interest, although they don’t necessarily inspire me to speculative fiction as much as reading about them did.

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Movie Television Report: The Twilight Zone Volume 6

Book coverMy beautiful wife gave me the first season of the original Twilight Zone series, probably not long after I read The Twilight Zone Encycolopedia. I don’t know if she’d forgotten that, but she got me a couple of these individual DVDs with four episodes per for another gifting opportunity this year. So instead of figuring where I’d left off on the first season of the program, I popped in this DVD when I wanted to watch some shorter bits of television.

I definitely got the sense from watching that these episodes were chosen from a later season. I seem to recall from the book that the show had an auspicious beginning, but that the powers that be cut its budget and messed with its formula in later seasons (of course, I could be thinking of Star Trek based on Star Trek Memories). Maybe that was just the way back in those days. But the episodes on this disc really had a low budget feel to them, the kind of thing I associate a lot with the black-and-white speculative digest programs (I guess my other experience back in the day was with The Outer Limits).

The DVD includes:

  • “The Passersby”, wherein Civil War soldiers pass an old derelict plantation house whose owner sits on the porch and watches them go by. One soldier stops and asks for a drink of water, which leads them to discover–they’re in The Twilight Zone! DUN DUN DUN!
  • “The Grave”, wherein a villain is gunned down by the townspeople of his home town. When another gunman comes to town, one that the townspeople hired to track and kill the badman, he is challenged to visit the villain’s grave. DUN DUN DUN!
  • “Deaths-Head Revisited”, wherein a former Nazi camp commandant stops in a small town and discovers it is the place where his camp was–so he revisits the camp and enjoys some good memories until the ghosts of the dead return to put him on trial. DUN DUN DUN!
  • “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank”, wherein a young man climbs out of the coffin at his funeral and tries to convince the suspicious townsfolk that he is not a threat to them. But is he? DUN DUN DUN!

So we’ve got four period pieces which can reuse sets from the Western television shows (“The Grave”, “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank”, “The Passersby”) with stories that thematically deal with the evils of war (“Deaths-Head Revisited”, “The Passersby”). They’re so themeatically similar and so aesthetically similar that they really didn’t provide the same sense of wonder nor the same inspiration to write other stories. And even though they’re still only 30 minute episodes–actually 25 minutes or so–they can seem a little longer than they needed to be, particularly “The Grave”.

I have a couple more of these four-episode collections, and I will undoubtedly get to them by and by, but I was disappointed with this one to say the least.

Your mileage may vary, of course. At least “The Grave” had Lee Marvin in it.

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Please Reset the Counter

Please reset the counter for Days Since Someone at Nogglestead Made A Reference to Manimal to 0.

My oldest said if he had a superpower, he would like to be able to turn into a cat.

“What, like Manimal?” I said, knowing full well that Manimal turned into a panther, not just a house cat.

The Wikipedia article for the program mentions two other series from NBC 1983 that got axed, but which I remember acutely (as I previously mentioned): Jennifer Slept Here and We Got It Made.

Also, someone from Hollywood must read this blog, as I said when commenting on Jennifer Slept Here:

Jennifer Slept Here–really, I haven’t brought that up? It didn’t run very long, but I can still remember the theme song. Also, with this and the short run Eric Idle vehicle Nearly Departed makes me wonder why we don’t have reboots of ghosts-live-here sitcoms these days–but both of these were very short runs indeed, which perhaps answers my question.

Currently, CBS’s Ghosts is on its third season.

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On The Best of the Chris Rock Show (1999)

Book coverAs opposed to the The Best of the Dean Martin Show, this DVD did not come out decades after Chris Rock’s talk show and sketch comedy bit went off the cable (which is “off the air” in the late 20th century–the modern equivalent would be “out of the stream” or something). Rock’s show appeared on HBO, so I didn’t have access to it when it was on, and I am not one for the talk shows anyway, so I probably would not have seen it.

I have, however, seen the skit “How Not To Get Your Ass Kicked By The Police” a time or two.

This single DVD does not include the aforementioned skit, but it does have some humor poking fun at The Race Question from the perspective of the middle 1990s. One skit is purportedly about an academic who is barred from entering establishments or who gets thrown out of establishments because he’s black. But when they go to the video proof, the man is naked and is getting thrown out or barred entry for that.

Man, what a wonderful world that was. Imperfect, but better than what we have now, where these sorts of jokes and poking fun at minorities’ pecadilloes just don’t fly, and we’re not allowed to laugh at obvious stereotypes.

Man, Chris Rock was everywhere up until some point in the early part of this century, but he seemed to have disappeared. Actually, I was going to posit he got supplanted by Kevin Hart, but in reality, it’s probably that my pop cultural awareness took a nosedive this century. I see he’s been in several films in the Sandlerverse–I saw Grown Ups–twice, in fact–but not much else of his work in the last fifteen years. I guess that’s on me.

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You Didn’t Need To Do That

As I have mentioned, my Facebook feed is roughly 30% posts by about eight of my “friends,” many of whom I’ve never met in real life, 20% actual advertisements, 15% pages I’ve liked, and 35% pages Facebook recommends, many of which relate to television or movies.

Like this retro post about how old Cheers is:

They didn’t need to downgrade it to black and white to make it older, but they did.

C’mon, kids, it ain’t that eld.

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On The Best of the Dean Martin Show (1965-1974)

Book coverThe Best of the Dean Martin Show was a collection of videocassettes and later DVDs with songs and skits from the decade-long television program along with occasional commentary from guest stars and the producer/director who released this set. It comprises 29 volumes in all, but the Lutherans for Life garage sale only had 7 videocassettes, and not contiguous, which makes me wonder where the other 22 went.

At any rate, as it is a “Best of” series, it does not play the episodes in total. Instead, it features a couple of musical numbers, a couple of skits, and a bit of commentary in each hour-long videocassette. It starts often with Dean Martin sliding down the pole into the living room set and singing “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime”, the show’s theme, but later with the Golddiggers, the all-female song and dance group that opened the show or the pre-show warning users not to touch the dial.

And the guest stars. Jimmy Stewart and Orson Welles team up with Dean Martin at one point to do a comedy and song number about men at a beauty salon. Dom DeLouise is a frequent guest, and Peter Sellers stops by. Lorne Greene from Bonanza sings a song with Dean while they’re astride horses and Dean’s won’t stand still.

The producer/director Garrison, who is behind the collection, said that they often did not tell Dean the punchline when he was being the straight man, or at least as much of a straight man that Dean Martin could be, so that his laughter and reaction would be genuine. And there’s a recurring bit where someone knocks from inside a closet, and when Martin opens it, he’s confronted by a secret guest star who makes a gag or something and then leaves, and Martin doesn’t know who it is in advance.

Much of the humor relies on Martin’s reputation as a sophisticated partier, but in real life, he wasn’t that way, so the Dean Martin character you see is only a character infused with Martin’s warmth and humor.

So it was a fun bit to watch–I am pretty sure I watched my seven cassettes in as many nights–but it would have been better if it was more of a complete first season kind of thing, with the actual episodes collected, but this collection precedes the confidence that people would buy that sort of thing by a couple of years–this collection was packaged in the middle 1990s and sold via infomercials. One assumes that the audience then would have been old people, perhaps my grandparents, who remembered the show and Martin’s movies fondly.

One can only speculate about the kind of audience finds these cassettes secondhand two decades in the twenty-first century, but old man is probably not far off the mark.

And as I mentioned yesterday, Sandahl Bergman, who played in Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja, was one of the Golddiggers, the singers and dancers that opened the show in later years and appeared in skits. So given that I have watched those two films and four or five of this set in which she appeared, I have seen more Sandahl Bergman on screen in the last two weeks than anyone in the world unless 1) Sandahl herself is watching her old films, Norma Desmond style, in a dark room in her mansion or 2) there’s some academic writing a dissertation on her for a film doctorate who has done nothing this summer but watch her movies over and over to gather evidence for some assertions or others. If I yield to the temptation to watch Hell Comes to Frogtown in the coming days, I might surpass either of those cases.

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The United States Begs To Differ

In an article called STEP IN TIME Where Mary Poppins cast are now – from tragic death at 21 to £35m fortune and moving cameo in film reboot, the Daily Star asserts:

IT may be 58 years since he high-kicked across the roofs of London to Chim Chim Cher-ee but Mary Poppins star Dick Van Dyke hasn’t forgotten his most iconic role.

C’mon, man. More iconic than Rob Petrie (from The Dick Van Dyke Show, you damned kids)? Not even more iconic than Dr. Sloan (from Diagnosis: Murder)? I think not.

Tied, at best, with Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. You know, that one guy in that one kid’s movie you saw a couple of times. Not more iconic than something you might have seen dozens or hundreds of times on television or DVDs.

Maybe it’s iconic in Britain since it takes place in Britain.

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On The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series (2009)

Book coverAs you know, gentle reader, I am about half way through James Blish’s short paperbacks collecting episodes from the Star Trek series (see also Star Trek, Star Trek 2, Star Trek 3, Star Trek 4, and Star Trek 5 for the recent re-reads or click here to see earlier and future re-reads–which will include the others in this timeline that I post later than I post this). Last Christmas, I received gift certificates for the antique mall again, $100 worth this time (with a six month expiration and no change returned, so a very old school type of giftcertificate). As I mentioned in the report on Star Trek 4, I looked for episodes of the original series at Relics Antique Mall last month. Although I did not find any physical media for the original series on that trip–one in which my buying focus was finding one big thing, like a set of fencing equipment, a receiver to serve as a back up in the parlor, or something that cost $100, I went again later with two certificates to look specifically at DVDs and videocassettes, and amongst a number of videos that I have not yet begun to watch, I spotted this DVD (and bought it, of course).

This 2009 release comes at a time when Paramount released the first season of the original series on Blu-Ray, remastered and with remixed sound. One assumes that this was a bit of a loss leader, a way to pitch the new set to people who maybe casually or perhaps a little more than casually enjoyed the original series but hadn’t seen it in a while. 2009, man. They probably still had video stores like Suncoast back then, ainna? Certainly the Best Buys and Walmarts still had fairly robust video sections in Electronics.

So this single DVD collects four episodes:

  • “The City on the Edge of Forever” (Blishified in Star Trek 2), the one with Joan Collins in it. C’mon, man. Joan Collins. Something something time travel and Joan Collins.
  • “The Trouble with Tribbles” (Blishified in Star Trek 3), the one with the little puff ball creatures that takes place on a disputed space station and where Klingons insult Kirk and the Enterprise (which is why the quote from Wilder’s post that I mentioned yesterday was fresh in my mind).
  • “Balance of Terror”, (Blishified in a later volume than I’ve read so far), the one where the Enterprise encounters the Romulans and their cloaking device.
  • “Amok Time” (Blishified in Star Trek 3), the one where Spock goes through Pon Farr and has to return to Vulcan to mate, much to his high Vulcan chagrin.

So I enjoyed spending a couple of evenings reviewing things I’d seen before and read recently, for the most part. Not enough to buy the complete series on Blu-Ray (although it looks as only the first season got the treatment and is only $22, whilst the whole movie collection with the original series and Star Trek: The Next Generation is only $44, which is not bad for new, but I’d rather pay less than $5 for DVDs).

I know, I know. By now you expect me to post photos of actresses from things I watch below the fold. But, c’mon, man, I already posted about Arlene Martel, who appeared in “Amok Time”, after I saw her in Route 66.

Well, to save myself from your disappointment and disapproval, how about some photos of Grace Lee Whitney, who played Yeoman Rand? Continue reading “On The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series (2009)”

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Again, Brian Knows Wilder’s Source Material

Wilder begins a cheery post entitled The Coming American Dictatorship, Part I with a quote from Star Trek:

“Well, Captain, the Klingons called you a tin-plated overbearing, swaggering dictator with delusions of godhood.” – Star Trek

Oooh, oooh, Mr. Kahtter. I know which episode that comes from. Not only did I read the short story version of “The Trouble with Tribbles” in Star Trek 3, I actually caught the episode on a DVD I bought a couple weeks ago.

But that’s a story for another post.

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I Know The Feeling

The headline is a little misleading (Courteney Cox admits she doesn’t remember being on ‘Friends’) as what she says is a little different:

Courteney Cox made a shocking revelation when she admitted that she doesn’t remember much of her time filming “Friends.”

Cox, 57, recently sat down with “Today’s” Willie Geist for an extended “Sunday Sitdown” interview when the actress shared that she realized there were a lot of gaps in her memory when she appeared on “Friends: The Reunion” in May 2021.

“I should’ve watched all 10 seasons because when I did the reunion and was asked questions, I was like, ‘I don’t remember being there,’” she laughed. “Yeah. I don’t remember filming so many episodes.”

C’mon, man, that’s how memory kind of works when you get older. I have the first line of a poem about it–I remember my life like a history book–because I, too, remember facts about my earlier life, but vivid recollections are few and far between.

Which is a shame; I sometimes lament the loss of the flavor of things. The scent of type cleaner. The smell of the corridor leading to The Paint Dealer, a magazine where I was briefly a hyphenated-editor of some sort. I can’t even see the corridor in my mind, although I know it was up a flight of stairs and toward the back of the building. I know the facts, but I cannot reproduce the experience in my mind.

So this is not shocking that Courteney Cox does not remember every single day of her job twenty-some years ago.

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As I Was Saying

Okay, apparently I did not do the comparison in the book report for Firefly: Still Flying (I compared Firefly to Battlestar Galactica because of a famed reboot).

But a more apt comparison might be to Star Trek.

Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in 1987, roughly 20 years after the original series.

When TNG appeared, the Star Trek franchise had been pumping stuff out fairly well over 20 years. How does the Star Trek franchise compare to Firefly’s in the first 20 years?

Star Trek
Television Series 3: Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation 1
Movies 4: The Motion Picture, The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home 1: Serenity
Books 85:
12 Star Trek episode novelizations by James Blish
16 Star Trek New Adventures titles
10 Star Trek Log The Animated Series novelizations by Alan Dean Foster
4 film novelizations
28 other novels

15 nonfiction
6 novels
10 reference
(most in the last five years)
Comics 61:
49 DC Comics
12 Bantam photo comics
19 Dark Horse
plus a couple of graphic novels and Free Comic Book Day shorts

I won’t belabor my point by delving into the number of games, video and IRL, that each franchise spawned. And just for fun, I won’t compare how the Star Trek franchise has fared in the last 20 years–but it does include 6 television series and 4 movies.

So one of them really has legs. The other has Disney needing content for Disney+. So maybe the next 20 years will be comparable between the two, at least in video formats. I think the Star Trek fans skew older and probably read more, so there might be more books for the Star Trek franchise until they die off and no longer buy the books. But time will tell.

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Book Report: Firefly: Still Flying (2010)

Book coverI bought this book, along with Firefly: The Official Companion Volume One and Firefly: The Official Companion Volume Two at my last trip to Calvin’s Books in Branson in June of last year. I also got the Serenity: The Official Visual Companion, and that would probably have been the next published–this book came out in 2010, seven or eight years after the television show and five years after the movie. I picked it up now because the 2022 Winter Reading Challenge has a category Short Stories, and the cover of this book says Featuring New Stories From Writers Of The Original TV Episodes.

Sounds like a book of short stories, ainna? Oh, but no.

The 158 page book has four “stories,” but one of them is a pair of single-panel cartoons looking like they were from a brutal children’s book featuring Jayne. The other stories don’t really break any new ground. One, “What Holds Us Down”, is the most akin to an episode–Kaylee and Wash break into a floating junkyard to steal some parts needed for the Serenity but it goes sideways, and Kaylee has to quickly fix up another ship to escape before the searchers find them amid the rubble. Another story, “Crystal”, is about River visiting the people on the ship before the motion picture takes place and telling them a little about their fates in her inscrutible way. The last short story, “Take the Sky”, deals with an old retired Mal receiving a package from Zoe, the current pilot/owner of Serenity, and reflecting upon his aging and their adventures. So the stories are not exactly what I would have expected, and they’re but brief interludes in the book.

The reminder of it is celebrity/fan material. Each of the stars of the program gets a section with photos and quotes from various sources–nothing new, and we get to hear from the shows costumers, designers, and stunt coordinators. It has a little feature on what happened to the Jaynestown statue–Adam Baldwin kept the head, but the rest likely got discarded–and on the endurance of Browncoat fandom, which might be a little different ten more years on–are they still doing those? A quick Internet search says no, but I see some speculation that Disney might throw something together for Disney+ with a new cast. Kind of like the new (but now as old as the original series was to its time) Battlestar Galactica that ran longer than the one-season television show it rebooted and updated. It will be interesting to see the old Firefly fans acting like I did when the new Battlestar Galactica came around.

At any rate, given that the book only has, what, a dozen pages of short stories, I cannot in good conscience slot it into the Winter 2022 Reading Challenge–I will probably pick up one of James Blish’s Star Trek books for that. And I will likely pick up the Serenity: The Visual Companion book later this year just to make a clean sweep of the Firefly titles. As I have mentioned, I think the film really lost a bit of the playful spirit of the series–this won’t probably come across as much in the script as in the execution. Which is why I have been avoiding it.

Oh, and should you come across a fan suffering from what Disney does to the property, be sure to point out that more people see Nathan Fillion and think Richard Castle than Mal Reynolds. Or even Johnny Donnelly from Two Guys and a Girl. Remind me to drop into conversation cryptically that Fillion played John Donnelly.

So it’s a good bit of trivia and nostalgia, but not something to stand the test of time. More like a flat spine fan magazine than anything else.

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My Beautiful Wife Will Not Be Thrilled

Will Forte on reviving ‘MacGruber’ and his surprise real-life wedding

Eleven and a half years ago, we were one of the few people to see the MacGruber film in the theaters. On our anniversary. We’d seen Iron Man 2 and had dinner, and then I said, “Hey, want to see another movie?”

Oy, she hated it, but she did not divorce me over my taste in films.

It’s back now, but apparently it’s on a streaming service, so she is safe from my watching it.

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Catching Up With Route 66

Book coverI mentioned in September that I’d picked up a couple of inexpensive videocassettes with episodes of Route 66, the old black and white television program from the early 1960s. I finally made it through the last of the episodes–my television and movie watching in the autumn has been reduced to football, mostly–so allow me to sum up the episodes and what I thought of them.

In “One Tiger To A Hill”, Buz and Tod catch on as fishermen in Oregon, where they are hired by a widow with a beautiful daughter–and with whom they room. They encounter, and fight, another fisherman, a veteran who was broken by the war and perhaps his relationship with the daughter.

In “Welcome to the Wedding”, Buz and Tod are sent to the airport to pick up the maid of honor for a wedding they’re attending. She’s running late, so Tod goes to see if he can have them postpone the ceremony. Meanwhile, a psychopath convict in transit appeals to Buz to reach out and bring back his brother so that the convict can see him one last time. When Buz reluctantly helps out against his natural instincts, the “brother” is shot helping the convict escape, and he takes Buz hostage to help him go back to his old house to retrieve his stolen loot. A young Ed Asner plays the marshal in charge of transporting the prisoner.

In “How Much A Pound Is An Albatross”, a blonde Julie Newmar plays a Vicki, free spirited heiress riding across the country on a motorcycle “to live.” She draws Buz and Tod’s attention–they actually crash the Corvette into a store window as she roars past–and they bail her out, which gives Buz a chance to get to know her better and to let her expound on her Beatnik philosophy of living–which she is doing to hide the pain of losing her whole family in an accident. She takes Buz out into the desert and perhaps on purpose runs out of gas, making it so she misses her court date, but all’s well and she goes free.

In “Give the Old Cat a Tender Mouse”, Julie Newmar returns as Vicki, this time coming to Memphis to meet a man her banker thinks would be a good match for her as he is also young, rich, and reckless. She catches Buz’s attention–but he does not crash the car again–and ultimately, after spouting more Beatnik and Existentialite philosophy, decides not to marry and rides off on her motorcycle. This episode aired ten months after the previous one with Julie Newmar in it, presumably the next season.

So, these are the six episodes (including the ones I watched earlier) I will see of this program in my lifetime, likely. I am no television scholar (even if I read Marxist/Feminist inquiries into the impact of television on life of the bourgeois in the ten years after World War II and other scholarly works for sadism sometimes, but I can see a little how the show takes in, in bite-sized chunks (the episode being the meme of the day) the concerns of the day, including the meaning of life, vets with PTSD before the abbreviation became popular, and the psychology of psychopaths. The programs are not as dated as one might expect, although they lack computers and cell phones–being as I am of a certain age, probably that world is not as alien to me as it would be to one of those damn kids.

I must mention if you click this link and buy, I get a few grubzits:

Did someone say blonde Julie Newmar?
Continue reading “Catching Up With Route 66

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First Exposure to Route 66 (1961)

Book coverAs I mentioned, I bought three video cassettes with episode of Route 66 on them. I had not ever seen the program before, although it might have still been in syndication when I was young, and it might have appeared on Nick at Nite at some point when we had cable when I was growing up, but I hadn’t seen it before. I knew the premise, though: two guys in a Corvette driving up and down the iconic highway having adventures. So I popped the first videocassette in, and….

The episode “The Newborn” starts out with two men on horseback and a guy in a cart riding through the desert. As I had thought that Route 66 was in color, I wondered if the videocassette was mislabeled and I ended up with a Western television series of some kind. Then I saw that the guy in the wagon was dressed in 20th century clothing–it was Buz Murdock, one of the main characters. He’s going to with the owner of the ranch and his psycho hand played by…. Is that Robert Duvall (whom I just saw in The Godfather(s) and whose film Secondhand Lions I just bought last weekend)? It is! They’re going to retrieve a pregnant Native American woman played by Arlene Martel–who wants to die, but not before the baby dies without her. Apparently, the protagonists (Buz and Tod, the guys with the Corvette) have caught on with a ranch in New Mexico and have worked there for about a month before the events of the episode. When the pregnant woman does not want to come, the ranch owner wants to bind her and carry her off. Buz objects, with his fist, which puts him on a collision course with the psycho hand. Especially when Buz and Tod quit the ranch and help the native woman run off and give birth. The back story, alluded to at times, was that the ranch hand’s son raped the native, who was a Christian who was planning to become a nun (rape of a nun? I just saw that in Change of Habit). The father, the ranch owner, made the son marry the woman, but he killed himself, and the ranch owner wants to raise the child as an Ivy (that is, in his family). But the mother, who dies in childbirth, wants the child raised in her pueblo, so Buz and Tod promise to take the child there–which leads to a final reckoning with the psycho henchmen who also dies.

The second episode, “…And the Cat Jumped Over The Moon”, takes place in Philadelphia, which is not on Route 66 at all, but never mind. They’re visiting a friend of Buz, a social worker who helped get Buz out of the gang life, and a young lady played by Susan Silo appears and says that unless he does something, the hit will be that night. So he leaves his small one bedroom apartment, telling the boys he’ll be back. He goes to an apartment building and meets with the gang on the roof, and according to the gang’s constitution (?), he can have a summit with them if he matches or bests the gang leader in a parkour-lite game of follow the leader. Unfortunately, the social worker loses his balance and falls from the building. As it happens, the girl is the fiancee of the former leader of the gang, and the gang wants to hit him to set an example that you cannot leave the gang. The gang kidnaps the girl, and the former leader comes to rescue her, and a knife fight is about to erupt, but Buz calls for a summit. The former leader of the gang takes Buz’s place in the parkour game and eventually bests the current gang leader, and the gang turns on their most recent former leader. As the credits roll, I notice that the former gang member was played by Jimmy Caan–who was also in The Godfather, and the current gang leader was played by a very young Martin Sheen.

So it was an interesting bit, and if you look at the IMDB entries of the bit players, how they played in a bunch of different series from the time–I’ll recognize a number of them in the Twilight Zone episodes I’ll be watching sometime soon.

And this series is a pleasant bit of throwback television, an episodic series which really shows that any kind of story might appear. But Buz and Tod have left three bodies in their wake in just these two episodes. But Tod does mean Death in German. So with “Buz” and “Tod” as the stars, perhaps this is a story of a pair of spree killers on the rampage.

I’ve got two more videocassettes with other episodes, which

I must mention if you click this link and buy, I get a few grubzits:

But I did mention Arlene Martel and Susan Solo by name, so let’s take a look.
Continue reading “First Exposure to Route 66 (1961)”

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Some People Could Not Tell That Clark Kent Was Superman, Either

‘Reading Rainbow’ legend LeVar Burton wants to host ‘Jeopardy!’:

Amid mixed reception for the latest crop of “Jeopardy!” guest hosts, Twitter is campaigning for one beloved celeb to succeed Alex Trebek as full-time MC — former “Reading Rainbow” host LeVar Burton.

LeVar Burton on the left, Geordi La Forge on the right. You see? Completely different people.

They might as well have just said science fiction author LeVar Burton.

I know, I know, he has been associated with Reading Rainbow for a couple more years than the Star Trek franchise. But aside from the 90s kids who make up modern tastemakers, who associates him with that? More people than think of him as Kunta Kinte, but not many.

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