SACKHOFF IS THE ORIGINAL BIONIC
Battlestar Galactica star Katee Sackhoff said that
she will play the original cyborg in NBC's Bionic Woman SF series. "I play
Sarah Corvus," Sackhoff "She's the original bionic woman. The first bionic
woman. She doesn't let anyone forget it. And she's kind of gone off the
reservation. She's a little crazy."
Sackhoff, who plays fighter jock Starbuck in Battlestar,
will star in The Bionic Woman opposite Michelle Ryan, who plays Jamie Sommers.
Sackhoff revealed that her character will have two bionic arms, "both legs,
two eyes, one ear, part of my chest." The show is a reimagining of the
original 1970s series, which starred Lindsay Wagner as Jamie Sommers. Sackhoff
said that her character would be part of the series as well.
Sackhoff added: "My biggest fear was that Sarah Corvus
was going to turn out like Starbuck. But she didn't. She turned out a little
like Number Six [laughs]. She's the femme fatale. She's dangerous. She's
sexy. She knows it, and she uses it. She walks with a purpose, and Starbuck
really doesn't. It's ... two different sides of the coin, but both misunderstood."
JOURNEYMAN CREATOR GETS DEAL
Emmy-winning writer-producer Kevin Falls, creator
of NBC's newly picked-up time-travel series Journeyman, has signed a new
two-year overall deal with the show's producer, 20th Century Fox TV.
Falls will focus on Journeyman, on which he will serve
as executive producer and show runner. Also reported was that NBC had picked
up Journeyman for the fall.
Journeyman is described as an epic fantasy starring
Kevin McKidd (HBO's Rome) as a man who travels back in time to fix the
lives of people in trouble. (um…Scott Bakula did that back in the
90’s- Quantum Leap anyone?)
CRICHTON’S ANDROMEDA INFECTS A&E
Michael Crichton's classic SF novel The Andromeda
Strain will infect television in a new original miniseries for A&E,
to be executive-produced by filmmaking brothers Tony and Ridley Scott.
Director-cinematographer Mikael Solomon will direct from a script by Robert
Schenkkan (The Quiet American), about an alien germ that comes to Earth
and threatens to cause a deadly plague.
The miniseries is set to go into production this summer.
David Zucker and Tom Thayer are also executive-producing.
Andromeda was initially billed as a four-hour event,
but could run up to six hours.
Ridley Scott (director of Blade Runner) will be taking
the lead on the project, which is based on Crichton's first book. It was
previously adapted as a feature film directed by Robert Wise in 1971.
ROBOT CHICKEN SPOOFS STAR WARS
Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, creators of Cartoon
Network's Robot Chicken, will develop Robot Chicken: Star Wars, a 30-minute
stop-motion animation special directed by Green. The special spoofs key
scenes and characters from the Star Wars universe, including creator George
Lucas, who will voice the animated version of himself. The special was
made in collaboration with Lucasfilm.
Robot Chicken: Star Wars will also feature Mark Hamill
as the voice of Luke Skywalker in one sketch, as well as a voice cast that
includes Conan O'Brien, Seth MacFarlane, Robert Smigel, Malcolm McDowell,
Hulk Hogan, James Van Der Beek, Donald Faison, Abraham Benrubi, Breckin
Meyer and Joey Fatone. The special will premiere at 10 p.m. June 17 on
Adult Swim. Yes, I have my Tivo already set for this.
HORROR’S HAMMER FILMS REVIVED
Dutch producer John De Mol is reviving famed British
horror studio Hammer Film Productions, which built its name on a string
of movies released in the 1950s and 1960s under the Hammer House of Horror
The private equity firm Cyrte Investments, led by
de Mol, has acquired the rights to Hammer's library, home of roughly 300
titles featuring the likes of Count Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy,
as well as the popular Quatermass franchise.
Hammer studio hasn't done any production to speak
of since the mid-1980s. The plan is to produce two to three horror movies
or thrillers a year.
SONNENFELD ENTERS THE BOX
Barry Sonnenfeld is in negotiations to direct the
supernatural action-adventurer The Box for 20th Century Fox.
Evan Spiliotopoulos is writing the screenplay, which
serves up a contemporary take on the myth of Pandora's box.
Box centers on a college graduate with an uncertain
future, who is tricked into opening the mythical box, unwittingly unleashing
the evils trapped within. He then must team with Pandora to save the world
Box returns Sonnenfeld to the genres that put him
on the map, with such movies as The Addams Family and Men in Black.
THE ROCK UP FOR SHAZAM!
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson said that director Peter
Segal has spoken with him about playing Captain Marvel in the upcoming
comic-book movie Shazam!
"Yeah, he did," Johnson said. "Listen, John August
is writing the script, and he's a tremendous writer, and I'll just wait
for the script to come in. But I'd love to work with Pete again and certainly
would want to work with John August. So there's a strong possibility."
Would Johnson put on Marvel's signature yellow-and-red
tights? "Well, knowing Pete, he'd update it and make it fresh," Johnson
said. "But that's his question. He's very excited about the project and
talks about it passionately. Pete also understands the importance of getting
that right; he's a big comic-book fan."
The comic-book series focuses on Billy Batson, a teenager
who becomes the superhero known as Captain Marvel when he utters the magic
word "Shazam!" The name is an acronym for six gods and heroes of the ancient
world, as well as their attributes: the wisdom of Solomon, the strength
of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles
and the speed of Mercury.
DAY IS SCARIER, SEXIER
Producers of the upcoming Day of the Dead remake said
that the walking dead will be far more gruesome, and in some cases sexier,
than in previous zombie movies. James Glenn Dudelson and Ana Clavell just
returned from Bulgaria, where the majority of Day of the Dead was being
filmed under director Steve Miner.
"Steve has a good sense of how to do this, and it's
going to be frightening," Dudelson said. "There's also a very creative
young screenwriter attached, and we were happy to work with him."
Screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick, who wrote Final Destination,
adapted George Romero's zombie story, about survivors trapped in a military
storage facility after a virus has turned much of the world's population
"The zombies are naturally scarier, and filming in
Bulgaria was good because we could get plenty of people to play zombies,
but of course they didn't speak English," Dudelson said. "But the women
are beautiful, so many of our zombies will be much more sexy than we may
be used to seeing. It's really frigging good."
Clavell, who said she has a passion for zombies, added:
"There are a lot of body parts and brain tissue in this. It's very good
special effects. I like voodoo zombies, historical zombies, all sorts of
zombies. It's a fascinating concept for a horror film. I have studied actual
accounts of zombies and have quite a few books on them."
UN-DEAD TO RISE ON FILM
Ernest Dickerson (Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight)
is set to direct The Un-Dead, a new chapter to the canon of Bram Stoker's
Dracula that has been endorsed by the author's family. The film will be
based on a novel written by Stoker's great-grandnephew, Dacre Stoker, and
Ian Holt. Holt adapted the book for the screen. Production will begin in
Eastern Europe late in the year.
The plot picks up 25 years after the original story,
which was first made into a film in 1931. The Stoker endorsement is a formality,
since the original book is in the public domain.
Plans are in the works to republish the original,
unedited version of Stoker's Dracula, which was trimmed down before its
first publication. Some of the excised plot was incorporated into the sequel
book, and will be used as plot in the new film. New characters include
Jack the Ripper and the infamous Madame Bathory.
MEMBERS JUST LIKE US
– ICS Members answer ‘5 in a Row’
There will be a brief, one page 5 question interview
each month with and ICS member. This month, Gary Roberson is participating.
Betsy: Growing up, what movie do you think started
you on the road to being a fan?
Gary: THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL got me hooked on
science fiction, but the film that "changed my life" and turned me into
a hardcore movie fan / memorabilia collector and future ICS member was
GOLDFINGER (1964), which actually opened up here in the States in 1965
when I was 10 going on 11. It turned me from a casual moviegoer into a
Betsy: What do you like most about acquiring collectibles
- the actual thrill of getting them or the displaying them or having a
Gary: A little of each, actually. I think the finding
of the odd collectible, the "thrill of the hunt" for that elusive item
not generally available here - like the Japanese 24 Jack Bauer Action Figure,
or the British AVENGERS John Steed & Emma Peel Action Figure Set and
the British HAMMER Film’s Christopher Lee as DRACULA Action Figure - is
the most fun. I could never be a completist because I don't have the patience
or the drive for that. I just get what I like, and if something that's
part of a set doesn't have the quality I appreciate - like the Sideshow
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE Darla Action Figure is a big disappointment to me - then
I skip it.
Betsy: DC or Marvel and why?
Gary: Hard question. If we're talking Silver Age -
1960's & 1970's - definitely DC. Marvel & DC both had excellent
artists working back then, but I think DC writers had the edge. After that,
the companies evened out for me, but I believe DC takes more chances. (i.e.,
the Vertigo titles and such) with their characters, and has actually "grown
up" as a company. As for the movies, with the exception of BATMAN BEGINS,
Marvel is leading the race in their character adaptations. DC better wake
Betsy: If you could pick one superpower...what would
Gary: Definitely Flash's power of super speed and endurance.
I could get all the mundane things of life out of the way in no time flat,
zoom over to Tokyo to get all those cool Godzilla toys at the source and
get down to the ICS meetings in mere seconds!
Betsy: And the last question, what is your favorite
horror movie and why?
Gary: My favorite horror movie is Hitchcock's THE BIRDS
(1963). It's a masterpiece of moviemaking and not just my favorite horror
movie, but also one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time. Hitchcock
takes one of nature's least threatening creatures' (at least to man) and
slowly and artfully turns them into a horrifying menace so by the end of
the film you’re on the edge of your seat. This movie terrified me when
I saw it at the drive-in at age 9, and it's held up with repeated viewings.
I don't bandy the word genius around much, but I feel in the world of filmmaking,
Hitchcock was definitely one, and THE BIRDS was his finest film.
Thank you Gary, stay tuned, next month, another member,
another five questions.
May 18th SHREK THE THIRD
Shrek, back again in quite a pickle. King Shrek?
He is a reluctant would-be king and needs to find a suitable replacement
or he'll be royally screwed for the rest of his days. It’s sequel number
three….this ones fun!
June 1st RISE: BLOOD
Cast: Lucy Liu, Michael Chiklis, Carla Gugino, James
An underground cult, dead teens and a reporter waking
in the morgue. Alive but dead. Then we meet Detective Rawlins is
sick with rage and grief, his only daughter another victim of the cult.
He joins forces with the reporter, and they will stop at nothing until
they’ve exacted revenge.
June 8th HOSTEL
Cast: Lauren German, Heather Matarazzo, Bijou Phillips,
Three young American girls in Rome are invited by
a beautiful model from one of their art classes to join her for a weekend.
And thus the horror begins.
June 8th OCEANS
Cast: George Clooney, Ellen Barkin, Matt Damon, Brad
Pitt, Andy Garcia
Ocean and his crew decide to hurt the man who hurt
their friend. By doing the one thing they do well together. Stealing
lots and lots of his money from him.
June 15th FANTASTIC
FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER
Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Micheal
Chiklis, Julian McMahon
The enigmatic, intergalactic herald, the Silver Surfer,
comes to Earth to prepare it for destruction. As he races around the globe
wreaking havoc, Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben must unravel the mystery of the
Silver Surfer and confront the surprising return of their mortal enemy,
Dr. Doom, before all hope is lost.
Diamond's Tasty Tidbits and Leftovers
By Ginger Diamond
So, I was looking through my Dead People's file the
other day (what, you don't have one?), and wondered what some of our favorite
defunct actors thought about being typecast during their careers.
I mean, not everybody embraced their best known character,
Lil' Buddy, and also enjoyed appearing at boat shows for the rest of their
life, like Bob Denver - or did they? Al Lewis, who reveled in his
notoriety as Grandpa on "The Munsters", hosted a left-wing radio talk show,
ran a restaurant called "Granpa's" on Bleeker Street, and also made a run
for mayor of New York City, getting 52,000 votes. "Why would I mind?"'
he said. "It pays my mortgage."
Peter Cushing started his career on stage in 1935,
and made many well known films as well as television shows in the 50's,
yet, he became best remembered for his horror films. "I don't have any
regrets", Cushing said. "Things like Frankenstein and Dracula were such
big successes, and they obviously led to a lot of sequels." Desmond
Llewelyn, James Bond's gadget guru Q in seventeen 007 films, attended book
signings, even though, "In real life I'm allergic to gadgets. They just
don't work for me, not even those plastic cards for hotel room doors."
A favorite, John Agar ended up having a name that
was synonymous with a slew of B science fiction movies (Tarantula, The
Mole People), and worked the convention circuit in his later years. "Even
though they were not considered top of the line, for those people that
like sci-fi, I guess they were fun. My whole feeling about working as an
actor is if I give any enjoyment. I'm doing my job, and that's what counts."
Red Buttons (Poseidon Adventure, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?)
told an interviewer once, "I'm a little guy and that's what I play all
the time - a little guy and his troubles."
Robert Mitchum (Cape Fear, Night of the Hunter) said
of his Hollywood beginnings, "For a while it looked like I was going to
be stuck in westerns. I figured I could make 6 a year for 60 years and
retire. I decided I didn't want it. So I started blinking my eyes every
time a gun went off in the scenes. That got me out of westerns."
Olympic medalist Johnny Weissmuller, dove into
the role of Tarzan for 18 films. "I went to the back lot at MGM, they gave
me a G-string, and said, 'Can you climb a tree? Can you pick up that girl?'
I could do all that, and I did all my own swinging because I had been a
YMCA champion on the rings."
Ray Walston, "My Favorite Martian", said he auditioned
and accepted the role for the money. But just after four episodes he recalled,
"I thought, ' What am I doing here? I'm running around with
two pieces of wire coming out of my head. I must be crazy.' "
And finally, Clayton Moore as the 'Lone Ranger',
who continued to appear in costume in personal appearances for decades
after the show's heyday, even fighting, and eventually winning a court
battle over his right to wear the mask. "Once I got the Lone Ranger role,
I didn't want any other. I like playing the good guy. As a
child I wanted to be either a cowboy or a policeman. As the Lone
Ranger I got to be both. The Lone Ranger is a great character, a great
American. Playing him made me a better person. I'll wear that white hat
the rest of my life." And so he did.
Hi-yo, Silver! Stick a fork in me - I'm done,
Good bye farewellsfarewellsfarewells
Gordon Scott, an actor known for
his portrayal of jungle superman Tarzan in six films and later roles in
gladiator movies, has died at age 80. Scott had spent the last five years
living with friends Roger and Betty Thomas in Baltimore (if only we’d known).
An unknown hotel lifeguard in
the early 1950s, Scott managed to beat out 200 other would-be Tarzans from
around the world. He was awarded a seven-year contract by producer Sol
Lesser and became the 11th Tarzan replacing Lex Barker. After his first
film, TARZAN'S HIDDEN JUNGLE, Scott married co-star Vera Miles. The couple
divorced four years later. He next made TARZAN AND THE LOST SAFARI (1957),
TARZAN'S FIGHT FOR LIFE (1958), TARZAN AND THE TRAPPERS (1958), TARZAN'S
GREATEST ADVENTURE (1959), with co-stars Sean Connery and Anthony Quayle,
and TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT (1960).
In 1960 he moved to Italy and
stared in such sword and sandal epics as DUEL OF THE TITANS, BATTLE OF
THE GLADIATORS, HERO OF ROME, HERCULES VS THE SEA MONSTER and 2 Goliath
Nicholas Worth, an imposing character
actor who often played the darkest of villains in such B movies as DON'T
ANSWER THE PHONE has died.
He was born Sept. 4, 1937, in
St. Louis, Miss., to parents who owned a furniture store. At 8, Worth decided
to become an actor. He debuted in FOR PETE'S SAKE and appeared in almost
90 films and television productions. He was in CITY HEAT, ARMED AND DANGEROUS,
ACTION JACKSON, THE NAKED GUN: FROM THE FILES OF POLICE SQUAD!, FIST OF
HONOR and EVERY DOG HAS ITS DAY . He also was in such time honored ICS
favorites as SCREAM BLACKULA SCREAM, TERMINAL MAN, COMA, SWAMP THING, DARKMAN,
HOLOGRAM MAN, TIMELOCK, BLOOD DOLLS, STARFORCE and EMPEROR: BATTLE FOR
DUNE. He was 69.
Curtis Harrington, a onetime
experimental filmmaker who earned a reputation in the 1960s and '70s as
a master of the macabre has died at age 80.
Originally known for his short,
experimental films in the 1940s and early '50s, Harrington was working
as an associate producer for producer Jerry Wald at 20th Century Fox when
he took time off in 1960 to direct his first feature film, NIGHT TIDE.
Other of his films included VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET, QUEEN OF
BLOOD, WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH HELEN, THE KILLING KIND and RUBY.
Tom Poston, on television since
the 1950s, when he was an Emmy Award-winning regular on THE STEVE ALLEN
SHOW but who may be best remembered as the bumbling handyman on the popular
situation comedy NEWHART, has died at age 85. He was the husband of actress
Suzanne Pleshette .
Though he was most noted for
his career in television he also appeared in such big screen productions
as SOLDIER IN THE RAIN, COLD TURKEY, THE HAPPY HOOKER, RABBIT TEST, CARBON
COPY, KRIPPENDORF’S TRIBE and CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS.
THE LAST WARD . . .
(reprint from a previous Last Ward of Nov 2004)
I am a child of television.
I guess life would be a lot simpler if that
statement were not true, but alas, ‘tis not the case. I am an aging
baby boomer, one of the first generation to grow up with television, one
of the first to grow old with the boob tube. One of the first to
nurse at the glass teat. One of the first to succumb to the brain-numbing
waves of the idiot box.
I know my parents never had it like this.
Their childhoods had no television; instead, they had books, imaginations,
and occasionally, the radio. My mother didn’t have a TV until she
married my father and moved out of her parents’ house. Her parents
were TV-free until my grandfather’s congregation bought them a big, clunky
Philco as a Christmas present. (Remember my grandfather? The
nice old Presbyterian minister who took me to my first R-rated movie?
Yeah, that’s the guy.)
My earliest memories of television are a little
hazy, which makes perfect sense when you think about it, because in the
olden days B.C. (Before Cable), the television was pretty hazy, too.
Everything for me was black-and-white. Nobody in the neighborhood
had a color TV; those fancy things were for rich people. I remember
my father fiddling with the rabbit ears until he was satisfied that the
picture was just the way he wanted it – until my younger brother would
come barreling into the room, bumping my dad’s arm, sending the “just right”
picture into the ether, and driving my dad into a serious frenzy.
But when the picture was clear…oh, boy.
Back then there were exactly three channels
on our TV, because there were only three networks. Life was a lot
simpler. In Blairsville, PA in the early ‘60s, Channel 2 out of Pittsburgh
(KDKA, by the way – the first station in the country to air regular radio
broadcasts in the ‘30s) carried CBS shows, Channel 4 (also out of Pittsburgh)
carried ABC, and piddly little Channel 6 out of Johnstown carried NBC.
I remember the CBS eye. I remember the NBC peacock sprouting its
colorful black-and-white feathers. ABC didn’t have any snazzy logos
like that, but at least they had Batman. More on him in a minute.
Early memories? I can remember watching
Captain Kangaroo, with the “Tom Terrific” cartoons. I remember watching
Timmy and Lassie every Sunday night when my grandparents would visit after
dinner. And of course, there was Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of
Color. Those were the only two evening shows I was allowed to watch
at the age of 5 or 6. The thing about Disney was that it always…always
ended the show with a commercial for a new, hot Disney movie. It
was the only time I ever saw movie ads on TV back then.
Bonanza was another popular show around our
house. My mother used to be really into jigsaw puzzles, and I still
remember a gigantic 1,500-piece puzzle of the Cartwrights riding on horseback
taking up a quarter of our living room for several weeks – the amount of
time it took Mom to finish the dang thing. My all-time favorite Bonanza
episode is still the first one I remember: a Christmas show in which Hoss
was buffaloed by a bunch of midgets into believing that leprechauns existed.
Sure, there were plenty of genre shows at the
time, but I wasn’t old enough (or smart enough) to watch them. I
mean, what could a 6-year-old possibly glean from The Outer Limits?
No, what I remember most about genre TV in the early ‘60s was that The
Flintstones and Jonny Quest were on in prime time. How cool was that?
Cool enough to send me running to Best Buy when Jonny Quest’s complete
prime time run came out on DVD last spring. These were strong ABC
staples, as I recall, right up there with Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,
which I discovered years before I realized there was an earlier film version.
VTTBOTS became something of a monster-of-the-week for me, which as it turned
out, didn’t really thrill the show’s true fans. But it made a wide-eyed
7-year-old sit up and take notice.
Voyage creator Irwin Allen was a hot property;
CBS lured him away to put out a kind of “Swiss Family Robinson in Space.”
What I liked about Lost in Space wasn’t the robot; it wasn’t the nutty
monsters, and it certainly wasn’t the god-awful costume design. No,
what I liked about the show was its sneaky way of starting the next episode
a week early by tacking on a 2-minute “cliffhanger.” It worked nearly
ABC was big in our family; my mother was a Peyton
Place junkie, calling her friends all the time about the previous night’s
episode, etc, etc. But ABC also had cool stuff like the back-to-back
Green Hornet and Time Tunnel. My dad and I watched those together.
In hindsight, I wished I’d paid more attention to Hornet, because I didn’t
know how big the martial artist who played Kato would become. (If
you don’t know whom I’m talking about…well, are you ever reading the wrong
newsletter.) I just thought The Green Hornet was a cheap Batman knock-off.
Which brings me around to one of my two favorite
shows of the ‘60s, the other being the original Star Trek, which I’ve discussed
in this space before. (Notice how I insist on sneaking in the word
original?) Batman was an eye-opening experience to a generation who
just started out being weaned on The Flintstones, Underdog, and other Saturday
morning sundries. This was a live action cartoon, folks! I
had only recently started reading superhero comics, and here I had one
in the flesh, twice a week – same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.
Batman was “it” for me. I loved the villains,
I loved the action, I sort of loved the gorgeous molls (although I didn’t
really know why at the time), I loved the outrageous sound effects, I loved
the corny dialogue (“Holy Popsicle, Batman!”), I loved that it had the
best cliffhangers running. It was one of those shows I knew instinctively
was in color, despite our black-and-white set, because it just seemed to
pop out at you. Every guy in my 3rd-grade class watched the show.
When my Pop-Pop ran the BATMAN feature film at his theater, I got all my
buddies in for free and was treated like royalty for a week.
But I discovered that all good things eventually
come to an end. By its third season, Batman had gone to 3 nights
a week; the villains were laughable, some not even in costume; Yvonne Craig
was brought in to sex things up as Batgirl; and worst of all, they started
doing away with the cliffhangers. Batman actually ran single-episode
stories. I actually gave up on the show before it was mercifully
cancelled. Now I can look back at those shows and see them for the
campfests they were, and I wonder what I saw in them.
ABC still had its hooks in me. In the
family, actually. After my folks split and we moved away, I started
watching my younger brothers on nights when my mother worked late, because
she couldn’t afford to pay a babysitter. (No sweat, folks…I was 13
by this point and knew how to dial 911.) I was an ABC junkie on Friday
nights, running the distance from The Brady Bunch to The Partridge Family
to Room 222 to The Odd Couple to Love American Style. I actually
held out for Love American Style at 10 because it was the closest thing
to televised smut I could find. (Hey, I was 13. What do you
think was going through my mind, anyway? Whether or not Felix and
Oscar would ever agree on anything?)
It was around this time that my mother started
letting me stay up as late as I wanted on Friday and Saturday nights to
watch the late show. In western Pennsylvania in the early ‘70s, that
meant Chiller Theatre on Channel 11 out of Pittsburgh. Chiller Theatre
was hosted by a guy named Bill Cardille, affectionately nicknamed “Chilly
Billy.” He was the station’s go-to guy for most studio hosting jobs,
like Bowling for Dollars and Superstar Wrestling. But his true claim
to fame was as the host of Chiller Theatre.
This guy had horror chops. He had a cameo
in George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead as a TV interviewer
out in the field, and his daughter Lori Cardille played the heroine in
Romero’s second sequel, Day of the Dead. Cardille ran two horror
movies or sci-fi movies back-to-back after the late news on Saturday nights,
with the help of his laboratory assistants. I forget the hunchback’s
name, but the statuesque redhead was named Terminal Stare. (No, really.)
The movies were usually uncut, because no one at the station really paid
attention, and none of us were complaining, that’s for sure. I was
a bleary-eyed mess most Sunday mornings before church, but it was worth
What genre delights were to be had in my teen
years? Well, there was Kolchak the Night Stalker, for a short but
memorable run. There was Night Gallery, which I never missed.
There was Planet of the Apes. There was Dark Shadows in the daytime.
Wait a minute…I think I’m getting out of order here…I used to come home
from elementary school to watch Barnabas!
I think the point here is that I’ve watched
so much television in my lifetime that I can no longer keep the memories
in any kind of chronological order – a shameful admission, but true.
Other primetime “must-sees” of the period included M*A*S*H, All in the
Family, Happy Days, The Six Million Dollar Man, and even Rich Man Poor
Man, the first TV miniseries.
Then came college, and my tastes changed again.
TV was harder to come by in the dorms. We didn’t have one in our
rooms, and the sole TV in the viewing room downstairs was constantly being
watched. Your best bet was to hope that the guy already sitting in
the room wanted to watch the same shows you did.
That wasn’t hard with a show like WKRP in Cincinnati.
This was a very underrated sitcom, with one of the funniest ensemble casts
on TV. I still have my two favorite episodes copied on VHS: the softball
game against a rival radio station, and the legendary Thanksgiving episode,
in which station manager Carlson attempts a publicity stunt by dropping
live turkeys from a helicopter (“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys
could fly.”) Yes, WKRP was a funny show, but it still found time
to flex its dramatic muscles; its episode devoted to the infamous Who Concert
tragedy was a highlight.
On into the ‘80s, and genre TV product had pretty
much fallen below my radar. I wasn’t interested in junk like Battlestar
Galactica, Buck Rogers, or the soon-to-be-revived Star Trek franchise.
My viewing habits were about to change again, in a way that exists to this
day. Hill Street Blues was the show most responsible for this change.
It was a gritty cop thriller, a wonderful ensemble show, and a wealth of
sizzling stories and interesting characters. It set the stage for
the archetype of hour-long dramas I embraced: strong acting, stories
that continue from one week to the next, and endings that didn’t always
show that the good guys won. St. Elsewhere followed Hill Street,
and rapidly became my show of choice. It was quirkier, with great
acting (Denzel Washington’s breakthrough), and it wasn’t afraid to take
risks. I still recall the dream sequence with ZZ Top in the operating
At this point, I should also confess that I
went for nighttime soaps, too: Dallas, Dynasty, Falcon Crest, Knots
Landing… the list was nearly endless. I stayed with Dallas longer
than the others, for reasons that escape me. The Ewings were bigger
than life, and so were their stories. I think it was my weakness
for nighttime soaps that kept me from ever teasing other folks who went
for daytime soaps; one word from me, and I would have been branded a hypocrite
There was one other hour-long drama that I thought
never really got the recognition it deserved: Wiseguy.
I used to go over to my wife’s apartment when we were dating and watch
Wiseguy on Wednesday nights. I stayed awake, drawn in by the show’s
powerhouse guest actors (Kevin Spacey, Ray Sharkey, even Jerry Lewis) and
its storylines that worked out over 7- and 8-week arcs. Terri often
I have to confess that most of the shows I’ve
grown to love over the past dozen years or so have two things in common:
they’re all hour-long dramas, and they’re all on after my wife has gone
to bed. Let me tell you, that’s a dangerous time. There’s no
one around to keep me from falling asleep in the easy chair while I’m watching
one of my favorite shows, no matter how exciting it is. Let’s face
it, if I’m tired, I’m not long for conscious thought. One minute
I’m watching Dennis Franz bulldoze a murder suspect, the next I’m waking
up with a stiff neck at two in the morning, a thin line of drool hanging
from my bottom lip. That’s not a pretty sight. It’s also not
one with which I’d care to end this column.
Instead, it’s nice to run down that roll call
of shows I mentioned as being my favorites over the past dozen years or
so. Not many genre picks in the bunch; I’ve never been much for shows
like Babylon 5 or Farscape or Buffy or even Smallville. They’re all
quality shows, but I’ve always found it hard to jump into a show after
it’s already found its footing. I like to be there from the beginning.
That’s why the shows I remember with the greatest
fondness are the ones I’ve stayed with the longest: NYPD Blue, L.A.
Law, Law and Order, E.R., Chicago Hope, The X-Files, The West Wing, 24,
and now Lost, the latest entry in the hit parade. I never miss an
Life is like that, in a way.
No one ever wants to miss an episode.
CALENDER OF EVENTS