June 23, 2017

Around the dial

No time to waste; it's a big week, so let's get right to it!

At British TV Detectives, it's a review of the 2017 mystery Loch Ness. If you liked Broadchurch, says Rick (and I did, at least the first series of the British incarnation), then this will be right up your alley.

Also from Rick, this time at Classic Film and TV Café, it's a reminder of NBC's aborted 1970 reboot of Charlie Chan, starring Ross Martin as the famed detective. It's too bad this didn't come off, although I can understand why it might not have; Martin, an excellent actor (not just The Wild Wild West but Mr. Lucky, as well as many guest spots) would have made a very interesting Chan.

At Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, Ivan takes a look at the recently issued complete series DVD set of Laugh-In. Now, I never was much of a fan of that show, although I can remember seeing some of it when I was a lad. Maybe it was a little too much for an eight-year-old to comprehend, or perhaps I'd already formed enough of my political philosophy (don't laugh; my mother raised me to be a political animal) that I had an instinctive resistance to what I saw as a countercultural show. But as Ivan points out, Laugh-In wasn't really all that countercultural. He quotes Kliph Nesteroff, who had some very intriguing commentary about the, shall we say, authenticity of the show:

"Laugh-In is commonly considered a reflection of the late sixties youth sensibility, but closer examination reveals a much different picture," Kliph writes.  “It was, in essence, an establishment show, profiting from the anti-establishment sentiment running through America.  Moderated by the comedy team of Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, Laugh-In was old in style, but draped in the popular fashion of the day.  It effectively garnered a genuine hippie aesthetic, but any actual connection to the counterculture was mostly smoke and mirrors.  The bulk of Laugh-In consisted of eye-catching vaudeville bits that mostly ignored the war, the riots and the protest.  It embraced the look and sound of the hippies and had no problem making references to getting high, but generally glossed over political issues.”

I love that money quote: "draped in the popular fashion of the day." Is there a better description of TV when it reminds you of your parents trying, and failing, to act hip?

Time for a little sports - Classic TV Sports reports in with the shot chart from Fox's coverage of the U.S. Open golf championship. I'm usually a big fan of the Open, but this year I had absolutely no interest whatsoever. Part of it is because I haven't warmed to Fox's golf style, but I also had a bad feeling about a relatively new course with an easy setup and no defenses other than depending on the weather. Predictably, the players scorched the course; -16 should never win a tournament not called the Pensacola Open.

Continuing on the sports scene, this report from Sports Business Journal is not about classic TV per se, but it does deal with how we consume media, and who is most wed to that crazy thing we call "television." As a demographic (as well as philosophical) issue, this shift into watching video on smartphones and other means of streaming media does bear on classic TV, in that the age group most likely to watch it is the same age group that continues to watch sports on television - in other words, "old." Me, I just don't understand why people wouldn't want to watch sports on as big a picture as they can. Isn't that part of what HD was all about, the ability to see everything? I don't get my kicks from watching soccer on an eight-inch screen.

Television's New Frontier: the 1960s is on to one of the iconic programs of the '50s, The Twilight Zone. It's not quite that series anymore, as we're reminded of how Rod Serling was now at a point where "I've never felt quite so drained of ideas as I do at this moment," and it shows - but even with the recycled ideas that had done better in the past, the series still had the ability to toss in a shocker from time-to-time, with good effect. Be sure to read the marvelous rundown on the familiar guest stars that appeared during the season - can any series today make that kind of claim?

This week's Hitchcock recap at bare-bones e-zine is of a James Bridges-penned episode I've yet to see: the 1965 thriller "An Unlocked Window," starring Dana Wynter. I'm never quite sure what to do in a case like this - do I read the review through to the conclusion and find out the shock end, or do I stop when my curiosity has been raised and wait until I can see it for myself? What would you do?

David apparently recovered from his Buzzr possession; he's got a story at Comfort TV this week on the well-known TV character actor Roy Roberts. However, now Ivan has the Buzzr fever, as you can discover at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.

This should keep you busy until tomorrow, when you can return here and start things all over again. TV  


  1. A bounty this week:

    - You might have noticed that I've got comments posted at both Rick's Charlie Chan entry and Ivan's Laugh-in post.
    Also, David's Buzzr post from a week ago, which ties in to the Laugh-in post op cit.
    All this nickel knowledge of mine ... it's my gift - and my curse.
    Thanks to you, I've made a new friend in England, John at Cult TV Blog, but usually only when he brings up an American topic.
    Hey, I'm coming up on 67 years old - I gotta fill the time some way ...

    -Hitchcock's "An Unlocked Window":
    As it happened, I saw this when it first ran in 1965 (I was still in high school back then). The TV Guide logline called attention to the presence of an unusual twist ending that required extra security on the set - and already I've said too much.
    For maximum effect, you ought to come to this one completely cold - no foreknowledge at all.
    What I'm saying is, that if you haven't read Jack Westbrook's piece yet, and you still plan to see this -don't read the piece at all.
    Don't worry, it'll be there when you get back. The Internet is forever (more or less).
    One small problem: I note that MeTV has cut back the Hitchcock Hour to overnight Sunday at 3 in the blessed AM. So you're looking at a wait ...
    Oh, by the way, I notice that the next episode that Jack has up is "Death Scene" with Vera Miles and John Carradine.
    Same precaution applies as with "Unlocked Window", and for the same reasons.
    Just so you know.

    1. While Me-TV has cut back the hour-long shows to early Monday morning, it's replaced the old time slot for those shows with the half-hour ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, starting back at that show's beginning in 1955. Me-TV isn't rerunning THRILLER at all now, but it may get back to rerunning it at some future date.

  2. That was a dead boring US Open. The USGA needs to follow the lead of the R & A and put a group of legendary courses on a rota. Pebble Beach, Oakmont, Olympic, Pinehurst #2, Oakland Hills, Merion, Baltusrol, Shinnecock Hills, Southern Hills...who needs a "johnny come lately" course like Erin Hills?

  3. Thanks, Mitchell. My articles on the Hitchcock shows are intended to be thorough reviews, so if you're worried about spoilers it would be best not to read them until you've seen the show!

  4. Laugh-In was more like a video version of Ken Murray's "Blackouts" of the 1940's. It was rapid-fire humor and racy for its time. Anyone who watched the show will remember that.

  5. This Old TV Obscurities post mentions a time when LAUGH-IN causes real-life problems for a few NBC affiliates, including Mitchell's "favorite": http://www.tvobscurities.com/2009/04/fake-laugh-in-news-bulletin-goes-awry/#comment-1206404


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!