July 7, 2017

Around the dial

We may have a short week, what with the Fourth of July, but that doesn't mean we're short on material here. Follow along to some of the best classic TV writing of the week.

The roll call of the states continues, as Comfort TV continues to run down the classic TV moments associated with each state. The next 10 include a state very near to Minnesota - can you believe an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. set in Iowa? (By the way, it's also one of the few times you'll see a sentence that includes the words "sophisticated" and "Iowa"...)

Classic Film & TV Café ventures into the Perry Mason movie series, with the initial offering, Perry Mason Returns. I've always had mixed feelings about these movies; on the one hand, as Rick says, it is good to see Perry and Della together again, but on the other hand can you actually believe Perry would have taken that judgeship in the first place without bringing Della along? I know it gets in the way of the plot, but asking the viewers to make a tremendous suspension of disbelief at the very outset is not, in my opinion, the best way to get started.

The Twilight Zone Vortex asks us once again to set aside some scientific truths in favor of a story that makes a point, and the result is "The Little People," with Joe Maross as the man who thought he was a god. Hint: ideas like that don't generally turn out very well.

It's Christmas in July at Christmas TV History, and Joanna continues her tradition of asking various TV bloggers a series of questions about their Yuletide favorites. There's a new respondent each day and I'll be participating as well, but in the meantime check out this entry from Donna Bock, which demonstrates the power of wonderful Christmas memories.

Cult TV Blog returns to 1979 and the British parapsychology drama The Omega Factor. I appreciate John's confession that he had to push himself to review this episode ("After Image"), but persevered because it helped him understand the series better. I also like his description of how the episode mirrors the style of the times; another series worth investigating.

While we're on the subject of British TV, Fire Breathing Dimetrodon Time returns to the second season of John Pertwee's Doctor and the episode "Terror of the Autons," featuring not only the aforementioned villain, but the introduction of one of the series' most memorable human villain: The Master.

"Death Scene" is the latest episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour to be reviewed at bare-bones e-zine. I won't tell you the whole story (you'll have to read the review), but unless the victim deserved to be murdered, I can tell you how it should have ended: the killer hears a knock at the door and thinks it's the agent with the check for the life insurance money. Instead, the man says, "Ma'am, my name is Lieutenant Columbo. I hate to bother you at a time like this, but I'm hoping you can help me with a problem I've got..."

I don't know how long it's been since I've thought of the '80s series Crazy Like a Fox, which starred Jack Warden and John Rubenstein in a father-and-son mystery-comedy, but it's been brought back to mind by The Horn Section, reviewing the 1985 episode "Turn of the Century Fox." Did I watch this series? I don't think so, but I do remember it nonetheless.

Television's New Frontier: the 1960s takes a gander at Oscar-winner Shirley Booth's sitcom classic Hazel, based on the Ted Key cartoon character in the Saturday Evening Post about a maid who essentially runs the household. An interesting case to be made here, that the show breaks the stereotypes of the time, by insisting that everyone, regardless of class or position, is worthy of respect.

At Electric Lit, Neil Serven has a terrific article about the days when TV Guide was "the place for smart criticism." You all probably know this already, because I've been browbeating you about it every Saturday, but Serven's article is very good at linking this to how we used to see and consume television, and why we might not be able to do it again even if we wanted to.

One thing you will want to do, though, and that's come back here tomorrow for a look at one of those very TV Guides. TV  


  1. Thanks, Mitchell. I like your alternate ending.

    1. It does put a different spin on things, doesn't it? :)

  2. thanks for the shoutout! 8 episodes in thanks to GetTV, and Crazy Like a Fox is proving to be a fun revisit so far. The comedy team of Jack Warden and John Rubenstein carries it, but there's a great cast list every show. Never understood why CBS went out of their way to destroy a top 10 show, but they made a lot of panicky moves in 1985-86 once it was clear that NBC had displaced them at the top of the mountain.

    1. Personally, I think you could go crazy (not like a fox) trying to figure out what CBS, or any of the other networks, are thinking. Jack Warden was a very good actor - comedy, as in this show, but also tough cop, deeply sympathetic character, and bad guy - all convincingly.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!