TV Comedy


REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


THE PARTNERS. NBC/Universal Studios, in association with don/lee Productions, 1971-72. Cast: Don Adams as Detective Lennie Crooke, Rupert Crosse as Detective George Robinson, John Doucette as Captain Andrews, and Dick van Patten as Sergeant Higgenbottom. Executive Producer: Arne Sultan – Producers: Earl Barret and Lee Wolfberg. Created by Don Adams.

   There are many reasons for a TV series to fail, and many series are doomed from the very start. Sometimes it can be as simple as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Don Adams’ THE PARTNERS was one of those. You could say it missed it by that much.

   Don Adams began as a successful standup comedian, a job he hated. One of his first major acting roles on TV was hotel detective Bryon Glick on THE BILL DANA SHOW. Would you believe that Adams and Bill Dana developed a character that began in Adams standup act and would become TV icon Maxwell Smart? The voice began as part of a comedy bit written by Bill Dana. Adams would mock the famous film scene in THE THIN MAN where the suspects were gathered together so William Powell’s Nick Charles could name the killer.

   From there Adams and Dana evolved the character into Bryon Glick as seen on THE BILL DANA SHOW. A spin-off from MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY, THE BILL DANA SHOW aired on NBC (1963-65) and starred Dana as a hotel busboy and co-starred Jonathan Harris and Gary Crosby.

“Master of Disguise.” April 9, 1964. Written by Bill Persky and Sam Denoff. Directed by Coby Ruskin. Executive Producer:Sheldon Leonard in association with Danny Thomas. Guest Cast: Hilary Wontner. *** Hotels are being robbed so Glick the hotel detective takes on various disguises to catch the thief.

   Adams was not the original choice for Maxwell Smart, Tom Poston was. After ABC rejected the original pilot. NBC was looking for something for Adams who was under contract to the network. Mel Brooks and Buck Henry then adapted Maxwell Smart for Don Adams and his style of comedy.

   GET SMART was a hit for NBC and made Don Adams a star. So when Adams came up with an idea for a TV series, NBC was eager to listen. According to TV.com, in an (unidentified) 2004 interview Adams described his original premise as a cop show with partners similar to the hit film LETHAL WEAPON (1987). Adams would play the white cop not comfortable working with a black partner. THE PARTNERS would deal with the social issues of the day including racism.

   THE PARTNERS would debut in the fall of 1971. ALL IN THE FAMILY had debuted in January 1971, and the style of TV comedy was changing. NBC and Universal Studios agreed to make the series but with a major change – the social commentary Adams wanted was gone and replaced with old style TV comedy featuring two bumbling not too bright cops – one white and one black – solving crimes by accident and driving their boss crazy.

   NBC’s decision is understandable. It was Adams’ voice that made his comedy work, but it is a voice that would mock any attempt at dark comedy or drama. Imagine Don Adams playing Archie Bunker and you can understand why the network and studio wanted Adams to stay close to the character audience loved.

   But Adams wanted to do a serious role (something he never got the chance to do). So while he agreed to a comedy in the style of BILL DANA SHOW and GET SMART he played Detective Sergeant Lennie Crooke straight and without his popular comedic voice. The series needed that voice.

“Waterloo At Napoleon.” October 9 1971. Written by Burt Styler. Directed by Gary Nelson. Guest Cast: Stacy Harris, Pepper Martin, Bob Hastings and Robert Karvelas. *** Lennie and George’s attempt to trap a money launderer goes wrong and messes up the FBI’s plan to catch a kidnapper.

   The comedy had its moments but was too fanciful and silly for where TV comedy was going in the 70s. The future of TV comedy was the edginess of Norman Lear’s ALL IN THE FAMILY (and its spinoffs) to the realistic comedies of M*A*S*H and the MTM sitcoms (MARY TYLER MOORE, BOB NEWHART, etc).

   The cast of THE PARTNERS included Rupert Crosse as Lennie’s partner George. The original choice for George was Godfrey Cambridge. The reason for dropping Cambridge according to Adams and the network was a “lack of chemistry between Adams and Cambridge.” But my guess it had more to do with the change in the premise from socially conscious comedy to old school safe comedy. While the pairing of Adams and Cambridge as cops dealing with issues such as racism may not have succeeded, it would have had a better chance than the watered-down version that made it to air.

   Rupert Crosse was a good comedic actor but both he and Adams played their characters too low-key. Speaking of chemistry, Crosse and Adams never really connected unlike the chemistry Adams had with Bill Dana and GET SMART’s Barbara Feldon.

   John Doucette did well in the all ready TV cliché role as the hot-tempered boss, Captain Andrews. Dick van Patten played the annoying Desk Sergeant Higgenbottom whose dislike for Lennie and George was never funny.

“How Many Carats in a Grapefruit?” October 16, 1971. Teleplay by Arne Sultan and Earl Barret. Story by Ferdinand Leon. Directed by Gary Nelson. Guest Cast: David Huddleston and Juanita Moore. *** Lennie and George arrive at the airport to pick up George’s Mother and unintentionally ruin another cop’s attempt to catch some jewel thieves.

   The production look was cheap and studio bound, something common in 60s comedies, but was quickly being replaced by the three camera comedies of ALL IN THE FAMILY and (to premiere in 1975) BARNEY MILLER and the realistic sets worthy of a drama for M*A*S*H and the MTM comedies.

   THE PARTNERS opening sequence was distinct from the common TV series opening. Each episode would open with a different theme and pictures, then the action would begin. The opening titles would appear slowly through the action, at times not ending until well into the first act. The great Lalo Schifrin (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE) did each theme and the closing theme but the idea proved pointless and not worth the effort.

“Two Or False.” August 1971. Written by Bruce Howard. Directed by Earl Bellamy. Guest Cast: Yvonne Craig. *** A beautiful woman steals jewelry in front of employees of two different jewelry stores. Lennie and George catch her each time but can’t find the jewels.

   This might have been funnier if they hadn’t given away the twist immediately. After we knew how Lennie and George were being tricked, there was little left but old predictable gags like the hallway chase scene.

   There is a wonderful website called Classic Showbiz. It has a collection of incredible interviews with some of the people who worked during the 50s/60s era of nightclubs and TV comedies. Kliph Nesteroff has a talent for getting great stories from people such as Bernie Kopell, Dick Cavatt, Bill Persky, Sherwood Schwartz, Jack Carter, Bill Dana and more.

   Several of the interviews mention Don Adams. Dick Gautier would only talk about Adams off the record while Buck Henry raved about Adams. Adams was a likable man to many while others hated to work with him.

   For this review I will just highlight some of the dark side of Adams. For those who seek more information I recommend the two following posts by Nesteroff.

      http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2007/05/would_you_belie.html

      http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2014/08/television-comedy-in-the-early-1960s-by-kliph-nesteroff.html

   Adams was a successful standup comic who was a notorious joke thief, yet one of his most famous victims, Bob Newhart, became his friend and attended Don Adams memorial. In Newhart’s autobiography (I SHOULDN’T EVEN BE DOING THIS, Hachette, 2006), he wrote about how Adams’ widow asked him to tell the story about Adams stealing part of Newhart’s classic submarine commander bit.

   Adams hated being a standup comedian. He considered getting laughs for a living humiliating. An unhappy man Adams main love was gambling, and because of his gambling he often had to fly to Las Vegas on a moments notice to do his standup act to pay off his gambling debts.

   NBC would regret not doing Adams original premise. Ironically CBS shifted ALL IN THE FAMILY to a new time slot in the Fall 1971-72 season opposite THE PARTNERS. Socially relevant comedy ALL IN THE FAMILY was the number one show on TV for the 1971-72 season and for the five seasons after. ABC’s light-hearted comedy/music GETTING TOGETHER did not fare any better than THE PARTNERS.

   THE PARTNERS aired a total of twenty episodes. The series premiered September 18, 1971 on Saturday at 8:00-8:30 and remained in that time slot until January 8,1972 when the cancelled series left the air. The series returned July 28 1972 and aired the rest of the unaired episodes through September 8, 1972 on Friday at 8pm as a summer fill-in for SANFORD AND SON. There was a TV movie CONFESSIONS OF A TOP CRIME BUSTER (UNIVERSAL, 1971), complied from THE PARTNERS episodes but I have been unable to find its original airdate or what episodes were used.

REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


JANE. BBC 2, 1982-84. Glynis Barbera as Jane Gay, Robin Bailey as Colonel Henry, Max Wall as Tombs, Dean Allen as Georgie Porgie, and Suzanne Danielle as Lola Pagola. Written by Mervyn Haisman; based on the long-running British The Daily Mirror comic strip “Jane” by Norman Pett. Title song written and performed by Neil Innes. Graphic Design Director: Graham McCallum. Illustrations: Paul Birkbeck. Producer Ian Keill. Directed by Andrew Gosling.

   JANE was an odd and dated series even when it first aired in 1982. Jane Gay was a cheerful innocent blonde beauty whose love for adventure always resulted with Jane trying to save the day while wearing nothing but her underwear. Her loyal companion was her dog Fritz, a dachshund (aka wiener-dog).

   JANE was based on a popular British comic strip created by Norman Pett, the comic strip JANE (aka JANE’S JOURNAL, OR THE DIARY OF A BRIGHT YOUNG THING) ran exclusive in The Daily Mirror from December 5, 1932 to October 10, 1959.

   Jane has been adapted to other forms. Chrystabel Leighton-Porter played Jane in a burlesque stage play in the 1940s that traveled Britain entertaining the troops and town people during WWII. Leighton-Porter also played Jane in a 1949 film, THE ADVENTURES OF JANE directed by Edward G. Whiting. A 1987 movie JANE AND THE LOST CITY starred Kirsten Hughes and was directed by Terry Marcel.

   The humor was juvenile, sexist and full of double entendres. The most unique aspect of the TV series was the settings. The actors performed in front of a green screen. Later a drawn background to resemble a comic strip background was added. The result featured an unusual look of the real actors performing within comic strip-like panels.

   The TV adaptation was an hour long made up of five ten minute long episodes. The YouTube video of JANE has merged all five episodes together. There would be a second series two years later in 1984 called JANE IN THE DESERT.

   Popular British actress Glynis Barber starred as Jane. Barber is better known for playing the strong independent roles of Soolin in Series Four of cult science fiction BLAKE’S 7 (1981) and Police Sgt. Harriet Makepeace in successful cop show DEMPSEY AND MAKEPEACE (1985-86). Jane was certainly a different type of woman for Barber to play, much to her credit Barber excelled in all three roles.

   Set during WWII the story begins when Colonel Henry ask Jane to join him on a secret mission. The two are to meet a Professor in a haunted mansion. Before they can find the Professor they learn there is a Nazi spy in the area. Luckily for England, even stripped to her underwear does not stop Jane from fighting off Nazis and the Colonel’s advances.

   JANE is a good example of a form of entertainment rarely seen today. That is a shame in a way. Jane was a determined woman who refused to let the limits she faced in that era’s culture stop her from experiencing a life of adventure. The men were all idiots for never seeing Jane as more than an object. Wisely, Jane willingly sacrificed her modesty for good of the entire free world — a job jolly well done.


REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


RUN, BUDDY, RUN. CBS, 1966-67. Talent Associates in association with CBS Television Studios. Cast: Jack Sheldon as Buddy Overstreet, Bruce Gordon as Mr. D. and Jim Connell as Junior. Created by Leonard Stern. Theme by Jerry Fielding.

   Successful TV producer Leonard Stern produced both the successful spy spoof Get Smart, and The Fugitive spoof Run, Buddy, Run. The two series were much alike but with very different results. Get Smart would become on of TV’s most memorable series, while Run, Buddy, Run has been long forgotten.

   Jazz musician Buddy Overstreet (Jack Sheldon) accidentally overhears a mob boss (Bruce Gordon) discuss “Operation Chicken Little,” a plan to kill an unnamed person. Buddy is discovered and makes a run for it. With the mob close behind, Buddy runs from town to town looking for a place he can be safe or until he can find out more about “Chicken Little” and prove to the cops he needs protection.

   Jack Sheldon began as a successful trumpet player in the West Coast jazz movement during the 1950s. He was a regular on The Merv Griffin Show for many years. Shelton has worked as a singer. He sang for the ABC-TV series Schoolhouse Rock (“Conjunction Junction” and “I’m Just a Bill”). He has done voice work on The Simpsons and Family Guy. There is a documentary about him, Trying to Get Good: The Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon.

   A better musician than actor, Sheldon has appeared on old forgotten series The Cara Williams Show and The Girl with Something Extra. On Run, Buddy, Run, Sheldon makes Buddy likeable and an average guy the audience can root for, but he is not good enough to rise above the hit-and-miss writing.

   The series villain was well cast. Bruce Gordon a successful character actor best known as Frank Nitti in The Untouchables (1959-1963) played Mr. D., the head of the mob. At his side was his young son Junior played well by Jim Connell.

   Run, Buddy, Run could not outrun a quick cancellation but lasted long enough to air thirteen episodes. Airing Monday at 8:00 -8:30pm, Buddy would finish last in the ratings versus NBC’s I Dream of Jeannie and the last half-hour of ABC’s Iron Horse. It didn’t help that the three series that followed Buddy in CBS’s Monday night lineup — The Lucy Show, The Andy Griffith Show and Family Affair – finished in the top 15 for ratings.

“Steambath and Chicken Little.” (9/12/66) Written by Mel Tolkin and Ernie Chambers. Directed by Leonard Stern. Produced by David Susskind, David Melnick and Leonard Stern. Guest Cast: Bernie Kopell, Malcolm Atterbury, and Laurel Goodwin. *** Jazz musician Buddy Overstreet accidently overhears plans for a mob hit but is discovered. He escapes and now is on the run from the mob that wants him dead.

   On the run, he ends up in Rockford, Illinois helping a nice young woman and her sick father try to save their gas station from bankruptcy.

       Part One:

       Part Two:

       Part Three:


   The humor had its moments but was more often ruined by a lack of believability. While Get Smart is much better, Run, Buddy, Run is a good example of the silly stupid humor of the American TV comedy in the 60s.

   You can read more about the series at the TVParty website:
http://www.tvparty.com/recrunbuddy.html

SELECTED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


The TV series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is not to my taste but the musical clips from the CW TV series on YouTube are great. From “Sexy French Depression” to my new favorite “I’m the Villain in My Own Story,” the music tempts me to actually watch the show.

The series may be last in Nielsen ratings, but it has been renewed for a second season. Here is “I’m the Villain in My Own Story,” written by Adam Schlesinger and series star Rachel Bloom and performed by Rachel Bloom and Gabrielle Ruiz.

REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


THE ADVENTURES OF HIRAM HOLLIDAY. California National Presentations, filmed for NBC, 1956-57. Based on the stories by Paul Gallico. Cast: Wally Cox as Hiram Holliday and Ainslie Pryor as Joel Smith. Produced by Philip Rapp.

THE ADVENTURES OF HIMAN HOLLIDAY

    The Adventures of Hiram Holliday is an amusing action spoof. The plots leaned to the absurd such as when Hiram stopped some foreign spies from turning Pearl Harbor to ice (“Hawaiian Humzah”). The humor was gentle and often based on misunderstanding or the odd image of Wally Cox as an action hero to rival Errol Flynn.

   The screen credit and announcer tells us the series was “based on stories by Paul Gallico.” Which is odd since The Adventures of Hiram Holliday was published as a book in 1939. More confusing is Billboard (May 12, 1956), reported the TV series was based on stories from the Saturday Evening Post. Paul Gallico was writing stories for that magazine during the fifties, so perhaps Hiram appeared as a serial in the Saturday Evening Post.

   Hiram Holliday was the copy editor for the newspaper New York Chronicle. Hiram catches an error that could have bankrupted the paper in libel charges. The grateful publisher Harrison Prentice sends Hiram on a trip around the world accompanied by reporter Joel Smith. On the way Hiram and Joel share one strange adventure after another with Hiram always the hero in the end and Joel failing for one reason or another to get the story published.

THE ADVENTURES OF HIMAN HOLLIDAY

   Wally Cox carried the show with his ability to make the absurd character of Hiram believable. It is Cox that makes the series funny and worth watching. He underplays the character, reacting to danger with a confident calmness. In one episode Hiram enters his room to find the femme fatale waiting for him. The room had been trashed and thoroughly searched. She tells Hiram she had been waiting for him. Hiram looked around and calmly replied he was glad she found something to do while waiting.

   The rest of the cast were limited by one-note characters of dubious logic and were played by actors of various talents, from Sebastian Cabot to Thor Johnson (aka Tor Johnson). Publisher Prentice (Thurston Hall) existed to scream at Joel. The mastermind would make mistake after mistake while blaming it all on his henchman or femme fatale. The femme fatales existed to seduce Hiram.

THE ADVENTURES OF HIMAN HOLLIDAY

   Each episode would begin with Hiram and Joel entering a new country. Hiram’s interest was always in scientific and academic challenges. In Hawaii, he wanted to visit a Professor to study a lost consonant of the language. In Hong Kong, Hiram’s quest was for the rare sea cucumber.

   Quickly, Hiram would stumble into an adventure while Joel was usually off somewhere eating. For reasons unexplained the misused laugh track thought Joel eating was hilarious, making it a bad running gag.

   Villains arrive, usually made up of a mastermind, femme fatale, and a henchman. Through comedic misunderstanding the bad guys believe they have to get rid of Hiram. Hiram innocence and complete honesty is disbelieved and he has to turn into an action hero, from fighting atop a speeding train to performing some feat such as a carnival high dive act that he had never done before but had read about.

   Ainslie Pryor failed to rise over the thankless role of Hiram’s traveling companion and best friend, Joel Smith who at times broke the fourth wall to talk to us. It was a difficult role. His character spent much of the time clueless and existed for Hiram to rescue or to take the brunt of the blame from the authorities for many of the misunderstanding that revolved around Hiram. In “Wrong Rembrandt.” Hiram had painted such a perfect copy of a Rembrandt the French police arrested Joel for art theft.

THE ADVENTURES OF HIMAN HOLLIDAY

   Production values were fine considering the era. Philip Rapp produced the series and wrote and directed many of the episodes. The show was funny but after a few episodes the situations became repetitive and the humor grew tired. How often can you laugh at Hiram winning swordfights with his umbrella?

   The series followed Wally Cox’s successful turn as Mr.Peepers. But that success didn’t carry over to Hiram Holliday. General Foods was the sponsor of The Adventures of Hiram Holliday and quickly regretted it.

    Hiram Holliday premiered October 3, 1956 on Wednesday at 8-8:30pm (Eastern). In Billboard (October 13,1956), according to rating service Trendex, NBC’s Hiram received a 11.4 compared to ABC’s Disneyland with 19.2 and CBS’s >Arthur Godfrey Show with 14.2.

THE ADVENTURES OF HIMAN HOLLIDAY

   Billboard (January 1, 1956) discussed some of the TV series in trouble. Shows the sponsors were unhappy with but had given a 26 episodes or 52 episodes commitment. This included General Food and Adventures of Hiram Holliday.

   January 28, 1957 issue of Broadcasting reported, “General Foods, N.Y. will drop its sponsorship of Hiram Holiday (sic) on NBC-TV, Wed. 8-8:30pm, and will become instead the alternate week sponsor of Wells Fargo (Monday, 8:30-9pm) effective March 18th.”

   On February 27, 1957, the twentieth episode of the series to air was the last on NBC. Reportedly, three more episodes were showed in England during syndication, leaving 23 episodes apparently filmed.

   Various episodes of the Adventures of Hiram Holliday are available on low budget DVD.

   And on You Tube, at the moment, is the episode, “Moroccan Hawk Moth.”

REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK


ANDY BARKER PI

ANDY BARKER, P.I. NBC. Red Pulley Production. Conaco, NBC-Universal. Cast: Andy Richter as Andy Barker, Clea Lewis as Jenny Barker, Harve Presnell as Lew Staziak, Tony Hale as Simon, Marshall Manesh as Wally. Created by Conan O’Brien and Jonathan Groff. Music by Adam Cohen. Directed by Jason Ensler.

   Episodes are available on DVD and downloading sites, as well as at Hulu.com where they can be watched for free.

   While Barney Miller remains the greatest ever TV detective comedy, Andy Barker, P.I. may hold that title for TV PIs. But then consider the competition. Generally PI comedies featured a lucky idiot PI (The Michael Richards Show), parodies (Ace Crawford, Private Eye) or gimmicks (Small & Frye, with a six inch PI). What made Andy Barker different was he was a good and dedicated professional at both jobs, CPA and PI.

ANDY BARKER PI

   Andy lives in a nice middle class home in Fair Oaks, California, with his happy supportive wife and young children. He is a kind, well-mannered, nice guy with a natural talent for solving murders and tax forms. Richter is near perfect as he played his typical role of an average man quick to accept and deal with any strange thing happening around him.

   Andy opened his new accounting business in a local outdoor mall. His first client is a femme fatale looking for help from the office’s former occupant, PI Lew Staziak. Out of boredom and with no other clients, Andy checks out her story. He visits Lew who has retired to a rest home. But after Andy solves the case, Lew decides to keep working as a PI and will from then on take for granted Andy’s help. Lew is as nuts as he is violent.

ANDY BARKER PI

   Andy’s new business neighbors are not much more stable. Under Andy’s second floor office is “Video Riot”, a video store run by film buff Simon who thinks of himself as Andy’s PI partner. The mall’s restaurant is “Afghan Kebabs” run by Wally an immigrant who, after 9/11, changed his name and covered his restaurant in patriotic American décor with his surveillance camera hidden in the head of a Richard Nixon bust.

   The writing uses the contrast between the fictional PI lifestyle versus reality as a basis for some delightful off beat humor. For example, the cliché plot device of a time limit such as a bomb set to go off at midnight. In “Dial M For Laptop,” Andy has only until midnight to find his stolen laptop with his father-in-law’s tax return or miss the tax deadline (trust me, it’s visually funnier than it reads).

   This was a bad time for NBC. The network had reached new heights in its ability to keep any possible success away from any of their series. Andy Barker, P.I. was too quirky to attract a large audience, but to set it up against events such as NCAA Final Four tournament, and very popular series such as CSI and Grey’s Anatomy was one of NBC’s dumber moves.

         EPISODE INDEX:

ANDY BARKER PI

“Pilot” (3/22/07, Thursday 9:30-10pm) Written by Conan O’Brien and Jonathan Groff. Guest Cast: Vanessa Branch, Gary Anthony Williams, Steve Cell, and Nicole Randall Johnson

   Andy Barker, CPA, opens his new business office in a small outdoor mall, but he finds himself helping a client who mistakes him for the office’s former occupant, a hardboiled PI.

Ratings: 6 share versus ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy (23), CBS’s NCAA Basketball tournament (10) and Fox’s rerun of Family Guy (5).

“Fairway My Lovely” (3/22/07, Thursday (9:30-10pm) Written by Alex Herschlag and Jane Espenson. Guest Cast: Peter Allen Vogt, Margaret Easley, and Nicole Randall Johnson

   When Andy’s gross and massively overweight client dies on a golf course, everyone assumes it was a heart attack, except the man’s wife who hires Andy to prove the man’s mistress killed him.

Ratings: 5 share versus ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy (22), CBS’s NCAA Basketball tournament (13), and Fox’s American Dad (4).

“Three Days of the Chicken” (3/29/07, Thursday 9:30-10pm) Written by Gail Lerner. Guest Cast: Brian McNamara, Terry Rhoades, Ben Falcone, and Boogie.

   Andy helps Wally who is being shaken down by an evil Chicken cartel.

Ratings: 4 share versus CBS’s CSI (22), ABC’s rerun Grey’s Anatomy (10), and Fox’s rerun Family Guy (5).

“Dial M For Laptop” (4/5/07, Thursday 10-10:30pm) Written by Chuck Tatham. Guest Cast: David Huddleston, Traci Lords, and Frank Santorelli.

   Andy’s laptop is stolen when Lew’s plan to help a victim of blackmail leaves Andy unknowingly in the middle.

Ratings: 4 share versus CBS’s Shark (17) and ABC’s October Road (9).

“The Big No Sleep” (4/14/07, Saturday at 8-8:30pm) Written by Josh Bycel. Guest Cast: Jesse L. Martin, Nestor Carbonell, and Kim Coates.

   Lew expects Andy’s help in revealing a woman to be a fraud and adulteress, but Andy has trouble at home. His baby daughter refuses to sleep until he finds her missing stuffed toy, Snowball.

Ratings: 3 share versus CBS’s Cold Case rerun (9), Fox’s Cops (6), and ABC’S Saturday Night Movie (Shark, 2004) (6)

“The Lady Vanishes” (4/14/07, Saturday at 8:30-9pm) Written by Jon Ross. Guest Cast: Ed Asner, Amy Sedaris, and James Hong.

   Andy finds a decades old lost letter from Lew’s ex-lover claiming she was framed for the murder of her gangster lover. Andy looks into the case, leading to the return of Lew’s evil former partner, Mickey.

Ratings: 3 share versus (CBS’s Cold Case rerun (9), Fox’s second Cops (7), and ABC’S Saturday Night Movie (6).

Source for ratings: TVTango.com

REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


DANGER MOUSE

DANGER MOUSE. Animated. Episodes of five to twenty five minutes each. UK: 1981 through 1992. US: Nickelodeon premiered June 4, 1984. Cosgrove Hall Films. Thames Television. Created by Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall.   Voice Cast: Danger Mouse (David Jason), Penfold (Terry Scott), Colonel K (Edward Kelsey), Baron Silas Greenback (Edward Kelsey), Stiletto (Brian Trueman), Isambard Sinclair (David Jason), Nero (David Jason’s voice sped up). Available on DVD.   Recommended: The shorter episodes on YouTube over the longer ones available on Hulu.com and IMDB.com.

DANGER MOUSE

    “He’s the greatest. – He’s fantastic. – Wherever there is danger he’ll be there. – He’s the Ace. – He’s amazing. – He’s the strongest, he’s the quickest, he’s the best! Danger Mouse…” (Theme sung by Sheila Gott.)

    This action hero/spy comedy will appeal to all ages. The animation is limited, cheap, and guilty of reusing too much stock footage, but it also has a visually pleasing look and adds enough visual gags to be forgiven for its shortcomings.

DANGER MOUSE

    The writing is top notch British silly, not unlike Monty Python. Parody and satire is common and not limited to the obvious targets of Bond and John Drake (Danger Man). Bad jokes and silly puns are there as well for the kid in all of us, though I guess children could watch this cartoon as well.

    The character are well defined and funny. The narrator Isambard Sinclair introduces the story, explains things to the audience to keep the action moving, and occasionally asks questions at the end spoofing the narrators of old serials.

    The good guys are lead by Danger Mouse. DM is a white mouse with an eye patch that goes well with his white jumpsuit that has DM monogrammed over his left breast. He is everything his theme song claims he is and more. His sidekick Penfold is a daft, but loyal hamster, codenamed “Jigsaw” because he always falls to pieces.

DANGER MOUSE

    Colonel K is head of a secret organization and gives Danger Mouse his assignments. There is some question over what animal Colonel K is, a chinchilla or walrus (like it matters).

    The villains are lead by DM’s archenemy Blofeld … oops, I mean … Baron Silas Greenback, the fiendish frog, the terrible toad, whose only wish is to take over the world or kill Danger Mouse so he can take over the world. Filling the role of insane villain’s pet is Nero a fluffy white caterpillar. Stiletto is a crow, an idiot, and the Baron’s top henchman.

DANGER MOUSE

    DM and Penfold live in a red pillar-box near Sherlock Holmes on Baker Street. As any proper spy of that era, Danger Mouse has a special car. The Mark III can do a variety of things including fly.

    The plots the Baron creates to take over the world illustrates the series’ absurdist humor. In “Who Stole the Bagpipes?” bagpipes are sheep-like creatures grazing in Scotland. The Baron rustles ten thousand bagpipes to build a sonic weapon capable of destroying cities.

    “Lord of the Bungle” has the Baron turning elephants into sugar cubes so when heads of state all over the world put the sugar cubes into their tea the elephant will reappear and squash the government leader.

DANGER MOUSE

    My favorite is “The Dream Machine” when Danger Mouse and Pedfold are trapped in the Baron’s dream machine where surreal is reality, the impossible possible, and Penfold’s thoughts turn into visual puns.

    If you are willing to overcome the misguided prejudice that cartoons are just for kids, give this a try. Or find some child to watch it with. Neither of you will regret it.

   SOURCES:

        Wikipedia
        Cosgrove Hall Ate My Brain
        DangerMouse.org

REVIEWED BY STAN BURNS:


SLINGS AND ARROWS

SLINGS AND ARROWS. Season One, 2003. Six episodes x 60m. Movie Central/The Movie Network, Canada; Sundance, US (2005). Paul Gross, Martha Burns, Stephen Ouimette, Susan Coyne, Don McKellar, Mark McKinney, Oliver Dennis.

   I have just finished the first of three series of these (six hour shows each series). Basically this is a comedy with dramatic elements that takes place during a Shakespeare festival in Canada, and deals with vain and backstabbing actors, corporate sponsorship (they want to dump Shakespeare and put on “uplifting” shows like Mama Mia!), commercialism, and all the other stuff that goes on in a small provincial acting company.

   At times I found them achingly funny, at sad moments compellingly moving. One of the characters is run over by a truck taking pigs to the slaughterhouse in the first episode (a hammy ex-actor whose is the festival’s artistic director).

SLINGS AND ARROWS

   His ghost (Banquo’s ghost?) comes back to haunt the new interim artistic director of the festivalan actor whose Hamlet is considered one of the finest ever presented on stage, but was only seen by a only few as he had a nervous breakdown during the fourth performance and hasn’t acted in six years.

   Considering how positive the reviews have been for Slings and Arrows, I am surprised I have never heard of it before. (In fact one of the reviews starts out this is the best series you have never heard of.) Produced for Canadian television, it was shown here only on the Sundance Channel, which I have never gotten.

   While it is a little slow to start (a lot of characters and background are introduced in the first episode), by the middle of the second episode this “play within a play” had me rolling on the floor.

SLINGS AND ARROWS

   The first series is terrific, and the reviews say the second and third are even better. I am standing by my mailbox waiting for the next installment.

   Terrific writing by people involved in Canadian theater, excellent acting – one of the stars is a young Rachael McAdams before she was “discovered” by Hollywood and went on to make Mean Girls and The Notebook in the next few years.

Series One rating: A.