TV Comedy


DUFFY’S TAVERN “Archie Gets Engaged.” CBS-East Coast/Syndicated. 31 August 1954 (Season 1, Episode 18.) [I am using Martin Gram’s log for this information.]  Ed Gardner (Archie), Pattee Chapman (Miss Duffy), Alan Reed (Finnegan), Jimmy Conlin. Recurring: Veda Ann Borg (Peaches La Tour). Guest Cast: Barbara Morrison. …

   “Hello, Duffy’s Tavern, where the elite meet to eat. Archie the manager speakin’. Duffy ain’t here — oh, hello, Duffy.”

   Duffy’s Tavern, very much a one-man operation, that of creator, director, writer, producer and star Ed Gardner, was a long running radio for many years (1941-51), a movie (Ed Gardner’s Duffy’s Tavern, 1945) before a one season run (26 episodes) in 1954 co-produced by Hal Roach, Jr.

   While the radio show was noted for its well-known guest stars every week, the radio show was a bare bones operation, with very little movement outside of the tavern itself. “Archie Gets Engaged” was in all likelihood not the official title of this particular episode, but it is what it is generallyl known by. It can be seen here.

   It begins with Archie thinking of matrimony, and in particular with a stripper he knows by the name of Peaches La Tour (the most delightfully voluptuous Veda Ann Borg). Being more interested in monetary matters than love, she most sensibly turns him down, since love is all he has to offer. Being so emphatically turned down in such a fashion, Archie decides to bite the bullet and proposes instead to the very rich (and not nearly as voluptuous) Mrs. Van Clyde (Barbara Morrison) instead.

   The complications that follow are amusing, but not laugh-out-loud funny, except for Alan Reed’s slapstick portrayal of the slow-witted Finngan, one of the tavern’s regular habitues. (Possibly not an acceptable character today, but allow me this indulgence. I grew up when a lot of comedy was built around the antics of The Three Stooges, Lou Costello, Red Skelton, Jerry Lewis, and so on.)

   Another aspect of the show was the use of well-mangled wordplay. In the opening conversation Archie has on the phone with Duffy, he asks the latter for his advice on “maritime” relations. Talking about the chances that Peaches will accept his proposal, he says he’s not sure she will accept him or not, “With a dame like that, things are on one minute, off the next.”

   The jokes and the reactions to them are reflected by a lot of exaggerated eye-rolling. Worse, from my point of view, is the fact that Ed Gardner, never the greatest of actors, was an aging 53 when the TV series was filmed, and it shows. The show was meant for radio. As a television series, it may be best to call it a relic of its era and leave it at that.
   

BLANDINGS. “Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey.” BBC One, 30 minutes, 13 January 2013. (Season 1, Episode 1.) Timothy Spall (Clarence Threepwood, 9th Earl of Emsworth), Jennifer Saunders (Lady Constance Keeble), Jack Farthing (The Hon. Frederick Threepwood), Mark Williams (Sebastian Beach). Guest Cast: Alice Orr-Ewing, Brendan Patricks, James Norton. Screenplay by Guy Andrews, based on the story of the same title by P. G. Wodehouse, which first appeared in the US in the 09 July 1927 issue of Liberty, and in the United Kingdom in the August 1927 Strand.; included the collection Blandings Castle and Elsewhere (1935) Director: Paul Seed.

   Even in the short running time of only 30 minutes there are two subplots pulled off to perfection in this, the opening episode of a two season run of this recent British TV series. In print, Blandings Castle was the setting for eleven novels and nine short stories. Although in my younger years I was an avid reader of P. G. Wodehouse, I don’t remember specifics of many of them. Jeeves, yes, but Blandings, no.

   So I came to the TV version with the equivalent of a blank slate, with neither preconceptions to be dashed, nor with hopes to be wished for, but oh so seldom confirmed. Let me state from the start, though, so as to not keep you in any kind of doubt, that I enjoyed this one immensely.

   In this opening salvo the most appropriately potty Lord Emsworth has two problems on his hands. First, his prize pig Empress of Blandings, has stopping eating. By no coincidence, Emsworth’s pigman, Wellbeloved, is confined for the next two weeks in prison. And this just before the 87th annual Shropshire Agricultural Show.

   This small problem may be solvable, when Jimmy Belford, fresh from the American West and Emsworth’s niece’s choice of wedding material, against Emsworth’s sister Constance’s express wishes, demonstrates an universal pig call that will save the day.

   Complicated? Yes. Funny? Another definite yes. And beautifully photographed as well, filmed on location at Crom Castle in Northern Ireland. I made it through only two episodes of Downton Abbey, at which point I decided that this oh-so elegant soap opera (but still soap opera) was not for me. With my sense of humor obviously showing, my antidote of choice, as I’ve just discovered, is Blandings, and by a huge margin. The thirty minutes simply flew by.


MR. ADAMS AND EVE “The Mothers.” CBS, 15 March 1957 ( Season 1 Episode 6). 30 min. Howard Duff, Ida Lupino, Olive Carey. Guest Cast: Lee Patrick, Olive Blakeney, Walter Woolf King. Written by Sol Saks, Bernard Ederer & Robert White, based on characters created by Collier Young. Director: Richard Kinon.

   The premise of this 30 minute comedy show was that Ida Lupino and Howard Duff, movie stars in real life, would play a married couple who were also movie stars, but concentrating on their life at home (which of course often overlaps their professional lives as well).

   I don’t know how I happened to be thinking about this series, but it somehow came to mind as a very funny show that was on while I was in high school. I didn’t think anyone else would remember it, but I went looking and of all things, I found several episodes to see for free on YouTube.

   

   I may have picked the wrong one to watch In this one, it accidentally happens that both Howard’s ad Eve’s mothers end up staying with them at the same time. As they are quite opposites in nature (Eve’s mother has been in show business for quite some time, Howard’s mother from Washington state and is rather naive about big city ways), they expect the worst.

   As it turns out the two mothers find themselves fighting over the same man. Pot roast comes into it as well, and it is up to the maid of the house (Olive Carey) to finally straighten things out.

   I may have had a crush on Ida Lupino at the time, or why else would I have remembered this show so well for all these years? This is the least funny comedy episode I can ever recall watching. The script is so lame the actors have to resort to exaggerated facial expressions and other gestures of the head to to give their lines any oomph. Not even the laugh track can find anything funny in this one, not even to giggle at. This was, to say the least, disappointing. There are times when you really can’t go home again.


THE ADDAMS FAMILY “Halloween with the Addams Family.” 30 October 1964 (season 1, episode 7). Carolyn Jones, John Astin, Jackie Coogan, Ted Cassidy. Guest starring Skip Homeier and Don Rickles.

   ”Nice knife. Can I play autopsy with it?”


BOSTON LEGAL “Head Cases.” ABC, 60 min. Season 1, Episode 1. 03 October 2004. James Spader (Alan Shore), William Shatner (Denny Crane), Rhona Mitra, Lake Bell, Mark Valley, Rene Auberjonois, Monica Potter. Created by David E. Kelley. Director: Bill D’Elia.

   William Shatner will be known for now and forever as Captain James Kirk of the starship Enterprise, but I think that totally irreverent hotshot Boston lawyer Denny Crane is the role he was always meant to play. His view of things is that he’s still at the top of his game, but in this first episode of Boston Legal, his underlings and associates are beginning to wonder if he’s still up to the job.

   This series had a large ensemble cast, and since some of the players came over from a preceding series called The Practice, which I never saw (and in fact this is the first time I’ve seen an episode of this series), it took me a while to put together who was who and what connection they may have to each other.

   There are a quite a few cases the firm is working on as well, beginning with the head of the local office coming to a staff meeting sans pants (nor undershorts) and being carried away strapped down in a stretcher. The two major ones are (1) a major client of the firm demanding that a PI be hired to follow his wife. Denny refuses, for good reason. He’s the one who’s sleeping with the wife. And (2) the mother of a young black girl wants to sue a theatrical company for not choosing her to play the part of Annie.

   James Spader is the first name in the cast listing, but it took me until I’d seen the second episode, not otherwise reviewed here, to understand how essential he is to the show’s chemistry. His unflappable refusal to ever be outwitted in a battle of words, in the office as well as in the courtroom, is a wonder to behold.

   By the way, I consider this a comedy, an extremely sophisticated one, but if you were to have been watching me watch this show and listening to me laugh out loud several times, and smile all of the rest of the time, you would know exactly what I mean. I also do not know how true this is in the real world, but not only are all of the women in this series knockout attractive, they’re wonderful actors too.

   It looks like I may be watching this series several nights a week for some time to come.


TV IN 2019: PART TWO –
BROADCAST AND CABLE NETWORKS
by Michael Shonk


   Comparing the broadcast and cable networks to the streaming services is like comparing cassette tapes to CD. Both have entertaining content, it is just the formats are different.

   The broadcast networks are fading dinosaurs, no longer a place where mass audiences gather on a daily basis. Cable networks are doomed to be devoured by the streaming world that features original programming as well as the programs of the cable networks.

   TV has changed in so many ways. Because of devices such as Apple TV, Roku TV, and Amazon’s Firestick you can watch nearly all of cable TV without cable and even without a TV set. TV has left the living room and is following you, waiting to fetch for you whatever and whenever you want to watch. Part One of this two part survey looked at the streaming services, so now it is the broadcasting and cable networks turn.

   With the exception of some time as the top rated network in the 1970s-80s, ABC has never gotten much respect. Having been born during the radio days as a rib off NBC, ABC tends to get treated like third in line. Things have not improved since Disney bought them.

   ABC’s announced goal for the 2019-20 season is to finish first among women. One reason is they have to share most of the sports with their Disney family brother ESPN. ABC has also found success in the past with the women market and in today’s diversity culture women are in increasing demand.

   ABC shows have a real problem writing male characters that men want to watch. ABC’s best dramas tend to feature a gorgeous independent likeable female lead. The problem is few of their series characters are likable or deep enough for the audience to care. The writing focuses on emotion over plots and romance over action. Shows such as TAKE TWO and WHISKEY CAVALIER are good examples of this.

   I do have hopes for two of ABC announced new series. REEF BREAK airs this month. It stars Poppy Montgomery (UNFORGETTABLE) as an ex-thief turned trouble-shooter for a tropical island government.

   The broadcast networks new fall series I most look forward to is ABC ‘s STUMPTOWN. Based on a comic book, the story is about a gorgeous wise cracking kick ass female PI. How could I resist after watching this trailer?

   Not so long ago CBS’s future looked bright. It had defeated the evil conglomerate Viacom and had won its freedom. But there were problems. CBS’ powerful successful ruthless womanizing media mogul Les Moonves had faced down Viacom but would be crushed by a bunch of women and the rising power of the me-too movement. Only CBS stockholders were sorry to see Moonves leave, and they had to watch in horror as Viacom began to rise and turn its eyes back on them.

   CBS may continue to attract the most viewers on linear TV, but such numbers mean less and less. Those at CBS remain clueless about diversity. Diversity is not taking your ancient series format and change the white guy to a woman or minority.

   CBS made a big deal out of Alan Cummings playing a gay man in INSTINCT but didn’t bother to update its tired format. The formula has one strange unconventional male paired with an over serious all business female cop and they solve crimes together. This summer INSTINCT returns and if you like old-fashioned procedurals, it is worth a peek, if you are bored with TV from the 20th century, CBS is not for you.

   The best thing CBS has going for it is the showrunnners Michelle and Robert King who have blessed the unworthy network with THE GOOD WIFE and THE GOOD FIGHT. Ok, they also created the hideous failure BRAIN DEAD. CBS is hoping EVIL, a show about a Catholic Assessor and a non-believing profiler joining forces to fight psychopaths, is one of the King’s good shows.

   Among the cable networks owned by CBS are SHOWTIME and POP TV. POP TV is best known for SCHITT’S CREEK. The Canadian sitcom and cult TV favorite has been renewed for its sixth season. Also on the network are FLORIDA GIRLS (comedy about four girls in a Florida small town) and FLACK (comedy about public relations).

   CW has its own measurement for success rather than Nielsen’s live ratings. They are not alone. Because there is no accepted metric for digital viewing, every network and many of the media buyers (advertisers) have their own set of numbers beyond Nielsen’s. When the totals are as small as TV has gotten, how many mean less than who, what, where and devotion to content/product.

   CW was a merger of UPN (Paramount) and WB (Warner Brothers). CBS and Warner co-own CW and supply nearly all its programs. Perhaps my biggest question about CW this fall is are they going to weird out Nancy Drew like they did to Archie in RIVERDALE? The trailer is inconclusive.

   Today’s FOX is a pale version of itself when it was the number one rated TV network. Disney swallowed up most of FOX, leaving just the broadcast TV network, Fox News cable networks, and Fox sports. Fox is saving most of its original scripted series for the midseason. Meanwhile, it is mainly games shows this summer and sports this fall. Perhaps its most successful original scripted series this fall will be WWE pro wrestling. For drama fans this fall offers PRODIGAL SON (serial killer Dad wants son to join the family business), and 9-1-1 has Jennifer Love Hewitt joining the cast.

   The technology of today is able to create extremely detailed analytics and it has changed television as much as sabermetrics has changed baseball.

   Hollywood REPORTER (May 20, 2019) discussed commercial television with some media buyers, “Buyers also expressed a collective eye roll at the emphasis on total viewers…But even the so called sweet-spot of viewers 18-49 has become an antiquated benchmark.”

   So NBC winning the 18-49 means little and all the media coverage of Nielsen’s live ratings mean even less.

   Bob Greenblat who had taken NBC from a laughing stock to respected network left NBC to run part of the WarnerMedia streaming service.

   Today NBC has the best fiction among the broadcast networks. An NBC show is more interested in the heart, more interested in examining the characters than who done it.

   Supernatural cop series THE INBETWEEN currently airing is a good example. Every character has a sob story for depth. I have seen two episodes and what is the “inbetween” is still a mystery. Not that it matters, as long as you accept the concept the drama is watching the other side help Cassie stop the villain and save the victim. If you like supernatural mysteries try it out.

   AMC NETWORKS is made up of cable networks: AMC (WALKING DEAD), IFC (PORTLANDIA), WE (BRAXTON FAMILY VALUES), and Sundance (RECTIFY). AMC NETWORK co-owns BBC America (DOCTOR WHO) with BBC studios.

   It has been a busy year for AMC. Final seasons aired of martial arts action series INTO THE BADLANDS, historical drama THE SON, and (starting in August) supernatural PREACHER. Also airing in 2019 are FEAR OF THE WALKING DEAD, NOS4A2, and THE TERROR.

   BBC America and AMC both air KILLING EVE. The critically acclaimed thriller has just ended season 2 and has been renewed for a third season, coming most likely in 2020.

   BBC America is best known for DOCTOR WHO. My favorite Doctors remain Tom Baker and Matt Smith, but Jodie Whittaker as Momma Who is terrific, it was the writing and the supporting cast that made last season unwatchable for me.

   Fans of ORPHAN BLACK will be happy to learn the series is coming back in a 10 part audio series, starring Tatiana Maslany. There is a possible new TV series in development.

   Sundance Channel has a new eight-part adaption of the book NAME OF THE ROSE.

   A&E is a group owned in part by Disney and Hearst. It has A+E, History, and Lifetime. A+E is into reality programming. Lifetime is best known for its original scripted movies for women. In the past Lifetime has tried original scripted TV series such as VERONICA CLARE, ANGELA’S EYES and MARY KILLS PEOPLE, but today its schedule features reality shows such as DANCE MOMS. History Channel has a mix of reality programming (AX MEN and FORGED IN FIRE), and historical dramas (PROJECT BLUE BOOK and THE VIKINGS). THE VIKINGS are due to air its sixth and final season during the 2019-20 season. There are plans for a spin-off but not enough details to expect it soon.

   Among the better parts of FOX that Disney devoured is Fox entertainment cable networks FX and FXX. Both feature critically approved programs with unlikable characters and a premise that scream edginess.

   FX is beloved by TV critics everywhere. Some of the series to air this year are BASKETS (life of an clown), FOSSE/VERDON (Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon’s relationship), LEGION (superheroes), POSE (life in gay culture in New York during the 80s), SNOWFALL (drug dealer), and WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (vampire comedy).

   FXX is a comedy offshoot of FX and a place of endless THE SIMPSON reruns. ARCHER began as an animated spoof on spies and over time has turned its attention to genres such as action, PI noir, adventure, and this year space opera. This is ARCHER tenth season and may be its last.

   Disney still has its multiple cable networks for kids and families. It also owns Freeform that has found an audience for gossipy mysteries (PRETTY LITTLE LIARS) and supernatural series. I can hardly wait to see just how fun bad is MOTHERLOAD: FORT SALEM – a series about gorgeous young witches who serve in the American army.

   Now that AT&T has bought Time Warner and dubbed it WarnerMedia there will be changes. At this time, Warner’s focus is less on cable and more on its future streaming service. HBO has been told to produce more series, quality be damn.

   There may be changes in the formats of TNT and TBS. TNT currently is for drama and TBS is for comedy. TNT has dramas such as CLAWS, and ANIMAL KINGDOM. TBS has comedy such as AMERICAN DAD, FULL FRONTAL and SEARCH PARTY.

   CHASING THE CURE is a live series to simulcast on both TNT and TBS. The series features a real person with a mystery disease and the audience from all over the world offers up possible cures.

   Will Warnermedia bring changes to cable’s best channel TCM, one of the few places left to enjoy film’s classics? Cartoon fans wonder what the future has in store for Cartoon Network (modern cartoons), Boomerang (cartoons featuring new versions of older characters such as Bugs and Scooby Doo), and popular Adult Swim (for adult fans of cartoons). This August Adult Swim favorite and one of the greatest TV cartoons ever made, the VENTURE BROTHERS return for a seventh season.

   Comcast owns NBC Universal studio and a variety of cable networks including E (Kardashians), SYFY, USA, and Bravo.

   Bravo is more a reality and lifestyle network, which is why DIRTY JOHN will air its second season on USA in 2020. DIRTY JOHN is based on a true crime podcast.

   One of the most popular cable networks, USA will say good-bye to MR ROBOT as I await BRIARPATCH, a series based on Ross Thomas book (I expect it in 2020). This summer SUITS ends and spin-off series PEARSON begins.

   SYFY has had problems only cable networks can have. THE EXPANSE is one of the TV’s greatest science fiction series, but it cost too much so SYFY cancelled it. Fortunately Amazon Prime saved it and will be showing the fourth season soon.

   WYNONNA EARP may have a small audience but it is a passionate audience advertisers love. It has been renewed for a fourth and fifth season. However IDW that produces the series ran out of money and had to stop production. EARP fans refused to let it die, even at one point buying ad space on the giant billboard in Times Square begging fans to help save the show. SYFY (and Canadian channel Space) still want the series.

   THE MAGICIANS (based on Lew Grossman’s trilogy) just finished its season 4 and has been renewed. Airing this summer will be the last season of KILLJOYS and the second of KRYPTON (Superman’s home planet).

   SYFY has an affection for bizarre creepy series that generally don’t last long. Some examples have been DEADLY CLASS, high school for assassins, and BLOOD DRIVE, a Death Race 2000 like car race but this time the cars run on blood. This year saw the second season and maybe the last of HAPPY. Christopher Meloni stars as Nick, an ex-cop with endless number of vices including the fondness of killing people, and his imaginary friend Happy. Ann-Margret joined the cast this year and…well…

   Viacom has long enjoyed collecting a variety of cable networks. A recent reorganization has made the cable networks more team players than independent networks.

   BET will continue to specialize in programs for the black audience such as AMERICAN SOUL and IN CONTEMPT. Comedy Central focus is on comedy, from live shows (DAILY SHOW) to scripted comedy (THE OTHER TWO). MTV will likely drop any future attempts at scripted TV (anyone remember scripted thriller EYE CANDY, based on R.L. Stine book) and do docu-reality shows with young adults (THE HILLS…NEW BEGINNING). Nickelodean should continue its mix of cartoons (SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS) and live action (HENRY DANGER) for kids.

   Spike network has been renamed Paramount network and is Viacom’s flagship. Its scripted original YELLOWSTONE has been renewed for a third season. Kevin Costner stars in the epic family drama and DALLAS wanna-be.

   HALLMARK MYSTERY MOVIES has its fans. If you like overly formulaic romantic mysteries this is for you. There are a seemingly endless number of different but interchangeable series. Current lineup include GOURMET DETECTIVE MYSTERY, MYSTERY 101, PICTURE PERFECT MYSTERIES, HAILEY DEAN MYSTERIES, and CROSSWORD MYSTERY.

   August will be AURORA TEAGARDEN MYSTERY month. Based on the books written by Charlaine Harris, Aurora (Candace Cameron-Bure) is a librarian who runs the Real Mystery Club. Of interest to old TV fans, Marilu Henner (TAXI) co-stars.

   Another way to watch TV is Digital TV. All it requires is a digital antenna and a TV or some are also available on cable. Among the best known of digital stations are ME-TV, ESCAPE, COZI, GRIT and ANTENNA -TV. These stations remind me of the old TV Independent stations such as the great KDOC -Los Angeles that aired little beyond old TV series reruns.

   When TV has more demand than supply, syndication has always stepped in, from the early wild uncharted days of the 1950s TV to the early days of today’s cable. Today we find original scripted series everywhere we find cable channels.

   WGN AMERICA returns to once cancelled, now revived Canadian original PURE, based on the true story of the Mennonite mob. ION carries mainly your standard syndicated reruns but also offers new original scripted series from Canada, PRIVATE EYES:

   There are small independently owned cable networks that serve a small audience and are not available on streaming. My favorite is El Rey, created by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (EL MARIACHI) for Latino males, young filmmakers, and fans of dubbed martial arts films. It reruns hard to find series such as STARHUNTER REDUX and RELIC HUNTER. It offers exposure to aspiring filmmakers. Among its original programs are MAN AT ARMS: ART OF WAR (Danny Trejo examines weapons), comedy CRUNCH TIME, a talk show, various animation series, and LUCHA UNDERGROUND.

   The goal of this two part look at TV in 2019 was to help you in this world of nearly 500 original scripted TV series each season, to actually find some of those series, and maybe even find some you like.

         Saturday, February 14.

  WKRP IN CINCINNATI. “Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide, Parts 1 and 2.” CBS, series. Season 3, episodes 13 and 14. Originally telecast on 07 February 1981. Gary Sandy, Gordon Jump, Loni Anderson , Howard Hesseman, Richard Sanders, Frank Bonner, Tim Reid, Jan Smithers. Guest star: Mary Frann. Director: Rod Daniel.

   If you watch this show regularly, you will have seen this special one-hour episode one week before I did. The local CBS station runs them on tape, delayed week, and a half hour later. To me, it’s like wearing hand-me-down clothes, and I don’t usually watch, and there are two good reasons why that surprises me.

   Tonight Dr. Johnny Fever tackled TV, and he lost. Even though he signed a contract to do a live dance party for a local station, the doctor “does not do disco.” The producer did not rock and roll, and the doctor was the one who wound up wearing the funny clothes.

   The writers of the show had a chance here to say some witty things, about how doing things for television always ends up doing them television’s way. Instead, the story line veered off and became an instant analysis of Johnny’s incipient schizophrenic crisis. It turned out to be not nearly as funny as it must have sounded on the drawing board.

   The result was an hour show, all right, but as far as I was concerned, there was considerably less than a half-hour’s worth of laughs. And I was forcing myself, at that.


            

While spending a few minutes of idle time I found I had today, I came across this video on YouTube. I don’t know who put it together — he or she is identified only as RwDt09 — but I found it fascinating. How many of these do you remember?

         February 5, continued.

   Since Ronald Reagan was speaking on the nation’s economy tonight, the start of the next program was delayed so that I ended up missing only the first couple of minutes. Thanks, Ronnie.

   Unfortunately, I did miss Magnum, P.I. altogether.

***

  A LOVE LETTER TO JACK BENNY. NBC Special, 120 minutes. Jack Benny (archival footage), George Burns, Bob Hope, Johnny Carson (all as themselves). Director: Norman Abbot.

   Most of this two-hour special seemed to be taken from Benny’s various farewell specials which he continued to do after he stopped doing a weekly series. (And I’ve just realized why. Wasn’t his weekly series on CBS? Right. Up until 1964, Jack Benny’s entire TV career was on CBS. He switched to NBC for a Friday night series in 1964-65, and from then on only the specials for NBC.)

   I happen to think that Jack Benny very well may have been the funniest person to appear o radio. He was a huge success on television as well, but on TV he depended more on guest stars than he ever did on radio. and this show reflected that perfectly. Besides lengthy clips showing the hosts of this show in action with Jack, we also see Jack with Gregory Peck, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, Dean Martin, John Wayne, Ronald Reagan (the second time tonight), and on and on.

   On radio, and early pre-color TV, The Jack Benny Show depended almost entirely on Benny, and particularly on the character of Benny his writers created for him, and on his “family” of regulars: Don Wilson, Rochester, Dennis Day, Phil Harris, and of course, Mary Livingston.

   Obviously on a TV special of this magnitude we can’t really expect to see more than 15 minutes of so of three men sitting around listening to the radio. But I do get the uneasy feeling that someone who had never heard of Jack Benny before tonight might have gone away from watching this show believing that, yeah, he was funny but (without experiencing the close familiarity of Benny’s character, built up over a long period of time on radio and early TV) not that funny.

         February 2.

FOUL PLAY. Series, ABC. Last week’s opening episode was nicely done, and I was looking forward to more of the same. Based on the movie of the same name, of course. Deborah Raffin and Barry Bostwick play the parts that Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase had. She’s a klutzy librarian, he’s a klutzy cop, and they love each other. She’s not ready for marriage. He is.

   I didn’t see the movie, even though it’s already been on HBO. [My wife] Judy did, and she says the first episode of this new series matched it pretty well. I found it both funny and, well, charming. The plot was mediocre — about some missing plutonium and a kidnapped teenage genius who knows how to put bombs together — but it was the characters who made the show. Raffin was pretty and pert. Bostwick was ingenuously dumb.

   On the talk shows Raffin has been warning people that the first show was not representative of the rest of the series, and that she couldn’t figure out why they were actually going to show it, Lo and behold, she was right. The first show ws Good. Tonight’s show was, to put it mildly, Rotten.

   All of a sudden, Raffin is no longer a librarian. Not enough skullduggery goes on in libraries, I should guess. She now seems to be a local TV personality, doing interviews and such. There was no explanation given for the change.

   The story had to do with a skeleton found in a time capsule. Bostwick falls into a grave trying to dig up, um, clues of some sort. I quit watching after 15 minutes because I hadn’t a clue as to what was going on. There was a lot of shooting happening just before the commercial, though.

   Also, Deborah Raffin’s hair was short, sassy and cute in the first episode. Tonight it was just long.

   Judy says Lou Grant suits her just fine, anyway.

UPDATE.   Only five episodes were ever telecast. There was none the following week, two more the next two weeks after that, then none until August 23rd.


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