TV Science Fiction & Fantasy


FOUR FAILED PILOTS
by Michael Shonk


   It’s pilot season at the major TV networks as the networks look for new shows for the 2018-19 season. Here is a link to Deadline’s “Primetime pilot panic” where you can read what each network is looking at for next season:

         http://deadline.com/category/primetime-pilot-panic/

   The creation of the pilot dates back to radio days when audition shows were used to find a sponsor or stations to support the show as a regularly appearing series. While radio used the word “audition” for the first example of the possible series, TV uses pilot from “pilot project.”

   In the summer of 1940 CBS aired FORECAST, a series of radio episodes with the hope the audience would help them become a network series. Of these auditions two would become hits and continue to be remembered today, SUSPENSE and DUFFY’S TAVERN.

   Below is DEDUCTION DELUXE, an episode from FORECAST second and final season. Despite its pleas to the radio audience DEDUCTION DELUXE did not survive for a second episode.

DEDUCTION DELUXE “Problem of the Painted Poodle.” CBS Radio, July 28, 1941, Monday at 9pm (Eastern). Cast: Adolphe Menjou as Roger Boone, Verree Teasdale as Twyla Boone. Other Voices include: Arthur Q. Bryan, Verna Telton, and Gerald Mohr. Written by Keith Fowler and Frank Galen.

   The episode sounded like a vaudeville sketch with its simple character types and non-stop patter of gags, many still funny. The mystery of who painted a rich lady’s poodle green was better than average as the writers for the most part played fair with the clues.

   Real life married couple Adolphe Menjou and Verree Teasdale certainly had the right chemistry as PI Roger Boone and his wife Twyla Boone. The fatal flaw for the show was in the character of husband Roger Boone, a man who handled “clues, blondes and horses with equal enthusiasm.” Twyla seemed resigned to her husband sleeping with other women but I doubt the 1941 radio audience was as forgiving.


RUSSELL. Paramount Television – CBS Films Production; date unknown. Fess Parker as Charles Russell, Beverly Garland as Bonnie, Jay C. Flippen as Windy, and Paul Carr as Tracey. Created and written by Borden Chase. Directed by Arthur Hiller. Executive Producer: Gordon Kay. Produced by Frank O’Connor.

   I can find nothing about this pilot beyond the on screen credits and the copyright is unreadable. The pilot was done by Paramount. Fess Parker worked for Paramount between 1958 and 1962. The credit for CBS Films and the sales pitch epilogue probably makes this a pilot for a possible syndicated series. Since Fess Parker was starring in MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON in 1962 we can narrow the time for this show even further to 1958-61.

   While the story and characters were overly simple the show had a certain charm helped by a talented cast and a script that kept things moving.

   Fess Parker played Charles Russell one of the greatest artists of the Old West, and a man of many talents and experiences. He was a good man who was as good with the gun as he was with a brush. Russell wrote about his times and travels through the Old West in books such as TRAILS PLOWED UNDER. Link from Project Gutenberg Australia: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks07/0700941h.html.

   In an interesting twist, the premise of the series was not to be just a loosely based biography but instead the stories were to be based on Charlie Russell’s artwork. The pilot episode featured the famous painting “Innocent Allies.”

   The story had Charlie partnering with a man called Windy to run a cattle drive. When Charlie and a young hothead cowboy witness a stage robbery, the young cowboy overreacts and runs off to stop the robbery. His gunfire starts a stampede. Charlie warns others of the approaching stampede and rescues the beautiful and feisty Bonnie, the new owner of the saloon. Charlie tries to help the young man grow up while he paints for Bonnie “Innocent Allies” – his eyewitness account of the stage holdup.

   RUSSELL had the makings for a successful series but Westerns were fading during the years 1958-1961 as the PI and modern detective was growing in its popularity.


GLOBAL FREQUENCY . WB, 2005 Cast: Michelle Forbes as Miranda Zero, Aimee Garcia as Aleph, Josh Hopkins as Sean Flynn and Jenni Baird as Dr. Katrina Finch. * The on-air credits were clipped from this YouTube copy of the 45-minute pilot. The series was created by Warren Ellis based on the popular award winning graphic novel series. John Rogers wrote the script, or at least he was the main writer for the pilot that was directed by Nelson McCormick. (Sources: IMdb and Wikipedia.)

   Before WB had made its decision about the fate of GLOBAL FREQUENCY the episode was leaked to the Internet. According to an email by creator Warren Ellis sent out to fans he claimed WB was so unhappy over the leak they rejected the pilot (CBR.com, July 29, 2005). It would not be the first time or the last Hollywood egos destroyed a quality program.

   Here is a YouTube clip explaining the premise.

   Global Frequency is a secret independent organization created to do the dirty jobs that threaten the world. Run by Miranda Zero, a former top spy, with the aid of Aleph, a young female computer expert who from a high tech base assists and contacts field agents.

   Global Frequency’s agents are a group of people with various talents and connections from all over the world waiting for that call that they are needed to save the world, or at least part of it. This is one of my favorite plot devices and the way it is handled would have hooked me on the series.

   The story began when disgraced ex-cop Sean finds the dead body of a Global Frequency agent. It seems San Francisco will be destroyed in 55 minutes. Sean joins in to help find the man who killed the agent and now is a threat to destroy San Francisco.

   Everything works here. The writing based on an award winning graphic novel series, the cast, the direction, the production, all are excellent. The characters are likable and developed. This even has the most elusive of all qualities, excellent chemistry between the actors.

   Every time I watch a TV thriller like GLOBAL FREQUENCY that blends technology and the human hero so entertainingly, I remember the objections that Hugh O’Brian had during SEARCH (NBC 1972) that the technology not upstage him and again I realize how better SEARCH could have been.


CALLAHAN. ABC – Carsey/Werner Company Production in association with Finnegan Associates, September 9, 1982. Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis as Rachel Bartlett, Hart Bocher as Callahan, John Harkins as Marcus Vox, and Peter Maloney as Mustaf. Created by Ken Finkleman. Developed and Written by David Misch and Ken Finkleman. Directed by Harry Winer

   This funny pilot spoof of the Indiana Jones movie unfairly faced some challenges that had nothing to do with the quality of the episode entitled “Appointment In Rangoon.”

   Plucky innocent Rachel Bartlett applies for the job of assistant to the Director of Research (Callahan) at the Regis Foundation. The job interview quickly expands from Callahan’s academic office into a dangerous thrill-filled chase across the world.

   Overly focused on his work, Callahan is clueless to how unaccustomed Miss Bartlett (as Callahan calls her) is to the action. But Rachel does not let the constant dangers to her life or her torn and increasingly disappearing dress stop her from helping Callahan to recover the object, stop the villain and save the world.

   However quality writing and acting does not always lead a pilot to series. CALLAHAN wanted to become an ABC series for the 1982-83 season. But TV cop spoof POLICE SQUAD had just bombed on ABC during the 1981-82 season. ABC’s pilots for the 1982-83 season had contained more than one Indiana Jones inspired pilot. ABC chose the action drama TALES OF THE GOLDEN MONKEY.


   YouTube continues to be a great place to find failed pilots, so coming soon I will look at four more failed pilots from the past.

LOVE CAN BE MURDER. Made-for-TV. NBC, 14 December 1992. Jaclyn Smith, Corbin Bernsen, Cliff De Young, Tom Bower, Anne Francis. Director: Jack Bender.

   Some viewers may rate this as the cinematic equivalent of cotton candy, but I enjoyed it, and I make no apologies about it! That it has to do with Los Angeles and private eyes may have something to do it, with a wink and a nod to the late 1940s when PI’s had to wear fedoras and be swift with the wisecracking repartee. In fact, I’m sure it does.

   In this film Jacklyn Smith, always to my mind the most beautiful member of Charlie’s Angels, plays Elizabeth Bentley, a lady lawyer who has a problem. She’s bored with both her job and her earnest but very dull fiancé. What does she do? She quits her job and decides to become a private investigator.

   Her first case? The ghost of the PI (Corbin Bernsen) who haunts her new office. It seems that he was killed in a phony automobile accident back in 1948 when he was on a case, one that was never solved. By some sort of rule or regulation that governs such matters in the hereafter, he cannot move on until the case is solved. And all of sudden Ms Bentley has a new partner, one that only she can see.

   I have to admit that the case is not all that interesting, though there is at least one decent twist to it before it is solved, and maybe two. No — and of course we are moving into present day Hallmark territory here — the fun of this film is watching a romance grow, complete with lots of humor, witty patter and a huge wardrobe for Ms Smith. A romance, mind you, that unless there is some fine print at the bottom of the page of rules and regulations that govern such matters, does not have much of a future to it.

   The TV reviewer for the Los Angeles Times liked it, saying that “The production is loaded with charming nostalgic touches…” with a “kind of Nick-and-Nora flavor,” but an anonymous reviewer for People magazine gave it a D plus. I lean far more toward the former than the latter.

REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


G vs E (aka Good vs Evil). USA. July 18, 1999 to October 31, 1999. Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy) March 10, 2000 to May 12, 2000. Rockfish Films / USA Studios / Universal. Cast: Clayton Rohner as Chandler Smythe, Richard Brooks as Henry McNeil, Marshall Bell as Ford Plasko, Googy Gress as Decker Benbow, Tony Denman as Ben Smythe, and Deacon Jones as himself. Executive Producers: Jonas Pate, Josh Pate and Paul Biddle. Created by Pate Brothers (Jonas and Josh).



   This Cable original series from the USA Network had a fun premise that offered up enough laughs to make it entertaining. Yet there were too many flaws that eventually doomed it with the Heavenly Listeners on its Day of Judgment.

   G vs E (as it was called in the first season on USA) featured the adventures of two dead men working for the Corps, God’s bounty hunters. Chandler Smythe and Henry McNeil are two murder victims trying to earn their way into Heaven after living a life not worthy of either Heaven or Hell.

ORANGE VOLVO. (July 18,1999) Written and Directed by Jonas Pate and Josh Pate. Guest Cast: Troy Evans and Dominic Keating Recurring Cast: Susie Park, Blake Heron and Ashley Rogers. *** Reporter and widower Chandler Smythe is killed during a mugging gone bad. Next Chandler finds himself still in Los Angeles and being told he is dead by two men called Ford and Decker. They offer him a second chance at redemption if he joins the Corps, God’s bounty hunters.


   Stationed in the Hollywood division of the Corps, Chandler and new partner Henry hunt down people who have made a deal with the Devil. They try to get the person to renounce the deal but should they fail the Devil takes their client’s soul and turns them into a Morlock (demon). Morlocks and the Corps fight a constant deadly battle, a war of good versus evil.

   The leader of the Corps is tough mean Deacon Jones. Played by the real Deacon Jones a Hall of Fame NFL player that terrorized quarterbacks during his career in the 60s-70s. He brings his no nonsense approach and the ability to inspire fear to his leadership of the Corps.

   Here Deacon gives some advice and also explains the three rules of the Corps:


   The Corps rules are simple:

   No sex. Morlocks look like normal humans except when they die or seen in a mirror. Morlocks use sex to trap Corps agents to kill and turn them into a Morlocks.

   Agents can not contact friends and family. Their loved ones will not recognize them and the Morlocks would use them against the Corps agent.

   Corps agents have no special powers or magic. They can be killed and if they die they face immediate judgment for where they will spend their afterlife.

   While Deacon Jones was a better football player than actor his character is one of the best parts of the entire series. However the rules are a major flaw of the series and while offering conflict for the drama, the rules are responsible for most of the buzz kill when the story gets fun.

   A bigger mistake is the series focus on rookie Chandler Smythe, the worst part of the series. Chandler is a self-absorbed whining loser who refuses to give up being involved with his son. The son is a teenage boy on the edge of going bad. This running plot point is a constant source for Chandler to do something stupid and put everyone in danger. Neither actor Clayton Rohner (Chandler) or Tony Denman (son Ben) are able to make their unlikable characters any less unlikable.

   Richard Brooks’ portrayal of dead 70s cop Henry McNeil is another highlight of G vs E. The series does a fine job parodying 70s TV cops shows from the visual style to the buddy cop relationship between experienced and groovy Corps agent Henry and bumbling idiot rookie Chandler.

   The last two regulars are Ford and Decker, Chandler and Henry’s superiors. Both Marshall Bell and Googy Gress have fun with their roles as bumbling inept superiors and are fun to watch.

   My favorite episode of the series is “Buried,” the third episode of season one. This is a fun episode as the focus is on the buddy relationship of Chandler and Henry as Gods bounty hunters trying to save souls. But even this episode could not avoid spoiling some of the fun with maudlin scenes between Chandler and son.

BURIED. (August 1, 1999) Written and Directed by Josh Pate. Guest Cast: Reno Wilson, Michael Paul Chan and Emmanuel Lewis. Recurring Cast: Susie Parks. *** Chandler tries to save a young boxer from Hell but ends up buried alive. He calls Henry (by cell phone) and Henry begins a quixotic adventure across Los Angeles to find and save Chandler.


   NBCU cable networks USA and Syfy have often shared original programs. USA ordered 22 episodes of G vs E. It aired Sunday at 8 pm and lasted eleven episodes. USA has always aimed at the general audience so G vs E was much better suited for the SciFi (now SYFY) channel and its different smaller audience. The series changed its name to the easier to understand Good vs Evil and moved to the Sci-Fi channel on Friday night for its final eleven episodes.

   The series did a good job exploring the inner workings of the Corps. In an episode from the second season, “Portrait of Evil” wraps itself in parody of 70’s TV buddy cop shows and the film Rear Window as it shows the process of possible promotion (aka Judgment Day) for members of The Corps.

PORTRAIT OF EVIL. (May 5, 2000) Written by Marshall Page. Directed by David Mackay. Guest Cast: Thomas F. Duffy and Jack Donner. Recurring Cast: Jack Esformes. *** Henry retrieves some important documents the Corps was after, kills two Morlocks and saves Chandler’s life. Hero Henry is offered possible promotion to Heaven while Chandler wallows in self-pity.


   While not totally forgotten today, man, if they had just been satisfied doing Starsky and Hutch fight demons, Good vs Evil could have been a cult classic on the level of X-Files and Twin Peaks. Instead it is just another series of many during the wild cable/syndicated days of the 80s through early 2000s that a few viewers remember with fond memories.

THE TIME TUNNEL. 20th Century Fox Television, 2006. Unaired pilot. David Conrad, Andrea Roth, Max Baker, Bob Koherr, Tawny Cypress. Written by Rand Ravich, based on the original series created by Irwin Allen. Director: Todd Holland.

   The first and only season of the original Time Tunnel series was on ABC during the 1966-1967 season. I was not a fan. I made sure I was on hand for the first episode, though, and I was so disappointed after seeing it that I never watched it again. There were so many holes in the plot that I found what was on the air next to worthless. That’s what growing up reading Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke will do to you.

   The earlier series is out on DVD, though, and this unaired pilot that came along some four decades later is one of the bonuses to be found on the final disc. (If I’m in error about this later show never being telecast, please let me know.)

   It’s actually quite good. If it had picked up as a series, and I’d watched this as the first episode, I’d have watched more, there’s no doubt about it. The tunnel itself is a lot spiffier, of course, but so is the story line, which considers the possibility — if not likelihood — that changing things in the past is more than likely to change the way the present looks now, with no one being aware of it.

   Except for the scientists and technicians who were working underground when a “time storm” was accidentally created. They are also aware of “ripples” in time that mean something has happened to change history as they know it. Their job: to go back to the past to correct it.

   It turns out that a young monk with the bubonic plague has slipped far into his future, 1944 and Germany during World War II. A team from their present has to go back and solve the problem, and quickly. During this highly secret operation, one of the members meets his own grandfather, who is known to have died that day. Can he save him? Or, should he save him?

   The cast consists of a bunch of actors unknown to me, but they do just fine. Even better is the script, which I think does about as good as it’s possible to outline the problems of time-related paradoxes as could be done in less than 50 minutes of running time.

ISIS. “The Lights of Mystery Mountain.” CBS, Season 1, Episode 1. 6 September 1975. The series was known as The Secrets of Isis in syndication. Cast: JoAnna Cameron (Andrea Thomas/Isis), Brian Cutler (Rick Mason), Joanna Pang (Cindy Lee). Guest Cast: Kelly Thordsen, Hank Brandt, Ken Wolger, Mike Maitland. Developed by Marc Richards. Director: Hollingsworth Morse.

   Opening narration: “… a young science teacher dug up this lost treasure and found that she was heir to the secrets of Isis. And so, unknown even to her closest friends, Rick Mason and Cindy Lee, she became a dual person: Andrea Thomas, teacher; and Isis, dedicated foe of evil, defender of the weak, champion of truth and justice!”

   According to Wikipedia, this Saturday morning TV series has the distinction of being “the first weekly, American, live-action television series with a female superhero lead character.” Although intended for kids, rumor has it that quite a few adults watched it, too. The star, Joanna Cameron was a former model with nice legs and as Isis, wore a very short white miniskirt. That may have had something to do with it.

   In this first episode, Cindy Lee has taken photos up in the mountains of what appear to be UFOs, and she, Andrea and Rick decide to investigate further. Upon arrival they discover that several people have disappeared, leaving only circles of scorched earth behind them.

   The story is paper thin, the special effects are minimal, and the action level is even less. Being a kids’ program, there’s a lesson to be learned by the two teen-aged boys who have helped the person behind this small semi-sinister plot. It’s all in good fun, and I’m sure anyone who watched this series back then still remembers it today.

COMING SOON – THE TV EDITION
by Michael Shonk


   Most TV junkies claim Fall premiere week as their favorite time of the year, but mine has always been the May upfronts. Upfronts are parties the networks throw for major advertisers, ad agencies and the media in attempt to get them drunk enough to believe next Fall’s TV series will be the best ever and hope they forget the lies the networks told about the quality of last season’s shows.

   In the past, May was the most dramatic month for the TV fanatic. TV viewers embraced hope of the new, relief when their favorites survived, and the devastation when they didn’t. But it is just not the same anymore.

   The broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and CW) have joined cable networks in the effort to supply original programming all year round. New television series never stop coming. The Big Four and-a-Half networks just announced their fall lineup with huge fan fare ignoring that September is no longer the best month of TV.

   Pushing the limits of space here, let’s check out the highlights of what is coming this week, this Summer, this Fall, and in 2017.

   Just because the main season is over, it doesn’t mean the broadcast networks abandon original programming. WAYWARD PINES is back on FOX. CW has the final season of BEAUTY & THE BEAST. CBS has the return of ZOO and two new series starting in June that sound better than any of CBS new fall shows. AMERICAN GOTHIC tells the story of a family that has discovered one of them is a serial killer. From the creators of THE GOOD WIFE, BRAINDEAD is a comedy thriller about a young woman who discovers aliens are eating the brains of politicians and government workers. NBC has the Olympics this summer but also airs AQUARIUS.

      NBC medical drama NIGHT SHIFT returns for its third season:

   Cable networks offer original scripted programs in May and June including AMC’s new crime drama set in a restaurant, FEED THE BEAST, and the last season of HELL ON WHEELS, HBO’s GAME OF THRONES, TNT’s LAST SHIP, MAJOR CRIMES, MURDER IN THE FIRST, and RIZZOLI & ISLES (final season), TBS’s ANGIE TRIBECA, Cinemax’s OUTCAST, Netflix’s ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, ADULT SWIM’s DECKER: UNCLASSIFIED, and SYFY’s 12 MONKEYS.

   The heck with Marvel and DC, give me an IDW comic book like the fun horror/western WYNONNA EARP.

   Cable original scripted programs continue through the summer with returning series such as SYFY’s KILLJOYS and DARK MATTER, FX’s TYRANT and THE STRAIN, STARZ’s POWER, USA’s SUITS and last year’s hit MR. ROBOT.

   New series include Netflix’s STRANGER THINGS set in the 1980s, a supernatural series centered on a missing boy, SYFY’s post-apocalyptic drama AFTERMATH, and TNT’s GOOD BEHAVIOR based on the Letty Dobesh books by Blake Crouch.

      Based on Stephen Hunter’s book POINT OF IMPACT, USA network new series SHOOTER premieres in July.

   This fall live television, especially sports such as the NFL and World Series, will distract the viewing public. Cable lead by one of the most watched TV series in all television, AMC’s WALKING DEAD will hold its own. TNT reboots TALES FROM THE CRYPT, this time from M. Night Shyamalan.

         Netflix starts another series featuring a Marvel comic character – LUKE CAGE.

   Midseason 2017 promises to offer some entertaining new series on cable networks. USA’s FALLING WATER is a supernatural thriller about three strangers who find they can share dreams. SYFY’s horror anthology CHANNEL ZERO,

      Syfy’s THE EXPANSE, the best TV series I watched in 2015-16, will return for its second season in January 2017.

   Top network CBS will add three new dramas this Fall. BULL starring NCIS Michael Weatherly as Dr Phil back when he was a consultant specializing in manipulating… uh, I mean analyzing juries. Medicine meets technology in the new drama PURE GENUIS.

      The pilot of MACGYVER had many behind the scenes problems. Let’s hope Macgyver can find the right knick knack to save the show.

   Two new CBS series wait for their turn and midseason. DOUBT a lawyer show starring Katherine Heigl, and TRAINING DAY, based on the film. But more important are two series that CBS hopes to premiere in 2017 on CBS ALL ACCESS, its streaming service. First original new series will be the sequel to THE GOOD WIFE. The second is perhaps TV most famous franchise in history. It began on NBC, cancelled and resurfaces as a successful film series. It was used to establish Paramount in the syndicated market. It began UPN (now CW) and tried to save the network before the merger with WB. As Paramount continues to pump out theatrical films, CBS will use STAR TREK to jumpstart its streaming service.

         Without a title or any idea what it is about, the new STAR TREK series is the most anticiated television series of next season.

   Among the CBS series returning in the fall are BLUE BLOODS, CODE BLACK, CRIMINAL MINDS, ELEMENTARY, HAWAII FIVE-O, MADAM SECRETARY, NCIS, NCIS: LOS ANGELES, NCIS: NEW ORLEANS, and SCORPION. While CRIMINAL MINDS – BEYOND BORDERS will be back in 2017.

   SUPERGIRL reminded CBS what its TV audience likes, so the new shows look like the old shows and SUPERGIRL flew off to CBS little sister CW. The comic book superhero will feel comfortable with the rest of DC comic superheroes, ARROW, LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, and CW’s top show FLASH. CW continues to specialize in comic books, horror and the weird.

      New this fall to the mini-me of broadcast networks is FREQUENCY based on the film.

   Returning during midseason will be THE 100, iZOMBIE, THE ORIGINALS, SUPERNATURAL, and THE VAMPIRE DIARIES.

   Midseason, CW will add FOX reject RIVERDALE, based on the characters from Archie comics focused on a murder mystery. But this is not Scooby Doo or your old Archie (even the comic books are not your old Archie), this Archie deals with “adult issues” such as him sleeping with his teacher.

   While CBS remains the top network, NBC is close behind. Its two biggest hits are SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL and THE VOICE, each hogging up much of NBC’s fall schedule. This fall NBC adds five games of Thursday night football (CBS shows the first five, NBC has the last five). Without any major holes in its fall schedule, NBC saved its most promising new series for midseason, adding only three to the fall lineup.

      NBC’s only new drama this fall is TIMELESS, the most promising series of the many this season featuring time travel.

   Some of the series returning this fall are BLACKLIST, BLINDSPOT, CHICAGO FIRE, CHICAGO MED, CHICAGO PD, GRIMM, LAW AND ORDER SVU. SHADES OF BLUE will have to wait for SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL to end.

   Other new shows waiting for their turn include comedies POWERLESS (insurance office comedy set in the world of superheroes), TRAIL & ERROR (court comedy). New dramas are BLACKLIST – REDEMPTION (spinoff), EMERALD CITY (based on Baum’s Land of Oz books), MIDNIGHT, TEXAS (based on a series of books by Charlaine Harris (TRUE BLOOD)), TAKEN (prequel to film series) and what would any NBC list be without another Dick Wolf CHICAGO series, in this case CHICAGO JUSTICE.

   There is hope at FOX. This year they have the Super Bowl guaranteeing better numbers at the end of the season. Ratings are changing, and FOX is pushing the hardest to find a way to count those of us who no longer watch TV live or on a TV set.

   TV is about to enter an era of MONEYBALL. For those not familiar with baseball or the movie or the book, sabermetrics uses an endless amount of numbers to measure performance. Networks like FOX are all ready there, someday the media will catch up.

   Speaking of baseball, FOX will have the World Series this fall as well as new series PITCH (story of first woman to play in Major League Baseball). Other new series of interest coming this fall are THE EXORIST (based on William Blatty’s novel), and LETHAL WEAPON (based on the film).

      My pick for first fall show cancelled is FOX’s SON OF ZORN, an animated barbarian tries to cope in live action modern world.

   Shows returning in fall include BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, insane GOTHAM, LUCIFER, ROSEWOOD, SCREAM QUEENS, and QUINTCO. Series returning in midseason include SLEEPY HOLLOW and the final season of BONES.

   Among the new series waiting for 2017 are APB (rich man buys a police precinct), MAKING HISTORY (time travel comedy), SHOTS FIRED (racially charged shooting involving a cop), and PRISON BREAK (sequel to 2005 TV series).

      FOX is hoping 24 – LEGACY will be as successful as the original 24.

   ABC did not have a good year. Its president of programming was sacrificed to the Nielsen Ratings Gods in prayers for better numbers in the demo.There was not enough time to change the fall offerings, but it is expected ABC will copy CBS and NBC with less soap operas and more procedurals.

   ABC’s new fall dramas of interest to us begins with DESIGNATED SURVIVOR starring Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development ends up President after a terrorist attack takes out most of the leaders of the American government. CONVICTION with Hayley Atwell (AGENT CARTER) as a spoiled former first daughter who is forced under threat of jail to lead a small group investigating cases where the convicted might be innocent.

      NOTORIOUS is about the seduction between law and the media.

   Returning this fall are HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., and ONCE UPON A TIME. While these returning series have to wait until midseason their turn – AMERICAN CRIME, THE CATCH, SCANDAL and SECRETS & LIES.

      Among the new ABC shows waiting for midseason is TIME AFTER TIME, based on the movie and stars Freddie Stroma as H.G. Wells.

   Over one hundred TV series in the 2015-16 season were cancelled or ended. RIP.

THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER. “The Crowd.” HBO, season 1, episode 3 (2 July 1985). Nick Mancuso, R. H. Thomson, David Hughes. Hosted and based on the story by Ray Bradbury. Director: Ralph L. Thomas.

   This one’s a ghost story, and like most ghost stories, it doesn’t make a lick of sense. It’s slickly done, with high production values, and there are some appreciably spooky moments. But it didn’t work for me in any way, shape, or form, and I can’t tell you too much as to why without issuing a Spoiler Alert, so consider it done.

   The idea is that a survivor of a near deadly automobile incident can’t figure out how such a loud noisy crowd of people formed around the scene of the accident so quickly. (The tires hadn’t even stopped spinning.) Probing further, he discovers that the same crowd of individuals were seen (via videotape) at many other such accidents, most of them fatal. Against the advice of a good friend, he makes the mistake of trying to find out more.

   To me, with a logical mind, the question is not how these crowds of ghostly origin form so quickly, but why. I don’t remember how it’s replied to in the story, but this 27 minute cable TV episode answers with mirrors, atmosphere, glitz and special effects. It doesn’t go anywhere near a reason and relies instead on a knock-em-out finale that’s there for shock value only.

A FORGOTTEN TV SERIES REVIEW
by Michael Shonk


THE WANDERER. Fingertip Film Production for Yorkshire Television, ZDF, and Antena 3, UK, 1994. Thirteen 60m episodes. Cast: Bryan Brown as Adam/Zachary, Tony Haygarth as Godbold, Kim Thomson as Princess Beatrice, Otto Tausig as Mathias and Deborah Moore as Clare. Created by Roy Clarke from an idea by Tom Gabbay. Executive Producers: Keith Richardson and Tom Gabby.

   This obscure fantasy with supernatural elements clothed in a road drama format lasted thirteen episodes. It was a European production (Yorkshire TV – British, ZDF – German, and Antena 3 – French) that was offered in U.S. syndication at least twice (according to Broadcasting & Cable) in 1995, but it may never have sold.

   The series starred Bryan Brown as twin brothers – good Adam and evil Zachary. The two brothers lived in the 10th Century during the first Millennium where they were locked in a battle between good and evil. Adam won the battle and killed Zachary.

   As the second millennium approaches, the brothers are back for a rematch. Adam’s memory of his past life is incomplete while Zachary remembers everything and demands Adam takes him to his grave. Adam can’t remember where the grave is so he wanders around searching for it, stopping to help others and frustrating the impatient Zachary.

   Each brother has allies. Adam’s most important ally is former 10th century Monk turn modern-day plumber Godbold. Mathis is rich Adam’s personal assistant who has no connection to Adam’s past. Along the way Adam saves Claire who is really his true love from the 10th century. Fearing for her life Adam continues to push her away, ordering her to leave him and live her new life without him. A modern day woman, she refuses to listen.

   Zachary also has an ally the magically gifted Princess Beatrice who a thousand years later remains upset that Adam had rejected her. The cliché over-the-top medieval Princess/witch spends much of her time keeping Zachary focused on the plan to kill Adam and take over the World.

   The Wanderer is flawed but watchable in a fun stupid TV sort of way. The acting is not a plus. Brown plays Adam as dull and clueless and Zachary as if he was comedy relief. The writing was at times lazy (sudden visions often guided our travelers). Nor did anyone seem to take the story seriously (Zachary is distracted from taking over the World by his desire to write and star in a musical for the stage). Writer Roy Clarke is best know for his comedy writing in such British series as Open All Hours and Keeping Up Appearance.

   YouTube currently has all thirteen episodes except for episode 1 and 6. Below are two examples: Episode 2 “Mind Games” and the series last episode “Knight Time.”

“Mind Games.” Witten by Roy Clarke. Directed by Terry Marcel. GUEST CAST: Alexander Strobele, Ann Kathrin Kramer, and August Schmolzer. *** As Adam wanders searching for where he buried Zachary, he helps a young woman accused of murder.



“Knight Time.” Written by Roy Clarke. Directed by Alan Grint. GUEST CAST: Big Mick, Kenny Baker, and David J. Nicholls. *** The brothers fight at the site of Zachary’s grave. An incredibly annoying stupid ending that disappoints even those with the lowest expectations.



   The series has never been and unlikely ever to be released on DVD.

THE FLASH. “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1). The CW, 7 October 2014. Grant Gustin (Barry Allen / The Flash), Candice Patton (Iris West), Danielle Panabaker, Rick Cosnett, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh, Jesse L. Martin, John Wesley Shipp. Based on the character in DC Comics. Developed by Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg. David Nutter.

   One episode isn’t enough to say, but after watching this first one on DVD, I was more impressed than I expected to be. I enjoyed this one. It was done well, and I will be watching to see what comes next.

   If it devolves into a series of corny supervillains every week, that may end it for me, but at the moment, after stage one, there are a number of interesting plot threads this series has going for it already, and they were all crammed into one 45 minute episode. Amazing.

   To enumerate: The Flash, or rather Barry Allen, is the fastest man alive. As a young forensic crime scene assistant, he obtains this ability through an explosion of a particle accelerator at S.T.A.R. Labs, after awakening from a coma lasting nine months. (Any significance to that?)

   Some background: his father is in prison, having been convicted of killing his mother when he was a small boy. The father (John Wesley Shipp, the previous TV Flash) is innocent. Young Barry grew up with a police detective named Joe West and his daughter Iris. He may be in love with her now, but she now has a secret romance with her father’s partner on the police force.

   The head of S.T.A.R. Labs is in a wheelchair from the accident, but with two assistants he works with Barry, helping to gauge his powers, designing a suitable suit, and so on. Barry is determined to use his powers for good, which is a good thing, because other people affected by the accident have also become metahumans, and they have begun to use their powers in other ways, all bad.

   The special effects are terrific, and the acting on the part of the very young (mid-20s?) actors (or am I just old) is adequate, if not more. I admit the overall ambiance is comicky, but maybe that’s just me. There is a quick scene at the end which suggests that there are other secrets yet to be revealed. Tune in next week! I think I will. (The DVD set already paid for.)

“The Monster of Peladon.” A serial of six episodes from Dr Who, BBC, UK, 23 March to 27 April 1974. (Season 11, Episodes 15-20). Jon Pertwee (Doctor Who), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Donald Gee, Nina Thomas, Frank, Rex Robinson, Alan Bennion. Writer: Brian Hayles. Script editor: Terrance Dicks. Director: Lennie Mayne.

   This six-episode sequel to “The Curse of Peladon” (Season Nine, 1972) takes place 50 years later, with the Doctor and Sarah Jane discovering that the planet Peladon’s decision to join the Galactic Federation is not going so well.

   The trisilicate miners are demanding better working conditions, but keeping them under their rulers’ thumb is a phantom replica of Aggedor, the royal beast, who starts appearing in the mines and using a heat ray to disintegrate rebellious miners. The politics of the situation are not only local. There are also intergalactic considerations at play as well, and the Doctor and Sarah Jane land the Tardis right in the middle of them.

   Not one of the better serials, I’m afraid. All of the action takes place in a underground rooms connected by dark torch-lit passageways, with a lot of fur-haired miners running back and forth (and probably in circles) to mostly no avail.

   Episodes two and three cover mostly the same ground and could easily have been combined into one. It isn’t until episode four, when Commander Azaxyr and a force of Ice Warriors come to take over the planet in the name of the Federation, that anything other the same old, same old happens.

   There is a surprise twist or two in the final two episodes that almost (but not quite) makes this serial stand out above the mediocre. There is a brief attempt by Sarah Jane to convince the Queen of Peladon that she should stand up more herself, but not too long afterward, the latter is dragged along as a hostage just as damsels in distress always did, long before women’s lib came along.

   It should be noted that Commander Azaxyr’s full-face helmeted and caped garb, along with his heavy breathing while talking, is unmistakably an early prototype of Darth Vader, well before the latter showed up in a totally different setting.

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