June 2019

         Sunday, February 15.

WOMEN WHO RATE A 10. NBC, Special. 60 minutes. Or, Steve Lewis pigs out. Oink, oink.

         Tuesday, February 17.

THE BLACK HOLE.. Walt Disney/Buena Vista, 1979. Maximilian Schell, Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, Ernest Borgnine. Director: Gary Nelson. [Watched on HBO.]

   I watched this with Jonathan, who is six now, and since I explained it all to him during the show (“Why are they doing that, Dad?” “I don’t know, Jon, let’s wait an see.”), I’m not going to repeat myself.

   Actually, to be fair, some of it Jon explained to me. He’s pretty sharp. It’s a fine movie for kids hooked on Star Wars. (You can call this ‘sci-fi’ if you want to.)

   Rated PG, probably for the one or two cuss words, and one rather violent death scene.

MYSTERY! PBS, series. Tonight was the first of the second season run of Rumpole. The title was “Rumpole and the Man of God.” Leo McKern (Horace Rumpole), Rosemary Leach, Derek Farr, Bill Fraser, Peggy Thorpe-Bates (Hilda Rumpole), Moray Watson, Peter Bowles. Writer: John Mortimer. Director: Brian Farnham.

   I didn’t see any of the ones they showed last year. I don’t remember why, and I’m sorry I didn’t.

   Rumpole is sour, full of bombast, and when necessary, resigned to taking his lumps. I quickly tired of his long-suffering attitude toward his wife Hilda (“She who must be obeyed,”), but otherwise I enjoyed the show immensely. British character actors are the best in the world. I thought Derek Farr as the misunderstood, absentminded vicar accused of stealing the three shirts was superb.

   There are five more of these to come. I’m going to try to not miss any of them.

  THOMAS B. DEWEY – The Brave, Bad Girls. Mac #5. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 1956. Permabooks M-3089, paperback, 1957. Carroll & Graf, paperback, 1985.

   If you like detective work along with your hard-boiled PI fiction, this may be the book for you. But as a all-out recommendation, this statement comes with a bit of a caveat. The plot is extremely complicated, and the fact that Mac, the only name that he goes by, doesn’t tell the reader everything he notices or is thinking, doesn’t help any.

   The women in the case: (1) his client, Sherry, a young girl who is going out with a married musician against her father’s wishes; (2) Miss Colby, the principal of the school where one of her staff, Lorraine, is a teacher and whose past life is being looked into and she, Miss Colby, doesn’t like it; (3) Lorraine herself, who is married to but separated from the musician that Sherry is seeing; (4) Trudy, her young precocious daughter; (5) Esther, Lorraine’s sister, who has generally been in charge of bringing up Trudy; and (6) Georgiana, also a PI, who agrees to give Sherry shelter after Mac finds her with a dead man on her hands.

   As I say, complicated. The best part of the book, though, is the extreme interrogation that Mac undergoes at the hands of the police which extends from page 150 to 190. That Mac stays faithful to his clients and his principles is an understatement.

   There were 16 “Mac” novels in all, published between 1947 and 1970. I’ve enjoyed all of them that I’ve read, including this one. After reading this one, though, I realize that I haven’t read nearly enough of them.

 MARTIN H. GREENBERG, Editor – Deadly Doings. Ivy, paperback original; 1st printing, 1989.

#10. RAY BRADBURY “The Small Assassin.” Short story. First published in Dime Mystery Magazine, November 1946. First collected in Dark Carnival (Arkham House, hardcover, 1947); also collected in The October Country (Ballantine, hardcover/paperback, 1954) and A Memory of Murder (Dell paperback original, 1984) among many others. Reprinted many times, including Children of Wonder, edited by William Tenn (Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 1953). TV adaptation: “The Small Assassin” The Ray Bradbury Theater (Season 2, Episode 6). Comic book adaptation: Story in Shock SuspenStories #7 (EC Comics, February/March, 1953) by Al Feldstein and George Evans.

   “The Small Assassin” is without a doubt the most well known story in this Greenberg anthology. Given that all of the others are detective or straightforward crime stories, it is also by far the creepiest. It’s the story of a new mother who is convinced from day one that her new child hates her.

   And why not? Forced from the luxurious living space of the womb into a cold, cold world, why doesn’t every newborn child hate his or her mother? For the sake of the world’s population, it’s lucky that there’s only a one in a billion chances that any one of these infants is able to do anything about it. But a one in a billion chance does not mean none.

   The idea has been the basis of more than one story or movie over the years, I’m sure, but my thought is that Ray Bradbury is the one who came up with it first, and his unique style of writing is all it takes to make the story convincing, all the way to an ending that once read will never be forgotten.


Previously in this Martin Greenberg anthology: EDWARD D. HOCH “The Unicorn’s Daughter.”

TV IN 2019: PART TWO –
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.

LAIRD BARRON – Blood Standard. Isaiah Coleridge #1. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, hardcover, April 2018; premium paperback, April 2019.

   To get the facts straight first, Isaiah Coleridge is not a private eye when Blood Standard begins, far from it, and even when the book ends, it is doubtful that he will ever be more than an unlicensed PI. What he really is a retired hitman for the mob. An unfortunate incident at the beginning of the book, when he is living in Alaska, forces him to retreat to a recovery facility in New York State, somewhere near New Paltz.

   While finding a new life mucking out stables and other farm work, he is asked to find the granddaughter, about 18 and somewhat wild, of his new hosts. She has gone missing, and while she has done so before, it has never been as long as it has this time.

   Isaiah says he will see what he can do, but what he does not realize that by simply asking questions will stir up all kinds of trouble. You might not think that there could be trouble like this in such tranquil surroundings, but you would be dead wrong. There are rival gangs running all sorts of criminal activity in the area, and Isaiah finds himself right in the middle between them, along with a new ally named Lionel, a co-worker at the farm and a former Special Forces agent.

   It takes a while to find a footing in this story, or at least it did me. Isaiah tells the story himself, and it is difficult to grasp the concept that a hit man for the Outfit could speak as eloquently, shall we say, as he does. It is also a long book, over 360 pages, and it is not always easy to remember all of the characters, many of whom appear only every so often and, I am sorry to say, are often little more than stereotypical and one-dimensional people.

   But the forcefulness of the telling may get you over any rough spots you may find. This is a tough minded story, no doubt about it. There may be some resemblance between this book and the Spenser novels, but Spenser and Hawk are sheer pussycats in comparison to Isaiah and Lionel when the latter get into action, which is often and bloody. When it comes to the rough and tough streets of Boston as a center of underworld activity, it’s a mere walk in the park to what goes on in upstate New York.

   Number two in the series will be Black Mountain, coming soon. I’m looking forward to it.

SUPERNATURAL “Roadkill.” The CW Television Network; 15 March 2007 (Season 2, episode 16. Jared Padalecki (Sam Winchester), Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester). Guest star: Tricia Helfer. Series creator: Eric Kripke. Teleplay: Raelle Tucker.

   This series seems to have sneaked up on a lot of people, having just finished its 14th season in April of this year. That’ a lot of monsters, ghosts and other supernatural beings for Sam and Dean Winchester to have chased down and eliminated from the Earth.

   Although there have been several overall story arcs, none of which I’m really familiar with, “Roadkill” is a standalone episode, which was fine with me, this being the first one I’ve watched since perhaps the first one or two of the series.

   It begins with Molly McNamara and her husband driving all but lost on an isolated highway and bickering at each other abut it when unable to avoid a figure in the road, they crash down a ditch and into a tree. When Molly wakes up, her husband is no longer in the car, and worse, he seems to have completely disappeared.

   Luckily Sam and Dean are driving on the same road and come to her rescue. They are looking into stories that stretch of the road is haunted, and that the “man” Molly saw on the road may be looking for revenge for his death several years earlier.

   Supernatural apparitions on the highway at night — a spooky premise for a ghost story if ever there was one, and this one’s no exception. There’s also a nice twist or two before Sam and Dean’s job is finally done, after pondering the question for which the two brothers have no answer: where do their adversaries go after they’ve been released from their terrestrial bonds?

   Of the two brothers, Dean is the more hardnosed one, while Sam shows an occasional more sentimental side. There’s a good rapport between the two actors, as there’d have to have been from the beginning for the series to have lasted as long as it has. I kind of think of them as Frank and Joe Hardy some ten years later, after discovering where and what their father Fenton Hardy was doing on all those trips out of Bayport when they were younger.

  DONALD WOLLHEIM, Editor, with Arthur W. Saha – The 1989 Annual World’s Best SF. Daw #783, paperback original; 1st printing, June 1989. Cover art by Jim Burns.

#10. JACK CHALKER “Adrift Among the Ghosts.” Short story. First published in the collection Dance Band on the Titanic (Del Rey, paperback original, 1988).

   One of the early ideas of science fiction — or could it possibly be true? — is that all of the signals of every radio or TV show ever aired are still heading out from Earth, and if intercepted they could take the would-be listener, no matter how many light years away, back to the past and all of this planet’s cultural history, a high percentage of which is now considered lost.

   The signals would be awfully weak, of course, and they would need to b amplified. It would also take an alien listener, as it is in this story, years and years to translate, assimilate and sort the worthwhile from the trash. But if that alien listener, perhaps, was a prisoner alone in space, for crimes committed on its own world, with years and years on its hands tentacles, then of course then it could be done.

   There’s only one flaw, and of course I can’t tell you that, for that’s the point of the story. But it’s a flaw worth realizing, and one I think I will remember for quite a while.

   During the 1980s and 90s Jack Chalker as an author will himself be remembered for his many SF and fantasy sagas. all several books long (Dancing Gods, Well of Souls, etc.) than for his short fiction, which in number were not many, but this one is a good one.


Previously from the Wollheim anthology: B. W. CLOUGH “Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog.”


BABYLON BERLIN. Sky 1, a German-language entertainment channel broadcast by Sky Deutschland, premiering on 13 October 2017. The first broadcast consisted of a continuous run of sixteen episodes, with the first eight officially known as Season 1, and the second eight known as Season 2. Volker Bruch, Liv Lisa Fries, Peter Kurth, Matthais Brandt. Teleplays by Henk Handolegten, Tom Tykwer, Achim Von Borries (series creators also directors of all sixteen episodes), and author Volker Kutscher.

   Currently there seems to be a taste in Europe for noirish gritty cop dramas, and few of them are grittier or darker than Babylon Berlin (available on Netflix) set in a handsomely rendered Weimar Berlin circa 1929 as the leftover guilt and humiliation of the Great War, the rise of National Socialism, the decadence that inspired the Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye Berlin and the musical Cabaret, and good and bad people caught up in events they can’t control combine with the inevitability of history.

   Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch) is a policeman from Cologne, a troubled veteran of the war with PTSD (called here the trembles) and repressed memories. He has been assigned to Berlin on a mission to find a pornographic film the mayor of Cologne is being blackmailed over and assigned to Vice with fat, corrupt, but effective cop Chief Inspector Wolter (Peter Kurth).

   The plot of this sixteen part series that ran two seasons spirals out from that basic situation. A train traveling from the Soviet Union is hijacked by Troskeyites smuggling a car carrying gold to Istanbul to be used against Stalin unaware the train also carries illegal phosgene gas the Soviets have sold to a secretive right wing military group (who Wolter, among others, belongs to) hoping to restore the Kaiser by bringing down the democratic government.

   Meanwhile there is unrest between the police and communists in Berlin threatening to end in violence, Rath and Wolter are closing in on the pornography ring, and a powerful gangster the Armenian (Meisel Mateicvic) tied to the porn ring runs a decadent night club where the chief performer is a crossdressing singer Sevetlana (Severijia Janusauskaite) playing her Trotskeyite lover, the Soviets, and the industrialist importing the poison gas who is also her lover all against each other so she can get the gold.

   Did I mention the May Day riots that kill two hundred communist protesters that the police are trying to cover up, or that Rath is having an affair with the wife of his brother missing since the war whose disappearance is tied to Rath’s illness, the Soviet Secret police, an assassination plot meant to trigger the overthrow of the Weimar government, or the mysterious scarred doctor (Jens Harzer) who has ties to the gangster and an unnatural interest in Rath including substituting his own drugs for the one Rath secretly takes?

   There is also Charlotte Ritter (Fries), living in a hovel with her dying mother, two sisters, evil brother in law, and senile grandfather. Lotte is a party girl, dancing her nights away madly in the club owned by the Armenian and working part time as a prostitute in the basement while by day working for the police as a piece work secretary to keep a roof over her family. Lotte develops a crush on Rath and an ambition to become an assistant investigator under him even when Wolter blackmails her into spying on Rath.

   Also involved in Commissioner Brenda (Brandt), a moral Jewish policeman who represents the best of Rath’s ambitions as the world around him and his own morality become ever more difficult to balance against the pressures of a city and nation in turmoil, both moral and political.

   The cast is uniformly fine, playing believable wounded individuals whose innocence can be as damning as their sins. No one emerges unsullied by the world collapsing around them, and even victories are tinged with the viewers knowledge that history is going to test them far beyond the corruption of their modern Babylon.

   Scenarist Volker Kutscher wrote a novel based on the series and since has written several novels based on the further adventures of Gereon Rath though whether any of them will be dramatized is uncertain. Babylon Berlin is an involving mystery, complex as a Chandler plot, morally questionable as Hammett’s world, and handsomely realized, perfectly designed for binging. For all its darkness it is a highly satisfying excursion into modern European noir.

   This past Father’s Day, Jon and I went to see a 16mm screening of The Green Slime at the New Beverly in Los Angeles. Apparently, the print, which was somewhat red and faded, is part of Quentin Tarantino’s personal collection. Although the title suggests otherwise, it’s a thoroughly entertaining science fiction film, and we both enjoyed it. The movie’s theme song is a fun piece of schlocky 60s psychedelic rock written by Charles Fox and produced, arranged and performed by surf music pioneer Richard Delvy. You can listen to it here:

A track from an LP I bought this past weekend at a local (Burbank) record shop. (Did you know that Jack’s real name was Elliot Charles Adnopoz? I didn’t either, until yesterday.)

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