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Posted on Jul 28 2010 by Greg

The lead singer (and much of the background voices) behind The Archies (whose "Sugar, Sugar" edged out "Hey Jude" for the number one song of 1969), the vocals behind "I'm a Pepper, You're  a Pepper," "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," Applebys and hundreds of other commercials, as well as recording and Broadway show producer Ron Dante will be sitting in with Paul Shaffer and his band tonight on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Ron's appearance for the show in The Ed Sullivan Theater is a return, in a way, because The Archies appeared on a Sullivan show once. I remember sitting through most of the show, eagerly anticipating seeing the voices behind the hit songs -- then Sullivan introduced a "special treat for the youngsters" and then came a clip of "The Bubble Gum" dance and "Bang Shang-A-Lang" from Filmation's animated The Archie Show!

Ron has just released this new album of all-time great rock and pop hits called Favorites (with backup from such music notables as Peter Noone and Andy Kim) -- and Disney fans can also hear Ron singing "That's How You Know" from Enchanted on the new Disney Happily Ever After album.

Posted on Jul 27 2010 by Greg
Last Wednesday on Late Show with David Letterman, among the show's highlights was Bill Murray going for a swim in a New York dumpster. But the highlight for me was the song Paul Shaffer and the band played right after "The Top 10 Things Overheard on Lindsay Lohan's First Night in Prison." They briefly played and sang, "What's a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?" from the 1966 Hanna-Barbera Alice in Wonderland TV special. Cool!

Blog, Movies
Posted on Jul 24 2010 by Greg

They were on sale at Big Lots, so we got DVDs of two remakes.

One was the newer version of Yours, Mine and Ours that recast Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda with Rene Russo and Dennis Quaid. Ironically, even though the 1968 version starred two iconic legends, the remake seemed more farfetched and broad.

Dennis Quaid played a higher ranking officer who still had plenty of time for his kids and Rene Russo appeared as a quintessential successful businesswoman who also balanced a lot of time bonding with her kids and a talking stick -- and looked fantabulous.

In the original, Henry Fonda played a career military man who had little time for his family until his wife's death forced him to get to know his somewhat resentful children and Lucille Ball played a military nurse. So much for the "phoney, fakey Hollywood" of yesterday as opposed to the "more relatable, honest Hollywood" of today.

That said, even though it did not compare favorably overall to the original, the new Yours Mine and Ours was entertaining.

The 1997 remake of Leave it to Beaver, now largely forgotten while the original series lives on, was just okay. Clearly produced under conflicting circumstances, there was a lot of valiant effort to reproduce the wit of the series. Everyone tried hard, but it felt that, behind the scenes  of the film, there was a "classic" camp and a "contemporary' camp at work, very much at odds with each other.

The film went for a retro look, right down to the title in cement, Wally and Beaver walking home over the end credits, vintage cars and June Cleaver's dresses (which were kind of a caricature here), while there was lots of language that you just wouldn't hear in the Cleaver household. It's as if it was forced in, and maybe it was. There was a talented cast, but just not making the magic -- and how can you -- of the marvelous original.

It sure is hard to capture lightning in a bottle -- again and again.

Blog, TV
Posted on Jul 17 2010 by Greg
The big news this year isn't the "latest thing" in Hollywood, it's one of the greatest things in classic TV: Leave it to Beaver.

The long awaited for complete series is finally on DVD. Only two seasons had been released for many years, but now Shout! Factory is issuing Season Three through Six individually, with One and Two to follow, as well as the new complete series deluxe boxed set.

The Complete Series box contains an bonus disc with the unaired pilot (which did not feature Tony Dow or Hugh Beaumont and included a young Harry Shearer), a public service film, promos, a vintage board game and two new documentaries: one feature length that focuses on the principals and the show's history and another at featurette length about the supporting cast, particularly Eddie and Lumpy.

The feature video is documentary-style, fairly straightforward and benefits greatly from the presence of Barbara Billingsley, Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow, the latter two being involved behind the scenes as well (Mathers' brother Jimmy directed).

The second video, produced and directed by Shostak, takes a more whimsical approach. What fan of "Leave it to Beaver" wouldn't want to see Ken "Eddie" Osmond and Frank "Lumpy" Bank give each other "the business?" If they just talked "straight" through, it would not have been as true to the two characters and the actors who, as evidenced on the "Stu's Show" interviews included on the individual discs.

The clips in this segment are exactly the best clips to showcase Eddie and Lumpy. To someone who loves the show, like I do, as soon as each clip came on I laughed, "Oh! I love that episode!" It struck just the right chords.

[Perhaps no other single broadcast has been able to contribute more material to a classic TV series DVD collection than Stu's Show on shokus internet radio. You can also hear Alan Young and Connie Hines, the latter in her last interview in the bonus features of Mister Ed (Young on Season One; Young and Hines on Season Two).]

"Leave it to Beaver" is a landmark show in pop culture history, not because it broke new ground or was particularly innovative, but because it honed in on the life of kids, their relationships with adults and the odd moments of life that still and will always resound, regardless of changing styles and technical inroads.

If you remember it, revisit it afresh. If you have kids, by all means make it part of their lives too. If you don't have kids, it will strike a chord with the kid inside. There's something special about it.

Blog, Books
Posted on Jul 09 2010 by Greg
I don't recall reading such a meticulous, honest and riveting fiction novel in a long time. You can tell by the earnest avoidance of cliché, the sharp turns in narrative and the natural dialogue that the author (and likely the editor as well) doted lovingly over every word and phrase. In a sea of dumbing down, this is a very intelligent, perceptive look into the collective psyche of a group of disparate colleagues thrust together not by choice but by career and geographical circumstance.

Apparently the majority of media reviews have been so glowing that some might have approached The Imperfectionists with unrealistic expectations. Or perhaps judged Tom Rachman by his age rather than his skill. Yes, it's a dark look into some very messed up people, but there's hardly a note that seems false. The Ruby Zaga section is probably the most heartrending, yet like American Graffiti, we catch a parting glimpse of her in the epilogue that...well, I won't spoil it.

The most outrageous section concerns the greenhorn being buffaloed by the veteran grandstanding headline-grabber. It veers the furthest from realism in its absurdly comedic sitautions, yet it probably the most true to life, ironically, and perhaps most directly drawn from Rachman's life observations.

It is no coincidence that both Rachman's parents are psycholigists because he has a razor sharp focus on personalities, conceits and foibles. The section about the lady who reads compulsively is practically an OCD case study, and very real at that. Strong powers of observation, indeed.

According to Entertainment Weekly, this book has been optioned by Brad Pitt's company. I can see him playing the fired editor on the plane, but I really think this would make a better long format TV series than a one-shot movie. And any film adaptation is going to lose the characters' thoughts so generously shared by Rachman.

The setting is Rome in a newsgathering industry, but it's a story about people. Rome is a character, a place each character sees (or uses) differently. And the newspaper is almost a metaphor for unescapable change in a city that is thought to be enternal. An unforgettable read.

(The Imperfectionists contains mature subject matter and language, but far less, surprisingly, than many current novels and films.)

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