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"We've died and we've ended up in a musical!"
Blog, TV
Posted on Aug 05 2013 by Greg
According to the Deadline Hollywood site, Teen Beach Movie is the number 2 most-watched movie in cable TV history, after High School Musical 2. My guess is that, the new film, just released on DVD, has exceeded even Disney Channel's expectations.

While Disney Channel remains a kids' cable powerhouse, its level of huge, phenomenon-generating sensations such as Hannah Montana and High School Musical are several years in the past. The channel has some big hits, particularly Phineas & Ferb, Gravity Falls and Disney Junior shows Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins, but TV viewership has changed dramatically since the last decade. That makes the high viewership of Teen Beach Movie an even more significant success.

So how it make such a (forgive me) splash? I think people of all ages discovered that it was better than they expected, if not better than average for Disney Channel movies of the last few years. It's genuinely funny, colorful escapism, the kind of thing popular in the '60s and other periods in history when the country needed fun, silly stuff to take them away from economic and political issues.

If you liked the Annette & Frankie beach movies, this movie has more than just overt references. The leading lady is going to be sent to "Dunwich Academy," surely a nod to The Dunwich Horror, produced by American-International Pictures, the same low-budget, high-profit studio that made the seven "official" beach movies.

The villain, parodying Vincent Price from such fluffy frolics as Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine. Like Price, his British accent is theatrical. This villain is really from Pittsburgh. Vincent Price was really from St. Louis.

At the start of Teen Beach Movie, there's an iconic image for those who knows the original beach party films: a twisting young dancer dressed in frills -- certainly inspired by Candy Johnson, the "world's fastest twister," who danced over the end credits of most AIP beach movies. (I hope that, if there is a sequel, no one second-guesses the inclusion of such nice touches because "No one will get it."

Teen Beach Movie is Grease without the viscosity. The humor is more in the farcical style of The Monkees TV series (right down to the Davy Jones-like twinkling eyes). There's virtually no innuendo. 

David Lawrence, son of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, did the score and wrote some of the songs, a task he excelled at for the High School Musical movies. The songs on the soundtrackare a canny blend of '60s styles and contemporary teen pop mixes.

Perhaps more than anything, Teen Beach Musical is a dance film -- more so than High School Musical. Director/choreographer Jeffrey Hornaday vast list of credits includes the Disney Parks attraction, Captain EO. Members of the cast are recognizable from such TV competitions as "So You Think You Can Dance?" The bonus rehearsal footage bears out the energetic dance moves as well as the talents of the cast.

Don't expect Teen Beach Movie to be Jean-Luc Godard or Orson Welles. Just find a comfy chair and let it take you out on the surf. Even though the surf looks deliberately like it's been filmed against a green screen and no one's hair gets wet.

Dustin Hoffman, Sylvester Stallone, Billy Crystal & more stars as "Liberty" returns
Blog, TV
Posted on Jul 28 2013 by Greg
What a cast: Walter Cronkite as Benjamin Franklin. plus Billy Crystal (John Adams), Annette Bening (Abigail Adams), Dustin Hoffman (Benedict Arnold), Sylvester Stallone (Paul Revere), Liam Neeson (John Paul Jones), Michael Douglas (Patrick Henry), Ben Stiller (Thomas Jefferson), General H. Norman Schwarzkopf (George Rogers Clark), Whoopi Goldberg (Deborah Samson), Warren Buffet (James Madison), Michael York (Admiral Lord Howe), Kayla Hinkle (Sybil Luddington), Aaron Carter (Joseph Plumb Martin), Arnold Schwartzenegger (Baron Von Steuben), Maria Shriver (Peggy Shippen), Yolanda King (Elizabeth Freeman), Mario Kreutzberger (Governor Galvez) and Charles Shaughnessy (Various Voices)

An ambitious, 40-episode animated series created for PBS, I would hope that "Liberty's Kids" might have been utilized by some teachers to augment their American history curriculum. (Not to replace, mind you, but augment.) When I was a kid, history was kind of dry, but this series is a great way to bring what is really a very exciting story to a level that kids understand, are compelled by (my kids saw every one when they were young) and avoids being too stilted.

Young people are the fictional lead characters who thread us through real events throughout the Revolutionary War Period. It's not the first time cartoon watchers have seen this narrative technique. Archie comics have been doing it for decades and of course, CBS broadcast their final Filmation Archie series, "The U.S. of Archie," with the conceit that Archie and his friends somehow had ancestors during every crucial period in American history. Then there's "This is America, Charlie Brown," which didn't even explain how the Peanuts characters materialized in these historic settings.

"Liberty's Kids" doesn't star familiar cartoon characters. Instead, it stars a very impressive roster of celebrity guest voices. The combination of acting styles sometimes clash a bit, between the voice actors specific kind of style, the somewhat naturalistic approach of certain star voices and the rather surprising casting of others.

To their credit, the stars do give their all. But once I discovered Billy Crystal was voicing John Adams, I had the same challenges Phil Harris fans had when watching "The Jungle Book." The personality is just too ingrained in my head. Sorry to single him out, as Crystal has proven quite capable of drama before and he does not phone in John Adams here. But he's very distinctive, especially now that Mike Wazowski has appeared in two hit movies. Even though Ben Stiller has also voiced the lead in the Madagascar movies, his voice is not as unmistakable as Crystal.

And it's not like Walter Cronkite isn't unmistakable too. Cronkite was not an actor, but he was a master of presenting words and you would not expect him to be anyone but himself in the role of Ben Franklin, who is the only continuing adult character in the series.

DIC's animation is very much the slick TV type you might see in an upscale direct-to-DVD movie, with elaborate execution in some places and limited movement in others. The writing is uniformly solid, scripted by such primetime veterans as Bill Dial ("WKRP in Cincinnati") and Marc Zicree ("Star Trek: The Next Generation"). The best moments are not necessarily the "big" historical ones, but rather the lesser known, realistic details, such as a scene in which James, the young reporter, assumes that tar and feathering is a laugh fest until he is told how horrifyingly painful it is.

This is a very affordable reissue of the complete series. It should be noted that it, contains the dramatic content of the episodes without the interstitials that replaced commercial breaks on PBS. An earlier set did include them as separate bonus features. They do not advance the narrative but if you want them, you may want to seek out the earlier release.

Episode 1
September 2, 2002
The Boston Tea Party

Episode 2
September 3, 2002
Intolerable Acts

Episode 3
September 4, 2002
United We Stand

Episode 4
September 5, 2002
Liberty or Death

Episode 5
September 6, 2002
Midnight Ride

Episode 6
September 9, 2002
The Shot Heard Round the World

Episode 7
September 10, 2002
Green Mountain Boys

Episode 8
September 11, 2002
The Second Continental Congress

Episode 9
September 12, 2002
Bunker Hill

Episode 10
September 13, 2002
Postmaster General Franklin

Episode 11
September 16, 2002
Washington Takes Command

Episode 12
September 17, 2002
Common Sense

Episode 13
September 18, 2002
The First Fourth of July

Episode 14
September 19, 2002
New York, New York

Episode 15
September 20, 2002
The Turtle

Episode 16
September 23, 2002
One Life to Lose

Episode 17
September 24, 2002
Captain Molly

Episode 18
September 25, 2002
American Crisis

Episode 19
September 26, 2002
Across the Delaware

Episode 20
September 27, 2002
An American in Paris

Episode 21
September 30, 2002
Sybil Lundington

Episode 22
October 1, 2002
Lafayette Arrives

Episode 23
October 2, 2002
The Hessians are Coming

Episode 24
October 3, 2002
Valley Forge

Episode 25
October 4, 2002
Allies at Last

Episode 26
November 4, 2002
Honor and Compromise

Episode 27
November 5, 2002
The New Frontier

Episode 28
November 6, 2002
Not Yet Begun to Fight

Episode 29
November 7, 2002
The Great Galvez

Episode 30
November 8, 2002
In Praise of Ben

Episode 31
November 11, 2002

Episode 32
January 20, 2003
Benedict Arnold

Episode 33
January 21, 2003
Conflict in the South

Episode 34
January 22, 2003
Deborah Samson - Soldier of the Revolution

Episode 35
January 23, 2003
James Armistead

Episode 36
January 24, 2003

Episode 37
January 25, 2003
Born Free and Equal

Episode 38
March 4, 2003
The Man Who Wouldn't Be King

Episode 39
April 2, 2003
Going Home

Episode 40
April 3, 2003
We the People

"Regular Show" Creator J.G. Quintel: Show is bizarre, but regular
Blog, TV
Posted on Jul 27 2013 by Greg

Cartoon Network promotes Regular Show as "anything but regular." That's true in two ways: the show is crazy, quirky and sometimes naughty. But it's "anything but regular" due to the fact that more than many current shows, it's traditional in its format of storytelling.

Even though each episode goes from the everyday to the spectacularly insane, that's what the great sitcoms did--both live action and animated. When Lucy Ricardo got starched, lit her nose on fire or got wasted on Vitameatavegemin, each script was constructed from the zany point back to the beginning, which seemed very normal and everyday. Through this exacting process, the most outlandish situations can seem plausible.

That's really what makes it "anything but regular" on today's animation landscape, because most modern shows (and films) tell multiple stories rather than linear ones. Since Seinfeld and its contemporaries, there are usually several plot threads that unfold until they converge at the end. Even dramatized biographies now flow in and out of flashbacks and side steps.

So Regular Show is regular and it's not. According to the show's creator, J.G. Quintel, the title indeed teeters between irony and accuracy.

J.G. QUINTEL: Even though it looks completely bizarre, it is just a "regular show." Once you get past the way it looks, it is a sitcom you are watching. The title was going to be Regular Show, "Normal Show" or "Weird Show." "Normal Show" was not quite right and 'Weird Show" was too on the nose.

GREG EHRBAR: What's that sound we hear over the titles in each episode?

J.G.: That is supposed to be the sound of a TV changing channels.  It's as if you're searching through the channels and when you find Regular Show, that's when you stop.

GREG: You and your team have done over 100 episodes and are headed into the fifth season, so the show and characters have evolved. What's cool about watching the original first and second seasons now?

J.G.: You can see how Mordecai and Rigby started out. They aren't the same characters they are now. In Season Two, we started experimenting with Muscle Man. He used to more of a rival of Mordecai and Rigby. Seeing it from the very, very beginning, it feels as if they "just got here." Benson is more of the classic boss, really on their case all the time. He has some really awesome freak-outs in Seasons One and Two. It's nice to revisit the original shows that started it all and add to the backstory.

GREG: You say on one of the audio commentaries that you wanted the show to "sound good" to adults as well as kids, so it wouldn't grate. Sometimes contemporary TV, especially aimed at kids and daytime audiences, seem to have a mandate to "keep up the energy," which translates often into a constant level of cacophony, rather than the more impactful peaks and valleys of storytelling.

J.G: It is very easy to write a romp, going from "a" to "b" They want something and they're going to get it so then a car chase and something crazy happens. We've found that it's much stronger to have an emotional element threaded through. They somehow have to care about this thing that they want. There is something emotional at stake, beyond something hollow. That way, it rings true. Everybody has those kinds of feelings and they can relate to it. That in turn makes it more fun to see them go though it.

What we always try to do--and it's really hard--is to make something that you think would have held up for you as a kid, would hold up for kids today and that grownups can find entertaining, hopefully for a long time to come.

GREG: Are some of the stories inspired by real life things?

J.G.: Some of the stories that have happened to us. "The Power" is a good example, Mordecai and Rigby are just screwing around, they bust a hole in the wall and have to fix it.  That literally happened with two guys at work. They were wrestling and they slammed their backs into the wall and popped a hole into it. Instead of telling anybody they just covered it up with a bookshelf. The episode we won the Emmy for, "Eggscellent" [Season 3] is based on a real restaurant in San Diego that gives you a hat if you eat a twelve egg omelet. I couldn't even get a quarter of the way through.

GREG: What is the story process for Regular Show?

J.G.:  We have several teams of storyboard artists but in the writer's room where we come up with the concepts. We play this game I played in college where you all sit at a table and come up with fake titles for episodes that sound cool. You throw those into a hat and pull one out at a time. You set a timer for two minutes while you try to write as much of a complete episode as you can. In an hour you can have 125 ideas.

We read them all out loud and any of them that make us laugh and sounds like something that is worth moving forward on, we build around it.  It gets written into an outline with a classic three act structure.  Even though it is animation and you can do almost anything, you can lose the audience if all of a sudden it doesn't make sense. You always have to make sure that you keep them engaged and they "get" the story.

GREG: Would you call Mordecai and Rigby "co-dude-dependent?"

J.G.: They do need each other. I don't think they could ever be ripped apart for too long otherwise they would be incomplete. They definitely have their moments where one of them will piss the other one off but they always come back together before the end of the episode.

GREG: There's a balance that is disrupted if they are separated by an distracting person or event, the way Tom and Jerry were sometimes. Like when Mordecai saw Pops coming out of the shower and can't deal with that image in his mind.

J.G.: Yes, yes.  He just wants to get his friend back.  He accidently wipes his mind.

GREG: The two of them are easily manipulated by TV advertising.

J.G.: That is my favorite--showing just how manipulated and malleable Rigby and Mordacai are to these commercials. They will buy anything. If the commercial is cool enough they are sold. Commercials were really funny to me when I was a kid and I loved video games. I remember which games I thought were cool, so I always try to make sure the games in "Regular Show" are the same types of games--and then we usually make fun of them.

GREG: You said that Mordecai is sort of like you in college.

J.G.: Yes, it's true.  I can remember specific things I would do that would get me into really big trouble. My parents would say, "Why did you do that?" Honestly in my mind I didn't know, I just did it. Both Mordecai and Rigby have varying levels of intelligence but you can tell that Mordecai is the more responsible one. Rigby is the one that is going to do things without thinking. They keep each other in check.  It's fun to see them play against each other and play with each other and how the stories unfold because of their choices which are always interesting.

GREG: You're the voice of Mordecai. Forgive me for asking, but do you have formal acting training?

J.G.: I remember taking an acting class called "acting for animators." When Regular Show came along and I had done the voice for my character in my student film [included on the Blu-ray/DVD] where I was just being myself so that was no big deal. The only thing that was kind of hard for me at the beginning was kind of learning how to yell because I don't really yell in real life, ever, and Mordecai yells a lot when he gets into all these crazy situations. I had to do a couple of big screams to get used to that.

GREG: When you record the voices, do you use a storyboard as a script?

J.G.: We do.  We have a script typed up because it is easier to read in the records but we go off of our storyboards.  We even have a monitor in the record booth showing the storyboard pictures in case anybody is not getting how intense it needs to be. That makes it much easier. Bill Sawyers, Sam Marin, Mark Hamill, me and any others go through the script in a very linear way and then that will be that. Other times if we get people that are on the east coast, we will do phone patches once in awhile.

GREG: The show uses a lot of established songs, like "Working for the Weekend" in one of my favorite episodes, "Free Cake." How did that come about?

J.G.: When we started producing the show, we were putting in temporary music just to give a feel of what we wanted. I'm a huge fan of 80s so I just put that stuff in. When the executives watched it, someone said it sounded really cool and wanted to know if we wanted them to get the original versions. I didn't think that they would ever suggest that but we actually ended up with them. I'm pumped that we did, because it really colors Regular Show in a unique way. Parents watching it might remember those songs. Kids might not know them, but they'll still think they're still cool songs. A lot of kids comment online that when they hear a certain song, they think of "Regular Show."

GREG: I noticed in one of your commentaries, you mentioned that something was traced, and you said, "Tracing is okay, kids." That was great, because sometimes a creative interest can be derailed in life by rules that don't always apply in later life.

J.G.: There are a lot of little insights in the commentaries about what we have learned in making cartoons, our process and how it has evolved over time.  It was really fun to get to talk about a lot of that.

GREG: But a successful career isn't just handed to you in real life, is it?

J.G.: No, it is not.  There is a lot of luck involved.  I think you've got to be in the right place at the right time with the right idea that a studio just happens to be looking for and they like it.  Beyond that, you have to be able to make it consistent so people will want to watch it, which can be tough.

GREG: There are a lot of extras on the set--in addition to the commentaries--including a music video with live action people representing the characters. What's the deal with that?

J.G.:  That was really cool. It's from the episode "Mordecai and the Rigbys," when Mordecai lies to Margaret about being in a band and then accidently enrolls himself in this battle of the bands, so he and Rigby have to learn how to play just one song so he won't get caught.  They end up playing this song in the end. In Atlanta, where Cartoon Network is based, they took that song and some of their live action guys just made that video. I watched it and my jaw just dropped and I was laughing so hard.

GREG: In the commentary for "Death Punchies," you say that "There are things funnier than a fart." Funny flatulence has been around since Vaudeville, but nowadays it's become the go-to gag for entertainment aimed at kids and teens.

J.G.: It's true. It's kind of cheating in a way. You can do really crass humor and get a laugh but if you take the time to think of a clever way around it so that everybody can enjoy it, that's usually the better way to go. But it's harder to do. It takes more time. Usually we have to work quite long hours to keep it up, even though it would  probably be much easier to just toss in a fart once in a while.

While we really make "Regular Show" for ourselves, and a lot of us are in our twenties and thirties, I hope adults won't automatically think, "Oh, this is for kids and I shouldn't watch it." That's not true at all.


Episode 1, September 6, 2010 
The Power
Rigby and Mordecai try to fix a hole in the wall with a magic keyboard and send stuff to the moon.

Episode 2, September 13, 2010
Just Set Up the Chairs

Of course, the guys don't set up the chairs, but their discovery of some old video arcade games blows up in their faces.

Episode 3, September 20, 2010
Caffeinated Concert Tickets
The guys need money to attend a concert by a band from their past. 

Episode 4, September 27, 2010
Death Punchies

Rigby gets tired of Mordecai winning at Punchies so he goes to great lengths to beat him.

Episode 5, October 4, 2010
Free Cake
Desperate to have cake but with no money the guys scheme to force Skips to celebrate his birthday

Episode 6, October 11, 2010
Meat Your Maker
A dispute over tasty hotdogs leads to a near death experience. Tim Curry voices the leader of the hot dogs.

Episode 7, October 18, 2010
Grilled Cheese Deluxe

Mordecai and Rigby eat Benson's sandwich.  When they go to get a new one they pretend to be astronauts to skip the long line.

Episode 8, October 25, 2010
The Unicorns Have Got to Go

Instead of attracting ladies with his "Dude Time" cologne, Mordecai attracts unicorn dudes who promise to help him attract ladies.

Episode 9, November 1, 2010
Prank Callers

The dudes pick the wrong person to prank call: the Master Prank Caller.

Episode 10, November 8, 2010

Rigby's more likable, nicer brother arrives to do accounting for Benson. Coincidentally, the animated Beetlejuice had a likable brother named "Donny."

Episode 11, November 15, 2010
Rigby's Body

Rigby becomes a green blob in a trash can after overindulging on junk food. This episode could get more kids to eating salads than some public service announcements.

Episode 12, November 22, 2010
Mordecai and the Rigbys

Mordecai lies to Margaret about having a band.  To cover for him, the dudes form a band and sign up for battle of the bands.


Season 2 Episode 1 / Series Episode 13
November 29, 2010
Ello Gov'nor
Rigby is scared after watching a British horror movie about an evil car.

Season 2 Episode 2 / Series Episode 14
January 3, 2011
It's Time
Rigby gets mad at Mordecai for wanting to go the a movie with Margaret instead of him so he sets up a date with Margaret.

Season 2 Episode 3 / Series Episode 15
January 10, 2011
Appreciation Day
When Rigby starts writing false items in the employee record, what he writes comes true.

Season 2 Episode 4 / Series Episode 16
January 17, 2011
Fed up with all their slacking off, Benson uses surveillance cameras on Mordecai and Rigby.

Season 2 Episode 5 / Series Episode 17
January 24, 2011
Pops is terrified of public speaking. A popular plot, this was also seen in an "Adventure Time" story but with a completely different take.

Season 2 Episode 6 / Series Episode 18
January 31, 2011
My Mom
Muscleman and High Five Ghost are put in charge and seem to get away with everything.

Season 2 Episode 7 / Series Episode 19
February 7, 2011
High Score
The boys get it into their heads that the way to gain respect from others is to become good at a video game

Season 2 Episode 8 / Series Episode 20
February 14, 2011
Rage Against the TV
The guys go in search of a TV to conquer a video game everyone says is unwinnable.

Season 2 Episode 9 / Series Episode 21
February 21, 2011
Party Pete
The guys hire Party Pete to pep up their lame party. Pete's assistants are Chrissy and Janet.

Season 2 Episode 10 / Series Episode 22
February 25, 2011
Brain Eraser
Rigby uses an anime to help Mordecai get his brain erased after he sees Pops getting out of the shower. The characters themselves provide the audio commentary for this episode.

Season 2 Episode 11 / Series Episode 23
February 25, 2011
Benson Be Gone
Benson gets demoted and has to work alongside Mordecai and Rigby.

Season 2 Episode 12 / Series Episode 24
March 7, 2011
But I Have a Receipt
Mordecai and Rigby buy a lame board game.

Season 2 Episode 13 / Series Episode 25
March 28, 2011
This Is My Jam
Rigby gets an annoying pop song stuck in his head.

Season 2 Episode 14 / Series Episode 26
April 4, 2011
Muscle Woman
Muscleman's girlfriend breaks up with him and when Mordecai and Rigby try to help she falls in love with Mordecai.

Season 2 Episode 15 / Series Episode 27
April 11, 2011
Temp Check
Rigby hires a temp because he is tired of working.

Season 2 Episode 16 / Series Episode 28
April 18, 2011
Mordecai jinkses Rigby and when Muscleman gives him advice on how to un-jinx himself things go horribly wrong.

Season 2 Episode 17 / Series Episode 29
April 25, 2011
See You There
Mordecai and Rigby try to get into Muscle Man's party.

Season 2 Episode 18 / Series Episode 30
May 2, 2011
Do Me a Solid
Mordecai and Rigby abuse the "sacred" act of the solid.

Season 2 Episode 19 / Series Episode 31
May 9, 2011
Grave Sights
The guys suggest a horror movie night to raise money for the park. But once they start showing "Zombocalypse 3-D," something goes terrible wrong.

Season 2 Episode 20 / Series Episode 32
May 16, 2011
Really Real Wrestling
While wrestling Mordecai and Rigby accidently injure Pops.

Season 2 Episode 21 / Series Episode 33
May 23, 2011
Over the Top
Skips can't stand the idea of losing to Rigby at arm wrestling.

Season 2 Episode 22 / Series Episode 34
May 30, 2011
The Night Owl
Mordecai, Rigby, Muscleman and High Five Ghost try to win a muscle car in a radio station promotion run by a sinister DJ.

Season 2 Episode 23 / Series Episode 35
June 6, 2011
A Bunch of Baby Ducks
The guys find baby ducks, who become attached to an irritated Rigby.

Season 2 Episode 24 / Series Episode 36
June 13, 2011
More Smarter
Rigby resorts to drastic measures to get his high school diploma.

Season 2 Episode 25 / Series Episode 37
July 11, 2011
First Day
An expanded version of the pilot episode; Mordecai and Rigby play the dangerous game of rock-paper-scissors to get a discarded chair.

Season 2 Episode 26 / Series Episode 38
July 18, 2011
Go Viral
Rigby and Mordecai bet whether they or Muscleman and High Five Ghost can make a better viral video.

Season 2 Episode 27 / Series Episode 39
July 25, 2011
An angry Wereskunk passes his smell--and a Mr. Hyde-like rage--to Rigby.

Season 2 Episode 28 / Series Episode 40
August 1, 2011
Karaoke Video
The duo tries to prevent their friends from seeing a karaoke video loaded with insults of them.

"Lost" footage of Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, Rock Hudson, others discovered
Blog, TV, People
Posted on Jul 25 2013 by Greg

Jack Benny is arguably the greatest comedian of all time. Beginning in Vaudeville, he played violin and told jokes as a start. But he accumulated comic ticks and personality quirks, one after another, and incorporated them into his act. He nurtured his writers and his supporting cast.

He was a radio giant through the Depression, WWII and the Korean War. He balanced TV and radio appearances in the mid-50s then moved to the tube full time. His series, "The Jack Benny Program," gave way to occasional specials and an endless procession of guest appearances, along with movies and even a Warner Brothers cartoon ("The Mouse That Jack Built").

Many of his TV episodes, numbering over 200, are still being rerun on cable stations. Some are in the public domain and can be found on budget DVD sets. This new "Jack Benny Show: The
Lost Episodes" collection
from Shout! Factory, is different. It's very big news of course for fans, but also because many of them figure prominently into pop culture, Hollywood legend and American history.

This set is big news, indeed. Perhaps the most astonishing find among the 18 shows is one with then-married Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner, singing, dancing and playing beautifully off Benny. But then most anyone could play well against Benny, even Harry Truman.

Jack Benny's "Truman show" is a rare appearance on an entertainment show by the 33rd President. The episode was shelved after its first broadcast because the sound quality in the Truman sequence is not really broadcast quality. Seeing it now is astonishing.

If you love Jack Benny, this set is a gold mine. While there are not a lot of episodes that follow the "Jack at home" format with Mary Livingston, you'll see Dennis Day, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Don Wilson and Mel Blanc (who does the classic S­ / Sy" routine).

While some might have to be cautioned about political correctness issues in a very few instances within specific shows, it is worth noting that there is also a very sly inversion of incorrectness in one of the selections. When Benny introduces Lux soap as his new sponsor, an Asian announcer comes onstage and begins a very inappropriate, stereotypical pitch. Then it is revealed that he really speaks in the rich tones of an American announcer, and Benny is the butt of the joke, as usual.

In the last episode of Season 10, Jack faces dismissal when the network executives (real CBS suits played by Joseph Kearns (TV"s Dennis the Menace, Disney"s Alice in Wonderland) and Bob Sweeney (actor/director who played Tupper in Disney"s "Toby Tyler). They have discovered that Benny himself doesn't generate laughs. They actually isolate his speaking parts and compare them to those of Dennis Day. It's a wicked jab at network research and corporate pragmatism. Brilliant for its day and for today as well.

Jack Benny also got Hollywood's biggest stars of the day to appear on his show. In addition to Wood and Wagner, there Gary Cooper, Rock Hudson, John Wayne and Tony Curtis. "Lost Horizon" superstar Ronald Colman and his wife Benita Hume make their sole Benny appearance, though they did numerous radio shows in which Benny's character pushed their British courtesy to its limits.

Dick Van Dyke, in the midst of filming his classic TV sitcom and the movie version of "Bye Bye Birdie," appears in a show that, like the others, many of us have never seen before. My personal favorite is the Easter show, because this was the one time we can see Jack walk along the boulevard, greeting members of his oddball troupe. The routine was a radio favorite of mine, so it"s cool to see it unfold on film.

I"m the kind of classic and radio fan who has to constantly invest in compilations to find even one or two that I have not seen or heard. How wonderful to find a brand new collection, filled with material I didn"t know could ever be recovered!

1. Episode 65, Season 7
October 7, 1956
George Burns / Spike Jones Show

2. Episode 66, Season 7
October 21, 1956
George Gobel / Red Skelton Show

3. Episode 67, Season 7
November 4, 1956
Jack Is Invited to the Ronald Colmans

4. Episode 96, Season 9
September 21, 1958
Gary Cooper Show

5. Episode 111, Season 10
October 4, 1959
Jack Switches Sponsors (The Jack Benny Program 30 Years in the Future)

6. Episode 112, Season 10
October 18, 1959
Harry Truman Show

7. Episode 115, Season 10
November 25, 1959
Jack Paar Show

8. Episode 122, Season 10
March 6, 1960
Natalie Wood / Robert Wagner Show

9. Episode 124, Season 10
April 17, 1960
Easter Show

10. Episode 125, Season 10
May 1, 1960
Final Show of the Season

11. Episode 126, Season 11
October 16, 1960
Guests George Burns, Tony Curtis, Robert Wagner & Mike Wallace (Nightbeat Takeoff)

12. Episode 128, Season 11
October 30, 1960
Milton Berle Show    

13. Episode 130, Season 11
November 20, 1960
Guests John Wayne, Frank Fontaine, Jaye P Morgan


14. Episode 161, Season 12
December 24, 1961
Christmas Party       


15. Episode 189, Season 13
February 18, 1962
Rock Hudson Show 


16. Episode 195, Season 13
January 29, 1963
Guest Dick Van Dyke - The Murder of Clayton Worthington 


17. Episode 206, Season 14
September 24, 1963
Billy Graham Show   

18. Episode 247, Season 14
December 24, 1964
Guest Gisele MacKenzie      


€¢ A Conversation with Harry Shearer, Norman Abbott & Dorothy Ohman (42:23)

€¢ Excerpt - Jack Benny's 20th Anniversary Special, Feb 17, 1969 (9:04)

€¢ Excerpt - Jack Benny's New Look, December 3, 1969 (3:48)

€¢ Excerpt - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Jack Benny But Were Afraid to Ask, March 10, 1971 (3:30)

€¢ Excerpt - Jack Benny's Second Farewell Special, January 24, 1972 (9:48)
€¢ Hearst Newsreel Footage, 1935-1945 (Total 7:19)

"Difficult Men" generous with "Sopranos" and "Wire" insights, not so much "Mad Men"
Blog, TV
Posted on Jul 24 2013 by Greg
We live in an era in which the Wicked Witch of the West has become the hero in a big, successful and superb musical, where Sleeping Beauty's enemy is about to tell her side of the story in a major tentpole movie. Good and bad are relative. It is reflection of the injustices and inequities. In real life, often bad behaviors are very publicly given surface rewards and valuable publicity.

One of the threads within "Difficult Men," what the author calls "The Third Golden Age" of TV, is a world of dark dramas in which the heroes aren't very good people, but they're not textbook bad. Tony Soprano, Don Draper and Walter White are fallen people but are also sympathetic. All the shows seem to depict voyeuristic situations against cautionary consequences.

So do the people, apparently, who create and run the shows. With only two clear exceptions, the guiding forces behind these artistic landmarks are complicated and conflicted. The duality of their collaborative styles do not exactly transform their writers rooms into sparkling joyfests. The anecdotes about the workplace situations are among the most compelling sections in the book. The biggest successes seem to come at the highest costs, especially on a human level.

If you love "The Wire" and "The Sopranos," this book is a sumptuous feast. Not so much for "Mad Men," which gets little more than a chapter. The other shows might not warrant more  few pages or a few chapters, but "The Wire" and "The Sopranos" simply dominate the text. Admittedly, their stories also provide a narrative thread. the points about some other programs might not warrant as much detail, especially if the points are already elsewher. And Martin may have had greater access to some showrunners than others -- "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner might have been less forthcoming with background info, as he is known for keeping so much under wraps. The staff of a current show would rather not risk his/her position for a candid interview.

It makes the most sense for "The Sopranos" to dominate the book, since it is clearly positioned as the touchstone of this new era. Even if you don't watch the show, the facts behind "The Sopranos," as well as the general gist of the show, are enough to hold interest. However, significant as "The Wire" is, no other series gets so much detailed coverage. A little too far into the weeds.

Martin tends to dismiss much of the remaining television landscape, past and present, in his effort to build a case for this particular era. His rhapsodizing of these recent works is may certainly be warranted, but they and their creators is not islands unto themselves. It might have been helpful to acknowledge such works as "Citizen Kane," "Carousel" or most Hitchcock films, all of which gave an insight into caddish, corruptible lead characters and placed viewers in the uncomfortable position of rooting for them.

The creators, these "difficult men," are unique in the circumstances and the time frames in which they were able to envision their concepts, but there might have more room devoted to some and less to others. That said, this era is worth examining as are these works. Martin's exhaustive research is evident. I'd love to read a full book on "Mad Men" by Martin. Maybe that chapter is a preview for his next book

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