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Blog, TV
Posted on Nov 13 2010 by Greg
Another startling little discovery for Disney record fans.

In an episode called "To Each Her Own" in the second season of That Girl, Ann (Marlo Thomas, who by the way recently published her autobiography) discovers Donald (Ted Bessell) having lunch with his computer-matched date, a lovely model who is very much like Ann.

The model's name is "Lisa Stevens," played onscreen by actress/dancer/choreographer Suzanne Charney, who made numerous film and TV appearances but whose speaking voice is not heard in this scene. (This sort of thing happens when an actors's dialogue is marred by noise of some other issue. On Gilligan's Island, early episodes were filmed by a noisy freeway and much dialogue was "looped" in this way.)

Perhap Ms. Charney was not available to replace her own dialogue or the there wasn't time. Because as anyone who knows the original Disneyland Book and Record sets (or Rankin/Bass' Santa Claus is Comin' to Town) will immediately recognize, "Lisa's" offscreen voice is completed dubbed by none other than your beloved Disneyland Story Reader / Jessica Claus herself, Robie Lester. I've submitted it to the imdb.

For you, Robie.

Blog, TV
Posted on Oct 30 2010 by Greg
Mickey Rooney made a lot of TV appearances as a guest on other people's shows -- and won acclaim in the Rod Serling-scripted drama The Comedian, but like a lot of film stars, he never was able to sustain a long running regular series.

The one with the most potential for longevity was The Mickey Rooney Show - Hey Mulligan! (having two titles made things confusing right there). It ran one season in 1954-55 on NBC against The Jackie Gleason Show on CBS.

Each show began with someone shouting "Hey Mulligan!," a title format adopted over a decade later on That Girl. I don't know if those "Hey Culligan Man!" commercials had any connection or not. Anyway, Rooney played a twentysomething Andy Hardy living with his parents (played by Regis Toomey and Claire Carleton), courting a longtime girlfriend (Carla Balenda) and somehow keeping a job as a network page for a fictional TV network.

The network page idea is a great one for a sitcom, not fully realized again until 30 Rock, though Rooney plays it strictly for broad slapstick. Blake Edwards wrote many of the episodes, foreshadowing the legendary success he had with another bumbling character, Inspector Clouseau.

Guest cast members included Angie Dickinson, Guy Williams (Zorro, Lost in Space); Alan Reed (The Flintstones); Pat Carroll (The Little Mermaid, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella); and Robert Shayne (The Adventures of Superman).

One of the strongest assets of The Mickey Rooney Show was the underrated Joey Forman as his "Ethel Mertz." Forman became a favorite featured player in sitcoms and movies of the '60s (Harry Hoo of Get Smart among others) and was a very talented comic actor. This series doesn't maximize his talents as much as it could, but he and Rooney have a good chemistry and it would have been nice to see how the series progressed had it lasted.

Why didn't it last? The competition, first of all, but perhaps more than that, it was an incident in which Rooney was rude to the sponsor at a social gathering. He described it very honestly in his autobiography, Life is Too Short. He felt as if he was being pressed into service as a performer for their social amusement and chose a very off putting way to strike out at the president of the company.

Interesting series, available complete in one DVD set. Interesting book too.

Blog, TV
Posted on Oct 15 2010 by Greg
The creators of Phineas and Ferb have exactly what I always expected from watching the show --  a lot of creative freedom. The show started quietly and gained its audience on its own, not because of a business plan, but because they were largely left to make a funny, smart show.

This new DVD contains the recent PHINEAS AND FERB CHRISTMAS VACATION episode plus four more: Interview with a Platypus; Oh There You Are, Perry; Chez Platypus and Perry Lays an Egg. All are great examples of how this series weaves its storylines with grace and panache, loaded with lots of quick asides in the spirit of other great comedy cartoons like Bugs Bunny and Bullwinkle.

There's an extra episode in the Bonus Features called "Doof Side of the Moon" preceeded by a 12-minute feature about how the creative team writes and performs their original songs and how one of their favorite episodes "Spongebob"veteran Dan Povenmire,  comedy writer/performer Martin Olson, Jon Colton Barry (son of legendary songwriter Jeff Barry) and Jeff "Swampy Marsh" whose is the grandson of bandleader Les Brown.

I mention the musical connections especially because Phineas and Ferb is very music-generated and again, not just by committee-engineered pop tunes by by comic effect, from rock to big band, Broadway to Bollywood. Many of the songs written for the show have been released on CD, including a new holiday favorites album. Most of the music and songs came from the above team, with the able help of musical director Danny Jacob.

The interactive menu is really interactive, not just called by that heavily-used term. Clicking various objects results in quick appearances by characters. One in particular takes you to a video in which the show staff conspire to cover a co-workers office with post-it notes.

You can tell from the bonus features on the new PHINEAS AND FERB: A VERY PERRY CHRISTMAS DVD that the creative forces behind the show are relatively free of the interfering words: "Well, I don't get that joke and neither do my associates, so the whole world won't so therefore kill it dead and let me watch is fester, rot and bleach in the sun." Well, maybe not in those words, but I can just imagine how a song like "Squirrels in my Pants" might die in a corporate approval process.

Let's hope the recent phenomenal success of Phineas and Ferb continues to thrive in relative autonomy. But somehow even if it does happen to a degree, we can probably look forward to a sly spoof of the internal ordeal, so veiled it may pass over the tops of the Herman Miller head rests.

Blog, TV
Posted on Sep 14 2010 by Greg
My kids and I get a kick out of how things are promoted and advertised, especially on TV. My wife and I are big on media literacy, since kids are exposed to advertising almost as soon as they're born.

Anyway, whenever a sequel to something approaches, the marketing department types tend to force "points" into things whether they fit or not. In the case of Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam, their "strategy" was to make it clear that the second film is bigger and better. It's not exactly groundbreaking thinking, but you hear it all the time. So for the last several months Disney Channel has been having their stars tells us how this new Camp Rock is "so much more (insert word here)." My kids laugh at this because of how it infers that that original is somehow inferior.

Of course, that's what advertising types must do -- always go for the new and improved. Curiously, Camp Rock 2 seemed to me to be better than the first film -- but not so to my kids.

I liked the big, exuberant musical numbers. Clearly this film feels the influence of past phenoms like High School Musical and Glee. There's a lot more highly choreographed set pieces here and it's great stuff if you like MGM musicals and Annette movies, which of course I do. The songs are more classic Hollywood "out of nowhere" than in the first film, where they were confined primarily to onstage settings.

My kids like musicals too, but they were missing the gentle, simple story of the first Camp Rock. It was basically a cross between Cinderella (a prince seeking a voice rather than a shoe) and the Mickey Mouse Club "Annette" serial (mean girl accuses nice girl of stealing).

The new movie really is bigger. All three Jonas Brothers have key roles this time around, with the most endearing song sung by Nick. Daniel Fathers as the camp leader is more of a plot focus also, as he competes with a rival camp led by an old rock rival (played by Daniel Kash, an actor whom we were sure was related to Tony Shalhoub in look and voice and still, we think, must be a distant cousin).

Therein may have been what lost my daughter in particular. The story was about ambition and business rather than boy meets girl -- or at least the romance took a backseat to the main plot. Don't get me wrong -- she likes the film and watched it again but prefers the first one.

The one thing we all agree on is the talent and likability of the star, Demi Lovato. She had to carry the first film on her shoulders and delivers a strong presence and performance again. She has a Sally Field quality and we hope she takes her life and career in the best possible dircctions. She's the real deal and we wish her well in the mine field of being a young star in show business.

The DVD does not offer more than a sing along (excuse me, a "rock along") option. The Blu-Ray disc also includes interviews.

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.

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