Lisa Marie’s Week In Television: 8/28/22 — 9/03/22

I spent most of this week watching old TNBC shows from the 90s.  That was my choice and stand by it.

Allo Allo (PBS, Sunday Night)

Michelle needed to send microfilm to London and the cafe needed to prepare for a parade.  Meanwhile, with the outcome of the war now becoming obvious, the Germans made plans to assassinate Hitler and escape from France.

PBS is currently showing the final episodes of Allo Allo.  There’s only two episodes left and, to be honest, it’s kind of obvious that the show itself was more than ready to be wrapped up by the time it started its 9th series.  Watching this week’s episode, it was hard to shake the feeling that everyone appeared to have just been going through the motions.  (I recently read that Gorden Kaye, who played Rene, was recovering from a serious car accident, which perhaps explains why he seems a bit more subdued than usual.)  Still, Officer Crabtree’s “Good moaning” will always make me laugh, as will Michelle’s “I shall say this only once.”

The Bachelorette (ABC, Monday Night)

The men tell all!

They didn’t tell enough as far as I’m concerned.  They should have just sent all the other men home and interviewed Meatball for two hours.

Big Brother (CBS and Paramount+, Everyday)

I’ve been writing about Big Brother at the Big Brother Blog!  This week, Kyle was voted out after having his game exposed by Michael and Brittany.  Because Kyle’s plan was to target all of the black players because he was convinced they were going to form their own Cookout-style alliance, Kyle was worried that he would be booed when he left the house.  I’m not sure if the audience booed him or not.  It actually sounded like production abruptly turned off the audience microphones as soon as Kyle stepped through the front door.  Julie Chen Moonves got to pretend that she was a serious journalist during her seven-minute exit interview with Kyle.  Then Julie cheerfully announced that Zingbot would be on Sunday’s show.

California Dreams (YouTube)

This week, I watched and reviewed 18 episodes of California Dreams.  You can read the first of those reviews here!

The Challenge (CBS, Wednesday Night)

Tyson and Enzo survived another week, so I’m happy.

City Guys (Tubi)

I watched 19 episodes of City Guys this week and I wrote and scheduled reviews of all of them.  You can read the first two by clicking here!

Full House (MeTV, Sunday Evening)

Uncle Jesse decided to skip the Tanner Family Reunion because he needed to work on a song.  Michelle got mad and, as usual, everyone had to rearrange their lives to placate that demented little troll doll.  “Uncle Jesse’s not nice nice anymore!” Michelle said.  No, Uncle Jesse has a job because he’s a freaking adult.  Considering that Jesse has spent the majority of the show either mooching off Danny or Becky, everyone should have been encouraging him to actually do some work on his own for once.

This was followed by a terrifying episode in which Joey auditioned for a children’s show with the help of a big chipmunk doll.

Hang Time (YouTube)

I have been watching episode of this show and scheduling reviews.  Look for my review of the first two episodes on Monday!  The main thing that I’ve learned from watching Hang Time is that I don’t know a thing about basketball.

Inspector Lewis (YouTube)

On Wednesday, I watched another episode of Inspector Lewis.  Lewis and Hathaway were investigating a series of murders surrounding a fake medium.  Hathaway spent most of the show wearing a neck brace and contemplating the mysteries of existence.  Lewis, as usual, was much more pragmantic in his approach.

The Office (Weekday Evening, FaveTV)

I watched two episodes on Wednesday.  First, I watched the second part of the episode in which Pam and Jim got married in Niagara.  This was followed by the notoriously silly episode in which Michael became convinced that a pushy insurance agent was a member of the Mafia.

One World (Tubi)

I watched and reviewed 18 episodes of One World this week!  You can read the first of those reviews by clicking here!

Open All Hours (PBS, Sunday Night)

Granville threatened to go back to school so Arkwright locked him in the cellar.

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 1.1 “Battle of the Bands” and 1.2 “Beat of His Own Drum”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Saturdays, I will be reviewing California Dreams, which ran on NBC from 1992 to 1996.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

In 1992, with Saved By The Bell coming to a close, Peter Engel attempted to duplicate that show’s magic with California Dreams!  The story of a bunch of teens who start their own band, California Dreams was basically Saved By The Bell if every episode had centered around the Zack Attack.

The first season of California Dreams centered around Matt Garrison (Brent Gore) and his younger sister, Jenny (Heidi Noelle Lenhart).  Matt played guitar and was the band’s lead singer.  Jenny played keyboards and sang.  Tiffani (Kelly Packard) was the surfer who played bass.  Tony (William James Jones) played drums.  Sly Winkle (Michael Cade) managed the band.  Mr. Garrison (Michael Cutt) and Mrs. Garrison (Gail Ramey) supported Matt’s ambitions.  The youngest Garrison child was Dennis (Ryan O’Neill).  The Garrisons were a pretty boring family and they would be phased out after this season.

Now, sing it….

Episode 1.1 “Battle of the Bands”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on September 12th, 1992)

The story of California’s blandest garage band got its start with a simple episode about a Battle of the Bands.  As the episode begins, California Dreams has already been formed and apparently already has fans.  We’re starting in medias res and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.  In fact …. wait a minute!  Where’s Jake!?  Where’s Sam!?  Where’s Mark Winkle?  WHERE’S LORENA!?

(Lorena is the character to whom I always relate.)

Sorry, none of those characters are present in season one.  Of the classic California Dreams line-up, only Sly, Tony, and Tiffani were present at the start and, during the first season, all three of them were overshadowed by the Garrisons.  Though it’s easy to forget, the band was originally formed by Matt Garrison and his younger sister, Jenny.  Matt Garrison is quick to tell everyone that he’s rock and roll.  In this episode, he talks about how much he loves obscure bands like The Beatles and U2.  I wonder if he’s ever heard of the Beach Boys.  Needless to say, without Jake and Lorena, the first season of California Dreams is pretty bland.

Anyway, in this episode, the California Dreams enter a Battle of the Bands contest but they find themselves competing against their hated rivals, Bradley and the Billionaires.  We don’t get to hear Bradley’s music but the band looks pretty sharp in their old club jackets.  GO BRADLEY!  When the Battle of the Bands ends in a tie, this means that California Dreams and the Billionaires will be competing in a run-off for …. well, I’m not sure what the prize is.  Probably an Applebee’s gift card or something.

(Actually, I just rewatched the episode.  The prize was $500, the majority of which would probably be spent at Applebee’s.)

Sly decides that Matt should date one of the judges, Angela.  Matt doesn’t think that he and Angela have anything in common but then Angela reveals that she also likes the Beatles.  ANOTHER BEATLES FAN IN CALIFORNIA!?  WHO COULD HAVE SEEN THAT COMING!?  Can Matt tell her the truth about why he asked her out and still win the contest?  Who cares?  Bradley is clearly a better musician.  That said, the Dreams win the contest because the show is named after them.  Angela forgives Matt after he gives her tickets to a big concert.  “Beethoven!” Angela says, looking at the tickets.  Sweetie, he’s not actually going to be there.

Meanwhile, Tony decides to get an earring but freaks out when he sees the needle.  Wimp.

Episode 1.2 “Beat Of His Own Drum”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on September 19th, 1992)

Tony has finally written a song that he’s proud of but it turns out that his father doesn’t care about the band.  So, Tony tries to win his father’s love by dropping out of the band and playing football.  Eventually, Tony fakes an injury to get out of playing football and rejoins the band.

Meanwhile, Matt’s creepy little brother develops a crush on Tiffani.  It’s extremely awkward and uncomfortable to watch.

It all works out in the end.  Tony’s dad begrudgingly comes to a California Dreams performance and sees Tony perform his song.  While Tony sings, we get to see a music video that I guess is supposed to be taking place in Tony’s head.  Tony sings and dances with an umbrella while Matt hops around in a green suit and Jenny poses with two ventriloquist dummies.  It’s the type of thing that makes O-Town look edgy.  But no matter!  Tony wins his father’s support.  Yay!

Film Review: Elvis (dir by Baz Luhrmann)

Elvis the movie has much in common with Elvis the entertainer.

Both the movie and the entertainer (who is played, in the film, by Austin Butler) start strong, fall apart at the end, and leave you with a tear in one of your eyes once it’s all over.

Both the movie and the entertainer are big and unapologetically excessive yet also undeniably earnest as well.  Considering the amount of music that appears in the film (from both Elvis Presley and others), it’s significant that the final song played is In The Ghetto, which features Elvis at both his most naïve, his most sincere, and at what some of his critics would call his most offensive.

Both the movie and the entertainer are occasionally shallow but both of them want to be about more than just screaming fans, libidinal desires, and radio-friendly songs.  While Elvis (played by Austin Butler) watches the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the assassination of Bobby Kennedy and wonders how he should respond, the movie tries to make sense of and find a deeper meaning in the world’s fascination with kitschy Americana.  The movie suggests that Elvis spent much of the 60s on the outside looking in and the same could be said of Australian director Baz Luhrmann and his attempts to observe and capture the contradictions inherent in American culture.  Luhrmann’s kinetic style, which is one of those things that viewers will either love or hate, serves not just to capture the frantic energy of the late 50s and the 60s but it also allows him to remain detached from the world that he’s recreating.  It’s his way of reminding us that, though the story may be about a real person and a real moment in time, it’s still just a movie and, even during the film’s most intimate moments, the audience is still on the outside looking in.  We are the outsiders peeping in on the insiders, watching through a locked window that allows us to observe but not to interact.  This is history as a fever dream.

Finally, both Elvis the movie and Elvis the entertainer face the same dilemma.  What to do about Colonel Tom Parker?  Tom Parker was the former sideshow carny-turned-promoter who took credit for discovering Elvis and who managed his career.  Of course, he wasn’t really a colonel.  His name wasn’t Tom Parker.  And despite his claims to the contrary, he wasn’t born in West Virginia.  No one, not even the film’s version of Elvis, seemed to be sure who Col. Parker really was.  Parker is typically cast as the villain in the story of Elvis’s self-destruction.  He made a lot of money off of Elvis but he also put Elvis is bad movies and trapped him in a Las Vegas residency.  He made sure that Elvis got the pills that he needed to keep performing.

In the film, Parker narrates the story from his deathbed and angrily denounces anyone who would say that he was responsible for Elvis’s death.  When he talks about the gamble he took on Elvis, Parker’s seen staggering through a casino while still wearing a hospital gown.  Parker is played by Tom Hanks, who wears a prosthetic nose and speaks in an almost unintelligible accent.  My first reaction to Hanks’s performance was to think, “Could they not have gotten Christoph Waltz for this role?”  There’s nothing subtle about Hanks’s performance but then again, there’s never been anything subtle about Luhrmann as a filmmaker.  As the film progressed, I started to better appreciate what Luhrmann was doing with the character and I think I even came to understand his motives for casting Hanks.  If Austin Butler’s Elvis is meant to represent the optimism and the hope of America then it makes sense that he would be shadowed by the dark side of kitsch and there’s nothing more kitschy then casting an actor like Tom Hanks as the Devil.  As an actor, Hanks is often casts in roles where he epitomizes old-fashioned integrity.  By casting him as Col. Parker, Luhrmann challenges our expectations of who Tom Hanks can be in much the same way that Elvis challenged expectations of how music could be performed.  This is a film that is fully aware of the irony of Elvis coming to symbolize America while his career was being managed and his image carefully constructed by a man who entered the country illegally and who couldn’t reveal his real name or his real biography.  If Tom Hanks sometimes seems lost in the role of Col. Parker, it helps to remind us that Parker himself was often lost in America.  If Tom Hanks is usually cast as the epitome of American exceptionalism, his casting here reminds us that Col. Parker was a man who achieved the American dream and who came to represent the American nightmare.

In the end, it’s Austin Butler’s performance as Elvis that keeps the movie from spinning out of control.  Even while surrounded by Luhrmann’s stylistic touches and Tom Hanks’s bizarre performance, Austin Butler keeps the film grounded in reality by turning Elvis into a human being, a talented singer who loves his success but who also fears that he’ll never truly be worthy of it.  Butler gives a performance that is full of sexual swagger but which also finds room for the small moments in which Elvis reverts back to being a lost child who feels like he needs someone to look after him.  Interestingly enough, there aren’t many scenes in the film in which Elvis and Col. Parker show much affection toward each other.  Instead, each feels like he needs the other to survive and, to a certain extent, they each resent the other because of that dependence.  Austin Butler’s Elvis is the king when he’s on stage but, when he’s off-stage, he’s just another outsider looking in.  Elvis becomes a symbol of America but the American establishment is only willing to fully accept him after he’s gone.  If nothing else, this role should make a star out of Austin Butler.  Before he played Elvis, Butler was best known for playing murderer Tex Watson is another fever dream of history, Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.  In Elvis, the title character retreats into his hotel room after reading about the murders that Tex Watson, under the direction of Charles Manson, took part in.  As both a film and a character, Elvis understands that society is just as quick to destroy its celebrities as it is to idolize them.

Elvis is a flawed film, make no mistake.  How the viewer reacts to it will largely depend on how much tolerance that viewer has for Luhrmann’s flamboyant style.  At 2 hours and 38 minutes, it feels a bit overlong and, despite all of Luhrmann’s stylistic flourishes, the final fourth of the film is a conventional “rock star in decline” story.  (In one way or another, these flaws are present in almost all of Luhrmann’s films, allowing one to wonder when a flaw ceases to become a flaw and instead becomes a directorial trademark.)  Elvis is undeniably a Baz Luhrmann film but, fortunately, it’s also an Austin Butler film.  It’s a big, sprawling, overwhelming, sometimes annoying and often very moving piece of cultural history.  It’s a work of pure, unapologetic showmanship.  Elvis probably would have lost interest after the first hour but Col. Parker would have loved it.

A Blast From The Past: Book Him! (dir by Sid Davis)

In this 1971 Sid Davis-produced educational film, young teens learn that going to jail isn’t as much fun as they might think.  After exploring all of the crimes that are on the rise (vandalism, shop lifting, etc.), the film follows Jerry as he gets arrested, gets booked, and gets shown to a cell.  As is typical with Sid Davis’s films, there’s a narrator present to let Jerry know that he’s ruined his life.

I’ve never been arrested but I know a few people who have been and, just from what they’ve told me, it appears that Jerry was lucky enough to go to one of the nicer jails.  As for the rest of the film, it’s a history nerd’s dream.  Just look at those clothes!  Just look at the hair!  Just look at 1971!

Live Tweet Alert: Watch Await Further Instructions with #ScarySocial

As some of our regular readers undoubtedly know, I am involved in a few weekly live tweets on twitter.  I host #FridayNightFlix every Friday, I co-host #ScarySocial on Saturday, and I am one of the five hosts of #MondayActionMovie!  Every week, we get together.  We watch a movie.  We tweet our way through it.

Tonight, for #ScarySocial, @ArtAttackNYC will be hosting 2018’s Await Further Instructions!

What happens when a British family finds themselves trapped in their house and being ordered around by their television?  Who will survive and what will be left of their minds?  How many orders would you take before thinking for yourself?  Watch the movie and find out!

If you want to join us on Saturday night, just hop onto twitter, start the film at 9 pm et, and use the #ScarySocial hashtag!  The film is available on Prime and a few other streaming sites.  I’ll be there co-hosting and I imagine some other members of the TSL Crew will be there as well.  It’s a friendly group and welcoming of newcomers so don’t be shy.

Music Video of the Day: Hero of the Day by Metallica (1996, directed by Anton Corbijn)

This video was directed by Anton Corbijn.  If you were a rock star in the 90s, Anton Corbijn probably directed a music video for you.

In this video, a young man discovers that Metallica is inescapable.  Even on television, every channel features either a show or a commercial that features the members of the band.  For someone who has access to 24-hour Metallica television, the young man doesn’t seem to care about much.  Not even his girlfriend can get much of a response from him.  He would rather just fantasize about monsters fighting.  The young man in the video is played by George Clements.  He also appeared in a music video that appeared on Queen’s Made In Heaven compilation.