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!
This week, continuity goes to Hell with the California Dreams!
Episode 4.11 “Heal the Bay”
(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on December 2nd, 1995)
This episode opens with all the Dreams hanging out at Sharky’s, getting ready to head to the beach. Tiffani blows a conch shell to let all the surfers know that the tide is up. Mark says that he’s bringing his guitar to the beach so he can practice getting girls. Jake and Lorena discuss what they’re taking to the beach. Not surprisingly, Lorena is planning on taking a lot more than Jake while Jake is going to keep things simple….
Wait! Jake and Lorena are going the beach together? And they’re flirting? Didn’t they break up at the start of the season? Yes, they did! But NBC was notorious for showing the episodes of their Saturday morning sitcoms out of order. As a result, shows like California Dreams, Hang Time, City Guys, and One World were notorious for their continuity errors. Of course, as I watched this episode, it didn’t really matter to me because I like Jake and Lorena as a couple and I think they were way too quick to break up. Even though the episode wrecked havoc with the show’s continuity, it was still nice to Jake and Lorena flirting again….
However, I was less amused when Tony started to hit on a girl who wasn’t Sam. I mean, Tony and Sam have been dating forever! This episode was obviously meant to air way back at the start of the third season, even before Jake and Lorena hooked up in Budget Cuts. If it hard aired when intended, it would have set the foundation for Jake and Lorena eventually getting together. And, looking back, Jake and Lorena’s relationship did seem like it kind of came out of nowhere.
As for the rest of this episode, it featured Tony turning into crazed environmentalist after the beach is closed due to pollution. He gets on everyone’s nerves so the Dreams show him the error of his ways by ruining his date with a girl who is not Sam. It turns out that the entire date involves doing or wearing or eating something that was harmful for the environment. Having realized that being an insane environmentalist means never getting laid, Tony apologizes. Good for him! The Dreams then perform at a concert to raise money to “heal the bay.” They do it for free. Poor Sly.
I liked the episode because insane environmentalists are annoying and Lorena and Jake were a cute couple. I just wish it had aired when it was supposed to. Let’s find out if the next episode is any less of a continuity nightmare.
Episode 4.12 “Woo-oops”
(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on December 30th, 1995)
Samantha’s father entrusts her with a credit card! Yay! Samantha spends a thousand dollars in one day! Oh no! Now, Sam has to work multiple jobs to raise the money to pay off the card or her father is going to make her return to Hong Kong!
If this sounds familiar, it’s because Saved By The Bell did an episode where Lisa Turtle spent too much with her credit card. Hang Time also had a credit card episode. It was a big topic as far as Peter Engel-produced shows were concerned. In this case, Sam fails to raise all of the money but she does raise roughly half of it so her father agrees to let her stay in the U.S, as long as she keeps working to pay him back. That’s a good thing, seeing as how the Dreams didn’t really have anyone who could have replaced her in the band.
As far as continuity is concerned, Jake and Tiffani are a couple in this episode. In fact, there’s a nicely done B-plot where Jake had to find a replacement for a valuable doll that he accidentally destroyed after Tiffani tells him that she’s found a buyer for it. And, of course, Sam and Tony are a couple, just as they should be. Everyone learns an important lesson about spending money, i.e., spend as much as you want and then wait for someone to help you pay it all off. Sounds good to me!
Next week, we return to Lorena’s father’s ski lodge!
Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a new feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Fridays, I will be reviewing Half Nelson, which ran on NBC from March to May of 1985. Almost all nine of the show’s episodes can be found on YouTube!
The year was 1985 and actor/singer Joe Pesci was at an interesting place in his film career.
In 1980, Joe Pesci was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Robert De Niro’s brother in Raging Bull. Raging Bull was Pesci’s second film and he earned critical acclaim for his performance as the second most angry member of the LaMotta family. In the years immediately following his first Oscar nomination, Pesci went on to play character roles in a handful of other films, including Dear Mr. Wonderful, Easy Money,Once Upon A Time In America, and Eureka. While no one could deny Pesci’s talent or his unique screen presence, it was also obvious that Hollywood wasn’t quite sure what to do with him. While Pesci was apparently high on everyone’s list when it came to playing gangsters with hair-trigger tempers, no one was willing to give Pesci a starring role.
Fortunately, television always has room for an Oscar nominee and, in 1985, Half Nelson came calling. Created by veteran television producers Glen A. Larson and Lou Shaw, Half Nelson was a detective show. Joe Pesci starred as Rocky Nelson, a tough New York cop who relocated to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career. While waiting for his big break, Rocky worked for Beverly Hills Security and lived in Dean Martin’s guest room. And when I say that Rocky was living in Dean Martin’s guest house, what I mean is that Dean Martin actually appeared on the show, playing himself.
NBC liked the idea enough to air the pilot film and then schedule the show as a mid-season replacement. Audiences were a bit less interested in the show and Half Nelson was canceled after only 8 weeks. Pesci went on to win an Oscar for Goodfellas and he never starred in another television show. Half Nelson would probably be forgotten if not for the fact that someone recently came across the opening credits on YouTube. When shared on Twitter, this video went viral as “the most 80s thing” ever created.
After I watched that video, I knew I simply had to review Half Nelson as soon as I finished up The Brady Bunch Hour. Fortunately, almost all of the episodes have been uploaded to YouTube so, for the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a look at HalfNelson, starring Joe Pesci!
Episodes 1 & 2 “The Pilot”
(Dir by Bruce Bilson, originally aired on March 24th, 1985)
Half Nelson begins in New York City, with NYPD’s finest, Detective Rocky Nelson (Joe Pesci), disguising himself as a waiter and sneaking into a mafia-owned restaurant. After punching out two guards, Rocky enters a backroom and discovers a group of guys with a lot of heroin. Rocky arrests them and becomes a hero. As Rocky explains in a voice-over, it’s the biggest drug bust in history. When Hollywood asks for the rights to the story, Rocky insists that he be allowed to audition for the lead role. Rocky quits the NYPD and heads out to Los Angeles. Rocky’s going to be a star!
And, at first, it seems like Rocky’s dream might actually come true. The film’s director (played by the veteran TV character actor, George Wyner) watches Rocky’s audition and announces that Rocky has the screen presence and talent of Al Pacino. Unfortunately, Rocky is also only 5’3. “You’re too short to play Rocky Nelson,” the director explains.
“But I am Rocky Nelson!” Rocky exclaims.
Despite the fact that Rocky’s telling the truth, it doesn’t matter. A tall British actor is cast in the film. As a dejected Rocky leaves the audition, he’s approached by a security guard who offers Rocky a job with Beverly Hills Patrol, a private security firm. Rocky’s skeptical until the security guard mentions that Rocky will get to live in Dean Martin’s guest house.
We jump forward six months. Rocky is now a trusted employee of Beverly Hills Patrol. When he’s not working as a bodyguard, he’s auditioning for roles. At the office, his boss is Chester (Fred Williamson) and the office manager is Annie O’Hara (Victoria Jackson). Chester is cool and all-business. Annie is flighty and has an obvious crush on Rocky. She also gives Rocky a pit bull named Hunk. Hunk is very loyal but also very quick to attack anyone who isn’t Rocky. I don’t know if a show could get away with a comic relief pit bull today but whatever. Hunk is a cute dog with a ferocious bark.
In just six months, Rocky has become surprisingly well-known in L.A. Some of that might be because he lives with Dean Martin. Martin appears in three scenes of the pilot and, to be honest, he definitely looks and sounds a bit worse for wear. Half Nelson was Dean’s final acting role. (He died ten years after the show was canceled.) But even though Dean was clearly not in the best shape when he appeared in the pilot, his natural charisma still shines through and there’s a lot of pleasure to be found in his scenes with Joe Pesci. For one thing, Pesci himself seems to be genuinely excited about acting opposite Martin.
Along with becoming friends with Dean Martin, Rocky has also befriended Parsons (George Kennedy), a Los Angeles police chief who is eager for Rocky to quit the Beverly Hills Patrol and to join the LAPD. Rocky turns down the offer, however. Rocky is done with police work. He’s going to be a star!
Of course, he’ll also find time to solve some crimes along the way.
For instance, in the pilot, Rocky investigates the death of his best friend and co-worker, Jerry (Nicholas Surovy). Parsons insists that all the evidence shows that Jerry murdered his girlfriend, Monika (Morgan Brittany), and then shot himself. However, Rocky doesn’t think Jerry would do something like that. When Jerry’s father (veteran screen actor Rory Calhoun) asks Rocky to find the people who killed his son, Rocky doesn’t have to be asked twice.
It turns out that Jerry and Monika were taking money from a tabloid magazine publisher (Terry Kiser). They had a video tape that would have been very embarrassing to some prominent Angelinos, including a businessman (Rod Taylor), a restauranter (Tony Curtis), a general (Mills Watson), an astronaut (Gary Lockwood), and a television executive (Bernie Kopell). Rocky assumes that the people on the tape ordered the murders but then he learns that, while the general did send two government agents to find the tape, he also made clear that no one was supposed to be killed. Instead, someone else who wanted the tapes committed the murders on his own.
Searching for the killer means that Rocky will have to assume many disguises and show off his acting skills. As an actor, he’s able to wander into the local movie studio and not only raid their wardrobe department but also borrow their cars. Over the course of the film, Rocky disguses himself as both a cowboy and a traffic cop. He also drives a Ferrari, a Cadillac, a jeep, a motorcycle, and KITT, the talking car from Knight Rider. (KITT, unfortunately, does not talk in Half Nelson.) On the one hand, the use of disguises is a little bit silly because Joe Pesci is always going to be Joe Pesci regardless of what costume he is wearing. The pilot’s silliest scene involves Rocky dressed up like a cop to confront two men who have been following him. Somehow, they fail to pick up on the fact that the 5’3 cop with the New York accent is the same 5’3 New Yorker who they’ve been tailing for the last few days. And yet, it’s one of those things that’s so ludicrous that you can’t help but think that the show was showing a bit of self-awareness and commenting on just how ludicrous most television shows tend to be.
Eventually, Rocky figures out that the killer is …. SPOILER ALERT …. Parsons! That’s right. The same police chief who kept offering Rocky a job with the LAPD turned out to be the murderer for whom Rocky was looking. What’s interesting is that, after realizing that Parsons is the killers, Rocky doesn’t arrest Parsons or attack him or do any of the other things that a typical TV detective might. And Parsons doesn’t try to flee or fight. Instead, the two men take a leisurely drive and talk about life, morality, and regret. Parsons talks about how he was once an honest cop but Los Angeles corrupted him. Rocky expresses some sympathy and says that he hates that he discovered that Parsons was the murderer. It’s a well-acted and surprisingly well-written scene. When Rocky asks Parsons about the murders, Parsons replies, “I had to empty my gun, just to drown out their screams.” (Yikes!) Parsons lets Rocky out of the car and tells him, “Don’t let them get to you, kid.” Parsons then drives the car over a cliff as Roberta and Chester (who have been tailing Parsons) run up to Rocky.
“Hard to believe that a man like that would kill himself!” Roberta says.
“That’s just the funeral,” Rocky replies as Parsons car explodes, “He died a long time ago.”
Wow, that’s dark! Fortunately, the mood is lightened during the show’s final scene, in which Rocky’s pit bull attacks boxer Larry Holmes.
The pilot for Half Nelson was nicely done. It set up the series and it gave us an introduction to the characters, which is exactly what a pilot is supposed to do. The cast showed off their chemistry and the final scene between Parsons and Rocky indicated that the show had the potential to be something more than just another mid-80s detective show. The pilot’s greatest strength, not surprisingly, was Joe Pesci. Pesci has played so many mobsters and crooked lawyers that it’s easy to forget what a likable actor he can be. The pilot featured Pesci at his most amiable and it also gave him a chance to show off his comedic timing. All-in-all, the pilot was a success and I could understand why NBC would have ordered more episodes after watching it.
But what about the series? Would the series live up to the promise of the pilot or would it just become another generic detective show? We’ll find out over the next 8 weeks!
Dealing with life and crimes of serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer (played by Evan Peters), Dahmer premiered on Netflix last September and, despite not getting a lot of promotional push, it went on to become Netflix’s most-watched miniseries to date. I first tried to watch it in October. Then I tried again in November. And I tried a third time in January. All three times, I couldn’t make it through the first episode. The whole thing seemed so oppressively sad and dark that I couldn’t bring myself to stick with it. The image of Dahmer killing people in his ugly apartment and then drinking a beer while watching The Exorcist III was not an image that I wanted in my head.
This week, I decided to give the miniseries another shot. I did so for the most shallow of reasons. The Emmys are approaching and I don’t want to end up pulling a repeat of last year, where I had to scramble to somehow cram watching all of the possible contenders into a two-and-a-half week period. Because it’s a Netflix show and it’s a Ryan Murphy production and it portrays Dahmer has being the type of white male killer who could only thrive in a society shaped by systemic racism, Dahmer will probably be an Emmy contender. So, this week, I finally watched the entire miniseries.
Using the same jumbled chronology that sabotaged Ryan Murphy’s The Assassination of Versace, Dahmer tells the story of Dahmer, his crimes, and some of his victims. The first episode features Dahmer’s eventual arrest. The second, third, and fourth episodes give us a look at his childhood. The sixth episode tells the story of one of his victims. The remaining four episodes focus on the aftermath of Dahmer’s crimes. For the most part, the series is well-acted and it makes a convincing case that Dahmer could have been stopped if not for the biases and the incompetence of the Milwaukee police. That said, it’s also ten hours long and ten hours is a long time to spend mired in the darkness of Jeffrey Dahmer’s life and crimes. Much as with the second half of The Assassination of Versace, Dahmer gets bogged down by its refusal to trust the audience to be able to understand the show’s message. Any point that is made once in Dahmer will be made four more times, just to make sure that everyone picked up on it.
It’s a typical Ryan Murphy true crime production. While Murphy didn’t direct any of Dahmer’s ten episodes, he did produce and co-write the first four episodes. Both Murphy and Evan Peters have insisted that the show was not meant to make excuses for Dahmer. Murphy reportedly told the directors to make sure that the story was never told from Dahmer’s point of view and to keep the audiences on the outside looking in. To its credit, Dahmer doesn’t glorify him by portraying him as being witty, erudite, or in any way clever. As portrayed in this miniseries, Jeffrey Dahmer was an alcoholic loser who peaked in high school, despite the fact that he really wasn’t that impressive back then either.
But again, Dahmer is ten hours long and there are really only three episodes in which Dahmer is not the main character. Episode six is told from the point of view for Tony Hughes (Rodney Burford), who was one of Dahmer’s victims. Episode seven is told from the point of view of Glenda Cleveland (Niecy Nash), who was traumatized as a result of being Dahmer’s neighbor and who later became an activist on behalf of the families of Dahmer’s victims. In one of the many infuriating moments of the Dahmer saga, Glenda attempts to help one of Dahmer’s drugged victims, 14 year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone, just for the police to tell her to stay out of it before taking the 14 year-old back to Dahmer’s apartment. (Perhaps aware of how unbelievable that this scene will seem to some viewers, the show includes actual audio of the call that Glenda made to the police to check on what had happened to the child that she tried to save. As Glenda points out that the child was bleeding and obviously drugged, the police brusquely tell her to mind her own business.) Episode eight focuses on Lionel (Richard Jenkins), Dahmer’s guilt-stricken father. All of three — especially Richard Jenkins — give stand-out performances but it is ultimately Dahmer who dominates. Indeed, though the miniseries portrays Dahmer as being a compulsive killer, it still can’t resist portraying his grandmother as being a fundamentalist scold who won’t stop telling Dahmer that he needs to go to church. It still can’t resist portraying Dahmer’s first victim as being a homophobe. It still can’t resist a sequence depicting the execution of an unrepentant John Wayne Gacy, as if to argue, “At least Dahmer said he was sorry!” Intentional or not, the decision to put Dahmer at the center of the story does encourage the viewer to make excuses for him.
With the exception of the episodes centering on Tony Hughes and Konerak Sinthasomphone, it is hard not to feel that the documentary focuses on Dahmer at the expense of his victims. (It should be noted that Tony Hughes’s mother is among those who have been critical of the miniseries and its portrayal of Tony as being Dahmer’s “boyfriend” before his murder.) Until the end of the miniseries, we don’t find out the names of the majority of Dahmer’s victims and it largely feels like an afterthought.
In the end, the miniseries is overlong and, while it certainly doesn’t glorify him, it still occasionally falls into the trap of making excuses of Dahmer. The film ends by ruefully noting that, despite the efforts of Glenda Cleveland, no memorial has ever been built for the victims of Jeffrey Dahmer. This miniseries could have been that memorial if it had focused on them instead of on him.
Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Thursdays, I will be reviewing City Guys, which ran on NBC from 1997 to 2001. The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!
This week, Chris meets a princess and L-Train becomes Mr. History.
Episode 4.8 “Kodak Moment”
(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 14th, 2000)
Chris, Al, and L-Train are standing at a newsstand when a blonde (Kristen Miller) with a fake British accent runs up and kisses Chris.
“Do you always kiss strangers?” Chris ask her.
“I do if they’re cute,” she replies.
“Wooooooooooo!” the audience replies.
My immediate reaction was to assume that Chris was being set up by a human trafficking ring and that he would soon be finding himself in Hostel-style situation. And, to be honest, I didn’t really have an objection to that because Chris is a pretty stupid character and, considering everything that has happened to him over the course of the last four seasons, it’s kind of hard to see what else was really left for the show to do with him. He’s served his purpose so why not use Chris as a cautionary tale?
However, it turns out that the blonde is actually Princess Sarah, a member of European royalty who just wants to lead a normal life but who can’t get away from the paparazzi. Poor thing. Who cares? Anyway, Chris and Princess Sarah go on a date but then Chris sees Sarah kissing another man and he decides the best way to react is to work with Al and L-Train to get a picture of the princess that they can then sell to the press. But then Princess Sarah puts on a fake mustache so she can sneak onto campus and explain to Chis that the man was her ex-boyfriend and she was just kissing him to say goodbye. Chris forgives Sarah but he forgets to call off Al and L-Train. Al sneaks into Sarah’s hotel room and takes a lot of pictures. Chris learns a lesson about privacy and I get a migraine. To escape the paparazzi, Sarah returns to the UK because, as we all know, the British tabloids are notorious for respecting the privacy of the rich and famous.
(If Sarah were played by a British actress, this episode would perhaps be a bit less annoying. But the fake accent on top of all the usual City Guys foolishness just makes the whole thing unwatchable.)
Meanwhile, Jamal, Dawn, and Cassidy try to catch a ghost on camera. Ms. Noble eventually joins them. It’s meant to be a parody of the Blair Witch Project. It turns out that there isn’t really a ghost at Manny High Instead, there’s just Ms. Noble and the janitor playing a practical joke on the students. What? Didn’t Ms. Noble just get married? Why isn’t she on her honeymoon?
This was dumb. Let’s move on and meet Mr. History.
Episode 4.9 “Meet Mr. History”
(Dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 20th, 2000)
Ms. Noble remembers that she’s supposed to be a teacher so she assigns everyone a research report. The students have to track down an old person and interview them. Chris and Jamal don’t know any interesting old people so they turn in an interview with Jamal’s fictional Uncle Jesse. Ms. Noble is so impressed that she arranges for Uncle Jesse to appear on a local television show. Uh-oh. Time for L-Train to dress up like an old guy and go on television! Of course, L-Train is in no way believable as an old guy so everyone ends up getting yelled at by Ms. Noble. Chris, Jamal, and L-Train attempt to apologize to the producer of the television show but end up getting their apology broadcast to the entire city. The show presents the apology as being the right thing to do but there’s no way that Chris, Jamal, and L-Train aren’t going to get mugged the next time they get on the subway. The entire city of New York now believes them to be a bunch of …. well, jerks! (As well all know from the mock trial episode of City Guys, jerk is the worst thing you can call someone in New York.)
Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Wednesdays, I will be reviewing the original Love Boat, which aired on ABC from 1977 to 1986! The series can be streamed on Paramount Plus!
This week, I learned that there’s no way to escape the Bradys!
Episode 2.6 “Mike and Ike / The Witness / The Kissing Bandit”
(Dir by Allen Baron and Roger Duchowny, originally aired on October 21st, 1978)
This week, The Love Boat continued to be a floating HR nightmare as Newton Weems (a very young Billy Crytsal) donned a mask and spent his nights running around the ship and kissing every single woman that he came across. Fortunately, Newton’s such a fantastic kisser that no one demands that the police be alerted. Unfortunately, with every woman on board eager to get kissed, that means that no one is reacting to the lame flirtations of Doc, Gopher, and the Captain. The Captain decides that the best way catch the Kissing Bandit would be to use Julie as a decoy. If I was Julie, I would point out how reasonable I was about the Captain’s uncle and demand more money. Instead, Julie allows herself to be kissed and soon, she’s in love with the Kissing Bandit as well.
However, Newton eventually realizes that he’s actually in love with another passenger, Roberta (Laurie Walters), and that he doesn’t have to wear a mask to be romantic. Though this disappoints his biggest fans (played by Nancy Kulp, Pat Carroll, and Sharon Acker), it does make the rest of the crew happy. It seems like the Captain should be worrying more about running the ship than hitting on every woman who comes aboard but I guess big luxury liners pretty much run themselves.
While this was going on, Isaac was reconnecting with his old friends, Lenore (Marilyn McCoo) and Mike (Billy Davis, Jr.). When they were younger, they used to perform on street corners for spare change. Now, Mike is an executive vice president and he’s so work-obsessed and stuffy that his own son (Todd Bridges) thinks that his father doesn’t love him! Fortunately, things work out in the end. Mike realizes that there are things more important than business. Ted Lange gets to show off his dance moves, though it’s hard to forget that Isaac once accused another passenger of being a sell-out for doing the same thing.
Finally, Frank McLean (Robert Reed) is taking a cruise so that he can avoid testifying in a murder trial. He is spotted by Suzanne (Toni Tennille), who knows Frank from the old neighborhood. At first, Frank denies even being from New York but, eventually, he tells Suzanne his story. Suzanne falls for Frank but she has a secret of her own. By Love Boat standards, this story is fairly dramatic but it ultimately fails because there’s not a hint of chemistry between Reed and Tennille. In fact, Robert Reed looks even more miserable after he falls in love than he did before.
Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Tuesdays, I will be reviewing the original Fantasy Island, which ran on ABC from 1977 to 1986. The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!
This week, Eve Plumb and Leslie Nielsen visit Fantasy Island!
Episode 2.14 “Séance/The Treasure”
(Dir by Larry Stewart, originally aired on January 13th, 1979)
Tattoo is a horse thief! He claims that he just found the horse while wandering around the island but later, he comes across a wanted poster that has his picture on it and the declaration that Tattoo is wanted dead or alive. Mr. Roarke gets a good laugh out of that and even repeats the words, “Dead or alive,” as if he’s realizing that he’s finally found a way to get rid of his assistant. Fortunately, Mr. Roarke has a change of heart and, at the end of the episode, buys the horse for Tattoo. Awwwww!
As for this week’s guests, Joe Capos (George Maharis) is a fisherman who has always wondered what it would be like to be a millionaire. Joe and his wife, Eva (Shelley Fabares), come to the island and find themselves set up in a house that looks exactly like the one where Joe grew up. One day, Joe goes out fishing and what should he find in his net but a gold statue of Triton blowing his horn! It’s a valuable artifact, one that could make Joe a millionaire if it is found to be authentic. Soon, Joe is surrounded by a bunch of people who are hoping to be on his good side when he becomes rich. He’s the most popular man on the island! Unfortunately, Joe is having so much fun being rich and popular that his neglected wife leaves him. Joe knows that the only way to get Eva back is to return the statue to the ocean but will he have the courage to give up wealth and fame for love?
Meanwhile, Eve Plumb plays — wait a minute, Eve Plumb? Just last week, Robert Reed was on the show, playing a method actor who thought he was a vampire. Now, the original Jan Brady has come to the island. I wonder if the entire Brady Bunch will eventually make it to Fantasy Island?
Plumb is playing Clare Conti, a young woman who suspects that her twin brother was murdered. In order to prove it, her fantasy is to have a séance and contact him. Her entire family comes to the Island for the séance, including Uncle Victor (Leslie Nielsen). This episode is Neilsen’s second appearance on the Fantasy Island and, again, he’s playing a very serious and a very somber character but, because he’s so deadpan about it, it’s hard not hear everything that he says as being a joke. It’s always great fun to see Nielsen playing humorless authority figures in the days before he became a comedy superstar. The only thing that would make this episode better would be if Nielsen turned out to be the murderer but sadly, he’s not. As for the rest of the fantasy, the séance scenes manage to strike the right balance between being creepy and being campy. Clare’s dead brother yells a lot but I guess that’s what you do when you’re trying to communicate from the beyond.
This was an enjoyable episode, featuring good performances from the guest stars and fantasies that were intriguing without demanding too much from the audience. This trip to Fantasy Island was more than worth it.
Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000. The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!
Season 4 continues! Will Coach K ever figure out how to step into Coach Fuller’s shoes? Will the team ever come together? Will Julie and Mary Beth ever graduate? Let’s find out!
Episode 4.3 “Let Them Play”
(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on September 19th, 1998)
Another big game is coming up but the majority of the team doesn’t want to play it! It turns out that one of their rival teammates is HIV+ and, as a result, high schools across Indiana have been refusing to play them. When Coach K puts it to a team vote, only Michael argues that they shouldn’t cancel their upcoming game. Even St. Julie votes to cancel the game.
However, Michael then brings the HIV+ positive player down to The Stadium, the oddly sterile restaurant where everyone hangs out. The team discovers that their rival is just like them and almost all of them change their minds about playing. The only one who doesn’t now want to play is …. JULIE! Julie tells Michael that she doesn’t feel safe playing against a player with HIV, especially since she’ll be the one guarding him in the game. “C’mon, Julie,” Michael says, “we need you in this game!” And Michael’s correct because, if there’s anything we’ve learned from Hang Time, it’s that Julie is the only good basketball player in Indiana. Maybe that’s why she’s been allowed to stay at the high school for an extra year….
Despite the players changing their minds, the school board says that the game still cannot be played. As a way to protest, the teams decide to play an “unofficial” game. When a member of the school board comes by the gym to complain, Julie sees that it’s the same member of the board who always says that a girl shouldn’t be allowed to play basketball! Julie decides that she will play, once again proving that the best way to get Julie to do anything is to make it all about Julie.
This is one of those episodes that probably would have worked much better with the “old” cast. I imagine if this episode had aired during the previous season, Danny would have been the one arguing that the team should play and that would have been totally in character for him. Turning Michael into a social crusader with a conscience goes against everything that we’ve learned about Michael up until this point. As well, we still don’t know any of the new players so it’s a bit hard to know how to react to their feelings about playing against someone who is HIV positive. Are they prejudiced or are they just worried? Are they homophobic or are they just uneducated about how HIV is transmitted? And, finally, it’s hard not to notice that Dick Butkus has a bit less gravitas than Reggie Theus when it comes to discussing whether or not HIV can be transmitted through playing basketball. This episode came across as being well-intentioned but heavy-handed.
The B-plot features Mary Beth encouraging Kristy to write an angry letter to the art teacher who gave her a C on an assignment. As played by Amber Baretto, Kristy put so much joy into writing her letter that it was fun to watch. I laughed
Episode 4.4 “Lend A Helping Hammer”
(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on September 19th, 1998)
Nick Hammer gets his first storyline as a member of the Tornadoes! When he falls for Taylor, the new waitress at the Stadium, he’s shocked to discover that she and her family live at a homeless shelter. On Saved By The Bell, when Zack liked a girl who was without a home, he arranged for her and her father to live at his house. (And, much like the tenants of H.H. Holmes, they were never seen, heard from, or mentioned again….) Nick, however, convinces the Coach that, instead of using the money raised at the school dance to buy new uniforms, the money should be donated to Taylor and her family. Of course, Nick also accidentally announces that Taylor is homeless to the entire school.
This was another episode that probably would have worked better with the old cast. It’s easy to imagine it as being another Danny storyline. Nick goes out of his way to help someone in need, which is nice, but we don’t really know Nick so we don’t know if his behavior is unusual or if he just does this for everyone that he meets. It was a well-intentioned episode but it did seem to suggest that the best way to deal with homelessness is to have a bunch of wealthy friends. Everyone goes out of their way to help Taylor but everyone else at the shelter just kind of gets ignored.
In the B-plot, Kristy is using a lot of slang. Julie says that it’s because Kristy recently read a book by Queen Latifah. In the C-plot, the Coach makes the team take a ballet lesson to make them more flexible. “Ballet!” I excitedly exclaimed, when the idea was first brought up. Unfortunately, the ballet scene is really short and the entire team has terrible form.
So far, Hang Time Season 4 has yet to escape the shadow of the past. Hopefully, next week will be better for the Tornadoes and their new coach.
Eh. This has been a strong season, with the exception of all the nonsense about the charter schools. Unfortunately, this week’s episode was all about trying to keep Abbott from turning into a charter school and it was a rare heavy-handed misfire for what it is usually one of the smartest shows on television. Ava still made me laugh, though.
Accused (Tuesday Night, FOX)
This week’s episode of Accused was a misfire. It tried to deal with both gun control and misinformation and, in both cases, it just came across as being histrionic. It was like the Reefer Madness of 21st Century anthology shows.
The Bachelor (Monday and Tuesday, ABC)
The thing with this season is that it’s impossible to get excited about Zach and it’s difficult to take anyone seriously when they say that they were falling in love with Zach. Monday featured the hometown visits and a “shocking” departure. (Don’t worry, Charity avoided marrying Zach and she gets to be the new bachelorette). Tuesday featured the Women Tell All, which started out as interesting with lots of petty drama but then all the action stopped so Greer could go through a televised struggle session about her old social media posts. Jesse Palmer announced that the Bachelor franchise will no longer shy away from addressing the actions of its contestants and I rolled my eyes so dramatically that I’m surprised I’m still able to see straight. It’s one thing to address actions. It’s another thing to spend half an hour patting yourself on the back for doing it, especially when it was obvious that both Jesse and Greer were just reciting what they had been told to say.
The Brady Bunch Hour (YouTube)
I finished the series this week. Yay! Seriously, it was kind of fun to experience something as strange as The Brady Bunch Hour but I think if it had lasted longer than nine episodes, I wouldn’t have made it. That final hour nearly broke me.
Farmer Wants A Wife (Wednesday Night, FOX)
After suffering through The Bachelor, this show provided a nice and simple relief. Life on the farm isn’t easy but at least all the farmers are interesting and everyone gets to wear cute country outfits!
Jail (Tuesday Afternoon, Reelz)
This was a Cops-style show that aired in early 2010s. As the title suggests, a camera crew filmed the events in a county jail. Sometimes, they were in Fort Worth. Sometimes, they were in Las Vegas. Whenever they went to Las Vegas, there was one annoying intake officer who always ended up getting attacked by an inmate. Were the inmates attacking because they were violent criminals or because they were on camera? My personal theory is that the intake officer, with his sandy hair and his glasses and his air of unearned authority, was kind of a jerk who just brought out the worst in people.
Anyway, I watched two episodes on Tuesday. A lot of drunks were brought in for the night. Most of the guards were not particularly bright, which made it a bit awkward whenever they tried to get philosophical about why people commit crimes. “I guess until they get tired of us arresting them, we’re going to keep getting called out there.” Okay, whatever you say, dude.
Night Court (Tuesday Night, NBC)
You know, I still like Melissa Rauch but I have to say that, as of this latest episode, I think Abbi is now officially the most annoying character on television. Her fiancé, Rand, came to New York to help her train for a marathon. Rand himself was a pretty annoying character but Abi was a hundred times worse for putting up with him and forcing him on her co-workers.
Night Flight (Night Flight Plus)
On Friday, I watched an episode about the 1984 Oscars. A lot of good songs were nominated that year.
This was a public access show from the 80s. Night Flight Plus has episodes of it and several other old public access shows. I watched one episode on Saturday morning. Gibby Haynes stopped by the set and talked about how he used to be an accountant.
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!
This week, California Dreams is Saved By The Bell!
Episode 4.9 “Operation Tony”
(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 18th, 1995)
Tony needs to have shoulder surgery and he’s so worried about dying that he not only practices laying very still but he also requires Sam to practice mourning. The night before the operation, he has a dream where he sees his own funeral and, upon waking up, he tries to sneak out of the hospital and …. wait a minute. This seems familiar. The exact same thing happened to Zack Morris on Saved By The Bell!
Yes, this episode is pretty much a remake of Operation Zach. The California Dreams version works a bit better than the SBTB version because Tony is a more sympathetic figure than Zach Morris and, unlike Zach, Tony didn’t have the power to stop time whenever he felt like it so Tony has no way to magically put off the operation. Plus, this episode has a B-plot where Lorena volunteers as a candy striper in an attempt to catch the attention of a handsome doctor. Unfortunately, the doctor explains that he doesn’t date people with whom he works. (I would hope that he also doesn’t date teenagers.) It was a predictable storyline but I still always like episodes that focus, even if just partially, on Lorena because Lorena is who I was always relate to whenever I watch this show.
Anyway, this was a good episode, even it was a familiar one. Let’s move on.
Episode 4.10 “Community Service”
(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 25th, 1995)
In this episode, the members of the California Dreams do community service!
Now, I know that I always complain whenever this happens on City Guys but that’s because City Guys usually features Ms. Noble ordering her students to do stuff during their free time. On California Dreams, everyone actually volunteered of their own free will. It is true that Tiffani guilted them into volunteering but still, there’s a big difference between Tiffani looking sad and Ms. Noble telling all of her students what they’re going to give up their weekend just because she says so.
Sam volunteers for the blood drive. Jake volunteers for Meals on Wheels and eats all the food himself. (In 1995, this was played for laughs. You can only imagine how it would be portrayed today.) Mark helps to clean the beach and ends up smelling like a toxic waste dump. Lorena gives some things to the Goodwill. And Tiffani and Sly end up working at the Teen Help Line. Tiffani tries to sincerely help people while Sly orders pizza and hits on all the female counselors.
Uh-oh! The school is cutting its budget and the Teen Line is going to be closed down! Sly comes up with an idea! Maybe the Dreams can play a benefit concert. I mean, it worked on Saved By The Bell …. TWICE! Sly organizes the concert and basks in everyone’s attention, even though Tiffani is upset that Sly is doing the right thing for the wrong reason. (Calm down, Tiffani.) Fortunately, during the concert, a teen calls in and says he wants to run away from home. Because Sly is the only person in the office, he’s forced to help the caller and he discovers that joy of doing the right thing for the right reasons! Yay! Of course, I imagine this lesson will be forgotten by the next episode. We’ll find out next week!
As a general rule, the best episodes of California Dreams are the ones in which Sly is let loose to be his sleazy but ultimately good-hearted self. Though the story was familiar, Michael Cade did a good job playing the two sides of Sly. Plus, the Dreams performed that “To the End” song, which has a really rocking guitar solo.
Next week, Tiffani tries to heal the bay! Hopefully, she’ll have better luck at it than Mark did during this episode.
Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a new feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Fridays, I will be reviewing The Brady Bunch Hour, which ran on ABC from 1976 to 1977. All nine episodes can be found on YouTube!
This week, The Brady Bunch Hour comes to a close and with it, I gain my freedom from having to watch any more pitch perfect but incredibly boring performances from Florence Henderson.
(Directed by Jack Regas, originally aired on May 25th, 1977)
Two things happened on May 25th, 1977.
First of all, a film called Star Wars opened in theaters across the country.
Secondly, on ABC, The Brady Bunch Hour aired for the final time.
The final episode begins in the same way as all of the previous episodes. The Kroftettes do a kickline before driving into the pool and the audience applauds while the announcer reads off the names of the Bradys and announces that tonight’s special guest stars include Paul Williams, Rip Taylor, Lynn Anderson (who was a country-western singer), and Ann B. Davis.
Dressed in blue, The Bradys come out and perform a song called I’ve Got Love, which was written for a Broadway musical called Purlie. Purlie was a show about a black preacher living in the South during the Jim Crow era so you have to wonder how exactly the song relates to anything having to do with The Brady Bunch. As led by Florence Henderson, the Bunch turns the song into an “up with people”-style anthem. The Kroftettes meanwhile swim around with a punch of plastic hearts.
The song ends and, as the rest of their family struggles to catch their breath, Carol welcomes everyone to the show.
“I love love!” Carol announces.
The banter starts and the joke this time is that Carol enjoyed the song so much that she just won’t stop singing even while the rest of the family is trying to talk. This gets annoying pretty quickly because we’ve all had a relative like Carol, that person who can carry a tune and who goes out of their way to make sure that no one ever forgets it. Reportedly, one of the main reasons that Florence Henderson agreed to do The Brady Bunch Hour was because she wanted to transform herself into a Barbra Streisand-style singer and the producers agreed to allow her to do a solo in every episode. Henderson did not have a bad voice but she still had a tendency to oversell every song that she sang, performing in an over-rehearsed manner that revealed little real personality. During the last few episodes, a desperation creeped into Henderson’s performances, as if she felt that she alone could save the show by singing the Heck out of every song that she got.
After a minimum amount of banter (in which not a word is said about this being the final episode of the series), we cut to Carol and the kids performing a song called We’ve Got Us in front of a cardboard city skyline. For some reason, everyone’s dressed for golf.
At one point, the Brady daughters carry Carol across the stage while Carol sings. The audience applauds but Cindy looks like she’s struggling not to lose her grip on Carol’s ankles.
Peter and Bobby then carry Greg out on their shoulders while Greg sings. At one point, they nearly drop Greg and Greg’s reaction (his singing voice goes up several octaves) would seem to indicate that this was not at all planned.
After the rest of the Bunch marches off stage, Peter sneaks back and discovers that Mr. Merrill (played, of course, by Rip Taylor) is sleeping on a park bench. Mr. Merrill gets upset when Peter tries to move a trashcan because that is apparently where Mr. Merill keeps all of his stuff. Peter finds a slinky in the trashcan and Mr. Merrill announces, “Haven’t you ever seen Palm Springs?” Peter also finds a bottle of liquor in the the trashcan. Mr. Merrill explains that it’s “Beethoven’s fifth.” Peter and Jackie proceed to perform Me and My Shadow and it’s just as painful as it sounds.
The show goes to commercial. When it comes back, Fake Jan announces that the next guest is “my favorite female recording star, Lynn Anderson.” Fake Jan spends so much time praising Lynn that Greg comes out and tells Fake Jan that giving Lynn too much of a big build-up will make Lynn nervous. “Ladies and gentleman,” Fake Jan says, “a singer who’s not too bad, Lynn Anderson!” (To give credit where credit is due, I laughed.) Lynn Anderson comes out and sings a song called Right Time Of The Night and Fake Jan was right. She’s not too bad.
As Lynn finishes up the song, Fake Jan announces that Lynn is the best. “You just can’t say stuff like that on TV,” Greg says, sounding a bit like a jerk, if we’re going to be honest. Fake Jan demands that Greg tell her one person who sings as well as Lynn Anderson, who looks as good as Lynn Anderson, who has more hit records than Lynn Anderson, and who has beautiful blonde hair like Lynn Anderson.
“Paul Williams,” Greg says. “Great musician, but he’s a troublemaker …. remember when he came by the house?”
“Oh yeah,” Fake Jan says, “that was trouble.”
It’s flashback time!
We cut to the Brady Compound, where Alice is attempting to break up with Rip Taylor’s Jackie Merrill. Carol interrupts their fight to tell Alice to go clean another part of the house. Alice agrees to go on a date with Jackie, mostly to get him to go away. After Merrill leaves, Carol announces that Paul Williams is coming over. Marcia enters the living room, dressed in overalls because Paul Williams is into simple things, “like how people feel inside.”
Carol says…. I am not making this up …. Carol says, “Oh. Well, maybe you should swallow him, then.”
Greg enters the living room and starts leaving copies of his songs all over the living room. Marcia makes fun of his lyrics. Greg tells her, “Watch your mouth.”
Anyway, Marcia runs off crying. Mike enters the living room, looking confused. Carol explains that Paul Williams is only coming over to discuss what he’s going to do on the show. He doesn’t want to see Greg’s music or hang out with Marcia. A disgruntled Greg collects all of his lyrics. Finally, after Greg leaves the living room, Paul Williams rings the doorbell.
Paul tells Mike that he’s a “big fan of yours.” The audience laughs because Paul Williams is short. However, it turns out that Paul Williams is an even bigger fan of Carol’s. As Paul flirts shamelessly with Carol, Mike leaves to get the kids. Mike and the kids re-enter the living room just in time to hear Paul announce that he’s in love with Carol. The show cuts to commercial.
When the show returns, Mike is standing on stage, by himself. He’s wearing another one of his turtlenecks. “Welcome back to the second half of my family’s favorite show,” Mike tells us. Mike makes fun of Paul for being short and then shows us what happened at the Brady compound.
What happened?, you may ask. Well, Mike tells Paul that he doesn’t appreciate Paul loving his wife. Bobby asks if Mike is going to punch out Paul but Carol says that Mike doesn’t punch people out. “Good,” Paul says, “anyone over 5’5 punching me is assault with a deadly weapon.” (Because Paul Williams is short, get it?) Cindy asks Paul why he’s in love with Carol, as if even she can’t believe it. Paul says that Carol is “one foxy lady.” Mike promptly sends the children out of the living room and then starts yelling at Paul (or, at the very least, his voice goes up an octave or two as he expresses his annoyance).
Paul apologizes and then says that he has a compulsive personality “because I’m short,” and that occasionally, he does something compulsive like declare his love for Carol Brady. Paul then suggest that he and Carol could get married on the show. After Carol turns him down, Paul explains that he only came on the show so he could meet Carol. He then Carol a broach that once belonged to his grandmother. “She was a very foxy lady too,” Paul says, “Short but foxy.” Paul leaves.
“What a sweet man,” Carol says, looking at the brooch.
“He’s a loon!” Mike declares.
Before Mike can say anything else insensitive about the man who just opened up his mental health on national television, Fake Jan comes running in with Lynn Anderson. Lynn mentions that Paul Williams is in love with her and then holds up a brooch that Paul gave her. “It was his grandmother’s!”
We cut to the pool, where Peter has decided to outsmart Greg by getting in the pool himself. Greg swears that he wasn’t planning on pushing Peter in the pool this week. Peter climbs out of the pool and announces that Paul Williams is the next musical guest. “He’s so short,” Peter says, “he needs a ladder to get into a good mood.” Paul comes out and shoves both Greg and Peter in the pool.
Paul then sings The Hell Of It, a song that he wrote for Brian DePalma’s Phantom of Paradise. While he sings, thunder rumbles on the soundtrack, the Kroftettes perform in the pool, and the lights in the studio flash on and off. It’s actually surprisingly good for The Brady Bunch Hour but you have to wonder how the show’s target audience felt about a song that was sung from the point of view of someone who had just sold his soul to the Devil.
We then cut to a country road, where Carol sings a country song called Born To Say Goodbye. She’s no Lynn Anderson, that’s for sure. Still, listening to the lyrics, you have to wonder if she sang this knowing that the show was about to end. Despite the fact that no one on the show has mentioned anything about this being the final episode, one would have to think that the Bunch had some sort of knowledge that things weren’t looking good for the show’s future.
We then cut to a comedy skit, in which Paul Williams tells us that the member of the Brady Bunch will be recreating the voyage of Columbus. At one point, Williams flubs his lines but keeps going. According to Wikipedia, several members of the cast and crew have said that Paul Williams was drunk while filming The Brady Bunch Hour and that is definitely the vibe that comes through. Anyway, the skit is actually about what was going on with Columbus’s family while Christopher was out exploring and it’s called The Columbus Bunch. The members of the Bunch all speak with exagerrated Italian accents. It’s annoying as Heckfire. The skit goes on forever and as I watched it, I actually found myself thinking of the terrible fantasy sequences that used to appear on Saved By The Bell. It’s painful and the fact that everyone involved seems to be trying so hard makes it even more painful.
It’s time for the final finale of The Brady Bunch Hour! This week, there’s no banter before the finale. Instead, the Bunch appears on stage, wearing white suits. Mike says “The finale this week is….” and I honestly can’t understand what it is that he says next. It sounds like he says, “The finale this week is done,” but that wouldn’t make any sense. All I know is that the members of the Bunch desperately run off stage, as they do at the start of every finale. Again, I’m not sure why anyone thought it was a good idea to show the Bunch as being totally scatter-brained and incapable of the least bit of professionalism but whatever. The show’s almost over.
As for the finale, it’s all about music.
The Krofetettes dance while Bobby, looking like Satan’s stepchild, plays a ragtime tune on the piano.
Mike and Carol sing a few bars from the hottest song of 1950, Music! Music! Music!
Marcia sings Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma, which was a song by Melanie, the folk singer who appeared on an earlier episode.
Carol, who is literally sitting in front of a poster that reads Easy Listening, performs 1962’s The Sweetest Sounds, a song that was previously covered by Barbra Streisand.
Greg sings a song called Music Is My Life. Greg’s voice isn’t terrible but it’s awfully generic. He might need to get a different life, especially considering that this is the final episode.
Geri Reischl, who is so talented that she deserves to be referred to by her real name (and not Fake Jan) for this performance, comes out and sings Hey Mister Melody and once again shows that she was way too musically talented for this show. She and Florence Henderson had the best voices of the cast but, unlike the overly rehearsed Henderson, Geri actually brought some spontaneity to her performances.
Rip Taylor and a miserable-looking Ann B. Davis perform The Music Goes Round and Round.
Paul Williams and Lynn Anderson perform an Old Fashioned Love Song. One can almost sense Florence Henderson fuming off-stage over Lynn getting to be the one who performed with Paul Williams.
The Brady kids come out and sing Piano Man with the all the good-natured cheer of a church youth group.
The finale ends with the entire cast doing an unenthusiastic version of I Believe In Music. Paul Williams dances with Florence Henderson while a manic Rip Taylor throws confetti all over the stage.
After a commercial break, the Bunch comes out to say goodnight.
“Remember last week when I said, ‘I guess this bring us to the end of tonight’s show?” Carol says.
Yes, we do. Carol, is there something you need to share with the audience about the show’s future?
“Well, I’m saying it again this week,” Carol says, “I guess this brings us to the end of tonight’s show.”
Mike tell Carol that she should come up with something new to close the show and Carol does a stuttering impersonation of Porky the Pig and that’s when I nearly threw a shoe at the screen. Fortunately, I was distracted by Cindy saying, “And don’t worry about Paul Williams, he’s not really crazy.” Everyone says goodnight and the show ends….
….and never returns!
So, The Brady Bunch Hour has come to an end and what have we learned from these reviews? Cocaine was very popular in the 70s.