TV postsTuesday September 13, 2016
Bat-tastic Quiz: Who are Col. Gumm's Minions?
Notice anything about the screenshot below?
Yes, it's taken from the old 1960s “Batman” series. And yes, it's from the second-season episodes where the Green Hornet and Kato guest star. The episodes aren't great, to be honest. A tonal thing. Batman and Robin are obviously satirizing the superhero genre, but GH and Kato play it straight. Even odder is that Britt Reid (and Kato) shows up in Gotham City at the same time as The Green Hornet (and Kato), yet no one suspects Reid of being the Hornet; they suspect him of being Batman, and charge Bruce Wayne with being the Hornet. Even as a kid I thought that was stupid. You mean they switch cities every night? C'mon, people.
But none of that is why I'm asking about the screenshot. Think actors. For example:
- Though you can't see him (his face is covered by the “N” in “VAN”), the criminal ringleader in this episode, Col, Gumm, surely one of the lamest Batman villains, is played by Roger C. Carmel, who, around the same time, played Harcourt Fenton Mudd in two memorable episodes of “Star Trek.” Was there a lot of crossover between “Batman” and “Star Trek”? I'm sure someone's looked into it. Yes, someone has.
But again, not that. I'm really talking about the two guys on the right. Recognize them?
- The one closest to us, the blonde, is Seymour Cassel, who, a year later, would co-star in John Cassevettes' film “Faces,” and become an indie favorite forever after. He's been in everything from “Coogan's Bluff” to “The Last Tycoon” to “Tin Men” to “Honeymoon in Vegas” to “Rushmore,” “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Life Aquatic.” He's 81 and still making movies.
- And the other guy? That's Alex Rocco. In just five years, he'll have one of the more famous cinematic deaths as Moe Greene in “The Godfather.” Rocco will also have a long career. He died last year.
I like the moment before the moment. Of course the biggest such moment is the episode's ASSISTANT VISITING HERO. Very soon he'd been one of the biggest movie stars in the world, assistant to no one.
Abe Vigoda (1921-2016)
Fish sleeps with the fishes.
Let me tell you a story I've told probably a dozen times. It was Dec. 1990, I believe, and I was in a car with my sister and our friend Josh Karp, driving from Minneapolis to Chicago for New Year's Eve. Josh was from that area. Suburbs, I believe. It was the first house I'd ever been in that had heated floors.
Anyway, on the way down, we played many a game of “20 Questions.” Josh and I are adept at pop cultural crap so we were doing well, and my sister was struggling to keep up. But then she figured out someone that we couldn't figure out: an actor ... white, male, no longer alive ... who had been on a TV show in the 1970s. He'd had his own TV show but he was better known for a different TV show. His show had even been a spinoff of the first one, but his wasn't that successful. We're racking our brains. We're asking other questions. Movies? Other occupations? Sports? Politics? Karen is giddy with triumph. Finally, as we pull into the driveway of the house with the heated floors, we give up and Karen announces the answer with pride: Abe Vigoda.
Josh and I simultaneously: “Abe Vigoda's not dead!”
We hit her with it every once in a while, even though a lot of others have made the same mistake; even though People magazine was the first to do so.
Today, on Facebook, she posted the Times' obit (probably in the can since Dec. 1990), and wrote: “Erik, Josh: See, I was right.”
I first knew Abe Vigoda as Fish, of course, on “Barney Miller,” an underrated sitcom of the 1970s that I absolutely loved. For years, I remember, it was voted by cops as the most realistic portrayal of police work on TV (until “Hill Street Blues” came along). Back then, Vigoda looked impossibly old, but when the show began in 1974, he was actually my age now: 53. I'm the age of Fish.
He was also two years removed from the role that turned around his (up to that point, mostly stage) career: Sal Tessio, the Corleone insider that betrays them and pays for it. I still see him with that tight smile, trying one last time to wriggle free. “Tell Mike, it was only business. I always liked him.”
Does anyone know how he landed that role? Who cast him and why? Shortly thereafter he played Don Talusso in “The Don is Dead,” and John Dellanzia in an episode of “Newman's Law.” But despite how large “The Godfather” looms, I'll always think of him as Det. Fish of the 12th precinct. That episode where Wojo brought in the brownies laced with hashish? “The old guy--bang zoom!” And then Fish's later sad realization: “The first time in years I felt good ... and it has to be illegal.”
I finally just read the Times' obit and I'm getting a little teary-eyed now, more than I should be. An amazing life that had no business connecting with so many others, but did. If I had all the time in the world, I would check out his entire ouevre. But we don't have all the time in the world. Not even Abe Vigoda.
The Problems with 'Jessica Jones'
It's a not-bad superhero show. Krysten Ritter is good in it, while both Mike Colter (Luke Cage) and David Tenant (Kilgrave) are superb. I liked the first episode with the shock ending. I also like the villain's superpower. Mind-control is a nice change of pace. It seems truly evil, more evil than brute strength. Even when it's used for good in that one episode, there's something horrifying in it that you don't feel when someone is merely being punched in the face. “It's clobberin' time!” seems sweet in comparison.
But I kept shaking my head. I kept pausing to complain to Patricia. (Yeah, I'm that guy.) I kept going, “Really? That's your plan, Jessica Jones? To beat the shit out of Kilgrave on camera so he'll use his mind-control powers on you? And this will somehow be admissible evidence in the ultimate exoneration of Hope Shlottman? ” Even better was was when she put Kilgrave's parents into an isolation chamber with him and watched all hell break loose. No one saw that one coming. No one except everyone except Jessica Jones.
These are my main problems with the show:
- If someone has Kilgrave's powers, and you're out to stop him, you don't have subplots. It's all you'd do.
- Because what if he wakes up to the true nature of his power? What if he decides to walk into the White House? That's some scary shit. Instead, he's content to shut up a noisy crowd at a cafe. (Great scene, btw.)
In other words, she's not bright and he's unimaginative. Not a good combo.
In tonight's episode: Jessica tries to get herself incarcerated for life in a supermax prison!
TV: What the Hell Happened Between 1974 and 1977?
TV in 1974: Showing us to us.
While doing a little research on another project, I came across some Nielsen figures that were a little surprising to me.
Here are the top 5 TV shows for the 1974-75 season:
- All in the Family
- Sanford and Son
- Chico and the Man
- The Jeffersons
I knew “All in the Family” was popular but I had no idea about “Sanford and Son,” “Chico and the Man,” and “The Jeffersons.” Two of the five shows have black casts; three of the five focus on the working class. There's a sense that TV is trying to show us to us.
Now here are the top 5 shows three years later: 1977-78:
- Laverne & Shirley
- Happy Days
- Three’s Company
- 60 Minutes
- Charlie's Angels
The working class is either slapsticky and nostalgic (“Laverne and Shirley”) or sunny and jiggly (“Three's Company”). There's less dysfunction, more fantasy. It's also much younger and much, much whiter.
And three years after that? It gets a little yee-ha:
- The Dukes of Hazard
- 60 Minutes
- The Love Boat
That was the turn—where we went wrong. It happened right in there. Why?
TV in 1977: Younger, more jiggly, and very, very white.
Colbert's Guest List is So Personal It Makes Us Wonder Who We Would Choose
A few weeks ago, the day after Jon Stewart's last “Daily Show,” Patricia and I got rid of our cable box. These days that means TV, which means I won't be able to watch “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” when it debuts next week. Except, as he says in his last pre-show web video, “on the internet.” Even so, I'm afeared of missing it in real time. Have you seen his guest list? Persons of interest (for me) include:
- Sen. Bernie Sanders
- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer
- Carol Burnett
His guest list is so eclectic, and seemingly so personal, it made me wonder who *I* would book if I had a choice. And a show. And talent.
- Louis CK
- Marion Cotillard
- Joe Henry
Others to book before I get the hook:
- Ricky Gervais
- Jon Stewart
- Stephen Colbert
- Jim Jeffries
- Chris Rock
- Tina Fey
- Philip Roth
- John Irving
- Tobias Wolff
- Milan Kundera
- Toni Morrison
- Bill Bryson
- Jill Lepore
- Martin Scorsese
- Michael Mann
- Terrence Malick
- Jacques Audiard
- The Coen Bros.
- Craig Wright
- Jim Walsh
- David Simon
- Joe Posnanski
- Jane Leavy
- Paul Krugman
- Jelani Cobb
- Jackie Chan
- Penelope Cruz
- Salma Hayek
- Berenice Bejo
- Carey Mulligan
- Steve Earle
- The National
- Iron & Wine
- Paul Simon
- The Decemberists
- John Lewis
- David Boies
- Ron Safer
- ANY U.S. Supreme Court justice, but generally in this order: Stevens (ret.), Ginsburg, Scalia, Sotomayor, Kennedy, Breyer, Roberts, Kagan, Thomas, Alito.
It's endless, really.
What about you? First show.