Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

Hundreds of episodes of 1960s sitcoms to stream

April 12, 2020

Hundreds of episodes of 1960s sitcoms to stream

During this time, some people want to see fiction that relates, some people just want to escape. I polled my readers about that in my most popular blog, I Love My Kindle:

Escape or confront?

While I’ve deliberately confronted (I rewatched The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price, my favorite version of I Am Legend…it’s really about social distancing), the majority of my readers who say their choices have been affected picked the “escape” option.

However, I also sometimes just want to put on a show that, well, makes me quietly smile without thinking about much.

One choice for me is 1960s sitcoms. I’m already familiar with them, in fact, I often have a show where I’ve seen all the episodes before…just letting it roll through, binge watching, typically while I do something else, like writing or exercising.

I realize, though, that many of you may not have ever seen the shows…may not have ever even heard of many of them. This might be a good time to educate yourself…home schooling in pop culture, right? ūüėČ

Could you watch these with your kids?

Well, honestly, you might have some concerns, might want to talk about things.

Yes, it’s going to be a lot less diverse. That’s not just that they’ll tend to be racially homogeneous, although that’s certainly true. Is it going to be all “nuclear families”? Actually, there are quite a few one-parent families in television, even back in the 1960s…although they tended to be somewhat hapless dads who had some sort of person helping them. I happened to run a poll about that recently, although not limited to the sixties.

#BufoPolls TV single dad helpers

There may be sexist situations, although the women often are portrayed as creative, intelligent, and entrepreneurial…the show, though, may not reward them for those qualities, and portray them as naive (which they may have been about business situations, since they weren’t always exposed to the culture).

My suggestion would be to take the opportunity to discuss how things have and haven’t changed, and what it might mean.

For that, I’ll mention something I’ve said before. I’ve taught the use of humor to trainers. The key thing is that laughter is a sign that there is apparent danger, but no real danger. It can certainly be social danger. What has changed in the perception of what is dangerous, what has changed in the reality of it, what may have changed in how audiences empathize with characters?

That said, quite a bit of the humor stands up. Some of it is ahead of its time: my favorite, The Dick Van Dyke Show, addressed (in a funny way), racial perceptions and religious diversity.

My favorite moment in all of television occurs on The Dick Van Dyke Show, which is also still my favorite series.

Are you expecting me to list a lot of series…you probably don’t want to be confused with a whole lot of options, right? Well, back in the day, series had a lot more episodes per season. No thirteen episode seasons here! It was common to have 30 episodes in a season. You also only saw an episode once, and if you missed it, you missed it…except for those occasional summer reruns. That also means that series may seem pretty repetitive…they didn’t expect you to see the same show ten times in one day! You would probably forget that that character actor played three other parts this season. ūüėČ

I’m listing shows that are available free streaming, or at least, at no additional cost if you subscribe. They may be ad-supported, or you may need to get a free trial. I’ll link to the JustWatch listing for the USA. You can change your country and the services you use there.

Let’s get to some suggestions!

The Dick Van Dyke Show
1961-1966, 158 episodes
Available on Hulu, Pluto, and 4 seasons on Prime at time of writing
JustWatch listings of availability

Carl Reiner based this show on his one life as a TV comedy writer (and appears sometimes as Alan Brady, the star of the show). Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore (in her breakthrough role), Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, and Richard Deacon star. It’s got clever writing, slapstick, song and dance, even some (not heavy-handed) social relevancy. I’d start at the beginning and just run through it. There’s also an unaired pilot with a different cast, but save that for later.

Bewitched
1964-1972, 254 episodes
Available on The Roku Channel (4 seasons), IMDb TV (3 seasons)
JustWatch listings of availability

This is a classic example of what I call a “mermaid out of water” show…like a “fish out of water”, where a lot of the humor comes from someone being unfamiliar with the situation in which they are currently placed, but the “fish” is supernatural or science fiction in some way: a witch, an alien, a robot, and so on. Starring Elizabeth Montgomery, but with a very rich supporting cast.

The Patty Duke Show
1963-1966, 104 episodes
Available on Tubi
JustWatch listings of availability

Patty Duke was already established as a great dramatic actor by playing Helen Keller on Broadway (and in a movie), but this was a chance for her (and the viewers) to have some fun. She played “identical cousins”: Cathy, who was raised as a sophisticate in Scotland and moves in with Patty, a “typical American teenager” and her family in Brooklyn. Some of it is done with special effects, some of it with a double who is shot from behind, but it’s goofy and fun. A younger brother adds to the complications, and as always, William Schallert is a welcome presence as Patty’s journalist father.

The Addams Family
1964-1966, 64 episodes
Available on Prime Video
JustWatch listings of availability

For me, still the most loving family on TV. Yes, they are weirdos, but they support each other, they support their community, they help strangers…the last term might seem ironic in this case, because who is stranger? ūüėČ Here’s an article I wrote about ten years ago arguing that Gomez and Morticia are the best TV parents: Gomez and Morticia: best TV parents¬†ever?

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis
1959-1963 (okay, it started at the very end of the 1950s, but it’s really a 1960s series), 147 episodes
Available on The Roku Channel, Vudu
JustWatch listings of availability

Bob Denver was the breakout as Maynard G. Krebs, a beatnik who shivered at the word “work” and popularized people saying, “like” in the middle of a sentence, but it’s a strong cast overall. Dwayne Hickman plays Dobie, Tuesday Weld is Thalia Menninger (just really present in the beginning of the series), and Sheila James is Zelda Gilroy. This show reportedly was part of the inspiration for Scooby-Doo.

The Flintstones
1960-1966, 166 episodes
Available on Boomerang (free trial)
JustWatch listings of availability

While cartoon shows are commonly produced for adults now, The Flintstones was a breakthrough as a prime time animated series. Based on The Honeymooners, it’s safe to say that the “modern stone age family” is now better known than it’s inspiration.

The Beverly Hillbillies
1962-1971, 275 episodes
Available on Prime Video, Hulu (2 seasons each)
JustWatch listings of availability

Emmy-nominated and one of the most popular shows ever, the premise is a rural family striking it rich and moving to Beverly Hills. The characters are classic and yes, their cultural confusion is a lot of the source of the humor. While it can get slapstick, it’s a warm, if somewhat non-traditional family: widowed father, his mother-in-law, his daughter, and his cousin’s son.

The Andy Griffith Show
1960-1968, 149 episodes
Available on Prime Video
JustWatch listings of availability

Small-town, warm-hearted, and with scene-stealing Don Knotts as Deputy Barney Fife. Andy Griffith starred as Sheriff Andy Taylor, with Ron(ny) Howard as his young son Opie and Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee.

Those are just a few to take your mind off of things! Have other suggestions? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.


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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other organizations, begin your Amazon shopping from a link on their sites: Amazon.com (Smile.Amazon.com)

CBS ALL ACCESS 1 month free: so much more than Picard!

March 28, 2020

CBS ALL ACCESS 1 month free: so much more than Picard!

I would say that

CBS ALL ACCESS

has been using Star Trek: Picard (a sequel series to Star Trek: The Next Generation) as the main attraction for their subser (subscription service). Since they are giving away a month free right now, with no obligation, I thought I’d try it (despite having enough to watch) to see what else it has.

I was pleasantly surprised!

Let me say first that they made signing up for it easy. The “coupon code” (ALL, in this case), was already filled in for me. I pretty much just put in my contact and payment information, and that was it. I can cancel before the month is up and pay nothing. I told Alexa to remind me a couple of days…I plan to cancel.

Now, as to content:

Of course, they have their original…Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Discovery, The Twilight Zone (remake)…

I also knew they would have older shows, but that turned out to be a better selection than I thought. Some things that caught my eye:

  • Archie’s Weird Mysteries, a cartoon with the Riverdale gang
  • Beauty and the Beast (the Linda Hamilton/Ron Perlman version
  • The Brady Bunch
  • Brain Dead
  • Cheers
  • Danger Mouse
  • Danny Phantom
  • Extant
  • Family Ties
  • Fraser
  • Gunsmoke
  • Happy Days
  • The original and remake Hawaii Five-O
  • I Love Lucy
  • Inspector Gadget
  • Jericho
  • The Legend of Korra
  • The original and remake MacGyver
  • Madam Secretary
  • Medium
  • Mission: Impossible (the original series, yes, starting with the Dan Briggs episodes)
  • The original and (recent) remake The Odd Couple
  • Perry Mason
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch (Melissa Joan Hart)
  • Scorpion
  • Lots of Star Trek, including The Animated Sereis
  • Strange Angel
  • Taxi
  • Tell Me a Story
  • Touched By an Angel
  • The original Twilight Zone (in addition to the remake)
  • The original Twin Peaks
  • Under the Dome
  • Wings
  • Young Sheldon

Quite a bit there that is bingeable…and I didn’t mention game/reality shows.

There was also live TV, but another good opportunity during your free month is movies. I did check, and they appear to be unedited…by that I mean they haven’t had the racy/violent parts removed, such as would have happened in the old days if they were broadcast on CBS over the air.

Some of those:

  • The American President
  • Awakenings (with Robert De Niro & Robin Williams)
  • The Big Chill
  • Clockwork Orange
  • The Craft
  • Eat Pray Love
  • Escape from New York
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose
  • Funny Girl
  • Gattaca
  • The Gift (with Cate Blachett)
  • Godzilla 2000
  • The Iron Giant
  • Kung Fu Hustle
  • The Mothman Prophecies
  • My Best Friend’s Wedding
  • My Girl
  • Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
  • The Perfect Storm
  • Pretty in Pink
  • The Prince of Tides
  • The Professional
  • Rachel Getting Married
  • Single White Female
  • The Social Network
  • Something’s Gotta Give
  • St. Elmo’s Fire
  • Stand By Me
  • Star Trek IV (the original crew…time travel to San Francisco), VIII, VIII, X
  • Starship Troopers (that’s the reason I know they didn’t bowdlerize them…that famous scene was still there)
  • Starshine Cleaning
  • Tin Cup
  • You’ve Got Mail

All in all, I don’t expect to get through everything I’d like to see in a month…but there’s still no obligation. ūüėČ


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Disney+ on Fire TV: 1st impressions

November 12, 2019

Disney+ on Fire TV: 1st impressions

It’s here!

I’ve been so excited about Disney+, and got to be even more so when Amazon and Disney worked out the deal to put it on the

Fire TV family (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I’m watching it this morning on our

Fire TV Cube (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I normally watch the news for a while first thing in the morning, but wanted to give my readers my first impressions. I’ve talked before about the content

Disney+: a deeper dive

and even though a lot has been added since then, this post will focus more on the experience of using it. I’ll go with simple bullet points: if you have specific questions, you can ask me by commenting.

Note: for the readers of my most popular blog,

I Love My Kindle

where I’ve been writing about e-books, EBRs (E-Book Readers), and Amazon generally for over 10 years, I’ll link to this post. I have some other catching up to do there (I intend to do one of my round-up posts today) and while this is about watching content on an Amazon device, I didn’t want this to dominate that blog today.

  • I subscribed yesterday by going to Disney+ on the web. Honestly, that was a bit clunky. It kept taking me to a place to enter a redemption code for a limited tie offer, but I didn’t get one. I suspect that might be because I did the year subscription instead of month to month. It also didn’t link me in any way to our long time Hulu account, at least as far as I could see. Again, maybe the yearly subscription makes it better than the bundle, but it would have been nice for them to tell me. They are supposed to link them through our e-mail addresses, based on stories I’ve read
  • There was no link on the Fire TV home screen that I saw. I searched for Disney+ (it came up as Disney Plus) while I was typing. Amazon may not have had time to put something together, but I hope they fully embrace Disney+: this is a symbiotic relationship, and I don’t think they’ll lose much Prime Video membership over it…viewership initially, perhaps, but I’m sure the vast majority of people watch PV as part of their Prime Memberships and don’t pay extra for it. Update: it timed out while I was writing this, and then there was a splash in the slideshoeat the top of the FTV home screen
  • There were zero reviews! I was seeing it at about 2:00 Pacific (my local time)
  • It took about a minute to download and install: nice!
  • Excitingly, it suggest that the app could automatically log me into it when I had the Disney+ app open on my phone (saving me, presumably, from entering my password, which can be tedious with a remote), if I was on the same network. However, after I downloaded the app, got the confirmation code, entered that on my phone…nothing. Maybe I had to be logged into the account on the phone when I opened Disney+ on the streamer…I’ll try that later today on another FTV
  • There was a collage character portraits of Maui from Moana, Elastigirl from The Incredibles, Captain America, Rey from Star Wars, and Jeff Goldblum from…well, it’s never been quite clear where he’s from, but we’re always glad to visit his world. ūüėČ He has a new show on D+, part of the National Geographic brand. They didn’t label or brand these
  • They did brand at the bottom: Disney/Pixar/Marvel/Star Wars/NatGeo
  • Further in, there were different character portraits, and with the brands in a different order: Iron Man, Darth Vader, hello again Elastigirl, Moana from Moana…and Jeff Goldblum
  • Once I was logged into the app, they had a slideshow. They promoted: The Mandalorian, Avengers: Endgame, Lady and the Tramp (the new “live” version), High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, The Simpsons, Avatar, Encore!, Captain Marvel, The World According to Jeff Goldblum, the Dumbo live action remake. So, that’s five D+Os (Disney+ Originals), two Marvel theatrical hits…Dumbo is an interesting choice, given that it wasn’t their biggest box office hit
    • What I’m not seeing so far promoted at all is Disney backlist (that’s what I most want to see…movies/TV more than, oh, I’ll go with more than thirty years old). Mickey Mouse hasn’t shown up at all yet, for example. That’s interesting to me: this should be a great service for movie/TV buffs and older fans, but I’d say it’s pretty clearly marketed at parents of kids and younger fans
  • Navigation:
    • 5 clickable tiles for Disney-Pixar-Marvel-Star Wars-National Geographic. One sort of cool thing is that when you scroll to one of those, you get an animated thumbnail, just for that one
    • Below that (I’ll start top to bottom):
      • Originals
      • Recommended for You (hmm…they don’t know me yet, presumably, so this must be a generic “me” at first): Avengers Endgame, The Simpsons, Dumbo, Captain Marvel, Free Solo, Lady and the Tramp, Expanding the Universe (Marvel), The Mandalorian, HSM:TM:TS (High School Musical…I’m not going to keep typing out that long title!), Marvel Hero Project, Frozen, Encore!, a Toy Story tile…but I’ll admit, I can’t read it from here (there may be a way to increase the size of the images, haven’t checked yet…something about money), that Jeff Goldblum series, The Imagineering Story, Avatar, Pixar in Real Life, Float, The Force Awakens, Noelle, The Sound of Music (part of the Fox acquisition: yay!), Cars, Clone Wars, The Family something, Moana,
      • Hit Movies: Avatar, Frozen, Toy Story 3, Avengers Endgame, The Force Awakens, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Finding Dory, The Avengers, Rogue One, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Finding Nemo, The Avengers Age of Ultron, The Phantom Menace, Alice in Wonderland (Johnny Depp version), Inside Out…I’m going to stop listing individual titles or this will take too long!
      • Trending (The Simpsons is #1, if they are in order)
      • Out of the Vault: they do go beyond The 90s wave, including The Jungle Book, Cinderella, Snow White…
      • Inspired by True Stories
      • Ultra HD and HDR
      • Disney Channel Favorites
      • Musicals
      • Throwbacks: Hannah Montana, Boy Meets World, That’s So Raven, Darkwing Duck, Gargoyles, The Sandlot, Hocus Pocus, 10 Things I Hate About You…
      • Beasts and Monsters
      • Nostalgic Movies: here we go! Tron, the original The Parent Trap, The Rocketeer, the original The Love Bug, Return to Oz (if you haven’t seen it, be prepared to be creeped out!)…
      • Disney Junior Series
      • Feel Good Sports Movies
      • MIckey Mouse Through the Years (Hi, Mickey!)
      • Documentaries
      • Shorts
      • Fun Mysteries: Zootopia, The Great Mouse Detective, Sister Act…
      • Action and Adventure
      • Animal and Nature
    • Sidebar navigation
      • Profiles (Hi again, Mickey)…when I went to edit, I found that a bit difficult–just getting to the right places. Lots of icon choices, though, including Featured, Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Nat Geo, Mickey Mouse and Friends, Disney Classics, a separate category for Disney Princess (why no plural?), Villains, Disney Channel | Autoplay | Background Video (on or off) } App Language (English UK, English US, Espanol (Latinoamericano), Francais (Candien), and Nederlands)
      • Search: title, character, or genre (no actor search? When I tried to search for Kurt Russell, it showed me appropriate choices when I typed Kurt, but by the time I added the R, it found nothing). Search also had “Collections”, like Through the Decades, Star Wars, and Spider-Man
      • Home
      • Watchlist
      • Original
      • Movies
      • Series
      • Settings: Account, Help, Legal, Log Out…I don’t see any accessibility settings (I checked under Account) to make it bigger, for example
  • UPDATE: Oh, oh, here’s a problem! I stopped watching a movie in the middle. When I went back into Disney+ it showed at first…that’s fine. When I deliberately went to home after that, I can’t find where it went! I figured they would add a navigation for incomplete viewings, but I don’t see anything. I checked under watchlist. I’ve scrolled through Home. I reselected my profile…nothing. They need an incomplete and/or recent part to the navigation
  • UPDATE: JustWatch, my favorite app/website to search streaming offerings, is already listing Disney+

That’s enough to get you started! I may add more to this later, but that’s a good introduction.

Overall? The interface looks cool, but could use some smoothing. For example, why do I have to delete the word “profile” to enter a name for a profile? Why, when there is an arrow pointing to my right, does the arrow on my remote not work (you have to click select instead)? Discovery seems okay, but will get better, I’m sure.

Enjoy! If you have questions, feel free to comment…but I might not respond right away! I’m off to Medfield College (a fictional Disney location used in quite a few of their movies).

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Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other organizations, begin your Amazon shopping from a link on their sites: Amazon.com (Smile.Amazon.com)

Disney+: a deeper dive

October 15, 2019

Disney+: a deeper dive

I honestly find it hard to find a reason why anyone who already subscribes to a streaming video service wouldn’t subscribe to

Disney+

The price is right, the service is well designed (you can download the videos), but of course, it’s the content.

The Disney entertainment empire has the biggest names extant: Disney, Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, National Geographic, a large chunk of Fox…

For a lot of people, signing up will be about those big flashy brands that Disney acquired: just to take Star Wars as an example, here’s the list of what will be available at launch (which includes both first trilogies & The Force Awakens)

StarWars.com on what will be available at launch

Another attraction will be original material, shows and movies produced specifically for Disney+, and again, there are a lot of those!

I also suspect many people will sign up for the first time for a streaming service because of this: I can certainly picture gift subscriptions being a thing this holiday season (hopefully, they’ll have an easy way set up to do that).

What I thought I’d do in the post is highlight some of the “long tail” (in this case, maybe a long mouse tail?): the backlist titles you might not have seen (or not seen for a long time). That’s what will probably keep me the busiest, even if I’ve seen everything I’ll list here.

Oh, and two things worth noting before I list:

First, I haven’t pre-subscribed yet, although I fully intend to subscribe. Why? While we watch Amazon Prime and Netflix, my Significant Other and I watch Hulu the most when we watch together. Disney is the driving owner of Hulu, and they are going to use it for R-rated material and such, in addition to what it does now.

We pay a bit extra to have the current shows be commercial free, which is so worth it! Disney hasn’t announced the bundle with Hulu (and hopefully, without ESPN…we just never watch that) at the no-add tier. It’s sounding like we might not know what that is until the launch date of November 12th.

The other thing is that at this point, Disney and Amazon haven’t worked out a deal for Disney+ to be on¬† the

Fire TV family (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I’m pretty confident they will: the advantages are too high for both of them. However, even if they don’t, I assume I’ll be able to mirror my phone to my TV, or perhaps use a browser on the Fire TV.

Okay, let’s take a look at some of the offerings (and more may yet be added) that might not be in the front of your mind, but are worth noting:

  • The Swiss Family Robinson (1960):: this is a live action adaptation of the novel and the cast includes James MacArthur, Tommy Kirk, and Kevin Corcoran. It’s a fun adventure: I’m guessing if most people know anything about it now, it’s because of the treehouse attraction at the Disney parks
  • Miracle on 34th Street (1947): here’s a benefit of the Fox acquisition! What a great movie about a department store Santa Claus who may be the real thing. Edmund Gwenn is Kris Kringle, but another real attraction is Natalie Wood…about nine years old at the time
  • The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952) features Peter Finch as the Sheriff
  • The Living Desert and other nature documentaries: while there has been some controversy about them, these are thrilling and intriguing films (which may have influenced later nature shows)
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959): another Fox film, this is the version I think of first…James Mason, Pat Boone, Arlene Dahl
  • 1961’s original The Absent-Minded Professor is just goofy fun, with good effects for the time
  • Also from 1961: Greyfriar’s Bobby, a dog story based on reality
  • That Darn Cat! (the 1965 original): that was a thing for Disney in the 1960s: live action comedies featuring animals
  • The Love Bug (1968) and the sequels…Herbie, one of the original self-driving cars!
  • The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969): when asked about Kurt Russell movies, the Medfield College (also the school for The Absent-Minded Professor and others) Dexter Riley comedies are still some of the first that come to mind for me
  • Escape to Witch Mountain (1975): one of the most solid of the 1970s Disney live-action movies, Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann are exceptional kids (a sequel and remake followed), and Eddie Albert, Ray Milland, and Donald Pleasance also appear
  • The Cat From Outer Space (1978): I’m not going to tell you it’s a great movie, but come on…a cat…from outer space!
  • Unidentified Flying Oddball (AKA A Spaceman in King Arthur’s Court) (1979): Jim Dale, Kenneth More, and Ron Moody are in this Mark Twain update
  • Think you’ve seen everything Marvel? Joan Van Ark’s Jessica Drew Spider-Woman TV series (1979) will be on Disney+ at launch
  • The Black Hole (1979) was Disney getting in on the Star Wars science fiction wave…it has its fandom
  • Return to Oz (1985): People will tell you that seeing this as a child scarred them for life, but hey, my Significant Other still can’t watch 1939’s The Wizard of Oz because of the flying monkeys…
  • The Black Cauldron (1985): Disney Feature Animation took a big bold step with this adaptation of the Lloyd Alexander Prydain books…and nearly broke its head falling down the stairs! Many firsts, including Disney’s 1st PG animated feature and the use of computer animation. It’s failure at the box office has made it one of Disney’s least seen animated features
  • The Great Mouse Detective (1986): Disney clearly doesn’t consider it an A feature (there’s no ride based on it, for example), but Vincent Price steals the show for some as an animated rat mastermind opposing a Sherlock Holmes analog (who is a mouse)

Well, I could do this for hours, but I have to wrap up this article at some point! I’ll just list some more, without summarizing them. This is only a small selection of the more than 600 titles which will be available…IO9 has put together a good list

  • Flight of the Navigator
  • Ducktales
  • Willow
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
  • Turner & Hooch
  • The Rocketeer (this will be one of my first revisits)
  • Darkwing Duck
  • Newsies
  • X-Men: The Animated Series
  • Muppet movies
  • Hocus Pocus
  • Boy Meets World
  • Gargoyles
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • Smart Guy
  • Meet the Deedles (Robert Englund & Dennis Hopper)
  • Mighty Joe Young
  • Inspector Gadget
  • Annie
  • Even Stevens
  • Kim Possible
  • That’s So Raven
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Flicka
  • Lab Rats
  • Gravity Falls
  • Elena of Avalor
  • More than one Freaky Friday movie

Whew! I hope the search interface and recommendation engines are up to the task!

Feel free to point out others that caught your eye in comments for me and my readers. Hope this helps you get the most out of Disney+!

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All aboard our The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project (AKA Enwoven)! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other organizations, begin your Amazon shopping from a link on their sites: Amazon.com (Smile.Amazon.com)

 

The Lost Saucer: Sid & Marty Krofft’s slapstick Black Mirror for Kids?

June 15, 2019

The Lost Saucer: Sid & Marty Krofft’s slapstick Black Mirror for Kids?

Sid & Marty Krofft had some of the weirdest shows on television in the late 1960s and 1970s. They usually featured people in full body suit costumes, and were a big part of many childhoods.

Asked to name their shows, most nostalgic adults would mention

  • H.R. Pufnstuf
  • Land of the Lost
  • Sigmund and the Sea Monsters
  • Lidsville

but there were many others: The Bugaloos; The Banana Splits; Electra Woman and Dyna Girl…

Low down on the list might be two shows that ran opposite each other (on ABC and CBS) for one season starting in 1975: Far Out Space Nuts, and The Lost Saucer.

There were some similarities: they both starred a pair of well-known comedians, had a funny animal character, and featured out of control travel to other societies.

Far Out Space Nuts had Bob Denver (Gilligan’s Island) and Chuck McCann as lost in space NASA employees, and Honk, an alien. It was a pretty typical comedy.

The Lost Saucer had Jim Nabors and Ruth Buzzi as time traveling androids, and the dorse, a bioengineered animal with a “dog’s body” (although it didn’t look much like a dog) with a horse’s head.

In the first episode, they invite a young boy and his babysitter onboard their flying saucer. They panic when the saucer is spotted, take off…and the time travel mechanism malfunctions, leaving them unable to control when they go. The rest of the series has “Fi” and “Fum” trying to return Jerry and Alice to 1975.

I recently mixed up the two shows, suggesting that Jim Nabors had been on Far Out Space Nuts. That type of error genuinely is unusual for me (although Twitter is a different sort of almost real time beast). I figured I owed it to the show to watch what episodes I could. I found some on YouTube:

YouTube search for The Lost Saucer

I also read up on the series.

Here’s the thing…

Yes, it’s slapstick. Yes, there is a laugh track. Yes, it has corny dialog. Yes, guest stars tended towards the comedic, including Billy Barty, Richard Deacon, Jane Dulo, Joe E. Ross, and Marvin Kaplan.

However, the themes are quite dystopic, and could fit right in with the current anthology series, Black Mirror.

  • 894X2RY713, I Love You: everyone is known by a number, and Jerry and Alice are arrested for showing their faces in public. Their judge is a computer
  • My Fair Robot: a robot who is too clumsy is threatened with being recycled
  • Polka Dot Years: this is about racism (against people who don’t have polka dots)
  • In the Laughing Years, chemicals are used to keep people laughing. They don’t affect the androids…who are arrested (there is a lot of legal jeopardy on this show) for not smiling

I wasn’t able to see Fat Is Beautiful yet, but in this episode, people have become reliant on their conveniences and gotten fat. It is illegal to exercise or to be in shape. I wanted to compare this to WALL-E, since there seem to be some parallels (I’m not saying that WALL-E is at all based on it, but those sorts of parallel creative evolution things happen. A male and female android in a future where humans are out of shape…).

So, is The Lost Saucer like Black Mirror…with a laugh track? What do you think? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Rewatch: Eerie, Indiana

June 5, 2019

Rewatch: Eerie, Indiana

I recently rewatched (and honestly, probably watched for the first time some episodes) Eerie, Indiana on Amazon Prime Video.

As can happen with shows with cult followings, I enjoyed it more this time around. One of the hallmarks of cult movies and TV shows is that they tend to have a lot of detail, and often with in-jokes and callbacks. Eerie has all of that.

The basic situation is that a young boy (Marshall Teller, sometimes called “Mars”) moves from New Jersey to Indiana, and encounters (and tracks…and may battle) a variety of weird things. Elvis Presley (who had died in 1977, but was rumored to have faked his death) lives in the town, as does Bigfoot. The show begins with a great episode, and the first are basically stand-alones.

As the show progresses, though, there becomes more of a throughline, more mythology. That can sometimes be a problem for shows, but it works here.

The main characters (Omri Katz as Mars, Justin Shenkarow as his friend and Eerie native, Simon Holmes. Marshall’s mother, father, and older sister are also constants) are well cast.

Part of what made the show really enjoyable for me was the geeky roster of guest stars. John Astin joins the series late in the run for several episodes, with perhaps his best work outside of The Addams Family. Gregory Itzin is the town’s mayor. Tobey Maguire and Nikki Cox have “before they were stars” turns. Rene Auberjonois (as a character called “The Donald”), Ray Walston, Dick Miller, and Matt Frewer all guest.

I do love the writing. There is a common misconception that if a show has children as main characters, it’s made for kids. That’s not the case here, although kids can certainly enjoy some episodes on some levels. There is, though, genuine peril and people do die. A lot of the references wouldn’t make sense to kids.

Those references are fun, and nowadays, would give Google a workout for some viewers. One that caught my eye: a Twin Peaks line (mentioning the Log Lady). Given that the shows’ debuts are only a year apart, that shows you how topical it is.

There is also a fair amount of social commentary.

SPOILER ALERT

What is now shown as the last episode (the original 19th episode wasn’t shown in the first run), is brilliant if they knew the show was ending. Marshall finds out that he is on a TV show…everyone starts calling him Omri, and his house is just a set. The other actors, for the most part, play heightened versions of themselves, and are aware that they are on a show. The very mysterious Dash X character wants to take over as star of the show…by getting the Marshall character killed off! Even though I have the spoiler alert, I’ll just say that the ending is perfect if they knew (or strongly suspected) the show was over.

END SPOILER ALERT

When the show was re-run on Fox Kids’ in 1997, it gained a new life. This resulted in a spin-off…which I’ve started to watch now:

Eerie, Indiana: The Other Dimension

It has a direct connection…Marshall and Simon do a sort of hand-off in the first episode.

Bottom line: Eerie, Indiana is a clever, geek-friendly series that benefits from binging.

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

In honor of Tim Curry’s 19 April birthday: a Tim Ten

April 19, 2019

In honor of Tim Curry’s 19 April birthday: a Tim Ten

Tim Curry is one of my favorite actors: I suspect I was one of the few people who saw the Tom Arnold version McHale’s Navy in the theatre first run…and that was to see Tim. I also had the privilege of seeing him perform live in Me and My Girl.

What I thought I’d do this year is pick ten performances…that’s not to say these are necessarily my favorites, and I am deliberately picking some which may be more obscure (but I’ll include some of his better known ones as well).

Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Darkness in Legend

This 1985 Ridley Scott fantasy certainly has had some confusion, with different versions and even two entirely different scores. No one, though, has been confused about Tim Curry’s delicious performance as the villain Darkness, who appears as a traditional devil (with big bull-like horns). Truly evil…

2. Dr. Frankenstein in Frankenstein Through the Eyes of the Monster

In a PC computer puzzle game (think something like Myst), the player is the revived Frankenstein’s monster, and in first person, you are exploring the castle…but it is surprisingly emotional, and Tim’s performance as Dr. Frankenstein will chill you to your resurrected bones

3. Billy Flynn on Criminal Minds

It always surprises me how Criminal Minds attracts such a mainstream audience. It depicts the depths of depravity, and in this 2010 2-parter, Tim Curry plays one of the most memorable of those “unsubs”

4. Gaal in Earth 2

This space colonization series was super-hyped and won an Emmy for Special Effects. However, I genuinely believed that Curry deserved an Emmy nomination. Gaal was subtle and mysterious, and was one of biggest arguments for a never-achieved second season…poppet

5. Hosting Saturday Night Live

With musical guest (and fellow Rocky Horror Picture Show alum) Meat Loaf, Tim had great fun! Joe Piscopo brought his Frank Sinatra on to Tim’s Mick Jagger’s special. They trade off singing each other’s songs. Curry also sings a British music hall song, bringing the traditional winking delivery to a song about…zuchinnis?

6. Nigel Thornberry on The Wild Thornberrys

If SNL didn’t convince you that it isn’t always scary with Tim, Nigel Thornberry’s exuberance should do the trick! With close to 100 appearances (90 in the main series, and special and movies), this is probably the part that Tim Curry has played the most on film (and videotape).

7. Dr.Seward on the Dracula audiobook

When I saw that Tim Curry and Alan Cumming were two of the voices on an audiobook of Dracula (a remarkably complex novel which I know well), my mind didn’t immediately go to Tim Curry playing one of the least eccentric parts: Dr. Seward, who runs the asylum where the Count’s helper Renfield is a patient. I suspect that was a conscious choice…it may be the most difficult role to make interesting, but Curry manages it

8. Harley Dune in Wolf Girl

Certainly not his best-known show, this TV movie also features Shawn Ashmore, Grace Jones, and Lesley Anne Warren. The story takes place in a traveling show…and Curry is the proprietor

9. Farley Claymore in The Shadow

Alec Baldwin knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. While not the biggest part in the movie (he’s basically a henchman), Tim Curry has a scene where he goes absolutely nuts when faced with the Shadow’s legendary abilities

10. The Criminologist in The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

In 2016, more than forty years after RHPS was released, Fox did a “live” version with Laverne Cox as Franky. In what is one of the bravest, strongest things I’ve ever seen, Tim Curry portrays the Criminologist. Why so brave? Not only were people going to be thinking about how he was in his immortal starring role (he’s the hero–that’s right, the hero!!) so many decades earlier (arguably, he could have been nominated for an Oscar), this performance was four years after a debilitating stroke. It’s clear that nothing came easy for him for this performance, that even removing his glasses was a challenge. Very people would be willing to put themselves out there like that

There’s your Tim Ten! That’s just a very small portion of this amazing performer’s work. Franky, Pennywise in It, Wadsworth in Clue, Darth Sidious and Chancellor Palpatine in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Robert Graves in The Shout…I could go on and on. I also listened to his music most of the day; he can really move me, but also give me energy; his music is unique and diverse. When asked to describe his singing style, I remember him saying, “Loud.” That really fits him…it’s not self-effacing, but self-aware, Sunshine.

Those are ten from me: feel free to add more by commenting on this post.

Happy birthday, Tim! Thank you for all you’ve given to me and the world!

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The Masked Singer: spoiler speculation

January 27, 2019

The Masked Singer: spoiler speculation

What is “spoiler speculation”?

It’s when I don’t know something to be true, but it might be…and if it is, it could spoil something in entertainment. You’ve been warned…you may want to skip this article if you want to keep guessing about which celebrities are inside the costumes on

The Masked Singer

I’m pretty good at these sorts of things. ūüôā I always say that my favorite thing in entertainment is to be surprised, and it almost never happens. That doesn’t mean I always know¬†the right answer (although I often do), but the odds that I haven’t even considered it are quite small. I knew The Sixth Sense’s twist right away. I predicted nine out of the last ten eliminations in an American Idol season…in order, before any of them happened.

First, a little bit about the show, for those who haven’t seen it. Celebrities (could be athletes, singers, actors, and so on) compete as singers, while wearing full body character costumes (and their heads are concealed). Four regular judges (and there can be guest judges) guess who they are…the regular four are Robin Thicke, Jenny McCarthy, Ken Jeong, and Nicole Scherzinger.

Of course, the actual performances can be helpful, but the main thing for me are the “packages” (video intros) which provide clues (they can be visual clues, such as objects in the background, or clues in phrases that are used as the singer explains their background. The panelists can also ask a question…I think that’s always just one per episode.

I’ve been right on some who were already revealed (the one with the lowest votes for their performance is unmasked at the end of the episode).

In each case, the clues lined up well with the identity.

These, then are some speculations on which singers have not yet been unmasked. I’m very confident on the first one, quite confident on the next. I’m not a betting person (at least, not for money or actual physical goods…in my annual Oscar prediction contest,¬†BOPMadness, we vie for “braggin’ rights”)…I’m not suggesting any of you are in a money pool on this, but this might help you if you are speculating with friends.

The Rabbit (my confidence level: very high!)

The Rabbit is Mark Wahlberg (AKA Marky Mark). I have no doubts about this one. Here are some clues they’ve given us and how they apply to Mark Walhberg:

  • Cooking: the panel speculated that this might mean a celebrity chef, but it’s tied into Wahlburgers, the restaurant chain that also involves brothers Donnie & Paul. There was a reality show built around it, and Mark would certainly want it promoted on this show
  • Being “boxed” in: this doesn’t have to do with cardboard boxes, but with Wahlberg’s role as a producer of (netting an Oscar nom for Wahlberg for Best Picture), and appearance in, The Fighter, a boxing biopic
  • That would probably be enough to convince me, but everything else fits: on stage as part of a group (New Kids on the Block), synchronized singing, being the “last mask standing” (probably an allusion to his movie Lone Survivor), amusement park (it was a big deal when a Wahlburgers opened at the OWA complex in Alabama)…there’s probably been something about Chevy’s as well, another business in which Wahlberg has an interest

I’d be shocked if it’s not him.

The Alien (my confidence level: high)

The alien is Kendall Jenner:

  • Many sisters (the Kardashians)
  • Snake (this was the clincher…there was a lot of publicity when she had a ((temporary)) snake tattoo for a photo shoot for V magazine)
  • She’s recorded many things (having been on television so much)
  • “out of fashion” (she’s a fashion model)
  • Everything else fits, especially anonymity being an “alien” concept

The Bee (my confidence level: moderately high

The Bee is Gladys Knight:

  • There were peaches in the background of a package. Knight had a big hit with Midnight Train to Georgia (Georgia peaches)
  • “Empress” could apply to her, and she appeared on the show Empire…that’s pretty clear for me
  • The other clues fit about wanting to sing for a younger generation and having sung in the 1950s. One that surprises me because it is more personal is The Bee’s comment to “Take me to court”…Knight has famously been involved in a court case

I think I’ll stop there for now…this is long enough, and I’ve likely give you three! These are the other remaining contestants, and some quick speculation:

  • The Peacock: Macaulay Culkin (friends with Michael Jackson, a “teeny bopper” (character in Home Alone making things hit the bad guys)
  • The Monster
  • The Unicorn: Denise Richards (lost her “sheen” and she had been married to Charlie Sheen; model behavior)
  • The Lion
  • The Raven: Update: The Raven is Ricki Lake. “Good morning, Baltimore (Ravens)!” This is a clear reference to her breakout, Hairspray. The Raven is a talk show host, and everything else fits. My confidence level on this one is now moderately high.

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2019 Critics’ Choice Awards geek-friendly results

January 14, 2019

2019 Critics’ Choice Awards geek-friendly results

AWARD SPOILER ALERT

Congratulations (again) to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse for its

Critics’ Choice award

win last night as Best Animated Feature!

This follows its groundbreaking first Marvel (but not MCU) Golden Globe win

AWARD SPOILER ALERT: Marvel wins 1st Golden Globe as all other geek-friendly movie nominees shut out

Unlike the Globes, though, other geek-friendly movies and TV shows did go home with trophies.

Black Panther picked up three technical/design awards, which I think presages possible Oscar nominations (it could also get nominated at the Academy for other categories, including Best Picture…a nomination it got from the CCs as well):

  • Best Production Design (Hannah Beachler & Jay Hart)
  • Best Costume Design (Ruth Carter) (I think it’s a serious contender to win at the Oscars in this category…brilliant design)
  • Best Visual Effects (I haven’t seen that they name individuals for this…sigh)

The Critics’ Choice Awards has a category specifically for Sci-Fi/Horror, and A Quiet Place took that one.

For TV, it’s really significant that Thandie Newton won as Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Westworld. That’s an equal-playing field category for GF and mainstream…congratulations!

Best Animated Series went to BoJack Horseman, beating out Archer, Adventure Time, Bob’s Burgers, and veteran shows The Simpsons & South Park. I’d congratulate them, but somehow, I think BoJack would find that distressing. ūüėČ

Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert (starring John Legend) was the Best Movie Made for TV winner.

If we count First Man (which I haven’t seen) as geek-friendly (as I’ve said before, I’m not sure on that…geek-friendly is usually fiction for me, but it can include geek-friendly non-fiction about makers of geek-friendly fiction), we’d up it to include Tom Cross for Editing and Justin Hurwitz for Best Score.

Overall, this is a pretty good showing! I think it’s possible that the Oscars will be even more geek-friendly than these earlier awards have been, but we’ll know soon! Voting is wrapping up and nominations are announced in about a week (22 January) with the ceremony on 24 February.

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AWARD SPOILER ALERT: Marvel wins 1st Golden Globe as all other geek-friendly movie nominees shut out

January 7, 2019

Marvel wins 1st Golden Globe as all other geek-friendly movie nominees shut out

Congratulations to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse for winning Best Animated Feature at last night’s 76th annual Golden Globes!

That is Marvel’s 1st win at the Golden Globes…although notably, this movie is not part of (now) Disney’s MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) movies, but produced by Columbia and Sony in association with Marvel.

As I noted in

The Geeky Golden Globes 2019

there were certainly other geek-friendly movie nominees (including the MCU’s Black Panther and Mary Poppins Returns…A Quiet Place was nominated for score, as was Isle of Dogs). However, Spidey got the only win…counting TV nominees as well, provided that we don’t count First Man (which won Best Original Score). Generally, we count as geeky fiction which depicts things which can’t happen in consensus reality…and non-fiction about those works or about people who produce those works (as long as those works are part of the non-fiction). First Man is non-fiction about an astronaut, which certainly is something about which many geeks are passionate, but doesn’t fit the rule of thumb.

Does this bode ill for geek-friendly works at the Oscars?

I think we’ll still see quite a few nominations, although winners may be a different story. Some of the noms I think could happen (I’m leaving off animated movies, since they are almost all geek-friendly, and Visual Effects):

  • Black Panther: Best Picture (probably one of 10), Costume, Hair, song, score, maybe Ryan Coogler for Director, sound awards, Design
  • Mary Poppins Returns: Best Picture, Rob Marshall for Director, score, maybe song, Meryl Streep for Supporting Actress, Lin-Manual Miranda for Supporting Actor, maybe Emily Blunt…be interesting to see Dick Van Dyke and/or Angela Lansbury nominated, lots of technical awards
  • A Quiet Place: maybe script, maybe John Krasinski for Director
  • Bird Box: maybe script

There are likely more than that in the Maven categories (we count the acting categories, director, and Best Picture as the Big Six), but that should give some sense. I’d love to see acting nominations for Black Panther, but those may be more for A Quiet Place of Bird Box.

Do you have opinions on any of this? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.


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