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Category Archives: Cathode Rays

The Dangers of Having YouTube on the TiVo

After two weeks of trial and error, we have finally set up our new TiVo Premiere and digital antenna. What a relief. We can now record network programs in super sharp widescren (nice, even if the super-crisp, pixelated edges take some getting used to). We can also get Netflix streamed content and YouTube via the device. YouTube looks crappy as usual, but having it on the big screen gives us the patience to sit through longer stuff. Like 1950s TV shows, f’rinstance. We saw Burns and Allen this week, along with one episode of Mr. Adams & Eve, the Ida Lupino/Howard Duff sitcom which ran on CBS in 1957-58. Lupino and Duff were both good performers, but lowbrow comedy wasn’t exactly their forte — they’re no Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, that’s for sure. The two play married actors, like in real life, with much of the action taking place at the movie studio where they work. The one episode on YouTube, however, revolves around a domestic situation involving their characters’ mothers:

This was a frankly mediocre show, but it makes me excited to check out more old TV shows on YouTube. Any ideas? I also watched the pilot episode of Julie Andrews’ 1992 sitcom flop Julie, but the less said about that the better.

Friday Night Lights

Today’s video: a circa 1991 promo for 100% Weird on the TNT network. I remember staying home Friday nights and watching this; there was also MonsterVision hosted by Joe Bob Briggs (which may have replaced 100% Weird). At that time Ted Turner utilized TNT to air his recently purchased MGM/Warner Bros. film library. This was an interesting period for TNT, when they’d broadcast an NBA game followed by some forgotten Jimmy Cagney flick with nary a blink. I remember watching old movies that had no chance ever appearing on VHS alongside ancient short subjects (“Who Stole Norma Shearer’s Jewels?”) and cartoons back then and really digging it. In 1994, the film library got their own vehicle with Turner Classic Movies. And the rest is history.

While we’re at it, I’m also going to share an article on good old TNT written by Tom Gallagher for Details magazine, also circa 1991 (click image for larger version). “As Noël Coward said, sort of, it’s extraordinary how potent cheap movies can be.” — couldn’t have stated it better myself!
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She’s Hot, She’s Sexy, She’s Dead

Today’s video is the opening of CBS’s tribute to their recently deceased comedy queen, Lucille Ball, broadcast April 26, 1989. I may have watched this when it originally aired. Lucy’s death was a huge deal that year, garnering the kind of media coverage usually reserved for world leaders and royalty.

On a related note, of late we’ve been watching a lot of I Love Lucy‘s third season DVD set (a gift for Christopher’s birthday). This was the first season after Little Ricky was born. Although it contains a lot of hilarious episodes, the darn baby gets dragged out all the time and it stops the comedy dead in its tracks. Lucy and Desi Arnaz must have realized what negative impact Little Ricky had, since the following season they bounced back with a baby-free trip to Hollywood. I do believe the show hit its peak during seasons four (Hollywood) and five (European trip).

More of CBS’ Lucille Ball memorial tribute: Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Where Have You Been Hiding Out Lately, Honey

I barely remember watching this clip from Marie Osmond’s short lived solo variety series, Marie, when it was originally on circa 1981. This is Marie performing Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock ‘n Roll to Me” as a campy duet with herself — what a hoot! Two things I notice now: the costumes have all the hallmarks of the legendary Bob Mackie, and Marie was a talented performer for being only about 21 years old. Enjoy.

Weekly Mishmash: July 11-17

poster_coltisA Colt Is My Passport (1967). Part of Criterion Eclipse’s acclaimed “Nikkatsu Noir,” a DVD set exploring director Takashi Nomura’s low budget action thrillers from the ’60s. A Colt Is My Passport stars the reliable, chipmunk cheeked actor Jo Shishido as a hit man who kills a mob boss. With his partner, the man hides out in a sleepy shipping port in order to make a hasty escape. Stung by the tragedy, the son of the victim comes to Shishido’s boss and makes a cash offer to have the man killed. With men coming after him, Shishido then plots an elaborate revenge. All told, not the greatest or most original story, but there are enough interesting elements to recommend it. First off is the strange score, seemingly inspired by spaghetti Westerns and Herb Alpert-ish American pop music. In the beginning there are a lot of cool camera angles involving the modern architecture’s boxy, harsh lines — then the film moves to the seedy hotel locale and gets somewhat dull. The film’s exciting climax, staged in a dusty field, redeems things somewhat. Worth a peek if you like unconventional ’60s Japanese movies (and really, who doesn’t?).
Criss Cross (1949). Another noir, closer to home but no less odd. The virile Burt Lancaster heads up Criss Cross as a man harboring an obsession with ex-wife Yvonne De Carlo, now linked with sleazeball gangster Dan Duryea. Told mostly in flashback, the film details Lancaster’s and De Carlo’s attempts to rekindle their flame on the sly as Duryea executes a tricky bank truck heist. A rather standard story gets illuminated by great casting (especially Duryea, doing the kind of reprehensible men he does best) and some excellently photographed shots of 1949 Los Angeles (Angels Flight! Bunker Hill! Union Station!). Yvonne De Carlo was really fascinating to watch — I don’t think she’s the greatest actress, but there’s something watchable about her here and apparently the director agrees, lavishing long takes on her while the actress is dancing in a seedy joint with an uncredited Tony Curtis. She’s one hot tomato, that Yvonne De Carlo.
Eurythmics — Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This). I originally signed up on eMusic to get the 2005 reissues of the (personal fave band of the ’80s) Eurythmics’ catalog. The CD editions of these albums are so neatly packaged, however, that I decided to go with the tried and true plastic disc format. The liner notes for Sweet Dreams reveals an interesting story — by the time the LP came out in January 1983, Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox already released a flop album (In the Garden) and two underperforming singles (“This Is The House” and “The Walk”) to an indifferent world. It doesn’t surprise me at all that this album has an overall tone of resignation and icy reserve. In the Garden was a muddled, vaguely psychedelic mess with Lennox’s vocals buried too deep in the mix; with Sweet Dreams one could sense that they hit upon the simple equation of Soulful Diva Vocals + Chilly Electronics as the definitive Eurythmics sound. It’s a beautifully produced, hypnotic record, a bit repetitive at times, but sustaining a wonderful Euro-sleazy mood. The bonus tracks, mostly b-sides of the era, are lots of fun. I especially liked the 1991 remixes of “Sweet Dreams” and “Love Is A Stranger” and a brilliant cover of Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” which sounds more like a Be Yourself Tonight-era outtake.
Four Jacks and a Jill (1943). Wartime musical trifle was the last viewing from my personal Anne Shirley film fest. Honestly, I saw this five days ago and barely remember it; the plot revolves around Shirley as a waif who is somehow adopted by a quartet of musicians led by rubber-limbed Ray Bolger. I vaguely recall gangsters and a prince disguised as a taxi driver (played by a young Desi Arnaz) running around, too. Your enjoyment of this film probably depends on how much you can accept forgettable tunes and the goofy Bolger as a leading man. Shirley is cute as always, and seeing Arnaz as a capable comic actor so early in his career was a nice surprise.
dvd_thirty1stthirtysomething: The Complete First Season. I was excited to see thirtysomething finally arrive on DVD. Although I was eighteen-something and working a night job when it premiered in 1987, I would try and watch the show whenever possible (especially the later seasons with Miles Drentell, Melissa’s gay friend, Nancy’s cancer, etc). Something about the way the characters naturally interacted with each other struck a chord; the characters tended towards the whiny and self-centered, sure, but aren’t we all somewhat like that? Watching this first season was an interesting experience. I don’t remember the show being so strongly centered on its “perfect” couple Michael (Ken Olin) and Hope (Mel Harris) at the beginning. These early episodes epitomize what the haters disliked about the show, with the characters less developed and at their most ’80s yuppie-ish. It quickly hits a stride by the time Elliot (Timothy Busfield) and Nancy (Patricia Wettig) separate at mid-season, however. It’s a hoot revisiting characters and episodes I barely remember. One of my favorite scenes here is the one in the pilot episode where Hope and Polly Draper’s Ellyn meet for lunch in a restaurant, only to have it cut short by Hope’s screaming baby. The two women have this implicit realization that a part of their friendship was severed because one married and had a kid, something that happens with every thirtysomething. I also identified with terminally single Melissa (Melanie Mayron) and her status as the group’s artsy pal; in one of the later seasons she said something to the effect of “being single means learning how to go to the movies alone and not feeling like a leper.” Totally, Melissa, totally. Going back to seasons 2-4 oughta be a blast.
This Above All (1942). Stirring romance with a WWII British backdrop plays like 20th Century Fox’s own Mrs. Miniver. Christopher found it hokey and stupid, I enjoyed it. Lovely Joan Fontaine plays a British blue-blood who upsets her family by joining the UK version of the WACs; she meets cute with Tyrone Power as a morose soldier on the run for desertion. The two take refuge in various inns while discussing their lives and the war in florid, important sounding language that could only have come from a best selling novel of the era. Excellent performances from both leads, as well as Thomas Mitchell as Power’s affable best bud. As an actor Fontaine tends to be either touching and meek or annoyingly prissy; here she’s a little bit of both (one can safely take a bathroom break during her “we must preserve England” speech). Power is surprisingly good despite having no trace of a British accent. Both work splendidly together and I completely believed in the couple’s starry-eyed sincerity amongst the bomb blasts.

California Déjà Vu

From this video of TV show opening credits of 1979, a long forgotten one — California Fever. I used to watch this every week, but I honestly don’t remember a thing about it except the theme song (sung by actor Jimmy MacNichol) and that pulsating red circle in the opening. The montage also includes Real People, a show I watched zealously week after week. I had a little boy crush on Sarah Purcell.