August 31, 2021

Under the Covers with Sid n Susie (Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs)

In the 1990's, Gen X alternative rock artist Matthew Sweet gained fame for a song which peaked at #2 known as "Girlfriend". Matthew Sweet has some history of covering successful music ... successfully. Back in 1994, he was part of an ensemble of artists to record a track for a tribute album entitled "If I Were A Carpenter" (mentioned HERE). He sang the single "Let Me Be The One" on that successful album of covers — one which led to a temporary resurgence of Carpenters music at the time. While he continued recording original new music, his subsequent work never achieved quite the same amount of commercial success as "Girlfriend" did in 1995. Still, he had established a name for himself as a credible musician. 

Then, about 15 years ago (around the year 2006), Matthew Sweet hooked up (in more ways than one) with Bangles singer/guitarist Susanna Hoffs. The Bangles achieved commercial success of their own back in the eighties with several chart-topping singles, including: "Walk Like An Egyptian" (#1, 1986), Manic Monday (#2, 1986), "Hazy Shade Of Winter" (#2, 1988) and "Eternal Flame" (#1, 1989) to name a few.

The couple (Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs) shared professional (and personal) chemistry together at the time. The pair also achieved moderate commercial success as a musical duo on a Shout! Factory triage of albums. They had good vocal harmonies which worked pretty well together, combined with a quirky selection of music from successive decades starting with the sixties and culminating in the eighties. They nicknamed themselves as Sid n Susie (if you examine the album cover, note that "Sid n Susie" is carved in the tree of that image). However, when the couple's personal relationship ended, so did their professional collaboration.

Still, the duo's albums were named "Under The Covers" Volumes 1, 2, and 3 (the term "Covers" being an acknowledgement that the tracks are entirely covers of music originally recorded by other artists, and perhaps a tacit acknowledgement that the two were sleeping together at the time). Volume 1 was sixties music, volume 2 was seventies music and volume 3 was eighties music.













Today, I will focus on Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs "Under The Covers" Volume 2 album from Sid n Susie. Their Volume #2 album has some pretty credible covers of the following songs originally released during the seventies. The links below are to the covers by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs (aka Sid n Susie):

Shout! Factory provided the following synopsis of the album, the text of which I have provided here:

"Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs delighted rock and pop fans when they teamed up as Sid n Susie to record an album's worth of '60s classics called Under the Covers, Vol. 1. In the three years since, people have continued to ask us when Vol. 2 will come out and what it'll contain. Well, the wait is over: Under the Covers, Vol. 2 finds our heroes moving forward through rock's back pages to take on a other 'nother decade: the '70s.

From the power-pop like The Raspberries and Big Star to the soft-rock of Carly Simon and Bread, and from the classic-rock of John Lennon and Derek and the Dominos to the prog-rock of Yes, Sid n Susie offer a pretty thorough survey of the state of rock, just before the Sex Pistols."

One of the reasons I particularly like Sid n Susie's (Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs) covers of their song selection is because the duo did not really attempt to creatively re-imagine or modernize the sound of the original songs they were covering, therefore the songs sound very familiar and are differentiated mainly by the unique vocals of the singers who are covering the songs. I find covers like those to be more worthy of my listening to them than when an artist changes a song. In fact, I rather enjoyed the covers!

I won't bother with a playlist of all of the tracks on "Under The Covers" Volume 2 here. But I have created a playlist of four of the songs I rather enjoyed listening to from the album, including "You're So Vain" (originally by Carly Simon, #1 1973), "I've Seen All Good People" (originally by Yes, #40 1971), "Hello It's Me" (originally by Todd Rundgren, #5 1973) and "Maggie May" (originally by Rod Stewart, #21 1971). Try listening to the original songs by the original artists, followed by the Sid n Susie covers back-to-back and then make your assessment!

My playlist can be watched below, or by visiting https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLfSNYYNU6TvH7ZDcGLKR0LQg2NbcI0-Tw

 

August 10, 2021

"Fantasy Island" Reboot Premiers on Fox Broadcast TV Tues, Aug 10, 2021

When it comes to TV from the mid-1970's to the mid-1980's, for those who weren't yet old enough to be out tearing up the disco floors a la "Saturday Night Fever",  Saturday nights usually meant spending the evening at home watching ABC television from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM. ABC aired two of Aaron Spelling and former Screen Gems' top TV execs Leonard Goldberg's big TV hits: "The Love Boat" which ran from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM, followed by another hit known as "Fantasy Island". My recollections of those days are fond; an older cousin introduced me to the shows as a way of living out their own fantasies — sort of.

Both shows were also known as big work opportunities for many out-of-work actors, or those who simply wanted extra paid work. Both shows were similar in that they each ran for an hour time-slot, which is quite rare for non-movies or live sporting events. However, they both were quite popular. That's partially because there were only 3 broadcast TV networks plus PBS television and perhaps some independent stations which showed old re-runs from the fifties and sixties. Cable as we now know it did not exist, and streaming or on-demand content was an even more far-fetched idea.

The original "Fantasy Island" ran for seven seasons from 1978 to 1984 which is pretty impressive. As noted, the show was co-produced by the late Aaron Spelling. These days, the old show doesn't air very much on the re-run circuit (a few networks still run the show, but often very late at night, so its possible to set your DVR's) because the show originally fit into an hour time slot and the shows are simply too long to squeeze into a rerun circuit. Still, the basic premise was that wealthy and/or well-connected island guests could visit the island and have one fantasy they'd always dreamed about fulfilled. But the guests' fantasies seldom turned out quite the way the guests envisioned. Usually, the fantasies taught some kind of lesson.

To be sure, the original "Fantasy Island" was revered for its cast, most notably the late Ricardo Montalbán and the late Hervé Villechaize (perhaps better known for his starring role as a villain in the 1974 James Bond film "The Man with the Golden Gun" which starred the late Roger Moore as James Bond). The actors were also known for their distinctive accents which lent some mystery to their presence on screen. Mr. Montalbán had a Spanish accent, whereas Villechaize had a distinctive French accent (even though his ethnicity was Filipino, he was raised in France, hence his French accent).

Ricardo Montalbán and Hervé Villechaize

While both series have been released on DVD, unless one borrows the discs from their public library, that's an option which is rather costly for someone merely seeking a walk down memory lane. But for those people, today, free streaming is indeed a viable option.

Of the ABC Saturday night line-up during the late seventies to mid-eighties, today, viewers have the option to watch an entire subchannel dedicated to "The Love Boat" on the free ad-supported streaming network/app known as Pluto TV https://pluto.tv/en/live-tv/the-love-boat which is owned by Viacom CBS. There, dozens of episodes of that long-running show run back-to-back all day, every day. Episodes are also available for viewing on-demand.

But reruns of "Fantasy Island" are not available on Pluto TV. The reason is because the ownership rights were not Viacom's (which owns Pluto TV). However, streaming viewers can now watch reruns of "Fantasy Island" on the rival commercial-sponsored free streaming network (which competes with Viacom's Pluto TV) known as Tubi TV https://tubitv.com/series/300006868/fantasy-island-1977-series which means if you wish to watch the two shows back-to-back as you did back in the late seventies, simply switch from Pluto TV to Tubi TV on your Roku device. Selected episodes from the first, second and third seasons of the original version of "Fantasy Island" are also available free at Hulu. 

Readers may recall that I previously blogged about "The Love Boat" — or at least the outcome of the boat itself — (see HERE) and that isn't the subject of today's post. 

But "Fantasy Island" (which I previously covered HERE) to address that after years, the series had finally made it to DVD, hence the content had therefore been digitized) warrants mention because the old show is now being rebooted and will air on Fox broadcast television.  The first episode of the rebooted "Fantasy Island" will air tonight (Tuesday, August 10, 2021) on Fox broadcast TV at 10:00 PM.

Fantasy Island 2021 Reboot

Of relevant note is that in 2018, Fox sold its entire entertainment division (which included broadcast television) to Walt Disney Corp. Disney was not at all interested in buying Fox's bogus cable "news" division. Part of the reason is those channels no longer earn money from advertising generally, but instead relies on revenues from cable carrier fees. With the acquisition of Fox Entertainment, Disney solidified itself as a true media giant (it already owns ABC), competing with the likes of Viacom CBS and NBC Universal. That effectively left Rupert Murdoch and his kids cash-rich (reportedly more than $52 billion) but are now media poor. Few Americans even care what the fossilized old Australian immigrant got from the deal. But the change in ownership brought newfound creativity and thinking to programming decisions for Fox.

Still, if I had to speculate on which of the ABC Saturday night line-up from the mid-seventies to mid-eighties would get a reboot, I didn't envision it would be  Fantasy Island". Part of the reason is because the original "Fantasy Island" was a little far-fetched. 

The original "Fantasy Island" was a fantasy drama television series which was created by Gene Levitt. As noted, it aired on ABC from 1977 to 1984. The series starred Ricardo Montalbán as the mysterious Mr. Roarke and Hervé Villechaize as his assistant, Tattoo. Guests were granted so-called "fantasies" on the island ... for a price. In other words, the guests all received whatever their lifelong fantasies were, but the fantasies that the guests envisioned seldom turned out quite the way they had expected.

There had been discussions of rebooting the old show over the years, but few materialized. In 1998, there was one ill-fated attempt to use "Fantasy Island" as the basis for a horror movie, but it bombed because it wasn't a good concept.

"Fantasy Island" Reboot Is Unique: Women Are Behind It

However, a "Fantasy Island" series reboot was greenlit on December 2020, slated for a 2021 release on Fox broadcast television. The series will be a co-production between Sony Pictures Television and Fox Entertainment. In April 2021, it was announced that Kiara Barnes and John Gabriel Rodriguez had joined the main cast of the series. That same month, it was also announced that Roselyn Sánchez had joined the cast of the series as Elena Roarke, who plays the granddaughter of the late Mr. Roarke, and as already noted, the rebooted "Fantasy Island" series is scheduled to premiere on August 10, 2021 — which is tonight!

The series, which is not necessarily anticipated to be a permanent addition, rather it serves as a fill-in during a period in which new TV content is largely absent from the airwaves other than the horrible and tired "reality" shows such as "Big Brother". The "Fantasy Island" reboot might be a compelling addition with a creative, intelligent reboot attempt. 

More than 37 years after Ricardo Montalbán finished his run as Mr. Roarke, the debonair concierge of an enigmatic, wish-fulfilling beach resort in the Pacific Ocean, "Fantasy Island" is returning once more to network television. But this time, the latest iteration arrives on Fox with women on both sides of the camera.

The "Fantasy Island" reboot was created by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain, and the new "Fantasy Island" premieres on Tuesday. It centers on Elena Roarke played by Roselyn Sánchez, who is a grandniece of Montalbán's Mr. Roarke who has left her life in New York behind to become the sophisticated steward of the island, where she sates her guests' greatest desires but teaches them that what they want isn't necessarily what they need.

The show reportedly "delves into the 'what if' questions, both big and small, that keep us awake at night," per its official logline. "Each episode will tell emotional, provocative stories about people who walk in with a desire, but end up reborn to themselves through the magical realism of Fantasy Island."

Roselyn Sánchez told the New York Times (see https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/09/arts/television/fantasy-island-returns-roselyn-sanchez.html for the article) "We did watch 'Fantasy Island' as kids and we have such strong memories of sitting in our respective houses and watching Mr. Roarke and his sidekick, Tattoo [played by Hervé Villechaize]," said Sarah Fain, who serves as a showrunner along with Craft. "But we loved the show so much that it very quickly felt like a really incredible opportunity."

In Sánchez, Elizabeth Craft said the creators had found someone who they believe has the perfect combination of "humor, warmth, compassion and natural authority." For the Puerto Rican actress, the show, which was shot on the island, offered a chance to reunite with relatives and many of the same crew members she had worked with at the start of her career.

The production also gave Puerto Rico a much-needed financial boost. "It's really important to the island, to them and to me," said Ms. Sánchez, who opted to postpone her directorial feature debut in favor of shooting the 10-episode first season of "Fantasy Island" in her homeland.

In a phone interview from Puerto Rico, Sánchez talked with the New York Times about the pressure that comes with stepping into the shoes — and iconic white suit — of Ricardo Montalbán, and Latino representation in Hollywood. But she said that the premise of the show is pretty much the same as the original. 

"It's about wish fulfillment; it's about growing as a human being; it's about making dreams come true. Guests come to the island — they have a desire, they have a dream, whatever it is — then the island helps them navigate through a journey that has magic and can fulfill them.

But the fact that the lead role is a female, that's a testament to how the showrunners wanted to do something that is a little more current. Directors, a lot of heads of departments, showrunners — they're all female, behind the camera and in front of the camera. They took some creative liberties that are going to elevate the material, especially the fact that you have minorities in charge as leads. It's keeping up with the current times."

The New York Times asked Ms. Sánchez: "In promotional videos you mentioned that you were a fan of the original. What are your most vivid memories of watching the show as a girl in Puerto Rico?"

Her response was: "We had [the original "Fantasy Island"] in Spanish here. I was born in 1973, and the show was in the '70s, so I was very young. But that moment of the Tattoo character ringing the bell and saying, "El avión, el avión" ["The plane, the plane"] is very vivid.

You have to understand that Ricardo Montalbán, for Latinos, he was like royalty. Just the fact that he was a leading man carrying his own show, and he did it so well, and it was so successful. Having the opportunity to portray pretty much that character and continue the Roarke legacy, it’s a dream, and I do recognize it's a  responsibility. But it's one that I'm embracing with all my heart, and I hope people enjoy me as much as they enjoy him."

Fox has a website for the series (for the time-being, anyway) at https://www.fox.com/fantasy-island/. Over the past few weeks, Roselyn Sánchez been on the promotional circuit for the reboot of "Fantasy Island". However, Fox television has produced a short commercial, followed by a half-hour deep dive into the reboot. You can watch those below, or on YouTube by visiting https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLfSNYYNU6TvEPe5VuJ23fimwDy92WSJCz 

 

May 10, 2021

New TV Network Called "Rewind TV" Will Target Gen X Viewers

Readers of this blog may recall that I've chronicled the emergence of new, broadcast television stations which have taken over the entertainment space of the old TV show rerun circuit once dominated by Viacom CBS's TV Land cable network (itself evolving from the evening schedule of the old Nickelodeon network, with adult programming aimed at filling airtime in the evenings when their parents were more likely to tune in to a content it branded as "Nick at Nite"). Plus, TV Land itself has evolved in recent years with more original programming, hence it no longer relies exclusively on old reruns as it once did. One new TV channel I blogged about was NBC Universal's Cozi TV which launched in January 2013 (catch my blog post about that station when it launched HERE for more). 

Antenna TV happens to be the Nexstar Media Group's multicast network that launched on January 1, 2011 and was originally begun by Tribune Broadcasting which Nextstar acquired in 2019. Antenna TV currently airs in 151 broadcast TV markets across the U.S. reaching 93% of TV households, is reportedly launching a secondary companion network focusing on series from the 1980's and early 1990's. Officially, it will be called Rewind TV, a digital subchannel offering a slate of classic television sitcom hits from the 1980's and 1990's. More info about Rewind TV can be found at www.rewindtv.com and the station will launch starting on September 1, 2021 in select markets including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The press release can be viewed at https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210426005123/en/.

Currently, Antenna TV is a mixture of older TV programming from the 1950's to the 1990's aimed at the Baby Boomer audience, but the new Rewind TV will be focused on somewhat newer content which might resonate with people who came of age during the 1980's. Its a very similar station which targets Generation X and older Millennials rather than Baby Boomers who recall TV content from the 1950's and 1960's. The company has licensed the rights to air shows on both channels if it chooses to do so.

Rewind TV will air several series currently found in the Antenna TV library, but the new channel has also acquired the rights to broadcast a few new sitcoms including "The Drew Carey Show" (he is now the permanent host of the TV game show "The Price Is Right"), "Suddenly Susan", "The John Larroquette Show" and "Caroline in the City" which is coming after the new network launches. "Suddenly Susan" is planned for Rewind TV in 2022. "The Drew Carey Show" and "The John Larroquette Show" are totally new to the company, and will start airing in 2022 along with "Suddenly Susan". Joining "Caroline in the City" in September 2021 on Rewind TV are some Antenna TV favorites including "227", "Becker", "Dear John", "Designing Women", "Diff'rent Strokes", "The Facts of Life", "Family Ties", "Growing Pains", "Head of the Class", "The Hogan Family", "Mork & Mindy", "Murphy Brown", "My Two Dads", "NewsRadio", "Sabrina The Teenage Witch", "Who's the Boss", and "Wings" which all will migrate over to Rewind TV starting in September 2021. Some of these series are currently not airing on Antenna TV even though the media group has licensed the shows.

Nexstar's original companion digital network, Antenna TV, will continue to air some of the more popular programming from the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's, including weeknight reruns of "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" as well as TV sitcoms such as "Three's Company", "Bewitched" and "The Jeffersons". It is unclear how the channel known as Antenna TV will evolve as more and more of the Baby Boomer population die off, or if it simply rebrands itself to accommodate younger groups. Regardless, the "antenna" brand may not resonate with younger age groups, hence the new brand of Rewind TV may be the direction we see things going. It may sound morbid to some, but the reality is that in spite of increased longevity, Baby Boomers are dying simply due to their now elderly status. According to a Baby Boomer death clock (in fact, the site maintains death clocks for all generations, not limiting itself exclusively to Baby Boomers), approximately 27% of the population born between the years of 1946 and 1964 has already passed away.

Multicast networks have emerged following the TV industry's transition to high-definition signals and the corresponding increase in digital capacity according to Deadline Hollywood. The networks, most of which are owned by local TV station groups, can be viewed over the air without a pay-TV subscription, and some reach more than 90% of U.S. households. Popular multi-casters include MeTV, Bounce, Laff, and the recently reactivated Court TV

"This year marks Antenna TV's 10-year anniversary, and it continues growing and finding new audiences," said Sean Compton, President of Nexstar Media Inc.'s Networks Division. "To complement Antenna TV's strong following with Baby Boomers, we created Rewind TV to give Gen X viewers a network dedicated to their own nostalgic comedy classics."

Of course, Rewind TV is now competing with a new crop of new internet-powered streaming services including Viacom CBS' PlutoTV, NBC Universal's Peacock, and Fox Entertainment's Tubi platforms, all of which offer free, advertiser-sponsored content. Some, such as Pluto TV, has sub-channels of their own dedicated to some of the very same shows available all day, anytime (such as "Three's Company", "Wings" and "Family Ties"). 

Still, the renewed focus on younger generations is probably long overdue. 

Many younger viewers, for example, will simply change the station if they see a black and white program airing. Although Gen Xers grew up watching old reruns of sixties TV shows, including several which ran during broadcast TV's transition from B&W to color (such as "Gilligan's Island", "I Dream of Jeannie", "Bewitched", "The Andy Griffith Show" and others), they also witnessed the colorization of such shows after-the-fact (a number by Atlanta-based media mogul Ted Turner which was considered controversial at the time), but many now prefer the newly colorized episodes to the B&W versions of the same episodes.

But Rewind TV will focus mainly on content from the eighties, hence all of it will be in color. Some series slated for Rewind TV, such as the inaugural show that starred Robin Williams known "Mork & Mindy" actually premiered in the late 1970's but is better remembered as an eighties show since it ended its run in 1982, but has been slated to air on Rewind TV rather than on Antenna TV.

In any event, Gen X TV viewers in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago will be able to tune into Rewind TV starting in September 2021, and more stations are expected to open around the country starting next year. Rewind TV can be found online at RewindTV.com.

May 1, 2021

Sequel to "The Flintstones" to be Called "Bedrock" Coming Soon

Many  recall the original Hanna-Barbera animated TV show known as "The Flintstones". One element which made "The Flintstones" so unique (at the time) was that it was the first-ever animated series to hold a prime-time slot on broadcast television. "The Flintstones" also proved to be the most financially successful and longest-running animated show on network TV for more than three decades, until "The Simpsons" which debuted in 1989 and eventually outlasted "The Flintstones". "The Flintstones" was also one of the most successful cartoons to run in syndication.

The short description of "The Flintstones" is that it was about the misadventures of two modern-day Stone Age families, the Flintstones and the Rubbles. "The Flintstones" originally ran for six seasons and over 150 episodes on ABC between 1960 and 1966. The series followed the misadventures of the titular modern Stone Age family, comprised of Fred, Wilma, Pebbles, and family pet Dino. The show also heavily featured the Flintstones’ neighbors, the Rubbles — Fred’s best friend Barney, Wilma’s best friend Betty, and their son, Bamm-Bamm.

In fact, the show had basically the same plot as several successful TV sitcoms which preceded it, including "The Honeymooners" which ran from 1955 to 1956, except that it was animated and set in the stone age. But it was about two couples, the wives were friends by virtue of them being neighbors, and the husbands both worked in working-class, blue-collar professions typical of many ordinary Americans at the time the show aired, and the couples eventually started families at the same time, too.

According to the entertainment industry news outlet Variety (see https://variety.com/2021/tv/news/flintstones-sequel-series-fox-elizabeth-banks-pebbles-1234961373/ for the original article), a sequel series to "The Flintstones" is now planned and set to begin production. Animation is officially in development at Fox with Elizabeth Banks attached to star and executive produce the new show. The project will be written and co-executive produced by Lindsay Kerns, and Max Handelman will executive produce via Ms. Banks' Brownstone Productions, with the company's Dannah Shinder co-executive producing. Warner Bros. Animation and Fox Entertainment will produce the show. Brownstone is currently under a TV overall deal at Warner Bros. The new animated series, to be titled "Bedrock," is supposedly set some 20 years after the events of the original series. Elizabeth Banks will voice an adult Pebbles Flintstone in addition to executive producing the new animated show. 

Variety reported "In the show, Fred Flintstone is on the brink of retirement and 20-something Pebbles is embarking on her own career. As the Stone Age gives way to a shiny and enlightened new Bronze Age, the residents of Bedrock will find this evolution harder than a swing from Bamm-Bamm's club."

In fact, the timing of "Bedrock" being set 20 years from the original series does take some creative license. The reason is because the final first-run episode of the original series known as "The Flintstones" aired more then 55 years ago (as of 2021), which means that Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble should have retired long ago. In fact, all of the original vocal talents of the original show passed away more than a few years ago. Perhaps the most famous of the vocal talent on "The Flintstones" was Mel Blanc, who died in 1989 (he voiced the character of Barney Rubble on "The Flintstones," although he had a long history in animation, including for the original cast of Bugs Bunny of "Looney Tunes" fame which preceded "The Flintstones"). Mr. Blanc died in 1989 and was buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The epitaph on his headstone reads "That's all, folks!" (which was the tag line of every one of his Warner Brothers cartoons) with a subheading of "Man of 1000 Voices".

While original episodes of "The Flintstones" ended more than a half-century ago, for years after the show's original run ended, there were more than a dozen spinoffs of "The Flintstones" under the production company Hanna-Barbera (14 in total), which even included one called "The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show" which ran as a first-run, Saturday morning show on CBS from 1971-1972 and followed the characters of Pebbles Flintstone and Bamm-Bamm Rubble as they faced problems growing up in the boring little town of Bedrock. No longer toddlers, the two were supposedly then teenagers in 1972 attending Bedrock High School and also getting their first jobs.

As noted, that means in theory, the lead characters of "The Flintstones" should arguably have retired years ago (presuming retirement ages generally accepted in the U.S.). But stranger and more creative things have been done in television shows.

Since the deaths of the legendary animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera (Hanna died in 2001, and Barbera died in 2006), a company which remained active (at least as consultants) until 2001, although I believe the archived productions of the successful cartoon shop are currently now officially in the hands of Warner Brothers as the owners. Ms. Banks was originally in discussions to produce a new series called "Bedrock" at WB Animation in 2019, but no network for the show had been identified to carry the show at the time.

Since then, the options to get shows to audiences have expanded well beyond the original broadcast networks and cable to include a steadily-growing number of viable streaming outlets. Now, the latest news is that "Bedrock" is officially in development at Fox, not Warner Brothers, although Banks is under contract with Warner Brothers, so its officially being produced by both entertainment companies. The presence of so many new streaming outlets practically guarantees there will be some type of audience for the new show because the traditional network gatekeepers now have far less control to kill a project as the traditional broadcast and cable networks once did. That said, the underlying economics for many streaming outlets is different, which also impacts the outcome of success and the ability to produce a new show.

Variety reports that Fox Entertainment's free streaming platform Tubi https://tubitv.com/ has acquired the AVOD (the acronym for Advertising Video on Demand) rights to all six seasons of the original series "The Flintstones," which will begin streaming on the Tubi platform starting May 1, 2021. That also increases the odds that "Bedrock" could ultimately find a home on that particular streaming outlet, although the producers do have a right to shop the property around to see if they can find outlets willing to broadcast (and pay for it) it to a much wider audience. Tubi has not seen quite as much original content as rivals, but is functionally similar to the Viacom CBS Pluto TV https://pluto.tv/ streaming outlet, mainly for Fox entertainment properties and some licensed content. Among Tubi's licensed content includes Total TeleVision productions' (and that WAS the way it was written), which is currently owned by DreamWorks Classics, but was responsible for such sixties cartoons (produced on behalf of General Mills cereals) such as Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo, Klondike Kat and Commander McBragg, among others, all of which ran heavily in syndication during the seventies since TV stations needed kid-friendly content to run in the early mornings and after school). So far, Fox has not yet been able to capitalize on its Tubi platform (plus it has little name-recognition), and its possible that having a high-profile recognized entertainment property such as "The Flintstones" and a reboot called "Bedrock" could help Fox's struggling free streaming platform attract audiences. Currently, Tubi has access to some of Total Television's cartoon properties such as "Underdog," but isn't really seen as a go-to destination for most streaming viewers, whereas Pluto TV and NBC Universal's Peacock TV https://www.peacocktv.com/ have much more name-recognition ... and viewership.

As the guys in the following YouTube video rightly observe (or visit at https://youtu.be/AWqnlc99IZ4), "Bedrock" could still end up being a trainwreck, but its got some credible talent working on it, plus the basis for the show is unique enough and credible enough that it has potential to work.

The good news is we shall soon see a new animated series starring the cast of "The Flintstones" (except that new vocal talent had to be found since all of the original vocal talent have died). Its in production now. If I had to guess, I'd say the odds are good that we may see "Bedrock" on the Tubi streaming outlet unless they can find a more deep-pocketed media outlet to pick the show up.

September 20, 2020

Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett Were Not the "Brangelina" of the 70's

I've addressed a seventies TV hit known as "The Six Million Dollar Man" here previously, (catch it HERE), but it was more about the show than the actors in the series. 

Farrah Fawcett and then-husband Lee Majors
The lead actor in "The Six Million Dollar Man" series (Lee Majors) was already a TV veteran as an actor on a TV show called "The Big Valley", which was an American Western drama TV series which ran for four seasons on ABC from 1965-1969. That series was set in the mid-late 1800's on the fictional Barkley Ranch set in California's San Joaquin Valley (specifically in Stockton). Despite the series' popularity and the fact that it ran for four seasons, it never made the top 30 in the yearly ratings charts, although it was enough of a hit to outlive various time slot rivals during its run. 

But it was Lee Majors from that series' who went on to a much bigger career in television the next decade as "The Six Million Dollar Man". That show ran from 1974-1978 and was at or near the top of the ratings during its heyday. In fact, the show was so big that it also generated its own spinoff known as "The Bionic Woman" which was also briefly very popular around 1977. Both of those shows today run on NBC Universal's Cozi TV network (which I wrote about when it launched HERE). 

Hollywood Power Couple, Yes. But Nothing Like Brangelina.

The comparison is a bit misplaced, but some news outlets (specifically Britain's tabloid the Daily Mail) have referred to actor Lee Majors as half of a sort of "Brangelina" of the 1970's ("Brangelina" was stupid combo name given to the celebrity supercouple consisting of American actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie). The reason for the comparison is because he was married to an actress named Farrah Fawcett whose sexy image in a bathing suit was on posters in most boys' bedroom walls at the time. 

Farrah Fawcett's iconic 70's poster
Sorry, but to my knowledge, there was never a mass movement for anyone to hang posters of Angelina Jolie in a swimsuit on their walls — she's just never been much of a fantasy for many teenage boys. Lee Majors was also not equivalent of Angelina's former husband Brad Pitt — in the case of Brangelina, Brad Pitt was the better-looking half of that former couple. 

Anyway, Lee Majors married Farah Fawcett in 1973 (she was a former beauty queen from University of Texas who went to Hollywood at age 21), the same year Lee won the role of Steve Austin on "The Six Million Dollar Man". Farrah appeared on that show and Lee used his clout to try and help get her other TV roles. He said "All the lessons I had learned the hard way, I tried to use to help Farrah." The couple divorced in 1982. Still, Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett (which she hyphenated even when she was married to Lee Majors as Farrah Fawcett-Majors, which was a pretty daring move at the time since most brides were expected to adopt the surname of their spouse at the time, showing surprising independence) were considered a Hollywood power couple of the mid-1970's.  

She landed various Hollywood guest appearances on somewhat popular broadcast TV shows at the time including "Mayberry R.F.D.", "I Dream of Jeannie", "The Flying Nun", "The Partridge Family" and "Marcus Welby, M.D."  But her her initial claim to fame (aside from her iconic poster) was a starring role on the hit Aaron Spelling TV series named "Charlie's Angels" as Jill Munroe on that show. But the couple still dealt with annoying press hounds throughout their brief marriage. Lee Majors told Closer magazine: "We couldn’t do anything," recalled Lee about the pressure they felt from the press. "The paps [paparazzi] always found out where we were." 

"Jiggle TV"

Farrah Fawcett's "Charlie's Angels" role was during a period which came to be known as "Jiggle TV". Ms. Fawcett's famous poster arguably helped her get cast in the role on "Charlie's Angels", and poster sales went hand-in-hand with ratings for the show. NBC exec Paul Klein is the person who coined the term "Jiggle Television" to criticize ABC's television production and marketing strategy under former chief Fred Silverman. The term was used to describe dramatic TV series (mostly from Aaron Spelling and former Screen Gems' top TV exec Leonard Goldberg) including "The Love Boat", "Fantasy Island", and later "Beverly Hills 90210", "Melrose Place" and others. "Jiggle TV" was seen as trashy and escapist entertainment. Programs or female performers were frequently judged by their "jiggle factor". "Jiggle TV" was also called "Tits & Ass Television" or "T&A TV" for short and in the 1970's, the amount of sex on television increased, as did its ratings. Farrah Fawcett certainly fit into that categorization. 

Farrah Fawcett herself went on the record when she told an interviewer "When the show was number three, I figured it was our acting. When it got to be number one, I decided it could only be because none of us wears a bra." 

Fawcett Redeemed Her Acting Credentials With "The Burning Bed"

Although Farrah Fawcett was not considered a great actress when she began acting (then again, neither is Angelina Jolie), she left "Charlie's Angels" which made her a household name after just one season. And, to her credit, she really did redeem her acting credentials with a dramatic role in a made-for-TV movie which aired on NBC called "The Burning Bed" in 1984 which was very good and gained her needed respect for her ability as an actress. Over her career, she became a four-time Emmy Award nominee (although she never won), but her career came to a sudden halt when she fell sick and passed away from anal cancer in 2009 — she was just age 62 when she died (see her obituary HERE). 

Former husband Lee Majors told the UK tabloid Daily Mail: "People tell me we were the Brad [Pitt] and Angelina [Jolie] of our time. Sadly, that didn't work out too good, either." 

But in spite of their parting ways, Lee Majors (age 81 years old in 2020) looks back at his marriage to Farrah Fawcett fondly. Although their separation was mutual and was never hostile, because they had no children together, there also was not much of an ongoing relationship between the couple following their divorce. 

Majors and Fawcett stayed in touch until Farrah fell in love with Ryan O'Neal, who had been Lee's friend until O'Neil hooked up with Farrah. "They got serious and I couldn't believe it," Lee Majors previously recalled to People. So once they parted, they basically left one another's lives and went their separate ways.  

Silence fell between Lee and Farrah continued until he heard about her battle with anal cancer. However, Lee Majors is very happy that he reconnected with his ex before she died. In 2009, Lee called his ex-wife to wish her a happy 62nd birthday. 

"They had a 40-minute conversation about her life and the cancer," said an insider. "They joked and they got a little bit emotional." They even spoke about working together again — sadly it wasn't meant to be. Farrah died just four months later. She was "one of a kind," Lee said. "I was always 110% behind her and proud of her." 

See also the Closer weekly magazine coverage at: 

December 31, 2019

CB Radio Fad of the Mid 1970's

In the mid-1970's, mobile phones weren't even invented yet. The few who actually had "car phones" at the time had special, analog radio phones, but those were so large they had to be hard-wired into the car and so power-hungry they needed access to the car’s alternator for power. Mobile service was controlled by the Ma Bell monopoly and the cost was prohibitively expensive. Plus, no one was carrying them around in their pockets. But, there was kind of an analog alternative: the Citizens Band Radio, better known by the acronym CB radio. Originally started in the 1940's and used by truckers, these inexpensive radios also made various forms of chatter over the public airwaves possible. CB radio communication wasn’t private, but neither were old party line telephones which had only been phased-out in the last parts of the country just a decade earlier.

Partly because of the 1973 oil crisis caused by the OPEC Oil Embargo of that year, and a new, nationwide 55 mph speed limit meant to save U.S. fuel consumption, the use of CB radios served a genuine need. Truckers found their CB’s to be very valuable in to help organize blockades and convoys in protest to the newly-imposed 55 mph speed limit. CB’s helped truck drivers locate service stations that actually had fuel available for sale, and also to warn other drivers of speed traps ahead. Remember: GPS was unavailable outside of the U.S. military at the time. But CB's were really enabled by the advent of solid state electronics technology which emerged and became commonplace starting in the early 1970's, which also enabled prices of the radios themselves to plummet and made them feasible as a mass market item which was not possible previously.


CB radios also enabled drivers to alert and/or seek assistance in case of an emergency. Ordinary people soon discovered that CB radios were also a great way to find where to get the cheapest gas, plus communicating and cooperating with other drivers on the road. They were adopted by the masses as part of a temporary (but big) fad during that period of time. In fact, they had become so popular that more than 2 million CB radio licenses were issued in 1974 alone. Eventually, there were so many idiots clogging the CB airwaves that more channels were needed, so 40 channel models were released instead of just 23.

Along with this technology came adoption of common user protocols, most notably the use of the relevant lingo or slang that existing CB radio users were already accustomed to using. Virtually all of this originated with truck drivers. "Breaker 19" was a way to introduce yourself to the people tuned into channel 19, whereas "That’s a 10-4" meant everything was OK and you understood, and "What's your 10-20?" meant someone was asking what your location on the road was. A much longer list of CB radio slang is currently available online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CB_slang or at http://www.cbgazette.com/slang.html if you're interested in reading more.

But as the CB radio technology became more widespread, soon the unique vernacular made it made its way into pop culture, including in broadcast radio, movies, television, news and even pop music.

Handles were what people called themselves over the airwaves without giving out their real names. Anonymity made it easier to evade police enforcement for telling others about police speed enforcement locations. Handles were akin to what screen names were in the era of internet chat rooms which are also now history. In fact, even former First Lady Betty Ford got into the act back in the day, admitting to using the handle "First Mama," while voice actor Mel Blanc (known as the voices in many original Warner Brothers and later, Hanna Barbera cartoons) talked over the airwaves using the guise of Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck!

In 1975, the country music singer Merle Haggard released a song called "Movin' On" about truck-drivers who put CB radios and the lingo associated with CB's into wider use. Also in 1975, a novelty, one-hit-wonder song performed by C.W. McCall (a pseudonym of Bill Fries) became a #1 song on both the country and pop charts in the U.S. That song was "Convoy".

A brief snippet of the song "Convoy" can be listened to below, or at http://www.madmusic.com/song_details.aspx?SongID=2829 — because of byzantine copyright laws, only a short segment of the song is available. YouTube has a licensed copy of the original track from the Mike Douglas Show at https://youtu.be/j3VN54M1OXA if you want something more.


Convoys were essentially huge lines of trucks that traveled together down the nation's highways (often at higher than the posted speed limits), usually in protest to the new slower speed limits and police enforcement of those new speed limits (it's tough for police to pull over and ticket dozens of trucks travelling the same high speed simultaneously, hence they were pretty effective). They were most prevalent along the vast, empty stretches of highway so prevalent in Western states, "Convoy" was also the theme song for an eponymous movie released under the same name. That song was, in fact, written by C.W. McCall and Chip Davis who were a couple of ad guys from Omaha, Nebraska — their song "Convoy" was actually written initially for an ad campaign they were doing for a bread company at the time — but the single managed to land on and spent an impressive 6 weeks at number #1 on the Billboard country charts, an indication of just how big the CB fad had become.

NPR had a brief segment in 2017 about the song "Convoy" which is only about three minutes in length, but is worth listening to below, or at https://www.npr.org/2017/06/06/531749486/the-legacy-of-convoy-how-a-trucker-s-protest-anthem-became-a-70s-hit. The link above also features a video link to the song "Convoy":

On television, we saw the CB radio subculture showed up in the broadcast news, and in regular programming.  For example, a television series "Movin' On" debuted in 1974 and ran to 1976 on NBC. The 1976 "Paul Lynde Halloween Special" on ABC (which, by the way, is currently available on Netflix, catch my blog about that TV special at http://hgm.sstrumello.com/2012/10/paul-lynde-1976-halloween-special.html for more) featured an entire segment about using a CB radio. In that segment, Paul Lynde was an 18-wheeled, white-pleathered rhinestone trucker. Tim Conway, best known for his comedic roles on the iconic "Carol Burnett Show" played his CB-buddy, while both of them fought over truckstop waitress Roz "Pinky Tuscadero" Kelly. She is remembered as someone who briefly starred as the Fonz's temporary girlfriend on the hit ABC sitcom "Happy Days" at the time.

By 1979, another NBC sitcom called "B.J. and the Bear" was introduced and that show ran until 1981. "B.J. and the Bear" was about a truck driver named B.J. (played by Greg Evigan) and his travelling companion, a monkey named "Bear" which featured routine CB radio usage, along with the then-popular CB lingo (catch a Retroist podcast about that particular TV series at https://archive.org/details/retroistbjandthebear for more info.). Again, CB radios were featured prominently in the show. Perhaps even bigger was the hit CBS TV show "The Dukes of Hazzard" (which also debuted 1979, running until 1985) and that also featured CB radios prominently throughout the series. CB radios were prominent throughout that show's six-season tenure as a means for the law-bending Duke brothers to avoid Sheriff Boss Hogg, Deputy Cletus Hogg, who was Boss Hogg's cousin and his dim-witted Deputy Sheriff Enos Strate. These days, due to the show's unapologetic romanticism of southern Confederacy (including a car named the General Lee) and the essential racism that drove it, that show is now rather limited in the rerun circuit, limited to a few cable stations such as CMT which has high viewership in the southern states that were home to the Confederacy.


On the big screen, there were several movies including "Smokey and the Bandit" (1977) which co-starred Burt Reynolds (he had already built a name for himself not for his acting but for being Cosmopolitan magazine's first-ever nude, male centerfold in 1972) and Sally Field plus Jackie Gleason and Jerry Reed. Of course, there was also the other big film "Convoy" (1978) which I previously noted. "Convoy" starred Kris Kristofferson — a Nashville singer-songwriter who was also, briefly, a pretty busy film star also willing to get semi-naked on screen, with one of his earlier starring roles in the award-winning film "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" (1974) which was also the basis for a subsequent TV sitcom on CBS that starred Linda Lavin known simply as "Alice". Kristofferson would also subsequently co-star in the romantic drama reboot of the movie "A Star Is Born" (1976) with Barbra Streisand, for which he received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.

Like many things, the public fixation about CB Radios was definitely a genuine fad with its roots in utility. Today, the idea of CB radios seems more quaint than anything else, with mobile phones as portable, internet-connected devices being as ubiquitous and cheap as they are now. But, as noted, those simply weren’t around in those days, and car phones were prohibitively expensive and not at all portable, having to be hard-wired into the trunk of one's car and requiring a car alternator to power them, plus the service was controlled by the Ma Bell monopoly and prohibitively expensive, with metered, per-minute charges for every single call plus a hefty monthly service fee. That meant making only a few phone calls like that would exceed the prices people pay for 6 months of unlimited mobile service now, only without the internet.

I am of the opinion that even in 2020, mobile phones are still not exactly the pinnacle of modern technology (I wrote a post about how the iPhone did not kill the landline phone, the internet did, catch my post at http://hgm.sstrumello.com/2017/10/iphone-didnt-kill-landline-telephones.html for more), as they are first and foremost, one-on-one communications platforms (although internet connected apps may enable group platforms, such as Google Hangouts). The real benefit of a CB radio was that someone several miles ahead of you on a particular highway could warn you of upcoming traffic conditions, police activity, accidents, and most importantly: places where fuel was available, all of which you had yet to encounter on the road ahead. Hence, CB radios served a rather unique and useful purpose among truckers, plus CB's (aside from the initial purchase price) were free to use. CB radios had a range of about 3 to 20 miles, depending on the terrain. Originally there were only 23 channels, but subsequently expanded to about 40 stations. Police and firefighters used different radio bands that were not open to the public.

For whatever reason, the brief obsession with CB radios in the United States also likely stemmed from people’s desire to indulge their weird fantasies. This was in an era following the sexual revolution of the late 1960's and women's liberation. That's not to say that society wasn't still repressive, because it remained controlled by older people who were happy with the repressive 1950's. But CB radios provided anonymity for people to act as though they were someone else, plus is coincided with a public valorization of truckers and cops and people's desires of them (for women to be romantic with them, and for men to be like them).

As the MeTV blog best put it (catch its blog post at https://www.metv.com/stories/cb-radio-was-the-social-media-of-the-1970s):

"Instead of being relegated as a fleeting trend of the 1970s, perhaps CB radios were a precursor to the use of technology to create friendships and communicate anonymously with others." In other words, it was a precursor to modern social media, only it appeared 45 years ago!

The book "Whatever Became of Pudding Pops" which partially helped spawn this blog, wrote about the CB radio fad other the late 1970's and it was pretty interesting and entertaining reading. The chapter content was essentially as follows:

"Convoy"

Breaker one-nine, you got your ears on? Kids had no idea what CB chatter meant, but it sure was fun to pretend, holding a Romper Stomper to your mouth like it was a microphone and blabbing about "putting the hammer down" and "bears in the air."

We discovered the citizen's-band phenomenon when C.W. McCall recorded the 1976 hit "Convoy." You didn't have to understand the exotic new language (what in the world was a "cab-over Pete with a reefer on"?) to immediately fall in love with the romance of the eighteen-wheel lifestyle. "Convoy" told a classic tale of fighting authority, with the truckers crashing roadblocks and flaunting toll bridges.

Kids weren't the only ones who loved it. Adults started buying CBs for their Dodge Darts at such a frantic pace, the FCC doubled the number of available channels. Of course, no one knew any real CB lingo outside of the song lyrics, so real truckers had to suffer through listening to kids, desk jockeys, and housewives calling them "good buddy" until we grew sick of the craze and moved on to the next fad.

Today, the closest kids come to talking to truckers is when they pull an imaginary cord to try and get passing drivers to honk their horns. Still awesome? That's a big 10-4.

X-TINCTION RATING:
Gone for good.

REPLACED BY:
Cell phones made it much easier — if more dangerous — to communicate while driving, and personal radar detectors help modern drivers stay alert for smokeys.

FUN FACT:
C. W. McCall was the creation of a couple of ad guys from Omaha. Bill Fries and Chip Davis (who went on to launch electronic-music group Mannheim Steamroller) concocted the character and named him after McCall's magazine. The C. W. stood for country and western.

October 24, 2019

An Ode to Christopher Cross: Musician Who's Also One of Yacht Rock's Best Crooners

For today's post, it's necessary to properly set the scene: I'll begin in the 1970's. During early-to-late 1970's, disco dominated much of the U.S. popular music scene. At the time, Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor were all at the top of the charts. In 1978, the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack was named Album of the Year. An event that has the been inaccurately referred to as the "death of disco" better known as the Disco Demolition which took place in Chicago's Comiskey Park, in reality, the story was always more nuanced than that. Steve Dahl, was then a 24-year-old DJ who was involved with that Disco Demolition event in Comiskey Park, was pissed off about being fired from a radio station that he worked for when it changed formats to all-disco. But even he disputes the importance of the Comiskey Park event, calling those who suggest that event was the official death of disco revisionist history. However, the Chicago Disco Demolition event was also understood to be a not-so-subtle attack against disco's earliest adopters: blacks, Latinos and gays, and each group faced fairly widespread discrimination anyway.

Disco Demolition at Chicago's Comiskey Park Marked a Time of Transition

The Comiskey Park event wasn't the death of disco so much as it was a marker of a period of musical transition.

Think about it: around 1977 when "Saturday Night Fever" finally hit the box office, a group of Baby Boomers were in their mid-to-late twenties, and they still wanted to go out and party. They patronized dance clubs and disco music was one of their favorite genres. But they'd already been doing that for a good number of years, and Hollywood was late to the game when "Saturday Night Fever" was even released. By the end of the decade, going out all night, boozing it up at discos and looking for one-night-stands/hookups was already starting to fall out of favor. Many Boomers were simply getting older, and they now they had families to support. It was hardly a coordinated, nationwide effort to destroy a musical genre. By 1979, disco and funk were starting to fade. At the same time, the Baby Boomers who just a few years earlier were key were also becoming less important to record sales. Their era of dominating popular music was reaching its natural end.

As noted, a shift in musical tastes was happening. Consider the Grammy Award winners in the years before (during) and after. It was never all-disco, before or after. For example, in 1977, Debbie Boone won two Grammys as Best New Artist of the Year, and for Song of the Year for the sappy song "You Light Up My Life". She was joined by Barbra Streisand for the "Theme From A Star Is Born (Evergreen)" that year. Neither artist resembled disco (although Streisand's record label would later push her into disco with several collaborations with Barry Gibb including "Guilty", "What Kind of Fool", the Gibb-written solo "Woman in Love", and another duette with disco diva Donna Summer "No More Tears". Ms. Streisand has gone on the record saying that none of those tracks are ones she is particularly fond of and she rarely performs them in concert, although they were all big [money-making] chart-toppers for her at the time). Beyond those, The Eagles' "Hotel California" won Record of the Year in 1977, while Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" took home the Grammy for 1977 Album of the Year. The following year, Billy Joel won the Grammy for Record of the Year, and he also won several more next year, too. Some, although certainly not all, of these winners could arguably fall into the musical genre now known as Yacht Rock.

What is Yacht Rock?
If you are unfamiliar with the term, the term "Yacht Rock" is a type of soft rock that supposedly emanated from Southern California between 1976 and 1984. In the late 1970's and early 1980's, musical artists like Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, the Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, Toto, Hall and Oates, and dozens of others regularly popped up on each other's records, creating a golden era of smooth-music collaboration.

On June 26, 2005, an internet phenomenon was born. In 12 short but memorable episodes — first via the the short-film series Channel 101 and then online — JD Ryznar, Hunter Stair, Dave Lyons, Lane Farnham and their friends redefined an era and coined a term for the sultry croonings of McDonald, Fagen, et al.: "Yacht Rock." http://www.yachtrock.com/ -- now known as the Beyond Yacht Rock podcast.

As "Hollywood" Steve might say, these guys docked a fleet of remarkable hits. This is the story of Yacht Rock, told from stem to stern — a reimagining of a bygone soft-rock renaissance, courtesy of hipsters with fake mustaches, impeccable record collections and a love of smoothness. Long may it sail.

A very short NPR story about Yacht Rock can be listened to below, or by visiting https://www.npr.org/sections/world-cafe/2017/03/15/520254333/that-70s-week-yacht-rock.

The term Yacht Rock was coined to suggest a kind of smooth, mellow "soft rock" music that early yuppies likely enjoyed while sipping champagne and snorting cocaine on their yachts at the time. They have several criteria used for a song classified as such, although the label is more tongue-in-cheek than reality, but it was also a term for a genre which existed but was largely undefined, yet was still taking over the radio airwaves at the time. In my mind (and has been acknowledged by many others, including those guys), perhaps no one is a better representative of that musical genre than Christopher Cross.

Christopher Cross Swept the 1980 Grammy Awards


Christopher Cross in 2014
In 1978, a musician, singer/songwriter from San Antonio, Texas landed a solo contract with Warner Bros. Records. (These days, he calls the funky Texas capital city Austin home). A self-described "Army brat", Cross is the son of a U.S. Army pediatrician stationed at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, DC in the mid-1950's, acting as physician for President Dwight Eisenhower's grandchildren.

The young Mr. Cross managed to land a record with Warner Brothers in 1978. In 1979, Christopher Cross (whose birth name was Christopher Charles Geppert) released his first, self-named solo album. The following year, Cross was nominated for six awards and he walked away with a stunning five (5) Grammy Awards, including each of the "Big Four" awards: album, record and song of the year, plus best new artist. He was the first person (and so far, ever) to win so many awards in a single evening.

Despite his quest during the 1970's to be signed with a major record label, Christopher Cross began with rather modest ambitions. He hoped his first album would sell 50,000 copies, enough for Warner Bros. to let him make a second album.

"I was hoping, maybe three albums down the stream, I could get something on the radio," Cross said. "So, when all that Grammy stuff happened, it took everybody by surprise."

Catching a Wave

Christopher Cross says that he caught a wave of change in pop music at the perfect time. Lightning struck again for him the following year, in 1981. Cross' bittersweet theme song for the hit movie "Arthur" reached No 1. "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" (from the movie "Arthur" which starred the late British actor Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli) also won an Oscar and a Golden Globe that year. Cross deserved all of the awards, too.

Although not by design, Christopher Cross arguably embodied (and pioneered) a musical genre now popularly referred to as Yacht Rock, and he and his music was decidedly not disco. But it was very popular and was a very refreshing change from the types of music that dominated the airwaves just a few years earlier, so people bought it -- lots of it. But, not surprisingly, it didn't last forever. It seldom does.

As The Advocate (see HERE) wrote about him (I should acknowledge that Christopher Cross is definitely not gay, but his music attracted a very widespread audience, including many gays and lesbians), he thought he had good odds of winning one Grammy.

He said: "I'd been told that I had a good shot at winning best new artist," Cross said. "Harry Belafonte and Herb Alpert presented that award to me. That was surreal. I went back to my seat, feeling content for the evening, ready to watch the show. And then, bang."

Cross won four more Grammys that night, including song of the year and album of the year.

"It was an out-of-body experience," he said. "We never imagined beating Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra and all these big artists."

Billboard magazine suggested (see the article at https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/awards/8527732/christopher-cross-grammy-sweep-billie-eilish for more) that his 1980 sweep at the Grammys may have triggered a backlash. Billboard wrote:

"It just may have been the worst thing that could have happened to Cross. If he had just won one or two awards, few would have paid much notice. If he'd won best new artist, he would have beaten critics' faves Pretenders, but critics were used to having their favorites lose in that category. Elvis Costello had lost to A Taste of Honey two years earlier. John Prine and Eagles lost to America in 1972. Elton John lost to Carpenters in 1970.

But Cross' undoing won everything. His eponymous debut album beat Pink Floyd's The Wall and Barbra Streisand's Guilty for album of the year. His serene ballad "Sailing" beat Frank Sinatra's "Theme from New York New York" in three categories -- record and song of the year and best arrangement accompanying vocalist(s).

The sweep practically invited people to say, "Oh, he's not that good." Instead of bringing people to his side, the sweep turned many people off. Cross was a talented pop artist -- not a groundbreaking artist, but a skilled hit-maker, the kind who might have had a solid, five-year run of hits.

The Grammy sweep may have actually shortened his [music] career. "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do," which he co-wrote with Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager and Peter Allen, topped the Hot 100 eight months after the Grammy sweep. It won an Oscar and brought Cross three more Grammy nominations (but no wins). Cross had two more top 20 hits, "All Right" and "Think of Laura," from his sophomore album, Another Page. But even a reunion with Bacharach and Sager to co-write the song "A Chance for Heaven," the swimming theme from the 1984 Summer Olympics in L.A., didn't reverse his flagging momentum. He hasn't appeared on the Hot 100 since 1985.

On August 31, 2014, CBS Sunday Morning (see https://www.cbsnews.com/news/christopher-cross-sails-back-with-a-new-album/ for more) offered this about Christopher Cross:

Remember Christopher Cross? In the early 1980's, his brand of silky-soft rock sailed up the charts. His songs were unavoidable on FM radio (as a side note: that soft-rock genre was commonly played in dentists' offices, and I vividly recall hearing it under the influence of nitrous oxide) -- and then as quickly as he burst on the scene, he seemed to vanish from it.

CBS Sunday Morning also let him share a funny story about an interaction he had with a TSA agent.

"I was going through TSA -- this has been a year, or maybe two years ago," Cross recalled. "And a woman took my boarding pass. And she said, 'Oh, Christopher Cross, there used to be a singer named that! He passed away! But he was a great singer.'

You can catch that entertaining video interview below, or by visiting https://youtu.be/aeEe9W8wayw:



In the end, and with the benefit of hindsight, there's nothing Christopher Cross would do differently. He's continued to release music since 1980, and while none have swept the Grammy's since then, he still believes he's been very lucky.

Christopher Cross credits a lot of his incredible success to timing.

"There were many great artists back then who didn’t get a chance to be heard," he said. "I worked hard and I was talented, but I also was lucky. People were ready for some pop music. It was a perfect storm."

He also seems very humble, and not bitter he did not enjoy decades more commercial success in music. Now at age 68, he is content. As noted, today he lives in the eclectic capital city of Texas, Austin. Just as the Austin Independent Business Alliance adopted the slogan "Keep Austin Weird" to promote small businesses in Austin, Mr. Cross has no regrets about how his career has gone. Instead, he seems grateful he's had the opportunity. If that perspective doesn't deserve to enjoy sailing on a yacht, perhaps nothing does!

Christopher Cross' own website has a Spotify playlist of his hits which can be listened to at https://www.christophercross.com/ -- I won't try to embed it here, since it seems to come and go, but the link to the Spotify playlist can be visited at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7y60oSM7fpOM1zLeO6upo6. His classic, Grammy-winning song "Sailing" can be listened to here, or by visiting https://youtu.be/MEO6gYCFbr0:

 

September 9, 2019

HGTV Premiers "A Very Brady Renovation" on Mon., Sep. 9, 2019

Among U.S. TV sitcoms of the 1970's, few left as big an impression as Sherwood Schwartz's "The Brady Bunch". Thanks to relentless, seemingly un-ending re-runs in syndication, as well as numerous specials, spinoffs and even a few reboots (including a successful 1995 movie which starred a different cast, which was followed by a second movie), it ranks among the most prolific shows of that particular time period.

Its worth acknowledging that while "The Brady Bunch" is usually called a seventies TV show, it actually began in 1969 when it first aired on ABC broadcast television's fall season. But the constant reruns in syndication, specials, spinoffs (who remembers "The Brady Brides"?) and other things all happened in the seventies.

Although the last of the show's regular adult cast have now passed, the child cast is still very much alive as of 2019. Actress Florence Henderson, who played mother Carol Brady passed away [of heart failure] on November 24, 2016 at age 82 was the last adult cast member to pass, She was preceded by actor Robert Reed who played father Mike Brady, and actress Ann B. Davis who played the live-in housekeeper Alice Nelson on "The Brady Bunch" (as well as characters on several other sitcoms), plus actor Allan Melvin who played Sam the Butcher and Alice's boyfriend on the show all preceded Henderson. Many of those actors had successful acting careers before (and after) "The Brady Bunch".

For a window of time following the death of the show's iconic producer Sherwood Schwartz in 2011 (even though his son Lloyd carried the torch for a while), there was some thought within show biz circles that the world had finally seen the last of the iconic Brady's on television, at least outside of continued reruns. But it turned out that declaration was premature as well. Actress Maureen McCormick re-emerged (briefy) on TV to promote a new autobiography she called "Here's the Story" (named after the first line in the theme song of "The Brady Bunch") in 2009, but it was mostly just book launch promos, but nothing sustained.

But the presumption of the end of the Brady's was turned upside down on July 18, 2018, when the Los Angeles Times reported (see the news HERE for more) that the iconic house which was used for outdoor representations of the television Brady family's residence, including the show's opening and closing scenes as well as numerous interludes to denote the time of day was for sale.

This became known as the Brady house, located at: 11222 Dilling St, Los Angeles
The actual house that came to become known as the Brady house was located in Studio City near the Colfax Meadows neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles (the official address is 11222 Dilling Street, Los Angeles, CA 91604), and was listed for sale for $1.885 million on July 18, 2018. George and Violet McCallister bought the two-bedroom, three-bathroom house in 1973 for $61,000, county real estate records show.

The listing was the first time that the house was for sale in 50 years. The house was actually built in 1959. Although the house was well-maintained and was on a large piece of property, the house's interior was very dated, which made it ripe for a buyer that might level it for the large lot and build a new house in its place. However, at the onset, there were expectations that due to the house's iconic celebrity status, there could be some competitive bidding for it.

Actress Maureen McCormick, who played oldest sister Marcia Brady on the show — shared that she would have loved to have bought the house for herself. But she ultimately knew there would be fierce competition given its celebrity status. She was right about that.

Indeed, immediately following the listing for the house, there were reports that former N'Sync band member Lance Bass had placed a bid for the house. But the sellers were very pleasantly pleased with the outcome of the sale of their deceased grandmother's house. It sold in August 2018 for $3.5 million -- nearly twice (86% more than the asking price) the house's original asking price.

Following the news that the iconic "Brady house" was sold, there was speculation on the actual buyer. That speculation would end before too long. But behind-the-scenes, the buyer had some very interesting plans for the house.

The buyer of the Brady house was later revealed to be the cable television network HGTV (the initials initially stood for Home & Garden Television). The surprise was that the channel planned  to remodel the house to look just as it did on "The Brady Bunch". It was no small undertaking given that the house was single story while the television home on "The Brady Bunch" was depicted as a two-story house. Although the house had a lot of property, the actual TV show's interior scenes were filmed on a set in Stage 5 at Paramount Studios. The set looked almost nothing like the actual house did.

Actress Susan Olsen, who played youngest sister Cindy Brady in the original series, admits she felt a little bit of resentment about the Brady house because as a child, she asked the producers why they chose that particular house for the exterior shots, and they told her: "I'll have you know that if you walk into that house, it looks exactly like this set." As it turns out, that was a very big lie made to a very little girl!

Beyond Maureen McCormick and Susan Olsen, actress Eve Plumb, who played the beleaguered middle sister Jan Brady on the show, made some real estate headlines of her own in 2016 when she sold her oceanfront Malibu beach house. An 11-year-old Eve Plumb, with the help of her parents, bought the oceanfront property in 1969 for just $55,300. At the time, Eve Plumb was already a veteran child actor with the western TV series "Gunsmoke" and "The Big Valley" on her resume. She later sold that beach house, best described as an 850-square foot cottage located at the south end of Escondido Beach, for $3.9 million after decades of her ownership. (see HERE for more on that). Even adjusting for inflation, that was still more than a ten-fold return on her initial investment.

As it would later be revealed, HGTV had interesting plans for the iconic Brady house. The network secretly recruited all of the original castmembers who are still alive, including Barry Williams (Greg Brady), Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady), Christopher Knight (Peter Brady), Eve Plumb (Jan Brady), Mike Lookinland (Bobby Brady) and Susan Olsen (Cindy Brady) along with several of the cable network's own stars, including "Property Brothers" Drew and Jonathan Scott, "Good Bones'" Mina Starsiak and Karen Laine, "Restored by the Fords'" Leanne and Steve Ford, "Hidden Potentials'" Jasmine Roth and "Flea Market Flip's" Lara Spencer to renovate the iconic Brady house to look exactly as the original Paramount studio set for the show looked on the sitcom. They were able to recruit all of them (while other specials and reboots had to find at least a few replacement cast members) because this project was so fundamentally different from most prior Brady reunions and specials. The cast were able to roll up their sleeves and use sledgehammers, nail guns and saws -- which never happened in any of the earlier reunions of "The Brady Bunch".


Tonight, on September 9, 2019 HGTV will finally premiere its highly-anticipated TV series, which follows America's the iconic Brady family (the children, at least) working alongside several HGTV stars to renovate the iconic house. HGTV has been busy promoting the show on social media and elsewhere for the limited-run  series. Obviously, upon completion of the renovations, the series will be done. But HGTV expects expects to draw record audiences for the new, limited-duration series. If you miss the premier on cable (or you're a cord-cutter without cable), you can catch clips from the show on the website dedicated to "A Very Brady Renovation" at https://www.hgtv.com/shows/a-very-brady-renovation.

Below is a brief YouTube playlist I created which contains some of the promotional and/or news clips on today's "Very Brady Renovation" which airs this evening on HGTV. You can watch below, or by visiting https://bit.ly/2lKTAcw.

   

July 17, 2019

How The Golden Girls Evaded Network Censorship With Dialogue About Mr. September's Manaconda

I know its July, but last week I saw a calendar which made me think of a Golden Girls episode. I explain how in just a minute. I've blogged about "The Golden Girls" already, and in particular how the layout of the house (which was really just a set in a television studio) presents some inconsistencies. Catch that post HERE.

A memorable but incredibly funny part of the holiday-themed episode of "The Golden Girls" (Season 2, Episode 11 entitled "T'was the Nightmare Before Christmas") was during their gift exchange with one another. A bit more on that in just a second.

Anyway, to set this up, in this particular episode of the classic sitcom, Blanche opens the episode by having a gentleman caller named Ed who's dressed in a Santa suit. When Dorothy arrives, she says that the crowds in the stores had made her Christmas shopping a nightmare. She also discovered that her mother, Sophia, had been using her credit cards to buy expensive gifts from Neiman Marcus that she cannot afford. She concludes that Christmas doesn't mean anything anymore because it has become too commercial.

In response, Rose suggests to the girls that they have an old-fashioned Christmas kind of like they do in her hometown of St. Olaf, Minnesota before they return home. Upon the suggestion, Dorothy was very quick to respond that she had absolutely no intention of drinking eggnog while wearing a cast-iron brassiere. Rose responds humorously by saying "We don't do that at Christmas! We do that at Easter."

Although the each of the Golden Girls are planning to spend Christmas day with their respective families, before they each go home to their families, they want to have a Christmas gift exchange with one another. But they agree with Rose and decide to return the expensive gifts and instead give each other homemade gifts (except for Sophia, who sticks with her Neiman Marcus gifts paid for by Dorothy).

The gift-exchange between the four Golden Girls was perhaps one of the sitcom's more memorable moments, not only for the episode and the show, but for holiday-themed TV episodes overall, many of which follow a well-rehearsed script of the sort outlined in the book the now out-of-print book "Christmas on Television" by Diane Werts (ISBN 9780275983314).

As for The Golden Girls "T'was the Nightmare Before Christmas" episode, R. J. McBowlan, who was the Head Writer for that particular episode said in an interview (see https://thegoldengirlsreviewedby.com/2014/01/30/season-2-episode-11-twas-the-nightmare-before-christmas-as-told-by-an-oral-history-from-the-writers-room/ for more):

"We wanted to do a Christmas episode that wasn't like any others. We had thought about doing a 'Christmas Carol' version with the ghosts of the pasts of all the ladies, but then I thought, let's go edgier! Let's add some really scandalous moments. The result was a holiday episode of "The Golden Girls" that was one of television's better scripts, and it was acted exquisitely by the Emmy-winning cast.

Crispin Daly, the Story Editor said: "I thought, how would Blanche react to Christmas? Just like she always does, by acting like a sex-crazed maniac! It was just so simple. And you know what they say in comedy: double-down. So Blanche gives the other gals a calendar called 'The Men of Blanche's Boudoir'. Because she's such a slut! It's hilarious that such an old lady can be a slut. Can you imagine?"

McBowlan added "Yea, I really didn't think NBC would go for it, but they did."

When the girls' celebration arrives; Rose's gift to Dorothy is a whittled maple syrup spout.


But Blanche gives her roommates a calendar which she titles "The Men of Blanche's Boudoir", and she gives the same gift to each girl saying how she thought it was such a cute idea.

Dorothy opens the gift from Blanche, and she says "Oh, Blanche. Oh, honey, this is so thoughtful ... whoa!”

To which Blanch responds "September?"

Dorothy responds by saying: "Yep."

Sophia's line was really ground-breaking, because immediately after Dorothy says yes, she adds: "I'm surprised you were able to walk in October."

A YouTube excerpt can be see (for the time being, anyway) below, or at https://youtu.be/KqUxbTd8DKo.



The viewer is really left to presume that Blanche's Mr. September is really gifted with what might be called (in urban slang) a "manaconda" between his legs. (the term "manaconda" is a contraction of the two words "man" and "anacanda" which is the longest snake in the world). Draw your own conclusion.

Anyway, following Rue McClanahan's death in 2010, it became known that Rue had a LOT of memorabilia saved from her work in television; in fact she had saved so much that she ended up renting several storage units to save it all. She also had a provision written into her contract for "The Golden Girls" whereby she was permitted to keep all of the clothes that were worn by the character Blanche in the show. They were all custom-made outfits for each actress/actor in the show.

Rue also had kept the supposed "gift" from that episode: 'The Men of Blanche's Boudoir' calendar. In an auction following Rue's death, we learned that there was a little more to 'The Men of Blanche's Boudoir' than racy photos of naked men that television viewers never got to see. Some actual photos of that particular prop taken from an auction (the price was $4,000) of her vast collection. The actual 'The Men of Blanche's Boudoir' calendar measured 9 1/2 x 11 1/2 and was signed to her from the guys in the prop department for the show. The website for Rue's the estate sale can still be viewed at http://estateofrue.com/catalog/original-the-men-of-blanches-boudoir-calendar-sold/.



For the record, Rue's copy of that prop, rather than containing photos of completely naked men (which Rue very likely would have liked), the sale revealed that the cut-up duo who ran the props department for the show had loaded the mockup with real photographs of various crew members in compromising positions. When presented with the prop during a taped rehearsal, the ladies' reactions quickly brought the scene to a halt! For the record, not all of the items from the Rue's estate sale have sold and some can still be purchased, but this one was one of the items on the "sold" list!


Regardless, it is worth noting that "The Golden Girls" being a top-rated sitcom that starred older women were able to get away with risque jokes that did not fly in other sitcoms of that era. Hence, jokes about Mr. September's manaconda were approved when the fifty-something Golden Girls said them, whereas sitcoms with younger actresses would find the network censors cutting similar lines. Indeed, NPR's Terri Gross asked Bea Arthur about that in an April 2007 interview, although Bea Arthur's response was merely "I guess so".

The relevant dialogue was as follows:

Terri GROSS: That's an episode of "The Golden Girls," with my guest, Bea Arthur, along with Rue McClanahan and Betty White. Were you able to get away with a lot of sex jokes on "The Golden Girls" because it was about older women?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ARTHUR: I guess so, I guess so. Yes, the first time you saw women - I hate that expression - of a certain age well-groomed and having active sex lives and great earrings, I remember.

The interview can be listened to below, or by visiting https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9847148.

Still, we can thank "The Golden Girls" for pushing the proverbial envelope on jokes that a generation earlier would have been banned completely.