Thursday, October 07, 2010

No D-Blog Day: Classic TV on DVD

The 1970's are back with a vengance! Well, not really, although a lot today looks quite like the decade everyone loves to pick on: Converse All Stars, double-digit unemployment, gridlocked political system and yes, bad hairstyles. Much of the credit for the last item belongs to hip-hop artist Usher for signing a Canadian kid named Justin Bieber to his record label. This kid has the absolutely ugliest hairstyle known to humanity, and it looks incredibly stupid, the point where I think shaving his pre-pubescent head with some clippers would be a huge improvement. My cat has a better coiffure than this kid (see HERE if you need proof). The sad part is that many other guys are now imitating his sheer ugliness by sporting bushy, unkept hairstyles of their own. Consider Tom Brady, QB of the New England Patriots who is usually considered by women's magazines to be one of the NFL's best-looking players. When a 33 year-old man imitates a kid whose top selling record consists mainly of a single word being repeated to the point of irritation: baby, something is just plain wrong. It wouldn't be so bad if Brady wasn't the only dude sporting a look that could just as easily be a mop that hasn't been rinsed clean; he kind of looks like he could be one of the Sweathogs on the 1970's sitcom that brought John Travolta to the public "Welcome Back, Kotter". I don't really care what Tom Brady looks like, but when I ride the train to and from work each day, I have to endure similar bushy hairstyles from teenage boys who actually think they look hot. All I can say is in 30 years, they'll look back to photos of themselves taken today, and they're sure to say the same thing that kids of the 1970's said years later: "What the hell were we thinking ... that hairstyle is f'ing ugly!" Still, I keep wondering if and when Minnie Ripperton's 'fro is going to come back in vogue?

Oh well, speaking of "Welcome Back, Kotter" that brings me to my topic du jour. Today, George Simmons has declared it to be "No D-Blog Day", and it's been way too long since the last one. I'm going to honor that with something that has nothing to do with the big-D; which shouldn't be too hard because I try to minimize the impact this chronic disease has on my life to the extent possible.

But today is "No D-Day" (see also HERE), something I'm going to honor.

I have noted this before, but I'm a classic TV junkie. I have a large collection of DVDs, most of which are old television shows that are either not on when I want to see them, or no longer even shown as reruns on TV Land (cable) or RTV, the Retro Television Network (which is now broadcast over the airwaves!) or AntennaTV (also broadcast over the airwaves). I love good television, but the reality is that in recent years, that has been in pretty short supply. Much of the 1990's, for example, was dominated by cheap-to-make reality television, which I view as disposable TV which is good to watch only once but basically worthless as re-runs. These are shows like American Idol, Survivor, Amazing Race, Dancing With The Stars and whatnot which may or may not be entertaining the first time they're on, but basically worthless thereafter. There have been a handful of recent series that meet the definition of good, among the few I watch now: Two and a Half Men and Glee. I also like Big Bang Theory, which is about some really nerdy guys (who work as scientists) who share an apartment together and their very awkward social situations with real people. There are probably a few others I haven't mentioned but also fit the bill, but I just can't think of them by name right now.

Right now, I'm pretty psyched because just over a week from today, on October 19, 2010, the original "Bionic Woman: Season 1" starring Lindsay Wagner will be delivered to me on DVD (the remade series from 2007 just didn't live up to the original IMHO, thus it was cancelled, but still made it to DVD sooner than the original did, more than 30 years later). In the past, I have written about the special bond I have with that show (see HERE). I always felt like my bionic pancreas was due, but today, 34 years later, I am still waiting. The JDRF promises something will be available by 2014, but I can't even get a continuous blood glucose monitor (CGMS) system covered, so I tend to view costly new technology as something that the U.S. healthcare system just cannot afford for a vast majority of its population. However, by 2014, barring Congress dismantling elements of the recently-passed healthcare law, perhaps these might become a possibility for more people. Personally, I wonder if the artificial pancreas project is really the best use of the money me and millions of other fundraisers have raised for the organization given that this costly technology remains out-of-reach for so many. But the good news is that we know the CEO, Jeff Brewer, actually donated $1 million of his own money for this as his pet project, although that still isn't going to bring these products to million patients who don't have platinum healthcare plans.

Anyway, the Bionic Woman is due out shortly, and when it arrives, me and Lindsay Wagner are going to celebrate a reunion of sorts. If you have NetFlix, you can soon add this to your queue! Have a look at the promotional video HERE or the press release:

I cannot possibly do this show adequate justice here, but if it interests you, try visiting "The Bionic Woman Files" website with much more detail on this classic television show. There's more there than I ever knew existed!

There's also another classic TV series that just came out on DVD on September 23, 2010 I thought I'd speak about.

Back in the days before NetFlix, RedBox machines in most supermarkets, and VOD (video on demand), people went to video rental stores (the biggest chain was Blockbuster, which filed for bankruptcy on September 23, 2010) and physically carried a DVD, or before that, a videocassette home from the store with them. You could choose from many titles that were in the store. But increasingly, that model has gone the way of the horse and buggy -- it still works, but its no longer the most efficient business model on the planet.

Today, I am recommending that you add another classic television show which only became available on DVD to your Netflix queue. That is/was a one-hour weekly television show back in 1975 on NBC. The name: Ellery Queen, which is a classic "whodunnit" mystery series. This 1975 show ran only for a single season (22 episodes + the pilot known as "Too Many Suspects"), but it helped pave the way for the the more modern whodunnit genre. In fact, Angela Lansbury's well-known and long-running "Murder, She Wrote" series was written and produced by the exact same team that put Ellery Queen together. The latter series was more successful (it ran for over a decade from 1984 to 1996) because the producers used lessons learned on Ellery Queen to improve the latter show's odds for success.

Ellery Queen was both a pseudonym for the mystery writers as well as the name of a fictional detective character set in New York City back in the late 1940s. Mystery writer Ellery Queen would help his dad (a police investigator) solve baffling murder cases. I don't believe the father character was found in the original Ellery Queen mystery books; it may have been added (very successfully) by the show's writers.

What were the lessons learned by the show's producers that made "Murder, She Wrote" such a success? First and foremost, the clues were far more subtle in Ellery Queen, meaning you really have to watch (or re-watch on DVD) closely for clues. Also, given that today's TV viewers do not watch a show uninterrupted (commercials, phone calls, etc.), in "Murder, She Wrote", the producers wrote the story so that the viewer could solve the crime without having seen all the clues. But their original work was still pretty good, and very challenging to solve!

Now, I must admit, I don't have a really great recollections of this show when it was on back in 1975 (the year before I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes). I was only 6 years old at the time, but my parents watched the show regularly. I do remember watching it with them, but sometimes I found it scary because someone was always murdered, which is creepy for a six-year old who has to go to bed after seeing a dead body in a pool of blood on the floor or sitting in a bathtub. Since it was very recently released on DVD, I have since rewatched some of this series as an adult and found it great because of the regular cast, the stories themselves, and a phenomenal guest roster which includes so many great names, including the following:

Joan Collins (best known for her portrayal as Alexis Colby on the 1980s evening soap opera "Dynasty"), Tom Bosley (known as Howard Cunningham on the 1970s TV series "Happy Days"), George Burns (one of Hollywood's comedy legends), Jim Backus (he played millionaire Mr. Thurston Howell on "Gilligan's Island" and was also the voice of the Mr. Magoo cartoon character), John Larroquette (portrayed the sleazy lawyer Dan Fielding on the 1980s sitcom "Night Court"), Larry Hagman (best known for his portrayal as J.R. Ewing on the 1980s soap "Dallas", but equally famous for playing Major Anthony Nelson on TV's "I Dream of Jeannie" in the late 1960s to early 1970s), Eva Gabor (known as the ditzy Lisa Douglas on the 1960s sitcom "Green Acres", but also known as the "nicer" sister to the Hungarian diva Zsa Zsa Gabor), Tab Hunter (a 1960's teen idol who was in over 40 films -- he's gay, but was subject to Hollywood studio publicity machine's efforts to portray him as straight back in those days -- some of his more recent work was in John Waters' 1981 film "Polyester"), Dick van Patten (a frequent guest in 1980s television, but best known for his recurring TV role of Tom Bradford as the father in the 1970s TV drama "Eight Is Enough"), Pat Harrington (the building superintendent Dwayne Schneider on the 1970s sitcom "One Day At A Time"), Betty White (do you really need a description for her?!), Dick Sargent (the second Darrin on "Bewitched"), Dr. Joyce Brothers (playing a character similar to her own, as a famous psychologist and advice columnist), Vincent Price (best known for his distinctive voice which was featured in the late Michael Jackson's "Thriller" song and video, frequently playing in horror movies as a creepy character), Ken Berry (known for his role as Vinton Harper on "Mama's Family"), Bert Parks (known as the host of the Miss America pageant until 1980) and so many others that it makes the "Love Boat" look like a mere cruise!

In hindsight, the show had all the makings of a great show: a regular cast consisting of the late Jim Hutton (who died at age 45 of liver cancer, but had great on-screen chemistry with the actor who played his father on the show). The television producers took some creative license, but it worked really well in this series, as the chemistry between the show's recurring cast is terrific. I can say it's definitely worth adding to your Netflix queue especially if you're looking for something "fresh" that hasn't been killed by incessant re-runs.

This series remained a fan favorite, and like "The Bionic Woman" and "Six Million Dollar Man" was one of's (the site is now owned and operated by TV Guide) most-requested and has finally been released to relatively little fanfare. It's now available from retailers online (I found it for half the manufacturer's suggested retail price on although it's now back-ordered, probably for it's low price), or you can simply rent it from Netflix. There used to be pretty a good website on Ellery Queen that's no longer operational, but is now found on the Internet Archive. The link to that site can be found HERE.

Catch the following videos for more information. The first, is a promotion for the DVD series which can be viewed HERE:

The second video is an interview with one of the show's creators (you will also he helped create "Murder, She Wrote" in the aforementioned video above), and that video can be viewed HERE:

If you're sick of the latest television has to offer, the great news is that much of the classic stuff is now available on DVD anytime you want to watch it! I hope you find these two series worth looking at again (or for the first time if you're that young)! For a list of other "no d-day" bloggers, click HERE.


George said...

I have never watched Ellery Queen before but Bionic Woman was one I remember liking.

My wife can watch Little House and Charlies Angels all day long. For me, IT would be Good times and All in the Family.

claro mensajes said...

I have never watched Ellery Queen before but Bionic Woman was one I remember liking.

Araby62 (a.k.a. Kathy) said...

I loved The Six Million Dollar man in the '70s, I even had the doll :)Not as big on Bionic Woman for some reason. My mom used to read the Ellery Queen magazine, I never knew there was a TV show!

DH and I are about done watching every last episode of The Rockford Files. It is SO much better than the dreck currently on TV--with the exception of maybe NCIS, everything is crap :(

Thanks for the great read!

k2 said...

As I'm typing my comment, I'm making the "BIONIC" sound and turning my head a'la Jamie Sommers towards the screen!!
I HEART classic TV!
Kelly K

Caroline said...

I confess I don't really watch TV....but your Justin Bieber rant was hysterical!!