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Wonderful Behind The Scenes TV Stories From Prolific Director Ralph Senensky May 6, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, Blogroll, Television.
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I’d forgotten that Don Rickles once played a villain on The Wild Wild West, and rewatched that episode today. And then in looking up some stuff about it online, hoping to find perhaps links to outtakes and blooper reels where he became Don Rickles and commented on the mystical evil magician dialogue he’d been given or on Robert Conrad and Ross Martin, I came across this behind-the-scenes story on the filming of the episode written by its director, Ralph Senensky.

Senensky directed TONS of television from the 1960s thru the 1980s, logging episodes of so many of yours & my favorite shows that’s there’s too many to mention here – and it turns out he’s been blogging for years on his memories of them, and has a fantastic website containing all that material, organized by show and episode.

This site is a GOLD MINE! Senensky writes beautifully about what working in television was like back in the days of my favorite old reruns. He brings to life assorted names you’d see on numerous credits of numerous shows – Gene Coon or Quinn Martin and so forth – as well as including interesting stories dealing with both the technical limits & possibilities of the industry all those years ago.  His entries on specific episodes (and check out that sidebar menu for the sheer volume of ’em) include scans of script pages with rewrites & director cues…. amazing stuff, especially for photographic memory geeks like me who can replay the episode in my mind while I’m reading.

And not just the Star Treks he did, either. I can do a lot of the others because ALL I DO IS WATCH TV.

For anyone interested in TV history, or just the old shows & stars & writers you follow in your little nerd-heart-of-hearts, this stuff is indispensable. I can’t believe I didn’t know about it until now.

To quote Spock: “Fascinating.”

Oh, and Rickles? He didn’t disappoint…. Senensky tells us that inbetween takes, he went the full Vegas act on everyone, even making Billy Barty jokes about Conrad’s height. Rickles remains my fuckin’ hero.

And it looks like Ralph Senensky celebrated his 95th birthday a week ago. Happy Birthday, Director!

 

 

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If A Threesome With Bea Arthur Is A Crime, We All Want To Be Guilty March 20, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Television.
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God’ll get you for that, Wagstaff.

Baseball Card Of The Day: 1971 Reggie Jackson March 10, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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“Batting donut? I don’t need a fucking batting donut, I’ll just swing two bats to warm up a little before I take your sad junk ball throwing ass DOWNTOWN.  That’s right, you heard me. I’m the straw that stirs the drink, get it? And if I flub an easy one out in right field and a hungover Billy Martin tries to fuck with me on national TV, everyone’ll take my side when I destroy the Dodger pitchers in the series, dickwad. Hey, speaking of national TV, didja catch me on Szysznyk?  Damn right, there I am acting opposite Ned Beatty! Ned FUCKING Beatty! I moved him more emotionally than those two hillbillies did in Deliverance, too! And not with two bats neither, let’s not go there, ok? Anyway, I gotta go to the plate now. Gonna slam one, win the game, and then tend to my car collection.  I speed all the time, and the only reason cops pull me over is to meet me. That’s the sort of treatment you get when you’re an all star with a genius IQ, motherfucker. And don’t you forget it.”

I miss the soap opera that was the late 1970s Yankees.

And I miss Reggie. Always dramatic, always fun to watch, always dependable in the post season.

But I’m certainly looking forward to what looks like will be a wonderful late 2010s Yankee era, with Judge, Sanchez, Bird, Gregorius and now Stanton and Torres forming a new Murderer’s Row lineup, and Severino, Tanaka and…. well, I guess we’ll see how the rest of the mound rotation works out, won’t we? I’m glad they have Sabathia coming back, now the older and wiser finesse pitcher, and always the great clubhouse presence, offering the sort of leadership all those young guys need. THIS IS THE YEAR!

It Would Have Been….Glorious February 27, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, Television.
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They added a new channel to my satellite, another one of the “let’s run everything in the library” old TV rerun stations.

In other words, something else I’ll be wasting time on. This one runs EVERY version of Star Trek EVERY GOD DAMN NIGHT!!!

They even run the Star Trek Saturday morning cartoon on Sunday nights! The animation is Space Ghost Coast To Coast level, but the scripts are pretty good, and lots of ’em are by original series writers.

“Heroes And Idols” also runs a ton of old cop shows and westerns, albeit during the day when I WORK FOR A LIVING, FELLA. But it’s nice to sporadically watch old reruns of Hill Street Blues again. The show manages to hold up & give me ’80s nostalgia all at once.

“Family Entertainment TV” is another one I found. They run Hart To Hart & TJ Hooker up the wazoo, along with Maude reruns, but they also run Barney Miller & Peter Gunn.

“MeTV” rounds out the pack, maintaining my Rifleman and Hawaii 5-0 interest. They’re putting all of their better sitcoms, now relegated to a late-night Sunday junkyard, into the vault, alas. I’m hoping they rotate stuff they own like Dick Van Dyke, all the MTM ’70s shows, Bilko, The Honeymooners, Get Smart and The Odd Couple into their prime time slate and finally put Andy Griffith and Hogan’s Heroes to bed for a while.

Yes, this is what I spend my time thinking about.

I’d like to see them add Antenna TV and Decades to pretty much take care of all the other old crap I like being put back on, although for the life of me, I have no idea who owns “Burke’s Law,” a marvelous bit of 1960s Madmen-era silly detective cool that’d actually make a great pairing with Peter Gunn. The episodes posted on youtube will have to suffice.

I realize we’re living in what can be accurately called a new golden age of TV, with upper-end shows like The Americans, Game of Thrones, Curb Your Enthusiasm and so forth being produced with cinematic quality, and writing/character development far superior than most feature films.

But I’ll never get tired of watching those old shows. They retain their honor and glory. Just ask Commander Kor. (Or wait a few years for him to be Baltar.)

Let’s Hear It For Cris Shapan February 25, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, Art, Movies, Music, Television.
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Perhaps while surfing online,  you’ve come across some amazingly campy magazine cover, or album cover, maybe it was a pulp book from a long-ago celeb and couldn’t believe it existed…

Well, that’s because it probably doesn’t, except in the work of graphic artist Cris Shapan.

I highly recommend following Shapan’s Facebook Page where he regularly posts this stuff, as well as his Funny Or Die page.

The style of humor reminds me a lot of Drew Friedman, who loves to pick out his favorite childhood celebrities and illustrate them all too realistically in bizarre settings. Check out “Jimmy Durante Boffs Young Starlets” for example.

I’m surprised he doesn’t maintain some sort of regular website containing all this stuff, it looks like he’s content to use Facebook. My other theory is that this guy clearly gets his jollies posting this stuff & then kicking back to watch people repost it thinking it’s real. Shapan’s handle on the recognizable & realistic graphic designs of the stuff he’s goofing on from yesteryear is amazing. The colors, fonts, details of wear & tear, etc. are absolutely wonderful. Look at the wax paper lighting effects on that Avery Schreiber bubble gum pack (I wish I had one of those!) giving it real texture and depth. Great stuff.

Nice to see he gets work in Hollywood, hopefully they’l let him apply his comedy genius somewhere.

“They don’t write like that anymore…” – Greg Kihn

Random Baseball Card Of The Day: Kellogg’s 1972 All-Time 3D Greats – Babe Ruth May 30, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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I’m not sure how many boxes of Kellogg’s Danish Go-Rounds I snarfed down to get the all-time great 3D card in every box. But it must have been a lot.

Thanks, mom, for buying them! Never mind my teeth and the sugar high, I guess as long as it kept this then-little bastard full and happy, it meant keeping it on the weekly grocery list for Almacs!

And with my mouth stuffed with pastry, I couldn’t talk. Certainly a win for mom.

I’ve got a lot of the cards, but some of ’em might have come in trades for other 3D cards, or more likely, assorted traditional Topps cards.

I prized this one the most. I also agree with it.

They had greatest cards for every position – Greatest First Baseman (Gehrig, if you’re curious), Greatest Shortstop (Wagner), Greatest Right Hand Pitcher (Walter Johnson) along with some runners-up like George Sisler and Eddie Collins. The backs were manna for this baseball history geek – lifetime stats & a bio, along with some basic analysis justifying the ranking.

Before the internet, that kind of writing was hard to find!

You kids and your damn fancy interwebs, by cracky, get off my lawn….

Every now and then I look on ebay for cards to complete my set of these. They’re not too expensive, although I don’t get 1970s pre-high fructose corn syrup sugary breakfast pablum with ’em.

And which ones are out of date? Has anyone come along since 1972 to assume the BEST at any position? I’d certainly argue for Derek Jeter at shortstop. And I’d add a “Best Relief Pitcher Ever” card for Mariano Rivera. It’s the Yankee fan in me, I guess.

I vividly remember the endless arguments I’d have with my baseball card collecting friends back then over this card. Ruth? Greatest ever? C’MON! You gotta be kidding! EVERYONE knows Ted Williams was a better hitter and woulda put up numbers like Ruth if he hadn’t missed those years in military service! NO, WRONG! EVERYONE knows Mantle was better, since if he hadn’t blown out his knee stepping on that sprinkler in 1951 he’d’ve outdone the numbers AND WHAT ABOUT HANK AARON and….

No.

Just…. NO!

Ruth is the best ever.

His hitting stats are on par with the best hitters of the game. Is he the best hitter ever? Well, I’ll conceded that’s arguable… but NONE of those other hitters – Aaron, Mays, Williams, Griffey Jr., Bernie Carbo…

Okay, maybe not Bernie Carbo. But I always liked the guy.

Anyway, NONE of them could PITCH.

Ruth was one of the best pitchers in the American League for the Red Sox. He set records that held for 80 years or more. If he had continued pitching, he’d’ve been mentioned in the same comparison pieces as Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, instead of being compared to Gehrig, Williams, Foxx, and every other slugger IN THE ENTIRE FUCKING HISTORY OF THE GOD DAMN GAME.

AND he got more hookers than ALL OF THEM COMBINED!

GREATEST EVER!

CASE CLOSED!

I don’t think Kellogg’s listed the hookers on the back of the card (or their stats), however. Despite the 3D, there just wasn’t enough room.

I’d like to think the immortal babe ate Danish Go-Rounds off naked hookers bodies. It’s the Yankee fan in me.

 

 

Random Football Cards Of The Day, Yardsale Edition December 1, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Football.
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One of the few sales I managed to get to today in between sale-destroyin’ rain showers had advertised 1970s era sports cards, so I drove over, hoping against hope I’d find some desperate crack addict willing to sell me his entire shoebox of ’70s era cards for twenty bucks or so… but alas, it was not to be.

Instead, I found what is to be expected nowadays – someone who offers lesser material at only a slight discount from the prices they research online. The internet has destroyed the odds of finding real treasures at garage sales. At least it makes up for that in a karmic fashion by providing endless porn.

But I digress.

Anyway, this old guy had a stack of old Life & Look magazines at high prices, including a couple I remember from my childhood, like the “Liz Taylor is 40!” cover or another about the JFK assassination. He had an odd collection of movie lobby posters for too much money (although The Day of The Locust was tempting even if Karen Black is horribly miscast in it… I could pass on the Johnny Whittaker Tom Sawyer poster.)

And in the CHEAP BARGAIN BOX…. some old ’70s football cards for a buck a pop. So, I rifled through ’em and came up with the following:

74JPlunkett There he is, Jim Plunkett, the Pats big hope back in the early ’70s, the #1 pick in the draft, before they gave up on him and went with Steve Grogan. Plunkett did decently for the Pats, along with his former Stanford teammate receiver Randy Vataha, but the team was going nowhere fast. When they traded him to the Niners for some draft picks & went with Grogan as the starter, they made the playoffs a few times and gave all of us lots of false hope. Plunkett wound up winning a Superbowl for the Raiders after coming off the bench to finish the season when Dan Pastorini broke his leg. Grogan provided the only highlights when the Pats went to the Superbowl and got destroyed by the Bears.

I have a vague memory of my dad happily touting Plunkett & Vataha’s possibilities at the dinner table one night… I feel bad that he didn’t live long enough to see Tom Brady come along. The Pats, much like the Red Sox in baseball, were the reliable losers year after year all the time I was growing up, and it’s easy to forget that once you spend more than a decade as a powerful dynasty (although the Sox had a shorter run at it once they finally shook the curse from their backs). Funny… years later, the Pats got the #1 pick overall in the draft and took Quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who led them to a Superbowl & wound up giving Brady the chance to start by separating his shoulder.

Bledsoe’s draft made all of us think how the Pats would rise from the 1-15 doldrums, back in the day when one of the few highlights on the team was this guy, coincidentally ANOTHER all-around #1 draft pick for the Pats – 90ScoreIFryar

Irving Fryar, a great receiver who provided far too much off-field drama, but when your team is 1-15, maybe that’s all you got.

This was one of the few other Pats cards in the dollar box, and since the first thing I thought of when looking at it was the time Fryar missed a game due to cuts on his hands after a knife fight with his wife, it made me smile & cough up another dollar.

Fryar had a lot of great moments with the Pats though.. he scored the only touchdown for them in that debacle against the Bears in the Superbowl, and remained a dependable receiver for years.

And has he redeemed himself from the days of knife fights with the little woman? You bet! He’s earned a Doctorate in Theology & is currently the President of the Burlington County College of Theology!

Not too shabby.

The last card I bought simply because it caught my eye for a particular reason:

John Hicks, a decent lineman for the Giants back in the ’70s who had a great college career. And he’s doing quite well these days as well, thank you very much.

77JHicks

But I LOVE this card!

What is he drinking?

He must be really thirsty.

Is it Gatorade & Topps airbrushed it out?

Or is it something else? A soda? A gin ‘n’ tonic? Maybe a Harvey Wallbanger, after all, it WAS 1977.

In any case, I looked at this card, immediately thought of that Laugh-In bit where Alan Sues walks up to the dirty western bar and says “I’ll have a banana daquiri!” and took out another dollar for it.

And I’m not sorry. Not one bit!

In fact, I think I’LL have a drink too.

God’ll Get You For That, Wagstaff November 20, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Television.
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Thanks to the absence of baseball & a reshuffling of the Antenna TV schedule, my dinner-preparing 5pm hour is now populated by reruns of Maude. The only other programming choice at that time is Bill O’Reilly, and I guess if I want someone spouting polemics interspersed with one-liners, I’ll go with Bea Arthur since she has more hair.

Maude was regularly watched by my family back in the day, along with most of the other forward ‘n’ edgy sitcoms of the ’70s, like All In The Family, M*A*S*H, as well as the ones that hold up far better artistically to the present day, like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Odd Couple, The Bob Newhart Show, and Barney Miller.

Well, the first several seasons of M*A*S*H hold up. But that’s a l o n g blog post for a later time.

Along with possible musings on how well WKRP & Soap have held up. Antenna TV is a marvelous fountain of time travel.

Anyway, I’d forgotten how much shouting took place on Maude. It seems every episode features people arguing & fighting, and not over politics or issues of the day like we got on All In The Family during its first few seasons, until along came baby Joey & Meathead moved next door and what was essentially a late 1960s show became a mid 1970s one on a cultural level. Same deal with M*A*S*H, really.

Maude’s arguments & shoutfests, however, reflect interestingly on the changing morality of the ’70s much more than All In The Family or other Norman Lear polemicoms of the era ever did, except perhaps for One Day At A Time, which depicted permissive parenting at an entirely new & maudlin level. Maude & Walter’s affluent upper-middle class existence features very lax, open-minded attitudes towards adultery and divorce in numerous episodes, and pushed the envelope the furthest in the first-season “Maude’s Dilemma” two parter where, pre Roe v. Wade, Maude discovers she’s pregnant at age 47 and decides to get an abortion (thankfully off-camera, although the prospect of casting someone like Foster Brooks or Professor Irwin Corey as the wacky abortionist was clearly a wasted opportunity).

You can’t really top that one, but Maude would try – Walter’s alcoholism would lead to an episode where he confronts his drinking problem after punching Maude in the face (with HILARIOUS consequences! Well… maybe not) or if you want something REALLY funny, there’s Walter’s suicide attempt after his business goes bad. Or his near-fatal heart attack. Or the series of episodes opening Season 4 where Maude & Walter’s marriage nearly breaks up over her decision to run for State Senate against Walter’s wishes.

That’s right… I grew up in an era when this was considered comedy. Jack Benny, George Burns, Phil Silvers, Don Adams…. PIKERS! None of them ever got abortions or attempted suicide, although Frank Nelson as the cop trying to talk Jack Benny off a window ledge would have been hysterical, as well as Gracie Allen forgetting why she went to the abortionist once the operation got going.

Listen to my comedy gold!!! Someone, give me a series!!! Network people must be reading this blog! C’mon!

Anyway, I’m fascinated daily as I refresh my memory with the run of Maude. A lot of episodes I remembered as very funny as a kid are so-so upon recent viewings, although as the series goes, they stand out. I categorize these as the “farce” episodes, the ones without the messages and with plotlines built purely around the characters’ foibles and interactions, as well as some ridiculous situation. (In other words, what sitcoms ought to be instead of lectures or morality plays).  I remembered episodes like “Speed Trap” and “Arthur’s Medical Convention,” both stories where Walter & Arthur find themselves in trouble & hijinks while out of town, as being a lot funnier than they were upon a recent viewing. “Walter’s Stigma” was another I remembered fondly, where Walter is mistakenly arrested for flashing, but only the first half of it still had any solid laughs. On the other hand, the 6th season premiere, “Maude’s Guilt Trip,” still my favorite episode of the series, holds up very well – a wonderful back &  forth of selfishness and false morality as Maude secretly & guiltily delights over the prospect of her hateful Aunt Tinky getting killed in a plane crash while on her way to visit. Another episode that held up was the “Rashomon” style “The Case Of The Broken Punch Bowl,” especially since it gave the cast so many different comic ways to play the same scenes. And I still like “Maude Meets The Duke” even if it doesn’t give guest star John Wayne enough to do.

What makes the show watchable to me? Easily the performers – Bea Arthur & Bill Macy are both great. The line delivery & timing is always sharp, and their sense of stage presence is clear – Arthur’s broadway manner in carrying herself and Macy’s burlesque comedian vibe. (Evidently he had this in real life, according to a great story from Artie Lange – in the late ’90s, Macy did a guest shot on the Norm McDonald show and when introduced to costar Nikki Cox said “Nikki COX? Well I’m Bill Pussy!” and evidently she was not amused. I still am.) Conrad Bain & Rue McClanahan are both good – McClanahan plays the innocent well (it’s the reason she got to play the slut later on Golden Girls), and Bain delivers his self-effacing material along the lines of Larry Linville on M*A*S*H, only not as silly.

And Adrienne Barbeau has the best body in the history of television. No contest.

AHA! THAT’S why I’m watching! “Adrienne Barbeau? Well, I’m Professor Pussy!”

Yeah, I know. God’ll get me for that.

Was This Really THIRTY FOUR YEARS AGO Today??? Oy Vey! October 2, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Baseball.
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It just seems a lot more recent.

Even after the Sox finally got their century-long revenge against the Yankees in 2004.

We’re gonna get a 1 game playoff by design this year, between the wild cards in each league. I’m not crazy about the idea since the entire baseball season is based on winning series of games between teams. It ought to be a 3 game series with a shortened season, perhaps back to 154 games.

Someday they’ll figure it out & get their precious TV revenue, but in the meantime, an entire season for someone will come down to some random moment like Bucky Dent’s unlikely homerun in that October 2, 1978 playoff.

I thought it was great when I watched it live when I was a kid. Now…. I gotta admit, I think it ought to be a 3 game series.

As long as the Yanks win it, of course!

Here’s to October baseball!

Not-So-Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1978 Ron Guidry September 13, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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In witnessing what’s looking more and more like the Great Yankee Collapse of September 2012 (The Mayans predicted it, right?), I keep thinking back to 1978, the great long march comeback from 14 1/2 games behind in July, the Red Sox implosion of August, and the amazing reliability of Ron Guidry that season to go out and win game after game.

Guidry’s career season of 1978 remains phenomenal. 25 wins, 3 losses. A great number of those wins came after Yankee losses. A lot of them ended Yankee losing streaks. He won 13 games in a row before losing one in July.

The guy was virtually unbeatable. I don’t think any pitcher has dominated the league as much since Guidry’s ’78 season, something that evoked the way Bob Gibson totally shut down his opposition in 1968, even forcing a rule change about pitcher’s mound height.

I got to see part of it in person when he 2-hit shutout the Red Sox about this time in ’78, after the Yankees had caught them and moved ahead in the standings.  Got to sit a few rows right behind the dugout on the first base line, thanks to my friend’s Providence cop dad gonnections for primo tickets in the middle of a pennant race. The Sox battled back throughout September, forcing the legendary playoff game that led up to that fateful Bucky Dent-enforces-the-bambino’s-curse at-bat. You know the rest.

They never would have been there without Guidry. My favorite player from that late ’70s Yankee team. They gave him the Cy Young, but not the MVP he deserved. Jim Rice got that, sorta like when Scorcese finally won his Oscar but for the wrong movie.

And where is that kind of performance on the 2012 Yankees? Well, it’s either left on base during any number of failed non-rallies inbetween make-or-break home runs, or it’s on what’s been a large revolving door of a disabled list all season, one that’s catching up with them down the homestretch where they’ll be battling the Rays and the (WTF?) Orioles for a playoff berth. And even if they make the post-season, their season-long inability to win games without hitting a ton of homeruns will, I think, be the killer.

There’s no stopper on the mound. No go-to victory guy. Kuroda and Sabathia have both tried as the workhorses, but it’s falling short. I have a strong feeling that my October will be mostly football this year.