Wednesday, February 29, 2012

FACSIMILES AND COPY CATS


They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Copying something or someone who is s successful doesn't always mean success. Some of the biggest failures in pop culture have been copies or facsimiles of a more successful comic book, movie, TV show or personality. While not a scientific approach, I have decided to list my Top 10 list of pop culture copy cats and facsimiles that stand out as flops. I thought of this idea after reading about the possible cancellation of the Mad Men-inspired TV series Pan Am and the already cancelled Mad Men-inspired Playboy Club.

I should point out that I weeded out some famous copy cats and facsimiles because they manage to hang out briefly and survive on their own merit. So I left Webster, Apple's Way, Matt Houston, Northern Exposure and Hee Haw off the list (Northern Exposure outlasted Twin Peaks and Hee Haw, technically, outlasted Laugh-In thanks to first run syndication). Some of these resulted in lawsuits. I want to note, that I wanted to point these out as a historical look at how powerful an effect the originals had on pop culture. This is not like some many other websites which use the word "fail" as a noun in big capital letters.

These are in chronological order (sort of).


1. Billy West - Charlie Chaplin clone: I mention Billy west, but to be fair he was not the only Charlie Chaplin imitator to make movies. West is the only one who I could find on You Tube (Notice the Eric Campbell-like protagonist in this is played by a young Oliver Hardy). Another imitator named Charlie Aplin got sued by Chaplin himself. There is a whole blog dedicated to Chaplin imitations past and present.

2. Milton and Rita Mouse - Mickey and Minnie Mouse cartoons: Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse was such a phenomenon in the early days of sound cartoons that every other animation studio had a Mickey like character. Van Beuren Studios were sued by Disney because they actually used mice. Warner Brothers had Foxy, who was a fox and Universal had Oswald the Rabbit that looked and sounded like Mickey Mouse, but Van Beuren was stupid enough to make cartoons featuring Milton Mouse and his girlfriend, Rita. Another thing about these Milton and Rita cartoons is they are pre-Hayes Code, so they contain sexual humor. Here are is one called Office Boy.


3. Wonder Man - Superman's first imitator: Everyone knows about Superman and his court room battle with Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel eventually conceded in the early 1950's, due more to a falling sales. By the early 1970's, Captain Marvel returned as a DC Comics stable mate of Superman. Fox Publications Wonder Man on the other was a one hit wonder. DC sued Fox and they only produced one Wonder Man story. You can see it on this blog. A lawsuit really wasn't needed for this character. I don't think he had much going for him.

4. Turn On - The computerized version of Laugh-In: I decided to put Turn On under Wonder Man because like Superman, Laugh-In produced a successful copy and a copy that has went down in history as one of the biggest failures in history. CBS took the concept and production style of Laugh-In, changed the hip satire and psychedelia for hillbilly humor and country music and called it Hee Haw. CBS cancelled it after about two years, but it came back in first run syndication and ultimately ran longer than Laugh-In. On the other hand, ABC tried to copy Laugh-In with Turn On, which was supposed to be hosted by a computer. It only lasted one episode. It was cancelled because some complained of subliminal sexual humor. The odd part is one of the people behind it was George Schlatter, who created Laugh-In. Wonder if he didn't sabotage it a little. I couldn't find footage of it on You Tube but here is a bit of a documentary mentioning it and Schlatter telling about one irate TV station GM's reaction.


5. Strange Paradise - Canadian produced Dark Shadows: This knock-off of Dark Shadows was syndicated by Krantz Media, who produced the Marvel Super Heroes, Spider-Man, and Rocket Robin Hood cartoons. This show took place in the Caribbean and involved a rich guy posessed by an evil ancestor. Unlike Dark Shadows, there are no real monsters, just ghost who look like everyday people. Not exciting. Several episodes are on You Tube.


6. Jobriath - America's David Bowie: Jobriath became the most over-hyped rock star ever. He was signed to Elektra records and promoted as America's David Bowie. Here is his debut on The Midnight Special.

7. Streethawk - A motorcycle version of Knight Rider: Teen idol singer Rex Smith plays an injured cop, who has a computerized super-smart bike. This came along after Knight Rider and really seems to have been rushed into production. Here is a sample from You Tube.

8. Charlie and Company - The Cosby Show clone: This actually might have worked if the network hadn't moved it around on the schedule. It featured Flip Wilson, a Pip-less Gladys Knight and soon-to-be Urkel, Jaleel White. Many people figured out right a way that this was a knockoff and pointed out that the actor who played the oldest son, Kristopher St. John, had played Denise's smart-assed boyfriend in an episode of The Cosby Show. Here is the opening sequence from You Tube.

9. The Insider - Miami Vice with reporters: Once upon a time it was considered cool to be in the media, especially a reporter. This show copied the look, music and clothes of Miami Vice, but made the characters newspaper reporters rather than cops. Even used the Genesis song "I've Got a Job To Do" as its theme song. It didn't take off.

10. Mac & Me - Sort of an E.T. copy and very long McDonalds commercial: There was actually a good intention behind this, because a portion of the ticket sales went to Ronald McDonald House. The problem is it is an blatant E.T. ripoff only with lame special effects (kind of a stop-motion alien). Mac also prefers McDonalds food to Reese's Pieces. Here is the trailer introduced by Ronald McDonald himself.    

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

BEST OF DESDINOVA: THE MOD SQUAD WAS COOLER THAN 21 JUMP STREET (Sorry Johnny Depp)


I realize many people of my generation will hate this post. There will even be some Baby Boomers that will hate this post.

In TV history, there were two cops shows that featured young people going undercover to investigate crimes involving other youth. These shows were the Mod Squad, which ran from 1968 to 1973. The other was 21 Jump Street, which ran from 1987 to 1991.

I remember watching an episode of 21 Jump Street when it first air on the then-new Fox Network and thinking, "This show sucks. I hope they come up with a better show than this or this network with go the way of Dumont and Overmyer Networks." The show not only ran longer than I expected, but Fox has survived, thanks to several great shows like the Simpsons, Family Guy and In Living Color.

It was about this time that a purchased a book called The Best of Crime and Detective TV: The Critics Choice by John Javna and Max Allan Collins. In this book, they list the TV show, Mod Squad, as one of the worst cop shows ever. They practically trash the show (They also slam Charlie's Angels, which makes me wonder about these guys).

I had only seen the Mod Squad reunion movie from the late 70's, but I still thought it probably had to be better than 21 Jump Street for the simple reason it was made in the late 60s/early 70s. As many of you readers know I have always had a special place for the psychedelic era.

I bought a VHS tape a few years ago that featured two episodes of the Mod Squad. I liked it quite a bit and wanted to buy another, but they were taken off the market for some reason. A year ago, I bought a DVD of the first season of the Mod Squad. It featured a longer version of the pilot episode which was on the VHS tape I had earlier. I have enjoyed it very much and plan to buy another DVD set of the show.

A few nights ago, I found the entire first season of 21 Jump Street on DVD at Wal-Mart for $5. I wondered if my opinion of 21 Jump Street would have changed after seeing more than one episode of the Mod Squad. Maybe I would be blown away by the show which gave us Johnny Depp. It turns out, I was right the first time I saw the show. It still sucks.

While people often malign the Mod Squad for being dated, 21 Jump Street is a product of it's time too. It comes with the things of the 80s that I hated. Bad part is some of those attitudes are still with us, thanks to the Fox News Network. As a matter of fact, I suspect that Bill O'Reilly wrote a few of these scripts under an alias. I bet Sarah Palin was a Jump Street fan.

The Mod Squad was from the age of peace, love and "Do Your Own Thing," while 21 Jump Street was from the age of "Just Say No," "Positive Peer Pressure," "overachieving" and "Vigilante Justice." Also, the characters on 21 Jump Street wear the clothes of that era that my mom forced me to wear. When I moved out and went to SMSU, I started dressing more like the Mod Squad.

First off, let's discuss the theme song and opening credits. The theme song of the Mod Squad was composed by Earl Hagen. Hagen created a tough and fast pasted cops show theme, augmented by a psychedelic/garage band organ. The visual was the main characters running through a dark warehouse.

The 21 Jump Street open featured a theme song sung by the cast that sounded like a bad Debbie Gibson song ("You're gonna learn something when we meet you after school" GAG!). The visuals were goofy clips of the cast from episodes. This gives you the impression you are watching a bad sitcom.

The overall plot of the shows are different in that Peter, Linc and Julie ("One White, One Black and One Blonde") were juvenile delinquents paying their debt to society by becoming undercover detectives. They did carry guns or badges. They often questioned the ethics of what they were doing. Yes, they do use quite a bit of the slang of that era. Pete seems to use the word "heavy" a lot, Julie says "groovy" quite a bit and Linc made the phrase, "Solid, Brother" a part of TV history.

On 21 Jump Street, Hanson, Penhall, Hoffs and Loki are cops who look young enough to infiltrate high schools. They carry guns and badges. When the Jump Street cops aren't whining about lawyers and judges "letting off" the people they bust, they insult each other.

The villains on Mod Squad are never the kids, but old, white guys trying to make a money by selling drugs or killing young people. One villain, played by Dabney Colman (Who else?) tells his sister, "Your hippie friends are driving down the value of my real estate." One villain is a Bill O'Reilly-ish talk show who tries to rape Julie. Yes, the message of the Mod Squad could be "No such thing as a bad kid" and "Don't trust anyone over 30."

On the other hand, 21 Jump Street embedded with the 80's idea of "young-people-are-evil." The criminal is always young. Everything from gun toting gang members taking a school hostage to a group of cocaine pushing, preppy-boys who gang-rape/murder a girl to sexually-repressed, pyromaniac Catholic school girls (No, I didn't make this last one up).

Jump Street episodes usually end with a PSA/lecture from the cast about under-age drinking, drug abuse or abstenence. Mod Squad ended with a crane shot of the characters and somber jazz music as the characters contemplate what just happened. Truth is the Mod Squad has a more expensive look to it than Jump Street.

Yes, this has probably been a useless rant, but I had to get this out of my system. I'm sorry Johnny Depp couldn't have been like Clint Eastwood, John Travolta or Bruce Lee and gotten his start on a good show. As a matter of fact, he has said he hated the show.

Just remember, the Maharishi says never drink campaign from a paper cup. Solid, Brother!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

DESDINOVA'S VALENTINE'S DAY IPOD PLAYLIST

These are the songs I'm listening to in my Ipod today.

Never My Love - The Association
If Tomorrow Never Comes - Joose
The Air That I Breath - the Hollies
You Made Me Believe In Magic - Bay City Rollers
You Can Do Magic - America
One Fine Day - The Chiffons
Biggest Part of Me - Ambrosia
All My Loving - The Beatles
For Love - Pousette-Dart Band
Miracles - Jefferson Starship
More Than Yesterday - Spiral Staircase
Come Softly To Me - Jane Olivor
Heaven - Bryan Adams
Heatbeat Its a Love Beat - DeFranco Family
I'll Be There - Jackson 5
(Your Love Keeps Lifting me) Higher & Higher - Jackie Wilson
Words - F.R. David
Love Will Keep Us Together - Captain & Tennielle
Total Eclipse of the Heart - Bonnie Tyler
This Magic Moment - Jay & the Americans
Together - The Intruders
Best of My Love - The Eagles
Just Like Heaven - The Cure
Shining Star - The Manhattans
You Are Everything - The Stylistics
True Love Ways - Buddy Holly
All I Really Want To Do - The Byrds
Take My Breath Away - Berlin
I Love You - Climax Blues Band
So Much In Love - The Tymes
I Would Die 4 U - Prince
Something - The Beatles
Kiss On My List - Hall & Oats
Cupid/I've Loved You For a Long Time - The Spinners
I'd Really Love to See You Tonight - England Dan & John Ford Coley
Soul Coaxing - Raymond LeFevre
There Is - The Dells
Do You Believe In Magic? - Lovin Spoonful
(If Paradise Is) Half As Nice - Amen Corner
Strange Magic - Electric Light Orchestra
Touch Me - The Doors
I'm Believer - The Monkees
I Can Dream About You - Dan Hartman
Your Song - Elton John
I'm Your Puppet - James & Bobby Purify
Love Is Blue - Paul Mauriat
Cool Night - Paul Davis
Can't Fight This Feeling - REO Speedwagon
Like to Get to Know You - Spanky & Our Gang
Oh How Happy - Shades of Blue
Time After Time - Cyndi Lauper
You're My Latest, My Greatest Inspiration - Teddy Pendergrass
Happy Together - The Turtles
If I Had Words - Scott Fitzgerald & Yvonne Keely
La La Means I Love You - The Delfonics
Always on My Mind - Pet Shop Boys
Love So Fine - Roger Nichols & Small Circle of Friends
We've Got Tonight - Kenny Rogers & Sheena Easton
Because - Dave Clark 5
You Are the Sunshine of My Life - Stevie Wonder
Mind, Body & Soul - Flaming Ember
Lost in Love - Air Supply
Nights in White Satin - Moody Blues
The Look of Love - Dusty Springfield
Just You n Me - Chicago
When Doves Cry - Prince
Fallin In Love - Hamilton Joe Frank & Reynolds
Best Thing That Ever Happened - Gladys Knight and the Pips
Can't Help Falling In Love - Elvis
I Will Always Think About - New Colony Six
I Think I love You - Partridge Family
Just Between You & Me - April Wine
Still - The Commodores
The Best of Times - Styx
Nice to Be With You - Gallery
If You Leave - Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark
Tonight's the Night - Rod Stewart
Love's Theme - Love Unlimited Orchestra
You've Made Me So Very Happy - Blood Sweat & Tears
When Will I See You Again - Three Degrees
An Old Fashion Love Song - Three Dog Night
I Saw The Light - Todd Rundgren
Love Is All Around - The Troggs
You Showed Me - The Turtles
You're the One - The Vogues
Magnet & Steel - Walter Egan
The Promise - When In Rome
See Me, Feel Me - The Who
For Your Love - The Yardbirds

Working on a Groovy Thing - 5th Dimension
Afterglow - Small Faces
Make Me You Baby - Barbara Lewis
You’re the First, My Last, My Everything - Barry White
Wouldn’t It Be Nice - The Beach Boys
God Only Knows - The Beach Boys
Softly Whispering I Love You - The Congregation
No Matter What - Badfinger
Every Time I Think of You - The Babys
Love Minus Zero/No Limit - Bob Dylan
Masterpiece - Atlantic Star
I Second That Emotion - Smokey Robinson & the miracles
Going Out of My Head - Little Anthony & the Imperials
Thinking of You - Loggins & Messinia
More Than I Can Say - Leo Sayer
Precious and Few - Climax

Sunday, February 12, 2012

MY OBLIGATORY "WHITNEY HOUSTON DIED" POST

As you know, I usually post links to death notices of some celebrities, especially of a "retro" nature. However, the magnitude of news coverage of Whitney Houston's passing, I don't feel a need to give you a link. If that upsets you, just wait because I'm sure I'll offend you much more.

I'm going to some thing that will really upset people. I never liked Whitney Houston's music. It was bland, boring and lifeless. To make matters worse for me, it cluttered up the radio. However,  I am NOT going to say disrespectful things about Whitney Houston.

I'm going to instead slam the people, who made me hate Whitney Houston's music - adults. Whitney Houston made her debut during the era of the heavy metal hair bands, new wave/punk, the emerging rap/hip hop sounds and the rest was Prince or Madonna. You also had several anti-rock-music-advocacy groups cropping up (at least two were based here in Missouri). This was also the "Just Say No"  and "Positive Role Model" years. Ugh.

Of course, I liked most of the popular music of the day along with the music of the 60s and 70s, however what I really liked was the heavy metal. Naturally,  I was the object of hatred from the oh-so self-righteous adults in Lebanon. They would say things like "You should like Whitney Houston instead of that satanic, drug music you like." Apparently, this was a general thought at the time. As I was getting ready to start writing this I noticed this post from "Go Retro!." Whitney Houston was really bland easy listening/adult contemporary music that was getting played on Top-40/rock stations and the adults were going to ram it down the throats us kids even though some of us didn't like it. It is part of the reason I have never liked the adult contemporary format. It had that smug, self-righteous "We-are-proud-to-be-square" attitude (although it is changing from what it was in the 70s, 80s and 90s) that I despise. Whitney Houston's music was much like The Waltons, people told me that it was better for me than what I liked and America would be a better place if every kid listened to Whitney Houston instead of heavy metal or something good. I should also point out that I was also told I should listen to country music instead what I liked. (Adults are just stupid).

This attitude and harassment by adults caused me to hate just about anything Whitney Houston did. I hated The Bodyguard, even though many people thought was the greatest movie ever made. I really made them mad when I said I liked Roseanne Barr's version of The Star Spangle Banner better than Whitney Houston's version. I also liked Jimi Hendrix's better too, that makes people mad too. I've always kind of considered Whitney Houston part of a Republican plot to brainwash people.

I'm also finding it interesting that people who complained when people mourned Michael Jackson and Kurt Cobain are grieving all over the place over Whitney Houston. They are asking on Facebook, "What is you favorite Whitney Houston song?" I DON'T HAVE ONE!

Even though I didn't like Whitney Houston's music, may she rest in peace and not be judged by her life but her music. I leave that to the talk radio scumbags and those scumbags on Fox News. They enjoy being disrespectful to dead entertainers (and live ones as well). It was her fans and cranky adults of the 80s that deserve the scorn.
BTW, when Merle Haggard kicks the bucket, I'm not going to be so nice. Same for Hank Williams Junior.

Opinions, like this, are why I'm considered the Super-Villain of the Ozarks!!! Mwu-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!      

Friday, February 3, 2012

Ben Gazzara Dead at 81


Here is the obit from E!Online. I thought I would show you the opening to the 60s TV series Ben Gazzara stared in Run For Your Life.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Don Cornelius dies at 75; creator of 'Soul Train'

DESDINOVA'S LIST OF TV GREATEST WESTERNS


Recently, Salon had a list of what they considered TV's Greatest Western. It was a Top Ten list with some entries that I felt didn't belong because they didn't take place in the old West (McCloud and Firefly). Also, I feel that the list should have only included regular series and left out the mini-series, Lonesome Dove. They could have also included Centennial, The Sacktetts or those Kenny Rogers' Gambler movies.
So after reading that, I feel inclined to give you my list of my 15 favorite TV Westerns of the past. I'm going to include the shows I have watched thanks to DVD or reruns, so some of the more recent shows will not be included. Besides this is a "retro" sight (for the most part).


1. Gunsmoke (1955-1975): The king of the adult TV Westerns came from radio and went on to be one of TV longest running shows. Marshal Matt Dillon, Chester, Miss Kitty and Doc, along with Quint, Dooley and Festus became icons of the TV Western.


2. The Virginian (1962-1971): Based on the Owen Wister novel, The Virginian was the closest thing to a big screen "Big Sky"-style Western on TV every week. In color with great on-location scenery, good scripts, a big orchestral theme song by Percy Faith and 90 minutes long, The Virginian was actually the third most successful TV Western behind Bonanza, yet I place it second for its effort. The last season, renamed The Men from Shilo, left the "Big Sky" Western-style behind for a "spaghetti Western"-style complete with facial hair, dusters, wide brimmed hats, an animated title sequence and Ennio Morricone music.


3. Bonanza (1959-1973): First color Western and the second most successful TV Western.


 4. The Wild Wild West (1965-1969): If Paladin was the Western version of the literary James Bond, James T. West (played by Robert Conrad) was the Western version of the movie James Bond. He had exploding buttons, hidden Derringer in his sleeve and megalomaniac enemies. Paved the way for the steampunk literary genre movement of the 1990s.


5. Have Gun-Will Travel (1957-1963): If Matt Dillon was the Phillip Marlow of the Old West, Paladin was the first James Bond of the Old West. Based on the Ian Fleming novel description of Bond, Sam Rolfe and Herb Meadow created a Western hero that was different than other TV Western heroes of the day. Paladin was dressed in all black while working and wore a tux at his home in the San Fransisco Hotel Carlton. He was a West Point grad who quoted Shakespeare, Socrates, Keats and Shelley. He carried business cards and charged a fee for his services. The business cards and his holster both had a chess knight on them. He saved Oscar Wilde's life, hunted a sasquatch in Colorado, man-eating tigers in India and fought ninjas. The opening music was by Bernard Hermann and the closing theme was by country singer Johnny Western.


  6. Rawhide (1959-1966): Besides featuring the first African-American cowboy, played by Raymond St. Jacques, this show is best known for a great theme song by Frankie Laine and Clint Eastwood as ramrod Rowdy Yates.


7. Kung Fu (1972-1975): With Alias Smith & Jones, Kung Fu was the last successful show of the original wave TV Westerns. David Carradine played Kwai Chang Caine, a Shaolin monk searching the Old West for his half brother Danny Cain. Caine didn't need a gun because he was a master of martial arts. First Asian hero of a Western.


8. Alias Smith & Jones (1971-1973): A hip comedy Western about two Kansas long-haired outlaws trying to achieve amnesty while still being wanted from the law. Inspired by the success of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Love that country-rock incidental music and the film edit that made Kid Curry/Thad Jones (Ben Murphy) look like the fastest gun in the West.


9. Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958-1961): Steve McQueen played a bounty hunter. Nuff said!



10. Maverick (1957-1962): One of the first "comedy" Westerns featuring an anti-Western hero. Lazy, cowardly, smart-mouthed gambler played by James Garner. His brother, Jack Kelly, and Southern cousin, played Roger Moore, were just as bad. The show even poked fun at other Westerns like Gunsmoke and Bonanza.


11. The Lone Ranger (1949-1958): The "Masked Man" and "his faithful Indian companion" rode from radio to TV to become the first Western produced for TV. A syndication effort in the 70s and a toy line by Gabriel introduced The Lone Ranger to Generation X.


12. Big Valley (1965-1969): Other than Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Big Valley is the only Western to feature promanent female characters getting involved in the action. Many have dismissed Big Valley as a Bonanza knock-off, however, Big Valley seems to be more mature. Victoria Barkely (Barbara Stanwick) lives on a big ranch with her three sons, preppy lawyer Jared (Richard Long), hot-headed ranch foreman Nick (Peter Breck), baby Eugene (Charles Briles, who disappeared after the first season) and sexy daughter, Audra (Linda Evans). Add to this group Heath (Lee Majors), "the Bastard" son of Victoria's husband, who spends much of the show fighting with half-brother Nick or coming very close to making out with half-sister Audra or beating up the bad guy who tore Audra's blouse. I'm not sure but I bet this was the first TV show to feature the use of the word "bastard." Victoria is probably the only TV to be handy with a gun.


 
13. Wagon Train (1957-1965): The only TV Western than can claim a connection to legendary Western movie director John Ford. Wagon Train was inspired by a film called The Wagonmaster, which like Wagon Train, starred Ward Bond. Ford also directed one episode. The show even managed to continue with on after Ward Bond's death and Robert Horton left in a dispute with producers, with John McIntyre and Robert Fuller taking over. The real focus of the shows were rarely Bond or Horton (pictured), but the major guest star of the week.


14. Cheyenne (1955-1963): This was the first hour long dramatic TV series, as well as the first hour long Western. Clint Walker played Cheyenne Bodie, "a tall, handsome stranger" who traveled from town to town helping others. There was an obvious sexual undercurrent to this early entry into the "adult" Western boom of the late 50s. Cheyenne had a knack for attracting two women per show, probably because he was also the first man on TV to be shirtless most of the time.


15. The Rifleman (1958-1963): Chuck Conners plays Lucas McCain, the fastest man with a rifle in the West, who prefers to raise his young son and tend to his ranch. The Rifleman helped pave the way for the "family-oriented" Westerns such as Little House on the Prairie and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, which focused more on a moral or message than action. The interesting thing is that The Rifleman was created by Sam Peckinpah, best known for violent "cutting edge" Westerns of the late 60s and 70s. Conners character was the first single parent on TV.

Some thing I wanted to point out with this list is that while many older people frequently lament the disappearance of the Western from TV as "good family entertainment," many of the "adult" Westerns broke ground as dramatic television as to what could be shown and themes that could be presented. Many of these shows featured stories that tackled such subjects as tolerance, domestic violence and poverty, which when tackled on current TV shows "upset' the people who are usually bemoaning the loss of the Westerns.

Now, let's see KYTV's Ethan Forhetz come up with his list of great TV Westerns. In the words of Gil Favor from Rawhide, "Head'em up - Move'em out!" 
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