Monday, December 2, 2019

Ranking The “Julies” of Aaron Spelling


A television show’s executive producer exerts his influence on a series in countless ways. For Aaron Spelling, one of TV’s most successful EPs, that meant indulging his penchant for characters named Julie.

For this ranking of his top 10 Julies, the only rule is that the selections must be limited to the Comfort TV era (which still ends in 1989). So with apologies to Julie Dante of Models, Inc. and Julie Tate of Malibu Shores, here, as Casey Kasem might say, is our top ten.

10. Julie Tipton
Glitter
This series about a show business magazine was one of the first casualties of the 1984 television season. Kristen Meadows played reporter Julie Tipton in the pilot, but was replaced by Dianne Kay when the series debuted. At least she can say it wasn’t her fault that it bombed.

9. Julie Gage
Wagon Train
Aaron Spelling was a writer before he was a producer, and one of the first scripts he sold to television was a 1957 episode of Wagon Train called “The Julie Gage Story,” featuring Anne Jeffreys. That’s how the name became Spelling’s good luck charm. 



8. Julie Davis
Sizzle
As Julie Davis, Loni Anderson sings (and does a pretty good job) in this 1981 TV movie about a small town girl in Prohibition-era Chicago, who seeks revenge on the gangsters who killed her boyfriend. Worth seeing for the cast – John Forsythe, Leslie Uggams, Roy Thinnes and Phyllis Davis. 



7. Julie (no last name)
Fantasy Island
This is a character with a very odd history. As played by Wendy Schaal, Julie pops up in 1981 as Mr. Roarke’s goddaughter, greeting each week’s guests alongside Roarke and Tattoo. She was around for most of that season and then disappeared as mysteriously as she arrived. I liked Wendy Schaal on It’s a Living, though, so that’s good enough to place her at #7. 



6. Julie Gillette
Hotel
With the focus of this series on the guest starts that checked into the St. Gregory every week, the hotel staff was relegated to supporting roles, outside of stars James Brolin and Connie Selleca. Julie Gillette ran the information desk when the series began, and Shari Belafonte-Harper did what she could with the moments she got. She played a powerful me-too story 30 years before that term was coined in “Harassed,” gets to sing on “Hidden Talents,” and was promoted to a manager role at the end of season three. 



5. Julie (no last name)
Cry Panic
This Spelling-Goldberg produced 1974 TV movie is one of the many little hidden gems that can now be enjoyed again courtesy of YouTube. John Forsythe plays a man who kills a pedestrian with his car just outside a hick town, and then runs to the nearest house to report the accident. By the time the sheriff arrives, the body has disappeared, and Forsythe finds himself in the middle of a mystery in which he seems to be the only person that doesn’t know what’s really going on. Anne Francis was a Spelling favorite since she starred in one of the first series he exec produced, Honey West. Here she played Julie, but I can’t say more at the risk of spoiling the movie’s surprises.

4. Julie Rogers
Charlie’s Angels
Aaron Spelling waited until the last possible moment to introduce an Angel named Julie. Tanya Roberts was the final Townsend detective to wear the halo until all the forgettable remakes and reboots started. 



She was a better fit for the show than Shelley Hack, whom she replaced, but had the misfortune of joining the series in its fifth and final season, when everyone else was ready to move on. Her acting rep took a hit after Sheena and A View To a Kill, but as an Angel Roberts added a welcome spark to episodes like “Angel in Hiding” and “Angels of the Deep.”  



3. Julie Greer
The Dick Powell Theatre
“Who Killed Julie Greer?” was the brilliant debut episode of this anthology series, as well as the pilot for the popular 1960s cop series Burke’s Law, starring Gene Barry as the suave, wealthy police captain who arrives at crime scenes in his Rolls Royce. Carolyn Jones (who was married to Spelling at the time) played the title character, a party girl found murdered in the first scene, leaving a long list of suspects behind (played by Lloyd Bridges, Mickey Rooney and Ronald Reagan, among others). Try to guess which one killed her before the reveal – I guarantee you’ll be wrong. 



2. Julie Barnes
The Mod Squad
The show’s famous tag line – “One white, one black, one blonde” – is an indication on how dated some of this material plays. But in its time The Mod Squad was groundbreaking, and Peggy Lipton became an icon of counterculture chic as flower child detective Julie Barnes. 



Her range was still somewhat limited as an actress, but Lipton had that rare quality of cool that overwhelmed such criticism. 



1. Julie McCoy
The Love Boat
How many television characters personify their profession for generations of viewers? How many thousands of people have boarded cruise ships in the past 40 years, met their cruise director, and thought, “He/she is no Julie McCoy!” 



Lauren Tewes played Julie in 199 of the show’s 250 episodes (with a break in the midst of the run to get clean and sober). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but with that pixie haircut and dimples I thought she always outshone whatever glamorous stars were sailing on the Pacific Princess each week. She will always be “the” classic TV Julie for me.  


Friday, November 22, 2019

Five Classic Shows That Deserved One More Season


If you could have one more season of any TV show, which show would you choose?

That was a question posted recently in a Facebook classic TV group. The responses ranged from Grizzly Adams to Family Ties to Knots Landing (really? 14 seasons were not enough?), along with more recent shows like Bates Motel and Longmire.



As fans of the Comfort TV era one would think we’d want more episodes of all the shows from that time. But let’s be honest – most of the classics said just about everything they had to say before leaving the air. In fact, one could argue that some should have quit earlier than they did.

Consider how often the final season of a series was its weakest: Bewitched served up barely-rewritten versions of previous (and better) episodes. Marriage and/or kids removed some of the magic from Get Smart and I Dream of Jeannie



Multiple cast changes weakened The Waltons and Laugh-In and Happy Days and Designing Women. Budget cuts and the departures of several talented writers hastened Star Trek’s cancellation. Dallas and Moonlighting were out of good ideas even before their final seasons.

Other classics maintained a high standard of quality right to the end: I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, That Girl, The Bob Newhart Show, The Fugitive, Room 222, The Defenders, The Rockford Files. But I’m not sure I’d want to gamble with their reputations by adding one more season that might fail to measure up to its predecessors.

It’s tempting to just look at shows with comparatively short runs, but that alone should not be sufficient criteria for consideration. Much as I liked them all, I’m fine with The Monkees quitting after two seasons, The Patty Duke Show having just three seasons, and The Partridge Family parking the bus after season four. 



All that said, there certainly have been some shows that left us too soon. After much contemplation, here is my list of five series that deserved (at least) one more year.

The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (1969)
Three Seasons, 73 Episodes
Of the selected shows on my list this one lasted longest, but it still was not enough for me. A fourth season would have had Brandon Cruz’s Eddie approaching his teen years, which would have inspired rich story material to explore between Eddie and Bill Bixby, whose Tom Corbett should be on every TV fan’s list of the medium’s best dads. 



Granted, the show’s final season suffered a bit by playing more to James Komack’s bohemian photographer Norman Tinker. But this would have been an easy correction (“James, thanks for creating the show, but you’re not the reason people are tuning in.”). I’d have welcomed more stories about Mrs. Livingston when she wasn’t cooking and cleaning for the Corbetts – and perhaps a return visit from Suzanne Pleshette as Valerie Bessinger, whose courtship with Eddie’s father was the show’s most memorable.

Gidget (1965)
One Season, 32 Episodes
Gidget had the misfortune of becoming a hit after it was canceled. Scheduled against The Virginian and The Beverly Hillbillies, the series was a flop the first time around, but the ratings soared in summer reruns. By then it was too late to bring it back, so ABC did the next best thing by casting Sally Field in a new series - The Flying Nun.

Gidget was and remains the better show, and Sally Field could not have been more adorable as the sassy, surf-loving beach bunny. 



Don Porter’s casting was equally perfect as Gidget’s understanding father. At least we can be grateful that back in 1965, a single TV season could produce 32 episodes. But 32 more would not just give us more Sally to treasure, it also would have kept her out of the nun’s habit she hated for three years.

Harry O (1973)
Two Seasons, 45 Episodes
As a huge David Janssen fan I would gladly watch more cases be solved by downtrodden beachcomber detective Harry Orwell. 



The prickly friendship between Orwell and Anthony Zerbe as police lieutenant Trench was still a delight to watch, as they both buried their mutual respect between layers of open hostility. There were also memorable supporting turns from Les Lannom as geeky sleuth Lester Hodges, and Farrah Fawcett as Harry’s neighbor with benefits. But like The Fugitive this is Janssen’s show all the way, and he carries every scene with a magnetism that only the best TV stars attain.

Ellery Queen (1975)
One Season, 22 Episodes
After creating one of TV’s greatest detectives in Columbo, Richard Levinson and William Link introduced Ellery Queen to television, in the genial presence of star Jim Hutton. Set in the 1940s, the series revolved around Queen assisting his police detective father (David Wayne) on baffling murder mysteries. The high point of each episode had Hutton turning to the camera and addressing the audience at home, just before he cracked the case. “Have you figured it out?” he’d ask, before reminding us of the suspects and the most important clues. Rarely has it been more fun to match wits with the characters on screen. 



In addition to Hutton, who had a likable Jimmy Stewart quality, and the irascible David Wayne, the series had a great supporting cast: John Hillerman as Simon Brimmer, a supercilious radio personality and amateur sleuth who always guessed wrong, and Ken Swofford as bulldog journalist Frank Flannigan. I wish I could have spent more time in their company.

The Green Hornet (1966)
One Season, 26 Episodes
This Batman spin-off was played with similar visual style but less camp, and is best remembered now for Bruce Lee, who appeared opposite Van Williams as the Green Hornet’s high-kicking chauffeur, Kato. It was the first time many Americans had seen martial arts performed by a master, and the charismatic Lee insisted on authenticity in the fight choreography. 



The Green Hornet was a cult series from day one, and as such was not likely to have a very long shelf life. But one more year would have put the number of episodes over 50, which sounds about right. Given the shortness of his subsequent film career, it would be wonderful to have more Bruce Lee action scenes to enjoy. 

Runners Up:

My World and Welcome To It (1969)
James Thurber whimsy channeled through William Windom. It won Emmys but not  viewers. Perhaps, like Cheers and The Dick Van Dyke Show, it might have found an audience after a slow start had the network stuck with it. 



Apple’s Way (1974)
Writer Earl Hamner Jr.’s second attempt to create a hit series was not as successful as The Waltons, though its premise is one that might work better now: a family gets fed up living in gridlocked Los Angeles and moves to a small rural town in Iowa.  



The Secrets of Isis (1975)
Just 22 episodes? Oh, mighty letdown! 


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Top TV Moments: Victor Buono


Given these hypersensitive times, I’m not sure if “larger than life” is acceptable praise for Victor Buono. But if you’ve seen him in just about any of his classic TV roles, I think you’ll agree the description is apt.



At 6’3” and 300+ pounds, it would be hard for Buono not to bring an imposing presence to his characters. But his physical features were accentuated by a voice that could read every line like it was Shakespeare in the Park without microphones, even when the actual dialog was several tiers below that standard.

His imdb bio states that too much of his TV work “was squandered on hokey villainy.” Well, “squandered” is in the eye of the beholder. Hokey villainy is not that easy to pull off, as anyone who watched Arnold Schwarzenegger and Uma Thurman in Batman and Robin could attest.

For me, whether the character was hokey or not, Buono was always worth watching.

Bronco (1959)
He’s hard to miss, so you’ll likely spot Victor Buono as a passenger in his TV debut in the episode “Night Train to Denver.” Just don’t look for his name in the credits – he was still an unbilled extra at the time.

Harrigan and Son (1960)
One day I’d love to see some full episodes of this courtroom drama about a son joining his father’s law practice. From what I’ve read it sounds like The Defenders with a lighter touch. 



It didn’t last long but it gave Buono his first steady work as Dr. Blaine, who consults with the Harrigans on their cases.

The Untouchables (1961)
Victor Buono looked like he was in his 40s when he was in his 20s, which gave an authority to his characters that belied his age. Watch in “Mr. Moon” how he commands a room full of older, hard-bitten gangsters, playing an antiques dealer with a supply of government currency paper to sell.

Batman (1966)
It’s a toss-up between King Tut and Egghead for the title of best Batman villain created for the series. Tut had a couple more cracks at taking down the Dynamic Duo, and Buono seemed to add more grandiose flourishes to his portrayal with each return. “King Tut’s Coup/Batman’s Waterloo” is my favorite – that’s the one where Tut sets his sights on making guest star Lee Meriwether his Cleopatra. “I can’t stand violence,” he says before preparing to boil Robin in oil. “But I like torture. It’s good clean fun.” 



The Wild, Wild West (1966)
Next to Michael Dunn as Dr. Miguelito Loveless, the most memorable repeat adversary for James West would have to be…well, we’ll let him handle the introduction: “Allow me to present myself. I am the Count Mario Vincenzo Robespierre Manzeppi; adventurer, poet, and lover of all that is corrupt, forbidden, and blasphemous.” 



Buono first appears as the crafty Count in season two’s “Night of the Eccentrics,” and made a second and final appearance later that same season. If Manzeppi sometimes seems like King Tut with a (slightly) less outrageous wardrobe, you’re not wrong. And yet, the oddest thing about “Night of the Eccentrics” is not Buono’s grandstanding, but the appearance of Richard Pryor as one of Manzeppi’s henchmen.

Night Gallery (1972)
Several Night Gallery episodes end with short comedic vignettes. Almost all of them are forgettable. “Satisfaction Guaranteed” is perhaps the best of the lot, even if there’s just one joke that most viewers will have guessed before its five minutes are up. Victor Buono plays a refined but demanding customer seeking to hire someone at a top secretarial agency. He rejects several seemingly ideal candidates, but takes an instant liking to the clumsy, pudgy girl who empties the office wastebaskets. “She is exactly what I want!” he says. But what does he have in mind? 



Man From Atlantis (1977)
One day I'll probably cover this series in more detail in my "Terrible Shows I Like" recurring feature. But for now, let's imagine the producers trying to cast the role of series villain Dr. Schubert. "We need someone who can play a mad scientist who uses mind-control bracelets to force other scientists to destroy the most powerful nations of the world with their own nuclear weapons." Was Victor Buono their first call? If not, he should have been. 
 



Backstairs At the White House (1979)
Here is yet another prestige miniseries from the golden age of the genre, that deserves to be seen again by a much wider audience. Over four episodes covering eight presidential administrations, the series revolved around the largely anonymous and forgotten lives of those who served on the White House staff. Victor Buono appears early on as President William Howard Taft. Ironically, here he plays the powerful leader of the free world, and for once he’s not so outspoken. To be faithful to how Taft was (and was portrayed in the book on which this series was based) he allows himself to be dominated by an ambitious and eccentric wife (played by Julie Harris).



The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977)
By this time Buono was accustomed to being the most flamboyant member of every cast, but in “A Haunting We Will Go” he gets some scenery-chewing competition from Dina Merrill, Carl Betz and Bob Crane, all hamming it up as actors that share a dark secret, reuniting for a benefit performance.

Taxi (1980)
In “Going Home” Victor Buono, then age 42, played the father of Christopher Lloyd, who was also 42. The story has Jim Ignatowski going home to reunite with his wealthy father. Buono couldn’t out-eccentric Jim but he plays the straight man well, especially when Jim can’t stop commenting about his baldness, and his weight. 



Just one year after his Taxi appearance, Victor Buono died. Such a short life for someone so talented - but at least he seemed to enjoy himself while he was here. He even topped anyone who tried to make a weight joke by releasing Heavy, an album of comedic recitations including “A Word To the Wide,” “You Don’t Have to Be Fat to Hate Rome,” and the wonderful “Fat Man’s Prayer”.


Friday, November 1, 2019

The Unshakeables: Lou Grant Confronts the “Unthinkable”





Halloween celebrated the fun part of being scared. But there are some fears that have no place in such a colorful, festive holiday.

Nuclear war is not a prevalent topic in the Comfort TV era for obvious reasons (“Will a nuclear winter finally give Jack a chance to cuddle up with Chrissy? Find out on tonight’s Three’s Company!”) But it did get a high-profile treatment in the 1983 TV movie The Day After. Back then the Emmy-winning film was considered such a landmark event that it was shown in American schools. 



Much of The Day After focused on what happens in the aftermath of an attack. It left an impression on me as it likely did on anyone who saw it. But there was an episode of Lou Grant that aired one year earlier that I found even more unsettling. Its title was “Unthinkable.”

The story opens with a school bus crash that puts one student into a hospital burn unit – just one of those typical, terrible things that happen almost every day in a major city like Los Angeles. But then the drama shifts from a small-scale tragedy to one that threatens the entire nation.

Lou Grant first figures something serious is happening when a congressman is suddenly called out of a lunch Lou attends with his publisher. He heads back to the newspaper to learn that the death of a king in a Persian Gulf country has left a power vacuum, and the U.S. and Russia are both trying to fill it, in part to secure the oil supply that flows from that nation.

“We’ll show a little muscle, is all,” Lou says. 



But subsequent events are more ominous: The President changes his travel plans. A Russian jet shoots down a U.S. plane. An oil tanker is fired on. Troops mass on the Middle Eastern nation’s border. California hospitals are put on alert.

The most frightening aspect of the story is how plausible each of these steps seems as the world moves closer to the brink of Armageddon. Everything that happens in “Unthinkable” has happened more than once in our real world.

And as unimaginable consequences gradually become more imaginable, the writers, editors and photographers at the Los Angeles Tribune do their jobs as the professionals they are, covering this potentially horrific story from every angle – medical, military, civil defense, even technology (with phone and computer lines vaporized, communication would be completely cut off). 



Grim numbers are collected – one bomb dropped on L.A. would immediately kill two million people; at any given moment, we are a half-hour away from annihilation.

In the midst of this, Animal interviews a man who has maintained a bomb shelter in his backyard for 30 years – which he now shows off with pride.

“You sound like you’re almost looking forward to it,” he says of the potential attack.

“Well,” the man replies, “it’s nice to see your investment pay off.”

And what about that scene with the student in the burn unit? It’s there so Billie can interview the girl’s doctor, who describes the awful effect of severe burns, which survivors of a nuclear attack would experience. From how they are described, many viewers will be with Animal when he says if the big one drops, he’d rather be standing right under it.

The show’s ending was not what I expected. Obviously they were not going to vaporize Los Angeles, since there were still a few episodes left in the season. But they also didn’t want to minimize the crisis with a “See, it was all for nothing” climax. Some may not find it satisfying how they resolved that impasse, but the episode’s message loses nothing from that decision.

Yes, you can sense Ed Asner’s politics informing the script. “Unthinkable” airs late in the series’ fifth and final season, and CBS probably would have picked it up for at least one more had the network not grown tired of his activism. 



But as someone who doesn’t share many of his views, I can still respect them when they are fairly and intelligently presented. Nothing that happens in the episode seems exaggerated or alarmist.

That’s one reason this tale stuck with me. The other reason is one I experience every time I return to this series: its poignant reminder of how journalism is supposed to work. The only thing more horrifying than contemplating the events described in “Unthinkable” is contemplating how they would be covered now by…well, feel free to insert your least favorite newspaper or cable news network here.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Halloween Comfort TV: Ghost Story


If you’re a classic TV fan you probably have a few go-to shows that are fun to pull up around Halloween.

Perhaps it’s a seasonal sitcom episode, like “Halloween Party” (The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet) or “The Ghost of A. Chantz” (The Dick Van Dyke Show). Maybe you prefer legit scares to Halloween humor, with something like “An Unlocked Window” (Alfred Hitchcock Presents) or “The Incredible Doktor Markesan” (Thriller).

I’ll watch some of those again this year, but I also wanted to check out something different. That’s what led me to Ghost Story, a short-lived supernatural anthology series that debuted on NBC in 1972. 



I was never a fan of scary stuff growing up, so watching this series at age 8 would have been out of the question. My appreciation for the genre has grown since then, as long as it’s not just maniacs chopping up teenagers with hatchets. At the risk of offending some of my readers, I can’t even begin to understand why anyone finds that entertaining.

So I was ready for my first look at this 47 year-old series, hosted by Sebastian Cabot as Winston Essex, owner of the elegant hotel Mansfield House. The introductions were shot on location at San Diego’s beautiful Hotel del Coronado, which I look forward to revisiting now to see if any of the interiors still look the same. 



“Ghosts somehow seem indigenous to yesteryear…grotesquely incompatible with the nuclear age. And yet, they still exist,” Winston tells us, as the camera pans to a young couple having dinner in the hotel restaurant. It’s David Birney and Barbara Parkins, who play newlyweds moving into a new house in a story appropriately titled “The New House.”

The script was by Twilight Zone veteran Richard Matheson – surely a good sign. It’s an exemplary haunted house tale where the wife hears footsteps and eerie laughter, while her husband and the housekeeper think her pregnancy is affecting her discernment. Eventually she tracks down a local historian who tells her the house was built on land once used to execute criminals 200 years earlier.

Yeah, that’s never a good sign. 



The story builds as these things inevitably do toward a money shot moment – and when it arrives it does not disappoint. “The New House” ends with a pretty scary scene that I found surprisingly potent for a prime time show, followed by a downbeat denouement that struck me as a gutsy call for a first episode.

“Will they all be this good?” I wondered.

The answer is no – but some of them were.

I also enjoyed “At the Cradle Foot,” starring James Franciscus as a man who has a recurring dream in which his young daughter, barely out of diapers, is murdered 20 years in the future. He vows to prevent that tragedy, even if it means making sure the man who kills her is never born.

“Time of Terror” is elevated by a remarkable performance from Patricia Neal as a woman who wakes up in a hotel to find her husband has disappeared. It’s a mystery that starts to telegraph its unsettling twist about halfway through, but Neal makes it worth your time. 



Another surprisingly grim episode is “House of Evil,” with Melvyn Douglas as a bitter grandfather who blames his son-in-law for his daughter having died in childbirth. When he pays a visit to the family he gives a special dollhouse to his mute granddaughter, played by Jodie Foster, which he coaxes her into using as an instrument of revenge. 



By now you’ve noticed the A-list names attached to these stories, which certainly help elevate the material. “The Concrete Captain” stars Stuart Whitman and Gena Rowlands as a couple who fall under the spell of a nautical legend. Would the story have worked as well with Bert Convy and Sally Struthers? Probably not.  

“Alter-Ego” stars the esteemed Helen Hayes as a beloved teacher who can’t understand why one of her quietest and kindest students has turned malevolent. It’s another example of a story that turns darker than I expected, but I enjoyed the climax, which was reminiscent of a classic EC horror comic. 



I also wished I enjoyed “Elegy For a Vampire” more than I did, with Hal Linden as the most tortured and reluctant bloodsucker since Barnabas Collins.

I was not as impressed with “Bad Connection,” featuring Karen Black as a woman terrorized by phone calls from her dead husband. Or “Cry of the Cat,” a western take on the classic film Cat People with Doug McClure and Mariette Hartley. And even Angie Dickinson couldn’t save “Creatures of the Canyon,” another evil animal story. 



Unfortunately, halfway through its first and only season Ghost Story was retooled under the new title Circle of Fear. Cabot was gone, and so were any supernatural elements in some of the episodes. One can only wonder what they were thinking with either of those changes, as they certainly didn’t make the series any better or more popular.

The show is available on DVD, which is surprising given its obscurity. 



If this were a Purchase or Pass blog entry I’d have to vote pass. But the show’s best episodes can be viewed for free on Halloween or anytime you wish, courtesy of YouTube. 

 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Two-Part Episodes: More Hits and Misses


It’s been a while (four years, actually!) since we last appraised a roundup of memorable two-part stories from the classic TV era.

As mentioned in a previous write-up, the two-parter is an option that should be utilized in conjunction with major milestones in a series, or when a writer comes up with an idea that is so good, it deserves a little extra breathing room to be fully explored. 

But that didn’t always happen.

Let’s take a look at more two-part episodes that worked, and an equal number that did not live up to their ‘special episode’ status.

Good: Rhoda: “Rhoda’s Wedding”
I watched this again recently after Valerie Harper’s passing, and enjoyed it as much as I did when it first aired. “Rhoda’s Wedding” has everything you could want in a two-parter – a special event, location shooting from a studio-bound series, flashbacks, and best of all a reunion of Rhoda with her Mary Tyler Moore Show cast mates – Mary, Ed Asner, Gavin McLeod, Cloris Leachman (especially hilarious here) and Georgia Engel.

The wedding of Rhoda and Joe is the highlight, but it’s almost an afterthought following all the delightful moments leading up to the ceremony. Rhoda’s really long and frantic run through New York in her wedding dress borders on filler, though that’s a small quibble in one of the best two-part shows of the 1970s. 



Bad: The Lucy Show: “Lucy and Carol Burnett”
You wonder how it could miss with two of television’s iconic comediennes, but as with all of their collaborations this one falls short of even modest expectations. The story has Lucy and Carol training to be stewardesses (still the accepted term at the time). The gag is that Carol is afraid of heights, which predictably triggers a panic attack when the plane takes off. 



Half the show is musical numbers, which are hokey in the best possible way. If you’re in the right mood this schmaltzy stuff goes down easily – but it’s sad that Lucy and Carol were not given one moment to shine that would rival the best of Lucy and Ethel, or Carol and Harvey.

Good: The Dukes of Hazzard: “Carnival of Thrills”
Three words: Bo vs. Luke. The only time the two cousins ever fell out was after Bo fell for Diane (Robin Mattson) owner of a traveling carnival. She convinces Bo to take the place of her injured stuntman and attempt the dangerous “Leap of Life” over 32 cars. Luke thinks it’s too dangerous and lets Sheriff Rosco impound the General Lee so Bo can’t go through with it. That prompts a well-shot knock down, drag-out brawl, and Bo moving out of the Duke farm. A better-than-usual script and a thrilling climactic stunt are among the highlights of the series' third-season opener. 



Bad: The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries: “The Mystery of the Hollywood Phantom”
Sure it’s always fun when Nancy and the Hardy boys team up on a case, especially when the action takes place on the Universal Studios backlot and sprinkles in guest appearances and references from other ‘70s TV shows. But if there’s one thing that irks me it’s when characters that are supposed to be smart are written to act dumb to keep a plot from being resolved faster. That happens more often with two-part stories because there’s even more time to fill. And the stupidity reaches epidemic levels in this story of a masked phantom causing mischief at a detective convention. Viewers will be way ahead of the teen sleuths on this case. 



Good: Taxi: Fantasy Borough
Most people still remember Elaine’s fantasy, presented in the “Lullaby of Broadway” musical finale, but both episodes feature fun daydreams, from Latka switching places with Louis (and putting him in front of a firing squad), to Jim’s close encounter with aliens, to pragmatist Alex struggling to formulate a fantasy that doesn’t end badly. 



Bad: M*A*S*H: “Snap Judgement/Snappier Judgement”
It was season 10, and by then any series can be forgiven for starting to run out of ideas. Here, Klinger is threatened with a court-martial and jail time when he is accused of stealing a camera. Winchester serves as his attorney, while Hawkeye and B.J. play detective to trap the real thief. This might have been enough plot for a passable single episode, but it’s baffling what made anyone think this deserved two-part status.

Good: The Fugitive: “Angels Travel on Lonely Roads”
Richard Kimble hitches a ride with Sister Veronica, a nun who is traveling to Sacramento to renounce her vows. What makes these shows work is a wonderful performance by Eileen Heckart as Veronica, and the conversation she shares on the road with Kimble about the existence of miracles, and chance vs. faith. The shows works so well that this was the only Fugitive episode to inspire a sequel, “The Breaking of the Habit.” 



Bad: Charlie’s Angels: “Love Boat Angels”
The special elements were there – fourth season premiere, introduction of a new character, crossover with another hit series – but to paraphrase the poet W.B. Yeats, when the center cannot hold, things fall apart. The center in this case being Tiffany Welles, Charlie’s new angel, played by Shelley Hack. Hack simply wasn’t ready for her debut, and this was so apparent as the episode filmed that the script was rewritten to focus less on Tiffany and more on Kris. Hack did get the hack of it as the season progressed, but never overcame such a disappointing first impression. 



Good: Star Trek: “The Menagerie”
The old adage about turning lemons into lemonade has never been captured better than in this story, which took footage from a pilot that didn’t sell and re-purposed it into a new adventure that became a classic. Watching it again it’s amazing how much of Trek lore was already envisioned in Gene Roddenberry’s original treatment. 



Bad: Star Trek: The Next Generation: “Encounter at Farpoint”
We forget now how this series was considered a bold and risky undertaking, after the original Star Trek had becoming iconic. Would it build on the legacy of its predecessor or wind up an afterthought like The New Monkees? We know the answer now, but based only on that first mission the jury was still out (as guest-star John de Lancie’s judicial-minded ‘Q’ might say). There was certainly potential in this new crew and its Shakespearian captain, but it would take the better part of the show’s first season to find its rhythm. 


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