September 28, 2012

Top 5 Favorite Episodes of "AT4W"

With all the deserved attention the Nostalgia Critic hasbeen getting recently I thought I would take a minute to talk about my otherfavorite show on the site. Now that critic is ending, I guess that makes thisshow my favorite now.

When I first discovered the site it was Nostalgia Critic and nothing else. It was after watching Suburban Knights I finally decided to checkout the other talents I had been short changing. Film Brain's Bad MovieBeatdown, Obscura Lupa Presents, and so on and so on. I hated myself for neglecting the others on the site for so long. Then I discovered Linkara, andreally hated myself. A comic book reviewer? Awesome! Part of the reason it tookso long is because AT4W didn't really scream "comic books" to me, butwhatever. It didn't take long for Linkara to be my second favorite personalityon the site; he makes his show enjoyable and fun to watch. So what are my five favorites?Well, glad you asked!  By the way, after I had checked all of these producers out I re-watched Suburban Knights and enjoyed it even more. I should really do an article on that someday.

#5. Ewoks #9

This is the reason why I have put off making this list. Itseemed weird to talk about this one knowing in real life Linkara (or Lewis) andLiz are not a couple anymore. But I decided that doesn't change the content ofthis, and of course they are still friends. So know that I have discussedthings that are none of my business, let me tell you why I like this review.Linkara and Liz are adorable; they had such good chemistry and really playedoff each other. Liz especially is great in this (being much more comfortablethan she had been in the previous one she did). The fight scene in the middleis one of my favorites, short and sweet. Liz was my favorite character on theshow while she was on it, and shines in this review. It's also one of myfavorite title cards.

September 25, 2012

Sitcom Episode Face-Off:Everybody Loves Raymond vs King of Queens

Hello my friends, welcome back as I take two episodes of different series with the same plot and see which did it better. So let’s say you have two sitcoms based around the fact the husband is a lazy idiot. These shows also have cranky, bitchy wives who love to complain about the fact their husband is a lazy idiot. Then suppose they decide to do the same story about how the lazy idiot husband is also totally useless in an emergency. Yeah let’s play a game of who’s the worst husband as we discuss :

everybody-loves-raymond-51215ae031791  vs King-of-Queens-logo

I am comparing “What Good Are You” from Everybody Loves Raymond’s 5th season to “Oxy Moron” from King of Queens Season 4. Both of these came along in 2001 (ELR in Jan, KOQ in Nov…seriously what is it with these shows blatantly stealing idea from each other?) when each series was at their peak, and basically tell the same story. But which did it better?

elr_episode109_337x233_032720061525  hqdefault

On Raymond, Debra coughs on a piece of fruit while Ray watches TV. Even though she wasn’t really choking she is still angry because Ray did nothing to save her. Any other guy would have not let it bother him, but this is Ray of course.

On Queens, on a plan the oxygen mask falls in error but Doug panics and puts his on…showing no concern for Carrie. Even though there was no emergency, she is still mad that he didn’t try to save her. At first Doug tries to dismiss it but she wont let it go.

VERDCT-Both are kind of silly but at least Raymond came kind of close to almost being an emergency, when Queens was just Doug being stupid. And I’ll get into it more below but what the hell else was Ray supposed to do? Even he says later SHE WAS JUST COUGHING ON A PIECE OF FRUIT!!


September 23, 2012

Sitcom Face Off-Murphy Brown vs Frasier

Two of the strongest sitcoms in the 90's in a grudge match,mostly because I had nothing else to compare them to.

Murphy Brown premiered in 1988 and was unique for several reasons,not the least of which was having the main character be a strong opinionatednewswoman. They dealt with all kinds of topics, and was on for 10 seasons.Frasier premiered in 1993 and was on for 11 seasons. It was a very strong show,tight writing and sharp humor making it a critical success. But which show wasbetter? For the sake of this face off we will kind of forget that Frasier is aspin off and discuss the show on its own merit.

September 18, 2012

Top 5 HORRIBLE Sitcom Based TV Movies

The 80's had an obsession with TV reunion movies. The Incredible Hulk, for instance, had several films. They were all cheesy but passable. They featured Daredevil and Thor, and the last one killed the character off!  But it wasn’t alone. Dallas, The Millions Dollar Man, Murder She Wrote. Columbo, Perry Mason, and Gunsmoke (just to name a few) also had reunion films. The thing is, these are action/drama shows which kind of had a movie feel to them already. Making them a two hour tv movie wasn't much of a stretch.

But when they tried to do this with sitcoms...well, it doesn't work so well. Some were ok, like Return to Mayberry, which was an Andy Griffith Show reunion. There were a bunch of Gilligan's Island reunions, I saw one and it was ok. Never saw the Harlem Globetrotter one, so can’t comment on it. But usually these were bad, and today I wanted to talk about five just plain horrible one’s. Some of these are reunions, and some are films which the cast filmed while the series was still in production. But they are all horrible.

#5. Facts of Life Down Under
This is on here because this film was chock full of cliche's. First I should mention that this was the second movie. Facts of Life in Paris aired a few years earlier, and I never saw it. However I did hear good things about it. I did get to see this film. To be fair, it wasn't all bad. It did feel like the show. The reason they go to Australia is weak. The problem is the plot involving a jewel heist that Blaire and Jo get involved in. What? This kind of plot was lame and became a big cliche. I mean, what kind of stupid idea is this? Talk about ignoring the premise of the source material! Despite that this movie could have been worst. I mean, it’s not as if NBC would do another sitcom TV movie like with an even crazier plot, right?

#4. Project ALF
I did not hate this. Yeah, I said it. I did not hate this. Oh, it's stupid and has its problems but overall it wasn't as idiotic as the other examples here. After the way the series ended, fans were due a movie which explained just what happened to Alf. Why it took six years and aired on a different network is beyond me. There are two major problems with this. One is that The Tanner family is missing, which is just all kinds of dumb. The second problem is that Martin Sheen is in this. What the heck was he thinking appearing this crap? That being said, it was still ALF. The same character we watched and loved for four years. And they didn’t forget the series took place entirely. Not great but not all bad either.

#2.I Dream of Jeannie-15 Years Later
Oh, the pain! I should say first if all I Dream of Jeannie was never a favorite of mine. I've seen it but always preferred Bewitched. Still, I was intrigued when this little film came along. First of all, Larry Hagman did not reprise his role from the series. That should have shut the project down right there. The plot is a convoluted one involving Jeannie's evil sister, but I am going jump ahead to the end. How does it end? Jeannie has to go away and make all erase all memory of her, their son, and marriage from Tony. What??? Even not being a serious fan I was appalled by this film, it was just terrible. They tried again a few years later with “I Still Dream of Jeannie”, and while that film was better it still kind of sucked.

#2.Family Ties Vacation
Aw crap. There are so many things wrong with this. First, to be fair, the basic idea sounds reasonable. I can buy that Alex got a scholarship or whatever to Oxford. I can buy that the whole family went along, why not? Too bad the execution was horrible. First of all, Alex is just so out of character in this. I have read this whole film was rushed and I believe it. Why does Alex turn into a klutzy wimp? But as bad as that, it's not the worst thing in this film. The major plot involves a microfilm being chased by soviet spies that the Keaton’s unknowingly got a hold of. Soviet spies? Really? Of course the spies are bumbling clods and the whole thing ends with a chase through the streets of London. It's just so lame, and I picked on Alex but the truth is none of the characters are really in character here. Facts of Life Down Under still kind of felt like the show, this does not. Since it is a movie we lose the laugh track and that combined with the unusual locale just make it a very off experience indeed.

#1. The Brady 500
This is cheating a little, but let me explain. A Very Brady Christmas was an enormous hit in 1988. It was, and still is, one of my favorite Christmas movies. So it only stood to reason a new movie should be made. In fact, plans were to have two movies. The first was The Brady 500. Before I talk about that, I should explain that some executive had the brilliant idea to make the two movies into a series, with a couple other episodes to fill the order. The Brady Bunch back on TV? What could go wrong with that? So the plot of the movie is that Bobby is in a serious accident while race car driving and is paralyzed........Hold it! This is THE BRADY BUNCH, right? That silly light hearted show from the 70's? WHO DECIDED TO MAKE IT A DRAMA????  I don't want to see Carol crying and the family depressed! WTF???  This was one of the worst ideas ever, and to top it all off they scheduled this at 8:00 on Friday...opposite Full House! This whole thing was like a nightmare, and just did not feel like the original show at all. In case you're wondering, the second movie involved Mike winning and election for something, I stopped caring by then, and that didn't really make much sense to me. By the way, "The Brady's" also had Greg and Peter get into a fistfight, turned Marcia into an alcoholic, Jan unable to have children. Stop! Maureen McCormick was the only cast member to not participate, and my respect for her has no bounds. By the way, if you’re wondering about “The Brady Bunch Goes to Washington”….we don’t talk about that.

The 90's also had Blossom in Paris and a few Sabrina, the Teenage Witch movies. Mary & Rhoda just barely made the list, a horrible Mary Tyler Moore Show reunion. Growing Pains had two; one was decent the other sucked. While not a sitcom I figured I should also mention The Dukes of Hazard which had two. I only saw the first, and it was ok. One of the worst I ever saw was Knight Rider 2000….dear lord did that suck!

Thankfully though this trend has died out, you don’t see as many of these anymore. Which is good because these hardly ever work.

September 17, 2012

My Tribute to Christopher Lloyd

I’ve done a lot of talking about programs and movies I like, but what about the actors who bring these amazing characters to life? Starting what I hope will be a new regular series, a tribute to…. Where I take an actor and go over all the things I have seen him or her in, and discuss my opinions on them and their work. I am only going to list the things that I have actually seen, so if something awesome he did is missing that is why.
Today I am starting with one of my favorites. He put the character back in character actor, and when I was a kid if I heard his name I knew the project was going to be good. Christopher Lloyd is simple one of my all-time favorites. Where did I first see him? Hard to say exactly, but I became a fan at very early age.

One of his first movies was in the classic “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in a minor role. Not much to say about that, except that Danny Devito also got his start in that film.

TAXI-I did not love this show, because it got a little dark for me sometimes. I did admire the strong cast they had, which included Christopher Lloyd as Reverend Jim who always a guaranteed laugh. He was one of those characters who was supposed to be a guest star but caught on and stayed. His character was a burned out ex-hippy who was just kind of nuts. But Christopher Lloyd made him so likable. One episode I will always remember was a flashback where we see how Jim got started on his path with drugs (so funny to see him come in all normal). But the best episode, and one of the funniest moments I have ever seen, was the classic where Jim is trying to get his driver’s license. There is no way to describe it here, but when Jim asks the question “What does a yellow light mean?”…’s one of the best moments ever. If you have never seen it, here is the link. This is why Reverend Jim was one of the best characters on that show.

Mr.Mom-This Michael Keaton movie has to be one of the most forgettable movies I have ever seen. I know I saw it, but can hardly remember it. I do remember Michael Keaton was kind of funny in it. Christopher Lloyd is one of his friends, but honestly I don’t remember much about that role.

Star Trek III-This is really hard to believe, but when it was first announced that Christopher Lloyd was going to be the Klingon villain, a lot of people had doubts. How could the same guy who played Jim on Taxi play a Klingon in Star Trek? Yeah that sounds crazy now, but it’s true. What we all learned when we saw the film was that he could play a great Klingon.  Kruge was not the best villain in the movies, but he wasn’t the worst either. I think Christopher Lloyd really made the character work, and created a standard for Klingons that would be followed years later.

Back to the Future-Yes I have gone on and one about this one. My favorite movie of all time, and that was in no small part because of the way Christopher Lloyd played Doc Brown. I said he played the quintessential Klingon in Star Trek III, well here he played the quintessential mad scientist. He was perfect, right down to the crazy white hair. It would have been easy to not like Doc Brown, at least in the beginning. He does steal plutonium from the Libyans. That isn’t exactly honorable. But as the movie progresses you can’t help but be charmed and he created one the most memorable characters ever.

Clue-This silly comedy is one of my favorites. It is just so funny and well done, I have seen it a hundred times. Based on a board game, the movie is basically the cast running around and being silly. But the characters are strong (actually the cast is strong) and the jokes work, so we love it. Christopher Lloyd plays Professor Plum, and while this may not have been his most memorable role he still brings his usual charm to it. Even at the end when we find he had an affair with a patient and shot Mr.Body, we laugh at the moment! That’s how much charm he gives what is otherwise a despicable character.

Amazing Stories-Let’s talk about this one for a second. Amazing Stories was an anthology series created by Steven Spielberg, much like a twilight zone of the 80’s. The episode Christopher Lloyd was in I remember very well. Why? BECAUSE IT SCARED THE EVER LIVING CRAP OUT OF ME!!  I made the big mistake of watching this alone, as we see Chris Lloyd can take his usual charm and turn it so that it is almost scary. The episode called “Go To The Head of the Class” was about a horrible teacher, and when a student uses black magic on him the results are…well, horrifying. This show wasn’t usually scary, but here is one major exception and it was all because of Christopher Lloyd who put really dove into the role. This available so if you never saw it, check it out. Just don’t watch it alone. (the original ad for the show said parental discretion advised, guess I should have listened)

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?-A  lot of people were scared by his role in this movie. Judge Doom was a really nasty villain, but I don’t remember being scared by him. That doesn’t mean I didn’t love the role, and the movie in fact. This was such a fun film, never did I expect to see a movie where Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse would actually share screen time. It really amazes me how Christopher Lloyd can be so charming in one movie, and totally menacing in another. Here he is totally menacing, and the way he just stares at the characters in this movie could send chills down a spine. Then those red eyes….who can forget those red eyes!

Back to the Future II & III-I wanted to discuss these films separate from the other because Christopher Lloyd brings something very different to Back to the Future III. Finally he gets to do a love story. True I have complained that the love story was all wrong for this movie, but forgetting that and taking it as it is I will admit Christoher Lloyd did an amazing job. In the scene after he tells Clara he can no longer see her anymore, you can really feel the pain he is going through.  When we see Doc and Clara flying off to the sunset on the hover board, I was happy to see they were together. Why did they have to ruin it with that corny ending?? Well, that’s beside the point. In these two films Doc Brown went from being the nutty scientist to a full, fleshed out person.

Back to the Future-The Ride-Ok this wasn’t a movie or TV show. It was just a ride at Universal Studios and Christopher Lloyd did the narration and video segments which aired while we waited in line. Reallyt isn’t worth mentioning, and if you missed out on this ride (which is closed now) you really missed a cool attraction.

Suburban Commando-Why did I see this movie? Got me, except that I was a wrestling fan at the time and of course Christopher Lloyd was in it. Yeah it was silly but wasn’t all horrible. Of course Nostalgia Critic did a review on this film, and while the line he loves was not my favorite, I would be remiss if I didn’t include it in this discussion. I WAS FROZEN TODAY!!  Great example of how he could take a simple line and make something people love.

The Addams Family-This was a great movie, and one of the major reasons for that was Uncle Fester. Christopher Lloyd managed to find a strong balance between charming and menacing, in fact if you watch the first movie you aren’t sure if you’re supposed to like him or hate him! The sequel was good to but not as good as the first. He also had great chemistry with Raol Julia which realty helped. The plot of Addams Family was kind of lame, to be honest, but Christopher Lloyd makes the movie work. This is one of his more forgotten roles, and if you’ve never seen it then check it out.

Angels in the Outfield-By the time this movie rolled around, I think Christopher Lloyd was the go to actor when a film needed someone to liven the film up. Much the same way Robin Williams did in Aladdin, Christopher Lloyd plays the angel AL . The whole premise of this movie is dumb, and I’m not even talking about the angels helping the players to cheat. Why does this kid want his parents back together when it is so clear his father is a jerk?  Can’t he tell his father was being sarcastic? The kid in this is too old, he should be smarter than that. Then of course when we get to the championship, the angels can’t help. What the hell? By the anyway, did anyone see the TV sequel about football? If you didn’t, be grateful. Christopher Lloyd elevates this film into something tolerable.

Pagemaster-I am cheating on this, because I am only familiar with this through the Nostalgia Critic episode. I decided that was enough for me to comment on this. Christopher Lloyd plays the creepy Librarian who gets Macauley Culkin’s characters off on his adventure. He was pretty good in the role, to bad the film itself wasn’t that good. I could mention Baby Geniuses, but I’d rather not.

Alice in Wonderland- I remember watching this made for TV movie, but I honestly forgot that Christopher Lloyd was in it. I pulled up a clip on You Tube, and in fact he played The White Knight. Not sure why I blocked it out, but he was really good in this small role.

Spin City-We got a real treat in one episode where Christopher Lloyd was reunited with Michael J.Fox. It was a treat to see them together, and the in jokes referring to Back to the Future were great! Christopher Lloyd plays a man who believes he is god, and only he could pull off that one.

Lots of other amazing stuff I just didn’t see including Anastasia, The Dream Team, and My Favorite Martian. I would be here all day if I listed every role he ever had; he has been all over movies and TV. Christopher Lloyd has always been one of my favorite actors, and he has the ability to elevate the worst project into something decent.

September 16, 2012

Random Thoughts-The Nostalgia Critic

This was written months ago, just posting it here because I never did
So I had some thoughts to share and I hope you will indulge me. As everyone is no doubt aware, Doug Walker has ended the Nostalgia Critic. I have mixed feelings about this. I hope this is not a mistake for him. I really mean that sicnerely, I am not threatening to leave the site and never come back or anything. But I have not liked everything he has done. Ask That Guy is very hit or miss, his improv stuff is not very funny, and lots of his sketches fall flat. I respect his need to move on, but I would have kept the character going just in a limited fashion. Maybe once a month, for example, until I had tried some new things and seen what the audience is. This is a review site, and I think that is what most expect from here not a sketch comedy. I say all this because I love Channel Awesome and hope it goes on for a long time. There is a more than good chance I will love whatever he does, but he is taking a risk which may be why he did it. To spice things up a bit, I can see how it could get boring playing the same character every week for over four years. I respect that, and just hope he finds success.

Now that I have said that, I want to share one last time how much appreciation I have for this character. I said before, I stumbled on to him in a low point in my life. His videos made me laugh, and if you know me you know I don't laugh easily. But his videos did, and laugh my a** off. When I first found the site I couldn't stop watching, I literally had to force myself to stop and go to bed because it after 1:00 in the morning. It kills me I became a fan so late, just March of last year,  I feel like I missed out on something special. But at least I had a year of good times, waiting anxiously every Tuesday night for a new video. Thank goodness for Suburban Knights, which inspired me to check out the rest of the site.His show also introduced me to things I had not had exposure to, before him I had no idea who Tommy Wisseau of Don Bluth was. He made me relieved I missed other things, thank goodness I never saw Felix the Cat, that awful Titanic movie, or Milk Money. And he also helped me understand why some things did not work, like Free Willy or The Flinstones movie. He was also fair, not every movie he reviewed was awful and he talked about stuff he loved often too.

I already did a list of my top ten favorite Nostalgia Critic episodes. Indepndance Day is my favorite just because it was the first review I saw, and I laughed and laughed. I loved pretty much every review, from Star Trek Month to the holiday specials. There were only three times I didn't like his review. He was way to hard on Full House, and even harder on You Can't Do That on Television. The Masters of the Universe review was ruined by his endless "he-man is gay" jokes. But those were the only times I did not find him funny, that's pretty good. His stuff was always great. Then you have the reucrring bits, "Of course!" My favorite? Fucking Bubbles!! and anything with Casper. And WHAT ABOUT BOOMER???
In a way it's not accurate to call his stuff reviews, he even kind of refers to this in TBF. He really just yells at movies he doesn't like and makes fun of it. But there's nothing wrong with that if done well, and he did it well. My favorite memory of him is watching a review before a job interview. Not sure what review, but it was a funny one and I went into the interview feeling good from laughing. I got that job, and I wonder if that was in some small part to The Nostalgia Critic for putting me in such a good place,

Before I go I wanted to talk a second about To Boldly Flee. I was worried when I heard this would be Sci Fi, and man was I impressed. They pretty much exceeded my expectations. I already left a very long (ok, to long) comment on part 8 so I will spare you my full analysis. I liked what they did, it was a very well done film. It was a very emotional send off to the character. So Nostalgia Critic is now a wormhole space? For some reason, I find that hard to accept. Not sure why. The sci fi parodies and jokes were good and I like how the silly costumes were only used to serve the story.

At least I have consolation in re-runs, over 220 episodes I can watch and enjoy again and again. I would have loved to see that show continue forever, but as the cliche says all good things must come to an end. So I thank Doug Walker for making things better when they were bad, for giving something new and fresh to look forward to every Tuesday, and wish him nothing but success in the future.

Thanks for indulging me, and now I ask what is your memories of The Nostalgia Critic?

September 12, 2012

Top 5 Favorite Comic Book Stories (non-event, single issue)

I loved comic books as a kid. And of course the really memorable stories are the arc’s. Those story lines that span several issues or are part of a multi-part crossover with another book or even the whole company.  As great as those are, what gets forgotten are the single issues of regular books. While it’s fun to read a crossover which involves a dozen issues of the comic to get through, it’s also fun just to sit with a single issue. When I was a kid I would sit back and just be absorbed in the story, I loved it.
So I wanted to talk about my favorite single issue comic stories, but there is one problem. I stopped reading comics a long time ago. All of these issues will be from the 80’s. So, I am aware that many who may read this will not be familiar with some or all of the stories I discuss here. But, maybe this will inspire some to seek them out and see what they missed back in the day. Comics were paced differently than they are now, when I do read something more recent I find it hard to read because I am not used to it. However the comics I read were better paced  than they were in the 70’s, when comics would have way too much narration telling us what was going rather than showing. I don’t even like the really old stuff.

OK, enough rambling here are five of my favorite single issue comics ever.

#5. Superman Annual  #10 (1985)
I considered not including this because it’s an annual, which is a little larger than a single issue. But I figured as long as it was not an event tie-in it would be ok. This story is pre-crisis so the fact I love it is remarkable (will explain why later). I remember the first time I read this in a trade collection, and wow! Alan Moore wrote this story, and man is it a good one. Everything is sharp in this, from the pacing to the artwork. This is available in trade form so if you never read it, check it out.  The story is simple; Batman and Wonder Woman discover Superman has been trapped by an alien creature which can create the illusion of the victim’s heart’s desire. We see Superman as his life may have been on the never destroyed Krypton and flash back and forth as the heroes try to save him. Mongul is the villain, and as I said this is a story where everything just works.  And if anyone knows the episode of Justice League Unlimited this was adapted into, please let me know.

#4. The New Teen Titans #38 (1984)
The Titans in the 80’s were a very strong comic. I almost thought I wouldn’t get them on this list because story arcs ran through every issue. Very few stand out all by themselves. Here is an exception, and a very well written one. Who is Donna Troy? was designed as a way to clear up Wonder Girl’s backstory. This was pre-crisis so Wonder Woman is still there, and many of the things in this story were invalidated years later. However, if you forget all that this is one good story. The remarkable thing is there is no action, no real villain, and only Robin and Wonder Girl are even in it! This should be a snooze fest at the least, but it isn’t because of the beautiful writing. If you ever wondered why Marv Wolfman and George Perez are so regarded, here is a nice little example.  This has been reprinted in a trade, so should be easy to find.

#3. Justice League #1 (1987)
Keith Giffen wasn’t a house hold name in comics when this book came out. For those who may not know, the old JLA was cancelled after the idiotic “Detroit Justice League” killed the book (look it up, one of the dumbest ideas ever). This was an attempt to re-launch the title. First of all, it has a cover which has been copied to death. I always wonder if Linkara likes that cover or hates it? But the real appeal to the book was the way the heroes were written. Like people. They made jokes and were allowed to be normal people. That was the appeal of this (until the humor got to silly, but that’s another story). The first issue is one of the greatest first issues I ever read, it introduces the characters, sets up the premise, and gives enough action. It also introduces us to Maxwell Lord, who was an idea I was never crazy with. The book got silly as it went on but it’s first issue (first several issues actually) were really fun to read. These are all available in paperback now, so check it out. By the way, the new JLI was the one book I almost wanted to read in the new relaunch. Then they cancelled it.

#2. Batman #412 (1987)
I put this on here for two reasons. One is that this is a perfect example of what I was talking about. This is a simple one issue story; it begins and ends in the same issue. It has interesting character moments/development. It has an interesting villain with a well explained backstory. The supporting cast is here to contribute to the story. And it has enough action. It’s just a very strong single issue. The villain is a character known as “The Mime”, a woman who detests noise.  The second reason, I just love this story. Max Allan Collins gives a very well told tale (and looking at his writing credits, this is no surprise).  I was never a huge Batman fan, but this is a strong issue. This is probably not the easiest issue to find, don’t think it’s ever been reprinted, but after losing it years ago I stumbled upon it at a comic shop a few months ago and was happy I did. This is not part of massive arc or huge event; it’s just a strong, well-told Batman story in one single issue. If you can track it down, you won’t regret it.

#1.Superman #2 (1986)
So in 1986 I was a passive comic fan, if that. Then one day I was in a little store getting candy to bring into the movies, and happened to spy this little issue of Superman. It has Lex Luthor looking at a computer revealing Clark Kent was Superman! I was a naïve kid, so I had no idea about John Byrne and the re-launch of Superman. I had seen The Man of Steel but didn’t realize what I was looking at (I read it later and loved it). This is the issue that hooked me, on comics and on Superman. Before the Crisis Superman was not only boring, but a bit of a jerk. Ever read those old stories? He acts like he’s superior! The stories were also silly and campy, even into the 80’s. Then John Byrne came along and changed it. Superman was powered down, they made Clark Kent the real person and Superman a name he used to do his work, made Lois Lane into a likable character, Lex Luthor into a believable villain, and they made him a happy farm boy from Kansas! So this story is a favorite because it was my real introduction to a character I love. I could have put any of John Byrne’s run on Superman, I loved everything he did (well, except the Action Comics issues featured on AT4W. Linkara was on the money with that one).  The story has Lex sending men out to get all evidence they can on Superman. This issue also introduces the kryptonite ring Luthor would wear (I sense I am losing you….). The best part of this issue? The ending isn’t the clichéd “have someone pretend to be the hero to fool them” cop out. It is a brilliant ending which really shows Luthor’s character, and I won’t ruin it. This is an easy issue to find in trade re-prints. Check it out, and maybe discover what I did 25 years ago.

Now of course this all opinion and I have hardly read every comic ever made. There are dozens of single issues which deserve to be on this list but are not. Also, not a Marvel fan, sorry. Next time, my favorite event stories

September 10, 2012

Top 5 "Fast Foward" Moments in Good Star Trek Episodes

Top 5 fast forward moments in Good Star Trek Episodes

The other day a video posted from another site regarding scenes the author hates in movies he otherwise loves. This got me thinking about those times when a TV show or movie is fine, but there is still something in it which I find dull. Like in Back to the Future III when I always fast forward the scenes between Doc and Clara.

Star Trek had lots of these, especially the original series. I really don't think they knew how to plot a story very well then; a lot of episodes would have Kirk having a ten minute discussion with a woman which goes nowhere. Or have Kirk and Spock debating something forever. Here are my choices for five boring moments in otherwise strong Star Trek episodes (limited to the original series but including the movies, as you will see in a second).

#5 Star Trek IV

I have said before I love this movie. I have seen it a hundred times and it is one of my all-time favorite movies. However, there is one part I always fast forward when I watch this. That's the part at the end, when the probe and the whales have their discussion. Yes, I am nitpicking and I do realize there wasn't much they could do about this scene. This is what the whole movie was leading up to; of course it's going to be played out. But it's just boring. I have heard the studio wanted Leonard Nimoy to use sub titles for that scene, and am glad that that idea was nixed. The reason the probe works in the movie is because it is so mysterious, if we knew too much about it than we would lose all suspension of disbelief. Boring scene but an important one. By the way, if you want real boredom read the sequel novel "The Probe". That is a sure cure for insomnia

#4."Assignment: Earth"

One of my very first articles was on backdoor pilots, and this was one for a series about Gary Seven. Gene Roddenberry has the Enterprise in the 1960's for no reason (historical research my foot) and they run into Gary Seven. The first act feels like a regular Star Trek episode, but then we follow Mr.Seven as flees down to Earth and we see the backdoor pilot begin. At first it's still a good episode as Kirk and Spock give chase. However toward the middle of the show Kirk and Spock follow him to a rocket base and are quickly captured. They then spend the better half of the end of the episode standing in a room under guard! They just stand there while Gary Seven shows off which just gets dull. Finally, and I mean finally, Spock is able to get his communicator and get Scotty to beam them out. This episode is pretty good, but as an episode of Star Trek it suffers because Kirk and Spock get pushed away for the bulk of it and I just can't get invested in the situation. Heck, Scotty and the crew on the Enterprise almost have more to do at one point! However Unlike other backdoor pilots this is watchable, but man does it go from interesting to just plan boring quickly. It is kind of funny to see Teri Garr so young in this; she was cute in her day.

#3. Shore Leave

This is a fun little episode, one of Trek's first light hearted fair. Ok it gets a little dark when McCoy is killed, but he's fine in the end. Basically the crew beams down to a planet where there fondest wishes and desires come true, problem is they don't know that until the end. Nice of that care keeper guy to wait so long to reveal himself. "We only know just realized you did not fully understand what was going on". Really? It took them that long? I'm betting they were watching the crew and laughing at them the whole time.  Anyway, I am getting off track. There is a fight scene between Kirk and an old academy nemesis named Finnegan. The scene starts at the end of act three...and goes into act 4. This is the longest fight scene in any Trek episode, and it's also really pointless. We know that Finnegan isn't the real enemy here. There is no suspense, nothing at stake—and when it’s over the first thing Spock asks is if Kirk enjoyed himself. Even Spock knows that the whole fight was for nothing! This is just more padding.  This time rather than have William Shatner make out with someone we see him with his shirt off fighting a character we just met and don't care about. To be fair, the actor did a great job playing Finnegan but that doesn't keep this scene from being one long, pointless filler.

#4 Mirror, Mirror

This is one of my all-time favorite episodes. It is a brilliant idea executed almost flawlessly. This is one of the few episodes that I still can't believe was made in the 60's, you could do this show today and people would say it was very strong. It was written by Jerome Bixby and the fact a great writer did this is clear (well, he also did Requiem for Methuselah which is the most god awful boring episode ever, so guess he wasn't perfect). That being said, what the heck was up with that extended sequence with Marlena Moreau? I don't object to the character entirely, but that scene in the captain's quarters grinds the show to a halt and goes on forever! I used to always fast forward through that. I realize it is important because we learn of the Tantalus Field, but that whole scene could have been cut down. Of course in the old days networks dictated a romantic liaison in every episode, so maybe that's why this is here. Thank goodness Gene Roddenberry did away with that nonsense when Next Gen came along. A little romance is fine from time to time if it helps the story in some way (take City on the Edge of Forever for example, you need that romance stuff in there to appreciate the ending) but when you start forcing it into every episode it gets boring. Why am I picking on this episode if it happens all the time? Because here it just stops a great story full force and that irritates me every time I see this episode.

#1."The Apple"

This episode has one of the dullest moments in any good episode, but before I explain why let me tell what this show is about if you never saw it. The Enterprise crew beams down to a planet they think is paradise, only to discover a humanoid population that serves one function, to feed and maintain the computer which controls the planet (yes, I left stuff out). The episode isn't bad, but it isn't great. You watch it and you realize it's 50% filler. In fact the first fifteen minutes have no effect on the main story. A red shirt gets killed, we think Spock is killed but he gets right up after the commercial break, they have a pointless crisis for the Enterprise which just pads the episode. But the real boring comes toward the end of the third act, we see Chekov flirting with a yeoman we don't know, care about, or will see again. Sorry but Walter Koenig is no William Shatner and he just can’t carry this scene. After this pointlessness two natives who spied the two pawing each other decide to figure out what the heck they were doing by also touching each other. Finally the head native interrupts, and informs them the computer is unhappy. This whole scene is so boring, I don't think I have seen this part of the episode and not hit the old fast forward button. It just stops the story, such as it is, for no reason. It's also unnecessary, we already saw the computer (named Vaal) informing the head native that there was a problem with the newcomers. This whole scene could be cut and you lose nothing! I might accept it if romance with Chekov and the yeoman led anywhere, we never see the yeoman again, thankfully because she whined like a twelve year old during the whole episode. She was a plot device. Well, Kirk ends up killing the computer and forcing the natives to fend for themselves. The best part of this episode is the way it kills of no less than five red shirts. That's pretty good for one episode. Those poor guys were doomed right from the start.

Of course these are good episodes; some whole episodes can be kind of dull. I hate Return of the Archons, it is slow and a little disturbing. But if you really want an entire episode of boredom and pointlessness I suggest "The Way To Eden", bad doesn't even begin to describe that one. At least Spock's Brain is fun in a campy, B movie kind of way,

September 5, 2012

When Sitcoms Get Real-The Show Must Go On

Awhile back I did an article on “very special episodes”, when sitcoms get serious and deal with a real world subject or issue. A follow up article “when sitcoms get real” talked specifically about actual news events so traumatic that they make their way into a sitcom episode.  In that article I mentioned how deaths of cast members affect shows, but sometimes it doesn’t have to be a death. An illness, accident,  or some other kind of dispute can affect programs including as I mentioned in my last article pregnancy which can drastically affect shows. Today I wanted to look at when personal situations with actors, rather than situations in the news or social problems, change the course of sitcoms.

Not every accident dramatically affects a show; sometimes all it results in is a line in the script to excuse the injury.

Ever see the episode of The Brady Bunch where Greg sports a swollen lip which he says was a shaving accident? Well, not quite. It turns out Barry Williams had a little accident when his car smashed into a station wagon. He was lucky all he did was cut his lip. There’s another episode when Barry Williams was stoned, and if you watch the scene it isn’t a big shock.

Joey was seen sporting an arm sling for two episodes of Friends due to an accident on stage. It was written into the script that he had fallen off the bed and dislocated his shoulder. Much later Jennifer Aniston hurt her leg and spent a few episodes of Friends hardly walking.

Will & Grace had a live episode which featured Karen on a motorized wheelchair. The in episode reason was surgery for her web feet. In reality, Megan Mullally injured her foot and needed to use crutches to walk.

Kaley Cuoco who plays Penny on The Big Bang Theory suffered an accident while riding a horse which caused a broken leg. She missed an episode of the show and spent another sitting behind a bar.

By the way, this isn’t specific to people. The Brady Bunch had their family dog vanish shortly after the dog had real life encounter with a truck.

Then you have the more serious issues, one’s that affect more than just a line of dialogue.
Ever wonder why there were two Darrin’s on Bewitched? Dick York was the first Darrin but dealt with a serious back injury which he had received years earlier. It was around the sixth season when the pain and addiction to pain killers caused him to quit. Dick Sargent took over as Darrin and Dick York never fully recovered.

Kelsey Grammar had problems with addiction which affected Cheers and Frasier. In 1988 he was arrested for drunk driving and drug possession and spent 30 days in jail. He was arrested again in 1990. Finally in 1996 he crashed his car while intoxicated and entered Betty Ford for 30 days. While his problems were fodder for the tabloids, the effect on his programs was minimal. It was easy enough to dismiss the character in Cheers and film around him on Frasier. Some shows are not so lucky.

I already touched on the problems Mackenzie Phillips had on One Day at a Time. Her issues with drug abuse got so serious she was fired from the show and her character up and disappeared.

Anorexia is a serious problem, especially with teenage girls. What happens when a cast member suffers from this? That is exactly what Growing Pains had to deal with when Tracy Gold had to leave in the middle of the final season due to issues with anorexia. She did manage to make it back for the series finale however.

Peter Boyle was an example of an actor who wasn’t going to let a little something like a heart attack keep him down. He suffered one at the end of the third season, and missed the final episode.  This was easy to explain away since it was a flashback; they said Frank was at work. He did put in an appearance on the next (which was the last filmed but not the last aired).

Michael J.Fox abruptly left Spin City at the end of its fourth season when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The show replaced him with Charlie Sheen but wasn’t quite the same. By the way, the final episode with Michael J. Fox is one of the best hours of television, very sad and emotional send off which included his Family Ties dad.

Probably the worst case scenario happened to NewsRadio, when Phil Hartman was killed shortly after its fourth season wrapped. I still remember where I was the day I hear that particular news. The first episode without him was very emotional, and the series was all downhill from there.

Occasionally stars will vanish for a while due to disputes with the producers. Redd Foxx missed several episode of Sanford and Son, his character was said to be in St.Louis. Brad Garrett missed the season premiere of Everybody Loves Raymond one year due to a similar dispute. Fortunately that was easy to explain, Robert was on his honeymoon. All in the Family lost Caroll O’Connor for a few episodes due to a salary dispute. Of course Robert Reed is mysteriously missing from the final episode of The Brady Bunch due to an argument with the producers regarding the idiocy of the episode (he was right).

However sometimes the stars will just never return, in fact they flat out get fired from shows. Hard to believe it’s been a year since the Charlie Sheen melt down caused him to get fired from Two and a Half Men. Years earlier it was Suzanne Somers who was fired from Three’s Company for being uncooperative. They tried to bring in replacement characters but it wasn’t the same. Delta Burke’s departure from Designing Women was tabloid heaven. Just like with Three’s Company, the replacements did not work. During the sixth season of Diff’rent Strokes Dana Plato became pregnant. That combined with her history of drug abuse caused her to be fired from the show. She was never again a regular but did make guest appearances later on. On The Cosby Show Lisa Bonet had issues with Bill Cosby regarding an explicit movie she appeared in, and then had to be written out and then back in after she had become pregnant. She came back but was fired again before the last season. Denise vanished but her step daughter Olivia remained which made you wonder why Denise and Martin would leave her behind (she did rejoin them in the series finale). Howard Hesseman was fired from Head of the Class after arguing with producers and was replaced by Billy Connolly. When Valerie Harper was fired from her show “Valerie” the show killed off her character was renamed “The Hogan Family”. Janet Hubert Whitten was fired from Fresh Prince and replaced with Daphne Maxwell Reid, but I don’t think that hurt the show to bad.

For the record I wanted to point out that very often these situations work out, like when Meredith Baxter Birney wanted to walk off Family Ties because she felt Michael J.Fox was stealing the spotlight. It was Michael Fox himself who went to the actress and asked her to stay. Michael J. Fox is a class act. How about when the producers of Full House wanted to fire one of the Olsen twins because they were old enough so they didn’t need both of them. It was John Stamos who said that they couldn’t do that, and Michelle was played by them both for the run of the series.

Other times an actor will miss an episode or two due to other obligations, like Judd Hirsh in Taxi who only did one quick scene in a couple episodes because he was filming a movie, or Vicki Lewis disappearing from NewsRadio for similar reasons. Woody Harrelson appeared less in Cheers final years due to his movie career. Tracy Morgan missed a few episodes of 30 Rock due to a kidney transplant. Alyssa Milano had a reduced role on Who’s The Boss so she could go to college, on Roseanne Sara Gilbert also had a reduced role for that reason and Lecy Goranson was written out entirely because she wanted to go to school. Her character was recast. 3rd Rock From The Sun lost Joseph Gordon Levitt for the majority of the final season also for college.

The most common reason for this kind of absence is pregnancy. As I mentioned before pregnancy can affect sitcoms more than almost anything else. Sometimes they will just incorporate the pregnancy into the story line, like Family Ties did for example. Some shows try to hide it, which means the actress appears less and sometimes not at all, and spends her time hiding behind things. Here are some examples:

Cindy Willliams disappeared from the final season of Laverne & Shirley, which really must have killed that show, her character being married and pregnant (like the actress). Phylicia Rashad on The Cosby Show hid behind grocery bags, counters, teddy bears, and was bedridden for one episode. Then she disappeared for several episodes. Patricia Heaton missed several episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond. Shelly Long spent many episodes of Cheers hiding behind the bar. I already discussed how Debra Messing’s pregnancy affected Will & Grace. Lauren Lane missed several episode of The Nanny, her character suffering a breakdown. Likewise Daphne was sent to a fat farm when Jane Leeves left for a few episodes of Frasier to have her baby. Julia Louise Dreyfuss missed a couple episodes of Seinfeld. And even Roseanne herself had to be written out of a couple episodes of her own show when she was pregnant later in its run.

Then there are those things we just don’t see coming. An accident is one thing, and we can forgive illness or even a behind the scenes dispute. But something’s just come out of left field, and that is when the sitcom is more than just inconvenienced for a few episodes.
Let’s talk about John Ritter. He was one my favorite actors, and I loved his show 8 Simple Rules. What happened on September 11, 2012 was tragic and very unexpected. He was rehearsing like any other day when he felt ill, and was rushed to the hospital. He died there a few hours later when doctors misdiagnosed a heart attack. I wish I could explain how I felt that day, it was as if a loved one had suddenly died. John Ritter was one of a kind, I loved everything I saw him in and to this day he is sorely missed. When Nickelodeon aired a marathon of John Ritter shows I watched every one. The show 8 Simple Rules tried to soldier on, but was quietly cancelled two years later.

September 4, 2012

Sitcom Face Off-Seinfeld vs Will & Grace

Before I begin I want to stress that this is just for fun. There is no real contest here but wanted to do this face-off anyway because the shows seem so evenly matched.

Seinfeld was the smash hit on NBC in the 90’s, a little show about nothing which was the highest rated show on television. Will & Grace took the same concept but with a twist, that being the show had a lead who was gay. This is the first show that would do this, a concept first started a year later by Ellen DeGeneres. Aside from that Will & Grace had sharp writing and some very memorable characters. But how does it compare to Seinfeld, another show about four shallow characters who complain about everything?

September 1, 2012

Top 5 Underappreciated 90's Sitcoms

Ok so let’s look at some sitcoms from the 90’s which were really good but kind of forgotten over the last several years. Like those I discussed yesterday these are shows which for some reason their popularity just doesn’t seem to survive the test of time. Now of course these shows are not quite as old as the one’s I talked about from the 80’s. It may not have been long enough yet to really qualify any of them as “forgotten”. But here we go anyway.

#5.Step By Step
While not as forgotten as shows like “Going Places”, I think this is the TGIF show that a lot of people forget about. Everyone remembers Full House and Family Matters. There are those that still love Perfect Strangers and even Hogan Family. This show always kind of flies under the radar. It was a Brady Bunch of the 90’s except this time the kids did not like each other, which was the source of the conflict. At least in its premise because every time I watched an episode the kids seemed to get along pretty good. This was a great way to get Patrick Duffy an audience who does not stay up until 10:00, and Suzanne Somers some much needed credibility (anyone remember She’s the Sheriff? Anyone??). This was a really good show and is sadly often overlooked.

#4. Just Shoot Me

Yes, that other NBC sitcom that aired in the 90’s on Thursday nights (for a little while anyway). It did last till 2003 but I am including it here anyway. I feel like the only person who feels this way sometimes, but I actually like David Spade. I think he can be pretty funny, and he was in this show. This was, again, a great cast with George Segal, Laura San Giacomo, Wendy Malick, and Enrico Colantoni. The truth is none of these characters were likable people, especially Dennis Finch, but somehow the writing and acting worked and the show was actually really funny in its first few years. I am a huge fan and made sure I got the dvd’s knowing the re-runs would disappear (and they did). True the show suffered its last few years but when it was good, it was really really good.

#3. Dave’s World
I wanted to include a show from every network, and was torn which one from CBS to talk about. I considered The Nanny, but I don’t think that has been really forgotten. Cosby, Hearts Afire, Cybil, and Love & War are other shows which have kind of been forgotten, but they are forgotten with good reason in my opinion. Then I remembered this little show which followed The Nanny, and yet despite that no one really watched it and after four years the show just kind of disappeared from everyone’s radar.  Based on the writing of Dave Barry, Dave’s World was Harry Anderson’s other sitcom, not to mention MeshachTaylor.  The show was a basic family show which was based on the silly articles that Dave Barry was famous for writing. Truth is I could have used this slow for almost anything CBS came out with in the 90’s, when the network was a struggling one which no one watched while NBC was king. Man, how things change.

I will always remember seeing the pilot episode of this show and loving it. Then there was an episode about a rat which I clearly recall laughing out loud at. And if you’ve never seen the sci-fi parody they did, you have to hunt it down and watch it. Just brilliant. This show was only on for five years but it was  very funny (well, ok the last season wasn’t but we’ll get to why in a second). Dave Foley, Maura Tierney, Stephen Root, Andy Dick (yeah I know, Andy Dick likable in something??). The cast was rounded out by the amazing Phil Hartman who was killed shortly after the third season ended. I still remember where I was when I heard that news; I loved Phil’s work on SNL and many other programs and movies. The show tried to move on but it just wasn’t the same. However, the three seasons prior were gold and, in my opinion, some of the funniest television at the time.

Why wasn't this show a bigger hit? It was created by the same people who created Cheers and Frasier, it had a real solid cast including Tim Daly, Thomas Haden Church, Peter Shaloub, and Crystal Bernard.  It even had a time slot after Cheers (the same time slot that Seinfeld started in). Despite all of these things, this show was never a monster hit. True, they had the time slow behind Cheers only a part of the time. In fact I think this show had has many as eight different time slots during its run. This is the same thing that killed Dear John which also wasn't that bad. To be honest I was one of the many who never really gave this show a chance, only watching it when the time slot was convenient or they did a stunt like having a Cheers crossover. I guess as funny as the show could be it just didn't have that special something that forces people to tune in day in and day out, no matter where the show is scheduled.