#SatMat Live Tweet movie for Sat., Apr. 2: DRAGNET 1966

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Saturday happens to be the birthday of famously stone-faced actor Jack Webb (1920-1982). There’s no way I could let the occasion slip by without riffing on his TV paean to virtuous L.A. cops, “Dragnet.”

“Dragnet,” of course, began life in the 1950’s, but my heart belongs to the 1960’s TV revival, in which Webb, as Sgt. Joe Friday, takes on the flower-power hippie generation and gives it what-for. Beside Webb, standing tall (in a manner of speaking), was the ever-admirable Harry Morgan as Friday’s partner Bill Gannon.

The TV-movie I’m Tweeting is unofficially known as Dragnet 1966. It was the feature-length pilot for the revival version of “Dragnet,” although this pilot itself wasn’t actually broadcast until 1969. (Got that?)

I haven’t seen the movie but have read that its story is based on an infamous L.A. murder case. But do you care? If it’s anything like the story, Friday straight-leggedly walks through the scene, gets the latest info on the case, and delivers a piercing zinger punctuated by a musical sting before going onto the next scene. That was always the campy fun of the show for me.

So show us your badge to get in, and then be with us for #SatMat this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. EDT prompt. Don’t make us have to get rough.

 

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#SatMat’s Top 5 Riffs for Monty Python’s Life of Brian

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Salome at the blog BNoirDetour, who regularly Live Tweets a film-noir movie on Twitter.com every Sunday night at 9 p.m. EDT, said she’d let me co-host this week. I thought, what more irreverent way to end Easter weekend than with a Live Tweet of Monty Python’s Life of Brian?

Salome was so enthused that, even though it wasn’t a film-noir movie, she generously gave up most of her time slot and even helped me plug the Live Tweet. Too bad I wasn’t there.

My daughter had a bad reaction to lamb or some other Easter delicacy we were serving, and we ended up rushing her to the emergency room for a case of food poisoning. Thankfully, Salome soldiered on without me and still hosted “my” part of the Live Tweet (for which many thanks, Salome).

Judging from the riffs that were left, this was one of the best Live Tweets I almost hosted. So here are the top 5 riffs from #SatMat‘s March 27 Live Tweet of Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

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Thoughts & Top 5 Riffs for #SatMat’s Live Tweet of Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday

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I wanted to like Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday, the recent Netflix sequel to the 1980’s adventures of Pee-Wee Herman. I really did. And I will say a couple of positive things about the movie at the outset.

First off, Paul Reubens (who created and plays Pee-Wee, co-produced the movie, and co-wrote the script) looks astonishingly splendid. I’ve no doubt that a generous amount of whiteface was applied to Reubens in order to resurrect Pee-Wee, but if all it took to make me look 30 years younger was a little extra makeup, I’d be Max Factoring it all over the place.

Second, though this is obviously not a theatrical film, if it was, it would probably get a G rating, and that’s nothing to sniff at. In a movie era where cynicism and nihilism seem the order of the day (Hey, let’s watch two iconic superheroes beat the crap out of each other!), it really is nice to see a movie pull off such a blatantly sunny attitude without a wink of the eye.

With all of that said, I ended up having the same problem with this movie as I had with PW’s initial outing, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985). The new movie’s opening half-hour is a joy to behold, as it explores Pee-Wee’s lyrical small town of Fairville and establishes its modus operandi.

The trouble begins when the plot calls for Pee-Wee to head off on a cross-country adventure, as happened in the 1985 movie. I’m not calling rip-off, but I’m saying that — just as in the first movie — as soon the film leaves its own, wonderfully established wonderland, it gets very random and episodic. There are a few laugh bull’s-eyes along the way, but far too more misses, at least for me.

Anyway, here are the top 5 riffs for #SatMat‘s March 26 Live Tweet of the movie, the first one regarding Pee-Wee’s E.T.-like fantasy that opens the movie:

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And, just to show you that #SatMat‘s followers aren’t nearly as cynical as their host…

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#SatMat Live Tweet double feature for Sat. & Sun., Mar. 26 & 27: PEE-WEE’S BIG HOLIDAY (2016) and MONTY PYTHON’S LIFE OF BRIAN (1979)

This weekend for my #SatMat Live Tweet, I’m doing two movies that don’t get me salivating with anticipation, but I feel I must cave to the zeitgeist.

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First off, at my usual Saturday time slot of 4:30 p.m. EDT, I am hosting Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday. I gave Pee-Wee’s feature filmography a chance 30 years ago, when a friend insisted upon showing Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure to me. At first, I thought I might actually be on to something, as I chortled mightily at the movie’s first 10 minutes. But after that, it got way too disjointed for my taste.

From all accounts, this three-decades-too-late follow-up follows a similar pattern, so I was prepared to ignore it entirely, but it has gotten surprisingly rave reviews. The icing on the cake was a glowing critique from my blogger-friend Salome at BNoirDetour.

So this Saturday, I am throwing the movie out there for whomever wants to bite. If I end up really and truly liking it, I will eat crow and write an appropriately nice review of it the day after at this blog. If you don’t hear from me on Sunday, you have only Salome to blame.

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Speaking of Salome, she is generously giving up most of her usual Sunday-night Live Tweet time slot so that I can present Monty Python’s Life of Brian at 9 p.m. EDT.

I must confess that, as much as I have revered the British comedy team of Monty Python for the past four decades, this is not my favorite film of theirs. In its native home of Britain, it’s one of the most acclaimed comedies of all time. But, like Pee-Wee’s initial feature film, I find it a bit disjointed, full of plot points that spring up and wither like so much crabgrass. (Click here to read my complete review of the movie at this blog.)

But there’s nothing Monty Python ever did as a team effort that’s completely without merit, and this movie certainly has its share of hearty laughs. And heaven knows, I can’t resist the irreverence of playing it online at the far end of Easter Sunday.

So I hope you’ll join the #SatMat group for one or both of these wacko comedies at Twitter.com this weekend. And happy Easter!

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DATE WITH THE ANGELS (1957) – A Betty White Christmas

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The following is my entry in the second annual Favourite TV Episode Blogathon, hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts from Mar. 25-27, 2016. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ critiques of their favorite single episodes of TV series!

(The following blog entry is SPOILER City. If you are interested in the episode described herein, you are best advised to scroll to the very bottom of this blog entry, where the episode is embedded and you can watch it before reading further.)

Back in my day (the old codger said), unless your TV show was a classic like “The Honeymooners” or beloved like “Leave It to Beaver,” once it ran its initial course, you never saw it again. Now, thanks to YouTube and countless other social media outlets, you can find old TV series you never even knew existed. That’s how I came across my entry for this year’s Favourite TV Episode Blogathon.

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Betty White guest-hosting a 2010 segment of “Saturday Night Live.”

If you’re like me, you grew up in an era where you really don’t know where Betty White came from. She was just always there on your TV, like a doting relative to comfort you — either on a game show (she was married to “Password” host Allen Ludden), a guest spot on some sitcom, or as horny Sue Ann Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” But YouTube provides evidence that she starred in a sitcom of her own back in 1957.

“Date with the Angels” was a mid-season replacement that apparently did not win over America with its charms; it lasted for only 33 episodes, from May 1957 through January 1958. It starred White and Bill Williams (I know — who?) as (to quote Wikipedia) “newly married Vickie Angel and her insurance-salesman husband Gus Angel, who get themselves and their friends and neighbors into various comedic situations.” White later said, “I can honestly say that was the only time I have ever wanted to get out of a show.”

(If you examine the credits, you’ll see that its crew met greater success a couple of years later with “My Three Sons”: creator Don Fedderson, writer George Tibbles, and composer Frank DeVol. )

Yet the series did at least one episode that’s worthy of mention. That was their Christmas episode, “Santa’s Helper,” which aired on Dec. 13, 1957. The episode might not have seemed like much at the time, but it now boasts a treasure trove of appearances by later-famous TV supporting actors. Plus, preceding as it did an era in which sitcoms were content to rip off A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life for their Christmas segments, this episode comes off as surprisingly original and funny.

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The story’s centerpiece is actually Mr. Finley, played by very familiar character actor Burt Mustin (above right; 1884-1977, who looked just as old then as when he guested on “All in the Family” in the mid-1970’s). Mr. Finley is Vickie Angel’s elderly neighbor, and he is helping Vickie trim her Christmas tree, mainly because the only other thing he has to occupy himself is fixing dinner for his persnickety bachelor son Roger. Unfortunately, Vickie is running out of ways to keep Mr. Finley busy, and once Vickie’s husband Bill gets home, she’d rather do things with him (no, not those things — this is 1957 TV, remember).

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Nancy Kulp and Hanley Stafford.

Vickie calls Dolly Cates, a friend of hers who works at a local department store. (Dolly is played by Nancy Kulp, who has, refreshingly, a sharper tongue here than she does as bachelorette secretary Miss Hathaway on the later “The Beverly Hillbillies.”) Vickie asks Dolly if there might be a job opening for Mr. Finley at her store. As it turns out, Dolly’s boss, skinflint Mr. Wallace (Hanley Stafford), is looking for a jolly store-Santa who will help to hawk their toy inventory and boost sales.

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Mr. Finley takes the job and turns out to be a smash as Santa, but it comes at a price. First, his son Roger comes skulking to the store, wondering why his pop isn’t available to fix supper anymore. (Roger is played by Richard Deacon [above right], later to gain fame on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and a more persnickety bachelor type you couldn’t find anywhere.)

Second and worse is Mr. Finley’s consequences for the store. At first, Mr. Wallace is delighted to have to order extra toys for the store; he thinks the merchandise is flying off the shelves. But eventually, he discovers that the only reason the toys are going so fast is that “Santa” (Mr. Finley) is giving a toy to each child who visits with him!

Naturally, the inevitable happens: Roger turns his back on his dad, Mr. Wallace has Mr. Finley arrested for grand theft, and Mr. Finley is sentenced to 25 years of hard labor.

Oh, who are we kidding? This is a sitcom — the only place where stuff like that happened on 1957 TV was “The Twilight Zone.” Roger is ready to drag Mr. Finley back home, but when he sees how well the kids at the store are getting along with his dad, he reluctantly acquiesces and skulks back home, forced to make his own supper. Mr. Wallace does indeed consider calling in the law, but instead he calls the toy company and arranges to pay for all of the toys that Mr. Finley gave away.

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Betty White may have been right to complain about the routine quality of her TV series (I confess to never having seen any other episodes). But for this episode alone, “Date with the Angels” stands out for actually providing an original twist on Christmas themes. The entire episode is embedded below for you to watch.