I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"Pink Lady and Jeff" (1980)

What in the heck was NBC thinking when they greenlighted this odd mix? Pink Lady (Mie Nemoto and Kei Masuda) was a Japanese singing duo who had one moderate hit in the States called "Kiss in the Dark". For some odd reason, the group was touted as the next big thing in pop music. They were paired with comedian Jeff Altman, who is a funny guy. Even Altman's talents could not keep this misguided variety show afloat. One major problem was that Pink Lady's English-speaking skills were not great. It was painful to see Altman and the other regulars on the show attempting to play off of them, when it was clear the girls didn't know half of what was being said.

The late Jim Varney, who created the popular "Ernest" character, was also a cast member on this show.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The First Time (1969)

The subject of losing one's virginity is either handled very seriously in film and TV or played for laughs. This film tries to do both, and fails miserably. It's about three young guys barely out of their teens named Tommy, Mike and sensible Kenny (Wes Stern) who are on a trip together. They come across an upset twenty-something woman (Jacqueline Bisset) while in Canada. She needs to meet a man who is in the States, so they pass her off as an American to slip her over the border. The man she's trying to catch up with is a married guy whom she's been having an affair with. The young guys somehow get the bright idea that she may want to sleep with them and relieve them of their innocence.

Just a jumbled effort that probably played in drive-ins and B-movie theaters back in the day. Ms. Bisset went on to be an international star. She appeared in Bullit (1968) with Steve McQueen and in the movie Airport (1970). Wes Stern had a TV show called "Getting It Together" (1971).

Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964)

In the 1960s and early 1970s, it seemed that actresses who were big in the 1930's and 1940's were attempting to revive their careers by appearing in psychological thrillers and horror films. This film featured grand dame Betty Davis as Charlotte, a faded Southern belle who had been implicated in the murder of her married lover years before. She lived in the old plantatation that had been owned by her wealthy dad (Victor Buono), along with a feisty housekeeper named Velma (Agnes Moorehead). Charlotte spends her day hiding indoors when she was not firing her shotgun at construction workers who wanted to tear down the house to build a new road. The foreman (George Kennedy) doesn't take to being shot at too kindly.

Enter her cousin (Olivia de Haviland) who returns from Europe supposedly to help poor old Charlotte out, along with a doctor (Joseph Cotton) who knew both of the women for years. Suddenly, weird things start happening, upsetting Charlotte's already thin hold on sanity. Meanwhile, a reporter starts asking questions about the decades old murder of Charlotte's lover, and he digs up long buried secrets held by the town.

Originally, Joan Crawford was supposed to play the role that Olivia de Haviland got. There were rumors that Crawford and Davis had bad blood between them, and they had barely made it through the filming of What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962). Agnes Moorehead looks really unglamorous in this movie, a big change from her role as Endora on the TV classic "Bewitched". Joseph Cotton was in the classic Citizen Kane (1941) and also appeared as a suspected serial killer in A Shadow Of A Doubt (1943). Mary Astor, who was in The Maltese Falcon (1941), is also in this movie, which would be the last one she did before she passed away. Bruce Dern (Coming Home) is the unlucky suitor who is allegedly killed by Charlotte early in the movie.

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"Martin" (1992-1997)

Martin Payne (Martin Lawrence) was a popular DJ on a talk radio show in Detroit. Martin was quick-tempered, and could be rude and obnoxious. I always wondered what Gina Waters (Tisha Campbell), a marketing executive, saw in him. Whatever it was, their relationship stuck. Eventually, the two went from dating to living together.

Martin had two buddies he'd known from childhood. Dimwitted Cole Brown (Carl Anthony Payne II), initially lived with his overbearing mother (played by comedianne Laura Hayes in some episodes), and dated a never-seen woman named Big Shirley. Level-headed Tommy Strong (Thomas Mikal Ford) allegedly had a job, but no one knew what he did for a living. It was never found out during the entire run of the series. Gina's best friend was her co-worker Pam James (Tichina Arnold), an outspoken type who couldn't stand Martin. The feeling was mutual. Some of the biggest laughs came from Martin and Pam insulting each other. Martin's boss in the early seasons was Stan Winters (Garrett Morris), an insufferable cheapskate. Goofy Shawn (Jonathan Gries) was an engineer at the radio station. Shanise (Maura McDade) was the ditzy girl Cole took up with after he broke up with Big Shirley. Nipsey (Sean Lampkin) ran the bar the Martin and friends frequented. Brutha Man as well as Hustle Man (Tracy Morgan) were characters who showed up from time to time to vex Martin.

The series started off with a sort of "Mad About You" feel, focusing on Gina and Martin's growing relationship. As time went along, the plots became wilder and somewhat over the top. The sitcom made good use of Lawrence's talents, as he played several other characters including ghetto fabulous hairdresser Sheneneh, who's apartment was across the hall's from Martin; Otis, an old school security guard; and Mrs. Payne, Martin's harridan of a mother, who did not think Gina was good enough for her son.

As couples do often on TV sitcoms, Martin and Gina hit a major bump in their relationship. Gina was offered a job in New York, and took it after it appeared that Martin could not make a decision about their future together. After realizing he was about to ruin the best thing that ever happened to him, he proposed to Gina, with popular R&B singer Bryan McKnight on hand to provide a serenade. Not long after the engagement, the radio station was sold, and Martin found himself out of a job and despondent. After getting his head together, Gina helped him get a job on a local talk show as a producer. Eventually, Martin took over the show as host, and was back on top. Meanwhile, Tommy and Pam had started a relationship, but it fizzled out after a season or so.

The friends continued to move up in the world. Gina was given more responsibility at her job, even though Martin nearly caused her to lose it at one point due to his interference in a beef between Gina and her boss. Pam was downsized out of the agency, but talked her way into an A & R job at a record company. A pilot for a show featuring Pam on her new job was shown as an episode of "Martin", but nothing ever came of it. Cole moved out of his mother's house and eventually got engaged to Shanise.

Tisha Campbell virtually disappeared from the show in late 1996. The actress claimed that Lawrence had sexually harrassed her, and put in a lawsuit. Her character was not written out of the show, however. It was explained that Gina was in LA helping to open up another branch of the marketing firm she worked for. Gina did appear in the last episode of the series, which found her and Martin packing up to move to LA--she was made the head of the markeing firm there, and her hubby landed a big-time talk show host gig--but Campbell and Lawrence did not appear in scenes together.

Campbell's next sitcom was "My Wife and Kids" alongside "In Livng Color" alumus Damon Wayans. Arnold appeared as the mom on "Everybody Hates Chris". Lawrence continues to appear in movies and does standup comedy. Tracy Morgan was a regular on "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock".

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"Beauty and the Beast" (1987-1990)

CBS unveiled this mix of romance, fantasy and crime drama in 1987. For a few seasons, it was the lead-in to the soap opera "Dallas". Catherine Chandler (Linda Hamilton) was an attorney who had been attacked and left to die in New York's Central Park. She was found by Vincent (Ron Perlman), a half-man, half-beast who was part of a somewhat utopian society run by Father (Roy Dotrice), the man who found Vincent and raised him. The society lived below the subway system of the city. After getting over her initial shock of Vincent's appearance, they became friends and platonic lovers. Vincent also became her protector, helping her out when she got into trouble while solving cases.

Catherine had an admirer named Joe Maxwell (Jay Acavone), another attorney in the DA's office who would have been more than happy to have a relationship with her. He did not know her heart was already taken by Vincent. Joe worked with her on cases, and acted as a protector as well. Catherine walked a fine line between her promise to keep Vincent's world secret, and her life "above ground".

Vincent had a meltdown late in the series, becoming dangerous to himself and those around him. It wasn't clear what the problem was, but Father isolated him from the rest of the underground society. Catherine felt she could reach him, and against Father's advice, she went to Vincent. The last thing heard in that episode was Vincent's menancing growl and Catherine screams coming from a dark cave. When the show returned in 1989, Vincent seemed to have conquered his problem, but then Catherine was kidnapped by Gabriel (Stephen McHattie), the head of a huge criminal organization she had been investigating. Vincent searched for Catherine for weeks. When he found her, she was in bad shape. Before she died, she told Vincent that she had given birth to a child--their child. So that's what happened in that dark cave! Catherine and Vincent's relationship was one of the most romantic ever seen on TV.

The rest of the series had Vincent searching for Gabriel. Diana Bennett (Jo Anderson), a top investigator, had been hired by Joe to pick up the trail to Gabriel that Catherine had started. Vincent ended up being captured by Gabriel, but he escaped, taking his infant son with him. Gabriel was eventually cornered and shot and killed by Diana with a gun that had belonged to Catherine. Vincent, happy to have found his son, took the boy and retreated to the peace of his underground world.

Ms. Hamilton later appeared in the wildly popular Terminator movies.

"The Kids In The Hall" (1992-1995)

This sketch comedy show featuring five guys from Canada--David Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson--did not get good reviews when it was first aired on HBO, but it grew in popularity as time went along.

The comedy was pretty raunchy at times, with gross out, sex and gay jokes galore. Some of the reoccuring characters were a bitter old man who went around grumbling about cutting off the heads of his alleged enemies; a couple of frumpy female office workers who dished on their co-workers; an international movie actress/drama queen named Franchesca who appeared in movies with her boyfriend, Bruno Ponce Jones; Buddy, the flamboyant owner of a gay bar; and Chicken Lady, an unfortunate half-bird, half-human gal who was always looking for love. Unconventional to the end, the guys said goodbye to the studio audience, went to a field, and were buried alive during the last episode of the show, complete with a tombstone announcing the birth and death of their show.

"Mission Hill" (1999-2000)

Quirky animated cartoon that only lasted a season on the WB network. I didn't watch it when it aired there. I became familiar with it when it began airing as part of the Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" block of late night adult-orientated fare. Andy French (Wallace Langham) was a twenty-something guy with a modest apartment in a funky neighborhood of a big city. Andy's bachelor freedom is cut short when his parents sell their house and move, sending his nerdy teenaged brother Kevin (Scott Menville) to live with him. Andy chafs at having to parent his sibling, who constantly gets on him about his freewheeling lifestyle.

Andy and Kevin's friends and neighbors included laid back Jim (Brian Bosehn), who appeared to be the king bee in the advertising agency where he worked; neo-flower-child Posey (Vicki Lewis); Natalie (Lewis, again) and her husband Carlos (Herbert Siguenza); Gwen (Jane Wiedlin) a sometime girlfriend of Andy's and a middle aged gay couple, Gus (Nick Jameson) and Wally (Tom Kenny). The show was not laugh out loud funny, but the characters and situations were interesting. One good episode found Andy as a participant on a reality show that was clearly a parody of MTV's "The Real World".

Vicky Lewis appeared on the sitcom "Newsradio" (1995-1999). Tom Kenny is a popular voice talent who was also heard on "Dexter's Laboratory", "Johnny Bravo", and "The Powerpuff Girls".

"The Parkers" (1999-2004)

Kim Parker (Countess Vaughn James) had been one of the teens on the series "Moesha", which this show had been spun off from. However, Kim had to share the spotlight with her crazy mom Margaret "Nikki" Parker (Mo'Nique). Nikki gave birth to Kim when she was a teenager, and was a struggling single mom who sold cosmetics to make ends meet. She had gotten her GED, and at the beginning of the series, had signed up to attend community college along with Kim. Nikki immediately became sweet on Stanley Oglevee (Dorian Wilson), a professor who wanted nothing to do with her. That didn't stop Nikki from pursuing him and generally creating problems for him, especially with the girlfriends he already had.

Nikki's best buddy was Andel Wilkerson (Yvette Wilson), who eventually opened a night club. Andel had also been a character on "Moesha". Andel would try to talk Nikki out of her wild schemes, and get caught up in them herself. Other characters in Nikki and Kim's universe were Stevie Van Lowe (Jenna Von Oy), whose self-absorbed celebrity parents had left her to own devices and Thaddeus "T" Tyrell Radcliffe, (Ken Lawson), who had aspirations to be big in the music industry. Sometimes, Kim's dad (Thomas Mikal Ford), a music producer, would appear. Regina (Kara Brock) was a snooty sorority girl who looked down on both Kim and Nikki.

After several seasons of Nikki running after Stanley, and the professor denying any attraction to her, Stanley finally realized that he was in love with her. They were married on the very last episode of the series.

Jenna Von Oy had previously been a member of the cast of "Blossom". Thomas Mikal Ford was Tommy, the friend who appeared to have no job on the series "Martin". Mo'Nique is a stand-up comedianne who appeared on tour with The Queens of Comedy.  She's also a Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner for her role in Precious.

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"Fantasy Island" (1978-1984)

Another Aaron Spelling and ABC collaboration, about a tropical island where people came to fulfill long-held dreams. The place was run by mysterious character named Mr. Rourke (Ricardo Montalban). Next to nothing was revealed about where he came from, how he got the island, or how he gained the powers to make the fantasies happen. I remember an episode where Rourke had fallen in love with a woman and they married, but she died soon afterwards. Who knew that Rourke was a romantic? Other than that, Rourke remained an enigma. His assistant was a diminutive man named Tattoo (Herve Villechaize) who announced that visitors were arriving to the island with "The plane! The plane!"

The fantasies were not all fun and games. The people involved usually found themselves in be-careful-what-you-wish-for situations. Sometimes, they would find themselves in life-or-death situations or having to make hard decisions. At the end, valuable lessons were learned. Apparently, the island was a big place, because it had room to host all kinds of dreams, from being a race-car driver to being a movie star.

Audiences ate this show up, and it was at the top of the TV ratings for most of its run. Villechaize left the show at the end of the 1982-1983 season and was replaced by Christopher Hewitt, who appeared as Lawrence during the last season of the show. Villechaize later committed suicide. Montalban had been a movie matinee idol back in the day; recently, he appeared as a feisty granddad in the Spy Kids movie series. Hewitt went on to be the main character in the family friendly sitcom "Mr. Belvedere" (1985-1990).

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

"Rollergirls" (2006)

This recently canceled A & E reality show was about members of an all female roller derby league in Texas. In contrast to their rough demeanor on the banked track, the women led normal lives during the day, and had life's ups and downs to deal with. One woman was a waitress who made an attempt at stand up comedy. Another woman was a nurse, yet another was a teacher who found a job in Maui before the series disappeared from the airwaves.

One episode had some of the skaters going to San Francisco in an attempt to convince legendary roller derby queen Ann Cavello (who passed away a few weeks ago) to attend their championship game. They had named their championship cup for her. Ms. Cavello was a piston who said exactly what was on her mind. She welcomed the women, who obviously adored her and were in awe of her accomplishments. During the very last episode I saw, Ms. Cavello agreed to come see the game.

Portions of roller derby bouts were shown during episodes, but the show may have been canceled because people were expecting a full hour of skating and fighting.

Swimming With Sharks (1994)

Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey) has got to be the worst boss in the world. He's a big time Hollywood producer who regularly abuses his naive assistant, Guy (Frank Whaley). Frank wants to make it big in Tinsel Town, so he puts up with being given impossible tasks, called at all hours of the day and night by Buddy, and being screamed and yelled at constantly. Frank decides he has had enough one day and decides to exact his revenge on Buddy. However, both men find themselves confronted by antoher surprise that will change everything.

Spacey does a great job playing a nightmare of a boss. It was hard to watch the scenes where he humiliated Whaley's character. When Guy finally gets fed up, I was cheering him on. The story is dark and just gets uglier as it goes on.

Spacey has appeared in several good films including Seven, The Usual Suspects and LA Confidential. Benicio Del Toro (Traffic) appears as a co-worker of Guy's. Roy Dotrice, who appeared as Father on TV's "Beauty and the Beast", is also in this movie.

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Hangin' With The Homeboys (1991)

Slice-of-life story following four friends during the course of night out on the town: Willie (Doug E. Doug), Tom (Mario Joyner), Johnny (John Leguizamo), and Fernando (Nestor Serrano). The movie was marketed as a free-wheelin' comedy, but actually is a lot more serious in nature. Each of the guys has his own issues to work through and correct. Willie appears to just drift through life, while Tom works a dead-end phone job while trying to make it as an actor. Fernando, a Puerto Rican, calls himself Vinnie and pretends he is Italian. Johnny is an academically smart kid who doesn't seem to have enough motivation to go to college and leave his grocery store clerk job behind.

The story bogs down from time to time, but has some nice touches in terms of characters. It is also nice to see young Latino and African-American males in a film where they aren't on the wrong side of the law. Doug E. Doug began his career as a stand-up comic. He was a regular on "Cosby".

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Revenge (1990)

Michael "Jay" Cochran (Kevin Costner) gets out of the Navy after 12 years and kicks around while he figures out what to do with the rest of his life. He visits Tiburon "Tibby" Mendez (Anthony Quinn), a powerful Mexican businessman whom he met some time ago. Cochran is given a mild warning about Mendez from one of his Navy buddies. It is hinted that Mendez doesn't always do business the legal way. Cochran shrugs this off.

Cochran reconnects with Mendez and is introduced to the businessman's wife, a beautiful woman named Miyrea (Madeline Stowe). There is an attraction between Cochran and Miyrea that is taken too far. Mendez catches them, snatches his wife away, and has Cochran beaten by his men and left for dead in the desert. Cochran is found by some people and nursed back to health. When he gets back on his feet, he has two objectives: find Miyrea and get back at Mendez. The movie then turns into a series of somewhat disjointed violent encounters as Cochran makes his journey.

Costner, Quinn and Stowe have all been in better films. Miguel Ferrer (Traffic) and John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge) appear here, along with Sally Kirkland (EdTV).

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