Saturday, July 7, 2018

Disney Channel One Season Wonders: Animated Edition!

          Welcome to Disney Channel One Season Wonders: Animated Edition!  Disney Channel animated show, like its counterpart Nickelodeon, are distinct shows that are so unique, as soon as you see them, you know they are a Disney Channel show.  Kim Possible and Phineas and Ferb are two examples of long-running and interesting, cool shows that have graced the screens of Disney Channel viewers.  Some of the shorter efforts, however, were weirder and more bizarre.  This is especially true of the two animated shows that only lasted one season on the Disney Channel.  Here are the two One Season Animated Wonders on the Disney Channel.
          Dave the Barbarian premiered on January 23, 2004.  Dave the Barbarian is set in the "Middle Ages" and focuses on three siblings who are left in charge of the kingdom of Udrogoth, while their parents away fighting evil in the world: Dave (voiced by Danny Cooksey), the strong yet cowardly and dumb main character, her older sister Candy (Erica Luttrell) , who would rather shop and hang out than rule the kingdom (as her parents made her Princess Regent in charge) and Fang (Tess MacNellie), a tomboy who is wild and uncivilized.  Joining them is their uncle Oswidge (Kevin Michael Richardson), a terrible wizard whose spells hurt more than help.  The show also has a narrator (Jeff Bennett) who makes humorous asides, much like George of the Jungle.  Their frequent antagonist is named The Dark Lord Chuckles the Silly Piggy (Paul Rugg).  While the show is set in the Middle Ages, there are numerous Pop Culture references and fourth-wall breaks.  When I first saw it, I thought it was Disney Channel's answer to Sponge Bob Square Pants, with its similarity in zany tone.  Dave the Barbarian was created by Doug Langdale.  Dave the Barbarian did win one Annie award (Annie awards exclusively honor animated media), which went to Wendy Grieb for Storyboarding in an Animated Television Production for the episode The Maddening Sprite of the Stump.  Dave the Barbarian lasted 21 episodes and 41 individual segments, with the final episode airing on January 22, 2005.
            The Buzz on Maggie premiered on June 17, 2005.  The Buzz on Maggie is about a family of flies that live in a dump.  No, really.  Maggie Pesky (Jessica DiCicco) is a tween fly who aspires to be a rock star and lives with her parents, mom Frieda (Susan Tolsky) and dad Chauncey (Brian Doyle-Murray). She has two brothers, Aldrin (David Kaufman) and Pupert (Thom Adcox), a maggot little sister Bella (Tara Strong).  They all live in an old milk carton outside the fly city of Stickyfeet which in a dump.  Maggie goes to Buzzdale Academy with her best friend Rayna Cartflight and worst enemy Dawn Swatworthy (also Tara Strong).  The show was created by Dave Polsky and was made as a "playful" way to show a teenager's attempts at growing up and showing more independence and individuality and the struggles along the way.   While much of the storylines and humor came from family interactions, gross-out humor made its occasional appearance due to the show being about flies. Adobe Flash was used for animating the series, and many of the animators from the recently canceled ¡Mucha Lucha! (2002-2005) moved to animate The Buzz on Maggie.  The Buzz on Maggie lasted 21 episodes and 41 segments, with the last episode airing on May 27, 2006. 

      While both shows never got a second season, they both received a full 21 episodes and showcased some of the more original and weirder ideas to come out of the Disney Channel.  Check out these animated Disney Channel One Season Wonders!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Disney Channel One Season Wonders: Live-Action Edition!

             Welcome to Disney Channel One Season Wonders: Live-Action Edition!  Disney Channel's live-action series have been some of the most popular series ever for the 9-16 age range, including such hits as Hannah Montana and Girl Meets World.  But some of the live-action series that premiered on the Disney Channel only lasted one season.  For some, it was during the early years when Disney Channel targeted more a general family audience, and for others, it was because the show just wasn't a good fit for the channel.  Here are the Live-Action Disney Channel One Season Wonders.
           The early years of the Disney Channel, from 1983 to 1998 were a mix of cartoons and puppet shows directly aimed at kids and general family audience.  During this time, Still the Beaver (1984-1985) and Good Morning, Miss Bliss (1988-1989) both had one season on the Disney Channel, but both continued on different networks after their one season on Disney Channel.  Then there was the live-action series called The Secret of Lost Creek, which aired for five episodes from February 1 to March 1 in 1992.    However, it originally aired as a segment during The All-New Mickey Mouse Club in 1989 and was re-edited into a stand-alone series in 1992.  So technically the Lost Creek series doesn't count either.
           Thus, the first true One Season Wonder (and the first series labeled a Disney Channel Orignal Series) was Flash Forward, which premiered on December 14, 1995.  This series featured the main characters in eighth grade, and while not the first series aimed at the preteen/early teen crowd, was nevertheless an attempt to ramp up more shows for the target demographic.  The series focuses on Tucker (Ben Foster) and Becca (Jewel Staite) who have been best friends since birth, who experience coming of age in the eighth grade.  They are joined by Tucker's male best friend Miles (Theodore Borders), who acts as Tucker's voice of reason, and Becca's female best friend Chris, who Becca confides in (especially about boys).  Flash Forward was produced in Canada by production company Atlantis Films in association with the Disney Channel.  The show had an interesting hybrid life on the Disney Channel and ABC.   It aired for a four-episode preview run from December 14, 1995, to January 6, 1996.  Flash Forward made its Saturday morning ABC premiere on September 14, 1996.  After a 10-episode marathon on New Years Day 1997, from January 5, the show aired regularly on Saturday and Sunday nights. While none of the websites that list the show (like TV.com and IMDB) record exactly when the final episode aired, it did finish sometime in 1997.   Flash Forward had a total of 26 episodes.
        The second One Season Wonder was In a Heartbeat, which premiered on August 26, 2000, with a double-length pilot episode.  In a Heartbeat follows a group of High School Students in Darien, Connecticut who work as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), based on real high school students who work at Post 53, an EMT service that works on accidents at I-95 near Darien (the real-life EMTs at Post 53 were later profiled in a documentary called High School 911 in 2016).  The main character who do are EMTs are Hank (Donso Gordon) and Tyler (Shawn Ashmore), football stars and best friends, Val (Reagan Pasternak) who is also a cheerleader, and Jamie (Christopher Ralph) who is assigned to be an EMT as part of his community service.  Val's 11-year-old sister Brooke (Lauren Collins) volunteers at the station and Jackie Rosenbaum plays Val's non-EMT best friend Caitie. In a Heartbeat was another Canadian-American co-production, and aired on the Family Channel in Canada.  In a Heartbeat had a total of 20 episodes, with the final episode airing on March 25, 2001. 
       The final show was a defictionalized spin-off of the Live-Action comedy Sonny with a Chance, called So Random!  Sonny with a Chance (2009-2011) was about a teenager (Sonny, who was played by Demi Lovato) from a small town in Wisconsin who gets the opportunity to star in a variety show called So Random!  In Sonny with Chance, many of the opening segments would feature a skit from So Random!  When Lovato decided not to return to Sonny with a Chance for a third season, the producers of the Sonny with a Chance decided to make So Random! a real show instead of a fictional show within the world of Sonny with a Chance.  The starring players of So Random were the stars of Sonny with a Chance, playing both their previous characters and various sketch characters on So Random!  Tiffany Thorton played Tawni Hart, Sterling Knight played Chad Dylan Cooper, Bradon Mychal Smith played Nico Harris, Doug Brochu played Grady Mitchell, Allisyn Ashley Arm played Zora Lancaster, not including the many, many sketch characters. So Random!'s format had similarities with Saturday Night Live, with recurring segments and a guest, most of the time a musical guest who played one of their songs. So Random! premiered on June 5, 2011, six months after the final Sonny with a Chance episode, and lasted 26 episodes.  Its final episode aired on March 25, 2012.
       While all shows had the best of intentions, Flash Forward aired before Disney Channel began its transition to aiming all shows at the target demographic, In a Heartbeat was technically aimed at older teenagers and So Random! was attempting to continue a show that lost its main star.  Still, each of these shows provides an interesting look at Disney attempting to take its channel in new directions.  Check out these Live-Action One Season Wonders from the Disney Channel.

Friday, May 25, 2018

3 TV Adaptations of the First Narnia Book BEFORE the Big Budget Movie

         Following in the footsteps of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was released in December 2005, with a budget of $180 million.  The success of the first led to two sequels, though any further big screen adaptations of the Narnia series have yet to be seen.  However, this was not the first adaption of the first Narnia book on screen.  In fact, there has been not one but three TV adaptations made based on The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe over the years.
         The first TV adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe was made in 1967 and broadcast on ITV in black and white.  This version was made as a 10-episode serial (30 minutes each episode) broadcast from July 9 to September 10. It starred Zuleika Robson as Susan, Liz Crowther as Lucy, Paul Waller as Peter, Edward McMurray as Edmund, Elizabeth Wallace as the White Witch, and Bernard Kay as Aslan.   The animals were portrayed by actors in costumes, not puppets.  Unfortunately, the only parts that survive today are the first and eighth parts. 

      The second TV adaptation was broadcast on CBS on April 1, 1979, as an animated TV movie.  This was a production of Children's Television Workshop and directed by Bill Melendez, best known for directing many Peanuts specials.  The American version had Rachel Warren as Lucy, Susan Sokol as Susan, and Reg Williams as Peter, and Simon Adams as Edmund. Some of the actors were changed for the UK version: for example, in England, Edmund was played by Nicolas Barnes.  The White Witch was played by Beth Porter (US) and Shelia Hancock (UK).  Aslan was played by Stephen Thorne (US and UK).  The CBS version was a huge success, with 37 million viewers tuning in.  It also won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program.
     The third and most well-known television adaptation was broadcast on BBC in 1988, again using the 30-minute serial format.  This version had six episodes and used people in costumes and puppets.  It was broadcast between November 13 and December 18.  It starred Richard Dempsey as Peter, Sophie Cook as Susan, Jonathan R. Scott as Edmund, Sophie Wilcox as Lucy, Barbra Kellerman as the White Witch and Ailsa Berk as Aslan.  This version was nominated for Outstanding Children's Program(me) for both the Emmys and the BAFTA Awards but failed to win for either (it did win a BAFTA award for Best Video Lighting).  This serial was actually renewed, and the BBC made two more seasons, the second season comprising of a two-part Prince Caspian and four-part Voyage of the Dawn Treader (in 1989), and the third season comprising of a six-part serial of The Silver Chair (in 1990).  As of this writing, the BBC version of The Silver Chair is the only version of that book put on screen.

       While today, these versions look a little primitive, nevertheless each one was made with the intention to bring the first Narnia book faithfully to the screen.  Even the animated version, which doesn't look that great compared to today's technology, nevertheless was a huge hit at the time of release.  Check out these TV adaptations of The Lion, The Witch,  and The Wardrobe.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Summer Schedule: Disney Channel One Season Wonders

      Once again, the summer blogs are once a month instead of once a week.  Like the past two summers, this summer will feature a series connected by a theme.  This summer, the series is Disney Channel One Season Wonders!  The schedule is as follows:

      June: Live Action Edition
      July: Cartoon Edition
      August: Totally Edition

       A few notes: This list will not include shows that had one season on Disney Channel and then went on to elsewhere (such as Good Morning, Miss Bliss which is considered by many as the first season of Saved by the Bell).  One and done seasons.  This list will also not include short series, like Mike's Super Short Show or As the Bell Rings.  And this is by no means an exhaustive list, and it will not include game shows or prank show (at least not during the summer...).

    As for the last May blog post next week, let's just say it involves a lion, a witch, and a...well, you'll have to wait until Friday to find out.

Friday, May 18, 2018

3 Books Which Received TV Adaptations BEFORE their Big Budget Movies

             It's finally here!  The big budget theatrical movie based on the bestselling novel released across the US and the world, its appeal catering to fans of the book.  For many fans, the first time they see their book adapted, it is on the big screen.  But for the rare few, there are some books that were adapted for the small screen before their later Big Budget movies.  Here are three Books which received TV adaptations before their big budget movies.
            The $100 Million A Wrinkle in Time movie was released on March 9, 2018, based on the fantasy novel of the same name by Madeline L'Engle, published in 1968.  The story concerns Meg, a teenage girl, who, along with her brother Charles and friend Calvin, must travel to different worlds in search of her father.  Three supernatural beings, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which help the three along the way.  The big budget movie starred Storm Reid (Meg), Levi Miller (Calvin), Deric McCabe (Charles), with Oprah Winfrey (Mrs. Which), Reese Witherspoon (Mrs. Whatsit), Mindy Kaling (Mrs. Who), Chris Pine as the father and was directed by Ava DuVernay.  Released to mixed reviews, the movie made $128 million currently at the box office.  But the first version of A Wrinkle in Time was released on May 10, 2004, on ABC.   This version had a troubled production history.  The movie was shot in the Spring of 2001 with the intention of being a miniseries, and while a promo on the Spy Kids DVD in the Fall of 2001, A Wrinkle in Time wasn't aired at all in 2002 or 2003.  Finally, the movie premiered, in the middle of the week, as a one-night, 3-hour movie on ABC.  This version starred Katie Stuart (Meg) Gregory Smith (Calvin) David Dorfman (Charles), along with Kate Nelligan (Mrs. Which), Allison Elliot (Mrs. Who), Alfre Woodward (Mrs. Whatsit) and Chris Potter as the father; the movie was directed by John Kent Harrison.  The TV movie was later released on DVD on November 16, 2004, with deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette and an interview with Madeline L'Engle.  (It should be noted that the L'Engle expected the TV version to be bad, and in her eyes, "it was." 
             A $20 million theatrical version of Bridge to Terebithia was brought to the screen on February 16, 2007, based on the novel by Katherine Paterson, published in 1977.   The main character of the story is Jesse Aaron, the 10-year-old who struggles to fit in with his large family with many siblings.  In the new school year, he meets and gets to know Leslie Burke, the 10-year-old only child next door, and also finds help with the school's music teacher, Miss Edmunds.  Jesse and Leslie find an abandoned tree house and imagine that they are in the land of Terabithia.  This version starred Josh Hutcherson (Jesse), AnnaSophia Robb (Leslie), Zooey Deschanel (Ms. Edmunds) with Robert Patrick as Jesse's father and Kate Butler as Jesse's mother.  Bridge to Terabithia was directed by Gábor Csupó, and co-written by David L. Paterson, Katherine's son.  The movie was released to mostly positive reviews, with many praising it as a faithful adaptation of the novel, and made $138 million at the box office, making it a modest success.   But the first version of Bridge to Terebithia was released on PBS on February 4, 1985.  This version starred Julian Coutts (Jesse), Julie Beaulieu (Leslie) Annette O'Toole (Miss Edmunds), with Tom Heaton as Jesse's father and Gloria Carlin as Jesse's mother.
            The $60 million movie The Bourne Identity was released on June 14, 2002, and was based on the spy thriller of the same name by Robert Ludlum.  While many details were changed from the book, the main central concept remained the same: A man suffering from amnesia, Jason Bourne, finds out he was a trained assassin and is hunted by several shadow organizations and the CIA.  Along the way, he is joined by a woman named Marie who helps him uncover his past while outrunning the people trying to kill him.  The movie starred Matt Damon (Jason Bourne) and Franka Potente (Marie) and was directed by Doug Liman.   This loose adaptation of the novel made $214 million at the International Box Office, making it a success.  However, a television miniseries was the first adaptation of The Bourne Identity and was released on May 8 and 9 in two parts, for a total of four hours running time (with commercials).  This version starred Richard Chamberlain as Bourne and Jaclyn Smith as Marie and was directed by Rodger Young. The miniseries version has minor deviations but is considered a much more faithful version to the novel than the Matt Damon movie.
          Just because a huge big budget adaption was released to theaters, doesn't mean that it's the only version out there sometimes.  Check out these TV adaptions which were released before their theatrical counterparts on the big screen.       
     

Friday, May 11, 2018

Will Harry Potter be Remade?

       On November 13, 2017, Amazon announced that it would be a making a massive, multi-season adaption of Lord of the Rings.  Sharon Tal Yguado, Head of Scripted Series, Amazon Studios, professed, “We are honored to be working with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line on this exciting collaboration for television and are thrilled to be taking The Lord of the Rings fans on a new epic journey in Middle Earth.”  This despite that, less than 20 years ago, the Lord of the Rings movie series was released from 2001 to 2003 (2002 to 2004 for the Extended Editions) and became a huge worldwide hit and beloved series to many fans.  The Lord of the Rings movies, for many people, was the definitive adaptation of Lord of the Rings. This is just one example of many famous book franchises getting a new version (A Series of Unfortunate Events was originally a 2003 movie before getting a Netflix series in 2017 is one example, while in 2003 A Wrinkle in Time was adapted into a TV movie, and then again into a big budget movie in 2018.)  Which leads us to Harry Potter.  My friend Nikki worried that Harry Potter might get remade just like the classics get remade every 20 or 30 years.   Well, let's examine the reasons for or against.
     The reasons against remaking the Harry Potter movies (released from 2001 to 2011) are many.  For starters, just like the Lord of the Rings, for many people, the movies are the definitive cinematic version of the books.  There are no other actors fans would want to see portraying the roles on screen, for example.   The time and care that the original filmmakers took to make the world believable, to make the world real, cannot be denied.    Let's also not forget that J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter book series, had a direct hand in all the movies (and the prequel franchise, and the creation of the Wizarding World areas in the theme parks, and the stage play).  She gave her personal stamp of approval on all the movies, so why remake them?  And just like the books, a generation grew up watching the Harry Potter movies, so there is a definitely a sense of nostalgia surrounding the original movies.   Here's a video of J.K. Rowling praising Daniel Radcliff, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson before the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2:
      Nevertheless, there is some definite criticism that is leveled at the movies.  Cinefix's 3-Part What's the Difference and The Dom's massive 13-Part Lost in Adaptation Harry Potterathon on YouTube will tell you exactly what each of the Potter movies left out of the original books.  This especially includes the details left out of the fourth, fifth and sixth movies (which were adapted Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix, and Half-Blood Prince, all over 500 pages long) drew major criticism from fans.  Here are two examples: Hermonie's drive to free all the house elves is cut entirely and favorite character Dobby only appears in movies 2 and 7, despite having a role in books 4, 5, and 6.  Of course, to keep the movie down to a reasonable running time, side plots had to be cut and only the most important story points were brought to the screen.  Here's Part 1 of What's the Difference's Harry Potter Series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Chamber of Azkaban:
       So, if Harry Potter were to be remade, a serious argument could be made for a limited series with an eye on keeping more of the details and the subplots in the books.  The early, shorter books would get a shorter, 2-3 episode story arc, while the longer books would get more episodes, say 6-8, thereby expanding the world of the story, deepening the depth of the characters, giving more time to favorite supporting characters, and filling in many of the details that the movies had to cut out due to running time.  Naturally, some changes would have to be made due to story structure, but the idea is to adapt the books more faithfully to the screen.  The world of the books could be more expanded, more explored, and more life could be given to every single character within the universe of Harry Potter. IF Harry Potter were to be remade, that is a potential way it could be redone.
      The difference (and it is a big one) between the new streaming adaption of Lord of the Rings and a potential remake of the Harry Potter series is that the author of Harry Potter is still alive, and still personally involved in every project related to Harry Potter.  The Lord of the Rings adaptation was made after negotiations with J.R.R. Tolkien's estate and does not have the personal stamp of approval from the original author.  I personally don't believe that J.K. Rowling would approve of making a second adaptation of her beloved novels be made during her life since she was involved in and gave approval to all 8 movies based on all 7 novels.  Fans of the original movies have nothing to worry about, for a long, long time.

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Two Best Non-Romantic Single Father Movies

         So often, in movies about single fathers, one of the goals (if not the singular goal) is to provide a romantic interest to the father, thereupon making the single father not single anymore.  In this post, inspired by my cousin Sam's request to write about single parenting, it made me realized that most movies about single dads presented them as an ideal romantic conquest.  Not that those movies are bad movies, but are there good movies about single fathers, who work hard and raise their children, without a romantic main plot or subplot?  As a matter of fact, there are!  Here are two great non-romantic movies about single fathers; it is unfortunate that both films are for adults and not for the whole family.  (Note: I had some help from this list.)
       The first Father on this list from the movie The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), is actually based on a true story.  In this movie, Chris Gardner is a salesman who decides to put his entire money into boney density scanners which are super expensive and only sold to doctors and hospitals.  Unfortunately, he doesn't sell all of them and their financial troubles result in his wife leaving him and his son, Chris Jr.  Eventually, the IRS and the government take what little money he does have, leaving him and his son homeless, and he loses the last bone scanner he was hoping to sell.  Chris applies and receives an internship that is on the way to being stockbroker...but the internship is unpaid.  Though he and Chris Jr. are homeless, he still takes care of his son and refuses to give up.  He finds the bone scanner he lost, is able to repair it and sell it to a doctor.  And at the final interview, though he is dressed shabbily, he wins the stockbroker job and eventually becomes the head of his own brokerage firm.  Chris is an ideal single father because he always kept a realistic but positive attitude around his son, and he never gave up, despite his circumstances.  He wasn't perfect by any means (his method of not paying money he owed caught up to him), he was a loving, caring father who figured out by his own unique way out of his homeless situation and still cares for his son.  

          The second single father is Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.  In this story, Jean Louise "Scout" and Jeremy Atticus "Jem" are children of Atticus Finch, a lawyer in a racially charged small town in the 1930s. Atticus believes he should treat all people fairly, turn the other cheek and stand for your beliefs and values.  In the beginning, the children are live happy lives, their own concern is the mysterious Boo who stays in his home.  But soon, the children are witnesses to their father becoming the lawyer to Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman.  Atticus stays at the prison to prevent Tom from being lynched, and later at the trial, tries his best to defend a man wrongfully accused of a crime he did not commit.  Tom is found guilty and later is killed while "trying to escape."  Scout and Jem, coming back from a Halloween pageant and cutting through the woods, are attacked by an unknown man but are saved by "Boo," whose real name is Arthur Radley.  Radley killed the assailant, who is revealed to be, Bob Elwell, the violent father of the woman who accused Tom of rape.  The Sherrif agrees to keep Radley's killing of a secret, and the story ends.   Atticus is a great single father because he refuses to compromise his values, standing for what he knows is right.  He helps his children understand to look at people not as others or outsiders, but as real people.  Scout and Jem grow up, but with the help of a morally strong father of Atticus Finch.

       While there are other non-romantic single father movies out there, none of them match the first two, so here are some honorable mentions: Finding Nemo, the Pixar film about the clownfish father who will stop at nothing to find his lost son.  Three Men and A Baby, a comedy about two men who must care for a baby girl when the girl is dropped off at their doorstep by the mother while their third roommate, the father, is away; later the father returns and bonds with the baby girl as well.  I am Sam, the drama film about a father who is mentally challenged and struggles with to keep custody of his seven-year-old daughter.  The Descendants, about a father who wants to reconnect with his two troubled girls while also dealing the decision to take his comatose wife off of life support.  Signs, a supernatural horror film, about a father who tries to protect his family from aliens invading his farm.   
        I'm sure there are plenty more.  Great films about single fathers (and great films about single mothers as well) are definitely needed today.   Are there any other great films about single dads that you know, readers?  Let me know!