Friday, December 29, 2017

Origins of Three Christmas Carols, Part 2

         A Christmas Carol is one of the most popular adaptions of all time, with dozens of direct adaptions and still many more alternate interpretations, such as set in present day or with a woman in the Scrooge role.   The simple story of one man's redemption set in the 1800s London continues to hold our fascination.  Here are the origin of three of those adaptions of A Christmas Carol.
        In 1938, Metro-Golden-Meyer (MGM) released A Christmas Carol, with Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge.  However, the Scrooge role was originally meant for Lionel Barrymore.  Barrymore, unfortunately, had to drop out due to arthritis.  Married couple Gene and Kathleen Lockhart played Bob and Mrs. Cratchit, would a young June Lockhart (known later for roles in Lassie, Lost in Space, and Petticoat Junction) made her debut as Belinda Crachit.  Some of the changes to the story, such as lessening the scarier aspects (for example, the appearance of the disturbing children "Want" and "Ignorance" do not appear in this version) made in this version continue onto other versions of A Christmas Carol.  These were made to keep the run-time down and to make the film more family friendly.  A Christmas Carol was released on December 16, 1938 and ran for 69 minutes.  

      In 1990, talent agent Bill Hader convinced Brian Henson, Jim Henson's son to make an adaption of A Christmas Carol starring the Muppets, with Charles Dickens as an onscreen narrator.  When the idea was presented to Disney executives, they convinced Muppet studios to make the production a feature film, instead of as a television special as originally envisioned.  Gonzo was chosen because he was actually seen as the least likely choice.  The original idea was for established Muppets portray the Christmas ghosts, with Robin the Frog or Scooter considered for Christmas Past, Miss Piggy considered for Christmas Present, and Gonzo or Animal for Christmas Future.  However, with the intention that the ominous (meaning: serious) nature of the ghosts to be shown in the film, new Puppets were made more in keeping with the original vision of the Christmas ghosts.  Michael Cane, who portrayed Scrooge in this version, approached the role in utter seriousness, as if he was preforming with humans.  The Muppet Christmas Carol was released on December 11, 1992 and had a run-time of 86 minutes.  

    Before Robert Zemeckis started on his motion-capture version of A Christmas Carol, he previously stated that his one of his favorite time travel stories was...A Christmas Carol.  Zemeckis partnered with Disney studios and star Jim Carrey to create a big-budget ($175-200 million) version of the famous story.  The CGI model for Scrooge was previously used in The Polar Express (there he was seen as a puppet), also directed by Zemeckis.  Jim Carrey played four different roles in the movie, including Scrooge throughout his life and all three Christmas ghosts.  For the Ghost of Christmas past, he used an Irish accent, and for the Ghost of Christmas Present, he used a Northern English accent.  Gary Oldman also played three roles himself:  Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim.  In fact, many of the voice cast played multiple roles.  A Christmas Carol was released on November 3, 2009 in London and November 6 in the US, and ran for a total of 95 minutes.  

     These three adaptions, from the very traditional live-action, to the silly mixed with serious Muppet version, to CGI motion-capture of today, show the different possibilities of how A Christmas Carol can be put to the screen.  As long as the core story of A Christmas Carol will continue to hold the audience's interest, new film versions will continue to inspire for generations to come. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Origins of Three Christmas Carols, Part 1

               These beloved songs have stood the test of time, with modern artists giving their own interpretations.  Artists of all genres and many generations have covered these Christmas classics.  But where did they come from?  Here are the origins of three of the most famous Christmas Carols.
                Joy to the World has the distinction of being the most published Christmas hymn in North America.  English writer Isaac Watts wrote the words to the hymn in 1917, in his collection The Psalms of David: Imitated in the Language of the New Testament and applied to the Christian state and worship.  Watts based his lyrics on Psalm 98, 96:11-12 and Genesis 3:17-18.  The music origin, however, is disputed, with some scholars believing that George Fredric Handel wrote the music, citing similarities between Joy to the World and his other work, while others assert that Lowell Mason was the composer.  However, Handel was never confirmed as the composer and a version of Joy to the World was published three years before Mason’s version was published.  Thus, the origins of the composition of the music of Joy to the World will remain a mystery.

                Silent Night has been a popular cover song, so much so that Bing Crosby’s version is still the third best selling single of all time (So what’s number one? Crosby’s White Christmas).  A priest named Joseph Mohr wrote the lyrics to Stille Nacht (Silent Night) in Obendorf, Austria.  Mohr brought the lyrics to schoolmaster Franz Xaver Gruber, who lived in neighboring village Arnsdorf and also was an organist.  Mohr asked Gruber to compose a melody for the lyrics to be played for Christmas Eve mass.  Thus, the first recorded playing of Silent Night was on Christmas Eve, 1818 in Obendorf, at St. Nicolas parish church.  Karl Mauracher, an organ builder who also serviced the organ at Obendorf, loved the song he brought it back to the region where he lived, the Zillertal, and two traveling folk singer families spread the song throughout the world, including New York City and Russia. 

                The First Noel is a traditional Christmas Carol from England, with "Noel" being a synonym of Christmas from Early Modern English.  While the writer of the lyrics and the melody composer are unknown, what is known is that the song originated in the Cornwall region, in the South West section of England.  The first known publication of The First Noel was in 1823 in Carols Ancient and Modern, edited by William Sandys.  A 1933 version called Gilbert and Sandys Carols included new lyrics Davies Gilbert.  However, the version that is sung today is the four part arrangement by composer John Stainer, published in 1871, in Carols, New and Old. 

                Today, these three songs are sung throughout the world in churches at Christmastime, and are also found on many Christmas albums from many different artists.  From our house to yours, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas.  

Friday, December 8, 2017

Four More PG-13 Movies with Animated Spin-Offs Aimed at Kids (It'll be Great on TV Too, Part 5!)

                While not nearly as bad as animated spin-offs based on R-rated movies, there are quite a few animated series based on PG-13 movies (five were covered two weeks ago).  Again, while the movies have questionable content for the target age, Producers still think that an animated spin-off would be a good idea.  Here are four more PG-13 movies which led to Animated Spin-Offs
                Completing the Jim Carrey animated spin-off trilogy, Dumb and Dumber was a 1994 movie starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.  Carrey plays Lloyd and Daniels plays Harry, two incredibly stupid guys who go on a cross-country trip to return a briefcase of money.  The film was rated PG-13 for off-color humor.  This led to Dumb and Dumber: The Animated Series, and follows Harry and Lloyd as they go on adventures in a dog-shaped van named Otto with a talking pet purple beaver named Kitty.  The show lasted from 1995 to 1996 for 13 episodes. 

                Little Shop of Horrors was a horror-comedy musical 1986 which was based on the off-broadway musical of the same name, which in turn was based on the low-budget 1960 horror-comedy of the same name.  In the musical, geeky florist shop employee Seymour finds out his venus flytrap plant (Audrey II) can talk (and sing) to him.  The movie was rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including comic horror violence, substance abuse, language and sex references.  In the animated series Little Shop, Seymour is aged down to a teenager and Audrey II’s name is changed to Junior and featured a couple musical numbers in each episode.  Little Shop lasted for one season, from September 7 to November 30, for a total of 13 episodes.

                The next two shows technically had two origins, one as a violent arcade game, and one with a PG-13 level of violence movie.  Because the PG-13 live-action movie happened first, both animated television series, while of course borrowing elements of the video game, also borrowed elements of the movie:
Street Fighter was a 1994 movie based on the video game Street Fighter II.  In Street Fighter, Colonel William F. Gile and his band of “street fighters” team against the tyrannical General M. Bison in the Asian city of Shadaloo.  The movie was rated PG-13 for non-stop martial arts and action violence.  In the Street Fighter animated series, Gil and the Street Fighters face off again against Bison and his criminal empire.  The series lasted two seasons from 1995 to 1997, with 26 total episodes. 

                Mortal Kombat was a 1995 movie based on the video games Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat II.  In Mortal Kombat, warrior monk Liu, actor Johnny and soldier Sonya (led by mythical god Raiden) all team up together to battle sorcerer Shang Tsung, in a martial arts tournament to save the world.  The movie was rated PG-13 for non-stop martial arts actions and some violence.  In the Mortal Kombat animated series (known as Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm), Liu, Johnny, and Sonya are joined by Jax, Kitana, Sub-Zero and Nightwolf to help defend Earthrealm from invaders from other dimensions.  The series lasted one season from September 21 to December 14, 1996, with 13 total episodes.

                Dumb and Dumber and Little Shop of Horrors featured inappropriate humor, while Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat had excessive martial arts violence.  Considering the cartoonish nature of the first two movies, and the video game origins of the second group of movies, is it any surprise there were some producers who thought they would make good animated shows for kids?  Here are four more PG-13 movies with animated shows aimed at kids.

It'll be Great on TV, Too Series
Part 4: Five R-rated Movies that Led to Animated Spin-offs Aimed at Kids:
Part 3: Five PG-13 Movies with Animated Spin-Offs Aimed at Kids:
Part 2: Four Disney Animated Television Series based on Animated Movies:
Part 1: Three TV Series Continuations of Movies:

Friday, December 1, 2017

Five R-rated Movies that Led to Animated Spin-offs Aimed at Kids (It’ll be Great on TV Too, Part 4!)

                You’d think it would be impossible, but these television series were actually made.  The R-rated movies that they were based on were box office successes in their day.  Their success led to sequel movies being made, plus the idea that some producers had, that this R-rated movie would be a fantastic addition to Saturday morning or weekday afternoons.   Let’s be clear, some of the original R-rated movies also led to movies not rated R and live-action television series aimed at a more general audience.  But the original idea that started the television series came from this R movie.
                Police Academy was released in 1984 and rated R.  It followed a bunch of misfit recruits to the police academy (anyone is allowed to join, due to a police shortage) and the inappropriate trouble they get into after joining the academy.  The band of misfits was led by Carey Mahoney, who joined the academy instead of going to jail.  The original was a success, and a sequel quickly followed the following year, and as the movie series progressed, the content ratings fell from R to PG-13 (for Police Academy 2) to PG (for Police Academy 3 and 4).  By this time, the movie franchise had been established, and the idea of an animated television series didn’t seem so far off.  Granted, making an animated television based on two PG movies seems a lot more reasonable than an R-rated one, but the fact remains that the original Police Academy should not be seen by the target audience for the animated series.  The television series recreated twelve of the main roles, including the main character of the group, Carey and chronologically happened after the Police Academy 4.  The television series lasted two seasons, from 1988 to 1989, in syndication, for 65 total episodes. 

                First Blood (1982) was rated R and followed former Vietnam Vet John Rambo as he was hunted by a sheriff and deputies who believe he is a menace to their town, despite Rambo initially doing nothing wrong.  The sequel, Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) was also rated R and followed Rambo on a mission to rescue Vietnam POWs.  Following the success of Part II, Rambo made his crossover into an animated television series, called Rambo: The Force of Freedom, with Rambo the leader of the Force for Freedom and battling against the paramilitary terrorist group S.A.V.A.G.E. (Specialist Administrators of Vengeance, Anarchy, and Global Extortion).  The series was syndicated and lasted one season, between September 15 and December 26, 1986. 

                Robocop was released in 1987 and was rated R.  It followed police officer Alex Murphy in a crime-overrun Detroit, who is nearly killed and brought back as a powerful cyborg (part human, part machine) to fight crime.  In 1988, just one year after the release of the first movie, the animated Robocop was brought to the small screen and follows Robocop on fighting crime, many times against mechanical inventions by the evil Dr. McNamara.  The series lasted 12 episodes, from October 1 to December 17, 1988.  There was a second animated series, Robocop: Alpha Commando, and followed the movies Robocop 2 (1990, rated R) and Robocop 3 (1993, rated PG-13) and a Robocop live-action series (1994).  It was set in 2030 and had Robocop, with new gadgets, battled against DARC (Directorate for Anarchy, Revenge, and Chaos); Alpha Commando lasted for one season and 40 episodes, from 1998 to 1999. 

                Highlander was released in 1986, was rated R, and followed an immortal Scottish swordsman called Connor MacLeod and who battles other “Immortals,” including The Kurgan, who killed his mentor.  Highlander II: the Quickening was released in 1991 and was also rated R.  In 1992, the syndicated live-action Highlander series premiered and introduced Highlander (with a different protagonist, Duncan MacLeod) to a more general audience.  With the success of the live-action series, an animated series was produced.  This animated series followed a descendant of Connor, Quentin MacLeod, as he battled Kortan, an Immortal who established an empire on earth.  The show lasted two seasons and 40 episodes, from 1994 to 1996, one on the USA Network and one syndicated. 

                Starship Troopers was released in 1997 and rated R, and follows Johnny Rico as he joins the Mobile Infantry and eventually winds up fighting in the war between the humans and an insectoid race called the “Arachnids.”  In 1999, the CGI television series Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles (also known as Starship Troopers: the Series) premiered.  It followed the Alpha Team, nicknamed Razak’s Roughnecks, as they went on 5-episode campaigns on their mission to defeat the Arachnids.  While it was meant for the fans of the violent original movie, it was produced by the BKN (Bohbot Kids Network) and aired in syndication for 36 episodes, with four episodes left uncompleted (4 clip show episodes were created to fill the episode order). 

                For good or bad, these television series were produced and created.  Somewhere, producers thought it was a good idea to make an animated series aimed at kids, immediately following Rambo: First Blood Part 2, Robocop, and Starship Troopers.  Highlander and Police Academy had the buffer of a live action TV series and PG movies, respectively, and thus didn’t seem that unrealistic of an idea.  But nevertheless all six TV series (2 with Robocop) originated with an R-rated movie and became a weird interesting chapter in the life of each series’ franchise.

It'll be Great on TV Too, Part 1!: Three TV Series Continuations of Movies:
It'll be Great on TV Too, Part 2!: Four Disney Animated Television Series based on Animated Movies:
Five PG-13 Movies with Animated Spin-Offs Aimed at Kids (It'll be Great on TV, Too, Part 3!):

Friday, November 24, 2017

Five PG-13 Movies with Animated Spin-Offs Aimed at Kids (It’ll be Great on TV Too, Part 3!)

                If there was ever a gray area in movies, it would be the PG-13 movie.  The PG-13 movie tries its best to appeal to all ages, while also trying to be just edgy enough (through violence, bathroom humor, sexual situations, etc.) to warrant the rating.  And then, after the movie is a success, do you know what some producers think?  This PG-13 movie would make a great animated television show, despite the fact the target audience would be “strongly cautioned” against seeing the original live-action movie!  Here are five PG-13 movies with animated television spin-offs aimed at kids.
                Ace Ventura: Pet Detective was one of Jim Carrey’s early successes.  In it, he plays a crazy pet detective who is tasked with finding the Miami Dolphin’s animal mascot.  The movie received the PG-13 rating for off-color humor and some nudity.  Ace Ventura was a huge early success, grossing over $107 million worldwide, and spawned a sequel: Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.  The other thing is spawned was an animated show appearing first on the CBS KIdshow block on Saturday mornings.  The Ace Ventura animated series featured Ace on different animal cases.  The show lasted three seasons and 39 episodes, 2 on CBS from 1995 to 1997, and later moved to Nickelodeon for one more season from 1999 to 2000.
                The Mask, another Jim Carrey vehicle, was about Carrey as a mild-mannered guy who puts on an ancient mask and becomes a zany, uninhibited cartoonish man.  Again, it was a huge success, grossing $341.6 million.  It was rated PG-13 for stylized violence.  Like Ace Ventura, the Mask made its way to CBS Kidshow, lasting 3 seasons and 54 episodes, from 1995 to 1997. 
                In 1998 a monster disaster movie called Godzilla (based on the Japanese movie monster) was released, and while not a hit with critics, nevertheless grossed $379 million worldwide.  It was rated PG-13 for sci-fi monster action/violence.  The animated television series premiered on FOX Kids and followed Godzilla, a hero this time, who imprinted on H.E.A.T. (Humanitarian Environmental Analysis Team) leader Nick.  Godzilla, Nick and his crew team up together and fight supernatural monsters.  The TV series lasted for 2 seasons and 40 episodes from 1998 to 2000.
                Men in Black was the popular ($589.4 million) 1997 Sci-fi Comedy movie about two secret agents, Agent J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) in the Men in Black organization who watch over aliens who live on earth and hide their presence from humans.  It was rated PG-13 for language and sci-fi violence.  The animated television series premiered on Kids’ WB block and followed Agent J and K fighting and watching over aliens.  The show lasted for 4 seasons and 53 episodes, from 1997 to 2001.
                The Mummy was a 1999 movie following set in the 1920s and following Rick and Evie, whose interest in Ancient Egypt causes them to accidentally unleash the supernatural Mummy from beyond the Grave.  The Mummy Returns was a 2001 sequel which followed Rick, Evie, and their 11-year-old son Alex, who again accidentally awaken the Mummy.  The Mummy Returns was rated PG-13 for adventure action and violence and The Mummy was rated PG-13 for pervasive adventure violence and partial nudity.  The Mummy animated series premiered on Kids’ WB and followed Alex, Rick and Evy as they battle the Mummy from the first two movies.  The series lasted for two seasons, but was renamed The Mummy: Secrets of the Medjai in the second season and followed Alex training to be a “Medjai.”  Altogether, the animated series lasted 2seasons and 26 episodes, from 2001 to 2003.
                The appeal of translating blockbuster movies into animated show means acknowledging that producers are trying to get children to watch television based on PG-13 movies, movies which they probably shouldn’t watch in the first place.  But the appeal of expanding an existing PG-13 property could not go unheeded, resulting in these TV shows. Here are five examples of such shows.

It'll be Great on TV Too, Part 1! Three TV Series Continuations of Movies:
It'll be Great on TV, Too, Part 2! Four Disney Animated Television Series Based On Animated Movies:

Friday, November 17, 2017

Four Epic Miniseries that Received One or More Sequel Miniseries

The epic miniseries was a staple of television of the 1970s through the 1990s.  Telling a self-contained story through two or more episodes, the “miniseries” showcased a large cast of characters, many times through a significant historical time in history.  But the most successful miniseries were the rare ones that were given a sequel miniseries that sometimes, was just as impressive in scope and length as the first miniseries.  Here are four miniseries with a sequel miniseries. 
                Rich Man, Poor Man followed two German American brothers: a Rich Man, Rudy Jordache and his brother Tom Jordache from 1945 to 1965.  After being raised in poorer struggling life, Rudy becomes a successful entrepreneur and politician, building a corporate empire.  Tom, who was rebellious, becomes a boxer and never quite leaves the lower income life he was born into.  Meanwhile, Anthony Falconetti, a nemesis to the brothers, intends on killing them.  The series had twelve episodes which appeared every weeknight from February 1 to March 15 in 1976.  The miniseries was enough of a critical and TV ratings success to spawn the sequel series Rich Man, Poor Man Book II.  In Book II, Tom has died and Rudy is seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate.  Meanwhile, Tom’s son Wesley has a rivalry with Rudy’s stepson Billy, and Falconetti has been released from prison and vows to destroy the Jordache family once and for all.  The second miniseries ran for twenty-one episodes between September 21, 1976, and March 8, 1977, and was not as well received as the original miniseries.
                Probably the most famous miniseries of all time, Roots, by Alex Haley based his book of the same name, followed a group of slaves from capture in Africa during colonial times through their decedents in the Civil War.  Featuring a large cast, the series most notably introduced LeVar Burton as Kunta Kinte, a young slave who lived in the Gambia region in East Africa, who was captured by slave traders.  Following Kunta, who eventually stops trying to run away and marries Bell, a cook and has a daughter with her.  The daughter and her subsequent family live through early American history through the Civil War. One of the highest in the television ratings ever, the series ran for eight episodes from January 23 to January 30 in 1977.  A sequel series was made, called Roots: The Next Generations, and followed now freed former slave family through postwar era up through civil rights era of the 1960s.  The sequel miniseries ran for seven episodes from February 18 to February 24 in 1979 and is as well regarded as the original miniseries.  In 1988, a TV movie was made, set in 1775, with LeVar Burton reprising his role and Kunta.  Made from another of Alex Haley’s works, Alex Haley’s Queen is a sort-of sequel that was made in 1993 and follows the lives of biracial children from shortly before the Civil War through the early 20th century and ran for three episodes from February 14 to February 18 in 1993.
                The miniseries North and South followed two men’s friendship through Military Academy in the era before the Civil War.  Orry Main’s (Patrick Swayze) father was a rural planter who owned slaves in South Carolina, while George Hazard’s (James Read) family received their wealth through manufacturing in Pennsylvania.  The story begins in 1841 and continues through to 1861, the start of the Civil War, as the men grow apart.  North and South: Book I had six episodes and aired from November 3 to November 10, 1985.  North and South: Book II: Love and War followed Orry and George through the Civil War and their eventual reconciliation from 1861 to 1865, and aired from May 5 to May 12 in 1986.  Both were huge critical hits and scored high in the television ratings.  In 1994, Heaven and Hell: North and South Book III aired and followed Orry as he dealt with his friend’s death and the aftermath of the war.  Book III had three episodes from February 28 to March 3, 1994, and was not a hit critically or in the ratings as the first two miniseries.
                Lonesome Dove was a Western miniseries based on the novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry that followed two former Texas Rangers, Gus (Robert Duvall) and Call (Tommy Lee Jones) who spearheaded a cattle drive to Montana along with other residents of the small Texas town they lived in.  The show followed them from their tiny town to their eventual stop in Montana.  The series had four parts, which aired from February 5 to February 8, 1989.  From there, things get interesting: Return to Lonesome Dove follows Call after the death of Gus spearheading a mustang drive to Montana.  This miniseries aired for four parts from November 14 to November 17 in 1993.  Following that miniseries, there was a syndicated television series (Lonesome Dove: The Series in season 1, and Lonesome Dove: the Outlaw Years in season 2) which aired from 1994 to 1996 and follows Call’s son Newt, on his own adventures in Curtis Wells, Montana.  However, the story in Return and the Series did not have McMurtry’s involvement, and the fans of the novel series and McMurty do not consider them canonical.  Larry McMurtry subsequently collaborated to make adaptations of his other novels in the Lonesome Dove series.  Larry McMurtry's Streets of Loredo was adapted in 1995, with three parts airing from November 12 – November 15, 1995, and focused on Call, now a bounty hunter, who asked to find Mexican bandit Joey Garza (it also specifically ignores the events of Return to Lonesome Dove).  Dead Man’s Walk was adapted in 1996, two parts airing on May 12 and 13, 1996, and is a prequel focused on when Gus and Call first joined the Texas Rangers.  And finally, Comanche Moon was adapted in 2008 and focused on Gus and Call during their later Texas Ranger years.  Comanche Moon aired in three parts from January 13 to January 16, 2008.  In all, there were five total miniseries set in the Lonesome Dove universe, along with a syndicated TV series.
              The original epic miniseries proved to be so popular they spawned a sequel series.  While some failed to live up to the original’s vision (such as Rich Man, Poor Man Book II), others matched their scope and storytelling (Roots: The Next Generations being a good example).  Check out these epic miniseries and their sequels.   

Friday, November 10, 2017

Will Disney Corporate Policies Hurt The Last Jedi?

On November 1, 2017, the Wall Street Journal posted an article reporting how Disney expects to keep 65% of the profit from The Last Jedi and keep it on their best theater for four weeks ([1]).  While big theater chains with multiple screens can probably handle it, the small chains with one or two screens are not happy.  Forbes followed up a day later with an analysis piece explaining why the theaters are doing it: ([2]): for all the big movie franchises, the Star Wars movies still play best in the United States 45% to 50% of the total gross of the movie, as opposed to 35% to 40% for many major movie franchises.  Disney did a similar thing for the Force Awakens; however, it was 64% and two weeks.  But doubling the weeks, especially for small movie theaters, monopolizes that particular theater from showing anything else – for an entire month.  And new for The Last Jedi, if the theater doesn’t agree to the deal, Disney will take an additional 5%. 
                And then there’s the L.A. Times series of articles (the first one is here: 
[3]) detailing how Disney has successfully lobbied (in the past) to get deals from the government which benefit them quite a bit in various ways (for example a new parking deck was built by the City of Anaheim built a New Parking Deck for $108.2 million, and leases it to Disney for $1 –that’s right, one dollar) and that Disney has spent money on political action committees which support candidates on their side of the issue.  Disney responded that the article was “biased and inaccurate” with a “political agenda.” ([4])  But then Disney decided to take action: the L.A. Times reviewer was “not” invited to the new Disney owned Thor movie.  When news of this came out, other large reviewers took notice.  A movie reviewer for The Washington Post followed that she will not attend advance screenings until Disney reverses barring the L.A. Times reviewers ([5]).  This was followed by the entire A.V. Club also telling readers they will not attend any Disney advance press screenings ([6]).  And now, the Chicago Tribune’s reviewer put out a piece detailing how four prominent critic’s associations1 co-signed a letter of protest against Disney ([7]).  Soon after, Disney recanted and dropped its ban on the L.A. Times, claiming that they had “productive discussions” with the “New Leadership” ([8]). 
                Full disclosure: Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the only movie I want to see in theaters this winter break.  No other movie even comes close.  However, corporate Disney’s actions trouble me.  Regardless of the article’s veracity, the fact that Disney chose to “punish” the L.A. times has resulted in a domino effect within the critic community.  With Disney’s actions in regard to dismissing the critic, I would also argue that the investigative journalists who published the article and the critic are in two totally different departments and have two totally different agendas.  Many critics feel that Disney barring any critic, regardless of what their paper is saying about the company, is wrong and sets a dangerous precedent, and thus wouldn’t attend the advance Press screenings until the ban is lifted.  Now that the ban is over, I’m sure Disney is hoping that this is old news by next week.  But nevertheless, if Disney had continued, the damage would be felt by all Disney films, including the Last Jedi.
                But while the critic ban on Disney press screenings may be old news by the time The Last Jedi comes out, the theater demands will not.  And The Force Awakens had a similar policy in regards to Star Wars theater profits, why are many people raising a fuss now?  Nevertheless, when Star Wars: The Last Jedi premieres, will small cities with independent theaters not show the movie?  If that is the case, Corporate Disney’s demand may hurt its bottom line and result in lower numbers.  While I love the stories that Disney and its subsidiaries make, and can’t help but be concerned about the actions Disney corporate has been taking recently.  It does not give me a good feeling. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Love and Heartbreak Story told by Weird Al songs

Today’s post is different from my usual fare.  I’ve wanted for some time to compile all of Weird Al’s love and breakup songs into one playlist.  But recently I had the idea: what if all of them told the story of one man, named Al who experienced the worst relationship ever?  Well, read below A Love and Heartbreak story told by “Weird Al” Yankovic songs:

Songwriter Al was moseying through his lonely existence when on a Tuesday morning bus ride he spies Bridget and is immediately enamored.  Al imagines an entire life together with her on the “Jackson Park Express.”  She gets off the bus, and Al is sure he would never see her again and only writes the song in memory of her.  But the following Tuesday morning, he does see her again!  Sure he won’t miss another chance to see her again, he begins stalking her without speaking to her, worrying to himself, “Do I Creep You Out?”  Finally, Bridget has had enough and demands to know why he’s following her and doing all that crazy stuff to her.  Al responds by writing a song which uses EVERY SINGLE LAME PICK-UP LINE ever invented (“Wanna B Ur Lovr”).  While Bridget is slightly put off by his behavior, she is touched by his sweetness and agrees to date him.
                After dating a while, Al pens an ode to their relationship, the slightly insulting “If That Isn’t Love,” forgiving his girlfriend for the annoying things that she does to him (and he does to her).  But after a while, the annoying things that Bridget does finally get to him, and he writes “I’m So Sick of You,” but after determining the song to be too mean, saves it on his computer and writes the only slightly nicer “Confessions Part III.”  However, Bridget still finds Al’s “confessions” hurtful and wonders if he wrote any other songs about her (Al also has to reassure him that it was only Usher who cheated on his girlfriend and had a kid with that woman, not Al himself).  After Bridget finds “I’m So Sick of You,” she becomes enraged, and then devious, deciding to get back at Al increasingly violent ways, causing him to think and wonder, “You Don’t Love Me Anymore.”  Then she does the worst thing of all: she breaks up with him and tells him she found someone else.
                Despondent, Al writes “One More Minute,” detailing how anything would be worse than another minute with Bridget.  But then he really starts to miss Bridget, writing that “Since You’ve Been Gone,” any number of horrible situations is better than not being with her – but even so, it wasn’t as bad as when Bridget was still there.  Al finally puts his violent, annoying ex-girlfriend Bridget behind him, and swears off love, thinking he could never find someone right for him.
                That is, until the very next day when he takes a flight to New Jersey and sees the flight attendant Amy and immediately writes “Airline Amy” in honor of her…

                I hope you enjoyed my little story!  Special thanks to “Weird Al” Yankovic, without which this story wouldn’t have been possible.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Three TV Shows Which Started with three or More TV movies

                Today, the major networks have done away for the most part with Television movies.  However, when TV movies were more popular, it’s very possible that a television movie preceded the actual beginning of the TV series.  In some cases, however, a total of three or more TV movies aired before the series even started.  Here are three TV shows that had three or more TV movies before TV show even started.
                Hercules: The Legendary Journeys was a syndicated TV series that ran for six seasons from 1995 to 1999.  Starring Kevin Sorbo as Hercules, the tongue-in-cheek action comedy series never took itself too seriously.  While the series itself still tend to be fairly popular, the preceding five television movies are not as well known (and harder to find).  In 1994, Universal Studios launched a two hour syndicated programming block called “Action Pack” and used it to show television movies and TV series under the title.  One of the first was the TV movies about Hercules.  The first premiered on April 25, 1994, and was called Hercules and the Amazon Women.  The plot: Hercules and his friend Iolaus discover that the “mysterious creatures” that they are trying to defeat are actually women who have left their men and instead have joined the Greek god Hera.  The second premiered on May 2, 1994, and was called Hercules and the Lost Kingdom.  In this story, Hercules agrees to help a young woman travel to Troy, where he becomes involved in a refugee attempt to take back the city from Hera’s blue priests.  The third called Hercules and the Circle of Fire, premiered on October 31, 1994.  This one was about Hercules and Deianeria traveling the world looking for fire, as the world freezes to death.  The fourth, called Hercules in the Underworld, premiered on November 7, 1994, and detailed Hercules more dangerous journey yet: he must travel to the Underworld and Hades to rescue some villagers who have fallen through a crack into said underworld.  Finally, on November 14, 1994, Hercules had his last television movie, called Hercules and the Maze of the Minotaur: Hercules has settled down with his family, but is called to action to rid of a Minotaur that is terrorizing the village (this one also featured some clips from the previous four movies).  In all, there were five television movies that preceded the Television series.
                Diagnosis: Murder was a long-running CBS show (eight seasons, from 1993-2001) starring Dick Van Dyke and his son, Barry Van Dyke.  The idea of Dick Van Dyke as murder-solving Doctor Mark Sloan originally appeared as a backdoor pilot as part of the series Jake and the Fatman (in a Season 4 episode entitled “It Never Entered My Mind).  But before the idea became a television series, Dick Van Dyke appeared in a series of television movies.  The first movie, Diagnosis of Murder, premiered on January 5, 1992, and followed Dr. Sloan as he investigates the evidence when his good friend (played by Bill Bixby) is accused of murdering his boss.  The second premiered on May 1, 1992, under the title The House on Sycamore Street.  In this movie, Dr. Sloan investigates a former student of his who seemingly committed suicide by jumping from the roof of the house.  The third movie, which premiered on February 13, 1993, was called A Twist of the Knife, and featured Suzanne Pleshette, as an old girlfriend of Mark’s, who may or may not have killed a U.S. Senator.  In all, there were three television movies that preceded the television series.
                The Love Boat ran for nine seasons from 1978 to 1986 and featured the crew of the cruise ship and their passengers.  Unlike other TV series at the time, the show featured three disconnected stories, each with their own characters, as they navigated love on the high seas.  Jeraldine Saunders, a former cruise director, wrote in 1974 a “true-life” book called Love Boats, about people who found love while on a cruise ship.  That idea was turned into a series of television movies, the first of which was called The Love Boat, which premiered on September 17, 1976.  Filmed aboard the Sun Princess, and featuring a large cast, the TV movie established the concept to three or more separate stories on the same ship.  The second TV movie, called The Love Boat II, premiered on January 21, 1977, and switched to the Pacific Princess and found three of the actors who later reprised their role in the television series (Bernie Kopell, Ted Lange, and Fred Grandy, who played Dr. O’Neill, Isaac the bartender and Gopher the purser, respectively).  The third television movie called The New Love Boat premiered on May 5, 1977.  The subtitle for The New Love Boat established the three titles that were used for each episode instead of one title like most series: The Newlyweds/The Exchange/Cleo’s First Voyage.  This one featured the first appearance of Gavin MacLeod as Captain Merrill Stubing and Lauren Tewes as Cruise Director Julie McCoy.  In all, there were three television movies that preceded television series.

                Over time, the TV movies which established these TV show have faded from prominence.  While they might be known to hard-core fans, for the casual viewer, these television movies are unknown.  Check out these TV movies which started these famous TV series.  

Friday, October 20, 2017

TV Shows that Continued without the Main Star, Part 5

                Welcome to the fifth and final installment about television shows that kept going, despite losing the main star.  Today there are two examples of the main star that left after the very first season, plus one example of the actress who played the title character who left at the beginning of the last season. 
                Today, Bill Cosby is in the news for numerous sexual assault allegations.  But in the 1980s and 1990s, he was known as the wholesome father on The Cosby Show, which he also created.  Lisa Bonet played Denise Huxtable, the second oldest teenage child on the show, for the first three seasons and was one of the most popular characters on the show.  By the end of the show’s third season, in 1987, Lisa Bonet made the decision to star in Angel Hart, a controversial R-rated movie and then posed nude for two magazines.  While Cosby publically supported Lisa Bonet at the time, he was also concerned about how the younger audience would react.  Cosby was also developing a TV show about a white woman (at the time, Meg Ryan) who attended a historically black college that had recently integrated white students.  When Ryan dropped out, Marisa Tomei was cast as the white woman and her role was made supporting.  Cosby then offered Bonet the main role on his series, A Different World, in order keep her character alive but have more grown-up, college-oriented stories.  She moved in with Maggie (Tomei) and Jaleesa (Dawnn Lewis). The spin-off was a ratings success in the first season, despite mixed critical reviews.  During this time, Lisa married Lenny Kravitz and became pregnant.  Cosby felt so strongly that Lisa’s character Denise should not be pregnant that he fired Bonet.  (It should be noted, that later on Cosby rehired Bonet to reprise Denise on The Cosby Show following her departure).  In addition, Tomei left the show after the first season, and thus, with Dawnn Lewis the only roommate still on the show; producers switched the format to a predominately black college and made the show more of an ensemble piece, promoting some cast members from recurring roles to main cast, and hiring new actors to the main cast as well.  A Different World was on a total of six seasons, five without its main star.
                Babylon 5 was created by Michael J. Straczynski, about a five-mile-long space station named Babylon 5, in which was created by the Earth Alliance and houses Alien ambassadors and humans in charge of the station, in addition to the many aliens and humans that live, work and pass through the station.  In the first season, Michael O’Hare played Commander Jeffrey Sinclair, the leader of Babylon 5.  He slowly becomes aware that he was the reason a major battle between the Earth and the alien Minbari, with the Minbari believing that he was the reincarnation of Valen, a great Minbari leader.  Unfortunately, during the first season, O’Hare begin having paranoid delusions, which caused erratic behavior and tension with other cast members.  O’Hare felt it would be best for him to leave the show rather than delay production.  Straczynski agreed to keep the reason a secret.  Bruce Boxleitner was cast as Commander John Sheridan who comes to lead Babylon 5 after Sinclair leaves to become a Minbari ambassador.  Michael O’Hare would return for a cameo in a season 2 episode and a two-episode story in season 3 to close his character arc.  Babylon 5 ran for a total of five seasons, four without its main star.
                Laverne and Shirley was the popular spinoff of Happy Days.  For the first seven seasons, Penny Marshall played Laverne while Cindy Williams played Shirley.  William in the eighth season became pregnant and gave a list of demands with her husband and manager Bill Hudson.  However, the producers refused and Williams was fired, leaving Penny Marshall to continue leading the show by herself.  In the show, Shirley marries Army medic Walter Meany, discovers she is pregnant and follows her husband overseas.  While Penny Marshall was asked back for a ninth season, she wanted to move the show from Los Angeles to New York City, thus producers quietly canceled the show.  Laverne and Shirley went for a total of eight seasons, one without its main star.
                While producers and cast originally have high hopes for a show, sometimes complications prevent the original idea of the show from continuing.  While Bonet and O’Hare only led the show for one season, Williams was an established presence for the first seven seasons.  Bonet and O’Hare, however, had a good relationship with the creators that their storyline was able to continue after their departure.  A Different World and Babylon 5 are two examples of shows that enjoyed a long run after the main star left, and Laverne and Shirley is an example of another show that limped toward the ending once star left towards the end of the show.

Friday, October 13, 2017

TV Shows that Continued without the Main Star, Part 4

               While all fans want their main star to continue throughout the entire show, sometimes things just don’t work out.  Thus, the producers are faced with continuing a hit show without the main stars, instead of ending the show.  Here are three more examples of television shows where the main star left.
                For six seasons, Nina Dobrev was the lead on the Vampire Dairies, a series on the CW about teen Elena Gilbert (Dobrev), who lives in a supernatural town, where she is torn between two vampire brothers, Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder), and had best friend witch Bonnie (Kat Graham).  During the sixth season, Dobrev announced she was leaving the show.  Her character, Elena was put under a spell to be in continual sleep, as long as Bonnie was awake.  Damon put her in a coffin, in order to wait for Elena to wake up again, 60 years later.  After Dobrev left, the focus of the show shifted to Stefan and Damon.  When the show was renewed for the eighth season, it was announced as the shows’ last.  Dobrev retuned in the final episode to wrap up her story arc.  The Vampire Diaries went for a total of eight seasons, two without its main star.
                Chad Michael Murray starred as Lucas Scott, one of two half-brothers who starred in the show One Tree Hill.  Lucas and his brother Nathan (James Lafferty) were half-brothers who, at the start, both wanted the same basketball position on their high school team, but slowly grew to bond together.  For the first six seasons, Murray played the lead role of Lucas.  However, contract negotiations fell apart for season seven, and Murray and costar Hilary Burton, who played his newlywed pregnant wife Payton.  Both stars left the show, with their characters riding off into the sunset with their newborn daughter, Sawyer.  The main focus of the show shifted to Nathan and his wife and family in the seventh season.  Like the Vampire Diaries, when the show was renewed for its ninth season, it was announced as the series’ final season.  Chad Michael Murray returned for a guest role in the seventh episode of the ninth season, his final appearance as the character.  One Tree Hill went for a total of nine seasons, three without its main star.
                Ron Howard, now better known as a director, was given the lead role of Richie Cunningham in Happy Days, a wholesome boy who was always trying to pick up girls.  Henry Winkler was introduced in season one as Fonzie and became the series’ breakout star in the second season.  While Ron Howard was still the billed lead, Fonzie was getting the majority of stories and focus.  At the end of the seventh season Ron Howard left Happy Days, and in the following years focused more and more on directing.  The show did not have a story at the end of the seventh season for Richie’s departure, but the beginning of the seventh season the characters were dealing with Richie and Ralph going to the U.S. Army to be stationed in Greenland.  Winkler continued to portray Fonzie for the next four seasons.  Ron Howard would return for three episodes in season eleven, including the filmed series finale (several new episodes, however, were aired after the series finale in the summer).  Happy Days went for a total of eleven seasons, four without its main star. 
                While all of the actors left for various reasons, they all had something in common: they returned during the final season to give their character a proper farewell.  The actors’ return shows that they loved their show and their fans of the show.  While the final season of any show is bittersweet, one thing that makes it better is the main star returning for one final visit, one last hurrah.  

Friday, October 6, 2017

TV Shows that Continued without the Main Star, Part 3

Many times, a show can struggle for one or two more seasons after the main star leaves.  While there are some exceptions (see Part 1 and 2 as examples), other shows just don’t have the same feel or magic as when the main star was leading the cast.  Here are some examples of TV shows canceled after only one or two seasons after the main star left.
                Topher Grace starred as Eric Forman on That 70’s show, as the awkward but lovable main character who along with his friends and girlfriend, grew up in the late 1970s.  However, at the end of season seven, Topher Grace decided to move on from the show.  His character, Eric Forman, decided to take a year-long teaching position in Africa.  At the end of the seventh season, Charlie, played by Brett Harrison, was brought in to take Eric’s place, but then Harrison was offered a role in the TV series Looper and Charlie was killed off in the opening episode.  Thus, Josh Meyers was brought in to play Randy Pearson, an employee at a record store who dates Eric’s ex-girlfriend.  In January of the eighth season, it was announced as the series’ last season.  Topher Grace returned for a cameo in the series finale.  That 70’s Show went for eight total seasons, one without its main star.
                Richard Dean Anderson, for the first seven seasons of Stargate SG-1, played the leader of the SG-1 team, Jack O’Neill.  In the eighth season, Don S. Davis, who played Major Garland Biggs, retired from acting due to ailing health and Anderson’s character was promoted to Brigadier General.  Anderson took the role to lighten the workload so he could spend more time with his daughter.  At the end of the eighth season, Anderson decided to leave Stargate SG-1, only showing up for guest appearances.  His character was promoted to Major General and reassigned to Washington, DC.  Ben Browder was brought in as the new leader of the SG-1 team, Cameron Mitchell, who stayed in that position until the series was canceled in season 10.  The show wrapped up loose storylines with two subsequent TV movies.  Stargate went for ten total seasons, two without its main star.
                The Office, the ensemble American sitcom based on the cult UK show, featured Steve Carrell as Michael Scott, the regional manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin paper company.  At the end of the 7th season, Steve Carrell decided not to renew his contract, deciding to focus on his film career.  His character, Michael Scott, leaves with his fiancĂ©e to Colorado and says goodbye to each of the staff.  Andy Bernard, played by Ed Helms, who was introduced in the third season, stepped into the role as regional manager in the eighth season.  However, ratings slowly fell through the eighth and ninth season, leading to its cancellation.  Like That 70’s Show, Steve Carell returned for a cameo appearance in the series finale.  The Office went for a total of ten seasons, two without its main star. 
                While some shows manage to bounce back, That 70’s Show, Stargate SG-1, and The Office only continued for one or two seasons following the departure of their main stars.  While all there were ensemble series, nevertheless when the main star is no longer leading the series, sometimes some of the original magic is lost.  Viewers may tune out, saying the show has changed, leading to falling ratings which lead to the show’s cancellation.  

Friday, September 29, 2017

TV Shows that Continued without the Main Star, Part 2

               In last week’s post, the three main stars were definitely considered the anchor of the show they had starred in.  However, for many ensemble shows, which feature a cast of six or seven, finding a “main” character falls, typically, to the leader of the group.  But when the “leader” of the group leaves, the dynamic of the group changes forever, as the new leader takes over.  Here are three more examples of a show which continued after the main star left [Spoilers]:
                In 1994, ER premiered on NBC and became of their biggest hits.  The original cast included Anthony Edwards as Dr. Mark Greene, the Chief Resident and later Attending Physician of County General Hospital in Chicago.  He was often seen as mediator and leader within the hospital and was considered the main character of the ensemble for the first eight seasons.  In the eighth season, Anthony Edwards wanted to branch off into directing and decided to leave at the end of the eighth season.  Dr. Mark Green was discovered to have an operable brain tumor and died at the end of season eight.  Noah Wyle, who played John Carter since the beginning of the show, was made the main character and took the position of Attending Physician.  ER’s staying power enabled the ensemble show to undergo many cast changes, lasting a total of fifteen seasons; ending seven seasons after Anthony Edwards left ER.
                C.S.I. Crime Scene Investigation premiered in 2001 and became a huge hit for CBS like ER was for NBC.  William Petersen played the main character for C.S.I., Gil Grissom, a CSI Level III Supervisor, the leader of a Crime Scene Investigation group in Las Vegas.  He played the lead role in the ensemble for the first eight seasons of C.S.I.  In the tenth episode of the ninth season, Peterson left the series to pursue more stage acting opportunities, while his character put off his retirement until a serial killer was brought to justice, but once that was done; he made his goodbyes to all the main characters.  Once he left, Lawrence Fishburne became Raymond Langston, the new lead character at the CSI.  Like ER, CSI’s popularity enabled it to survive Petersen’s departure.  C.S.I. Crime Scene Investigation lasted a total of fifteen seasons, ending six seasons after Peterson left the show. 
                Criminal Minds premiered in 2005 on CBS, one of the many “dark crime shows” to follow in CSI’s footsteps.  In the show, Mandy Patinkin played FBI Senior Supervisory Special Agent Jason Gideon, as part of the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit).  However, at the beginning of the third season, Mandy Patinkin abruptly decided to quit Criminal Minds, leaving in the second episode of the third season in 2007.  Patinkin later stated in 2012 he left because the toll of dealing with stories of women being raped and murdered every episode proved to be too much to handle: “It was very destructive to my soul and my personality” (  His character Jason Gideon leaves after his girlfriend Sarah is murdered and his co-worker Aaron Hotchner is suspended, finding the emotional turmoil too much.  Patinkin was replaced by Joe Mantegna, who played David Rossi, whose character returned to the FBI after being semi-retired.  Criminal Minds is starting its thirteenth season in the Fall of 2017, ten total seasons after Patinkin left at the beginning of the third season.
                While Anthony Edwards and William Peterson had long established runs as the leader, nevertheless the show was able to survive, thanks to Noah Wyle being promoted and Lawrence Fishburne cast in both respective shows.  Mandy Patinkin left after only two full seasons and two episodes in the third season, but Joe Mantegna was able to fill in the lead role and has been there ever since.  While the leader of the ensemble is important, each of these shows weathered the cast change of the main star and went on for several more seasons, continuing to entertain fans of the show.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

TV Shows that Continued without the Main Star, Part 1

TV Shows that Continued without the Main Star, Part 1
                While many TV series have an element of ensemble element to them, at the same time, a selling point of a particular series is the main star.   NCIS and Grey’s Anatomy, two currently running shows, would feel very different without Mark Harmon or Ellen Pompeo in the main character role.  However, some series have gone on without the series main star, as producers are so convinced they have a hit show it can survive without the main character at the helm.  Here are some examples of those TV series.
                The Waltons, for the first five seasons, was a show about a family living during the depression on a property in Virginia.  John Boy, played by Richard Thomas, was the main character, who was an aspiring writer talking about his life growing up with his family (Earl Hamner, the creator of the Waltons, provided the narration in the series as an older John-Boy looking back).  While there had been stories about all the family members, it was anchored by John Boy’s presence and the older character’s narration.  In 1977, Richard Thomas chose to leave The Walton’s, for no other reason except that he felt it was time to move on.  Since the show was an ensemble, the focus shifted to stories about the parents and the other children.  Richard Thomas returned to reprise his role for a double-length episode and a regular episode following that one in the sixth season but didn’t return for the rest of the series’ run.  Eventually, in the shows’ eighth and ninth (also final) seasons, John Boy was recast with Robert Wightman playing the role of John Boy.  The Waltons had four total seasons without its main star Richard Thomas. 
                Valerie Harper, the actress best known at the time as Rhonda from Mary Tyler Moore show and the spin-off Rhonda, was given her own show in 1986, called Valerie.  In it, Valerie played a working mom with a 16-year old boy (Jason Bateman) and twin 12-year old boys (Danny Ponce and Jeremy Licht).  The show had a 10 episode first season and a regular 22 episode second season.  At the end of the second season, the show had become a hit, and Harper and her producer husband Tony Cacciotti, demanded more pay for the show, but the network refused.  Harper and her husband walked out, just as they did in the middle of Rhonda.  Three episodes into filming the third season without the main star, Harper, and her husband, were fired, and the entire show was rewritten so that Harper’s character dies in the third season premiere episode.  The show’s name was changed to Valerie’s Family in the third season, with Sandy Duncan filling the motherly role.  In the show’s fourth season, the name was changed again to The Hogan Family.  The Hogan Family went for three more seasons, for a total of six seasons.   Valerie’s show had four seasons without her, albeit with different names. 
                Two and Half Men Premiered in 2003, as a starring vehicle for Charlie Sheen, as a freewheeling jingle writer Charlie Harper, who must deal with his brother (Jon Cryer) and nephew (Angus T. Jones) moving with him after his brother divorces.  At the start of the show’s eighth season, CBS and the studio produced the show, Warner Brothers, already had an agreement to renew the show for its ninth season.  Sheen almost didn’t come back for the eighth season, but after negotiating for a pay increase $1.78 million per episode, he agreed to return.  Sheen entered rehab in January 2011, the third time in 12 months, and production of the show had to be shut down with sixteen episodes filmed.  Following his rehab stint, his much-publicized erratic behavior and criticism of creator Chuck Lorre cause CBS to cancel the season and ultimately to fire Sheen altogether.  Aston Kutcher was brought in the main character role as billionaire Walden Schmidt who buys Charlie’s house after Charlie Harper dies after being hit by a subway, and lives with Charlie’s brother and nephew.  Two and a Half Men lasted another four seasons without the main star Charlie Sheen, for a total of twelve seasons.

                Each of the shows continued on without the main star, whether it be the under good circumstances, in the case of The Waltons, or not-so-great circumstances, in the case of Valerie Harper’s show and Two and a Half Men.  Each of these shows provides examples of the producers and the rest of the cast finding solutions when the main actor, and thus the main character leaves the show, and thus show that a TV series can live on without its main star.  

Friday, September 15, 2017

Two Vloggers Living out Their Dream of Traveling the World

               Have you ever wanted to drop everything and see the world?  To actually wander the world and see all the things you wanted to see?  While most people have brave aspirations, but not initiative, there are some who actually did it – who actually have traveled the world, seeing and doing everything that most people only dream of doing but never actually do.  While there are probably many who we may never meet, a select few post online of their experiences for all of us to enjoy.  Here are two of them. 
                In the Chris Across the World YouTube and Instagram account, Chris solo travels across the world, experiencing the culture and the people, focusing on adventure, simplicity, and love.  A free runner and adventure enthusiast, Chris started his adventure with Chris Across America in 2010, where he visited every single state and vlogged about his experiences, ultimately making a compilation video of him in doing flips and tricks in every state.  A huge lover of Asian culture, Chris also filmed Chris Across Hong Kong A to Z, where he visited 26 alphabetical places/things that represented Hong Kong.  Then Chris went on what was arguably his most daring adventure yet – a trip across South America.  Chris again set out to film himself free running and flipping in every single country and experiencing the culture and people there.  His short but awesome South America vlogs fully capture the adventurous spirit inside Chris on his journey.  Recently, Chris returned to a place very dear to him, Japan, and went on various odd jobs and adventures, but he couldn’t be in one place for very long.  Chris decided to start filming Chris Across Asia.  In his most recent video, Prelude, Chris talks about how he is so excited about his latest adventure because he loves Asian culture.  His current location, South Korea, can be seen on his Instagram, where he posts incredibly gorgeous pictures of the landscape and significant landmarks.
                The Bucket List Family is exactly that, a family that travels and experiences the entire world, experiencing the culture, animals, and people in the country they are visiting.  They focus on adventure, culture, and service.  In 2015, Garret and Jessica Gee were a young family, with a toddler named Dorothy and a baby named Manilla, living in an apartment in Provo, Utah.  Along with his two college classmates, Garrett developed an app called Scan, which was sold to Snapchat for $50 million.  Being financially secure enabled Garrett and Jessica to think about what they wanted to do in the future, but the idea of settling down in a house did not appeal to them. They invested the money from the sale instead of using it.  Then, they decided to sell everything they owned at the time, and using the money from that to go on an adventure around the world for four months, and set up a YouTube channel just to show family and friends.  The first videos feature Garrett and Jessica talking about the adventure they are planning on doing and selling everything.  Their weekly vlogs feature Garrett, Jessica, and the kids talking about where they visited that week.  After recording a couples retreat in Rangiroa and Bora Bora, their family journey around the world began in Hawaii and proceeded through New Zealand, Australia, and Singapore.  After four months traveling, Garret and Jessica made the huge decision to continue to travel full time, staying self-sustaining by  partnering with brands, resorts and other companies to stay or be paid using their service or staying on their property in exchange for them posting about it on social media, creating a win/win scenario.  Recently, the Gees have made their way through Europe, visiting Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, and the Netherlands.  Currently, the Bucket List Family are at Disney World, finishing up Disney’s challenge to stay in all the different resorts over 30 days. 
                Whether solo traveling or with a family, these people are living the dream of seeing and doing all the things that they always wanted to do.  Check out these awesome vloggers who are traveling the world.  

Chris Across the World:
The Bucket List Family:

Friday, September 8, 2017

Four Movies Which Began At or Near the End [Spoilers..?]

               Linear storytelling conventions say that a story must begin at the beginning and proceed to the end.  However, there are some movies which deliberately start at the end to ask the audience the question: “How did we get here?”  Here are several movies which give the audience a quick glimpse of the end before starting the regular narrative.
                Memento is probably the first and most famous of these movies which start at the end.  In Memento, during the opening credits, a Polaroid picture starts developing into a dead man lying on the ground around his blood.  Then the movie tracks a few minutes backward, to Leonard, the main character, convincing another character, Teddy into an abandoned warehouse to kill him.  We soon find out that Leonard has anterograde amnesia, and can’t store any recent memories, so he writes down important information on himself through tattoos and on Polaroid pictures with notes on them while trying to find his wife’s killer.  From there, the movie switches between several short segments which go back in time to reveal how and why Leonard came to kill Teddy, to a linear story which Leonard tells to someone on the phone.  Memento was released on September 5, 2000, at the Venice Film Festival, and later on March 16, 2001, in the United States.
                Sunset Boulevard also famously begins at the end.  The first shot is of the main character’s body floating in the swimming pool outside a Sunset Boulevard mansion.  Then the story proper begins: the main character is a down-on-his-luck screenwriter named Joe Gillis, who is rudely critiqued in front of a studio producer by a script reader.  After he leaves, Gillis must escape men who want to repossess his car.  That’s when he turns into a seemingly deserted mansion, which actually belongs to former silent film star Norma Desmond, and from there the two people form an uneasy partnership as Gills tries to write her comeback piece.  Sunset Boulevard was released August 10, 1950.
                (500) Days of Summer also has a nonlinear narrative, jumping back and forth in time, with a “day ticker” to show the audience where they are in the story.  The movie begins on Day 488, with the main character, Tom, holding hands with Summer on a bench.  Summer is seen wearing a ring, and they both smile at each other.  Then the narrator gives a quick intro about Tom and Summer, ending with, “While this is a story of boy meets girl, this is not a love story.”  While not presently linearly, the movie details the complicated romantic relationship of Tom and Summer.  (500) Days of Summer was released on January 17, 2009, at the Sundance Film Festival, and on August 7, 2009, in the United States.
                Pan’s Labyrinth, a dark fantasy movie directed by Guillermo Del Toro, starts with a disturbing shot of an eleven-year-old girl dying and struggling for breath with blood on her face.  The story then flashbacks and introduces the story of the girl, Ofelia, who is the stepdaughter of Captain Vidal, a Spanish Officer, and her mother is pregnant with her stepbrother.  When Ofelia and her mother travel to meet Vidal in his mansion, a fairy finds Ofelia and leads her into the Labyrinth, where she meets a fawn who thinks she is the reincarnated Princess Moanna and must complete three tasks to achieve immortality.  Meanwhile, Vidal begins to show his true violent nature to the people around him.  Pan’s Labyrinth was released May 27, 2006, at the Cannes Film Festival and later on October 11 in Spain and October 19 in Mexico. 
                Whether presented in a non-linear fashion, like Memento or (500) Days of Summer, or more straightforward, like Sunset Boulevard and Pan’s Labyrinth, which are told in flashback, these movies all begin at or near the end.  They use the opening shot of the ending to get the audience asking, “How Did We Get Here?” and the audience keeps watching, waiting for the eventual tragic ending.  

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Even More In-Depth Movie Analysis from YouTube

                Ever wonder what makes a movie work, both in message and production?  Do you wonder how the themes play out in the film or just about the production of movies itself?  In this blog post, two YouTube channels will be covered, and one particular series on a YouTube will be discussed. 
                The Now You See It YouTube channel follows in the footsteps of Every Frame a Painting, in providing discussion on particular aspects of movie analysis in terms of the themes and storytelling methods.  Some of the subjects include: The Beauty of the Dinner Scene, How Film Scores Play with Our Brains, Settings are Characters Too, Dolly Zoom: More Than a Cheap Trick, the most recent being How to Do a Plot Twist.  Like Every Frame a Painting, the male YouTuber, Jack Nugent, of Now You See It never shows his face, but rather gives a voice over while clips from the movie he’s profiling are playing.  Unlike Every Frame a Painting, Now You See It also has a series of Supercut videos, where a particular aspect of movies is cut together in a montage set to music.  On this YouTube channel, there are Supercuts on space flight in movies (One Small Step), The Hero’s Journey and Touch.  Check out Now You See It for some awesome In-Depth movie analysis. 
                Filmmaker IQ, instead of focusing on themes and storytelling methods, goes into detail of movie production and the history of film.  Filmmaker IQ started as a camera review and help site, but then made the switch to film production.  Designed as a free film school, the channel was created by Dennis Hartwig and John P. Hess and hosted by John Hess.  John talks directly to the camera, cutting to stills or videos of the subject he is covering.  Some of the movie production videos include The Fundamental Elements of Film Music, The Science of Deep Focus and Hyperfocal Distance, Posing and Rendering CGI Characters, and How a Director Stages and Blocks a Scene.  Some of the film history videos include discussion of the history of Movie Title Sequences, The Hollywood Musical, the Mockbuster, and the origins of such things as the Auteur Theory and Acting and the “Method.”  Check out Filmmaker IQ for a great discussion on the production of movies and history of film. 
                Crash Course is one channel that does 9-12 minute video series on various college-level and high-school level subjects, such as Chemistry, Philosophy, and Economics.  In April 2017, Crash Course launched a new series on Film, the first part is about Film History.  In the first sixteen lessons, hosted by Craig Benzine (who has his own YouTube channel, Wheezy Waiter), various aspects of Film History were covered.  Starting with an Introduction to Film, the series went through the early days of short silent film throughout the world, and then followed as feature films began to take shape and films transitioned to sound, with an emphasis on film movements not just in the US but around the world, such as German Expressionism and Soviet Montage.  The final five lessons were about types of movies, such as Independent Film, World Cinema and Experimental and Documentary Films, plus a video on the impact home video had on the film business.  With that series over, the Film series transitioned to Film Production, hosted by Lily Gladstone, an actress who has been acting since 2012.  The first in the Film Production series premiered on August 24, 2017, about Screenplays.  Check out this series on Film History and Film Production on the Crash Course YouTube channel.
                Now You See It provides more essays about film storytelling and themes, while Filmmaker IQ and Crash Course’s film series provide discussion about film production and film history.  Check out these YouTube Channels and series about film-making and film storytelling.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Beyond Whose Line, Part 3: Dan Patterson/Mark Leveson Improv Shows

The most famous Improvisational comedy show of the last 20 years, the US Version of Whose Line is it Anyway? originally ran from 1998 to 2004 on ABC, with unreleased previously recorded episodes premiering on ABC Family from 2005 to 2007.  The show is enjoying a revival on the CW, with a fifth season on that network (hosted by Aisha Tyler) premiering on May 29, 2017. In the previous post, various shows that the cast members hosted or were a part of were featured.  This final post will feature Dan Patterson and Mark Leveson’s non-Whose Line shows. 
Dan Patterson and his partner Mark Leveson are more well known in the UK, but to US audiences, they are the producers and creators of Whose Line is it Anyway? Whose Line the UK Show originally began as a radio show on BBC Radio 4 in 1988, with Clive Anderson as host and John Sessions and Stephen Fry as the regulars.  The show moved to Channel 4 in September 1988 with 13 episodes and lasted 10 Series (or “seasons” as they’re called in the US).  Dan Patterson and Mark Levinson have created other UK shows which use improvisation games similar to Whose Line.  Here are some of these shows.
The first and perhaps the most famous is the show Mock the Week, which airs on BBC Two.  In Mock the Week, there are two teams of panelists, each consisting of three people.  They are given a topic and must do comedic improvised answers, or challenges based on that topic.  “Points” are awarded each round and a panel is declared a winner at the end.  Mock the Week’s regular games include Wheel of News (where a wheel is spun and the panelists make jokes on that topic), If This is the Answer, What is the Question? (where the panelists are given a category to choose from, are given an answer and must come up with a comedic question), Scenes We’d Like to See (where the performers act out a short scene, similar to Scenes from a Hat on Whose Line), and Picture of the Week (where the performers respond to a picture from a news story that week).  Mock the Week premiered on June 5, 2005, with Dara O’Briain as the host, and Hugh Dennis and Frankie Boyle on one side with one guest panelist, and Rory Bremmer on the other with two guest panelists.  Dara O’Briain and Hugh Dennis are the only cast members who have appeared in every series.  Other regular panelists were Andy Parsons, Russell Howard, and Chris Addison.  Mock the Week just finished its 13th series in December of 2016. 
Fast and Loose (the American version, Trust Us with Your Life, was covered in the previous blog post), was a one series show which premiered in January 2011 and lasted eight episodes.  Fast and Loose unlike Trust Us with Your Life, did not have a celebrity guest.  Instead, like Whose Line, a rotating group of six performers with a seventh guest performer would act out improv games, sometimes with suggestions provided by the audience, sometimes from suggestions from the host.  Some of the games included were Forward/Rewind (in which a performer must go forward or backwards based on direction from the host), Interpretive Dance (a performer mimes a popular song and the other must guess what the song is without hearing said song), Sideways Scene (in which the reformers must act out a scene while lying on the floor).  Fast and Loose was hosted by Hugh Dennis and the regular performers were Greg Davis, Justin Edwards, Pippa Evans, Humphrey Kerr, Marek Larwood, Laura Solon, Wayne Brady, Jonathan Mangum (Brady and Mangum appeared in two episodes), Jess Ransom, Ruth Bratt, David Reed, and David Armand. 
Other shows Dan Patterson and Mark Leveson have created include The Brain Drain (in which a panel of 4 performers give a humorous response to a question from an audience member) and Room 101 (in which a celebrity talks about things they hate and the host consigns some of those things they hate to Room 101; like Whose Line, the show involves participation from the studio audience).  Brain Drain lasted two series in the early 1990s and Room 101 lasted 11 series from 1994 to 2005, and was revived in 2012 and is currently in its 17th series. 
The duo of Dan Patterson and Mark Leveson has created several successful UK shows, not just Whose Line is it Anyway?  Mock the Week has become an icon of British Television, while Fast and Loose became a one-series wonder similar to Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza.  Check out these UK improvisational shows similar to Whose Line is it Anyway.  

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Beyond Whose Line, Part 2: Cast Member Productions

                The most famous Improvisational comedy show of the last 20 years, the US Version of Whose Line is it Anyway? originally ran from 1998 to 2004 on ABC, with unreleased previously recorded episodes premiering on ABC Family from 2005 to 2007.  The show is enjoying a revival on the CW, with a fifth season on that network (hosted by Aisha Tyler) premiering on May 29, 2017.  In the previous installment, Drew Carey produced three shows (two television and one live show) with his improvisational friends.  Today, the cast member shows are covered, which usually involve two or three performers instead of a group of eight or nine, like with Drew Carey’s shows.
                In 2005, Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood split off to form their own duo, An Evening with Colin and Brad.  Colin and Brad’s live show, unlike the television show, enables the performers to do longer bits, sometimes lasting 10 to 20 minutes long.  While some of the games are the same as whose line (like “Moving People”) there are some that are unique to the stage, such as a bit where Colin and Brad blindfold themselves to do a scene barefoot…with mousetraps all over the floor.  Colin and Brad’s different styles serve them well together, and they continue to tour to this day.  They continue to tour throughout the US and Canada in the spring, summer, and fall of 2017. 
                In 2008, Ryan Stiles reunited with his Whose Line co-star, Greg Proops to make the live show Proops and Stiles Unplanned, which was modeled after Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned, a popular improv talk show hosted by David Baddiel and Mike Skinner.  In Proops and Stiles’ show, the two sit on a couch and take a topic discussion from an audience member.  They also ask one particular audience member to come up on stage write down notes and suggestions on a whiteboard.  The show was performed at Montreal at the Comedy Festival in July 2008.
                Following the success of Stiles and Proops Unplanned, Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops, Jeff Davis, along with Joel Murry, formed the live show Whose Live Anyway?, joined by Bob Derkach proving music, just like he did on Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza.  Chip Esten has also appeared on Whose Live as well.  The show features many of the same games as Whose Line, with one of the unique games being an audience giving details of their personal life, and then watching the performers act the details out on the stage.  The four current performers had several dates lined up to perform in May 2017. 
                In the summer of 2012, the summer before Whose Line is it Anyway? returned to television, many of the Whose Line performers were recruited to a show called Trust Us with Your Life, which was hosted by Fred Willard.  In this show, based on the UK show Fast and Loose, a celebrity has their personal life acted out by the improvisers, which included Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops, Jonathan Mangum, and rotating players Greg Proops, Craig Cackowski, Brad Sherwood, Nicole Parker, and Josie Lawrence.  The celebrity would give a detail about their life, and the improvisers would act them out in games.  Some of the games were similar to the games on Whose Line and Improv-A-Ganza, but with different names, and somewhere unique to the show: for example, in the game Shorter and Shorter, the performers must do a scene in 60 seconds, then in 30 seconds, and so on.  The show only aired six episodes over three weeks in July 2012 before it was pulled due to low ratings, as well as the controversy surrounding Willard’s arrest due to “lewd conduct.”  The celebrities covered in the aired were Serena Williams, Kelly and Jack Osborne, Mark Cuban, Ricky Gervais, Jerry Springer, and Florence Henderson.  The remaining two, while unaired on television, were available online and featured David Hasselhoff and Jane Seymour. 

                Whether doing a live show or a Whose Line spiritual successor, the improvisers continue to show their varied, wonderful talents.  Check out these live shows, or the short-lived television show to see these talented performers again.