Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer Nose-talgia #6: Remembering Gale Gordon




















Today we salute a man without whom many of the funniest folks on TV would have been a lot less funny.  The wonderfully talented character actor Gale Gordon (born Feb. 20, 1906) passed away on this date in 1995 at the age of 89.  Gordon had been working in show business (beginning in radio drama) since his early twenties and by his late twenties he was the highest paid actor on the air, making his mark on such iconic series as Flash Gordon, Tarzan, Jungle Jim and others.  His comedic expertise was unleashed when he became a recurring character on the immensely popular Fibber McGee and Molly program, and he later went on to create the role of Mr. Conklin in the original radio version of Our Miss Brooks.

Gordon followed Our Miss Brooks to TV when it debuted in 1952, but previous to that migration he co-starred on the radio comedy program My Favorite Wife starring a popular redheaded actress named Lucille Ball.  They became fast friends and favorite colleagues, a relationship that would yield comic gold several years later. In addition to his four years on Our Miss Brooks, Gale Gordon became the go-to guy when movie or TV producers looked for a seasoned pro who provided solid comic back-up under any circumstances.  His credits are too numerous to detail here, but Gordon remained busy on big screens in movies such as Visit to a Small Planet and on TV series like Make Room for Daddy, Pete and Gladys, and The Donna Reed Show, to name but a few.  Gordon was actually the first choice to play Fred Mertz in I Love Lucy but he was starring in Our Miss Brooks and could not accept the role. Gordon also appeared in the feature film version of Our Miss Brooks in 1956.







Boomer kids will remember Gale Gordon on Dennis the Menace as the second Mr. Wilson when he stepped in to replace actor Joseph Kearns -- playing his brother -- after Kearns passed away.  Gordon joined the show in 1962 and stayed with it until its cancellation in the Spring of 1963.  At that point Gordon was free to join his old friend Lucille Ball in the second season of The Lucy Show which had premiered in the Fall of 1962.  The character of Theodore J. Mooney, Lucy's boss at the bank, was tailor-made for Gordon and he and Ball played off each other like clockwork.  In addition to his trademark vocal delivery, Gale Gordon was also an adept physical comedian whose blend of skills became an integral part of the weekly hilarity of The Lucy Show.









The Lucy Show ended in Spring of 1968 when Desilu Studios broke up, but Lucille Ball continued in series TV with ostensibly a different show (but essentially a clone) called Here's Lucy which started in Fall of 1968.  Gale Gordon joined the cast as Lucy's boss and brother-in-law, co-starring with Lucy and her two real-life children Lucie and Desi Jr. for six seasons, ending in 1974.  When Lucille Ball once again was lured back to network TV in 1986 for the short-lived Life with Lucy, Gale Gordon came out of near-retirement to assist his longtime colleague with her last TV series which lasted only half a season. The legendary Lucille Ball passed away on April 26, 1989.





The multi-talented Gale Gordon died after a long life on his beloved ranch in Borrego Springs, California on June 30, 1995, leaving behind his wife Virginia who had been with him for almost 60 years.  Be sure to check out the extensive The Gale Gordon Archive available at this link by clicking here. There are lots of The Lucy Show episodes available right now on YouTube, as well as many other examples of Gale Gordon's tremendous talent.  His contributions to TV comedy will never be forgotten.



Happy Belated Birthday #2 to Bret McKenzie of "Flight of the Conchords"
















So much birthday goodness yesterday we couldn't get it all in!  We also wish a big Flaming Nose Happy Birthday (one day late) to the talented and charming Bret McKenzie, one half of the brilliantly hilarious comedy/music duo Flight of the Conchords, alongside Jemaine Clement, and also Best Song Oscar winner for his work on the recent The Muppets movie.  Bret turned 37 yesterday!

We still miss HBO's delightful two-season 22-episode run of Flight of the Conchords, though thankfully the show is available on HBO Go and DVD and probably all sorts of other ways.  The show's initial run on HBO was from 2007 - 2009.  Five years ago??!!





Somehow the fact that Flight of the Conchords had also done a BBC Radio comedy series had eluded me, but they did in 2005!  All of the episodes seem to be available on YouTube for listening -- great news!

The notion of a Flight of the Conchords movie or additional series has been discussed for years, but no concrete plans appear to be on the table at this time.  We're not the only ones who miss Flight of the Conchords; BuzzFeed posted their great 20 reasons why they miss them in a posting from September of '13, available by clicking here.

So many great bits from Flight of the Conchords' TV show to remember and love; here are just a few more for your enjoyment, perhaps some of the less well-known songs yet delightful nonetheless!










Flight of the Conchords, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie will always be on our list of all-time Flaming Nose Favorites!


Happy Belated Birthday to Cara Williams, TV Comedienne!



















We didn't get a chance yesterday to bid a Happy 88th Birthday to actress/comedienne Cara Williams, a pert redhead who was a very well-liked star of sitcoms in the early 1960s.

In addition to her TV work, Williams was a talented dramatic actress who received an Academy Award nomination for her supporting role in the Sidney Poitier/Tony Curtis film The Defiant Ones (1959).  Her trademark gorgeous red hair was a crowd-pleaser and it's too bad her TV series were in black & white.  She also had a big role in comedian Danny Kaye's 1963 movie The Man from the Diners Club.

TV audiences were exposed to her first as co-star of the CBS situation comedy Pete and Gladys, playing opposite actor Harry Morgan who later would achieve pop culture immortality both for his role opposite Jack Webb on TV's Dragnet 1967 and later as beloved Col. Potter on M*A*S*H.  Pete and Gladys was a spin-off from the December Bride sitcom which ran on CBS from 1954 - 1959, in which Morgan played Pete who always talked about his ditzy wife Gladys who was never seen on the show.  After the cancellation of December Bride, the two characters were spun-off into Pete and Gladys which ran for two seasons beginning in Fall of 1960.

Opening credits from Pete and Gladys:



After Pete and Gladys was cancelled, Cara went on to star in her eponymous sitcom The Cara Williams Show for one season:



For a chance to see Cara Williams in all her red-headed singing and dancing glory, check out this club from the 1958 feature Meet Me in Las Vegas:




A very Happy Belated Birthday to Cara Williams, one of TV's funny ladies!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summer Nose-talgia #5: Happy Birthday to Richard Lewis of "Anything but Love"!

















Maybe you don't remember his ABC sitcom Anything but Love but how can you have anything BUT love for the charming and hilarious comedian/actor Richard Lewis who made neurosis sexy as well as funny?  Lewis turns 68 today and he's still utterly relevant and delightful.  Most recently he appeared in many episodes of his childhood pal Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm, but there was a time at the end of the 1980s when the only slightly unconventionally handsome Lewis was the hottest of stuff.

He had made his mark with his breathless, non-stop, jam-packed comedy sets, such as this one from 1981:



Or this from maybe about ten years later:
















Anything but Love had a simple rom-com premise:  a pair of colleagues working at a Chicago magazine begin a tentative romance and hope it doesn't ruin their terrific platonic friendship. Lewis' co-star was the talented and personable Jamie Lee Curtis; her Halloween, Prom Night and Terror Train days of starring as the Scream Queen of Teen Slasher Films were a decade or so behind her but she had branched out with well-regarded movies like My Girl and A Fish Called Wanda.  Pairing the hyperkinetic Lewis with the strong and self-confident Curtis was a study in contrasts.  Working from the timeworn assumption that opposites attract, the pairing in Anything but Love was both realistic and great fodder for a sitcom.


Here's a promo for the debut of the show on March 7, 1989:



One of the show's opening credit sequences:



And here's a different one:



Here's another promo for an episode of the show:



An episode with John Ritter!



Anything but Love aired on ABC beginning in March of 1989 and found some measure of success over the next three years, making it to 56 episodes in four different "seasons" but lacked the solid audience support that studio 20th Century Fox was looking for. Evidently they were the ones who pulled the plug on the series, citing the slim odds that the show would last long enough to garner the industry-standard number of episodes for a successful syndication run which was the Holy Grail for episodic TV producers. Anything but Love ended its network run on June 3, 1992.

In several ways Anything but Love was a bit of a thematic precursor to the very successful NBC sitcom Mad About You which came along in the Fall 1992 season.  Slightly neurotic male lead -- played by former stand-up comedian Paul Reiser -- plays a creative guy who marries his best friend -- played by actress Helen Hunt -- and they try to find a way to keep their modern marriage fresh and relevant.  In contract to Anything but Love, Mad About You was able to hang in for seven strong seasons and amass 164 episodes, more than enough for a good second life.

While Anything but Love may not have been everything it promised, it did showcase two talented performers and allowed us to see a slightly tamed-down Richard Lewis, one of America's funniest stand-up comedians ever.

There are lots of photos related to Anything but Love at the Sitcoms Online Photo Galleries, here.

And a very Happy Birthday to the eternally amusing Richard Lewis!

Feel like Feasting on "The Leftovers" Tonight on HBO?













HBO's major post-Game of Thrones series premieres tonight at 10pm -- the TV adaptation The Leftovers from creators Damon Lindelof (Lost) and The Leftovers novel author Tom Perrotta.  The log-line goes something like this:  In an instant 2% of the world's population disappears and everybody else is left behind to figure out what it all means.  Was it the religious rapture?  A scientific anomaly? And now that it whatever it was has happened, what are the rest of Earth's inhabitants supposed to do about it?

Questions indeed, and with Lindelof one of the folks at the helm we can expect no simplistic explanations or neat plotting.  This is going to be a convoluted...mess, we hope not, and initial reviews drifting in are hopeful at least that The Leftovers will continue to offer a tasty TV experience for weeks to come.

If the mysterious premise doesn't grab you, I'd say that the artistic provenance might be enough to keep you tuning in.  On paper at least it looks great with intriguing stars:  the multi-talented Justin Theroux whose dark good looks are merely the eye-candy frosting on a very talented writer-producer-actor who's always interesting to watch; actress-writer-producer Amy Brennerman, a bright and committed lady who is a match for Theroux in the accomplishment department; former Dr. Who Chris Eccleston and the bewitchingly lovely Liv Tyler, headlining a large cast telling this epic story.

Here's a trailer for the show:



And here's another slightly longer one:



For some ideas of some of the early buzz about the show, check these sources out by clicking on the embedded links:  from Brian Lowry at Variety: The Huffington Post; Salon; USA Today; The Hollywood Reporter; and from the Metacritic website you can get an even broader idea of how things are looking before the show actually hits air tonight at 10pm.

Some aficionados are still fuming, it seems, over the ambiguous/confusing/unsatisfying ending of Lindelof's Lost four years ago.  Different show, different premise, different network, very different TV environment.

Check out HBO's The Leftovers website for more background information on the series and its participants.

The Leftovers premieres tonight at 10pm eastern on HBO.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer Nose-talgia #4: Gilda Radner & "Saturday Night Live"' June 28, 1946 - May 20, 1989


What a sad day it was just a little over twenty-five years ago when actress and comedienne Gilda Radner passed away from ovarian cancer.  Who would have thought, 43 years earlier when she was born on June 28, 1946, that she had entered this world seemingly destined to bring us laughter and left an unforgettable legacy of talent and grace behind her.

Michigan-born but first flexing her professional comic muscles while living in Toronto, Canada, Radner consorted with a cadre of budding comedian/actors including Martin Short, Bill Murray, Dave Thomas, Dan Ackroyd, John Belushi and others from the Second City school of comic actors who were all beginning their careers.  As a result of her impressive work with this budding generation of gifted performers Gilda Radner was chosen in 1975 to be a member of the initial cast of NBC's new late-night comedy/variety show Saturday Night Live which debuted on October 11, 1975.














Here's an interesting clip of NBC late-night host Tom Snyder just days before the SNL premiere as he interviews creator Lorne Michael and his nascent group of comedy innovators:



Gilda Radner's five-year stint on Saturday Night Live gave us characters which are still part of the comedy canon: Emily Litella, Roseanna Roseannadanna, Baba Wawa to name but a few.  She was singled out and won an Emmy Award  for her work during the 1977 season in addition to becoming a beloved audience favorite.  Viewers fell in love with her all-around performing prowess which combined musical talent, a knack for physical humor, general cuteness and spot-on comic instincts which gave her trademark characters the spark of life plus an extra dimension of comedic relevance.



Let's look at a couple of examples of her work on SNL, beginning with this enthusiastic intro:



This is one of Bill Murray's lounge singer bits with the entire cast participating, including Radner:



There's not a lot of Gilda Radner-era Saturday Night Live material on the web, but you can find a small selection if you look:  the famous Steve Martin/Gilda "Dancing in the Dark" comic dance routine is available for viewing at this link (click here), and Yahoo Screen has a selection of high-quality clips including "Nerd Prom" and several Baba Wawa sketches available at this link (click here).

 


Radner was also among the pantheon of celebrities who made a guest appearance on the long-running The Muppet Show, hers in 1978:








Gilda featured her collection of characters in a one-woman theater showcase Gilda Radner: Live from New York which ran in August and September of 1979 and was filmed -- thank goodness -- and is still availble for purchase.  Here are a few bits from the well-received production:





After leaving Saturday Night Live Gilda transitioned into an short big-screen career including 1982's Hanky Panky where she co-starred opposite actor Gene Wilder.  They ended up falling in love, marrying in 1984 and making a total of three films together.  It was while on location in England for Haunted Honeymoon that Gilda fell ill and ultimately, after months of misdiagnosis, learned she had ovarian cancer.  Her treatments afforded her a remission and gave her the time to pen her autobiography It's Always Something. In May of 1989 she recorded the audio version of the book, and only a few weeks later she passed away on May 20, 1989.

Here is a short excerpt from the book backed by some photos (not sure it's Radner's narration, though):



Close to the year's anniversary of her death Gene Wilder appeared on Face to Face with Connie Chung talking about Gilda's legacy:



Part of that legacy was the Gilda's Club cancer support centers which have offered assistance and camaraderie to countless people over the years.  There was a controversy a couple of years ago over at least one chapter moving to change its name, ostensibly because they thought Radner's name had ceased to be relevant.  There was also a merger with the Cancer Support Community but many Gilda's Club locations proudly retain their original name, as does the NYC chapter.

The Gilda Radner-era of Saturday Night Live was a high point for the series, a more innocent time perhaps -- notwithstanding the tales of rampant drug use -- that was the perfect incubator for the sweet and immensely talented spirit that infused her work.  The Flaming Nose remembers her fondly on what would have been her 68th birthday.

Gilda Radner, gone much too soon...






Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer Nose-talgia #3! Bob "Captain Kangaroo" Keeshan!


What is it about childhood TV memories that make them so indelible? Was it that we only knew three or four tunes, so the Captain Kangaroo theme song immediately achieved an honored spot in our brains?  Did we just love things so much more deeply back then?  Or was children's TV simply so charming, innocent and well-intentioned that one simply couldn't ever forget it?  All three or none of those reasons, perhaps, but no matter the explanation, the contributions of Bob Keeshan (born on this date in 1927) and his immortal character Captain Kangaroo still loom large in the hearts of boomers and those born up until the '80s. (Another milestone of Keeshan's was originating the Clarabelle the Clown character for The Howdy Doody Show.)

There's nothing more Nose-talgic than watching this little clip of the open of Captain Kangaroo in charming black and white with no CGI or fancy effects, just Bob Keeshan being cute.



For those not old enough to remember Captain Kangaroo, the basic history is that it was a children's entertainment and educational series on CBS, mostly airing Monday - Friday mornings in the early years for an hour, sometimes also scheduled on weekends, sometimes only half-hours, beginning on October 3, 1955 and ending December 8, 1984.  (For the complete breakdown of its broadcast history check out its Wikipedia page which has a lot of terrific background info).

Actor/producer Bob Keeshan played the Captain, a whimsical fellow in a red coat with white piping (or not, if you were watching during the non-color years up until 1966) who welcomed you into his world of unique characters including farmer Mr. Green Jeans, a talking Grandfather Clock and a loquacious moose.  (For those wondering if Mr. Rogers and the Captain coincided on air, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood began in 1966 and aired until around 2008.)



Here's another longer clip, beginning with the open then into a musical sequence.  After that it's a very loosely  performed comedy bit with Mr. Green Jeans (Hugh Brannum) with an almost surreal quality that wouldn't have been out of place on late-night shows designed for adults.  It's got a talk-show kind of vibe actually, which in essence Captain Kangaroo was, with guests dropping in and interacting with the relaxed Keeshan. While Fred Rogers' style of relaxed was more in the Perry Como mode, Keeshan had a slightly more absurdist jazzy cool about him, and in fact he made a children's record album introducing kids to jazz music as well as other kids records.



Here's a clip with Keeshan as the Captain appearing with a local Ohio kids TV clown named Flippo.  Both are playing it loose and silly.



Captain Kangaroo's place as a trusted children's advocate and adult figure also made him a great spokesman for public service ads, as you can see here, from 1980 and 1983.  The first one is particularly pertinent even today since vaccinating kids for common and dangerous childhood diseases seems to have fallen out of favor in some circles.







Finally, take a time travel ride back to March 4, 1961 with this episode of Captain Kangaroo complete with opening commercial for Girl Scouts featuring an actress whose name I can't recall at the moment -- please put it in the comments here if you do know her name! (Looks kind of like actress Catherine McLeod who was in movies, soaps & commercials, but not sure at all about that...)























































Bob Keeshan passed away on January 23, 2004.  A true treasure trove of information about his career and contributions to TV can be enjoyed in this 7-part interview with him by the Television Academy-sponsored Archive of American Television, available by clicking on the link here.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer Nose-talgia #2: The classy Miss Eleanor Parker & "Bracken's World"



 Today we applaud the vivacious, talented and lovely actress Eleanor Parker who was born on this date in 1922; she passed away only this past December 9, 2013 at the age of 91.  Signed to a movie contract right out of high school by the illustrious Warner Brothers studio in 1941, Eleanor Parker went on to become one of Hollywood's most respected and versatile actresses and earning three Academy Award nominations in the process -- for Caged in 1950, Detective Story the next year and Interrupted Melody in 1955.  Along the way she delighted fans in immensely entertaining films such as The Naked Jungle opposite Charlton Heston and the marabunta ants and the swashbuckling Scaramouche with Stewart Granger, and also in solid dramas such as The Man with the Golden Arm.  Many will perhaps best recall her in 1965's The Sound of Music as the well-to-do Baroness who nearly steals Christopher Plummer's Baron von Trapp from Julie Andrews' innocent but smitten Maria.

After her long and lauded big screen career Eleanor Parker was open to appearing on the small screen, leading to guest-starring roles in many of the top series of the time including The Eleventh Hour (Emmy nomination), Breaking Point, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Circle of Fear and many more.  What we at The Flaming Nose most love in Parker's TV oeuvre is the Hollywood-set drama from 1969 called Bracken's World, a behind-the-scenes, star-filled and completely fascinating melodrama about the goings-on at fictitious Century Pictures.

Filmed on the actual 20th Century-Fox studio lot and featuring cameos by real movie stars of the time and guest-starring many up-and-coming television actors and actresses, Bracken's World was a rare glimpse at a glamorous profession which while maintaining the glamour also managed to at least appear like a peek into the actual working life of a movie production studio.  Worked for me! Co-starring with Parker were Peter Haskell as a hip director, Dennis Cole as a stuntman, actresses Linda Harrison (who had starred as Nova in the original Planet of the Apes), Laraine Stephens, Karen Jensen and Madlyn Rhue as a neurotic show biz wife.

The casting of Eleanor Parker as the executive secretary to (unseen) studio head Bracken was a coup for the series, though her role ultimately didn't grow into the fully-realized character Parker had hoped.  She left after half a season but that doesn't diminish the allure of Bracken's World.  It's a series which continues to exert a very real appeal and was in fact mentioned in this past season of Mad Men (Don's wife Megan was up for a role in it.)

Here is a long preview promo introducing the series to potential 10pm Friday night NBC viewers (it replaced the cancelled Star Trek in that time slot):



Fortunately for us, though there has been no official DVD release of this iconic series so far, there is a selection of Bracken's World videos on YouTube at the moment; check them out if you are intrigued by late 1960s-era Hollywood -- and who isn't?  When I was at Turner I specifically hounded one of our Fox sales reps to get me a couple of BW episodes on tape to see if we could run then on TCM (and we should have); if the Fox movie channel had some sense they'd feature them now.  Let's get this great show out there!


In terms of Parker's other tremendous work, we offer up the trailer to her women's prison movie Caged, the gold standard to which all women's prison movies and TV shows must be compared.  I'm sure many of recall the oh-so-memorable Charlie's Angels episode "Angels in Chains" -- that series' homage of the genre -- in which the angels opened their towels and were sprayed for lice while the lady guards looked on.  We owe it all to Eleanor Parker and Caged!



You'll also really enjoy Steve Hayes as The Tired Old Queen at the Movies with his hilarious and well-reasoned appreciation of The Naked Jungle:



Like all of TCM's memorial salutes this short tribute to Eleanor Parker is a real downer, but worth looking at for her vast screen work:



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nose-talgia Summer! It's a June Lockhart Kind of Day Today!


Now that we're a few days officially into summer, The Flaming Nose TV Blog announces our summer initiative!  We're going to concentrate on a Nose-talgia summer, with looks back at the people and shows that we love and we're betting you do, too.  If we can celebrate some birthdays along the way, so much the better, and we're starting out with just that.

A Happy 89th Birthday today to the lovely and talented actress June Lockhart, a charming lady who started out as a child actress -- her father was veteran Hollywood character actor Gene Lockhart -- and went on to become one of television's favorite leading ladies.  Whether your tastes leaned more to situation comedy, family adventure or exciting futuristic science fiction tales, June Lockhart was your go-to gal.

Many of us grew up watching June playing the mother of young Jon Provost on Lassie from 1958 - 64. The CBS show was a long-running favorite featuring an evolving cast over the years (a 1954 start), with the beloved collie dog Lassie the one recurring element .  Lockhart's kind and understanding portrayal of Ruth Martin (opposite the equally understanding Hugh Reilly) was a highlight of the series.  The sophisticated movie and Broadway actress had no trouble donning a farmer's wife's apron to bring a loving, down-to-earth and intelligent character to life.  She definitely was one of TV's favorite mothers during the years she starred on Lassie.  Here's the opening title sequence to the show:



June Lockhart's next venture guaranteed her place in the annals of Pop Culture forever:  she placed pioneer spacewoman Maureen Robinson on producer Irwin Allen's imaginative family science fiction adventure series Lost in Space from 1965 - 1968 on CBS and in reruns ever since.

Playing opposite the dashing Guy Williams as her husband John, with child stars Angela Cartwright and Billy Mumy as her younger children and Marta Kristen as her ultra-fetching older daughter whose boyfriend was a fellow space traveler played by Mark Goddard, Lockhart managed to keep calm and carry on even when faced with the nefarious deeds of the dastardly stowaway Dr. Smith played by everybody's favorite Jonathan Harris. June as Maureen Robinson brought the same kind of kind intelligence and competence to the role as she had in Lassie, and her participation in this often over-the-top but always humane and sometimes downright sublime series is a highlight of her career.  First up is the original theme song to the show (set to a visual of show stills) and then the more popular and frankly more exciting theme from the 3rd and last season of the show.





Her last major series recurring role was in CBS' long-running (1963 -1970) rural comedy Petticoat Junction playing Dr. Janet Craig, a strong female figure in the series replacing actress Bea Benedaret who passed away in 1968.  Lockhart would be with the show for the series' final two seasons.


June Lockhart continues to work in Hollywood and is also a frequent guest at conventions where she shares her unique and witty tales of life as one of TV's busiest working actresses.  Check out YouTube for a plethora of clips featuring this charming leading lady!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

In The Woods: The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree





I was hunting for pictures online to use for this post and I couldn't understand why Louie's brilliant comedy series was not coming up first on a Google search.  After a few minutes, I realized that I was typing in Louie c.k. on HBO, and not fX.  That's how good this series is.  I incorrectly assumed that it must be on the Emmy winning paid cable network and not good old basic cable's  fX.  If you ever needed a reason to respect a Fox owned entity, this is it.  You could also make an argument for Fargo.  When I watch either one of these exceptional series, I don't feel guilty for hanging onto my Newscorp stock.

It's hard to call Louie  a comedy sometimes. I didn't laugh once during the recent episode "In The Woods", which was nearly as long as a feature film and better than 90% of the movies you'd pay good money to see in the theater.  It begins with Louie discovering his older daughter Lily smoking pot with some friends in the park.  He yanks her away and the enraged teenager screams that he "knows nothing about smoking pot". The rest of the episode is a flashback to teenage Louie, his nerdy friends and exhausted single mom.  It turns out young Louie knew quite about about the magic weed, and his experience was both harrowing and heartbreaking. Jeremy Renner plays a neighborhood drug dealer with seedy and mildly menacing perfection. Skipp Sudduth gives a brilliant portrayal of a caring high school chemistry teacher who is betrayed by Louie's addiction.  

For me, the most emotional moment in this tale came after the credits rolled.  It was dedicated to the late actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who died of a heroin overdose earlier in the year.  Mr. Hoffman was supposed to star in "In The Woods".  That he never got a chance makes it all the more powerful.