Sunday, October 30, 2016

"The Man from U.N.C.L.E." Goes Batty -- Part of The Classic TV Blog Association Terror TV Blogathon

This post is part of the Terror TV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association.  Click here for the entire line-up!

Vampires are big business these days but who exactly are we kidding?  They've always been big business -- big SHOW business -- from the early days of silent cinema until this very minute.  In terms of TV fun, they've been pulled out to do spooky duty many a time, including tussling with the intrepid secret agents on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. back in 1966, though not as a Halloween episode; it aired on April 1 of that year on NBC, of course!

"The Bat Cave Affair" is a crazy mix featuring a psychic hillbilly gal, Illya bullfighting in Spain and ending up hostage to a diabolical mad scientist Thrush agent Count Zark who's cooked up a plan to use bats to throw the world's air traffic into a tailspin.  The precognitive Ozark lass is played by actress Joan Freeman, veteran of many TV shows and movies and who played the girlfriend of space-bound TV favorite Don Knotts (post-Barney Fife) in 1967's The Reluctant Astronaut comedy movie.  

Count Zark is played by the consummate actor Martin Landau, a perennial acting man of many faces who was a frequent guest on TV series and co-starring in movies. Later in that Fall season he would begin his star-making role as magician/secret agent Rollin Hand in TV's Mission: Impossible which he played for 3 years.  

Rather than recap the plot of "The Bat Cave Affair" again here I will refer you to several sites with terrific synopses of the episode, such as Benzadmiral's No Man is Free site with plot here, Morgan Richter's Preppies of the Apocalypse with a complete rundown here, and TV Maze with a detailed storyline recap here.  But really, the charm and continuing appeal of this episode is in the look of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and particularly the brilliantly flamboyant work of Martin Landau as Count Zark.  In addition to the fact that Landau has never given less than a standout performance in anything, he's got an incredibly expressive face just perfect for topping off the traditional vampire flowing black cape.

So, with great thanks to the wonderful Lisa's Video Frame Capture Library site -- check it out here -- let's feast on some moments from "The Bad Cave Affair"!

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. "The Bat Cave Affair" is worth checking out for its snazzy 1960s' vibe and the always entertaining performances of all the series regulars.  You can find and watch it online here.

Happy Halloween to all TV lovers everywhere, and be sure to check out the rest of the other wonderful entries in The Terror TV Blogathan hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association; visit the entire line-up by clicking here.  You'll really enjoy it!  

Monday, October 10, 2016

Lethal Weapon on Fox - To Watch or Not to Watch

The following is my opinion...The review gets updated from time to time...

First and foremost I no longer watch much television. Having spent a career in it, I find myself now mostly watching Masterpiece on PBS, but I admit to having a great passion for the Lethal Weapon franchise.My guilty pleasure movie franchise. During the heyday of Mel Gibson he could do little to no wrong as an actor and his Martin Riggs character was certainly one for the era. The original Lethal Weapon film was released in 1987; and it was a monumental success for Warner Bros. The film series would have three additional installments over the course of eleven years and all four films would be gigantic moneymakers. Ultimately, one must ask the question - what took them so long to launch a series?

Back in 1987 no one would have dreamt that three decades later a broadcast network would launch the title into a weekly episodic series, but here we are with a Lethal Weapon series sans the gun in the promo material and in the logo itself. The Lethal Weapon was always supposed to be the character of Martin Riggs, but can Martin Riggs maintain Lethal Weapon status week in - week out? Even the sheer near brilliance of Mel Gibson couldn't do this outside of the eight hours of screen time that came with the filmed versions over an eleven year period of time. Having written that, Clayne Crawford (the current Martin Riggs) is a fine actor; and at times, an incredibly consequential actor (Rectify).

Now if you think I am about to be critical regarding a lack of creativity on the part of the television industry you would be incorrect. Choosing a highly recognizable brand and title doesn't prove a lack of creativity. Lethal Weapon was a prime project to have segued onto the small screen. My real question is: why isn't Lethal Weapon on FOX a gigantic blockbuster of a success? Needless to say, it launched well and it has held a stable, but flat number (dropping slightly from week to week), but this show is superb. Hey, it's not The Crown, but it's not intended to be The Crown.  The show is funny, heart string pulling and action-packed. Plus, it has Clayne Crawford who should have been a monumentally big star years ago. With the exception of the absolutely dismal 13th episode which appeared to be written by people that had never heard of Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, this show is excellent entertainment.  

I have now watched 14 episodes of this series and the show is at times, good, fun and mindless entertainment; and quite frankly, there is a need for that in the television landscape. Most everything else is dark and darker. Entertain us please.

The team crafted an entertaining and at times, beautifully touching pilot. Admittedly, no episode since the pilot has equaled the superb pilot, but several of the early episodes got everything almost right. Even the technical aspects of the show have failed several times, including a badly edited episode six. Some of the guest-stars have proven to have few acting skills (try sitting through the Owsley episode again, I dare you), although the appearance of Hilarie Burton in the Fashion Police episode was a remarkable case of perfect casting.

The pilot offered fully fleshed out characters, lots of quick and clever dialogue and a poignancy about life, death, family and friendship. The series has attempted this delivery and most of the time they deliver successfully.

Damon Wayans (Roger Murtaugh) is a funny guy, but no one would accuse him of showing a great deal of range and/or depth as an actor. His family moments almost make the show worth the view, since there are some heartfelt family interludes that are touching and dignified in a true family fashion. Keesha Sharp, who plays Trish Murtaugh, is absolutely delightful to watch and kudos to her and her weekly performance for making these people worth caring about.

The achy heart and soul of this series is Clayne Crawford who had the unenviable task of playing Martin Riggs. It's stunning to think this is the first big break he has gotten after doing a large assortment of episodic guest spots, independent films and a lead role in the series Rectify. He's attractive without being Mel Gibson 1987 gorgeous and he is a good actor capable of being likable and even relatable. Watch Rectify on Sundance and see him play a character completely different than his Martin Riggs. Crawford had never done comedy prior to Lethal Weapon, but one wouldn't know it if one didn't know it. He's got terrific comic timing and he's literally as good at playing Martin Riggs as Mel Gibson was. By the way, I am not throwing that compliment out flippantly, since I'm a huge Mel Gibson fan (my favorite actor of the last 30 years), but Crawford is just that good at playing Martin Riggs.  

There are a few problems with the series and one of them is the fact that Riggs is a former Navy Seal. Riggs would never have been a Navy Seal. The producers are supposedly paying tribute to our men and women in the Armed Services. The episode featuring Michael Raymond James as a "troubled" former Navy Seal made me want to run far away from any screen displaying Lethal Weapon. Riggs' issues have little to do with his time as a Navy Seal (how many Navy Seals are now featured in television?) and all to do with the death of his wife and child. By the way, some consultant needs to inform the writers that Navy Seals aren't soldiers, but Riggs keeps calling himself a soldier. Call Craig Sawyer!

This is superficial Hollywood at its worst. Here is a line from episode #10 Homebodies: "I'm a Navy Seal. I can do whatever I want." My father served in the Navy for 20 years and he wouldn't have said anything even remotely close to this nonsense. No wonder why much of middle America now distrusts anything to do with La La Land. The cream of the crop enter this small group of people and an unhinged member could literally destroy any deployment.

Shockingly, or not, FOX has promoted the series heavily (Major League Baseball, NFL and all for free!), but they certainly didn't schedule it with tender loving care. This past week (written at the end of January, 2017), they aired the Christmas episode. That episode, entitled Jingle Bell Glock just aired a little more than six weeks ago, but here it was again. If you want audiences to sample your series, then use the frontloaded good episodes to gain a foothold. Why didn't some Program Planning and Scheduling exec say "run that fabulous pilot again." Is FOX secretly cheering against the show? The week to week ratings drop isn't helping either. In one way, the show is somewhat stable, but statistically, it drops almost every single week to week.     

Lethal Weapon has yet to receive a second season pick-up which is beyond absurd, but I believe FOX secretly doesn't want to renew the series, since they would rather have their own intellectual property to stick in that slot, but they are fools not to recognize what they have on their hands.  As long as they avoid another episode 13 (unlucky number, that it is) this series definitely has a second season in it.   

Copyright The Flaming Nose 2016