Category: TV Shows

The Night Gallery

Night Gallery

“Good evening, and welcome to a private showing of three paintings, displayed here for the first time. Each is a collectors’ item in its own way-not because of any special artistic quality, but because each captures on a canvas, and suspends in time and space, a frozen moment of a nightmare.”

Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone had a cult following like few shows this side of Star Trek, and ever since the program’s cancellation in 1964, the die-hards had been begging for new episodes. They wouldn’t get them during Serling’s lifetime, but the king of eerie TV satisfied the masses with an all-new anthology series in 1970. He called it Night Gallery, and while it wasn’t exactly the same thing as The Twilight Zone-in fact, it was considerably more horror-tinged-it proved that there were plenty of chilling stories left to tell.

A made-for-TV Night Gallery movie in 1969 introduced the format: Serling once more served as host, introducing each segment of the show by walking the guests at home through a gallery of creepy paintings. Each had a story to tell, and everyone was either darkly comic or just darkly dark. Like The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery rose and fell on those individual stories, and there were a number of highlights. Among them:

“Eyes” – Directed by a young Steven Spielberg and starring Joan Crawford, this segment from the pilot movie has Crawford as a blind woman desperate to buy or steal a working pair of eyes.

“Pickman’s Model” – In late 19th century Boston, a woman becomes intrigued by a strange painter and his horrible works.

“A Fear of Spiders” – A callous food writer turns to one of the recipients of his callousness when he finds a terrifying spider in his sink.

“The Return of the Sorcerer” – Vincent Price plays a sorcerer looking to unravel the secrets of an Arabic manuscript, hoping to find clues about his brother’s mysterious death.

“Rare Objects” – A gangster with a price on his head thinks he’s willing to pay anything for safety, but then, he doesn’t know what “anything” might entail.

As an anthology, Night Gallery had a cast that changed with every segment, and again like The Twilight Zone, the players included several famous faces: Crawford, Price, Leslie Nielsen, Diane Keaton, Edward G. Robinson, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Ozzie Nelson, Sally Field and many more. Initially, the series was part of NBC’s Four in One anthology hodgepodge, but by the fall of 1971, Night Gallery went solo.

The show’s popularity ebbed after the 1971-72 season – partly due to a shortening from one hour to a half-hour, partly due to conflicts between Serling and the producers and network – and after one more season of original episodes, the Night Gallery was closed. It may never have gained the same cult status as its Rod Serling predecessor, but Night Gallery lives on today, still chilling after all these years.

Elvira on The Fall Guy?!?

Elvira Fall Guy

For those of you keeping track of this sort of thing, I recently did a whole post on The Fall Guy, and my fond memories of it, and you should check it out if you were a fan, or if you’ve never heard of it in the first place.

Anyway, I came across this ad while going through some old TV Guides, and I was blown away!  I felt pretty sure I had seen every episode of The Fall Guy, but I’ve never seen this one.  I’m doubly surprised because I was a big Elvira mark back in the day as well, and yet somehow, this appearance has alluded me.  I will be quick to remedy this situation and track down the episode somewhere, somehow, and settle in and watch it in what I am sure is all it’s glory.

Any of you guys and gals remember this episode?

TV Guide Fall Preview Flashback – Night Court from 1984

Night Court

I always loved reading through the TV Guide Fall Previews issues, and now that I’molder, I REALLY enjoy going back through them with a nostalgiac eye.  So what I’ve decided to do, is start sharing these snippets from years gone by previewing some of favorite shows,and also the ones hardly anyone remembers.

First up, it’s Night Court!  I loved this show growing up in the 80’s, and know that a lot of you did as well.  So enjoy this quick trip down memory lane as you look back at the first looks of the iconic show.

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Are You Afraid of the Dark

The age-old tradition of the campfire ghost story got a 1990’s update in Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark? Debuting as part of the Friday night SNICK block in 1992, the show featured a group of teen and preteen storytellers, each telling tales of the spooky and the macabre.

Horror fan Gary was the founder of the Midnight Society, a club of kids who each week retired deep into the woods, lit a campfire and took turns scaring the living daylights out of one another. In addition to Gary, the original Midnight Society lineup included Betty Ann, Kiki, Frank, Kristen, David and Eric.

As each episode began, one of the Midnight Society members would begin spinning his or her web of gloom, and the show would segue into a dramatization of the story. The familiar vampires, werewolves, haunted houses, mad scientists, etc., were all present in the kids’ tales, but the stories also delved into Twilight Zone territory. Kids were given twisted morality lessons about prank phone call police, magic mirrors that showed inner ugliness, the problems with having your wishes all come true, and so on. And for the hard core scare fans, the Midnight Society also had its share of voodoo, cannibals, scary clowns and raising the dead.

The Midnight Society was the show’s only regular cast, as other actors took over during the stories themselves. That left plenty of room for guest stars, and Are You Afraid of the Dark? filled the bill with appearances by Bobcat Goldthwaite, Melissa Joan Hart, Neve Campbell, Boy Meets World’s Will Friedle and TV’s original Riddler, Frank Gorshin.

Midnight Society members came and went during the show’s first run, with Sam, Stig and Gary’s kid brother Tucker joining up to replace the exiting spook meisters. With the start of the sixth season—which came after a three years of no new episodes—an entire new Midnight Society was formed, with only Tucker hanging on as the group’s new leader. Excitable tomboy Vange, upscale Megan, burly farm boy Andy and streetwise Quinn were now the ones sharing their chilling yarns.

After more than seven seasons and dozens of nightmares, the Midnight Society continue to hold their macabre meetings in the woods, and as long as kids love good ghost stories, the tradition will surely stay alive.

And do you remember that cool dust they would throw on the camp fire to make the flames change colors?  Well you can get the can of crystals so you can replicate it at your own camp fire.  Check them out here on Amazon.

Eerie, Indiana

Eerie Indiana

This ultra-quirky sitcom was notable for any reasons. Not only did it place the family sitcom in a unique setting and situation, its sophisticated handling of its paranormal elements also paved the way for later non-sitcom shows like The X-Files and Roswell.

The show focused on Marshall Teller, a young man who felt quite homesick when his inventor father, Edgar, uprooted the family from their New Jersey home and moved them to Eerie, a small town in Indiana. Also along for the ride were Marilyn, Marshall’s mom, and Syndi, his narcissistic older sister. Marshall’s post-move depression quickly gave way to bemusement when he took stock of his new surroundings.

The town of Eerie truly managed to live up to its name. Bizarre things went on night and day: Elvis Presley lived in a little suburban house, there were two young men who had remained teenagers since the 1960’s by sleeping every night in giant plastic containers called Foreverware, and the dogs in the pound were making an escape plan that could only be heard over a friend’s set of dental retainers.

Unfortunately, Marshall’s parents and sister either were too busy to notice or wouldn’t believe him when he pointed these things out. Luckily, he found an ally in Simon, another kid his age who also believed that strange things were afoot in the town of Eerie. Together, the duo would ride their bikes around town and keep tabs on all the unusual goings-on.

Although nominally aimed at children, Eerie Indiana was smart enough to be enjoyed by older viewers. The series’ eccentric sense of humor made frequent use of in-jokes related to television and film, touching on everything from Twin Peaks to Godzilla. Also, the show wasn’t afraid to play with the medium of TV itself, something it did memorably in an episode titled “Reality Takes A Holiday.” In this episode, Marshall found a script for a television show in his mailbox and then realized his life was being turned into a show called “Eerie, Indiana.”

The show was canceled in April of 1992 after 20 episodes. However, it became popular again after the similar The X-Files became a hit, getting frequent reruns on various cable stations and building a cult of dedicated viewers. It remains popular with fans of the bizarre today for its mixture of eccentric humor and its sly knowledge of horror and science-fiction conventions.

The Monster Squad

Monster Squad

Long before the phrase “virtual reality” was coined, wax museum caretaker Walter accidentally brought replicas of Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man to life with his “crime computer.” The trio of leading men from horror’s golden age joined Walter to form the Monster Squad, dedicating themselves to a new after-life of fighting crime.

This show’s tongue-in-cheek attitude was reminiscent of the 60’s Batman series, but The Monster Squad didn’t reach the airwaves until the 1976-77 season, which was heavily laden with live-action series. Like many of its contemporaries, The Monster Squad featured a hip vehicle—in this case the squad’s van—and high-tech gadgets like the team’s belt communicators.

Character actor Vito Scotti played one of the villainous foes our heroes faced, a mad scientist dressed as a man on one side of his body and a woman on the other. Walter was played by Fred Grandy, who went on to TV fame as Gopher on The Love Boat. After ten years on that show, Grandy spent eight years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Alas, The Monster Squad was not as long-lived, returning to the grave after only one season.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker

Kolchak

It was woefully short-lived, but this horror/sci-fi series has become one of the most beloved series of its kind over time. First introduced in a 1972 made-for-television film called The Night Stalker, Darren McGavin starred as Carl Kolchak, a crusty old reporter for the Independent News Service in Chicago. The film, which had Kolchak investigating a vampire in Las Vegas, became the highest-rated television film of its time, and its sequel, The Night Strangler, found similar success. ABC subsequently ordered a series, which began its run in September of 1974.

McGavin continued to play the role of Kolchak in the new series, squaring off against a new otherworldly menace. Kolchak cut an intriguing and distinct figure, dressed in a light-blue seersucker suit and a straw hat. His personality was gruff and sarcastic and always put him at odds with authority figures. Vincenzo was his editor, who was driven to the point of ulcers by Kolchak’s penchant for bizarre stories. Emily Cowles was a fellow writer at INS who was friendly with Kolchak and also happened to be the only person he trusted.

The plotlines followed a consistent pattern: Kolchak would stumble across a series of grisly and mysterious killings and realize that something non-human played a role in the murders. Inevitably, the local authorities would want to keep them quiet, and Vincenzo would not believe Kolchak’s theory. Kolchak would risk life and limb to get to the bottom of the story and fight off the villainous menace in the process. Of course, the evidence would always slip through his fingers and thus cause others to not believe his story.

During the series’ run, Kolchak faced off with everything from vampires and werewolves to aliens and androids. The biggest favorite among fans of the show was “Horror In The Heights,” in which Kolchak stumbled across a demon while investigating a story about a rash of deaths among the elderly. He quickly discovered the culprit was a Hindu demon called the rakshasa that tricks its victim by taking on the appearance of the person he/she trusts most before killing them.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker only lasted one season, ending its run in August of 1975. However, it has become a huge cult favorite amongst fans of horror and science fiction. Many people even consider it to be a blueprint for the later and more successful The X-Files, which shared much with Kolchak in terms of style and substance. Even Chris Carter, the creator of that show, has acknowledged the important influence this show had on his work. In the wake of The X-Files’s success, all of the Kolchak: The Night Stalker episodes have been released on video, including the two made-for-television films. As a long as there are viewers who like a good scare, Kolchak: The Night Stalker will always be in demand.

Xena: Warrior Princess

Xena

Xena, that raven-haired, armor-wearing, ancient-times heroine, first appeared in an episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys called “The Warrior Princess,” as “gasp” a bad guy. Er, girl. To be more precise, Xena was an evil warlord bent on killing Hercules. Fortunately for Hercules, she had an epiphany and reformed her evil village-destroying ways. She went from pillaging the innocent to protecting them, which just goes to show you, sometimes you can’t judge a warlord by her blood-covered battle-axe.

Where Hercules, a half-god, had brute strength, Xena’s bag was tactical warfare with a penchant for acrobatics and martial arts. Her weapons of choice were her sword and her chakram, a menacing razor-sharp Frisbee-style object. She knew where to pinch and jab pressure points of opponents, she was good with a whip, and best of all, she had got a real taste for her work-she enjoyed the rough and tumble with the bad guys. What else could you want for your fantasy heroine?

But there was a whole lot more to Xena than just the sword and girl power brawn. She had a son whom she rarely saw and used to have one true love who ended up murdered, but on the upside, she opened herself up to companionship in the form of the trusty Gabrielle-a small village girl who gave up a career as a bard to travel the world with Xena. Fans speculated about the exact nature of their relationship, but whatever the case, the chatty and warm Gabrielle made for a good foil to the all-business Xena.

Xena

Xena was set in what the show called the “Golden Age” of myth, before ancient Greece or Rome, probably around 1300 B.C. Episodes found her dabbling in the Trojan War, witnessing the Israelites and the Philistines getting their war groove on, watching David fight Goliath, and she also ran into Julius Caesar and Hippocrates in her travels. She and Gabrielle even time traveled to the 1940’s, where they played archeologists who recovered the “Xena Scrolls,” an account of a notorious warrior princess’ adventures.

The series was filmed in New Zealand, where unknown actress Lucy Lawless was plucked for the Hercules guest spot, and later for the series. She was the perfect combination of athleticism and humanism, of mythic hero-type and real lady. And any lady who expertly wields a chakram is just automatically cool, and of course, gives a whole new angle to the game of Ultimate Frisbee.

My Two Dads Was a Highly Underrated TV Series

My Two Dads

How did one girl get so lucky? When Nicole Bradford was orphaned by her mother at age eleven (that wasn’t the lucky part), she was left with not one but TWO fathers (that was). It turned out that Nicole’s mother, Marcy Bradford, was dating two men simultaneously, and never determined which was Nicole’s biological father. Paul Reiser (later of Mad About You fame) played one of Nicole’s fathers, Michael Taylor-the yuppie, conservative professional who was strict on curfews and dating. On the other side of the spectrum was Dad #2, Joey Harris (Greg Evigan, the “B.J.” half of B.J. and the Bear)-an eccentric, free-spirited musician.

This living arrangement made decorating somewhat difficult. Smack dab in the middle of their loft was a huge stuffed red velvet car, which served as a couch. Not exactly typical fare for a stuffy financial analyst, this couch did for interior decorating what Jennifer Anniston’s haircut did for hairdressers. Another source of conflict was Nicole’s style of dress. Michael was a big fan of Nicole’s conservative private school uniform, but Greg supported many of her wilder attempts at fashion.

Unfortunately for Michael and Joey, the judge who awarded them custody of Nicole also owned their building, and she often dropped by unexpectedly to add her unsolicited and sarcastic advice regarding Nicole’s upbringing. Judge Wilbur (from Night Court) also served as a surrogate mother to Nicole, often coaching her in lessons of life and love that the menfolk just couldn’t give.


Watch My Two Dads


Though viewers never saw a gray hair spring up in Michael’s perfectly groomed coif or Joey’s silky mane, Nicole’s active social life would be enough to turn give any father nightmares. Episodes dealt with topics ranging from an innocent first date to Nicole’s dating a rebel. Interspersed with Nicole’s romantic escapades were occasional episodes focusing on the women Michael and Joey brought home. Most of their relationships turned sour as they usually discovered that they only had room for one girl in their lives.

Watching Nicole from the wings, along her two dads, was her awkward friend Cory. Cory loved Nicole from afar, and would often show up when Nicole had another date scheduled, only to receive yet another pep talk from Michael or Joey. Alas, Nicole had her eyes on Zack, the local heartthrob and her usual boyfriend. Shelby was Nicole’s worldly best friend, and former pro footballer Dick Butkus played Ed Klawicki, owner of the local soda shop that served as the backdrop for many of Nicole’s dates and social activities.

After three seasons of double-daddy parenting woes, My Two Dads went off the air. In the final episode, Nicole chose not to take a blood test to find out which of the loveable lugs was her biological parent. To her, they were both her true fathers.

The Short Lived B.J. and the Bear Television Series

B.J. and the Bear

Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can were big hits for star Clint Eastwood in 1978 and 1979. Both films focused on the adventures of a man and his simian companion as they traveled through rural areas. It was a very television-friendly concept and was cleverly appropriated in 1979 for a one-hour NBC show entitled B.J. and the Bear.

The show focused on B.J., a trucker who roamed down the highways and byways in his red-and-white rig with his companion Bear, who happened to be a chimp. B.J.’s arch nemesis was initially Lobo, a corrupt sheriff. Lobo became popular enough to get his own spin-off series (The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo) and was replaced with additional corrupt-lawmen characters in the form of Sergeant Beauregard Wiley and his two sheriffs, Masters and Cain.

When he wasn’t busy locking horns with local lawmen, B.J. frequently spent his spare time at the Country Comfort Truck Stop, owned by Bullets. Other characters B. J. interacted with included Wilhemina “The Fox” Johnson, a state cop sent out to keep an eye on Sergeant Wiley, and Tommy, one of B.J.’s fellow truckers.

B.J. and the Bear

The second season of B.J. and the Bear was delayed for several months by an actor’s strike. When the series returned in January of 1981, the show’s story line had been altered greatly. B.J. and the Bear were the only characters retained from the first, season and the action was moved from the American South to Los Angeles, where B.J. relocated to run his own trucking operation, Bear Enterprises.

This story line also introduced a new enemy for B.J., corrupt politician Rutherford T. Grant, who happened to be a silent partner in California’s largest trucking firm. Not wishing to have any competition for his business interests, Grant did everything in his power to interfere with Bear Enterprises.

Grant successfully scared off any male truckers from working with B.J., thus forcing him to hire an all-female staff of truckers. This bevy of beauties included two identical twins, Teri and Geri Garrison, and Grant’s daughter Cindy. Other members of the new cast included Lieutenant Jim Steiger, Grant’s assistant, and Nick the Bartender.

The show finished its run in August of 1981. Prolific creator/producer Glen Larson had four series on the networks around the time of this show: Galactica 1980, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the aforementioned Lobo and Magnum P.I. Larson also wrote the theme song for B.J. and the Bear (sung by star Greg Evigan), making him a true TV renaissance man.

TV Guide Fall Preview Flashback – Highway to Heaven from 1984

Highway to Heaven

Here we are once again with a TV Guide Fall Preview Flashback, this time with Highway to Heaven from 1984.  I never watched this show in prime time in it’s original run, but I can remember watching it weekday afternoons after school in syndication.  It was usually on in the background while I was doing homework, but I caught enough of it through the years to know it’s a show I like.

It’s on Netflix now, si I’m thinking about giving it a shot from an older perspective to see what I think about it now.