Rerun Junkie–All of Your Favorites Are Problematic

One of my favorite episodes of The Monkees is called “Monkees Chow Mein”. The four guys inadvertently intercept a fortune cookie filled with top secret information at a Chinese restaurant. The CIA get involved. BJ Hunnicutt is there. Hijinks ensue.

And Joey Forman plays the head Chinese guy, Dragonman.

If you’re not familiar with Joey Forman let me assure you that he is a very funny man who is definitely not Chinese. His portrayal of Dragonman involved scotch-taped eyes and a stereotyped accent. It’s a somewhat less obnoxious version of yellow face, but there’s no doubt that it’s yellow face.

It’s problematic, to say the very least.

So, how can it be one of my favorite episodes? Two reasons. One, it’s funny and most of the humor in it could have been achieved just as successfully by Joey Forman (and his right hand man, Gene Dynarski) not doing yellow face. The lines and the antics would have been just as funny because it had nothing to do with the stereotype they were portraying.

Yes, I realize there’s a lot of privilege involved that it allows me to approach this episode from that angle.

And two, being a rerun junkie means that I’ve learned to accept that my favorites are going to be problematic.

It’s a simple matter of history, really. These shows are a product of their time, whatever their time is. That’s why you see a lot of racist casting (e.g. white people playing minorities) in the ’50s, ’60s, and even into the ’70s. The stereotypes continued all through the ’80s and beyond.  Misogyny and sexism has run rampant for decades, so it’s always available in reruns. To be fair, the shows can’t help it. And it’s far too late for them to change.

That’s not to say any of it is right, of course. These things might have been common then, but even at the time, folks had problems with it. Pernell Roberts reportedly objected to the racist stereotypes of the minorities on Bonanza. And Van Williams repeatedly tried to get Bruce Lee a bigger role on The Green Hornet, which the producers reportedly refused because they didn’t want to give too much focus to a non-white actor instead of the star.

So, when it comes to reruns, it’s a matter of acknowledging that at the time this was the practice. They’re time capsules of cringe-worthiness, syndicated reminders of our sketchy, shady, seedy TV past.

Even shows that did their best to be socially conscious (for their time) still stumbled. For example, Barney Miller often tackled topical 1970’s issues, some of which are still relevant today. And it largely succeeded in addressing those issues, at least in an illuminating sort of way. But there are some episodes that missed the mark and as a result have aged terribly. The episode “Rape” attempted to address the laws (or lack of laws) pertaining to marital rape. However, done in the confines of a 30-minute comedy…yeah. The tone-deafness only rings clearer as the years go by.

These are the landmines you risk as a rerun junkie. It can make for uncomfortable viewing and in some cases all of the logical rationale can’t save you from the oogy feelings. There are now episodes of my favorite shows that I avoid because I just can’t.

Retaining perspective is the key. It’s a good thing that these issues are noticed and that they cause discomfort. It’s a sign that things have progressed (somewhat) and that the old status quo has long spoiled.

Ideally, I’d like to do in-depth posts about the different issues that crop while rerun-watching.

But for now, I continue to come to terms with my problematic favorites.

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Rerun Junkie Guest Stars–Victor Buono

Oh, Victor Buono, how do I love you? Let me count the ways.

Funny, campy, witty, clever, a man whose presence was more than his size, this lover of Shakespeare dedicated himself to his craft in a way that let him fully embody a character, even take it over the top (and in some cases way over the top), yet never take himself too seriously nor lose credibility with the audience in the process.

Obviously, if Batman was the only rerun I’d ever seen Victor Buono in, that would be enough. His King Tut is my favorite Batman villain and with good reason. He embraces the camp of the show, revels in it. He bellows, he insults, he bosses, he throws tantrums. He goes from joyful to angry and back again. He thinks torture is good clean fun. He is royalty. Every line is quotable and so much of it is in King Tut’s delivery. My personal favorite is “My queen is disloyal, my handmaiden is a traitor, and everybody’s being mean to me!” It’s delivered as only Victor Buono can.

Though he never made it onto The Green Hornet, Mr. Buono did guest start in two other short-lived series starring Van Williams, Burbon Street Beat and Surfside 6.

And Batman wasn’t the only show in which he was a recurring character. He also did six episodes of the short-lived (I’m sensing a theme) series Man from Atlantis and six episodes on the longer-lived series Vega$.

He also did a couple of episodes as Count Manzeppi on my beloved The Wild Wild West (including an episode with Richard Pryor in one of his first TV acting appearances), however, Victor Buono also appeared in the pilot episode of the series in the bizarre role of a Mexican in disguise as a Chinese man. I will repeat that because it bears repeating. White Victor Buono played a Mexican in disguise as a Chinese man.

The ’60s were wild.

Speaking of the ’60s, those were busy guest star times for Mr. Buono. He appeared on Westerns Sugarfoot, The Rebel, and Daniel Boone; had some watery fun on Seahunt and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea; went undercover on The Man from UNCLE, The Girl from UNCLE, and I Spy; found himself on various sides of the law in Hawaiian EyeThe Untouchables, 77 Sunset Strip, and Perry Mason; and  he found time to thrill on Thriller and visit The Flying Nun.

Lucky for me, Mr. Buono graced Hawaii Five-O with his presence, playing a European master criminal after a rare Liberty head nickel. I believe this is also the episode that features the husband and wife in charming matching outfits. Only that could challenge the presence of Victor Buono and Jack Lord together onscreen.

Though he never made it on The Love Boat, Mr. Buono did manage to board Super Train and land on Fantasy Island. He also browsed The Night Gallery; again tangled with the law on The Mod Squad, Mannix, and Ellery Queen; and generated more than a few laughs on Here’s Lucy, The Odd Couple, and Alice.

One of his more memorable sitcom turns was on Taxi, playing Reverend Jim Ignatowski’s father, Mr. Caldwell, despite being only 8 months older than Christopher Lloyd. It was a naturally funny, but also sweet role, one that Taxi acknowledged in a later episode. After Victor Buono died of a heart attack in 1982, Reverend Jim’s father did, too.

 

 

 

Though Victor Buono died tragically early (only 43), we are left with a wealth of guest spots on some great reruns to enjoy. An immortal gift if there ever was one.

Rerun Junkie Guest Stars–Jeanette Nolan

Jeanette NolanMe-TV has been showing holiday episodes of various shows, not all of which they carry on their usual line-up which is great, and I’ve been watching some of them.  Last week I caught a Christmas episode of MacGyver and it reminded me that I needed to write a guest star post about the wonderful Jeanette Nolan, who is pretty great in that ep.

Jeanette Nolan has 200 credits listed on the IMDB and most of them are TV shows. There is plenty of chances to catch this wonderful character actress in reruns, especially if you like Westerns because I think she was in every Western TV show that ever aired. That’s a slight exaggeration because she was never on Big Valley or High Chaparral, but she did do a whole lot, including: The Restless Gun, Lawman, The Rough Riders, Black Saddle, The Rebel, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Bat Masterson, Outlaws, Have Gun-Will Travel, Laramie, Wagon Train (with her husband John McIntire), A Man Called Shenandoah, Bonanza, Laredo, The Virginian (she did 27 episodes as a recurring character), Alias Smith and Jones, and Gunsmoke (which I will talk about more in a minute).

The woman had a niche for a good long while. Part of that was probably due to the fact that both she and her husband sort of specialized in playing characters that were much older than they actually were. You need an older, spitfire of a woman on the prairie, then you get Jeanette Nolan. Because there seems to be a touch of spitfire to every character I’ve seen her play and I’m not complaining about that.

Jeanette Nolan as Dirty SallyJeanette Nolan plays one of my favorite characters in all of the reruns I watch or have watched. Dirty Sally is a recurring character on Gunsmoke (she was in 8 episodes, three of them playing Dirty Sally, but the rest of them playing different characters, including Festus’s aunt, I believe) and she ended up getting her own series called Dirty Sally that only ran for 14 episodes and I’m sorry I’ve yet to see it. Dirty Sally is a fabulous character. A dirty, old, toothless woman that uses chewing tobacco and tells everyone what she thinks and saves Dack Rambo and pals around with drunk Jack Albertson in various episodes. It’s an incredibly fun character and Jeanette Nolan owns it with every fiber of her being. She made herself look toothless and about twenty years older than she actually was. Fantastic.

But a good character actress, and Jeanette Nolan is a good character actress, cannot be contained. So along with all of the Westerns, she also did a lot of police/detective shows including: Dragnet (1958), Peter Gunn, Perry Mason, Hawaiian Eye, Hawaii Five-0 (a nifty episode that I like a lot), Ironside, the Longstreet pilot (how I miss TV movie night on Me-TV), Mannix, The Streets of San Francisco, Police Woman, Columbo, Charlie’s Angels, Hart to Hart, TJ Hooker, Matt Houston, Cagney and Lacey, and Hunter.

If you like medical shows, she did Ben Casey, Marcus Welby MD, Dr. Kildare, Medical Center, Trapper John MD, and Emergency! (her character in that episode is a woman spending her 80th birthday in the hospital; she would have been 61 when the episode aired).

Jeanette Nolan on Golden GirlsIf you prefer family friendly fare, she was on Lassie, My Three Sons, The Mothers-in-Law, and The Waltons. If your family is weird, you can find her on Thriller, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Twilight Zone, and Night Gallery. If your family is funny, she appeared on F-Troop, Night Court, and Golden Girls (playing Rose’s mother even though she was only 11 years older than Betty White).

And if none of that excites you, then perhaps knowing that she did both Love Boat and Fantasy Island will.

Because we all know that’s gold.

And so is Jeanette Nolan.

Rerun Junkie–Gunsmoke

It’s the longest running western. It’s tied for the longest running prime-time drama (thanks, Law & Order). Twenty years is a long time on the air and 635 episodes is a lot of episodes.

Twenty years also means different opening credits.

Twenty years also means different opening credits.

Set in Dodge City, Kansas, Gunsmoke is the story of Marshall Matthew Dillon (James Arness) as he tries to bring justice to the Wild West. Assisted over the years by friends Doc (Milburn Stone), Chester (Dennis Weaver), and Quint Asper (Burt Reynolds), deputies Festus (Ken Curtis), Thad (Roger Ewing), and Newly (Buck Taylor), and the saloon owner Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake) and her bartender Sam (Glenn Strange), Matt faced off against a host of bad guys, troubles, injuries, moral quandries, and injustice.

And let me tell you, there was plenty of all of that. I haven’t seen every episode of this show. Probably haven’t even seen half of them (and it started out on the radio with William Conrad as the voice of Matt Dillon, so the saddle bag of history overflows). But I can tell you that they did not skimp on the drama, nor skirt some of the heavier issues. In addition to the usual robbery, revenge, and death you expect on a western, the show had episodes involving rape, white slavery, racism, bigotry, abuse of all kinds, greed of all kinds, murder of all kinds, and that’s just what I can remember off the top of my head. I think every one of the main cast was falsely accused at one point in time and a few even faced the rope, only to be saved at the last minute. I know Festus was nearly hung on several occasions, head in the noose and all before he was saved, and when he was saved NO ONE EVER APOLOGIZED. Really. Nobody ever bothered to be like, “Hey, sorry we nearly killed you. Our bad.” Nothing. I think if you nearly hang someone  and then find out he’s innocent just before you kick the horse out from under him, you should at least have the decency to say you’re sorry. But that’s just me.

This is the cast configuration I know best. See the smiles? The Wild West wasn't a total downer.

This is the cast configuration I know best. See the smiles? The Wild West wasn’t a total downer.

Not every episode was heavier than a blacksmith’s anvil. Many of them were light and quite funny. Typically, anytime Festus was heavily involved, especially if any member of his family showed up, it’s going to be a good time. Festus episodes tend to be my favorite. But no matter what the nature of the episode is, any conversation between Festus and Doc is going to be gold.

Gunsmoke is one of those shows that could have a post of it’s own on just the guest stars. That’s what happens when you’re on forever. Everyone ends up on your show. But here area  few I find worth mentioning: familiar names Nick Nolte, Gary Busey, Harrison Ford, Dennis Hopper, Richard Dreyfus, Jodie Foster, Diane Ladd, and Charles Bronson; Bruce Dern, Royal Dano, John Dehner, John Anderson, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam, Strother Martin, Harry Carey Jr, and Claude Akins, who were required by federal law at the time to appear in every western TV show; my favorites Ross Martin and Joyce Jameson; J. Pat O’Malley, Nehemiah Persoff, Virginia Gregg, and Vitto Scotti, who were required by federal law at the time to be in every TV show; Kurt Russell and his daddy Bing; Buck Taylor’s daddy Dub; Brock Peters, Cicely Tyson, Yaphet Kotto, and Keye Luke; Ron Howard and his brother Clint; John Saxon, Sid Haig, and Richard Jaeckel; and leading ladies Bette Davis, Vera Miles, Margaret Hamilton, and Gloria DeHaven.

This isn’t even the tip of the ice berg. It’s a mere clump of snow on an ice planet.

Like many of my reruns, I started watching Gunsmoke because there was nothing else on. Having seen episodes from the last eight or nine seasons multiple times now, I can see why this show was on the air for so long. There was always a problem to be solved, a danger to overcome, a gunslinger to tame, a thirst for revenge to quench. This show had it all, right down to the romantic tension between Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty (how scandalous!).

Dodge City may have faced drought a time or two, the drama well never ran dry.

Bless Festus, his mule, and his abused hat.

Bless Festus, his mule, and his abused hat.

Rerjun Junkie–The Last of My TV Boyfriends

Pete MalloyI have three TV boyfriends: Artemus Gordon, Dan Williams, and Pete Malloy. These three characters (from The Wild Wild West, Hawaii Five-O, and Adam-12, respectively) managed to capture a little piece of my rerun junkie heart that no other character could. Sure, there have been crushes. Like Jim Rockford, for example. But these three guys really make it for me. Don’t ask me to tell you why because I don’t know. You can’t explain love.

So my heart was understandably broken when I heard on Monday that Martin Milner had passed away. A wonderful man and a wonderful actor, there are a whole lot of people sad and rightfully so.

But I’m doing a fair bit of mourning, not unlike what I did when James MacArthur died back in 2010. Ross Martin passed away back in 1981, long before I identified as a rerun junkie and discovered him, but I imagine I would have mourned just as much for him then if I had.

My last TV boyfriend is gone.

There’s a very odd sort of emotional duel going on in my being right now because the actor died, but the character I love will live forever because that’s how reruns work. That’s not to say that I don’t adore Martin Milner, because I do. I love watching him in other stuff, too. He’s in one of my favorite episodes of Murder, She Wrote and I’ve seen him in Route 66 as well as in some of my other reruns. I’m delighted to see him in anything, just as I’m delighted to see James MacArthur or Ross Martin play different characters. It’s a trip to see James MacArthur, Danno for crying out loud, play a right jerk and do it well. And Ross Martin is probably one of my favorite actors of all time because the ease at which he could seem to play any character, from psychotic bastard to wounded, vulnerable human.

Those three people are gone, but their characters live on.

Pete Malloy will never die. He’ll never wither, he’ll never age. There’s no risk that he’ll get cancer or suffer a stroke. Any injuries he sustains, any illnesses he contracts, he’ll recover. I know he’ll recover. Because I’ve seen it all before. He’ll always exist in a sort of frozen bit of time, a safe place where my TV boyfriend will always be waiting.

But the man that brought Pete Malloy to life, that gave him the essence and personality and emotion and face that I love has passed away and I’m really bummed about that.

Safe travels across the horizon, Mr. Milner. Thanks for everything. I really appreciate it.

Rerun Junkie–Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Oh where would I be without my LSD nigh nigh show?

Where the weird shit lives

Where the weird shit lives

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is a 1960’s Irwin Allen television show based on an Irwin Allen film of the same name. The show features the crew of a submarine called the Seaview which is headed by Admiral Nelson (Richard Basehart) and his right-hand man Captain Crane (David Hedison) and all of their wacky hijinx.

Okay, they only seem wacky because this was ’60s sci-fi and the first season (in black and white) was much more serious in tone, featuring mostly Cold War-inspired espionage and foreign baddies along with some sub-in-trouble episodes and only a few really weirdo episodes. Most of the sci-fi came from the submarine and the tech that everyone was using.

When the series went to color in the second season, that’s when things really started getting fantastic and stayed that way until the end of its four year run. In that time, the poor crew of the Seaview dealt with ghosts, werewolves, clowns, wax men, lobster men, a literal fire man, frost men, shadow men, a leprachaun, and my personal favorite, sentient seaweed, among other wild things. The crew, which included Chip (Robert Dowdell), Chief Sharkey (Terry Becker), my favorite crewman Kowalski (Del Monroe), Curley (Henry Kulky, who sadly passed away after the first season), Patterson (Paul Trinka), and Doctor (Richard Bull, aka Nels Oleson from Little House on the Prairie), always managed to come out victorious (though many nameless crew members often bit it in the course of victory, though no one ever seemed to mind) and probably could have used a pay raise, extra leave time, and maybe some PTSD therapy for the shit they’d seen.

"Sir, there's something on sonar."  "Probably some science experiment gone wrong. Let's poke it with a stick."

“Sir, there’s something on sonar.”
“Probably some science experiment gone wrong. Let’s poke it with a stick.”

And they saw a lot. They ended up inside whales and jelly fish. They disappeared. They went back in time. They transported murderous gorillas and mermaids with not much better temperaments. They diffused bombs and battled saboteurs. Everybody got kidnapped at least once and Chip ended up on Venus (sometimes I think he probably wishes they left him there).

They also saw a lot of people for a crew that spent most of their time on a submarine that always seemed to be on fire. Guest stars included: John Banner and Werner Klemperer before they went to work at Stalag 13; James Doohan and George Takei (this was probably great training for their Star Trek journey); Ed Asner; Tom Skerritt; James Brolin; Jill Ireland; Batman heroine Yvonne Craig and Batman villain Victor Buono; my horror movie love Vincent Price; Paul Fix, Jacques Aubuchon; June Lockhart, who didn’t have to do laundry for a change; John Fujioka; Brooke Bundy; Irene Tsu; John Dehner, John Hoyt, Nehemiah Persoff, John Anderson, Kevin Hagen, and Peter Mark Richman because I think it was required by law for those guys to be on your show in the ’60s and ’70s; Michael Constantine, who worked under the same law, but for more decades; Michael Ansara; George Lindsey; Leslie Nielsen; Robert Duvall as an alien (this is when I knew the series was going to really be something); James Frawley; Victor Mature; Nicholas Colasanto long before Cheers; Frances X. Bushman; James Darren; Patrick Wayne; John Cassevettes; Michael Dunn, whom I immediately recognized under his clown make-up the second he smiled; and if you pay attention to the crewmen in the background, you’ll see our old friend Marco Lopez (Emergency!) in about twenty episodes of the last two seasons.

This is one of those shows where it was probably absolutely amazing to the viewing audience at the time, especially after the show went to color, but now is pretty hokey looking with some really far out storylines. I mean, the lobster man was something to behold because it didn’t quite look like either. And I’m not joking when I say the Seaview was always on fire. It seems like something in that sub is always on fire. Even the Garvey’s barn didn’t burn this much.

But it’s a super fun show.

I couldn’t get to sleep on Saturday nights without it.

Really, what IS that?

Really, what IS that?

Rerun Junkie– The Big Valley

Though the TV Westerns were starting a downward trend, there was still a need for the adventures of a strong matriarch and her brood of grown kids.

Big Valley

The Barkley family included widowed mother Victoria (Miss Barbara Stanwyck), eldest son and lawyer Jarrod (Richard Long), rowdy son Nick (Peter Breck), only girl Audra (Linda Evans), bastard son Heath (Lee Majors), and youngest and rarely seen son Eugene (Charles Briles).

Over the run of the show, the Barkley clan dealt with murders, rustlers, bigots, prejudice, political scandal, PTSD (though it wasn’t called that), corruption, rabid wolves, mountain lions, dynamite, forest fires, and folks that just didn’t like rich families named Barkley.

But they're so delightful! And hardly snobby at all!

But they’re so delightful! And hardly snobby at all!

Friends and enemies of the Barkleys included: Western staples Royal Dano, Claude Akins, Dub Taylor and son Buck; Bing Russell; Richard Anderson; LQ Jones; James Gregory; in everything at the time Harold Gould, Virginia Gregg, Nehemiah Persoff, J. Pat O’Malley, John Hoyt, John Dehner, Dabbs Greer, and Kevin Hagen; Gavin MacLeod; Paul Fix and Johnny Crawford; Robert Fuller and Julie London, with a Bobby Troup cameo; Adam West, Yvonne Williams, and Van Williams (Batman, Batgirl, and Green Hornet); Sheree North; Jeanne Cooper; Eve Plumb; Pernell Roberts; Wayne Rogers; Mako; big names (either current or future) Dennis Hopper, Yaphet Kotto, Charles Bronson, William Shatner, Buddy Hackett, Diane Ladd, Ellen Burstyn, Milton Berle, Leslie Nielsen, Anne Baxter, Karen Black, Regis Philbin, Cloris Leachman, Ron Howard, Martin Landau, Colleen Dewhurst, and Richard Dreyfus; Keye Luke; Joe Don Baker; Judy Carne; Arlene Golonka; Russell Johnson; and Joyce Jameson.

As I mentioned before, Heath was a genuine bastard son, the product of a romance between Tom Barkley (Victoria’s dead husband, but he wasn’t dead at the time of the affair because it was scandalous, but not THAT scandalous) and another woman when he was in a bad way.  In fact, a few episodes were devoted to this bit of scandal, including the pilot when Heath first shows up to claim the Barkley name and an episode in which Victoria travels to Heath’s hometown to found if Tom loved Heath’s mother and if he loved her. Pretty deep and saucy stuff for a Western.

Part of the afternoon Western line-up at the time, I got sucked into watching because there was nothing else on. I quickly noticed defining character elements: Jarrod frowns; Heath glares; Audra frets; and Nick (my favorite) punches people. And Victoria Barkley? Oh, she just kicks ass. Seriously, the woman could handle a gun and a whip and she went up against anyone without flinching. I wouldn’t mind being her when I grow up.

Maybe with less blue eye shadow thought.

She owns it. And you will call her ma'am.

She owns it. And you will call her ma’am.

Rerun Junkie–The Addams Family

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re all together ooky…and most likely more fun than your own family.

Snap along!

Snap along!

This fun ’60s show featured an oddball clan led by father Gomez (John Astin), mother Morticia (Carolyn Jones), children Pugsley (Ken Weatherwax) and Wednesday (Lisa Loring), the witch-like Grandmama (Blossom Rock), light bulb enthusiast Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan), the hairy-adorable Cousin Itt (Felix Silla), and the loyal and prompt butler Lurch (Ted Cassidy). The family was always frequently aided by a helpful hand-in-a-box named Thing.

Enlightening!

Enlightening!

The house was a museum (as stated by the theme song) filled with curious objects like a noose that rang a gong for the butler, a foghorn doorbell, a rack, an iron maiden, suits of armor, an elaborate train set with frequently crashing trains, and a bear rug that roared. Being a typical family, they had their pets: Morticia had an African Strangler plant named Cleopatra and a vulture named Zelda; Pugsley had Aristotle the octopus;  Wednesday had spiders like her black widow named Homer; and of course, there was their lion named Kitty Cat.

The family had a rather spooky view of life. They lived for Halloween, ate weird foods and even poisons, clipped the roses off of their thorny stems and kept the stems, practiced fencing in the living room, made potions, had a dungeon, camped in swamps, and were generally odd, much to the chagrin of neighbors and the fright and/or awe of folks that stopped by. The oddness didn’t affect the Addams family wealth, though, and Gomez (a lawyer) employed a stock broker who managed the weirdness in the name of money.

Among those that dropped in at the Addams’s residence: Vitto Scotti and Virginia Gregg, because they stopped in everywhere; Margaret Hamilton as Morticia’s mother (a fitting role for the Wicked Witch of the West); Don Rickles; Parley Baer; Ellen Corby down from Walton Mountain; Hal Smith, better known as Mayberry town drunk Otis; Meg Wylie; Marty Ingels; Jack LaLane; Peter Bonerz before he became a dentist in the same building as Bob Newhart; Madge Blake, Dick Grayson’s Aunt Harriet; and Richard Deacon.

While the family was pretty bizarre in a fun way, they still dealt with the usual family troubles and resolved them in their own way. When a neighbor told Wednesday that witches didn’t exist (like telling a kid there’s no Santa), they held a seance to conjure up a long dead (burned at the stake) witch relative named Aunt Singe. When Morticia thought Gomez had gone broke, she and the rest of the clan rallied around to make money on the sly so his ego wouldn’t be hurt (Lurch and Uncle Fester were escorts, Morticia taught fencing, Grandmama became a beautician, and the children set up a lemonade stand that sold something not quite like lemonade…even Thing sold pencils). When Gomez was insulted by the property tax bill (it was something like eight bucks and he thought they should have been charged much more for their beautiful palace), he ran for mayor with the family helping his campaign.

They helped each other, supported each other, and genuinely loved each other. Keep your Romeo and Juliet; I want a love like Morticia and Gomez!

This could be us, but you playin'.

This could be us, but you playin’.

This is one of those shows that I watched a lot as a kid, enjoying the randomness and wackiness of the family. I’ve since rediscovered it and am now enjoying all of the hilarious dialogue that I missed as a kid.

Fester: (talking about the neighbor that told Wednesday that witches didn’t exist) I still think he should be horsewhipped. I’m going to get a horse!

Morticia: (in response to Gomez asking if Aunt Singe likes children) All witches love children. Remember Hansel and Gretel?

Morticia: (explaining Cousin Itt’s dilemma) He hasn’t quite found himself.

Gomez: And with Cousin Itt that isn’t easy. He looks the same from every angel.

Not to mention the variety of meanings of Lurch’s groans and Cousin Itt’s gibberish.

It’s one of those shows that I wish would have lasted longer than two seasons, but I’m still happy that I found it again. So let’s sing the theme song one more time!

Thank you, Thing.

Thank you, Thing.

Rerun Junkie–Guest Stars: Virginia Gregg

Guest stars are the underrated necessity to any TV show. Someone has to be a victim, be a villain, be a good guy, be a witness, be a friend, be a bystander, be a customer. In short, the main cast needs someone else to interact with on occasion just to keep things interesting.

I have a list of my favorite guest stars that I think are worthy of posts of their own. These are my people.

On any given day of the week, it’s entirely possible that I’ll see Virginia Gregg on one of my reruns. Sometimes it seems like she was on every show ever made for about thirty years. Sometimes it seems like I see her every day of the week.

Of course, this isn’t a bad thing.

It’s also not too far off from impossible.

When I played my Me-TV guest star game last fall, the only person that had more guest appearances on the shows of the fall line-up was Vitto Scotti. When I said Virginia Gregg was in everything, I’m not really exaggerating the truth by much.

Of the current Me-TV summer line-up, she’s in 72 episodes of 22 of the shows.

So, yeah, it’s not far-fetched to possibly see her every day in a given week on this one channel.

She was a favorite of Jack Webb’s so she was in Dragnet (both TV incarnations, two movies, AND the radio version), Emergency!, and Adam-12 (13, 8, and 6 episodes, respectively). With Westerns as popular as they were back in the day she did Gunsmoke (didn’t everyone?), Bonanza, Big Valley, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Wagon Train, The Rebel, Daniel Boone, and Rawhide. Detective shows? Try Streets of San Francisco, Mod Squad, Cannon, and The Rockford Files. She was on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Thriller, and The Twilight Zone. Perry Mason and The Fugitive. And lest you think she could only do drama, she was on episodes of Happy Days and Make Room for Daddy.

And those are just shows on ONE station.

You can witness her fabulousness on Mission: Impossible, Ironside, My Three Sons, Charlie’s Angels, Marcus Welby MD, Bold Ones: The Lawyers, Bold Ones: The New Doctors, The Virginian, Maverick, Alias Smith and Jones, and so many more (I just listed shows I watch).

Being on so many shows, she’s played a variety of characters. The easiest way to get a sample of her range is to watch her episodes of Dragnet ’67. She played a cynical journalist, a gypsy grifter, the wife of a wounded veteran police officer, a no-nonsense secretary, the head of a pyramid scheme, a robbed candy store employee, a widow attempting insurance fraud, a gambler’s wife, a business owner not impressed with crime prevention, and a woman trying to get two police officers in trouble, just to name more than a few.

My personal favorite of her appearances, though, was on an episode of Adam-12 in which she bashed her own car because she was mad at her husband for drinking all the time. She wailed on that thing. It was impressive. And fun.

And so is Miss Virginia Gregg.

Be sure to catch her. She’s on any given day of the week.

Rerun Junkie–Murder, She Wrote

One of the few reruns that I had the pleasure of watching first run before it became a rerun junkie delight, to me, it was never just for old ladies.

I told my niece that's taking piano lessons if she didn't learn this theme song, her lessons were a waste.

I told my niece that’s taking piano lessons if she didn’t learn this theme song, her lessons were a waste.

Murder, She Wrote follows the exploits of widowed former-teacher Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) who now writes mysteries under the name of J.B. Fletcher and solves a few in her spare time. In her quaint hamlet of Cabot Cove, she’s assisted by first Sheriff Amos Tupper (Tom Bosley) and then his successor Sheriff Mort Metzger (Ron Masak) and local doctor Seth Hazlitt (William Window). Most, if not all of the mysteries, were murders, so a lot of people died in Cabot Cove. The guy adjusting the population number on the welcome sign was always busy.

But, it wasn’t just Cabot Cove that was filled with people offing their neighbors left and right. Wherever Jessica Fletcher went, people died (sort of an important component of the series, but it made the woman look like the Angel of Death). At a circus? Murder. On an airplane? Murder. Trapped in a cafe during a storm? Murder. Trapped in a ski lodge during a storm? Murder. At the stockbroker’s office? Murder. In a prison? Murder. At an archaeological dig? Murder. At a wedding? Murder. At a crazy friend’s house? Murder. On a ranch? Murder. At a local inn? Murder. In Sleepy Hollow? Murder.

Here a murder, there a murder, everywhere a murder murder.

They mysteries were pretty straight-forward. They introduced the principal characters, someone died, an investigation ensued, and Jessica would solve it before the credits rolled. A simple formula that could be used to in so many ways, the stories didn’t really get old.

I admit that most of my favorite episodes take place in or near Cabot Cove, or at least with one of the sheriffs or doctor. The chemistry Dame Lansbury has with Mr. Tom Bosley and Mr. William Windom, and later Mr. Ron Masak (who is one of my favorites), is fabulous. You’d never get tired of having lunch with that group.

So, do want to investigate a murder before or after lunch?

So, do want to investigate a murder before or after lunch?

 

The show ran for twelve years with over 200 episodes, so I’m not exactly exaggerating when I say EVERYONE was on this show. It took me hours over days to sort through everyone before I realized that I could do a whole blog post on the guest stars alone, which I’ll probably end up doing at some point. In the meantime, I decided to do a very short list featuring the names I wanted to feature. Neener.

Other recurring characters on the show included:Michael Horton as Jessica’s often-in-trouble nephew Grady; private investigators Jerry Orbach as Harry McGraw (who got his own, short-lived spin-off) and Wayne Rogers as Charlie Garrett; Keith Mitchell as jewel thief Dennis Stanton; Len Cariou as British agent Michael Hagarty; Herb Edleman as Lt. Artie Gelber and Ken Swafford as Lt. Catalano, the law enforcement Jessica often collaborated with when she was in New York (not my favorite episodes, sorry, guys); Cabot Cove folks Claude Akins as Captain Ethan Cragg, Julie Adams as Eve Simpson, Richard Paul as Mayor Samm Booth, John Astin as Harry Pierce, and Will Nye as Deputy Floyd and Louis Hearthom as Deputy Andy Broom.

Familiar faces from the reruns I’ve blogged about here include: Kevin Tighe, Randolph Mantooth, Robert Fuller, Marco Lopez, Vince Howard, James McEachin, Harry Morgan, Martin Milner, Kent McCord, Adam West, Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Lee Meriweather, James MacArthur, Chuck Connors, Johnny Crawford, Dirk Benedict, Melinda Culea, Eddie Velez, Robert Vaughn, William Lucking, Lance LeGault, Rue McClanahan, George Grizzard, Monte Markham, Melissa Sue Anderson, Karen Grassle, Bonnie Bartlet, Dean Butler, Max Gail, Gregory Sierra, Ron Glass, Abe Vigoda, David Soul, Alan Hale, James Hampton, Forrest Tucker, Joe Santos Noah Beery Jr, Gretchen Corbett, William Conrad, and David Hedison (okay, I haven’t done Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea yet, but I’m going to!).

And just think…that’s the only the tip of the ice berg when it comes to familiar faces.

This is one of those shows that never fails to entertain me, no matter how many times I’ve seen an episode. I catch new things each time I watch it. And Jessica Fletcher is a delightful woman to spend an hour with.

Mostly because you know that you’re the one that won’t end up dead.

Whoops! Another body!

Whoops! Another body!