Rerun Junkie–Hawaii Five-O Favorites Seasons 9-12

Here we are. The end of our journey through some of my favorite episodes from each season. You can read the previous entries here and here.

The episode selection for these last four seasons was difficult, as were the previous seasons, but maybe for slightly different reasons. I haven’t watched these seasons as much and for me, there aren’t as many standout episodes. After season 10, there’s no Chin Ho. After season 11, there’s no Danno. So, yeah. The subjectivity is high here, kids. Consider yourselves warned.

“Heads, Your Dead” Season 9, Episode 7. Air date: November 11, 1976. Directed by Bruce Bilson. Written by Herman Groves.

Based on a real-life case, hijackers get themselves hired to be the crew of luxury yachts, then murder the owners and steal the boats to sell elsewhere. Danno and Officer Sandi Welles are sent undercover to investigate. Sandi, along with a group of people, is taken hostage by the hijackers and their fate rests on a flip of a coin.

A big part of the reason why I like this episode is because I like Officer Sandi Welles (Amanda McBroom) in it. I also like bad guys. They’re pretty ruthless. There’s a certain amount of psychological terror involved in telling your already terrified hostages that you’re going to throw them overboard and whether or not they get a life raft depends on a coin flip. But that’s what makes it so compelling.

“The Descent of the Torches” Season 10, Episode 5. Air date: October 20, 1977. Directed by Charles S. Dubin. Written by Alvin Sapinsley

An archaeological dig reveals tunnels that could lead to the grave of King Kamehameha I. And someone is so convinced of it that they dress up in a royal robe and mask to frighten off and eventually kill members of the dig.

I very nearly picked “A Death in the Family”, but honestly, it’s not really a favorite in the sense that I enjoy it, but more in the sense that it ripped out my heart and dumped it on the steps of Iolani Palace. Anyway. The reason why I picked “The Descent of the Torches” instead is because of the Hawaiian culture. This episode gets into that and I really like it. Let’s face it. For the majority of the run, it’s a pretty white show. There are some Hawaiian faces and there’s the presentation of life on the islands, but not too much on the Hawaiian culture. Yes, there are better episodes in this season, but this one scratches an itch for me.

“Stringer” Season 11, Episode 17. Air date: February 22, 1979. Directed by Ray Austin. Story by Paul Williams and Robert Janes. Teleplay by Robert Janes.

Members of Tony Alika’s Hawaiian kumu mob shoot out a tire on a police car that’s trailing their out-on-bail boss, causing an accident that kills one officer and nearly kills my much-adored Duke. The whole thing is caught on film by a “stringer” (free-lance photographer) named Tim Powers, who decides to try to blackmail Tony Alika and the political boss he was making a deal with.

I really need to do a whole post on Tony Alika, as he was a recurring villain during the 11th and 12th season and I’m always looking for a reason to write about my beloved Ross Martin. But I went ahead and picked this episode for my season 11 favorite because of the Paul Williams aspect. Not only does he get the story by credit, but he also plays the stringer of the title. A man who’s probably known more for his songwriting, I always love it when he shows up in things. He’s small and interesting and hard to ignore.

“Woe to Wo Fat” Season 12, Episode 19. Air date: April 5, 1980. Directed by Barry Crane. Written by Frank Telford.

The final episode. Three scientists who all attended a space-based, laser defense symposium have been abducted. McGarrett impersonates the fourth in order to be abducted and find out what’s going on. Of course, it’s Wo Fat going on.

Wo Fat is another character that deserves his own post. Khigh Dhiegh portrayed Steve McGarrett’s arch nemesis throughout the show’s 12 year run. But, when it comes to favorites, I have to give my pick to the last episode of the series. Not one of the best episodes maybe, but endings are always hard. And it’s only fitting that the last episode feature the final battle between McGarrett and Wo Fat.

I hope you enjoyed some of my favorite episodes and I hope these posts tide you over until I actually get around to doing my Book ’em, Danno podcast.

Until then, relax…

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Rerun Junkie–Hawaii Five-O Favorites Seasons 5-8

It was only after I put this post together that I realized the episodes I picked featured three written by Jerome Coopersmith and two directed by Charles S. Dubin. I suppose this could be used as evidence of me liking their work.

Anyway.

Reminder that the process of picking one favorite episode from each season was difficult. If you’re curious as to how I couldn’t have possibly picked “Hookman” for season 6, it’s because I sort of wrote about it already. And you can read about my favorite episodes from seasons 1-4 here.

“I’m a Family Crook–Don’t Shoot!” Season 5, Episode 13. Air date: December 19, 1972. Written by Jerome Coopersmith. Directed by Bob Sweeney.

The Lovejoys are a family of grifters who come to Hawaii to work their magic. They end up stealing the briefcase of a collector for a mob protection racket which contains the collected protection money and his ledger. Naturally, the mob wants this briefcase back. And Five-O would like it, too. Shenanigans ensue.

This episode got the nod for this blog post because it didn’t seem right to pick the “V for Vashon” trilogy. That deserves it’s own post. But that’s not to say that “I’m a Family Crook–Don’t Shoot” didn’t earn it’s place as a fave. It’s Andy Griffith and Joyce Van Patten as con artists. How can you not love that? What’s more is that even though they’re “bad guys” in the sense that they’re criminals, you still really like them. You definitely don’t want to see the mobsters get them, but you also don’t want Five-O to throw them in jail. It’s a fun episode that provides some real tension once the mobsters go after the Lovejoys’ daughter.

“Draw Me a Killer” Season 6, Episode 2. Air date: September 18, 1973. Written by Walter Black. Directed by Charles S. Dubin.

A mentally ill young man fixated on the Judy Moon comic strip believes that he must repeatedly save the heroine and ends up murdering the comic villains’ real life look-a-likes. When the young man spots (and begins to stalk) a woman who resembles Judy Moon, things get intense. In order to flush out the killer, Danno allows himself to be drawn as the next villain.

Mental illness wasn’t necessarily handled with the deftest hand back in the day. Hey, it still isn’t now in the present. But this episode was an interesting take on someone whose grasp on reality wasn’t the best. There’s no doubt that our killer (played excellently by Elliot Street, who was also played the mentally challenged son of baseball player Pernell Roberts in a season 3 two-parter) is dangerous. But the character is also sympathetic. After all, he’s only moved to murder in order to save someone. Unfortunately, he’s mixing up fiction with reality through no fault of his own. His boss, played by Audrey Totter (The Postman Always Rings Twice), helps provide a little more dimension to a character that could easily just be a run-of-the-mill “skitzo”.

“Welcome to Our Branch Office” Season 7, Episode 11. Air date: December 3, 1974. Written by Jerome Coopersmith. Directed by Charles S. Dubin.

A pair of con men break into Five-O headquarters and take pictures of the offices. They replicate them in an abandoned building and then hire and train men to act like the real Five-O. It’s an elaborate scheme meant to extort money from wealthy businessmen. Naturally, McGarrett isn’t thrilled to find himself and his men accused of strong arming folks.

This is another fun episode I enjoy purely because it is fun. First of all, the masterminds behind this fake Five-O scheme are Cameron Mitchell (Swiss Family Robinson TV show, The Toolbox Murders) and Frank Gorshin (The Riddler himself). Talk about a fun couple. A good part of the episode shows the two of them getting together the fake gang and setting up the fake office. And the one victim who ends up reporting the fake Five-O has a wife who wears a magnificently loud dress. He also says that it was definitely McGarrett he saw. Which is hilarious because, with the exception of Danno, NONE of the look-a-likes look that much like their counterparts. Danno is the exception because James MacArthur took on a dual role to play his double, parting his hair on the wrong side to emphasize the difference. It’s an entertaining episode that provides a nice break from some of the more serious ones.

“Retire in Sunny Hawaii…Forever” Season 8, Episode 9. Air date November 7, 1975. Written by Jerome Coopersmith. Directed by Bruce Bilson.

Danno’s Aunt Clara comes out for a visit. When a man she became friendly with on the flight over is attacked by two men and ends up dead, Five-O is on the case. Aunt Clara’s quality time with her nephew now involves being used by Five-O in a ploy to catch the killers and unravel the whole illegal scheme.

Again, subjectivity plays a huge role in my choices of favorites, and this is definitely one of those episodes. Danno’s Aunt Clara is played by James MacArthur’s real-life mother Helen Hayes. I’m a sucker for things like that. Seeing mother and son work together onscreen is a true delight.  Throw in TV guest star journeyman Ian Wolfe as the unfortunate Mr. Miller and Charles During as Havens, and the episode comes together so well that you wish Aunt Clara would have visited more often.

You can read the final installment of favorite Hawaii Five-O episode posts, seasons 9-12, here.

Rerun Junkie–Hawaii Five-O Favorites Seasons 1-4

If you’ve been listening to Eventually Supertrain (and you should be!), then you know that Dan and I sometimes kid about me doing a Hawaii Five-O podcast called Book ’em, Danno because I can often make connections between Hawaii Five-O and The Green Hornet.

Now, I don’t know if my lazy self will ever go through with such a threat, but it did give me the idea to do a blog post about my favorite episodes. And when I was going through the seasons picking out my favorites, I realized that I needed to show some kind of restraint.

So, here’s what I did.

I picked one episode from each season that I love and would recommend to someone else. I tried to pick ones that I haven’t already mentioned on the blog. Since there are twelve seasons of the show, this is going to be split up into three different posts with four episodes a post. And even though this show went off the air the same year I was born, I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers.

Believe me when I say that this wasn’t easy and I will most likely be writing about the episodes I’m not mentioning here.

Until then…

“Out for the Money” Season 1, episode 17. Air date: February 5, 1969. Story by Robert Sampler. Teleplay by Palmer Thompson. Directed by Paul Stanley.

McGarrett receives a cryptic letter and a photo of a woman with her face crossed out. The woman’s been stabbed to death. After a second victim/letter/photo combo appears, it looks like there’s a serial killer on the loose. Both victims were employed by the same company, run by a woman named Martha. Her two nephews, Charlie and Arthur, also work for her. It turns out this killer has quite the agenda involving this company.

This is a delightfully twisty episode. Aunt Martha is played by my favorite Jeanette Nolan and the nephews are played by Farley Granger (Strangers on a Train) and Paul Collins (JAG). Between the captivating story and the guest cast, it’s an excellent episode that keeps you on the edge until the very end.

“Most Likely to Murder” Season 2, episode 21. Air date: February 21, 1970. Written by Robert Hamner. Directed by Nicholas Colasanto.

Police officer Lew Morgan’s wife is murdered. As Lew’s friend, this case is pretty personal for Danno. It turns out the good cop’s wife was having affairs and it’s her latest lover, a criminal, that’s the favorite suspect. Five-O needs to find him before the apparently grief-stricken husband finds him first.

Another tightly twisted episode featuring a mustache-less Tom Skerritt as Lew Morgan. Sam Melville (The Rookies) plays number one suspect Gary Oliver and Linda Ryan, who plays one of Gary’s former lovers, Gloria Warren, appeared on the show eleven times over twelve seasons, only playing the same character twice. She also inspired me to get my own pixie cut. Anyway, Danno’s personal involvement in the case gives the story a nice weight, creating a couple of good gut punches towards the end.

“Over 50? Steal” Season 3, episode 11. Air date: November 25, 1970. Written by E. Arthur Kean. Directed by Bob Sweeney.

Lewis Avery Filer is an insurance investigator forced into early retirement. In apparent revenge, Filer steals from businesses insured by his former employer using a variety of tricks and disguises that captures the attention of the press and all of our hearts. Okay, except for Five-O, who has a devil of a time catching up to him. Filer returns in season 4’s “Odd Man In”.

If you were to ask me what my all-time favorite episode of Hawaii Five-O is, I’d probably blurt this one out. Hume Cronyn is Lewis Filer and he is having an absolute ball with this character. The cleverness of the crimes and the likeability of the character really has you on his side. He’s a crook you can love! And when you find out his ultimate goal for the money, you really don’t want him to be caught. Filer is just as much fun when he comes back in “Odd Man In”.

“Goodnight, Baby-Time to Die!” Season 4, episode 21. Air date: February 15, 1972. Written by Abram S. Ginnes. Directed by Alf Kjellin.

A convicted murderer who’s been threatening a woman has escaped from jail. McGarrett and company go to the woman’s house to both protect her and hopefully catch the convict. As they wait, they receive calls and updates about the man while McGarrett talks to the woman about her connection to the killer.

This is one of those episodes where I can only tell you to watch it. The first time I did, the swerve broke my neck. No joke. It’s a very well done episode featuring Beth Brickell (Gentle Ben) as Carol Rhodes, the target of escaped convict LB Barker, played by William Watson (Gunsmoke, M*A*S*H). It’s a taut thriller of an episode that’s still good on repeated viewings.

Read about the favorite episodes from seasons 5-8 here.

Rerun Junkie–Automan

The world’s first automatic man.

Automan is not a show I knew about until recently, coming across the title while doing research on something else. In November of 2017, Red Giant put out a short based on Automan that was written and directed by Aharon Rabinowitz and starring David Hewlett as the title character, Hewlogram. Between this hilarious short (please go watch it and the making-0f video because it’s just as much fun) and watching the opening for the actual series, I put this one on my to-watch list.

And as luck would have it, I received the series on DVD for my birthday.

(I also received Hewlogram poster that I won that same week. My 38th birthday week was lit in a hologram sort of way.)

Automan aired in 1983 for just 13 episodes. Starring Chuck Wagner as Automan, Desi Arnaz Jr. as his creater Walter Nebicher, Heather McNair as Roxanne Caldwell, Gerald S. O’Laughlin as Captain Boyd, Robert Lansing as Lt. Jack Curtis, and Cursor as himself. No, really. The little cursor thing got a credit.

If you bothered watching Hewlogram, then you’d have the basic premise of Automan. Walter Nebicher is a computer programmer and police officer whose captain prefers him in his little computer room and not out on the streets. He creates Automan, a hologram so powerful that it can hit a dude across a room. Only Walter’s co-worker and sort of love interest Roxanne knows that Automan is a hologram. Oh, and Cursor is a little firefly looking thing that can draw anything and make it real, like a suit over Automan’s Tron body or a super fast car. It’s also a bit of a perv. Because Automan requires a certain amount of power to exist, he sometimes has to disappear when he feels his battery getting low or find creative ways to recharge. All of this in the name of fighting crime.

The buddy cop duo we need and deserve.

The show only ran 13 episodes and that’s both criminal and totally understandable. In only 13 episodes, we had mobsters, tropical locations, corrupt cops, corrupt sheriffs, bikers, Laura Branigan, a male exotic dance club called Zippers, bombing threats, diamond smuggling, and I’m pretty sure every episode featured covers of popular songs of the time as well as the laughing freeze frame at the end. You can’t pack that much awesome into such a short run. The star that burns that brightly, burns out too soon.

It also suffers from the some questionable dialogue that boarders on painful, the obvious jokes and cheesiness that permeated the ’80s, and some less-than acting, though I blame the dialogue for a lot of it. Seriously, some of those lines are face-smackingly cringey.

But, it’s an incredibly fun show! Chuck Wagner is adorable as Automan. He embodies this hologram that is, in his own words, an eleven on a scale from one to ten while also being rather naive about the ways of humans. To help him learn about humans, Walter had Auto watch movies and TV shows. Auto inadvertently watching multiple episodes of a soap opera is a highlight.

Speaking of Walter, he’s not just an inept computer nerd. Yeah, in a few episodes things don’t go his way and he gets his ass handed to him, but he’s not incompetent. And he does get in his licks. He’s also not a total loser with the ladies. After all, Roxanne is one hot chick and he doesn’t seem to have any trouble with her.

Together, Walter and Auto are, well, maybe not unstoppable or unbeatable, but they get the job done and they’re entertaining.

Giving a new meaning to the boys in blue.

The plots are typical ’80s grand with titles like “Staying Alive While Running a High Flashdance Fever”,  “Murder MTV”, “Murder, Take One”,  “Death By Design”, and “Club Ten”. In one episode called “Renegade Run”, you have Richard Lynch as a corrupt sheriff that pits him against biker Billy Drago. I know, right? How great is that? Pretty great.

In addition to Richard Lynch, Billy Drago, and Laura Branigan, the show also featured guest stars Clu Gulager, Mary Crosby, Patrick Macnee, Ed Lauter, John Vernon, Anne Lockhart, France Nuyen, Robert F. Lyons, Delta Burke, William Windom, Terry Kiser, Don Galloway, Richard Anderson, Doug McClure, Walter Brooke, Sid Haig, Mickey Jones, and Ola Ray.

Check out that crop. Nothing but cream.

Okay, Automan is a little on the silly side. It’s the early ’80s turned up to eleven. It is glorious.

Just ask Cursor.

The little perv.

Rerun Junkie–They Didn’t Have Native Americans Back Then

As I discussed in a previous post, all of your favorites are problematic. All of my favorites, too.

One problematic aspect of reruns that’s probably the most glaring is the racist casting. White actors playing non-white roles has been common place for decades and was probably at its most popular in the Westerns of the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s. That’s right. Those Native Americans were not actual Native Americans. Those Mexicans? If they had a speaking role, they were most likely not actually Mexican.

John Saxon played a Native American on Bonanza and a Mexican on Gunsmoke. Martin Landau played a Mexican on both The Rifleman and The Big Valley. Michael Ansara not only played a Mexican in a couple of episodes of Rawhide, but he was frequently cast as a Native American, including starring in his own short-lived series called Law of the Plainsman playing Deputy Marshal Sam Buckheart, a character he originally played on The Rifleman.

Sadly, one of my favorites, F-Troop, was notorious for casting white actors as their Hekawi tribe members. Frank DeKova, Don Diamond, Edward Everett Horton (who also played a Native American chief on an episode of Batman), J. Pat O’Malley, Jamie Farr, hell even Don Rickles all played Native Americans. It seemed comedic timing was more important than racial accuracy. Not that there aren’t funny Native Americans; but back then, they didn’t even bother to look for them.

Of course, Native Americans and Latinos/Latinas weren’t the only ones having white actors step in for them. Boris Karloff played an Indian Maharaja on an episode of The Wild Wild West. Wende Wagner played a native Hawaiian on an episode of Perry Mason, and her aunt in that same episode was Miriam Goldina, a native Russian. Jim Backus’s wife, Henny, played a native mother on an episode of Gilligan’s Island. Spoiler alert! Russ Grieve, who played her native husband, and Mary Foran, who played her native daughter, weren’t natives either.

Two of the most curious examples of racist casting I have ever seen happened on two of my favorite reruns, both of which I’ve mentioned before, but I’m going to mention again because they are worth mentioning at every opportunity.

In an episode of Hawaii Five-O called “Samurai”, Ricardo Montalban played a Japanese criminal. Yes, you read that correctly and aren’t you glad that you did. In the second oddest case of yellow face I’ve ever seen (we’ll get to the first one very soon), a very Mexican Ricardo Montalban had his eyes artificially slanted to play a Japanese man. Like, his accent didn’t change at all. And whatever they did to his eyes made him look less Japanese and more like an eye lift gone wrong. The entire effect is very disconcerting and I highly recommend you try to catch that episode because descriptions and pictures don’t do it any justice.

To make an already confusing casting decision even more curious, Hawaii Five-O was typically good at casting Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders to play Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

The truly oddest case of racist casting I’ve ever seen, however, belongs to the pilot episode of The Wild Wild West called “The Night of the Inferno”. In this episode Victor Buono played Juan Manolo aka Wing Fat.

Yes, let me break that down for you.

White actor Victor Buono played a Mexican man in disguise as a Chinese man. It’s basically a turducken of racist casting and I can’t help but gawk at it because I have no idea how to even begin to process it. I suppose if you’ve ever watched the series, then you can agree that at the very least, it sets you up nicely for some of the more bonzo episodes of the show.

Thankfully, this sort of whatthefuckery is largely in the past and though racist casting does still happen (whitewashing Asians and Pacific Islanders is still unnervingly common), the backlash is swift and loud. A new normal has been and is being established and even if I don’t watch current shows all that much, I’m still all for it.

After all, one day those shows will be reruns.

Rerun Junkie- The Ghosts of Shows Past

This post features spoilers for the season 4 episode of NCIS: New Orleans, “Viral”, which aired October 24, 2017. Read at your own risk.

One of the interesting tics of being a rerun junkie is seeing the ghosts of episodes of shows long past in current shows. I have no idea if these influences are intentional or not, if the writers of these current shows have these old episodes in mind when they’re writing or if they’re unconsciously haunted by the phantoms of them or if they even know about them at all. The idea that I’m projecting isn’t something I’ve dismissed.

But my brain still makes connections whether they’re there or not, intentional or not.

For example, the other night I was watching NCIS: New Orleans, which is one of the few currently-in-production shows I watch with any regularity. In this episode called “Viral”, my beloved Sebastian, forensic field agent extraordinaire, shot someone during the course of a chase. If that wasn’t bad enough, it looked like he shot an innocent, unarmed man, not the armed and dangerous suspect he’d been chasing.

A cop shooting a suspect or an innocent person is a common story, both in the news and on police shows. However, this episode reminded me of two bygone episodes of cop shows from over forty years ago.

After the shooting, Sebastian is interrogated by an FBI agent about what happened. The way he’s questioned reminds me of an episode of Adam-12, “Log 33: It All Happened So Fast” (air date February 1, 1969). In that episode, Officer Jim Reed shoots a young man who’s shooting at him and his partner (also my TV boyfriend) Pete Malloy. A majority of the episode shows the repeated questioning that Reed is subjected to, some of which infuriates him because of the insinuations that he’s not telling the truth. He’s also upset over the fact that he had to shoot someone (as was Sebastian). Sebastian is subjected to similar questioning, though not for as long, obviously. There’s a mystery to be solved and a dangerous assassin to catch.

The real hitch in clearing Sebastian is, though he swears the suspect shot at him and that he saw him with a gun, there’s no gun to be found. This reminds me of an episode of Hawaii Five-O, “…And They Painted Daisies on His Coffin” (air date November 7, 1968). In that episode, my TV boyfriend Danno chases a young man with a gun into his apartment. When Danno shoots the lock, he believes he unintentionally shoots the man. However, there is no gun found on the suspect. Why? His girlfriend has taken it and fled the scene (running to the notorious Big Chicken), something that also happens to Sebastian when the wife of the dead “innocent” man (it turns out this couple isn’t so innocent) takes the dropped gun to protect herself and her husband and then shows up a few minutes later as the wildly grieving wife.

The twist in this case is less cop show, more masked hero adventure. The “innocent” couple was supposed to deliver the gun to the assassin so he could do a job. The shooting interrupts things and the assassin ends up killing the wife in order to get the gun. The gun is an air gun that shoots glass bullets. That made me think of The Green Hornet episode “The Silent Gun” (air date September 9, 1966). As the title suggests, the gun in question is a rare 17 caliber gun that’s absolutely silent when fired. This leads to a lot of people wanting this gun. (You can listen to me and Dan talk about this episode and all of the many names of people therein on Episode 33 of Eventually Supertrain.) The gun in “Viral” is just as coveted, at least by the assassin, and equally unique, though a little more believable. An air gun gets through security and glass bullets “disappear” on impact.

Like these old episodes, this new one ends happily. Sebastian is cleared (like Reed and Danno) and the bad guy is caught (the Green Hornet gets the gun AND Lloyd Bochner).

Because the good guy winning is an ending worth repeating .

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.

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.