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 .

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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–Following the Stars

Ross Martin not being Artemus Gordon.

Ross Martin not being Artemus Gordon.

I like to follow the stars of my reruns. Call it a symptom of my rerun junkie habit. Call it lazy, harmless stalking. Whatever you call it, I do it.

Once I get hooked into a show, I’ll start looking for its stars in other things when I go through the TV schedule for the week. It doesn’t matter what it is, new or old, movie or TV show, I’m just looking for the face.

To me, it’s neat. Here’s someone’s first TV appearance. Here’s their most recent movie. Here’s that same face that you love on this TV show that was made before you were born, the person that plays this character that you adore, doing something totally different.

And I have little to no shame in regards to this TV stalking. If I have taken an interest in you, then I will look for you. And if I see you are going to be on my TV this week, I’ll make a note of it on my phone so I don’t miss it (not kidding; I set an alarm and everything).

Randolph  Mantooth not being Johnny Gage, but doing it with a fantastic mustache.

Randolph Mantooth not being Johnny Gage, but doing it with a fantastic mustache.

Because of this peculiar habit, I’ve seen Johnny Crawford on Little House on the Prairie and Hawaii Five-O; Randolph Mantooth on Charlie’s Angels (with a fabulous mustache) and Criminal Minds; Larry Storch on Love, American Style and Gilligan’s Island; Forrest Tucker on Bionic Woman and Marcus Welby, MD; Ross Martin on The Bold Ones and The Return of the Mod Squad (honestly, my Ross Marin fixation deserves its own post); Kevin Tighe on Law and Order: SVU and Leverage; Kent McCord on Ironside and JAG; and Martin Milner on The Millionaire and The Virginian.

(I don’t think I have to tell you that I’m not listing ALL of them.)

Larry Storch not being  Randolphy Agarn.

Larry Storch not being Randolphy Agarn.

It’s because of this peculiar habit that I realize how many of these people I’ve seen dozens of times BEFORE I found them on my reruns. Do you know how many times I’ve seen Kevin Tighe in Roadhouse and Kent McCord in Airplane II? Well, let’s not discuss it. I’ve seen those flicks an embarrassing number of times. The same goes for anyone that’s been on Murder, She Wrote, because I’ve seen all of those episodes ten times at least. I’ve seen Martin Milner be the hero and Randolph Mantooth get killed sooooo many times.

The point I’m trying to make is that there are so many faces I’ve seen multiple times BEFORE they became significant faces to me. It’s fun to go back and see them again now knowing them.

And you thought I couldn’t have any more fun with my reruns.

Rerun Junkie–Characters: Big Chicken

Big ChickenThere are two guest characters from the TV shows I’ve blogged about that end up in searches that lead to my blog and one of them is Big Chicken.

It’s understandable, really. First of all, the old Hawaii Five-O series ran for twelve years and it was pretty popular. Second of all, Big Chicken, even though he was only in two episodes, was pretty damn memorable.

His first appearance, in a first season episode called “…And They Painted Daisies on His Coffin”, introduces us to the Big Chicken smarm. In the episode, off-duty Danny chases and ends up shooting an armed “kid” (they called him a kid; I called him twenty-five). Only, surprise! The victim’s girlfriend takes her now-dead boyfriend’s gun and runs off so it looks like Danny killed an unarmed “kid”. An investigation ensues and wouldn’t you know that dope pusher Big Chicken is involved? He thinks the law is cool. You can tell by the way he breaks it. Unfortunately, he doesn’t feel the law is so cool by the end of the episode.

Big Chicken in prisonLike I said, you get a hint of his smarm the first go-round. But it really comes on full-force and pretty much evolves into shudder-inducing creep later in the first season in an episode called “The Box”. The first time you see him, he’s in the prison shower (which is apparently some sort of broken pipe trickle), singing while some of his cohorts jump and beat a man. It’s unnerving and creepy and smarmy and just plain wrong.

The episode involves McGarrett entering the prison after the scuffle in the prison shower turns into a sort-of riot, but mostly hostage situation. It’s then that Big Chicken really turns it on. He weasels better than any weasel, ingratiating himself to the guy that his boys (one of whom is Al Harrington, who went on to play good guy Ben later) were whipping only a little while before in an attempt to get McGarrett killed. It’s a total slime act and the tension between Big Chicken and McGarrett has a real uncomfortable passion to it. His skeev level is off the charts.

I want to take a shower after I watch that episode (but not in a prison because no).

To me, the greatest part of this character is that it’s Gavin MacLeod playing him. When you think Gavin MacLeod, you think Captain Stubing, happy Loveboat guy, making dreams come true for his passengers and being an adorable father to his adorable daughter. Or maybe you think Murray Slaughter, TV writer and desk neighbor of Mary Richards, a good guy with excellent timing when it comes to insulting Ted Baxter.

You don’t think of him as a creeper’s creep.

I’ve seen him play a jerk before. He was a pretty big one an episode of The Big Valley. But to see him play the lowest of scum in such a slimy, skeevy way sticks with me. Kudos to him for that.

And kudos to Big Chicken.

Ya creep.

Rerun Junkie– My Top Five Theme Songs

Music

I like a good TV show theme song. It sets the tone, you know. There are some fabulous theme songs out there. There are some clear cut classics and everyone has their own preferences. And being a rerun junkie such that I am, you had to know that I would have my own list of the best.

This is a very subjective top 5 and it’s one that’s not in any particular order because I’m wobbly like that. But odds are if you ask me what my favorite theme song is on any given day, it will be one of these.

It’s the harmonica that really makes it.

Come on, who doesn’t love that killer opening?

That opening bass line…and then it just wails.

The military drum beat backing those horns. Perfection.

It tells you everything you need to know about the show. You can sing along AND dance to it. It’s gold.

Rerun Junkie– “Hookman” Old and New

WARNING: SPOILERS! For both episodes, though you’ve had 35 years to watch the original one, so really, you’ve got no legitimate bitch.

Hawaii 5-0

Let’s get a few things out of the way right from the beginning. This isn’t going to be a battle between the two series to see which one is better. It’s not going to be that kind of comparison. It’s just for my own amusement to see how the new one redid the old one. That’s it. And it should also be noted that I’ve only seen one episode of the new Hawaii Five-0 and that was because Ed Asner was reprising his role from the original Hawaii Five-O. So my knowledge of the new series is minimal at best, but I do have a basic understanding of the new cannon by way of the Interwebs and it seems the show is very respectful in many ways to the original and I can appreciate that.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get this showboat on the river.

In the original episode, a double amputee with hooks for hands (played by actual double amputee Jay. J. Armes) shows some deft dexterity in assembling rifles, engraving little name plates, and, oh yeah, shooting the cops that were involved in the bust up of a bank robbery that cost him his hands. Naturally, Steve McGarrett is on that hit list.

In the new episodes, a double amputee with robo hands (played by Peter Weller…aka…RoboCop) also shows some deft dexterity in assembling semi-automatic weaponry, engraving names on bullet casings, and, oh yeah, shooting the cops that were involved in the bust up of a bank robbery that cost him his hands. Naturally, this Steve McGarrett is on that hit list because his father was one of the cops and, well, he’s dead now and someone needs to pay this vengeance tab.

The episodes are quite similar. Tip of the hat to Mr. Weller, who directed the episode. He did a great job of making the new version so like the old version, including shooting in some of the same locations. The opening sequence is nearly shot for shot like the original which put me, the Rerun Junkie, into a good mood right off. I was please to see how much of the original was basically just updated, but kept for the new version.

Now, of course there are differences. Different times, different technology, different cannon, there has to be.

Old Hawaii 50 CastFirst of all, there’s the cast. And I’m not talking about Kono being a woman, though I am talking about Kono. The original “Hookman” aired during the 6th season. Kono (Zulu) departed in the fourth season and was replaced by Ben Kokua (Al Harrington), so Ben instead of Kono helped bring down Hookman.

There was more personal drama shown in the new version. In the original, Jack Lord got it across with a few words and some inflection that this was personal business on a certain level, not just because fellow officers were being killed, but because they were friends of his. That’s how much of the personal drama was done on the old show, shown throughout the investigation in little ways. The new show devoted a couple of whole scenes to the personal drama.

The new show also dedicated a whole scene to showing Hookman hooking up the ex-con with the weapon that he used in the shootout that Hookman used to kill his second victim. In the original, you didn’t see any of that. We found ourselves at a shootout with Danno, thinking they had the sniper (the ex-con was a white, kinda redneck looking guy in the original). Both guys were smoked out and killed and both Ookala’s were mistakenly thought to be shot by the ex-con and then later it was revealed to be incorrect, though in the original it was after autopsy instead of on-scene.

Speaking of the victims, the first two are the same in the original and new version, Keoke and Ookala, but in the original, the third victim is Thompson who is killed off-screen, not Duke, who is wounded off-screen. (Or, as I say whenever he appears on-screen in the original Duuuuuuuuke!)

Since the new Hookman was leaving behind engraved casings instead of rifles with engraved nameplates (you can’t just leave behind weaponry at crime scenes these days, people will swipe them; back then you could leave just about anything lying around with no worries, guns, kids, cars, whatever), McGarrett and Danno ended up going to a gun shop instead of a jeweler’s to get shot at, a sensible change. New Hawaii 50 Cast

Finding the Hookman ended up being different, too. In the original, they deduced that a double amputee probably didn’t have a whole lot of job options so he probably lived in the poor part of town. That sort of thing probably isn’t considered politically correct today and double amputees probably have more job opportunities today than they did in the 70’s anyway. It was a mailbox record that led them to Hookman in the new version.

The one big complaint I have about the new version is the final raid and shootout, yet another difference. In the original, McGarrett goes into Hookman’s apartment alone and looks around in complete silence. He sees the engraving equipment, the police radio, the plaques on the walls with the news paper clippings with the bold headlines of the killed cops. Then the phone rings, breaking the silence. It’s startling because the tension builds so gradually you don’t notice just how tense it’s getting.

The new version was a rush to the ending. The search of the apartment was conducted by everybody, the phone ringing wasn’t nearly as jarring, there was no opportunity for tension, which is a shame.

The final shootout went down pretty much the same way with the exception of there being no Ben to draw fire (seriously, McGarrett’s like, “Ben, on the count of five, stick your head out and get shot at so I can get to the car”) and Kono taking the kill shot instead of Danno. And then there was Hookman’s death. In the original, the rifle fell to the pavement while Hookman flail-collapsed on the roof. The rifle smashed and there was this moment of McGarrett looking at this gun with his name on it. It had a serious emotional weight to it.

In the new version, Hookman smashed to the pavement and the emotionally weighted moment was reserved for McGarrett talking to his dead father and the two dead officers and I was kinda like, Bzuh? Is this his thing? Does he often see his dead dad at the end of the day? I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t watch the show, so it’s entirely possible that this moment could be quite poignant. But I really liked the poetic feel of the original ending better.

However, don’t confuse my disappointment in the ending with dissatisfaction. As much as it bummed me out that the endings weren’t more alike, the similarities they did keep in the episode were quite pleasing. The O’s in the engravings were the tip-off. Mr. Weller did a wonderful job as Hookman (even though he talked more than the original) and the similarities in the apartment and the engraving scene were fabulous. Also the little things, like the ex-con falling over the railing after being shot, a green mustang being used as Hookman’s getaway car, the hand left hanging onto the steering wheel, those little details showed just how dedicated they were to really doing the episode right and doing it with extreme reverence to the original. All the credit in the world for that kind of care.

I’m actually quite pleased with how the new version stacks up against the original. I really didn’t think they’d do as well as they did.

I do believe the folks running the new Hawaii Five-0 have a rerun junkie in their midst. And I appreciate that.