Rerun Junkie: Adam-12

When Jack Webb decided to shine a spotlight on the beat cops of LA, he created Adam-12.

"Adam-12 continue patrol and handle this call..."
“Adam-12 continue patrol and handle this call…”

The show featured veteran officer Pete Malloy (Martin Milner) and his novice (and later fellow veteran) partner Jim Reed (Kent McCord) handling the every day street work of two uniformed officers under the direction of their supervisor Sgt. MacDonald (William Boyett) and sometimes with the help of fellow officers Wells (Gary Crosby) and Woods (Fred Stromsoe). They received calls from real-life LA dispatcher Shaaron Claridge (I love it when she denies them a dinner break; her word is law!).

Our brave boys in blue on patrol.
Our brave boys in blue on patrol.

Unlike Dragnet, viewers weren’t treated to one case seen all the way to completion. Instead they got what beat cops got: sent out on several calls during the episode with no follow-up later on. And though there were some high-action, dangerous episodes, there were a lot of episodes that featured the every day, mundane calls that every cop in uniform has handled: traffic stops, domestic disputes over the stupidest things, theft calls in which there was no theft, lonely old ladies needing someone to talk to, nosy ladies constantly ratting on their neighbors.

My favorite was the two ladies fighting over a bruised melon. One wanted the other one arrested for taking it out of the store without paying for it and the other one wanted the owner to get into trouble for selling crap fruit. Malloy had a look of pure “You have GOT to be kidding me” during the whole thing.

You also had the pleasure of watching Malloy and Reed’s relationship develop from student-mentor to true partners. The chemistry between the two was fantastic and the good-natured ribbing is real.  Married Reed could be quite dedicated to convincing bachelor Malloy to join the club sometimes.

They clean up nice, too.
They clean up nice, too.

Like Dragnet before it and Emergency! after it, the show did wonders to boost the public’s understanding of how those jobs paid for by the taxpayers, this one being uniformed officers, worked. It was as much instructional as it was entertaining and I believe episodes are still shown to police officers as examples of how to handle certain situations.

As this was a Jack Webb show, several of his regulars showed up, including: Virginia Gregg (of course!), Burt Mustin, and James McEachin. Marco Lopez, Tim Donnelly, Bobby Troup, Ron Pinkard, and Randolph Mantooth all appeared in episodes as non-Emergency! characters (Kevin Tighe, Julie London, and Robert Fuller made their appearances during the cross-over episode “Lost and Found”). For Emergency! fans, the episode “Log 88-Reason to Run” is a highlight because Randolph Mantooth, Marco Lopez, and Tim Donnelly are all in it, though none of them share a scene. Fun!

Other familiar faces that popped up during the seven season run include: Larry Linville; Maidie Norman; my favorite guest-star J. Pat O’Malley; Frank Sinatra Jr; June Lockhart; Rose Marie; Jean Allison; Butch Patrick; Ellen Corby (before she was Grandma Walton); Keye Luke; future teen idols Willie Aames, David Cassidy, and Barry Williams; baby versions of Ed Begley Jr, Tim Matheson, and A Martinez; Karen Black; Cloris Leachman as a real crap mother; Tony Dow; Angela Cartwright; Barbara Hale; Robert Conrad sans Ross Martin (unless he was in disguise somewhere); George Murdock;

*takes a deep breath*

Micky Dolenz not Monkee-ing around; Harry Dean Stanton (who never looked young); Lindsay Wagner before she was Bionic; Sharon Gless; Scatman Crothers; Vitto Scotti because he was in everything; Dabbs Greer; Dick Clark; Brucke Kirby; Jo Anne Worley playing another roller derby girl; Mark Harmon; Mark Harmon’s sister Kristin Nelson; and Kent McCord’s daughter Kristen.

It was a good guest-breeding ground.

This is one of those shows that I only had the opportunity to start watching recently. And I’m grateful for that. I’ve developed quite the soft spot for Jack Webb and company shows anyway, but as a cop’s kid, this is one I can really relate to.

It also gave me the greatest intoxication measure ever.

Matador-in-an-intersection-drunk.

‘Cause that’s drunk.

These guys, though, they're drunk on justice.
These guys, though, they’re drunk on justice.

Rerun Junkie–Gilligan’s Island

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…about a show that ran for three years in the 60’s and then lived forever in syndication.

For the five people with Internet access that have never heard of this show, here’s the rundown.

The theme song pretty much fills you in on the back story.
The theme song pretty much fills you in on the back story.

The Skipper (Alan Hale, Jr.) and his first mate Gilligan (Bob Denver) along with their five passengers, the Professor (Russell Johnson), farm girl Mary Ann, (Dawn Wells), movie star Ginger (Tina Louise), and the millionaire Howells, Thurston (Jim Backus) and Lovey (Natalie Schafer), were on a three hour tour of the Hawaiian Islands when they were blown way off course by a sudden storm and ended up stranded on a deserted island where hilarity ensued.

Our seven castaways.
Our seven castaways.

The show wasn’t exactly heavy on realism. For a group of people on a day trip, they ended up taking a whole lot of clothing with them (though there must not have been any room for the Skipper, Professor, or Gilligan to bring their wardrobes). The Professor could make anything from coconuts, bamboo, and palm leaves, but a boat. Everyone else in the world could arrive and leave the island as they pleased, but the castaways were perpetually stuck. Speaking of, anything in the world washed up on the shore or dropped down from the sky -mines, lions, space capsules, robots- but not a damn message could off of the place.

A few of the people that washed up on the shores, and then later left, included: Vito Scottie (four times!), Zsa Zsa Gabor, a 14 year old Kurt Russell in a loin cloth swinging from trees, Mel Blanc (voice only, of course), Hans Conreid aka Wrongway Feldman, Denny Miller, Larry Storch, Harold J. Stone, Nehemiah Persoff (taking a break from drama, I guess), Vincent Beck, Richard Kiel, Phil Silvers, John McGiver, Don Rickles (he shows up everywhere), Strother Martin, and Rory Calhoun as a big game hunter hunting Gillian, which should have been gruesome, but instead was pretty funny.

It was that sort of silliness that has most people writing the show off as stupid.  Silly, yes. Unrealistic, of course. Stupid? I wouldn’t say that.

If you pay attention, it’s funny. Not just the slapstick and sight gags, but the dialogue. Okay, none of it is quite as cutting and brash as something you’d see today, but the back and forth is pretty great, particularly if Mr. Howell is involved. There’s some really hilarious, LOL stuff that you wouldn’t expect to find on this wacky island.

Besides, the show is supposed silly. It’s supposed to be a complete deviation from reality, a break from it. Embrace that and enjoy it.

I will say, though, now that I’m watching it as an adult, I’m realizing just how often and how quickly the other castaways take advantage of Gilligan. If this was as realistic as people think it should be, Gilligan would have been the first one killed in the eventual murder rampage that no doubt would have gripped the island. And those that survived would have eventually died of some malnutrition related disease because you can only eat so many coconut cream pies and bananas.

Yeah, so maybe it’s better the show went with silly rather than realistic.

So sit back and relax and enjoy.

Hit the music.

Rerun Junkie–Characters: Stefan Kopeckne

Mr. KopeckneA good character makes a lasting impression.  Like Big Chicken on Hawaii Five-0, Stefan Kopeckne (the other character that lead so many people to my blog) was only on two episodes of Barney Miller, but that was enough to make him memorable.

Kenneth Tigar was actually in five episodes of the show from 1976 to 1981, but it was his first and last appearances that he played the unfortunate Mr. Kopeckne.

His first appearance in the episode “Werewolf” was the more memorable of the two. Mr. Kopeckne, brought into the station after causing a commotion in a park (and ruining Detective Harris’s [Ron Glass] suit in the process).  Upon questioning, it’s revealed that Mr. Kopeckne believes he’s a werewolf, cursed from birth.  He’s put in the cage to fret about his impending transformation which will come at midnight while the police officers just wait for Bellevue to pick him up, not really taking his claims that seriously.

It’s the transformation scene that really makes the whole episode and makes Mr. Kopeckne someone to remember.  He claims he can feel the hair on his legs rustling and he starts panting because his tongue is sweating, all the while Nick (Jack Soo) is trying to talk him out of it. Mr. Kopeckne climbs the bars and starts to howl when Barney (Hal Linden) comes in and yells at him, saying this is a police station, not a horror movie.

Kopeckne the werewolfIn the end, Mr. Kopeckne goes off to Bellevue with some hope as Barney has pointed out that the lack of lycanthropy must mean they’ve made some progress with it.

Mr. Kopeckne returns in “Possession”. This time his arrested for disorderly conduct and claims that it’s because he’s possessed.  Sure enough, questionable things start happening in the precinct and Mr. Kopeckne demands that the police chaplain give him an exorcism. Not quite as good as “Werewolf”, but Mr. Tigar goes the distance with it, for sure.

Really, all of the credit in the world goes to Mr. Tigar. He’s one of those actors that you’ve seen before, probably multiple times, but probably don’t know his name. The kind of guy who is so good at his craft that you remember the character over the actor behind it. He took a character that could have been absolutely ridiculous and unbelievable and gave it enough realistic gravity to make it believable and let the comedy play.  It was easy to believe that this guy had a screw loose enough to think he was a werewolf, but could still function for the most part. He created a character that could have easily recurred once or twice a season without getting overdone or boring.

It’s kind of a shame they didn’t.

I’d have loved to see what else Mr. Kopeckne, and Mr. Tigar, could have come up with.

Rerun Junkie–Books: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted by Jennifer Keishin ArmstrongMy chronic rerun habit paid off in a big way when I won a Me-TV contest. The prize was Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s book, Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And All the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic. I didn’t check the winner’s list so I was completely unaware that I’d won until a package from the publisher showed up. My confusion (“I didn’t order a book from these people”) gave way to pure joy as soon as I saw what book was in the package (“HOLY CROW I WON I WON I WON!”)

And indeed, I was the winner.

I’m one of those people that’s fascinated with behind-the-scenes stuff about TV shows, any sorts of TV trivia, even if I don’t watch or like the show (I’m the same way with movie trivia, which is more absurd given that I don’t really watch many movies). It’s not necessarily the dirt I’m into. Who’s sleeping with who, who’s fighting with who doesn’t intrigue me quite as much as how something was made.

This book is that and more.

Not only does it give you insight into the show itself, but it goes above and beyond in recognizing that the show didn’t occur in a vacuum and the people involved didn’t pop into existence just for the purpose of the show. While the show is the main focus, of course, it also talks about the TV landscape at the time, some of the other shows on the air, the spin-offs, and a bit about the state of the country in relation to the show, how the show impacted the country and the country impacted the show.

It also goes beyond just the actors, those lovely faces we see and associate more readily with the show. It profiles the creators and their mission to make a realistic sitcom featuring a working, single woman and their dedication to their vision. It also shows how they broke the rules by looking for and hiring women writers in a time when women weren’t thought of as funny. And, naturally, talks about the women who wrote for the show.  There’s even a bit about one of the show’s most dedicated fans.

The show broke more ground than a lot of people might realize.

It was actually a really inspiring read, in a way. The idea of working in this environment of a people that were dedicated to making this the best show that they could, who wouldn’t compromise or settle for less. It wasn’t all hearts and flowers, but it was special and it makes me wish I could be apart of something just like that.

This is also the kind of book I wish I could write about my TV show loves. Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s narrative isn’t some dry account, by the numbers and letters of what happened. She allows the people she’s writing about to be the real people they are and brings out the emotions of the time. I cringed while reading about the first rehearsal that went so badly and I teared up during the recounting of the final episode. Every bit of it is readable, approachable, and educational without feeling like you’re being lectured to or otherwise schooled.

Now it’s time for my disclosure. The Mary Tyler Moore Show is one of those shows that half-ass watch, which means most of the time I’m not paying a whole lot of attention to it unless Rhoda or Murray are talking (they are my favorites and I have no shame about this). However, I KNOW it’s a good show and I’ve caught myself, over time, watching more of the episodes rather than just putting them on for background noise.

But this book has made me appreciate the show on a whole new level.

I’m going to be paying more attention now.

Rerun Junkie–Confession: Gilligan Was My First

Bob Denver as Gilligan on Gilligan's Island

That’s right. Gilligan’s Island was my first rerun love. (What did you think I was talking about, you perverts?)

It was on TBS when I was a kid and I remember watching it every afternoon. It didn’t bother me that the castaways had an endless supply of clothes or The Professor couldn’t fix a boat or they could fashion anything and everything (except a boat) out of coconuts or that nobody lost weight or died of scurvy or how those other people came and went and the castaways were always stuck. I was only concerned with the fact that Gilligan was silly and did silly things and Mary Ann should have been his girlfriend and the Skipper should have had some more patience.

Jinjer MaryannI was so taken with the show that I named one of my dolls Ginger Mary Ann. Except I spelled it Jinjer Maryann because five year olds are crap at spelling. Also the doll was probably supposed to be a boy, but it had red hair like Ginger and it had a sweet face like Mary Ann so I decided it was a short-haired girl.

Anyway, it was the only doll I ever named after characters on a TV show, therefore, it’s noteworthy.

I can remember daydreaming about being on that island with the castaways. I would have helped Gilligan and wouldn’t have made him feel like such a screw-up, even though everything he touched pretty much exploded in his face. Even at five, I felt very protective towards Gilligan.

I related to him because he was like a kid. He tried his best, but he messed up a lot. He was goofy and playful and seemed like the most fun. It’s not that I didn’t like the other characters; I did! I could have made my doll a boy and named him Gilligan, but I didn’t (she looks nothing like a Gilligan anyway); I named her after two of the girls. I was fond of all the castaways.

And I still am.

Little did I know that this show would set me off on my course. Like the Minnow’s two-man crew and its five passengers, my young self set sail in a sea of entertainment and like the inexplicable pull of that uncharted island, I’ve repeatedly found myself washing onto the shores of reruns, particularly when my life’s been stormy. I realize now that the shows I’ve liked best are the shows that remind of that fantasy world comfort I first experienced with Gilligan’s Island. No, the shows I love aren’t all silly, but there’s something about them that involves me yet puts me at ease the way the antics of the castaways did.

Only for me would naming a doll after a character establish the gold-standard of a television show.

Rerun Junkie–Confession: I’m a Sucker for Reunions

Mary Tyler Moore Hot in ClevelandI don’t watch Hot in Cleveland by habit. I’ve only seen a couple of episodes, mostly because there was some special draw, like the live episode (which was quite funny and well done for a live show). One episode that I made sure I watched, though, was the one featuring the Mary Tyler Moore reunion.

I’m a sucker for things like that.

Of course, plain old reunion shows are great (you know, like the Gilligan’s Island and Love Boat TV movies), but there’s something really nifty about getting actors from an old show together and having them play new characters. There’s the wink-wink, nudge-nudge they always seem to work into the episode, of course, but mostly there’s this fun of watching people with a history, with a chemistry, with a rhythm working together, but playing something different.

Like the Mary Tyler Moore reunion. They played a bowling team getting together after years apart, fame having undone their friendship. So there’s Mary and Rhoda and Georgette and Sue Ann and Phyllis sitting around a table, except they weren’t those characters. It was the same chemistry but presented in a different way.

Cagney Lacey Burn NoticeSharon Gless and Tyne Daly did it on Burn Notice. Cagney and Lacey together again only as Madeline and Tina, strangers not partners. So even thought Madeline is befriending Tina for a short-term purpose, that chemistry that made Cagney and Lacey such a great duo is still there.

I find that kind of thing fun to watch. It’s taking people who are comfortable with each other and putting them in a different element.

I look for those kinds of reunions. I don’t catch them all, of course, but I’m always thrilled when they happen. I guess it’s just the warm fuzzies it gives me. Here are the actors that created some iconic characters back together in a different, but yet familiar way.

It sucks me in every time.

You want me to watch current TV more often? This is definitely the way to do it. I’d clear my schedule for the right reunion.

I’m that kind of sucker.

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.

Five Weird Searches That Led Here

English: Helm of Awe (ægishjálmr) - magical sy...

I’ll be honest. If it weren’t for Starsky and Hutch fans, Randolph Mantooth stalkers, and folks in need of fat girl nudie pics, my blog wouldn’t get much action.

A lot of the searches that lead here are pretty run of the mill and make sense. As a Rerun Junkie I write about old TV shows, so searches, weird or not, relating to them make sense (hence all of the Starsky and Hutch/Randolph Mantooth folks ending up here). I write about being a fat girl (sorry, no nude pics), belly dancing, being tactless, breast reduction, the Cubs, the CornBelters, writing, bisexuality, etc. and getting tangent searches related to those keywords make sense.

Even so, some searches make me raise an eyebrow.

Here are five of the weirdest searches that led people here (and probably disappointed the hell out of them):

1. “magical plants to deter unwanted visitors”–I can understand the deterring unwanted visitors part, but I’m not exactly sure what’s intended by “magical”. Like Harry Potter magical or pagan magical or “Hey, my mother-in-law hates azaleas! Plant them everywhere!” magical?

2. “huge titties weightless enviorment”/”boobs in weightless environment”–Either the space station is cashing in on a very specific porn market or they’re missing out on one.

3. “stuff i just figured out about scooby doo”–More questions than answers here, folks.

4. “burnt popcorn smoke inhalation”–If this is a medical emergency, you should really contact a physician. Also, give up cooking for life.

5. “jesus zombie chocolate fertility bunny”–This sounds like the best Easter mash-up celebration ever and the only thing that makes it better is that this exact search hit my blog twice.

The Internet is an interesting place.

Rerun Junkie– Dragnet

Dragnet was one of those shows that I watched on Nick-At-Nite a hundred years ago when I was a kid. It shouldn’t have captured the attention of a hip, 80’s child, but as we all know, I’ve never been hip or normal.

"...I carry a badge."
“…I carry a badge.”

Dragnet features Detective Joe Friday (Jack Webb) and his partner Officer Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan) working a variety of cases from juvenile to bunko to homicide to robbery. The show tackled current society issues like drugs, juvenile delinquency, student dissidence, and such. It was done in a documentary style, with narration at the beginning and ending of the show saying that the stories were seen were true and the names had been changed to protect the innocent (not a whole lotta innocent people on this show) as well as Friday’s running narrative during the episode. The end of the show featured what happened to the perps they caught. Several episodes featured a bad guy at the end that you never saw during the run of the show.

These gentlemen are going to interrogate you.
These gentlemen are going to interrogate you.

The show is remembered best for the rapid fire dialogue, heavy music, and the no-nonsense attitude of the cops.

It also had some pretty memorable episodes, including the famous “blue boy” episode which dealt with LSD, which was still legal. In addition to sending people on trips and encouraging some who were waiting for take-off to smoke marijuana (which I would think would make you too lazy to take the trip, but whatever), it caused one guy to paint himself like he was going to a college football game, half blue and half yellow. This kid also had the supportive “my son would never do anything wrong!” parents that led him to enterprise in LSD and then succumb to its effects when he attempted to go out as far as possible.

It’s an interesting episode as it depicts the frustration the police had while trying to deal with a drug that wasn’t illegal, but really kinda needed to be. You also got introduced to a lot of LSD lingo that pretty much disappeared by the time I was offered a hit in high school (I declined because it was finals week and I still had to take my Bio II final and the last thing I needed was the cat skeleton coming alive and trying to scratch my eyes out).

Though the show is remembered for its seriousness, it actually can be quite funny. There’s a great episode in which Gannon and Friday are trying to watch a football game at Gannon’s house and they’re constantly being interrupted by neighbors and their complaints. I laughed throughout most of that episode.

Not to mention that Mr. Morgan’s sense of humor was never discouraged. Bill Gannon’s personal life could be pretty entertaining at times.

Mr. Webb was pretty dedicated to accuracy when it came to the show. The procedures and lingo were all by the book. That rapid fire dialogue everyone remembers was a necessity. A lot needed to be said in one episode and they only had thirty minutes to do it. Much of the exposition was done in Friday’s voice overs, but that was mostly for scene changes. The dialogue was strictly business. They couldn’t stop to explain things. Kindly, strap in and keep up, thanks.

When it comes to guest stars, this is one of those shows in which you look for the repeaters, not the big names. People like: Virginia Gregg, Sam Edwards, Ralph Moody, Burt Mustin, Henry Corden (who Monkees fans will recognize as Mr. Babbitt), Leonard Stone, Buddy Lester, Ed Deemer, Stuart Nisbet, Virginia Vincent, Robert Brubaker, and Emergency! favorites Bobby Troup, Marco Lopez, Tim Donnelly, and Ron Pinkard. And of course Reed and Malloy (Kent McCord and Martin Milner) from Adam-12 made appearances.

If you’re looking for some names  you know, here are a few: Jan-Michael Vincent, Keye Luke, Scatman Crothers, Doodles Weaver, Barry Williams, Lorraine Gary, Howard Hesseman, and Veronica Cartwright.

Like I said in the beginning, there’s really no reason this show should have appealed to an 8 year old kid. Even today, people call it boring. I call it fascinating. That jam-packed dialogue (done with the aid of a teleprompter), the unexpected wit, the view of a different time. It’s nifty.

There’s a reason this show was used as a police instruction manual. It’s just that good.

They have all the facts, ma'am.
They have all the facts, ma’am.

 

Where I Watch It

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.