Ask 411 Movies for 09.03.12: You'll Never Walk Alone!
Posted by Leonard Hayhurst on 09.03.2012
Was the ending of Lost just a cop out? Does Law & Order compare to CSI? Is Clint Eastwood's Kelly's Heroes the most underrated ensemble movie? All this and more in this week's Ask 411 Movies!
Obscure Television Show of the Week
Title: Kate McShane
Run Dates: Sept. 10, 1975 to Nov. 12, 1975
Cast: Anne Meara as Kate McShane, Sean McClory as Pat McShane and Charles Haid as Ed McShane
Premise: According to "The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows" this was the first lawyer program on television to star a woman. Meara is probably best known today as the wife of Jerry Stiller and mother of Ben Stiller. This was her first and one of the few dramatic roles she took. Pat was her father, a former cop who served as her investigator, and Ed was her brother, a priest and law professor. Below, Meara talks about the series.
Ask 411 Remembers
Actor Steve Franken, 80, died Aug. 24 of cancer. The longtime character actor made numerous television guest appearances over the years and was in such movies as Angels & Demons, Westworld, The Party, Nurse Betty, Can't Buy Me Love, Curse of the Pink Panther, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, The Missouri Breaks and The Americanization of Emily. Below a guest spot on Bewitched.
Q: Wasn't Permanent Midnight about one of the ALF writers? If so why did they use a knockoff instead of referring to the show by name?
A: A questioner last week asked if ALF was every truly popular. Permanent Midnight was an autobiography from Jerry Stahl, played in the 1998 movie version by Ben Stiller, about how he rose from being a lowly TV writer to penning episodes of some of the 1980s biggest hits like Moonlighting, thirtysomething and ALF, which was made into Mr. Chompers in the flick. Stahl battled many drug addictions, but eventually got himself straight. Another show in the movie No Such Luck was based on Moonlighting and the character portrayed by Cheryl Ladd was a takeoff on Cybil Shepherd.
While Stahl could talk about his real life experiences on the shows in his book, to depict them in the movie, unless it was for the direct intent of parody, would be copyright infringement on the characters and Shepherd could sue for libel or slander on her portrayal. So, some elements were fictionalized just to be on the safe side, not that the movie didn't take other liberties with the book and Stahl's life.
Q: When talking about ALF, you mentioned how some of the cult shows of the 80s now seem cheesey, hokey & dated. Which shows from the 80s would you like to see return, and if you were the Executive Producer would you return it serious, cheesey, comedic. Any nods to the past?
A: A lot of 1980s television shows have been given reboots and I think the ones that work best are those that give a nod to the past while updating. The new Dallas features many characters from the original series and continues with some of the arcs and story lines. I liked The A-Team movie, because I thought they did a good job towing the line between action and comedy while staying true to the basic concept of all the characters, while going their own way. Some would probably disagree with me there.
What I don't like is when a reboot is a straight out spoof or parody of the original, like The Brady Bunch movies. It's basically saying that you as a fan are dumb for having ever liked the original show, because look how stupid and cheesy it really was. It's mocking and not lovingly. Then you have something like the 2008 Knight Rider revamp that went a wrong direction by doing some updates, but being too faithful to the outdated concept. Ooh, a talking car in the 21st century. I can do more with OnStar. Below is a fan made intro for the series done like the original.
Some ideas I have for updating 1980s shows:
Highway to Heaven: Mark Wilson (Kelsey Grammar) is the new administrator at a psychiatric hospital. Patient Johnathan Smith (Scott Bakula) has been at the facility for more than 20 years without saying a word until Wilson shows up. Smith said Wilson is the man he's been waiting on and that he used to have a friend named Mark (alluding to Smith being the angel from the original series in a new body). Smith helps many of the patients to come to grips with their problems, although Wilson doesn't agree with his methods. Begrudgingly, Wilson releases Smith from the hospital, but only under his direct care. He's not so sure that he's an angel, but he can't deny his ability for sensing and helping those in need.
Theo: Theo Huxtable (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) is a teacher at an alternative school for troubled youth. He's never married and never had any kids of his own, but he uses the lessons he learned from his parents and siblings growing up to reach the kids he teaches. I envision a segment in the pilot similar to the famous scene in The Cosby Show pilot where Cliff teaches Theo about the value of money using Monopoly cash. Also in the pilot, Theo discovers that one of his students, Beetle (Tyler James Williams), is the son of his old buddy Cockroach. Both of his parents died in a car wreck and he now lives with his drug addict aunt. Theo reports her to children services and she's placed in rehab. Without a place to go, Theo takes Beetle in. Theo's family wold have plenty of cameos.
Matt Houston: Despite what I said above, I'm not against parody as long as it doesn't seem to be attacking the source material and fans and is, you know, actually funny. There's a lot to spoof with 1980s television and excess. Matt Houston would be a good vehicle as the original was a Magnum P.I. ripoff about an absurdly wealthy, womanizing gumshoe who solved cases by blowing stuff up. Michael Jai White played a similar character in the blaxsploitation spoof Black Dynamite and would be my pick for the lead here.
Q: Hey Leonard,
As a rabid Law & Order fan of all 3 shows, I was HUGE fan mostly of the L&O:Criminal Intent specifically. I still think all 3 are greatly told, however considering SVU has lost it's luster with the departure of Stabler and too many new additions. I loved CI due to the main 2, Goren & Eames because D'Onofrio was SUCH a force to be reckoned with, writers said they based him on Sherlock Holmes. Plus who can forget his greatest nemesis Nicole Wallace (aside from his personal demons). I was quite displeased when the season 9 had them gone, but then returned for the shortened 10th season, and it ended. Now I see The Closer has spun off it's own version Major Crimes, do you think any other crime show can really have the impact of Dick Wolf's creations? Or am I just being a snob about this? I know many fans are pretty picky about which L&O brand they are die hard for, sorry, but I'm a CI gal.
A: Last week we had a question comparing Law & Order to Homicide: Life on the Street. There were actually five Law & Order programs; Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: LA and Law & Order: Trial by Jury, not to mention Law & Order: UK shown in Britain. There was also the reality series Crime & Punishment set in the San Diego County Prosecutor's Office created by Dick Wolf and billed as a Law & Order spinoff.
As a Law & Order fan this might not be what you want to hear, but the CSI franchise is similar to Law & Order in ratings, fan response and critical response. Along with CSI, CSI: New York and CSI: Miami you can even throw in NCIS and its spinoff NCIS: Los Angeles. Even though NCIS was a spinoff of JAG, it also deals with forensic investigation and CBS seems to lump them with CSI when it comes to promotion and marketing. However, just about every cops and/or courts show since Law & Order debuted, including CSI and related shows, have been heavily influenced by the visual and story telling style of Law & Order and trying to find the right mix of police procedural and personal stories to interest viewers. Below, an interesting freeze frame for the 10th season opening of CSI.
Q: Okay, this one's driving me nuts and maybe you can help-- years ago on Nickelodeon there was a spin off of You Can't Do that on Television called "Turkey TV". On that show there was one sketch they'd show in most of the episodes that had a guy in (I think) a leather jacket and a blonde girl. And basically it was the guy thinking he was all cool and the girl out wisecracking him.
I'm NOT thinking of You Can't Do That On Television's Locker Jokes. I've been trying to rack my brain and find this sketch (just to see it exists and I am not crazy), but Turkey TV is VERY hard to find clips of (aside from Fish Heads & the intro theme). I'd be really impressed if you were able to find that.
-Kids Comedy Fan
A: Turkey Television was produced for one season from 1985 to 1986, but was rerun on Nickelodeon for several years. You Can't Do That on Television was a big hit for the network, so executives asked creators Roger Price and Geraldine Laybourne to come up with a similar companion series. The premise was that the program was Thurman T. Turkey, voiced by Jim Thurman, filming television shows from around the world and putting them on American TV. The animated turkey would sometimes pop up in clips. Actors included You Can't Do That on Television stars like Les Lye, Christine McGlade, Kevin Kubusheskie and Adm Reid along with newcomers Steven Aiken, T.J. Criscione and Craig Warnock. Along with original sketches, clips from other shows and redubbed public domain footage were also used.
Now, I didn't find a clip of the sketch in question, but I did find a still proving it exists. Go to 7:17 of the below clip. It's the closing credits from one episode. I've watched all three parts of the show that are on YouTube and the sketch itself isn't included. The still shot is of a guy in a leather jacket standing next to an open locker with a blonde girl.
Q: Since The Expendables 2 is out I was wondering, what are some of your choices for underrated ensemble movies? I was thinking something like Mystery Men or The Big Hit. Neither one were universally liked and they didn't make a splash at the box office, but both are two movies that I really enjoy watching.
A: I have to confess I haven't seen The Big Hit and I actually commented on Mystery Men a few weeks ago when I caught it on Comedy Central. I like a lot of the basic concepts and characters, even though the execution could have been a bit better. My picks for some good underrated ensemble flicks.
Kelly's Heroes (1970)
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Caroll O'Connell, Donald Sutherland, Gavin MacCleod, Stuart Margolin, Jeff Morris and Harry Dean Stanton
Plot: Demoted lieutenant Kelly (Eastwood) finds out about a cache of Nazi gold during World War II behind enemy lines. He enlists his platoon and other soldiers like supply officer Crapgame (Rickles) and weirdo Sherman tank commander Oddball (Sutherland) to make a run for the gold.
The Long Riders (1980)
Cast: David Carradine, Robert Carradine, Keith Carradine, Stacy Keach, James Keach, Dennis Quaid, Randy Quaid, Christopher Guest, Nicholas Guest, Pamela Reed, James Remar, Harry Carey Jr., James Whitmore Jr. and Kevin Brophy
Plot: What makes this ensemble interesting is that real life brothers were cast to play the brothers in this western. Jesse James (Stacy Keach) and Cole Younger (David Carradine) are the leaders of a notorious outlaw gang. When a bank heist goes wrong, members of the gang are killed and others captured as Detective Rixley (Whitmore) attempts to bring the group to justice.
Scavenger Hunt (1979)
Cast: Richard Benjamin, James Coco, Scatman Crothers, Ruth Gordon, Cloris Leachman, Cleavon Little, Roddy McDowall, Robert Morley, Richard Mulligan, Tony Randall, Dirk Benedict, Willie Ames, Stephen Furst, Richard Masur, Stephanie Faracy, Meat Loaf, Pat McCormick, Avery Schreiber, Maureen Teefy, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vincent Price
Plot: Milton Parker (Price) is a wealthy game inventor who dies and makes his heirs play a scavenger hunt to claim his fortune. There are five team vying for the dough; Parker's son-in-law Henry (Randall) and his kids, Parker's servants (Coco, McDowall, Little and Faracy), dimwit taxi driver Marvin (Mulligan), Parker's sister Mildred (Leachman), her son (Masur) and her lawyer (Benjamin) and Parker's nephews (Ames and Benedict) who pick up Mildred's stepdaughter (Teefy). The scavenger lists feature various odd items of different point values and in the end everyone joins together to make sure Mildred and her team doesn't win anything. Have your mind blown by Schwarzenegger interacting with Randall as he tries to get a medicine ball for the scavenger hunt.
Q: Here are a few questions about Lost:
Did the creators really have an arc in mind the whole time? It wouldn't appear so but I've head this before.
Was the ending a copout? They said the island wasn't purgatory, which I guess was true, but the 2nd reality was.. ..I think. Also was it odd that early casualties (Boone) were there instead of with those who lived, or that Sayid was paired with Shannon and not Nadia as they went to the afterlife?
Was there more planned for the postscript with Hurley and Ben, or just that 10 minute epilogue on the DVD?
Finally, they really seemed to drop the ball with Walt. To shape a whole season around rescuing hm, and to consonantly refer to his powers, he was pretty insignificant in the overall story.
A: I never watched Lost so my answers come from online research only and no personal interpretation.
A Nov. 2006 article in Entertainment Weekly, had Stephen King, a big Lost fan, sitting down with creators J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse for a group interview. Abrams said ABC basically charged them with putting the series together and they didn't start with any certain direction or details in mind. However, during the production of the pilot they put together a 'bible' for the series. Abrams said some ideas from that were done, others fell by the wayside. Basically, Abrams said the core was "beginning something that had a lot of big ideas, and believing in an ending." Abrams said in the original planning Kate was not the convict character and Jack was supposed to die at the end of the pilot. Lindelof said they wanted to do four or five seasons only, but it was up to ABC, which owned the show, on how long it would last and then working within that time frame. Lindelof said ABC actually vetoed a script where it was suggested strongly that the entire series was taking place inside Hurley's head. The gist I got from the article was that the creators had the basic character and story concepts figured out, but there was flexibility for change and a lot of the details weren't concrete. Did they have a plan, seems like it. Was that plan definitive, no.
As far as who was in the final scene in the church, it seemed like that came down to who was available and who wanted to do it. For example, E! reported that Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje who played Mr. Eko turned down the finale because producers didn't meet his salary demands. Fans and critics seem to be split on whether the ending of Lost was fitting or a cop out. In an interview with TV Guide leading up the finale, actor Nestor Carbonell, who played Richard Alpert, said the finale was about providing resolution for all the characters.
In an interview with the Verge this past May, Lindelof addressed the ambiguity of the ending and if it was a cop out to avoid directly answering questions about the series. It's better to watch the interview below than for me to try to sum it up. Basically, Lindelof supports the ending and said it was exactly what they wanted to do. The creators always wanted to explore the idea of purgatory and fans wanted that exploration as well as the island being purgatory was always a main guess. The 'flash-sideways' was about that exploration and never really happened. Everything that happened on the island did happen and was real, within the context of the fictional reality.
There doesn't seem to be anything more with the epilogue with Hurly and Ben than the bonus scene on the DVD. Actor Michael Emerson told E! that it was never meant to launch a spinoff, it was a self-contained scene just meant to explore some of the show's mythology a little further. Basically, it was done to flesh out a little bit more of that Walt subplot. Lindelof said in an interview with IGN that they always planned on actor Malcolm David Kelley aging faster than they could film the series. He was 10 when the show began and while months passed on the series, years passed in real life and puberty hit Kelley making him look and sound much older than 10. This caused him to used less, but according to Lindelof that was always the plan.
Still some questions left from past weeks, but hopefully I'll knock those out on Labor Day with some extra time off work. Be sure to send new questions though, it's what I need to give you what you want.
"To a New Yorker like you, a hero is some type of weird sandwich, not some nut who takes on three tigers."