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Adam-12: Ladies' Night
Episode 16, Season 7

Malloy dates Helen Crump while officer Reed hits a speed bump...
... in a Corvette! Seriously, he picks up his wife for dinner in a shiny blue Corvette. If his sergeant had seen that he'd suspect him of being on the take from everybody on his beat! What policeman could afford to drive such a beast and also support a wife and child??

On the way to meet Malloy and his date at the restaurant, Reed spots a robbery in progress, and drops his wife off while he pursues the robbers. Reed keeps the pursuit low key and also must have some great vision as he makes out the robbers' plates at night while following not too closely.

At the restaurant it is shown that Malloy's date is being played by actress Aneta Corsaut, who played Helen Crump, the schoolteacher who married widower Sheriff Andy Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show. I guess Aneta loves a man in uniform.

Adam-12: Excessive Force
Episode 8, Season 7

Shows the shift in crime to stranger danger...
... and a particularly hideous kind of criminal, one who sexually molests children.

Reed and Malloy are canvasing the neighborhood looking for anybody who might have seen a missing little girl. When they do locate a suspect he turns out to have done extreme harm to the girl and he runs and when caught says that she asked for it. Malloy, who actually apprehends this pond scum, has a visceral reaction to this guy's attitude and roughs him up some. Reed shows up and gets Malloy to calm down. But the perp has an attitude and presses charges against Malloy for the roughing up. Malloy makes no excuses for himself and is prepared to face discipline. What happens? Watch and find out.

This show spanned the years 1968-1975, and in the beginning lots of the crime was between people who knew each other, including one especially memorable episode that was like I Love Lucy meets film noir where two neighbors get into a feud over a boat that was jointly bought and things escalate to the point of the macabre.

By this last season, the crime is starting to come from strangers, and that is particularly frightening, mirroring the shooting gallery that LA will become in the 70s and into the 80s.

As an aside, Reed's wife and child have resurfaced after several seasons of them seeming to have ceased to exist or maybe never existed at all. Since the hippies have all gone back to college, no longer under the threat of the draft, apparently family is starting to come back into style.


A pointless remake of...
... the very early sound film "Broadway" from 1929 and directed by Paul Fejos. That 1929 film had an opening with a metallic giant plodding along Broadway beckoning the inhabitants to join him in his debauchery. Director Fejos had a special crane built and mounted the camera on it to get back some of the fluid motion that had been lost with the early sound era. It's a very interesting experiment. This is not that film.

But strangely enough, this film has the same script as the original and that film's characters. Even the minor characters who are just dancers at the Club Paradise in the original have the same names here. The set up for the story is a little different.

George Raft plays himself, and on a stopover in New York City he decides to go back to his old stomping grounds on Broadway where he was a hoofer when he was first starting out. He goes to what used to be the Club Paradise during Prohibition, and he begins to reminisce. Or maybe he fell asleep while watching the original film in 1929 and dreamed he had the leading role. It could roll either way.

Glenn Tryon had the lead in the original film - the counterpart to Raft's role. Tryon was known more for light comedy, so his role doesn't contain all of the macho posturing that Raft's part has. Other than that the film follows almost the exact same script. There are several problems other than just the seemingly pointless remake. For one, for this to be the 1920s everybody sure looks like they are dressed up to make a Betty Grable wartime musical right down to the hairdos and fashions. Also, since this film is being made long after the transition to sound, all technical problems with sound films are gone and so is the novelty. Something has to take its place. And so in comes talk. Lots and lots of largely meaningless talk. You won't remember any wonderful one liners or even the characters past the leads. And then the leads have ponderously bad decision making skills. Shoot somebody in a nightclub office, everybody is going to hear it.

It's not great, but it's not terrible, and to tell you the truth it is rather stiff and actually makes Prohibition era nightclubs seem boring. It does make me wonder - Why did George Raft think THIS was a worthwhile project but High Sierra and the Maltese Falcon were not? Whatever the reason I'm sure Humphrey Bogart was eternally grateful.

Probably worth it for the film history buff who has seen the original 1929 Broadway and for people who are interested in the complete filmography of George Raft. I would take off at least a star from my rating if it were not for those connections.

Gunsmoke: The Cabin
Episode 24, Season 3

Batman syndrome is on full display here...
... What is Batman syndrome you ask? Suppose you are a really evil villain. You have a powerful gun trained on the good guy who is intent on taking you to face justice. Your choices as the villain are:

A. Shoot the good guy with no further talk or thought about it.

B. Yammer at the good guy while battering a hostage you already have until the good guy gets the drop on you probably with the help of the hostage who hates you too.

In 1950s and 1960s TV the bad guy always lost, so they usually picked B, although not with the flair of the villains on the old Batman TV show, but I digress.

There is a blizzard blowing in Kansas, and Matt Dillon, returning from business in Hayes City, seeks shelter from the storm in an isolated cabin. Unfortunately the cabin is harboring two really nasty fugitives from justice. One is rather simple minded, the other is a sadist who is saddled with the aforementioned Batman Syndrome.

This episode has very little action and practically no Doc, Kitty, or Chester. But then the claustrophobic episodes of Gunsmoke tend to be the best. And at the end there is a conversation about a subject that was rarely broached on TV unless it was in a Western, and the impact on the victim in the aftermath of the crime is handled in a very sensitive and realistic way.

That's one reason there were so many westerns and science fiction shows and movies in the rather sterile 1950s. If the censors said - Hey! You can't talk about social problems here! Then the writers could say - We're not talking about modern issues! This a western!

Also keep a look out for Harry Dean Stanton 28 years before he was Pretty in Pink. Highly recommended.

Gunsmoke: Doc's Reward
Episode 14, Season 3

Another look at the soul of a pioneer doctor
Doc Adams is riding out to tend to a very sick man, but along the way he encounters a stranger who insists Doc must turn around and go back to Dodge or else he'll kill his horse so he can go no further. Doc says if he does that he'll shoot the man. The man does shoot the horse and Doc does shoot the man dead. He then goes on to the sick man's house, but he dies anyways.

There was no witness to what happened, just the aftermath and the dead man's body. Doc tells Matt how everything happened and said it was not self defense and wondered if he would be tried for murder. Matt says he would never arrest Doc, that what he did actually was in defense of another - the sick man he was trying to save. The problem is, word gets around Dodge City as to what Doc did and now people treat him differently because they feel that Dillon is bending the law for doc. I found this odd since the people of Dodge City know Doc's dedication to medicine and healing, and yet you'd think Doc shot a long standing member of the community for snoring the way they give him the cold shoulder.

But among the stares there is one particularly troubling one. A stranger is following Doc around and won't state his business in town.

It's one of the few Gunsmokes where you really get inside Doc's head. He really is a man of peace and healing, and even a killing he had to do in defence of that healing is something that eats at him.

Gunsmoke: The Photographer
Episode 28, Season 2

Anachronisms abound in this tale with villain so round
In an episode from just the previous year, "Chester's Mail Order Bride", there was a plot device that I thought curious at the time. Chester had been writing to a young lady back east, and now she was coming to visit, with matrimony being a possible outcome. The problem was that Chester had sent her a picture of the tall and handsome Marshall Dillon rather than one of himself.

But what did they mean by "picture"? This could only mean two things. Prior to photography wealthy people would commission portraits of themselves. I can hardly see Chester hiring an artist and sitting for a portrait, complete with pipe, hunting dog, and family crest. OK, I can see it, and I am bent over laughing at the idea.

That means Chester had sent her a photograph of Marshall Dillon at a time when photography was a novel thing and the resulting clunky tin types were hardly something you'd pop into the U. S. mail and expect to arrive in one piece.

So a year later, along comes this episode with an eccentric photographer bringing to town what appears to be the first camera that the people of Dodge City have ever seen. They react as expected, with wonderment and curiosity. So it is obvious that neither Chester nor Marshall Dillon have ever had a photo taken of themselves. The problem is that the photographer, played by Sebastian Cabot, is so anxious to capture scenes of the wild west that he is willing to stage incidents, and the incidents he wants to stage are increasingly violent. Some Indians who are passing through believe the strange box may steal their soul, and in the case of the photographer they may very well be right. How does this work out? Watch and find out.

I'm sure that when Gunsmoke first came on the air the thought of these episodes being in reruns 65 years later or immortalized in digital format never occurred to anybody, so I am willing to cut the anachronisms some slack, still it is amusing.

Elephant Walk

Rather like Rebecca, except with elephants....
... with Abraham Sofaer as a kinder gentler Mrs. Danvers.

John Wiley (Peter Finch), a Ceylon (Sri Lanka today) planter, is in London. While there he meets and marries a bookstore clerk, Ruth (Elizabeth Taylor) and brings her back to his estate - "Elephant Walk". But once home John begins to change. He seems haunted by the specter of his father, Tom Wiley, a harsh man who built Elephant Walk - named such because it is literally in the path of the historic elephant path to water. John drinks heavily, broods, and parties all night with a bunch of fellow planters, barking at Ruth if she complains. The supervisor of all the servants - Appuhamy - gets up every morning and talks to the grave of John's father, Tom, mentioning that he does not like Ruth, and that her ways are cold and distant. Appuhamy should know because he is cold and distant to Ruth, who only wants to take her place as running the household, but between Appuhamy, her distant husband, and the ghost of her father-in-law she is pretty much ganged up on. So let's also throw in that this movie is somewhat like "Giant " too in that regard.

But a ray of sunshine is the presence of an Elephant Walk foreman, Dick Carver (Dana Andrews) who falls in love with Ruth at first sight. Ruth wants her marriage to work, but between a foreman with bedroom eyes, a very haunted and brooding husband, epidemics and elephants, her path is a hard one. How will this work out? I'd say in a visually spectacular way for the time, yet utterly predictable.

Paramount certainly put energy into designing Liz' fashions. While they were at it they should have maybe put more money into shooting on location. There are shots that are clearly on location in Ceylon. But then they will intersperse those shots with those that are obviously on some Hollywood lot with back projection of the countryside. When Liz and Dana Andrews take a horseback ride through the plantation, the cheesiness of the back projection ventures into Ed Wood territory.

There is an interesting backstory to the making of this film. Apparently Vivien Leigh was originally supposed to have the part of Ruth, but illness prevented it. At age 40 she would have looked almost as odd as the fresh young bride as Liz would have looked in1939 as Scarlet O'Hara given she was seven at the time.

In spite of good performances by the entire cast, the sum of the thing is rather hokey and overwrought. Still, since all but the "tent pole" studio era films made by Paramount are hard to find, I'd say give it a look if it ever comes your way.

Gunsmoke: Cain
Episode 24, Season 2

Did Hitchcock write this one?...
... because it has a kind of just irony to it that made it very enjoyable.

A musician, Cain, comes to Dodge City on the stage and goes to see Doc Adams. He is dying of heart disease and has only a short time to live. He's a rather small likeable fellow, rather cultured, not from the west at all, but headed for Arizona. As an aside, perhaps Doc Adams is the reason that HIPPA privacy regulations came into being, because the reason the audience knows all of this about Cain is that Doc is talking to Matt and Kitty about the details of the case. If there had been X-Rays at the time I wouldn't be surprised if Doc and some stray cowboys would have been discussing Cain's internal organs over a beer. But I digress.

But suddenly Cain changes his plans, decides to stay on in Dodge AND he buys a gun and gets Chester to show him how to use it. Matt is perplexed and goes and asks the guy why he bought a gun. Cain is not forthcoming at first, but then he finally tells Matt that he plans to kill a gunslinger and gambler around Dodge named Adams. Cain says he realizes Adams (no relation to Doc Adams) might kill him in a gunfight, but he might also kill Adams if he sneaks up on him and shoots him in the back. Matt mentions he will hang for that. Cain says that he will die in two months time anyway so what does he care. Cain says he has his reasons for hating Adams enough to kill him but will not state what those reasons are.

Matt does warn Adams about this, not because he likes him, but because it is his duty. It does make Adams nervous that somebody might come up behind him plus he has no idea who Cain is. Let's just say psychologically Cain plays Adams like a violin. You just don't see this kind of rather complex irony on Gunsmoke that often.

Adam-12: A Clinic on 18th Street
Episode 24, Season 6

You can't win them all...
... and Jack Webb did win lots of them, as in hit TV shows including his own long running TV show in two incarnations - Dragnet as well as Adam-12 and Emergency!.

This had to be a pilot for a proposed Webb series that never took off. Officers Malloy and Reed investigate the death of an elderly diabetic man from hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and his death is traced back to the use of some quack medical device that he was told by a quack doctor could substitute for his insulin injections. Except that the diabetic is not around to actually tell anybody this. The case is then handed off to a team of prosecutors and the regular Adam-12 cast disappears for the rest of the episode. That is part of the reason I think it was a pilot for a proposed series. The other reason is that the "guest cast" is just too consequential for it to be just another episode of Adam-12.

Jack Webb practically had his own stock company of supporting players. But here they have Ed Nelson as the head prosecutor and Frank Sinatra Jr. And Sharon Gless as the young assistant prosecutors. The cinematography gets cheesy as there are over the top melodramatic close-ups at key moments just in case the direction, acting, or script doesn't cue the audience in that this is an over the top melodramatic moment. Then towards the conclusion prosecutor Nelson breaks into a classic sneering Jack Webb style speech. It comes across as a bit hammy and made me appreciate Jack Webb's ability to pull of this kind of performance even more.

The odd thing? The weird belt that the diabetic fatally depended upon to control his blood sugar may have looked ridiculous in 1974, but today it eerily looks like the insulin pump belts worn by type one diabetics that perform continuous glucose monitoring and insulin injection. Minus, of course, the goofy blinking lights straight out of an Ed Wood movie.

Worth it for the novelty of it all.

Gunsmoke: The Cover Up
Episode 16, Season 2

Character study that makes no sense...
... plus Matt Dillon, in his weekly prologue as he walks through the graves of Boot Hill gives the entire plot away with just one not so subtle line.

This is a half hour show at this point, so there is no time to clearly demonstrate that Sarah Baxton is and always has been madly in love with her husband Sam Baxton, although he at least verbally abuses her and seems to love only money.

One squatter on the Baxton ranch plans to shoot another squatter because his cow ate his corn. Matt stops the shooting. So later when the original target of the other squatter's wrath is shot on his front porch, Matt figures he knows who did it. But THAT squatter is dead on his front porch too!

At this point Matt figures that the shooter must be Sam Baxton, and he arrests him and takes him into Dodge, only to find out that a third squatter on Baxton's land has also been shot dead and that the fourth and final squatter is leaving before he ends up dead. With Sam Baxton in jail, he could not be the shooter of the third squatter, so Matt plans a trap to catch whoever the murderer might be.

Of course the question I have is - If Baxton has four squatters on his ranch, why didn't the law toss them out? Didn't they leave Baxton with no way to defend his property rights? There is no explanation of this whatsoever other than to call the squatters "homesteaders". As a native of Texas I am familiar with the old homestead laws. Some of their customs reach into 21st century Texas law. But in order to claim the land of another as a homestead the original owner had to basically abandon the land and the homesteader had to continually occupy that abandoned land and improve it. You just couldn't move into land on somebody's working ranch and "claim this land for Spain" so to speak.

Also in this episode I notice something that Matt and Kitty definitely have in common - they both love a good bit of gossip. Considering both of them require being able to read people in their respective lines of work, this probably should be no surprise.

This episode seemed rushed and patched together, but the main characters are always a joy to watch.

Gunsmoke: Cow Doctor
Episode 1, Season 2

A seemingly pointless episode...
... because we already know what is revealed here about Doc Adams.-Though usually stoic he can be riled, and he takes his oath very seriously. Doc goes out on a case and finds a farmer who wants him to tend to his sick cow. He makes a point of saying that he would never trust a doctor to work on a human member of his family. While Doc is out there, a woman falls through a window in Dodge City and bleeds to death because Doc was not there. Doc is so mad when he hears the news that he punches the farmer, who reciprocates by stabbing him.

At the end of the show the farmer's wife says of her husband - who has stabbed Doc, insulted Doc, and says he will not pay Doc although Doc never brought up the subject of payment - that she is...proud to have him in her house??? The end??? What the???? Heck of a way to start off season two. In Gunsmoke's defense I will say that at this point the Gunsmoke team has been producing a new episode almost every week for a year. So maybe they are entitled to a dud after so much heavy duty production for so long.

Gunsmoke: Chester's Mail Order Bride
Episode 34, Season 1

On-line dating Dodge style...
... in which the primary problem with such long distance romances emerges - when one or both parties exaggerate or maybe outright lie about their finer qualities. In this case, Chester has sent the girl back east to whom he has been writing a picture of Matt Dillon while passing it off as a picture of himself. And now she is coming all of the way from Philadelphia to meet Chester. Matt agrees to meet her at the railroad depot, but says Chester is going to have to do the explaining when he returns to Dodge with her. Armed with her photo so he'll recognize her, Matt gets a surprise himself. The girl Chester wrote sent him a picture of her better looking sister.

How will this all turn out? Watch and find out. It is one of early Gunsmoke's lighter episodes, which is usually the case when Chester takes center stage.

Also note that Kitty's look has changed. Up to now she has worn little extra makeup but wore extremely revealing clothing that made her look like just another saloon girl. Now she is sporting a more distinguished look in clothing, but her makeup is heavier and her mole makes its first appearance. And not the Soviet kind that everyone was paranoid about in the 1950s. This is probably done because she and Matt are having more and lengthier heart to heart talks, and there is occasional flirty talk that leads you to believe that Kitty is waiting for Matt to pop the question. Also, this gives Kitty more of the look of a proprietor of the Long Branch.

Gunsmoke: Doc's Revenge
Episode 29, Season 1

We get at least a little idea of Doc's past
Doc Adams is dispensing some free medical advice to Chester in one of the humorous heart to hearts the two often had when he recognizes one of three cowboys as Clem Maddow, somebody he knew years ago. Doc then says he is going to kill the man. He retrieves his Colt 36 from a file cabinet and clumsily loads it and heads out. Chester gets Matt who reasons with Doc and prevents him from shooting Clem.

But later that night a shot rings out and Clem is found in the street with a bullet in his back. Not only is Doc a suspect, he is the only physician in town and must tend to the gunshot wound of the man he wanted to kill. Meanwhile, Matt must figure out if it was somebody else trading on the known feud between Clem and Doc who shot Clem. If not, Matt may have just left a wounded man alone with a person who has tried to kill him.

Only at the very end does what happened between Clem and Doc come out. I'll let you watch and find out, but it might explain why Doc is a lifelong bachelor and why he became a doctor in the first place. You'll have to wait fourteen more years to find out Doc's actual first name though, but I will tell you it is not Cosmo.

Gunsmoke: The Big Broad
Episode 25, Season 1

Gunsmoke makes the transition from radio to TV...
... with this episode that relies so much on the visual and on the facial expressions of the cast rather than just dialog and anything you hear.

A rough Annie Oakley type, Lena Wave, comes to Dodge City with Emmett, a male companion who is a dealer. She plans to have a card game over at the Long Branch with Emmett as the dealer. But on top of being rough acting and talking, she walks the walk. As a result someone is shot dead for making advances to her. In the old west, that was considered just cause for being shot by the offended woman. But the partner of the dead man arrives in town and is looking for the person who killed that partner, not knowing the killer is a woman. In fact, the partner of the dead man seems to not know lots of things. The result is unexpected, but not entirely. This show may be set in the old west, but remember it was written in the 1950s!

The success of this episode rests very much on the reaction of the cast, not the least of which is Chester's frightened expression when he thinks Lena is about to beat him up in front of the entire town, Matt's alternately amused and frustrated reaction, and an overworked Doc who is dealing with the victims of Lena's beatings.

Gunsmoke: Reunion '78
Episode 20, Season 1

A great episode, but ...
... obviously nobody involved in television in 1956 anticipated prolonged reruns, DVDs, streaming, or very much analysis . In the episode prologue Matt Dillon walks through Boot Hill waxing philosophical. You can clearly see some of the death years on the tombstones. A couple of them read 1882 and 1883. The title of the episode is "Reunion 78" - as in 1878. The lead guest character talks about Quantrill's Raiders and the havoc they raised in Lawrence, Kansas as having occurred ten years before, which would make this 1873. So which is it??? If Marshal Dillon is "seeing dead people" ten years before their death, he indeed has a great burden. No wonder he is a serious man. But I digress.

A cowpoke and a girthy entrepreneur/salesman are engaged in what seems to be good natured conversation in a bar. But it turns out the cowpoke's family was killed in an attack by Quantrill's Raiders ten years before and the salesman has the identifying tattoo of Quantrill's Raiders on his arm. The cowpoke decides to force the salesman to drink himself to death as revenge, but Matt Dillon breaks this up. The disagreement moves outside and later the salesman and ex-raider is found shot dead by the cowpoke, who claims it is self defense. A saloon girl actually saw what happened, but for some reason does not want to talk. Earlier she had seemed to have recognized the cowpoke and retired to her room so the cowpoke could not recognize her in return. What goes on here?

Watch and find out what happened.

Gunsmoke: Matt Gets It
Episode 1, Season 1

Fairly simple for the premiere episode
This is basically just about Matt Dillon getting shot by an outlaw, and focuses on his recovery and when is it too soon for Matt to go back out after him. Not much meat on the bones.

What is interesting to see is how the characters evolve. In the beginning Matt is much more impulsive than he is even later on in the first season. Doc Adams is acting like some kind of surrogate father to Matt. And Miss Kitty acts much more involved with Matt than later on in the series as their relationship becomes very low key. You do see a start of what is one of the fun teams on Gunsmoke - well meaning Chester annoying the rather irascible but dedicated Doc Adams.

It does do a good job of adapting to TV something that had been a staple of old time radio. If you ever see any other radio shows adapted to TV, often the more pedestrian ones act like they are still on the radio. The actors AND the writers deal with dialogue that makes it seem like the audience cannot see them. Early talkies had a similar problem - Actors behaving like the audience could not hear them.

Adam-12: Training Division: The Rookie
Episode 8, Season 6

The un Barney Fife
Ed Wells, the obnoxious cop, is training a rookie. But the rookie is too hesitant to cover a suspect when he looks harmless. In one instance there is a bank robbery reported and the suspect is an old man just sitting in the bank. The rookie says the old guy looks harmless enough. And after talking to him he actually is just a very old man who has lost his wallet and therefore does not know who he is or where he lives. He went to the bank and handed the teller a note that said "Give me a million dollars". The old man's reasoning was that the bank had plenty of money and he would need that money to build a new home since he has misplaced the one he had. So the rookie feels justified.

The second time he takes this attitude is when the police are investigating a possible bomb being planted in a grocery store. The suspect takes off on foot and appears to take a hostage. But all is not as it seems.

So the problem with this rookie is that, unlike Barnie Fife from the old Andy Griffith show who always went off half cocked, the rookie is trying to make judgments based on how harmless suspects look, even against the instructions of senior officers. And it's not like the senior officers are telling the rookie to shoot the suspects, just cover them in case the suspects are indeed armed and dangerous.

One thing that Adam-12 is doing at this point is actually having pedestrians in the way as the police give chase. This would be the realistic situation, but previously TV shows had the streets as empty as they would be at 4AM.

Adam-12: Venice Division
Episode 5, Season 6

A forever unnamed mystery....
.... that being - Where did Reed's wife and child go? Mentioned frequently for the first couple of seasons, they seem to disappear into thin air. You even see them when Reed invites Malloy over for a cook out during season two. In this episode I notice Reed isn't even wearing a wedding ring. He was wearing one in the first few seasons. A similar mystery - Where did all of the hippies go? For the first few seasons they are always around - tuning out, dropping out, camping out, complaining about the man and materialism. Then, one day, all of a sudden they are all gone. I can actually solve that mystery. In January 1973 an agreement was reached on ending the Vietnam War. There would be no more draft. That's all the college age hippie children of the middle class had to hear. It was back to Harvard law and on to Wall Street. Suddenly materialism was not so crass anymore. That generation - the first wave of the baby boomers - went on to become the most prudish bunch of old people since the Pilgrims. They were constantly defining adulthood up to age -21, 23, 26 - You would have to be thirty before they would allow you to have the kind of fun they had at eighteen. But I digress.

In this episode you do see some expressions of what the hippies morphed into for those who were not rich enough to high tail it back to the Ivy League. There is a woman doing some nude sunbathing on the beach who claims she is a free spirit. She is annoyed when she is arrested because it turns out she thought that this would be an opportunity for some free publicity for her modelling career. It turns out that is not the case. There is also the case of the mentally deranged man who becomes obsessed with a total stranger. So you are now reaching a point in crime where the standard question is no longer - What was the motive? There's a good chance there was no motive and no link between criminal and victim.

As for Reed's incredible disappearing family - It turns out marriage and family were considered very square during the 70s. With Reed being a very good looking guy, I'm sure they would have written his character as a single man if they could have started over. And the team that brought you Adam-12 actually did that in 1972 with Emergency!. Randy Mantooth, a young good looking guy, is playing a single guy who has an active dating life. Malloy's counterpart - the rather gruff 30 something DeSoto - is the married paramedic on Emergency!.

Adam-12: Log 143: Cave
Episode 10, Season 2

An OK episode with an interesting tie to film history...
... one of those ties being that the director of this episode is Alan Crosland Jr., son of the early Warner Brothers Director Alan Crosland, who directed The Jazz Singer in 1927.

A more obscure tie in is with the 1955 spartan crime film "Gang Busters", which was actually an episode of a TV anthology turned into a feature film. The star of the film was Myron Healey as an arch criminal. His inmate fanboy and unintentional foil was played by Sam Edwards. And here they are in the same episode of Dragnet, although they really don't interact here. Both Myron Healy and Sam Edwards were practically part of Jack Webb's stock company of actors, and so both show up numerous times on Dragnet and Adam 12.

The Sopranos: College
Episode 5, Season 1

Note to Tony and Carmela - Don't kid yourselves
This is not the only time we realize these two are kidding themselves but it is probably the first.

Tony is motoring around New England taking Meadow to various colleges so she can tour them and talk to school officials so that she can decide where she wants to apply. Carmela is home recovering from the flu, when her priest comes by, seemingly always looking for good food and a good movie on laserdisc, the premiere video format of the time.

During this trip Tony sees someone he thinks is a "rat" - somebody in the mob who twelve years before turned state witness and sent a bunch of his crew to jail and then went into witness protection. Would Tony jeopardize not only a trip that is supposed to be about his daughter but perhaps his daughter's life to whack the rat? Of course he would! And there is no doubt that if Tony loves anybody, that he loves his daughter.

Carmela becomes all weepy with the priest, confessing that she knows living off of Tony's life of crime is wrong but that she is attracted to what is easy versus what is good. She gets in these confessional moods several times over the life of the series, especially when she is facing some kind of crisis, but nothing ever changes. Over the years she talks to at least one other priest and a therapist, but in the end she continues down the same path.

I feel that this episode is underrated as it may feel like filler, but it is in fact quite revealing. And it is probably the only time in which Ronald Reagan's lips have served as a plot device.

The Sopranos: From Where to Eternity
Episode 9, Season 2

The religious beliefs of Paulie Walnuts
This episode has lots going on in it, but I am going to focus on just one aspect - Paulie Walnuts' interesting version of religion.

Christopher awakes from his coma and says that he has been in hell, met his father there, and that he is going there when his time comes. And he has a message from beyond the grave for both Tony and Paulie with no further explanation - 3 o'clock.

We don't see Tony giving this matter any further thought. Throughout the series Tony is a practical guy, all about the earthly and what he can touch and see, seemingly just paying lip service to religion to humor Carmela. But Paulie - he has a bit of the peasant in him. He is very superstitious. He starts waking from nightmares - at 3AM.

His girlfriend tells him to go see a medium. He does that, and the guy the psychic was talking to before he gets to Paulie smacks of a "cold reading" - The psychic mentions vague details and causes the "mark" to reveal specifics that the psychic then plays off of to look realistic. After that the medium appears to see all of the people Paulie killed and gives details he could not have otherwise known. Unless your remember Paulie's girlfriend told him to go there and could have furnished the details and be working a con with the medium.

But any potential scam doesn't work out as Paulie gets scared, thinks the medium is legit, and storms out. He then goes to his priest and gives a hilarious speech where he indicates he will no longer be donating to the church since it has "left me unprotected". He apparently sees religion as a supernatural protection racket, and by his observation it has been "slacking off". This theme of fearful superstition is a recurring one for Paulie, but he missed one little detail - three o'clock can be a position as well as a time. And you'll need to watch four more seasons to get what I mean by that.


Between Dragnet and Emergency!...
... is this unfairly forgotten TV series that actually lasted longer than either series that chronicles the professional lives of two LA police officers as they patrol the streets.

This was one of several successful TV series that Jack Webb produced. From the start it dealt with modern topics while sticking with that buddy cop formula that Webb did so well. Also like Dragnet, one cop is single and one is married. This time, however, it is the rookie patrolman who is married and starting a family when the series premieres, and it is the older cop who is as close to a confirmed bachelor as you could be in 1968 without raising middle class eyebrows. There is usually one personal issue that the two cops discuss while on patrol as well as the following of a few cases that they encounter while on the job. You'll notice that the format is very similar to that of Emergency!

Jack Webb stays with the formula that served him so well - keep production costs down, use a core group of actors for supporting roles, have some entertaining conversational interplay between teammates, and keep the focus on the situation of the week. If you like Dragnet or Emergency! Give this old series a try.

The Sopranos: Sentimental Education
Episode 6, Season 5

Be careful what you ask for...
... coupled with "you can take the mobster out of the mob, but not vice versa". This episode is the tale of two totally unrelated characters on the Sopranos.

First, there is Tony Blundetto, recently paroled after 15 years in jail. He is burning the midnight oil studying for his state masseuse license and works for a laundry delivery service during the day. He passes his test, his boss at the delivery service sees something in him and offers to stake him in his own business, and it looks like he and his new girlfriend are getting along. And then one night someone in a speeding car throws a bag of drugs and money into the bushes as Tony and his girlfriend are walking along. They dump the drugs but keep the money for the new business. But then, Blundetto decides to hang out with the guys and do some gambling. Pretty soon he is back in the life - gambling all night, losing his money, fighting with the girlfriend, and his business plans go kaput.

In a completely unrelated story, Carmela starts up a romance with a counselor at AJ's school. She has somebody who listens to her, finds her attractive- This is what she has said she wants. . But she just can't help manipulating the guy into putting pressure on AJ's English teacher to give him a better grade than he deserves. And this causes the guy to end the relationship because he feels horrible about twisting the arm of that teacher. She was with Tony for so long that using all of the tools available to her has become second nature even if it drives people away.

In the end, Blundetto decides to get back into the mob life. Carmela decides that romance with a civilian on the straight and narrow is maybe not it is all cracked up to be. Both of these situations play right into Tony's hands.

The Sopranos: Irregular Around the Margins
Episode 5, Season 5

A high intensity episode
I have to admit it, in the first couple of seasons, I found scenes with Christopher and or Adriana at best mildly amusing and at worst somewhat boring. This begins to change in season four, and really does an about face in season five.

On paper this episode might sound preposterous and even ridiculous. But the writing, direction, and acting on The Sopranos not only makes the situation believable, it makes it compelling.

Tony has been hanging around Adriana's nightclub more, and the two begin to talk. Adriana's father has never really been in her life. Tony has lost the woman he is married to and can't get the woman he thinks that he wants. It just seems that Tony can't have a deep conversation with a woman without mistaking any connection made with love, and he begins to develop feelings for Adriana. One night after the club closes, Tony and Adriana are driving out to score some coke - and I don't mean the soft drink - when they have a one car accident that lands them both in the ER. Neither is badly injured, and Tony is without a scratch, bodily that is.

But the social damage is tremendous. The gossip starts to fly. Christopher knows his uncle's reputation with the ladies and goes full caveman. Even the FBI surveilling Tony are in on the joke. And then a way out of this mess comes from the oddest place - Tony's recently paroled cousin, Tony Blundetto.

This just goes to show that Tony is smart enough to see the consequences of his actions. He has just sat in Melfi's office a short time ago and laid out all of the reasons he should stay away from Adriana. But his appetites and passions always get the best of him.

The Sopranos: Whitecaps
Episode 13, Season 4

In so many ways Season Four seemed like a placeholder season...
... wedged between the story arcs of seasons 1-3 and seasons 5-6. Some of that may have been the long delay between seasons three and four, and some of it may have been the show trying to find itself in the wake of September 11 since the setting is in such close proximity to the tragedy. In true Sopranos style, however, Season Four went out with a bang.

Everything that's been simmering in the Soprano marriage for four seasons comes out in this one. Carmela's resentment of Tony's cheating and her loneliness. Tony's resentment of Carmela's materialism. This is excellent acting by James Gandolfini and Edie Falco. And when you are so busy processing the raw emotions of the disintegration of a marriage that you don't notice the director is even there, that is a sure sign of said director's success. And just because you are grown - Meadow - or almost grown - AJ - doesn't mean that your parents splitting up doesn't shake you to the core, eliminating something that you thought you could count on. That is realistically stressed here.

But even this episode has its light side. Tony Soprano wants out of a real estate deal and you think you are just going to keep his deposit? And threaten him with legal action? Seriously? Apparently Tony did go to college for a semester and a half - or maybe he just really understands what makes people tick - because he obviously does understand psychology.

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