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Banacek: The Three Million Dollar Piracy
Episode 3, Season 2

A rare miss on a Banacek
Most of the Banacek mysteries were very clever thefts where the plots that accomplished the theft stand up pretty well.

Not so much with this one, which would have involved everyone involved missing that a shipping container was still sitting in the spot it was supposed to have been moved from. And LOTS of people could have seen the "trick" that accomplished the theft. Plus, a later view of the pier didn't match the scene when the theft occurred.

It just didn't hold up. Possibly this is because the year was 1973 -- the year of the writers' strike. There were a LOT of very thin plots in TV shows that season, and a few of the Season 2 Banacek shows sadly suffer from that situation.

Come Live with Me

Great Classic
This is a charming movie for lovers of classics. Jimmy Stewart is Jimmy Stewart, and that's always good enough. Hedy Lamar is gorgeous, and does enough to sell her role. The dialogue is smart and at times surprising, giving me more than a few chuckles.

Possibly the most surprising element of the movie is the screen debut of Adeline De Walt, Reynolds, at age 78!!! Search her name and read the (paltry) Wiki bio. She was a remarkable person who I wish I could learn MUCH more about.

Christmas at Graceland

NOT going to be on our "every year list"
The movie is wretched.

The only conflict is the purchase of a small bank by a large bank. Yawn.

Everyone (but the big bank boss) is sickly sweet. If the writers had been barred from using "amazing", "thank you", and "absolutely", I honestly don't believe they could have finished the script. It's that bad.

Worst of all, I know Pickler has been a successful recording artist for years, and I'm even a country music fan, but her singing in the movie was like nails on a chalkboard to me. It literally made me cringe. Horrible.

Sexy Urban Legends

Not the best of "erotic" series
The stories in this series could be interesting. The sex scenes are par for the course for soft core.

The problem are the juvenile voiceovers. They're insipid and constantly spoil any mood the visuals might seek to create.

Try Paradise Cove or Bedtime Stories instead.

Columbo: Strange Bedfellows
Episode 1, Season 13

I've been a Columbo fan since the original series first aired. I even saw the TV movie that led to the series a few years later. Gene Barry was the murderer.

So I'm not prejudiced against the show.

This Columbo movie was mind-numbingly dull. George Wendt works best as a comedic talent. His performance here offered no appeal. His exchanges with Columbo were akin to two old men talking about lawns.

Additionally, many plot elements were just ridiculous. Columbo (and other police) collaborating with mobsters in assaults to tick a confession?


Magnum P.I.

Well, the premier wasn't terrible.
This Thomas Magnum is a LOT more serious than Tom Selleck's. I don't see no rubber chicken or gorilla mask in his future. The new character definitely has the reboot guy's hand all over him. He's more like the reboot Steve McGarrett.

The Higgins lady is disavowed MI6. So that was how they had her kick two Marines' asses despite being shot in the shoulder halfway through the fight.

At the risk of sounding sexist, they're going to have almost an impossible time depicting the Higgins relationship with a woman. Where Hillerman could rise to bouts of bombastic anger, it won't come off the same from a female character, and that's just the facts of life. To pull it off, they'll have to express her disagreement and antipathy towards Magnum in a completely different and original manner, and that manner did not make an appearance last night.

The title of the episode made no sense to this story. It harkened back to a very serious Magnum episode where Magnum and buddies conspired to kill a Russian murderer in cold blood. I was afraid this show would remake that two-parter, but without a few seasons of history to show the poignance of Magnum's one cold-blooded killing.

He did kill a bad guy (so did Rick), but they were shooting at him first.

The new Rick is a better actor than Larry Manetti, but who isn't? The new TC is a dud compared to Roger Mosley, though.

The new Magnum tried, but just doesn't have Tom Selleck's personality.

Buck Green and Lt. Tanaka made appearances, as did of course, The Lads. They were easily the equal of the original Lads, as hard as that might be to believe. But for Dobies, they are very slow. Tanaka and Buck Green were pale in comparison, although I thought the guy who did Buck Green was closest. Still, his scenes with Magnum were more "matter of fact" than the stern antipathy in the real show.

The relationship to Robin Masters was back-storied in a way that never happened in the real series. There will be no mystery about Higgins really being Robin Masters in this one. No "The Novels" vs "The Memoirs". Of course that was bogus in the real series, too. Late season writers evidently weren't aware of a couple of earlier season shows that destroyed the idea of Higgins as Masters ... even though that idea was introduced in possibly the best Magnum episode ever -- Magnum whistling the Colonel Bogey march as he blew up Higgin's balsa wood replica of the bridge over the River Kwai.

The Man Who Never Was

Sadly, an almost lost series
This was a very smart, entertaining series, and a great vehicle for Robert Lansing. It was all the more interesting for being filmed on location in Europe, at a time when very likely only this series and "I, Spy" were doing that.

Although the premise relied a bit too much on the unlikely coincidence that the spy's "double" should pop up to be mistaken for him just as he was about to be killed by an East German agent, we'll forgive the creators that bit of wild invention, as it made for an entertaining setting for the rest of the series.

The series had three problems:

First, it was a half-hour show in a genre that cried out for an hour-long format to fully develop the plot for each episode.

Second, It was put on the schedule opposite "Green Acres" at the height of that sitcom's popularity. "Green Acres" was a spectacular #6 in the Nielsen Ratings that season.

Third, it had no real lead in. It followed "The Monroes", another debut series with no following, which also lasted only the 66-67 TV season. "Green Acres", by comparison, had "The Beverly Hillbillies" as its lead in.

So "The Man Who Never Was" was doomed before they ran the first tape.

It appears that the only way to sample this fine show is via two composite movies where are currently available on Youtube.

"Danger Has Two Faces" includes parts of episodes 1, 2, 3, and 5. "The Spy with the Perfect Cover" includes parts of five later episodes.

Watch "Danger" first. Although the quality is terrible, it's still worth a look.

My Three Sons: Ernie and Zsa Zsa
Episode 21, Season 8

Zsa Zsa!
As her career progresses, it seems that Zsa Zsa Gabor played herself more often than fictional characters, and that was the case here.

Ernie, left alone for the day, decides to go exploring on his bike in the Hollywood Hills. Eventually afoot, he falls down a hill into a swimming pool ... Zsa Zsa's as it turns out. Uncle Charlie goes looking for Ernie, and Tramp leads him to Ernie's abandoned bike. Confusion ensues as Ernie can't reach anyone by phone, and eventually a search for him is commenced in the hills.

I found this episode of interest as several geographic clues are provided. I assume they are without accuracy, but let's pretend it's real, for fun.

1. Uncle Charlie reports that Ernie "crossed north of Sunset". 2. Ernie is in hills, looking down on a valley with expensive homes. 3. Zsa Zsa says "I knew I built my pool too close to the retaining wall."

Now, if Ernie headed straight for the hills from the south, crossing Sunset, that likely puts the Douglas house in West Hollywood.

There are three canyons in that area that have homes built along them. Examining the homes and streets with Google Maps, I can see only one home that really fits the definition of having a pool right up to a retaining wall. That house is on N Curson Ave.

Earlier in the season, there were scenes at the home of Katie's family in the area, and they were in Glendale. It seemed only a short trip from the Douglas house, which could also confirm West Hollywood.

Of course, we'll never find the Douglas house, since it was just a facade on the studio back lot. LOL

At least their house in California isn't a magic moving house like their original home in the Midwest (which was a few hours train ride outside of Chicago, and near both major airport and an Air National Guard airfield). The house in the Midwest, in the opening shot, was set back from the street with the driveway on the left. During the show, it was right off the sidewalk, with the driveway on the right.

77 Sunset Strip: Bonus Baby
Episode 13, Season 6

Below par
This was an above average episode for the otherwise poor season six. It still had cliché, gravelly voices, and terribly directed dialogue, but at least the story was better than "Five" and some of the other early episodes.

There is even a somewhat touching scene between a son and his adoptive father, upon the son learning of the adoption.

The blackmail plot involved here is pretty thin, though.

77 Sunset Strip: The Toy Jungle
Episode 11, Season 6

Almost old school
This episode is not unlike some of the earlier season episodes. Unfortunately, it is still badly written, and the depressing recharacterization of Stu Bailey continues.

Here, a man sees his wife with strangers at a party in a hotel room. She denies being his wife, and later his wife denies being in the hotel room. Bailey is hired to find out the truth. The convoluted story that follows is more silly than interesting.

The highlight is Bailey meeting the stenographer he's been dictating to on tape for the entire season. She's a cool blond with no interest in Stu.

77 Sunset Strip: Deposit with Caution
Episode 10, Season 6

More bad season six
The ruin of this show continues with an episode with an absurd premise. A cop is framed to discredit his testimony for the defense in a murder trial. That would never happen. If he could provide an alibi for the defendant, the DA wouldn't be going to trial. If the DA was going to trial, the cop wouldn't be torpedoing his case.

Just dumb.

Besides that, the cliché-riddled writing continues. At least we were spared the wretchedly written voice-over exposition that has plagued earlier season six shows.


High concept, high quality
Mannix was one of the top private eye shows of all time. Mike Connors did a great job in the role, and the writers always strove for creative plots that stretched the genre.

It was a rare series that never got old. The last few shows in the series were as good as the first few shows.

In the first season, Mannix worked for a high tech agency, and was the maverick among their investigators.

They decided to move him out on his own, which eliminated some very interesting character struggles, but also introduced the wonderful Gail Fisher as his secretary, Peggy. She was worth losing the Intertec character conflict.

Mannix: Search for a Dead Man
Episode 23, Season 8

Very interesting
In the next to last episode, the Mannix writers came up with a very interesting concept. A hit man makes a hit, and the body disappears. he can't get paid until he proves the target is dead, and he hires Mannix to prove the target is dead!

John Hillerman plays the hit man, and does a fine job. Still, you can't help but see Higgins. LOL

Hidden agendas and a stunning femme fatale make this a show not to miss.

Mannix: Hardball
Episode 24, Season 8

Still fresh
A lot of TV shows get stale and repetitive after a few years.

Not Mannix.

The last few episodes of Mannix, to my taste were some of the most interesting of the series.

In this episode, William Windom is a very bad guy. John Ritter is a complete amoral member of his team, who is quite happy to stab him in the back at the same time he romances his daughter.

Mannix winds up in a room with Windom and two of his gang, with Art Malcolm gut shot and bleeding on the floor. Sadly, the last we see of the series is Malcolm being taken off in a stretcher, although every indication is that he'll survive.

In between, Mannix has to deal with multiple bad guys with competing motives, and eventually try to get the hostages out alive.

A very entertaining episode.

77 Sunset Strip: By His Own Verdict
Episode 9, Season 6

Yet another of the miserable stories which characterized "season six" of what used to be 77 Sunset Strip.

After an attorney wins acquittal for his client, the man admits to having committed the murder. The attorney, a friend of Stu Bailey, becomes obsessed with proving the man guilty and seeking his own form of justice.

Bailey is tasked with finding any information at all to redeem the suspected murderer. He does a lot of running around talking, but never really gets anything accomplished.

The premise of this story had promise, but was completely bungled. There are no sympathetic characters here, including Bailey. Zimbalist had been reduced in this season to a never-ending series of pained looks, wretched voice overs, and pointless errands.

77 Sunset Strip: Don't Wait for Me
Episode 8, Season 6

More Season 6 failure
In a story wondering whether a teen girl's shooting injury is self- inflicted or not, Stu Bailey gets involved to prove her troubled boyfriend's innocence.

The story is a high-wire act where the performer falls and breaks all his bones. The plot makes little sense. The acting is overwrought. The dialogue is both pretentious and cliché-ridden. That is the pattern for the wretched "make over" of the series which got it canceled.

Once again, it is obvious that Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. is finding no joy in this role, as Stuart Bailey has been reduced to bad wisecracks and terribly written voice overs.

77 Sunset Strip: 88 Bars
Episode 7, Season 6

Decent story, bad Bailey
After the abysmal "5" five-parter to open the sixth season. this episode at least somewhat returned to the style of story that made the series a success.

Unfortunately, the character of Stuart Bailey is still unrecognizable, having been reduced to cheap-detective clichés and time-worn quips. Zimbalist looks absolutely miserable in this role. The witty, intelligent, urbane Stuart Bailey has been reduced to a bitter, boringly sarcastic zombie.

The quick demise of the series after this disaster of a "revamp" proves my analysis.

77 Sunset Strip: 5: The Conclusion
Episode 5, Season 6

This five part opener to season six just got worse and worse as it went on. Jack Webb's demand for featureless acting made it dull. The writers' lazy reliance on tired cliché made it tedious. And the decision to copy bad 30s and 40s film noir made it depressing.

However, the whole story made little sense when they "tied it together". Nothing Bailey's original client did made any sense. Why hire a private detective to investigate things that you don't want investigated? LOL Pitiful.

It's very sad. When I saw this fiver-parter coming up, my wife and I were looking forward to it. Finishing this mess turned out to be an exercise in tenacity. We kept hoping for improvement that never happened.

77 Sunset Strip: 5: Part 2
Episode 2, Season 6

Lost charm
To start off with, this series is no longer 77 Sunset Strip at this point. It's a clichéd rip-off of cheap 30s and 40s film noir. Stuart Bailey is just a name. The character has none of the life and charm Zimbalist brought to the role through the first five seasons.

This disaster has Jack Webb's "style" written all over it. Guest stars under his direction in Dragnet frequently reported that Webb would tell them "Just say the lines", and get irritated if they tried to put any life into them. That's pretty much the drill here, too. William Conrad, as the director, allowed a little bit of life to slip into the characters, but not much.

The dialogue and the plotting are filled with tired clichés that had been wrung dry long before the early 60s.

The frequent voice overs, though competently performed by Zimbalist, are wretchedly written. The sage advice of "show, don't tell" is often completely ignored.

The impressive array of guest stars is completely wasted. They are shoe-horned in as "characters" with long, irrelevant soliloquies that are supposed to be clever, but just fill time in an irritating fashion. This happens in scene after scene.

The one "emotional" scene in the episode was allowed to William Shatner, who chews it up in an overwrought delivery that seemed very inappropriate to the circumstance. But then he was given terrible dialogue to work with.

This "part two" of the five part series to open the season is even worse than part one was. You can see my review of it for more detail.

Very sad.

77 Sunset Strip: 5: Part 1
Episode 1, Season 6

77 Sunset Strip in name only
While there is some praise for the last season of 77 Sunset Strip, it is obviously misplaced. The show only got an order for about half the episodes of seasons one through five, and then it was gone.

The iconic theme song was replaced by a drab James Bond wannabe composition. The colorful co-stars -- gone without explanation. In the first show, Bailey claims to be broke.

While the series always threw in a few noir plots, the last season seems dedicated to that, with drab voice-over exposition and a constantly dark look.

We can blame Jack Webb for much of this. His vision of TV worked OK for Dragnet. It torpedoed 77 Sunset Strip and sent it straight to the bottom. When a series has a loyal following for five years, it's sheer folly to turn everything on its ear. Possibly the desire to bandwagon the spy craze spelled the end for Sunset Strip just as it did for Burke's Law. Sad. However, this season really didn't even manage that. All they managed was to copy cheesy 30s and 40s noir film.

Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. looks miserable and out of sorts for this entire episode. With his co-stars and friends axed and the premise ruined, I'm sure he was at odds with the changes and felt the death grip of tanking ratings closing about the throat of the series. Even the character of Stuart Bailey is present in name only, with lines completely foreign to the character's history.

This show was the first of a five part episode, and the supporting cast is deep and impressive -- but ultimately wasted with the depressing plot and shady characters.

The Orville

Pretty lame first episode
I suppose that if you're a die hard Seth MacFarlane fan, and think 5th grade potty humor (sometimes literally) makes for superior comedy, this show might have you doubled over in laughter and quivering for more.

For people who like comedy with some clever thoughts and actual timing, this won't cut it.

It seems like MacFarlane was funny once upon a time. Now it seems like he's got nothing left but juvenile, clichéd jokes with glacial pacing.

Other than the claim of parody, I don't see how such a blatant Star Trek rip-off can reasonably survive without getting sued. And this is not a Star Trek rip-off in a good way. And by the way, the original Star Trek knew how to do comedy when they decided to. If this show were a stand-up comic, it would play to a dead crowd and eventually be beset by hecklers.

Special effects are clean, but very, very cheap. They have nothing of the detail that has been state of the art for at least the last 30 years. They remind me more of digital effects in The Last Starfighter, which were revolutionary 34 years ago, if you get my drift.

77 Sunset Strip: Flight 307
Episode 25, Season 5

A dud
We were surprised with the episode "Nine to Five", which was three episodes prior to this one. Speculation runs that it was a pilot, and I think for an anthology series. This looks to be another audition for that series, as again Stu Bailey is relegated to a very minor role and almost no screen time.

But where "Nine to Five" was entertaining, this story was merely irritating. None of the characters were likable or really even sympathetic. Two weak stories came together at the end, and there was no reason to care. Oh, Stu helped catch a bad guy.

Even a 77 Sunset Strip completist can safely give this dud a pass.

77 Sunset Strip: Nine to Five
Episode 22, Season 5

Bailey's bit part
"Nine to Five" sounds suspiciously like the name of a proposed series, and everything about this show would make you believe that it was a pilot squeezed out of 77 Sunset Strip.

Stu Bailey is in NY delivering an investigative report to an old friend. The old friend, Richard Long, was of course part of Bailey and Spencer for a season a couple of years before this episode. His character is dealing with a shady partner that he wants to buy out, a wife who can't decide between moving out and moving in, and a secretary with a big crush on him, and a bit of larceny in delivering a message that might help his marriage. Stu delivers sage advice to help on the marriage front.

With the title, the way this story wrapped up neatly, and the way the camera pans up the outside of a huge office building at the end, my guess is that this was to be an anthology series, where each episode would have centered on different characters in the building. I can't see the characters and situations in this story as a continuing series, which led me to that conclusion.

So while this was an odd 77 Sunset Strip story, I like anything with Richard Long and Diane McBain -- two charming actors who always delivered pleasing performances.

Mission: Impossible: The Town
Episode 21, Season 2

Impromptu mission
Forgiving a couple of practical issues, this is a great episode.

Jim Phelps stops in a small town for a drink and witnesses an accident that the townspeople suspect might give a clue to their real status -- a Russian cell cluster with the goal to assassinate selected targets.

Luckily for the USA, it's an IMF mission leader who stumbles upon this, and not just some random traveler! ;-)

When Roland goes searching for the missing Phelps and is told he has had a stroke, he discovers the truth and calls in the cavalry. Somehow, they are all able to get set up and get there in a matter of a few short hours, comfortably in time to save Jim and foil the plot.

The unsuspecting spies are no contest for the slick IMF group.

So while the coincidence and time scale may be unbelievable, this is a very fine, tense episode. Just sit back and enjoy it for what it is, and don't think up too many question! LOL

77 Sunset Strip: The Duncan Shrine
Episode 10, Season 3

For the completist
As much as I like Richard Long, he didn't add much to 77 Sunset Strip. His performances just didn't have the lively quality of Ephram Zimbalist or Roger Smith.

This episode isn't one of the better stories. The motives for a murder and attempted murder are a bit weak, and the mystery just isn't all that compelling.

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