Friday, March 22, 2013

sci fi's greatest actors

GREATEST SCIENCE FICTION ACTORS OF ALL TIME
RODDY MCDOWALL
The most famous non-human ape ever (after King Kong). And much more.
SCi FiLMOGRAPHY
-TWILIGHT ZONE "People are the Same All Over", Sam Conrad, 1960
-THE INVADERS "The Experiment", Lloyd Lindstrom, 1967
-PLANET OF THE APES, Cornelius, 1968
-ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES, Cornelius, 1971
-CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, Caesar, 1972
-BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, Caesar, 1973
-PLANET OF THE APES, Galen, 1974-
-THE FANTASTIC JOURNEY, Dr. Jonathan Willoway, 1977-
-BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY "Planet of the Slave Girls", Governor Saroyan, 1979
-THE BLACK HOLE, V.I.N.C.E.N.T., 1979
-THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES (mini-series), Father Stone, 1980
-QUANTUM LEAP "A Leap for Lisa", Edward St. John V, 1992
SIGOURNEY WEAVER
The big screen's most enduring sci fi heroine. I only mention her gender, because her gender was entirely irrelevant. Ain't that a beautiful thing? Her credits are thin, but GALAXY QUEST puts her over the top.
SCi FiLMOGRAPHY
-ALIEN, Ripley, 1979
-ALIENS, Ripley, 1986
-ALIEN3, Ripley, 1992
-ALIEN: RESURRECTION, Ripley, 1997
-GALAXY QUEST, Gwen DeMarco, 1999
-WALL-E, ship's computer, 2008
-AVATAR, Grace, 2009
MICHAEL DORN
The most conspicuous actor of sci fi's most conspicuous franchise.
SCi FiLMOGRAPHY
-STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, Worf, 1987-1994
-STAR TREK: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY, klingon defense attorney, 1991
-STAR TREK: GENERATIONS, Worf, 1994
-THE OUTER LIMITS "The Voyage Home", Pete Claridge, 1995
-STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, Worf, 1995-1999
-STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT, Worf, 1996
-STAR TREK: INSURRECTION, Worf, 1998
-THE OUTER LIMITS "Human Trials", Pete Claridge, 2002
-STAR TREK: NEMESIS, Worf, 2002
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER
I tried, i really tried, to not put him on this list. One doesn't get the sense that he cares about the genre, so his X factor is negative. But we must render unto S-Negger that which is S-Negger's.
SCi FiLMOGRAPHY
-THE TERMINATOR, terminator, 1984
-PREDATOR, Dutch, 1987
-THE RUNNING MAN, Ben Richards, 1987
-TOTAL RECALL, Quaid/Hauser, 1990
-TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, terminator, 1991
-THE 6th DAY, Adam Gibson, 2000
-TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES, terminator, 2003
AMANDA TAPPING
The michael dorn of the most conspicuous second-rate sci franchise ever. And a little more.
SCi FiLMOGRAPHY
-THE X-FILES "Avatar", Carina Sayles, 1996
-THE OUTER LIMITS "The Joining", Kate Girard, 1998
-STARGATE SG-1, Samantha Carter, 1997-2009
-STARGATE: ATLANTIS, Samantha Carter, 2005-2009
-STARGATE: UNIVERSE "Incursion", Carter, 2009 & "Air", Carter, 2010
-SANCTUARY, Dr. Helen Magnus, 2007-2011
-SPACE MILKSHAKE, Valentina, 2012
SCOTT BAKULA
The only actor to ever be the lead of two separate long-running sci fi series. One of them (not the one you think) was pretty bad...but his integrity and passion leap off the screen.
SCi FiLMOGRAPHY
-QUANTUM LEAP, Sam Beckett, 1989-1993
-ENTERPRISE, Jonathan Archer, 2001-2005
RICHARD LYNCH
The most conspicuous of the teeny handful of actors who notched appearances on all three of TV sci fi's holy trifecta.
SCi FiLMOGRAPHY
-BATTLESTAR GALACTICA "Gun on Ice Planet Zero", Wolfe, 1978
-BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY "Vegas in Space", Morgan Velosi, 1979
-GALACTICA 1980 "Galactica Discovers Earth", Xavier, 1980
-THE PHOENIX, Justin Preminger, 1981-1982
-TRANCERS II, Dr. Wardo, 1991
-STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION "Gambit", Baran, 1993
WILLIAM SHATNER
Is there any list he's not on?
SCi FiLMOGRAPHY
-SPACE COMMAND, 1953-
-TWILIGHT ZONE "Nick of Time", Don, 1960 & "Terror at 20,000 Feet", Bob, 1963
-THE OUTER LIMITS "Cold Hands, Warm Heart", General Jeff Barton, 1964
-STAR TREK, James Tiberius Kirk, 1966-1969
-STAR TREK (animated), Kirk, 1973-1974
-STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, Kirk, 1979
-STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, Kirk, 1982
-STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK, Kirk, 1984
-STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME, Kirk, 1986
-STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER, Kirk, 1989
-STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY, Kirk, 1991
-SEAQUEST 2032 "Hide and Seek", Milos Tezlof, 1994
-STAR TREK: GENERATIONS, Kirk, 1994
-TekWar, Walter H. Bascom, 1994-1996
-3rd ROCK FROM THE SUN, The Big Giant Head, 1999-2000
MICHELLE FORBES
Resume? Paltry. She even had a chance to be a regular on a sci fi series, and turned her nose up. Yet no other actor can claim iconic recurring roles on sci fi's two greatest franchises.
SCi FiLMOGRAPHY
-STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, Ro Laren, 1991-1994
-THE OUTER LIMITS "A Stitch in Time", Jamie Pratt, 1996
-BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, Admiral Cain, 2005-2007

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Muppet Show, season 3

KRIS KRISTOFFERSON & RITA COOLIDGE ***
A workmanlike season debut, highlighted by Rowlf & Fozzie's "An Actor's Life for Me", and the Electric Mayhem's "New York State of Mind".
LEO SAYER ***
Incandescent. If Leo's is just a name you're vaguely aware of, you're in for a revelation - he's absolutely brilliant, possessed of a stratospheric voice and beguiling presence. He performs "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing", "The Show Must Go On", and "When I Need You".
ROY CLARK ***
The brimmingly-talented Roy picks and fiddles and sings his way through "Rocky Top" and the touching "Yesterday When I was Young", while Fozzie has to do the work of all the stagehands as the theater catches on fire.
GILDA RADNER ***
Gilda plops in the night Dr. Honeydew's super-adhesive glue escapes the lab. She spends her most wonderful number, "Tap Your Troubles Away", glued to Beaker. What could be more perfect?
PEARL BAILEY ***
One hell of a performer. A straight-up gospel number feels a little strange in muppetland, but otherwise a charming entry. They do a repeat of the Rowlf/Fozzie number from Episode 1, curiously. The finale is a cornucopic jamboree, ostensibly the joust number from CAMELOT, but done with replacement songs they "could afford".
JEAN STAPLETON ***
Jean breaks free of her ALL IN THE FAMILY collar, to join in a charming slice of Muppetry. The highlight is Rowlf and Annie Sue doing "Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow Wow".
ALICE COOPER ***
How do you possibly put Alice on the Muppet Show? Pretty easily, actually. This one would fit beautifully on any Halloween marathon. You wonder whether he had any reservations about turning a genuinely dark number like "Welcome To My Nightmare" into a kid-friendly performance...but it works. Backstage, he looks for souls to buy. Silly fun, capped by a boisterous "School's Out for Summer".
LORETTA LYNN ***
The railroad station episode. With the theater being fumigated, it's the only alternate location they can find. Kermit and Gonzo get swept out of town, then return on a handcar...almost. If Loretta had packed a little more juice, this'n'd be four stars - the antics are seamless. You haven't seen music played, until you see a Muppet on slide guitar. Plus the original, actual Muppet babies.
LIBERACE ****
Was there ever a performer more born to be on this show? He does a concert that includes the only Muppet number ever done with no Muppet interaction. He plays Chopin, and "Misty", and sings a version of "Has Anybody Seen my Bird" that feels faintly indecent. The crew are at their hysterical best, including a mash-up of The Swedish Chef and Veterinarian's Hospital. And pay close attention...did you know Piggy could flip the hair out of her eyes?
MARISA BERENSON ****
Dancing russian pigs, a wig race in 1978 that somehow features Coolio's locks, and a "wedding sketch" between Kermit and Piggy that everyone but he knows is real...plus a guest star who might make you say "who?". But Marisa is a perfect part of this wonderful tapestry. She does a rendition of "You're Always Welcome at Our House" that blows your doors off, mostly because it seems far too demented for children. It's doubtful that this song (by Shel Silverstein) would ever make the airwaves today on a kid's show. But that was part of the genius of the Muppets...an ever-so-faint acknowledgment that we live in a world of dysfunctional perversity, which it does no one any good to hide from. Marisa, dressed as a little girl, sweetly sings of all the ways she kills and stores houseguests. There is an achingly subtle sexuality going on, as her legs are naked, and her dress a bit high. She also gives a look into the camera that's disturbing in just the right way. Amazing. At the end, will Kermit say "I do"? The final shot, of Statler and Waldorf throwing him out of their box, answers that question.
RAQUEL WELCH ****
Know how some things get built up so big, they can never possibly live up to their reputation? Raquel isn't one of those things. In this case, she takes a three-star episode and turns it into something else. She does a dance number with a spider that riffs on her cavewoman image...it's not subtly sexy, it's throat-drying sexy. Then she does a bosom-hugging duet with Fozzie, that's faintly sexy but all sweet. Except for Floyd's wit, the Muppets almost aren't worthy.
JAMES COCO ***
The darling Mr. Coco centers an entry that positively kabooms out of the gate, with an underwater version of "Octopus's Garden" that is perfection. James and Fozzie do an hysterical seance sketch. The episode loses steam...the finale is a performance of Randy Newman's "Short People" that doesn't do justice to the material.
HELEN REDDY ***
A Helen Reddy episode should soar, but somehow this one doesn't quite. The new character, janitor Beauregard, is charming though. The pigs doing "Stayin' Alive" as a riff on ill-fated french aristocracy is a bizarre delight. An impromptu duet between The Swedish Chef and Animal is wonky nirvana. And Helen's desert finale with a dancing camel, "We'll Sing in the Sunshine", shimmers.
HARRY BELAFONTE ***
The brilliant Mr. Belafonte lets his light shine, in his first-ever television performance of "Day-O".
LESLEY ANN WARREN ***
Care to see her burn the disco down? Check out her "Last Dance". And can someone tell me whether she gets her ass Muppet-smacked out of shot? I hit rewind three times.
DANNY KAYE ***
A brilliant night for Statler and Waldorf, as they abandon their box to watch the garbage in the alley. Onstage, Danny Kaye falls short of himself...but "Inchworm" is nice.
SPIKE MILLIGAN ***
Legendary british Goon comedian Spike lends his madcapery to a Muppet salute to the world (it turns out that all non-english speakers understand The Swedish Chef perfectly). There are two reasons this one may never again be aired...apparently, Spike wore a T-shirt with some foreign drug-related words that wouldn't get by the censor in english, and during the "It's a Small World" number, a Muppet appears in a burqa, the symbol of one of the most brutal enslavements in human history.
LESLIE UGGAMS & BIG BIRD **
An unoffensive effort that never quite lifts, in the big numbers. Leslie is fine, the fault isn't hers.
ELKE SOMMER ***
Elke is a delight. Another episode that would never make the air today, courtesy of the cigarette dangling from the mouth of Bobby Benson, bandleader of babies.
SYLVESTER STALLONE ***
I tried to give this one two stars, i really did. That's all it arguably earned. But Sly squeaks out too much sincerity and charm to be denied. Yes, he makes Raquel Welch look like Rita Moreno...but he doesn't overreach. And Dr. Bob is on top of his game.
ROGER MILLER ***
Roger's quirkiness fits right in. Cluckitis is going around, with everyone turning into chickens.
ROY ROGERS & DALE EVANS ***
How could Roy and Dale be anything other than a delight? Has yodeling become a lost art form? The finale, with happy trails and tumblin' tumbleweeds, deserves a spot in an all-time best Muppet montage.
LYNN REDGRAVE ***
As perfectly charming as any three-star effort will ever be. An episode-long recreation of the story of Robin Hood. Classic.
CHERYL LADD ***
But for some X factor or similar sizzle, this one is seamless four-star greatness. Cheryl is a revelation...CHARLIE'S ANGELS doesn't prepare us for this level of song & dance talent. Great numbers, too. She does "Sunshine On My Shoulders", Scooter does "There's a New Sound", and Piggy & Link do "True Love", as a slapstick Tarzan and Jane.

Friday, March 8, 2013

colonel wrob

Statue number five, come on down!
There is now a fifth unique life-size artistic recreation of me in the world. Continuing in the military vein (a source bursting with irony, given my status as an unrepentant pacifist), i've stepped into the persona of Colonel George F. McFarland, Civil War luminary of the Battle of Gettysburg (no, not Spanky, the other George McFarland). The statue will be unveiled July 1st as part of a commemoration of the 150th anniversary. It will stay on as a permanent exhibit in the Seminary Ridge Museum.
George lost a leg in the battle, and the statue depicts me post-surgery, surrounded by family (i was allowed to keep my own leg during the body-mold procedure). There is a bit of coincidence in my new artistic billet - one of my ancestors was a nurse at Gettysburg. Isn't it strange to consider that she might have treated George...and wonder what she would have thought to know that her great-great-great-grandson would one day be the image of that man projected to the world? It was my intention to take my family on a trip there this summer, without telling them beforehand about the statue...but the surprise probably wouldn't have worked. Given George's beard, complexion, and eyebrows, i might have had a hard time convincing anyone that the form underneath is me.
And i don't want to quibble...but they took off the WRONG LEG!! Should i call the studio, and demand they rectify this? What would George do?
My rise in the artistic military service is becoming well-nigh meteoric, going from buck private to naval lieutenant to army lieutenant colonel in just a few years. I shan't let my head swell at the thought of my impending ascension to generalissimo.

Monday, March 4, 2013

"Quantum Leap"

1989-1993
Classic television sci fi, right?
Wrong.
Painfully wrong.
I never watched QUANTUM LEAP when it first aired. I was never sure why, but now i know. Was it intuition, or the few brief glimpses i caught back then? Having now seen close to twenty episodes, i must sadly report that even in its best moments, it struggles to rise above second-rate. I'd always held hope in some back chamber of my mind - the premise and cast are wonderful! Quantum physicist gets caught in time leaps, landing inside the bodies of other people, ever hoping to return home. Could anyone want a more likable, talented lead than Scott Bakula (ENTERPRISE, AMERICAN BEAUTY)? Plus the inestimable Dean Stockwell (DUNE, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA)? How could it miss?
A pronounced lack of intelligence or vision, that's how.
The product of producer Donald Bellisario (MAGNUM P.I., JAG...plus a hand in the classic GALACTICA), LEAP got just a little better as the series progressed, but there were two albatrosses it never divested itself of. Firstly, the notion that a world-class quantum physicist would attribute unexplained phenomena to "god". A devout ditch digger? Sure. A religious roadie? Of course. But scientists are notoriously secular...one documentary filmmaker was excited to find just one top-flight astronomer who professed holy faith. Secondly, this show has all the romantic sophistication of mexican soap opera (that's not racist - moral defects are simply more apparent [and often hysterical] in a foreign tongue). So many of Sam's leaps revolve around some romance he has to set straight...make sure the girl doesn't marry the wrong guy, etc etc. General queasiness aside, i don't mean to quibble, but...if our heroine "avoids the abusive partner", what about the OTHER lucky woman who then falls into that guy's clutches, finding him more subconsciously angry at women than ever?
Beyond that, Stockwell's lecherousness was so overwritten he was forced into trying to give sincere performance to words appropriate only to farce.
And if the writers had a physics consultant on staff to give verisimilitude to the science, they ignored the heck out of her/him.
When i called it quits, it had gotten occasionally palatable enough that i briefly considered going back for it all (happily that feeling passed). After the first ten episodes, i was reduced to handpicking those with above-average potential (mostly because of guest stars). If you absolutely must indulge in a trip down QUANTUM LEAP Lane, here are the best i can offer. Personally, i'll content myself with watching Scott and Dean in ENTERPRISE's "Detained".
BEST LEAPS (season)
-"The Color of Truth" (1)
Sam leaps into the body of a black chauffeur in the deep south, 1955. The emotional impact is handled just right, and brought tears to my eyes.
-"Stand Up" (4)
As part of a Catskills comedy trio, Sam must get his partners to not self-destruct their romance, while protecting them from the mob. Memorable work by the sublime Mr. Bob Saget (AFV, FULL HOUSE) and Amy Yasbeck (WINGS, ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS).
-"Lee Harvey Oswald" (5)
Despite a lame ending, this leap into LHO's body is gripping and well-acted. Starring Willie Garson (SEX AND THE CITY, THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY) and Elya Baskin (MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON, THE NAME OF THE ROSE).
-"Leaping of the Shrew" (5)
Sam leaps into a greek sailor stranded on a desert island with an arrogant rich woman (Brooke Shields). Completely obvious, and even better than it sounds.
-"Nowhere to Run" (5)
Sam is a paraplegic vet who must prevent his roommate's (Michael Boatman - SPIN CITY) suicide. He also has to convince a hospital volunteer (Jennifer Aniston) to have his babies. Where does one sign up for this leap?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

coMedy

If you could only have one letter of the alphabet to represent all that's merry...
If you were marooned and could have only comedy that starts with one particular letter for the rest of your life...
If you had to come up with a title for a movie your director friend is hoping will be the comedy classic of the millenium...
If you had a child and were dying and knew that their comedic education hinged on one easily memorable memo...
If you were faced with those or other equally plausible scenarios involving comedy and one particular member of the alphabet...
Seek out the letter "M".
I'm no numerologist (or, mm, whatever the "letters" equivalent of numerology is), but if you only had the letter M for comedy, you'd be alright. I'm not saying M has magic powers of mirth, i'm not saying that comedy starts and ends between L and N, but...let's look at the evidence.
If you had only M comedy in your life, you'd have:
-Monty Python
-The Marx Brothers
-Mel Brooks
-MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000
-M*A*S*H
I defy you to come up with any letter that can roll out a five-tiered lineup that comes within a million miles. The first three entries alone probably make up close to half of the 25 funniest movies of all time. On what other letter would the Muppets, Mark Twain, and Moliere not even make the top five?? To say nothing of the Minor Masters - Eddie Murphy, Uncle Miltie, Marty Feldman, Bill Maher, Mad Magazine, MORK AND MINDY, Mary Tyler Moore, MXC, Mort Sahl, THE MUNSTERS, Matt Groening, MY FAVORITE MARTIAN, Martin and Lewis, MR. ED, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, MY THREE SONS, Moe Howard, MR. MOM, Matt Stone, MR. SHOW, Mark Russell, MY COUSIN VINNY, Mike Myers, THE MONKEES, Seth Macfarlane, and Minnie Pearl.
Which is not to say that M is the funniest letter.
That's obviously K.