Sunday, December 18, 2016

greatest sci fi shows of all time

1 - STAR TREK (1966-1969)
Any other choice would be illogical...and dispassionate.
2 - STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (1987-1994)
Lightning never strikes...thrice?
3 - FIREFLY (2002-2003)
Maybe they would have gradually run out of creative juice, and been merely good by the third season? One reaches for consolation as best one can.
4 - BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978-1979)
Great characters, great drama, great visuals, great writing...you had us at frak.
5 - BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY (1979-1981)
Top five, despite a titanic (in the unfortunate sense) second season.
6 - STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE (2001-2005)
Does bakula not realize how superior this is to his other sci fi series? Do you?
7 - STARGATE: UNIVERSE (2009-2011)
Sharp, dark, and desolate. The franchise kept on getting better...yet progressively less successful.
8 - SPACE: 1999 (1975-1977)
It has it all...smarts, chemistry, and classic visuals. They overhauled season 2 (with hoary hollywoodization, in this case)...though not nearly so painfully as #s 4-5.
9 - STAR TREK: VOYAGER (1995-2001)
A little flaccid the first three seasons, but it soared the rest of the voyage home.
10 - LAND OF THE LOST (1974-1977)
Why did holly and cha-ka never get a spin-off?
11 - THE BIONIC WOMAN (1976-1978)
It outshines the parent show because of the humanist touches mandated by star lindsay wagner.
12 - CAPRICA (2009-2010)
After a snoozy start, it blisters with brains and brawn.
13 - STAR BLAZERS (1979-1984)
We're getting to the point where chemistry or charm overcome substance deficits...i could perhaps even be taken to task for padding the list, but this one's a guilty pleasure. Have they released the unexpurgated version yet?
14 - PLANET OF THE APES (1974)
Not brilliant...but charming as heck. The irrepressible roddy mcdowall joins ron harper, the only actor to appear twice on this list (and you thought it would be michael dorn).
15 - LOST IN SPACE (1965-1968)
Mindless, but masterful in premise, performance, and characterization. Couldn't we all use a robot who shouts "danger"? My romantic life would benefit tremendously.
16 - BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004-2009)
Had it ended after two seasons, it would have placed higher than the classic. Plus, they never once say "felgercarb". I mean, that's just phasering yourself in the foot, right?
17 - STARGATE: ATLANTIS (2004-2009)
Great characters, great drama, great action, good writing...
18 - WONDER WOMAN (1975-1979)
NOT a sci fi show...but apparently the producers didn't get the memo. See episodes 10-11,24-25,35,43,50,51, and 56-57.

Caveat: this reviewer hasn't seen BLAKE'S 7, MAX HEADROOM, TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES, SANCTUARY, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, DOLLHOUSE, LAND OF THE GIANTS, DARK ANGEL, THE CHAMPIONS, TORCHWOOD, THE PRISONER, any anime since 1984, or either OUTER LIMITS.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

funniest shows of all time

1 - MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS (1969-1974)
Is it possible to be the silliest AND smartest comedy ever? Is that even fair?
2 - WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY? (1988-2006, 2013-?)
The british version is superior, but the american is top-ten too. Anderson, proops, slattery, stiles, mochrie, carey, brady, tyler...
3 - POLICE SQUAD! (1982)
The ZAZzy mr. nielsen, surely the greatest comic lead ever.
4 - CHAPELLE'S SHOW (2003-2006)
Season 2, the funniest comedy season ever.
5 - DA ALI G SHOW (2000-2004)
Python intelligence plus smothers audacity equals the most animated laugh responses ever.
6 - MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 (1988-1999)
It transcended its subject matter by tapping into the only sane response to this world...make fun of it 'til you drop. Joel is the gold standard during the host segments...but when the films roll, the mike years don't drop off one bit.
7 - THE DAILY SHOW WITH JOHN STEWART (1996-2015)
Transcendent wit meets unrelenting writing.
8 - SOAP (1977-1981)
The greatest comedy ensemble ever.
9 - AMERICA'S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS (1989-?)
Saget is the gold standard, and not just because he hosted drunk toward the end. But bergeron is bearable, and even fugelsang/fuentes were forgivable. The funniest clips never become finalists, but like another show, the points don't matter.
10 - M*A*S*H (1972-1983)
Even when they got serious, they found a higher standard of funny than any sitcom ever.
11 - THE MUPPET SHOW (1976-1981)
The only chef ever to outshine julia, plus the greatest peanut gallery of all time.
12 - THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JOHNNY CARSON (1962-1992)
He made pretenders out of all who came before. Or after.
13 - THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW (1967-1978)
Conway cracking up korman - a lightning strike of which we've never again seen the like.
14 - MATCH GAME (1973-1982)
Nelson. Reilly. Charles (for brevity's sake, i wanted to go with just those three words, but it would be irresponsible to not mention the gene/charles/brett/richard chemistry, which was the difference between brilliant and olympian).
15 - SEINFELD (1989-1998)
The greatest comedy co-leads ever.
16 - THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW (1992-1998)
Rather than be another johnny-come-lately (and having no chance of making this list), shandling took his insider's knowledge and seamlessly subverted the genre.
17 - THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR (1967-1970)
The most fearless comedy ever.
18 - SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (1975-?)
With apologies to mr. wheat and ignorant sluts, laugh for laugh, the greatest season was the crystal/guest/short/shearer one-off.
19 - ALL IN THE FAMILY (1971-1979)
Hear that toilet flush? That's the sound of sitcoms never being the same again.
20 - I LOVE LUCY (1951-1957)
The greatest television physical comedian ever.
21 - YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS (1950-1954)
"This is Your Story" - the first to ever hold the title "greatest sketch ever", and sixty years later still a contender.
22 - CPO SHARKEY (1976-1978)
Just kidding, you hockey pucks.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

bonobo tears

"The only people who are alone, are those who choose to be."
-dr. jane aloycius o'mccorkleschlatt

Dr. jane's point is that even at your loneliest moments, there is always SOMEBODY out there who would have you, and all our romantic "dry spells" (be they days or much more) are essentially self-imposed. We all play the game of love, leveraging ourselves to get the "best" lover we can, best being shorthand for highest status. A woman's beauty, a man's power...dr. jane contends that to never be alone, all you have to do is abandon the status game. I have found truth in this sentiment - at my loneliest times, i've been aware that were i to lower my standards, companionship was there for the having. In recent years, i've tried to rise above this game, aspiring to an ethos of caring for my all fellow humans unconditionally. If someone seeks my love, i want to ignore the number one question we're taught as children - "What's in it for ME?"
I can't call my experiment a resounding success...partly because the degradation in this society is so pervasive. We're so enmeshed in the paradigm of negotiated intimacy, that even when i've been able to step outside my standards, it's often ended badly. There are social contracts spoken and unspoken, and those who disregard them, even for idealistic reasons, can find themselves shunned. People don't like it when you ignore the rules.
My quest has also faltered because i've found it hard to renounce attractiveness. Part of that runs deeper than shallowness...even superficial attractions are tempered by ingrained inclinations (we may be drawn to red hair simply because someone with red hair was kind to us when we were a child). There is also a biochemical element, which is out of our hands. Those factors, however, tend to pale beside the shallowness which plagues our culture. In either case, to love someone freely and hope that they'll be equally non-possessive in return, is generally a fool's errand.
I've written about the women of whom i dream, when dreams are all there is. Here's the flip side...the women whom i suspect dream of me. Women who would, if they could (or more sadly, could if they would). I've been unloved for three years, yet i find myself more often than not falling through one crack or another in dr. jane's maxim. Or maybe i'm just full of shit?
JP = immersed in the jealous/possessive paradigm
IF = believes in an all-powerful, invisible friend
LSTD = likely STD
#1 (JP, IF) A work client who once texted me at 4AM that she loved me. Alcohol was probably involved, as she later walked her avowal back. I don't think she's had any loving intimacy in many years, since her fiance died. Another time, she showed up at my house drunk, and spoke admiringly of my muscles. Had she been sober, i would have invited her in. I later opened a romantic door for her, which she rebuffed. Our personality differences are preposterously profound, but if she asked me to hold her i'd probably do it.
#2 (JP, IF) A volunteer at the library, she's always sassy with me (i can be clueless with flirtations, but i'm pretty sure i make her knees knock). She paints her face, is perhaps ultra-conservative, and has perhaps hit the big 6-0. She resigned recently, and asked for my number. I gave it, and she hasn't called. She's not my type at all, but i like her. If she asked for some loving, i'd do my best.
#3 (IF, LSTD) An occasional girlfriend of my housemate, she and i share wonderful hugs...i suspect even mutually intoxicating. I'm sure she feels constrained by the "inappropriateness" of any romance with me. My housemate is pretty open-minded though, so even though she may also be JP, the only thing that would hold me back is that LSTD.
#4 A local vendor who is married. I desire her deeply, and don't doubt she feels the same. I once whispered to her that i don't even care for her products, i just buy them because i like her. She glowed. If she asked me to love her, i wouldn't hesitate. Even though i have no respect for the institution of marriage, it might still be perilous territory. I love her kids, i like her husband and don't want to "replace" him...how can any of this not be a good thing? How can our culture be so patently self-loathing?
#5 (JP, IF) A former neighbor and recent widow, whom i suspect hasn't had any physical intimacy in a decade or so. She once almost made a sexual come-on to me, and another time invited me to stay with her in another state, to do some work. She's 60 pounds overweight, and though we get along, i doubt we share any core values. I'm not attracted, and due to an adversarial relationship she has with a dear friend of mine, it would feel like a betrayal to love her. Yet how can i turn away? Her loneliness is palpable. If she got up the nerve to ask, my "love all" ethos might crack under the strain.
#6 (LSTD) An old acquaintance who has visited me a couple times this year. She has a raging alcohol addiction - it's surprising she's still alive. I'm not sure which is more profound, our physical or spiritual chemistry. They're both off the charts. Why has she stayed away, if she's nutty about me? Perhaps she and her wife of ten years have reconciled, and made another temporary peace with the wedge between them - the fact that my friend loves some dick once in a while. To love her (and try to heal my own irreparably broken needs), i might ignore her self-destructive instability...but that STD thing makes my head hurt, because i am done with the condom thing.
These are the people, and we all have them in our lives, whom we would never consider as lovers. But i can't believe that we're here to turn away those who turn to us. In rational terms, absolutely nothing good could come of my trying to offer the most basic human comfort to three of these women...and with the other three, the odds aren't good either.
Welcome to my world.
Welcome to our world.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

dear mark

Mark,
I'm glad you spoke as much as you did the other day. You say you don't normally talk about yourself so much...i know that that wasn't necessarily a compliment, but i'm honored nonetheless.
There was one semi-silence of mine i'd like to expand on. You mentioned amanda, and i said very little. It can be hard sometimes to know where to draw the line between the negativity of dwelling in a dark place, and the healthiness of fully expressing one's humanity. I avoided mentioning how much hurt has been involved, but a little transparency might help you be a friend to her someday when she's willing to accept such.
It might be healing for me to share this, too. I've been cut off from talking about it with anyone who might understand. Shane has been going through some scientology stuff, and has shunned me for the past few years. Eric has shunned me too...i've known for a long time that my decision to love both he and amanda meant i might lose them both (and van, who loved me) when their breakup came. As usual, we make our children pay for our own stupidity and selfishness.
When i returned to Florida three years ago, i thought i was positioned better than anyone ever had been to help her in her journey toward self-love. Nowadays it feels like i'm nowhere on that list. There was one absolutely brilliant moment of growth soon after i arrived, when she admitted that she had never let anyone in, emotionally. It made the fifteen years of self-sacrifice i'd endured worth every second. But since that moment, she's run as fast and far from me as she could. Maybe, as she might tell you, it's not personal at all. Or maybe she wasn't ready to be around someone who could see her so clearly, no matter how much unconditional acceptance i offered. Or maybe even on some conscious or subconscious level, she just decided that i wasn't a person she wanted in her life. Or maybe (and this may be overreaching), a part of her genuinely loved me and knew that my life would be healthier away from her self-destructive ways. Whatever the case, it couldn't have been more horrible timing. In my spiritual journey, i'd never been more stripped of my walls, which makes me quite vulnerable. I had never been so raw and wounded. I asked her whether she was finally ready to be the friends we had been building toward all those years. She said yes, and i'm sure a part of her meant it. But i'm also sure the reason i was her oldest friend, was because i had never ever asked anything of her. In retrospect, i knew she probably wasn't ready yet, but i had never been so in need of the friendship and love she spoke of.
She and i went into limbo these past few years, keeping in touch with an occasional surface e-mail, but making no human connection. When we occasionally met in person accidentally, she would say confusing things, just because i think she felt she had to say something, anything. She told me she thought i'd had expectations, which is the single most hurtful thing anyone has ever said to me. It got to a point where even just approaching her home to drop off a book or some other token of affection, made my stomach hurt. It would have been easy had she told me up front how she was going to run away, and why. I would have said that i'll be there whenever she comes out the other side. But she kept us in this limbo, with words of love and eventual friendship, and earlier this year i realized how horribly unhealthy it was for both of us, and told her we should drop the pretense, and resume our friendship only when she's ready.
Anyway, thank you for listening. And for being who you are. Your friendship and support have made me a better person.

love,
wrob

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

winds of...

Rumblings. Portents. Winds of...
Okay, no poetic melodrama.
But there is a change in the air, one i've felt coming for quite some time. A change to this website, and to a lesser extent my creative focus. In many ways this change is harmless and organic. In other ways, i do feel conflict and existential angst.
It feels almost strange to be talking to you without any literary pretense. Hello, my three fans (and sweet cricket). Over the past few years, my writings have shifted more and more toward fare designed for public performance. That's been a lurking goal almost from the start, a melding of my performance skills and literary voice. At the same time however, i've tried not to have any agenda beyond the words themselves. I've tried to give you a voice free of editors, deadlines, commercial aspiration, or above all self-censor. If i haven't always succeeded, i've come disturbingly close. I've also tried to live by picasso's words: "The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." Of course, pablo died filthy rich, so make of that what you will.
Over the past few years, on this little Gulf of Mexico island, i've taken my baby steps in public speaking. Ever polishing and expanding my repertoire, and writing pieces with a greater focus on entertainment over enlightenment (or even just raw honesty for its own sake). I haven't considered that a compromise, i embrace the nobility of simply putting a smile on the face of some overburdened fellow traveler on this space rock. They say it takes ten years to become really good at something, and after eight years, i feel ready for my close-up, ms. demille...and constrained by a lack of public speaking opportunities. A return to some progressive metropolis beckons. My time in New York was wonderful, but i haven't seriously considered any destination other than San Francisco. Cafes, bookstores, colleges, coffee shops, libraries...and a population abounding with semi-free thinkers.
Well and good.
But my aspirations go beyond literature - and that's the dicey part. I've happily not yet received one thin dime for these products of my mind, but i know i'll be seriously flirting with that, in putting myself out there where (and as much as) i plan. A part of me is genuinely open to that. There is nobility in modesty...but no one takes care of you for free in this world. Money's security is more illusion than we realize, but at this barbaric point in history, it's a powerful illusion amongst us small-minded naked apes. And a part of me is weary of living close to the edge, without the simple "luxury" of knowing my most basic needs will be taken care of beyond today (and worse, knowing that some of my needs will not be taken care of today, nor likely tomorrow...a situation that money would change). I currently put food in my tummy through the labors of my hands and back, and i've structured that part of my life in such a way that it's not onerous, but...if my mind can afford me some creature comfort and security, i'm a bit too weary to resist. I've been more alone and unloved than any human ought be (though i know i'm tragically close to average in that regard). In particular, the ascetic, sober life feels so non-conducive to female companionship in this material world.
I'm aware of the considerable pitfalls in this path change. When commerce arrives, compromise isn't far behind. What if some of my writings strike a chord, but others more cherished don't? What if opportunity comes cloaked in conditionality? The perils of "feeding the beast", or even just seeking it, are myriad.
And how might all this change what i offer you here? As i focus more on performance, a drop in output is expected. I've also started to learn how to play my own songs on ukulele, a time-sucking endeavor.
But deeper than that...
The voices of "I ME MINE" might grow harder to keep at bay. The voices of fear, telling you to protect what is yours from the wolves. Some of you may have noticed occasional posts over the past year saying nothing more than "available in performance only". You might scratch your head, indeed. I've started holding back some of my juiciest pieces, in anticipation of copyrighting and other such selfishness. It's even possible certain choice entries may one day be removed from this forum which costs no one a penny. Might this site one day morph into a venue for nothing but the occasional review or poem (Copyright a poem? Who the hell would even steal one?)?
Maybe.
I did ask for help, don't forget. A voice of purity could be preserved, if we could find just a few thousand souls in this world of billions, willing to subsidize me in a profoundly minor way. I put this plea on the site, even giving it its own tab (http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/search/label/please%20help%3F). But alas, no takers did i entice.
Hello? Rich widow?
So i prepare to walk into the land i've always been told suits my laid-back ways to a T...a mythical land where i've never trod.
California.
And a shining city by the sea.
Sorry, more poetic nonsense. I'm sure San Fran has its share of leeches, liars, and lithium junkies.
And soon, it will have a naked meadow.
I love you all.

P.S. Is anyone impressed i made it to the end of the article without once mentioning Starfleet Command?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

"Soap"

-created by susan harris
1977-1981
Infidelity, impotence, homosexuality, miscegenation, incest, insanity, sexual harassment, student/teacher sex, communists, new age cults, alcoholism, alien abduction, demonic possession...what was all the fuss about? Only one of the five funniest shows ever (alongside M*A*S*H, MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS, DA ALI G SHOW, and CHAPELLE'S SHOW). It arrived on the air in the midst of a furor of protest by religious and "family values" groups, but instantly won a following. It was cancelled after its fourth season, partly due to sponsor unease, but mostly because it had fallen out of the top thirty. Creator harris (THE GOLDEN GIRLS, EMPTY NEST) also wrote or co-wrote every episode, and seldom has an artistic vision felt so perfectly realized. Between them, jay sandrich (MARY TYLER MOORE, GET SMART) and j.d. lobue (OH MADELINE, HERMAN'S HEAD) directed every episode save one. A parody of daytime soap operas, it ran with all the over-the-top cliches of the genre (plus a few that more), but what made a great idea genius was a lightning strike of cast chemistry, plus a murderer's row of recurring characters. The actors all imbued their work with a resonance deeper than mere silliness, making the poignant moments as memorable as the madcap. An episode guide is rather pointless, as each one is pretty uniformly perfect. So here's a tribute to...the greatest cast ever?
-jessica tate, 87 episodes: katherine helmond (BRAZIL, WHO'S THE BOSS?)
A dippy suburban mother and wife with a heart of gold, all the men fell for her (onscreen and off), making her the first middle-aged female sex symbol in TV history. She has a guilt-ridden fling with her tennis instructor, but is blind to her husband's serial philandering. Then she falls in love with the detective she hires to find him when he has amnesia, and eventually falls for the leader of a south american revolution.
-announcer, 87 episodes: rod roddy (THE PRICE IS RIGHT, HOUSE OF MOUSE)
His brilliant balance of tongue-in-cheek earnestness was paired with perfect freeze-frame cinematography, making the show intros and wrap-ups at least as funny as the show itself.
-burt campbell, 86 episodes: richard mulligan (LITTLE BIG MAN, EMPTY NEST)
Husband, father, blue-collar worker and eventual sheriff (who also played a libidinous alien copy of himself)...standing out in this cast was nearly impossible, but richard's facial tics, grunts, guffaws and double-takes provided the most laughs-per-second of any (non-wooden) character.
-mary campbell, 84 episodes: cathryn damon (WEBSTER, SHE'S HAVING A BABY)
Burt's wife, and the other sister at the center of the silliness. Her saintly down-to-earth sensibilities made her the perfect complement to jessica.
-danny dallas, 79 episodes: ted wass (SHEENA, BLOSSOM)
The son of mary (and, unbeknownst to all, chester) who is almost a male version of his aunt jessica. He falls into romance with a mob princess, a black widow, a hit man's girlfriend, and a prostitute, giving his all each time. His interracial love affair with polly (lynne moody - THAT'S MY MAMA, HILL STREET BLUES) is one of the most tender, touching, transformative, and transcendent tales of the series.
-chester tate, 77 episodes: robert mandan (THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS, THREE'S A CROWD)
The smarmy stock broker husband of jessica, who beds his sister-in-law, secretary, pastor's daughter, and daughter's maid of honor. He also kills his wife's lover, but beats the rap with temporary insanity.
-jodie dallas, 76 episodes: billy crystal (THE PRINCESS BRIDE, CITY SLICKERS 1-2)
Son of mary, and one of the first openly gay characters in TV history. Billy played the part with simple sincerity, as he dates an NFL player (for whom he plans a sex change, and then attempts suicide), and unintentionally fathers a child he then raises alone. When he falls in love with the detective he hires to track down his kidnapped daughter, he tries hypnosis to "cure" his homosexuality, but comes out an eighty year-old jewish man.
-eunice tate, 67 episodes: jennifer salt (MIDNIGHT COWBOY, BREWSTER MCCLOUD)
The snooty but secretly slutty daughter of jessica and chester, she dates a congressman and a convict.
-billy tate, 65 episodes: jimmy baio (THE BAD NEWS BEARS IN BREAKING TRAINING, THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES)
The sensible teenage son of jessica and chester, he has to be rescued from the sunny cult, has an affair with his teacher, and becomes an officer in the malaguayan revolutionary army.
-the major, 62 episodes: arthur peterson (RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE, ROLLERCOASTER)
The irascible father of mary and jessica, who believes he's still fighting WWII. Burt, bob, and the major are the big three.
-corinne tate, 61 episodes: diana canova (THE FIRST NUDIE MUSICAL, THROB)
The loving, sensible daughter of jessica and chester, who falls in love with her priest. She has a baby possessed by the devil, then falls in love with her sister's convict boyfriend. She left the show to star in I'M A BIG GIRL NOW with danny thomas (which tanked in its first season). You barely notice because the quality never falters, but her season 4 absence made the show a little too much of a sausage fest.
-chuck campbell & bob, 61 episodes: jay johnson (BROKEN BADGES, JAY JOHNSON: THE TWO AND ONLY!)
The son of burt, who shows up with a ventriloquist dummy he thinks is alive. To call bob anything less than one of the regulars is just crazy, because his snide zings at all the lunacy around him are at the heart of what made SOAP genius. According to legend, the directors originally couldn't figure out why the sound levels were always wrong with bob, until they realized the mic operators were so taken with the puppet's reality, they were pointing their mics at the wrong mouth.
-benson dubois, 51 episodes: robert guillaume (BENSON, SPORTS NIGHT)
The no-nonsense butler of the tates, who brooks no guff from (and might not serve breakfast to) anyone he doesn't like. His friendship with jessica was one of the heartbeats of the show. He left during the third season for a spin-off, and it was only through a minor miracle of casting that he wasn't more sorely missed.
-dutch leitner, 38 episodes: donnelly rhodes (HILL STREET BLUES, GALACTICA)
The tough, uncouth convict who breaks his unwilling cellmate chester out of jail, then falls in love with both of his daughters.
-father flotsky, 24 episodes: sal viscuso (M*A*S*H, SPACEBALLS)
The priest relentlessly pursued by corinne, he finally relents and soon has to perform an exorcism on his own baby.
-saunders, 16 episodes: roscoe lee browne (BLACK LIKE ME, A DIFFERENT WORLD)
The new butler, always classier and savvier than his employers.
-elaine lefkowitz, 16 episodes: dinah manoff (GREASE, EMPTY NEST)
An obnoxious, spoiled mob princess who makes her father force danny to marry her, she gets gunned down after she finally allows him to love her.
-chief tinkler, 12 episodes: gordon jump (WKRP IN CINCINNATI, CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES)
The bumbling local lawman who loves what he smells...
-peter campbell, 8 episodes: robert urich (VEGA$, SPENSER: FOR HIRE)
Burt's other son, a hunky tennis instructor who has a fling with both jessica and corinne, then is shot, stabbed, choked, bludgeoned, and drowned for his trouble.
-mr. franklin, 7 episodes: howard hesseman (WKRP IN CINCINNATI, THIS IS SPINAL TAP)
The slimy prosecutor at jessica's murder trial.
-saul, 5 episodes: jack gilford (CATCH-22, COCOON)
A 2000 year-old prisoner aboard the alien ship, who befriends burt.
-flo flotsky, 4 episodes: doris roberts (REMINGTON STEELE, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND)
The possessive, melodramatic martyr mother of a fallen priest...
-mr. lefkowitz, 4 episodes: sorrell booke (ALL IN THE FAMILY, THE DUKES OF HAZZARD)
A jewish mob boss who disinherits his disgusting daughter.
Plus george wendt, william daniels, g.w. bailey, michael conrad, john hillerman, kurtwood smith, and bea arthur in one-offs.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

dear ah

Dear ah,
As this pathetic circus we call an election comes to a head, perhaps a dyed-in-the-wool independent like myself is the only person who might inject some sanity. Probably not, though. I probably shouldn't say a word - people believe what they want to believe. End of story.
We independents can accept that trump has supporters. It's just beyond perplexing to discover someone you've known and loved as a sensible person, in that camp. So here are my thoughts.
I'm no clinton fan. I'm still reeling at how colossal a failure the first clinton presidency was. In the big picture, bill's first term was (or should have been) the pivotal moment in american history. The cold war was over. We were the only superpower in the world. Unthreatened by war, and rich as god. We no longer had any pretense (not even a flimsy one) to justify 300 billion a year on the military. We could now do something truly revolutionary - live up to our ideals of life, liberty, and happiness for all. We could turn our staggering resources to ending poverty, saving our fading schools*, and becoming the world's first humanitarian superpower. Ever. At the end of clinton's eight years, nothing of the sort had happened. We were spending virtually as much on the military as when he came in, and his answer to poverty, like every other modern president, was to build more prisons.
More of that same, we do not need, mrs. clinton.
But as for mr. trump...you say you're impressed by his honesty, ah. According to politifacts.com, a non-partisan website, over 60% of the things donald said in the final debate were mostly false or worse. One shouldn't expect otherwise - his character was molded in the world of high finance, where honesty is not an asset. In small business, honesty tends to be rewarded. In big business, the opposite is true. So what is it you're perceiving, that resembles honesty but isn't?
It's candor.
Donald can be startlingly candid for a candidate. The question is, is it because he believes in forthrightness, or does he simply not care what others think about him? There's a word for that - sociopath.
Now it's my turn to be candid. Everyone you've ever met is in varying degrees a sociopath and liar. There are some who elevate that to an art form, however. Donald tells you our country is in the worst economic shape it's ever been. Scary! Economists say there's no substance to that claim, but mr. trump's handlers are no fools. They understand one of the most basic facts about election psychology - people who are afraid, vote for the bully. He blames our problems on an underprivileged minority, who will subvert our values and rape our daughters. Quick - can you name a 20th century leader who rose to power by blaming his country's problems on an underprivileged minority?
And as a businessman, donald knows that if we didn't want illegal immigrants taking awful, underpaid jobs, they wouldn't be here. If american business truly didn't want immigrants to exploit, they wouldn't be here. He knows that. But he'll pretend he doesn't. Does he deserve our hatred? No. He deserves sympathy. It's a safe bet that some especially horrible things happened to him as a child. That said, you don't put a greedy, misogynistic, racist narcissist with questionable impulse control, in a position of authority. You just don't.**
Will i vote for hillary? Sure. Because of the symbolic power. A country like us, with such a horrible record on women's rights, electing a woman leader? I don't have any illusions about where the true power lies in this country. Our elected leaders are pawns, and in the big picture there is absolutely no difference between republican and democrat - it's just a circus which distracts us from actually solving our problems. But the global symbolic power of a female american president? Why, that would make me almost proud to be an american - a feeling i've only felt one other time in my life. Eight years ago.
Am i embarrassed to vote for a major party candidate? Sure. But it will almost certainly be the last time. And that stuff about becoming the world's first humanitarian superpower? It could still happen. But it never will, within the current system.*** The answer to that however, is not a supposed "outsider" who may be new to politics, but is an establishment insider to the core.
I love you very much,
wrob

*And spending actual money on the arts. Every other first world country, every single one, spends real money on the arts. But not us. It ain't "american", apparently.
**Though there is perhaps a perverse, carlinesque part of me that almost wants him to win, as it might hasten the demise of this bloody, imperialist, failed experiment in democracy and human rights we call a country.
***now 600 billion a year

Sunday, October 30, 2016

"The New Primal Scream"

-by dr. arthur janov
1991
Sigh. Am i just an embarrassingly credulous ninny in the end, like everyone else?
I set myself up as a paragon of humanist skepticism, out to expose all the hokum and bunkum (don't forget the bunkum!) that our deeply ignorant, superstitious culture cooks up...and then, when some fringe ideology happens to push my own elusive buttons, reinforcing some reality in which i WANT to believe, i go running off to Loonyville just like any other believer/member/voter/patient/sheep?
My apologies to sheep, who are a thousand times more dignified and sensible than any human i know.
Primal therapy has endured for five decades, attracting endorsers (non-celebrity and celebrity) who scream about its stunning healing powers, yet is always kept at arm's length (or worse) by the psychiatric/medical establishment - indeed, it couldn't be easier to find voices, some of them quite legitimate, who are happy to discredit or debunk primal therapy.
And yet...when you read janov's work, you can be swept away by the intuitive force of his arguments, and the scientific methodology underpinning them (including measurements of pulse, temperature, brain waves, and blood pressure). Does anyone out there really think that our current psychiatric/medical establishment has any kind of comprehensive understanding of human health, and the proper ways to maintain/restore it? I promise you, it is only conceit or wishful thinking to imagine that we are beyond the "guesswork in a white coat" stage. Does current psychiatry do more good than bad? I think the answer is at best a weak maybe. According to janov, one of psychiatry's primary failings is that it seeks to make everyone "normal", blindly assuming that's a good thing (the most pernicious example i myself can name being those cash cows known as "marriage counselors", who refuse to accept what every other branch of science has long since embraced - that humans are not monogamous). According to janov, the greatest failing of psychiatry is that it isolates mind from body...and correspondingly, the greatest failing of medicine is that it isolates body from mind. Establishment psychiatry operates on the cognitive level, but that's not where the problems lie, says janov. The central tenet of primal therapy is that sickness, neurosis, and addiction are all the result of a lifetime's worth of repressed pain, and that only by reliving and integrating those pains can we heal. A whole lot of crying is involved (the "primal scream" image). We use our cognitive abilities to deal with and contextualize pain, so the younger we are, the less our brains are able to understand or rationalize painful events, ergo an unprocessed trauma from infancy can be the most crippling event in a person's life, re-emerging years or decades later in neurosis or disease. Janov offers research into how pain affects the nervous system, and the coping methods by which our minds shut down and compartmentalize traumas too profound (or inconvenient or "unacceptable"). Janov claims 100% effectiveness in patients who see the process through. The only major independent study found that number to be closer to 40% - but that discrepancy doesn't bother me, as i think even 40% success, when dealing with deep-seated neurosis, is little short of stunning. I think i understand the context in which janov made his 100% claim, but the one reality that both primal and establishment psychiatry tend to side-step is how essentially dysfunctional our society is, in terms of human health. We live in a fear-based culture of profound touch deprivation, emotional/sexual repression, psychological alienation, and varying degrees of sociopathic violence (both emotional and physical, and both outward- and inward-directed)...as the NORM. Even if you were able to "heal" someone, the minute you let them out the door, the damage would begin re-accruing.
Janov warns of the industry of improperly-trained primal therapists which has existed over the years, and that primal done wrong can do more harm than good (the sort of self-serving claim that normally triggers alarm bells in a good skeptic).
So is it all quackery? Cult nonsense? The notion that daddy was abusive and mommy never rescued us, so decades later we get cancer, can feel like a stretch. He does acknowledge the genetic component in disease...yet to that i would add that we are only beginning to understand how genetic development is affected by experience. We are not born with an immutable DNA blueprint - our genetic expression is constantly evolving, through gene clusters that either trigger or stay dormant (see "The Agile Gene", by matt ridley). Am i the first to suggest that janov may not have needed make so unqualified a concession to genetics?
He does go on and on about birth being the core human trauma, yet i find part of myself leaning toward those researchers who flat-out deny the ability to recall or relive infant experiences. Plus, how can something as natural as birth cripple a child for life? And yet...the way we conduct birth in our culture is not especially "natural", particularly in regard to drugging the hell out of the mother. Whatever enters her system goes to the baby's more vulnerable system as well, so how many newborns have been forced to enter the world (perhaps the most profound moment of human existence) completely whacked out of their minds and unable to respond normally? What, we think that won't have any effect on a child's development? Or that mutilating a newborn's genitals won't have some deep psychological resonance? Or nearly being choked to death by an umbilical cord?
Critics cite a lack of rigorous protocols or controls in the extant research, and that's hard to dismiss. And janov's claims of "curing" homosexuality are troubling...but perhaps within context, not asinine. Homosexuality is such a hot-button issue, it can be nigh-impossible to view it objectively, so let's use a more benign example. Suppose janov claimed that he could "cure" women who like to be spanked. Is it ridiculous to propose that any predilection toward "rough stuff" might have childhood psychological origins? In that light (and given what we're learning about the malleability of genetics), is it entirely spurious to propose that homosexuality might not be so easily explained by simply stating people are "born that way", or not?
Two trainee therapists who left janov's institute and took many patients with them, reported that most admitted to "faking their primals". And yet...for the past couple decades, the psychiatric establishment has embraced the hell out of "repressed memory". And a parallel, far less controversial school of therapy has existed since the seventies, called "primal integration". It was founded in Canada, and takes a holistic/educational approach that differs from janov's medical approach, but rests on the same basic principles.
When all is said and done, did i fall for this because i think lennon's "Plastic Ono Band" is his most brilliant album? Maybe.
Read the book for yourself, and get back to me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Old Farts

(revised re-post, in honor of glenn frey's life)

The dude is wrong.
I mean, i respect senor lebowski's Eagle-hating, man. I honor his dudeness, and all it entails.
But Eagle-hating is just wrong. Exquisite harmonies, brilliant song craftspersonship, and henley lyrics that go straight to the heart of the poisoned american dream. And okay...maybe it's fair to hate a little of what the Eagles became. A crank-out-the-hits machine coming to a bloated venue near you. So it's time to get back to what's important.
It's time for The Old Farts.
Strip away all the trappings of megastardom, and make a new band with satellite contributors from the 70s - j.d. souther, jackson browne, linda ronstadt. Plus bernie and randy. If that lineup isn't available, throw in a wild card like randy newman. And tour! Intimate venues only. Glenn would love it.
Here's a modestly brilliant set list suggestion:
Journey of the Sorcerer
Seven Bridges Road (ensemble)
Take It Easy** (jackson, ensemble - a capella)
Vote for Me (joe)
What Do I Do With My Heart?*** (linda)
Make You Feel My Love (timothy)
Try and Love Again (randy)
Taking You Home/Annabel (don)
The Sad Cafe* (j.d.)
Long Road out of Eden (don)
I Wish You Peace (bernie)
Crying (timothy, linda)
I Can't Tell You Why (timothy)
New Kid in Town* (j.d.)
Help Me Through the Night^ (joe)
Take It to the Limit (randy)
The Heart of the Matter* (linda, don)
River of Dreams (don)
Desperado (ensemble)
The Load-Out/Stay (jackson/linda)
Best of My Love* (ensemble)

* co-written by souther
** co-written by browne
*** or I.L.B.T.s - her call
^ or Fairbanks, Alaska - his call

Monday, October 3, 2016

cast adrift

I listened to two female comedians last week, and it kind of blew my mind because they both talked about feeling an urge to erase one of their exes. And i’m like “whoa whoa…you want to ERASE a human being?” That’s pretty hardcore. And it doesn’t make sense to me, there’s a disconnect there, because both of these women were intelligent, and more importantly, they both obviously had at least some amount of functioning self-worth. I mean, to stand up in front of strangers and say “I am so fucking interesting that all i’m going to do is talk…and you’re all going to be delighted.” Say what you will about comedians, but nobody can do that without some sort of functioning self-worth. But it’s so mind-blowing for me to hear intelligent women talk about ERASING another human being into whom they’ve invested time and love, because i’m so fucking lonely. We’re all so disconnected and alone, and i ask myself why. And we look at bonobos…bear with me…if you don’t know about bonobos, they will BLOW your mind…they are more like humans than any other creature in the world, by far. As just one example, bonobos are the only other animal who mate face to face, the only other animal whose vulva is oriented toward the front of their body. So when they make love they are right there, kissing the way we kiss, looking into each other’s eyes and saying “Wow, i am so digging you”. Bonobos are amazingly peaceful, so i look at them and say “What do they know that we lost”? Bonobo culture is very female-centered…i don’t want to say “dominated”, that’s a male concept…but bonobo males are just kind of goofy, they do their thing, but it’s the females who are much more active in maintaining the relationships that make up their society. And sex is absolutely integral to how they do that. Bonobos have sex for a million reasons, and like us, often for no particular reason at all. And i think about the web of relationships that’s missing from my life…i think about all the friends i don’t have. And more to the point, the friends that i’ve lost. The lovers that i’ve lost. And i imagine what my life would be like if all my exes were still my friends. It would be so fucking amazing. I think of two in particular into whom i invested a huge chunk of my life loving and nurturing, and they’re not fucking there, they’re just gone. And i think about these women comedians, and i say “How did they get to this place?” I mean, i understand denigrating your ex…it’s a little obvious, but it’s comedy gold, i get that. But how did these women with some sort of functioning self-worth, which tells me that they wouldn’t love someone who didn’t care about them at least a little, how did these women, when confronted with the reality that either sexual attraction has diminished (which is biologically what’s SUPPOSED to happen), or someone else no longer wants EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT out of a relationship, that when that point arrives, they can just hit the ERASE button? You’ve spent weeks, months, or more caring for this human being, and now…nothing? When you erase someone, you're not just erasing them, you're erasing everyone they know. When YOU get erased, you're losing everyone they know. "But...but...but aunt ginny loves me." "Tough titty - you and aunt ginny, just suck it up." Now multiply that by the number of romances an average person has during their life, and try to wrap your mind around all those lost friendships, lost connections...and it almost made sense in the old days, when the only thing a woman had to secure her entire life, her entire future, was what's between her legs. But it's the 21st century - a whole lot of women have their own identities, their own lives, their own money...yet we're still stuck in the old ways of thinking. And sometimes i'm harder on women than men. I expect more from them, because generally women more closely resemble human beings . Most men are too lost in selfishness and brutality. But most women i meet, i think “With enough love and caring, you could become an actual human being.” Or maybe that's just a fantasy i hold on to, because without some kind of hope, i'll die. And i know that when women act shitty, more often than not it’s because some man is being shitty to them. The two greatest loves of my life, i was able to stay friends with them after we broke up, and it was great. But they both eventually disappeared, with the same line – “My fiance is not comfortable with our friendship.” Whsshhht. But these women last week, it wasn’t about that, so…what then? Is their self-worth that fragile? Are they that lost in the cinderella ALL OR NOTHING bullshit that poisons all of our attempts to love each other? And by the way, i thought they both showed touches of brilliance. The one who talked about getting her tubes tied - brillant. And the other one, being so open about having depression, yet still being funny - brilliant. So tell them to keep doing what they're doing...but maybe without the erasing.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

my day

Dear max,
Don't think i've forgotten your request to write more "day in the life"pieces. I'm touched that you asked. It's taken me a few years to respond, as i can be pretty relaxed about most things. Also, at the time you made the request, my writing was drifting away from navel-gazing pieces (if you'll pardon the pejorative), into more universal fare.
Which is not to say that an occasional dose of heavy navel-gazing doesn't have merit. Especially now, when you've questioned why i would possibly live on this little island as long as i have, in the southern bible belt far from the cultural opportunities of some metropolitan hotbed. I know, you asked that a year ago...like i said, things can move slowly here.
So here's a typical day in my life, which at its best (minus one gaping hole, a lack of human touch or love), is probably as close to a "state of grace" as any human on this barbaric rock finds. So here's an average day. By average, i mean that which happens when absolutely nothing happens to disrupt my routine - no company, no calls, no appointments or events, no nothing. As i've carefully cultivated non-material simplicity and have drifted into the life of a semi-hermit writer, this happens more often for me than most. Far more, no doubt.
After seven or so hours of sleep, i wake up whenever my eyes happen to open. Even on days i have work, there's almost never an alarm clock involved. I awaken gradually, taking as many as thirty minutes from my first flicker of consciousness. The first thing i do upon waking is have breakfast. Almond milk and Kellogg's Red Berries, or some such. I watch a sitcom on dvd as i eat (currently SOAP - top five funniest shows ever). After i eat, i do some sweeping and put out food for our stray cat, and take fifteen minutes or so to manicure the bushes i've carefully cultivated in our yard. I do my dental regimen, and i'm off on my bike to work. I generally spend three or four hours doing freelance tree trimming, Monday through Friday. I'm available Sunday if a client prefers (Saturday is always garage saleing), but the standard M-F schedule seems to work for most clients. I arrive home, and have lunch (garlic tomato bread, a carrot with peanut butter, juice, chips) while watching some hour-long show on dvd (currently ROYAL PAINS - barely tolerable and sinking). I sometimes run out of show before i run out of food, and pop in a music dvd for a song or two. I take a quick nap, then while away the rest of the day. In no particular order, i write for 1-4 hours, and read for 1-2 hours (usually something science-related plus a memoir - currently "The New Primal Scream" and "Scandalous Women"). I listen to eight songs i've never heard, plus maybe a few i have. I masturbate 1-2 times, an hour or so each time. Around sundown, i have a meal (potatoes and onions with broccoli and black olives, banana, juice, coconut, honey and cinnamon) while watching a movie or two episodes of some show (currently BATTLESTAR GALACTICA - brilliant until it wasn't). Do i work every weekday? Heck no! Sometimes it rains, sometimes i have no job scheduled. I love those days - more writing and masturbation. Sometimes i work twenty days in a row, plus Sundays. Sometimes i work only one day a week...and know how the idle rich feel.
I'm surrounded by warmth and beauty. Often i watch the sunset on the beach, and take a swim. The plants i cultivate (frangipani, candlestick, night-blooming cereus, mango, leechee, devil's trumpet and many others) look and smell beautiful. Coconuts fall, and i have food.
I don't have much outdoor naked time here, sadly. After dark a bit, is all. I can save money here like few places else, though. I pay only $200 or so in monthly rent. It's a bit broken-down, i have to fight mosquitoes more than i would in some more airtight structure (i light incense and spend fifteen minutes hunting at bedtime, and even then find sleep sometimes interrupted), and it leaks a bit in heavy storms...but it suits my personality beautifully. I know i shall soon live in some metropolitan hotbed again, the better to foster what i have to offer the world as a writer and speaker. Even though it will probably be harder to save money, in a big city, i know i'll have a much better chance of meeting intelligent, progressive women, and trying to fill the gaping intimacy hole i now suffer.
But even so, a part of me shall be sad to leave my little slice of paradise.
I've got an extra chair, if you happen by.
I love you, brother.

Monday, September 19, 2016

wild lights

A strangely synchronous occurrence the other night afforded me that rarest of realities - a moment that felt unlike anything i'd ever experienced before.
A startling moment, akin to one's first fireworks display, or the aurora borealis, or a psychedelic drug trip for the first time...
While the events i'll describe will seem so much more mundane than those, please believe they were not. I almost want to say it was more intense, not less.
ELEMENT 1: i had just gotten onto my bicycle, for a nighttime ride. It was the first time i'd ever used one of those honkingly bright, newfangled (to me) bike headlights...one that was actually attached to my head, too. All the bike lights i'd ever used before were like candles compared to this one.
ELEMENT 2: i immediately pedaled through an area of street construction. There were pylons and barrels everywhere, covered with the reflective paint contained now in traffic signs, street signs, and those little plastic reflectors glued to the roads.
ELEMENT 3: there were no street lights within sight.
If any of those elements had been omitted or lessened, this experience would have been perhaps still impressive...but the simultaneity of the three made my brain pop.
It's safe to surmise that reflective coating technology has made exponential strides in the past decade or two. The brightness of the reflective surfaces was so profound that it seemed inconceivable that each one didn't have its own power source. I was still hypnotized by the beauty ten minutes later, when i entered an area lit by streetlights and cars.
I suppose many bikers have had super-powered lights for years, and to them this is old hat. But for anyone else out there who is similarly inexperienced as i, a dose of delight and amazement awaits...

Friday, September 16, 2016

"A People's History of the United States"

-by howard zinn
1980 (updated 2003)

The history of the U.S.A, told not as a sanitized litany of the doings of rich white men, but from the perspective of the people (native indians, women, poor white men, blacks, chicanos) who did all the heavy lifting and had none of the say. He deconstructs the methods used by capitalism to divert people's attention away from poverty and racism (nationalistic wars, plus a two-party system that gives the illusion of occasional social progress while hiding the fact that democrats and republicans are both intractably protective of the big business/militaristic status quo). Could zinn's prose be more colorful? Perhaps...which is the worst thing i can say about this book (and it's a minor quibble, he's a wonderful writer). APHOTUS a towering achievement, one that belongs in any discussion of the most important books ever written (see http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2015/04/13-books-aware.html). Critics slam zinn for having a point of view (socialist/progressive), but that strikes me as specious, defensive posturing. Zinn spends little time telling you how he feels, and much time documenting his points. He shows restraint time and again, in refusing to indulge in unsubstantiated theories (like Pearl Harbor or 9/11 as inside jobs). Does he ever do a disservice to history's complexity? It's virtually impossible not to, in a book of this scope. The question is, how valid is his perspective? There is simply none more vital if this country (and humanity itself) are to finally live up to the proposition that all people have an equal right to life, liberty, and happiness. Zinn leaves you to ponder the thought of what might happen if the U.S.A. shifted from being the world's premier military superpower, to humanity's first humanitarian superpower.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

1977-2015

Freddie mercury was right.
And it only took me forty years to realize.
I remember exactly where i was when it was announced that george lucas had sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney, and that a new trilogy starring the original cast would be created, wrapping up the nine films envisioned by george back in the 70s.
Hardcore fans, whatever the devotion, remember moments like that. For a boy who was nine years old when STAR WARS first came out, such moments, even thirty-five years later, can be seismic.
Not that i didn't greet the announcement with a certain amount of suspicion. I mean...Disney? Really, george? Your original trilogy was about taking down an evil empire. You detect no irony in selling the franchise to...Disney? And then came the subsequent announcement that the first film would be directed by j.j. abrams...who had already befouled one legendary sci fi franchise. It would be easy and convenient to call that the straw which broke this camel's back...but the camel was already lame, it just took a long time to embrace the truth.
I haven't seen the new film, which came out over a year ago. I don't expect i ever will. The enormity of that may be hard for anyone who wasn't a nine year-old boy in 1977 to understand. Were there any young fans more taken than myself? I suppose. I never went to any conventions, and i've seen plenty of footage of folk who display much more outward Star Wars love than myself. But in my understated way, i would have stacked my devotion against anyone's. Even at the age of forty, if i were told i could keep only one earthly possession, it would have been my Star Wars figure collection. And as i write this, the years-old passcode for my phone remains a Star Wars relic.
Seeing STAR WARS as a boy was transformative. Why? Was i already that much in need of escapism, in ways i couldn't have possibly understood? Probably. Add to that what was likely an abnormally high capacity for devotion, and you'll begin to understand how a childhood passion could last for decades.
But the end of my fandom has been on the wall for years. Disney and abrams forced the issue, but only made easy what had to happen. For any who are confused by my jumping ship, i'll assume you can either understand (or just take for granted) the foundations of my fandom...with EMPIRE adding frank oz's muppet magic to the mix, the franchise achieved such unassailable credit that even the flawed JEDI could be embraced (yoda alone probably added a decade to my devotion). I was thirty-three when PHANTOM MENACE came out, and i was all in, even defending it from nay-sayers in the fanbase. But y'know...that virgin birth was probably the beginning of the end. It made all too undeniable the religious parallels that had always been mildly troubling. To take the most childish notion of christianity, and weave it into SW mythology? It was annoying, but i endured. Yes, "the force" was godlike, but faintly scientific. I truly believed (and still do) in the possibility of unseen connections. Then, after the dust had settled from the second trilogy, i began to examine why i loved SW...and compare it to my devotion to Star Trek (http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2009/08/trekwars.html). I realized that even if there were some unseen force in the universe, it has nothing to do with any kind of battle between "good and evil", like the kind forced down our throats in SW...and it's thinking like that which keeps humanity at war with itself, both in terms of holy wars and original-sin style self-loathing.
And the violence.
Oh, the violence.
I'm not much for regret. I rarely live there. But i wince to think that i contributed to my nephews' embrace of the Star Wars universe. Glamorous murder and brutality pervades SW, from both the "bad" and "good" folk.
Humanity needs to do better.
You may have noticed that sometime in the last year, the SW tab disappeared from this website, along with most of those articles. We evolve. I've even pondered (gulp) getting rid of my SW figures. Notwithstanding the fact that i actually took them out of the package and played with them, it's hard to imagine a more impressive collection. No, i don't have the boba fett with missile-ejecting pack...but i do have the blue snaggletooth.
Three hundred figures.
Okay, make an offer.
I love you all.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

"Man from Atlantis"

-created by mayo simon and herbert f. solow
1977-1978
One of the most imaginative underwater adventure series ever produced, yet canceled in the middle of its first season, so that it never quite solidified its identity. Was it a children's show? Pretty much, but by the end was morphing into something more. Adventurous yet peaceful, silly yet thoughtful, one wonders how much healthier our cultural landscape might have been had star patrick duffy (STEP BY STEP, WALK HARD) been part of a long run of this series, instead of contributing to the decade-plus dominance of the dismal DALLAS. Patrick plays mark harris, a water-breather who washes ashore with no memories. Nursed back to health by marine biologist elizabeth merrill (belinda montgomery - DOOGIE HOWSER M.D., TRON: LEGACY), mark refuses to be a pawn for the military, but agrees to work with an oceanic institute until he discovers who he really is. They go on adventures in the deep-sea submarine Cetacean, which is a series of diving bells strung together - brilliant. There were STAR TREK veterans behind the scenes (solow, bob justman, john black). Amazingly for a show from the 70s (or any decade), there's far more beefcake than cheesecake. And more amazingly yet, you can actually kind of sort of pretty much let the kids view it.
(BOLD PRINT = greatest episodes)
-Man from Atlantis
I wish that you could see this pilot telemovie through the eyes of a child (or a moviegoer from 100 years ago). I'm not saying that sophistication doesn't have its advantages, but we also learn to take far too much for granted. And the fact that a group of people came together and created this moving picture, is truly an amazement. Mark returns to the sea and dives to the bottom of the Marianas Trench, where he stops the brilliant mr. schubert (victor buono - BATMAN, BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES) from destroying humanity with its own weapons, then starting over with a small population of scientists. Schubert has created a stunning underwater lair, filled with the world's art treasures. Duffy and montgomery elicit the perfect sympathies, and buono's performance is a hypnotizing masterpiece of over-the-top subtlety.
-The Death Scouts
This otherwise interesting tale about two aliens who inhabit human bodies (and mutate them to have webbed hands and electrical powers), and claim to be from mark's world, is painfully sunk by hackneyed writing.
-The Killer Spores
A space probe returns to Earth, carrying a colony of invisible creatures who inhabit human hosts. Fine potential wasted in hopeless meandering - an unfortunate metaphor distressingly suggests itself, as half an hour is spent literally lost in the desert.
-The Disappearances
A twisted genius is kidnapping scientists to a deserted island, where they enter a brainwashing hot tub which compels them to happily help build a rocket that will transport them all to another solar system, to start humanity over. Elizabeth is taken, and the Cetacean tracks them down. Mark and scientist miller simon (kenneth tigar - LETHAL WEAPON 2-3, DALLAS) are captured, but mark is immune to the brainwashing hot tub. The genius fails to persuade mark to be her adam, and leaves in the rocket alone. What makes this episode genius is that the genius is played by a woman (darleen carr - BRET MAVERICK, THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO) who makes her strapping male underlings go about shirtless. We call that power feminism, baby. The genius's reluctant sister (pamela peters solow - ROOM 222, OMEGA COP) has a palpably poignant flirtation with mark. And...a brainwashing hot tub?? If any other decade tried that, it would be hopelessly cheesy - thank you, 70s. Plus a little naked, non-speaking minion ernie hudson! (GHOSTBUSTERS 1-2, OZ).
-Melt Down
Global water levels are rising - our old friend schubert has industrial microwaves situated near the ice caps. The first regular-season episode finds spiffy new uniforms on the Cetacean, and mark is now somehow captain (it's a stretch, but go with it). Schubert promises to halt the destruction if mark submits to genetic testing. The action is rather dumbed down - in fact, victor should just get his old king tut outfit, as this episode resembles nothing so much as a classic BATMAN. Cute, but not right for this show.
-The Mudworm
Schubert loses control of a deep-sea mining probe, which has incredible powers and has achieved some kind of sentience. An inoffensive offering, notable only for darling touches of o'brien/harryhausen-style animation.
-The Hawk of Mu
Schubert tries to get his hands on an ancient hawk statue in a sea cave that possesses staggering power (the statue, not the cave). Not much logic or follow-through, but delightful images and the bouncy juliette schubert (victoria huxtable - FISH, SERIAL), whom mark rescues and follows home without realizing whose daughter she is. She's a gawky post-adolescent, but sees through ol' pops, and helps mark escape.
-Giant
I'm speechless (almost). A serious contender for the all-time TV top-ten wildest guest casting, as atlantean and jesus take on kareem abdul-jabbar! Or atlantean and abdul-jabbar vs. jesus! Either way, welcome to the rabbit hole, which is actually what this episode is about. The Earth's water is draining away through a hole in the ocean floor. Is it going to the center of the Earth? Or some alternate domain? Who knows? In this wildly tame desert land, water is invisible and kareem is the only inhabitant we meet. He's using the water to mine for gold. Gambler/scamp jack muldoon (ted neeley - JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, DJANGO UNCHAINED) takes mark to the domain. The plot is patchwork, and kareem (AIRPLANE!, FLETCH) impersonates his coach john wooden, but mark gets into his first bar fight, and has surreal scene after scene with his two co-stars. Just...wild.
-Man O'War
Schubert creates a monster jellyfish, and threatens to attack a global swim meet unless he's given a million dollars. A middling effort notable only for clever (or offensive?) skirting of the non-blackface law, plus the appearance of LAUGH-IN's announcer gary owens.
-Shoot-Out at Land's End
Yes, an undersea adventure found a way to have...an old west episode. Sigh. Despite the lame premise, it somehow works, as mark discovers an unknown brother who has adapted fully to life on land, doesn't know his origins either, and is a sleazy gun-for-hire. Is this time travel, or a lost world? We don't know, and neither does the show. The split-screen/body double work is worth the price of admission though...they could have just mailed it in, but they really do a bang-up job. And patrick gets to let loose as his amoral, sneaky alter-ego.
-Crystal Water, Sudden Death
Schubert is hot on the trail of super-powered crystals on the ocean bottom. As it turns out, they're energizing a force bubble that keeps the ocean from collapsing on an air-breathing society of bipeds who look like the blue man group, but white. They also walk like storks, and have a click-based language. Mark reaches them first, then they put him on trial, then schubert conquers them all with two flashlights (presumably, one flashlight mightn't have been sufficient). Do NOT let it be said that the producers aren't trying to keep us entertained. A serviceable guest turn by rene auberjonois (STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, M*A*S*H) as a head henchling who has had enough. Victor buono's MFA swan song.
-The Naked Montague
Mark falls into yet another hole in the ocean's floor and ends up in...land-locked fourteenth-century Italy! That in itself is exceedingly strange, but sit tight, we're just getting warmed up. It's not real Verona, but the fictional Verona of...romeo and juliet! Mark becomes embroiled in the story, finds a mysterious grotto that gets him back to his own time/space/reality, then returns to make sure juliet (lisa eilbacher - BEVERLY HILLS COP, AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN) and romeo have...a happy ending! Yup. The most head-scratching thing is that it kind of works. Including this in a marathon of all the cinematic ROMEO AND JULIETs would be...somehow, the right thing to do.
-C.W. Hyde
Steadfast supporting actor alan fudge (THE NATURAL, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS), as liaison bureaucrat c.w., finally gets a moment in the sun as he accidentally ingests an unknown oceanic compound, and finds himself aggressive, amoral, suave, and hairy (if it sounds familiar, just go with it). He gets involved with a mob moll and her unsavory boss. Mark and elizabeth return from sea in time to alleviate an infestation of goons at the institute. It's funny, it's sexy, it's adventurous...
-Scavenger Hunt
Too wildly weird for words...and ted neeley is back! If you watch just the pre-show previews, you won't believe what you're seeing, as mark takes on a man in a rubber two-headed seahorse costume with legs but no arms. What, you need a plot too? Muldoon has set himself up on an island as the controller of a monster god, who demands pearls from the natives and virgin sacrifices (not the male kind). He keeps the virgins alive (and happy) in his underground lair. What, THAT's not enough? How about ted cassidy (THE ADDAMS FAMILY, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID) as the island chief? Ted and ted, together at last. The amazement is that it all somehow works, and while you never quite believe the reality of the rubber suit, you can't help buying the reality of the show.
-Imp
Okay, you're still not convinced that MFA was willing to let it all hang out? Then how about pat morita (HAPPY DAYS, KARATE KID 1-4) as a mischievous water sprite who turns humans into playful children with his touch? That, boys and girls, is what we call a concept. And it's pretty darn hysterical, as he goes on a landside spree, unaware that people without boundaries can hurt themselves. Dick gautier (GET SMART, WHEN THINGS WERE ROTTEN) is along for the ride, and elizabeth finally gets some serious screen time.
-The Siren
Submarine pirates have captured a siren, and use her for sonic attacks. It turns out mark has a mystical singing voice too. But oh sadness...elizabeth has left the building (er, sub)! Done. Gone. Wiped off the credits. Belinda montgomery, due to "illness", has been replaced by some generic actress. She never got her moments in the sun, never got that atlantean romance...sigh. But at least we've got a little laurette spang (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, AIRPORT 1975).
-Deadly Carnival
A series finale that presumable doesn't know it's the finale...but it's a lovely farewell, as mark gets embroiled in an undercover carnival caper. He becomes an attraction - the "man from atlantis"! The criminals are anthony james (NAKED GUN 2 1/2, UNFORGIVEN) and the legendary billy barty (SIGMUND AND THE SEA MONSTERS, WILLOW). And more wonderfully, mark finally dives into romance, with a tender kiss (and actual innuendo implying more) with the carnival boss (sharon farrell - HAWAII FIVE-O, CAN'T BUY ME LOVE).

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"The Bionic Woman"

-created by kenneth johnson
1976-1978
Plot holes, getcher plot holes here!
I'm starting with criticism just as a buffer against overgushing later on. Yes, ridiculous holes in the very premise - a high-level tennis pro (it's implied that she had a memorable run in at least one grand slam tournament) reunites with her childhood love, who is (unbeknownst to her) a government cyborg. She has a horrific skydiving accident, and the cyborg convinces his superiors to make her a cyborg too. She retires from tennis, takes a job as a school teacher, and does government missions on the side. Oy, where do we start? A government invest 5 mil and being content getting a part-time agent living in Bumblefuck, CA? A government making an internationally-recognizable athlete a covert agent? To send on military-level missions with almost NO training? She'd be fishbait by the end of the first episode.
Quibbles aside...
THE BIONIC WOMAN is quite the delight, while also being a contender for the most feminist-positive big time television show ever. In some ways, jaime even tops wonder woman, and that's due to star lindsay wagner, who probably exerted more influence over a series than any unknown actor has, before or since. When she debuted the character on SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, her studio contract was lapsing, and they didn't think to re-up it for what was supposed to be a one-off. When they realized a bionic spin-off would be an instant hit, they threw buckets of bucks at her, but she held out for creative control. She then kept pushing a humanist/feminist agenda. This set BW apart from the parent series - as charming as 6MDM was, it was usually distressingly male in its worldview (good buy bops bad guy on head, everyone goes home). Lindsay made jaime much more human. It's funny to watch the show, thinking about the ongoing compromises between her and creator kenny johnson - for every fembot or sasquatch episode, there was usually one less violent and simplistic. All those children who grew up in the 70s (this writer included), were subconsciously molded by the quieter episodes...and the world is a far better place for it.
The show was also progressive sexually - jaime was romantically active, happily unmarried, and not even hung up on monogamy. You never saw more than one love interest at a time, but the occasional comment indicated that she wasn't averse to it. Even when they gave her a steady beau, she was still having other one-episode romances. Yay!
There was of course some action violence every episode, but she never wanted to hurt anyone. And the way those sequences were shot, rendered them more silly than heavy.
You may be endlessly charmed by lindsay's talent. She has a quirky quality that's subtle and unforced - not one actor in a thousand is so blessed. She quietly maimed the mold that kept action stars from being goofy or human. Making her a school teacher helped. Even though classroom shots were rare, they established jaime as a nurturer. You always see her mind spinning, as she struggles through moral dilemmas. Sometimes, she genuinely has no idea what to do...but her vulnerability and decency never abandon her.
The show's co-stars were richard anderson (FORBIDDEN PLANET, PERRY MASON) as oscar goldman, and martin e. brooks (COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT, DALLAS) as dr. rudy wells. Allowed to be less stiff than on 6MDM, they warmly anchor the show. They were also the first actors to play the same characters simultaneously on two different networks.
Creator kenny johnson (THE INCREDIBLE HULK, V) is also a rare creature - a non-actor who can dish up an entertaining commentary track. Maybe he's got a smartphone with him, but the man rattles off bushels of credits for cast and crew alike. He really seems to care. With irrepressible enthusiasm, he even invites viewers to write to him. His lack of artifice is charming.
NOTEWORTHY EPISODES (season)
[boldface = must-see]
-The Bionic Woman (THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, season 2)
A chance meeting reunites steve austin with tennis pro jaime sommers, his unrequited childhood love. Steve has never been so loose and human...a wedding is planned, but a skydiving accident brings her to death's doorstep! Oscar can't turn down steve's plea to save her (bionically). Jamie prepares for an OSI mission, but her body rejects the bionics. She dies. No, really. The screen debut of dana plato (CALIFORNIA SUITE, DIFF'RENT STROKES), and the only time jaime shares the screen with rudy wells #2 of 3 (alan oppenheimer - PRIVATE BENJAMIN, THE NEVERENDING STORY).
-The Return of the Bionic Woman (THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, season 3)
Okay, she's NOT dead! She was just pining for the fjords, perhaps? The scrambled contrivance to un-dead her is worth some laughs - one of rudy's assistants (rick lenz - GREEN ACRES, THE SHOOTIST) rushes in moments after she dies, with a radical cryogenic proposal. And we're off! Except that the resurrection damages her memory, including the part about having known steve (we writers call that the "plot device that allows our hero to fool around with non-bionic men without seeming, y'know, slutty"). As she recovers, she falls in love...with her dashing doctor! Aww (on two levels). The romantic tension works, and steve's willingness to accept the new reality is very alan alda.
-Welcome Home, Jaime (1)
A two-parter that starts with a season 3 episode of SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, as jaime jumps into her own series with a rush of gentle charm. She returns to her childhood home Ojai, where steve's parents (martha scott - BEN-HUR, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, and ford rainey - 3:10 TO YUMA, NED AND STACEY) set her up in their carriage house. She begins her life as a teacher, while a slimy industrialist takes an interest in her strange abilities.
-Angel of Mercy (1)
The first regular series episode is lifted to heights of silliness by one andy griffith (THE NEW ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, RUSTLERS' RHAPSODY). Sheriff andy plays bush pilot jack starkey. The script about a lost ambassador is implausible even by the show's standards...but is too, too charming to resist. One suspects that this was a particularly fun shoot for all involved.
-A Thing of the Past (1)
One of the most touching human connections of the series, between lindsay and guest star donald o'connor (SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, THE DONALD O'CONNOR SHOW). He plays an unassuming bus driver a couple decades her senior...in other words, the last person with whom you might expect the writers to have her flirt. But she does. Sweet and thoroughly charming.
-Bionic Beauty (1)
A beauty pageant episode was seemingly an obligatory (and quease-inducing) rite of passage for all 70s action heroines. But unlike wonder woman's moment in the slime (inarguably that show's nadir), the writers here found a way to make jaime's pageant purgatory palatable. Heck, even silly and standout. It starts with jaime's revulsion at the mere thought, and ends with making the pageant bigwigs the baddies, in some computer circuit caper. And somewhere in between, bert parks (THE FRESHMAN, NIGHT OF 100 STARS II) renders one of the most campily silly fight scenes in Hollywood history. You'll hit the rewind button several times to see his facial expressions in slow motion. Gary crosby (OPERATION BIKINI, ADAM-12) hits all the right notes too.
-Winning is Everything (1)
A tight, exciting ride as jaime takes the navigator seat in a cross-desert Middle East grand prix. Guest star john elerick (EARTHQUAKE, EMBRYO) is perfectly sympathetic as a down-on-his-luck driver struggling with demons. The highlight of the show is perhaps oscar's de-jewing of himself to make a field appearance. A quick disguise, and ta-da - oscar bartholomew! Ah, those nutty 70s, when a jew couldn't walk the street unmolested in the Middle East. Remember those wacky days?
-Canyon of Death (1)
A new native indian student (guillermo san juan - HILL STREET BLUES) in jaime's class has trouble fitting in, due to an overactive imagination and cultural confusion. The writing is non-condescending. Plus an atomic flying suit! And a suitably despicable turn by gary collins (THE WACKIEST SHIP IN THE ARMY, ROOTS).
-Fly Jaime (1)
Jaime poses as a stewardess, to guard rudy and a secret formula. The plane goes down, they're stranded on an island, and rudy is wounded (with baddies lurking among the passengers). A taut, suspenseful balance of the elements that made the show great: action, humor, and humanism.
-Mirror Image (1)
Is this a fair way to treat a sexually-repressed culture? Am i NOT supposed to notice normally-hidden feminine charms, and pretend that my eyes aren't falling out?? On its own merits, this episode makes any best-of list, as it's a ballyhoo for ms. wagner's talents. She plays jaime, plus a criminal who's been surgically-altered to look like her. Said criminal is a chain-smoking southern belle. With infiltration and counter-infiltration, prepare yourself for mistaken identities worthy of french bedroom farce. Plus herb jefferson (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN) as a suave bahamian who crates jaime and dumps her in the Carribbean. An action/comedy extravaganza! And...i suppose the stage was set with marlo thomas in THAT GIRL, who wasn't going to wear a bra if she didn't damn well feel like it. You can see the occasional resonance of that throughout this series, but this'n might unhinge your non-bionic jaw.
-The Ghost Hunter (1)
Jaime poses as a governess for an adolescent with an OSI scientist father, whose work is being disrupted by paranormal activity. It sounds like a recipe for meh, but comes together, thanks in part to fine performances (and fine sommers chemistry) with paul shenar (ROOTS, DREAM LOVER) and kristy mcnichol (THE PIRATE MOVIE, DREAM LOVER).
-The Return of Bigfoot (2)
Wheeeeeee! Okay, andre the giant couldn't make this go-around, but ted cassidy (THE ADDAMS FAMILY, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID) is a fine fill-in, and there's plenty of austin/sommers magic. Plus juicy guest star aliens! A two-parter that starts on 6MDM, steve becomes a suspect in some bionic-appearing robberies. Beset by civil war, the aliens restore his memories in order to secure his help. But he gets radiation sickness, and jaime must take on bigfoot, who is a pawn of the conquest-bent aliens, who are played by stefanie powers (THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E., HART TO HART: TILL DEATH DO US HART), john saxon (MITCHELL, THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN), and sandy duncan (ROOTS, VALERIE). Phew! Anybody winded?
-In this Corner, Jaime Sommers (2)
Quite silly, and quite irresistible. Jaime infiltrates the world of woman wrestling, and spends the episode dressed as savage jessie sommers! She's more adorable than deplorable, but her bionics remedy that. The shifty show manager (norman fell - CATCH-22, THE ROPERS) is shelling government shecrets. And remember jaime's quirky quality? I kid you not, she sasses mad mary maddox (or is it battling betty madison?) by giving the international sign for cunnilingus. Priceless.
-The Road to Nashville (2)
Jaime sings! And not some cheesy dub-in - those are lindsay's pipes, just as surely as that was lee singing in their first episode (sorry, no bionic duet). Jaime pretends to be an aspiring singer, to unravel a government leak that's flowing though a Nashville star (just go with it) played by hoyt axton (GREMLINS, DALLAS: THE EARLY YEARS). Jaime's co-conspirator is country musician muffin calhoon, played by...wait for it...doc severinson! The fact that lindsay doesn't mention doc's name even once on the commentary track, speaks volumes. But still, "Just chalk one up for the Muffin" has to stand as a contender for funniest BW line ever.
-Kill Oscar (2)
Fembots. Fembots! FEMBOTS!!! This three-part paean to misogyny (the second of which is on 6MDM) might be consigned to the scrap heap, but for one tiny nugget of improbable casting. The spurned doctor-who-plans-revenge-on-oscar-while-scheming-to-conquer-the-world-with-evil-female-robots? Boys and girls, that would be one john houseman (THE PAPER CHASE, THE NAKED GUN). Mr. Smith Julliard Barney himself. So yes, keep any actual boys and girls away from this one, but the chilling image of a powerful, beautiful woman with her face removed to reveal wires and circuits is a fright that will never be erased. Jaime and steve storm an island lair, oscar leaves taped instructions to not spare his life...brilliant. Now, mr. johnson, i'd like to discuss my trust issues with women.
-Black Magic (2)
How does an episode this overloaded with guest stars not collapse under its own weight? Ms. sommers knows a thing or two about load-bearing, i reckon. An island mansion is the setting for a greedy family gathering to hear a will reading. Jaime impersonates a long-lost relative. Are you sitting down? Vincent price (BATMAN, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS) plays a dual role, and is joined by julie newmar (BATMAN, NUDITY REQUIRED), hermione baddeley (BATMAN, MAUDE), and abe vigoda (FISH, JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO). Delightful.
-The Vega Influence (2)
Jaime is reunited with the cryogenic doctor who saved her life. She and michael, in an air force transport, make a stop on an island military base...which is deserted. They find the base personnel zombified, and soon fall prey to the same influence, except for jaime and a teenage girl (jamie smith-jackson - BREEZY, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN), who develop a touching connection. A meteor is the cause of the trouble, and in this chilling episode you see jaime genuinely terrified.
-Jaime's Shield (2)
How much of a hoot is it to have jaime go undercover as a police academy cadet...and have the academy gate be the same one used for CHARLIE'S ANGELS? The episode's a dandy too. Strong female characters, a sexist cop whom jaime reforms, and wonderfully silly action. Plus a slick, dastardly russian agent played by rebecca balding (SOAP, CHARMED).
-Biofeedback (2)
Jaime teams up with a tibetan-trained doctor (granville van dusen - SOAP, HILL STREET BLUES) who can manipulate his body functions, for a mission behind the Iron Curtain. He simulates death, wards off freezing and drowning, and negates the effects of a grievous wound. This was lindsay's most beloved episode, because it's about untapped human potential (in a show based on a technologically-enhanced superhuman). Decades later, we're not much further along in understanding the potentialities or limits of biofeedback (or neurofeedback, as it's been "palatably" renamed), but the medical establishment seems to be taking it more seriously. This episode is a charmer...yes, there's an unintentionally silly aspect as we hear granville's inner "shanti, omm" monologue (you may be a bit stunned by how unabashedly the writers ran with the concept)...but all the best elements of the show are firmly in place.
-Doomsday is Tomorrow (2)
Written and directed by kenny, this two-parter is the BW pinnacle. Alone in a desert complex, jaime takes on a supercomputer which has been programmed by its dying creator (lew ayres - ALL QUEST ON THE WESTERN FRONT, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) to destroy the world unless all nations pledge to never detonate a nuclear weapon again. When a disbelieving third world country detonates a test bomb, the countdown to armageddon is begun. Jaime battles waves of defenses, trying to reason with the computer while descending toward its core. The casting of lew was a brilliant coup - as the star of DR. KILDARE, he had registered as a conscientious objector when drafted for WWII. The country was outraged and his career disappeared, until an Oscar nomination in 1948. His turn here as the ultimate person of peace is perfect. And with no one to play against except a disembodied voice, lindsay turns in a performance a million miles beyond good. The dramatic twists and turns are searing.
-Deadly Ringer (2)
This two-part sequel to "Mirror Image" has jaime kidnapped and switched with her jailbird double, who is due to be given her original face through cosmetic surgery! The sense of isolation and desperation jaime feels as she tries to convince an unsympathetic world that a mistake has been made, is disturbing. Even oscar coldly tosses her under the bus. Another brilliant turn for lindsay, this one tragic as lisa galloway becomes addicted to a drug in order to deal with becoming addicted to living jaime's life. Plus a lil' katherine helmond (SOAP, BRAZIL).
-Jaime and the King (2)
A contender for the worst BW ever...yet if you're gonna be bad, go down swinging i say, and so does robert loggia (AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, LOST HIGHWAY), who gives a scenery-chewing performance as an arabian shah. Jaime poses as his son's tutor, to protect the hyper-chauvinist shah from assassination. The son (lance kerwin - JAMES AT SIXTEEN, ENEMY MINE) is no peach either, but jaime gives him his first taste of a woman who isn't a doormat. Their relationship is touching. I'm not sure whether having jaime do a veil dance undercuts the feminist message...but mostly, the badness is the uncertainty over whether this is racist (or just culturally insensitive?). It's all a bit trippy and unbalancing. Still...a must-see for loggia-lovers.
-The Dejon Caper (2)
Has rene auberjonois (M*A*S*H, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE) ever done a bad guest turn? His appearances on WONDER WOMAN, CHARLIE'S ANGELS, BW, and MRS. COLUMBO (well...) would make a lovely 70s power feminist marathon. Here, he's a world-class art forger caught by the OSI and forced to go to Paris with jaime, to betray his boss. He tries to give her the slip, but realizes he's dead without her. Brisk, witty, charming...
-Iron Ships and Dead Men (2)
A bittersweet look into oscar's past, as jaime goes undercover (and off the books) at a dockyard to investigate the discovery of his dead brother's dog tags. A fine tutorial for workplace sexism in the 70s. Jaime develops a touching connection with a mentally slow worker (bob richards - LIL' ABNER, GENESIS II). They really work the george/lenny thing, but they do it well.
-Once a Thief (2)
Another buddy adventure, this time with a down-on-his-luck, lonely cat burglar who accidentally sees her bionics, and tries to bribe her into doing one last big job with him. Suddenly, they're caught in the crossfire between his greedy bosses and the police. A poignant guest turn by elisha cook, jr. (THE MALTESE FALCON, MAGNUM P.I.).
-The Bionic Dog (3)
A new network, new producer (james parriott - though not new to the series), and a dangerously precious title give rise to shark-jumping angst, but all is well! Jaime learns of the existence of the animal who first received bionics (before they were deemed, y'know, safe enough for humans). Sadly, the dog max is about to be euthanized after his captivity-induced ennui causes rudy to believe that the bionics are finally being rejected. Cyborg woman and dog bond - her pleas for his life unheeded, she breaks him out and flees, ending up in the wilds of the Sierras, where she finds refuge with an old flame (dale robinette - THE JAZZ SINGER, DEATH WISH 4), who gets to say the line "Up here animals are people" (given how we humans treat other people, that's a mixed blessing, but it's still a stunningly progressive morsel to feed young minds in 1978...or now). It's also hard to not see an unintentional parallel to lindsay and creator kenny's relationship. His reaching for 6MDM-style action (kill the dog!), her pushing a humanist/feminist agenda (spare the dog!)...kenny is embodied by both rudy and oscar, who push jaime to her first flagrant insubordination. The conflicts, compromises, and conciliations of real life are delightfully drawn out.
- Motorcycle Boogie (3)
Okay! Have jaime shanghai a motorcyclist for a high-speed chase! Have the biker be evel knievel, and turn it into a buddy comedy where she refuses to believe he's actually evel! Good, good, great! But it's missing something...i've got it! Have them running around behind the iron curtain, chased by german goons, one of whom sounds a little like count dracula! And have evel speak a little german! YES! BRILLIANT! DO IT!!! This one is so charmingly silly, it can do no wrong. The writing loses its deftness once or twice, but you'll be giggling from start to finish. Jaime's checkpoint guard flirtation is a gear-shifting testament to lindsay's talent - just when it's all sliding into camp (not the kind with tents), she pops off a moment so real that you'll be shaking your head.
-Escape to Love (3)
Wow. That's just...awful. The level of writing plunges to a dreary depth heretofore unbionically seen. I'm all for giving opportunities to anyone but another white male, but both the writer and story editor here are women - and this'ns nowhere near ready for prime time. Yes, kids, kenny johnson and executive producer harve bennett (THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN) have left the building.
-Max (3)
Aww...max gets his own episode. No really...the first BW episode to relegate lindsay to a supporting role. Instead, it's a buddy comedy between max and his teen-aged babysitter - christopher knight (THE BRADY KIDS, THE BRADYS)! Unfortunately, it's unwatchable, as the writers make christopher too stupid to breathe.
-All for One (3)
Jamie enrolls in college to find a genius computer hacker. She meets a food truck manager (franklin ajaye - THE JAZZ SINGER, DEADWOOD) who's channeling stolen money to underprivileged students. Subtlety, humanism...but why is a robin-hood themed show given a three musketeers title?
-The Pyramid (3)
Wait a minute...you mean the OSI had the technology to fix the ozone layer back in 1978?? Goddamned government grumble grumble...
-The Antidote (3)
Another curiosity in which lindsay plays a supporting role to the bionic "family", as max, callahan, and late-series recurring boyfriend (christopher stone - CUJO, THE NEW LASSIE) rush to save a poisoned bionic woman. Weak writing and acting, but some lovely bionic dog action. Chris is a little "70s macho blah", and his chemistry with lindsay doesn't set the house on fire...but it's fun when you think of him as a perfect morphing of robert redford and rip taylor.
-Sanctuary Earth (3)
Wheee! For those of us thought the pariott era would fade away with a whimper, strap yourselves in for a ride...with a space princess! Hmm...let me guess. 1978? Yup. I think even the waltons had an alien visitation that year. Here, the aforementioned princess stows away on a plummeting satellite, fleeing from pursuers. Jaime gives her sanctuary, and pretty soon the pursuers arrive (wearing turtlenecks and blazers, and why not?). What amps up the delight on this silly charmer is fifteen year-old helen hunt (SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, TRANCERS 1-3). Her performance is flat...but that may have been an acting choice, as it works fine. Curiously, jaime is reluctant to believe her guest is an alien (curious, because this is the third time in four episodes that she's faced aliens...aah, you crazy post-STAR WARS networks).
-Deadly Music (3)
In three seasons, she never punches a human being...but she's fine with cold-cocking a shark?
-Which One is Jaime? (3)
A mistaken identity snafu has callahan kidnapped in jaime's place. This could've been a classic (especially considering that the action takes place in the same amusement park used for NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION), but the writing devolves. James sikking (HILL STREET BLUES, DOOGIE HOWSER M.D.) and brock peters (TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE) are mostly wasted.
-Out of Body (3)
Another high-water mark for the show's progressive side, as jaime becomes romantic soul mates with a native indian. Tommy Littlehorse is framed for a robbery, and put into a coma. He then communicates with jaime through the spirit realm. The dipsy wipsiest BW? We'll allow it.
-On the Run (3)
The regular season series finale. Knowing it was coming, they wrote a script that paralleled lindsay's own ambivalence about BW, as jaime decides to leave the OSI. Oscar's superiors won't allow it. She goes on the lam as a fugitive, but finally returns, in exchange for more control of her destiny. Considering the lame duck status imposed by the lack of a six million dollar man (heck, there's even a sub in for callahan), it's a decent wrap-up. The highlight is an edgy, intense moment for oscar as he disobeys orders and urges her to run.
-BIONIC EVER AFTER?
A 1994 telemovie, and the final appearance of steve and jaime...and rudy and oscar and even lee II (plus an underused anne lockhart - BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, JOYRIDE). It's rather wonderful. It might even get four stars, if less time were spent on the inane "saving the world from terrorists" plot. As the bionic wedding approaches, jaime starts falling apart, mentally and physically. But it's sabotage! The unbalanced villain (farrah forke - WINGS, DWEEBS) has her sights on steve too. Can they save each other, and the world? More to the point, don't they deserve a real, relaxed domestic finale? Ah well, it's a hell of a final kiss. We'll take it.

Monday, August 15, 2016

"The Six Million Dollar Man"

-created by harve bennett
1974-1978
Violent, sexist drivel.
I like to lead with the worst thing i can say about a show, especially if i'm going to gush a bit. Yes, at its worst it was little more than an american james bond, with two-dimensional bad guys, glamorous violence, cold war flag-waving, and a beautiful, willing woman waiting at the end. That said, the show also had many moments of violence-free, humanistic fare...for example, when steve is captured by a japanese soldier unaware the war is over, an air force colonel shows shame that the U.S. nuked human populations. Sometime during the first season the producers made the decision to rarely show murder, and steve austin joins a short but shining list of action heroes who refuse to use a gun (the look on his face when he's an undercover cop and must draw his sidearm, is wonderful). They also dialed down the lothario quotient, and female writers were not uncommon. Beyond the terrorists and megalomaniacs, the show also took on the I.R.A., ESP, environmental issues, and it was obvious that many of the creators came of age during the idealistic sixties. So if you can get past the obvious failings, the show had heart. Not EVERY women was an ineffectual, overemotional sex object...and the writing was often clever and thoughtful. Beyond all that, as a ride down retro road it's almost impossible not to laugh at the unabashed silliness. Series star lee majors (THE FALL GUY, SCROOGED) inhabits his role as the world's first cyborg with such ease and warmth, his iconic status is of a type known only to those with names like garner, shatner, and (dare i say it) dean anderson. I'm gushing, so let me just reiterate - impressionable minds should be kept six million miles away. But as an archaeological artifact that might just leave you hooting, you have my blessing.
NOTEWORTHY EPISODES (season)
[boldface = must-see]
-WINE, WOMEN, AND WAR (1)
The second of three telemovies that preceded the series, it's a burst of  irrepressible juiciness (and not just in contrast to the first telemovie, which is so glacially lifeless it makes STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE look breakneck - its heart was in the right place, but they were probably following the original novel far too closely). Action, sex, humor, come on down! They swerve in the james bond direction a bit too far, but it's a great ride nonetheless. Steve is sent on vacation to the Bahamas. His boss (the darling debut of richard anderson - FORBIDDEN PLANET, THE BIONIC WOMAN) may have ulterior motives, as he's soon embroiled in the illegal nuclear arms market. Britt ekland (THE WICKER MAN, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN) and eric braeden (THE RAT PATROL, COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT) are pitch-perfect as femme fatale and megalomaniac. As if all that weren't enough, the title theme music is performed by dusty springfield. It's sultry, syrupy and bears no resemblance the robust song on which they soon settled. How did this make NONE of her greatest hits collections?
-Rescue of Athena One (1)
Steve trains America's first female astronaut...farrah fawcett (majors, that is - LOGAN'S RUN, EXTREMITIES)! An orbital accident requires a rescue by a certain bionic man. He lays a faintly patronizing, sexist attitude on her, but it's too sweet and silly to be denied. Farrah looks surprisingly, touchingly unglamorous, lending her performance an aura of innocence before the Hollywood star machine got their hands on her. The story and visuals are first-rate...it would have been nice to have first-rate dialogue too, but one can't be greedy. Still, it would make a satisfyingly quirky marathon with APOLLO 13 and GRAVITY.
-The Pioneers (2)
Mike farrell (THE QUESTOR TAPES, M*A*S*H) plays an insane, super-human astronaut. No, i didn't make that up...but there are actually some nuanced, human moments.
-Taneha (2)
Steve comes to the aid of an old friend, who pleads with him to stop local ranchers from killing the last male golden cougar. Teamed up with a guide (jess walton - THE PEACE KILLERS, THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS) who would rather see the cougar dead, steve wins her over and sweet-talks the cougar while she gets rid of the rancher posse. Some eye-popping nature cinematography, plus heart and smarts...i suspect even the writer herself may not have known just how far on the wrong side of history lies our bloody, genocidal legacy of ranching.
-The E.S.P. Spy (2)
Steve teams up with an ESP prodigy (robbie lee - BIG BAD MAMA, RAINBOW BRITE) to track down baddies who have kidnapped another savant for brutal mental espionage, with dick van patten (WHEN THINGS WERE ROTTEN, EIGHT IS ENOUGH) as the target. It's disarming to see a tender, unself-conscious relationship between a man and a teen, with no sexual overtones. She's just a misfit who realizes she has a spiritual equal in steve. Really though, the most irresistible thing about this episode is the unintentional hilarity in the fact that the word "kinky" used to have a non-sexual denotation, and audrey repeatedly refers to herself as kinky.
-The Bionic Woman (2)
A chance meeting reunites steve with tennis pro jaime sommers, his unrequited childhood love. Steve has never been so loose and human...a wedding is planned, but a skydiving accident brings her to death's door! Oscar can't turn down steve's plea to save her (bionically). Jaime prepares for an OSI mission, but her body rejects the bionics. She dies. No, really. The screen debut of dana plato (CALIFORNIA SUITE, DIFF'RENT STROKES). What throws this one completely over the top is lee's singing of the "jaime" love theme. It's awful. It's sublime. You pick.
-Steve Austin, Fugitive (2)
It's about time someone realized the show was too male. Come on down, peggy callahan (jennifer darling - EIGHT IS ENOUGH, DARMA & GREG)! Oscar's new secretary (I guess it was that or rudy's nurse, right? In bennett's defense, he did have a female head of state in another episode.) finds herself as steve's only friend when he's framed for murder while oscar is out of town. Her pluck saves the day, and her charm wins the hero (we would too, steve, we would too). Sadly, she only came back for three more episodes, plus five BIONIC WOMANs.
-The Price of Liberty (3)
Worst 6MDM ever? A fine turn by chuck connors (THE RIFLEMAN, AIRPLANE II) is wasted on this mawkish slice of nationalism.
-The Song and Dance Spy (3)
Steve must accompany his college roommate john perry on a concert tour, as the government is convinced the pop star is selling government secrets. And who plays this college pal? Why, just sonny bono (THE SONNY AND CHER SHOW, AIRPLANE II). It turns out that john and steve were competitive college pranksters. Action, laughs, performances by sonny...priceless. And the baddie turns out to be his future wife, susie coelho (THE NORSEMAN, BREAKIN' 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO), on the set where they presumably met.
-The Deadly Test (3)
Ohh, that this episode falls a bit flat. Tragic. The elements are irresistible - erik estrada (CHiPs, THE MODERN ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER) as an arabian prince pilot trainee who ends up hugging his mortal jewish rival. Fiction doesn't get much fictier. But the writing doesn't quite come together. Tim o'connor (BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY, Ssssssss) is also along, in an atypically butch role.
-Target in the Sky (3)
Thoroughly charming. Steve goes undercover as a lumberjack, and discovers a plot to shoot down Air Force 2. The duplicitous foreman is classic 70s "that guy" denny miller (V, TARZAN THE APE MAN), and he's never been more perfect. With seamless writing, the only thing keeping this from four stars is the underdevelopment of the touching chemistry between steve and lumber boss kelly (barbara rhoades - SOAP, THE SHAKIEST GUN IN THE WEST).
-The Blue Flash (3)
A lovely example of the show's humanism. Steve goes undercover as a longshoreman, and has a thoughtful relationship with a black woman and her son (without even a whiff of obligatory romance). He wears an earring, a mustache, and after a misstep, teaches the boy (rodney allen rippy - BLAZING SADDLES, OH GOD! BOOK II) about the power of science over superstition. A dandy guest turn by michael conrad (HILL STREET BLUES, THE LONGEST YARD).
-Clark Templeton O'Flaherty (3)
A charming turn by louis gossett jr. (ROOTS, AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN) as a janitor/secret agent in an episode that loses steam...
-The Winning Smile (3)
So okay, this episode establishes that the U.S. has not cracked cold fusion. Necessarily then, steve's nuclear-powered bionics are...fission-based?? He's got some kind of fission reactor...INSIDE HIS BODY??? Oy.
-Hocus-Pocus (3)
With an outsized, bravura performance by pernell roberts (BONANZA, TRAPPER JOHN M.D.) and another adorable turn by robbie lee as everyone's favorite teenage psychic, this charmer is off to the races, as steve goes undercover as...a magician. Bionic perfection - your gigglemeter will be amply engaged.
-The Secret of Bigfoot (3)
Seismic delight. Iconic, heart-pounding, frightening, silly, and wonderful. Steve tracks down a missing scientist in the wilderness, and is attacked by...bigfoot (andre the giant - THE PRINCESS BRIDE, MICKI & MAUDE)! But the big fella is simply an automaton, testing steve on behalf of peaceable aliens observing Earth. Steve is lured into their mountain outpost, through a wild rotating ice tunnel. Their scientist of bionics (stefanie powers - HART TO HART, HERBIE RIDES AGAIN) gets a fine case of austin crush. They plan to wipe his memories and release him, but oscar explodes an underground nuke, to prevent a California quake. Working with sasquatch, he helps save the alien survivors. His memory is erased, and he'll see them no more ever again...or will he? The greatest bionic fight ever - the stuff of indelible childhood memory. Toss in a quick jaime cameo plus no mustache-twirling villains, and it's all too marvelous for words.
-Big Brother (3)
Steve becomes big brother to a street kid heading for a bad end. If you can lay aside the painfully simplistic treatment of a serious social problem (and a momentary succumbing to the kiddie sound effect silliness that sullied seasons 3&4), this one has too much heart and fun to resist. A jet ride for a starry-eyed kid, an irresistible drop-in by jaime, a tenement sister and baby brother too perfect for words, a bionic street basketball game...
-Return of Bigfoot (4)
It really does take an admirable leap at living up to the original, splitting a two-parter with THE BIONIC WOMAN. Steve finds himself the primary suspect in a series of bionic robberies, and discovers that a splinter group of aliens are using sasquatch for felonious means. Steve gets sick and jaime takes over. Toss in some sandy duncan (ROOTS, VALERIE) and john saxon (THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN, BEVERLY HILLS COP III), and it almost lifts off. Perhaps if only andre had been available...
-Nightmare in the Sky (4)
Farrah returns for her bionic farewell, playing the same pilot she played in season 1 (two intervening 6MDM appearances, as a reporter and a gambler, don't quite merit mention). On a test mission, kelly loses both her plane and memory. Steve breaks her out of detention, and they're off. Yes, there's far too much "sit quietly little girl, and let the strong man take care of things", but their flirtations are disarmingly sweet. There's also some lovely villainy by donald moffat (LOGAN'S RUN, POPEYE) and dana elcar (MACGYVER, THE NUDE BOMB).
-The Bionic Boy (4)
This episode encapsulates the season 4 quality nosedive. The producers were ostensibly targeting kids more, but instead of doing so intelligently, the writing often just slips into infantile. And at the risk of getting a angry letter from MADS (the mustache anti-defamation society), steve's season four facial hair just makes him look smarmy and shady. Compounding matters, he's suddenly wearing sunglasses a lot, making this the season of the bionic car salesman (oops, there's a letter from SADS...and maybe CSADS too). In this one, a paralyzed youth gets bionic implants that are supposed to return him to normal, but he starts manifesting super strength. Mawkish and overdone, with one of the most cringe-worthy 6MDM segments ever - a beyond-hysterical square dance which devolves into a waltz, during which steve (who arrived at the dance with a young, thin blonde) gets unexpectedly stuck with a dance partner who is none of those things. He's too "gracious" to insult her to her face, but the audience sees his discomfort and disgust. Starring vincent van patten (ROCK 'n' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, BAYWATCH), joan van ark (DALLAS, KNOTS LANDING), dick van patten (EIGHT IS ENOUGH, WHEN THINGS WERE ROTTEN), greg evivan (er, eviGan - B.J. AND THE BEAR, TEKWAR), and frank gifford (MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL, COACH).
-A Bionic Christmas Carol (4)
Convoluted, bizarre...and one rewrite short of brilliant. You won't make it a holiday staple, even ironically, but there are enough moments of magic (or absurdity) to make it something you have to see once. A miserly industrialist (ray walston - MY FAVORITE MARTIAN, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH) makes shoddy government supplies, and steve investigates. Horton overdoses on meds, and spends a hallucinatory night with steve as a silent santa showing him the error of his ways (sort of). Bob cratchit and tiny tim are played by dick sargent (BEWITCHED, DOWN TO EARTH) and adam rich (EIGHT IS ENOUGH, THE DEVIL AND MAX DEVLIN).
-The Ultimate Imposter (4)
An impossibly young kim basinger (THE GETAWAY, THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR) gets no scenes with steve in this spin-off starter about a bionic-brained agent, that never gets spinning.
-U-509 (4)
Amid the season 4 rubble, a gem! A retired, embittered royal navy captain leads a mercenary crew who have a nazi sub with enough nerve gas too kill the eastern seaboard, unless they're given millions. Steve manages to get aboard the submerged sub. Great stories and visuals, nice comedy, and steve is more dirty harry bionic bad-ass than in any other episode. With ian abercrombie (SEINFELD, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK).
-To Catch the Eagle (4)
And...the mustache is gone!! Wheee! It can be sad and funny to watch a 70s show try to do an episode about native indians without being patronizing - sometimes, they almost succeed. Steve must rescue two scientists who are on reservation sacred ground, but he must pass rigged tests of hardship first. It's scurrilous, noble, barbarically brutal toward other animals...but at least it tries. A tender, touching turn by kathleen beller (THE BETSY, THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER) as a bright indian teen who falls in love with steve.
-The Ghostly Teletype (4)
And the award for the most head-scratchingly bizarre 6MDM is claimed! Twin teen telepaths who are dying of old age...a gentle grandmother who lays steve out...a helpful fortune teller who doesn't exist...plus one really cool magician friend who shows the bullshit on the other side of the footlights. It's dipsy wipsy, but too weird to be denied. With larry anderson (LIFE WITH LUCY, STAR TREK: INSURRECTION), who was also in the bizarrest CHARLIE'S ANGELS ever. Coincidence? You decide.
-Sharks (5)
Gone is the attempt to turn 6MDM into a kid's show, as the final season bursts out of the gate in this two-parter about a scientist and his shark-controlling daughter (pamela hensley - BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY, THE NUDE BOMB) who try to steal a nuclear sub. Hensley and majors have chemistry to burn, and rudy's "trapped in a diving bell" faces are beyond classic. Plus a treat for sci fi fans, as marc alaimo (STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE) and john de lancie (STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION) play evil and good henchmen.
-Bigfoot V (5)
As bad as JAWS 3-D? Not nearly, although invoking the jaws spiral is valid. Without andre the giant, stephanie powers, or even sandy duncan, this one still rallies at the end to touch the heartstrings more than either of its predecessors. Bigfoot (ted cassidy - BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, THE ADDAMS FAMILY) chooses to remain on Earth, and is interrupted midway through a cycle which will turn him completely organic. He's half-insane - can steve save him? Need you ask?
-Killer Wind (5)
Winner of the M.R.N.A.P.B.D. award (the Most Ridiculous Non-Acknowledgement of a Preposterous Bionic Display), as steve simultaneously pulls two ten-ton tramcars separated by two miles, up and down a mountain...while the locals just smile and nod. Can we please get a physicist in to calculate just how strong he has to be to pull this one off?
-Dark Side of the Moon (5)
This two-parter is so very good, just because its inventiveness goes light years beyond anything you might expect. Astronaut steve is back in space, as Earth tries to mine the moon for a super power source. The show takes breathtaking liberties with the realities of the space program (and the principles of science), but that's part of the charm, as steve rushes to push the moon back into its correct orbit. There's a villainous megalomaniac, a sultry scientist...you had me at hello, dark side (even without any Floyd in the soundtrack).
-The Cheshire Project (5)
Steve searches for a test pilot (suzanne sommers - THREE'S COMPANY, SHE'S THE SHERIFF) who disappeared with her plane, only to find that she was in on the plot. They have a romantic history, and she becomes the latest brand new felon who asks him to wait for her to get out of prison. What does it say about his personality that he (again) agrees? Does he have a conjugal visit clause built in to his government contract? The sommers/majors chemistry is lovely.
-Just a Matter of Time (5)
During a space flight, steve's capsule is diverted upon re-entry, and he finds himself on an island an ocean off-course. Government agents arrive, telling him that six years have passed and that he's been living the life of a defector inside the U.S.S.R. The plot will be recycled very well a decade later by STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION...but this incarnation feels fresh and disorienting. John de lancie's most satisfyingly substantive 6MDM turn.
-The Lost Island (5)
The most incoherent, inscrutable, and morally indefensible 6MDM. Wrap "CRIME SCENE" tape around this one and stay far, far away.
-The Moving Mountain (5)
And this, dear friends, is how you end a series. Or rather, it's how you end the day when a series doesn't seem to know it's ending. It's just a regular ol' episode, but a rib-tickling delight. Curiously, steve goes out the way he came in - not since the second telemovie pilot has an episode felt this "james bond" (An anarchic terrorist steals american missiles and a soviet launcher, forcing steve to go undercover with a russian agent, who happens to be a blonde sexpot - what were the odds?). But it works, because there's no 007 smarmy glibness. Steve and andrea (lisa farringer - COFFY, LAUGH-IN) play honeymooning husband and wife in an alpine resort, then hit the wilderness trail. Soon, they're humping and bumping by campfire light...oh stop, episode, you had us at guten tag. Yes, there's enough hypocritical, nationalistic propaganda to make a team of oxen puke (The poor russian is an unwitting pawn of her evil, machiavellian superiors!), but the chemistry and charm hit on all cylinders. As if that weren't enough, the evil general is played with oily elan by john colicos (STAR TREK, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA). No finale with steve, oscar, and rudy (or even jaime, the bionic boy, or bionic dog)...but a two-week detente sex holiday for our cold warriors is consolation enough. Bravo. 
-THE RETURN OF THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN AND THE BIONIC WOMAN
1987
As bad as BEASTMASTER 2? No...but comparable. Steve now lives in retired seclusion, jaime has had an accident which unearths her lost memories of loving him, he discovers a son he never knew who is about to graduate from flight school but has a horrific crash in which he loses two legs, an arm, and an eye...the gang's all back (except callahan and the dog), plus lee's real-life son lee II, and martin landau (SPACE: 1999, ED WOOD). There are moments of semi-delight...seeing how stuntwork has developed in ten years so that bionic jumps are more impressive than ever, plus scenes between jaime and steve that at least brush against the old magic...but it's often painfully flat, because they absolutely fail to recapture the feel of the original shows. The plot's trite, the writing is often second-rate, the music is awful (with pop hits sung by substitute voices), it looks like the worst kind of cheap TV movie of the week...perhaps harve bennett could have pulled a rabbit out of this hat, as the original shows had enough charm to overcome patches of weak writing...but harve has clearly left the building. Why do i feel such a compelling urge to blame this on the 80s?
-BIONIC SHOWDOWN
1989
The bionic is back! My guess is that the under-budgeted first telemovie did well enough that lots more cash came down the line, as this one looks and feels six million times better. It would actually get four stars if the plot had stayed on steve and jaime, rather than the new bionic kid in town (sandra bullock - DEMOLITION MAN, GRAVITY). The producers were angling for a spin-off...which is not to say that sandra isn't delightful - she is (and possibly sexier than in any role she's ever played), as she gets paired up with oscar's nephew jimmy (jeff yagher - V, SIX FEET UNDER). Lee II is also back. While steve tries to ask jaime to marry him, oscar goes on a drunken nutty after resigning from the OSI. Richard anderson's dandiest, most unbuttoned bionic turn. Can kate successfully portray an athlete at the world unity games, while simultaneously tracking down a super-bionic criminal?
-BIONIC EVER AFTER?
1994
The final appearance of steve and jaime...and rudy and oscar and even lee II (plus an underused anne lockhart - BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, JOYRIDE). And it's rather wonderful. It might get four stars, if less time were spent on the "saving the world from terrorists" plot. As the bionic wedding approaches, jaime starts falling apart. But it's bionic sabotage! The unbalanced villain (farrah forke - WINGS, DWEEBS) has her sights on steve too. Can our heroes save each other, and the world? More to the point, will they get a real, relaxed domestic finale? With callahan? Ah well, it's a hell of a final kiss. We'll take it.
-----------------------------
But wait! If it's the silly action you can't resist, if the bionic duh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-naahh alone is enough to get you giggling, here's the marathon for you - episodes that are middling or worse, but have a fight sequence that's just...heck, words fail me.
BION-A-THON
-Dr. Wells is Missing (1)
Going after rudy, who's been kidnapped in Austria, steve gets captured himself and must face off against the goons of a crime lord who wants to steal the secrets of bionics. The biggest bruiser of all, a black french martial arts master, has a dubbed-in voice that combines bruce lee and michael jackson. What, you think i could make that up?
-Return of the Robot Maker (2)
Oscar goldman is kidnapped, and replaced by a robot! Amateurishly written, but the climactic fight scene is beyond classic.
-Death Probe (4)
Steve tangles with a strange machine that fell out of the sky. OSI assumes it's alien, until all the deep cover russian spies in the world come out of the woodwork to converge on Wyoming, and steve discovers the vehicle is a russian probe meant for venusian exploration. Built to withstand extreme temperatures and pressures, the probe is now on high defense mode, and headed for a town. Steve is no match! It grabs him, it lassoes him! The images are too iconic and too beautifully silly.