UPDATED 9/4/2013 – See change of date on ‘AROUND THE BARN’ story.
UPDATED 9/2/13 11:08 A.M.
Labor Day triggers a new schedule for the Me-TV network – and they’re bringing back Steve McQueen in his star-making role of bounty hunter Josh Randall in WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE. A series not seen on television for many years, McQueen did 94 episodes from 1958 to 1961, and in my humble opinion it was one of the great half-hour westerns, right up there with HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, THE REBEL, THE RIFLEMAN, and the first six years of GUNSMOKE. It’ll play weekdays at 5 am, and Saturdays at 4 pm.
F-TROOP, the delightful western comedy series, will play Monday through Thursday nights at 9:30 pm. It stars Forrest Tucker as Sgt. O’Rourke, and Larry Storch – soon to be seen in the new Western feature KNIGHT OF THE GUN – as Cpl. Agarn, playing a pair of lovable Bilko-like old west connivers, with Ken Berry as the well-meaning but clueless Captain Parmenter, their hapless foil, and beautiful, feisty Melody Patterson – jail bait at the time! – as Wrangler Jane. Also standouts in the cast are James Hampton as Dobbs, Frank DeKova as Chief Wild Eagle, Don Diamond as Crazy Cat, and in a tremendous break from his B-western heroics, Bob Steele in a terrific comic turn as Duffy.
WAGON TRAIN will continue Saturdays, but at 11:30 am; RAWHIDE will be seen Saturdays at 3 pm; THE RIFLEMAN continues with its hour block weeknights at 6 pm, plus Saturdays at 5 pm; and DANIEL BOONE will continue weekdays at 9 am.
‘QUICKDRAW’ – a TV Review
The folks at HULU have been making new and old movies and TV shows available online for a few years, but only recently decided to produce their own exclusive content. I got word in February that they were set to make a western comedy series, QUICKDRAW. The show stars John Lehr, who toplined the series 10 ITEMS OR LESS, but is perhaps most familiar as one of the resentful cavemen in the very dry and funny series of GEICO INSURANCE commercials. He and Nancy Hower created QUICKDRAW; they write it together, and she directs.
Under considerable secrecy their company took over Paramount Ranch in Agoura for the month of March, and shot a season of eight half-hour (okay, 23 minutes) episodes. I so wanted to see what was going on that, when they wouldn’t permit press, I tried to get on as an extra, but they were a SAG show, so that didn’t work either. Well, with virtually no fanfare, the shows have been completed, and the first five episodes are available for free right now online – here’s the link to episode 1 on HULU: http://www.hulu.com/#!watch/511696#i0,p0,d0
John Lehr plays lawman John Henry Hoyle, newly appointed sheriff in a town where you can place a bet at the local saloon on the time and day that the new sheriff will die. Sheriff Hoyle, unlike his predecessors, is a Harvard man, and absolutely full of himself, convinced that, being an educated man, he knows more about everything – include subjects he knows nothing about -- than any of the simple dolts in town. In truth, he is a horse’s ass, although good with a gun. He is assisted by Deputy Eli Brocius (Nick Brown), who is also not that bright, but not self-deluded. (Whenever Oliver Hardy, the fat one of Laurel and Hardy, was asked whose character was dumber, he always said his own. He reasoned that Stan was dumb, and knew it. Ollie was dumb, and thought he was smart, which made him really dumb.) In fact, every man in the show is a dimwit, and every woman is smart, sassy, sexy, and a whore. This is a PC updating of the old burlesque tradition where the men were dumb but sly, and all the women were sexy, but dumber than the men.
In tone, QUICKDRAW is BLAZING SADDLES meets ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. It’s vulgar like BLAZING SADDLES, but played largely straight-faced like ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, and a lot of the humor comes from having very modern-seeming characters, especially Hoyle, in a period situation where, in reality, they wouldn’t survive long. Surprisingly, while the show has no intention of being ‘good history,’ there is an obvious awareness of history in the setting up of gags. Cole Younger, Belle Starr, Pearl Starr, and the Bender family all turn up, as do small-pox-infested Army blankets.
The production makes optimum use of the Paramount Ranch facilities, and costume and art direction credits are admirable. There is a bit of riding and frequent gunplay, the latter not surprisingly played for laughs.
One of the stand-outs in the supporting cast is Bob Clendenin as Vernon Shank, the undertaker; his bald pate and long, sorrowful face are as familiar from neo-noirs like L.A. CONFIDENTIAL and THE 13TH FLOOR as they are from comedies. Also notable are Allison Dunbar as a whore and saloon-keeper named Honey, and Alexis Dox as Pearl.
A couple of years ago, when the success of the 3:10 TO YUMA and TRUE GRIT remakes brought heat to the Western genre, every network had at least one series in development, and at least two proposed drama series dealt with an educated easterner going west to apply modern scientific methods to crime investigation. I’d be willing to bet the creators of QUICKDRAW saw the obvious humorous possibilities in the premise, and accidentally had their parody beat the dramas to the marketplace.
I wouldn’t recommend showing this ‘DIRTY F-TROOP’ to kids, as the language tends to be, perhaps in a nod to DEADWOOD, but more likely as an easy laugh, peppered with not four-letter words, but the occasional ‘vagina,’ ‘testicle’ and ‘intercourse.’ And the visuals often go for shock-value; one episode opens with a stage-coach riding into town driven by a decapitated driver, the coach full of corpses that are later handled without a modicum of respect.
The show is a continuing saga, so it makes sense to watch it from the beginning. I’ve seen the first three episodes, and I plan to watch the whole season. My biggest reservation with the show is also my most basic. While I found many things to amuse me, moments to smile about, I don’t know that I laughed out loud even once.
R.I.P.D. ARRIVES D.O.A.
The Round-up had been following this comic-book adaptation ever since it was announced a couple of years ago. Granted, a sci-fier about dead cops tracking dead criminals for the Rest In Peace Department isn’t exactly a natural for the Round-up. But I figured with Jeff Bridges playing a long dead old-west lawman, partnered with newly dead partner Ryan Reynolds, it would be of interest to Western fans.
I was a little annoyed when all of my requests for a screener copy, or admission to a press preview, were ignored. Then I found out there were no screeners or previews, and I understood it was nothing personal. Then last night I caught the film at a ‘dollar’ theatre, and I understood completely. The filmmakers had nothing to gain by letting the press get an early peek.
R. I. P. D. is sewn together from stolen parts in much the same way Frankenstein’s monster was. If you remove the elements jacked from GHOSTBUSTERS, GHOST and the MEN IN BLACK films, what you have left is…Jeff Bridges. And typically, the filmmakers don’t understand the films they steal from. (‘GHOST’ spoiler alert!) It took a long time, and was a helluvah shock, to realize that Tony Goldwyn was the villain of the piece; but Kevin Bacon, playing that role in R.I.P.D., is revealed in the first few minutes, and as a result has virtually nothing to do for the rest of the film except cackle with glee.
In a nutshell, Ryan Reynolds is an almost-clean Boston cop who, with partner Kevin Bacon, stole a big gold whatsit from some meth dealers they were busting. Reynolds feels guilty, wants to turn it in, hence Bacon can’t afford to let him live. The whatsit turns out to have much greater significance than its monetary value, and saying more would give away what painfully little non-obvious plot there is.
Some of the technical credits are very good. The art direction goes from the so-so to the occasionally stunning – a tornado of souls traveling to and from the other side is particularly memorable. The endless effects are competent, and some of the chase stuff at the end is very exciting, except that by that point you’re looking more closely at your watch than the screen. And the design of the creatures is so obviously copied from the previously sited films that it’s embarrassing.
While Jeff Bridges is amusing in his swagger, and particularly enjoyable in his by-play with Mary Louise Parker as a emotionless and hyper-competent office-runner who regrets their dalliance, there is little sense of chemistry between Bridges and Reynolds. For me, the most pleasant surprise was the simple sincerity of Reynolds’ performance. Whenever he played to the pain of the cop who had lost the love of his life (Stephanie Szostack), all the crap fell away, and for all-too-brief moments the story became utterly believable.
‘ROUND-UP’ ON THE AIR AND ‘AROUND THE BARN’ ON SAT. DEC 14TH!
Bobbi Jean with her commendation from the L.A. County
Board of Supervisors
(Please note: I would not normally plug my radio appearance three months in advance. It was originally scheduled for this coming Saturday, but we were just preempted by a Dodger baseball game. Go Dodger Blue (I guess)!
On Saturday, December 14th, I will be a guest of Bobbi Jean Bell on her Saturday morning show on KHTS AM 1220, ‘Around The Barn.’ Heard every Saturday from 9 to 10 a.m., hosts Bobbi Jean Bell and Julie Fox Pomilia discuss western culture, music and lifestyle. Bobbi Jean is the lady behind the Outwest Western Boutique and Cultural Center in Santa Clarita:
http://www.outwestmktg.com/ But don't wait until December -- you can hear the program live every Saturday (except September 7th) by clicking the following link, and clicking on ‘Listen Live.’ http://hometownstation.com/content/saturday-program-schedule
‘RAMONA DAY(S)’ SATURDAY, SEPT. 7TH!
I had a great time last year attending RAMONA DAYS, at Piru, the home of Rancho Camulos, also known as The Home of Ramona. The del Valle family received is as a huge land- grant (48,612 acres!) from the government of Mexico in 1839; it achieved international fame when author Helen Hunt Jackson visited in 1882, and decided to set her novel, RAMONA, there. (You can read my detailed description of my visit HERE . )
I understand that this year’s celebration will feature the Ramona Pageant Players and Dancers, Flamenco dancers, historical re-enactors, tours of the beautiful grounds and gardens, and the historic 1853 adobe, special children's activities, food, specialty vendors, and an exciting raffle with great prizes. Advance tickets are now on sale for only $7 per adult ($10 at the gate). Children are free. To learn more, and to purchase tickets, go here: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e7zw7m3k37d4d78c&llr=nvg6ppmab
THE CONTINUING SAGA OF JAMES FENIMORE COOPER’S HOME AND PLAQUE!
The onetime address of James Fenimore Cooper, a
gay steam-bath, and a video store. Col. Hamilton's
home is on the right.
What an interesting can of worms I opened up! As regular readers know, when I was back in New York City a couple of weeks ago, I hiked with fellow NYU alum and Round-up contributor Jonathan Boorstein over to St. Marks Place, an old block on the Lower East Side. In our college days we would often walk past a building, The St. Marks Baths, which a plaque announced had been the home of Leatherstocking Tales author James Fenimore Cooper; I thought I’d snap a picture of the building and plaque for the Round-up.
We trudged up and down the two-block length of St. Marks Place, but never found the plaque. I snapped a picture of what I thought to be the right building, at 4 St. Marks. I’d sent an inquiry to the folks at the James Fenimore Cooper Society, about the address and the plaque, and received a response from Hugh MacDougall, Corresponding Secretary:
“You are quite correct. Cooper lived at 4 St. Marks Place (pictured in your attachment) for a time after his return from Europe in 1833. Specifically, he lived there from May 1, 1834 until May 1, 1836 (May 1 was the standard period for leases in New York to begin and end). He, and sometimes his family also, made a number of trips to Cooperstown during that period, as he arranged to buy back and remodel his old family home (Otsego Hall) originally built about 1800 by his father William Cooper.” He also included a photograph of the house from Mary Phillips’ 1913 biography, JAMES FENIMORE COOPER. “It is clearly the one you photographed.” (Click HERE to see the photos and article from last week’s Round-up. )
I pressed him for information on the plaque, and heard back from Mr. MacDougall with details about the building’s history. The entire block of St. Marks Place between 2nd and 3rd Avenues was built by English-born real estate developer Thomas E. Davis in the 1830s. The house at 4 St. Marks is known as the Hamilton-Holly House as it was bought in 1833 by Colonel Alexander Hamilton, son of the former Secretary of the Treasury, who had been killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr. It was a very elegant block of one-family homes, but had become run-down, and most of the grand homes had become boarding-houses by the time of the Civil War (you know a house is old when you talk about the neighborhood going bad in the 1860s).
Mr. MacDougall told me that he’d passed my inquiry about the plaque to the New York Historical Society. A couple of days later I received a startling update: we were looking at the wrong building! The house pictured in a century-old photograph and described in the Cooper biography, described in numerous historical texts, and by myself, the Hamilton-Holly is next door to Cooper’s home! The correct address is 6 St. Marks Place. Mr. MacDougall forwarded the letter from Joseph Ditta, Reference Librarian of the NYHS, to me. It contains several links to documents and articles. One, by Jeff Weinstein for his Out There blog in 2008, detailed that until fairly recently, 6 St. Marks had been the home of Kim’s Video, a vast and fabled New York video store that catered to knowledgeable and voracious movie-lovers much as Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee does to West-coasters to this day. “Kim branches opened and closed, but the move to a spacious site at 6 St. Marks Place allowed the addition of CDs and digital paraphernalia. But only the videos drew me and other addicts into the moldy elevator week after week. The building had before housed the New St. Marks Baths, a gay-sex meeting place shuttered because of AIDS (a complex story in itself), and a semigay Turkish bath before that. Mr. Kim had plenty of cleaning to do — not all of it completed, as far as I could tell. I also recall a plaque on the old building: ‘On this site stood the winter residence from 1834-1836 and the last New York City home of the novelist James Fenimore Cooper.’” You could in fact rent LAST OF THE MOHICANS in the former home of its author.
Well, that answers that. And I am grateful to The James Fenimore Cooper Society, and The New York Historical Society, and Jeff Weinstein, for setting the matter straight. Now if we could only get the plaque put back up! And one more postscript. I also asked Mr. MacDougall how far west Cooper, whose western tales were often set farther east than later writers, had travelled. “The farthest west Cooper ever traveled in America was Kalamazoo, Michigan and its area – which he visited several times towards the end of his life because of some property he had acquired there, and (as was often the case) made use of the occasion to scout out the background for a novel (The Oak Openings, or The Bee Hunter, published in 1848, and the last of his “Indian” tales).”
That's it for this week -- hope you're having a great Labor Day Weekend! I know -- here's a salute to both the Jerry Lewis MD Telethon, and the King of the Cowboys!
All Original Content Copyright September 2013 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved