Monday, July 31, 2017
THE COWBOY WAY – ALABAMA – A Review
Cody, Booger and Bubba
A new reality show premieres on the INSP Network with a replay of the pilot on Saturday, August 5th at 10 p.m. ET, followed by the first official episode on Thursday night, August 10th, at 8 p.m. If you’ve been reading the Round-up, you know that in its seven year existence I’ve never had anything good to say about reality TV. But I am hooked on this show, and I think you will be, too. THE COWBOY WAY – ALABAMA follows the lives and careers of three working cowboys and their families, and it’s informative, entertaining, sincere, and a lot of fun. It brings the 19th century world and the 21st century world together in a continually surprising but entirely believable way, as nothing on TV has done before.
Cody Harris and his wife, Misty, are much-awarded riders who met on the rodeo circuit, and run rodeos in addition to ranching and farming. Bubba Thompson is a skilled carpenter as well as a cowboy, and when we meet him in the pilot, he and his fiancé, Kaley, are planning their wedding, and their move into a house Bubba has built from the ground up. Chris ‘Booger’ Brown is a well-respected animal trainer and cowman. The lone bachelor of the group – his previous lady couldn’t abide by the unpredictable life of a cowboy – he’s dedicated to his grandmother, who makes him breakfast every day.
Together, in addition to their own spreads, they own Faith Cattle Company, and their day-to-day challenges are as real as they are unexpected. Like having to come to a baseball field in the middle of the night to round up loose cattle – it’s not even their herd, but the police come to them for help. Or the fact that Bubba is marking more wedding things on Pinterest than Kaley is – later contrasted with his ability to build a crib overnight. Or when a loose bull gets among their cows, there’s not only the adventure of watching them drive the bull away, but Cody’s enlightening explanation of how disastrous having some cows impregnated at the wrong time of year could be. As a city boy, I had no idea of the economic effect of having the births strung out instead of being around the same time.
And it all seems so natural. At one point Booger goes to the cemetery to talk with his grandfather. We’ve all seen those scenes in movies, and we know how contrived and awkward they usually seem. But he was just absolutely real and sincere. One of the best things about the show is that they are such hopeful cowboys. The sad truth is that historically most cowboys never saved any money, and worked themselves to death. But these are all men with a future.
I strongly advise you to see the pilot first, as it really gives you a chance to get to know and appreciate the fellows. Episode one starts with the assumption that you already know who’s who, and takes off with a bang. INSP is so pleased with the show that they’ve already picked it up for a second season! CLICK HERE to see a trailer for THE COWBOY WAY - ALABAMA.
A CHAT WITH BUBBA THOMPSON – ALABAMA COWBOY
Last week I spoke with one of the show’s stars about his friends, the series, and how a dating show lead to THE COWBOY WAY. Bubba’s roots in farming and ranching go back several generations. “Lot of my family came from south and central Florida. My grandfather, he was a farmer, we grew up in the nursery business as well as citrus groves, and cattle as well. One of my grandfather’s brothers had some of the first white Brahma bulls back down in South Florida. He did that for a long time, then he swapped over to Hereford cattle. So it’s been in my family for several generations.
“I always knew that I was going to work outside, work with my hands. And considering I had my first pony when I was four or five years old, I knew that I was going to do something with horses and cattle my whole life. I never saw myself sitting behind a desk.”
Oddly enough, THE COWBOY WAY had its genesis as a result of a dating show. “I did a show back in 2012 called SWEET HOME ALABAMA, as a single cowboy who had a ranch, looking for love. I went all the way to runner-up. At the end of the elimination, it was me and another fellah, and I knew that old gal wasn’t gonna pick me, so I just walked up to her, tipped my hat, and told her I understood, told her she was making the best decision, and I left her standing there on the stage – I wasn’t gonna be eliminated on national television. The producer of the show and I became very close friends. He spent some time with me here in Alabama, and he decided that he would love to come down here and film a reality show about how we all work together – myself, Booger and Cody. That’s how it started.
“We all knew each other – Booger and I had been cowboys together for close to ten years. We would day-work for other men at their ranches. We would go catch wild cattle out on the pasture; once we needed to rope cattle right off the interstate, for a man whose cattle had gotten loose. And Cody and myself, we roped together (in rodeos). I used to rope calves, and Cody still does. We would practice together and be in competition together, and that’s how our relationship began.”
Kaley and Bubba
Bubba didn’t meet Kaley on the dating show, but as a result of it, a show Cody had also been a contestant on. “After that, Cody and I put on an event called BULLS ON THE BEACH, we had bull-riding on the beach, and I actually met my wife down there. She was with a big group of ladies, and they didn’t want to come talk to me because they were nervous. Kaley, she wasn’t nervous, so she just walked up to me and talked. I sell Faith Cattle Company hats and t-shirts, it’s just a real cool logo. I gave her a hat, and before she left, I said, ‘Make sure you take a picture and post it on Facebook and tag me in it,’ because I wanted to find out who she was. From that night on we became friends. I couldn’t ask for a better woman.”
‘POWDER BURNS’ POSTS EP. 6 STARRING ED ASNER!
David Gregory’s new Western radio drama, POWDER BURNS, about a recently blinded lawman, has just posted its 6th episode. Entitled Psalms For a Broken Man, it guest-stars Ed Asner as an aging cowboy who is losing his memory. This LINK will bring you to all of the episodes, but if you haven’t heard the earlier ones yet, I urge you to start at the beginning. If you’d like to learn more about the series, you can read my interview with David Gregory HERE.
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
All Original Contents Copyright July 2017 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Sunday, July 9, 2017
COEN BROS.’ WESTERN SERIES ‘BUSTER SCRUGGS’ READY-TO-ROLL IN NEW MEXICO!
Joel and Ethan Coen’s Western series, THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS is rolling camera in Albuquerque this month, reportedly from mid-July through mid-September! The brothers’ first entry into the small-screen Western format follows their excellent and hugely successful 2010 remake of TRUE GRIT, which received five BAFTA awards and ten Oscar nominations.
SCRUGGS will be an anthology series. It will consist of six episodes with six separate but interwoven story-lines. The first, SCRUGGS, will concern a singing cowboy, and in the title role is Tim Blake Nelson, who starred in one of the brothers’ earlier successes, 2000’s OH BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? No stranger to the genre, Nelson played a freighter in the excellent but grim THE HOMESMAN (2014), his performance was one of the few bright spots in the dreary KLONDIKE miniseries (2014), and he appeared in the LONESOME DOVE miniseries prequel DEAD MAN’S WALK (1996).
NEAR ALGODONES, about a feckless would-be bank robber, will star James Franco, previously in WILD HORSES (2015) for Robert Duvall. Also starring are Stephen Root, who played a judge in the series JUSTIFIED (2012), and appeared in 2013’s SWEETWATER and THE LONE RANGER, and other Coen films; and Ralph Ineson, who plays Amycus Carrow in the HARRY POTTER films.
No casts have been announced yet for MEAL TICKET or ALL GOLD CANYON. Zoe Kazan, currently starring in THE BIG SICK and previously in the indie Western MEEK’S CUTOFF (2010), will play the title role in THE GAL WHO GOT RATTLED. And finally, THE MORTAL REMAINS, following five stagecoach passengers to a mysterious destination, will star Tyne Daly, whose career I take credit for, since I wrote her her first role as a policewoman in 1977’s SPEEDTRAP, which she followed with CAGNEY AND LACEY (1981-1988). She previously appeared on episodes of THE VIRGINIAN (1968) and MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1999). Updates are coming soon!
INSP ADDS ‘GUNSMOKE’ TO SADDLE-UP SATURDAYS AND WEEKDAYS!
INSP, whose Saddle-Up Saturdays already featured THE VIRGINIAN, THE HIGH CHAPARRAL, THE BIG VALLEY, DANIEL BOONE and BONANZA has now added GUNSMOKE to the mix! Starting Saturday, July 8th, they began running two episodes beginning at 10 a.m., Eastern time.
Starting on Monday morning, they’ll be running one episode at 9 a.m., Eastern on weekdays. Best of all, these are the 176 hour-long black & white episodes made from 1961 until 1966, which are among the very best, and not being shown by anyone else. They’ll also be showing at least four of the five GUNSMOKE movies from the ‘80s and ‘90s – on Sunday, July 16th it will be 1987’s RETURN TO DODGE, at 2 p.m. Eastern. On Saturday, July 22nd, INSP will run a six-episode marathon of justice-themed GUNSMOKE episodes, and the GUNSMOKE movie TO THE LAST MAN. On Sunday, July 23rd, it’s a double feature of GUNSMOKE: THE LONG RIDE and GUNSMOKE: ONE MAN’S JUSTICE.
GUIDE TO THE OLD WEST – A Book Review
The full and modest title of this tome is An Educational and Slightly Amusing Guide to the Old West, and I hope it’s author, Don Dunham, won’t take it the wrong way if I say that it’s the best bathroom reader I’ve had in years! I don’t mean that the book is scatological in any way, but rather, that its alphabetical short-entry format makes it ideal for skimming and random reading for a couple of minutes at a time. While not encyclopedic in scope, the 100-page volume can quickly give you a smattering of information on a host of Western topics. Its first entry typically describes in a concise paragraph the 101 Ranch:
“Large (110,000 acres), cattle ranch on Oklahoma founded by Confederate Veteran Col. George W. Miller. It also had thousands of sheep and thousands of buffalo. Established in 1879, it lasted into the twentieth century and began to put on Wild West Shows starring such future noted cowboys as Tom Mix and Will Rogers.”
While appealing to anyone with an interest in American history, as historian Peter Sherayko points out in his foreword, it’s just the thing for writers, historians, reenactors and actors, “…to get their creative juices flowing.” And not all entries are as brief as the example given. When a topic is of major importance, it is given as much space as it needs. The “cattle drive” entry is nearly three pages, and full of details about the different routes, who did the work, what they were paid, and how they dealt with Indians along the way. The entry about Indians is nearly six pages long, and other in-depth articles look at the Presidents, firearms, and the proper wardrobe of the working cowboy.
There are some confusing elements; a reference at the end of an article, such as “see film Wagonmaster 1949,” doesn’t refer to another entry in the book, but is rather a suggestion that you should see that movie (and you should, if you haven’t). But overall, this large format – 8 1/2” X 11” – book is full of useful and amusing and enlightening information for adults and kids, with hundreds of ‘idea triggers’ when you don’t know which way to take your story. It’s available from Amazon books for $19.95, HERE.
NEW RELEASES FROM ALPHA VIDEOS!
REX BELL IN ‘DIAMOND TRAIL’
Handsome Rex Bell is one of those elusive B-western stars, rarely seen, and better known for his marriage to Clara Bow than for his movies. Alpha has unearthed a sparkling little 1930 Monogram programmer, DIAMOND TRAIL, in which Bell starts out not as a cowboy, but as big-city reporter Speed Morgan. When he saves gangster Flash Barrett (Lloyd Whitlock) from an ambush, pretending to be mobster Frisco Eddie, he becomes Flash’s best friend, and his plans to get the goods on Flash leads him to a western diamond-smuggling racket.
Also included are a pair of shorts. The 1930 Pathe two-reeler RANCH HOUSE BLUES is a Western comedy concerning an attempt to trick a crabby old rancher into selling, without telling him there’s oil on his land. The crab is former Keystone Kop Nick Cogley, and the romantic interest is Charlie Chaplin’s first wife, Mildred Harris. 1933’s THE LAST DOGIE is an Educational Pictures one-reel bunk-house musical starring Metropolitan Opera tenor James Melton singing traditional Western songs very well. You can order it HERE.
ULTRA-RARE PRE-CODE COMEDIES – BERT LAHR IN ‘NO MORE WEST’
Here’s a fascinating collection of six talkie comedy shorts made before the 1934 Hays Code, or Motion Picture Production Code, put stringent limitations on what could be said or shown, in order to quiet would-be censors who found movies immoral. The very best is Bert Lahr in NO MORE WEST, a particular delight to folks who only know Lahr as The Cowardly Lion in 1939’s THE WIZARD OF OZ. Bert plays a Coney Island shooting-gallery operator who nabs a pair of bank robbers, which inspires him to move out west to a town where he’s immediately made the sheriff. It’s ridiculous fun throughout, with a few casting surprises: the lead bank robber is Harry Shannon, who would play Charles Foster Kane’s dad in CITIZEN KANE. The judge who appoints Lahr sheriff, Harry Davenport would soon be seen as Dr. Meade in GONE WITH THE WIND.
The rest of the shorts include another with Lahr, HIZZONER; a very early talkie directed by Mack Sennett, 1928’s THE LION’S ROAR; DOWN WITH HUSBANDS, featuring Bert Roach and Johnny Arthur (Spanky’s dad in the OUR GANG comedies) as husbands whose wives go on strike; HONEYMOON BEACH, where a greedy mom tries to force her daughter to marry wealthy Keystone Kop Billy Bevan; and the most bizarre of the bunch, TECHNO-CRAZY, involving a Bolshevik technology-run utopia, and plans to bomb the mansion of Mayor Billy Bevan. The quality of prints varies greatly, but it’s an outrageous and often very funny collection. You can order it HERE.
WATCH ME YAK ABOUT TV WESTERNS!
I recently spent an enjoyable afternoon being interviewed for a webcast, along with fellow blogger Patti Shene, about the TV Western. The interview was for Dan Schneider’s COSMOETICA series, which I understand is the longest-running webcast series on the arts. If you enjoy it, take a look at the links to Dan’s other webcasts – he finds a lot of very interesting guests and topics.
…AND THAT’S A WRAP!
Tonight, I got an email from a friend who noted that it had been over a month since I’d posted a new Round-up. He wanted to know if I’m alright. I am. But other priorities have kept me from the blog for some time. I’m back, and my backlog of articles and interviews and film and book reviews which need to be written and posted is truly staggering! I’ll catch up as quickly as I can!
All Original Contents Copyright July 2017 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved