Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Outer Limits vs. The Twilight Zone

For some, the issue of which is the better television series is of the utmost importance. I like both equally, and, they are actually two different shows once one gets past the anthology format, which both share equally.

The Twilight Zone (1959 - 1964)
More fantasy than science fiction.

The Outer Limits (1963 - 1965)
More science fiction than fantasy.

I have a first-hand story regarding that great and often-fought battle.

Years ago I was visiting my neighbour. The food and drink came out, but nobody got drunk. The ensuing discussions were of the type expected at a friendly get together.

It happened. Scott, boyfriend of my neighbour, seemed to have a problem with my holding The Outer Limits in the same esteem I did The Twilight Zone. "Oh, come on, man. The Outer Limits was so bad. There was that episode that was so typical. The one with the robot boxer."

A challenge. I was thrown back into the ring: "That episode was called 'Steel'. It starred Lee Marvin. And it was a Twilight Zone episode."

Passion. The fists flew. Well, he pointed. "You're wrong." And continuing variations on that theme.

I went back to my apartment, and from my bookcase I pulled The Twilight Zone Companion (Marc Scott Zicree). Back to the battlefield.

With the book opened at the proper page, the chapter on "Steel", Scott's jaw dropped. In the manner expected of a soul converted by a well-placed "K.O.", he emitted a feeble, but emotive: "This is a conspiracy."

On such matters, don't argue with Uncle Simon.

No. "Uncle Simon" is a Twilight Zone episode.

Book: Film Art (Bordwell & Thompson)

Film Art
- An Introduction -
Ninth Edition

David Bordwell
Kristin Thompson


Monday, November 28, 2022

A Forever Question: So Pale

“Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. Can nightmares be tamed?

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Sunday Fun: Do Mums Know Funny?

A few years ago I watched an episode of the CBC 'comedy' series Schitt's Creek and I got a flashback: Seeing comedic actors Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara ply their trade in material far beneath their talents reminded me how funny they were in the classic Canadian comedy series SCTV.

I discovered the show when it was titled, simply, Second City Television. How we stumble upon a certain television series, especially one that goes on to great heights, has long interested me. In the case of me and SCTV it all started in 1977 through my weekly scans of TV Guide magazine. For many weeks I would note the listing for something called Second City. It would appear with the numbers 6 and 41, which translated as the Global Television Network. ("Global" in those days was the new kid on the dial but it delivered a fine range of fare; unlike the plastic rubbish can it is today, and has been for years.)

One evening I decided to sit down and sample this "Second City" thing. I liked it. My fifteen-year-old head got much of the humour. I did not know it at the time but what I had watched was an episode from the first batch, which was produced at the Global studios on Barber Greene Road in Toronto.

I had to tell others of my great discovery, one I categorized as a video equivalent of David Livingstone's discovery of Victoria Falls... well, Mosi-oa-Tunya, more properly.

Mum! She'll be my first convert. As this week's episode unreeled on the chromatic Zenith, she and I sat in silence. That's right, as in "no laughter". I wanted to laugh but I realized that emitting anything even mildly resembling a positive reaction might read as lacking class to my British born and raised mum.

End credits: The next day I brought up the issue with my mother. "Why didn't you like it?", I asked, darn well knowing the answer about to come my way. My dad overheard this and became curious as to what serious discussion was playing out before him: "What's that?..."

I figured it was prudent to let mum answer: "Oh, it's called Second City. They're trying to do a Monty Python but it doesn't work."

Mum was so wrong....

Thursday, November 24, 2022

I Wish I Could Look This Good

While visiting the BBC's website this morning a few articles caught my eye. As I'm a bit of a photographer, the 'photo stories' garner special interest from me.

I scrolled down and was stopped in my scroll: "I wish I could look that good!"


Photo credit: EPA Images

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Book: F. Kafka (Kafka)

F. Kafka
- The Complete Stories -

Franz Kafka

Edited by
Nahum N. Glatzer

Foreword by
John Updike

Schocken Books
1971 / 1983

Monday, November 21, 2022

A Forever Question: Not Boxed In

“Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. Is knowledge not freedom for all?

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Sunday Fun: Square Pegs ― Opening Titles

By 1982 my television viewing was more or less down to movies and public affairs programs, with a dash of the NHL. September brought a new and interesting half-hour sitcom that got some of my attention span: Square Pegs. CBS might have been accused of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole of a television schedule. The series lasted one season: in this case, 20 episodes.

Why did I watch? It may have been due to the fact that one of my best friends was a fan. During our Friday or Saturday night pick-up ice hockey games, Mark would recount to us lacing-up lads the latest in the high school activities of the Square Pegs gang; almost all of whom, I should add, were actually of high school age.

My admission: Tracy Nelson. Perhaps it's an exaggeration to say that her character of Jennifer DiNuccio was the only reason I'd waste a half hour of my life almost every week, but she certainly did not hurt the eyes. Those eyes! She was also funny: "Gross me out."

One of the best characters was Johnny "Flash" Ulasewicz, played by Merritt Butrick. He looked a tad too old to be in high school and he was. His manic moves and utterances were instant sellers.

Looking at it now, Square Pegs is very '80s. A totally different head... totally.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Book: Space Race (Cadbury)

Space Race
- The Epic Battle Between America and the Soviet Union for Dominion of Space -

Deborah Cadbury

Harper Perennial

Monday, November 14, 2022

A Forever Question: Who Cares?

“Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. Would 'marital status' be better itemized as 'damaged' or 'not damaged'?

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Sunday Fun: Miller Lite ― Great Canadian TV Advert

While I do not like television commercials, especially those from this country, Canada, certainly those produced here in Toronto, there is one I loved when it aired many years ago: an NHL goalie-loaded promotion for Miller Lite beer, Canada.

The headliner is former St Louis Blues and New York Rangers netminder John Davidson. A natural actor, he carries the continuous 30-second shot, and a beer, a Miller Lite, as he makes his way through a crowded bar.

"Hi ya, Eddie!" That's Eddie Giacomin, former goaltender with the New York Rangers, where, for a few years, he shared puck-stop duties with....

"Good to see ya, Gillie! How ya doin'?" That's Gilles Villemure!

The main conceit in the advert is the fibreglass goalie mask, which these men would paint over with a graphic, one to reflect their respective personalities. Actually, Mr Villemure left his as a natural yellow-white finish. The masks' airhole cuts would be another identifying 'mark'.

I won't give away the ad's ending... it's fun, and I laughed out loud the first time I saw it. I laughed as uproariously when seeing it again for the first time in decades.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Remembrance Day To Be Remembered

With Remembrance Day almost upon us, I thought about a story of my own regarding that special day; and its special symbol: The poppy.

In early November in the late 1980s (I'm thinking 1989), I hopped onto a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) subway train car. With the seats being all but fully occupied I took the famous door position as the doors closed behind me. Sitting on the other side of the car, with his poppy box resting on his lap, and looking sharp in his uniform, was a veteran.

Immediately I remembered that a few minutes earlier I had shoved a two dollar bill (remember those?) into my shirt pocket. I approached the vet as I drew out the money. He got up from his seat and carefully pinned the poppy to my coat's lapel. I thanked him and went back to my first position. Then, all of a sudden, and in the style of an over-directed film, several other riders popped open their purses and pulled out their wallets.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Book: Monty Python (Johnson)

Monty Python
- The First 28 Years Of -

Kim "Howard" Johnson

Thomas Dunne Books

Monday, November 7, 2022

A Forever Question: From a 'Bad' Movie?

“Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. What if "Eros" was right?

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Sunday Remembrance Post: Joining the War Effort

A few years ago I watched a fine feature-length documentary on WWII. Produced by the National Geographic Channel, "Inside WWII" overviews, in the hyper-speed mode so typical of info-dump docs made these days, the 20th century's largest conflict.

Some of the interview subjects explain why they joined the war. I remember the day in 1984 when I finally got around to asking my own father why he enlisted and why he chose RAF Bomber Command:

"I was pissed off. I was doing poorly in school and my mind was on the war overseas."

His rationale for joining the bomber force as a gunner was expedient:

"You got overseas quickly that way . . . It was an eight-week air gunners' course in Montreal."

(He knew that flying as "aircrew" in Bomber Command was dangerous work. Many young men, men too young, got "The Chop".)

As was the norm at the time in this neck of the woods my dad was sent to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) grounds for dispersal. From that famous Canadian site began the process of getting "shipped overseas", but as this was wartime it wasn't quite that easy. German U-boats prowled the North Atlantic in search of prey, and a steamer loaded with fresh faces was a prime and highly-prized target.

I will stop here: The above bits and pieces are stressful enough, never mind the few combat stories my dad did let out over the years. (While on one of my trips to England, as part of my ongoing research on RAF Bomber Command I spoke with historian Martin Middlebrook and he gave me some sage advice which I understood too well: "Don't ask your father. He won't tell you anything.")

A few years after the war ended he reenlisted with the RCAF and enjoyed a long career with Canada's finest service.

I left the best for last; the big "and" part of my dad's explanation for wanting to see action overseas:

"... And I wanted to get the Germans."

(A childhood friend did not come home; he died when his bomber was shot down over France. Kinda sobering, ain't it?)

Passions of the time, those were.

My father loved Germany and the Germans. We moved to West Germany in October of 1966, just twenty-one years after he flew in a Lancaster bomber doing a job he felt he must do.

Royal Air Force No. 626 Squadron - May 1945

CBC Interview With Sydney Newman at the BBC


One evening last week I took a break from my motions of nothingness to take some time to do some exploring on YouTube (a form of nothingness in motion, at times). I thought of Sydney Newman, the father, of a sort, of the long-running BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who. Quickly I found a 43-minute piece of film from 1966. "Doctor Who creator Sydney Newman discusses his career with CBC" is an excellent interview with the man who went on to initiate and guide two stellar British television programmes, Doctor Who and The Avengers. However, there is much more to the story than those two series.

Newman was born and bred here in the great city of Toronto ― great now, and, I'm sure, great in 1917. He followed his dream working as a successful commercial artist, and the money was good, but Newman eventually decided to go into film production. A stint at the NFB (National Film Board) led to him working in television at the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). After producing several distinguished one-off dramas, including Arthur Hailey's Flight into Danger, a live-to-air presentation from 1956, and one starring James Doohan of later Star Trek fame, Newman was courted and hired by ABC Weekend TV in the U.K. with the brief to do equally outstanding television drama programmes, but for the British public. That he did. The BBC then convinced him to jump ship and the rest is history: Doctor Who.

While Who is discussed in very brief terms, "Doctor Who creator Sydney Newman" more importantly is an instructive insight on the issues of producing television and the dichotomy between serving the public as a public broadcaster with that of the business of drawing sufficient viewers to validate and sustain one's position as a fiduciary of television "arts and entertainment".

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Book: The Beatles (Spitz)

The Beatles
- The Biography -

Bob Spitz

Back Bay Books