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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Leonard Stern Week. Part 4.

Two more entries for today from Leonard Stern.

First, "The Governor And J.J."
"The Governor and J.J." was a series that was aired in the late 60's.
It was a pretty funny series.
But not that funny.
It starred Dan Dailey as the Governor of a Midwestern state, and Julie Sommars as his assistant.
I had a minor crush on Julie Sommars.
She went from that series to "Matlock", where of course, I never saw her.
Because that would have meant having to watch "Matlock"
That would have been unbearable.
So I missed out on Julie Sommars' later career.
A small price to pay.
Dan Dailey played it very reserved.
Unlike the affable showoff he played as a song and dance man in all those old Twentieth Century Fox Musicals.
I worked with Dan Dailey a couple of times.
He directed two episodes of "The Odd Couple"
They both involved dancing.
That's the way Garry Marshall thinks.
You do episodes about dancing, you get a director who was a dancer.
Not necessarily the best director available.
But it didn't really matter.
Because all the available sitcom directors were really no better than any other.
And Dan Dailey was rather reserved around the set.
"The Governor and J.J." was more than anything else, pleasant.
I'd like to see it again.
Mainly to see Julie Sommars in her prime, and in something good.

Next, "Run Buddy,Run"
This also could have been titled "Let's do a comedy ripoff of "The Fugitive"
Because that's what it was.
But I also remember it being funny.
It starred the great Jack Sheldon.
And he was certainly funny.
But that's not what made him great.
He was a great trumpet player and singer.
He was in Merv Griffin's band, and traded very funny banter with Merv for many years.
It's not easy trading funny banter with Merv Griffin.
But Jack Sheldon managed it with aplomb.
But I only have a vague memory of Jack Sheldon as an actor.
That's why I want to see "Run Buddy, Run", and put it on the OTN.

Mark Rothman, CEO of the OTN.


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  1. Jack Sheldon was also a co-star in THE CARA WILLIAMS SHOW and THE GIRL WITH SOMETHING EXTRA. I'll make sure you get to see GOVERNOR AND JJ and RUN, BUDDY, RUN again soon.

    Obviously you weren't watching all that closely, or you might have noticed that J.J. was the Governor's daughter.
    It was one of the hooks that sold the series: the Gov. was a widower, and J.J. was his reluctant "official hostess" in lieu of a First Lady; she was young and "hip" (or what passed for that on CBS in '69), and he was a sorta-conservative (meant to evoke Reagan in the view of many critics).
    Anyway, daughter outranks assistant in most cases.
    One episode did attract some attention, because it was Edward Everett Horton's last appearance, airing not long after his death.

    By the by:
    What the hell have you got against MATLOCK, anyway?
    If this is just because you don't like whodunits generally, at least be honest enough to say so out front.
    As it happens, I like whodunits just fine, and MATLOCK was a pretty good one.
    Every so often, Andy Griffith got to tee off on someone (usually a dumb client), and you could see some of the old FACE IN THE CROWD fire.
    One episode in particular, from the third season, had Matlock stuck with an obnoxious radio shock jock as his client.
    The DJ makes all kinds of trouble in and out of court, and finally Matlock rips him a new one.
    I remember almost the whole speech by heart (I have the DVD, which helps), but you really ought to hear Andy Griffith do it.
    And if you do (it's in the Season 3 DVD set, titled "The D.J."), take note of who wrote it (no spoiler, but it's semi-related to our current topic).

    RUN, BUDDY, RUN was one I didn't get to see much (bad time slot).
    I mainly remember Jack Sheldon from Merv's show, but also from several shots he had on the '60s DRAGNET.
    I think about four all-told, different parts each time.
    The best one was when he played a card-playing pal of Harry Morgan's, in one of the annual "cop at home" shows, played for intentional laughs.
    Sheldon was "Ralph Bass", a systems analyst; his explanation of this was pretty funny indeed (I thought so, anyway).
    He was funny the other times, too.
    Jack Webb being the jazz fan that he was, Sheldon might have done more shows if DRAGNET hadn't been canceled.

    That's all I got for now.
    Holding ...
    You seem to be taking Leonard Stern's career in sequence, which I guess means you'll be leaving his Mystery Movie period for last.
    If that's the case, and if your expressed attitude toward the genre is as I suspected above ...
    ... well, we'll see.

  3. Leonard Stern week is over. I don't think any of his other shows are worthy of OTN consideration.
    Sue me. I didn't remember that J.J. was the Governor's daughter. I think this comes under the heading of "minutia".
    I only saw a few episodes of "Matlock". That was enough. I have nothing against whodunits. I loved the "Thin Man" movies, where, by applying enough intelligence, you could actually figure out who, in fact, done it. With the "Matlock" episodes, like with all episodes of "Burke's Law" and "Murder, She Wrote (which totally shared "Matlock"'s ancient demographics), ANYBODY COULD HAVE DONE IT. It was absolutely arbitrary. No amount of thinking, even by Nick Charles, could logically lead you to only one suspect.
    It also bugged me that Andy Griffith's promise, generated by "No Time For Sergeants" and the aforementioned "A Face In The Crowd", was never again realized. "Matlock" was symbolic of that.
    Also, the theme music for "Matlock" was a direct ripoff of my theme music for "Busting Loose". I should have sued.
    THAT'S what I've got against "Matlock".

    1. Satisfied?

      Ah ... no.

      Your categorization of The Governor & JJ's father-daughter relationship as "minutia" ...
      ... as I recall, many if not most of the episodes centered on that fact.
      The father/daughter business was central to the premise of the show.
      Which, by your standard, would make the whole show "minutia".
      So how does that qualify it for the OTN, aside from the obvious stroking of your own vanity?

      I found your derisive reference to Matlock's "ancient demographics" a bit bemusing, given the fact that you and I are now very much a part of that grouping ourselves.
      On other sites that I visit, I've made it known that I consider "demographics" to be the height of junk science.
      Television's wholehearted (and emptyheaded) embrace of "demos" is the principal reason for the overall decline of programming quality, never more so than nowadays.
      The idea that shows can be custom-tailored to satisfy this or that specific age/income/gender/social standing/whatever grouping is an affront to humanity generally.
      Most of the shows we're talking about here, I first saw when I was a grade-school kid; according to "demos" I would have been "too young" to appreciate them.
      But I didn't know that "scientific fact"; I don't consider this to be fact at all.
      And at the risk of seeming arrogance, I don't think you do either, or else you wouldn't have started up this whole OTN business in the first place.
      If "demographics" are true at all, then TCM and MeTV have no reason to exist, given the extreme age of their programming.
      But apparently some "younger" people are watching them; and wouldn't such a "younger" audience be the target for an OTN?
      Aside, of course, from the "ancient demographics" represented by ... well, US?

      From an earlier comment I made here:
      I still maintain that the "Matlock" theme (credited to Dick DeBenedictis) is in fact a ripoff of British jazzman Kenny Ball's mid-60s hit "Midnight In Moscow".
      If you'd have sued ...
      ... you'd have lost.
      So there too.

      *... but we can still be friends ...*

  4. Mike, of course we can always be friends. I respect what you have to say. I always have.
    BUT----the very fact that I didn't remember that J.J. was the Governor's daughter, but I still enjoyed the show, is PRECISELY why I want to see it again. It had nothing to do with "stroking my vanity" My memory is not what it was because I'm beginning to reach that "ancient demographic", which I only brought up in passing, as a way of putting down shows, like "The Love Boat", and "Murder, She Wrote", and "Matlock", all of which never required one to think. These kind of shows better serve old people, who generally don't want to be burdened with extra thinking when they watch TV. Maybe you think that's too much of a generalization. I don't.
    Have you ever heard the theme music for "Busting Loose"? It is MUCH closer to "Matlock" than "Midnight in Moscow"
    "Matlock" and "Midnight in Moscow" only share the same band arrangement.
    "Matlock" and "Busting Loose" shared the same band arrangement and the same chord structure.
    No one could have legitimately accused me of lifting the "Busting Loose" theme from "Midnight in Moscow"

    Your serve.

    1. This was going to be an apology of sorts for the testy tone I took in my last comment.

      But ...

      OK, here's my generalization.

      If human beings are alive, THEY THINK.

      Even if it's only about the little things, they still THINK.
      Even if they're older, they still THINK.
      They can't help it; it's just there.
      When you say that shows like the ones you mention "never require one to think", all you're doing is setting yourself above those who watch and enjoy them.
      That act actually requires less real thought than paying attention to the shows - which you've made clear that you never really did.

      Don't feel too bad about that.
      In that mindset, you are as one with just about every official TV critic who ever wrote for a newspaper or a magazine, as far back as I can remember (I was born in 1950, and my TV GUIDE collection goes back farther than that).
      My whole life, I always seemed to find something OK about shows that Official Critics blasted out of hand.
      As your OTN essays to date have shown, sometimes (not always) you were the same.
      Same with so many of the Critical Darlings that came along over the years ...

      Boy, I'm taking this way too seriously, and we got a weekend coming up.
      But one other thing:
      I admit to not being familiar with the "Busting Loose".
      I also admit to not having any formal music education or training.
      But this whole business about the differences between band arrangement and chord structure ...
      ... I believe the term is "splitting hairs".
      And from what I remember from meeting you at that autograph show a few years back, this is a practice that neither one of us can really afford to engage in. :-)

      Have a nice weekend.

  5. Same here, Mike.
    Above all, I enjoy our jousts.
    I wish there were more at home like you.

  6. But, I must interject, is anyone THINKING during BIG BROTHER or CELEBRITY WIFE SWAP? I THINK not.

  7. Yes. I just drew the line somewhere around "Matlock"

  8. I must admit I got enjoyment from MURDER SHE WROTE and MATLOCK (as well as PERRY MASON, which Mark also dislikes.) I enjoy the formulas and I love the deviations from the formulas (which is typical of classical music, btw). All three series were full of mysteries and clues that led to their solving, actors at the beginning and end of their careers, dramatic personalities, humor and pathos and, although I agree with Mark that they did not represent what was best about television, I don't regret a moment spent watching them.

  9. One more little point in passing, on the subject of the BURKE/MATLOCK/MSW type of show:

    I visit a number of sites that are devoted to the mystery/detective/whodunit genre.

    TV series from this genre frequently come up for remembrance and analysis.

    Would you like to know what the main criticism of these shows by mystery fans is?

    That they're too easy.
    That they're "dumbed down" for the mass audience.
    That ANYBODY can equation-solve them long before the finish.

    Someone offered this formula for MURDER, SHE WROTE: Check the guest list, and find one actor who's best known for playing sympathetic, likable characters.
    If he's not the victim, he's probably the killer.

    Similarly on the original BURKE'S LAW, some guest stars seemed to always be the killer, particularly Steve Cochran (the Mickey Rourke of the '50s) and Martha Hyer (Mrs. Hal Wallis at the time, but that was probably just coincidence).
    And also Paul Lynde, who was a three-time loser on BURKE (oops - forget the Spoiler Warning).

    Withal, I guess we put all this into the "Agree To Disagree" file.

    That said, I'd like to pass on the following anecdote:

    Fred Dannay and Manny Lee, the cousins who created ELLERY QUEEN, used to give joint interviews , in which they answered questions in a kind of "fugue" style - they would alternate talking, with one starting the sentence, the other picking it up, and going back and forth for minutes at a time (sort of like KEEP TALKING, the panel show I mentioned in a comment a while back).

    The Queen Cousins - but particularly Fred Dannay - made a frequent point that their novels and stories were completely fair: that all the clues needed to solve the crime were plainly shown for the reader to get.
    But in their earliest novels (dating back to 1929), some of those clues could be pretty abstruse, often downright obscure.
    But Dannay was insistent on this point, as in this exchange:
    (Note: for maximum effect, you have to imagine these lines said in immediate succession, as if on stage.)

    Dannay: " ... but we are completely fair to the reader ... "
    Lee: " ... as long as he's a genius... "

    And on that note, Happy First Of July (aka Canada Day).

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About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."