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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Some Things Are Better When You Binge.

Some TV shows actually improve when you binge-watch them.
One of my cable channels is called "Decades".
Every weekend, they offer up one old series that you can binge-watch.
One episode after another.
All weekend.
This past weekend, they aired episodes of "The Abbott and Costello Show".
I watched them all day Saturday.
On Sunday, I went to the Bears game, so I did not stick with it.
There were two seasons of "Abbott and Costello".
1952 (39 episodes) and 1953(39 episodes).
The '52 season was hilarious.
The '53 season was abysmal.
The '52 season had a live audience, vaudeville, burlesquish feeling to it.
The '53 season had a one-camera much slower-paced feel, as if it was shot underwater.
When I watched on Saturday, it was all shows from the '52 season.
I had never binge-watched it before.
It was addictive.
It was funny in a way I'd never experienced it being before.
Every element was perfect.
From the opening credit music to the two of them entering in front of a stage curtain, it felt like "Okay folks, sit back and we are just going to simply entertain your asses off".
And they invariably did.
They had great peripheral characters.
Their landlord, Sidney Fields, played by a bald man named Sidney Fields, often got "Story By" credit.
This meant most-likely that he took old burlesque sketches and committed them to paper.
He was a hilarious foil.
He also doubled, tripled, and quadrupled as Mr. Fields' brother, Professor Melonhead, Doctor Melonhead, Lawyer Melonhead,
Melonheads of all varieties.
All of them wearing ludicrous toupees, designed to fool nobody.
That was the beauty of burlesque.
You were never bound by any pretense of reality.
It was pure sketch.
There was Joe Besser, playing an eleven year old named Stinky, complete with Little Lord Fauntleroy costume.
Joe Besser was easily in his forties at the time.
And you bought into it.
Because it was worth it. He was that funny.
There was my personal favorite, Mr. Botchacaloupe, played by a wonderful actor named Joe Kirk, whom I had never seen in anything else before or since.
Mr. Botchacaloupe was the all purpose Italian stereotype. He sounded like Chico Marx. Only hipper.
He always owned a store.
And it was a different kind of store each time.
If Bud and Lou had to go to a record store, it was Mr. Botchacaloupe's record store.
This occurred when, in order to impress his girlfriend, Hilary Brooke, a tall statuesque woman, way out of Costello's league, that he could play the piano, Abbott had the brilliant idea that they'd get a record, and Abbott would be planted behind Hilary's piano, and on cue he'd put on the record and Lou would mime playing as if playing to the record.
What could possibly go wrong?
So Botchacaloupe suggests a record:
Botchacaloupe: How about this-a-one? Jinjadanelle daneeva du gan, moutza ganda glitza dian, moutza gan dida gwanda da bell,
moutza ganda de la Jinjadanelle.
Costello: What does that mean?
Botchacaloupe: "Ophelia".
Costello: I don't know. What else have you got?
Botchacaloupe: How 'bout this-a-one. It's called "Amole"
Costello: What does that mean?
Botchacaloupe: It means "When I went down south to Alabammy to see my mammy, I go through the back door, she goes through the front door, we miss each other for 'tree weeks.
Upon the rejection of "Amole", Botchacaloupe smashes the record on Costello's head.
Botchacaloupe lost his temper easily.
Another time Botchacaloupe owned a bakery. It was Costello's birthday and nobody cared, so he went to Botchacaloupe's bakery so Botchacaloupe could bake him a birthday cake, Costello had very specific needs for this cake, after a half-hour Botchacaloupe brings out this gorgeous, enormous birthday cake.
Costello is impressed but is disappointed that there are no marshmallows baked in the cake.
Botchacaloupe: You want marshamaloons? Why you no tell-a-me you wanna marshamaloons?
After two more passes, Costello is totally pleased with the result.
Botchacaloupe: Okay, where do you want me to send it?
Costello: I don't want you to send it anywhere. Just bring me some coffee. I'll eat it right here.
Botchacaloupe has had enough, and pushes Costello's face into the top of the cake.
Like I said, Botchacaloupe lost his temper easily.

Abbott was also a bit of a psychotic.
They would go into a restaurant.
Abbott: Now we've only got enough for one of us. So when the waitress asks you what you want, you don't want anything.
No matter what she says, you don't want a thing.
Costello: I don't want nothin'.
Abbott: Now you've got it.
The waitress approaches.
Waitress: What can I get for you boys?
Abbott: I'll have a Tuna Fish sandwich and a cup of coffee.
Costello: And what about you, handsome?
Costello: I don't want anything.
Abbott immediately turns on him.
Abbott: What do you mean, you don't want anything? You're in a restaurant. A place of business. You can't just come in here and not order anything. Order something!
Costello: I don't want anything.
Abbott: Order something small.
Costello: I'll have a small steak.
At this point, Abbott slaps Costello hard in the face.
They did variations on this constantly.
And when you watch this show in binge form, the more often he does it, the funnier it is.
That first season was played at a breakneck pace.
Unmatched on that level by any other show.
I can't recommend this experience highly enough.

My books, "Show Runner" and it's sequel, "Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
They are all compilations of blog entries that have been removed from the blog.
So this is the only way you can find them.
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne and Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download it.
They can be downloaded on IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays" and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are not e-books.
I have many readings and signings lined up for those, and the thing about Kindle is that you can't sign one.
But they are available for people without Kindle.
If you'd like one of the paperbacks, personally autographed, contact me at
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne and Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.



  1. i paused by this on sunday, but didn't give it too much of my attention. i did enjoy rewatching "the lucy show" a few weeks ago. when i say enjoy, i mean i enjoyed seeing it, but couldn't believe how bad it was & had been & how the hell did she stay on tv so long? also caught a "studio one" the other day & adored the amateurishness of it all. the jumping credits were to die for. betty furness was by far the best part of the show. this weekend's binge is "lost in space" which really doesn't need to be aired ever again.

    1. Season 1 (the black-and-white episodes) of LOST IN SPACE weren't too bad. There was actually a decent storyline, especially in the earliest episodes. Sadly, later it became a bad sitcom..I've interviewed Mumy and Cartwright from the show and they share the exact same opinion. The color episodes in seasons 2 and 3 are crap.

    2. actually, celebrity bowling sounds deliciously kitschy!

  2. From my bookshelf, in order:

    "The A&C Show" was owned and produced by Lou Costello and his brother, Pat.
    Lou Costello wanted to own all the old burlesque routines on film.
    Sid Fields was an old burlesque all-rounder - straight man, comic, candy butcher, etc. He was brought in as the chief writer because he knew all the old routines, and how to stage them.
    Years later, Sid Fields turned up on Jackie Gleason's '60s variety show, where he filled much the same function: on-camera routines with Gleason, recalling old bits for skits, etc.

    Joe Kirk, 'Mr. Bacciagalupe' (I looked it up), was married to Lou Costello's sister, Marie.
    You can spot him in bits in most of Bud and Lou's movies from the 40's onward.
    I believe I read somewhere that 'bacciagalupe' is a sort of all-purpose Italian fake cuss word, used instead of the real thing to keep the speaker from getting thrown out of places. Most ethnic groups have their own versions, but as a comedy writer, I guess you know that already.

    Abbott and Costello used up nearly all the classic burlesque routines in the first season, which caught them short when the show was picked up for a second season.
    Jean Yarbrough, who directed the series (he'd done several of A&C's movies), is responsible for the decision to go straight sitcom in season 2.
    Check the credits, and you'll find that most of the episodes were written by Clyde Bruckman, who had written for just about every other comedian from silent days forward.
    Like Sid Fields, Clyde Bruckman remembered just about everything he'd ever written for other comedians - and had no compunction about re-using those bits in the A&C shows.
    One of Bruckman's former employers was Harold Lloyd, who owned all of his old films, and maintained vigilant control over the copyrights.
    So when a couple of Lloyd's old scenes turned up in A&C shows, Lloyd brought legal action, demanding recompense (among other things).
    All this brought a sad close to Clyde Bruckman's career; he committed suicide not long afterward.
    It didn't help "The Abbott & Costello Show" either; the second season was the last.

    Oh, by the way, Joe Kirk was divorced from Marie Costello between the seasons of "The A&C Show", which is why he isn't in any of the second season shows.
    Things happen ...

  3. Thanks for the info, Mike. I'm sure your spelling of Bacciagalupe is correct, but I'm way too lazy to correct it.
    I never liked A&C's movies, or saw many of them, so I don't remember Joe Kirk in them..
    He may have been a relative, but he was certainly no nuchshlepper.

  4. Some of their binges are good, but others are painful. Next week is THAT GIRL and the following week is CELEBRITY BOWLING. I'll pass.

  5. I loved and still love Buck Privates.

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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."