Sunday, July 31, 2011

Nick Knack, the 90s are Back!

The 90s Were All That!!, according to the folks at TeenNick, which debuted a new weeknight block of retro-themed programming celebrating those bygone, heady days of the... 1990s!? Yes, apparently, it's never too early to reminisce fondly over your lost childhood.

Eat your heart out, Harvey Kinkle!

Here's the line-up, so far:
All That, a Saturday Night Live-styled show for kids which aired from 1994 until 2005. Notable alumni include Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, Amanda Bynes, and Nick "Mr. Mariah" Cannon.
Kenan And Kel spun off into their own show in 1996 (until 2000). I was thrilled to see a familiar face in the cast, Dan Frischman (Arvid, everyone's favorite nerd from Head Of The Class), whose future was so bright that he had to wear shades! Case in point: Frischman played both 'guy on phone' on an episode of Seinfeld and County Records Clerk on Melrose Place. And, yes, I do remember both episodes!
Clarissa Explains It All, Melissa Joan Hart's first television series. Not quite as good as Sabrina, but that would really be expecting too much of a tv show!
Doug, a cute animated series which began in 1991.

Marc Summers wondering how they get the creme in the middle of the Twinkie

So far, the reception has been wildly enthusiastic. TeenNick, never a contender for highest ratings in that particular scheduling block, received an impressive ratings boost during its first week, and certain social networks were all a-twitter with comments relating to the programming. The apparent success of the endeavor makes a curious viewer wonder if Nickelodeon will be expanding their new schedule with more blasts from the past. The hypnotic megamix commercial that TeenNick drums into our brains while we're watching this super-sweet block of programming shows copious clips of Double Dare, which I HOPE will soon be added. After all, who doesn't love Marc Summers? Just think, you could watch Double Dare and then tune into the Food Network to see what he's been eating on Unwrapped!

Retro programming on cable is not a new concept, of course. The HUB has been doing it for almost a year. They've been airing an exciting collection of older family-centric programming every weeknight (including The Wonder Years, Laverne & Shirley, Happy Days, Family Ties, Doogie Howser MD, and Batman). They relaunched three popular 1980s cartoons, Jem; Transformers; and G.I. Joe; and they added revamped versions of My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake to their channel, but they are noticeably inferior to the original series that launched many girls' playtimes. Speaking of revamped 1980s animated series, Cartoon Network aired the first episode of its new version of Thundercats, a favorite of mine in the 1980s, on Friday night at 8:00 PM. Sadly, it didn't reignite my love of the franchise. Perhaps Thundercats was never a very good show to begin with, or, maybe this version is too different. Interestingly, Will Friedle, who played Ben Savage's cuter older brother on Boy Meets World, voiced Lion-O in this new version. Personally, I would prefer to stick to Cartoon Network's superior Boomerang channel to satisfy my itch for old cartoons. It's a sure bet since it airs mostly classics from the 1960s to 1980s.

While The HUB is a breath of fresh air, it's surely taking inspiration from the once glorious Nick At Nite. I'm still gutted at the poor state of Nick At Nite and its younger sibling, TV Land. Both have become disappointing wastelands airing non-remarkable and fairly recent crap like The George Lopez Show and The Nanny. Three's Company is great, but it begs the question: how much Mr. Furley can one really take? (Also, 'did the production team spend all their money on Mr. Furley's medallions?,' but that's a different issue for a future post) What happened to Nickelodeon's mission to provide CLASSIC tv programming to the masses? I have to assume they felt that they had exhausted people with the timeless, and they wanted to appeal to an audience with lower expectations. I hope that the Nickelodeon programmers will take a cue from the popularity of their 90s block and bring back the 80s.. and the 70s.. and the 60s.. and the 50s..! Wouldn't it be great if they would repopulate their schedule with fun and innovative programming again? I should also add that the Nickelodeon channel predated these 1990s shows by about a decade, and while these might have been what put Nick on the map, it would be great for them to open their vault doors a little wider.

Other cable and non-cable channels should take a hint, too! Comedy Central, for example, used to be a decent channel but now only shows random guys narrating lame YouTube videos and unfunny comedians I've never heard of doing terrible stand-up routines. I'd be willing to fashion a whole new schedule of 'oldie' Comedy Central programs for them!

My retro dream channel, however, would be devoted to vintage PBS. Old PBS children's programming can't be beaten by anything that's on television today. From whole episodes of classic Sesame Street, Electric Company, and Mr. Rogers through 3-2-1 Contact, Square One TV, and Reading Rainbow -- not to mention the best geographical game show ever, Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? -- this would be a fantastic idea and a huge draw to PBS. In fact, I bet they would see a boost in donations if they would reinstate some of their better fare. Personally, I think we all could use a review of these fun, educational gems. Sometimes one forgets letters of the alphabet, how to add, and how to form a proper sentence. We're probably also lacking in basic science and geographical knowledge, as well as the gentle art of civility as taught to us by Mr. Fred Rogers. Leave out the Bar(lo)ney, Clifford, and Elmo! Make that E in "E/I" count, PBS!

Well, one can dream about these ultimate schedules, but Nick's new programming block is a step in the right direction, and I recommend tuning in every weeknight (from 12 to 2 AM EST) if you were a fan of any of these shows that were, you know, all that!

[The 90s Were All That block 12 AM - 2 AM (reshown 2 AM - 4 AM) TeenNick channel, Monday-Friday. Check your local listings and the official website]

Saturday, July 30, 2011

This week on... TCM (July 31 - August 6)

Hoo boy! Summer is finally heating up on Turner Classic Movies! Monday, August 1 marks the first day of their 'Summer Under The Stars' series which offers up 24 hour blocks of films devoted to thirty-one spectacular stars. Not convinced? Star #1 is Marlon Brando! I'll say he is! So far, I had been less than thrilled with the selection of movies this year. In 2010, I had already watched 161 different films by late July. This year, I've only watched 63 (though, I haven't included any multiple-viewed movies in that tally)! Well, August is going to put me in a much more respectable range, I should think! Hopefully you'll find some good movies to watch, too. There are some daily schedules that are so good, I can barely stand it! Which of these movies are your essentials? [If you can't wait for my weekly picks and want to look at the schedule directly, go to the official page and download the .pdf schedule right now!]

Sunday, July 31, 2011
Harper (1966) 2:00 PM - This one is on a bit early for me, unfortunately, but I highly recommend it to Paul Newman fans who also have a soft spot for film noir detective stories. Harper may not be Sam Spade, but he is just about the hottest detective you'll ever see!
Road To Utopia (1946) 8:00 PM - Those two singing and wise-cracking dopes take on the Alaskan gold rush.

Monday, August 1, 2011 (A DAY OF MARLON BRANDO!)
The Fugitive Kind (1960) 6:00 AM - Argh, I can't believe they're starting with this! This is one of the few Marlon Brando movies I've never seen, and it's still from the era when you could expect something exciting from Brando's acting. This Sidney Lumet film is based off the Tennessee Williams play and co-stars Anna Magnani and Joanne Woodward.
Julius Caesar (1953) 8:15 AM
The Chase (1966) 10:30 AM
Reflections In A Golden Eye (1967) 1:00 PM - Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor?, you think. That has to be good! Well, it's not, I assure you. It's terrible in every possible way.
The Teahouse Of The August Moon (1956) 3:00 PM
Guys And Dolls (1955) 5:15 PM - My last attempt to watch this was interrupted by Mother Nature, so I'll give it another go. It's not as bad as I expected.
The Wild One (1953) 8:00 PM
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) 9:30 PM
On The Waterfront (1954) 12:00 AM - If you haven't seen this and you have to choose just one Marlon Brando movie, this is the one to choose.
The Freshman (1990) 2:00 AM
The Formula (1980) 4:00 AM

[I'm most disappointed that they didn't include Marlon's 1950 screen debut in The Men. It's supposed to be an excellent movie!]

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 (PAULETTE GODDARD)
Second Chorus (1940) 4:45 PM - With Fred Astaire and Burgess Meredith
Modern Times (1936) 6:30 PM [a link to my favorite scene on YouTube]
The Great Dictator (1940) 8:00 PM

[There are probably some fun, light comedies interspersed with these movies, so it might be worth tuning in at other hours.]

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 (BETTE DAVIS -- What a dame!)
The Letter (1940) 4:30 PM
The Petrified Forest (1936) 6:30 PM

Thursday, August 4, 2011 (RONALD COLMAN -- Someone with a terribly painful voice might have sung about Bette Davis' eyes, but a much better singer and his talented song-writing brother name-dropped Ronald Colman in their ode to moustaches)
Lucky Partners (1940) 6:00 AM - According to my trusty movie log, I enjoyed this movie pairing Colman with Ginger Rogers last year, but I can't really remember it very well.
Raffles (1930) 1:30 PM - 'A distinguished British gentleman hides his true identity as a notorious jewel thief'. I always say, 'If you must be a thief, you may as well be a gentleman thief.'
Lost Horizon (1937) 1:45 AM
The Story Of Mankind(1957) 4:00 AM - 'Satan and the spirit of mankind contend for the future of humanity'. What an interesting cast: Vincent Price, Groucho Marx, and Ronald Colman (in his final movie)!

Friday, August 5, 2011 (JOHN GARFIELD)
Humoresque (1946) 4:45 PM - I'd put up with Joan Crawford to see Oscar Levant!
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) 8:00 PM - This is a film noir classic, and there is a legitimate reason for that. This is one of the essential must-watch films for this week!
He Ran All The Way (1951) 2:00 AM - 'A crook on the run hides out in an innocent girl's apartment'. This is John Garfield's last movie, and it co-stars Shelley Winters. Poor Shelley Winters. Things always end really bad for her. It's always a shame to see her sad, little face.

Saturday, August 6, 2011 (LUCILLE BALL) -- In honor of her hundredth birthday!
The Fuller Brush Girl (1950) 1:00 PM - It looks like this is one of my favorite genres, the comedy whodunit!
The Long, Long Trailer (1954) 2:30 PM
Easy To Wed (1946) 11:30 PM - A musical remake of Libeled Lady (one of my favorite comedies starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, and Myrna Loy). This remake stars the singing mermaid, Esther Williams and Van Johnson; hopefully, what with that lack-luster cast, Lucy will be the Belle of the Ball.
Lured (1946) 1:30 AM - Before we knew why we loved Lucy, Ball starred in this multi-faceted noir as an undercover agent hoping to help the police catch a creepy serial killer who preys on women who respond to the lonelyhearts column. George Sanders gives another interesting performance as his typical cad who may or may not be the man they are after. Boris Karloff steals the movie as a mad artist. I thought this was a pretty high quality noir, most definitely worthy of multiple viewings.
The Affairs Of Annabel (1938) 3:15 AM

Stay tuned for next week's schedule.. There is a block of movies early in the week that just about knocks me out!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

This week on... TCM (July 17 - 21)

Sunday, July 17, 2011
By The Light Of The Silvery Moon (1953) 10:00 AM - This Doris Day and Gordon MacRae musical is the sequel to On Moonlight Bay.
The Apartment (1960) 4:00 PM - A Billy Wilder classic starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. I haven't seen it, but I liked them together in Irma La Douce.

Monday, July 18, 2011
Lovely To Look At (1952) 6:00 PM - All-star musical remake of Roberta with Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel. This is also Zsa Zsa Gabor's movie debut!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Pride And Prejudice (1940) 8:00 PM - I'm not crazy about Greer Garson, but I'll probably watch this anyway.

Thursday, July 21, 2011
Jewel Of The Nile (1985) 12:00 AM - Another sequel on TCM this week! This is the sequel to Romancing The Stone, and it's on the Fox Movie Channel every other week. I've never bothered to watch it because I haven't seen Romancing The Stone in twenty years and can't remember it, but I might watch it after all.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

This week on... TCM (July 3 - 6)

Sunday, July 3, 2011
On The Town (1949) 1:00 PM - The Woolworth Tower?!
Made In U.S.A. (1967) 2:00 AM - Two of my favorites, the lovely Anna Karina and the charming Jean-Pierre LĂ©aud (of Truffaut's Antoine Doinel movies), star in this Jean-Luc Godard thriller

Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Springtime In The Rockies (1942) 8:00 PM - A Betty Grable musical
The Spiral Staircase (1945) 12:00 AM - Mansions! Murder! Ethel Barrymore! The horror!
Gaslight (1940) 1:30 AM - This is the earlier Gaslight (1940) starring Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard not the 1944 remake with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. I haven't seen this version, and I'm eager to compare the two. IMDb reviewers insist that this might be better than the remake.
Three Strangers (1946) 3:00 AM - Three people who share a sweepstakes ticket travel a tangled road to collect their winnings. The three strangers appear to be the terrific trio of Sydney Greenstreet, Geraldine Fitzgerald, and Peter Lorre!