My Television Diary: 4/23/12

23 Apr

I don’t watch as much TV as you might think. Not as much as I’d like, anyway. On a work night I’m lucky to see more than two episodes of anything— there’s never enough time. But until today, I got to enjoy a blissful three-day weekend with nothing I had to do, and nowhere I had to go. Our first heatwave of the year discouraged any outdoor adventures. So I filled the idle hours with pizza, ice cream and vintage television. Lots and lots of all three.

Thriller (2:03, “The Premature Burial”), October 2, 1961

I’ve been wading into the legendary second season of Thriller for the very first time, and I like what I’m seeing. This episode had Boris Karloff in it, but in a supporting role, which turned out to be just as well. For once an Edgar Allan Poe story didn’t have the actual Poe content stripped out of it, and Douglas Heyes did a superb job of directing. Moody and spooky, there was a lot to enjoy here, not the least of which was a fortyish but thoroughly sexy Patricia Medina as the female lead. Last but not least, the transfer on this Image DVD was outstanding, a major improvement over the ridiculously out-of-sync episode I’d seen a week earlier (“The Guillotine”). But what’s with the theme music for this show? Who decided that an upbeat jazz score would be the perfect theme for a horror series?

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One Step Beyond (1:10, “The Vision”), March 24, 1959

I don’t watch One Step Beyond for thrills, but to enjoy an offbeat story about the paranormal, one that’s purportedly true and might actually be true. This one, about the effects of a curiously bright light in the night sky on November 14, 1915, was just okay and never really came to life for me. An unusually heavy and balding pre-Bonanza Pernell Roberts headed the cast. Apparently, something unusual really was seen that night, but a cursory Google search didn’t turn up much, and by then I was too sleepy to dig any further.

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The Streets of San Francisco (1:16, “The Set-Up”), January 25, 1973

I have only the faintest memories of this show’s original run and I never watched it. But now that I live in the San Francisco area, I’m addicted to it. Karl Malden is terrific, and I love the location shooting. For all I can tell, it was shot entirely on location, even the interiors.

I’ll have more to say about this series another time, but this particular episode stood out more for the supporting cast than for anything else. Jack Albertson was on hand as a blind barkeep, Stuart Whitman rode out from his sadly cancelled Cimarron Strip to play a hit man, and there was even an appearance by Claudine Longet, of all people. She’s confined to one short scene, but the fairly pedestrian script sprang to life for it. I wish Quinn Martin had cast her as the shooter, considering her later experience with loaded firearms, but you can’t have everything.

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Suspense (1:02, “Suspicion”), March 15, 1949

I got to wondering what the oldest broadcast in my collection is, and so far this is it. I’d just gotten the Infinity boxed set of 90 episodes, transferred from an unexpected cache of kinescopes that someone turned up somewhere, and I was eager for a taste. (Just for the record, you don’t get 90 episodes of this series; you get 88, plus an episode from an unrelated 1963 series of the same name, and an episode from some other series, I forget which.)

Anyway, this was a Dorothy Sayers story I’d already seen on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1:08, “Our Cook’s a Treasure”), so there wasn’t a lot of suspense in store for me. But it was all right. Playing the leads were Ernest Truex, an actor who’d worked with Mary Pickford in 1913, and Sylvia Field, who would later become familiar as the sweet old neighbor lady on Dennis the Menace. Not a bad show, and staged pretty well too.

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Overland Trail (1:01, “Perilous Passage”), February 7, 1960

This was a mid-season replacement that didn’t get picked up in the fall, so I was prepared to be disappointed with this. But it was really pretty good.

First, the negative. Series star William Bendix is just plain miscast as a stagecoach boss in the Old West. He doesn’t do a bad job, but he’s just wrong for the part, and there isn’t any chemistry with the second lead, played by a young Doug McClure. Now McClure is perfect, as Bendix’s stage-driving employee, and everything else about the show works too. It was produced by Samuel Peeples, best remembered as one of the creative spirits behind Star Trek.

Guest-starring in this debut episode is Harry Guardino, who doesn’t make much of an impression. Far better is perennial outlaw Robert Foulk, who outdoes himself here as Cole Younger. Menacing and psychotic, he opens the episode by heaving a load of dynamite into the path of an oncoming stagecoach, which blows up noisily practically beneath the hooves of the unfortunate horses.

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Also this weekend, I saw a startlingly bad episode of an obscure series which has otherwise been a joy for me to discover. I hate to poison the well by mentioning the series now, but I’ll have more to say about it later. It’s a good little show, believe me.

I expected the highlight of the weekend to be the Twin Peaks pilot. I’ve only seen the series twice, and not at all in the past decade, so it’s high time to revisit this old favorite and watch it again from the very beginning. Only when the moment arrived, and I had a warm pizza box in my lap did I discover to my dismay that the old edition of Season One on my shelf didn’t include the pilot. It kicks off with the first episode of the regular series, whose “Previously… on Twin Peaks” opening flashback sequence only irritated me about what I wasn’t getting to see.

I made a hasty substitution and watched Deal (1977) instead, a behind-the-scenes documentary about Let’s Make a Deal that was bound to be mostly boring and was.

Oh well. There’s always next weekend.

1 Comment

Posted by on April 23, 2012 in My Television Diary


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One response to “My Television Diary: 4/23/12

  1. V.E.G.

    January 20, 2014 at 11:43 am

    William Bendix is related to Karl Marx and Felix Mendelssohn!


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