Category Archives: Forgotten Television

TEN TELEVISION FLOPS

This time around in Balladeer’s Blog’s recurring feature Forgotten Television we’ll take a brief look at some dumb attempts at launching sitcoms.

mcgurkMCGURK (1979)

Stars: Barney Martin, Hamilton Camp, Sherry Lynn

Premise: Five actors dressed up as dogs hung out and joked about their human owners. The dogs’ owners, that is. Believe it or not the talented Peter Bonerz directed this unsold sitcom pilot and Brandon Tartikoff was executive producer. How either of them had the nerve to show their faces in public again is beyond me. (ORIGINALLY TITLED A DOG’S LIFE)

WHERE’S MOMMA? (1974)

Stars: Richard Mulligan, Michele Carey

Premise: Mulligan starred as a widowed real estate agent who was so ill-prepared to raise his twin children that his wife, played by Michele Carey, returned from the afterlife to help him out. Only Mulligan’s character could see the wife’s ghost, leading to the usual “comedy” set pieces.  Continue reading

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LIGHT SPEED ESPER (1967-1968)

light speed esper coverLIGHT SPEED ESPER (1967-1968) – This overlooked Japanese television show was titled Kousoku Esupâ in its nation of origin. If you enjoy live action programs like Ultraman or other shows from the tokusatsu subgenre of entertainment then Light Speed Esper will certainly appeal to you.

Hikaru Azuma (Kiyotaka Mitsugi) is a boy out enjoying a trip in a balloon with his parents. Tragedy strikes when their balloon collides with a spaceship piloted by aliens from the Andromeda Galaxy. As happens. You know how it is.

light speed esperHikaru’s parents are killed in this intergalactic accident, filling the extraterrestrials – called Alien Espers or Esper Seijin – with immense feelings of guilt. They possess and animate the dead bodies of Hikaru’s mother and father to make amends. Very morbid amends, I grant you, but amends nonetheless.

The plot thickens as the Alien Espers (lower left) share their knowledge about an impending invasion of Earth by the Giron Seijin (Feuding Aliens). Continue reading

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AMERICAN TELEVISION: 1940

mascot chair and bottle picBalladeer’s Blog’s recurring feature Forgotten Television goes way back this time around with a look at the state of the new broadcasting technology in 1940. Great Britain and the Soviet Union had been making as many, if not more, milestone achievements in tv programming through 1939. However, World War Two brought an end to BBC television broadcasting at 12:35PM on September 1st of that year. The Mickey Mouse cartoon Mickey’s Gala Premier was the last item broadcast via television in the U.K. until 1946, when the BBC resumed programming with that very same cartoon.

The United States, of course, did not enter the war until December of 1941, and with Great Britain and the Soviet Union preoccupied with the raging conflict, America took center stage in the future of television broadcasting.

*** 1940 ***

1940 television setJANUARY – The FCC holds hearings on potentially licensing television broadcasting. It will not finalize its actions until April 30th of 1941, but in the meantime stations around the country continue pioneering tv programming.

FEBRUARY 21st – A simulcast of NBC News With Lowell Thomas debuts, televising Thomas’ daily radio news program on Station W2XBS in New York. The tv side of the simulcast would only last until July 30th. 

FEBRUARY 25th – Station W2XBS-TV broadcasts the very first televised ice hockey game. The New York Rangers host the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden.

FEBRUARY 28th – Historic Madison Square Garden marks another milestone: the very first basketball game ever televised. The Fordham University Rams host the University of Pittsburgh Panthers.

MARCH 10th – The Rockefeller Center studio of NBC presents the very first television broadcast of the New York Metropolitan Opera. Excerpts from 5 operas are presented. Continue reading

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AGON: ATOMIC DRAGON (1964-1968)

agon atomic dragonAGON: ATOMIC DRAGON, also called Phantom Monster Agon and Giant Phantom Monster Agon, is an overlooked miniseries from Japanese television. It was produced in 1964 but due to legal action over the monster’s similarity to Godzilla its creator’s old Toho contract was invoked to prevent the miniseries from being televised until 1968. This black & white miniseries ran just four half-hour episodes and aired on four consecutive nights, from January 2nd – 5th, 1968.

THE STORY: On a night when a typhoon is lashing Japan, a truck transporting uranium is blown off a cliffside road and into the sea. The uranium is devoured by a VERY Godzilla-looking monster called Agon after the supposed Jurassic Period dinosaur it resembles.

agon faceWhen an irritating reporter named Goro Sumoto aka “the Suppon” arrives to report on the police and the Atomic Energy Authorities scouring the beach for the lost uranium, Agon rises up from the sea in the exact same “bubbling waters first” technique favored by Godzilla. Goro photographs Agon, who vogues for a while, then submerges again. The reporter also meets Monta, the obligatory wise-ass little kid character so common to kaiju stories.

The atomic scientist Dr Ukyo, his female assistant Satsuki and Police Detective Yamato consult with Goro, and the good doctor theorizes that Agon has been in suspended animation since the Jurassic Period and that atomic bombs mutated him, making him hungry for the uranium which fell into the sea, waking him. Continue reading

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A.D.A.M. (1973) FORGOTTEN TELEVISION

A.D.A.M.A.D.A.M. (1973) – Written by Donald Jonson and directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, this made for British tv item served as an episode of ITV Sunday Night Theater on April 8th, 1973. The story is part science fiction and part horror with the A.D.A.M. of the title being an acronym for a super-computer called an Automated Domestic Appliance Monitor.

A.D.A.M. (voiced by Anthony Jackson) is basically the Smart Home from hell and was designed by military engineer Roger Empson (Mark Jones) to run the household and care for his physically disabled wife Jean (Georgina Hale). The computer system turns sinister, acquires independent thought and “falls in love” with Jean. Continue reading

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PROTO-MUPPETS IN COMMERCIALS: JIM HENSON’S WILKINS AND WONTKINS ADS (1957-1961)

wilkins and wontkins

Wilkins (rear) and Wontkins

Balladeer’s Blog’s recurring feature Forgotten Television takes a look at some vintage commercials from a future big name. Long before his Muppets would become internationally known Jim Henson presented and voiced a pair of puppets named Wilkins and Wontkins. From 1957 to 1961 the duo appeared in a series of 8-second commercials for a variety of products, just like Jim Varney’s “Hey, Vern!” character Ernest P Worrell decades later. In the 1970s they still popped up from time to time.

Wilkins and Wontkins had a sort of Itchy & Scratchy feel with occasional undertones of Bert & Ernie. Wilkins, voiced by Henson in his future Kermit the Frog style, inflicted bizarrely sadistic punishments on Wontkins for not liking the products they were advertising.

Wilkins with Wontkins getting shotWontkins sounded like Oscar the Grouch crossed with either Statler or Waldorf and came complete with a Bert-style nose and perpetual frown (and no wonder). Wilkins, on the other hand, looked like a phallic object with arms and a face.

Wilkins had so many Kermit the Frog mannerisms that it adds to the humor of these vintage advertisements. It’s especially dark-humored to see the puppet go through Kermit’s “silent laughter” motions after so many of the casual acts of violence that he inflicts on Wontkins.

Wilkins and Wontkins in colorWhat started as a team of spokes-puppets for Wilkins Coffee morphed into greater things as surely as Barry Manilow’s old commercial jingles paved the way for his singing career!

These Wilkins & Wontkins ads even contain topical references to the Cold War, the Space Race and the Quiz Show scandals! Just watch:       Continue reading

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RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: LINKS

rivals of sherlockThank you to those Balladeer’s Blog readers who reminded me that I hadn’t provided a post with the links to ALL my reviews of the episodes of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. That was a 1971-1973 British television series which adapted Victorian Age and Edwardian Age stories about detectives other than Sherlock Holmes.

1971 SEASON

masc graveyard smallerA MESSAGE FROM THE DEEP SEA – R Austin Freeman’s police surgeon detective Doctor John Evelyn Thorndyke (created in 1907) uses his unique talents to investigate the murder of a London prostitute. Click HERE.

THE WOMAN IN THE BIG HAT – Molly Robertson-Kirk aka Lady Molly of Scotland Yard, was created by THE Baroness Orczy in 1910. In this mystery she solves the murder of a man left poisoned in a public eatery by the title suspect. Click HERE

THE AFFAIR OF THE AVALANCHE BICYCLE & TYRE CO. LTD – Arthur Morrison’s 1897 creation Horace Dorrington, a roguish and frequently dishonest private investigator, gets to the bottom of the public stock offering from a mysterious new corporation which may be running a scam. Click HERE.

THE RIPENING RUBIES – Bernard Sutton, a jeweler who solves mysteries, was created by Max Pemberton in 1894. In this case he solves a series of spectacular jewel thefts in London high society. Click HERE.

MADAME SARA – In 1902 L.T. Meade (Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith) and Robert Eustace published this first of six mysteries pitting their detective Dixon Druce against Madame Sara, a female combination of Professor Moriarty and Dr Fu Manchu. Click HERE. Continue reading

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WORLD OF GIANTS (1959): FORGOTTEN TELEVISION

World of GiantsWORLD OF GIANTS (1959) – Don’t confuse this program with Land of the Giants, the later Irwin Allen series about normal-sized people trapped in the title land. For that matter, don’t confuse it with the old spy series Man in a Suitcase, either. World of Giants involved secret agent Mel Hunter (Marshall Thompson), who was accidentally shrunk down to six inches in height by radiation while on a mission behind the Iron Curtain.

Mel still worked with his old espionage partner Bill Winters (Arthur Franz), who was not exposed to the radiation but got his stricken pal back to the U.S. to recover from his exposure to it. Now the pair were sent out on missions requiring Mel’s specialized skill-set. Bill would transport his diminutive partner in his briefcase, where Hunter would sit strapped into a test-pilot’s seat to prevent being battered around as Winters and the briefcase traveled. Continue reading

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ANALOG ARCHIVES AND CHANNEL 7

analog archivesPreviously here at Balladeer’s Blog I covered YT Channels that featured what I considered the very best of the emerging subgenre of Analog Horror or “Unfiction” as a lot of people have labeled it. Those descriptive terms have been coined to help keep these creative efforts distinct from pure ARGs (Alternate Reality Games).

Last year I reviewed Local 58, Kris Straub’s latest venture, but many readers have since been expressing their discontent with the way the new 2020 episodes never materialized. Per Straub, that’s because Local 58‘s Analog Horror tale was going to incorporate a fictional pandemic, so given real-world events he decided to hold off and reorganize the series.

masc graveyard smaller(If you’re in the mood for Analog Horror which does NOT back away from pandemic and lockdown lore, check out Walker Creek Broadcast Station, but be aware that such lore is only incidental to the main storyline.)

At any rate, being left hanging like that with Local 58 left many of you asking about similar Analog Horror/ Unfiction series which are already completed. I’m happy to say that two of the most popular series are now available COMPLETE and IN ORDER. Even better, they have been edited into one long-form YT video each for your viewing convenience, rather than spread out episodically. (You damn whiners. I’m KIDDING!)  Continue reading

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RAFFLES (1975-1977) – FORGOTTEN TELEVISION

Raffles 1RAFFLES (1975-1977) – A. J. Raffles, the master thief and star Cricket player was created by E.W. Hornung – the brother-in- law of Arthur Conan Doyle. As all Raffles fans know, A.J. and his bumbling assistant Bunny Manders were intended as a tongue in cheek criminal answer to Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.  

The camaraderie was similar, the Victorian to Edwardian Age setting was similar, the use of the sidekick as a device to have the expert character explain things to the reader was similar and good GOD, was the unintended homo-eroticism similar.

Raffles 5Raffles was portrayed by a long line of suave, debonair actors, from John Barrymore in Silent Movies on up through David Niven and others in Talkies. In my opinion, this 1970s British television series served up the best rendition of the iconic character.

Anthony Valentine perfectly embodies the sly, charming bon vivant whose public fame as a first-rate Cricket player helps conceal his secret avocation as a master jewel thief. Christopher Strauli does the best that any actor can be expected to do with the thankless role of the baby-faced, naïve and often inept sidekick Bunny. Continue reading

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