Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Five reasons Why 'It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown' is still great

It's been 47 years since It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown first aired on CBS. Now the charming animated treasure airs on ABC and will again Halloween night.

Different network, same special.

And, you know what? After all these years, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown still holds up and takes me back to that 4-year-old boy I was when the show premiered way back in 1966.

Here are five reasons why...

    1. Vince Guaraldi: Even if you don't like cartoons, you had to love Guaraldi's jazzy score. His memorable rendition of Linus and Lucy plays for nearly two minutes during the show's pre-credits teaser.  Guaraldi is probably a big reason why I love jazz so much now.
    2. Linus' unshakable belief in the Great Pumpkin: He's laughed at by his friends. Told he's wasting his time and that he's crazy. Still, every Halloween, there's Linus, the blanket-carrying dreamer, waiting in the frigid fall night for the Great Pumpkin to rise up with his bag of toys for all the good children. He never does, of course. But deep down, you still believe that one year, he just might.

    3. Snoopy's Halloween exploits: No dog has a more vivid imagination than Charlie Brown's pet beagle. Just watch Snoopy pretend to be a World War I Flying Ace who gets shot down crossing wartime France. Charlie Brown may be the heart of Peanuts, but Snoopy is its soul -- and a very funny one.
    4. Lucy pulling the football . . . again: Is this the year that Charlie Brown finally gets to kick that danged football? Lucy has a "signed document" saying it is. Alas, it's not.
    5. Four words - "I got a rock." Like Rodney Dangerfield, Charlie Brown never gets any respect. While his fellow trick-or-treaters walked home with gum, candy and popcorn balls, "blockhead" Charlie wound up with a bag of rocks. But that bit of misfortune only makes us love him even more. Who doesn't, after all, love an underdog?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bob Barker returning to 'Price is Right' for 90th birthday

Bob Barker, former host of The Price Is Right, is returning to the long-running game show on Dec. 12 in honor of his 90th birthday.

According to reports, the show will celebrate Barker's birthday the week of Dec. 9. Barker hosted the show for 35 years before dropping that skinny mic of his for good in 2007. The affable Drew Carey now lords over the spinning wheel.

Four years ago, I chatted with Barker, who, like just about every other celebrity, has a Palm Beach County connection. Here's that chat....

   Question: You once worked at a Palm Beach radio station. Tell me about your time in Florida.
   Answer: I was at WWPG. At that time it was a very attractive little station right on the ocean. The manager of the station helped (my late wife) Dorothy Jo get a job teaching biology at Palm Beach High School. We stayed there for a year (1949-50) and loved every minute of it. We spent a lot of time on the beach. In those days, you could be at the beach on the weekend and it wasn't crowded. It was just a lovely place to be.
    I was a staff announcer and I later became news editor. I used to go around and collect the local news and write that up and pull the national news off the wire. That Christmas I played Santa Claus, and I've always claimed to be the best Santa Claus Palm Beach ever had. And my claim has never been disputed.
    Q:Why do you love Florida and Palm Beach so much?
    A: Dorothy Jo and I loved the beach. We love tans. We used to lay in the sun for hours.
    Q:Who has the better tan -- you or George Hamilton?
    A: I hate to admit it, but George probably does. I stay out of the sun pretty much now because I've had one skin cancer after another. I'm now being more careful. I still love that sun.
    I'll tell you why I became a naval aviator. I opened a magazine ... and there was a full-page picture of a young naval aviator wearing an all-white uniform, gold buttons, the white hat. He was leaning on the wing of a fighter plane and had a deep tan. I looked at that guy and thought, 'If I have to go to war, I want to go to war looking like that guy!'
    I went down to the post office that day and signed up to become a naval aviation cadet. Once I got my wings and my fighter plane, I used to put on my white uniform, go out and lean on the wing of the plane. Unfortunately, there was never a photographer around.
    Q:While you were living in Palm Beach, you also did some modeling. That led to an unlikely offer to appear in a porn movie. What's the story behind that?
    A:(laughs extremely hard) The National Enquirer got an advance copy of the book, and that was the one thing they picked out. The headline was 'Price not right for Bob Barker to become porno star.' You can imagine what that did. One person tells another person and pretty soon it's 'Bob has been in a pornographic movie.'
    The story is I was doing some modeling for Cities Service in Palm Beach. A New York photographer came down and he needed a model. Someone -- I don't know who it was -- suggested me. He asked me if I was married and if my wife was pretty. I told him that she was beautiful and he used us as models.
    For years, we were on the road maps for Cities Service. I told this photographer that eventually we were going to move to California and I wanted to get into radio. This photographer gave me the card of a friend of his who he thought could use me as a model to get a little work while I was trying to break into radio. I called him, made an appointment. He said he couldn't use me, but he had a friend on Santa Monica Boulevard who might be able to use me.
    So I met this fellow and it (the offer) was done so diplomatically and gently that I didn't realize at first what we were talking about. But suddenly it dawned on me that this guy was offering me a part in a pornographic picture! I said, 'This is just not my thing' and I fled. I thought it was so funny and I laughed all the way home.
    Q: How'd your wife react?
    A: She turned around with a straight face and she said, 'Did you take it?'
    Q: Did she want you to take it?
    A:(laughing) Oh, nooooo! If there had been an audition, I would've never been offered the part.
    Q: Do you miss hosting 'The Price is Right'?
    A: No, I really don't. I thought I might after all those years. I had been doing a show ever since I was 21. I was afraid I would wake up the first morning and realize there was no show and I might just go off my gourd. Quite the contrary, I'm much more relaxed -- mentally and physically. I'm a complete success at retirement. I think it was because I did it at just the right time. I went out on top and the shows were as good, if not better, than they had ever been.
    I didn't retire too soon. I didn't retire too late, it was just the right time. As a result, I'm really quite content. I've been very busy (with his animal rights foundation), so I won't be sitting around just staring off into space.

AMC renews 'The Walking Dead'

"Sometimes, dead is better."

That line comes from the old dude in the movie Pet Semetary who tried to warn his new neighbor about the creepy cemetery in the woods where animals who were buried there came back to life, but kinda not like they were when they were alive.

Well, AMC can say the same thing.

As expected, the network announced it's renewing the popular zombie drama The Walking Dead for a fifth season. The show's fourth season premiere earned a robust 20 million viewers, which gave AMC 20 million reasons why it should bring the show back.

"This is a show that has erased traditional distinctions between cable and broadcast," AMC President Charlie Collier said in a statement. "Its expanding base of passionate fans has grown every season, most recently -- and most notably -- with the season four premiere earlier this month, which broke viewership records for the series and became the biggest non-sports telecast in cable history."

I keep hearing great things about Walking Dead, but unfortunately, I never got into it. I did, however, get an up-close-and-personal look at several Walking Dead zombies when my wife and I recently visited Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios in Orlando.

While she was terrified, I kept looking for that hilarious zombie from the Sprint commercial.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sheen Shines on 'Masters of Sex'

Michael Sheen is doing some terrific work as trailblazing, 1950s sex researcher William Masters on Showtime's racy drama, Masters of Sex.

Look for Welsh actor to get an Emmy nod next year for his quietly understated performance. Unlike ABC's Scandal, where just about every character utters their lines as if they're in a DEFCON 1 scenario, Sheen's performance is more muted.

But just as powerful and attention grabbing.

Nice to see the good doctor finally letting go of his emotions on Sunday -- and taking that proverbial stick out of his butt -- after his wife, Libby (Caitlin Fitzgerald) suffered a miscarriage. It wasn't easy for Bill to, in a sense, stand naked and vulnerable is front of his assistant, Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan).

Which is why Bill literally closed Virginia's eyes before letting out a cry that was decades in the making. You understand why, given his complex relationship with his mother, whose head is buried so far in the sand it would take ages for her to dig it out.

Bill's bedside manner is about as warm and fuzzy as a rattlesnake attack, a personality trait that can be traced to Bill's childhood. Many times, men compartmentalize their emotions. Bill, however, locks his in a steel vault.

Although sex obviously plays a big role in the series -- heck, the word is in the title -- that's not the main reason to watch. To me, Bill and Virginia have become the new Mulder and Scully, those intrepid FBI agents from The X-Files.

They say more with a knowing glace, a slight brush of the hand than they could with 50 pages of dialogue.

And the tightly-wound Bill holds my attention whenever he's on screen. The folks at Showtime were smart to pick up the show for a second season.

The Academy of Television of Arts & Sciences would be equally smart to give Sheen the Emmy nomination he so richly deserves.