Sunday, March 01, 2015

CLASSIC DOCTOR WHO FIELD OF 64 COMMENCES

SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FIELD OF 64. 

Take a good look at Messrs Eccleston, Tennant, Smith and (not pictured) Capaldi because this is the last you'll be seeing of them this month because it's only the original Doctors # 1-7 (William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy) who are eligible for this Classic Doctor Who Field of 64.  The Doctors have gathered.  The stories have been chosen.  And right up front, I make no promises on finishing this before the end of March!  I'm just sayin' . . . So.  The field of 64 has shaken out like this:


Obviously, you may click on the bracket to biggify it so you may see thangs better. 
 
In this first installment of the Classic Doctor Who Field of 64 we will be focusing on the first division.  Since the iconic DOCTOR WHO novelisations put out by Target Books were such an important part of both your childhood and mine, I thought I'd illustrate this initial bracket with those wonderful paperback book covers (where they exist).  However, the extremely bizarre fact remains that the very first number one seed did NOT have a Target novelization for some inexplicable reason.  And that is . . .

#1 seed)  THE CITY OF DEATH     VS.     #16 seed)  THE MIND ROBBER

#1)  CITY OF DEATH  -  "Exquisite . . . Absolutely exquisite."  One of the most beloved stories in DOCTOR WHO history!  The Doctor:  Tom Baker.  The Doctor and Romana (Lalla Ward) drop in on 1979 Paris.  It's got a green spaghetti-faced villain, the shape-shifting woman from SPACE: 1999, the Mona Lisa, Duggan the people-thumper, the origin of life on Earth AND John bloody Cleese!

VS.

#16)  THE MIND ROBBER  -  "We may be in a place where nothing is impossible".  The Doctor:  Patrick Troughton.  The Doctor careens into the "Land of Fiction".  It's got that famous "all-white background" first episode, the Germanic muscle-bound superhero Karkus from the year 2000, white robots and toy soldiers, a doppleganger Jamie and Zoe's bum.

THE WINNER:  CITY OF DEATH

#2 seed)  THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG  Vs.  #15 seed) THE ICE WARRIORS

#2)  THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG  -  "I may have had a bash on the head, but this is a dashed queer story!"  The Doctor:  Tom Baker.  Voted the most popular DOCTOR WHO story ever in the original OUPOST GALLIFREY website fan poll.  The Doctor and Leela in Victorian London.  It's got the Doctor pretending he's Sherlock Holmes and Professor Henry Higgins at the same time, the Chinese magician and his animated "Peking Homunculus", the villain Magnus Greel from the future, the giant rat and the comedy team of Jago & Litefoot!

VS.

#15)  THE ICE WARRIORS  -  "I'd sooner live with the Ice Age than with his robot universe!"  The Doctor:  Patrick Troughton.  The debut of one of the great DOCTOR WHO villains. Our first encounters with these warriors and their marvelous hissing voices from "the Red Planet" in the frozen tundra.

THE WINNER:  THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG

#3 seed)  AN UNEARTHLY CHILD   VS.  #14 seed)  GHOST LIGHT

#3)  AN UNEARTHLY CHILD  -  "I know that free movement in time and space is a scientific dream I don't expect to find solved in a junkyard."  The Doctor:  William Hartnell.  The very first episode of the series and the one that set the template for everything that was to come.  I must make clear that this is a one episode story; the caveman story which starts in episode two is a separate storyline and is not part of this first story.  Got it?  It's got the debut of the Doctor and his granddaughter Susan Foreman as well as Ian and Barbara.  Plus the first instance of "It's bigger on the inside".

VS.

#14)  GHOST LIGHT  -  "I loathe bus stations.  Terrible places full of lost luggage and lost souls."  The Doctor:  Sylvester McCoy.  It also has that moody, moody atmosphere as well as incite into Ace's childhood and the first use of the word "knackered" in DOCTOR WHO.    

THE WINNER:  AN UNEARTHLY CHILD

#4 seed)  LOGOPOLIS   VS.  #13 seed)  INVASION OF THE DINOSAURS

#4)  LOGOPOLIS  -  "It's the end . . . but the moment has been prepared for."  The Doctor:  Tom Baker.  But not for long.  It's got the final adventure of Tom Baker's Doctor, the pasty Watcher, the devilish Master and a Tardis full of companions.

VS.

#13)  INVASION OF THE DINOSAURS  -  "There never was a 'Golden Age', Mike.  It's all an illusion."  The Doctor:  Jon Pertwee.  It's got dinosaurs . . . but not too much of them.  

THE WINNER:  LOGOPOLIS

#5 seed)  THE DEADLY ASSASSIN   Vs.   #12 seed)  THE WAR MACHINES

#5)  THE DEADLY ASSASSIN  -  "Through the millennia, the Time Lords of Gallifrey led a life of peace and ordered calm, protected against all threats from lesser civilisations by their great powers."  The Doctor:  Tom Baker.  It's got the first detailed look at the world of Gallifrey and the political and social structure of Time Lord society, it's got the crispy Master, it's got the hallucinatory "holodeck" of the APC net and it got Mrs. Whitehouse's goat!

VS.

#12)  THE WAR MACHINES  -  "This bird saved my life."  The Doctor:  William Hartnell.  It's got swinging 60's London, a mad computer and the new Post Office Tower.

THE WINNER:  THE DEADLY ASSASSIN

#6 seed)  TERROR OF THE ZYGONS   Vs.   #11 seed)  THE ANDROID INVASION

#6)  TERROR OF THE ZYGONS  -  "A 50 foot monster can't swim up the Thames and attack a large building without somebody noticing.  But you know what politicians are like."  The Doctor:  Tom Baker.  It's got the debut of the terrifically-designed villains the Zygons, body-snatching possession and the Loch Ness Monster (or a plastic toy version of same masquerading as a giant monster).

VS.

#11)  THE ANDROID INVASION  -  "Resistance is . . . inadvisable."  The Doctor:  Tom Baker.  It's got body-snatching of a different kind than the Zygons did via the Kralls, spooky spacesuited gents like in AMBASSADORS OF DEATH and it's got a pub!

THE WINNER:  TERROR OF THE ZYGONS

#7 seed)   THE SUNMAKERS    Vs.    #10 seed)  THE VISITATION

#7)  THE SUNMAKERS  -  "Perhaps everyone runs from the taxman."  The Doctor:  Tom Baker.  It's got one of the most fun villains of all-time with the greedy, grasping Collector (obviously an inspiration for the later Sil).

VS.

#10)  THE VISITATION  -  "Why are the people of Earth so parochial?"  The Doctor:  Peter Davison.  It's got the wonderfully designed reptilian Terileptils and their Grim Reaper androids, Richard Mace, Nyssa's fluffy ear-muffs, the death of the sonic screwdriver, one of the Doctor's best one-liners against Tegan and the fire of London.

THE WINNER:  THE VISITATION

#8 seed)  THE CURSE OF FENRIC   Vs.  #9 seed)  THE MIND OF EVIL

#8)  THE CURSE OF FENRIC  -  "And the half-time score:  Perivale, six hundred million; rest of the universe, nil!"  The Doctor:  Sylvester McCoy.  It's got the vampiric haemovores, the "ancient ones", a World War II setting, and Nicholas bloody Parsons!

VS.

#9)  THE MIND OF EVIL  -  "We believe what our minds tell us to, Jo."  The Doctor:  Jon Pertwee.  It's got the Keller machine for mind control, Roger Delgado's Master, U.N.I.T. and Nicholas Courtney's Bridadier and tons of action and James Bond-y spy stuff.

THE WINNER:  THE MIND OF EVIL

 Half a mo'.  Here, have a special detail of just Division 1 to save your delicate peepers strain.



THE END

OF THE FIRST DIVISION 

MARCH WITH THE SUPER-HEROES

AS PART OF OUR 10TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, WE'RE BRINGING YOU CLASSIC ARTWORK FROM MARVEL AND DC COMICS' 1970s CALENDARS.  The Merry Marvel Marching Society brings in the month of March with these magnificent monuments:

 
First we have Marvel's 1975 calendar which for March featured this splendid portrait of Luke Cage, Power Man
 
 
Neal Adams and Dick Giordano provide this flashy Flash illo from DC's 1976 calendar
 
 
The Black Panther on the high seas from Marvel's Bicentennial 1976 calendar by Bob Brown and Mike Esposito
 
 
DC's monumental calendar of 1977 finds Green Lantern battling Sinestro at the Leaning Tower of Pisa with art by Jose Luis de Garcia-Lopez
 
 
And finally DC's 1978 "Disasters" calendar finds Green Lantern & Green Arrow battling the Queen Bee with art by Mike Grell 
 


Saturday, February 28, 2015

THE CLASSIC DOCTOR WHO FIELD OF 64

I AM TOLD THAT EVERY MARCH THERE'S A THING CALLED MARCH MADNESS.  I wouldn't know about such things.  However, since this is the 10th anniversary of this blog . . . and since doing Fields of 64 is his thing, my pal Sweet Cheeks has suggested that I do a "Field of 64" of my own of the best Classic DOCTOR WHO stories.

Now, I suppose this sorta thing would've been very appropriate two years ago when DOCTOR WHO was celebrating it's 50th anniversary but, hey, I saved it for this blog's 10th.  I have been watching DOCTOR WHO since 1977 or 1978 when my Dad's friend Ronnie told me about this cool British science-fiction show airing weeknights on PBS.  You know, the ones which had the Howard DaSilva "previously on DOCTOR WHO narration".  The very first episode of DOCTOR WHO I ever saw was the second or third (I can't remember which) episode of PYRAMIDS OF MARS and I was immediately hooked!  So yes, my first Doctor was Tom Baker and he still remains my favourite.  Since the first Tom Baker story I ever saw was PYRAMIDS OF MARS, I thought I'd mention briefly the first story of each Doctor I ever saw.  My first William Hartnell was appropriately AN UNEARTHLY CHILD; the first ever episode of the series.  My first Patrick Troughton story was THE SEEDS OF DEATH.  The first Jon Pertwee story I ever saw was the psychedelic THE CLAWS OF AXOS.  And from then on I saw all the other Doctors when their very first episodes were new and originally aired on PBS:  Peter Davison's debut CASTROVALVA, Colin Bakers' THE TWIN DILEMMA and Sylvester McCoy's TIME AND THE RANI.  Yikes!  Those last two!!! 

Sweet Cheeks, henceforth known for the duration of this Field of 64 as Jon Pertcheeks, (pictured below)

is going to be doing his own Classic WHO Field of 64 over at his own blog (click here) while I'll be doing my own version right here this month.  Now the rules are very simple.  I will be selecting my own Field of 64 favourite classic DOCTOR WHO stories.  Now, that means the original DOCTOR WHO series from AN UNEARTHLY CHILD to SURVIVAL.  The 1996 TV movie and the subsequent reboot series starting in 2005 and continuing to this day are not eligible.

As this is the very first time I've attempted a "Field of 64" (whereas Jon Pertcheeks is an old pro at this kind of thing), I'll just stumble along as best I can.  For those of you in the know, you're aware of how a Field of 64 works but basically I'll be posting the full list of all the stories and then two classic DOCTOR WHO stories will go head-to-head against each other with one declared the winner.  And so on until the final champion is crowned.  As some favourites are eliminated, I'm sure there will be some tears along the way.  After all, even a Time Lord can cry.  So join us, won't you, all month long for the CLASSIC DOCTOR WHO FIELD OF 64.  You have nothing to lose but your cloister bell!   

HERE COMES 1979: FROM THE COVER OF TV GUIDE

AND NOW WE WRAP UP OUR TOUR THROUGH THE SEVENTIES VIA THE BEST COVERS OF TV GUIDE.  The 1970s were indeed a magical time for me as it saw me grow from a little kid in 1970 to entering high school at the end of 1979!  Most of the stuff before 1970 I was too young to remember and the dawning 1980s saw me pretty much as a "grown-up" so the seventies were to me those mythical, magical childhood years.  The eighties would be terrific years and a whole lot of fun in different ways.  But it was sure fun to look back at those 1970s TV GUIDE covers.  It's interesting to see that a lot of the covers I've chosen depict old stalwarts of 70s television still chugging along at (or near) the top of their popularity.

THE WEEK OF JANUARY 6 -12
 
Case in point.  The first cover pictured is ALL IN THE FAMILY portrayed by the king of caricaturists Hirshfeld.  Possibly the quintessential TV comedy of the 1970s,  ALL IN THE FAMILY wouldn't last long into the new decade of the 1980s.  First the departure of Gloria and Meathead led to the anemic Danielle Brisbois years followed by the series cancellation and morphing into the equally anemic ARCHIE BUNKER'S PLACE.  But I'll always have the glory days of the original run as tip top comfort TV.
 
THE WEEK OF JANUARY 27 - FEBRUARY 2
 
At last we have that slick portraitist Amsel painting a splendid cover of Katharine Hepburn; the second appearance of the great lady on this post series.  Kate appeared in a number of TV movies over the years and this particular cover is referring to her television remake of THE CORN IS GREEN; the last, in fact, pairing of Katharine Hepburn with her debut director George Cukor.
 
THE WEEK OF FEBRUARY 10 - 16
 
I've mentioned before that I was a lifelong viewer of PBS and I can vaguely remember my first encounter with Shakespeare occurred on public television.  I can't remember exactly which television airing I saw first but it was probably MACBETH.  I also dimly recall that in 1979 I must've caught at least some of the Shakespeare broadcasts trumpeted by this TV GUIDE cover.  However, it wasn't for another year or two when in high school I actually read the plays in English class that I became a real Shakespeare fan.
 
THE WEEK OF APRIL 28 - MAY 4
 
Ah, yes.  Now here we have possibly the last great TV sitcom of the 1970s:  TAXI!  I loved TAXI the moment I saw it.  Terrific writing and a classic ensemble cast (except for that nerdy guy in season 1 who nobody remembers and was replaced by season 2).  I always watched it then but I also have great memories of when TAXI was being rerun on Nick At Nite in the 1990s.  My late friend Peg and I would always watch it and laugh our asses off or else collectively groan whenever we'd realize it was a "Tony" episode; they were always the least funny ones.  Sorry, Mr. Danza.
 
THE WEEK OF MAY 19 - 25
 
Here we have another 70's stalwart still powering along.  LAVERNE & SHIRLEY was a favourite of mine from the moment it debuted; however by this time it may have been showing signs of losing steam.  However, this is another terrific Amsel cover painting.  And it reminds of me playing the LAVERNE OR SHIRLEY game.  Did you ever play the LAVERNE OR SHIRLEY game?  I'll have to remember to do a post about THAT sometime soon.  The 10th anniversary of this blog seems just the time to do it!
 
THE WEEK OF JUNE 2 - 8
 
And speaking of terrific cover paintings.  Here we have THE ROCKFORD FILES James Garner painted by Pablo Picasso.  Sorry, I can't decipher the artist's signature.  Did the great ROCKFORD FILES last into the 80's?  I can't recall that either.  Sure did love the show, though.
 
THE WEEK OF JUNE 9 - 15
 
And speaking of loving a show . . . I loved ANGIE.  Practically nobody remembers ANGIE but the show was in fact quite a big hit for it's first season.  And then, almost as quickly as it shot to popularity, it seemed to disappear without a trace.  Donna Pescow appeared in the film SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and then she got this sitcom co-starring Robert Hayes (of AIRPLANE fame).  I'd sure love to see THIS show again.  And it also had a theme song which I loved and was a big hit single for Melissa Manchester.
 
THE WEEK OF JUNE 23 - 29
 
Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Johnny.  What is this, his third or fourth appearance on this blog post series?  Well, that's because he was the king of late-night.  And here's a little hint . . . we're gonna see Johnny one more time before this post is through.
 
THE WEEK OF JULY 7 - 13
 
Here we have again another 70's sitcom stalwart we've seen before with a nice group photo of the cast of BARNEY MILLER.  One night I tuned in to the show only to have it pre-empted by three guys named Jimmy Carter, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat signing something.  I was livid!!!  
 
THE WEEK OF JULY 28 - AUGUST 3
 
Back what I was saying about being a comic book fan who rarely saw comic book heroes appearing on television.  I wanted to like this show.  I really, really did.  Like WONDER WOMAN, THE INCREDIBLE HULK fumbled the ball on television.  When it comes right down to it, THE INCREDIBLE HULK television show was merely THE FUGITIVE with a big, green monster guy appearance about 3 to 5 minutes an episode.  Bill Bixby's great but we wanna see the Hulk.  And we saw precious little of the big guy.  I'll stick to the commix, thanx.
 
THE WEEK OF OCTOBER 13 - 19
 
After THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JOHNNY CARSON, I'd always stay up even later to watch TOMORROW WITH TOM SNYDER.  Tom Snyder was a bit of an odd duck but he was perfectly suited to this bleary-eyed late, late night time slot.  He was simultaneously post-modern and squaresville!  Hey, give yourself a treat and look up his interviews with the great Sterling Hayden on youtube.  You'll thank me for it!
 
THE WEEK OF OCTOBER 20 - 26
 
MTV was still a couple years away so the hippest rock & roll television was WKRP IN CINCINATTI.  I passed up a previous appearance of the show on TV GUIDE's cover because I didn't really think much of the photo but this striking cover design works better for me.  This was another more modern-feeling sitcoms along the lines of SOAP or TAXI which seemed a step forward from the more traditional sitcoms of the 70s.  With another knockout ensemble cast.  And who could forget the infamous "Turkey Drop"?!?
 
THE WEEK OF DECEMBER 8 - 14
 
For some reason, this is a TV GUIDE cover I vividly recall having when it came out on newsstands.  That's probably because, at the time, I had a scrapbook in which I'd paste cuttings from TV GUIDE and other magazines of shows, movies, etc. that I particularly liked.  I guess I likes this cover since I cut it out and pasted it in there.  Disgracefully, I'm pretty sure that scrapbook no longer exists; it fell apart, probably, and was trashed.  And oh,  here's that second appearance of Johnny Carson I told you about; sitting at the top of the heap of talk show hosts pictured here.  For the record they are Mike Douglas, Dick Cavett, Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, Tom Snyder and Phil Donahue thrusting his mike at us.
 
THE WEEK OF DECEMBER 22 - 28
 
And we end our series of TV GUIDE covers of the 1970s with another traditional Christmas illustration.  Is that Santa Claus or Sisyphus?
 
I'd like to thank you for travelling with me throughout the 1970s television landscape.  It's sure been a lot of nostalgic fun for me and I hope you've enjoyed it as well.  One terrific improvement of the modern day over the 1970s is the proliferation of many, many classic TV shows on dvd and the intermawebs.  Back in the 70s, we were at the mercy of the TV programmers and could only watch something when they deigned air it.  First with the advent of the VCR (I got my first one in 1982) onwards, we've become increasingly able to watch what we want when we want it.  Of course, that cuts down on the "magic, special event" feel of having to wait all year for an airing of "THE WIZARD OF OZ" or a Charlie Brown holiday special or a CREATURE FEATURE airing of "HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN" or "THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD".  But ain't it grand to have all this classic entertainment at our fingertips?  Good night and thanks for watching. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

HERE COMES 1978: FROM THE COVER OF TV GUIDE

IT WAS THE HEIGHT OF THE DISCO ERA.  I was in the midst of middle school.  The world had gone STAR WARS bonkers.  And it was a year I could probably describe as a bit of my own "annus horribilis" -- to borrow Betty's phrase.  But here are the most interesting TV GUIDE covers to me of the year 1978 . . . and it's quite astonishing that there's not a "disco-y" cover among 'em.

 
THE WEEK OF JANUARY 14 - 20
 
As I just mentioned, a year after the May 1977 debut of STAR WARS on our movie screens, the entire world had gone space-opera crazy.  Now don't get me wrong -- as an 11 year old boy I was immediately captivated by STAR WARS and saw it 14 times in the movie theatre in 1977.  However, I was never really a science fiction fan as much as a horror fan with a sci-fi minor.  So the de facto obliteration of the horror genre for the next half-decade was something of a minus for me.  That's why it's so nice to see the first cover posted here is a horror-themed one produced by the great Charles Addams proclaiming the apparently novel idea of a night-time Super Bowl game.  Nowadays, that seems like a given but apparently in its first years the Super Bowl was played during daylight hours.  The mind boggles.
 
THE WEEK OF JANUARY 28 - FEBRUARY 3
 
I can vividly recall that back in Maple Surple days, before moving to Claytown, I always watched the new show THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GRIZZLY ADAMS.  I was a big fan of it.  Briefly.  But apparently I quickly forgot about it after the first season and never watched it after that.  In fact, I'm rather shocked to see that it was still airing in 1978; a year or two after I'd assumed it had been cancelled.  Still -- a nice painted cover though, which has the slick look of a greeting card.
 
THE WEEK OF FEBRUARY 4 - 10
 
In 1978, my grandparents moved from their big ole house in Pennsauken to an apartment only a block away from us in Claytown.  Now, I could ride my bike over to visit them every day if I wanted to and I still stayed over weekends quite often.  I can't fathom it now but we always watched THE LOVE BOAT which was followed by FANTASY ISLAND; two fairly new shows.  Both shows were basically the same:  a haven for weekly guest stars -- one took place on a boat and one on an island.  I'd never think of watching either of them today but back then we watched weekly.  However, this great "Saturday morning cartoon-looking" cover art made it a must for this post.
 
 
THE WEEK OF APRIL 15 - 21
 
This was also the heyday of TV mini-series with the likes of ROOTS or SHOGUN being huge ratings winners.  I watched them all, like everyone else at the time, and they were new and exciting television.  A particular favourite of mine was BACKSTAIRS AT THE WHITE HOUSE which, apparently, didn't get a TV GUIDE cover.  However, another favourite was HOLOCAUST -- I even bought and read the paperback book.  I haven't seen it since 1978 but I'd like to rewatch it again, especially since it's come out on DVD in the last couple years, to see if it's as good as I remember.  And it even had Meryl Streep in it.
 
 
THE WEEK OF JUNE 10 - 16
 
Along with the STAR WARS phenomenon, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND brought a huge resurgence in the UFO phenomenon.  So big, in fact, that it made the cover of the TV GUIDE.  What a terrific cover painting! 
 
 
THE WEEK OF JULY 1 - 7
 
Speaking of FANTASY ISLAND, here's another great painted cover with something of that "Bill Sienkiewicz-y" style mentioned in an earlier post.
 
 
THE WEEK OF JULY 29 - AUGUST 4
 
The great Jack Davis lends his talents to a portrait of the "Not Ready For Prime-Time Players" who, by this time, were huge.  I was too young to stay up that late when SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE first went on the air in 1975 but, by this time, I was watching it every weekend.  I also seem to dimly recall that they were either showing reruns or else airing "best of" compilation shows in syndication.  It probably goes without saying that the original comic genius of the assembled talent in that first five years has never been surpassed.
 
 
THE WEEK OF DECEMBER 16 - 22
 
Another odd example of a show I watched every week is EIGHT IS ENOUGH.  Never seen it since then and have no particular wish to.  Except for one episode.  There exists in my memory a dim flicker of a Halloween episode in which an actor looking very VERY much like a PSYCHO-era Anthony Perkins menaced the family during a power outage.  The episode does exist; I've looked it up.  It aired on January 24, 1979, in fact, and I'd sure like to see THAT one again.
 
 
So that's it for 1978.  Join us next time for the end of the decade (and this series of posts).