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Tag Archive: Groucho Marx


lost-in-space-cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

It takes a unique brand of personality to pull together the required components to make a hit television series.  It took a bit of a showman to convince Hollywood in 1965 to produce a science fiction series aimed at kids, and before Star Trek, someone had to lay the groundwork for a series taking place in another world.  That someone was the P.T. Barnum of his day, Irwin Allen.  Classic television researcher Marc Cushman has delved into his favorite show from his youth to deliver a full picture of Allen and the first season of the hit series Lost in Space in his latest work, volume one of Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space: The Authorized Biography of a Classic Sci-Fi Series.

What do all these TV series have in common?  Lassie, Bonanza, Zorro, The Danny Thomas Show, The Twilight Zone, Leave it to Beaver, The Sound of Music, Psycho, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents/Hour?  An assemblage of hundreds of TV people in front and behind the camera came together to make an unlikely idea into a success.  At nearly 700 pages, Cushman’s book leaves no rock left unturned, interconnecting a Who’s Who of Hollywood.  He investigates oddball directors like Irwin Allen, who built up his office desk so visitors would be left to look up to him and had his own “yes man” who would repeat conversations to him as he discussed business with people, and Sobey Martin, viewed by the cast as a bad director who would fall asleep during filming, yet he was the only one who seemed to be able to get an episode filmed on time.  The production never seemed to get an episode filmed with the allotted budget.

lost-in-space

Just as Cushman revealed in his similarly-formatted, award-winning three volume chronicle of Star Trek (These are the Voyages, reviewed previously here at borg.com) that Lucille Ball was the mastermind producer behind Star Trek, here we see the influence of movie and TV stars Groucho Marx and Red Buttons on Irwin Allen as he pushed forward to create the first season of Lost in Space.   Where the coming new sci-fi series Star Trek would be a “Wagon Train to the stars,” Allen was orchestrating a “Swiss Family Robinson in space” an idea that would encounter its own breed of intellectual property legal issues along the way.

Cushman pulls archival interviews from the late series star Guy Williams (one of the top TV stars in the 1960s as he came off his successful run as Zorro and would portray astronaut John Robinson), everyone’s favorite TV mom June Lockhart (as pioneer female astronaut Maureen Robinson), Western and true crime TV star Mark Goddard (as scientist Don West), new starlet Marta Kristen (as John and Maureen’s eldest daughter Judy Robinson), Angela Cartwright fresh off her breakout role with Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (as Penny Robinson), young Billy Mumy, the versatile child guest star of The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, The Fugitive, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (as Will Robinson), Bob May (as the guy in the Robot), and the last-minute addition, character actor Jonathan Harris (as the quirky villain Mr. Smith).

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Rebel Blockade Runner

The most expensive Star Wars prop and the most iconic single Star Trek costume sold at auction this past week.  A new record was set for the highest sale price for a television costume, the market proved yet again that even the slightest Star Wars item takes top dollar, and sci-fi again rules the private collectors’ market for screen-used costumes, props and other entertainment memorabilia.  It all happened at auction house Profiles in History’s latest Hollywood memorabilia auction, held in Calabasas, California over three days September 30 through October 2, 2015.

Profiles in History reported that it tolled $7.3 million in sales in the auction.  The biggest news came from a production model of the Rebel Blockade Runner, the first ship seen at the beginning of the original Star Wars, which set the record for the sale of any Star Wars production piece.  It sold for double the catalog estimate at $450,000.  The prior record for a Star Wars item was $402,500, for a TIE Fighter filming miniature from Star Wars that sold at Profiles in 2008.

George Reeves’ The Adventures of Superman television series earned its rightful place in the history of television, with his supersuit selling for $216,000, the most for any known sale of a television costume.

Superman George Reeves

Star Trek fans saw the most iconic Star Trek costume with the best provenance recorded sell for $84,000.  That was one of Leonard Nimoy’s blue tunics from the original series, accompanied by the documentation whereby a fan won the costume from a studio promotion back in the 1960s.  No other original series piece has sold with better provenance back to the studio.  Other Star Trek items sold included an original series third season McCoy standard blue uniform for $57,000, and an incomplete Class A Spock uniform for $14,000.

Everyone wants to get their hands on original Star Wars items–the most difficult of the major franchises to collect since most items remain with Lucas or Lucasfilm.  A small section of the Death Star barely seen in Return of the Jedi sold for a whopping $39,000.  And even though it wasn’t screen-used, a lot consisting of prototype pieces of the most cosplayed sci-fi outfit ever, Carrie Fisher’s “Slave Leia” outfit from Return of the Jedi, sold for $96,000.  Finally, in the top echelon of sales at the auction, a special effects camera used to film Star Wars sold for $72,000.

Then there’s Indiana Jones.  One of Harrison Ford’s screen-used bullwhips sold for $204,000, a fedora went for $90,000, and one of his shirts and leather jackets each sold for $72,000.

Jurassic Park cane

Other notable, classic, genre pieces sold, including:

From Forbidden Planet, a light-up laser rifle ($66,000), a light-up laser pistol ($27,500), and a Walter Pidgeon Dr. Morbius costume ($24,000).

From Jaws, a Robert Shaw Quint harpoon rifle ($84,000) and machete ($27,000).

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A review of Drew Carey’s Improv-a-ganza

By C.J. Bunce

How many times a day do you see the letters LOL?  How often is it true?  I can’t think of the last time I laughed out loud at something someone emailed me or posted on a website.  Yet over and over again… LOL.  It may be funny, but I rarely, if ever, have been known to LOL, let alone LMAO.

If I have ever come close to LMAOing it would have to be from something I saw on TV or in a movie.  The first time I saw Planes, Trains and Automobiles comes to mind.  The first time I saw Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura, Pet Detective.  Housesitter with Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin.  Trading Places with Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy.  Money Pit with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long.  Stripes.  The Blues Brothers.  Caddyshack.  All resulted in a full bore, certified LOL and maybe even a LMAO.

Network TV comedies, especially sitcoms, are never as funny as you want.  There are exceptions: M*A*S*H, Everybody Loves Raymond, Dharma and Greg, The Drew Carey Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Newhart, the classic Mary Tyler Moore Show (Ted Knight and Betty White were the best) and The Carol Burnett Show (Tim Conway, Harvey Korman) and right now Psych is as funny as any show that has ever been on TV.  But the LMAO came into prime form recently when Drew Carey’s Improv-aganza premiered on the Game Show Network.  I never thought I would have anything to watch on the Game Show Network.  I never really watched game shows.  At least shows I realized were game shows.  Case in point, the British TV series that made it across the pond:  Whose Line is it Anyway?  In truth, I have never watched that show and not experienced a LOL.

Whose Line is it Anyway?–which still is re-broadcast on the ABC Family network–is a series of improv skits centered around four comedic actors doing a variety of things, hosted in Britain by Clive Anderson and then in the States by Drew Carey.  Hand them a few props and make a quick scene.  Set up a scene and every few minutes pull a slip of paper out of your pocket and incorporate the line into the skit.  Sing an ad lib hoedown about… audience?  Give us an idea… anything… blind dates? OK, the blind date hoedown, here goes!  Only one other TV show came close to the explosive humor on Whose Line, and that was the short-lived Thank God You’re Here!  If you think you have seen Bryan Cranston brilliantly perform on Breaking Bad, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen his improv performance as a Rock Star God on Thank God You’re Here!  But the cast of Whose Line is why the show was so good.

Not one show came close to Whose Line, that is, until Drew Carey’s Improv-a-ganza.  The funny things you’ll see on this show you’ll find popping into your head throughout the day.  For the most part, Improv-a-ganza is an expanded Whose Line.  Drew Carey serves as host, but also performs more than he did on Whose Line, and the entire main comedic slate of comedy actors from Whose Line are regulars, like Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops (yeah, and Greg was the pod race announcer from Star Wars: Phantom Menace), Chip Esten, Wayne Brady, Brad Sherwood, and Jeff Davis, all brilliantly funny in quick and smart-witted way of Groucho Marx on the original classic LOL series You Bet Your Life (a show I used to watch in reruns late night with my Dad that made us both LOL every night).  Added to the cast are Kathy Kinney (Mimi from The Drew Carey Show), and Jonathan Mangum and Heather Anne Campbell, both who seem like they have been part of this comedic troupe for years.

This show is the show you wish Saturday Night Live was (like the cool SNL casts of years ago).  It takes place in front of a *live studio audience* at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and is full of the same type of improv’ed skits as in Whose Line, but also adds a lot more.  Improv-a-ganza proves that Whose Line could have lasted even longer than its first British, then American run.  But when you consider the British Whose Line, which included Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops and Brad Sherwood–all who starred in both Whose Lines and Improv-a-ganza–lasted ten seasons, from 1988-1998, and Drew Carey’s American Whose Line lasted eight seasons, from 1998-2006, somebody’s got a great idea for TV with staying power.

And one more thing:  Remember on live skits shows like Carol Burnett when Harvey Korman and Tim Conway would try to get each other to break up laughing in the middle of a skit?  When you watch the cast of Improv-a-ganza in the background as their other cast members perform, they are laughing and holding their guts like the folks in the crowd and at home.  It says something when what is going on is so funny that everybody LOLs.

Check out Drew Carey’s Improv-a-ganza on the Game Show Network, and I guarantee at least a LOL, a LMAO, or maybe even a ROTFLMAO.