Tag Archive: I Love Lucy

Review by C.J. Bunce

A year ago here at borg we previewed the first look at Marvel Studios’ new series WandaVision, and based on the unusual trailer we asked the question:  What audience is WandaVision aimed at?  The series at last began this weekend on Disney+ and two half-hour episodes in, I’m no closer to answering this question.  In any other time that hasn’t been sidetracked by a pandemic, audiences would have already seen the big-screen release of Black Widow by now.  The commonality is that each is a story focused on characters that have already been killed off in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  We won’t know until this summer about the prequel movie with Scarlet Johansson returning as Natasha Romanoff (killed off in Avengers: Endgame), but it is a welcome sight to see the return from the dead of Paul Bettany as cybernetic superhero Vision (killed in Avengers: Infinity War) reunited with Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch aka Wanda Maximoff in this short, nine-episode mini-series.  But here we don’t even know when it takes place in relation to the Avengers movies.

Two episodes in and you’re going to ask:  What the heck did I just watch?

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As with Peter Jackson and The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit franchise, George Lucas and Lucasfilm have rarely let screen-used props and costumes out of their own personal or corporate collections.  From time to time costume components retained by production staff members or third-party contributors to the productions have surfaced at private auction, mainly parts of costumes including Darth Vader and Stormtrooper helmets, various weapons including like blasters and lightsabers, and model ship filming miniatures.  But never before has an entire Star Wars character found its way to auction, and one of the most iconic pieces in the history of film at that.  So when a beautiful, full-sized R2-D2 hit the auction block yesterday, deep-pocket bidders took notice.  In an exciting back and forth of increasing bids in $100,000 increments, it seemed the bids for R2-D2 wouldn’t end.  In less than 3 minutes the hammer stopped at $2.3 million for a total sale price (after factoring a 20% buyer’s fee) of $2.76 million.  This was not only the first private Star Wars sale to eclipse seven figures, it is the highest known price paid in public auction for a piece of Star Wars film history (a Panavision movie camera used by Lucas to film the original Star Wars sold previously for $625,000, the filming miniature model of the Rebel Blockade Runner spaceship from the opening scene of the original Star Wars sold for $465,000, and a miniature filming model of a TIE Fighter sold for more than $400,000).

Like many props in the film industry, this R2-D2, made of aluminum, steel, and fiberglass parts, was pieced together from many parts that had been used, retired, and refurbished throughout the Star Wars films.  According to auction house Profiles in History, who handled the sale yesterday at its offices in Calabasas, California, the anonymous seller sourced the many robotic components together over several years.  And, indeed, Profiles in History has demonstrated via photographic evidence the R2-D2 can be screen-matched via its individual components to screen use in each film of the original trilogy (1977-1983) and the first two prequel films (1999-2002).  After several weeks of publicity for the auction, the ownership of the restored R2 unit and its sale at this auction was not disputed, and so the bidding got underway at approximately noon Pacific time yesterday.

Profiles in History staff taking phone bids during the auction said there was no time to celebrate the success of the R2-D2 during the auction–even after three days of the auction more than 500 lots remained to be bid on following the landmark sale of the droid.  The sale of the R2-D2 prop came only a day after Profiles in History sold the famous floor John Travolta danced on in the climax of Saturday Night Fever for $1.2 million.  A golden prop foot of R2’s pal C-3PO went unsold at the auction, but in December 2008 Profiles in History sold a golden prop head of C-3PO, worn by actor Anthony Daniels, for $120,000.

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night court

More than fifty years ago Newton Minow, the first FCC commissioner, called television a vast wasteland.  The prospect of 500 channels available and nothing to watch was forecast back in the 1970s and today it sometimes seems like it’s a truism more often than not.  But if you get tired of new programming–and make no mistake plenty of great television shows are airing this year–a few recently added channels to your local line-up may remind fans of classic TV why they jumped onboard in the first place.

Three channels: MeTV, COZI TV and LAFF, are a destination for those who just want to pop in now and then for a dose of the past.  Even pay channel Starz has begun broadcasting classic television series.  No doubt much of the programming may not hold up to current audiences.  Clothes, hairstyles, and stale, formulaic half-hour and hour plots may not keep your 21st century attention.  Yet many shows seem to hold up quite well.  As time goes on two of my favorites, Simon & Simon and Magnum, P.I., seem to drift farther and farther away, yet the comedy of Night Court and Cybill remains laugh-out-loud funny.

Simon & Simon

Classic TV gold, like The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, may be a bit much in big doses.  Only a diehard fan would stream these beginning to end.  Yet, try popping in once in a while and it’s like visiting an old friend.  M*A*S*H and The A-Team hold up quite well.  In particular, the formula established by The A-Team, no doubt based on decades of series that came before it, can be found continuing on to this day in series like Leverage and Burn Notice.  Even series like Wonder Woman and Charlie’s Angels can be fun, if you don’t take their 1970s approach to TV too seriously.  And you may find yourself engrossed in Quantum Leap all over again.

So what’s playing, where, and when?

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Wow.  It’s not every actress that puts her pregnancy in plain sight.  Mary McCormack did just that this season on the USA series In Plain Sight, the show about two federal witness protection program marshalls officed in Albuquerque.  From the first episode of the summer season to the last we figured out Mary McCormack’s character Marshall Mary Shannon was pregnant even before she did and got to watch her reaction and choices as her character begrudgingly grew.  And over the course of the season both Marys got bigger, with no hiding behind office desks, no oversized concealing clothing, no disappearing from episodes with action sequences.  Mary McCormack was openly and unabashedly pregnant and her character was, too.

To be sure, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the traditional approach.  Even in the past few TV seasons we saw both the female leads of White Collar and Leverage carry on with their characters unaffected by the actresses’ real life pregancies.  But this was so much more fun.

Mary Shannon is about as cynical as they come.  In the opening episodes of season one it was difficult to fathom how this series could move forward with such a harshly snarky, pretty-much-always-unlikeable character.  Yet she grew on us and we went back for more each week, despite her failed relationship with her sister’s ex-boyfriend Raph, her poor decison-making sister, her cringeworthy mother, and Mary’s non-stop cranky hatred of everyone and everything.  As characters go, she’s pretty awesome.

So some proof that she is a great actress?  This is actress Mary’s third child.  With all the ranting by character Mary about stinky kids and her genuine dislike for humanity, how could the actress be so convincing?  At Emmy time someone should stand up and take notice.

And who would have thought weekly conversations about the increasing size of Mary Shannon’s breasts would be so funny, so real?  And this year, more than past seasons, the writers have created a universal aura that constantly hovers over us–partner Marshal Marshall Mann played by Fred Weller is somehow cosmicly linked to Mary Shannon.  More than partners, more than BFFs, they are soulmates of sorts–Marshall knew it early on, especially when Mary was dying at the end of the first season, but since then he moved on to a live-in girlfriend who seems to be cut from the same cloth as Marshall.  But their bond never goes away, as highlighted at the end of the season finale this week.  Finally, the bitter, grumbly Mary opens up for two sentences in the midst of all the chaos of her life, an Assault on Precinct 13-influenced shoot-out, the denial of how she feels about how she looks, and darned near missing her sister’s wedding when she is the maid of honor.  All for something unsaid to finally be said–to fall apart as a season cliffhanger.  The alliteration is not lost on us, two sides of the same coin, Mary and Marshall, would be horrible as a couple.  But their bond, however unexplainable, is believable, and makes us care about people we might not normally care about.

What can we expect for next season?  The father of the baby sticking around?  The fallout of her sister’s actions on her wedding day, after a full year of upward momentum, growth and positivity?  Mary hauling a baby around town like her failed attention to the dog she eventually pawned off on Marshall?  It is hard to imagine the writers concocting a better season of stories but for Mary McCormack’s real-life pregnancy.  And going with it, instead of denying it, now sets up even more opportunities for both Marys next season.  When other characters’ failed relationships served as Mary Shannon’s foil for past seasons, unimaginably Shannon’s baby played the foil all season long.  For pure drama fans this meant dealing with all the traditional questions every mother must face with an impending due date.  But with a no-holds-barred character on modern cable, this seems like the first time we got to live alongside a lead character of a television series sharing all the unstated negatives of carrying a kid around for the bulk of a year.  The truth of the cravings, body out of control, unwanted reactions of her peers, uninvited advice, suffocating family pressures, and the sweat could hardly have been dramatized in a funnier way, by a better actress.  Up against the likes of actresses like Kyra Sedgwick of The Closer playing equally off the wall characters, it says a lot that McCormack stormed ahead of the pack (actually slightly waddled ahead of the pack) this year.  Poking fun at real life pressures, common angst-inducing circumstances and life’s surprises proved to make a great season of a good series.

Watch for an iconic scene toward the end of this season’s finale: like Sigourney Weaver marching away from a pile of dead creatures in Aliens, or Linda Hamilton walking away from a squashed Terminator, our heroine in flak jacket forges ahead, emerging victorious, on to her next battle.

As a postscript, 100 years ago this week Lucille Ball was born.  Those who watched I Love Lucy when it first aired or in re-runs on Nick at Nite as I did, may recall that Lucy was the first actress to be openly pregnant in an ongoing series.  Although censors wouldn’t let the show say the word “pregnant”–Lucy was “expecting”–it was a first for the growing medium of television.  Since then networks have shied away from a pregnant woman playing a pregnant woman, or even a non-pregnant woman playing a leading role as a pregnant woman in an ongoing series or feature film.  Only Frances McDormand’s performance as a pregnant police officer in Fargo comes to mind.   McCormack did something ordinary this season, but in a venue and way both unusual and interesting.  We can hope for even more fun next season.  Who says there is nothing good on TV to watch?

C.J. Bunce



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