Monday, December 11, 2017

A Classic TV Christmas- Advent 2017 Day 11

I'm playing hard and loose with the time line today. While I am now progressing into classic TV Christmas episodes of the 1970s, I am also going back in time to the 1950s. If you've guessed that happy days are here again, then pat yourself on the back. We are going to spend the holidays with the Cunninghams of Milwaukee for a Happy Days Christmas.

Happy Days was an extremely popular TV show on ABC. It was set in the 1950s and focus on the life of Richie Cunningham and his family. Well, that is until a certain greaser named the Fonz became the de facto star of the show. 

The series ran for 11 seasons from 1974-1984 and had several holiday episodes. But my favorite was from Happy Days' eighth season. Titled White Christmas, the episode aired on December 19, 1980. 

It's Christmas Eve and a major blizzard has crippled Milwaukee. Mr. Cunningham and his daughter Joanie are stranded at Cunningham hardware. Mrs. Cunningham and Richie's pregnant wife Mary Beth are at home where the power has gone out and one of the upstairs windows has broken mysteriously (don't worry, it was just a bird...) Meanwhile Fonzie and some of the gang are stuck at Arnold's Drive-In thanks to Potsie screwing up and getting everybody snowed in thanks to a snow plow. 

It looks like everybody is going to be spending Christmas away from each other. But thanks to a Christmas miracle of either the snow clean-up crew of Milwaukee being able to plow through 2-feet of snow or a stroke of coincidental genius by the writers, everyone is able to make it home in time for Christmas. Well, except for Richie who can't fly in because of the blizzard. (Although in reality, actor Ron Howard had left the show prior in order to become a big time door-to-door shoe salesman or something, forever forsaking Hollywood and it's wantonous beckoning call.

On paper, this isn't really be one of my favorite episodes. In terms of a Christmas episode it's rather sad. Mr. Cunningham laments how soon Joanie will moving away for college. Mrs. Cunningham and Richie's wife are all sad that Richie got delayed. The only funny things are the scenes at Arnold's with Potsie getting on Fonzie's nerves. 

But what I love so very much about this episode is the snow! I am a winter weather junky. I am a Northerner born in a Southern state. As I write this post, it's snowing in North Carolina and it's not officially winter yet! And I could not be more thrilled. I just love getting snowed-in and this episode is all about being snowed-in! 

Since this post is all about snow and my love for it, I am forgoing a clip of the episode and instead giving to you for Advent a video of holiday tunes set to falling snow. It is 3 hours long, so if you don't sit through the whole thing, it will not hurt my feelings. So enjoy and until next time- Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters 2 #4

In this penultimate chapter, events are conspiring to either tear the teams apart or bring everybody together to stop the combined might of the Collectors; a sort of ectoplasmic gang of bounty hunters. 

Raphael's spirit is still stuck in Ray's body on the Scandinavian netherworld while Michelangelo and Peter  are prisoner's of the Ghostbusturtles of Zoo Amsterdam. Meanwhile back on the Ghostbusters earth, Donatello and Egon have their weapons to fight the Collectors tested and ready for final battle. But it may be too late as Donatello and Winston find themselves face-to-face with their hunters on a barren wasteland.

After a couple of very rough chapters, this miniseries from IDW Publishing keeps getting better and better. I really had zero qualms with this issue. It took a while but writer Erik Burnham and Tom Waltz were finally able to capture in a bottle. I only hope that next issue, which is the last, continues to amaze and is one heck of a finale!

Worth Consuming!

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters 2 #3

The inter-dimensional caper between the Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters continues in this thrilling third chapter!

Venkman and Michelangelo are stranded in Zoo Amsterdam, an anthropomorphic version of earth. There, Peter has just been mistaken for a demon and has been captured by the Ghostbusturtles!

Meanwhile on a Scandinavian plain, Ray and Raphael awake to find their bodies doing battle. Turns out, they have both been dispossessed and cannot escape to another earth without their corporeal forms. 

My biggest complaint of this series is that it's kinda complex in it's presentation of techno-babble. But with the action level ramped up, this was the most enjoyable issue. 

The artwork, which varies from earth to earth is quite awesome. I love the little TMNT and Ghostbusting Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the multiverse as well. However, if every one of IDW Publishing's miniseries and series of these two properties are as full of advanced physics and philosophy as this crossover is, I do not think that I am going to be adding any of them to my comic book wish list any time soon.

Worth Consuming!

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars.

A Classic TV Christmas- Advent 2017 Day 10

Yesterday's visit to the LAPD had an early appearance by Barry Williams in Dragnet. That got me thinking about another show that starred the young actor and took place in California. That show is The Brady Bunch. 

In the episode titled The Voice of Christmas from December 19, 1969, the Bradys are getting ready for Christmas. Mom Brady, Carol, sings every year during church services. But that's not looking possible this year as Mrs. Brady has laryngitis. Desperately wanting her mom to be able to sing, little Cindy asks Santa to bring her mother's voice back. It's a down to the wire Christmas miracle as right before services, Carol regains the ability to sing and regales the congregation with a rendition of O Come all Ye Faithful. 

As Christmas episodes go, this is the standard holiday schlock. It's sappy. It's predictable. And it's medically unlikely to ever occur. Sure, Mrs. Brady could get her voice back in time for Christmas. But in no way would it be wise for someone just coming off laryngitis to sing in full commanding voice without doing further damage.

You call it a Christmas miracle. I call it implausible screenwriting.

The main reason I am covering this episode today isn't because of what happened in 1969 but what would later happen in 1988 for the TV reunion movie A  Very Brady Christmas. 

In that holiday special, the Mr. and Mrs. Brady are planning on going on a trip for Christmas. Since all the kids are grown and have families of their own, there's no point staying in such a big house for the holidays. But just as the Bradys are getting ready to leave- the whole family surprises mom and dad! Things are rocky with a crowded house of kids, grand kids and spouses but by Christmas day everyone is all cheery and happy. That is until Mike gets a fateful phone call. 

It turns out one of the businesses he designed was made with shoddy materials to cut costs. As a result two security guards are trapped in the collapsed remains. Being the building's architect, Mike has the the plans in his home office and runs to the site. There, he runs in to save the guards and gets trapped in the process.

Over the night, the family holds a vigil. Cindy reminds Carol in flashbacks of the Christmas miracle in which she got her voice back and Mrs. Brady begins to sing. Inspired, Mike in a Herculean bout of strength frees himself before the building comes crashing down. Thus it's the best Brady Christmas ever!!!

I don't know what was more ridiculous- the fact the actress playing Cindy in the special was not the same actress from the original series flashbacks or the fact that Mrs. Brady's singing gives Mr. Brady super powers like spinach does to Popeye. 

Since this whole day has in some way dealt with Bradys and singing, my Advent present for you today is a selection of holiday songs from the 1970 album Christmas with the Bradys. Enjoy and until next time- Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Classic TV Christmas- Advent 2017 Day 9

Today's classic Christmas episode is one of my all-time favorites. It's from the 1960s revival of Dragnet. Titled The Christmas Story, this 1967 episode is a remake from the original Dragnet series from the 50s. Not to mention, it was also a radio broadcast too! Other than the changing of the 1953's episodes title of The Big Little Jesus, the '67 episode used not only the exact same script but recycled some of the original actors from that first production as well. 

There's only a couple of days until Christmas and a church calls in Detective Friday (Jack Webb) and his partner Bill Gannon (Henry Morgan) to investigate a burglary. The church's nativity has been vandalized as the baby Jesus has been stolen. With Christmas Eve services hours away, it is vital that the statute be returned as soon as possible.

Over the course of Friday and Gannon's investigation, they interview a number of suspects including a choir boy and a vagrant. The choir boy was played by Barry Williams. Williams would in just a few short months be shot to international stardom as the eldest son Greg on The Brady Bunch. As for the vagrant, he was played by Bobby Troup. Troup may not be a very familiar name to you. But he's a household term here in the Madman household as Bobby Troup played Doctor Early on my wife's all-time favorite TV series, Emergency!

By the end of the episode it turns out that none of the usual suspects did it. Instead it was a little boy who took the baby Jesus. The little fella seems to have promised the Jesus statue that if he got a red wagon for Christmas, he would take Jesus out for the first ride. Apparently Christmas came early as the kid got his wagon and the baby Savior saw the City of Angels in a cherry red Radio Flyer. With the Jesus returned safely, no harm, no foul...

Other than the cool guest stars, one may wonder why this is one of my favorite Christmas episodes. It's because this actually happened. All of Dragnet's scripts were based on real stories taken from the LAPD police blotter. So sometime in a pre-1953 L.A. some kid asked a baby Jesus for a wagon and took the porcelain Christ for a victory lap when he got one! I just love the sweet oddness of this story!

Unfortunately, I can't find the 1967 episode for me to share. But I was able to find the full original episode. So, for my Advent present for you today, I present The Big Little Jesus from December 24, 1953. 

Enjoy and until next time- Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 8, 2017

A Classic TV Chirstmas: Advent 2017 Day 8

For today's look at Classic TV Christmases, we're going into outer space to celebrate. Here we'll partake of the holidays on the Starship Enterprise. 

Look, I am going to admit, I fudged on this on. The episode of Star Trek I am examining today isn't a Christmas episode. But it does take place during Christmas! Honestly, there's never been a Christmas themed episode. So, humor me for a bit...

The episode is titled 'Dagger of the Mind.' It aired on NBC on November 6, 1966. The episode starts with Captain Kirk having just exited a Christmas party as the Enterprise is en route to a penal colony. They are to make a delivery of supplies and picked up others for another penal colony. It's revealed that an escape prisoner is inside the crate so Kirk and his crew investigate only to learn that the inmates have taken over the asylum!

That's pretty much it for Christmas. Oh, yeah- Kirk's love interest in this episode is named Dr. Helen Noel. I'm wondering if this was Kirk's first Noel... Sorry, very crude joke that had to be made. 

Other than this episode, Christmas is never really mentioned again in the Star Trek universe until nearly 40 years later when in the Next Generation episode Devil's Due, Picard helps Data practice the role of Scrooge at the beginning of an episode. Then there's a dream sequence in the Star Trek Generations crossover that involves Christmas. Plus, in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, Q turns the ship into a Christmas ornament (talk about product placement.) Again none of these are Christmas episodes. The holiday just happens to be a bit player.

The closest Trek fans have ever gotten to a bonafide Christmas anything involving Star Trek is issue #2 of the Star Trek: The Next Generation miniseries from DC Comics, 1988. There Picard and the crew of the Enterprise D battle a race of Grinch-like creatures that want to destroy Christmas.

However, this series was so badly planned out that many fans don't even acknowledge it's existence! This is what happens when you try to rush out promotional tie-in materials but don't do your research!

So with all that in mind- there's not much Christmas in Star Trek. So my Advent gift to you is three-fold. First is a video showing all of the so-called Christmas references in the original Star Trek. Then, I gift you with a couple of commercials from the 90s advertising the new Star Trek ornaments at Hallmark. These star actual actors from the Next Generation and are pretty darn clever bits of advertising. 
So enjoy and until next time- Merry Christmas!

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Volume 1: BFF (Family Comic Friday)

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Volume 1: BFF
Writer: Amy Reeder
Artist: Natacha Bustos
Publisher: Marvel

Thumbing through a recent issue of something, (I don't remember what), I saw an advertisement for the collected first volume of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. This series hadn't really been on my radar, but I was open to getting my hands on a copy if it ever turned up and my local library. What caught my eye on this particular day wasn't the artwork nor the concept but a blurb posted by another reviewer. 

Citing a website called Black Nerd Problems, the blurb said that Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur was a 'fantastic read for all ages.' Since I do this weekly post where I examine family friendly comics, I was interested to know if this series really was appropriate for all ages or not. Thus, I hunted down a copy of volume one and gave it a read to see for myself what this series was all about

So let's examine all the evidence and decide if this was the correct assessment for this series.

How Does It Rate?

The cover of issue #1 rates the book for teens. According to Marvel's rating system a teen book is considered 'appropriate for most readers, but parents are advised that they might want to read before or with younger children.'

The days of a governing body determining the age appropriateness of comics is long gone.The ratings for comics are now done in house by each publisher. DC rates their own books as does Marvel. So already, Moon Girl's parent company does not consider this book to be suitable for all. While I felt that the overall of story was great for kids- a young girl befriends a dinosaur- some situations could be considered tense for younger children.

What's in the Book?

This series continues the story of Devil Dinosaur. The fiery red T-Rex like dinosaur was the creation of the great Jack Kirby and first debuted in Devil Dinosaur #1 from 1978. Devil was accompanied by a young ape-like child named Moon Boy. Together, the pair fought off extraterrestrials, other rampaging thunder lizards, and even modern day menaces like Godzilla. But the duo's prime enemies were a tribe of fierce cavemen called the Killer-Folk. 
It's during a battle with the Killer-Folk, that Devil Dinosaur is sucked through a time vortex into the modern day along with a sacred rock with mystical powers called the Nightstone. 

In 2016 New York City, 9-year old Lunella Lafayette is a brilliant child who is unappreciated by her teachers, peers, and parents. Lunella knows that she has the Inhuman gene and is frantically trying to cure herself before a terrigen mist cloud transforms her into something, er well, Inhuman. 

When Lunella discovers the Nightstone, she sees it for what it really is, a Kree Omni-Wave Projector. However, Devil Dinosaur is fiercely protective of it and basically follows Lunella around like the world's largest red puppy. But the Killer-Folk also emerged from the time portal and they have their eyes on the Nightstone as well. As Lunella's neighborhood is terrorized by the Killer-Folk, it's up to the Devil Dinosaur and Moon Girl to restore peace to the Big Apple!

Scary Bad Guys & Bratty Children

I'm really glad that I had a collection of the first six issues of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. Because in that first issue, Lunella is a brat with a capital B. She was quite off-putting. If I only had that issue to base my opinion off of, I wouldn't come around for seconds. 

However, as Lunella learns to become the hero Moon Girl, her personality becomes more favorable. So there's a real lesson in humility and caring for others that underlines this first story arc. In fact, I recommend that you don't read the series as individual issues as there's real character development to be explored when read as a collection.

If being a brat was cause for a book to not be considered all-ages then there wouldn't be any all-age comics at all. But one thing that I felt does mark this book as not being appropriate for readers of all ages are the villains!

The Killer-Folk start off kinda comical. Natacha Bustos' art makes them look like tiny Saquatches. But as the Nightstone evolves the cave creatures, they become more intelligent and more deadly. There's several scenes where the Killer-Folk threat to kill innocent New Yorkers and a couple of intense scenes in which people are seriously injured. Also, at one point, Lunella's school is targeted and if not for Devil Dinosaur, her classmates would have perished at the hands of the Killer-Folk. Thought Bustos' art style is more age friendly in eye appeal, the dangers presented in this book are quite grown-up.

Finding Balance

It's series such as this book as to why I write my Family Comic Friday posts. If the average parent or guardian took the praise on the front cover at face value, they might have bought this book for a younger child who might not be ready for such intense scenes. I would be okay with telling a parent of a 10 year old to let them read this book. On the flip side, I would also have to provide a strong word of caution to the caretaker of a 5-7 year old reader. 

Another thing that makes this book NOT all-ages is the techno-jargon. Lunella is one smart kid and she's a lot like Young Sheldon. She might know how to use enriched uranium but she shouldn't be allow to buy enriched uranium. (Maybe when she's 10...) 

Having technical terms and advanced concepts isn't a bad thing in kids books. But if you want the young comic reader to fully enjoy the book, having an adult help with big words and complex thinking isn't a bad idea. Anytime you can get a parent and child reading together, it's a good thing and this is a series that really needs a reading partner if read by a child ages 9 or younger.

Where to Now?

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur are still going strong as a monthly series by Marvel Comics. Original series writer Amy Reeder has moved on, though Natacha Bustos currently remains as head artist. Having not read past issue #6, I can't rate those issues. But this first volume was a pleasant burst of old school characters with new dynamic roles. In an era where Marvel's comics have become almost an afterthought to the live action films that they were based upon, this series gives me hope that the House of Ideas has yet to run out of them. 

Hopefully that means that this new dynamic duo is here to stay. So if Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is just a little too old for the young comic collector in your life- don't worry! They'll grow into it!

Worth Consuming!

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars.

Review was published concurrently on