Sunday, September 29, 2019

Doctor Who: in praise of "The Abominable Snowmen"

When I did my Classic Who countdown in the summer of 2017, I noted that many of my favorite stories remain missing. And I quoted a Whovian who had recently dismissed the lost serials by insisting, "There's no way of knowing what they're really like." Of course there is, I argued. If the surviving audio is engrossing, if the telesnaps and production photographs reveal a credible design, if the director's talents are well-established or the dialogue feels well-played and well-paced (suggesting he had a good grip on the material), then the reconstructions tell you most of what you need to know. Since I started watching Doctor Who, quite a few missing episodes have been unearthed, and not once has a discovery made me radically rethink my impression of a serial. My favorite Cybermen story, my two favorite Dalek stories, and my four favorite historicals are partially or fully missing. Let's pray they're someday recovered, but in the meantime, the lack of video footage doesn't impair my enjoyment. So in that spirit, I thought I’d delve into four of my favorite “lost serials” (four that, to my mind, don’t get the attention that they deserve), starting here.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Crime Pays: The Best of 2018

My annual TV year-in-review, the key difference this year being that the essay is ten months late. But truth be told, when I finished my final Knots Landing essay in July of 2018, I felt perhaps it was time to lay this blog to rest. Maybe I’d said everything I needed to say. I’d written up all fourteen seasons of my favorite series, and the other show that had most inspired me — Doctor Who — had fallen into a creative black hole that rather dampened my desire to discuss it. But recently I was moved to start writing again, and came across a list I had meant to publish last January, of the ten series I’d most enjoyed in 2018. So I’ve written it up. As always, this is not the sort of “best of” list proffered by formal TV critics, who have to watch (and have access to) every quality show they hear about; I never purport to have “watched everything.” These are simply the shows I saw that I loved the most. As always, they’re a pretty eclectic bunch. And happily, since time isn’t a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff, all ten series are still available for streaming, ten months later.

But first, a warning:

Monday, September 16, 2019

My Top-Ten One-Season Wonders (part 4)

The final installment of a four-part series, this latest set constitutes #15-20 of my “top-10” one-season wonders: a numerical oxymoron that only makes sense if you’re counting in the vigesimal numeric system — or if you know my aversion to rules and common sense. As I noted in Part 3, I published my top 10 back in 2016, but so many late, lamented series have since reemerged on YouTube, Daily Motion, DVD and streaming channels that I decided the initial list was worth expanding. So here are my final five series — spanning more than 50 years — that vanished much too quickly.

Love on a Rooftop (1966-67): After he finished story editing the second season of Bewitched, writer Bernard Slade signed a deal with Screen Gems to churn out three pilots every year. A half-dozen went to series — the longest-running was The Partridge Family; the most controversial, Bridget Loves Bernie; the most preposterous, the Sally Field starrer The Girl With Something Extra (the "something extra" was E.S.P.) — but nothing as charming as his very first effort, Love on a Rooftop, with Judy Carne and Peter Duel (then Deuel) as a pair of opposites who fall in love and marry.