Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Outer Limits - Season One, Episode Twenty-Nine - A Feasibility Study - Original Air Date, April 13, 1964

"There is nothing wrong with your television set ..."

I was pretty certain I had seen every original Outer Limits episode, but for some reason this title didn't bring any images to mind.  But I do have to admit that this is one of the creepiest episodes of The Outer Limits that I've seen.  This episode stars Sam Wanamaker, Phyllis Love, Joyce Van Patten and David Opatoshu.  It's produced and written by Joseph Stefano and directed by Byron Haskin, with music by Dominic Frontiere.

The story begins as an alien spaceship enters the Earth's orbit and teleports an entire neighborhood to the alien's home planet "Luminos" in order to conduct an experiment.  The "Luminoids" are seeking new civilizations to serve as slave labor for their planet.  If the experiment is successful, the entire population of the planet is doomed to be enslaved.

Ralph Cashman (Opatoshu) starts his day with a shot of booze and half a pretzel, and it's off to the office (I think it's actually Sunday) to put in a few hours of work.  After stepping outside for the morning paper, his wife Rhea (Van Patten) tells him about a strange mist outside.  What they don't know is that the mysterious mist and the ominous cloud filled sky that blocks out most of the sunlight conceal strange beings from another planet who are observing the humans. 

Ralph notices his neighbor, Dr. Simon Holm (Wanamaker), having some car trouble and offers to give him a ride into town and drop him off at church.  Ralph sends his wife over to check out the engine problem ("She's one of those housewives who can fix anything") and she quickly discovers the reason.  Ralph drops Holm off and drives into the mist but stops when the visibility becomes too bad to continue.  And in true classic sci-fi style, when things start to go wrong, instead of staying in the relative safety of the vehicle he exits the auto and stumbles into the choking cloud to be pursued by the alien creatures.

When Simon changes his mind about going to church and returns to his house and his wife Andrea (Love), they encounter one of the strange beings.  After realizing what's happening the humans gather together in a church to make a final stand against the alien threat.

With special effects similar to those of a low budget sci-fi film (including a spaceship that looks like a salt shaker on steroids), but probably very costly for a television series at that time, the sets and costumes though relatively cheap looking are very effective.  The director's use of lighting and camera angles give the episode a kind of nightmarish quality that sticks with you.

Lots of people try to compare The Outer Limits with The Twilight Zone, and some prefer one over the other.  I sat here for a while and tried to decide which I liked better and it's really a tough call.  I can't really say one series is better than the other.  They both have some remarkable episodes.  The Outer Limits has some stand-out episodes like The Sixth Finger,  I, Robot and The Zanti Misfits.  While The Twilight Zone has classic episodes like The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street, The Shelter, and Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.  And both series have a few episodes that maybe just aren't as fun or entertaining to watch (I'm trying to refrain from using the word bad because I don't think either series has any really bad episodes).  Both have incredible writers and storylines and both have pretty good special effects.  Please feel free to leave some comments and let me know which series you prefer, and the titles of some of your favorite episodes ...

"Feasibility study ended ...  Abduction of human race ? ..."  You'll have to watch and find out.

Control of your viewing device has now been returned to you ...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Dick Van Dyke Show - The Sick Boy and the Sitter - Season One, Episode One - First Aired, October 3, 1961

You can see the chemistry, you can feel it, and it just gets better and better.  The Dick Van Dyke Show is quite possibly one of the best television sitcoms ever ...  Ever !!! ...  And I say this with no qualms or trepidations. 

This episode stars Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Larry Matthews, and Richard Deacon, and was written by Carl Reiner, directed by Sheldon Leonard, with makeup by Lee Greenway (The Andy Griffith Show).  With a lineup like that, how can you go wrong?

The show begins as Ritchie (Matthews) gets sent home from a neighbor's house when one of his little friends comes down with a slight fever.  Laura being the loving mother that she is becomes concerned and decides to call a doctor.  In the meantime, Rob (Van Dyke) is busy at work with Sally (Marie) and Buddy (Amsterdam) trying to come up with an ending to the week's show.

It's a typical day at the office as the trio bounce jokes off one another and Buddy exchanges insults with the show's producer Mel Cooley (Deacon).  The jokes that the staff dismiss as being "not funny" are actually some of the funniest of the episode.  Mel invites the staff to a fancy dinner party at the Alan Brady residence.   Rob accepts the invitation not knowing what's in store for him when he gets home.

When Rob does get home and tells Laura about the party, he finds out that Ritchie is sick and now Rob is torn between his responsibility to his job and being a responsible parent, with Laura trying to emphasize the latter.  The two negotiate a deal, call the girl next door over to babysit, and it's off to Alan Brady's house for the party.  After a while when Rob and Laura attempt to leave the party, Mel gets Rob, Sally, and Buddy to entertain the guests while Alan is tied up with a phone call.  Needless to say Laura is not pleased and just wants to get home to her sick child.

Is it just me, or does everyone else seem to get drawn into the show and forget that they're actually watching a sitcom?  The characters just seem so real and comfortable with each other.  It's not often that you find a show that's has that kind of chemistry right from the first episode.  Usually it takes a few shows for the cast to build up a good head of steam.
  And as far as jokes are concerned, there are lots of them.  They come at you almost as fast as they do in a Marx Brothers film.  While you're busy laughing at one joke a couple more might sneak by you.  I think every episode of every season is worth watching (even The Twizzle, S1, Ep23).

Just about every cast member either had or continued to have a very successful career on stage, in film, or on television.

This is just more great classic TV entertainment.  They really don't make them like this anymore.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Andy Griffith Show - Season Four, Episode Two - The Haunted House - First Aired October 7, 1963

This is one of my favorite episodes of The Andy Griffith Show.  This episode, as many others do, stars Andy Griffith, Ronny Howard, Don Knotts, Jim Nabors and also costars Hal Smith and Nestor Paiva.  This episode was directed by Earl Bellamy, produced by Aaron Ruben and the makeup was done by Lee Greenway.  It was filmed at Desilu Studios and the executive producer was Sheldon Leonard.

The story starts as Opie (Howard) and Arnold (Ronnie Dapo) are walking along talking about baseball.  The two stop on the street and Arnold attempts to demonstrate his curveball and pitches the ball to Opie who swings and hits the ball through a window in the old Rimshaw house, a supposedly haunted house in town.  When they walk up to the house to try to get the ball some noises scare the kids away and they run right to the courthouse to tell Andy (Griffith) what happened.  Opie tells Andy that "the house is full of ghosts".  Arnold helps Opie describe what happened ("they went Oooooooo").  Even Otis the town drunk (Hal Smith) thinks everyone should stay away from the house because of the strange stories.  Of course Andy and Barney try to assure everyone that there's no such things as ghosts.

When the kids ask about the ball Andy decides to send Barney up to the house to retrieve it.  Of course Barney's not too happy about the idea so he recruits/tricks Gomer (Nabors) into going with him ("That way both of us can show'em there's nothing to be afraid of").  Barney and Gomer get scared away just like the kids did, so it's Andy to the rescue as he accompanies Barney and Gomer back to the house.

This is when the laughs really start.  Andy, with Barney and Gomer literally stuck to him like glue go into the house looking for the baseball, and then begin an investigation when Andy finds a few clues that make him think that maybe all the activity in the house isn't related to the supernatural.  While the trio start to look around and then get separated at one point there are a lot of really funny moments.  One of my favorites scenes begins when Barney and Gomer find a painting over the fireplace that prompts the following exchange:

Barney: "That's old man Rimshaw himself"
Gomer: "Rimshaw? Ain't he the one that put chains on his hired man...  and then done away with him??
Barney: "With an axe"
Gomer: "An axe !!  Shazam ..."

It just cracks me up me every single time I watch it.  I don't think there are many people better at acting scared than Don Knotts and Jim Nabors.  As a matter of fact, you'll be hard pressed to find a more talented and beloved cast from any series in television history (I know, I know,  there might be a couple).

The final two or three seasons (color episodes) didn't seem to entertain me as much as the previous seasons did due to the changes in the cast,  or maybe it was that I was just so used to watching the show in black and white, or the storylines just seeming to get a little silly at some points.  Any episode in the series is still fun to watch, but like many other television shows there are some episodes that standout in your mind.  For me, The Haunted House is one of those episodes. 

Here's a little info about some of the folks involved with the show.  Hal Smith's voice was featured in many animated shows and feature films including the voice of Phillipe from Beauty And The Beast (1991), and he was also the voice of Owl in the Winnie The Pooh cartoons.  Earl Bellamy directed over 1,600 episodes of television in his career (info courtesy of  If I remember correctly, I believe during one of the Andy Griffith Show reunion episodes Andy stated that Lee Greenway (makeup) was a banjo player in one of the episodes featuring the "Darling family", who were played by The Dillards, a bluegrass group.  Sheldon Leonard was a great producer/director/actor and was involved with and appeared on The Danny Thomas Show (1953-1963) and The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966) as well as appearing in many films throughout his career, usually as a gangster or underworld character.

Once again this is great, wholesome, family entertainment and a must have episode for collectors and fans of the series.