Friday, April 20, 2007

The House Between Episode # 6 ("Trashed") Preview:

Happy Friday readers! It's time for a preview of the upcoming The House Between episode, # 6: "Trashed."

The episode airs next week, but hopefully this will whet your appetite for the upcoming installment. Crazy stuff is happening now. Really crazy stuff...

Look for my director's notes next week for some behind-the-scenes info on the writing and shooting of "Trashed."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pop Art # 1: Space:1999 Lunchbox

On the eve of my blog's two-year anniversary, it's time to commence a series of close-up articles that I've been wanting to write for a very long time. I've featured here retro-toy flashbacks, collectibles of the week, trading card close-ups and so forth, but I want to move to an even deeper level of examination in terms of the genre items I've collected. I want to discuss them in terms of artistic value.

A word of prologue. I come from a family of collectors. My parents collect Maxfield Parrish prints, Roseville pottery, and more. Kathryn, my wife, collects cobalt blue glass. Of course, you've seen my collection of toys, models, action figures and other collectibles. People often ask me why I collect these things - these hunks of plastic and such - and the answer that I come back to is that there is a value in these items beyond nostalgia. Some will see what I'm about to argue here as the ultimate degradation of artistic standards, but I don't agree...

In and of themselves toys, comic-book covers, posters, action-figure cards and the like are often very, very beautiful. I believe wholeheartedly that they qualify as art. If Roman graffiti, scrawled a wall thousands of years ago is art, then why not a trading card? Why not an action figure diorama? There is no good answer, except that stewards of the term "art" are stringent gatekeepers.

Now, I realize that purists will recoil at this description - memorabilia from TV shows and films as art. What I'm talking about here is not "true" art, they will claim, but rather kitsch. Their argument would be that the renderings I admire are inferior, derivative, commercially produced, theatrical and deficient in some manner. I understand their argument, but it's flat-out misconceived...and wrong.

The items I intend to focus on in this series of essays do indeed possess aesthetic value. In simpler terms, they stimulate the spirit and the brain...the essential qualifications of art, and more than that, these items often have "something to say" (another criterion of art). As for these products being derivative (as in derivative of earlier art styles...), I can only respond by answering in this fashion: what isn't derivative? Please, tell me. Search long enough and deep enough and you'll see that every work of art has an antecedent. That's how art is created. The artist takes inspiration from other work, then builds on it, synthesizes different styles...and arrives at something new. It's still derivative, in some sense, however. Even if it's a rejection of a previous school of art, it's still derivative because dislike is what fostered the new art. See?

The next hurdle we cross here is one of this toy/memorabilia art being "commercially produced." This is perhaps the most ludicrous argument for disqualifying something as art. For centuries, painters and sculptors have accepted commissions - been paid - by patrons to produce art for audiences. Sometimes the patron is the Church. Sometimes it is a head of state. Sometimes it is just a very rich aristocrat. What is the difference, then, when a painter or artist takes a job for the licensor of merchandise for a television show or movie? The difference here is all substance.

As far as being deficient...well, the elitists can make any claims they want, but in my heart of hearts I know that in four hundred years, scholars and art historians will be gazing at Star Trek and Star Wars the way we gaze today at Shakespeare. Or Greek myth. I won't live (dammit!) long enough to see my prophecy fulfilled...but I believe I'm right. Similarly, the genre art that's been created in the last thirty years around projects like Star Trek, Star Wars, Space:1999, Battlestar Galactica, The Black Hole, etc., will one day be held up as being of a "school" of art that at times can be profound...even though it was mass marketed and aimed at children. (Also aimed at children: The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, The Hobbit, Harry Potter...anyone want to say they ain't art?)

But enough of the generalities. I want to open this series with a close-up analysis of the Space:1999 King Seeley Thermos Company (copyright 1975 ATV Licensing Limited) lunchbox. This work of art consists of a series of beautifully done artistic renderings from the Gerry/Sylvia Anderson production, Space:1999 (1975-1977).

What does this lunch box have to say to us, today? That's an interesting question, and the answers are legion. On one large rectangular side, of the box we are faced with Dr. Helena Russell (played by Barbara Bain). To the right of her portrait, we see her being clutched by a cyclopean green octopus, while Commander Koenig fires his stun gun at the beast. In terms of imagery, what we're registering here is the repetition of the very story that the episode "Dragon's Domain" references: St. George and the Dragon. The defeat of a monster by a knight or hero.

We're also seeing an intentional repeat of the 1950s sci-fi trope of the hero rescuing the damsel in distress from a green, tentacled space monster or other far-fetched threat. The man (Koenig) - our hero - is in an all-out action pose (much as would Luke Skywalker be in a Star Wars poster), coming to the rescue of his lady.

But the imagery actually cuts deeper, even than such references indicate. Space:1999 has often been referred to as an "odyssey," like Homer's Odyssey. That epic poem is about a man and his crew trying to get home, and thematically, Space:1999 is not far afield from that narrative. The men and women of Moonbase Alpha search for a home in space; not Ithaca but a new Earth. Importantly, The Odyssey features Odysseus's encounter with a cyclops...a monster we see portrayed here.

So, while on one hand we can look at this image and say it is cliched (woman attacked by green space monster!) or claim it is simply derivative, on the other we see it for what it is: the space age re-telling of a basic human myth. In visuals that, while attractive, are also not so horrific that they frighten the intended audience (children).

The images on this lunch box tell us much about the time-period from which this art sprang. Notice the image across the bottom, a "beige," soft, homey interior (on Moonbase Alpha), where various crewmen are at work. In keeping with the disco decade, the 1970s, the haircuts and costumes are unisex, speaking of sexual equality (The era of the ERA).

Furthermore, pay attention to the prominence of the microscope in the composition. Victor Bergman is essentially Moonbase Alpha's "oracle," known for such dialogue as "the line between science and mysticism is just a line." He's a priest, in other words, but his dogma is science, and even his pose (reminiscent, after a fashion, of Auguste Rodin's "Thinker"), highlights his role as "oracle" in the adventure. The promise of science is expressed by that tool, the ' Bergman is reading the runes. Otherwise, we see Sandra Benes looking somewhat more ethnic than on the show, Kano - a black man - and two female technicians in the background. The message of this composition is plain: men and women of all stripe and creed working together on Moonbase Alpha. A promise for the future. Cooperation, not conflict.

When critics and scholars write of Star Trek, they often note the series' sense of optimism about humanity...and the future. And yet, it's the far future we're talking about there. Three hundred years from now and beyond. Space:1999, being a product of the mid-1970s (the time of the Energy Crisis, Watergate, Vietnam, etc.) is not so blatantly optimistic. However, it is what I call "Apollo Age" optimistic. Which is that the design of the ships, even the computer block (with colon) style of the series logo reflects 1970s bread-and-butter optimism about a fast dawning space age. The Space:1999 eagles are not aesthetically-pleasing in the sense of the U.S.S. Enterprise, one might argue, but quite beautiful in the same way that Apollo capsules are: as realistic space craft that "feel" within our reach now. They are utilitarian, and more importantly, evocations of believable space travel. The Eagles boast landing gear like modern space craft (The Enterprise does not), and the design is modular, meaning that different portions can be "subbed" out for different missions, an acknowledgment of the cost of space travel.

Look at the moon buggy on the lunch box: it has wheels, an antenna, bucket seats, headlights. It's something we instantly recognize, only tweaked to be slightly futuristic. As fans, we complained (and rightly!) in Star Trek: Nemesis over that all-terrain vehicle Picard stuck out like a sore-thumb in the advanced world of Star Trek. The design was not artistically true to that particular universe, whereas the moon buggy design is just right for Space:1999.

The image of the Eagle high above the alien (Caldorian) spaceship on the lunchbox is also one that tells us some important things. It reminds us that Space:1999 - again - has one foot in the present, and one i
n the future. In contrast to the modular, lattice-work Eagle, the Caldorian ship (the product of a more technologically advanced circle) is all curves and ellipses. But surrounding it, you'll see, are Alphan light posts. This is a nod to reality, and one of the things that makes Space:1999 so attractive to fans. A "captured" alien ship, or one in for repairs, WOULD have equipment like that around it, no? Space:1999 never scrimped on realism, despite what some critics would have you believe, and this image -- which is not from the series itself, but a compilation of images synthesized for this art work - reflects the contrast between Earth science and Alien science. In one composition, we see the alien ship bracketed by Earth technology, the light posts and the Eagle soaring above. Again, a foot in "future" reality, and a foot in space fantasy. In one specially constructed image.

Aside from featuring the photographic portraits of two very attractive leads (Landau and Bain), this lunchbox captures the imagination of the TV series, sparks images of alien encounters, and speaks in volumes about the possibilities (unfulfilled...) of the Apollo age.

This lunchbox isn't just playtime at recess, or an attempt to "sell" something, it's Space:1999 - the ethos, the aesthetic, the drama, the history - re-packaged in another form. And that my friends, is art.

I hope you'll stick with me as I gaze at other examples of pop art in the genre franchises of years past. There's a lot of real beauty and talent in this venue, and it's about time that it was discussed and debated for what it is. Join me. Let me know what you think. And if there's any comic-book cover or poster that you think resonates powerfully with you in terms of art, bring it up (and send an image!)

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK # 59: Barbie & Ken Star Trek GiftSet

To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Star Trek in the year 1996, Mattel released this truly unusual (but interesting...) genre crossover, the Barbie & Ken Star Trek GiftSet. This beautiful, oversized "collector's edition" toy includes our man Ken in gold command uniform, and Barbie in red yeoman's uniform, replete with sixties hoop earrings and an almost Janice Rand-worthy hair-style.

This Mattel toy features an interesting word to the wise in the lower corner of the box rear. Not just that "Barbie doll cannot stand alone" (does that mean she needs Ken after all?), but that "Space instruments are non-working." In other words, the nicely detailed tricorder, phaser and communicator that accompany this set don't actually operate.

My favorite element of the set is the illustration on the back (featured above; center) that shows Barbie and Ken strolling on what appears to be the planet surface from the episode "Obsession.' Any minute now, a vampiric cloud is going to come over one of those rocky outcroppings and drain the white blood cells from them. Quick...grab the anti-matter! But seriously, it's clear someone took some time with this photo: the low-resting mist, the form of the rocks, the color of the all clearly evokes the classic series, circa 1968.

The Barbie and Ken Star Trek GiftSet box is itself a nice gold color (like the command tunic from the series..), and on the back, Mattel has kindly written in descriptions of the various "space instruments" (the ones that don't work). The tricorder is, for instance "a specialized state-of-the-art sensing technology available for specific engineering, scientific and medical applications." The phaser is a "handheld weapon used by Starfleet personnel that can be adjusted to a variety of settings including stun, heat and disruption."

Finally, a nice legend on the bottom of the box celebrates Star Trek's thirtieth birthday, and entreats us to "Join Barbie and Ken" as they "beam aboard" the Enterprise for this anniversary. The legend also notes - correctly - that the Roddenberry series imagines "a constructive future for all mankind." Nice.

I was given this particular toy circa 1997 by some dear friends here in Charlotte, and I've kept it on the shelf ever since, though - unfortunately - the box endured some water damage during our move from Charlotte to Mint Hill in 1999 (A Star Trek crystal ball leaked, alas...) Finally, I also remember (but don't have...) another Barbie crossover set. Am I imagining this, or did Mattel also release in the late 1990s a Mulder/Scully Ken/Barbie set celebrating the X-Files? Boy, what I wouldn't do to see a release of a Barbara Bain/Helena Russell and Martin Landau/Koenig Barbie/Ken set!

Driftwood 2007 & RoboCop

Recently, I had the high honor of serving as judge in a non-fiction competition at Point Loma Nazarene University. I judged a fine selection of student essays, and the results have been published in the Driftwood Creative Arts Magazine, Volume 27 (2006/2007 Edition). The contest winner is Matt Benson, who wrote a very interesting piece entitled "UCR Last Game vs. Idaho." The magazine itself is a lovely work, with essays by contest winners and honorable mentions in categories of fiction, poetry, photography, non-fiction and more. It was a pleasure and honor to be included.

Also, the magazine published a scholarly article I've been developing for some time, about the socio-political predictions/prognostications of the 1987 RoboCop. The article appears in its entirety in Driftwood. It is called "It Saw The Future of America," and here it is:

How many science fiction films can truly be termed prophetic? If Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982) had proven accurate, Americans would be speaking Japanese and living side-by-side with humanoid androids by now. If Escape from New York (1981) had anticipated the future correctly, there would have been no 9/11 terrorist disaster...because the Big Apple would have been converted into a giant, maximum security prison in the late 1990s. As is plain from such examples, cinematic musings concerning the future have a funny way of getting it wrong.

However, this isn't so in the unique case of Paul Verhoeven's 1987 film, RoboCop. True, Americans are not today policed by an emotionless cyborg wielding imposing weaponry. However, on the very cusp of the film's twentieth anniversary, the observant viewer can detect how so much of the world RoboCop unhappily predicted in the Age of Reagan has come to pass.

How did a science fiction - nay, superhero - film come to serve as a social critique of the very culture that produced it? In answering that question, it is critical to understand the history and context of RoboCop. During the 1980s, when the film was crafted, many big American cities faced daunting new difficulties. Because of the "trickle down' economic policies of the U.S. Federal Government, termed both "Reaganomics" and "Voodoo Economics" and aptly described by the Christian Science Monitor in December of 1981 as a hodgepodge policy of tight money, deep budget cuts in the social service area, and reductions in taxes for wealthy individuals, it wasn't necessarily "morning in America" as President Reagan boasted. At least not for everyone.

Here are some statistics to back up that assertion. First, the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development was cut from 32.2 billion dollars in 1981 to 7.5 billion dollars in 1987-1988, meaning that government aid was less available for the indigent. Secondly, the number of Americans living under the Federal poverty line rise from 24.5 million to over 32 million in the late eighties. More than two million Americans were homeless by the later part of the decade, though President Reagan asserted that many of them were actually homeless "by choice."

So the poor grew poorer during the balance of the "greed" decade, and the rich grew richer. The middle class also suffered, with home mortgage interest rates teetering at a staggering twelve percent. The bottom echelon of American society was ravaged by street crime, and the yuppies at the top of society - men with names such as Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken - were proven corrupt. In some cases, millions of dollars were "stolen" through insider trading. This "greed is good" era of corruption, the age of characters like the fictional Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) from Wall Street (1987) was also the context of RoboCop.

In 1987, Hollywood responded to the prevailing Zeitgeist and a new breed of superhero film - a genre which universally focuses on social justice - gazed closely at these myriad ills. The result was not only a blockbuster action film, but the creation of a popular character that has not yet disappeared from the pop culture terrain, appearing across the ensuing decades in films, TV series, cartoons, comic books and toy stores.

Described by his corporate owners as "the future of law enforcement," RoboCop was the character's given name. He was a crime fighting cyborg, a hero (and former cop...) who could walk the savage streets of a city in chaos (in this case, Detroit), as well as clean up the board rooms where the decadent rich snorted cocaine, soaked the poor, and went unregulated by winking, toothless, laissez-faire government. Part Charles Bronson (another eighties icon...), part Batman, and part Clint Eastwood, RoboCop was introduced in the 1987 film directed by Dutchman Paul Verhoeven. Peter Weller starred. Shot in thirteen weeks in the summer of 1986, RoboCop was crafted on a budget of just ten million dollars, and Verhoeven was reportedly attracted to the material because of the comedic atmosphere and content of the screenplay. Pat of the satire involved poking fun at American culture and politics, and the course both were taking as the Republican Party increasingly won the war of words (and elections) in the public square. In the end, RoboCop accurately predicted two important facets of our contemporary American life: the corporatization of the culture and the coarsening of the mainstream media.

One pertinent joke in the screenplay by Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner involves a "Lee Iococca Elementary School," an institution whose name equates a failed corporate mogul with a child's role model; on a part with historical figures such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. Another rib-tickler features a mainstream electronic game glorifying nuclear war and based on Milton Bradley's popular game, Battleship. It is named...Nuke 'Em!

The latter joke is particularly funny since RoboCop arrived in theaters shortly after an event in which President Reagan had cavalierly joked about outlawing "Russia forever" and even threatened that "we begin bombing in five minutes." On a related front, Reagan had also asserted that nuclear missiles fired from a submarine could be recalled after launch. That was flat-out wrong.

Therefore, RoboCop's extrapolation of a future America where nuclear bombs were hailed as an acceptable part of the cultural landscape isn't so far-fetched. And today, of course, the press has reported Bush Administration plans to commence a new nuclear regime, one that features a reportedly "safer" breed of bunker busting nukes. It's eighties redux, and RoboCop predicted it.

America's seemingly endless propensity to drive gas-guzzling gigantic automobiles is also satirized in the prescient RoboCop. Commercials depicted in the film advertise for a new vehicle, the 6000 SUX (not SUV, SUX). The 6000 SUX offered a whopping 18 miles to the gallon, meeting it literally "sucked" gas.

Sadly, this is no longer the arena of science fiction either. With little regulation from Washington D.C., Detroit has regularly offering Americans super-sized vehicles that actually do get only 18 miles to the gallon. Fact has caught up with fiction. So much so that President Bush has finally addressed our nation's "addiction" to foreign oil. Still, who will ask us to give up our 6000 SUX?

RoboCop also dramatizes the cutthroat world of corporate one-upmanship. In the film, OCP business men not only vie for stock options and promotions, but actually kill one another to gain seniority in the company. An exaggeration? Perhaps, though today Americans' understand that Big Business and good ethics don't always walk hand-in-hand. In the fallen corporate giant Enron, for example, employees held discussions about the "Death Star," in their efforts to bilk the consumer, a way of literally annihilating opposition. Still, there's no murder charges attached to the company's corruption. Not yet, anyway.

RoboCop also accurately predicted the right-wing's push to destroy the Federal government (to "drown" it, in the conservative parlance). In particular, the movie comments on the relentless push towards the privatization of municipal and government programs, the dismantling of the social safety net. After his narrow re-election victory, Americans saw the effort manifest in President George W. Bush's now stalled drive to privatize Social Security and hand over the trust fund to the mercies of the stock market.

Much of RoboCop revolves around just such a notion, in particular the business conglomerate OCP's funding and administration of the Detroit Police Department "as a business;" an enterprise designed solely to generate profits. Of course, OCP only worries about the bottom line in this venture. Yet a police force should protect and serve the entire community, not merely a particular corporate interest, right ? Yet if the market is to be unfettered and unregulated, a hallmark of the Reagan Revolution and conservatism, who knows where the push towards privatization will ultimately end?

In toto, RoboCop's Detorit is an unregulated world of business run amok, and street criminals and board room executives work hand-in-glove to ruin the life of the American Joe. Ronny Cox portrayed Richard Jones, the Bill-Gates-like businessman who wants to push his pet project, an "urban pacification" droid called the ED 209 into production, despite the fact it is riddled with glitches (Windows Vista, anyone?).

Back in the 1980s, some right-wing media watchdogs (like the Moral Majority) decried the level of violence on screen in films like RoboCop, but even the blood and guts proved relevant to Verhoeven's indictment of eighties morals. Just two years earlier, Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) depicted similar levels of horrific violence in a non-fantasy setting, but cloaked the horrifying bloodshed under the patriotic fabric of the U.S. flag and nationalistic pride, thus escaping criticism from the right. Those that condemned RoboCop for its gore missed an important and telling point: its violence was actually meaningful because it satirized the violence deemed acceptable in our mainstream entertainment.

Today, violence in the media is worse than ever. During the opening stages of the Iraq War, for instance, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC all broadcast on American television the bullet-ridden corpses of Saddam Hussein's dead sons. Again, this was done with the blessing of the Bush Administration and an act cloaked in patriotism. Transmitting images of dead bodies is apparently deemed okay by the same government that strenuously objects to Janet Jackson' wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl. Thus RoboCop's violence soaked world, one with murder in board rooms and private homes, reflects our new reality.

Gazing at it twenty years later, one can determine how RoboCop got just about every detail of the "future" right. It did so by imagining a nightmare America where the Reagan Revolution never ended. Today, we seldom get movies with such careful and thorough social criticism embedded in their cinematic DNA, least of all in a mainstream "entertainment." Why? Because the same big corporation that lobby our politicians for favors also control the news media...and the entertainment - movie - conglomerates.

Welcome to the future...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

New McFarland Releases - April

Here's what's new at McFarland this month in the film and TV world. You'll notice there's a book by a *familiar* author from this blog too! But that's not all, there's a new book from an authority in the field of television reference, Vincent Terrace, and a new biography of Dr. Victor Bergman himself, the great Barry Morse.

Film Clowns of the Depression:

The 1930s are routinely considered sound film’s greatest comedy era. Though this golden age encompassed various genres of laughter, clown comedy is the most basic type. This work examines the Depression decade’s most popular type of comedy—the clown, or personality comedian. Focusing upon the Depression era, the study filters its analysis through twelve memorable pictures. Each merits an individual chapter, in which it is critiqued. The films are deemed microcosmic representatives of the comic world and discussed in this context.While some of the comedians in this text have generated a great deal of previous analysis, funnymen like Joe E. Brown and Eddie Cantor are all but forgotten. Nevertheless, they were comedy legends in their time, and their legacy, as showcased in these movies, merits rediscovery by today’s connoisseur of comedy. Even this book’s more familiar figures, such as Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers, are often simply relegated to being recognizable pop culture icons whose work has been neglected in recent years. This book attempts to address these oversights and to re-expose the brilliance and ingenuity with which the screen clowns contributed a comic resiliency that was desperately needed during the Depression and can still be greatly appreciated today. The films discussed are City Lights (1931, Chaplin), The Kid From Spain (1932, Cantor), She Done Him Wrong (1933, Mae West), Duck Soup (1933, Marx Brothers), Sons of the Desert (1933, Laurel and Hardy), Judge Priest (1934, Will Rogers), It’s a Gift (1934, W.C. Fields), Alibi Ike (1935, Brown), A Night at the Opera (1935, Marx Brothers), Modern Times (1936, Chaplin), Way Out West (1937, Laurel and Hardy), and The Cat and the Canary (1939, Bob Hope).

The Soundtracks of Woody Allen:

This comprehensive guide covers all of the music used in Woody Allen’s films from Take the Money and Run (1969) to Match Point (2005). Each film receives scene-by-scene analysis with a focus on how Allen utilized music.

Remember with Advantages:
His resume of roles includes Macbeth, Cyrano de Bergerac, Ebenezer Scrooge and Oedipus Rex. His career has encompassed theatre and television in England, Canada and the United States. With a gift for developing offbeat characters, Barry Morse has had a prolific acting career, and the story of his life is a veritable history of 20th century theatre from the days before World War II through the early 21st century.In this memoir Morse traces his life and career, including his years at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, his radio jobs with the BBC, his 60-year marriage to actress Sydney Sturgess and their years together in the Court Players, his roles on television shows (The Fugitive, Space: 1999), and his acquaintance with literary lights (George Bernard Shaw) and screen stars (Robert Mitchum and Peter Cushing). Photographs from the Morse family collection are included.

Horror Films of the 1980s:
John Kenneth Muir is back! His Horror Films of the 1970s was named an Outstanding Reference Book by the American Library Association, and likewise a Booklist Editors’ Choice. This time, Muir surveys 300 films from the 1980s. From backwards psychos (Just Before Dawn) and yuppie-baiting giant rats (Of Unknown Origin), to horror franchises like Friday the 13th and Hellraiser, as well as nearly forgotten obscurities such as The Children and The Boogens, Muir is our informative guide through 10 macabre years of silver screen terrors.Muir introduces the scope of the decade’s horrors, and offers a history drawing parallels between current events and the nightmares unfolding on cinema screens. Each of the 300 films is discussed with detailed credits, a brief synopsis, a critical commentary, and where applicable, notes on the film’s legacy beyond the 80s. Also included is the author’s ranking of the 15 best horror films of the 80s.

Canadian Television Programming Made for the United States Market:
At the 1939 World’s Fair and the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), RCA introduced and promoted a novelty known as television. Two decades later, this technology was well on its way to permeating virtually every home in America and Canada as well, spawning a growing, thriving industry in the process. Canada’s two official languages (English and French), easy transborder reception of U.S. broadcast television stations, and an overall television market approximately one tenth the size of the United States historically impeded the growth of Canada’s television production sector. This situation led Canadian producers, directors, writers, performers, and other creative and technical personnel to increasingly turn their eyes—and their talent—to the international market. Canadians who had played a significant role in America’s entertainment industry since the silent era, turned to their southern neighbor as the most natural market for their creative endeavors. With a mix of practicality, adaptability and entertainment ingenuity, Canadians became responsible for an ever-increasing percentage of American television productions.This volume traces the history of Canadian involvement in America’s television production industry and looks at the genres, time slots and viewing areas of the first Canadian television productions to appear on U.S. airwaves as well as the challenges that producers had to overcome to take their programming into American prime time. The book also discusses the reasons Canadian television producers have turned to a foreign market over their domestic one. The main focus, however, is the factors which led to an independent television production sector in Toronto, Ontario, and the Ontario–based companies that have successfully competed in the U.S. marketplace. Alliance Atlantis Communications is given particular attention as one of Ontario’s most successful production companies. Economic and political influences as well as current and future prospects of independent production companies are discussed. Appendices provide a chronology of Canadian television production from 1926 to 2004 and a list of Canadian–produced programs sold to the U.S. market. A list of acronyms and abbreviations and an index are also included.

Encyclopedia of Television Subjects, Themes and Settings:
Over the course of 80 years television has produced countless programs, many of which fit a particular profile. Did you know, for example, some programs are devoted to ghosts, genies, angels and even mermaids? Color broadcasting was first tested in 1941? Live models were used to advertise lingerie as early as 1950? Or that nudity (although accidental) occurred on TV long before cable was even thought possible? These are just a few of the many facts and firsts that can be found within the 145 entries included.Appropriate for fans and scholars, and bursting with obscure facts, this work traces the evolution of specific topics from 1925 through the 2005-2006 season. Entries include such diverse themes as adolescence, adult film actresses on TV, bars, espionage, gays, immigrants, lawyers, transsexuals and truckers, as well as locations like Canada, Hawaii, New York and Los Angeles. Each entry is arranged as a timeline, clearly displaying how television’s treatment of the subject has changed through the years. Each entry is as complete as possible and contains series, pilot, special and experimental program information. Whether just a fan of television and eager to know more about the medium or a scholar seeking hard-to-find facts and information, this book traces the history of specific topics from television’s infancy to its changes in the early twenty-first century

Universal Horrors:

Revised and updated since its first publication in 1990, this acclaimed critical survey covers the classic chillers produced by Universal Studios during the Golden Age of Hollywood Horror, 1931 through 1946.Trekking boldly through haunts and horrors from The Frankenstein Monster, The Wolf Man, Count Dracula, and The Invisible Man, to The Mummy, Paula the Ape Woman, The Creeper, and The Inner Sanctum, the authors offer a definitive study of the 86 films produced during this era and present a general overview of the period. Coverage of the films includes complete cast lists, credits, storyline, behind-the-scenes information, production history, critical analysis, and commentary from the cast and crew (much of it drawn from interviews by Tom Weaver, whom USA Today calls “the king of the monster hunters”). Unique to this edition are a new selection of photographs and poster reproductions and an appendix listing additional films of interest.

Booking Hawaii Five-O:
On September 26, 1968, Hawaii Five-O premiered on CBS. The show’s exotic locale and quality writing and acting made it a fixture in the network’s line-up for the next 12 years. Today the detective series continues to be very popular in syndication.The show’s history is covered first, focusing on its development and its stars. Complete casts and credits for all regulars are provided for each season; the episode guide gives the title, original air date, director, producer, guest stars, a detailed synopsis of each show, and information on Honolulu residents who
appeared in it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sci-Fi Wisdom of the Week:

"Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry..."

-Dr. David Banner (Bill Bixby), The Incredible Hulk.

The rest of the opening of that classic series went like this: "Dr. David Banner - physician, scientist - searching for a way to tap into the hidden strengths that all humans have. Then, an accidental overdose of gamma radiation alters his body chemistry. Now, when David Banner grows angry or outraged, a startling metamorphosis occurs."

"The creature is driven by rage and pursued by an investigative reporter."

"The creature is wanted for a murder he didn't commit. David Banner is believed to be dead and he must let the world think he is dead. Until...he can find a way to control the raging spirit within him..."

Monday, April 16, 2007


Back by popular demand! In the fifth webisode of the sci-fi series, THE HOUSE BETWEEN, a new danger emerges when provisions dwindle...and a shortage of food is imminent in the hermetically-sealed house. In an effort to communicate with their invisible warden or caretaker, psychic Theresa (Alicia A. Wood) suggests a seance. Unfortunately, the seance has drastic repercussions, landing a mysterious mirror in the house; one that has profound impact on Astrid (Kim Breeding), Arlo (Jim Blanton), Travis (Lee Hansen), Bill Clark (Tony Mercer) and even Theresa herself. Written and directed by John Kenneth Muir. Produced for the Lulu Show LLC by Joseph Maddrey.