Saturday, December 19, 2015

Jeannie's Master, the Ghost Breaker

So last evening I was watching I DREAM OF JEANNIE—something that I’ve been known to do off and on for literally half a century now. Only this was an episode that I didn’t remember at all. The episode is titled, “My Master the Ghost Breaker” and it is easily the most unusual episode of this series that I’ve ever seen.

I DREAM OF JEANNIE was created in 1965 by future bestselling novelist Sidney Sheldon. For those few unfamiliar with the series premise, astronaut Tony Nelson lands on a deserted island beach and discovers a gorgeous, all-powerful female genie who falls in love with him. He takes her home where she lives in a bottle and causes our stalwart, all-business hero all sorts of problems, not the least of which is how to keep her a secret from the military. Only his fellow officer, Roger Healy, knows of her existence and he’s constantly trying to get her to grant his most hedonistic wishes!

Every episode had a basic formula. Jeannie appeared in her harem-like garb, used magic that caused some problem for Major Nelson who had to try to fix things while living up to his military duties and yet still keeping her a complete secret.

Every episode, that is, except THIS one.

This one starts with Major Nelson and Major Healy out of uniform. They’re speaking with Jeannie—who is wearing a colorful mod miniskirt rather than her traditional costume—when someone comes to the door. Rather than the usual routine of having her hide, the door is opened and Tony simply introduces Roger and Jeannie to the British solicitor who comes in (acted in a horrible accent by crass US stand up comic Jack Carter). The Major finds out that he has inherited an estate in England from a late Uncle he only ever saw once when he was a child. The three immediately fly to England, presumably by plane since the attorney goes with them. How were both military officers able to get away so quickly and easily? How was Jeannie able to get a ticket with no ID or last name? No clue.

Almost immediately they meet the butler, Smedley...although the credits call him Chauncey. He tells them their rooms are prepared and they settle in for the night. To avoid the question of where she will sleep, Jeannie turns to smoke and goes into her bottle which is left downstairs—the first of only three brief times she uses her powers in this entire episode, the second being simply when she exits the bottle!

Tony and Roger are freaked out by ghostly happenings overnight and presume it was Jeannie but it wasn’t. She’s more scared than they are! The next morning, a man arrives who claims to be the real owner of the estate. He demands our heroes vacate the premises immediately. They throw him out.

They figure out that the solicitor and the butler are behind it all and that night, Tony disguises himself as a ghost to scare them instead! Jeannie inadvertently wraps herself in a white sheet due to the cold house and everyone thinks she’s a ghost.

Eventually, the man who claimed to own the house arrives, just in time for Tony to explain how the two crooks had tried to scare him away so they could keep the money from the already sold estate! The sound of a creaking door leads to footprints appearing out of nowhere and a real ghost seemingly sitting in a chair. Tony and Roger presume it to be Jeannie...only it isn’t. It’s apparently the real ghost of Tony’s grandfather!

Tony is left as the owner of this haunted English estate which is never mentioned again. The next episode finds everyone back in their assigned roles as they would stay until season 5 when Jeannie marries her master and everyone gets to formally meet her, even though they don’t find out about her magic.

I presumed IMDB would have something to say about this unusually atypical episode but no. Nor did Steve Cox’s book on I DREAM OF JEANNIE. I noted the name of the writer as someone whom I had never heard of  and therefore jumped to the conclusion that he was simply someone unfamiliar with the characters. IMDB, however, reveals that name to be a pseudonym of the show’s creator, Sidney Sheldon!

So what’s the story behind this episode’s un-JEANNIE-like script? Anyone?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Barker's Beauties

One of my early favorite game shows was Bill Cullen's THE PRICE IS RIGHT from the early 1960s.  One of my favorite game show hosts was Dennis James. In 1972, THE PRICE IS RIGHT was revived with Dennis James hosting a syndicated nighttime version and Bob Barker hosting the daytime network version. I don't recall if they were on Dennis's short-lived version but Bob had two actress/models known for their nude scenes, Janice Pennington and Anitra Ford, as his spokesmodels.

I enjoyed watching the show and developed a minor crush on Anitra.

Dian Parkinson joined the show and later Anitra left to be replaced by red-headed Holly Hallstrom. My dad retired in 1978 after getting hit by a car while out walking one day. He became addicted to THE PRICE IS RIGHT as it slowly evolved from a half hour game show to an hour and then to 90 minutes! Since I was out of school and working nights, I joined in the daily ritual of watching the show and we both enjoyed the "antics"of the ladies, by that point known as Barker's Beauties.

In time, the whole thing fell apart--as good things too often do--with charges of harassment and discrimination flying back and forth and lawsuits everywhere. Dian claimed a long affair with Bob that she was forced into, Holly was fired and won a multi-million dollar lawsuit, and Janice just seemed a tad insane in talk show appearances with a hard to believe story about her husband's murder.

But for a time it was all great fun as far as the public saw, and a special memory for me of my dad.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Music Connection-1970

This is one of those things that I remembered so fondly but no one else seemed to recall. I would have been 11 when THE MUSIC CONNECTION premiered in September of 1970.  For all intents and purposes, it was MTV a full decade before MTV! Band videos (largely from Germany's BEAT CLUB as I recall) accompanied light shows and varying cool film and images set to songs by popular groups or performers of the day. I remember the Friends of Distinction's version of "Grazin' In the Grass" being in heavy rotation. There was even a prototype VJ--voice only--who was called a "Telejocky" according to this article. I used to have it on all afternoon on weekends when I was 11 years old, just grooving to the music and images while I read comic books.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention 2015

If you haven't already made your plans to attend this year's 10th Anniversary of Martin Grams' Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, you only have a couple of weeks left. Amongst the delights always found at Martin's shows, this year sees a reunion of Lee Majors, Lindsay Wagner and Richard Anderson, the stars of TV's hit bionic shows of the seventies. Also, the Livingston brothers from MY THREE SONS reunite with their TV sister-in-law, Tina Cole. 

My friends Stu Shostak and Jerry Beck will also be heading east for this show and Jerry will be doing a Fleischer Studios presentation.

No, in case anyone is wondering, I won't be there myself. Being perpetually broke and paranoid about traveling these days is unfortunately a detriment which causes me to miss out on cool stuff like this. But you don't have to! Make your plans now.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Honeymoon Suite-1972

Nearly forgotten and even largely undocumented on the 'Net is this early seventies program. It was a 90 minute all-star romance anthology along the lines of LOVE AMERICAN STYLE only with continuing peripheral characters along the lines of the later LOVE BOAT series. Rose Marie starred as a maid and Henry Gibson as a bellboy. In later episodes of this occasional mid-afternoon ABC series, Morey Amsterdam was the bellboy and Richard Deacon the hotel manager. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Sugar Time

Sugar was the name of the aspiring all-girl pop trio in James Komack's SUGAR TIME, a fun if short-lived 1977 sitcom that also served as a vehicle for Barbi Benton, the cuter than cute model/singer/comedienne equally known for her appearances on HEE HAW and for being Hef's longtime companion.

Marianne Black co-starred. I'm pretty sure I saw her in summer stock a couple of years earlier as Marianne BROWN.