Ah, the year 1986. A big year that became very influential in my life. I hope to write an entry for each one (I already wrote about how I got introduced to Sherlock Holmes), but here’s a summary (in no real order):
Disney’s Dreamers and Doers
The Disney company here in Florida (for a few years) picked someone from each county in the state from elementary, junior high, and high school as someone showing the “4 Cs” – curiosity, confidence, constancy, and courage. And somehow I was picked for the junior high level for Volusia county! It was one of the most exciting days of my life! And I still have my medal, hangs in my living room. May 2 is the anniversary 🙂
Thanks to reading the classic Hound of the Baskervilles story in my 8th grade English class, I got hooked on the adventures of Sir Author Conan Doyle’s famous detective. Not because of the mystery genre, but in the characters of Holmes and Watson and how the stories were written. I found, and still find, that endlessly fascinating! And for the last few years I have basked in the glow of it being a big thing with the help of the Robert Downey Jr movies, and BBC’s Sherlock and CBS’s Elementary tv shows.
The Smothers Brothers
Fate has a wicked sense of humor, and so it introduced me to these guys, by accident. And, boy, I had no idea what I landed myself into. My poor family somehow put up with me either listening to or watching this harmless looking comedic brother duo – a lot. I also got really interested in classic comedy due to these guys (Thanks Tom and Dick!), along with history (particularly the 1960s), folk music, and being politically involved.
A guy that traveled in time and space in a spaceship disguised as a British Police Box. And he’s not always able to control where or when his ship ends up.
That’s how the show was described to me by a couple classmates in school. And I was curious. And the first episode I watched was the very first episode from 1963, An Unearthly Child. And I have stayed curious for the last 30 years. And I still haven’t used to the idea that Doctor Who is a big thing now. I love it, it’s just weird.
Highway to Heaven
The Summer of ’86 introduced me to this show. I have had a long interest in the nature of God and religions in general, it did not really take off until I happened upon this show by accident. Starred the late Michael Landon as an angel, and Victor French as a former Oakland cop (hence the Oakland A’s baseball cap), driving around the country on assignments from “The Boss”. Had a lot of heart and some laughs.
Posted in classic comedy, Doctor Who, Nostalgia, Religion, Sherlock Holmes, Smothers Brothers, television, Uncategorized Tagged with: 1980s, Disney, Doctor Who, Dr. Watson, Highway to Heaven, Michael Landon, Sherlock Holmes, Smothers Brothers, Victor French
In the past I have shared Sherlock Holmes fan vids, and a couple of Doctor Who. This time it’s Robin Williams.
The above video was created by tumblr user tooru-book, and it’s clips from various television and movies that Robin played in: Mork and Mindy, Seize the Day, Moscow on the Hudson, Flubber, Aladdin, Toys, The World According to Garp, and others. The song is Florrie’s “Too Young to Remember”
I like watching this one when I want to see something of his, but I know that if I start watching Mork and Mindy, or a movie, it’ll end up being more than just a few minutes, lol
Posted in Mork and Mindy, movies, Nostalgia, Robin Williams, television Tagged with: comedy, fan video, movies, music, music videos, nostalgia, Robin Williams, television, tribute
So it’s Christmas time once again, and I thought I would share some of the things I like to watch around this time of year. In no real order. Except Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown always comes in first!
A Charlie Brown Christmas
What is there not to like in this classic 1965 cartoon? Everything is so perfect that I can’t imagine it any other way. The characters, the wonderful, upbeat music, how just about every line is quotable.
And it was amazing that it was made at all
Added bonus – If you are as old as I am, you might remember the special being preceded by this CBS intro
The Blue Carbuncle
The beautiful Granada series that starred Jeremy Brett and David Burke as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson in this wonderful story set at Christmastime. Ah, a Victorian Christmas! This is one of my favorite episodes of the show. Back when VHS reigned supreme this was the only episode I bought (they cost $15-20 each back then!)
This is based off the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story of the same name (text from Wikisource; audio part 1 and part 2 from Project Gutenburg, a fantastic reading!)
Mork’s First Christmas
From the Mork and Mindy tv series, this one has recently been added (though I have seen it at least a dozen times since August). Mork finds out what the true meaning of Christmas is (not a horrible plague…watch to find out his telling of his first encounter with Christmas) And what a sweet ending!
The Greatest Gift
From one of my favorite scifi shows, Warehouse 13 (I miss that show! 🙁 ), this is their Christmas episode from season 3. Something happens to Pete where he wakes up as if he never was born. The story and title comes from the short story written by Philip Van Doren Stern that led to the film classic “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
Unfortunately, I am not able to find the full episode, so here is a clip from near the beginning:
If you have Netflix, it’s on there. Amazon also has it. Or you can buy it from Google
(Another tv episode that was inspired by It’s a Wonderful Life was also from Mork and Mindy, “It’s a Wonderful Mork“, but it’s not a Christmas episode so I don’t really include it in this list. But it’s really good, and a bit of a tearjerker due to recent events).
It’s a Wonderful Life
There was a time when I was growing up that this movie would be on a bunch of channels, sometimes at the same time. You turn to one channel and it would be at one scene, and go to another channel and it would be at another scene. And it remains and endearing movie, full of heart and makes you realize how much you can make a difference to someone else, even if it’s a small one.
A true classic starring Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and Henry Travers.
The Gold Rush
Not exactly a Chistimasy type of movie, but it takes place over Thanksgiving and Christmas. This 1925 silent film by Charlie Chaplin is considered to be his best. Charlie, as the Little Tramp, goes to the mountains in hopes of finding gold. He encounters a friend. and enemy, boils and eats a shoe, does a dance with rolls, and falls in love.
The below version is the 1942 (tweaked) re-release with Chaplin’s own narration (in place of the typical silent film title cards) and musical score. While I like this one better overall, I like the story of the original better (mostly the same version, just a couple important cuts that Chaplin took out)
A Christmas Carol
Take a classic Charles Dickens story, and the 11th Doctor, and you get Doctor Who’s 2010 Christmas episode (my favorite Who Christmas episode so far, though I didn’t quite understand the whole thing about the fish and shark). And there is the absolutely beautiful, operatic song, “Silence is All You Know”
As with Warehouse 13, the full episode is not online for free (that I can find), so below is a trailer and a clip.
This episode is on Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, and a few other places.
Until next time….
Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Mork and Mindy, Nostalgia, Peanuts, Sherlock Holmes, Silent movies, television, Warehouse 13 Tagged with: BBC, Charlie Brown, Charlie Chaplin, Christian, Doctor Who, Hulu, literature, Mork and Mindy, movies, Peanuts, Sherlock Holmes, Snoopy, Warehouse 13
This is the third article celebrating Chaplin’s 125th birthday and 100th anniversary of his films. Read my others here (Doctor Who and Chaplin comic book review) and here (matching music to his unreleased “How to Make Movies”)
Chaplin as Billy, age 14 (though he looks 12 to me.
When I became a Charlie Chaplin fan in 1991, one of the *very first things* I learned about him was his role in the 1901 Sherlock Holmes play written by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I had been a Sherlockian for 5 years by then and was thrilled that my new “obsession” had a connection, one of many (and growing!) I would later discover.
William Gillette, in his Holmes garb
Chaplin was born on April 16,1889, in Lambeth, London, England, at the beginning of the Sherlock Holmes publishing era. the year before the publishing of the second Holmes story, “The Sign of Four”. After living for some time in poverty, he gradually got work as a child actor (both his parents were stage performers). He wrote in his My Autobiography (1964) how he lied about his age to get a part in a H A Saintsbury play, A Romance of Cocknaye, saying he was 14, when he was actually 12 1/2. The manager of the production and cast liked him so much they offered him the Billy the Pageboy role. So from July 1903 to February 1906 he traveled the country performing the part. (Holmes trivia: The pageboy in the original stories did not have a name until after the play was made. It would have been interesting if Doyle named him Charlie!)
The argument over “Who’s the best Sherlock Holmes?” is nothing new, though the names change over time. Back in his day, Chaplin worked under two of the starring Holmes’: William Gillette and H A Saintsbury. He wrote in his “My Autobiography” that while he liked both, he felt Saintsbury was closer to the “real” Holmes.
List of the cast (including Chaplin as Billy), as they performed at Duke of York’s Theatre, circa 1905
Want to see the play? Here it is, performed in 1981 for HBO. Frank Langella plays Holmes (very well, I must say!) My favorite scene (Act 3, pt 2), which includes some great interactions with Billy, is embedded below:
(side note – the boy playing Billy in the above performance is a young Christian Slater)
The Great Dictator (1940) – Chaplin as Hynkel (center), Reginald Gardiner (left) as Schultz, and Henry Daniell as Garbitsch (right)
While he had other roles in his early childhood showbiz career, none seemed to have stuck with him later in his life than the Billy role. Decades later in 1939 when he was shooting his Hitler satire, “The Great Dictator”, he would re-enact scenes from the Holmes play in-between scenes for the movie to entertain the cast and crew.
One of the actors in Dictator was Henry Daniell, who later who appear in three of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films: Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942), Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943), and The Woman in Green (1945, playing Professor Moriarty, the role I best remember him for.)
Which also brings us to Nigel Bruce. Chaplin hired Bruce for his 1952 film, Limelight. Bruce was hired not only because of his talent but mainly because of his strong connection with the Holmes franchise having famously played Dr. Watson.
Basil Rathbone (left) as Holmes, Nigel Bruce (back, center) as Watson and Henry Daniell (right) from Voice of Terror (1943)
In the film Limelight, Bruce plays Mr Postant, an homage to the real life who was William Gillette’s stage manager, and who had played an important role of keeping an eye out for the young Chaplin during the Holmesian days.
I have often felt that if he played Watson like he later played Postant, Watson would have been considered less bumbling. Below is a clip from Limelight which not only includes Bruce, but also Claire Bloom (many years later she would costar with David Tennant in Doctor Who, “The End of Time”), and Buster Keaton who plays Calvero’s partner (Keaton’s Holmes connection is making the brilliant 1924 silent film Sherlock Jr.)
One of the reasons why I picked using the name Calvero on the internet, and have kept it for almost 20 years, is the Holmes connection (along with Keaton, and the later Doctor Who connection,
To Modern Times
In 1992 came Robert Downey Jr playing the title role in Sir Richard Attenborough’s “Chaplin”. Absolutely brilliant! And he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor (he was ROBBED! ROBBED, I tell you!). Downey did such a great job, that most of the time I forgot I was watching someone else playing Charlie.
Fast-forward 17 years and he was picked by Guy Ritchie to play the lead in Sherlock Holmes, which, honestly, sounded a little weird. For Chaplin, he played someone who was about 5’4″. And years later he plays someone who is described by Watson as being at least 6 feet tall. Either way, I did (and still do) enjoy his take on the Great Detective. He did win a Golden Globe for “Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy” for his portrayal of Holmes (a category I still don’t understand how he won, but he won it. So, YAY!)
Chaplin and Holmes meet once again
On season 2, episode 1 of BBC’s excellent show Sherlock, “A Scandal in Bohemia”, John Watson’s girlfriend Jeanette is played play by Charlie’s granddaughter (Geraldine’s daughter), Oona Chaplin. When I was first watching the episode, I didn’t know who the actress was but there was something about her… I couldn’t put my finger on it. She seemed familiar, and at the same time not familiar. When I immediately re-watched the episode for the second time (because it was so mind blowingly awesome), I paid more attention to the ending credits, and the name “Oona Chaplin” jumped out at me. I threw my arms up in the air and shouted “WOOOOOOOHOOOO!!!” and did a happy dance. And so a new Chaplin comes face to face with the great detective.
Close encounter of a Sherlockian/Chaplinesque kind: Aidan Quinn
Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller), Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), and Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) from Elementary
Another recent connection (though not as strong as the above ones, but still there) is CBS’s newest take of the Holmes and Watson interpretations in Elementary starring Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes, and Lisa Liu as Joan Watson (that’s right, a female Watson…a very good one), which premiered during Holmes’ 125th anniversary (2012). Co-starring is Aidan Quinn who plays Captain Thomas Gregson of the NYPD.
Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson), Sam (Johnny Depp), and Benny (Aidan Quinn)
Almost 20 years earlier (1993), Quinn played in an adorable movie that also starring Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Matherson, Benny and Joon (released just a few months after Downey’s Chaplin.). Quinn plays the older, and pretty protective brother, Benny to Matherson’s Joon who slowly falls in love with Depp’s Sam who is a eccentric person who is obsessed with Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
The comparison between Benedict Cumberbatch and otters is well known (even to BC), but a lesser known comparison is him and Chaplin. Tumblr user lenoesque compared facial expressions of ol’ Benny and the Little Tramp.
What kind of connections will show up later? Who knows. What I do know is that they keep popping up from time to time. And if I notice them, I’ll create a “Part 2”.
Are there any that I missed? Just leave a comment
Posted in Charlie Chaplin, classic comedy, Nostalgia, Sherlock Holmes, television Tagged with: BBC Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, Charlie Chaplin, Doctor Watson, Elementary, Martin Freeman, PBS, Robert Downey Jr, Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes
Today marks the anniversary of the first episode of Mork and Mindy, one of my all time favorite tv shows.
How it started
It was inspired by Garry Marshall’s (creator and executive producer for Happy Days) son who saw Star Wars and wanted to know about an alien being put on Happy Days. And Jerry Paris (who directed many episodes of Happy Days) remembered an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show (which he sometimes co-starred as Rob Petrie’s neighbor, Jerry Helper), “It May Look Like A Walnut” where Rob thinks a walnut eating alien has invaded Earth and taken over.
Out of that came the idea of Mork from the planet Ork. There was a casting call and one of those to respond was Williams, who entered the room using a helium type voice and sat on his head. Here is Marshall telling how he was introduced to Williams:
Marshall gave him the role right away because “he was the only alien who auditioned”.
In the Happy Days episode “My Favorite Orkan”, Richie sees a UFO, but none of his friends believe it. Here is part one (Mork shows up at 4:25):
The creation of Mork and Mindy
The episode was a hit, so when coming up with a new show idea, he remembered Mork, and an actress named Pam Dawber.
Set in (what was then) present day, Mork from the planet Ork is sent to Earth by Orson, his superior, as an observer of Earth customs and also so he would not be a bad influence on Ork. A sense of humor, as well as all other emotions, are banned on Ork “for the good of the race”. And Mork meets Mindy, who had just had a rough experience with her boyfriend who drove off in her jeep.
An unexpected hit
Very few people gave the show much of a chance before the first episode aired, but afterwards, it was a ratings smash, with an average of 60 million people watching, nominated for 2 Emmys and winning Golden Globes and People Choice Awards. And it was ranked #3 for the 1978-79 season, sometimes weekly beating the show that gave it’s start, Happy Days. (Many years later Williams won Nickelodeon TV Land’s “Most ‘Out of This World’ Character” for both 2005 and 2006.)
The show would run into problems with censors. Robin would slip in things, sometimes in another language. The studio would have a censor who spoke 4 languages to the set to prevent him from causing trouble. And the network messing with what made it a hit to begin with.
For many fans of my generation, the show plays a big part of our childhood. And a week ago I finished re-watching the whole series (a few of us on tumblr were all doing the same thing, ending the series at the same time), and it was a wonderful stroll down memory lane. Oh, did I say stroll down memory lane? I mean a skipping-break-into-a-frantic-run-so-fast-I-get-dizzy down a 5 lane interstate highway (look out for that car!!).
While the show makes me feel like a kid again, I also am able to appreciate the characters more. Robin is still awe-inspiring, but Mindy is equally amazing. From the get-go she stands up for herself when her boyfriend tries to attack her, then later dealing with her loving but over protective father, and being patient and understanding with Mork though she isn’t afraid of setting him straight. And later standing up to Mork’s boss, Orson.
It was great to see both Robin and Pam together earlier this year on The Crazy Ones:
My 7-year-old watching an episode of Mork & Mindy. Here, it’s Dr. Morkenstein (anyone got a tissue for the ending?!?)
It’s also great to see younger generations watching and becoming fans. One of the youngest is my 7 year old daughter who loves watching it with me.
Thanks to Robin (wherever you are!) and Pam (you’re awesome!) for making many people’s childhoods funnier.
Posted in classic comedy, Mork and Mindy, Nostalgia, television Tagged with: comedy, Mork and Mindy, nanu nanu, Pam Dawber, Robin Williams, scifi, sitcoms, television, tv
Mindy consoles Mork who is stressed out about his uncontrollable emotions.
I am currently going through all of the Mork and Mindy episodes chronologically, currently in season 3. I had previously jumped around with my memory overloading on hilarious scenes that I haven’t seen in 3 decades.
So far my top favorite is “Mork’s Mixed Emotions”. It is a great episode to see how many different types of characters (in this case, emotions) Robin Williams goes in and out of and back in again at the speed of light.
It’s Mindy’s birthday and she is planning a special night out, just her and Mork. Meanwhile Mork had a nightmare and has trouble dealing with confusing emotions from it (Orkans are banned from having emotions) and, afraid of what they will do to him, he locks them up. Unsuccessfully.
It really is hard for me to watch this without laughing, and I have seen it several times in the last couple weeks. Really liked him using a Peter Lorre
imitation for the voice of Fear. Very clever. Though there is a bit of a dark second in the restaurant scene… if you blink you’ll miss it but I got a little lump in my throat when I saw it.
Also I must no forget the amazing Pam Dawber who plays Mindy. Her actions and reactions to what Mork does andd says are always a treat. The reaction to the disco guy in the record store always makes me giggle.
There are plenty of other great episodes to see that are hilarious. Pretty much all of season 1 is top stuff. I might just write a review of each episode for the whole series. At some point. There’s a total of 91 episodes (or 95 depending on how you count) so that would take some time to accomplish. But you never know ;).
Posted in classic comedy, Mork and Mindy, Nostalgia, television Tagged with: 1970s, comedy, Mork and Mindy, Robin Williams, television, tv
Last Monday, my daughter and I were sitting in the living room, she on her laptop and me reading or playing a game, I don’t remember which. Then she says “Robin Williams died.” The news hit like a ton of bricks. I was dazed, confused, and saddened.
I hoped that it was a hoax (like Bill Cosby’s rumored death a few years ago). So I immediately checked the internet. The more I read, the sadder I got.
Suicide. Due to severe depression. A nasty arch-nemesis.
Robin in his Orkian uniform.
My first memory of Robin was on “Mork and Mindy”. One of the earliest life memories I have, actually. (I’m just old enough that it seemed like Robin always was and always would be around.) I was 5 when the show started and I don’t remember exactly when I started watching it. I do remember watching when it went into reruns. I watched a number of sitcoms, both old and new, and if I missed those it wasn’t a real big deal. I miss Mork & Mindy and it was “Oh no! I have to wait another 7 days (or) 23 1/2 hours until it’s on again! Heavy sigh!”
I’ve kind of viewed him as a distant, crazy, but lovable uncle.
I was a big fan of the show. While The Dick Van Dyke show is my favorite sitcom, Mork & Mindy is tied in second place with The Cosby Show as my second favorite. Back when I watched the reruns, I was visiting one of my happiest types of stores (BOOKS!) when I came across the novelization of the pilot episode of Mork and Mindy. I snatched it up and read it in just a couple days, It was hilarious to read, and funnier to watch.
The show probably also helped me be more interested in how and why people behaved the way they do. At the end of every episode, Mork would telepathically report back to his boss, Orson on the planet Ork about what he had learned about Earthlings that week.
A couple of my personal favorites are “Mork’s Greatest Hits” where Mork deals with the town bully:
And when Mork naively joins racists in “The Night They Raided Mind-ski’s”
Since that sad Monday, I have watched a lot of the show again. Sad to say that I had not watched the show in several years, but when rewatching it, it made me feel like a kid again, remembering characters and catchphrases (“KO”, drinking with his finger, and Mearth! RIP Mr. Jonathan Winters! Also Tom Poston !). And it surprised me how much I remembered as an episode would start rolling.
Other memories were watching Aladdin. When I first met (face-to-face) my future ex-husband in the mid 90s, we went to (what was then) Disney-MGM Studios and then to a special showing of Aladdin. Years later when it was released onto DVD, it was on our wedding anniversary, which also was the anniversary of our first date from the previous year. Had to buy it. It didn’t matter if we already had it on VHS.
Another memory was when I was playing Battlefield Vietnam on my computer. You had the option of putting mp3s in the game, so whenever I turned on the in-game radio, it would play whatever I put in the game. Somewhere along the line I had downloaded all the bits of Robin behind the mic from “Good Morning Vietnam”. For some reason, there was no noise when playing it in-game. I had turned up the volume rather loud and didn’t hear anything. So I thought “Okay, not working” and continued to play the game. Was in it a couple minutes when, all of a sudden I heard screaming through my earbuds “GGOOOOOOODDDD MOOOORRNNING VIETNAAAAAMMM!!!!“, and I almost fell out of my chair, both from shock and from laughing so hard.
The last thing I watched of his was when Pam Dawber guest star on “The Crazy Ones” just a few months ago. For some reason I had not gotten into watching the show but meant to, but when I happened to turn on CBS that night, and saw Pam and Robin in a scene, the kid in me just shouted for joy and I made my daughter watch it, and quickly explained the whole significance of them in a tv show together. Which was probably the reason why she told me about his passing.
A few years ago I was told by one doctor and two counselors that I showed signs of mild depression. Of which I don’t dispute. While I have never felt suicidal, I have had plenty of moments of feeling like “things don’t really matter. why bother even trying? It’s just a waste of time”. I have done better recently. But I have felt for many years that loving to laugh which began with Mork and Mindy, the Peanuts comics, and the Dick Van Dyke Show when I was a little kid, to later becoming a fan of just about every classic comedian from Charlie Chaplin to the Smothers Brothers (especially Charlie and Tom & Dick), protected me from going to those type of deep black holes of despair that Robin had trouble escaping.
My copy of the Mork and Mindy book published 1979 that I’ve had for about 30 years. And the most recent issue of Time, a cover that I was hoping not to see for at least 20 years :'(
Hello, Mr. Williams.
Posted in classic comedy, television Tagged with: comedy, depression, Mork and Mindy, Pam Dawber, Robin Williams, sitcoms, television