Not a lot of free time tonight, so I’ll just note that in this episode, Nancy stumbles on a delightfully overcomplicated scheme to steal far more classic cars than any criminal gang could seriously expect to get away with. It’s pretty good timing; the annual Chattanooga Cruise-In, with something like two thousand antique cars, is coming up this weekend. I wonder whether I might could see one of the early ’30s Auburns that Nancy spots there. Anyway, the guest stars include Len Lesser and Gordon Jump, and our son enjoyed the whole story and loved the cops showing up at the climax, even if the insurance fraud part of the plot required a pause and an explanation. I think many of the bad guys had a long wait for a paddy wagon though. They were way out in the woods.
Our son wasn’t too wild about this one, other than a raucous chase-slash-fight through the Golden Gate. Jeff and Cash use the old Mission: Impossible trick of convincing their mark, played by William Daniels, that he’s spent two full days unconscious to get some intel from him, but there’s a political angle to the story which I thought was utterly unnecessary to understand what was happening, but our kid got hung up on it and was hopelessly confused. I’d have to agree it isn’t one of the stronger episodes, but it does have Francine York in a criminally tiny part as one of Cash’s employees. Fingers crossed they find a little more for her to do when she shows up again in a later story.
Here’s another purchase that I made based on a recommendation from the Scarred for Life gang. The Clifton House Mystery is a six-part serial made by HTV in 1978, and is part of that network’s grand seventies tradition of creepy paranormal kids’ shows. This one doesn’t appear to have ever been shown in America, but it would have fit right in to Nickelodeon’s early programming schedule.
It’s a very slow burn, and our son was quite restless this morning. An elderly woman in Bristol has sold her home, where she lived with her granddaughter, to a concert conductor and his family. The pianist is played by Sebastian Breaks, and his wife by Ingrid Hafner, who had played the semi-regular role of Carol in the first series of The Avengers. They have three children, and, this being television from the “children should be seen and not heard” era, they’re having their own experiences while the parents have no idea what’s happening.
The daughter Jenny was gifted a tiny music box by Emily, who suggests that her grandmother sold the house because it was actually making her daughter sick. Opening the box allows an image of a woman to appear. The older of the two boys spends months of pocket money on a very beat-up 1830s-era cavalry helmet when the grandmother’s belongings are auctioned off. Each of the boys later sees the helmet glow and a face appear beneath it. Then they discover there’s a window on the outside of the house but no way into a room there. And the grownups are utterly oblivious.
Episode one is very, very slow even by the standards of videotape drama. It’s almost entirely focussed on the auction and establishing the dad character as aloof and in his own world. Our son grumbled at the commercial break of the first episode that “this isn’t very mysterious.” But it picks up, and he enjoyed a few good giggles at the children’s interactions. He was so surprised that the younger boy had to take two buses to get to school from their new home that we paused to explain that these would be city buses, and not the big yellow school bus that he takes in the morning.
I was a little surprised myself that Jenny’s school is on a different calendar and doesn’t start up after its winter break for a week after the two that the boys attend, but then I remembered that schools are all alike everywhere. If they can inconvenience parents with some dumb schedule or other, they will.
Our son was particularly happy with parts of tonight’s story, which looks to be one of several in this series written by Michael Sloan, who frequently collaborated with producer Glen A. Larson in the seventies and early eighties. Sloan worked on Larson shows like McCloud, Quincy M.E., and Battlestar Galactica. The villain has a big black mountain lion to scare off any nosey teenage detectives, prompting our son to remind us that he really, really likes cats. Our heroes are out in the deep forests of Massachusetts with their gal-pal Callie and a new recurring character, a nervous, food-loving character drawn in very, very broad strokes called Chet, looking for Callie’s missing uncle.
The scene that did have our son frightened has somebody creeping up on the boys while they’re camping in the woods, while the big black cat is stalking Callie. This wasn’t a bad hour, but I think the sight of our son hopping to the other sofa to hide his face in worry for Callie was probably the high point of it!
Joan van Ark guest starred in this morning’s episode of Barbary Coast in something not unlike the Ingrid Bergman role from Casablanca. She even breezes into town with a husband on her arm bound for Tahiti, prompting the piano player to let Cash Conover know that an old flame is in San Francisco by playing their song.
Time marches on. Casablanca was a little over thirty years old when Barbary Coast was made, and that movie was part of the consciousness of just about everybody watching. Everybody, then, knew Casablanca well enough to quote it or misquote it. But Coast itself is now fortysomething. Audiences today have their own ideas of what “an old movie” is: it’s a running gag between Peter and Tony in the Marvel movies. Maybe our son will watch Casablanca on his own and love it or maybe he’ll grow up and decide it’s too old and square for him, but we made sure to pause the show to explain that the scene was a tip of the hat to a classic.
William Shatner celebrated his 88th birthday yesterday. The poor fellow’s been plagued by people making fun of his toupee ever since I was a kid. It was therefore kind of appropriate that during a fight scene that our son absolutely loved, and while wearing the disguise of an arms dealer from Chile, Shatner was briefly doubled by a stuntman. And while Shatner’s wig was fine, that stuntman was wearing the most astonishingly wrong rug in Hollywood. The DVDs caution that there may be some flaws in the original master tapes of this show, but I’d have spotted that fellow on a 12-inch black and white set with a bad signal because his hairpiece was such a mess.
Throughout the Goodies’ career, they’d overspend massively and have to do one show a season using just one set, no guest stars, no location filming, almost no visual effects, and a pile of props and costumes. “Holidays” was the cheapie for series nine, and it’s got a blisteringly funny gag about the most poorly designed restroom you’ve ever seen.
But then they break out the deck of cards.
Tim and Graeme have been regular panelists on the radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue since the early seventies, and they’ve frequently played a game on the show called Mornington Crescent. Now, I’ve had very little first-hand cultural experience of either Great Britain or public transportation, but I used to enjoy playing Mornington Crescent back in the old Livejournal days. I typically liked to play 14th edition rules without the Sunday travel addendum, and took advantage of the lack of service on the Circle Line to shunt three stations back and collect two extra vouchers. I was never very good at the game, mind you, and I’m still sore about a game where a fellow I used to know scored a double-line whirlygig because I’d parked at Goodge Street for what I thought was a bonus turn, but I had overlooked that under Titan Rules, Goodge Street didn’t use at least three vowels. Nevertheless, we did all have to applaud when a fellow player stole the whirlygig on a second-line match using an Explorer travel coupon. And he still didn’t win the game.
So when Tim and Graeme introduce Bill to a game called Spat and tell him that he’ll pick it up as they go, I just about stopped breathing from laughing. I jarred up the middle cushion on the sofa, and our son ended up in the floor and blamed me, but giggled loudly as he pretended to protest.
Tonight, we checked out the other component of this cute series. Pamela Sue Martin starred as Nancy Drew, with William Schallert as her father Carson, and Jean Rasey as her best friend George. George O’Hanlon Jr. plays Ned Nickerson, who is very unlike the jock boyfriend character from the books. Because this program was a very chaste 7 pm show, the Ned here is a paralegal who works for Carson Drew and who has an unrequited crush on Nancy.
But enough about Ned, because this is Nancy’s show and I enjoyed this much more than I did the first Hardy Boys installment the other night. I’m sure both programs will have their ups and downs, but this was a fun and amusing little mystery around an old, decrepit lighthouse and a professor of parapsychology who really wants to buy it. There are spooky caves that smugglers might have once used, and a possible haunting, and lots of terrific location filming. Monte Markham guest stars at the professor, who might be up to no good. Pamela Sue Martin is great as Nancy, and I like how she uses intelligence and reasoning to figure out what’s happening in a mostly believable way. I think she took a couple of giant leaps right past me once George comes back from New York with a final clue, but why quibble?
Aside from just being a very entertaining hour, this also gave us the chance to remind our son about the foolishness of get rich quick schemes. William Schallert mentions how in a gold rush, the only person guaranteed to get rich is the guy selling pickaxes and shovels. Seems to me that lots of people could stand to be reminded of that!
Tonight’s episode was absolutely delightful. Andrew Duggan guest stars as a not-entirely-trustworthy small town sheriff who may have $20,000 in stolen marked Treasury money hidden in the floor of his jail. Jeff needs to extract it quickly without blowing his own cover, so he poses as a criminal in order for Cash, posing as a US Marshal, to take him off the sheriff’s hands once he’s had enough time to get the money.
Everything goes wrong. Everything goes beautifully, hilariously wrong. The complications that pile up in this mess are as good as you ever get in the genre. They can’t even trust a dog to sniff out the correct lawman. The dog was, of course, our son’s favorite part of the story, but who can blame him? If I were that dog, I’d skip out on joining the posse for tracking duty to stay behind and dig up the money myself.