This past weekend, we took advantage of the Smithsonian’s free museum day and drove down to Huntsville, where we enjoyed several hours at the US Space & Rocket Center. There, our son picked up a fourth member of his comfort menagerie, a plush Saturn rocket that he’s named Metal Bringer.
Since we’ve returned, he’s changed his routine for the movie and the two programs we’ve watched. Since none of those were frightening, his security blanket and the three plush cuddlies all wait for him on the other couch. But now that we’re watching another episode of Kolchak, he wanted all four to hold during the scary bits. There was a brief delay while Pal # 3, the beanie named Tigey, couldn’t be found. I told him to knock it off; he was perfectly capable of handing scary TV with only one blanket, surely three out of the four would suffice.
Then the episode, Rudolph Borchert’s “They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be…,” proved to be decidedly not frightening. “Weird, but unsatisfying?” I asked him. “Yeah,” he grumbled. “Very unsatisfying.” Although the cute finger of coincidence crossed our paths again. The highlight of our trip to Huntsville was an hour enjoying a splendid show in their planetarium. That’s where tonight’s episode reaches its strange climax, as an invisible force moves the observatory around, like a lost traveller consulting a map.
For posterity, tonight’s story features return visits from the recurring players Carol Ann Susi and John Fiedler, along with guest roles for Mary Wickes and Len Lesser, and blustery James Gregory as the police captain of the week. I’m not looking ahead, but I swear I remember that one of these cops appears twice.
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.
It’s true that our son hasn’t been all that enthusiastic about this show, but tonight’s installment might have won him over a little. The plot was much more straightforward and easier for him to follow, plus it ended with both explosions and a swordfight. He was also predisposed to like it from the outset because our heroes are tracking down a pair of stolen jade cats, and he “just really likes cats!” I was glad to see that they reintroduced Cash Conover’s superstitions. Unlike our kid, he doesn’t like cats at all.
Lots of familiar-to-me faces in tonight’s cast. Eric Braeden plays the villain, and Len Lesser is a clerk at a sleazy motel. Mickey Morton has a small role as a soldier who’s losing big at Cash’s casino, and he gets to tower menacingly over Doug McClure. Weirdly, I mentioned last time that Bobbi Jordan wasn’t able to continue with this series owing to a prior commitment. Well, Sherry Jackson basically takes over her part as a different red-haired dealer at the casino… but she’s apparently only in this one episode. This is an amusing show, but it kind of needs a semi-regular female character.
I certainly didn’t expect to watch The Ghost Busters and be surprised by anything, but that’s Ted Knight as the ghost of the week, Simon de Canterville. He had a regular job on The Mary Tyler Moore Show when this was taped; I wonder why he did this job. I guess that since they probably only needed him for two days, one to read and rehearse and one to tape, it didn’t bite into his schedule too much. Marie suggested blackmail.
Also in the cast this week: Kathy Garver, who had played Cissy in Family Affair, and Len Lesser as a jewel thief in a zoot suit. Lesser had dozens of one-off parts for decades, but is best known as Uncle Leo in Seinfeld.
I’m intrigued by how the use of guest stars affected production, because I suspect that it’s the tradeoff for the cheap, cheap, cheap reused sets instead of the much more elaborate ones employed by the Kroffts. Since the Kroffts used the same repertory of actors throughout a 17-episode season and never changed costumes, they could erect one large set, shoot all of the scenes for all of the episodes on it, dismantle it and build the next big one. But since Filmation had new actors arriving once or possibly even twice a week, they couldn’t tear anything down. Some of the scenes may have been shot all at once, like the location filming of Larry Storch and Bob Burns getting a new assignment from Zero. They probably did all fifteen of those in one long day, but the studio stuff was probably freshly taped every episode with the guest actors.
Daniel is still loving this show, and laughing from start to finish. He loves the slapstick, and this time they pulled a “short” pun – not electrical, a pair of boxers – which had him roaring. I really like the way that Tracy keeps defying physics with some magical power only to have Kong ignore the magic that just happened and tell him to quit clowning around.
The best gag this time: looking for something brave and bold for Simon de Canterville to do and break the old curse, Tracy draws a sloppy picture of a stick figure and a tall shape. Kong translates the scribbles thusly: “Climb Mount Everest blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back? No, he can’t do that, his ears would pop!”