Saturday, September 9, 2006


The website Cartoon Brew had this announcement from J.J. Sedelmaier:

I just wanted to let you and others know that Jan Svochak passed away yesterday afternoon. He was 80 years old. Most people know Jan's work from the years he put in on the Hawaiian Punch campaign. He was the head animator from the 60's up to the early 90's. His hand also steered the design consistency.

Jan Svochak was born in Czechoslovakia, moved to the U.S. in the 30's and then returned to Europe to fight in WWII (he was in the tank corps that liberated Dachau).

After the war, he worked at Famous Studios in NYC and assisted Marty Taras on series like Baby Huey, Little Audrey, and Herman & Katnip. He also freelanced for Pelican Films, Byron Rabbitt, Zanders, Perpetual Motion Pictures, Buzzco, Ink Tank, Jumbo, and here at JJSP.

While at Perpetual Motion Pictures, Jan, Candy Kugel, (i think Vinnie Caffarelli) and Russel Calabrese did the "Mr. Hipp" series of cartoons for NBC's Saturday evening "Weekend" program in the early 1970's, a precursor to SNL. He, his wife Cheryl and their two sons had recently moved to Florida. He'll be terribly missed. . .

This was followed by a remembrance by Buzz Potemkin:
"Mr. Hipp" grew out of a joke from Reuven Frank at NBC News. He was brought to life by Hal Silvermintz’s design and direction – and also by Jan’s ready identification with the character. For nearly 5 years, and 26 or so shorts, Jan breathed life into the character – true animation (“bringing to life”).

Hal and I may have written them (with help from Reuven), and David Morris, Vinnie Caf, or others may have had input, but I always knew that Jan would straighten it out and make it work for "Mr. Hipp".

According to the, Mr. Svochak also worked on the following projects:

Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City (1981) (TV) (animator)
The Mad Magazine TV Special (1974) (TV) (animator)



At the end of the year, I think I may run the entire list of the membership in the Hall since I began it back in 1999.

But in the meantime, here are the inductees so far in 2006:

January - Lennie Briscoe
February - Anita Van Buren
March - Donald Cragen
April - Mike Logan
May - Jamie Ross
June - Dr. Elizabeth Olivet
B'day Honors - Faith Yokas
July - Rey Curtis
August - Ed Green
September - Dick Wolf


In September, we've been celebrating the creators behind the scenes who have made the cohesion of the TV Universe possible. In the past we've saluted Hanna & Barbera, Wm. T. Orr, and Gene Roddenberry (whose creation of 'Star Trek' celebrated its fortieth birthday yesterday).

Since we're running a year-long salute to 'Law & Order' in the TV Crossover Hall of Fame, it's only fitting we tip our hats to Dick Wolf.

Richard A. ("Dick") Wolf is one of American television's most respected drama series creators and is an Emmy Award-winning producer, specializing in crime dramas.

He would soon became a television writer and finally a "show runner" and executive producer of 'Law & Order' (which he created), the most successful television franchise in the history of the industry. The show has been nominated for the most consecutive Emmy Awards of any primetime drama series.

He has also received awards for providing opportunities to minority actors in his television series.

Wolf serves as creator and executive producer of the four Law & Order drama series from Wolf Films and NBC Universal Television – Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Law & Order: Trial by Jury, as well as connected series 'Deadline' and 'Conviction'. (The last three were cancelled after their first seasons.)

His corner of the TV Universe has spread beyond the shows he produces for NBC. He also produced 'New York Undercover' for FOX and his recurring character of Dr. Elizabeth Olivet crossed networks to appear in an episode of that show.

And thanks to his friendship with producer/writer Tom Fontana, Wolf made several crossovers between the flagship of his franchise and 'Homicide: Life On The Street'. And in the greatest of all possible crossovers, Detective John Munch left Baltimore when that series ended and joined the 'Special Victims Unit' in NYC.

One of the trivial links for all of his shows has been the NY Ledger newspaper, and that even got its own short-lived series with 'Deadline'. Had he slapped a 'Law & Order:' at the beginning of that title, it may have succeeded. (Although it didn't prove to help the cause for 'Trial By Jury'.)

Here is a list of shows and TV movies that directly connect to his corner of the TV Universe:

'Law & Order: Trial by Jury'
'Law & Order: Criminal Intent'
'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'
"Exiled: A Law & Order Movie"
'New York Undercover'
'Law & Order'
"Homicide: The Movie"
'Homicide: Life On The Street'

And of course, from there, the links to the TV Universe are vast since there have been several connections made to 'St. Elsewhere'.

I'm not a big fan of his attitude towards the cases prosecuted on his show - that if they get that far, they're obviously guilty (although they might still get exonerated by the jury). But I do admire the way he's built up such a large piece of Toobworld Real Estate.

So for September, 2006, Dick Wolf is inducted into the TV Crossover Hall of Fame, the Creators Wing.


"Well, television has become an unforgiving environment
And you don't get to make mistakes."

Dick Wolf


Some of you may have noticed that I haven't run the Crossover Of The Week for at least a month, maybe more.

My heart was no longer in it. Even when a legitimate crossover cropped up, such as last night's episode of 'Stargate: Atlantis', which featured a guest appearance by Amanda Tapping as her 'Stargate SG-1' character Sam Carter, would have felt forced had I wrote it up.

Ennui, I suppose. Pre-vacation blues.

But there is something I want to try to do each Saturday - "The Toobworld Moment of the Week". This would be more in keeping with the general concept of "Inner Toob", in which I would pick that something that showed just how much the TV Universe rocks.

So for this week? We go to 'The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman' which has been airing on IFC every Friday night.

Jackie ended up stoned out of her gourd on peyote and other weird drugs while on a trip out into the desert. And in one of her visions, she ended up at a little cafe where her mother was waiting for her at a table.

Only thing was.... her mother was a tortoise.

And Tortoise-Mom's voice was provided by Mary Kay Place.

Visions of her in her nightie on 'Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman' and having singalongs with Archie Bunker filled my mind as I grooved along with the hallucination.

So that, for me, was a Toobworld moment, as I'm fairly certain it's not going to happen here in the Trueniverse.

I just don't have the right combination of drugs.....

What did you see on TV this week that really highlighted the difference between our world and Toobworld?


Friday, September 8, 2006


Just wanted to add my voice to those wishing 'Star Trek' a happy 40th birthday. My only regret is that De Kelley and the Great Bird Of The Galaxy are no longer with us to celebrate the milestone. (It still seems wrong that they didn't live long enough to see the 21st Century ushered in.)

So much of the TV Universe owes its existence to 'Star Trek', especially the concept of alternate dimensions.

Here's hoping that someday it will return to the airwaves with a new variation, not just with a new movie.



James Gunn apparently started it.

Joss Whedon picked up the challenge and brought it into a bigger spotlight.

Then I followed the meme over to Rob Buckley's "The Medium Is Not Enough" .

So let me get in on the act - my list of the top 25 TV characters.

James Gunn did put several restrictions on the lists, including no Muppets/puppets and no cartoon characters. Some folks aren't following that guideline, but since this was Gunn's idea, I'll follow his lead... but only in that regard. All of my choices are humans, well, humanoid, but I couldn't restrict myself to just regular characters. I also couldn't exclude mini-series, which in a stretch, is what a series of commercials can be......


1 Dr. Miguelito Loveless, 'The Wild, Wild West'
Officially, he only appeared in nine episodes. Unofficially, the diabolical dwarf made appearances in four other shows and a TV movie. (He's hardly the character with the least amount of appearances on this list.) But aside from the vivid portrayal by a truly gifted actor, Dr. Loveless is proving to be central to the Toobworld mythos, in much the same way Noah Cross proved to be in David Thompson's book "Suspects".

2 Mary Richards, 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'
Sure, of the MTM characters, Laura Petrie was sexier in those Capri pants. But you know she'd always remain faithful to Rob. At least with the symbol of 70s single women, a guy had a chance. And she still turns my world on with a smile.

3 Number Two, 'The Prisoner'
Even though all of the Number Twos were interesting, I'm only referring to that functionary as played by Leo McKern in three episodes. Most likely it's the Everyman heroics of Number Six and his fierce determination to escape the Village which has made this 17 episode series the cult classic that it is. But it's McKern's pragmatic bureaucrat who made it fun.

His identical cousin Horace Rumpole also had that impish spark and a way with the quotes, but since we caught up with Number Two at a younger age, he made it all nimble.

4 Lt. Columbo, 'Columbo'
It doesn't matter how often I see that rumpled detective's episodes, there's never a fear that it will get old and tired. Because it's not the mystery that's important; the mystery is over before Columbo even shows up! No, it's the interplay between the Lieutenant and his suspect.

5 Bret Maverick, 'Maverick', 'Bret Maverick'
Charming, clever, and something of a coward, it's hard to think of a better fit between actor and character; where it's impossible to think of anybody else in the role. In fact, the only way the Mel Gibson movie works for me is to think of him as Bret Maverick, Jr. (which the movie suggests as well).

6 Captain Kangaroo, 'The Captain Kangaroo Show'
Even after all these years, it's hard for me to think of the Captain as a character and not as a real person. He was a comforting presence in my home as I grew up and someone I knew I could call friend.
When I was five, I ran away from home to find his Treasure House. At fifty-one, I wish I had found it.

7 Anthony Fremont, 'The Twilight Zone'
He only appeared twice on Television, first in an episode of 'The Twilight Zone' ("It's A Good Life"), and then in a sequel nearly forty years later ("It's Still A Good Life"). Yet Anthony has to be one of the scariest monsters ever to come out of Toobworld and his impact can still be felt in other shows. If it's not a reference just to the title of 'The Twilight Zone', the biggest pop culture touchstone from the series has to be Anthony's power to wish people into the corn-field. (It's still a great way for me to keep calm when dealing with idiots at work - mentally, I take a deep breath and then wish them into the corn-field.)

8 Buddy Sorrell, 'The Dick Van Dyke Show'
I'll bet most people would rather have been Rob Petrie - after all, he got to sleep with Laura Petrie! But when I was a kid, I wanted to be Buddy Sorrell. His life was everything I aspired to - he got paid to tell jokes, he got to sleep on the job, and he got to make fun of a bald guy.

Okay, so I get to sleep on the job.

9 Agent 99, 'Get Smart'
The amazing thing about 99, besides those legs and that come-hither smile, is that she was never over-shadowed by the antics of Maxwell Smart. Barbara Feldon provided the perfect combination of sexy and funny. And for Toobworld, our reigning theory is that she also appeared in episodes of 'Cheers' and 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.', using aliases long before Sydney Bristow.

10 Ford Prefect, 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy'
David Dixon wasn't the first to play the visitor from Betelgeuse and not from Guilford - that would be Geoffrey McGivern in the radio drama. And he wouldn't be the last to play Ford - that would be Mos Def in the horrible movie version. But for Toobworld, he's the man... or the nearest correlation to one.

Dixon's elfin charm and his distinctive wardrobe would make him an excellent candidate to be a certain renegade Time Lord. It's his belief that a drink will do nicely no matter what the emergency that makes him the perfect Ford Prefect.

11 King Tut, 'Batman'
Yeah.... choosing him over villains like Frank Gorshin's Riddler or Burgess Meredith's Penguin, or especially Julie Newmar as Catwoman does bring my manhood into question. I mean, those gaudy robes and that kohl-based eyeliner!

But Victor Buono never let the character get away from him even when King Tut went way over the top. The florid phrases and outlandish gestures made him a Bat-villain who could only work in Toobworld. And then to have it all crash down around him as he reverted back to the sad little figure of Professor William Omaha MacElroy of Yale (Yeah, Connecticut!) brought poignancy to the role.

12 Captain Jack Harkness, 'Doctor Who' (coming soon: 'Torchwood')
For decades, the "action figure" of most space-based sci-fi shows had been petrified by the oh-so-proper regimen of the Starfleet officer. A few characters came along to shake off that tight-ass attitude, like John Crichton ('Farscape') and Mal Reynolds ('Firefly'), but nobody busted it as wide open as Captain Jack Harkness of the 52nd Century.

And once it was wide open, the omnisexual Time Agent would probably have sex with it....

13 Nichols, 'Nichols'
Everything I said about Bret Maverick applies to his identical second cousin Nichols (no first name discovered), only magnified ten times and without any redeeming values. At least Maverick had a code of honor based on the "noble" calling of his profession - gambling.

The scene that introduced Nichols to the TV audience is still burned into my memories and his ultimate fate in the last episode remains my Holy Grail - I had to go to some meeting for Boy Scouts when it aired and I've regretted it ever since.

14 Uncle Tonoose, 'Make Room For Daddy'
Outrageous and exaggerated in his mannerisms, Uncle Tonoose set the standard for that wacko eccentric of a family member that would become common in many sitcoms. In a way, he could almost be perceived as a predecessor for Kramer on 'Seinfeld' as well (although Ed Norton better serves that function.) And Hans Conreid, who portrayed Tonoose, was so adept at comedy there never was a fear that he would take it too far over the top.

15 Sarah Jane Smith, 'Doctor Who'
Sarah Jane was the Companion when I was introduced to the Doctor, and you never forget your first.* What a rush to see her return this past season of the series, still beautiful as living proof that TV characters do grow and mature even when we no longer can see them on screen.

(*Of course, the way that Leela would overflow her primitive skins almost did the trick!)

16 Stuart Best, 'Murphy Brown'
It doesn't look likely that 'Murphy Brown' will be releasing any more full-season box sets on DVD since the first season fell below expectations in sales. But they should think about doing "Best Of" sets and a themed package of episodes featuring Wallace Shawn as the hapless former member of the 'FYI' crew would be my choice for a collection. There were at least four, maybe six episodes total. And Stuart was at his hysterical best when he was playing against the rock-steady persona of Candice Bergen's Murph.

17 Mother Dexter, 'Phyllis'
Here are two snippets of paraphrased dialogue to show why I loved this old biddy:
Bess: Mother Dexter, do you want to come on our picnic? We'll be out on the grass, under the trees.....
Mother Dexter: The grass is full of ants and the trees are full of perverts.
Phyllis: Why, Mother Dexter! You're not so mean after all!
Mother Dexter: That's right, dear. And if you ever tell anyone, I'll break both your knees with a baseball bat!

18 Two-Way Medicine Cabinet Guy, 'Right Guard Commercials'
Gotta get me some Chuck McCann in this list! I don't know why the two-way medicine cabinet hasn't been revived since so many other classic commercial icons of the late 60s, early 70s have seen a resurgence. We should be seeing more of them especially in NY-based sitcoms. But their popularity has to be attributed to the exuberance shown by McCann with only that small window of the medicine cabinet in which his oversized personality can bloom.

"One shot and I'm good for the whole day!"

19 Zack Brock, 'Picket Fences'
TV kids can either be so natural that they aren't even acting (Marc Copage from 'Julia', as a painful example; or better yet, Jonny Whitaker on 'Family Affair'), or they're really just adults in miniature. (Danny Bonaduce on 'The Partridge Family' and Chris Demetral on 'Dream On' are good examples.)

Then there are those that strike just the right balance. Ron Howard's Opie Taylor and Jerry Mathers' Beaver Cleaver are probably the best examples.

But I prefer Adam Wylie as Zack Brock in 'Picket Fences'. No matter how difficult the scene or the subject matter, he was able to play it convincingly despite his young age. That image of Zack is lost forever to Time and the effects of aging, but I'd love for the chance to revisit Rome, Wisconsin, someday just to see how Zack is faring.

20 Chris "In The Morning" Stephens, 'Northern Exposure'
I don't think there was anything in the show that better sold the image of Cicely, Alaska, as a unique Toobworld location than the Zen-like musings of its resident deejay echoing through the aether. Add to that his unruffled demeanor but with a shady past, and his biological quirk regarding his pheromones, and you have a true Toobworld individual.

It'd be nice to hear his voice playing over the fictional NPR someday on another show (Hey, 'Men In Trees' - hint hint!)

21 Hugo "Hurley" Reyes, 'Lost'
It's not just that Jorge Garcia is so damned funny in the role. And more than the fact that he's proving to be so central (possibly) to the mystery of the island because of his connection to the Numbers. No, it's Jorge Garcia's talent as an actor this past season that proves what a coup it was that they hired him for the role; he's adept at underplaying the comedy as well as the drama to be found in the role and in so doing, make it more powerful.

22 Georgette Franklin, 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'
23 Penny Majors, 'Forever Fernwood'
24 Maggie Jacobs, 'Extras'
I'm running these three together because basically they fall into the same type. Sweet, full of faux innocence, and cute to boot. Maggie Jacobs was the recipient of the 2005 Toobit for Best Supporting Actress for her refreshing and yet heart-breaking daffiness. Penny Majors ably stepped into the void created by the loss of 'Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman' as a totally different character who combined the classic qualities of silent movie heroines with the standard long-suffering young woman of soap operas. And as Georgette would say herself, she was "Damned nice!" One of the biggest thrills for me when I first moved to NYC 30 years ago was to see Georgia Engel in action, taking a dance class.

25 DCI Gene Hunt, 'Life On Mars'
DCI Hunt is the most refreshing character to come along this year, mainly because of his retro, un-PC attitude and beliefs which have not been softened to make him more palatable to the audience a la Archie Bunker. It's just a shame that there's an added layer of un-reality to him, as the Gene Genie is not only a fictional character but could also be a figment of Sam Tyler's imagination.

DCI Hunt is credited with my favorite line of dialogue so far in 2006:

"Drop your weapons! You are surrounded by armed bastards!"

The problem of course with a list like this is the limitation. I ran out of slots before I could get to Tom Veil, ('Nowhere Man'), Detective Arthur Dietrich ('Barney Miller'), Tobi Pedalbee ('Dream On'), Uncle Joe Carson ('Petticoat Junction'), and Dr. McCoy ('Star Trek'). And I never remembered to check if animals were allowed, or else I would have added Arnold Ziffel of 'Green Acres'!



John Conte, an actor in television, radio, films and on Broadway for decades before he went behind the cameras and founded his own television station, died here on Monday. He was 90.

Born in 1915 in Palmer, Mass., Mr. Conte was a permanent cast member in the companies of George Burns and Gracie Allen, Edward G. Robinson and “The Silver Theater.”

He appeared in numerous television shows, including episodes of “The Untouchables,” “Perry Mason,” “Bonanza,” “Your Show of Shows” and “Studio One.”

He was the host of many live productions for NBC’s “Matinee Theater,” a live-drama series that was one of the first daytime shows on network television.

In the Palm Springs-Rancho Mirage area, he founded the local NBC affiliate, KMIR-TV, in 1968. He sold the station in 1999.

"The Best of the Post" (1960) TV Series .... Host
"Mantovani" (1959) TV Series .... Host
"Woman with a Past" (1954) TV Series

The Desert Song (1955) (TV) .... Paul Fontaine

Max Liebman Presents: The Merry Widow (1955) (TV) .... Georges
Max Liebman Presents: Naughty Marietta (1955) (TV) .... Lt. Gov. LeGrange


- The Return (2 May 1965) - Paul Dorn
"77 Sunset Strip"
- The Positive Negative (27 January 1961) - Gunnar Isis
- The Eyes of Love (5 May 1961) - Actor
"The Untouchables"
- Kiss of Death Girl (8 December 1960) - Vito
"Perry Mason"
- The Case of the Madcap Modeste (30 April 1960) - Charles Pierce
- The Case of the Blind Man's Bluff (11 March 1961) - Karl Addison
- The Case of the Injured Innocent (18 November 1961) - Kirby Evans
- The Case of the Lover's Leap (4 April 1963) - Roy Comstock
- The Case of the 12th Wildcat (31 October 1965) - Jud Warner
- Lost Identity (14 November 1958) - Actor
"Matinee Theatre"
- The Red Sanders Story (26 December 1955) - Actor
- The Old Payola (8 August 1956) - Actor
- End of the Robe (24 March 1958) - Actor
[Toobworld question: Could this be a misprint?]
- End of the Rope (27 June 1958) - Actor
[If the previous entry is a misprint, this could be a repeat.]

- Fear Strikes Out (18 August 1955) - Actor
"Goodyear Television Playhouse"
- Tangled Web (3 July 1955) - Actor
"Star Tonight"
- The Week-end (10 February 1955) - Actor
- See No Evil (16 June 1953) - Actor
"Tales of Tomorrow"
- The Quiet Lady (21 November 1952) - Actor

- The Escape Artist (1 April 1952) - Actor
"Somerset Maugham TV Theatre"

- The People You Meet (21 February 1951) - Actor
"Your Show of Shows"
- Episode dated 28 October 1950 (28 October 1950) - Actor
- Episode dated 7 April 1951 (7 April 1951) - Actor
"Musical Comedy Time"
- Anything Goes (2 October 1950) - Actor
"The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre"
- Londonderry Air (14 March 1949) - Actor
- Half an Hour (27 June 1949) - Actor
- Temporarily Purple (14 November 1949) - Actor
"Studio One"
- Let Me Do the Talking (26 November 1948) - Actor
- Flowers from a Stranger (25 May 1949) - Actor
- A Chill on the Wind (12 March 1951) - Actor


Thursday, September 7, 2006


Anne Gregg, one of the first TV personalities from Northern Ireland to make it big on national television, has died. Anne lost a battle against cancer on September 06 2006; she was 66.

Anne was a presenter on UTV's local news magazine programme 'Roundabout'; she was also an announcer at the station. She left Ulster Television to join Anglia TV's 'About Anglia' in 1962, before moving to the BBC in London where she was an in-vision announcer from 1963 until 1964.

She was well known for her work on the 'Holiday' programme from 1980 until 1991. She was also a BBC Radio 4 announcer in 1982.

She returned to Northern Ireland in 1995 as part of the programme 'Places Apart', which she presented.

Gloria Hunniford worked with Anne at Ulster Television and said she had fond memories. "I used to love it when I heard her doing reports about Northern Ireland and speaking so happily of it," she said. "I think she was very proud of her roots."

She took part in 'Going, Going, Gone', an antiques quiz show that resembled America's 'To Tell The Truth'. Three celebs describe the item and give their price for it; two of them would be lying, one would be telling the truth about the object and the price it went for. The players had to decide who was telling the truth. Once decided, there would be recorded coverage of the auction where it was learned what it actually went for. If they were correct they'd win points.

Perhaps due to her connection to 'Holiday', Anne Gregg wrote various travel pieces for magazines, special interest publications, and online sites.

Here are examples from two of her pieces.

On traveling to France by train:
"For me, being able to take the train to France is a revelation. So smooth is Eurostar's exit from Waterloo and zoom under the Channel that there is hardly any sensation of travelling at all. One moment it's the oasthouses of Kent, the next the green swathes of Pas-de-Calais.

You stretch, walk about, buy a coffee, then settle back in comfort to sightsee. Lines of poplars, crops and copses, the spire of a village church, a turreted chateau on a distant hill - La Belle France is unrolling past the window at 186mph without so much as a clickety-clack. You arrive in Paris or Lille, relaxed and ready for anything."

On the open market of Columbia Road:
"Half-seven on a Sunday morning and I'm up, dressed and waiting for my friend's buzz at the doorbell of my Pimlico flat. "Why am I doing this?" I ask myself, looking back longingly at my bed as I shove bad hair under a baseball cap. The answer is Columbia Road - the best plant and flower market in London, and unless you get there soon after 8.00am you risk missing the bargains.

All I want are pots of herbs and fresh flowers, but the lure of this street goes beyond its greenery. Columbia Road, Bethnal Green, is 'Eastenders' in bloom. I go as much for the camaraderie as the camellias, as much for the doughnuts and bagels as for the herbaceous plants ("Three-fifty each, love, two for six quid!")."

I think you can pick out why I chose that second selection.....


Wednesday, September 6, 2006


In the news....

Men aged over 40 are much more likely to have children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) than those under 30 according to a new report.

Mutation of sperm is thought to be responsible for a six-fold difference in risk even after other factors are taken into account, American scientists said.

Writing in the Archives of General Psychiatry, the Mount Sinai school of medicine researchers believe that the age factor may be due to genetic mechanisms.

Spontaneous mutations in sperm-producing cells or alterations in genetic "imprinting", which affects gene expression, were singled out for this.

Greg Easterbrook of Slate adds this:

But because the autism surge began around the year 1980, researchers and parents of afflicted children continue to ask what kind of exposure could have begun at that time that might account for the surge.

The answer almost certainly isn't mercury compounds in childhood vaccines. What about pollutants, medicines, or vaccine chemicals other than mercury? Or radiation? Or how about this suspect—missing from the usual list of autism malefactors but to which childhood exposure increased significantly in Western countries in about 1980—namely, television.

The idea is wholly speculative. No scientist has shown a link between autism and television, but so far as I could determine no scientist is working on this question, either—and maybe someone should be.

Beginning in about 1980, TV watching in early childhood began to rise, coincident with the proliferation of affordable VCRs and cable channels offering nonstop cartoons and kids' shows. The child's brain is self-organizing in the first few years of life, and visual stimuli have much to do with how it organizes.

Old guys and TV? Oh well.....

There were enough Tommys in my family anyway. I guess I didn't need to contribute a Tommy Westphall.....


Tuesday, September 5, 2006


When bank teller Pete Waddell took over the bank in Milford, Vt., he was asked several times "Why do you need nine hostages?"

Maybe because he was a Tolkien enthusiast?

I'm wondering if it could have been a case of corporate synergy....

'Three Moons Over Milford' is broadcast on the ABC Family network.

Its parent network, ABC, has one of the new series with the best buzz debuting on October 4th in the sweet spot following 'Lost'. It's a mystery about a group of strangers who are held hostage in a bank for over fifty hours. Over the course of the series we'll slowly learn who these people are and what happened during that ordeal in flashbacks.

The name of the series? 'The Nine'.

Could it be that the repeated references to nine hostages in a bank have been deliberate, in order to instill some kind of subconscious check mark about the upcoming series?

I wouldn't put it past the suits.

Of course, the two shows take place in different TV dimensions, and it has nothing to do with them being on separate networks. I expect 'The Nine' to take its place in the main Toobworld, unless (like 'Prison Break') it ends up mired in some kind of presidential conspiracy.

But 'Three Moons Over Milford' has to be in its own alternate dimension because of the Moon having been splintered.

You know, if 'The Dead Zone' does end soon, maybe we can say that 'Three Moons Over Milford' takes place in its near future.....

(I am not a numb3r. I am a free man!)

Monday, September 4, 2006


Back at the end of June, I wrote the following in an essay called "Durning Point" (about the four "brothers" played by Charles Durning in various TV series):

John Gavin, Sr. wasn't known for remaining true to his marriage vows, a trait which his son also picked up. Tommy Gavin hasn't crossed paths with him yet in NYC, but he has an identical half-brother named Mike McNeil, who - like his biological father - is a detective in the NYPD. ('The Job')

I made a couple of errors - Durning's character's name is Mike Gavin. It could be that if Mrs. McNeil had an affair with Gavin and gave birth to his child, she might have insisted on naming the baby boy after him with her husband never the wiser.

Secondly, I should have pointed out my theory as to who Mike McNeil's (legally acknowledged) father was - Frank McNeil of the NYPD, a detective who worked with Lt. Theo 'Kojak' as a partner before eventually becoming his superior as the Captain at the 13th Precinct.

This is the way I should have written that paragraph (and for the Toobworld collection, it has been revised):

Mike Gavin wasn't known for remaining true to his marriage vows, a trait which his son also picked up. Tommy Gavin hasn't crossed paths with him yet in NYC, but he has an identical half-brother named Mike McNeil, who - like his half-brothers Johnny and Timo and Frank McNeil, the father who raised him - is a detective in the NYPD. ('The Job', 'Kojak')

So Mike McNeil would have felt like it was a case of "like father, like son" when it came to his choice of profession. But when it came to his personal life, blood tells.....



From the website for "The Crocodile Hunter":

At 11am today, the 4th September 2006, Steve Irwin was fatally wounded by a stingray barb to his heart whilst filming a sequence on Batt Reef off Port Douglas for his daughter’s new TV series.

Emergency services were called from Cairns Rescue Base and met Croc One, Steve’s rescue vessel at Low Isle on the Great Barrier Reef.

The Croc One crew performed constant CPR during the thirty minute dash to Low Isle, but the medical staff pronounced Steve dead at approx. 12 noon. His producer and closest friend, John Stainton said on Croc One today,

The world has lost a great wildlife icon, a passionate conservationist and one of the proudest Dads on the planet. He died doing what he loves best and left this world in a happy and peaceful state of mind. Crocs Rule!”

Aside from the fact that he was known as the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin will forever be known for the way he died, and for a stupid stunt in which he carried his baby son too close to hungry crocodiles while feeding them chunks of meat.

I didn't know much about the man beyond the basics, having never seen him in action. I've heard the impersonation of him in an radio commercial more often than I've ever seen Irwin. So I went to TV Acres (link to the left), the best site for information about everything in the TV Universe, to learn more:

Risk-taking Australian wildlife expert seen on the syndicated nature series CROCODILE HUNTER (1996), THE TEN DEADLIEST SNAKES IN THE WORLD (1998) and CROC FILES a.k.a. "The Crocodile Hunter's Croc Files" (1999).

Born February 22nd, 1962 in Victoria's Dandenong Ranges, Queensland, Australia, Steve Irwin spends his life rescuing and relocating endangered animals. He loves to jump on top of them and wrestle them into submission with the aide of ropes and a good grip.

Steve got his inspiration for working with animals as a child at the Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park at Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast (once owned by his parents Lyn Irwin, a nurse and wildlife rehabilitator and Bob Irwin, a plumber turned herpetologist). Steve later expanded his parent's property and renamed it The Australia Zoo which has become a thriving international tourist attraction and "the home of the Crocodile Hunter."

A herpetologist by trade, Steve likes to wear khaki shorts and boots. When he comes upon snakes or crocodiles, Steve stands frozen into his famous "action crouch" and shouts the catchphrase "Crikey!"

The success of Steve and his wife, Terri (Steve's co-host on the "Crocodile Hunter" TV show) spawned a line of action figures, a Steve Irwin doll that cries, "Danger! Danger! Danger!".

In 2002 Steve and his wife, Terri starred in the theatrical release The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course. Steve Irwin has also appeared in Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001) and its sequel, as well as in wildlife documentaries for cable's Animal Planet, in a Federal Express commercial and as a parody of himself named Irwin on the cartoon series SOUTH PARK (episode No. 31. Prehistoric Ice Man) who says things like, "I'm going to sneak up on that croc and jam my thumb in its butthole!".

Reportedly, everything, that Steve Irwin earns is reinvested into conservation causes.


Sunday, September 3, 2006


Charlie Williams, who found fame poking fun at race issues on the hit 1970s TV show 'The Comedians' in England, has died at the age of 78.

Born in Yorkshire of Jamaican descent, Williams was the first black comedian to make the big time on British TV. He played professional football for Doncaster Rovers before developing the comedy catchphrase "me old flower".

Williams's biographer Stephen Smith told the BBC News website that the comedian was an "innovator" and a "trailblazer".

"He opened the door for black performers to be accepted everywhere," he said.

Williams found his talent for comedy at school, where he said he could either deal with racial prejudice by fighting or making people laugh. He chose the latter, saying: "I never liked soiling my clothes."

He went on to host the 'Golden Shot' game show in the mid-1970s and other black entertainers such as Lenny Henry and Gary Wilmot later cited him as an inspiration.



With last Sunday's episode, we say good-bye to 'The Dead Zone'. Not that it was cancelled, although it may be. I don't know; I'm out of the loop.

No, it's aloha for the show when it comes to being a resident of Earth Prime-Time, the main Toobworld. 'The Dead Zone' will now have to take up residence in some alternate TV dimension. That's because the plotline called for the assassination of the Vice President. And it wasn't even Cheney!

Not that I'm advocating that, mind you.....

In the dimension of 'The Dead Zone', the Vice President was Eric Danbury, who was just a month younger than me. And now with his death, Maine Congressman Greg Stillson is in line to be nominated to succeed Danbury... even though he was deep in the conspiracy.

Just as the President of the main TV dimension should be the same as that in the Real World, so should it be for the Vice President. So in Toobworld, that means as of right now, the POTUS is George W. Bush and his Veep is Dick Cheney.

And even though we don't know the name of that President just yet, the fact that Eric Danbury was the VPOTUS pretty much guarantees that it won't be Dubya we find in the Oval Office.

So where does 'The Dead Zone' go? Can it be added to some other, established TV dimension?

Let's do a quick run-down (avoiding sitcom-based dimensions and the one based on TV movies):

Matt Santos has not yet taken office in the world of 'The West Wing' even though we saw him take the oath of office back in May's series finale. We were viewing the future, and that inauguration will take place in January of 2007. (The constitutional rules of transition run differently there.) And the assassination took place on August 26th of this year.

Even so, Santos indicated that Governor Baker would be his nominee to fill Leo McGarry's position as Vice President.

Before it was cancelled, 'Commander In Chief' was also in need of a new Vice President, but it looked as though President MacKenzie Allen was going to nominate her Chief of Staff, Jim Gardner.

The other female President in a TV show, Caroline Reynolds, is also in need of a new Veep. (I'm beginning to smell a trend here!) She had vacated the position to assume the Presidency after the (suspicious) death of her predecessor.

But as that might become a future plot point in 'Prison Break', even though the conspiracy is on the back burner for now, we'd best dismiss it as an option.

Henry Hayes is the Chief Executive in the 'Stargate' dimension, and unlike with the other shows, the position has been filled for the Vice Presidency. Former senator (and thorn in the side) Robert Kinsey is the second-in-command, where he gained even more influence over the Stargate operations. (Hayes rightfully doesn't trust him because of his connections to the NID.)

The problem with these shows still in production is that at any time the characters of the POTUS and the Veep may come into play, and that includes 'The Dead Zone'. With Stillson in line to become Vice President, it looks like the show is getting ready to finally wrap up the storyline and bring it in line with the outcome of the original novel by Stephen King. In doing so, they'll probably introduce their President, and thus all those other pozzbilities will evaporate.

So more than likely, 'The Dead Zone' will be inhabiting its own dimension of its own making. At least most of those above-mentioned series had other shows to keep them company in their alternate dimensions. 'The West Wing' has 'Mr. Sterling' and 'Smallville'; I've placed 'The Agency' and 'The District' in with 'Prison Break'; and 'Stargate SG-1' has its own spin-off, of course - 'Stargate: Atlantis'. ('Commander In Chief' might have an episode of 'Stephen King's Nightmares & Dreamscapes' in its future.....)

Perhaps we can eventually some shows that could keep 'The Dead Zone' company. Any suggestions? Because I just thought of a few....

Remember those USA Network promos in which Johnny Smith met Adrian 'Monk' and Shawn Spencer of the 'Psych' Detective Agency? (He also met the televersion of some Real-World wrestler.) And 'Monk' went on to meet Sean Farrell of 'The 4400'.

Well, I'm not willing to give up on those shows as being part of the main TV Universe just yet. For now, I'll claim that the promos featured the alternate counterparts of those characters, and that they still exist in Toobworld Prime.

They may not be the characters from the actual shows, but at least Johnny has somebody to keep him company in the 'Zone'.....



I really liked Callie Thorne in 'Homicide: Life On The Street', but if her character of Sheila perished in that beach-house fire, I'm down with that. She was way too psychotic and always threatened to derail the show from its balancing act between humor and drama.

The way she played it, you never know which side she was striving for.

Besides, I think she'd be served much better as an actress if she remained with the show as one of the ghosts in Tommy's mind. And it would be nice to see her interact with the actor playing her dead husband Jimmy Keefe.

And if she was killed off, it would set in motion an idea I mentioned a week ago or so here:

Even if Sheila dies in that fire, Tommy will most certainly survive - who really feels that can possibly be in doubt? And as part of his survivor's guilt, he'll take in Sheila and Jimmy's son Damian as his ward.

Living in the Gavin apartment will keep Damian in close proximity to his second cousin Colleen.... and the twisted family roundelay will pick up with a new generation.

Just sayin' is all.....