Saturday, December 23, 2017


Christmas ghost stories are a staple of British television programming during the holidays.  So I want to present one of them for the enjoyment of Team Toobworld.  And I decided to go with the first one.....

From Wikipedia:
"The Stalls of Barchester" is the first of the BBC's Ghost Story for Christmas strand, first broadcast on BBC 1 at 11 pm on 24 December 1971. Based on the story "The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral" from the 1911 collection More Ghost Stories by M.R. James, it was adapted, produced and directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark.

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

Friday, December 22, 2017


To the lady who made it all possible, 

the greatest sleuth in the world,
Mrs. Melville, 

whom we brought to life...
and now we're about to bury

This started out as a simple theory about where the painting of Mrs. Melville came from, but it sort of got away from me.  I hope you enjoy the ride......


About six months before my televersion ('The Hap Richards Show', 'The Ranger Andy Show', 'Late Night with David Letterman' - 100th episode) was born in Toobworld, a spry California widow named Lily Ruskin decided to take up oil painting.  She enrolled in a course taught by a "funny European"* and he became enamored of her - to the point where even after she gave up that pursuit, he was still so smitten with her that he painted Lily's portrait to remind him of her (seen at the top of this post).

By the mid 1960s, the art teacher passed away and that portrait of Lily Ruskin, along with many of his other artworks and most of his personal possessions, were sold off in an estate sale in California.  The painting was then offered up for sale again by an art dealer.

By that time, two mystery writers, named Jim Ferris and Ken Franklin, had been collaborating for a few years.  According to Jim’s wife Joanna, they had met in a typewriter shop.  Jim was in there to get a broken key on his typewriter repaired; Ken was buying a new ribbon.  They got to talking about their interests in writing and found a common interest in crafting the puzzles of murder mysteries.

We don’t know, however, what they were doing before they became partners.  But – keeping it within reason (which isn’t that usual for a guy who likes a wild theory or two in his televisiological forays) – I have a few ideas. 

Remember, this is all conjecture:

Jim Ferris was working as a teacher in a Los Angeles high school, right out of college.  (I’d like to think it was Walt Whitman High School.) In his free time, he pursued his muse, writing about weighty matters of a philosophical bent which he wove into his tales.

Just a few years older, Ken Franklin was already a writer – working for a local TV station, writing news copy.  But he saw writing as merely a gateway to eventually get in front of the camera.  He knew he would fit right in on television.

Unfortunately, although his exuberance for the craft was infectious, Ken’s plodding style was better suited for the mundane presentation of the nightly news.  But Jim didn’t discover this for some time; as long as they were focused on writing short stories together, Ken was able to mask his deficiencies as a writer.  He proved to be a better editor and at least was able to suggest the basics for their plots which Jim would then flesh out. 

And they did make some sales, mostly to Armchair Sleuth magazine.  There weren’t many, but enough to keep the idea of their partnership viable. 

Meanwhile, Jim’s personal life had taken a dramatic turn in several directions.  His older brother Mike, who was working in the fledgling American space program under the aegis of ANSA.  But in a study of the long-term effects of isolation on the mind of Man, Mike cracked while sealed in a space capsule simulator for four hundred and eighty four hours, thirty-six minutes.  Moments after the experiment was ended, Mike seemed to be okay; he was able to walk away from the simulator’s hangar under his own volition.  But even though he expected one day to actually get into space, Mike Ferris eventually washed out of the program because of his fragile mental state.

There was never any concern that Jim would have to support his older brother as ANSA and the government looked after his every need and gave him a healthy retirement stipend.  But still it had been a weight of worry on Jim’s shoulders.

Going through the motions of life as he was with worry about Mike, even with the diversions of his job as a teacher and his collaboration with Ken Franklin, Jim Ferris never knew what hit him when he was struck full on… by love.

Her name was Joanna.  She was beauty and grace and the light to dispel the shadows of his mind.  And unfortunately, she was twelve years younger than he was.

And one of his students.

Jim didn’t even know how she felt about him, as he couldn’t risk everything to even speak to her about such personal matters.  And so he suffered in silence.  But upon her graduation from high school, it was Joanna who approached him and boldly but simply stated her intentions.  She would continue with her education into college, but she was in love with him as she knew he was with her.

And so they married.  On November 23, 1963, when Joanna turned twenty.  They never expected the day to be overshadowed by the assassination of President Kennedy; one of Joanna’s cousins, wracked by the conflicting emotions brought on by both the national tragedy and her cousin’s special day, went into labor. 

[Many years later, Joanna’s second cousin admitted that the assassination had probably been to his advantage as he was born.  Originally he was going to be named Bertram after his father.  Instead he was christened as John Fitzgerald Byers.  He grew up to become a conspiracy-obsessed member of the team known as “The Lone Gunmen”.]

Both Jim Ferris and Ken Franklin were feeling frustrated about the course of their writing partnership.  They knew that their dreams would be extinguished if they didn’t catch the lightning soon.

And it was Franklin who came up with the germ of an idea which would spark their creation of the literary character who would make their mark in publishing.  He was so keen on the idea that he urged Jim to cut his honeymoon on the isle of Jantique short in order to get back so that they could start working up the idea.

While writing up the news copy at KBEX, Ken noticed the death notice of a local private investigator, a pioneering elderly woman named Bertha Cool.  Even though she had been born in the 1870s, Bertha Cool and her partner Donald Lam worked as private investigators in Los Angeles until her death near the beginning of December in 1963.

It was Ken’s idea that he and Jim should create a main character for their detective character based on Bertha Cool.  He liked the idea of a big, tough old broad who could hold her own against gunsels and palookas.  But Jim knew they would reach a wider audience if they made the woman an amateur sleuth who was a bit more refined.  He had in mind someone more like Jane Marple, the woman who had been the subject of a series of stories by true-crime writer Agatha Christie.  Like Bertha Cool, Miss Marple also solved crimes, mostly murders, but in a genteel manner. 

Ken shrugged it off and acceded to Jim’s suggestions.  He had already become bored with the idea but even so, he pitched in to start writing that first novel with Jim.  Nevertheless, the fissure had begun between them.

While out for a drive with Joanna after work one night in hopes to find inspiration for this story idea of Ken’s, Jim Ferris got lost in thought and wound up lost in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles on South Central Avenue.  In order to reassure Joanna, he pulled up to the curb outside a junk dealer’s business to ask for directions from the young man working to clear away the old bed springs and plumbing fixtures in the side yard. 

And that’s when he saw it – the portrait of Lily Ruskin as painted by an artist who had been enamored of her.

In his heart, Jim knew this was what their character should look like, not as big as Bertha Cool, but at least with the suggested refined nature of that spinster sleuth in Great Britain, Miss Marple.

His excitement over the find and his eagerness to purchase it somehow attracted the attention of the young man’s father from inside their house.  After rummaging through his drawer for a pair of eyeglasses to help him make the deal, the elder junkman barged into the negotiations of the sale, taking charge from his son.  When Jim suggested he would give them twenty dollars for the portrait, the father grabbed his chest and staggered back, beseeching his deceased wife to get ready for his arrival.

Joanna urged Jim to just leave it be since she wanted to get out of the area.  The junkman’s son was afraid that he’d be losing the sale, so he quickly took the 20 dollar bill and handed over the painting.  As they drove away, Jim could hear the father berating his son over the deal: “YOU BIG DUMMY!”

Jim hung the portrait in the small office he shared with Ken and was so inspired by it that he began typing up a few pages as a general introduction to the character.  When Ken showed up, late as usual, he was surprised by the portrait’s place of prominence.  Jim made a big show of the presentation and then handed his partner the pages he had written.

“I see you’ve left it blank whenever you referred to the character’s name….” Ken said with a slight sneer.

Jim fumbled a bit before answering.  “Well, we are partners, Ken.  I thought we should decide on that together…..”

Ken appraised his “better half” and knew Jim had something in mind.  “You’ve already got a name picked out already, don’t you?” 

Jim’s face brightened with an abashed grin.  “If you don’t mind…  I was thinking she should be Miss Melville.”

There it was.  No wonder he was so nervous about the suggestion.  “That’s…. Joanna’s maiden name, isn’t it?  Fine.  But let me make a contribution here.  She should be ‘Mrs. Melville’.  We’ll make her a widow.  That way nobody can say we’re just copying Miss Marple.  And let’s not reveal what her first name is.  Give her a bit of mystery, hmmm?”

Jim wasn’t too keen about that.  Whoever heard of a detective being the main character and nobody is sure what their first name is?  But the fact that it looked as though Ken was taking an interest again in their partnership as writers was a hopeful sign of a long collaboration ahead.

Ken pulled a small bottle of sparkling cider from the office’s second-hand college dorm fridge and poured it into their coffee mugs.  “Not exactly champagne, but ‘twill serve for now.”  He raised his mug and held it aloft in salute to “Mrs. Melville.”

To the lady who will make it all possible,” Ken said in salute.  “To the greatest sleuth in the world, Mrs. Melville, whom we have brought to life this day!”

Jim’s eyes sparkled as if fireworks were going off.  “Say!  That gives me an idea for our first mystery!”  He shuffled through the papers on his desk and finally gave up, scribbling down his idea on the inside of a matchbook…..

And so the collaboration that would spawn 15 novels and see 50 million copies sold began in earnest.  It would still prove to be rocky in the beginning and the first two novels would be published in what Ken would call their lean years.  But eventually mystery aficionados would catch on to what the team of James Ferris and Ken Franklin were accomplishing with their amateur sleuth Mrs. Melville.  And as Ken had predicted, fans would obsess over the details of her fictional life:
  • What was her first name?
  • Where did she live?
  • In what decade did she live?
  • What did her husband do for a living?
  • How did her husband die?
 Many of these questions would eventually be answered in future volumes, but they kept to their original decision to never reveal what her first name was. 

Thanks to the eagle eyes of fellow ‘Columbo’ enthusiasts like Steve Skayman and Karen Bulger, we basically know the names of those 15 novels, minus one:

1.   Mrs. Melville's Favorite Murder
2.   Mrs. Melville On The High Seas
3.   Mrs. Melville's Adventure
4.   Mrs. Melville's Challenge
5.   Death Of Mrs. Melville
6.   Mrs. Melville's Escape
7.   Mrs. Melville In New York
8.   Mrs. Melville and The Missing Link
9.   Mrs. Melville Takes A Risk
10.    Mrs. Melville In Court
11.    Mrs. Melville In London
12.    Mrs. Melville Investigates
13.    Prescription Murder
14.    ?????
15.    Mrs. Melville's Last Case

The five question marks represent the missing Mrs. Melville title which would bring the total up to the fifteen books in their bibliography.  I think that by this book in the chronological order of the collection, the Ferris-Franklin writing engine was running on fumes.  Jim was still the driving force, the only one of the two making the effort, but Ken had become interested in being the public face of the team.
Basically these titles are as they are seen in that bookrack in their office.  “Prescription Murder” was the latest published novel, which Ken gave to Lily LaSanka as a gift.  As for “Mrs. Melville’s Last Case”, this is just supposition as to the title on the manuscript which Jim was working on when he was murdered.
JOANNA FERRIS: Ken did the publicity, went on all the talk shows.
And he did interviews and cultivated the film people.
He contributed. He just didn't do any of the writing.
Franklin had found his niche; this is what he knew was his purpose – to be in the spotlight as one-half of the team behind Mrs. Melville.  And should there be an interviewer who put forward the idea that maybe he was the true talent behind the novels, who was he to argue?

I’ve been looking over the list of the books in hopes of establishing a chronological order for their publication.  And this is what I came up with:

  • Mrs. Melville And The Missing Link
  • Mrs. Melville In New York
  • Mrs. Melville On The High Seas
  • Mrs. Melville In London
  • Mrs. Melville In Court
  • Mrs. Melville Takes A Risk
  • Mrs. Melville Investigates
  • Mrs. Melville's Challenge
  • Mrs. Melville's Adventure
  • Mrs. Melville Escapes
  • Mrs. Melville's Favorite Murder
  • ?????
  • Death of Mrs. Melville
  • Prescription Murder
  • Mrs. Melville's Last Case

And I do have my reasons.

I think Ken’s involvement in the writing would have faded by the time Hollywood came calling for the movie treatments.  And that probably didn’t happen until the series was well underway with enough titles to ensure material, in case there would be a market for sequels.  I think that would have happened after they published their fourth book.

So with the first book, they knew they needed something to grab the readers’ attention.  And while they studied the life of Jane Marple as fictionalized by Agatha Christie, Jim became more interested in the background of her biographer and her involvement in archaeological digs because of her second husband Max Mallowan, an archaeologist.  So he came up with a mystery dealing in anthropology rather than archaeology and thus was launched “Mrs. Melville And The Missing Link.”

After that, they spent a few volumes in having Mrs. Melville travel the world and then put her through her paces in unfamiliar settings.  It was in the middle of their collaboration when the ennui began to set in and I think that was reflected in such mundane titles as “- Investigates”, “- Challenge”, and “- Adventure”.  However, it would be “Mrs. Melville Escapes” which would be adapted into a major motion picture blockbuster.

After Ken Franklin was convicted in the murder of Jim Ferris, Joanna Ferris regained custody of that painting of "Mrs. Melville".  But there were too many painful memories of her husband and her loss and so she sold it to the Sigma Society club chapter in Los Angeles. 

After the death of one of the High IQ club's members, the Sigma Society began to hemorrhage members and their membership dues.  As smart as they were, the "Sigmans" were highly superstitious - once they learned of the painting's history in the earlier murder, they couldn't sell it off fast enough.  And that pattern continued through the eighties and into the nineties, with the owners of the painting killing their business partners.  Finally the agents of Warehouse 13 snagged, bagged, and tagged "Mrs. Melville" and it now resides in the Dark Vault because of its power.

And there it resides to this day.

  • ‘ROOM 222’
  • 'WAREHOUSE 13'


The art teacher in that ‘December Bride’ episode was played by character actor Sig Arno.  I was not being detrimental in my description of his character as a "funny European", as that was his specialty according to hisWikipedia entry.

 According to that entry, Sig Arno was an accomplished portraitist and the examples of his work [see below] were reminiscent of this portrait of “Mrs. Melville”.

Sig Arno lived until August of 1975, but for the purposes of this essay, this is one time when the character needs to be considered as having passed away before the actor who portrayed him.

For the same reasons, I’ve had to treat Jane Darwell’s solo appearance as A.A. Fair’s detective Bertha Cool as dying a few years before the actress in order to suit the chronology of Ferris and Franklin.

Joanna’s second cousin, John Fitzgerald Byers, died with his comrades Richard Langly and Melvin Frohike, sacrificing themselves to save the world from a bio-terrorist.  Earth Prime-Time at large never knew of them, let alone of their heroic deaths and so probably never knew why they were granted a special waiver to be buried at Arlington.

Thursday, December 21, 2017


Another one of my Toobworld Theories of Relateeveety: 

Mrs. Chadwick's maiden name was Ironside. And she was aunt to Chief Robert T. Ironside, the consultant to the SFPD. Her twin sister was his other aunt, Victoria Ironside. (She never married.) Their brother was Chief Ironside's father.

They came from a large family and in true Toobworld tradition, the sisters had an identical cousin in Europe, Madame Olga Nemirovitch. (Basically she was the "evil twin".)  She committed suicide in 1965 on board the Adriatic Express.

Aunt Victoria Ironside pointed out to her friends that her nephew's mother was Welsh when he ordered them to leave a potential crime scene.  

If they traced Chief Ironside's maternal family tree back far enough to its Welsh roots, they would find that the progenitor was a former soldier in the Crusades named Cadfael, who became a monk at the monastery of Sts. Peter and Paul near Shrewsbury.  

(Before he took vows, Cadfael unwittingly fathered Olivier de Bretagne, formerly Daoud, by a Syrian widow named Maryam.  It is from that relationship which Ironside's mother's lineage began.)

And of course, Robert T. Ironside has an identical cousin in Los Angeles, a prominent lawyer named Perry Mason.  (Ironside's paternal grandmother was a Mason.)  Mason's life-long love was his secretary Della Street, but although they may have consummated the relationship but they never married.  

The lawyer was not without issue, however.  In 1939, when he was 22 years old and just about to enter law school, Perry Mason had an affair with a woman, perhaps older, perhaps married, by the name of Caruso.  She found herself pregnant with his child, but had no interest in marrying him.  Instead she raised their son on her own, naming him Anthony.  

And like his birth father, Anthony Caruso became a lawyer and practiced in Los Angeles.  He even worked a case on behalf of his father with whom he had become friends with once his mother had told him the truth about his parentage.







(Pictures in descending line: Jesse Royce Landis in 'Columbo', 'Ironside' and later with Raymond Burr, and 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.', Sir Derek Jacobi and Robert Cavanah in 'Cadfael', Raymond Burr & Barbara Hale in 'Perry Mason', Paul Sorvino in "A Perry Mason Mystery: The Case Of The Wicked Wives")
The first paragraph of this theory of "relateeveety" was originally written for the 'Columbo TV' page on Facebook.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017


September 9, 1957 – February 17, 2001

When we first met her, Jean Louise McArthur was a fading porn star who was born in Miami. Since the late 70s, she appeared in such adult films as “Easy Slider” and “Deep Diving”, but not under her birth name.  She chose as her screen name “Vivica St. John”.


Her choice of the first name “Vivica” stemmed from her fascination with a high-profile murder case from the early 1970s – the owner of the cosmetics company Beauty Mark had been convicted of murder in the death of one of her company’s chemists.  Her name was Viveca Scott but Jean Louise altered the name by one letter.  (It had something to do with numerology; don’t ask me.) 

A catty book about the queen of cosmetics, focusing on the murder case, was written by her business rival David Lang and was entitled “Lovely But Lethal”.  Under her real name of Jean Louise McArthur and with the help of her agent Ari Gold, she bought the movie rights to the biography.  (The price may have become prohibitive had it been known a famous porn actress had bought the rights.)  It had been her dream to one day get out of the porn flick business and produce a mainstream movie about Viveca Scott in which she would play the lead.



As for her last name, the actress used a family name, that of her cousin back in Miami, Cassandra St. John.  Cassie St. John was a detective sergeant on the Miami Police Department, working with her ex-husband Detective Sergeant Tom Ryan.

Jean Louise McArthur died at the age of 43 in Los Angeles when she was electrocuted in her bath.  Her memorial service was held at the Fisher Funeral Home in Los Angeles.




Tuesday, December 19, 2017



From the IMDb:
While Mike Painter is eating in the diner, the radio is playing. Station call sign given is WKRP. 

So the most famous radio station in Toobworld does have at least one connection to other TV shows which doesn't depend on the participation of the League of Themselves.


The Sweet Science (2009)
Sock created a fictitious employee named Les Nessman to scam a second paycheck

Sock knew that Les Nessman actually existed, but the radio newsman may have already passed away in Toobworld.  (He hasn't been seen on our screens since 1993.)  I would not be surprised if Sock had discovered what Nessman's Social Security number was and used it to verify his fictional employee records.

That '70s Show: 
Radio Daze (2001)
Earl says to Red that he is going to miss "WKRP."

So as was the case with so many TV show Zonks, it's apparent that a TV show was made about the radio station.  It could be that it was an reaiity show, a documentary series about the day-to-day workings at a radio station.

Freaks and Geeks: 
I'm with the Band (1999) 
Bill mentions Bailey Quarters from WKRP

I think our best play is to go for the smart, sexy, librarian type.
You know, she's sweet and shy,
But then she takes off her glasses and rowf!
Like Bailey on 'WKRP In Cincinnati'.

Okay, so it was a reality show and Bailey was seen as playing herself in the documentary series.

Burning Love:
Homeless No Mo'
The trainer lists "WKRP's Gary Sandy" as one of his high-profile celebrity clients.

This does not invalidate the documentary series premise - Gary Sandy could have been the host for the reality show.  And that means in Toobworld, Gary Sandy and Andy Travis shared the screen together.

Dead Like Me: 
Life After Death (2009)
"Oh, I love that show. That Loni Anderson. What a beautiful pair of boom-booms she had."
Mason is then told it stood for "What would Rube do?"

Again, this could buoy the documentary series premise of the Toobworld version of 'WKRP'.  If there are any future references about the cast of WKRP but without any mention of the show's title, maybe it could be that it was 'WWRD'.  And it was based on the real-life 'WKRP'.

It's the best I can come up with.....

Anybody out there know if WKRP was ever mentioned on 'Harry's Law'?  That took place in Cincinnati.  Let me know!


Monday, December 18, 2017


"Heck, anybody could pull a boner once in a while." 
Lt. Dave Martin
'The Thin Man'

"Every murderer pulls a boner sooner or later."  
Chief Robert T. Ironside

"I'm afraid we pulled a big boner today."
Colonel Gallagher
'12 O'Clock High'


Sunday, December 17, 2017


"Plymouth" was a 1991 pilot for a series that was not picked up.  I consider this TV movie to be part of Earth Prime-Time, serving as a kind of prequel to the first episode of 'Space; 1999'.  (As you should know if you are a regular visitor here, after the explosion of the nuclear waste dump near Moonbase Alpha, everything else seen in the series were figments of Commander John Koenig's coma dream.  Plymouth was an outlying colony under the aegis of Moonbase Alpha but run by the UNIDAC Corporation.  Anything else, you'll learn watching this unsold pilot.

Each episode might lead right into the next, but just in case I've added all the YouTube links in the correct order.