Saturday, December 17, 2005


I'm a big fan of back-room political intrigue stories. I read a lot of Fletcher Knebel in high school, loved the movies 'Advise And Consent', 'Seven Days In May', and 'The Best Man', and I sat riveted for mini-series like 'Vanished', 'The President's Plane Is Missing', and 'Washington: Behind Closed Doors'.

I really enjoyed 'The American President', written by Aaron Sorkin, but when 'The West Wing' was announced, I was planning to give it a pass. I had already seen 'SportsNight' and really was never that impressed. I think it was over-hyped, and I felt that 'The West Wing' would be more of the same, but in the White House.

I'll admit that the late addition of Martin Sheen to the cast was part of the allure, but I was mainly coming to sample the show because of John Spencer. For me, he was one of the reasons 'L.A. Law' re-invigorated itself in the early 1990s, when he joined the cast as maverick lawyer Tommy Mullaney. Here was a guy who was the antithesis of the slick, pretty, "cool" litigators who had been the backbone of the series during the first half of its run.

As Leo McGarry on 'The West Wing', Mr. Spencer sealed the deal as one of my favorites among current character actors (a calling that's becoming rare nowadays).

In the last new episode before the holiday break, the leaders of the Democratic party in that alternate TV dimension came to their Vice Presidential candidate, in hopes that he would take over the reins of the campaign. They knew that as the man who ran both campaigns for Jed Bartlet, Leo was the only man who could do the job properly.

Once he realized they were talking about him, Leo (who had resigned his previous job as White House Chief of Staff after a near fatal heart attack) just said, "You guys are trying to kill me."

At the time, it was a sweetly humorous line as we all remembered how he barely survived that heart attack in the woods of Camp David.

But I didn't have a clue that Life would imitate Art.

Or maybe I was just ignoring it. As soon as he uttered that line, I suddenly noticed how old and tired he was looking - not just in character, but as a person. He looked drawn, as if he had lost some weight; his neck was the biggest giveaway that something was taking its toll on him.

Richard Schiff, in an interview upon hearing of the death, said that Mr. Spencer did have some health problems of late, but that he had overcome them.

Maybe in a few weeks, probably after the holidays, I might take the time to ruminate here about what his death in real life will mean to the show's alternate world. But now's not the time. Right now I just want to remember a great character actor who provided two of my favorite characters in Toobworld (two different dimensions) in the past fifteen years.

Leo: "My generation never got the future it was promised... Thirty-five years later, cars, air travel is exactly the same. We don't even have the Concorde anymore. Technology stopped."
Josh: "The personal computer..."
Leo: "...Where's my jet pack, my colonies on the Moon?"

I wish Mr. Spencer could have been around to see that future, whenever it arrived.

This is a tip o' the hat to you, John Spencer.

"The West Wing" (1999) TV Series .... Leo McGarry
"Trinity" (1998) TV Series .... Simon McCallister
"L.A. Law" (1986) TV Series .... Tommy Mullaney (1990-1994)
"Another World" (1964) TV Series .... Mr. Julian (1988)
"The Patty Duke Show" (1963) TV Series .... Henry Anderson (1964-1965)

A Perry Mason Mystery: The Case of the Grimacing Governor (1994) (TV) .... Al Rhinehart

From the Files of Joseph Wambaugh: A Jury of One (1992) (TV) .... Mike Mulick
When No One Would Listen (1992) (TV) .... Walter Wheeler
In the Arms of a Killer (1992) (TV) .... Det. Vincent Cusack
Cocaine and Blue Eyes (1983) (TV) .... Joey Crawford

"Celebrity Poker Showdown" playing "Himself" in episode: "Tournament 1, Game 2" (episode # 1.2) 9 December 2003

[It's actually quite Zonk!ish, but I couldn't resist including it. It's such fun to see the cast of the show just hanging out as themselves.]
"The Outer Limits" playing "Col. Wallis Thurman" in episode: "Summit" (episode # 5.13) 21 May 1999
"L.A. Doctors" playing "Dr. Edmund Church" in episode: "The Life Lost in Living" (episode # 1.20) 22 March 1999
"Early Edition" playing "Howard Banner" in episode: "Jenny Sloan" (episode # 2.4) 18 October 1997
"Tracey Takes On..." playing "Ray Weggerly" in episode: "Crime" (episode # 2.9) 19 March 1997
"Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" playing "Hank Landry/Mr. Gadget" in episode: "Lethal Weapon" (episode # 4.12) 5 January 1997
"F/X: The Series" playing "Carl Scofeld" in episode: "High Risk" (episode # 1.3) 23 September 1996
"Touched by an Angel" playing "Leo" in episode: "The Driver" (episode # 2.4) 14 October 1995
"Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man" playing "Agent Dennehy" (voice) in episode: "Not So Easy Riders" (episode # 1.8) 30 April 1994
"Law & Order" playing "Howard Morton" in episode: "Prescription for Death" (episode # 1.1) 13 September 1990
"H.E.L.P." playing "Valery"
in episode: "Are You There, Alpha Centauri?" (episode # 1.2)
in episode: "Fire Down Below" (episode # 1.1)
"Spenser: For Hire" playing "Joe Moran" in episode: "Home Is the Hero" (episode # 2.7) 22 November 1986
"Miami Vice" playing "Lt. Ray Atkins" in episode: "The Good Collar" (episode # 3.5) 24 October 1986
"Ryan's Hope" playing "Doctor/Orderly" (uncredited) 24 September 1976

"The West Wing" (1999) TV Series .... Leo McGarry
"Touched by an Angel" playing "Leo" in episode: "The Driver" (episode # 2.4) 14 October 1995
It's the Toobworld Central belief that in Earth Prime-Time, the main TV Land, Josiah Bartlet didn't go into politics, but into medicine. (Dr. Josiah Bartlet is mentioned in an episode of 'St. Elsewhere'.)

Other characters from 'The West Wing' must also have alternate lives in Toobworld Basic. And like Bartlet, maybe their lives didn't follow the same path.

One such character is probably Leo McGarry. In the 'Touched By An Angel' episode, Leo is a detective who's investigating a hit-and-run accident that was caused by a friend of his, TV reporter Debra Willis.

Because they are friends, we never learn what the detective's last name is, because she only addresses him as "Leo".

So why can't it be that in the main TV Universe, Leo McGarry did not go into politics, but rather pursued a career in law enforcement?

"L.A. Doctors" playing "Dr. Edmund Church" in episode: "The Life Lost in Living" (episode # 1.20) 22 March 1999
"Ryan's Hope" playing "Doctor/Orderly" (uncredited) 24 September 1976
As the 'Ryan's Hope' appearance was a one-shot, the writers obviously felt no need in giving his character a name. So it's no problem to say that two decades later Edmund Church was living in Los Angeles after being in New York.


Thursday, December 15, 2005


The WB has OK'ed a pilot to be filmed for a TV series about the superhero Aquaman. It's going to be headed by the same team that's in charge of Smallville -- Miles Millar and Alfed Gough -- but Alan Richson isn't being considered to reprise the role he played on an episode of 'Smallville'. Apparently, the producers want the show to stand on its own.

Fine, but you know that at the first sign of trouble in the ratings, they'll go running to a crossover with 'Smallville' to help bring in the viewers.

"The stories will come from the environment: ocean polluters, evil oil companies and other (threats to the) environment," Alfred Gough said. Skein will be set -- and possibly lensed -- in the Florida Keys, not far from the Bermuda Triangle, which will be another major story engine".

Right now, I'm leaning towards letting this version of 'Aquaman' remain in the universe of Earth Prime-Time. The major factor? Well, Aquaman really hasn't appeared yet in the main TV Universe. The Tooniverse has seen a lot of him, what with his own Saturday morning adventures and as a member of the 'Super-Friends'. And 'Smallville' is set in an alternate TV Land. (My choice? The same universe where you can find 'The West Wing' and 'Mr. Sterling'.)

Hopefully, if you've been paying attention, some of you might be ready to argue that Aquaman can't exist in Toobworld if 'Entourage' is also set in the main TV universe. All this past season, Vince Chase was attached to a James Cameron movie project about the comic book hero, "Aguaman".

Not the "real-life" hero. The guy from the comic book.

I don't see a Zonk! in this. Jerry 'Seinfeld' referred to all sorts of details about Superman - he had the magnet image of the super-hero on his fridge door; he used "Jor-El" as his PIN. And yet Superman existed in Toobworld, as seen back in the 1950s on 'The Adventures Of Superman'.

But that's.... okay. Because in an episode of that series ("The Birthday Letter"), little Kathy Williams was reading an issue of the comic book when Superman swooped into her apartment to give her a ride through the skies of Metropolis.

Within Toobworld's reality, a comic book must have been published to cash in on Superman's fame. And I'm sure Superman would have insisted that any profits to which he was entitled should go to charity.

And from there, we could then assume that a TV show was created about Superman which featured an actor named George Reeves. This way, we can avoid a Zonk! for that episode of 'I Love Lucy' which mentions George Reeves (who gets no onscreen credit) but which features an appearance by Superman.

The same thing happened to the Lone Ranger. The real Lone Ranger might have resembled Clayton Moore, but it was only John Hart who portrayed him within the TV Universe - as seen in episodes of 'The Fall Guy' and 'Happy Days'.

And coincidentally, it also happened to Jerry Seinfeld on his eponymous sitcom. The original pilot of 'Jerry' might have failed, but with a bit of re-tooling and re-casting, it finally became a success WITHIN the TV Universe and was probably renamed to be 'Seinfeld' as well. So that's why we can refer to both George Costanza and Jason Alexander (who allegedly played George according to an episode of 'The Larry Sanders Show') as being in the same TV Universe.

But getting back to Aquaman......

If, as I suspect and expect, there will be the inevitable crossover with 'Smallville', we'll just have to move it back to that alternate dimension.... and then give these guys a Toobworld splainin as to why their hero's looks have changed.

It might be something in the water......

And I know a lot you must think that whatever it is, I must be drinking it!



Sorry that this is running so late - writing the annual Christmas Cracker for the Idiot's Delight Digest as well as getting writing cramps due to Christmas cards have put a crimp on almost all things Toobworldian (save for lists compiled for the Hat Squads and the salute to Dick Van Dyke which was time-sensitive).

This week's crossover is implied, not a legit one has had been the case during November Sweeps.

And it's a commercial, a blipvert which makes a link to one of the more famous episodes of 'The Twilight Zone'.

For the new Black & Decker Sander, the tool's versatility is demonstrated by a man with three arms using it. The commercial is running now obviously because it must be such a godsend as a Christmas gift for the home-improvement sapiens in your family tree.

In "Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?", we learned that the invading fleet of Martians all had three arms.

However, the three-eyed Venusian told the Martian scout that his fleet had already been interecepted and destroyed by the Venusian forces.

So this is why most of the characters seen in Toobworld are not three-armed aliens. (Although I have my doubts about some of the charactes in the influx of police procedurals......)

But some of those in the Martian fleet must have survived and escaped from the fray via escape pods that crashed on Earth, because they were too far from home. Trapped now on this third rock from the sun, these refugees have had to adapt to life on Earth and blend in as best they can, and at all costs avoid the attentions from agents of the FBI's 'X-Files' or from the 'Threshold' project.

Mars has been home to several species of humanoids, but whether they were all descended from the same genetic stock is unknown. The only two Martian species from different shows that can be declared to be of the same race would be Exigius 12 ½ AKA Martin O'Hara ('My Favorite Martian') and Phoebus and Deimos ('The Outer Limits' - "Controlled Experiment").

By the way, the Venusian seen in that episode of 'The Twilight Zone' wasn't actually from Venus at all. As seen in the "Cold Hands, Warm Heart" episode of 'The Outer Limits', Venusians look more like reptilian asparagus stalks.

The three-eyed alien in the diner on 'The Twilight Zone' was actually a Traskian, as seen in 'Farscape'.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005


After so many "Hat Squads" posted in the last few days, what a pleasure it is to salute a man who brought so much light into the "box of lights and wires".

Today marks Dick Van Dyke's 80th birthday. God bless him!

Just the other day, listed their Top Five TV Dads and invited readers to submit theirs - Rob Petrie of 'The Dick Van Dyke Show'was at the top of my list. And I'm one of those kids who grew up with the show believing that Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore were married in real life. And in my perfect world, maybe they should have been.

As Dr. Mark Sloan of 'Diagnosis Murder', Mr. Van Dyke is represented in the TV Crossover Hall of Fame (March, 2003) and may even make it in as Rob Petrie as well.

His Paul Gallico on 'Columbo' ranks near the top of the list for most ruthless of the Lieutenant's adversaries. And the solution to that murder was one of the most satisfying in a story-telling sense.

Last year I posted a suggestion that Dr. Mark Sloan should have been the biological father of Dr. Greg House on 'House'. Having now seen R. Lee Ermey in the role, I think my idea is not only better but still possible. I couldn't buy into the genetic relationship between Ermey and Hugh Laurie. Laurie and Van Dyke on the other hand. (Oh, Mommy was a cheater!)

And then in his real life, something not often addressed in Toobworld, Mr. Van Dyke came forward with his admission about alcoholism. In doing so, he probably saved a lot of lives - by making people realize that if a big star who supposedly had it all could be suffering from such a disease and yet sought help, then maybe they could too.

Favorite all-time "DVD Shows":
'It May Look Like A Walnut'
'The Ghost Of A. Chanz'

The BBC Online is being irreverent with their acknowledgement of his personal landmark - they're inviting their readers to call in with their impression of his Cockney accent from 'Mary Poppins', which apparently is considered the worst of all time. Being just a little kid when that movie came out, I totally bought into it as being the real thing.

And in the long run, I don't think it mattered - the joy in his performance over-rides all criticism and is infectious.

Something off-beat to look for in connection with Mr. Van Dyke, and which I've been thinking about now that Peter Jackson's version of "King Kong" is out - MAD magazine did a spoof of all the big ape films with the main caricatures as Dick Van Dyke, James Garner, and Doris Day. It was a trio I wish had really made a movie together (although Van Dyke and Garner, and Garner and Day, did work together).

Here's just my small salute to a man who has given so much to the TV Universe for over forty years. And hopefully, he'll have much more to offer in the years to come.

And that ain't bupkis!


Sunday, December 11, 2005


My first memory of Richard Pryor on Television was from 'The Ed Sullivan Show' (I think). He did a quick routine of the first astronaut on the Sun - by jumping around like he had the mutha of all hot-foots!

There'll be plenty of blogs with better memorials to his comedy, to the greater meaning of his talent. I've already found several good ones in the sites I have listed to the left. I've never been good at this sort of thing, and prefer just to tip my hat and say "Thank you" for what Mr. Pryor did to help expand the boundaries of that little box of lights and wires which holds such a powerful universe.

And he paid quite a price knocking down those walls. It's an image from his own short-lived variety series that best summed up what it must have cost him - he was shown during his opening monologue as being totally naked, but his genitals had been excised digitally.

As a tip of the hat to his memory last night, 'Saturday Night Live' showed the following excerpt from the classic sketch Pryor did with Chevy Chase in that first year of 'SNL':

Interviewer: [ aggressive ] "Spearchucker".
Mr. Wilson: "White trash!"
Interviewer: "Jungle Bunny!"
Mr. Wilson: [ upset ] "Honky!"
Interviewer: "Spade!
Mr. Wilson: [ really upset ] "Honky Honky!"
Interviewer: [ relentless ] "Nigger!"
Mr. Wilson: [ immediate ] "Dead honky!" [ face starts to flinch ]

If you'd like to see the full sketch, please visit this fantastic site:


If you do a search of the site, it's from the seventh episode of the first year, titled: "Racist Word Association Interview".

"The Blackberry Inn" (1995) TV Series .... Himself
"Martin" playing "Himself" in episode: "The Break Up: Part 1" (episode # 1.18) 11 February 1993
"Pryor's Place" (1984) TV Series .... Himself
"The Richard Pryor Show" (1977) TV Series .... Himself/Various Characters (1977)
"The Midnight Special" (1972) TV Series .... Himself - Host
"The Mod Squad" playing "Himself" in episode: "The Teeth of the Barracuda" (episode # 1.1) 24 September 1968
"The Kraft Summer Music Hall" (1966) TV Series .... Regular

"The Norm Show" playing "Mr. Johnson" in episode: "Norm vs. Boxer" (episode # 2.11) 1 December 1999
"Malcolm & Eddie" playing "Uncle Buck" in episode: "Do the K.C. Hustle" (episode # 1.10) 11 November 1996
"Chicago Hope" playing "Joe Springer" in episode: "Stand" (episode # 2.9) 20 November 1995
"Martin" playing "Himself" in episode: "The Break Up: Part 1" (episode # 1.18) 11 February 1993
"The Partridge Family" playing "A.E. Simon" in episode: "Soul Club" (episode # 1.18) 29 January 1971
"The Mod Squad" playing "Himself" in episode: "The Teeth of the Barracuda" (episode # 1.1) 24 September 1968
"The Wild Wild West" playing "Villar" in episode: "The Night of the Eccentrics" (episode # 2.1) 16 September 1966

Carter's Army (1970) (TV) .... Pvt. Jonathan Crunk
[When we were kids, my friends and I usually played 'Combat!' in the neighborhood - most times in my backyard, which was a really long orchard. But after seeing this TV movie, in which a bigoted white officer led a platoon of black soldiers in WWII, we became 'Carter's Army'.... never mind that none of us were black. I was the Rosey Grier character......]



"Private Secretary" playing "Edmee Esmond" in episode: "Cat on a Hot Thin File" (episode # 4.1) 18 March 1956
"Matinee Theatre" playing "Amelie" in episode: "Dinner at Antoine's" (episode # 1.89) 5 March 1956
"Stories of the Century" playing "Ella Watson aka Cattle Kate" in episode: "Cattle Kate" (episode # 1.6) 28 February 1954
"Cowboy G-Men" playing "Dixie Shannon, Saloon Owner" in episode: "High Heeled Boots" (episode # 1.38) 6 June 1953
"Cowboy G-Men" in episode: "The Woman Mayor" (episode # 1.36) 23 May 1953
"Suspense" in episode: "This Way Out" (episode # 3.54) 4 September 1951
"Pulitzer Prize Playhouse" in episode: "The Wisdom Tooth" (episode # 1.22) 2 March 1951
"Starlight Theatre" in episode: "Be Nice to Mr. Campbell" (episode # 2.6) 25 January 1951