Well, here we go ringing in a new year at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear…and just as I did at the beginning of 2018, I’m once again apologizing for allowing weeds to run rampant around the blog. I can blame no one for this lapse in blogtiquette but myself; it seems that once the Yuletide season is upon us here in the House of Yesteryear, I go into a kind of hibernation mode and am too busy stuffing my face full of my mother’s pound cake and Christmas cookies to accomplish anything resembling productivity. In my defense, however, I did have a Radio Spirits project which to occupy my time—a brand-new Dragnet release that will be headed your way soon. (I should also mention that the scheduled posts for the RS blog did continue apace—the most recent being an anniversary tribute to one of my radio favorites, The Halls of Ivy.)
We received a visit from my sister Debbie and her clan around Christmas, which was the true bright spot in December (sister Kat also contributed a brief cameo), plus I was fortunate to have a little extra jingle in my pocket, allowing me to not only replenish my dwindling stack of blank DVD-Rs but splurge on a few Britcom sets as well. I was enticed to sign up for a trial membership in Amazon Prime so that I could take advantage of some £14.99 pricing (about twenty bucks American) on collections of In Sickness and In Health (I’ve reviewed this show on the blog in the past…but I now own the complete series) and Spike Milligan’s marvelously demented Q (which I hope to review for the blog soon). It would not be an exaggeration to say that I go through blank discs like my father goes through Kleenex; I’m a big collector of physical media and get a good deal of pleasure watching the TDOY archives grow to unmanageable proportions with movies and TV shows. (I have a couple of friends that I help out from time to time by grabbing things for them as well.)
Our DISH system added a new station awhile back in Folk TV (channel 218 if you’re a DISH subscriber). DISH describes it as a channel offering “Western, Documentary, Reality and Sports Event programming” which is kind of a polite way of saying “We’ve got public domain programming out the wazoo, so be prepared to see the same Dick Van Dyke Show episodes over and over and over again.” Okay, I am being a little facetious here: granted, Folk has a rather small internet presence (their Facebook page has a lot more info) but in addition to the usual suspects like The Roy Rogers Show and The Lone Ranger they offer up novelties like Danger Man, The Saint, and Route 66. The Facebook page announced on December 31 that they were bringing The Jerry Lewis Show to the schedule soon; I’m assuming it’s the 1967-69 variety series but I’m praying it’s not that edited mess that they released to DVD some time back.
I should interject here to say that I don’t have anything against P.D. programming personally…only that Folk TV works through the rotation of what’s available fairly quickly. When the channel first popped up on the DISH grid, I surfed through the various days to look for anything of interest…and saw The Jack Benny Program and The Life of Riley on the schedule. I was pretty excited to see Riley again (I don’t think I’ve watched the show since its CBN days) but it didn’t last long; I put some episodes on a disc for Andrew “Grover” Leal and I think there were a total of eight before Folk started the repeats again. (Benny fared even worse: I got six episodes out of his run…and two of them I grabbed from the other P.D. channel on DISH, KTV.) I noticed on Folk’s Facebook page that viewers have started to gripe that The Red Skelton Show (I believe these are the 1951-52 season shows that made the rounds on GPTV many years back) has started a rerun cycle, too; Folk has an hour of them weeknights at 8pm and a two-hour block on Saturdays and Sundays so I’m not surprised they went through them so rapidly.
TDOY contributor/friend of the blog Curt Ladiner mentioned in an e-mail to me about a year ago that the classic anthology series Four Star Playhouse was airing on the Retro TV network and I can now report that Playhouse has turned up on Folk TV as well (Sunday mornings, and I suspect they’re probably the same shows you can purchase on those Alpha Video collections). My new favorite on Folk (also a hardy P.D. candidate) is Public Defender, a 1954-55 series that Reed Hadley starred in after his success with Racket Squad (1951-53). Hadley portrays Bart Matthews, the titular lawyer assigned to those defendants who can’t afford legal representation; he’s dedicated if a bit humorless, and the show is entertaining in true campy “Crime Does Not Pay” fashion.
I watched one installment, “The Hitchhiker” (03/10/55), the other morning that will kind of give you an idea of how the show rolls; a G.I. (Christopher Dark) gets a lift from a woman (Elaine Edwards) on his way home from leave and mistakenly drops his wallet in her (rental) car. If you’re thinking this is a sad parable on the guy being careless with his valuables you don’t know the half of it; the car is later identified as the vehicle what hit and nearly killed an elderly blind woman…and since witnesses report that it was a man and woman that drove away, The Long Arm of the Law (represented by future Lassie forest ranger Robert Bray) hauls our poor soldier and his great-with-child wife (Donna Martell) in for questioning. A mechanic who works at the car rental (Alan “Skipper” Hale, Jr.) is unable to identify the couple (with good reason) but when the blind woman comes out of her coma, she tells the cops she recognizes the soldier’s voice as the driver of the death mobile. Can Matthews clear the unjustly-accused newlyweds? He’d better get cracking: he’s got less than a half-hour to solve this!
Created by Mort R. Lewis and Sam Shayon at a time when the public defender concept was known primarily in capital cases, Public Defender is an interesting curio because it presents that professional field in a far more positive light than it enjoys now, what with the glut of Dick Wolf Law and Order shows and attitudes of “Why are we paying for someone to defend these lowlifes—just lock ‘em all up!” Despite my lawyer jokes here in the past, there are individuals who bring nobility to this job—a college buddy of mine heads up the public defenders’ office in Statesboro, for example (he was inspired to go into law by To Kill a Mockingbird). This insistence on positivity in Public Defender is admittedly tempered by a rather incredulous presentation of the U.S. judicial system, however; the young wife cries out at one point: “This is America—they don’t put you in jail for nothing!” (I hurt myself laughing at that point. Second place goes to Matthews’ assurance than the cops aren’t trying to frame the G.I. because they just don’t do that sort of thing. This show really should have a laugh track, to be honest.)
After glancing at the Retro TV schedule (it’s a tad outdated, being the fourth quarter of 2018) I see there’s overlap between their offerings and Folk TV (Route 66, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, etc.) and that they also had The Jerry Lewis Show on their schedule at one time…as I feared, it’s the cut-down syndicated version. (Cannot catch a break.) Nevertheless, I’m going to continue enjoying the Nelsons and Bart Matthews while I can because even the moldiest of TV reruns is preferable to watching cable news 24-7-365 like a certain member of my family (I think my Mom will back me up on this). Normal blogging will resume soon, since I need to get away from that cable news thing.