Friday, March 22, 2024

The 10th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon is Here!

The 10th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon is here. It is honestly hard to believe that the blogathon has been going on this long. As in past years, this year's blogathon features several entries on episodes from classic television shows.

For those of you who are participating in the blogathon, I ask that you link to this page. I will be updating this page with links to the various blog posts that are part of this blogathon throughout the weekend. If you want a graphic for your post, I have several on the announcement page here.

Without further ado, here are this year's posts.

Realweedgiemidget Reviews: "TV....Star Trek: The Next Generation, 'Second Chances' (1993) S6 E24"

A Shroud of Thoughts: "Nurses, 'The One After the Earthquake"

Films From Beyond the Time Barrier: "Lights, Camera, Chaos!: Nigel Kneale’s 'The Dummy'"

Various Ramblings of a Nostalgic Italian: "A Knock Out Favorite Episode"

John V's Eclectic Avenue: "TV Episode Blogathon 2024: The Bionic Woman"

The Midnite Drive-In: "Tribble-ing Dilemmas"

Taking Up Room: "Elyse and Eggy"

Smoke in the Library: "The Twilight Zone, 'Steel'"

Starlight & Saucepans: "A Favorite Jeeves and Wooster Episode: 'Introduction on Broadway'”

Dubsism: "Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 152: The Rockford Files – 'The Queen of Peru'"

Crítica Retrô: "Retro Series: The Addams Family"

Liberal England: "The Exorcism: The scariest thing I have ever seen on television"

Hamlette's Soliloquy: "'White Warrior' (Cheyenne, Season 3, Ep 13) (1958)"

Another Old Movie Blog: "Beulah Bondi in "The Pony Cart" episode of The Waltons"

Whimsically Classic: "Favorite TV Show Blogathon–'The Pickle Story,' The Andy Griffith Show"

Moon in Gemini: "Welcome Back, Kotter: 'Whodunit?'"

A Scunner Darkly: "Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon – Robin of Sherwood 'The King’s Fool' (1984, Ian Sharp)"

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Nurses, "The One After the Earthquake"

(This post is part of the 10th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts)

I don't think most people would consider the Nurses episode "The One After the Earthquake" that remarkable. It is certainly not on the same level as, say, the Dick Van Dyke Show episode "It May Look Like a Walnut" or the Mary Tyler Moore Show episode "Chuckles Bites the Dust." For that matter, I am guessing many people have never even heard of Nurses, a sitcom that ran on NBC from 1991 to 1994. Nonetheless, it remains one of my favourite television episodes, largely due to sentimental reasons. "The One After the Earthquake" was one of the earliest instances in which I took notice of actress Vanessa Marquez, who would later become my dearest friend. Of course, there are also other reasons the episode stands out for me.

Nurses was created by Susan Harris, who also created Soap, The Golden Girls, and Empty Nest. It debuted on NBC on September 14 1991. The show was centred on a group of nurses who worked at the fictional Community Memorial Hospital in Miami. Originally the main character was Nurse Sandy Miller (Stephanie Hodge), a somewhat sarcastic Texan.  Nurse Annie Roland (Arnetia Walker) was the head nurse in 3 West wing of Community Memorial Hospital, and tended to be level-headed. Nurse Julie Milbury (Mary Jo Keenan) was a young and naive, but eternally optimistic nurse. Nurse Gina Cuevas (Ada Maris) was a romantic and somewhat stereotypical Latina nurse. Nurse Greg Vincent (Jeff Altman) was the somewhat impertinent male nurse.  Dr. Hank Kaplan (Kip Gilman) was the resident physician on 3 West. Paco Ortiz (Carolos Lacamara) was a somewhat scheming orderly.

was a spinoff of Empty Nest, Community Memorial Hospital being the same hospital where the paediatrician office of Dr. Harry Weston (Richard Mulligan), the main character on Empty Nest, was located. Of course, Empty Nest was itself a spin-off of The Golden Girls. All three shows were set in Miami and in the same shared universe. It was then not unusual for characters from Empty Nest and The Golden Girls to show up on Nurses from time to time. In addition to members of the casts of Empty Nest and The Golden Girls, Nurses did feature guest appearances from various famous and soon to be famous performers, including Larry Linville, Adam Arkin, Fred Willard, June Lockhart, John O'Hurley,  Salma Hayek, John Ratzenberger, Jeri Ryan, and, of course, my dearest Vanessa Marquez, among others.

Nurses did not receive overly positive reviews upon its debut in 1991. Variety gave the show a negative review, commenting, "Call the medics for Nurses, new sitcom from Susan Harris that has all the zest and appeal of cold hospital food." Entertainment Weekly gave the show a somewhat more positive review, "As a sitcom, however, this new show is only moderately amusing." Other reviews characterized Nurses as mildly amusing as well, a show that was not necessarily good, but not necessarily bad either.

Nurses underwent several cast changes in its three seasons. Jeff Altman left the show after its first season. Stephanie Hodge left the show after its second season. The character of Jack Trenton (David Rasche) was added in its second season. Jack was a businessman who was convicted of insider trading and sentenced to do community service at the hospital, performing menial tasks there. He quickly became friends with Paco. Loni Anderson (then as now best known as Jennifer Marlowe on WKRP in Cincinnati) joined the cast in its third season as Casey McAfee. the hospital's new administrator. By the third season, when "The One After the Earthquake" aired, the cast consisted of the aforementioned, Annie, Julie, Gina, Hank, Paco, Jack, and Casey.

As to "The One After the Earthquake," the episode's title is somewhat nonsensical. An earthquake does not take place in the episode, nor did an earthquake take place in the previous episode ("Silent Partner") or any other episode of Nurses. It seems possible that the title is a reference to the real-life Northridge earthquake that took place on January 17 1994 and affected the Greater Los Angeles Area. Here I must point out that I have never read that this was where the episode's title came from. Some might think that the title of "The One After the Earthquake" took inspiration from the titles of Friends episodes. Friends had a naming convention for episodes in which they were titled "The One...." This is certainly not the case, as Friends would not premiere until September 22 1994, a few months after Nurses had ended its run.

Like most Nurses episodes, "The One After the Earthquake" features multiple subplots. In the primary subplot, a high school student, Angelica (Vanessa Marquez), is tagging along with the nurses as she is looking to enter the profession. Angelica proves to be somewhat irritating to Gina, as Annie has told Angelica details of Gina's private life. In another subplot, Jeff is angry with Paco because Paco is spending an inordinate amount of time with a new orderly, Marty. In another subplot, a patient named Mr. Torrance (Steve Bridges) is having adenoid surgery in hope that he will no longer sound like Jack Nicholson, and grows increasing irritated as various medical staff want him to quote lines from Jack Nicholson's movies. Another patient, Mr. Parry, is a hypochondriac who believes his medical problems stem from living near a power plant. As a result, Hank, who also lives near a power plant, becomes convinced he is also having various medical problems. Julie has lost a patient, who keeps showing up in odd places. Despite this, the nurses are still unable to find him. To top all of this off, they must deal with Leo (Sid Melton), the local flasher.

Among the things that make "The One After the Earthquake" notable is that it features Sid Melton, who had a long career in film and television. He played Little Louie in The Lemon Drop Kid (1951). He had many roles on television. He had a recurring role as Harry the grocery delivery man on Bachelor Father. He was a regular on Make Room for Daddy, playing Charley Halper, the owner of the Copa Club. On Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. he had a recurring role as con artist Friendly Freddy. He was a semi-regular on Green Acres, playing incompetent carpenter  Alf Monroe. On The Golden Girls he appeared in flashbacks as Sophia's late husband and Dorothy's father Sal. He also appeared on Empty Nest in various roles. On Nurses he had previously appeared in different roles. He had earlier appeared as Leo in the Nurses episode "The Eagle Has Landed," the first episode of the third season.

"The One After the Earthquake" was also notable as the television debut of Steve Bridges, who played Mr. Torrance on the episode. Steve Bridges was a comedian and impressionist who was well known for his impressions of Jack Nicholson, Tom Brokaw, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Barney Fife, Paul Harvey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and yet others. He made something of a career playing George W. Bush, appearing as President Bush in episodes of JAG, NCIS, and Whoopi. He even appeared alongside George W. Bush at the White House Correspondents Association dinner in 2006. Sadly, he died in 2012 from a severe allergic reaction.

Vanessa Marquez as Angelica in the Nurses episode "The One After the Earthquake"

Of course, for me "The One After the Earthquake" will always be memorable because among the guest stars is my dearest Vanessa Marquez. Angelica in "The One After the Earthquake" is the last juvenile role she would ever play. By that time Vanessa was 24 years old and, to be honest, in the episode she looks more like a college senior than she does a senior in high school. "The One After the Earthquake" would also mark her last guest appearance before beginning her stint in the semi-regular role of Nurse Wendy Goldman on ER. Curiously, her last work before "The One After the Earthquake" was also set in a hospital, the HBO TV movie State of Emergency (1994). I may be biased, but I think Vanessa did a great job in "The One After the Earthquake." Her timing and delivery are perfect, and she is convincing as a somewhat naive high student. Vanessa always did have a gift for comedy, which I suspect is why Wendy appeared in so many humorous subplots on ER.

As I said earlier, "The One After the Earthquake" hardly ranks among the greatest situation comedy episodes of all time. Even so, it is one of the better episodes of Nurses and it does have several funny moments. Steve Bridges is very funny as Mr. Torrance, who grows increasingly exasperated as people keep asking him to quote lines from Jack Nicholson movies. Loni Anderson is great as Casey, who always manages to turn the conversation back to herself. The subplot in which Hank becomes convinced he has various ailments due to living near a power plant is also funny, particularly given he is a doctor and should know better.  I would guess by today's standards the subplot involving Leo would be considered politically incorrect, but then it is only a very small part of the episode. Regardless, "The One After the Earthquake" may not rank up there with the I Love Lucy episode "Lucy Does a Commercial" or the Andy Griffith Show episode "Citizen's Arrest," but it is certainly amusing and not at all a bad way to pass a half hour.

Indeed, "The One After the Earthquake' is the only episode of Nurses I remember in detail, as well as the circumstances under which I saw it. It aired on April 16 1994, which was a pleasant spring day in mid-Missouri. I took advantage of the weather and rode my bicycle to a nearby town, where I spent much of the day shopping. I then returned home, ate dinner, and settled in for an evening of watching television.  I have no idea what I watched besides Empty Nest and Nurses. I do remember that I thought Vanessa was remarkably pretty and even then I thought she had a beautiful voice. If someone had told me back then that she would become my closest friend and a woman I adore, I probably wouldn't have believed them.

By the time "The One After the Earthquake" aired, Nurses was on its last legs. In its first season, Nurses received moderate ratings. Much of this was perhaps due to The Golden Girls, which anchored Saturday night on NBC in the 1991-1992 season. Unfortunately, The Golden Girls ended its run and ratings for both Empty Nest and Nurses toppled during the 1992-1993 season. In the 1993-1994 ratings declined further for Nurses, and the show was cancelled at the end of the season. Empty Nest would continue for another season after Nurses left the air. Unfortunately, Nurses would not perform well in syndication. It aired for a time on Lifetime in the Nineties, but it really hasn't been seen since. It has never been released on DVD and it is unavailable on streaming unless one counts some rather bad copies on YouTube and Daily Motion.

"The One After the Earthquake" is not a great sitcom episode. Television historians will not be writing treatises on it in years to come. But for me it remains one of my favourite episodes of a television show, in part because it guest stars my beloved Vanessa Marquez and in part because it has some very funny moments.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

The 25th Anniversary of Farscape

As television shows go, Farscape may not be well-known among the general public, but among sci-fi fans, it is often counted among the greatest science fiction series of all time. The entire series has been released on DVD and Blu-ray. It is widely available on streaming. There have been both Farscape books and comic books. It maintains a following to this day.

Farscape starred Ben Browder as John Crichton, an astronaut who is propelled through a wormhole to the far reaches of space during the test flight of an experimental spacecraft. In order to survive he joins a group of beings fleeing from the private military force known as the Peacekeepers aboard the living ship Moya. Joining the group at the same time as Crichton is Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black), who was thrown out of the Peacekeepers because her encounter with the crew of Moya and John Crichton have "contaminated" her. Early in the series run, Crichton was pursued by Bialar Crais (Lani Tupu), a Peacekeeper officer who blamed Crichton for his brother's death. Later he was pursued by Scorpius (Wayne Pygram), who wanted the secret of wormhole technology contained within Crichton's mind.

From the beginning it was decided that Farscape would be very different from previous science fiction shows. Farscape eschewed the military command structure of such sci-fi shows as Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica. It was also decided that the characters on Farscape would display more emotion than on previous shows. Brian Henson said of the show's origins, "We wanted it to be more alien than any other television series--bolder, more emotional--and to have stronger, richer characters than on other SF shows. We knew we needed a concept that allowed the characters to be a little more dialled up."

As to the crew of Moya, they were diverse and some of them were truly alien. John Crichton was far from being the leader of the group. Although he had been injected with translator microbes so he could understand other languages, he knew nothing of the various alien cultures and was often clueless as to what was going on. Crichton often provided much of the humour on the show, throwing out pop culture references that his companions obviously did not understand. Former peacekeeper Aeryn Sun looked human, but was actually a Sebacean, an alien race that for all extents and purposes resembled humans, although there were some major differences in biology. Initially detached and a bit cold, over time she became friendly and very attached to her shipmates.

Ka D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe) was a Luxan, a warrior race. He very much had a sense of honour, and he could be impatient and uncompromising. At the same time, he could be warm and sympathetic towards his shipmates. Dominar Rygel XVI (his voice was provided by Jonathan Hardy) had been the ruler of the Hynerian Empire. He could be both selfish and greedy, and tended to regard himself as superior to everyone else. As to Hynerians, they are a bipedal frog-like species. Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan (Virginia Hey) was a Delvian, a species that looked human, but were in fact a form of plant-life. Zhaan was a priestess among the Delvians, and tended to be spiritual and possessed both telepathic and empathic abilities. Pilot  was the pilot of Moya, who was bonded with the ship. Because of this, he really can't move, but played a large role in the crew's various adventures nonetheless. As a living being, the ship Moya must also be counted among the characters. Moya is a Leviathan, a biomechanoid ship. She can only communicate with the crew through Pilot, but nonetheless has affection for her crew. Joining the group midway through the first season was Chiana (Gigi Edgley), a street-smart Nebari who has a talent for both confidence games and theft. Chiana was highly independent, something frowned upon by the Nebari government.

Farscape was created by Rockne S. O'Bannon and Brian Henson. Rockne S. O'Bannon had served as a story consultant on the Eighties revival of The Twilight Zone, written the screenplay for Alien Naiton (1989), and created the TV series SeaQuest DSV. Brian Henson was the son of Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, and had taken over running the Jim Henson Company following his father's death. Brian Henson was interested in expanding the Jim Henson Company into more adult movies and television shows that would use the animatronic technology the company developed over the years. After Messrs. O'Bannon and Henson met, they began developing a science fiction series initially titled Space Chase.

It was in 1997 that the Fox Broadcasting Company ordered four scripts for the potential show. Fox ultimately passed on the show, and the other broadcast networks expressed no interest in it either. Rockne O'Bannon and Brian Henson would move onto other projects, but this did not mean Space Chase was dead. Having heard of the project, the Sci-Fi Chanel, then only a few years old, expressed interest in the potential show. Ultimately, the Sci-Fi Channel bought what would become known as Farscape. To keep costs down, not to mention greater creative freedom, the show was made in Australia. 

The Sci-Fi Channel aired a sneak preview of Farscape on March 14 1999. The show officially premiered on March 19 1999 on the Sci-Fi Channel. It later aired in Australia on Nine Network, which co-produced the show with the Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment. For much of its run on the Sci-Fi Channel, Farscape was the victim of irregular scheduling. While it generally aired in the same time slot on Friday nights, its breaks at mid-season could sometimes last months. For instance, its last episode at mid-season during its first season was aired on April 16 1999. Farscape would not return until June 11 1999. The large gaps at mid-season may well have affected the show's ratings, particularly given the format of Farscape. While for the most part the show relied upon self-contained episodes that were wrapped up in an hour, it also utilized story arcs that could go on for several episodes.

During its run Farscape would undergo some cast changes. As mentioned above, Gigi Edgley as Chianna joined the show midway through the first season. Scorpius first appeared late in the first season and became the show's primary antagonist for the rest of its run. It was in the next to the last episode of the third season that Crais was killed off. Zhaan died in the first episode of the third season, "Season of Death Part 2." Quite simply, Virginia Hey had chosen to leave the show because the extensive makeup required for her role were creating problems with her health. Jool (Tammy MacIntosh) joined the show in the fourth episode of the third season, ""Self-Inflicted Wounds Part 2." Jool was an Interion woman who was highly educated. Taking Zhaan's place on Moya, the character was not well-received and Jool ultimately parted ways with the crew of Moya at the end of the third season. She was replaced by Noranti (Melissa Jaffer), an old and eccentric woman skilled in herbalism and somewhat skilled in medicine. She was often referred to as "Grandma" and "Granny" by the crew of Moya.

In addition to the main characters on Farscape, the show featured a large number of recurring characters who came and went throughout its run. Among these were various Peacekeepers, Scarrans (a lizard-like race hostile to the Peacekeepers), other aliens, and Crichton's father Jack (played by Kent McCord, he sometimes appeared in flashbacks).

Farscape was meant to run five seasons. Unfortunately, just before the second half of the fourth season began airing on the Sci-Fi Channel, the Sci-Fi Channel decided against funding the show any further. This effectively cancelled Farscape. As to the reason for the cancellation, ratings for Farscape had fallen in its fourth season and the show was expensive to produce. Almost as soon as the cancellation was announced, fans mounted a campaign to save the show by either having it restored to the Sci-Fi Channel's line-up or moved to another network. Ultimately, the campaign would not result in another season of Farscape, but it would result in the mini-series Farscaple: The Peacekeeper Wars, that wrapped up the series.

Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars debuted on the Sci-Fi Channel on October 17 2004, with the second half airing on October 18 2004. Many hoped that if Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars received high ratings, it might result in the continuation of the series. Unfortunately, its ratings, while not necessarily bad, were not impressive enough for the show to be renewed.

Both while the show was on the air and after its cancellation, Farscape would expand into other media. The first Farscape novel, Dark Side of the Sun by Jim Mortimer, was published in 2000. There have also been various non-fiction books on the show, as well as  Farscape comic books. In 2002 Wildstorm produced a two-part comic book titled "War Torn." In 2008 and 2009 BOOM! Studios produced a four-part mini-series in conjunction with the Jim Henson Company. It was in July 2009 that BOOM! Studios launched a monthly Farscape title that ran for 24 issues. On top of the regular series, BOOM! Studios also produced three four-part miniseries between 2009 and 2010, and an eight-part mini-series centred on Scorpius in 2010.

During its run Farscape was nominated for and won various awards. It won the Saturn Award for Best Syndicated/Cable Series in 2001, 2002, and 2003. and was nominated for several other Saturn Awards. It won the Award of Distinction from the Australian Cinematographers Society in both 2000 and 2001. It was nominated for several other various awards, including a Primetime Emmy in 2002 for Outstanding Costumes for a Series.

Following its cancellation, Farscape would enter syndication, although it only saw a little success there. Both Farscape and Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars have been released on DVD and Blu-ray. Currently, Farscape is widely available on streaming, including Tubi, fuboTV , Peacock, Pluto TV, Sling TV, Crackle, The CW, Plex, Amazon Prime, Freevee, Philo, YouTube, Google Play, and Fandango at Home. Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars is available on Tubi, Peacock, Pluto TV, Sling TV, The CW, Plex, Amazon Prime, Freevee, and Philo.

If Farscape remains popular, it is perhaps because it is unlike any other sci-fi television series. Farscape was one of the first science fiction shows to feature aliens who were truly alien. The previous Star Trek shows, Space: 1999, and various other series had featured aliens who were primarily humanoid in appearance. They certainly featured nothing as alien as Rygel or Pilot. The show was also set apart from other earlier sci-fi series in that the characters did not always get along. Because the crew of Moya were fugitives from the Peacekeepers, their objectives did not always line up, and sometimes they even found themselves at odds with each other. Rygel, in particular, could act in his own interests even when it did not benefit those of the group. Finally, Farscape utilized subplots and story arcs at a time when most television shows were strictly episodic, with stories that were wrapped up within the space of an hour. This also set it apart from previous sci-fi shows. In the twenty five years since Farscape debuted, there has never been a show quite like it. And while it may still not be as well-known as Star Trek or a few other science fiction shows, there can be no doubt it will always have a following.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Google Search Results Have Gotten Worse

People have been complaining about Google search results for years. Some would even say that the search results delivered by Google have steadily declined from what they were years ago. Whether the quality of Google search results have truly declined over the years is a matter for debate, but from where I stand it seems that they have dramatically gotten worse in the past week.

Last week I did a Google search on singer Steve Lawrence as part of my research for the tribute I was writing about him. Since Mr. Lawrence had recently died, I fully expected obituaries from major news outlets to dominate the search results. That having been said, I did not expect those obituaries to rank above the official website of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé. Worse yet, Steve Lawrence's IMDB page was nowhere to be seen. A search I performed on French actor Alain Delon was even worse. The first two results were Wikipedia and IMDB, which I fully expected, but the other results were nothing but news stories with only a little information on his career. Out of curiosity, I did a search on my beloved Vanessa Marquez. Like Alain Delon, IMDB and Wikipedia topped the results for the search for her, followed by several news stories (most of them rather old). I then performed a search for myself. Now I am not famous, so there really aren't any news stories about me out there. Even so, the search results were a surprise, The top result in the search for "Terence Towles Canote" is my LinkedIn profile, which I  have pretty much abandoned and have not updated in some time. It ranked above my Amazon author profile, my GoodReads author profile, and even the "About Me" page on this blog (which, given it was written by me, should top the results).

Now I don't know if Google realizes it or not, but when I perform a search on an actor, singer, author, or other artist, I want pages that contain substantial information on them, not news articles on only one part of their life. I would rather see an in-depth article on Alain Delon's career by a fan on a blog than a news story on how police discovered a lot of guns at Alain Delon's house. When I do a search for actress Vanessa Marquez, I want to see sites with substantial information on her career, not news articles on the settlement her mother made with the the City That Shall Not Be Named, much less her death. When I search for Steve Lawrence, his IMDB profile should be towards the top of the search results and his official web site should be up there as well.

As to what caused search results on Google to go south over the past week, I have read that Google did a core update this month that was meant to address spam and low-quality content. While I will give Google the benefit of the doubt and assume that the update was successful in dealing with spam, I think it utterly failed with regards to delivering quality results. According to Google Search's blog, The Keyword, the update was meant to "...ensure we surface the most helpful information on the web and reduce unoriginal content in search results." In my searches for Steve Lawrence, Alain Delon, my dearest Vanessa Marquez, and even myself, instead Google surfaced what I considered the most unhelpful information on the web, much of it unoriginal. After all, those news stories often regurgitate the same information over and over again. Quite simply to me a well-written blog post by a fan with substantial information on an artist is not only of higher quality and more original than a news story reported by dozens of sources, but it is also much less spammy as well.

My suggestion to Google is that they go back to the way the algorithm was a couple of years go, when it was still delivering quality results. Oh, they should try to take care of spam and content written by AI, but they should be delivering quality content on the subject for which any individual is searching. Quite frankly, news stories are not quality content. When searching for an actor, I do not want to see news stories from NBC News, Deadline, People, or the Picayune Post. I want to see results from IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, The Movie Database, and blogs with in-depth articles on that actor. Google really needs to re-think what they consider quality content so it is more in line with what users think of as quality content. As it is, they are failing miserably.