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The Orville (2017)
The REAL New Star Trek
I came to Star Trek late considering my age. A friend suggested watching reruns back in the 70s and I became a fan of TOS. Still I wondered why so many people thought this awesomely great. I continued watching and liked all the other Star Trek shows, recently getting really hung up and addicted to Voyager. I had trouble getting into Deep Space Nine but eventually found it to be another great show. Also, without doubt, Enterprise deserved 7 years like the previous shows. I started getting uncomfortable because I felt that a Star Trek show of some kind needed to be on continuously! Then here come the new one - Discovery - I tried a few episodes but I'm sorry to say it does not have the heart and soul of the true Star Trek tradition. Then, almost by accident I watched an episode of Seth McFarlane's The Orville and here was the true Star Trek again!
I noticed the magic name of Brannon Braga who was so involved in virtually all Star Trek "stuff" after Roddenberry passed. Now I'm not a fan of bathroom humor and some of The Orville is just plain silly but the drama, when it comes, captures the real feel of traditional Star Trek which is not about killing and action but about human interaction, love and helping others to resolve problems. It works on a personal level as well as a big story level. I have fallen in love with it and hope it has a minimum of a 10 year run. It definitely deserves at least as many years as any other Star Trek show. The title should be Star Trek: The Orville. Seth McFarlane obviously has love and respect for Star Trek and it's message like I and many others have. I have already streamed every episode twice and seem to never tire of it. I'm not a fan of comedy in general but the show does do justice as a loving satire of the entire world of Star Trek.
So, in my opinion, one cannot just go into space and have all kinds of suspense, action and even great quality in every respect and just stamp the name Star Trek on it. Star Trek means something other than just good television. It has something to do with Gene Roddenberry's original idea of a near utopia, not what the latest movies and new TV series has been presenting. Almost blasphemous in many ways that they have shown no understanding nor respect for what I call the heart and soul of what Star Trek stands for but Seth McFarlane with excellent assistance from producers, cast and all involved have extended that special, intangible thing that drives intelligent fans to conventions of Star Trek. This is the true extension of what a Star Trek show should be and bless Seth McFarlane and the network for doing this show.
Picket Fences: Enemy Lines (1994)
Ethics vs practicality
This episode, like many in this series, views a universal situation that effects everyone in Rome and here we look at integration and busing and how the town is in an uproar over a forced and immediate issue. My granddaughter was almost forced to be bused to another school which was out of the way when she could walk less than 2 blocks to school. I asked my daughter who is an extreme liberal what she thought. She was incensed about it. She is also an extremely excellent and well respected partner in a law firm. I mentioned Brown vs The Board of Education and she said, "I'm all for fairness and equality but NOT WITH MY CHILD!" Her point was that they purchased their home for the explicit reason of being near the school which is the highest rated public school in one of the nicer areas of the city. Also, her little girl is only 6 years of age.It was a matter of common sense and my daughter would have been upset no matter what race any of the other children were. Just to uproot a child and move them because of some bureaucratic mess is senseless.
However, at 72 years of age my mind flashed back to a time in 1956. Some of my friends and I were playing sandlot football once and another time basketball on weekends and some black fellows stopped to watch and asked if they could take a shot at the basket and we said, "go for it!" We ended up playing an integrated game in 1956 in a small town like Rome only this was in Texas and the cops broke the game up as they did later when we attempted to play integrated sandlot football. I lived through those horrible times where the black population lived in what was called East End by nice people. Others called it N*%#$r Town. I wish I'd had the chance to go to an integrated school. Most people in our little town would have fought a war and people would have been killed.
The situation in this episode shows that change is needed and even mandatory but a big change all at once is sometimes not easy. Actually it's never easy.Paul Winfield guest stars as an African American Federal judge who insists on the busing situation. I was sad to watch Winfield because I was reminded how much we should all miss this wonderful artist. He always seemed to put everything into his performances and was just right. Never over the top, never dull but strong yet subtly nuanced. What a great actor and he adds so much to this episode. I don't want to even give an outline. I hate reviews that simply sum up the plot. Watch it for some truly thought provoking situations to which any of us can relate. An excellent episode which is, as usual, both topical and seemingly timeless.
Picket Fences: System Down (1994)
12 Angry Men Picket Fences style
Great episode about obvious murder which the scriptwriters use to once again force the audience to think about what is the law and how it may apply to every case differently because of certain details and the subjectivity of human beings no matter how much they reach for objectivity. Picket Fences thrived on controversy and this episode would have been controversial no matter how the verdict would have gone. Either way the episode challenged the preconceptions all of us can have in making serious decisions that will not only effect the person on trial but those who suffered because of him or other outside influences which may or may not have had an impact on the case. Anyway this episode had ended, and I will not say how it did because I hate spoilers, it was a well written and well acted one. One of the better episodes having the sheriff serve on a jury with a trial about killing cops.
Picket Fences: Guns 'R' Us (1994)
Guns and the insane attitude of America
There is something wrong with a country where other countries issue warnings about traveling to or visiting our country. This episode show how guns permeate our society and because of groups such as the NRA pressures congressmen, senators or anyone who can take any positive action to at least put sensible restrictions on guns. The thing this episode shows, and I don't see it as liberal propaganda, are the dangers of how easy children have access to deadly weapons. The final scene surprised me and said more about the entire milieu of the entire situation than most shows could say in an hour.
What prompted this review is the fact that I remembered Picket Fences as a surprisingly funny and also topical but I had forgotten how serious some of these shows were but after viewing this I looked up the date it originally aired and was surprised that it was 5 years before the Columbine shootings which made me realize how bad this gun situation was long before I even thought of it. We continue to pray about the slaughter of innocent children and adults yet take no serious action to do anything about it.
This episode made me think a little deeper about the whole situation we have and that guns are part of a larger problem which is how we have progressively over the years become better and better at self justification, rationalization and just plain not taking responsibility for our actions as a society as a whole. After Columbine, the first step at rationalization came about with the excuse of so-called bullying. Sure, bullying is an ugly and negative thing. However, talking with many people my age, we practically considered it a rite of passage. All the younger kids or virtually all got bullied at some time or the other but none of us thought we should kill people. We said, "I'd like to kill that SOB!" but we didn't really mean it. With smart phones and social media the level of bullying is much worse yet getting a gun and killing people is immature, insane and especially irresponsible.
I learned to hunt with a shotgun when I was still in elementary school and was taught by my father how to use a gun safely and responsibly. Most people I grew up with here in Texas were like me. We also played cowboys and Indians after watching western shows as well as playing war after watching films about war but we knew it was make believe so what has happened to us today? I don't have the answer and I'm not sure anyone has but the proliferation of guns in our society is a problem that is not going away by itself.
This really was a thought provoking episode which presented a serious and realistic problem. Did it give us any answers? I think not but perhaps if we had a few more shows that did provoke citizens to really reflect on the problem rather than just become more polarized we might be on the path to at least some answers.
Wagon Train: The Mark Miner Story (1961)
Two of the greatest young actors guest star as brothers
Both Brandon De Wilde and Michael Burns who play brothers in this episode are two of the most fascinating actors in my viewing experience. I remember De Wilde with Alan Ladd in Shane and later as younger brother to both Warren Beatty in All Fall Down and Paul Newman in Hud plus many other roles. Sadly he passed away at 30 following an accident. Burns, on the other hand, left acting and had degrees from both University of California and Yale, went on to write a well respected history book and was then a college professor for 22 years. When I was a kid there was something about Burns that always impressed me and finding out later his accomplishments didn't surprise me. An extremely sensitive and intelligent actor who even starred in a Robert Altman film with Sandy Dennis, Burns was a bit young here and had not hit his stride but would later become one of the regulars featured in the Wagon Train franchise as character Barnaby West.
The story itself is clever enough with some tension and mystery and while not one of my favorites it was still wonderful to see these two young, extremely talented fellows work together as brothers.
I might give this one a 10 just for the superb casting choices but there is something here once again involving the cook, Charlie Wooster, that is supposedly humorous yet by today's standards it would be considered bullying. I know Charlie would feel left out if not picked on some because he picks back but looking at it today I'm surprised how far his "whipping boy" part can be pushed and considered funny. I wish there was a special feature entitled What Charlie Wooster was REALLY Feeding his Tormentors! I'm sure Frank McGrath didn't mind playing the part of having to endure constant ribbing as well as Terry Wilson, one of the worst at dishing it out, since both got to be real stars for a change for 8 seasons with a good, steady income. I think that Wilson did some stand in work for John Wayne and stunt work and he's also a fine actor. I was never a big Denny Miller fan but he certainly didn't hurt the series. It hurt the series to lose Ward Bond and again when Robert Horton left the series. Still, overall Wagon Train was one of the best shows of any kind during it's 8 year run.
One of the few straight bad guy roles Rickles played as opposed to his scathing personal appearances where he used insults in an hilarious manner to make so many of us laugh. Some people never understood his humor but I liked it. Here he is guest starring with one of my favorite character actors, Albert Salmi and they both shine. Salmi has been taught by Rickles character that he is somehow a dumb animal and it takes the love and admiration from some young people to make him realize he can be important to other people's lives with a bit of prodding by Flint McCullough of course. I've always been saddened by Salmi's suicide. He was respected among fellow actors and he gave me many moments of enjoyment in so many great performances. When I was growing up it seemed as if every TV series had either Salmi or Claude Akins in it. Anyway, this episode has both excitement and human warmth in a nice balance.
Brought tears to my eyes
I've always like the character of Charlie Wooster. Loyal friend despite the brunt of constant jokes, a man who seems to find good in most people. If you are one who has watched all of Wagon Train you also are aware he was somewhat of a fearless war hero during the Civil War. In The Nellie Jefferson Story his undying and loving appreciation of a woman not worthy of the high esteem Wooster holds for her is played brilliantly by the great Janis Page. We find in this episode that Charlie is a wonderful cook when he so desires. Frank McGrath and Miss Paige are both excellent. She finally picks up on Charlie's special feelings for her but isn't totally clear until a great scene involving a scrapbook that leads to the denouement. A first class episode of Wagon Train for me. One of my favorites.I believe that McGrath was in more Wagon Train episodes than any other actor with Terry Wilson right behind. Those two seem to hold the show together.
Wagon Train: Path of the Serpent (1961)
2 Bad episodes in a row
The previous episode about women on the Wagon train was so sexist. I usually just assign star rating and don't feel like the time consuming work of writing any type review. However, I've enjoyed the one or two people who seem to be reviewing the episodes. I'm doing a marathon watch of Wagon Train and I must agree with the other review here that this is another silly episode although the one about the women was even worse for me. This one was truly ludicrous. Everyone involved in this great western series must have gone nuts when Ward Bond passed away. I really miss him and realized with this episode and even more with the previous one how great Bond was for this show. Of course the whole series was inspired by the John Ford film Wagon Master which had Bond in it and is one of the great and most underrated westerns for my money. John McIntire was probably as good an actor as Bond and he held the show together pretty well but the episodes without Bond or McIntire are really weak. The Path of the Serpent would have been good maybe for the Mickey Mouse Club but for an adult western it's pathetic.
Wagon Train: The Prairie Story (1961)
Womens stereotype foolishness
The only thing this episode shows is how our attitudes about women have changed. I was shocked to see how hysterical so many women were. It's like Birth of a Nation and I suppose it's important to see the prejudice everyone had toward women. They aren't people? I've seen women that were stronger than most men and I have rarely seen all women act like fools. It's an insult to my grandmother, my mother, daughter and all women. I can't think of anyone who would want to turn back especially if they were afraid. You don't think most women are logical enough to realize turning back alone and go back where Indians attacked rather than stay with the 100 or so together. I'll bet that there were many men who panicked on such a journey. It's hard enough to overlook the prejudice against the Indians. I suppose I should rate this higher because I hate when people want to re-write history so the importance of this episode is like I mentioned before - our general attitude toward women. I'm surprised women had the right to vote when this episode of Wagon Train was written. Terrible episode that reminded me of the prejudice toward African Americans who were never cast in any important roles in this time frame. As messed up as our country is this, at least, reminded me of how far we've come.
Kurosawa's Most Underrated Film? - It screams for Criterion release!
This, for me, is one of the most beautiful films ever made. Considered by many to be 2nd rate Kurosawa, that's something I just don't buy. So many of his techniques are on display, infinity shots, close-ups, telephoto manipulations, great storytelling (for the most part) and some of the best color cinematography I've yet to see. I love this film. If critics did not know who the director was, I believe it would be considered a classic but some artists are virtually always held to expectations that are foolish. I have seen almost all of Kurosawa's films and I've never seen one I didn't like. Some are masterpieces, some near masterpieces and even his weaker ones always interesting. I was surprised how much i liked The Quiet Duel and I Live in Fear perhaps because they are not written about constantly like Ran, Seven Samurai, Yojimbo or the wonderful Ikiru.If any of his films deserved a Criterion Blu-ray release, this is it and I think it is only one of perhaps 3 that Criterion has not done. Certainly the only reason must be to do with getting the rights and not that they think it isn't deserving. It is written that Kurosawa came to color late yet he was a painter, therefore his wonderful albeit overly colorful films. Overly colorful for realists but not artists who know how to employ it with genius. It's simple, beautiful, a true piece of film art by one of the greatest directors in film history.
Stoney Burke (1962)
Available on DVD!
I never though Jack Lord was a great actor yet as Stoney Burke was fortunate enough to be cast as the lead in a show that, for me, stood apart from the average show at the time. It had depth and Lord was never better although Hawaii 5-0 became an all time favorite it was not even close to being as great as Stoney Burke. I'm a fan of great actors, not stars and gossip and it was about this time in my life that I discovered an actor by the name of Warren Oates. He was better than Lord although Lord was a perfect example of great casting. He was exactly right for this modern day western. Bruce Dern, another favorite of mine, had good screen time here. There are so many DVD releases but here is a classic that should be available so people could appreciate great acting of the aforementioned actors plus an amazing array of guest stars. This show is a true gem as many others have written. It should not be a forgotten part of TV history. You can find some of the greatest acting in shows like this as well as Naked City, Route 66 (most underrated show ever), Death Valley Days, The Rifleman, Johnny Staccato, Slattery's People as well as the classics like Gunsmoke and Perry Mason. I've been watching some old TV recently. Today I'm exploring another sadly under appreciated actor, Vic Morrow, in Combat which was another great series. Someone, please release a pristine set of Stoney Burke DVDs.
I jumped the gun. Recently purchased complete Stoney Burke series. I had forgotten it was only one season!