Saturday Frights Podcast Ep. 099 – Examination Day

Friends, it is the start of the work week for many of you, so why not get it off to a fright start? At least we hope you will choose to listen to the brand new episode of the Saturday Frights podcast, with the subject of this episode being a 1985 segment of the CBS The Twilight Zone revival series entitled “Examination Day”. A rather memorable offering from the first attempt at capturing the lightning in the bottle of Rod Serling’s original 1959 television series. One that as I mention in the podcast itself was able to leave me shaken, with the segment itself being talked about in class at school the following Monday.

The Twilight Zone segment “Examination Day” is based on an 1958 short story of the same name by Henry Slesar, who was a prolific author, selling his stories in numerous magazines in the mid-fifties. Although the Projectionist and I discuss it on the show, his writing actually attracted the attention of Alfred Hitchcock himself, which is how Slesar found himself writing for such television series as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, in addition to Serling’s The Twilight Zone to name just a few. Which was right in Slesar’s wheelhouse as he was quite fond of delivering ironic twist endings in his work.

“Examination Day” concerns a young boy by the name of Richard “Dickie” Jordan Jr, played by Over the Top‘s David Mendenhall, who is looking forward to taking his Government mandated exam.While the young boy shows no outward signs of being concerned or that anything is amiss, why do his parents Richard (Christopher Allport) and Ruth (Elizabeth Norment) seem so scared?

Without further ado, please join the Projectionist and myself at the Haunted Drive-In, as we discuss “Examination Day” on the Saturday Frights podcast. As always we want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to listen to the show, and hope that you are enjoying season three of the podcast so far.

If you have any suggestions for topics you would like for us to cover in a future episode – or possibly you have comments on the current show itself, email them to me at VicSagePopCulture@gmail.com You can also contact me on Twitter and on Facebook. In addition I certainly hope you will take the time to visit the Saturday Frights Facebook Page. There you can find posts from Rockford Jay, Preston Griffith and myself on a daily basis.

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1972 Appearance of Rod Serling On The Dick Cavett Show

Friends, in the nearly 100 episodes of The Saturday Frights podcast, the Projectionist and I have managed to discuss quite a few classic episodes of both The Twilight Zone as well as Night Gallery. From “The Obsolete Man“, “Cool Air“, “The Changing of The Guard“, to the extremely emotional “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar” and more. It is my honest belief that Rod Serling, the creator and host of both The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery, was one of the greatest writers in television history. Using the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror, Serling and other writers were quite often able to tackle the social issues of the day… many of which are sadly just as relevant today. That is why the likes of the original Twilight Zone episodes in particular feel so timeless, they might very well be in black and white but they are still powerful thanks to the astounding writing from not just the likes of Serling (who would write or adapt 92 of the 156 episodes) but Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, George Clayton Johnson, Jerry Sohl, and Ray Bradbury among others. To say nothing of the legions of talented people in front of and behind the camera, say like Bill Mumy (Lost in Space, Babylon 5) – who starred in “Long Distance Phone Call”, “It’s A Good Life”, and “In Praise of Pip”. Be warned there is just a brief moment of SALTY language in the interview.

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It was in 1969 on the night of November 8th that the film pilot for Night Gallery was aired on NBC, featuring three memorable segments that included the likes of Roddy McDowall, Ossie Davies, Joan Crawford, Tom Bosley, Richard Kiley, and Barry Atwater to point out just a few of the talented actors. The Night Gallery television series would debut a little over a year later on December 16th of 1970, with the first season actually running only six episodes – although each episode generally included two segments with a humorous or macabre short in the mix. I have read that following the first season, Serling found he didn’t have as much control of the series as he thought, although he did continue to submit teleplays and act as host for the show.

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Rod Serling was not a fan of these shorts that were tacked on by Night Gallery producer Jack Laird (Ben Casey, The Dark Secret of Harvest Home), which would lead into a commercial break or even the end of the episode. Serling was quoted in Nicholas Parisi’s Rod Serling: His Life, Work, and Imagination:

“I thought they [the blackout sketches] distorted the thread of what we were trying to do on Night Gallery. I don’t think one can show Edgar Allan Poe and then come back with Flip Wilson for 34 seconds. I just don’t think they fit.”

It would seem to be the lack of creative or artistic control that understandably bothered Rod Serling the most, especially considering what he was afforded with The Twilight Zone. Having said that however it isn’t like he didn’t find himself having to defend that series from the suits at CBS in addition to the sponsors for the five seasons it aired. In fact creative control on Night Gallery is exactly what Serling brings up in this 1972 interview on The Dick Cavett Show – one that also happens to feature Arthur C. Clarke and Cassie Mackin as guests.

VIDEO PROVIDED BY The Dick Cavett Show.

In closing out this article, you might be interested to know that this episode of The Dick Cavett Show originally aired on the evening of July 12th of 1972. Which means that the interview took place between the end of the second and beginning of the third and final season of Night Gallery.

Check Out This Mission Impossible View-Master Reel Set

Friends, your mission, if you should choose to accept it is to watch this wonderful 1968 View-Master reel set for the popular Mission: Impossible television program. Curiously enough this delightful View-Master offering is actually based on the thrilling two-part story entitled “The Bunker”. The first episode of which originally aired on CBS on March 2nd of 1969 with the second part of the story being broadcast on March 9th. While the View-Master packet and reels themselves have a copyright date of 1968, I am pretty sure that it would not have been released until after these two episodes had aired – although I can find no record of when the reels were released. At the very least I can share with you that “The Bunker” was from Mission: Impossible‘s third season and were episodes 72 and 73 of the long-running TV series.

While the original leader of the Impossible Mission Force was Dan Briggs, played by Law & Order‘s Steven Hill, it would be the iconic Peter Graves as Jim Phelps that would lead the team beginning on September 10th of 1967 and for the remaining five seasons. And while there were guest stars galore throughout the run of the show, the original core team of IMF agents included Barnard “Barney” Collier (Greg Morris), William “Willy” Armitage (Peter Lupus), Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain), and Rollin Hand (Martin Landau). By far my favorite characters from the original team were Collier, who handled all of the mechanical and electronic demands, and Hand – who was a master of disguise, magician, as well as escape artist.

For this View-Master Mission: Impossible reel set adaptation of “The Bunker”, the IMF team must attempt to rescue Dr. Rojak (Milton Selzer) and his wife (Lee Meriwether) from an underground bunker. The scientist is being forced to work on a deadly long-range missile, with the government of his country threatening to kill his wife if he doesn’t produce results. To make matters worse, another government has learned of this and sends in an enemy agent to stop the missile research by any means necessary – can the IMF force rescue the scientist and his wife in time?

VIDEO AND ARTICLE IMAGE PROVIDED BY Jarl Grimm Toys.

Obviously with only a mere 21 images to tell the story, it should go without saying this is an extremely abridged version of the two-part story. If you want to see all of the action and intrigue that “The Bunker” has to offer you can watch it on CBS All Access – which should be transforming into Paramount+ tomorrow – on the 4th of March.

Celebrate The Holiday With The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw

Friends, from all of us at Pop Culture Retrorama, we hope you and yours are having a safe and happy holiday. I thought that since it was Thanksgiving that we should share an appropriate retro holiday special – I originally thought perhaps that 1979’s Intergalactic Thanksgiving or Please Don’t Eat the Planet would be a great choice – but in all honesty I talked about it already in that PCR podcast special. Instead I thought you might enjoy The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw – an uplifting Thanksgiving special that originally premiered 40 years ago on the 20th of November. I am not sure what I was doing on that night back in 1980, but I also managed to miss Daffy Duck’s Thanks-for-Giving Special, which was shown before the Berenstain Bears’ special.

The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw happens to be the second of five animated specials based on the popular book series by Stan and Jan Berenstain. The first as a matter of fact was The Berenstain Bears’ Christmas Tree, that aired on December 3rd of 1979. In addition this animated special was written by Stan and Jan Berenstain and has the first appearance of the character of Bigpaw – who would go on to show up in future books as well as the mid-’80s animated series on CBS.

Music for the holiday special was overseen by Elliot Lawrence (As the World Turns, Network) – although the lyrics for the three song featured in the special were provided by Stan Berenstain. It featured Ron McLarty (The Flamingo Kid, The Postman) as both the narrator and the voice of Papa Bear, with Pat Lysinger, Gabriela Glatzer, and Jonathan Lewis as Mama, Sister, and Brother Bear. Bigpaw was voiced by Bob Kaliban, who you might recognize from the likes of Car 54, Where Are You? or the 2009 version of Schoolhouse Rock!.

Video Provided by Jack Sheldon – Topic.

The story for The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw concerns a legend in Bear Country known appropriately enough as ‘The Thanksgiving Legend of Bigpaw’. It states that if the bears show no signs of being generous to the needy – especially with the gifts provided by Mother Nature – then Bigpaw will show up to eat up Bear Country due to the ‘selfishness debt’. As it turns out, the legend is… partly… true. Can Thanksgiving be saved after a disastrous meeting between Bigpaw and the citizens of Bear Country?

Video and Article Image Provided by Berenstain Bears.

1961 Rod Serling Interview On The Bob Crane Show

Friends, after posting the 1989 launch of the Sega Genesis earlier, I felt that the second article for today should be more in line with the Season. As I was watching the Projectionist, my co-host on the Saturday Frights podcast, preparing his Facebook page post for the morning – I suddenly realized what I needed to share with you all today. What could be more perfect for this time of year than getting a chance to listen to Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery) chatting with Bob Crane on the latter’s extremely popular radio show on KNX from 1961. This was as a matter of fact the same year that Crane would further dip his toe into appearing in television and films, first with an uncredited role in The Twilight Zone episode entitled Static, then followed by another uncredited role in Return to Peyton Place, Man-Trap, and a return to the General Electric Theater series (He got his first acting gig with the iconic series in ’53).

Video Provided by Decades TV Network.

It would be another four years after this interview with Rod Serling before Crane landed the role he is probably best remembered for, that of Colonel Hogan in Hogan’s Heroes. Bob Crane however got his start in radio back in 1950, beginning WLEA in Hornell, New York – before heading to WBIS in Bristol and then landing at WICC in Bridgeport. It was in 1956 when CBS lured him to Los Angeles, California to act as host for the KNX morning show. Thanks to his quick wit, the fact he was amazing on drums, and his easy going manner, to say nothing of landing big name guests like Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe, and Frank Sinatra – that The Bob Crane Show became huge to say the very least.

This interview with Rod Serling on The Bob Crane Show was originally broadcast on December 11th of 1961. Which meant that The Twilight Zone was well underway on their third season – in fact four days after the interview – the episode Once Upon a Time starring the legendary Buster Keaton would air on CBS. In the interview, Serling talks about his early work as a writer for television – including for Playhouse 90 and Studio One. As well as what sounds like a little ‘bad blood’ between Twilight Zone producer Buck Houghton (Mission: Impossible, The Wraith) on who was being credited for doing the everyday work for the series – and much, much more.

Video Provided by Bob Crane: Life & Legacy.

Rod Serling in my personal opinion was an incredible writer – one that was never afraid to celebrate the best and publicly condemn the worst of humanity – which is why I believe that The Twilight Zone is still such an entertaining and informative television series.

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1961 Episode Of What’s My Line With Darren McGavin

Friends, the late and great Darren McGavin is an actor that left us with more than a few memorable roles in film as well as television, when he passed away in 2006. Whether that be from his roles as Carl Kolchak in Kolchak: The Night Stalker or from his parts in the likes of A Christmas Story or even The X-Files. But it’s not like those were the only roles that made Darren McGavin a household name – which is of course why he was one of the celebrities selected to appear as a guest panelist on an episode of 1961’s What’s My Line?

Originally the popular game show was going to be entitled Occupation Unknown – but would be changed to What’s My Line? before debuting on CBS on February 2nd of 1950. The show managed to run for 17 years and 25 seasons until it’s last episode aired on September 3rd of 1967. Although having said that there was a syndicate revival that started in 1968 and lasted until 1975 – all of this is one of the reasons that TV Guide ranked it as the ninth greatest game show of all time in 2003.

What’s My Line? featured a group of panelists made up of celebrities who had to attempt to guess the occupation of a show’s guest. During the celebrity mystery round in an episode – the panelists had to deduce the identity of said guest. The celebrity mystery guests over the 25 seasons included everyone from Eddie Albert to Frank Zappa – and the actual list of entertainers and athletes is truly staggering.

Now getting back to Darren McGavin, while he may have really hit it big in the ’70s and ’80s, the actor actually got his start on Broadway. His big TV break came in 1958 with Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer – with McGavin naturally playing the role of the famous private detective. While at the same time as he was playing Mike Hammer – he appeared on NBC’s popular show Riverboat – the series just so happened to feature Burt Reynolds… briefly… as McGavin’s co-star. As I understand it, Reynolds and McGavin did not get along on the set of the show – so after 20 episodes – Reynolds exited the series to be replaced by The Rockford Files‘ Noah Beery Jr.

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It wasn’t one of his TV series though that had McGavin appearing as a guest panelist on this episode of What’s My Line? – which originally aired on November 26th of 1961. It turned out he was appearing in the 1961 stage play entitled Blood, Sweat, and Stanley Poole – which was written by William Goldman (The Princess Bride) and James Goldman (The Lion in Winter). It also happened to feature the likes of Peter Fonda (Easy Rider) and James Caan (The Godfather)!

Video and Article Image Provided by What’s My Line?

Care To Check Out The 1981 WKRP In Cincinnati Blooper Reel?

Friends, in the nearly ten years that I was lucky enough to write for the Retroist site – one of the television shows that I enjoyed sharing memories about the most was WKRP in Cincinnati. Whether that be the hysterical fits of laughter even thinking about the first season episode entitled “Turkey’s Away” or to the fitting if unintended finale to the series with the fourth season episode “Up And Down the Dial“. The series easily ranks in my top five television shows of all time – along with the likes of Night Court and The Twilight Zone. One of those reasons is the exceptional ensemble cast that had been assembled for the show – although as I understand it – originally the focus of the series was going to be more on Andy Travis (Gary Sandy) as programming director for WKRP. Series creator and showrunner Hugh Wilson who based the show off some of his own experiences working at WQXII in Atlanta – wisely saw that series worked best focusing on the staff of the fictional radio station instead of just one person. In fact I’ll let the late and great Hugh Wilson explain it all himself – BE WARNED – when he begins talking about Bette Midler there is a moment of EXTREME salty language.

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I suppose once you’ve reached 72 years of age and are being interviewed about your legacy in pop culture – you are understandably allowed to express your true feelings on a subject, right? I am sad to say that Hugh Wilson who also directed the likes of Police Academy, Guarding Tess, The First Wives Club, and Blast from the Past – passed away two years after that interview.

Just like with such television series as Firefly and 1990’s The Flash among many others – the odds seemed stacked against WKRP in Cincinnati with continuous changes to it’s time slot. Which was surprising that it really seemed to have found it’s audience once it entered syndication – which is where I was first introduced to it. I cannot tell you truthfully how many Family dinners with my Grandparents were spent laughing and being moved by the characters of WKRP. At the very least we can all enjoy this hilarious blooper reel from 1981 – which I believe is put together from the third season of WKRP in Cincinnati.

Video and Article Image Provided by TheHughWilson.

In Memory Of Joe Ruby – Top Five Ruby-Spears Cartoon Intros

Friends, as I mentioned on the LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga article the other day – while I didn’t feel like writing the typical post on the passing of Joe Ruby – I am compelled to honor him in another fashion. In this case that would be presenting to you the top five best cartoon intros to animated series that were produced by Ruby-Spears. And just as with the likes of Carl Reiner, Ennio Morricone, Max von Sydow, and Sir Ian Holm – it is true that Joe Ruby had a good run, passing away on Wednesday at the age of 87. Although having said that it was kind of great to know that Joe Ruby and Ken Spears were still around – these two pioneers of animated television that forged a lifelong friendship at Hanna-Barbera. It was there at that famous animation studio where the duo helped co-create the likes of Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, Jabberjaw, and of course Scooby-Doo. In fact to lead off our look at the top five Ruby-Spears cartoon intros we are immediately bending the rules – starting off with Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! – I figure that since both Joe Ruby and Ken Spears worked on the series it gets a pass.

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Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! premiered on September 13th of 1969 on CBS and while having two seasons worth of episodes – it was continuously reaired until 1976. The popularity of the series led Ruby and Spears to quickly apply the general concept of the Saturday morning series to Josie and the Pussycats, Jabberjaw, and Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels to name a few. Fred Silverman who had originally pitched the concept of what would become Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! was at that time the head of children’s programming on CBS – when he moved to ABC in ’75 – he brought Joe Ruby and Ken Spears with him. While the duo weren’t afforded the opportunity to set up Ruby-Spears Productions until two years later – they did have a hand in the likes of Return to the Planet of the Ape for DePatie-Freling Enterprises. A series that might possibly have the most terrifying cartoon intro of all time!

Video Provided by 11db11.

On the other hand, you could argue that perhaps the Ruby-Spears produced Thundarr the Barbarian from the early ’80s had an equally scary intro. I am sure that in the near future we will tackle this classic animated series on an episode of the Pop Culture Retrorama podcast. Nothing like a little production design by the legendary Jack Kirby and the ruin of the Earth in the first 11 seconds to make a kid sit up and take notice, right?

Video Provided by Warner Bros. Entertainment.

As I understand it, Ruby-Spears was formed to kind of give Hanna-Barbera a run for it’s money on Saturday mornings. It certainly did when Joe Ruby and Ken Spears set their sights on an animated anthology series for CBS – I suppose they noticed that Hanna-Barbera were doing pretty good with Pac-Man for ABC. Instead of one iconic video game character the series would feature segments for such video games as Frogger, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Pitfall!, Kangaroo, Space Ace, and Q*bert.

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Our last Ruby-Spears cartoon intro is for an animated series that back in the day… I quite frankly never even knew existed – I’m talking about 1988’s Superman. It features stunning animation and in addition benefits from the “Superman March” by John Williams.

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Now Ruby-Spears Productions ceased operation in 1996 – after having been purchased by Taft Entertainment in ’81. The majority of their catalog was sold to Turner Broadcasting just ten years later – along with that of Hanna-Barbera as a matter of fact. But from reading up on Joe Ruby and Ken Spears it sounds like the duo never stopped working on new ideas for animated series – with I believe their last credited work being Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!. So, there are our top five Ruby-Spears produced or at least affiliated cartoon intros – what are some of your favorites?

Do You Remember Roger Rabbit And The Secrets Of Toon Town?

Friends, when Who Framed Roger Rabbit was released back on June 22nd of 1988, I feel it is safe to say that it did quite well for itself. Director Robert Zemeckis’ (Romancing the Stone, Back to the Future) film adaptation of Gary K. Wolf’s Who Censored Roger Rabbit? earned over 320 million dollars on a budget of 50.6 million. I believe you will agree that certainly buys an awful lot of carrots for it’s animated star, right?

And in hindsight it is easy to see why Who Framed Roger Rabbit made a killing at the box office – just the technical special effects married with animation alone were enough to dazzle audiences. Throw in an amazing performance by the late and great Bob Hoskins (Super Mario Bros.) with the likes of Christopher Lloyd (Clue), Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner), plus the voice talents of Charles Fleischer (Deadly Friend) as well as Kathleen Turner (Romancing the Stone) and you can see why it was a hit.

Betty Boop still has it!

Of course it didn’t hurt the film any that it also featured an astounding number of classic animated characters – all together for the first and possibly last time on the big screen. Were you aware though that a little less than three months after the film premiered – on September 13th of ’88 that CBS aired Roger Rabbit and the Secrets of Toon Town? It featured Joanna Cassidy as hostess and gave folks a behind the scenes look at how the technicians were able to pull off such incredible effects. To say nothing of how much hard work and planning was done by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Hoskins while filming Who Framed Roger Rabbit – although at one point the actor jokingly admits he was planning on offing his Director. In addition you get a behind the scenes look at the animators, voice artists, and even sound effect technicians at work on the film.

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As I was writing this article I noticed on the Internet Movie Database that there is an entry for a Who Framed Roger Rabbit 2 project slated for 2022 – although it is listed as being in pre-production. Perhaps this is something akin to TRON 3 where talks begin on producing a third film and then it all kind of gets derezzed before it manages to get off of the Game Grid. I think a new Roger Rabbit picture could be very interesting – not just catching up with some of our favorite characters but perhaps seeing how they fare with modern animation franchises.

Enjoy This 1980 Clip Of Lynda Carter Singing And Dancing With Kiss

Friends, to be up front about this clip from 1980’s Encore! television special – Lynda Carter in fact dances and sings with some Kiss look-alike performers. Although having said that it doesn’t diminish how incredibly awesome this presentation from Carter’s musical TV special really is. Encore! premiered on the evening of September 16th of 1980 with musical guests Merle Haggard and Tom Jones. The clip we are about to share starts off with Lynda Carter singing the 1979 hit “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy” from Bad Company – which is used as the intro for the entertainer to tackle songs from Tina Turner, Bette Midler, as well as Kiss. So do yourself a favor and take a moment to grab your favorite snack and beverage, travel back to 1980 and enjoy these performances by the one and only Lynda Carter.

Video and Article Image Provided by David Riggs.

Now to see the entire three musical numbers – follow this link to this Lynda Carter YouTube channel.

At the time that Encore! aired on CBS, it had barely been a year since the popular Wonder Woman TV series had ended. In fact this was the second musical special that Carter appeared in – back in January of that year was the Lynda Carter Special, which featured both Kenny Rogers and Leo Sayer. In that particular special she performed “The Rubberband Man”, the hit 1976 song by The Spinners – which she had actually done before on The Muppet Show!

Video Provided by Muppet Songs.

Lynda Carter would continue to appear as a guest as well as hosting even more specials through the ’80s – including a couple with Bob Hope, which makes sense as he was the one to crown her as Miss World USA as the representative for Arizona. Carter would go on to appear in the Miss World pageant in ’72 and while not winning that competition, it would be just three years later when she landed the lead in Wonder Woman. Lynda Carter of course hasn’t slowed down over the years as she has continued to appear in television and films. In addition she continues to show off her skills as a musical performer – in fact she was the voice for Magnolia in Fallout 4 and provided the songs “Good Neighbor” and “Train Train” for the game.

Video Provided by Lynda Carter – Topic.

In closing out this article, I want to give a huge thank you to Rockford Jay for sharing that clip from Encore!