12 February 2016

Pip, pip! Royal Documentaries!

Pip, pip! A Royal Documentaries List.
by Kristin Battestella

There's bling, a palace or two, plenty of scandal, and a boatload of history running over in these documentaries fit for any and all British monarchy enthusiasts.

The Queen's Palaces – A whimsical title card introduces this three part series detailing the history, architecture, and artwork therein of three official royal residences: Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and Holyroodhouse. While the tone is generally casual and down to earth, the presentation is a bit awed and self important at times – but that's okay amid Buckingham Palace's pretty red velvets, chandeliers, and you know, thrones. Historians on the scene, royal experts, portraits of past figures, and access to areas not often seen by the public help shape the on location hosting, interior tours, and factual narratives. From Henry VIII and our old friend George III to Albert, Victoria, and The Blitz, the theatrical symbolism and architectural trendsetting continues with Windsor Castle's military history and secret passages. Recognizable names and places such as William the Conqueror and St. George's Chapel highlight the castle's unique Da Vinci collections and mementos – right down to Admiral Nelson's lethal bullet complete with fibers still attached! Queen Mary's Dollhouse and post-fire restorations maintain a link to past English lineage while appearances are everything splendors reflect 1,000 years of changing design. Stunning scenery, snowscapes, and natural panoramas set the scene for Episode Three's focus on the Stuart stirrings and Mary, Queen of Scots scandals peppering Holyrood – where tiny emblematic jewels, stunning ceiling art, hefty tapestries, and delicate Victorian preservation tell tales of Catholicism versus Protestants and Bonnie Prince Charlie. It's quite neat to see places so commonly associated with today's royals as told through their historical occupants pre-Lilibet warts and all. These three hours share quite a bit, indeed, however I wish there were more seasons covering the other two dozen or so current royal locales. Because, why not?

The Royal Jewels Delightful not often seen video footage from as early as 1902 featuring the late Queen Mother, Mary of Teck, Queen Alexandra, and even Victoria anchors this hour long, tip of the iceberg look into some British bling. Understandably, much time is spent on the Cullinan diamond – I'm learning how to RP pronounce all these words I've only read – before the Imperial State Crown, The Sovereign's Sceptre, and a retrospective back to more Victorian gems. Unfortunately, I hate to say it, but the tone becomes inauthentic once the late Diana, Princess of Wales is shoehorned into the otherwise linear narrative. There are enough treats in the vaults to not stray into speculation about which of The Queen's jewels Diana maybe would have worn, and talking head experts with basic jewel information do better. In fact, all the shiny in a slideshow with factoid text bubbles would have been enough alongside the raw royal footage, but the presentation strays further into irrelevant side stories, anecdotes, hearsay, and divorce. The DVD release suggestions 2011, however, the film itself is clearly older since it refers to The Queen Mother in the present tense. Perhaps some sentimentality over Lady Di clouded the viewpoint, as unnecessary music plays as ominous or romantic – catering to ladies and feeling overly feminine when the straightforward information from the actual Court Jeweller is much more authentic compared to the uneven elitist or fanciful voiceover. Rare Edwardian reels and Russian Revolution footage are wow enough jewel provenance, and lesser seen Kent and Gloucester branches add gems along with the late Princess Margaret and even the Duchess of Windsor. Between the Crown Jewels, personal property, and more noble glitter, it's a lot to cover in such a short time. Imagine a series with an hour each on just crowns, brooches, necklaces, or episodes by royal! This documentary is by no means exhaustive. Compared to such a firm title, this feels fast, cheap, and generic in its uneven approach. Fortunately, some lovely big guns and fun jewel surprises are featured, and this is a nice starter video to begin your own shiny research.

Secrets of Henry VIII's Palace – The 501 year old Hampton Court Palace gets a 2013 spotlight in this hour long PBS documentary chronicling all the Tudor scandals inside its lavish brick facade. Serious, foreboding medieval chorales accent lovely outdoor visuals and garden splendors as well as stunning historical architecture, lush interiors, and embellished battle paintings. From Cardinal Wolsey's construction to real tennis matches and the massive kitchen and travel preparations for the King's entourage, this palace had to adapt as the divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived came and went. Those poor craftsman who put all the wives' emblems in the woodwork, tapestries, and stained glass – only to keep updating their work over and over again! Lavish ladies fashions of the time – a hefty five layers for drafty castles and cold jousting tournaments – are also detailed by both seated experts and historians on site. Armor explanations and downstairs feasting how-tos help connect Henry VIII's increasing decadence and ever shortening temper while trials and the boat ride to the Tower of London didn't always lead to smooth executions or swift head choppings. Naturally, the 16th century drama fills most of the time here, and the narrator moves steadily from wife to wife before William and Mary's baroque resurgence, the regal power reflected in their restoration, and a still smelly velvet commode! Good thing Queen Caroline added bathing suites and locks on the doors. Victorian preparations helped open Hampton to public tours, and the visual nuggets and examples of court life here put the Tudor melodrama we know and love into tangible, real life terms in one timeless location.

Tales from the Royal Bedchamber – This 2013 PBS hour acknowledges our obsession with the minutia of regal life and pulls out all the puns for this behind closed doors look. Beginning with Chaucer jokes, medieval clues, and 13th century artwork of Merlin being conceived by a demon (!) and continuing with historic separate beds, conjugal visits, and lavish fabrics, our host climbs the step stool to test those plump pillows. Though existing historical beds are tough to find and information is piecemeal, there are accounts of tremendous preparation for when the king traveled. They packed up the entire kit and caboodle – including the bed. One might gain power on the battlefield instead of in the bedroom, but either way, there were fleas. Over the centuries, regal consummation and marital witnessing strayed near voyeurism, and the intimate of the bedchamber became the political utmost for the Tudors with pregnancy, bed rest customs, and dynastic failures putting the church and country in peril. And what's this about an alleged baby swapping via an old fashioned bed warming pan? Favored courtiers all wanted to tuck the king in at night so they could whisper their ambitions in his ear. Monarchs in the 17th century couldn't exactly be alone in the bedroom, but Official Royal Mistress maker Charles II must have liked it that way. Little has changed for weavers crafting luxurious silk linens, and once upon a time, aristocrats footed the bill for such lavish beds in hopes of a royal visit – because you have to have that kind of theatrical bed canopy handy. Of course, those steeped in euphemisms Victorians were actually pretty randy, but their bedrooms were reserved for the personal or intimate rather than being the political hotbed. Be it decorative or for nighttime shenanigans, this hour has enough tongue in cheek fun with everything from bed construction, servant protocol, and the tawdry between the sheets without sacrificing on the informative.

08 February 2016

Contemporary British Horror Shows

Contemporary British Horrors
by Kristin Battestella

These short series, documentaries, and films hailing from across the pond were made recently, but carry a whiff of history and period piece air nonetheless. While some are quality, bizarre, or cheesy and some are frightfully bad and confusing – these bonus British flavors are at the moment all on Hulu Plus and Amazon Video for stateside anglophiles. Yippee!

The Secret of Crickley Hall – Eerie reverse negative titles and ominous music set the cold, isolated mood for this three hour 2006 miniseries based upon the titular novel, and past screams immediately disturb present dreams – contrasting previous trauma with contemporary family mornings, and sassy daughter Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones). Despite great locales and a lovely manor house mixing updated designs, old décor, creaking stairs, hiding nooks, and divine woodwork, we know moving to a spooky home won't overcome the playground abductions, guilt, and hysteria – even the family dog knows what's afoot. Fortunately, the modern setting is not intrusive, allowing for jump scares in the attic, basement warnings, and potential family psychic connections amid Blitz orphanage harshness, period fashions, stiff upper lip severe, and handyman David Warner (Titanic) linking the two eras. This parallel storytelling may be irksome to some, however the scenes are well matched and balanced evenly. Neither feels as if one time is intruding upon the other, and both plots are needed to tell the tale. The editing is also shrewdly concurrent, almost as if past and present coexist – eliminating the need for a research montage or catch all flashback now that we see the history in real time. Mass drownings, gravestones all with the same year, food is a reward not a right in this school, and the viewer not only believes these times are standing still enough to merge but we want the current residents to reveal all. Is mom Suranne Jones (Coronation Street) willing to risk her children at hand to find those lost? Does she hear what she wants to believe? Marital disagreements and ghostly interactions escalate as past papers are discovered, but the tone remains self aware with wise youths, reluctant mediums, and a parsonage looking the other way. While not super scary, the suspense and good drama let the audience speculate on past nasty and root for righteous schoolteacher Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel). Of course, as usual, the scientific man is unconvinced despite encounters and the wife with loss is a seemingly erroneous believer. Rival psychics help or hinder the past darkness and shadows – sometimes visually mirroring a near black and white patina. Suggestive water, phantom canings, surprising deaths, and evil old ladies bring everything together. Though some people and plot points are obvious, witnessing this past still very much in the present has far more impact, and some frightful retribution makes from a fine finish.

The Toy Box – Animated legends and Norfolk fairytales open this 2005 slasher with happy kids games and magical storytelling – until a pet ends up in the blender...yeah. Colorful interiors, a quirky house, and should be quaint locales set the scene for holiday family gatherings, but creepy artwork is being sent in the mail – er post – and unnecessary, shaky cam zooms interfere with the bizarre parents, crazy granny, too close siblings, and taut tension at the table. Choppy editing keeps restarting the story with little explanation on who is who, and numerous scenes fade out without really ending or serving any purpose. This film reeks of an incomplete fly by night production disguised as weird trying to be avante garde – enough with the ritual echos, unexplained nonsensical, and juvenile cartoons. Though shrewd, affordable, and in keeping with the child fantasy aspects; the animated recountings of local myths also feel like the cheapest way to show rather than tell. This animation and the disjointed childhood flashbacks delay the story at hand when websites, books, and intriguing characters telling tales about the fire is information enough. Along with distorted dreams and just the right amount of gore, mysterious amulets, candlelight dinners, smoky mirror reflections, snow, and meat hooks build mood over the eighty minutes. Yes, too many confusing things are happening and much of this will be too out there or just plain dumb for some audiences. It's tough to forgive the low budget mistakes and struggling production shortchange dominating over all the good potential, violence, and horrors, too. Fortunately, there are enough frights in the final act for viewers to hang in there for the twisted enjoyment of seeing folks get what they deserve.

Maybe Try...

Bedlam – Spooky visuals, text message warnings, and phantom GPS directions are just the beginning for this 2011 six episode debut brimming with old fashioned writing on the mirror and ghosts in the machine – all at the titular asylum cum luxury apartments, of course. The credits are creepy, however the in your face music and trying to be saucy indicates the soap opera oriented roommate make outs, emo meets yuppie players, and bad twentysomething chic styles. The who and why fors aren't immediately established – institution history, adoptions, and three hundred year old family secrets wait thanks to easy ghost of the week clichés. The adulterous Bitch, Black Best Friend, and Bi-curious labels also stereotypically define the characters by their relationships rather than the individuals they are, and Chiseled Cheekbone Psychic White Guy Theo James (Divergent) feels been there done that. His ghostly vision jolts are pretty humorous yet his hotness flusters all, and everyone must behave stupidly for the horrors to happen – like pulling on the locked doorknob to escape when the top half of the door is a window. If our star can see one's death by touch then why do we need person of the week coincidences? Some special effects are for the viewer's sake as well, erroneously calling attention to the medium instead of building atmospheric immersion when other minimal ghost visuals and distorted camerawork are enough. Dreams, dark car parks, eerie red lighting, and ghoulish green ghosts certainly make it difficult for Hugo Speer (The Full Monty) to keep his family building business in the black. Phenomena on the security cameras, vehicular horrors, creepy construction, research history, and period flashes are much more interesting than any hip drama, too. A crazy conspiracy lady, who knows what revelations, spiritual interventions for good or ill, and colonial bad karma are all much better shady alongside little girl ghosts, dangerous turrets, and dead bodies. It's tough to watch these forty plus minute episodes individually and a fast marathon is better, however the latter half is more focused on the spooky rather than sexy with hidden room horrors, tarot cards, and evidence burned leading to a multi level finale topper.

But Skip...

Bedlam Series 2 Although you kind of have to see what happens next, I wasn't going to continue this Second six episode season thanks to too many meh characters in Year One. Although the total cast revamp makes this seem like an entirely different show, unfortunately, the reset only makes things worse with more making out yuppie flatmates and the replacement of one scheming a-hole manager for another ruining the refreshingly diverse casting. Let's test prospective clients by fact checking them on trips to Thailand because we all hop, skip, jump, and vacay when we can't pay the rent, yeah! New EMT who sees the dead Lacey Turner (EastEnders) is in search of answers from last season, however her constant screaming and crying gets old very fast. Hugo Speer has good paranormal encounters but still looks the other way at deadly history – and rebounds by fetishing with his daughter's Asian BFF. Ominous construction, creepy pictures, and blurred imagery add to the phantom toys, and recurring ghosts, but the hip bar, pool, and gym don't make us care about the weekly resident drama. A dead bride covered with blood surely wants more than calling off a modern wedding – too many easy solutions or dismissals give no spiritual restitution. Heck, the series Wikipedia page has more detail than what's onscreen, and candelabras or abandoned chapels don't hide the padded run time. Despite dun dun dun familial twists – which brings out pathetic racist reactions from the all these jerks – and abortion bombshells, ten minutes of a possessed Autistic boy chanting in Latin is more interesting than all the ham-fisted here, which I barely finished watching.

You Make the Call...

Great British Ghosts – This 2011 documentary series isn't herky jerky, boo, what's that, paranormal investigators in your face – which audiences so, so tired of that faux reality trend will prefer. Unfortunately, I can't tell if this presentation is meant to be taken as serious or comical, and I am leaning more towards thinking these Brits are taking the piss, as they say, with viewers. The infrequent male narrator comes and goes willy nilly, but he says me, we, and I while the woman hosting the series goes to the places and does the actions he describes. Such an error wouldn't matter if the creepy was getting while the creepy's good, however, the paranormal stories themselves are poorly presented almost as an afterthought. Our omnipresent man and female guide go to an establishment and chat with someone marginally credible who awkwardly shares how one time they felt something. Maybe they didn't see anything, but they knew it was there! Once, another employee/guest/relative thought they heard something, got scared, won't come back, and Bob's your uncle this place is haunted. Rather than sharing specific histories of grizzly events that would lead to such eponymous activity, the entire show is all just a lot of hearsay. Again, some audiences may enjoy this kind of casual, hand-held, and rural experience rather than a windblown talking head historian, but the meandering segments feel overlong anyway at only twenty-two minutes. Honestly, I didn't finish all twenty episodes and just wanted to put it on mute. While some accents will be tougher than others are, it wasn't the all over the place dictation that was so bothersome – I just wanted to look at all the pretty places in peace. The superb locales, medieval architecture, and historic scenery we don't have stateside are the only things really working here. Had this presentation been styled as America's Castles with spooky voiceovers anchoring a video tour of ye olde haunted, well then, yes please!

05 February 2016

Bodies, Graves, and Coffins Oh My!

Bodies, Graves, and Coffins, Oh My!
By Kristin Battestella

The death rituals, wooden boxes, burials gone awry, and perverse morgue practices in this trio of twisted films old and new are not for the claustrophobic or faint of heart, I assure you.

The Coffin – It's a little tough to find information about this 2008 commonly titled picture. Fortunately, woodwork, nails, and bones set the mood for this Thai custom of cheating death by lying in a coffin in complete pseudo funerary. X-rays, visions of hospital beds, death as seduction artwork, and the passing along of bad karma thanks to used coffins add to the in limbo atmosphere, ill luck reversals, and fantastical news reports. Toddlers cry beside this mock ritual, not understanding why – surely this bizarre practice mocks fate rather than cleanses its practitioners. Unfortunately, the digital gradient here is ridiculously blue tinted. Outside of some scary fire action, seriously everything is blue. While phones and texting are slightly annoying as well, interior darkness and precious phone lights accentuate the claustrophobic, up close viewpoints inside the limited titular space – capturing the paranoia and confinement fears we all secretly harbor. Heart stopping scares, reviving emergencies, and bloody bodies add to the eighty minutes of unease as do some surprisingly good jump scares and hauntings. Is it all just sensory deprivations and coffin crazed hallucinations? Although the premise is intriguing, our players aren't really introduced, and confusing visions and disjointed flashbacks never give the audience firm footing. Is this ghosts, dreams, a coma, purgatory, all in somebody's head? It's not an enjoyable mystery when you are deliberately being obtuse with try hard plot holes and that oh so blue sophistication. Has anything real actually happened amid this plodding, intertwined editing? The slow pace and head scratching inexplicable can be frustrating here. Thankfully, the unique locale, variety of languages, Eastern customs, and refreshing non-whitewashed casting add enough bonuses to witness this kind of fresh horror tale. But seriously, enough already with the blue! 

Dead and Buried – The idyllic New England coast and brisk, seaside beauty complete with saucy photoshoots and old fashioned, sentimental camera shutter clicks belie the carefully orchestrated violence to come in this 1981 shocker. More flashbulbs, phone operators, and sweet big band music add to the earlier mid century quaint – this morgue has a twisted sense of class, respect, and demented beauty in death but too much murder per capita. No mom, dad, and little boy lost on the way to vacation, stay away! These escalating, suspenseful, and creative kills are a community activity; it's the town pleasure to lure visitors to abandoned, isolated areas for these ninety odd minutes of atmosphere and hysteria. All of Potter's Bluff seems in on the well laid trap – except for new big city educated sheriff James Farentino (Dynasty) returning to his old home town in a man alone verses a warped The Wicker Man cult society. How long has this been happening? These crimes, dead bodies, and townsfolk aren't what they seem, and talk of witchcraft books and zombie voodoo folklore don't provide answers. The mystery reveals itself as the bizarre increases, and the period piece style is also slightly prophetic – mass mobs photograph the macabre as we rubber neck at a car accident and replay the morbid with social media. Yes, some of the effects here are poor. However other designs are very good, and the superb looking blu-ray also provides featurettes on the Stan Winston (Terminator 2) effects alongside interviews with young Fred Kreuger Robert Englund and writer Dan O'Bannon (Alien). Though perhaps tame by today's standards regarding gore, there is more than enough blood, hearts, body parts, and snuff film leading to a wild, entertaining finish.

Shallow Grave – Zipping cars and a dizzying spiral staircase add to the head spinning roommate interviews and cruel, arrogant personalities of a young Ewan McGregor (Star Wars) and floppy haired Christopher Eccelston (Doctor Who) in director Danny Boyle's (Trainspotting) 1994 satirical dead body thriller. The them dorky versus us cool intercut editing establishes a demented sense of humor, and the bright, colorful yuppie kind of garish turns darker once their mysterious new roommate enters with a suitcase full of money only to die naked in his bed a few days later. We don't know the full extent of this tenant arrangement, but the sexual tension with Kerry Fox (Intimacy) is apparent even if the trust between this trio is growing thin after chopping off heads, sawing off some hands, knocking out a few teeth, and burying a body or two. Although already amoral enough, no one wants to get their sophisticated hands dirty – but oh how chopping up a body for the money reveals one's sadistic nature! Great quips soon lead to sardonic, amateur body bungling mixed with real crime and violence professionals. A bleak booby trapped attic, divisive secrets, and calculating behaviors escalate as police and newspapers loom. Who's plotting what and uniting to point the finger against whom? Red photography, footsteps, and The Wicker Man on their television charge the atmosphere as the increasing cover ups lead to more death, creepy behaviors, and suspicions. The subtitles will be necessary for those who have a tough time with thick accents, but the interviews and commentary on the Criterion blu-ray edition add some bemusing insights. Superb shocks and greedy, ironic twists keep this genre-bender intense for the full ninety minutes. 


03 February 2016

Whitechapel Season 2

Whitechapel Season 2 Slips Slightly
by Kristin Battestella

Rupert Penry-Jones returns as Detective Inspector Joe Chandler for the second, three part series of Whitechapel. This time, Chandler, Detective Sergeant Ray Miles (Phil Davis), and the East End team must unravel several violent crimes mirroring the actions of the infamous Kray Twins. Soon, the detectives find themselves targeted by a new pair of Kray descendants orchestrating a complex web of law-breaking and corruption.

Cold credits with period cityscapes, sixties gangsters, and mid century boxing establish this Part One won't be a Jack the Ripper copycat case continued. DI Chandler is bored with routine, simplistic cases, and the snickers from the rest of the establishment won't let him forget the letdown of the Ripper results. Fortunately, new blood and violence intercut with the banal of detective dinners jars the empty idle of the quiet squad room. They shouldn't be excited when the phone rings, but floaters and precious few clues break the tedium of nothing to do but clean and re-clear desks. Whitechapel balances both the research of the crime – right down to a handmade shoe – and the extremes of the job well. Is there an insider on the case? Who has the skill and authority to pursue policemen at home? Escaped prisoners are found dead while past shades of Kray connections and mysterious informants add more than a whiff of organized crime and higher corruption. Anonymous tips, gang related parallels, and heavy costs within the department send constables walking away from the case. Perhaps the Krays' infamy may not be as well known stateside – certainly their tale isn't as popular for Ripperologists. However, Whitechapel weaves a complex case of thugs, violence, and an up the ladder trail. At times, there are too many names, who is who, dismissed suspects, and scared witnesses, but by Part Two, arrests are made despite a not always helpful Organized Crime Division.

Escalating interconnected crimes erupt over street cred and criminal celebrity while mistaken identities, suspicious damages, and squad room construction directly interfere with the case. All are looking over their shoulders and ties at home assure no one ever truly gets out of East End. With such threats and abductions, this case isn't going to be solved by doing things proper and by the book. Paranoia is getting to the boys on Whitechapel, and the squad remains behind the ball thanks to tense consequences, old retributions, and a reluctance to talk from those in the know. An old fashioned bar room shootout sets up Part Three, leaving fatalities and disbelief in Whitechapel's wake. Everyone is on edge, suspecting resolutions in the wrong places and clouding the case with personal viewpoints. Whitechapel assures we are just as interested in our constables cracking as we are about the cracking of the case, and the learning to do their deductions the hard way makes for some superb trauma at times. Granted, the previous Jack the Ripper aspects can be oft done. However, this organized crime meets regular cop corruption same old can be found anywhere, and these unmemorable by comparison plots feel both stretched too thin and a little much for only a three part season. This should have been a taught, one off, ninety minute telemovie. Instead, Whitechapel sets its crime war stakes high – almost too high for our boys to win, rushing the changing of the tide with good cops versus bad gangsters symmetry turning into a slightly silly boxing ring ultimatum. Fortunately, despite a ridiculously simple and downright obvious answer, actual investigating pieces together the clues held all along, thus putting Whitechapel back on track for the finale.

Forget the jokes and Police Awards receptions, Detective Inspector Joe Chandler is more than happy to pick up the phone for a “We got one!” whodunit. Unfortunately, his eagerness to be on the street doesn't prepare him to be out of his element with rough crowds or tossed from private pubs. He marches about like he can handle himself, talking to whomever he wants as if his badge means something special. While he shouldn't be underestimated, he is off on the wrong foot with this case, playing into the criminals' hands, and getting caught – literally in the boot of the car as they say. He's warned to back off the case and should be looking over his shoulder more, but Chandler won't give up even after several mistakes. The suspects themselves tell him he is the wrong sort of policeman for this investigation, but Chandler attests that he doesn't care what people think of him whether he is in line or not. Of course, he's threatened to “take a holiday” and given one by force – not to mention his car is stolen and a donkey is left waiting in his parking space. He wanted a case to solve, however, the gangster games accentuate Chandler's OCD, and Joe's counting thumbtacks and sorting them by color to keep steady. Self-medicated drinking may curb these obsessive compulsions, but such interference doesn't help Chandler or the case. Our detective truly breaks once blood is on his hands – forcing him to realize he isn't the best cop and that's okay.

Crusty as ever but no less heartwarming in his own way, Phil Davis has no airs or graces as Detective Sergeant Ray Miles. He's right to call out the department politics and upward moving brown nosers for making Chandler the laugh of the force when Chandler's putting his team's safety before solving the case saved Miles' life. Unfortunately, Miles is having a tougher time getting back to the job than he likes to admit. Going his own way is one thing, but panic attacks and more pent up anger than usual mean Miles isn't always forthcoming with his previous ties and Kray family connections. Surprisingly, it's Steve Pemberton returning as Ripperologist Edward Buchan who helps Miles in a begrudging information exchange. Buchan knows a thing or two about the Krays and his amateur detective work comes in handy for the team. Again, I'd like to see more of Claire Rushbrook as forensic pathologist Caroline Llewellyn, but it is tough to have her involved beyond morgue moments. Although the ensemble is a bit too crowded this season, we like the detectives and root for them even when the writing is too thin or convenient on Whitechapel. At times the secondary police are too obvious, interchangeable, or unevenly used. Ben Bishop (Hunderby) as new transfer Finlay Mansell doesn't do much while Sam Stockman's young DC Emerson Kent idolizes Chandler – and pays for it dearly. George Rossi as family man and burly jokester John McCormack struggles greatly with the Kray situation, but Christopher Fulford as the demoted Constable Fitzgerald is still about the squad room, too. While Craig Parkinson (Misfits) is fun in his villainous dual role, Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead) as looks are everything, highly decorated Detective Chief Inspector Cazenove is worried about department embarrassments when this broadly written character is embarrassingly obvious on Whitechapel. If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck...

Now then, camera work should be used to accent the scene and build atmosphere, not call attention to itself with flash flash flashy as Whitechapel seems to think it must do to stand out compared to other police procedurals. Although not as bad as the debut season, this distorted photography or artsy scene changes aren't necessary when better straightforward filming is interspersed with brief narrations on the past crimes. Sepia slices via period crime photos and a montage mix would be okay – except slow motion is tossed on top for excessive hitting it over the head emphasis. It should be one or the other, and Whitechapel tries to look super sophisticated when the intrusive glossy dumbs down everything. Brief forensics scenes, surgical masks, and at the crime scene inspection do much better in adding that touch of macabre and violence. Shadows, alleyways, and darkness add a fitting sense of danger for our team while traditional editing builds the stalking scenes and ominous faces in the window. Now that these episodes are five years old, the use of technology is also minimal compared to the increasing instant crutch in more recent shows. Our detectives have cell phones – ahem mo-biles – and computers, but fortunately those devices are not an essential part of the crime solving.

After what feels like years of waiting, I was finally able to see this second series of Whitechapel on Hulu Plus. The DVDs never seem to be available here across the pond, so a few ninety second ads aren't a bother. The subtitles can be irksome at times, but it's easy to marathon these three episodes – which you almost have to do to keep all the details fresh. Yes, wise Whitechapel viewers will see the answer in the first ten minutes of the first episode. This isn't eerie anymore, and the tonal shift toward standard police drama is drastic enough to put off audiences who tuned in solely for the debut season's Ripper update. However despite the uneven writing flaws, viewers watching Whitechapel for the characters and the conspiracy possibilities can enjoy the yelling at the tele drama here.

26 January 2016

A John Wayne Trio

A John Wayne Trio
by Kristin Battestella

Well actually this a very specific niche trio of John Wayne adventure films from the forties – a few non-western or war pictures despite the war time, if you will. Ironically, these rip roaring tales were surprisingly tough to find streaming or from Netflix snail mail compared to Wayne's other larger than life pictures – so settle in and enjoy, pilgrim!

Reap the Wild Wind – Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend), John Wayne, and Paulette Goddard (The Great Dictator) mix shipwrecks, swindlers, and love triangles in this colorful1942 Cecil B. DeMille (The Ten Commandments) mid 19th century high seas adventure. Although sailor slang and nautical terms will be tough for some audiences without subtitles, schooner photography, whooshing winds, and thrashing waves invoke the perilous sea and forgive any obvious matte screens, rear projections, and soft focusing on the ladies. The underwater scenes and ye olde diving gear aren't bad, either, but my word that poor calamari! Cute monkeys and doggies add to the sweet period frocks, and the two hour plus run time moves fast between the rugged Key West inquests, stylish Charleston balls, and Victorian steam ship prizes. The young Wayne should have been a romantic lead more often, but here he's an angry seaman descending into illegal trade and reckless diving, shaping some intriguing turnabouts and character dimensions. Milland starts as a pompous jerk, yet there's a begrudging respect between the men. Though a progressive, pants-wearing businesswoman, Goddard's Loxi isn't always likable thanks to a laid on thick moxie and her playing both boys for her own gain. Several slaves are portrayed as stereotypically sassy, happy, and ready to gossip, too, while selling off enemy thugs to a whaling ship is wrongfully played as humorous. And Susan Hayward (also of the ill fated The Conqueror with Wayne) is meant to be from Cuba? DeMille tried his darnedest for an epic, coastal Gone with the Wind complete with a society shocking Scarlet loving the rogue and making aunts faint. However, this remains a fun melodramatic tale for the cast and seafaring spectacle.

Tycoon – South America, railroads, and romance lead to explosions, mountain tunnels, bridge perils, and an against the clock quest in this 1947 Technicolor saga. While matte paintings and facades are cardboard obvious and the sound is very uneven; sweet cars, lovely cathedral interiors, brightly dressed sophisticated ladies, and suave men's suits add proper flavor alongside rail carts, dynamite tools, and mining disasters. Likewise, John Wayne is an honest foreman who knows his job – when he's not being misbehaving and getting his contractor bosses in trouble with railroad financier Cedric Hardwicke (The Ten Commandments) that is. Wayne seems a little older than the role requires compared to leading lady Laraine Day (Dr. Kildare), too. However, The Duke knows what he's doing, and the audience immediately likes his getting the job done right and standing up to pressuring stockholders or rival engineer Anthony Quinn (Zorba the Greek). Unfortunately, the love and adventure mix feels like two separate movies – and building a dangerous railroad crossing without any fatalities on the job seems just a bit more important than a runaway date that ends up out of gas near some Inca ruins at sunset, because of course. Out all night with a girl and nothing happened but the Hayes Code is going to marry you! The pace drags thanks to coming and going soap opera styled conflicts, and Judith Anderson (Rebecca) has nothing to do. Melodramatic music swells when a woman dares talk back, telling her man she is wrong and will conform to his lifestyle. WTF? There are cliché Latino kids, but precious little espanol – eggs for breakfast? They're huevos! Although no one is trying on a fake bad accent, the locale doesn't feel as authentic as it should. The titular battle of wills hoped for something epic with an overlong two hour plus time, but the tale should have been woven tighter. Fortunately, this ditty proves Wayne could be a leading man with varied character depths, and a dangerous flash flood raging river finale goes out on top.

Wake of the Red Witch – Don't worry, I confuse the mid 19th century high seas adventure of this 1948 John Wayne and Gail Russell vehicle with Reap the Wild Wind, too. Here, The Duke's a crusty captain imposing the law on his ship but withholding coordinates and an impressive gold bullion cargo. He's commanding as always, capable on shore and off, but his rugged violence crosses the line – and gasp, Duke don't cross the line, eva! It's some fine dimension on our heroic image and the erroneous notion that Wayne only made westerns. Although, this feels like a sea faring western: two respected men fighting over the local water rights while a dame's on the line. Ships, girls – they're both called 'she' for a reason. Of course, the young romance is a bit meh, and the age difference between 40-year-old Wayne and his not yet bittersweet but no less angelic Angel and the Badman co-star Russell at 24 is apparent. The unneeded narration is a trite exposition technique slowing the action, and the story that we should have seen in the first place is mostly all told in two flashbacks. The soft volume can make the who's stealing from whom rivalry confusing, but the pretty hoop skirts are always nice to see. There is some reused footage, but the woodwork, waves, frigates, and sails set the mood in spite of the black and white limitation, adding scope and danger to the tense below decks and double crossings. It's not Hornblower, and the film constructs are too apparent in the storytelling, however, sharks, cannons, shipwrecks, early diving suspense, octopus duels (yes again), giant pearls, and even bigger man eating seashells complete the adventure. If you like classic movie melodrama, fun swashbucklers, and John Wayne, this will be a pleasant little viewing escapade.

18 January 2016

The Veil with Boris Karloff

Boris Karloff's The Veil a Pleasant Paranormal Discovery
by Kristin Battestella

Behind the scenes troubles and production turmoil put an abrupt halt to the 1958 supernatural anthology series The Veil, leaving host Boris Karloff and twelve in the can episodes of surprisingly quality unaired and on the shelf – until recently that is. Who knew?

Eerie music and Gothic castle arches lead to a grand fireplace complete with Mr. Karloff introducing these tales of supposedly true but unexplainable stories, and “Vision of Crime” provides a shipbound moment of clairvoyance and murder between brothers. The hackneyed old ladies fall a little flat, however Karloff and a pre-Avengers Patrick Macnee have some fun with the incompetent constabulary. In addition to hosting, Karloff acts in all but one episode of The Veil, and deduction on derringers, opportunity, and motive with a whiff of the fantastic help solve the case. “Girl on the Road” may seem then-contemporary slow to start with fifties innocence and a dame having car trouble in need of a man to fix all. Thankfully, roadside drinks, suspicious phone calls, and looking over her shoulder fears hook the audience into waiting for Karloff's mysterious arrival and the paranormal plot turn. While the trail leads to where we already suspected, the simmering mood keeps The Veil entertaining. Likewise, ship captain Boris serves up some deadly seafaring adventures with a side of poisonous snakes to his wife in “Food on the Table.” The disposal is for a pretty barmaid recently come into wealth – and of course, supernatural consequences follow. Again, the story may be familiar but the characters and performances see the viewer through the twenty odd minutes. An Italian setting adds flair in “The Doctor” alongside aging physician Karloff and his prodigal son. Stubborn superstitions versus new medical treatments leave a sick child's life in the balance, and I actually didn't see this twist coming. 

Ironically, the French accents are iffy rather than flavorful in “Crystal Ball,” but hey, when your upward mobile lady friend-zones you for your boss at least you get the eponymous gift, right? The foretelling effects are really quite nice with smoky swirls, upside down visuals, and distorted reflections. Moulin Rouge meetin' Uncle Boris adds to the saucy scandals, and naturally, our two timing mademoiselle gets what she deserves. Rival brothers, contesting wills, lawyer Karloff, family violence, and ghostly biblical warnings anchor “Genesis,” however “Destination Nightmare” has a different opening and introduction before its dreams and mysterious pilot sightings. Crashes, parachute errors, and propeller sputters add to the fears, fine flying effects, and wild toppers while rising temperatures and New York bustle make for some murderous window views in “Summer Heat.” The crime may not be what it seems, yet silence during the observations add to the helpless feelings. It's nice to see such fifties coppers confronted with the unexplained in their investigation, too. Despite the unique India 1928 setting and Eastern philosophies, “Return of Madame Vernoy” feels western fake thanks to bad casting. I mean, sure he likes to tan, but George Hamilton?! Fortunately, remembering past lives and reincarnations remain an interesting concept. Do you go back to the living the life before and contact family from the past? Can you move forward knowing what was or is there some other purpose for such memories?

"Jack the Ripper” is the lone episode of The Veil with Karloff featuring in the bookends only, and the production differences are apparent. However, Victorian spiritualism and professional clairvoyants make for an interesting spin on the Whitechapel theme with brief flashbacks accentuating the predictions and dreamy, eerie quality. The violence is unseen, but reading the scandalous newspaper reports on the crimes create reaction and believability. While the viewing order of the episodes is irrelevant, random VHS or video releases and an elusive two disc DVD version billed as Tales of the Unexplained can make watching The Veil in its entirety a tough, frustrating hunt. Fortunately, it's also fun to discover new old television thanks to today's technology, and The Veil is available on Amazon Prime – complete with subtitles! The transposed episodes and mislabeled descriptions, however, are confusing without a third party list, and Amazon is also missing two more episodes of The Veil which can be found on Youtube. The Veil's original pilot “The Vestris” aired as an episode from another anthology series Telephone Time, and wow, that show has some fifties hallmarks complete with a housewife dreaming of dancing to her new dial tone! Thankfully, sailor songs, fog, phantom coordinates, and ominous quarter bells give “The Vestris” a proper shipbound atmosphere. A lady on board bodes of misfortune, and Karloff's appearance doesn't disappoint. “Whatever Happened to Peggy” has familiar people, places, and young lady not who she seems to be. Her memory difficulties and escalating coincidence make for a creepy and unexpected cap on The Veil. 

The mid-century cars and fashions look sweet, and The Veil uses period settings and Victorian panache to fit the time as needed. Somehow, big skirts, bowler hats, and cravats always add to the spooky mood along with candles, gas lamps, and tea sets. Well done music accents the supernatural sophistication, strong characters, and sly drama. The Veil would seem to use its morality before the twist plotting to set itself apart from other anthologies of the era, however Karloff's unseen series predates One Step Beyond, The Twilight Zone, and The Outer Limits – only the earlier Tales of Tomorrow or Alfred Hitchcock Presents provided competition. Each half hour moves fast, knowing how to be eerie enough to fill the time but not over stay its welcome once we know the twist. Although the introductions could be worded better and Karloff gives a postscript telling what happens next rather than showing it, The Veil admits up front that there will be no explanations. If not for a somewhat limited availability, this much shorter six hours is certainly easier to marathon than Karloff's own later Thriller series. Where Thriller struggles to fill its sixty minute time with crime or suspense plots and never quite goes full on horror as it could, The Veil uses murder and scandal for a paranormal punchline just like it promises.

Now similar anthology tales of premonitions, ghosts, astral projection, or psychic phenomena will make The Veil obvious for wise speculative viewers – the unfortunate result of it's previously unviewed shelf life. The small number of episodes leaves The Veil feeling too brief to be of real substance, and its quick run through may leave one lacking or wanting more. Fortunately, the possibilities were here alongside Karloff's macabre charm, fun mini twists, and surprising paranormal guesses. The Veil may not look like much, but its black and white mood, well told stories, and fantastic toppers are more than enough for a spooky, rainy afternoon marathon anytime of year.

14 January 2016

The Bob Newhart Show: Season 1

The Bob Newhart Show Season 1 Remains Delightful
by Kristin Battestella

Despite debuting over forty years ago, the 1972 First Season of The Bob Newhart Show remains packed full of twenty four humorous half hour episodes still fresh, strong, and sly.

Fly the Unfriendly Skies” starts off the DVD edition of The Bob Newhart Show with Newhart's famed phone shtick and gets right to introducing the series' core neighbors and coworkers – psychologist Robert Hartley (Bob Newhart), his school teacher wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette), their aviator neighbor Howard Borden (Bill Daily), secretary Carol Kester (Marcia Wallace), and orthodontist Jerry Robinson (Peter Bonerz). The set design and a few little kinks may need straightening out – those airplane fears might seem like old hat humor to contemporary viewers, too. However, witty interplay and sharp dialogue make the audience pay attention as the titular flying frights layer the irony. It's neat to see such situations handled then compared to now, and some superb toppers alleviate the tension as good comedy should. “Tracy Grammar School, I'll Lick You Yet” pokes fun at psychology itself – making The Bob Newhart Show feel not like a sitcom where the situation is the source of the humor, but rather a premise springboard where the joy is in seeing our characters handle Career Day. Telling third graders what a psychologist is sums up the entire show in many ways while small sight gags such as a newspaper blowing away or an empty tissue box accent the punchline. The audience seeks these silent puns amid the clever retorts, but wisdom given here isn't always followed and advice doesn't always work. This series sets its stride early thanks to a lighthearted but progressive touch on sensitive topics and addressing the changing decade without underestimating viewers. The Bob Newhart Show develops its nucleus and balances the home and workplace fun by expressly not treating its audience as simple the way prior television shows stayed inexplicably naive, innocent, and tidy.

A well rounded variety of character spotlights, group scenes, two-hander acts, and solo phone gags also keep The Bob Newhart Show engaging alongside plenty of dialogue and commentary. We don't see the other cast members without Bob and Emily alone until late in the season, however work and home collide in “Bob & Emily & Howard & Carol & Jerry” – and in a tiny bathroom no less! Again unlike today's easily resolved half hour nuggets, “I Want to be Alone” and “Let's Get Away from it Almost” allow our titular star to be unhappy and cranky over an escalating combination of everyday problems, attempted road trip planning, and the hilarious results. Sure, some of the then topical references or quips may be missed today, but needing peace of mind and quiet time is still a relatable message – and hey, if people wanted solitude then, what does that say about our increasing technological interconnectivity now? Patients and Christmas coming together on Disc Two for “His Busiest Season” may see too soon in tackling such bitter and now cliché holiday hi jinks, but The Bob Newhart Show pulls off the carols turned therapy session and seasonal depression delightfully – proving how out the gate ready the series was. $3, $7, or $10 baskets of fruit for Christmas? I'll take them all for that price! It's also amazing to hear folks complaining about crowded stores and late gift problems forty years ago! Likewise, “The Man with the Golden Wrist” tackles birthday gifts when an expensive watch is simply too much for Bob to wear. We don't wear such $1300 in 1972 dollars on our arm these days, but we have no problem carrying devices just as costly – adding new irony to Bob's discomfort over treating something of value as everyday or common. Famous athletes as patients malign Bob further in “You Can't Win 'em All.” However, helping others is more important than winning, right?

Poor Bob. Our straight man psychologist balances kooks, work, his wife, and some zany friends on the clock and off whether he wants to or not. Adding hobby reversals, male inferiority, and seventies good looking sportsmen create fun antagonism in “Tennis, Emily?” but the ability to laugh at such insecurities is shrewdly tackled alongside passive aggressive mothering in “Mom, I L-L-Love You.” Newhart (also appearing in Elf and The Big Bang Theory) does his practiced phone deadpan to punchline perfection with a one-sided stammer and zinger timing. The Bob Newhart Show has an upscale, successful protagonist with highbrow subtly and wit, yet Dr. Hartley remains an everyman frankly approaching life with a healthy dose of irony. Not to mention pushing the envelope with a couple not in separate beds and a three years young marriage that crosses old girlfriends in “Goodnight, Nancy.” Often frustrated, Bob nonetheless helps people with their problems – sometimes that's just by listening, other times it is daring to voice what his friends or patients or wife don't want to hear. That kind of contrast doesn't work without great chemistry, and Dr. Hartley certainly has that with his Emily. Be it insults, surviving transference and jealousy in “The Two Loves of Dr. Hartley,” or the pressure and house hunting disagreements in “A Home is Not Necessarily a House,” the pair remains able to bicker, get angry, cry, hug, or laugh. 

The Bob Newhart Show doesn't have its couple lovey dovey and making out all the time, but allows them to be an honest, tender, and perfectly matched team with a healthy give and take relationship. With her unconventional style and up with the times household, Suzanne Pleshette (The Birds) is lovely as the pants wearing and jobbing Emily Hartley. Her trim pixie cut or growing out shag changes through the season, but the crop is unexpected, as is the Hartleys' not having kids, a seemingly essential sitcom staple. Sure, there are times where Emily wears prairie girl meets muumuu dresses like the same old happy housewife and pouts when the newfangled Monday Night Football interferes with a sit down dinner in “Don't Go to Bed Mad.” Guilt tripping and who lets whom do what repartee is cemented, too. The Hartleys watch baseball together and immediately establish their happiness despite what may have been anti-traditional ways and quick, rushed mornings lacking the mid century Cleaver family at the table. When aired as the ninth episode, the original “P-I-L-O-T,” and its apartment design are noticeably different compared to the rest of the season. However, The Bob Newhart Show swiftly addresses adoption, not wanting children, and how parenting isn't going to be a situational safety net here. Instead, the pressure to have kids and awkwardness in socializing with those that do and insist you must is approached with a refreshing frankness. Emily is educated and doesn't have to be at home all the time, balancing being there for Bob and being her own working woman. “Emily, I'm Home...Emily?” discusses when work schedules conflict with basketball, using television commentary to accent the simple struggle of opening a beer and finding a place to watch the game. As a courtesy, Emily asks Bob before taking a full time job, but she won't quit whether her husband is content with TV dinners or not – an unusual if not unheard of concept in sitcoms prior. The wife works and doesn't need kids for fulfillment? Flabbergasting!

We don't really see orthodontist Jerry Robinson work very much, but the comedy of his big tooth display or the mumblings of his doctor's chair ease our dental fears. Amusingly, people sit in Jerry's chair and pack into his tiny office for advice almost as much as they do Bob's. Although selfish at times, Jerry is good with kids and his being adopted is mentioned early – a plotline that would become important later on The Bob Newhart Show. He may think he's funny and suave with the ladies, however most of that is hot air, and Jerry becomes engaged quickly in “Anything Happen While I was Gone?”. While it may be too soon to have too many relationship troubles amid the supporting cast, Jerry's failed ladies man pattern comes to a head when he can't get over another girl and takes advantage of the Hartleys in the “Who's Been Sleeping on My Couch?” Season One finale. Women come between men and sports for shrewd humor and social commentary with Jerry seeking Bob's therapy in “I Owe it All to You – but Not that Much.” What's bills and doctoring among friends, right? Jerry and Carol's friendship and awkward potential for more comes late in the season, too, but hair-brained receptionist Carol Kester is into plants, astrology, and wears short skirts – adding a touch of lingering sixties to The Bob Newhart Show. She's not stick thin and is still loving the single life, making for some delightful quips in the drive by comings and goings at the front desk. Still a then saucy topic, Carol weighs the morals of moving in with her new boyfriend in “Come Live with Me” while “The Crash of 29 Years Old” is also ahead of its time in addressing the changing roles for women. This quarter life crisis has Carol questioning her place as a mere secretary and whether she is due for something better in the workplace – not to mention that her replacement secretary is a young man! By using the quirky support about its titular star, The Bob Newhart Show is able to objectively step back and observe the times without judgment as good humor does best.

Bill Daily (I Dream of Jeannie) is actually not so bumbling, goofy, and intrusive as neighbor Howard Borden in the first episode of The Bob Newhart Show, but the seemingly sophisticated navigator is delightfully aloof and lovable nonetheless. Howard does his own ironing and speaks Spanish but keeps mini bottles on the liquor cart and tries to keep his water bed and high flying visits with stewardesses on the down low. “Father Knows Worst,” however, tenderly introduces his ex-wife, son, and Howard's neurosis over paternal inferiority. Likewise, his over-protective nature regarding his free spirited sister in “Not with My Sister You Don't” has the right amount of sentiment meets quirky, and the audience enjoys when the Hartley's include Howard at their table. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Patricia Smith (Save the Tiger) as grouchy neighbor Margaret Hoover. We have hi jinks at home already and don't need her housewife sucks and motherhood complaints. Thankfully, Margaret is gone after the first thirteen episodes of The Bob Newhart Show, and Jack Riley (Rugrats) as patient Elliot Carlin is much more cranky and hostile fun in eight episodes including the show's original pilot. Fellow group therapy stalwarts Florida Friebus (The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis) as old lady Mrs. Bakerman, John Fiedler (Winnie the Pooh) as mousy Emile Peterson, Renee Lippin (Mariah) as self-conscious Michelle, and Noam Pitlik (Sanford and Son) as macho Mr. Gianelli immediately solidify their collective dynamics with recurring tug and pull as needed. All appear in the penultimate “Bum Voyage,” adding to the difficulty of saying goodbye and packing of as many people as possible into one tiny stateroom. Bob's onscreen mother Martha Scott – also mom to The Six Million Dollar Man, Who Shot Jr, and Moses! – appears alongside Larry Gelman (Maude) as urologist Dr. Tupperman, and other familiar guests on The Bob Newhart Show include Penny Marshall, Pat Morita, and Joyce Van Patten.

Sure, Bob's route home in the opening credits of The Bob Newhart Show doesn't make a lot of directional sense but the big brass start and swanky mellow end of the “Home to Emily” theme remains sweet. Some scene changes or cues are similar to incidental The Mary Tyler Moore Show music, however that's an understandable production similarity considering co-creaters Lorenzo Music and David Davis also wrote for Mary, alongside producer Martin Cohan and frequent directors Jay Sandrich and Alan Rifkin. The layout of the Hartley's living room changes – and wow, that big ole boob tube television is on cart to move from room to room – but from that ugly kitchen wallpaper to couches, carpet, ties, sport coats, and high-waisted plaid pants, my word there are patterns, patterns everywhere! I like most of the ladies fashions, ruffled trims, and empire waistlines, but Emily does get her head stuck in a tight turtleneck and woof some of these seventies sweaters. Yellow, orange, green, brown – it's all so garish yet anyone of a certain age will feel nostalgic at the clashing colors and chuckle at the big phones, giant stereos, and vacation slides. There's an entire plot dedicated to how the office acquires a newfangled coffee machine! Unfortunately, Carol's circular desk with her back to the elevators annoys the heck out of me. Why not an L shaped design to the left of the screen so she can see the arrivals and the audience? The sometimes loud music and uneven soft voices on The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Series Season One DVDS is likewise irksome. There are no subtitles either, but the handy play all option makes it easy to marathon the eight episodes per three discs over the weekend.

The Bob Newhart Show is immediately family friendly and safe for all audiences while remaining subtle, high brow humor for adults. When I was younger I preferred the wackiness of the subsequent Newhart, however now I feel much more sentimental about the past charm and witty entertainment of this eponymous series. The fine comedy ensemble of The Bob Newhart Show need not resort to gross gags or saucy behaviors like today's common denominator crass. It's harmless good fun to come home and unwind with the Hartleys, and be it the shrewd comedy or the nostalgic pastiche, Season One of The Bob Newhart Show puts a smile on your face.