Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Addams Family -- Lurch the Teen Idol

Lurch grunts and groans his way to superstardom, at least for the screaming fans outside the Addams' house.

His style is very avant garde, nearly beatnik, but he's a favorite for the Beatles audience, who end up mauling him and keeping him from a worldwide tour. And he looked so nice in his Alpine boy's suit.

I thought I was really going to like this episode, but had a rough time with it. Which was my mood and nothing essentially bad about the episode. Some of Gomez and Morticia's lines were too typically sit com. And I prefer Lurch a little less ridiculous. Fester's taking a picture of himself with a lightbulb wasn't funny.

Lurch's song was pretty cool. It was funny that they didn't go for any actual singing.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Addams Family -- Cousin Itt, Vocational Problems

The exact title escapes me. But basically Cousin Itt is trying to find himself, his purpose, by getting a job. But what? The occupation of marriage counselor comes up and is central to the plot, as Gomez and Morticia role play a couple with problems. Then Morticia thinks they actually have problems because Gomez does it so sincerely.

The guy from Dick Van Dyke is a vocational counselor, Richard Deacon. He's amazed that Itt was very much aptitude. He can arrange blocks in the corresponding holes in a very nice way. He can correctly identify all the Rorschach inkblots. And he's a pretty conversationalist as well, if you have Gomez and Morticia to interpret. Although Richard Deacon's character, Dr. something, picks up Itt's language and converses with him. It turns out that Itt has an IQ of 320 and that the job he is ideally suited for is marriage counselor. This is kind of a spoiler, since that's the punchline and forces Gomez to have the doctor evicted from the house. Lurch and Itt throw out his briefcases and other things. He leaves behind the blocks and Wednesday Addams shows that she might be a genius too!

Highlights of the episode include Lurch in Itt's tiny little room. He has a small door, a lowered ceiling, everything at his scale. Lurch does a lot of good growling, but it's painful to see Lurch hit his head on ceiling beams a few times, then finally have to crawl from the room. Fester has a bit part, which I've pretty much forgotten. Mama isn't there, rather, she's upstairs somewhere playing pinochle. Pugsley appears briefly at the beginning, Wednesday at the beginning and ending.

Gomez and Morticia have a sexy scene, in which he has ideas, but she tells him later.

Gomez has a funny scene when he's locked out of the bedroom, after their marriage counselor spat. He's in funky pajamas, smoking his cigar, looking for a place downstairs to sleep. He gets the little two way loveseat they have.

It's not an extremely funny episode. Hair jokes about Cousin Itt, listening to his squeaks and the corresponding interpretation, that sort of thing dominates. I'm always amazed, though, at Gomez's liveliness, his eyes, reactions, expressions, very great. And the same for Morticia, except she is always a lot more laid back, of course.

Thing helps get the phone number for the vocational guy. Also delivers the mail. And knocks on his box as applause for a dance and musical bit that Gomez and Morticia did.

Taylor Hicks Last Night

I have big sympathy for Taylor Hicks. I think he's been mistreated on American Idol, and they clearly don't like him very much.

I had a hard time warming up to him entirely when he was on the show last year. I heard a few people saying he was like Elvis, which I could never see. So right up to the last week or so I still had my doubts. A lot of his moves and enthusiasm didn't seem genuine to me, certainly not in the Elvis league. But since then I've enjoyed his album, gotten his other albums, gone to his concert when he was in the area, basically been as enthusiastic as I could. Yet there's always this kind of sympathy in being any kind of fan. I listen to the album and wonder 'was this right? should they have done this differently?' Etc. And as far as album promotion I think they screwed him over. For example, I never heard his song on the radio, in a grocery store, in a car, anyplace, not one single time. It's like he never existed. Up to a few months ago, he hadn't been on XM radio -- I've since quit checking -- except going way back to that dreck 'Do I Make You Proud.' I'm writing in, I'm voting him up at, etc., at that time.

Anyway, there's some personal interaction there. So I'm in full sympathy mode when I know he has to be on American Idol last night. And what happens? He doesn't get an introduction, he comes out to a bare stage, like a man with nothing. No set-up, no cool guitar around, no drummer, no band, just a guy and a microphone, essentially naked to the world, looking not that great either. Every little performance wart magnified. I thought "Heaven Knows" had a lot of energy, but since half the show is the way things are presented, it was not a fitting performance. I'm thinking somebody at American Idol hates this guy.

Then we have that insufferable Clive Davis' crappy spiel every year about how many CDs they've all sold. It's one thing to have an orgasm over Daughtry's CD, but he really doesn't have to peck at Taylor like he did. That was mean.

Then we get the Beatles' medley. And Kelly has a great set-up, can really blow the opening in a great way. And Taylor gets the morose, good in its context, bad on a show like this "A Day In The Life." About blowing his brain, mind out in a car. The lyrics were goofed up. It's kind of low, it's morose, it's the wrong song for him, etc., etc. Full fan sympathy mode here. They didn't do anything with him that suggested respect. Even Sanjaya had the extra energy of Steve Perry to perk up his performance.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Agent Nine and the Jewel Mystery

Earlier this month I gave a synopsis and a basic review of the old book "Agent Nine Solves His First Case." At the end of the book, the reader is prompted to check into Agent Nine's involvement in the Jewel Mystery. I happened to be at an antique store and what do I happen to see on the shelf, but "Agent Nine and the Jewel Mystery," and actually another copy of "Solves His First Case;" I got the "Jewel Mystery" to complete my collection, apparently, of the Agent Nine series. I looked over at ABEbooks for other Agent Nine books by Graham M. Dean and these seem to be the only two, although there are other books by the same author, which I did not look through entirely. Whew!

But I'm thinking, Five Bucks, hmm, oh, it seems so much for literature that is going to be ultimately so meaningless. Oh, what the heck. It's beat to death, the cover is weak and coming apart, now hanging by several threads, but this isn't a book museum I'm running here, so I guess I may as well get it over with, get myself up to date on Bob Houston's last known adventure and let it go at that.

The same characters are back, including Merritt Hughes, Bob's uncle; Bob Houston, himself, the straight arrow, new federal agent; Condon Adams, Merritt's co-worker and sometimes nemesis, and Tully Ross (boo!), Bob's not-so-straight arrow co-worker and sometimes nemesis. I think it's right around page 1 that the organization they work for it not just an investigation organization within the Justice Department, but IS in fact the FBI. That's different from the first book.

The first several pages tidy up things concerning the first case, first book. Tully has done a foolish thing by granting interviews concerning the case, against Justice Department policy. They're able to narrow it down to him very easily since TULLY ROSS is credited with several things about the case that he in fact wasn't responsible for. So you can picture the interview, "Yeah, just make sure you get the name right, T-U-L-L-Y ROSS. It'll be real easy for me to go back to the FBI and deny that I was ever the source of the articles!" But as it turns out, he's shifting uneasily from foot to foot and admits he was the source. Tully!

Well, from that point on, Tully is in fine sneering form in the little bit of the book he appears in. He actually tells Bob he doesn't like him very much and that they're rivals. His deviousness, though, like Condon's, doesn't go very far. They discover quickly that against the kind of thugs they're up against, it's best to be a team player.

The set-up for this one is that Bob and Tully are being sent to Florida to solve a Jewel Mystery, having to do with smugglers somehow bringing in diamonds and selling them. We basically know where they are, so Tully is going to one town and Bob to another town. The smugglers will be somewhere in the middle. The book has a lot less to do with solving the mystery, though, than of getting there to do the solving. There's 252 pages in the book, and by page 150, thereabouts, he's just getting to Florida. The trip is eventful, to say the least, and full of adventure, but you know the actual solving of the case is going to get the short end of the stick.

The whole first section, then, more than half the book, is the train ride to Jacksonville. There's a passenger who's a diamond salesman (jewels, remember), who turns out to be Nefarious Guy No. 1, Joe Hamsa. Hamsa has absolutely no problem disarming, evading, tricking, knocking out, and stealing the confidential papers of Tully and Bob. Tully and Bob are completely incompetent and can't seem to do anything right. Bob, of course, has the edge over Tully, who has his papers stolen first, is knocked out first, and who vacates the rest of the book. Tully literally contributes nothing to the story.

Bob can't find Hamsa, no matter how often he flashes his badge and informs everyone he is a federal agent. Where can Hamsa be? For such an admirable boy adventurer, he must've been hired because his uncle was an agent and not for any kind of innate detective abilities. Think, stupid, the train does have a top! The most interesting things about Bob, really, is that he can fight when he really has get the chance, he's basically fearless, and, that's about it, oh, he gets lucky breaks when he needs them. He takes showers and he eats. He needs seconds at pancakes, which is unbelievable, since, to me anyway, pancakes are very filling after just one or two.

So, he finally gets to Florida, meets up with Uncle Merritt, who is promptly kidnapped, as in the "First Case" book. Now it's just Bob, working his badge magic with taxi drivers, telegraph operators, anyone who gets in his way. He's a federal agent, he's a federal agent, he's a federal agent, always throwing his weight around. He works a while with Condon, who is graciously setting aside some of his rivalry issues with Merritt to help find Merritt. There's a touching scene where Condon and Bob are together and Condon asks, "Your uncle means quite a lot to you?" Bob nods. "You know he does. He got me into the service and he's pretty much of an older brother to me." The narrator tells us a waitress took their orders before Adams spoke again. "Then you know how I feel about Tully; he's kind of a kid brother to me. But that's getting away from what I started to say. Your uncle and I have always been rivals in the service. One of us would solve a good case and then the other would win on the next one. He's never liked the way I got in through a little political help, but on the whole I've done a pretty good job. Gosh, I wouldn't know what to do if anything happened to him to take him out of the service."

Yet, in the rest of the book, Condon has next to nothing to do with solving the case, rescuing the uncle, or anything.

In fact, the book gets kind of rushed about here. Afterall, the case needs to be solved, and Bob is not mobile enough or resourceful enough -- not entirely his own fault -- to find all the clues he's going to need to do it singlehandedly. So enters, virtually, a deux ex machina to help us along, Sheriff McCurdy, who knows everyone, every place, everything. After a tussle over who Bob is, being so young, to be carrying a gun, etc., he and Bob go point-point-point, connect-the-dots, and solve the case. Since everyone knows it has to be a happy ending, Merritt is in the other room tied up. The jewels are coming in. The smugglers have us trapped. There's some gunplay. The smugglers are nabbed and led away.

Then, as improbable as anything I've ever read, Merritt and Bob burn down the smugglers' cabin so that no one gets any idea to use it as a smugglers' cabin ever again! Oh brother, what if that cabin happens to belong to someone? What if they might search it for additional evidence? Let's burn down every cabin in the world just to prevent criminals from possibly using them! LOL, so stupid.

OK, Writer Graham M. Dean apparently needed to churn this puppy out on a deadline. Some of the adventure stuff on the train ride's pretty good. There's no endless wrestling in the dark as in "First Case," so that's good. The characters, though, don't have any consistent interaction and relevance to the case throughout. Bob being isolated means he will have to fight it out uphill on his own. But then Sheriff McCurdy happens along and turns out to be the real hero of the book. Bob never really gains in competence, doesn't do any detecting, and really deserves none of the credit, and so it's all quite empty from the standpoint of your hero ought to be the hero.

Published by Goldsmith, 1935. Thrilling exploits of "G" Men.

The Addams Family -- Uncle Fester's Toupee

DVD time, with the Addams Family. It's amazing how nice this show looks, how crisp, all the episodes, and the way the characters and running gags don't get tiresome.

This one features Uncle Fester. I wonder who's uncle he actually is. Gomez says to him that he has Addams' blood flowing through him, but when he's asked his last name, he doesn't know. So I don't know either. I've never looked it up at an official fan site, but I've always assumed Mama was Morticia's mother, and that Fester was her uncle, Mama's brother. That would explain the rancor seen between Fester and Mama from time to time, a little bit of competition. But in that case Fester wouldn't be an Addams, excluding inbreeding, of course. Maybe they want it to be intentionally vague, hence his lack of memory as to what his last name is.

The set-up for this one is that he has a pen-pal, a woman, and he's done what a lot of online people reportedly have done, make up things about themselves that aren't true. I seem to recall an Andy Griffith show with this premise as well, in which Howard the Barber makes himself out to be a wealthy playboy or something, for the sake of impressing a lady. Well, Fester, who doesn't actually seem like the pen-pal writing type, has this lady friend out there. He's represented himself as having a full head of hair, of being a football player, of being a Cary Grant type.

So what to do about the hair. We have a section in which toupees are tried on, not by Fester, but by Gomez, to give to Fester later. That's pretty funny. There's even a mohawk toupee!

The lady shows up, Fester looks great, it seems like they'll be a couple from then on. He even does the kissing her arm when she speaks French bit. Prompting Morticia to say the funniest line of the show, "You men have such a low boiling point."

The other Addams aren't too thrilled with this change in their lives, and so they turn her off to Fester, prompting her to dump him unceremoniously and even call him Baldy.

Lurch is up for some great growing in this one. Thing is there to do some things. And all works out well. Mama is nowhere to be seen, the kids, gone.

The episode is very SIT-COM.

The Addams Family -- Progress

I foolishly failed to write my Addams Family report in a timely fashion, and now days have passed since this particular viewing, so I shan't be dripping with humorous detail vis-a-vis the DVD goings-on of this episode.

It is called Progress and the Addams Family, aired sometime in 1965 for the first time (cf. TVLand for pertinent details, or perhaps the Dictionary of Who Cares).

In this remarkable episode, the house itself is the main character! We've had one for Pugsley, one for Lurch, how about the house? It seems that the state is going to build a freeway right through the Addams' property. The house must be moved or demolished. Our old friend, Mr. Henson, late of the insurance business, is now the able highway commissioner in charge of getting the Addams Family to vacate that piece of land.

Here's where my remembered details get sketchy. They have seat belts and they're buckled in to physically move the mansion. They are going to put it next door to Henson and Mrs. Henson, which in the end lights a fire under Henson to have the freeway rerouted. But actually not until the house is jacked up and moved a certain distance, with some interesting stock footage showing such things, and even the interesting glimpse of a bunch of people along the road watching.

The funniest line concerns Lurch, who is said to be hanging his head out a window, growling at people as they go by.

Mrs. Henson is a real delight in this show. She's a mixture of society woman and mouse, looking every bit the part of someone from a Three Stooges episode. The old order of prim propriety is well-preserved in some of these old shows. It makes you wonder what purpose they had in living, since the joy they knew entirely superficial, but that takes us into philosophical realms that dasn't be ventured upon today.

My big thought about this episode is how complicated it is. It seemed like it was put together with some loving care. I might think they'd try to rush these episodes through, and make them as simple as possible, but this one like so many of the others, has some complexity.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Addams Family -- Morticia's Favorite Charity

Originally aired 4/16/1965, has aired several times since then, including last night on my very TV, via the medium of DVD, thanks to the current availability of numerous old TV series for personal viewing. I really like the idea. O, for money and time!

This episode I viewed while terribly sick, a spring cold, something that started in the throat and went then all the other places. Feeling like death warmed-over and alternately chilled what could be better for such a spirit than an episode of The Addams Family. Meaning, of course, that for one who doesn't laugh out loud at such things that often anyway, it was going to come across even less funny in this state.

I would call this episode something like a presentation episode. The characters, except for Mama, are presented as a whole. They are distinguished from one another without a focus on any one, then distinguished, as is common in the Addams' life, from the outside world. So what would that be, a tour de force or ensemble show?

There's not much to say about it except there's lots of great sight gags. They want to give items to the charity auction, which is headed up by our old insurance friend, Mr. Henson. The funniest thing in the show this time was him saying to another guy concerning Lurch that 'He's really a nice guy.' I thought that was a good touch, very humane in the place of all the usual wild-eyed revulsion you get when conventional meets freak on old shows. A great thing about the Addams, in the ideal world, would be that you really could get to know them, and go over for some hemlock tea and maybe turn them on to ordinary drinks as well.

Being sick, it was a joy seeing Lurch, who got to speak a punchline in this episode pertaining to the reprocurement of Pugsley's precious roaring clock, which was "Paid me $5 to take it." A punchy line, about all you could expect from Lurch with his real slow delivery. I really like the looks of Lurch, tons of make-up, apparently, a very beautiful guy. It made me wonder what he would've looked like if the show had gone on for a number of years, since I can't remember when he died; I think it was a number of years later.

Pugsley being up the chimney was not terribly funny. The bidding on the items, that the Addams would get back, was not very funny, but necessary for the plot. It didn't make any sense that Henson wouldn't recognize the bidders as Morticia and Gomez. Hello! Wednesday's speaking parts are so carefully enunciated, it makes me wonder about her as an actress. And Fester, beautiful Fester, is something of a Houdini, getting in and out of a suit of armor without so much as a creak. I liked him with his head in the bookpress, something that might've done me some good, although my sickness wasn't primarily a headache as he had.

Gomez was as great and dapper as always, very confident. Morticia as charming and beautiful as always. But no Mama, except a picture of her in the background. The moose clock and the other clock, the make of which has slipped my mind, was funny, as Gomez synchronized them. But that was toward the end and I was begging the episode to hurry up and be over so I could get to bed.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Addams Family — My Son, The Chimp

This is a top notch episode, a fine one involving a case of mistaken identity or mistaken cause and effect.

Everybody is on board for this one, the kids and Mamma. Pugsley is greatly featured, mixed up with a stray monkey who's come into the house. Since Pugsley let the monkey have a spare shirt, identical to the one he always wears, and Uncle Fester is doing some magic conjuring, and Pugsley's back is against a forgotten revolving wall, you can guess what's about to happen. Fester throws some witch's ingredients on the charcoal and poof, Pugsley's gone and there's a monkey in a T-shirt just like his.

Morticia and Gomez are their usual cool selves. They want Pugsley back but they're not overly concerned about it. Mamma has a rivalry of sorts with Fester and calls his success in changing Pugsley "beginner's luck." There's some good gags on the old seance invitation to the spirits to 'knock once for yes,' etc., except they make it more complicated than necessary, directed toward Pugsley on the other side of the wall, and he doesn't know whether to scream, knock, or shut up. He's mainly back there reading old comic books anyway.

Fester looks suitably mystical in his big mystic's hat. Thing plays chess with Wednesday. I can't remember what Lurch does. He's playing the harpsichord right at the beginning, playing the Addams theme.

Nice one.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Addams Family — Meet the Spacemen

The episode is from April 2, 1965, "The Addams Family and the Spaceman"

There are some very funny bits in this episode.

Pugsley, not seen on camera, is up in his room firing rockets into space, seen as streaks of fire shot from a window. The local branch of a UFO investigation organization notices this activity and gears up to do their thing. This is very funny. They have two guys with lightning bolts on their hats, and an old professor who has spent some time learning what Martians say when they speak. The two guys have a brief snippet that's the funniest, when they're talking about this professor, how smart he is. Their investigation site has numerous electronics boxes setting there, cool set.

The Addams Family, out on a midnight picnic — leaving the children home with Mamma — hear on the radio that there's some unidentified flying object activity right in their neighborhood. So they're on the lookout. The investigators come out to see what they might find and spot the Addams, looking a bit other-worldly. Cousin Itt is along, in fine coif, and with his beeping, squeaking voice, could almost pass as an alien. Gomez is in a striped bathing suit, Fester has a moonshade hat on, Morticia's body is literally smoking, Thing is sticking out of a hole in a tree, and Lurch and Itt are together, enough to raise anyone's suspicions.

But of course the Addams think the investigators might be the spacemen.

When the action gets back to the house, there are lots of great sight gags that continue to suggest alien behavior. There's a lot of back and forth with the spacetalk that the professor has discovered. The Addams take the investigators captive, the professor shows up, and he has a lot of good "befuddled professor" moments. He's really one of the true highlights of the episode.

Such a good episode. There's so much weirdness, droll humor, characters' personality sides, on and on, and it all looks great, too.

Friday, May 04, 2007

My Chemical Romance -- The Black Parade


This is such a stunning, great album I can barely stop listening to it. I've been through the entire thing at least 10 times and love the sound completely.

The first I heard of these guys — and I don't know anyone's name, the singer, anybody — was the single "Welcome To The Black Parade" on the radio. It instantly became a favorite, very bombastic, over the top, suggestive of mortality and lots of other deep topics, the black plague maybe.

Viewing the video a few times, 'tis very nice and stylized, suggesting all the above and more. Kind of a proud slog through the basic dark experience our sad, persistent race has enjoyed or perhaps not so much.

The music of the album is thick, intense, theatrical, operatic, beautiful. The singer's voice is a beautiful one, spitting, with a very knowing tone throughout. Very proud and in your face, instantly lovable from the first track, "The End," a short one. "Dead!" follows. Such a punchy, great track. Nothing like beginning with The End and Dead. For all the apparent bleak tones — which are obscured down there somewhere — there is a lot of joy and sweetness to this album.

The album has so much energy, layers upon layers of sound, much of it so far over the top that you'll have a hard time coming back down. Highly recommended!!!!!

(As to the parental notice thingy, there's a few bits of language. You probably wouldn't want your third grader singing some of the songs in school or around the house.)

The Addams Family — Morticia, the Breadwinner

DVD, The Addams Family, TV shows, "Morticia, the Breadwinner," from Vol. 2 of the collected episodes.

This is a very fast-paced episode, with Gomez very manic in his buying on the stock market. We cut back and forth between him and his broker. Gomez is quite the high-roller. Since we all know he likes to watch his train sets crash and burn, he wants controlling interest in an actual railroad, the Big Swamp and Southern Railway, I think it was called. It's tough getting controlling interest, though, when you're a hundred shares short and there's no more for sale.

While on the phone, Gomez laments with the broker about someone else's trouble, how they're broke, busted, out of money. Morticia and Fester overhear this little snippet of dialogue and assume that Gomez means that he himself is broke, the family fortune gone. And so we get the title, "Morticia, the Breadwinner," along with the rest of the family, who decide to take odd jobs without letting on to Gomez that they know of his troubles. He has no idea, of course, and is still very profligate in his spending — making an order for $1,000 new cigars, for example — making Fester think it might be better if Gomez died, so they could live on his life insurance.

The odd jobs: Lurch and Fester open an escort service. Morticia sets up to teach fencing and tango lessons. Mamma seeks to offer beauty advice, figuring that her beautician skills relating to hair care ought to make some money. And the kids, Wednesday and Pugsley, are selling henbane by the drink on the sidewalk. Even with a black skull and crossbones for their logo and their henbane steaming like dried ice, a kindly gentleman still gives them a quarter for a glass.

Everyone is in great form for this episode. There's so much going on, and of course it's all so absurd, it's definitely a great episode. It's good to have the entire family. The children so sweetly say "Mother" when addressing Morticia. Gomez has a winning way with the kids. And there are numerous sight gags, including a big two headed turtle they have, and the "heirlooms" in the safe.

Finally, to get the needed 100 shares of the railroad, there's a fierce battle, a bidding war for shares Morticia and Fester have. She wants to use a fake name and suggests "Jones," but Fester asks "What kind of name is that?" Ha ha. Smith will be better. Gomez is relentless in bidding, and all's well that ends well. Except for one little thing concerning the railroad. Oh well!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Flipping Stop Signs

I saw two school buses head to head today, each with its stop sign flipped out. Here we have a standoff, like in the old law that if two trains meet neither can move until the other's gone. In this case, each driver can flip the stop sign back in. But it seems like in the driver's manual it says something like this, that you can't pass a stopped school bus. I don't remember anything about the stop sign being part of it. The only hope is that any inching forward no longer constitutes being stopped, so they're going to be OK.

We don't have enough flipping signs on vehicles. I'd like to have a few signs on my car, to flip out whenever I needed. Like a "Please don't follow so close" sign, maybe. One I like is the sign on the back of trucks that says "Stay Back 50 Feet," but if you did that how would you ever get around? How would you read the sign. Well, 50 feet, you could probably still read it.

There used to be the "Baby on Board" signs, but they didn't flip out. That would've made a more powerful point. "I've got a baby on board, and I don't think you care!"

You don't see too many American flags stuck inside doors and waving for all the world to see as the car goes through town. As to the constant waving of flags, hey, do you think we forgot what country we're in?

The Addams Family - Lurch and His Harpsichord

The third episode on the DVD, vol. 2, collected episodes of The Addams Family, a fine collection of crisp, nice, black and white old TV shows (nice so far, anyway)...

This episode focuses in on Lurch's love for music, especially as it is comes forth from a beautiful old Krupnik harpsichord. I couldn't tell exactly which Krupnik model it was, but they're all good.

Lurch is playing, conducted by gloved Thing with baton; Gomez and Morticia are dancing and romancing; Fester is there. The rest of the family is away for the episode. A nice old gentleman comes by, recognizes the beauty of the playing, recognizes the Krupnik, and wants it for the museum. Gomez immediately gives it away, leaving Lurch feeling blue, which is very justified under the circumstances.

So we have the sad sight of Lurch crying, quitting, about to go home to his mother. The others decide to build another Krupnik, which, considering their lack of skill and the constant references to Gomez' and other Addams' failures, comes out as a nice instrument. No one ever complains, like I was expecting, that this is a faux Krupnik, and there aren't any clinkers in the playing.

Of course it all ends well, and Lurch can go on playing, doesn't have to quit, none of that.

In this episode I was thinking about the Addams, exactly what they're supposed to be. I always associated them with being haunted, or monstrous in certain ways. They have Itt and Thing and various other relatives they refer to, and Morticia's in her Vampira dress, and on and on. But in other ways they're nearly so conventional as to be bland. The music is nothing freaky. The artwork around the main room -- guy's leg sticking out of a big fish, a giraffe with clothes on -- seems more surreal than monstrous. No, they're not the Munsters, but just more or less eccentric, yet not so eccentric in other ways. As for all of Gomez's failures - such as being an attorney who wouldn't be able to adequately defend the old guy supposedly from the museum - how did he get to be an attorney in the first place? He seems pretty successful, so it doesn't all fit. The show is about suspending belief, yet what is put before us is not really all that radical. It makes me wonder about what kind of specifications the writers got, what kind of discussions they had to have, about how weird it should be, and how the various pieces of background - relatives, the Addams' psychology, etc. - where supposed to fit. The possibilities for the show, with the sit-com format and all the rest, seem so finite.

But it's a good show, especially for the appearance of it all. Just looking them, they're iconic.

I liked how Lurch was able to go from classical, minuet music almost involuntarily into a rock riff, just with a few flicks of Thing's hand.

And as for his crying, good thing they had the laugh track, because with a studio audience, there would've been those sickening, "Ahhhhs," you hear in a few more recent shows.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Agent Nine Solves His First Case

This is a "review," or a survey of a book I got the other day.

It was written by Graham M. Dean, published by Goldsmith in the 1930s. It was in that whole genre of boy's literature, in the same basic line of the older Tom Swift books. These books involve all kinds of adventures that boys would be interested in.

But how do you like the title, giving away the whole ending. For all I knew, the hero would try his best and be killed. Fat chance. The subtitle is "A Story of the Daring Exploits of the 'G' Men."

Agent Nine starts out as mere Bob Houston, youthful clerk in the archives division of the War Department. He works in Washington, D.C., and his uncle — Merritt Hughes — is an agent, I believe, for the Justice Department. It's almost the FBI without using that name. The head of the department is a guy named Waldo EDGAR and some of his mannerisms are said in such a way that it sounds like the author is trying to allude to someone else.

Among the other characters are Tully Ross, who is the Anti-Bob-Houston, same department; and he has a corollary uncle, Condon Adams, who is the Anti-Merritt-Hughes. I say "anti," although neither one is actually a BAD guy. But if there's any sneering, undercutting, goofing off, callousness, or screwing up, it's likely to be Tully or Condon doing it. But Bob and Merritt are entirely straight-shooters. Bob does get angry and lashes out, but it's at Tully or Condon, whose ways, while commended and more or less successful, are not quite as straight.

The plot involves radio secrets, some radio progress the government has come up with that nefarious powers want to get their greedy little hands on. There are two copies of this particular document, a one page document. One shows up at the archives department where it needs to be filed in a cabinet and kept. That's Bob's department. Tully is there in the mix, but he's not supposed to be in this particular filing cabinet, which he is, slightly.

The paper disappears in a scary section, in which Bob is trapped in a long office with a sinister figure in the dark. This section is completely unbelievable, unbelievably bad. There's simply no way it could ever have happened that it would be so dark, so long an office, that Bob and this sinister figure could be crawling around, guns blazing, hiding behind desks, between cabinets, etc., etc., without the sinister figure eventually being able to get Bob. But Bob is not a wilting violet in all this; he can and does fight back.

We progress then to searching for the lost document, and this involves some near scrapes for Bob, who after several adventures is promoted (with Tully) to a grade just below actual agent. Now he needs to really bear down and find out what's going on. Merritt and he are in a shoot-out, a pretty good scene down a torn-up road, with a shot-out hulk of a cab and the nefarious force's big old car. But Merritt is suddenly gone, and now it's up to Bob to find him, find the paper, and bring the story to a conclusion. Condon is responsible for one of the nefarious guys getting away. Tully is acting kind of surly, without ever crossing into bad guy territory.

Through a series of clues and good breaks, also by virtue of his straight, winning ways, Bob comes up with some of the answers. It's still nip and tuck all the way, and the clues aren't automatic. The agency needs to work to get them. Bob has the good sense to tell any hesitant contact that he is a Federal Agent, and they then bow to his authority.

At the end, as the title suggests, the case is solved. The last sentence promises the reader more great adventures in "Agent Nine and the Jewel Mystery."

The Addams Family — Crisis In The Addams Family

This is the second episode on the Volume 2 DVD set, The Addams Family show from the '60s. Original airdate, March 12, 1965.

Wednesday, Pugsley, Mamma are nowhere to be found in this episode.

The whole set-up involves Gomez and Fester's activities in cannon-shooting and being pirates, admirals on the high seas. They have a picture of a boat on the wall, which gets shot and then becomes a boat split in half with water coming from the plumbing behind.

They need to file an insurance claim. We cut to their insurance agents, who have gotten lots of claims from the Addams Family. They want out of the policy, and find that if they pay off another little claim the policy will be cancelled. In the meantime, Fester wants to get a job, and gets one at the insurance agency. He sells Gomez a million dollar policy, which Gomez actually talks himself into buying since Fester is a poor salesman.

Gomez is fabulously wealthy, which detail I had forgotten. And it turns out that he has some controlling interest in the insurance company. So any problem from this point on, is covered by insurance, but since he owns the company, it's really his responsibility.

On this episode I was keying in on John Austin's very punchy portrayal of Gomez. He was very dynamic and exaggerated, great things going on with the eyes, gestures. He really seemed to relish the part. It's good in a role like this, not that there are that many, to really overplay it. And that striped suit always looks pretty good, which he even wore when he was parachute jumping. Also, I like Carolyn Jones' very demur, confident tone for Morticia. Very pretty and nice.

Lurch had some appearances. He takes the hats from the insurance agents, and has that scary look when they show up. And he's bringing tea to Fester's room when he's not feeling well. It's a very crisp looking show, the plots are exaggerated nonsense but still delightful anyway in their own way.

Fester is always a treasured portrayal. He looks ridiculous, yet weirdly iconic, sitting with the normal people in the insurance office. I'd like to take the gawkers by the scruff and say, "Hey, that's Fester! He's going to be well-known long after you're gone!"

The Addams Family — Thing Is Missing

I got the volume 2 of the Addams Family show on the DVD the other day. I usually like to start with volume 1 and keep all my ducks in a row, but it couldn't be helped.

First episode continues from season one, out of two seasons total. Only two seasons, huh? But back then they made more shows in a season. I used to watch it on reruns and don't remember a lot of repetition, but it was never a big priority to focus on it.

When I get them on DVD, of course you're going in sequence and it all seems so TV-scholarly, like on TV Land when they tell the episode number and all that.

The first episode on this set is "Thing Is Missing," which involves one of the most famous hands of the '60s. Fester and the family have apparently made Thing feel like he's taken for granted, not appreciated, not valued as much as he should be. So he disappears and there's a ransom to be paid to get him back, which Gomez is glad to pay.

It's only been a couple days since I saw it and I've already forgotten the details. I was thinking more about what Thing is supposed to be and whether he lives in a small box or a box that goes way down. One of the characters shouted into the box and got a pretty serious echo back. If he's in a regular box on the table, and they open it, wouldn't he have to be laying there. Or is he a creature down below who only sticks up his hand. If that were the case, they wouldn't refer to him as only a hand when describing his disappearance. And in the movie, which I saw part of, it seems like he was nothing more than a hand walking around. But in the show, doesn't he come up in various boxes around the house? So he would need passage ways below the furniture, the floors, to get from one box to another. So, I'm worried more about stuff like that, and I forget the other details.

As an episode it was OK. I can imagine how it'd be to write the episodes. You need to feature the different characters, focus on them, and this seems like a natural enough one for a Thing that doesn't have much else to do.