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This classic British Game Show Really Hits the Mark

January 23, 2015

In my ongoing search for neat things to watch, I stumbled upon a show called BULLSEYE. “Wait”, you’re saying,”Wasn’t that the show with Jim Lange, and the swirling screens? We already know about that. Why bring it up here?”. The answer is simple. This BULLSEYE, is a different beast, complete with its own beastly, but loveable mascot.

Let me explain, and for the sake of clarity, I will only be using the title to refer to the British show, not the American show. BULLSEYE combines two great traditional games….pub trivia and darts. The game starts with three pairs of players, and for the sake of balance and fair play, only one partner on each team can be an experienced, but not professional darts player. This partner stands in front of a giant dart board divided into categories, with increasing money amounts moving towards the center. The inexperienced players are seated, and, one at a time, select a category for the dart thrower to aim for for an initial bonus. Hit or not, the seated player is given a question from the subject for the money amount hit. Once answered, or not answered, as the other players can jump in and answer, the category is out of play for the rest of the round. That means if a remaining player hits a used category, it’s a lost turn. The team with the least MONEY leaves the game with their winnings and souvenirs from the show, most notably, a stuffed toy of the mascot, BULLY THE BULL. I hear tell some people preferred the toy over the money and the prizes.

Round two uses a standard dart board. The throwing partner throws three darts, as does the opposing thrower. High score gets the question where the money equals the points, or as host Jim Bowen puts it “Pounds for Points”. More about Jim in a bit. Just as before, low money leaves with the cash and the swag.

Now here’s one of the elements that I love about BULLSEYE. Before the bonus rounds begin, a guest star comes on to win money by throwing darts at the regular board. The money won is donated to the charity of the team’s choice. Nice touch. Okay onto the bonus rounds, no not a typo, I did say rounds. The first part involves another special board, known as BULLY’S BONUS BOARD. The board is divided into eight segments, partly in red, partly in black. Each numbered segment has a prize attached, and the bullseye has a larger prize. Both players are given darts totaling nine darts, with six going to the inexperienced player (I think). The players win a prize each time a dart lands in the red area of a numbered section. The black section means nothing won for that throw, and two darts in the same red section loses that prize. After all darts are thrown, the team has to decide if they want to risk what they won in one more game for the grand prize. In this second game, the team gets six darts, and must score more than 101points to win, with the inexperienced player starting. Get the points, and the team wins it all, lose and it’s swag time again, if I’m right. If the team doesn’t want to try, the second place team can try. Otherwise the chance goes to the last team. It only happens rarely that no team wants to try.

Now, this is great fun to watch, and I’ll tell you why. First, as I said, BULLY THE BULL is a great mascot, and every episode shows him in a cartoon to open the show, which is really cute. Next there’s Jim Bowen. Don’t let his older appearance and soft-spoken voice fool you. He’s a riot to listen to and watch. Not surprising, as he is a comedian by trade. Think Bill Cullen meets Pat Sajak, and you get the idea. The music package is infectiously catchy featuring a ragtime honky-tonk piece, that goes haywire with comedy effects when the grand prize is won. A survey conducted in England ranked the BULLSEYE theme as most popular in 2008. In fact, when BBC would feature BULLSEYE during its GAMESHOW MARATHON series, the audience clapped in time with the music.

All of these elements have combined to keep BULLSEYE on the air for many years. After watching my first episode last night, I can see why. It’s the perfect mix of knowledge, luck and skill. Check it out, we can all do with a bit of BULLY.

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Return of NOW I Can Name That Tune

January 17, 2015

Here is a riddle for you: What does a well-known SESAME STREET film with Dennis Allen have in common with an opening scene of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT,  the credit roll of AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON, and the very first Stretch Armstrong commercial from Kenner? They all feature a very familiar piece if Spike Jones influenced music.  U can see my faithful readers going right for the Dennis Allen clip for a reminder.

Well, thanks to a comment someone made on the credits roll clip of AMAZON, we can now lay to rest another musical mystery of yesteryear. That zany, wacked out piece of musical mayhem is called “Wild Clown”. The man behind it is Henrik Nielsen. Yes, the same Henrik Nielsen that gave us us the Joker Jackpot win cue which is called MARDI GRAS, and was also used on SESAME STREET’S 10 CLOWNS film. Now, when I first made inquiries about WILD CLOWN, the only lead I got was that Capitol Media Music originally owned it. My guess is Henrik’s compositions all went to Ole Georg Music, as I have seen his name associated with Ole Georg’s list of composers and credits. The mire I listen to WILD CLOWN, the more I can hear the connective tissue between it and MARDI GRAS. The instruments sound very similar, as do the comic sound effects that punctuate both pieces. I guess I always knew WILD CLOWN, was Henrik Nielsen, now I know for sure. I don’t think I’ll get much of an argument from you all when I say that Henrik managed to get a lot of mileage out of WILD CLOWN. Between Henrik Nielsen, David Lindup, and Joe Raposo I learned a lot about the far-reaching influence Spike Jones had on later generations of composers. Quite a fun-filled history lesson, if I SAY, I SAY, I SAY (wink)

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Attend the tale of GALAVANT

January 5, 2015

Last night I caught the first two episodes of GALAVANT, ABC’s new musical situation comedy. Out of curiosity, I read reviews and comments from various online sources, from major publications to internet message boards. As expected, the critiques ranged from raves to negative comments that were tantamount to bigotry (no points for guessing where I read those). So, what is my take?

Glad you asked. GALAVANT is a totally bonkers, wonderfully tuneful fractured fairy tale, where oddball characters, pratfalls, and snappy dialogue are the order of the day. Consider, Galavant, the hero, is surrounded in the first episodes by a princess who bullies him into getting back into action to save her kingdom, Madalena, the woman he loved, who totally rejected him when he tried to rescue her from King Richard, the villain. Oh yes, King Richard, mean one second, and hysterically foppish and childish the next. He even needs his chef to feed him like a baby in one fall down funny scene. Speaking of fall down funny, we’re treated to one of the funniest jousts ever filmed. I won’t spoil the payoff, mainly because you just have to see for yourself. And there’s Gareth, who is quick to kick, punch and beat up anyone the king tells him to, but is NOT the sharpest sword in the armory.

Then there’s Alan Menken and Glen Slater’s music. Be warned, the theme song is going to be stuck in your head for days. Not that that’s a bad thing. The lyrics are just as cheeky as the dialogue. In a Playbill.com interview, Menken says that any style of music is fair game in GALAVANT’s universe. One second you’re hearing a soft-shoe number performed by King Richard and his court, in which we hear the nasty things Richard wants to do to Galavant, next we hear a left-handed romantic quartet, in which the four leads decide maybe the other person isn’t so bad. Make no mistake, even that quartet is filled with punchlines. I can’t wait for Weird Al Yankovic’s musical guest appearance coming in a future episode.

One thing that struck me about the negative comments. Some people beefed that it was silly, while others said there was too much music. Ummmmmm, news flash: ABC had been promoting GALAVANT as a musical comedy, and a knowingly silly one at that. Sorry you were expecting yet another dark, moody, grandiose epic with overly complicated stories, overdone battle scenes, and characters with more letters in their names than a WHEEL OF FORTUNE puzzle, and were disappointed that GALAVANT doesn’t fit your dystopian sensibilities. But I say it’s nice to end my weekend with a laugh and a song for a change. And hats off to ABC for giving us this series, even if it is only for a month. So three cheers for GALAVANT. Your name is already legendary.

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Where’s the REUNION?

December 27, 2014

I grew up with a steady diet of folk music as a child. The Smothers Brothers, John Denver, and The Kingston Trio got a lot of play time, and I enjoyed them very much. The number one act, though, for my folks was Peter, Paul and Mary. I can’t blame them, especially since my parents had the chance to see them live. I liked their sound and personality mix, too. They were fun to watch in concert.

When Mary Travers died in 2009, I started thinking about their music, and soon found myself faced with a musical puzzle regarding the discography. My parents had pretty much all of their albums on record except one. My uncle had made a cassette of this album for my Dad, but it stayed in the rack for some time. One Sunday, my dad put the  album on, and it was a far cry from the acoustic sound we knew. We only listened the one time, and there was only one track that stood out in my mind…an off-kilter love song that featured comedy effects after the bridge. But I could not remember the song’s name or the album.

It turns out I was thinking of the REUNION album, and the off-kilter track was called Ms. Rheingold. Okay, that solved one mystery of the puzzle. But try as I might, I couldn’t hear the song in full online. Amazon released the MP3 album, but only 30 second samples. Still, it was enough confirmation for me. The full song can be heard on YouTube, but the question remained as to why the jump from vinyl to download. So, I read the Amazon user comments, and was shocked to learn that Peter Yarrow said this was their worst album. It was way overdone, and didn’t showcase them the way they were used to.

I have to agree with Peter. The more I listen to the tracks, the more I get where he’s coming from. Like Ms. Rheingold…it’s a catchy melody, and I’m sure they had fun singing it, but just what type of song was it? Country, ragtime, or street corner jug band? The song loses its musical identity the further it goes, so by the time the comedy effects come in, it becomes a jarring mess. I don’t blame the trio, though. The album was a actually produced by someone more used to the world of rock and popular music than  folk, so he probably just didn’t get it. It really was a sad footnote of the trio’s legacy. From what I read, they never commercially came back despite the PBS tributes and specials, and the box sets. I take comfort in the fact that my Dad and Mary Travers have already had a much better REUNION in Heaven

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A Popular Expression I Can Do Without

December 11, 2014

Be warned, this is not my usual light entry. If you visit here wanting that, I recommend visiting the archives until next time.  Here goes: Have you noticed lately that when someone pours their heart out in relating a recent tragic or stressful event, the person they are talking to will answer “It is what it is.” with an almost dismissive attitude? I sure have, in fact, I heard it a lot this year during the tragic events that make me glad the year is almost over. And, truth be told, the next person who says it to me is going to get an ear full.

Ask yourself these questions next time you’re tempted to use this phrase: Would you use it with the surviving families of those killed by terrorists? Not me, I’d offer a shoulder to cry on. Would you say it to a family that lost irreplaceable memories and a roof over their heads in a fire? Again, not me. I’d be trying to find a way to help them. And what about those impacted by the justice system failing the families of those young people killed by those officers in Ferguson, New York, and Ohio? Would you have the guts to tell those families, their friends and the impacted communities that it is what it is? If you do, I suggest you sleep with one eye open, because someone will be looking for you, and it won’t be to say Merry Christmas.

We’re supposed to treat each other the way we want to be treated, and I believe that is how we’ll be judged in the end. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my Creator judge me with a callous “It is what it is, you’re going to Hell.” “It is what it is” has become, at least for me, code for “I don’t care enough about you to help you through your difficulty”. Frankly, it needs to stop.

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FOUR DIAMONDS Revisited

December 3, 2014

Looking over my stats, and which posts have the most hits, it never ceases to amaze me that my post on THE FOUR DIAMONDS is hands down the most popular. I’m amazed at how many of you were as deeply impacted as I was by this moving story. I only wish I could provide you all with updates or new info, but sadly, there’s nothing new to report. Disney STILL has this under lock and key, since they are too busy grooming new music acts, and raising park prices to care about a movie that inspires people. You could suggest online petitioning, but those routinely get ignored. So, things remain at a standstill.

Still, my invitation to all visitors to my blog still stands. Look around, comb the archives leave (appropriate) comments, suggest ideas that night make good reading. You are most welcome here.

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When Mr. Ludden Came to Town

December 1, 2014

Sorry it’s been a while, crazy few weeks. Anyway, by now many of you know there’s a new multi-state lottery game called MONOPOLY MILLIONAIRE’S CLUB, in which players will get a chance to appear on the game show, premiering in February.

That news jogged my memory about local lottery game shows, and my mind drifted back to the first one I remembered from the mid 1970’s, which aired on WCVB:  THE BIG MONEY SHOW.  BIG MONEY, as it was commonly known around here featured several games of chance, with a top prize of one million dollars on the line. I wanted to see what there was online about this gem. As good as search engines are, my search was a bust.

Oh, there were things I remembered, like the first theme having lyrics, and one of the games had models decked out in gowns embroidered with one letter in the word MONEY, who were called at random to move a certain number of steps down a staircase, with the bottom step having an increasing jackpot that would be shared by onstage players seated in the corresponding letter section.  But, that was it. It’s tough to get old.

I needed to know I didn’t dream this, and luckily, someone on Facebook from my area also remembered BIG MONEY, and added a couple of items I didn’t know. The first was that when the show began, they taped at Boston’s Wilbur theater, then moved to the WCVB studios. What blew my mind was that the legendary Allen Ludden was the original host. That’s right, Mr. PASSWORD would regularly fly out here from Hollywood to do BIG MONEY. How cool was that? Unfortunately, Allen couldn’t stay with the show….the commute proved to be too much, and Allen would spend the rest of his career on the West Coast. A local personality from the TV station took over for the rest of the run.

The moral of the story is if there’s something you remember, and Bing and Google won’t help, don’t assume you’re dreaming, or you’ve lost it. Odds are someone on the social networks will remember, too, and what a great conversation you’ll have!