Well, let’s start off with the good news first. I finally got to see Run for Your Life on the Retro Television Network yesterday in an episode called “Never Pick Up a Stranger” (10/11/65). Attorney Paul Bryan (Ben Gazzara) is tooling through a tiny hamlet when he stops to pick up a hitchhiker (Brenda Scott)—who injures herself jumping from his vehicle after he announces his intention to take her back home. This act for some odd reason stirs up the town’s rotten-to-the-core sheriff (Barry Sullivan), who spends the rest of the episode trying to run Bryan out of town.
Run for Your Life was a Fugitive knock-off (though both shows were created by producer Roy Huggins) than ran on NBC-TV from 1965 to 1968. But instead of a man running from the law a la Fuge, it featured an attorney who was running because he had been diagnosed with an incurable disease and had been given—at the most—one or two years to live. (This sticky wicket is neatly summed up in the series’ opening, and it’s a good thing that the doctor—whom we don’t see—tells Bryan that he won’t feel the effects until the last two weeks because otherwise I and others might question why he looks so goddamned tan and fit all the time. Also, Life ran for three years, so Gazzara’s character bought a little time…or what is known in legal circles as a “continuance.”) Deciding to cram thirty years of living into the little time he has left, Bryan becomes a bit of a jetsetter—sometimes moseying around across this great land of ours (a la Buzz and Tod of Route 66 fame) and other times traveling around Europe, as he did in this afternoon’s episode, “The Girl Next Door is a Spy” (09/20/65), in which Bryan comes to the rescue of an old flame (Diana Hyland) being menaced by foreign spies in Berlin.
On the basis of two episodes, I’m starting to like Life; my only major nitpick (and it’s an issue with me and not the show itself) is that it’s sort of hard for me to buy Gazzara as a heroic type. Most of his films that I’ve seen he usually plays an evil wanker: The Strange One (1957—“I’m Jocko DeParis!”), Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Road House (1989), The Big Lebowski (1998), etc. Fortunately, in “Stranger,” he’s opposite Barry Sullivan—who, at that point in his career, possessed an acting talent that allowed him to out-wanker anyone…so he makes Ben look positively angelic.
The other good news is that WSB (Atlanta’s RTN affiliate) does offer The Kraft Suspense Theatre on its schedule (thanks, Doc!)—though it was disguised in my cable listings as “Mystery Movie.” (The show’s title sequence is also that of its syndicated nom de rerun, Crisis.) I didn’t get to watch the episodes (I was working on some improvements to the blog template) but they were “The Name of the Game” (12/26/63, with Jack Kelly and Pat Hingle) and “The Wine-Dark Sea” (12/31/64, with Roddy McDowall).
There was just teensy hiccup in this weekend’s schedule—I made a point to check out the Darren McGavin Mike Hammer series from the 1950s but alas, Dar was pulled at the last minute…and Wally and the Beaver came off the bench to substitute. I only watched the first episode of LITB (thinking that they might squeeze in a Hammer at 9:30pm…which they didn’t), a funny episode called “Part Time Genius” (01/10/58) where Beaver scores the highest on an I.Q. test and his principal (TDOY fave Doris Packer—“Chatsworth, you nahsty boy!”) suggests that his parents enroll him in a “progressive school.” (The headmaster of this institute of advanced learning, by the way, was played by John Hoyt—and I got a little concerned there, because I thought the jernt might turn out to be like the one in Lindsay Anderson’s if…..) Of course, since we all know that Beav’s intellectual prowess is equal to that of Cherry Jell-O, it is revealed in the end that a kid in his class switched papers with Beaver in an effort to win popularity…for being stupid, I suppose. (June has a classic line: “I prefer the Beaver just as he is.” Yeah…dumber than a bag of hammers.) This episode reminded me of a similar Dennis the Menace outing (“Dennis is a Genius” [12/03/61]”), in which our favorite tow-headed little moppet is also thought to have mental powers that far surpass us mere mortals…until it is discovered that Dennis’ bubble-gum caused the computer to go crazy-for-Cocoa-Puffs.
Rick Brooks mentioned in a post about RTN about the “retromercials” they show on the channel, similar to what TVLand used to do before they confused classic TV programming with garbage like Family Foreman. I watched one such ad today that has got to be the most-WTF commercial I’ve seen so far: Boris Karloff shilling for A-1 Steak Sauce. (If anyone knows anything about this, please don’t tell me that Boris put that crap on a real steak. I’m not sure if my heart could stand the strain of learning that one of my idols had feet of clay.)