Sunday, August 10, 2008

Gentle Ben

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….[1968].) 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.)


Doc Quatermass said...

Beaver in Place of MSMH tonight.

On the RTN site, the Mystery Movie show is for reruns of McCloud and McMillian and Wife, so it may be that your cable on-line schedule isn't acurate, they still Hawaii Five-O for Buck Rogers Saturday night at 9 pm. My daughters affiliate in Orlando runs back to back eps of KST on Saturday night if the on-line sched is correct.

Her AHH on at 10 PM ET lists Memos From Purgatory, starring James Cann and adapted by Harlan Ellison from his autobiographical story "The Gang", which appears in his book "Memos from Purgatory". Don't know if the 11 PM EP on my RTN will be the same, they don't list the episode they're showing.

Put zip code in search bar:

Doc Quatermass said...

I was watching an ep of some show with Kevin McCarthy as a guest star (thanks again for sharing that cookie with me Kevin, hope you are on the mend) and one of the retro-mercials was the old AMC Matador ad Kevin did. They also do the Windex ad with a Tarzan-like guy swinging on a vine through the jungle shouting "TONGA!" and landing in the tree house telling her he brought her home some new windex (in a metal spray can). She asks him., Whats a window?"

They run a bunch of monster kid era ads. The Frankenstein monster chipping his way out of a block of ice and writing, "Dear Bic, you're not going to believe this..." "Bic still 99 cents" at the bottom of the screen. The Alpha-Bits ad they use to run on Saturday morning with Frankie chasing the kids through the big old house speeded up ala Munster bits. Frankie trudging down the steps to go on a date with the announcer voice over saying if you aren't that great a catch show up in a Toyota (can't recall the model). The Wienerschnitzel ad with Dracula coming up out of the coffin telling you if you find burgers boring try WS's Not-A-Burger (various types of buns or bread with hotdogs cut in half length-wise.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

I caught that Kevin McCarthy AMC spot the other day, Doc--simply delightful.

Anonymous said...

"Run for Your Life" was popular when I was leaving college and entering the workplace. But I remember it for a totally different reason.

A fellow employee at my first job was George O"Neill, a short Irishman with a wonderful sense of humor and a totally out-of-control case of sugar diabetes.

George developed the disease as a toddler. His parents were told that if they couldn't get it "balanced" he would not live to see 16. He was in his early thirties when I met him and the diabetes was still out of control.

George tested his blood sugar several times a day. He'd then either give himself an insulin shot or eat a candy bar.

George had no idea how much time he had left, so he lived life to the fullest. One Friday, he left after work and drove straight to New York's Rockefeller Center, put on his ice skates, skated for an couple of hours, got back into his car and drove back to Western Pennsylvania.

Another time he took his brand new car and drove to Utah so he could test drive it on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

In addition to teaching, he drove a school bus and worked as a coal miner to pay for his trips.

He was in his late thirties when he finally got married. He'd avoided taking that step because he didn't want to leave a young widow.

Although I haven't seen him in years, I wouldn't be surprised if he was still alive and kicking. He was too ornery to do anything else!

Jim from