Welcome to aka KikiWrites

I am one of those people who likes to watch, write about, and talk about old TV shows. So much so that I had to create an entire site just to contain that aspect of my existence.

aka KikiWrites is the official home of my podcast, Book ’em, Danno: An Old Hawaii Five-O podcast, which covers the 1968 Hawaii Five-O series. You’ll also find my guest spots on other podcasts, usually talking about old TV shows, but sometimes I do actually talk about other things, too. Rarely, but it’s been known to happen.

Since I’m a writer by nature, it’s only natural that I’d spare a few hundred thousand words on reruns. My Rerun Junkie posts cover shows, guest stars, characters, episodes, and context.

And if you happen to like the content, feel free to buy me a cup of coffee or two over on Ko-Fi.

So, settle in, find a channel, and enjoy.

Rerun Junkie Books –From Beverly Hills to Hooterville by Daniel R. Budnik

Welcome to the Henningverse!

In 1962, The Beverly Hillbillies premiered. Created by Paul Henning, the sitcom quickly became a hit much to the consternation of the critics who hated it. It’s success permitted Henning to create another show the next year, Petticoat Junction. In 1965, along came Green Acres, which was produced by Henning but created by Jay Sommers, who’d worked on Petticoat Junction and was tapped by Henning for the third show as he was busy with the previous two. The three shows lasted until the Rural Purge in the early ’70s.

From Beverly Hills to Hooterville: Exploring TV’s Henningverse 1962-1971 is an excellent companion guide for all three series. Covering a combined 666 episodes of all three shows, each episode comes with a synopsis, review, and technical details such as writer, director, and an air date, as well as Nielsen ratings for each season and time slots for each show. The episode reviews are arranged in a layered sort of way that gives you an idea of how the Henningverse was operating during any given season.

Dan provides context for the origins of the Henningverse, the popularity of Westerns at the time, and the intense dislike of the critics. He wraps up the book with talk of the Rural Purge, mentions of the various reunions, and his final thoughts on each series. There are also interesting notes and factoids scattered throughout.

It’s a hefty tome -over 700 pages. But considering that it contains words on every episode of three series, it’s not an unreasonable length when you think about it.

If you’re a fan of Dan’s podcasts (and you should be), this book is very much in his voice. His humor is present and his observations are keen as always.

Am I biased because Dan is a friend? Maybe. But I am familiar with Dan’s quality content, including his book ’80s Action Movies on the Cheap, and I feel like he’s written yet another book that’s a must-have, in this case for retro television fans.

It’s available in paperback and for Kindle over at Amazon. Bulk up your bookshelf.

Object: Female

Women.

I happen to be one. I know several. I’ve even kissed a few. In general, they are plentiful and varied, all sorts of looks, ethnicities, sexualities, and personalities.

However, the depiction of women in television over the course of decades has been…shall we say, less than adequate, particularly in the case of anything outside of a sitcom, like my favorites, action and police shows.

Ah, yes. It’s going to be one of those posts. Now I’m not claiming to be an expert in any of this; after all, I’m a three-time community college drop out. These are just my observations from the shows I’ve watched. Now stop whining. It’s unattractive.

When I wrote about Magnum PI, I said something to the effect of the women being written by men who’d never met a woman, but had only heard about them from other men who’d never met a woman either. That’s how women were typically written (and still are in some cases). They were usually written as objects: romantic interest, harpy, siren, nanny, etc., convenient plot devices for our male mains, fitted with re-hashed, stereotypical personalities that seldom reflected any actual woman you’d encounter in your own bits of reality.

Going back to Magnum PI, many of the women who showed up in episodes typically filled one of four roles: romantic interest, helpless innocent, duplicitous helpless innocent, or annoying hindrance. I’m not saying that every woman fills one (sometimes more than one) of those roles, but it happens often enough that I feel compelled to comment on it in a blog post. The annoying hindrance is my least favorite (see Kathleen Lloyd as Bridget Archer in “Almost Home”, Annie Potts as Tracy Spencer in “Legacy from a Friend”, and Lee Purcell as Goldie Morris in “Old Aquaintance”). Women who insist on helping and end up creating a bigger mess usually because they don’t listen to Magnum and/or because they’re not being entirely truthful. No offense to any of the actresses involved because they were (and are) excellent at their jobs and did what they could with what they were given, but what they were given were bad Lucy Ricardo impersonations doing a variation of “Why can’t I be in the show?”.

(Given my disliked of I Love Lucy, perhaps I’m being a little more than biased in this case, but the basic assessment of the prevalence of cardboard cutout women stands.)

The Wild Wild West is another example. Every woman Jim West and Artemus Gordon met either needed to be rescued or kissed or sometimes both. Only a few were allowed the personality enough to be villains. And if you’d like to argue with me that the show was set in the late 1800s and so women had limited roles, I’ll just point out that it’s a steampunk Western. If I can suspend my disbelief that some madman has created a device that makes earthquakes, then you can buy into a woman saving herself once in a while and not falling in love with Jim West every time (Artemus Gordon is a different story, of course).

Hawaii Five-O did feature women police officers from time to time, usually for undercover work, and they were mostly competent (and all named Joyce for some reason), though they were typically bailed out of some sticky situation at the very end by McGarrett and cavalry riding in for the final gunfight/arrest, which the ladies rarely seemed to participate in. One Joyce in particular ended up getting hypnotized by Eric Braeden, but I suppose that’s understandable. It wasn’t until the later seasons that they even had female cops not named Joyce as recurring characters (Amanda McBroom played Officer Sandi Wells for four episodes in Season 8; Sharon Farrell played Lori Wilson for ten episodes in Season 12). However, more than one woman passed through Honolulu for a single episode whose sole purpose was to make Steve or Danno feel things. Spoiler alert: dead girlfriends.

Naturally, it could be argued that this is the ultimate purpose of a guest star, to be that plot device for that episode to help propel the story, the fire of the inciting incident. And this is absolutely true.

But that the women were most often only a guest star -not part of the main cast- is part of the problem. Rarely did police or action shows have a woman in the main cast. And on the off-chance that it did, then they were typically relegated to non-action roles if possible.

One shining example of this is Amy Allen on The A-Team. A journalist who begins as a client before becoming addicted to the “jazz” and blackmailing her way onto the team, Amy proves herself to be an asset by not only finding and vetting clients, but by also getting her hands dirty: helping with builds, going undercover, handling firearms, and even blowing up a thing or two. She wasn’t always in the midst of the action, but she was at the very least close by pretty often. However, when Melinda Culea pushed for her character to develop more skills -which would have made sense given the fact that she’s affixed herself to an elite military team, so it stands to reason she SHOULD learn a thing or two- the fellas on the show, in particular George Peppard, loudly disagreed as this was a “man’s” show (just ignore the popularity of Mr. T and the large kid audience, thank you), which resulted in Melinda Culea’s departure. She was replaced by Marla Heasley as Tawnia Baker (a strategically weaker-written version of Amy) to finish out the second season, but once that character was married off at the beginning of the third season (to Barry van Dyke no less!), there wouldn’t be another female member of the cast until Season 5 when Judith Ledford played recurring character Carla, Stockwell’s personal assistant.

Are there exceptions? Naturally. Get Christy Love. Police Woman. Cagney and Lacey. Three women-led police shows. One other notable mention is Sgt. Dee Dee McCall (Stepfanie Kramer) on Hunter, as she was paired with a man who treated her as a partner and didn’t take it as an offense to his manhood that he was working with a woman. The Stargate: Atlantis expedition was led by two smart, kick-ass women, first Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Tori Higginson) and then Col. Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping), and had Teyla (Rachel Luttrell) as an integral part of Col. Sheppard’s team, often kicking the most ass, but who was also from a race of humans that didn’t consider showing emotion and affection a weakness.

It’s been a slow evolution.

Today, women as people in action and police shows are nearly commonplace. Shows even have more than one! The Equalizer reboot is a fab example of this because not only do you have Queen Latifah as badass justice-getter Robyn McCall (I’m seeing a trend with the last name here) and her super cool sniper bestie Melody (Liza Lapira), you also have Robin’s Aunt Vi (Lorraine Toussaint) and daughter Delilah (Laya DeLeon Hayes), who aren’t necessarily in the thick of the action, but are fully formed humans in their own right. There is an emotional weight to the show that is either absent from many action shows or poorly executed and so much of it’s success is due to the realness of the characters. Robyn McCall isn’t your twenty-something, dainty gymnast action hero running around in belly shirts showing off her perfect abs (not knocking them, but they are the default, aren’t they?). She’s a woman, a mom, who has seen some shit, done some shit, dressed to best you in a fight or an argument, and has an astounding wig collection. She’s that “don’t play me” mom in the carpool who just happens to be able to disarm a man with only a clipboard. She’s a complex human with a complex life who is totally relatable despite the fact that she spends her time taking on the injustices of the world in vigilante fashion.

Even the Magnum PI reboot has gotten onboard with Juliet Higgins (Perdita Weeks) and Kumu (Amy Hill), both of whom are badass, yet also written to be actual people. Kumu is my favorite in regards to this because she could have easily been relegated to the role of the show’s Aunty, dispensing advice and island wisdom, but instead they gave her life experience that she wields like a sword and principles she’ll defend until they put the cuffs on her (am I biased? Yes. She’s my favorite).

The show has had its slips back into the ’80s mindset, though, most notably in the Season 3 finale in which Higgins finds herself separated from her boyfriend and unsure if their relationship will continue. TC and Rick’s answer to her heartbreak is to…try to push Magnum into making his move for her. Because ignoring the fact that she’s an actual person going through an emotionally difficult time in order to get your boy laid is what friends do, right? Yeah. They later doubled-down when she got back together with her boyfriend and the couple was going to Kenya for six months, telling Magnum that he shouldn’t have let her go, as if Higgins had absolutely no autonomy in the situation whatsoever. And Magnum had to be the voice of reason in all of this. Magnum, of all people! He was the only one who even considered Higgins’s feelings and what she wanted. It was obviously written as a way to show how much he loves her because he was willing to let her go be happy with her boyfriend, once again, implying that if he didn’t want her to go then she’d have no choice but to stay and not, say, roundhouse kick him in the face and bounce.

The show conveniently reverted back to the good ol’ ways of reducing a woman to her role as an object of affection in order to push the tried and true het narrative and ignored three seasons worth of establishing Higgins as a person of her own. Because when in doubt, center the male.

He’s a human being, after all.

Rerun Junkie Shows–Stargate: Atlantis

Back in the long long ago of the 2000s, SyFy (then called Sci-Fi) would often marathon shows during the week. Some were older shows like Tales from the Darkside, the ’90s Outer Limits, and Friday the 13th: The Series and some were current (at the time) productions like Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, and Stargate: SG-1.

This is how I discovered the latter’s spin-off, Stargate: Atlantis.

In this series, Stargate Command sends a team through the gate on a potentially one-way trip to the Pegasus Galaxy and the mythical lost city of Atlantis. The expedition is lead by Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Tori Higginson) and includes scientists Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett), Dr. Radek Zelenka (David Nykl), medical man Dr. Carson Beckett (Paul McGillion), and Chuck the Technician (Chuck Campbell). Their military attachment is initially led by Col. Marshall Sumner (Robert Patrick), who unfortunately doesn’t last long, forcing Lt. Col John Shepherd (Joe Flanigan) to assume charge, and whose men include Major Evan Lorne (Kavan Smith), and Lt. Aiden Ford (Rainbow Sun Francks). They’re aided in their exploration of the new galaxy by local Athosian Teyla Emmagan (Rachel Luttrell).

However, this new galaxy has no shortage of dangers and enemies, most notably Wraiths, humanoid creatures that literally suck the life out of humans.

In the course of five seasons, Dr. Elizabeth Weir is replaced by first Col. Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) from SG-1 and then later IOA official Richard Woosley (Robert Picardo). After a tragic encounter with a Wraith, Lt. Ford becomes addicted to Wraith enzyme and goes rogue. His place on Shepherd’s team is filled by Satedan and former runner Specialist Ronan Dex (Jason Momoa). And after a devastating incident, Dr. Beckett is replaced by Dr. Jennifer Keller (Jewel Stait). The expedition is also reconnected with Stargate Command and the Milky Way, sometimes by stargate, but usually by an Asgard ship called the Daedalus that’s commanded by Col. Steven Caldwell (Mitch Pileggi).

Much like SG-1, the point of the expedition is to explore the Pegasus Galaxy, make friends, and fight enemies. Unfortunately, the expedition itself is the reason their biggest enemy, the Wraith, is even around. During one of their first trips looking for friends, they accidentally wake them up. They also find plenty of human enemies as well, most notably the Genii, who covet their technology.

Some folks passing through the Pegasus Galaxy include: SG-1 alums Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks, Christopher Judge, Claudia Black, Ben Browder, Bill Dow, Gary Jones, Beau Bridges, Don S. Davis, and Dan Shea; in recurring roles Sharon Taylor (Amelia Banks), Connor Trineer (Michael Kenmore), Dean Marshall (Sgt. Bates), Craig Veroni (Dr. Peter Grodin), Ben Cotton (Dr. Kavanaugh), Linda Ko (Marie), Patrick Sabongui (Kanaan), David Ogden Stiers (Oberoth), Andree Frizzell (Wraith Queen), Claire Rankin (Dr. Kate Heightmeyer), Michael Beach (Col. Abe Ellis), Kate Hewlett (David Hewlett’s sister playing his sister Jeannie Miller), and Christopher Heyerdahl (as both Athosian Halling and Todd the Wraith because he’s just that damn good); Genii Robert Davi, Ryan Robbins, and Colm Meaney; Mark Dacascos, Richard Kind, Jaime Ray Newman, Jill Wagner, Jodelle Ferland; Mike Dopud and Patrick Gilmore, who hold the distinction of being in episodes of all three Stargate shows as different characters; Kari Wuher, Dominic Zampronga, Laura Harris, Dave Foley, Nicole de Boer, Alan Ruck, Leela Savasta, Janina Gavankar, Christina Cox, Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Patrick Gallagher, Steve Schirripa, Frank Vincent, and Danny Trejo.

It’s a fun sci-fi adventure show with plenty of action, a certain measure of wit and one-liners, and just enough emotional weight. The heart of the show lies in the characters and their relationships. Tight bonds are formed in high-pressure situations, especially when cut off from home. The episodes that highlight those relationships are the ones that I tend to like best.

“Tao of Rodney” is a perfect example of this. Rodney is hit with a beam from a piece of Ancient technology that increases his brilliance and gives him telepathy and telekinesis. It also supersizes his already supersized ego, which nearly costs Zelenka is his life. After it’s revealed that the purpose of this machine is to accelerate evolution to the point of ascension (all of this makes perfect sense if you watch the show) and Rodney is going to die, he ends up making very sincere gestures towards the people he cares about as he reconciles his fate.

Spoiler alert: he doesn’t actually die. But it’s still meaningful just the same.

Also, it is no secret that Zelenka is my favorite, so many of my favorite episodes have him in them. I’m biased and I don’t care.

One interesting aspect of the show is how often accountability comes up. Obviously, you have the unending accountability of accidentally waking up the Wraith, but there’s also the ramifications of them trying to battle them as well. They attempted to engineer a deterrent to prevent Wraiths from feeding on humans and it caused a plague. They attempted to genetically change the Wraiths into humans and ended up with incredibly bitter Wraith-Human hybrid Michael who causes a whole shitload of problems. They attempted to genetically alter the Wraith so they no longer had to feed and it caused severe issues for their frenemy Todd the Wraith.

We see it again with the Genii and again with the Replicators. Hell, at one point they’re put on trial for it all. Granted, their harm wasn’t intentional, but it was widespread. And in some cases catastrophic.

I feel like that elevates the show. Sure, they’re the heroes. But they’re our heroes, not everyone’s. We know they’re only doing what they think is right, but those decisions have consequences. And we get to see those consequences spread out in the ripple effect that these sorts of decisions tend to create. They’re human, but fallible and we love them.

The show only lasted five seasons, which is a drag.

So much of the Pegasus Galaxy was left to explore.

Rerun Junkie Episodes–“The Peace Pipe”

If you’ve never watched Emergency!, you should. It’s a fun show with a lot of daring rescues and medical drama. It also features a frenemy relationship between paramedic John Gage and firefighter Chet Kelly. These two know how to get on each other’s nerves and many times take delight in doing so, usually with Chet acting as the thorn in Johnny’s side.

In the season 2 episode “Peace Pipe”, Chet spends the episode aggravating Johnny about his Native American heritage.

While you could easily dismiss this episode as Chet just being annoyingly racist (in fact, John does call him a bigot at one point), what you cannot dismiss is that Johnny effectively destroys all of Chet’s stereotypes, something that really hadn’t been done much at the time.

When this episode aired in October of 1972, Gunsmoke was in its 18th season and Bonanza in its 14th and final season, two popular Westerns that had spent decades depicting Native Americans as either noble savages or just plain savages, but either way, something less than white men and their much more progressive ways. At the same time, Hec Ramsey was just beginning its Sunday Night Mystery Movie rotation run. The show centers on a lawman at the turn of the 20th century using the latest techniques to solve crimes. Innovative, but the depiction of Native Americans was largely the same as it had been. Emergency! directly ran against another Western at the time the episode aired, Alias Smith and Jones. So, the TV viewing audience knew well the depiction of Native Americans in Westerns back in the olden days, but their exposure to contemporary Native Americans was limited.

Enter Johnny Gage. Not only was the character Native American (as is the actor Randolph Mantooth), but he was a Native American in the now. He wasn’t living on the reservation, but he’d grown up there. He wasn’t some noble savage, but he had a deep respect and honor for his heritage and traditions. For the most part, his life didn’t differ that much from your average, everyday white guy. Instead of being some distant “other” locked into a specific long-ago time, he was an actual person existing in the present.

The whole back and forth between Johnny and Chet starts with Chet going on about the historical significance of a Western they’d just watched. According to Johnny, however, the whole film is nothing but propaganda to make white guys feel more comfortable and ignores that they were land-grabbing treaty-breakers. Chet does us all the disservice of warning Johnny that his “hot Indian blood is beginning to boil” before letting Johnny know that he’s got some Native blood, too. When Johnny correctly guesses that it was a Cherokee princess on his mother’s side, he tells Chet that they call it White Man Royalty Syndrome.

Later Chet asks Johnny why he left the reservation since according to the anthropologist he’s reading, it’s suppose to be “against his cultural instincts to leave the tribal environment.” Johnny then enlightens Chet on the nature of anthropologists. When he was growing up, they’d come to the reservation to observe them in order to prove whatever their latest theories were, get federal grants to write their books, and then do it all again the next year. Chet, of course, defends the scientists, in particular the one he’s reading. As it turns out, Johnny knows him. He spent ten years and five and a half million dollars studying how to eliminate a tribe’s poverty problems, pointing out that if a small portion of that money had been given to that tribe, they wouldn’t have the poverty problem to begin with.

Chet decides to apologize for joking around about Johnny’s Native heritage and swears no more jokes about it, which Roy protests because he likes a good joke. As John and Roy argue about Johnny’s perceived sensitivity, Chet again wants to apologize, this time for putting friend against friend. He then produces a peace pipe and says they should smoke. This time Johnny tells him it’s not funny and walks away.

In a final act, Chet apologizes for making a joke about the peace pipe, while holding a fire ax adorned with a feather. He then proposes a treaty, which Johnny scoffs at. This last bit is interrupted by an emergency (because that is the name of the show) in which the firefighters and paramedics have to retrieve an injured and unconscious man from a bit of scaffolding as a sniper shoots at them. Johnny gets the idea to use a tarp to help conceal them as they rescue the man. Back at the firehouse, he explains to Chet that it was Native instinct because everyone knows how much they love blankets, effectively ending the prodding from Chet because it’s only fun if Johnny isn’t in on the joke.

The real joke, though, is how even today the history of indigenous people is still white washed and their lives stereotyped. But at least for an episode in 1972, some harsh light was thrown on it.

***

Sadly, Tim Donnelly died suddenly September 17th. A Jack Webb show frequent flyer, he turned up on Dragnet and Adam-12 several times, including two memorable stints on Dragnet, one of which saw him don a super hero costume and another featured him as the pot-smoking father of a child who later dies of neglect and scarred me for life as a kid. He also often turned up in things directed by his brother Dennis, including the film The Toolbox Murders. And he was pitch perfect as the sometimes annoying, sometimes obsessive Chet Kelly.

Station 51 won’t be the same without him.

May he have safe travels beyond the horizon.

Book ’em, Danno–Episode 27

Welcome to Season Three!

Wo Fat is back in “…And a Time to Die”. In “Trouble in Mind”, Nancy Wilson is singing more blues than jazz.

We’re gifted with Gerald O’Loughlin’s last appearance in the series, being an absolute thorn in the side of Jack Lord as a State Department Prick.

Also, if you do enjoy music, there’s a lot of it in this episode. I was very liberal with the song sound clips. After all Nancy Wilson is a Grammy winner and it shows.

Tune in on Soundcloud, iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher.

Listen and enjoy.

And enjoy this picture of our favorite Wo Fat, the adorable Ellen, and the pants I desperately wish came in fat women’s size.

***

Sadly, 2021 has not been kind to the Hawaii Five-O ‘ohana.

In early July, we lost William Smith, who joined the cast in Season 12 as Det. James “Kimo” Carew.

And just recently, on September 21st, we lost Al Harrington, who appeared on the show five times as different characters before joining the cast as Ben Kokua in Season 5. He also had a recurring role as Mamo Kahike on the 2010 reboot.

We’ll be seeing Al Harrington a couple of times in Season 3. In fact, the day I heard of his passing, I was scheduled to record an episode he was in. I’m heartbroken to say the least.

May both men have safe travels beyond the horizon.

Aloha.

kimoben

Rerun Junkie Episodes–Lysistrata, The Patriarchy, and Gilligan’s Island

As I mentioned in my post about educational television, I learned about Lysistrata thanks to Gilligan’s Island.

In a first season episode titled “St. Gilligan and the Dragon”, Mrs. Howell invokes Lysistrata to kick off a battle of the sexes. While the play had the women refuse the men sex, a 1960s sitcom couldn’t get away with that sort of raciness (it could barely handle women’s navels) and instead had the women refuse to do anything for the men.

The women move to a different part of the island and predictably, the men can’t hack it doing women’s work while the women get along just fine. Do the men realize the error of their ways and go to the women to apologize? Of course not. Instead, they come up with a plan to scare the women into needing their help through a dragon-type monster they some how made from paper mâché. The women stumble onto their plan and meet the monster with force (led by Mrs. Howell, who remarks with a joyful viciousness, “We’ll kill it and send its head back to the men!”).

In the end, the women are scared back to the men due to a downed weather balloon that’s billowing in the jungle like some weird, large lady bug looking caterpillar whatsit. Gilligan “kills” it, and kills a chance for rescue. Because after all, Gilligan ruining their chances to ever return to civilization is the theme of the show.

As a kid watching it, I was like, “Wow, these guys are dumb. The girls shouldn’t be scared!”

As an adult watching it I’m like, “Wow, these guys are dumb. The girls shouldn’t be scared!”

Yes, the words are the same, but the tone is different. When I was a kid, I thought it was funny. Run-of-the-mill sitcom tomfoolery. Today, it’s still funny, but in the “oh sweet Mary, this shit is ridiculous” kind of way.

In true sitcom fashion, the men absolutely go to pieces without the women. The implication is, of course, that they’d never had to lower themselves to learn “women’s work”, which is a little baffling considering that Skipper, Gilligan, and the Professor are bachelors. How the hell did any of them survive? I suppose the answer is barely because attempting to do it in the face of some adversity is a complete disaster. Mary Ann can make a coconut cream pie, but these men can’t cook a fish without turning it to ash.

And then there’s an extended fantasy sequence in which they all imagine the women doting on them and needing them.

I’ve come to view this episode as a glorious illustration of the patriarchy. The men believe they deserve to be worshiped simply for being men, but in reality, they would have starved to death without the women. The men are incapable of taking care of their own basic needs because it’s somehow considered unmanly to do so. They’re entitled to be catered to by the women because of reasons. Meanwhile, a woman’s request is framed as nagging. They’re unreasonable and emotional and they can’t survive without the men to protect and provide for them, except that they pretty much do. In fact, in the day to day, the women are the ones keeping this clownshow from going full Lord of the Flies circus.

And so, their progress and independence has to be undermined in the most absurd way: by scaring them with a monster. Sitcom logic, to be sure, but it could just as easily be seen as a metaphor for the big, bad world that could easily devour the women alive. After all, that’s a man’s role: to protect women. Never mind the fact that the monsters are usually men. Kind of like the men pretending to be a rogue dragon from a Chinese New Year celebration. The men create the problem and then the men “solve” it.

Just think. If it hadn’t been for that downed weather balloon, the men might have actually had to apologize.

Rerun Junkie Confession–I Don’t Love Lucy

I know this is probably one of my most controversial television opinions and I may subject myself to mobs of people with torches and pitchforks, but I must speak my truth.

I don’t care for I Love Lucy.

Now, let me cut you off before you start trying to burn me at the stake as a witch. Nothing about my dislike of the show in anyway denies its place in history nor Lucille Ball’s contribution to comedy, television, or women’s history. I recognize all of that. She was a brilliant, creative, pioneering woman who deserves all of the accolades she gets. Nothing about this post contradicts that.

I just don’t like the show.

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that much of the humor (at least in the episodes that I have watched) is embarrassment humor, which is my least favorite. I suffer from second-hand embarrassment so easily that I can’t find any humor in watching fictional characters endure those situations. It’s just not funny to me.

The character of Lucy is also kind of annoying. Her obsession with being a performer despite having little talent grates after a while. She’s always scheming and plotting and for me, it’s tiring. Her ineptness loses its charm quickly. Though I’ve watched other shows in which I didn’t care for the main character, I can’t make the exception here. Lucy is just too much for me to get past.

The physical comedy is amazing, though; I won’t argue that. I do have much appreciation of that.

But it’s not enough to get me interested in the show. Or to be willing to give it another chance. The feeling of irritation that lingers on my nerves from the times I have watched the show is too strong to overcome. It’s a Pavlovian reaction of annoyance that makes me turn the channel.

One last thing that might quell the mob coming for my head…

I’m not a big fan of sitcoms in general anyway. My humor is better found in action shows with witty one-liners. So, don’t think I’m singling out I Love Lucy as being the only sitcom I’ve ever watched that I didn’t like.

It’s actually in very good company.

Rerun Junkie Show–Magnum PI

During one magical, syndicated summer I was fortunate to have one channel spending a couple of hours every afternoon playing Magnum PI and Simon & Simon back-to-back. Talk about a lucky kid.

One day I’ll revisit latter, but for now, let’s talk about the former.

As the story goes, the 1980 series partially got the green light because they wanted to capitalize on the Hawaii production that Hawaii Five-O was leaving behind after ending a successful twelve year run in April of that year. And capitalize they did with a successful eight year run of Magnum PI (as another story goes, Jake and the Fatman was saved from cancellation by relocating the show to Hawaii in order to save CBS from leasing an empty studio; when the lease was up, the show moved back to LA). It was hinted that the shows shared a universe, as there were a few McGarrett references in the early seasons, though Jack Lord declined to cameo as he’d retired. From a slick, be-suited state police task force to an aloha shirt wearing private dick.

Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck) is a former Navy special ops and NIA intelligence officer making his living as a private investigator and living at the estate of Robin Masters, much to the annoyance of major domo Jonathan Higgins (John Hillerman) and his lads, dobermans Zeus and Apollo. Magnum is aided in his cases (and in his life) by his besties and fellow Vietnam vets, chopper pilot Theodore “TC” Calvin (Roger E. Mosley) and gunner-turned-club-manager Orville “Rick” Wright (Larry Manetti). Magnum also cons favors from NIA computer expert Lt. “Mac” MacReynolds (Jeff MacKay, who later returns as Mac’s doppleganger Jim Bonnick in later seasons); assistant district attorney Carol Baldwin (Kathleen Lloyd), though she cons him just as often; Lt. Maggie Poole (Jean Bruce Scott), Mac’s replacement; Francis “Ice Pick” Hofstetler (Elisha Cook Jr.), though those favors were usually asked for by Rick; Doc Ibold (Glenn Cannon); and on rare occasion, Higgins’s fellow Brit Agatha Chumley (Gillian Dobb). Magnum is frequently bedeviled/assisted by HPD Lt. Yoshi Tanaka (Kwan Hi Lim) and he has a major hate hardon for Col. Buck Greene (Lance LeGault), who he holds responsible for keeping him apart from the love of his life, Michelle Hue (Marta DuBois).

Other recurring characters include: Gwen Verdon as Magnum’s mom Katherine Peterson; Eugene Roche as St. Louis PI Luther Gillis (probably my least favorite character because he is so damned annoying, but Eugene Roche is fantastic in the role; he can’t help it that my personality clashes with his character); Clyde Kusatsu as the John Wayne-obsessed HPD Detective Lt. Gordon Katsumoto (he also played a few other characters throughout the show’s run, but I love him unconditionally); Joe Santos as HPD Police Lt. Nolan Page; in later seasons, TC suddenly acquired two mainland children, Martina Stringer as Melody, and Shavar Ross as Bryant, the latter staying with TC for multiple episodes; Fay Hauser as TC’s ex-wife Tina; Deborah Pratt as TC’s girlfriend Gloria; Patrick Bishop as Keoki and Remi Abellira as Moki, two King Kamehameha Club employees; and Phyllis Davis as Rick’s eventual fiancée Cleo Mitchell.

Very much an ’80s action show in most respects, what with the crime-solving and fighting and shootouts and fast cars and witty banter and bedding babes and women characters written by men who didn’t actually know any women, but were just regurgitating the caricatures of women already established by men who’d never met a woman in their lives (yes, this is a sticking point with me because the women tend to be either helpless, annoying, or duplicitous and it’s grating), however, the show was also not afraid to stray from the mundane and into the supernatural (with ghosts, psychics, past lives, and trips to the other side) and didn’t shy away from landing emotional punches.

When it comes to the latter, most people are going to cite “Did You See the Sun Rise?” which saw Magnum and TC revisited by an old friend, Nuzo, who was imprisoned with them in Vietnam by an evil Russian named Ivan (Bo Svenson). The episode put Magnum through the ringer, killing off a friend, putting another one in jeopardy, and forcing both him and TC to relive an incredibly traumatic experience in their lives. The episode ends with Magnum doing something considered morally questionable, but honestly, I was fine with it and on the contrary, thought he could have gone even farther. But that’s just me and my preference for vengeance talking.

This wouldn’t be the only episode to reflect on their Vietnam service and their traumas of war, a daring thing at the time given that the actual war had only ended a few years before the show began, the pain and controversy of it hardly a forgotten thing. Higgins would also recall his times of service in many, many, many stories, however even he gets to face some experiences he’d rather have forgotten.

Personally, “Home from the Sea” kicks my ass the most as Magnum fights for survival while stranded in the ocean during the Fourth of July. He flashes back and forth between the present and his childhood leading up to his father’s death in Korea while TC, Rick, and Higgins have persistent feelings that Magnum is in trouble. The way everything weaves together is so well done and Magnum’s narration of “I made it, Dad. Why didn’t you?” never fails to punch me in the chest and bring tears to my eyes.

Of course, there are lighter episodes, too, and quite a bit of humor in the show, which I love. Poor Rick catches a lot of the comic relief burden. I mean, he got punched by a nun once. Two of my favorite eps are “Operation: Silent Night” and “I, Witness”. Higgins is also blessed with a father who can’t keep it in his pants, which results in multiple half-siblings, three of which we get to meet: Elmo Ziller, Father Paddy McGuinness, and Don Luis Mongueo (all played by John Hillerman). Naturally, the siblings are nothing like the proper Higgins and hilarity tends to ensue. Father Paddy is my favorite.

The series wasn’t afraid to experiment, doing an episode set in 1936, a noir murder mystery episode, an episode that inter-cut Magnum’s investigation of insurance fraud with the novel of a struggling writer, and a send-up of Indiana Jones, a role that Tom Selleck couldn’t take due to the show. And while Selleck was splitting time with the show and movies during the fourth season, we were treated to Rick, TC, and Higgins-centric episodes, including one humorous, yet heartbreaking episode in which Higgins is obsessed with recounting in his memoir the story of his dear friend David Worth (Patrick Macnee) who thought he was Sherlock Holmes. The show also crossed over with two other popular CBS shows during its run: Murder, She Wrote and Simon & Simon.

The eight seasons were star studded when it came to guest stars. Here are a few, except not really : Robert Pine (as Magnum’s dad, further proving he’ll always be cooler than his son Chris), Carol Burnett, Frank Sinatra, Robert Loggia, Vera Miles, Celeste Holm, Ernest Borgnine, Darren McGavin; Hawaii Five-O regulars Zulu, Herman Wedemeyer, Harry Endo, Moe Keale, and Kam Fong, as well as Kam’s son Dennis Chun and frequent flyers Douglas Mossman, Tommy Fujiwara, and Josie Over; Robert Forster, Richard Narita, Gregory Sierra, Pat Hingle, Soon-Tek Oh, Nancy Lee Grahn; ’80s ladies Annie Potts, Dana Delany, Tyne Daly, and Erin Gray; Dustin Nguyen, Alfonso Ribeira, Sharon Stone, Morgan Fairchild, Dick Butkus, James Hong, Christine Belford; darlings Shannon Doherty and Kim Richards; Donnelly Rhodes, William Lucking, Keye Luke; Joe Santos’s fellow Rockford Files vets Gretchen Corbett, Stuart Margolin, and Noah Beery Jr.; William Schallert, Robert Ito, Denise Nichols, Sheree North, Leslie Uggams, Roscoe Lee Browne, Jenny Agutter; Return of the Living Dead duo Clu Gulager and James Karen; France Nuyen, Wings Hauser, Beulah Quo, Brock Peters; Cheers alums Ted Danson and John Ratzenberger; Jessica Walter, Dennis Weaver, Mako; Rerun Junkie faves Kenneth Tigar, Robert F. Lyons, Denny Miller, Nehemiah Persoff, and John Saxon; Cameron Mitchell, Scatman Crothers, Pat Morita, Burr DeBenning; ’60s icons James Doohan, Cesare Romero, Henry Gibson,and Alan Hale Jr.; and in my favorite bit of casting ever, Anne Lockhart and Miguel Ferrer playing younger versions of their parents June Lockhart and José Ferrer.

One controversial aspect of the series lies in one particular character: Robin Masters. In the early seasons, he was played (or at least voiced) by Orson Welles. However, in the later seasons, it was supposed that Higgins was actually the never-there owner of Robin’s Nest. Magnum’s reasoning was that Higgins was always working on his memoirs, but was never done, and some of his writing was similar to that of Masters. Plus he was really possessive of the estate. I don’t know what the reasoning was by the actual show writers, though, since it was established in early seasons that Robin Masters was Orson Welles. Yes, Orson Welles died during the series, but they could have worked around it. I mean, Robin was never there. But, in the end, it resulted in a debate among some fans about who Robin Masters really is. In my personal canon, it was Orson Welles. I like Higgins being the idiosyncratic human that he is.

At any rate, it was played like a dangling carrot for Magnum right up until the last episode of the show. Now, if I have the story straight, the show was supposed to end in the seventh season with the episode “Limbo”, but they ended up being renewed for a shorter eighth season which ended with “Resolutions”. My controversial opinion is that I like the idea of the show ending with “Limbo” better, even if it is kind of a downer. But I like “Resolutions” as well. It’s a good high note to go out on.

The show earned itself a reboot in 2018, diversifying the cast with Jay Hernandez taking over the role of Magnum and Perdita Weeks as Higgins (sadly, opposite sex leads mean that the show has taken the well-worn will-they-or-won’t-they path because heteronormativity is a helluva drug); Zachary Knighton as Rick and Stephen Hill as TC (this was the casting that stressed me the most because TC is my guy; they did a fab job, though); and rounding out the main cast is Tim Kang as Gordon Katsumoto (sans John Wayne obsession) and Amy Hill as Kumu, an original character for the series and my role model. I enjoy the reboot despite its flaws, the biggest one being that none of the guys ever wear short-shorts a la the ’80s series. If I’m going to be subjected to Moonlighting-redux, then I should at least get a huge side of guy thighs.

Obviously, though, the ’80 series captured my heart first and I’ve got some happy memories with it, watching it while hanging out in my grandma’s air conditioned den after lunch.

It’s a classic.

Like an aloha shirt, it never goes out of style.

“What’s Your Favorite TV Show?”

First of all, how dare you ask me an unanswerable question.

Yes it is THE question I cannot answer. I can’t even make a top five list. I can barely make a top ten.

The truth is that my love is forever, but my favorites change.

Also massive commitment issues, but that’s a post for a different blog.

It’s probably easiest to stay general and go with the types of shows I like best.

I have a strong love for ’70s cop shows (they are my ultimate jam, it would seem) and ’80s private detective shows. I’m not a big fan of sitcoms, but most of the ones I like are from the ’60s. I grew up on ’80s action and old ladies being awesome. I’m fond of a handful of sci-fi shows from the late ’90s and the ’00s. I discovered an affinity for some Westerns from the ’50s and ’60s. I like shows produced by Jack Webb and shows that star Raymond Burr. Yes, I don’t like many current shows, but I’ve still found some that I truly enjoy.

Of those genres, I could start naming names. Hawaii Five-O, obviously, but also Barney Miller and Starsky and Hutch and CHiPs. Magnum PI and Simon and Simon. The Monkees and Gilligan’s Island and The Addams Family. The A-Team and Air Wolf and Murder, She Wrote and The Golden Girls. Stargate: Atlantis and Stargate: Universe. The Big Valley and The Rifleman and Gunsmoke and Bonanza. Dragnet and Emergency! and Adam-12. Ironside and Perry Mason. I watched NCIS: New Orleans from pilot to finale. I’m enjoying the reboots of Magnum PI (despite its -in some instances glaring- flaws) and The Equalizer. I even finally came to appreciate the 2010 Hawaii Five-0.

But distilling it down to a single choice is impossible.

Think of all of the shows I haven’t watched yet. The first two seasons of The Rookies still sits on my shelf, unseen. So does Werewolf. Chopper One is on my wishlist, as is Longstreet and Dan August. Tales of the Gold Monkey is just waiting for me to borrow from the library. I would kill to see Dirty Sally, Gunsmoke‘s only spin-off, and Trauma Center, the 4th Glen A. Larson short-lived series to come out of 1983.

So, really, it would be premature of me to pick a favorite at this point. Even a top ten list might be considered irresponsible at this juncture.

I continue to discover new reruns that hit me on all cylinders, that thrill me. I’m always rediscovering old loves that I haven’t watched for years, some I’ve even forgotten about. Some shows I love for all the wrong reasons; a few I love for the right ones.

There are shows that only briefly capture my attention, but do it so intensely that they almost become a fixation. Other shows, never leave me, really. Then there are those that come and go, roll in and out of my life like waves, letting me rediscover them over and over again. And of course, there are my white whales and holy grails, the ones that I’ve been looking for and hope that one day I’ll finally get to watch.

So, what’s my favorite TV show?

I’ll let you know.

Educational Television

Several years ago now, I saw a movie called Chi-Raq which is a retelling of the story of Lysistrata set in present day Chicago. It’s a great movie, but judging by some of the comments I saw at the time, it seemed that some people missed the fact that it was a retelling of a Greek play by Aristophanes.

Naturally, people pointed out that they didn’t know that because they’d never learned about it in school.

I never learned about Lysistrata in school either, but I still knew the story. How?

Gilligan’s Island.

The first season episode “St. Gilligan and the Dragon” invokes a G-rated version of the story. The women, frustrated with the men and feeling disrespected, decide to go off on their own and stop doing the “women’s work” for the fellas. Mrs. Howell is actually the instigator, citing Lysistrata to explain to Mary Ann and Ginger what they should do.

So at six years old, I learned about Lysistrata. Thirty-some years later, I finally put that knowledge to use to be smug at strangers on the Internet.

Television has a funny way of educating folks like that. They just sneak it in on you and the next thing you know you’re answering the Daily Double on Jeopardy correctly.

Or realizing what the school curriculum didn’t cover.

After the statue of slave trader Edwin Colston was pulled down and dumped in the sea in Bristol, England, someone on Twitter pointed out that much of the racist history of Britain wasn’t addressed in their history classes there. One of these events that they cited was the Mau Mau Uprising, a violent resistance to colonialism by the Kenya Land and Freedom Army against the British.

It seems odd that the Brits might not to learn something about this, even a glossy, white-washed version it. It makes more sense that an American like myself wouldn’t know about it. After all, our high school history classes barely get past World War II.

But I’d heard of it. Why?

Magnum PI.

The third season episode “Black on White” deals specifically with the Mau Mau Uprising, particularly Higgins’s role in it since the men in his unit who were there are being killed off. It’s not an exact retelling of history, of course, but it does capture the brutality of the conflict, something most Americans might not have otherwise heard of.

A little history lesson snuck in between the action and Aloha shirts.

This sort of thing still happens in today’s television. A whole slew of folks were introduced to the Tulsa Race Massacre thanks to Watchmen. In 1921, white residents attacked the Black residents of the Greenwood district in Tulsa, destroying the wealthiest Black community at the time, injuring hundreds, and killing an estimated 75 to 100 people (according to a 2001 commission; 39 deaths were confirmed). Not many US high school history classes paused to even mention that in the race from WWI to the Great Depression.

They say that too much television can rot your brain. And I suppose it can. Too much of anything isn’t good for you. Television is no different, especially some of the so-called mindless junk (I do love me some intellectual Twinkies as a way to soothe my tendency to overthink). But it’s not all brainless twaddle.

Pay attention next time.

You might just learn something.