Sunday, October 19, 2014

TV – Starsky & Hutch Ride Again on Family Net

The 1970s TV cop duo is cleaning the boob tube (or LCD, LED, or plasma set) of crime at 7:00 p.m. Sundays on Family Net (check your local listings for additional weekday showings), and it’s quite the “trip” down memory lane.

The funky second-season theme by Tom Scott is both catchy and cheeky and complements the hilarious opening credits much better than Lalo Schifrin’s grim, downbeat, first-season theme. And hilarious the opening credits are, because, although the show is called Starsky & Hutch, the guy who plays Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser) and drives the flashy red and white-striped Ford Gran Torino is the second actor listed. David Soul (Hutch) gets top billing, and over a freeze frame of him yelling and flailing his arms maniacally.

Antonio Fargas, who plays nightclub-owning street informant Huggy Bear, gets special standout billing (“and Antonio Fargas as Huggy Bear”). But then, all of a sudden, the credits list Bernie Hamilton (the irascible but lovable Captain Dobey). That’s it – just Bernie Hamilton. It’s like the credits are saying, “…and Antonio Fargas as Huggy Bear – oh, by the way, Bernie Hamilton.”

There’s more to the show than just the hilarious opening credits and wacky main theme, and certainly much more than the insipid, shallow, and unworthy big-screen Starsky & Hutch parody starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. Stiller and Wilson may be funny (not really), but they’re no David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser. Soul and Glaser are solid actors with great screen chemistry, and Glaser is a better and more accomplished film and television director.

Even if you’re not into TV cop shows or don’t particularly care for Starsky & Hutch, at least just check out the opening credits and main theme of the current rotation of episodes on Family Net. It’s one of the more entertaining highlights of classic 1970s television.

--Raj Manoharan

TV – William Shatner Weekends Double “Bill”: Double the Bill, Double the Thrill

If you’re as much of a Shatfan as I am, then you’ll be thrilled to know that you can watch William Shatner every weekend in all his scenery-chewing and over-the-top gut-busting glory in two different decades in two different uniforms in two different hairstyles (or hairpieces?).
First up, catch Shatner in his first iteration of Captain Kirk in the original 1960s Star Trek television series, which airs Saturdays at 9:00 p.m. on Me TV (Memorable Entertainment Television). Nothing beats Shatner hamming philosophic about the quandaries of mankind’s place in the universe, all the while sporting a ‘60s-style “straight-laced” coiffure (Was it real or was it a hairpiece? Find out at Shatner’s partners in pop cultural perpetuity include Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, and George Takei.
Shatner’s heyday (shortly before he became a self-parodying, perpetually wealth-generating cottage industry unto himself) came in the 1980s, when—at the same time he was reprising his role as James T. Kirk in the Star Trek movies—he pounded the pavement and cleaned the streets of slimy scum as the titular no-nonsense police sergeant in T.J. Hooker, airing Sundays at 6:00 p.m. on Family Net (check your local listings for additional weekday showings).
Shatner as a uniformed police officer is about as high-concept as you can get, making this the best cop show of all time. Shatner often gets touted for his peerless hood jumping, but he was quite adept behind the wheel as well. He could drift (brake-skidding the car on fast turns) with the best of them, even when it wasn't necessary. And who could forget that Shatastic ‘80s perm? (Again—real or fake? Check out The series also stars the adorably smug Adrian Zmed, a very fresh-faced Heather Locklear, and Shatner’s fellow aging pretty boy James Darren.
So don’t forget to enjoy William Shatner in two of his most memorable TV roles. Tune in every weekend, same Shat time, same Shat channel! (Actually, that's two different times on two different channels.)
--Raj Manoharan

CD Review – Unlike the Stars, by Vin Downes

Acoustic guitarist Vin Downes' third album is up for Best New Age Album in the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, and deservedly so.

This is one of the best acoustic guitar albums out there; it flows beautifully from beginning to end, with nary a dud on the track list.

This is a testament to Downes' craftsmanship as a composer and his skill as a guitarist. Every chord and note is rapturous, and the sound is lush and luxurious thanks to the studio acumen of producer Will Ackerman and recording engineer Tom Eaton.

Grammy winner Ackerman contributes additional guitar to one track, with other guest turns throughout by bass impressario Tony Levin, cellist Eugene Friesen, and flutist David Watson. Friesen's cello and Watson's flutes blend very nicely with Downes' guitar, by the way.

This is more than just a great guitar record – this is great music, period.

--Raj Manoharan

TV – RajMan's TV Picks: 500 Channels and Something Actually On

For the first time in as long as I can remember, there is at least one new and/or returning prime-time program worth watching every weeknight, as well as good shows both old and new on the weekends. Here's my day-by-day rundown of recommendations. Check your local listings for show times.


Bar Rescue (Spike); Hungry Investors (Spike); The First Family (Syndication); Mr. Box Office (Syndication); Hawaii Five-O (1968-1980, Me TV); T.J. Hooker (Family Net); Starsky & Hutch (Family Net); The Simpsons (Fox); Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox); Family Guy (Fox)


Gotham (Fox); Sleepy Hollow (Fox)


The Flash (The CW)


Criminal Minds (CBS)


Gracepoint (Fox)


Hawaii Five-0 (2010-Present, CBS); What's Happening! (TV One); Good Times (TV One); The Jeffersons (TV One)


Good Times Marathon (TV One); Sanford & Son Marathon (TV One); What's Happening! (TV One); The Adventures of Superman (Me TV); Batman (Me TV); Star Trek (Me TV)

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, October 12, 2014

TV – Superman Returns! See the Dawn of Justice on Me TV Before It Arrives in Theaters!

This is what I wrote back on December 28, 2013:

Watching Batman and Wonder Woman on Me TV is a great way to prepare for the Man of Steel sequel set for release in 2015, with Henry Cavill reprising his role as Superman and joined by Ben Affleck as Batman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Now all Me TV needs to do is add the 1950s series The Adventures of Superman to the lineup.”

My thought from last winter has become reality as The Adventures of Superman is now part of Me TV's Super Sci-Fi Saturday Nights lineup.

The classic show starring George Reeves as TV's first live-action Man of Steel kicks off a super-powered evening of super-heroics at 6:00 p.m., followed by Adam West and Burt Ward as the Caped Crusading Dynamic Duo in Batman at 7:00 p.m. and Lynda Carter as the original warrior princess in Wonder Woman at 8:00 p.m.

Now, thanks to Me TV, super fans will be super ready to anticipate the theatrical release (now set for 2016) of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, starring Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, and Gal Gadot as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, respectively, and introducing a host of other legendary DC Comics superheroes.

--Raj Manoharan

Publications and Interviews


TV Key (King Features Syndicate); CableView; PrimeStar; DirecTV: The Guide; Starlog; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Star Trek: Voyager; IGN Sci-Fi (Web site)


Richard Dean Anderson; Amanda Bearse; Jim Belushi; Don Berliner; Ken Burns; LeVar Burton; Timothy Busfield; Kim Catrall; Robert Conrad; John De Lancie; Cleavant Derricks; Fred Dryer; Erik Estrada; Greg Evigan; Lou Ferrigno; June Foray; Jonathan Frakes (twice); Stanton Friedman; David Alan Grier; Mark Hamill; David Hasselhoff (before the interview, I got free tickets to his Jeckyll and Hyde Broadway show and an invitation to visit the DVD production studio before the show; I took my mom – that was a great night out); Richard Hatch (after the interview, the Battlestar Galactica star sent my mom a personally autographed photo); John Henson; Bruce Hornsby; Chuck Jones; Eartha Kitt; Stan Lee; Scott Leva (who told me that could be him in my profile picture); James MacArthur; Poppy Montgomery; Leonard Nimoy; Jerry O’Connell (also my NYU Tisch classmate); Edward James Olmos (who filled in at the last minute for James Gandolfini); Joe Pantoliano; Michael Piller; Sam Raimi; Ernie Sabella; Katey Sagal; John Schneider; William Shatner; Sinbad; Patrick Stewart; Andy Summers; Henry Thomas; Tim White; Larry Wilcox; Brian Wilson; Tom Wopat; Bill Wyman

Friday, October 10, 2014

Books, Movies, TV, Pop Culture – RIP Steven H. Scheuer and John N. Goudas

I've just learned that Steven H. Scheuer, whom I did my New York University internship with from 1993 to 1995, passed away in late May/early June of this year. He was 88 years old.

Scheuer was recently mentioned in an online CNN article about movie critic Leonard Maltin's final movie guide. Maltin was influenced and inspired by Scheuer, who practically invented the art and industries of newspaper television reviews and movie guides.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to also mention John N. Goudas, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 72. Goudas was Scheuer's main writer for the TV Key newspaper column that was distributed by King Features Syndicate to over 300 newspapers across the country.

Although I worked with Scheuer and Goudas for only three years, they made a lasting impression on me personally and professionally. I still remember my “job” interview with Scheuer on a cold January morning back in 1993 in his New York City office in the lobby of a high-rise apartment building in the East 50s, where he showed me that he had many of the same TV, movie, and pop culture books that I had.

There were also many other wonderful moments in that office that I remember as if they happened yesterday, such as the time none of us were answering the phone for some reason that I've since forgotten, and Scheuer, who was making a rare appearance in the office while doing some errands, quipped, “Is this some sort of holiday where nobody is supposed to answer the phone?” We also watched the O.J. Simpson verdict live on the office television.

While Scheuer couldn't pay the interns as we all anticipated a deal with the fledgling Microsoft Network that never came through (this was the dawn of the Internet in 1995), he did treat us to many nice business lunches at fancy and renowned restaurants in New York City. I also had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Scheuer's gracious wife, Alida Brill-Scheuer, who accompanied us on many of these outings.

My internship at TV Key was the launching pad that enabled me to go on to interview and write about the iconic actors and musicians that I grew up loving.

I consider myself very fortunate to have known and worked with these titans of television criticism. They were giants in their field. They were also a couple of lovable and fun-loving characters.

I can only hope that RajMan Reviews embodies something of their spirit, if not their brilliance.

The following links do them far more justice than I ever could. Thank you for everything, John and Mr. Scheuer. Rest in peace.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

CD Review – Pavane, by Paul Higgs

British horn player Paul Higgs' latest release is a trumpet-based album that people who are not particularly fans of trumpet music can enjoy.

I feel comfortable saying that because, although I do appreciate the contributions and embellishments of horns to music, I am by no means a horn enthusiast, and yet I enjoy this CD as much as I would a well done guitar-based album – or any album of good music, really.

I think the key to Higgs' success here is that rather than make a CD of simply “trumpet music,” he has delivered a collection of pleasant ear-catching compositions that just happen to have the trumpet as the lead instrument. Instead of resorting to showy, flamboyant histrionics, Higgs just plays it straight, keeping to the melodies with eloquent phrasing and letting the distinctive sound of the horn speak for itself.

So in the end, it's Higgs' skill as a composer and his tasteful restraint as a trumpeter that elevate this album to a high level of exquisite elegance.

--Raj Manoharan