Feb 18, 2023
The 9 Worst TV Series Finales in History
If it was a 60-minute dramatic series, make that 38 feature length movies and 22 novels.
Then comes the series finale. There will be no more episodes.
You know the characters better than many of your real-life friends. Saying goodbye is going to be painful.
For years you've set aside a special part of your week for the program. You rarely missed it, and when you did, you taped it to watch later. You watched all of the summer reruns.There will be a hole in your life for quite some time.
So you sit down for the series finale, hoping for a warm, funny, memorable sendoff. But instead, you get garbage. Mind-destroying, depressing, confusing, WTF garbage.
But the series finale isn't even about that; it's about Laverne's singer/dancer/male prostitute friend Carmine going to New York to audition for Hair.
We don't find out if he got the role or not. And we don't see his nude scene.
But on May 21st, 1990, Bob wakes up in bed as Dr. Bob Hartley, the psychologist in his old series, and tells his old wife, Emily, "What a dream I had!" Way to destroy beloved characters, Bob!
How best to end the hearwarming series: how about with a eco-catastrophe that kills every dinosaur on the planet? Including the entire Sinclair family? Including the baby?
That's not the worst of it, though -- in the last episode, we are told that this has all been a story that Roseanne has written. The real people are all different. Dan is dead. Jackie is a lesbian, so her husband and child don't exist. But Mom isn't a lesbian. The daughters switch husbands. Everything we thought we knew about the show is wrong.
And everyone they've interacted with comes rushing to town to complain. Their honest attempts to help are recast as diabolical plots. Mistakes and accidents are recast as deliberate malice. Everything we thought we knew about the show is wrong. Oh, and they go to prison.
Do they change the world? Reveal the diabolical plot in a tell-all book? At least find a life far removed from their 12-year imprisonment? No -- they are shown living in a small apartment, eating pizza and riffing on bad movies.
At least they don't meet girls.
So how to handle the last season: end the department store, drop some of the characters, and give the others nonsensical new jobs at a new store. Oh, and have Drew and Mimi live together, raising a 10-year old boy who was a baby last season.
Whatever momentary glitch being gay caused in the cosmic order, it has been resolved with a man and a woman gazing into each other's eyes forever.
And Vincent the Dog dies.
Feb 16, 2023
Can Netflix redeem itself with "Red Rose," About an Evil App Harassing Gay and Straight Teens?
After my last three or four grim reviews, I have to conclude that Netflix, the streaming service that brought us Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Good Place, Bojack Horseman, and Kim's Convenience, has been reduced to dredge. But maybe Red Rose, a British tv series about a murderous app, will break the heteronormative trend. I'll watch Episode #1, "It's Grim Up North."
Scene 2: Bolton, a quaint, very English town near Manchester, six months later. Two teenage girls, Wren (blonde) and Roche (brunette), are sitting on a rustic road, discussing the end of exams and summer plans. They sign each other's shirts, frolick, and almost kiss, but they are interrupted by a third girl. Any boys in this show? Finally -- two boys, Noah and Antony (Ellis Howard, below), catch up to joke and tease the girls.
Cut to teens in school uniforms dancing on hilltops. Noah and Antony dance with each other, but pair off with girls to smoke and drink and play patty-cake (teenagers? Is that a British thing?).
Scene 3: While the others are dancing, Wren and Noah (Harry Redding) find a deserted phone booth and make out. What is a phone booth doing in the hills, with no buildings or roads around? Poor girl Roche sees them and is upset. She wanders off by herself, and gets a text inviting her to download an app, Red Rose: "Welcome to the new you."
Scene 6: Wren working in a tea shop. Her coworkers ask about the mysterious boy she is dating. Cut to a cemetery, where Wren meets with an older, bearded guy (Adam Nagaitis?). He asks if they can be more open about their relationship, but she refuses and stomps off: "Don't push me!"
Feb 15, 2023
"Re/Member": Japanese Bullies and Outcasts Bond, Get Murdered. Repeat Ad Infinitum.
Re/Member, on Netflix, about some teens trapped in a time loop, has an interesting premise (I have always loved time paradox stories). Besides, where there are teenagers, there are bound to be some hunks.
No movie with this title exists exist on Wikipedia or IMDB, or else it gets mixed up with a 2022 Korean movie, Remember. I found the star, Kama Hashimoto, on Decider, and followed her to IMDB, but no listing for Re/Member. The listing of the director led me to another title, Remember Member, which makes no sense.
Scene 1: I'm not happy so far. A cliched little girl clutching a teddy bear (or teddy creepy ragdoll) flees from a hatchet-murderer into a scary house. She runs into a study -- photo of the nuclear family displayed prominently, of course -- and blocks the door. .But the murderer jumps through the window and hatchets her to death. Blood sprinkles onto the creepy ragdoll.
Scene 2: July 5th, a Tuesday. A teenage girl gets out of bed and goes down to breakfast, where Mom has packed her a lunch of fried shrimp and pumpkin crouquettes: "Share with your friends, ok?"
Cut to a lot of girls in school costumes giggling and discussing fashion as they walk down a busy urban street. Our girl hangs back, being distant and depressed. A boy discusses his interest in having sex with It-Girl Rie; his friend advises that she's out of his league. He should try for our girl, Asuka, instead. "No way! She's an outcast! I can't even say hello, or I'll be disgraced forever!
Their third male friend joins them: Takahiro (Gordon Maeda, top photo). They accuse him of having sex with It-Girl Rie, but he denies it. Whoops, he accidently pushes Outcast Asuka into the street! He starts to help her pick up her books, but his friend pull him away: "Don't interact with her, or you'll be disgraced!" I dislike the intense bullying displayed in Japanese tv series, but I guess in a communal-based society, anything different is anathema.
Suddenly a cat gets squished by a car. Everyone glares at Outcast Asuka, believing that she caused the death with her outcast mojo.
Scene 3: In the shoe-changing room, Outcast Asuka notices that Takahiro has lost his class pin. How to return it to him without interacting? Not to worry, a non-outcast girl grabs it and uses it to flirt.
In the classroom, Outcast Asuka watches as the boys torture outcast boy Shota. They ask for volunteers to serve on the Class Festival Committee.
At lunchtime, while the It-Kids are discussing how superior they are, Outcast Asuka takes her lunch outside, to eat next to a scary construction zone. She sees a dozen bloody arms swaying like snakes from a giant pipe. Then she interrupts an eyeglass-guy while he's trying to bury a squelching bag. I think eyeglasses are a symbol of evil in Japan. A dead girl appears behind her and wants to know where her body is.
Scene 4: Basketball practice. The male friends praise Takahiro's skill. Later, the girls laugh at and jeer at Outcast Shota as he meanders down the hall. This is too much. Every kid at that school can't be a bully.
Switch to evening. Outcast Asuka is checking her calendar of Takahiro's daily activities, so she can stalk him better, when she gets a lot of mysterious texts about a Red Person (bathed in blood). She hides under the covers.
She awakens with five other students, including four It-Kids and Outcast Shota, in the deserted chapel. None of them remember how they got there. After Outcast Shota says "This is like my video game....", they are killed, in various gruesome ways, by the little girl who was killed in Scene 1! Usually this would be the whole move, but it's over in about 3 minutes.
Scene 5: July 5th, Tuesday. Outcast Asuka awakens. It was just a bad dream! She can go back to her daily routine of pining over Takahiro and being ignored by the It-Kids. But as the same events occur as yesterday -- pumpkin croquettes, dead cat, Class Festival Committee -- she realizes that something is wrong. Instead of torturing Shota, they drag him into the hall and ask what the heck is going on.
He explains that it's like the plot of a Russian video game, the Body Search: players have to find the body parts of a dismembered murder victim while avoiding the Red Person. If they fail, the game will reset. They figure out the premise very quickly.
Creepy eyeglass guy, Mr. Yoshiro the Librarian (Shuntaro Yanagi?), is staring at them from afar.
Scene 6: After two scenes of everyday activities, they end up at the chapel again. There's an open coffin for depositing the body parts. They split up to search,Takahiro and Outcast Asuka together.
They find an arm in an aquarium, but still get squelched by the Little Girl. Even returning the arm to its coffin doesn't mollify her. Wait -- if she wants her body parts back, why is she squelching everyone?
Scene 7: Morning. It's still July 5th, This time they rescue the cat, and the outcasts have been admitted to the It-Kid group, to the consternation of bullies everywhere. Shots of them laughing and joking and getting desserts together. How heartwarming. That night the three girls are squelched in a swimming pool.
Scene 8: July 5th. The guys are texting everyone to invite them to a party. Non-Outcast Shota asks Takahiro if Atsushi (Fuju Kamio, right) is coming. They were friends in middle school, but had a falling out when Atsushi lost a leg and gave up on sports. Could there be a gay subtext coming up? Or maybe he's behind all of this?
Cut to a group meeting. Shota has been doing research: the video game is based on a real-life murder near their campus 30 years ago (the Little Girl). He surmises that the Red Person is drawn to noise, so if they play loud music everywhere, they can search in safety.
Juxtaposed scenes of finding body parts, being killed, having fun friend-bonding times, and getting glared at by the creepy librarian. Some heart-to-hearts at the beach (only Shota takes his shirt off). And it just goes on like that, interminably, until Tahakiro and Outcast Asuka kiss, and I give up.
Spoiler Alert: When they finish rebuilding the corpse, everything resets, including people's memories, so they go back to bullying and exclusion. Except for Takahiro. True love, and all that. Ugh.
Feb 13, 2023
Pufnstuf: The Dragon and the Witch Compete over Jimmy's Flute
In the opening segment, a cute, androgynous sixteen-year old named Jimmy (Jack Wild, fomerly of Oliver), with a Beatles moptop and a cowboy hat, is prancing through a bucolic mountain countryside, playing with his golden flute (it is not really gold in color but dark bronze, thicker and blockier than real flutes, and extremely phallic later, as it peeps out of Jimmy’s pocket).
A “kooky old witch” named Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes), passing by on her supersonic Vroom-Broom, spies Jimmy and decides that her drafty old castle could use his youthful vitality – and his ten inches of flute. She instructs a sentient boat to lure Jimmy aboard with the promise of a pleasant journey to Living Island. But when the trip commences, the boat develops arms and claws to hold Jimmy securely in place, while the witch laughs maniacally, and:
The sky grew dark
The sea grew rough
And the boat sailed on and on and on and on
In a scene that is still frightening today, Jimmy manages to free himself from the grasping claws, and dives into the dark, choppy sea. He crawls onto a distant, desolate beach and collapses, half-drowned and exhausted. Then – somewhat too late – help arrives. A tall green-and-yellow dragon named H. R. Pufnstuf resuscitates Jimmy, moves him into his cave, and dresses him in a garish Fab Four outfit (one wonders where the dragon got human clothes. Have there been other Jimmies, lost boys washing up on the beach over and over forever?). Then Pufnstuf introduces Jimmy to the citizens of Living Island, various animals, plants, and inanimate objects, all sentient and wise-cracking, almost all male.
Since Jimmy is well protected, Witchiepoo turns her attention to the flute, now sentient and named Freddy. Most episodes involve Witchiepoo’s grandiose, impractical schemes to steal Freddy, or, when she succeeds, Jimmy and company’s equally grandiose, impractical schemes to retrieve him. Jimmy also mounts a few half-hearted escape attempts, but it is obvious that he has no real desire to leave Living Island. Witchiepoo is more cranky than evil, promising excitement more than threat, and Jimmy is having the time of his life, dancing, singing, putting on plays with a group of caring, attentive friends who tolerate all of his many gender transgressions.
The feature film Pufnstuf appeared in July 1970. In a new back story, Jimmy has recently moved from England to a resort town (Big Bear Lake, California), where he plays the flute in the school band (rather a fairy choice of instrument, I thought). During a practice session on the front lawn of a gaudy, baroque junior high school, the other boys insult him, mock his accent, and finally trip him, and he knocks over some music stands. True to junior high form, the teacher concludes that Jimmy is the troublemaker, and kicks him out of the band. Jimmy runs away, through a town of small brown cabins and autumn-orange trees that, for all its beauty, promises nothing but brutality and viciousness. Eventually he stops by the lake to rest. Suddenly his flute grows longer and thicker, changes from gold to brown, and starts to move of its own accord – an awkward moment for Jimmy to enter puberty!
Witchiepoo happens to be flying overhead, and the plot proceeds as in the series. But now she has a homosocial motive for her designs. She believes that Freddy the Flute will be a perfect trinket to impress the other witches, especially Witch Hazel (Mama Cass Eliot of The Mamas and the Papas), with whom she has a sort of Auntie Mame/Vera Charles rivalry.
All of the many witches we meet in the film are female, and all are aggressively heterosexual. Witchiepoo tries to sneak into Pufnstuf’s cave by flirting with him as vampish dance instructor Benita Bugaloo, and when she telephones Witch Hazel, their conversation consists mostly of gossip about which female witch is dating which man. The film makes Living Island, conversely, a veritable Fire Island, inhabited by ten men (or male beings) and only two women, Pufnstuf’s sister and Judy the Frog (a parody of gay icon Judy Garland).
None of them is married or involved with the other sex, nor do any of the male residents “boing” with lust over Witchiepoo in her bodacious disguise. It was not unusual for children’s films a generation ago to omit heterosexual content, but quite unusual to place it squarely in the laps of evil witches while infusing the hero and his friends with a blatantly gay sensibility.
There's a gay hookup story about Jack Wild on Tales of West Hollywood.
Feb 12, 2023
The Male Ladybug and His Biceps
17 episodes of The Bugaloos aired during the 1970-71 season, and were rerun in 1971-72. That's a little short, even for a Sid and Marty Krofft live action-animatronic series: Sigmund and the Sea Monsters had 29, and Land of the Lost had 43.
1. I.Q. (John McIndoe), a gangly blond grasshopper
Very muscular. Always wearing a tight red shirt that highlighted his pecs and lay bare his arms and shoulders.
And exceptionally tight pants.
Unlike most Krofft shows, they were not trapped far from home: they lived in a hippie commune, the Tranquility Forest, singing, dancing, flying, and displaying no heterosexual interest
Establishment fear of the youth counterculture,but from the counterculture's point of view. Clash of innocence and experience, age and. . um, obviously a metaphor for. . .um. . .
Who could think about anything but the male ladybug, with his sleeveless shirt and obvious bulge?
Update: The Bugaloos was John Philpott's only acting gig. He performed in several bands and as a cabaret singer, and is now retired and living in France. As far as I can tell, only his family and friends had the opportunity to see his muscles close-up.
See also: Pufnstuf
"From", on MGM Plus: "Lost" in a Small Town, with Real Men Protecting their Wives and Kids
Amazon Prime has been pushing me to watch an episode of a series called From, a one-word title that's impossible to research, but apparently it's about a small town where "you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave." LGBT people who grew up trapped in homophobic small towns can relate.
It stars Harold Perrineau, Michael on Lost, so doubtless it has some intriguing mysteries inside mysteries. And hopefully, 18 years since Lost premiered, more gay characters.
Only problem: this is a drug-dealer "first taste is free" setup. One free episode to get you hooked, and then you have to pay. I'm not paying, but I'll take the first taste.
Opening: MGM tells us that this is a MGM production, that MGM has always produced the world's best movies, that this is a MGM production, and that you need to subscribe to watch the other episodes.
Scene 1: A very run-down rural community, rusty cars, unpainted buildings. Michael from Lost walks down the dirt road, ringing a bell. People walk toward their houses. A waitress kicks two customers out of the diner -- closing time -- and touches a strange icon handing from the wall. Michael passes a terribly cliched little girl on a swingset holding a doll. She's obviously a goner, but the background song broadcasts it: "Little girl, so young and pretty, you'll be dead before your time is due."
In an old person's home, Deputy Kenny (Ricky He) tries to convince his eldery father, who has dementia, to go into the basement. The nurse pulls him down; Kenny flirts with her and leaves.
Some hippies are playing with a ball outside an old mansion. They drop it and go inside.
Deputy Kenny joins Michael from Lost -- I guess the character is named Boyd -- and asks if it is all clear. Yep. Sheriff Boyd goes into the post office -- "96 nights without incident."
Scene 2: A bearded guy tries to rouse the drunken, sleeping Frank. His boyfriend? No such luck -- he's the father of the swingset girl. Bearded guy can't rouse him, so he puts tarps over the window and touches his weird icon.
Meanwhile, Swingset Girl and her Mom are wondering what's keeping Frank -- it's getting dark! Mom sends Swingset Girl upstairs to say her prayers -- "If I should die before I wake," hint hint. Suddenly Grandma calls to her from outside the window: "Let me in! I'm so lonely!" The idiotic Swingset Girl opens the window, whereupon Grandma turns into a screaming monster.
Opening Theme: Ahh! It's most horribly sad, depressing song ever recorded! End of the world, end of everything, no hope, darkness, despair. Who in his right mind would use that song for an opening theme? Do they want the audience to commit suicide? I fast forward past, but still, I heard a few words... Now I'm going to be depressed all day.
No, I'm not going to tell you what the song is. That would require me to think about it.
Scene 3: Ok, on to the much less disturbing show. A nuclear family driving down the highway in a huge RV -- the behomoth actually has a hallway! Teenage daughter is torturing her little brother by claiming that one of his finger puppets is dead, killed by a monster. Foreshadowing, anyone? Mom calms him down by pointing out that monsters don't exist, so the puppet must be alive. Foreshadowing, anyone? Dad (Eion Bailey) congratulates her on her parenting skills.
Scene 4: Morning. Frank (Bob Mann), who was too drunk to go home, stumbles toward his house. Everyone is gathered round. Sheriff Boyd attacks him: "You're a Man! A Man takes care of his wife and kids!" How stultifyingly sexist. "Your wife and daughter were killed last night, and it's your fault!" How could he have helped? Swingset Girl let the monster in. Sheriff Boyd sentences him to lock-up, which will become a death sentence if he is detained overnight.
Meanwhile, the Nuclear Family is stopped by a giant tree blocking the road. Dad, who is a Man, tries to muscle it aside, but is unsuccessful. They have no choice but to turn around.
Scene 5: Sheriff Boyd visits the hippie commune. Head hippie Donna points out that he's not welcome there, but he asks to see his son. Ok, just this once. Ok, the sheriff is hetero, but maybe the son is gay?
No such luck: Son Ellis (Corteon Moore) is in his art studio, painting a lady's portrait. He points out how beautiful she is. At least his shirt is open, so we get some beefcake.
Son Ellis is shocked to find out that they lost "Lauren" to the monsters last night. "Lauren is..." "I know who she is!" Lost-style mystery for its own sake. Most of them were never resolved.
Scene 6: The Nuclear Family driving back the way they came. But it looks all different. Where's the highway? They end up at the town, where everyone is gathered for the funeral of Swingset Girl and her Mom, with a priest giving the eulogy (tv tropes: all Christians are Catholic). They all glare at the newcomers and scatter. Sheriff Boyd gives them directions back to the highway.
They drive, but end up back at the town! They stop to ask for directions again, and are ignored. A girl in a 1930s sun dress complains to her overall-wearing brother that it's always bad for the new arrivals, who think that they will be able to leave. He goes out to the barn to feed the animals. I was wondering how they eat in this town.
The Nuclear Family ends up back in town a third time! They argue. Mom criticizes Dad's ability to follow directions, a major insult for a Man. They turn around and head out again, while the townsfolk watch. Deputy Kenny: "You think they're ready?" Sheriff Boyd: "Go get the strip." Comic strip? No, he means a spike strip, used to stop cars.
Scene 7: During their fourth try, they hit an oncoming car and crash into a ravine! They are all ok, except for the preteen boy, who has a table leg through his thigh! (Another inch, and he'd have been castrated, which might have impacted his chances of growing up to be a Man).
The driver of the other car (Tobey), dazed from a head injury, stumbles toward town. Deputy Kenny takes him to the clinic, while Sheriff Boyd investigates. A passenger, Jade (David Alpay, left), is unhurt but obviously high. "You have an amazing face," he tells the Sheriff, who recoils in homophobic disgust and handcuffs him to the car door. So Jade is gay? No such luck: Jade says that all of his rescuers are "so beautiful!"
The Sheriff then tries to rescue the Nuclear Family. Son Ellis, Town Priest, and an EMT help.
Meanwhile, at the clinic, 1930s Sun Dress girl approaches Tobey, the driver of the other car, and reassures him that the accident wasn't his fault. She kisses him, then stabs him through the jaw!
Scene 8: The Nuclear Family is all rescued, except for the preteen son: it will take two hours to extricate him from the table leg, and the sun will set in one hour! The Sheriff tries to convince Dad that a Man takes care of his family, so his wife and daughter should go into town, where it's safe. Ok, but Dad is staying. So they block the windows and put up the weird icon (gee, even upside-down, that RV is the size of a house!).
Meanwhile, on the way back with Mom, Daughter, and "You're all so beautiful!" Jade, Son Ellis and the Town Priest accidentally run over the spike strip! And it's almost dark! They have to run to the hippie commune: "No matter what you see, no matter what you hear, do not stop!" So the monsters have to lure you? They can't just grab anyone outside?
Scene 9: Back in the RV, Preteen Son has a seizure. While Dad and the EMT try to help, Sheriff Boyd looks out the window. "They're coming," he says, as the monsters converge. They look like people: a blond woman in a dress, a guy in a workman's suit, an old-fashioned lady librarian-type. The end.
Beefcake: Just Son Ellis semi-shirtless.
Heterosexism: Two nuclear families, two boy-girl flirtations.
Sexism: Male-female gender polarization everywhere, with a lot of patriarchy, strong, powerful men protecting weak, passive women.
Drinking Game: Every time someone says one of these phrases, you take a drink. You'll be drunk by minute 45: each appears about 20 times per episode.
1. Can I ask you something?
2. Are you alright? Not really.
3. It's not your fault.
Also closeups of people holding hands.
Gay Characters: The town doctor has a girlfriend back home. Fatima makes out with men and women both. Daughter Julie has a crush on Fatima. Lots of lesbian/bi women, no gay men.
My Grade: I might continue watching, just for the mystery, and it might be interesting to see the characters' lives before they were trapped on the Island (um,..I mean, in the small town). If it weren't for the horrible sexism. And the paywall. And that depressing theme song....
Update after three episodes: Jade and Deputy Kenny have a little spark, but they both express heterosexual interest as well. No beefcake except a guy having sex with a woman, and she's on top. I think the monsters decide to bring people into the village that they think will be fun to hunt; like when the nuclear family mom and daughter got killed, they immediately brought in a new pair.