It’s hard to argue that we’re approaching the twilight of physical media. That makes me a little bit twitchy – stuff that hasn’t made it to DVD needs to make it to DVD soon, while there’s still a DVD market to make it to. The manufacture-on-demand DVD market is one of the best things ever, giving some real niche material a fresh lease on life…but could it be that some things are too niche even for burn-on-demand?
Case in point: the ultra-obscure PBS-produced comedy anthology series Trying Times, which aired two six-season episodes in 1987 and 1989. Produced at KCET, the PBS affiliate in Los Angeles, the show had access to big names, some just before their big breakout, and some who were already household names – Robert Klein, Jean Stapleton, Carrie Fisher, Geena Davis, Tim Matheson, Rosanna Arquette, Judge Reinhold, Keanu Reeves, and even David Byrne of Talking Heads fame. Each half-hour episode was its own little universe of ennui and social awkwardness, a one-act play unto itself.
There was talent aplenty behind the cameras too.
With writers like Spalding Gray and Terrence McNally aboard, and directors such as the late Jonathan Demme, Buck Henry, Christopher Guest, and Alan Arkin, the question becomes…how has this evaded a DVD release for all these years?
Trying Times is a rare specimen of PBS in more daring times: rather than British imports or documentaries or filmed stage plays, this was a unique attempt to generate an original comedy just for PBS. Somewhere between its lack of commercial breaks and its short seasons, Trying Times felt like American comedy having taken notes from British comedies. Of course, it’s almost inevitable that someone, somewhere, protested that this wasn’t what they thought their pledge drive money was going toward. How different would PBS be if this had been just the beginning of original comedy or dramatic programming?
What’s amazing is that there’s precious little evidence of Trying Times’ existence anywhere – IMDB listings are vague at best, and I could only locate two episodes on YouTube. On the one hand, I’m relieved that at least one or two other people remember the show. On the other hand…wouldn’t it be great if we could all see this again?
It’s 1972. Missions to the moon are still being launched. A space station is about to go into orbit. Live television broadcasts and telephone communications via satellite are becoming commonplace, as are computers capable of handling and sorting immense amounts of information. In this context, the idea of one man, an Aston Martin, and a martini (shaken, but not stirred) standing between the free nations of the world and domination by evildoers seems quaint.
At least that’s the idea in NBC’s Search, a short-lived “spy-fi” series dreamed up by Leslie Stevens, the producer who had brought us The Outer Limits in its original 1960s incarnation. Search involves the top-secret World Security Corporation, evidently a commercial entity with connections in all the right (high) places. Deep inside World Security’s office building lies PROBE Control, a kind of “mission control” guiding the activities of an elite handful of special agents around the globe.
Sitting in the big chair at the center of PROBE Control is V.C.R. Cameron (the simply amazing Burgess Meredith), a veteran at the spy game who now turns his expertise toward guiding younger agents in the field. Surrounding “Cam” is a circle of specialists in data retrieval and analysis who, together with PROBE’s amazing computer power, can piece together information on the fly to help agents in the field.
Those agents are themselves called Probes. Each agent has been fitted with an implant that allows them to hear and speak to PROBE Control via satellite, and each agent has a tiny camera, worn either as a pendant or as a ring, allowing PROBE Control to see what they say, analyze things or even people at the spectroscopic level, and monitors and records the agent’s vital signs.
Perhaps most importantly, there’s more than one agent, and an acknowledgement that each Probe needs time off to recover from each taxing adventure. One of three agents leads the charge in each episode: Hugh O’Brian as Lockwood, a.k.a. “Probe One”, the best and brightest of the agents; Anthony Franciosa as Nick Bianco, a.k.a. “Omega Probe”, a former cop with deep knowledge of the criminal underworld; and Doug McClure as the carefree C.R. Grover, the Backup Probe, who gets the assignments no one else wants – or inherits hazardous assignments from Probes who die in the line of duty. (On a purely logistical level, this arrangement would allow for multiple filming crews to be filming multiple scripts at multiple locations, and future-proofs the show against such real-world incidents as a star being hurt…or demanding a larger salary.)
The action starts with the pilot movie PROBE, which aired early in 1972, starring Hugh O’Brian and no less a guest star than Sir John Gielgud. Introducing the show’s jetsetting international scope, flashy stunt work, and the seemingly vast PROBE Control set, the movie can’t have been cheap, but it sets up the concept and some of the characters – and hooked enough viewers to get a go-ahead as a series.
There’s just one problem: PBS was airing a documentary/news series called Probe at the same time, and the producers were asked to change the name of the series when it returned in the fall, hence its rebirth as Search. O’Brian and Burgess Meredith were still aboard, along with many of the same actors who played the PROBE Control computer operators, but O’Brian began rotating episodes more or less evenly with Franciosa and McClure, and the settings changed drastically from week to week.
Search is fun in that early ’70s gotta-have-a-car-chase-if-it’s-on-TV kind of way. Each of the leading men have their own quirks and charms (though Franciosa, as Nick Bianco, emerges as an early favorite just for his character’s Rat-Pack-worthy swagger), and Burgess Meredith anchors each episode, providing his trademark good-natured crankiness.
And that awesome spy tech? The funny thing is, in this world of the internet and cell phones (and, yes, cell phones that can get on the internet), Search’s technology is just now landing this side of the “plausible” line. In 1972, the technology depicted, and its abilities, were pure science fiction, an attempt to transplant the NASA technology that everybody had seen get men to the moon into a spy thriller setting.
After decades of obscurity and being forgotten, Search is back, with the full series available on DVD. PROBE is available on its own disc. It may not be worthy of binge watching as we now know it, but it’s fun to watch an episode now and again. And how did Search fans enjoy the show after it played on their local NBC stations? Believe it or not…there was an official set of Search ViewMaster reels…because nothing is more fun for kids than reliving Hugh O’Brian stoically putting down a terrorist plot!
As cool as that is, however, Search – and its whistle-able theme song and neat spy tech – signed off after a single season. Over the course of its months on the air, the expense of mounting weekly international spy capers (even if “international” meant “Hollywood backlot”) was evidently getting to be a bit much, as PROBE Control shrinks noticeably as the show wears on.
Had the show stayed on for a second year, it would seem like getting the three leading men together, either for a one-off mission to save the world, or as part of an all-hands PROBE effort to stop some global scheme, would’ve been a no-brainer for a sweeps month – kind of like doing Doctor Who’s celebrated Five Doctors episode in year two instead of year 20.
Is this one of those underground classics that needs a modern reboot? Should the Search continue? Seek out the original and judge for yourself.
Ok, so I love Kenny Loggins music – I know, I know, tell you something you don’t already know – but this was shared on my Facebook timeline the other day (thanks to Claire M. for making sure I saw this).
And it was accompanied by this explanation, as written by Michael McDonald…
“Yacht rock smooth” takes “Other Worldly Funk” prisoner back stage at PBS taping of Kenny Loggins Soundstage performance!… Lol! Kenny, Steve ( aka Thunderkat!), and me. This young guy is ridiculously talented! A real inspiration! Had a blast doing the taping in Chicago! The performance chronicles the amazing career of my old friend, recording artist, performer, and composer extraordinaire, Kenny Loggins.
After I picked my jaw up the floor and stopped screaming (within, since I was at work) like the untamed fangirl I tend to be in these situations, I tried to find some information about when this will air. I’m not a fan of PBS (I only watch the David Foster concerts that originally aired there), but you best bet my TV will be tuned in that night!
I haven’t found any information yet, but I promise as soon as I do find out, I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops!
And another thing you best bet?
Allison loves her music. She especially loves anything that has to do with Kenny Loggins. For some reason, he is her current music addiction (besides Chicago, of course). She’s never seen Loggins in concert, but she has seen Chicago perform. She brags about that AND has plenty to offer on her blog, Allison’s Written Words. You can also follow her blog on Facebook, and she’s on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.
One of my favorite concerts that I haven’t been to (yes, you read that correctly) was David Foster’s Hit Man duo of concerts, filmed for PBS in 2008 and 2011 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, in which people parade in to perform their hits with David Foster, who is credited with helping their songs become just that – hits. Never is the nepotism level higher than a night of watching David Foster and Friends belt it out.
So it happened twice.
And it was AWESOME!
One thing about David Foster that I may have touched on when I wrote about his song Winter Games-several months ago is that this man is responsible for many songs you already know – he’s written for the likes of Earth Wind and Fire, Chicago (it really was the greatest concert I’ve actually been to), Michael Buble (seen him), Josh Groban (too expensive), Peter Cetera, Michael Bolton (mom saw him in concert), and Kenny Loggins.
Kenny Loggins, better known as “Allison’s OTHER Current Music Addiction.” And also what brings me to the topic of this article.
You’re probably thinking, “Oh thank goodness, she has a point!” and you’re right, I do!
For Christmas several years ago, I decided my mom was worthy of some David Foster CDs. My parents?had gotten me hooked on the music he had written (which apparently happened years ago, and without me knowing it), and both parents even got me to sit and watch his two concerts during a PBS pledge drive. As I recall, my dad stopped on the first concert because he saw Boz Scaggs singing, and he wanted to watch. We wound up sitting there for over two hours, getting caught up in the music. And when PBS aired their newest edition of this concert in 2011, I REALLY wanted to buy this for them.
Well, it turns out that as much as I love them, $250 pledged to my local PBS station (WHYY in Philadelphia, PA and Wilmington, DE) is more than my parents would ever let me spend on them for anything. So the following year, I hunted Amazon, and lo and behold, I found the $12 CD/DVD combination sets of both concerts.
My mom is a lucky woman, let me tell ya. She got these for Christmas that year. No pledge to PBS needed.
We’ve watched both concerts twice straight through – two-and-a-half solid hours of good music. I think I left the room once the last time we watched, and it was actually during a segment I didn’t need to see more than once. I was on the phone, so I don’t remember which one, so obviously it really wasn’t important.
Now, as the title suggests, this article is about Kenny Loggins. Loggins and Foster collaborated some years and several wives ago (who would of thought these talented men, one of well-written music, the other the king of 1980s soundtrack glory, would be married and divorced multiple times?!) on some pretty good songs. I have quite a few favorites from the Loggins Songbook of Awesome, but one of them is the 1985 song “Forever,” from the album Vox Humana?(which has this great title track I only “discovered” last year). The song was the second to be released from said album, and was yet another notch in the Top 40 belt of Kenny Loggins.
So I’m sure you’ve seen the music video for the song, right?
Uploaded by KennyLogginsVEVO
But oh, there is a STORY behind this song. And wouldn’t you love to hear it from the two men who made it possible?
Start the video, and watch up to the point where Loggins-begins to sing, then pause it and keep reading.
Uploaded by TheLoungeMusik
What show offs, don’t you think? “Yup, we totally wrote this song in a half hour!” Shutup! Stop being so talented and humble about it!
Would you want to be in a dinner party where these two are among the attendees? Wouldn’t you want to see the genius that fills that location? Could you handle that much genius in the room?!
And when he hits that high note? This is what makes me cry. Stick me in the front row of his concert, and I guarantee tears and screaming.?And I’m just going to say it – Kenny Loggins is HAWT! It’s not how I feel about his Jesus Christ Kenny Loggins Days, but in his Soundtrack King Days and even now – heck, this concert was five years ago – he was/is HAWT!
And if you’d like to see the whole concert, minus the pledge breaks, Warner released both David Foster and Friends concerts as combination DVD/CD sets. I highly recommend them – lots of stuff you like, and you may be surprised at what David Foster was responsible for. This particular clip is from Hit Man Returns: David Foster and Friends.
Allison has this unending love and appreciation for the genius of Kenny Loggins (and David Foster!). If you like what she shared here, come visit her blog, Allison’s Written Words, where you can see similar fangirl musings. You can follow her blog on Facebook, and give her a tweet and follow on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.
She’s listening to “Forever” as she writes this. She’s a puddle right now.
If you’re anything like me, you likely benefited more from science-themed television shows and science museums than from actually learning about it in school. As a school subject, I hated science, but as a practical topic outside the classroom, I loved it. I love the concept of science as taught to me by the Franklin Institute, planetariums, MacGyver, and Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Yes, MacGyver. The man is an educational hero of impractical science.
Before all of this (and before Bill Nye ever had a show), one show I used to watch (and enjoy) as a kid was 3-2-1 Contact, which was produced by the Children’s Television Workshop and aired on PBS from January 14, 1980 until November 18, 1988, for 225 episodes and eight specials. In its original concept (the first season), the show was about three college-age students, Liz, Marc, and Trini, who meet in an on campus room called “the workshop” to socialize and discuss science. You know, normal college kid stuff.
The show rotated hosts and meet up locations, but the concept never changed – it wanted to teach us science. And it succeeded in this venture. When I was in high school the lessons were still relevant, and I had a Chemistry teacher who showed us tapes that the high school kept on hand in the library. And if we don’t always remember the lessons we learned from watching the episodes, the one thing we could possibly never forget is that incredible theme song.
Uploaded by pressmin
Who didn’t do the countdown? Who didn’t yell “CONTACT!” on cue? Who didn’t learn something from watching this show…even on the recorded tapes in high school science?
This show knew how to suck in the audience – it taught science the way it should be taught – educating while entertaining, speaking on the level kids wanted to be spoken to…and even luring us in with that earworm of a theme song.
But what you may or may not remember (I certainly don’t – I wasn’t born in 1980) was that in the pilot episode, the show taught us its first very important lesson…the science of recording music. That’s right, we learned the science of a recording session for – brace yourself – the 3-2-1 Contact theme song.
I kid you not, on January 14, 1980, this was a thing, and yes, it’s on You Tube.
Prepare to be amazed.
So, let’s make contact…with the play button!
You NEED to see/hear this to believe it!
Uploaded by pressmin
Now, sing along with me…
Oh the feels of nostalgic youth!
Allison is no stranger to the feels of nostalgic youth – she not only contributes this for the readers here, but also at her blog, Allison’s Written Words. If you like what you see here, and would like her stuff popping up in your Facebook newsfeed, make “contact” with her blog on Facebook. Another place you can make “contact” with her? Twitter, where she is known as @AllisonGeeksOut.