Battle of the Network Stars - Robin Williams

1977’s Battle Of The Network Stars Was Intense!

Battle of the Network Stars was kind of a big deal. In my youth I certainly didn’t pay much attention to sports. Perhaps the occasional basketball game or boxing match would pique my interest. However on the whole I just wasn’t that interested. Until of course I caught wind of the Battle of the Network Stars. This was a sporting event that not only myself but my Family became addicted to. Say what you will about an basketball upset – I ask though how that can compare to the likes of William Shatner and Richard Hatch competing against Tim Reid in canoes? Of course you also had the fact that your favorite networks were naturally going head to head in Battle of the Network Stars!

[Via] TV News Themes 1

The whole point of the television show, which began in 1976 and always aired on ABC. Was that three teams composed of the top talent for each network would face a variety of challenges. Golf, tennis, cycling, swimming, obstacle course, running, bowling and more were the types of events the stars would compete in.

Furthermore each of the teams would pick a team captain. Generally a team consisted of eight to nine stars. I will definitely admit that there were certain celebrities that I didn’t recognize. But that added to the fun as in fact this caused my Family to pick different stars to root for. For example my Father and Grandfather were huge fans of Robert Conrad of The Wild Wild West fame. While my Grandmother and myself were rooting for Richard Hatch of Battlestar Galactica!
Battle of the Network Stars - Richard Hatch

One of the absolutely joys of watching these old broadcast, in which there were 19 specials from 1976 to 1988. Is of course to see all of these celebrities hanging out and having fun. Although having said that, at some of these events things got a little too serious. Nothing physical of course but I recall some of the stars getting into shouting matches once or twice. Although those instances were very rare in my personal opinion.
Battle of the Network Stars - Robert Conrad

How could you not want to tune in to see the likes of WKRP in Cincinnati‘s Tim Reid competing alongside LeVar Burton (Roots) and The Incredible Hulk‘s Lou Ferrigno.
Battle of the Network Stars - Levar Burton - Lou Ferrigno - Tim Reid

Actually friends, Reid would appear as Venus Flytrap in WKRP in Cincinnati beginning in ’78. It was probably his roles in Maude or What’s Happening!! that got him a spot in the Battle of the Network Stars. Besides the many celebrities such as Gabe Kaplan, Robert Urich, Debby Boone, Charlene Tilton, Joyce Dewitt, Maren Jensen, and many more – the legendary Howard Cosell would act as host and commentator on the events.
Battle of the Network Stars - David Letterman

When all of the major competitions were completed the network that had the least amount of points were disqualified. Leaving the remaining two to go head to head in an epic tug of war to crown the winner.

Enough background on the Battle of the Network Stars. Ready to watch this 1977 compilation featuring the likes of Robin Williams?

[Via] Clippety

Actually there was one other sporting events that I was a fan of in my youth. That was of course 1977’s Laff-A-Lympics!

[Via] Hewey 1972

Baa Baa Black Sheep

If it was on and my Father happened to be in the mood to watch TV, our entire family would be watching Baa Baa Black Sheep (also known as Black Sheep Squadron in syndication). The Stephen J. Cannell series, originally aired on NBC from 1976 until 1978, for a total of 37 episode. The plot of the show revolves around the experiences of United States Marine Corps aviator Pappy Boyington and his World War II “Black Sheep Squadron”.

The show starred Robert Conrad. Who is best known for his role in the 1965 CBS television series The Wild Wild West, in which he played Secret Service agent James T. West. While Conrad was the marquee star, the show would also introduce us to other talented actors. Including John Larroquette, who would go onto Night Court fame, and Larry Manetti and Jeff MacKay who were both on Magnum PI. Manetti played Rick on Magnum and was integral to the series while MacKay play Mac, who made all to infrequent appearances (Like MacKay? Check him out at Corky in Tales of the Gold Monkey).

The opening credits of Baa Baa Black Sheep read: “In World War II Marine Corps Major Greg ‘Pappy’ Boyington commanded a squadron of fighter pilots. They were a collection of misfits and screwballs who became the terrors of the South Pacific. They were known as the Black Sheep.” Watching that intro still give me the chills.

Season 1 of the show was release 6+ years ago in two sets, Volume 1 and Volume 2. Fans are still waiting on season 2, but judging by the amount of time that has passed, I would say a better bet would be an entire re-issue by another company.

TV Thursday: The Wild Wild West (1965-1969)

I was born a little after the adventures of Jim West and Artemus Gordon first hit the airwaves but thanks to my Grandparents I knew quite a bit about the show and certain episodes before I actually started watching them in reruns on a local television station in my youth.

The show had elements of what we commonly call Steampunk now but it also had bits of James Bond, horror, and comedy in the mix as well. Secret Service agent James West was played by Robert Conrad, he was the charismatic gunslinger of the duo while Artemus Gordon, played by the fantastic Ross Martin, was the tech genius and a master of disguise. Artemus is without a doubt my favorite character of the series. I like James West too but I tend to favor the proclaimed Thespians.

The two Secret Service agents traveled the United States protecting Ulysses S. Grant and the general populace in their private train, thanks to Wikipedia I now know that in the pilot episode they used Sierra Railroad No. 3 but when the show was picked up they switched to a train named the Inyo, which itself was used in a ton of movies. Inyo was featured in High, Wide, and Handsome (1938), Union Pacific (1939), The Marx Brothers’ Go West (1940), Meet Me in St. Louis, (1944), Red River (1948), Disney’s The Great Locomotive Chase (1956) and McLintock!

The villains of the show were just as varied as the elements of the show but without a doubt the greatest of West and Gordon’s enemies was the “megalomaniac dwarf” known as Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless, played with absolute perfection by Michael Dunn.

Check out this awesome scene between Loveless and West:

The Wild Wild West ran from September 1965 until April 1969 with two made for television movies in 1979 and 1980. Though I’ve not had the pleasure of seeing them myself, it seems that in those television movies we learn that Dr. Loveless has passed on from ulcers due to not being able to complete his plans because of West and Gordon, he has a son however, played by Paul Williams, that takes up his father’s work. I really need to see these two movies!

There was of course a big budget reimagining Wild Wild West film in 1999, starring Will Smith as James West, Kevin Kline as Aretmus Gordon, and Kenneth Brannagh as Dr. Loveless, loosely based on the TV series. Now to be honest I like this reimagining, particularly because it takes the Steampunk aspects and just runs with it, but its not as good as the the original that it was based on. It feels to me like there was a lot of stuff left on the cutting room floor that would probably have helped the narrative of the film, perhaps someday we will get a director’s cut?