Tag Archives: Comedy

Even More Favorite TV Themes!

I have watched a lot of television in my lifetime, readers. Too much, some would say.   But there is always something in my favorite series that makes me go, “Yeah, I have seen a bit too much. But these shows were worth it!”

Andromeda Ascendant was kind of confusing, but I like Kevin Sorbo, so I am willing to rate that series as a win, weirdness and all. Gunsmoke, The Munsters, Bewitched and a couple of other series are old childhood friends. I still enjoy watching them. I recommend them to anyone and everyone for that reason.

Well, that is enough talk from me. You came to see the TV themes, not to hear me prattle on about them! Go ahead and enjoy the music, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

 

Andromeda Ascendant

Gunsmoke

The Rifleman

Viper

Beast Master

The Dukes of Hazzard

Highlander

Bewitched

I Dream of Jeannie

The Virginian

The Twilight Zone

The Munsters

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The Pirates of Penzance

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Years ago, I met a group practicing for a play. It was a Gilbert and Sullivan play, but I did not know that at the time. I enjoyed the singing and the lyrics, and one of the friends with me at the time said that I had to see The Pirates of Penzance.

I was more amenable to the idea than I might normally have been. There was something in the practice session that hinted at a great story worth seeing, and so I readily agreed to watch a film of the play.

A film copy of the play was found soon after. Starring Kevin Kline, Rex Smith, Linda Ronstadt, Angela Lansbury, George Rose, and several others, it promised to be a great deal of fun. And that, I soon discovered, was the understatement of the year. As the story started I began to smile. Within five minutes I was choking on giggles. In ten, I was laughing out loud.

For those of you who do not know, Gilbert and Sullivan were two playwrights who wrote comedies in the late nineteenth century. Both were knighted and neither of them could stand the other. They each had aspirations to be the greatest in their respective fields and this meant that neither of them wanted to write comedies, especially if it meant they had to work together all the time. This was in spite of the fact that they were making a veritable killing at this work. The weary duo ended their partnership some time before they died, to the dismay of their fans. Sullivan, who was the younger, died first.

The Pirates of Penzance is one of their best known plays, along with H. M. S. Pinafore and The Mikado. In Penzance we are introduced to a Pirate King (Kevin Kline) and his scurvy crew. The crew is having a celebration for their young apprentice, Frederic (Rex Smith), who turns twenty-two today and thus ends his indentured servitude to them. How did Frederic become indentured to a pirate gang?

It turns out that his nurse, Ruth (Angela Lansbury), misheard Frederic’s father when he gave her a commission. Frederic’s father wanted his son apprenticed to a pilot, but Ruth misheard him and thought he said pirate. So she accidentally indentured eight year old Frederic to the Pirate King’s crew!

Frederic does not hold this misunderstanding against Ruth – it is an easy mistake to make, after all. He has come to know the pirates aboard the ship over the years and likes them all individually. But the fact is that they are pirates, the scourge of the sea, the plague of merchantmen, the locusts of seaports. And so in a general way Frederic hates the pirates he grew up with as the vilest scum of the Earth. And in the abstract he cannot believe that he has been duty-bound to help them ply their terrible trade from the time he was eight years old.

The pirates do not hold this against him, though, since they cannot seem to “make piracy pay.” Frederic knows why this is; because they are orphans, the pirates give orphans a free pass. And word of this nobility on their part has gotten out. The last three ships they tried to take were all manned by orphans, so the pirates spared them.

If you are saying, “Yeah, right,” you would be correct. Frederic points out that everyone knows England does not recruit orphans to crew its merchantmen; they need men with families and titles to command the ships. But because the Pirates of Penzance are known to spare orphans, the crews for these ships pretended to be orphans in order to escape them.

Once the clock strikes noon, Frederic sets out from the pirate ship, taking Ruth with him. Ruth is an older lady by now, but she is the only woman Frederic has seen and known since he was eight. He expects to marry her, a prospect she very much likes, since otherwise she will die an old maid with no one to take care of her.

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But on pulling up to an English beach, Frederic espies a group of girls his own age come to the waterside to have a little fun. Finding Ruth has lied to him about her age and beauty, he casts her off before going to see if one of these young ladies will marry him.

His attempt almost ends in disaster. But one of the girls, Mabel (Linda Ronstadt), appears on the scene before all hope is lost in the young man’s heart. It seems that she lagged behind the other girls and only caught up with them to hear Frederic’s entreaty for a wife. She tells him to “take her heart,” and he is quite happy to do so…

Then the Pirates show up, and the fun kicks into high gear!

There is another version of The Pirates of Penzance which is worth a viewing as well. This one was performed in New York with Patricia Routledge, the lead actress in the British sitcom Keeping Up Appearances, portraying Ruth. If you ever saw her as Hyacinth ‘Bucket’ Bouquet and thought she had a terrible voice, you will be surprised to hear her singing here. She pulled a fast one on those of us who watched Keeping Up Appearances, I can tell you!

Have fun with The Pirates of Penzance, readers!

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McClintock!

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Of all the Hollywood duos I ever saw onscreen, I think I enjoyed watching John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara most.

John Wayne I already knew from several Westerns. He reminded me strongly of my father, though I would not exchange the two for anything in the world. Maureen O’Hara’s characters were everything I wanted to be: independent, fierce, and strong-willed – something you would know if you watched her in The Quiet Man or today’s subject, McClintock!

McClintock! is Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew transplanted to the American West at the turn of the century. John Wayne plays George Washington McClintock, a rancher who came to Arizona when there was nothing but some old Spanish settlements and a lot of unfriendly Indians. O’Hara plays his firebrand of a wife who accompanied him on this journey but is in a snit with him. She is in such a snit, in fact, that she moved out of the ranch two years ago and has not been back – until now.

McClintock has a thing for drinking and saloons, but he loves his wife like no other man has ever loved his wife. When she tells him – again – that she wants a divorce, an uncommon practice in that century, he says no. He may be mad at her but he still loves her.

Matters are further complicated for McClintock by the arrival of settlers promised rich land on a nearby mesa. The problem is that the mesa is nothing more than a barren piece of rock jutting out of the ground, and he has to tell the settlers that “even the government should know that you can’t farm land 6,000 feet above sea level!” It is not his fault these settlers came, nor is it his fault that they were, essentially, swindled. But because he owns most of the territory and the town of McClintock, he takes the heat for both these things all the same.

One of the young men who came west with the wagon train, Devlin Warren (played by Patrick Wayne) asks for a job from McClintock and is hired on as a ranch hand. McClintock then ends up hiring Dev’s mother, Mrs. Warren (Yvonne de Carlo) as the ranch’s cook. This upsets his Chinese cook, whom he keeps around the house despite hiring Mrs. Warren because he suspects she will not be staying long. Besides, he considers his Chinese chef a friend and a member of the family.

But this decision makes Mrs. McClintock even more upset. She figures Mrs. Warren is just another harlot G. W. met and hired before he heard she was coming back. This is not the case at all, but how are you supposed to tell a jealous woman that and have her believe you? Neither Mrs. Warren nor McClintock can convince her until Mrs. Warren, under the influence of spirits, tells Mrs. McClintock that the sheriff has asked her to marry him. She intends to accept his proposal and will therefore have to stop working as a cook for the McClintock ranch.

And if all this mess was not enough, McClintock’s daughter Becky has come back west from school. She keeps company with a young gentleman from the town not long after, a young fellow with ‘social standing’ and the son of an old enemy of McClintock’s. On top of this, the young man also happens to be a sap, and it is clear McClintock does not really like him (who could!). He merely tolerates him to make his daughter happy.

Then Dev, who has taken a shine to Becky, puts the kibosh on the courting and – well, that would be telling.

McClintock! is not your typical Western. It has plenty of action, but most of it is humorous. There are many serious parts in the story, to be sure, but the laughs are never far away as you watch this wonderful, wonderful comedy. I love every minute of McClintock! Whenever I have the chance to watch it, I smile my face sore. If you have not seen this film, readers, then you had better go find it and watch it now. It is a classic in every sense of the word!

And please remember that it is NOT a “cowboy movie.” John Wayne plays a rancher in McClintock!, not a cowboy. In this film, his days of punching cows are long over. The West is closing, the Indians are being forced onto reservations, the buffalo are dwindling, and the days of the gun are numbered. But if McClintock can, he will go out with a bang. Or with a record. 😉

See ya later, Alligator!

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Quotable Quotes #13

Whoever wishes to hold the fortress of contemplation must first train in the camp of action. – Pope St. Gregory the Great

The “digital highway” is a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope.” – Pope Francis

To be interested in the changing seasons… is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring. – George Santayana, philosopher

I’m always very fearful when academics get ahold of comedy. Comedy is such a clear thing – people laugh or they don’t laugh. – Lorne Michaels, Saturday Night Live co-creator

Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failing. – Jack Lemmon

To love is to see light. – Victor Hugo

Beauty awakens the soul to act. – Dante Alighieri

How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains! – John Muir

The most beautiful things in the world are not seen nor touched. They are felt with the heart. – Helen Keller

Nothing is more beautiful than the loveliness of the woods before sunrise. – George Washington Carver

You should take your job seriously but not yourself. That is the best combination. – Dame Judi Dench

America was built on courage, on imagination, and unbeatable determination to do the job at hand. – Harry S. Truman

Beauty is not caused. It is. – Emily Dickinson

Beauty is whatever gives joy. – Edna St. Vincent Millay

Not being funny doesn’t make you a bad person. Not having a sense of humor does. – David Rakoff, author

Funny (and Fun) Songs

I cannot seem to tell a joke – even when I am repeating one, I can end up with crickets chirping in the background!   As they say, if you have to explain it, it is not a joke.

But I still have a sense of humor (thank God!), and I enjoy a good laugh. These are some of the songs that make me laugh, giggle, and smile. Hopefully, readers, they can do the same for you!

Good listening!

The Mithril Guardian

Sittin’ Up With the Dead

Weird Al Yankovic: The Saga Begins

Can You Picture That? 

Mahna Mahna

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Chattanooga Choo Choo

Wake Up, Little Susie

The Frigate That Flies

Splish-Splash (I Was Taking a Bath)

Word Crimes

One-Eyed, One-Horned Flyin’ Purple People Eater

Fat

American Pie

Eat It

King of Spain by Moxy Fruvous

 

The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late

The ‘Vette (Comedy Skit by Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers)

Short Circuit: “Life is not a malfunction.”

“Number Five is alive!”

I was very young when I first saw Short Circuit. But I never forgot this line from the film. For years afterward, I called the movie “Number Five Is Alive” because I did not know what the actual title was of the film.

Short Circuit centers on a set of robotic droids built to help soldiers in combat, if not outright replace them. At the beginning of the show, the five robots with humanoid torsos and tank treads (instead of legs) perform in front of American military officials and the company’s owner, as well as U.S. senators and other high ranking representatives.

The exhibition goes off without a hitch, the machines blowing up their military targets easily. Bad weather moves in, so the executives, senators, generals, etc., take the party inside. The owner of the company then calls the maker of the robots, a man named Newton, and orders him to join the party and help sell his creations.

Newton does not want to mingle with senators and generals. He does not want his robots to be war machines. He built them because he thinks robots are the way of the future and will make life easier for everyone. His buddy (played by Fisher Stevens), coaxes him out of his office and the two join the party.

Meanwhile, a pair of technicians is getting the robots primed to go back indoors. They have unplugged four of the five, but before they can unplug the fifth robot, lightning strikes a set of nearby power lines, and the energy surges through the wires into the diagnostic computer of one of the techs…as well as the fifth robot.

For a minute, the techs are sure they are “so fired!” (Nice one, Stan Lee!) But, when they check out Number Five’s electronic systems, they find nothing fried, melted, or damaged. So they send the five machines inside the building.

Robots one, two, three, and four all head in to their rest areas. Meanwhile, Number Five ends up smacking into a wall. Thus discombobulated, he follows a waitress robot (which looks like a trash can) through the back corridors of the building. He gets lost and lands on a garbage truck, which takes him out of the company’s factory/lab and into San Francisco!

Well, this is a whole new world for Number Five. He calls the lab, asking for “input,” so that he can learn about the world around him. However, his question confuses Newton and the other scientists. Why does Number Five want input? How come he is putting images of billboards hyping Coca-Cola, gasoline, and other things on their computers when he asks for “input”?

They figure out pretty quickly that Number Five is no longer in the lab. The company’s president has a panic attack, since the machine still has his weapons on him, and they are active! So he sends the company’s militaristic chief of security after Number Five. The Chief is happy to oblige. He does not like the robots, hates the idea that they will someday replace real soldiers, and he cannot wait to blow one of them to smithereens.

Newton manages to reign the company president and chief of security in long enough to extract a grudging promise from them: they will not destroy Number Five, but shut it down and bring it back to the lab so he can study it.

In the meantime, Number Five continues on his way into San Francisco. He ends up in the food truck of Stephanie, a young lady who rescues injured wild animals and injured domestic animals or pets from owners who can no longer afford to keep them. Her house is literally bursting with animals: cats, at least one dog, birds, kittens, one (maybe) skunk, mice, chickens – you name it, odds are she has it.

The only problem Stephanie really has is her last boyfriend. He has been harassing her for a while, threatening to take her animals from her and get her in trouble with the authorities. He is doing all this in an attempt to hook up with her again.

Stephanie is not having it. This guy, Frank, absconded with her savings to buy himself a Firebird. All he wants out of her is her money. Once bitten, twice shy; Stephanie chases him off with a baseball bat, then goes into her house.

That evening, she hears noises coming from her van. So she goes out to confront whoever is inside, thinking it is Frank come back to bother her some more. Instead, she finds Number Five, locked and loaded because of the threats she’s been shouting at “Frank.”

Stephanie is ecstatic to find Number Five. Like most people (*cough* NOT *cough*) she thinks that she has finally met an extraterrestrial who got lost somewhere between the Andromeda Galaxy and Jupiter. She coaxes Number Five into her house, showing him the television and letting him read her encyclopedias. (This scene is a real hoot!)

The next morning, Stephanie finds Number Five still watching the TV. She shuts it off; he turns it back on. They play this game a little more, and then Number Five shows off how much “input” he has gathered from her books. He points out and scientifically names the cats, the mice, the raven, the pasta, the pots and pans, the stove. In doing so, he makes a bit of a mess. To keep him from wrecking her house, Stephanie leads him outside to watch the sun rise over the bay.

Number Five is enchanted with the sunrise, as well as a cloud. “Cloud!” he says excitedly. “Butterfly! Rhinoceros!”

He goes on to list several other things and Stephanie realizes that, like any young child, Number Five has named the things he thinks the cloud resembles. (Myself, I did not see a rhinoceros.) While outside, Number Five accidentally attracts the attention of Stephanie’s three-legged dog, who chases him off the balcony.

Luckily, Number Five lands in the chicken coop. No chickens are hurt, and neither is he, as he starts listing scientific facts about the chickens from the encyclopedia. But while he’s down, Stephanie notices the name of the company that built him impressed on his torso.

Stephanie is very upset that she has not met an extraterrestrial but in fact has rescued one of this “warmonger’s” toys. So she calls the company – which lost track of Number Five when he got out of range of their scanners – and they promise to give her a reward for finding the robot. They also say they will send someone by to pick up Number Five, take him back to the lab, and disassemble him.

Well, all worked up, Stephanie goes out and tells this to Number Five. Number Five takes the news just fine, then spies a grasshopper. He watches it hop away and, like a child, hops after it. Hop. Hop. Hop…

Squish.

Stephanie reprimands Number Five for killing the grasshopper. “No problem, Stephanie,” Number Five says cheerfully. “Stephanie reassemble!”

“No, I can’t,” she replies. “It’s disassembled. It’s dead. Once something’s dead, it’s dead.”

“Dead?” asks Number Five. He looks at the smushed grasshopper. “Dead? Disassemble? Dead – disassemble! NO!!! No disassemble! Stephanie, NO DISASSEMBLE!”

Number Five, Stephanie learns, is now in a panic because he thinks that, once the company disassembles him, he will die. “You can’t die,” she says, though only half-heartedly. “You’re a machine. Machines don’t die.”

“No, Stephanie,” Number Five says softly. “Number Five is alive!

The rest of the movie shows the adventures and travails that Number Five and Stephanie go through trying to convince Newton that Number Five is not longer just a machine. He is actually, really and truly, alive. At one point, when Newton and Stephanie are talking, he says, “It’s not alive. It’s a machine. It’s just malfunctioning!”

Stephanie replies calmly, smiling as she speaks, “Life is not a malfunction.”

Even today, I still love watching Short Circuit, though it has some mild language in it. Number Five is a great character, as lovable as R2-D2, but easier to relate to, considering his speaks English and does not whistle or beep too much. The mistakes he makes, the way he talks – it is all just perfect!

Of course, there is one other thing about this film that I really like. I did not know when I first saw the film just how important the words “Life is not a malfunction” were. But I do now. So yes, “Number Five is alive!”

But, just as importantly, “Life is not a malfunction.” It’s the greatest gift in the universe.

So it is no wonder Number Five does not want to be “disassembled.” How can you enjoy a gift if it is stolen from you?

Until next time, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

Book Review: The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer

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I am not usually interested in romantic fiction. The romantic fiction I typically enjoy has derring-do, villains of various and sundry levels of evil, the occasional explosion, and a hero and heroine who fall in love as they fight side by side to stop the bad guy (think Lord of the Rings). That is my preferred romantic fiction; I do not enjoy stories about summers where girls run into eligible guys who somehow just happen to walk into their small towns.

So when a friend of mine insisted I read Georgette Heyer’s The Talisman Ring, I agreed to take a look at it. My compadre and I have similar views of so-called “harlequin romances” and, since Georgette Heyer was a favorite of this friend’s, I figured, “What could go wrong?”

I was not disappointed. Georgette Heyer was a British writer who specialized in writing romances set in the centuries around the 1800s. Her fiction is a great deal like Jane Austen’s – except she wrote her books in the twentieth century, while Austen wrote about what she saw around her in the early 1800s.

Heyer’s work has received untold acclamation for its historic authenticity. I cannot say anything about that, since I do not really bother with it beyond how it affects the ways the characters behave. Nor do I take the time to verify the accuracy of the historical details.

It is not that I do not like historical accuracy; it is simply that I do not know enough about the latter to comment on it, and I have not the time to confirm it. Setting is always a big seller and it always will be. I like the film Avatar entirely because of its setting of jungles, floating mountains, and bioluminescent plants and animals. In this movie, all the rest can go hang.

These diversions aside, what can you expect from The Talisman Ring? A rip-roaring good time, for a start! Heyer’s romantic fiction, more so than Jane Austen’s, is almost always sprinkled with comedy. In fact, one might say her works are romantic comedies. For all I know, that is how they are classified.

Anyway, The Talisman Ring starts out with Sir Tristram Shield arriving to see his uncle, Baron Sylvester Lavenham, who is barely hanging on to “this mortal coil.” In fact, it is probably only a few days before he will kick the bucket.

Shield apparently has no love or concern for his uncle. Shield appears cold and unfeeling, though he has a sense of humor and an honorable, kind heart. At the same time, he is eminently sensible and practical, and he sees no reason to go around wearing his heart on his sleeve.

Shield goes up to see his uncle and final matters are discussed, among them the fact that Shield is thirty and unmarried, and the last of his line. In typical aristocratic fashion, this is something he wants to rectify somewhere in the near future.

Staying at Sylvester’s house are Shield’s cousins: Basil, the heir to Sylvester’s fortune and a fop, and Eustacie, the men’s seventeen year old French cousin. Sylvester got her out of France just ahead of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, and so she was spared going to the guillotine in a tumbrel. Sylvester wants her and Shield to marry, simply for convenience.

Times being what they are, both Shield and Eustacie see the sense in this. But Eustacie proves to be a romantic with a desire for adventure, and Shield is unable to wrap his mind around the girl’s fantasies. To top it off, Basil is mincing around the mansion, sighing and purring to his cousins, waiting for Sylvester to kick off and wondering over the whereabouts of their other cousin, Ludovic Lavenham, who is the direct heir to the old man’s fortune.

Upon hearing about cousin Ludovic, Eustacie is at once curious. As far as she knows, she has only two cousins – Basil and Shield. Who is Ludovic and why has she never heard of him before now? Shield tries to avoid the subject, but Eustacie is determined to know, and so Basil obliges her.

Apparently, Ludovic was the debonair, dashing heir of Sylvester Lavenham. He was a dead shot with a pistol and, like all good gentlemen of the time, he liked to gamble. He would go out with his friends and have a game every other evening.

Well, the last time he was at one of these card games, Ludovic was losing. So he bet the most valuable thing he had on him – his talisman ring, a signet ring that was the heirloom of his family and virtually priceless. Ludovic lost the bet – and the ring – to one of the other players. A few days later, Ludovic went to redeem the ring, since he promised that whoever won it would get the money he could not bet at the game as soon as he could arrange it.

Except the winner of the card game denied that Ludovic had said this and attempted to keep the ring for himself. Ludovic got drunk that night, then headed out to have a duel with the crass fellow and get the ring back. Shield stopped him, sent him home, and tried to meet the man in order to reason with him. However, he and Ludovic had barely parted ways before a shot rang out! (Cue suspenseful music!)

Shield doubled back and found the winner of the talisman ring dead in the woods, the ring nowhere on his person. When questioned, Ludovic said he had shot at an owl and missed. He did not encounter the man that night and did not have the ring on him the next day. Knowing that this defense would not hold up in court, Shield and Sylvester sent Ludovic overseas, where English law could not touch him. So Eustacie learns as much as anyone knows about Ludovic.

Somewhere in the next couple of days, Sylvester dies. With Sylvester’s death, Basil wants Shield to try and find Ludovic. In all the fuss, Basil was the only one who believed Ludovic’s claim of innocence; that he had in fact shot at an owl and, being drunk, managed to miss it – he who never missed a target in his life. Shield says no, but Basil quietly says, “I think you should.”

Meanwhile, Eustacie comes to the conclusion that Shield is very un-romantic. He does not think of, nor does he crave, adventure. Well, if he does not want any of that, then she does not want to marry him! So a few days after Sylvester’s death and funeral, she sneaks out to catch the midnight stage to London to escape Shield and boredom.

What she gets is caught. On her way to the stage station she is discovered by smugglers – or rather, rum runners. Their leader is a certain romantic fellow (*cough* Ludovic *cough*) who charms Eustacie at once. However, the law catches on to the runners’ presence and, to buy his men time to get away, Ludovic leads the lawmen on a merry chase – with Eustacie sitting before him in the saddle!

During the chase, Ludovic is shot. Eustacie takes him to a nearby inn (where Ludovic has stored his illegal wines on previous occasions, and they know him). There, Ludovic is patched up, and Eustacie meets Miss Sarah Thane, the sister of a Justice of the Peace. Sarah and her brother are staying at the inn because her brother has a cold – and he likes the wine too much to up and leave just yet. Eustacie explains her and Ludovic’s situation to Sarah, who has to hide her mirth at the youthful exuberance of the girl. Sarah Thane agrees to help Eustacie protect Ludovic and find the man who framed him for murder – and so partaking in the adventure she admitted she had always craved.

Well of course Ludovic was framed! Dear readers, I am shocked – shocked! – that you should disbelieve his story! Quite surely, Shield shot the man, blamed Ludovic for it, and stole the talisman ring! He even collects such trinkets. How could he not be the villain of this piece?

*Sigh.* Eventually Sarah and Eustacie later agree that Shield is not the perpetrator. But they agree to this only after Shield has arrived at the inn, had an argument with a recuperating Ludovic, and stood by listening to them try and fit him in to the villain’s mold. Sadly, he is not a square peg and he fits roundly in a nice circular hole, but he takes the savaging of his character with rare good humor. Though, since Shield is a bit cold to outward appearances, you have to pay attention to see that he is highly amused by all the wild theorizing.

So then who murdered the man, stole the talisman ring, and framed Ludovic for it all? You will have to read the book to find that out, readers! I highly recommend it. If you are not laughing by chapter – oh – four, then call me a Zaber Fang’s uncle!

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian