The Battle of The Network Stars 2017 Breakdown: Part 1

**UPDATE – glitches have been banished, and pics have now been added. Yay!**

So, I knew better than to expect that ABC’s reboot of its illustrious celebrity athletic competition series Battle of The Network Stars would come anywhere close to recapturing the magic, infectious energy of the original. Especially since there have been some major changes to the state of network television from the 70s and 80s. Back then ABC, NBC and CBS were the only major players in the network game who were duking it out for tv audience shares every night of the week, so making them battle network against network in athletic competition seemed wholly natural.

But still. ABC seemed to be coming at it from the right angle. They were honouring the original – evident by the vintage clips in the opening credits, they were opening up the players eligibility to current and former network stars, they were bringing back classic events, like the Kayak Relay, Obstacle Course and Baseball Dunk, they got real sportscasters to announce (although nowhere near as iconic as Howard Cosell) and they even secured Pepperdine University, home to almost every previous Battle, for the current  Battleground! I will say though, I was a little wary on how the new team concept was going to be executed – making teams based on themes like “TV Kids”, “Sex Symbols” and…”TV Sitcoms” (whoa, don’t get too creative there, guys) – but more on that later.

The first problem however, became apparent right from the start, and it remained there over the course of the next hour, through every event, dragging the spirit of everything down into depths of sadness and despair (I may be slightly exaggerating) and leaving me with one simple question. Where is everyone?

Bronson Pinchot is the blue speck on the far left, Kim Fields is the tiny red dot on the far right — and there’s noooo one else, anywhere.

Spectators abound in the orginal BOTNS, with Howard Cosell announcing (top) William R. Moses kayaking (middle) and Geoffrey Scott and Heather Locklear relaying (bottom)

One of the reasons the original BOTNS was such a success is that it was treated as an actual major sporting event, complete with spectators, cheerleaders and teammates on the sidelines cheering on the participants to victory. In the new BTONS, there is no one there. And I mean No.One.There. And let me tell you, it’s very disheartening to see Pepperdine’s massive outdoor track, shrouded in fog and completely empty…save for Lisa Welchel from The Facts of Life struggling in the distance to catch up to Dave Coulier from Full House as they run their leg of the relay race – supported by just a smattering of claps and hoots from their various demi-celebrities/teammates.

Ditto when the action shifts to Pepperdine’s Olympic-sized swimming pool. It’s been blocked off for just two sets of two swimmers, leaving only four teammates apiece clumped along one edge of this massive pool, cheering them on along with their two coaches.

And there’s another problem. The original BOTNS had 3 teams of 8 in each battle, so at any given time, you would have at least 18 celebs not actively participating, but cheering and supporting. The new BOTNS has only 2 teams of 5, which is problematic even outside of the lack of visual representation it causes – because this choice has warranted a restructuring of some of the events – making them much shorter. The swimming and  kayak relays have gone from 4-5 participants to 2. And as any BOTNS fan will attest, these events were always the most thrilling to watch because of the unpredictability of the match-ups, where the teams could go from first to third or vice versa with every new leg, tension building up as we all watched to see if each new celeb diving into the water would display some formerly hidden athletic prowess and surge ahead like a torpedo (Billy Moses!) or just sink like an anchor (Pamela Bellwood!). But now, with just 2 participants from 2 teams, the new relays are hardly relays at all, and over before tension can even get built up.

BUT before I get too gloomy about BOTNS redux,  there are some things that do get the thumbs up from me:

Improved Baseball Dunk – making the swimming pool double as the dunk tank AND placing the dunk platform 15 ft above it? Genius.

New Mini Events – the inclusion of smaller events (Soccer, Tennis, Basketball, Golf and Archery) and presenting them all “re-cap style” provides a nice tempo shift in the show and is very welcome addition.

Announcers – Joe Tessitori and Mike Greenberg do an admirable job of treating the BOTNS tradition with dignity, but are not above having a good laugh at the expense of the participants, whether it be at Olivia D’Abo managing to belly flop her way into the dunk pool or when regarding her Wonder Years costar Jason Hervey’s diva drama after he refuses to wear a red shirt (which is a part of his required uniform since he is on the red team) (he eventually switched to red).

Jodi-Lyn O’Keefe about to get dunked by Todd Bridges in the new and improved (yet still desolate-looking) baseball dunk

Coming Up in Part 2 – a closer look at the team structure and a deep dive into the BIG problem, competiton-wise, that’s plaguing the new BOTNS!

 

Prepare for “Battle”

This is just a brief post – more of a PSA in fact – about an event happening TONIGHT. In an already reboot-heavy year, the Most Important Reboot Ever is upon us. No, not Twin Peaks…or Will & Grace (and definitely not The Gong Show). Forget all of those – for tonight, Battle of the Network Stars is Back!

For the unaware, BOTNS was a series of specials aired by ABC twice a year (more or less) from the mid-70s to late-80s wherein teams of current television stars from the Big Three networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) were pitted against one another in fierce, athletic competition, with the victors getting bragging rights and some cold, hard cash ($20,000 to each member of the winning network’s team).

Treated with all the seriousness of a professional sporting event (and by my younger tv-addicted self as the pop culture equivalent of the Olympic Games) and hosted by the sensational, albeit slightly sexist, Howard Cosell,  BOTNS was the only place viewers in a pre-Dancing With The Stars/reality tv/Instagram era could go to for candid and competitive celebrities (Robert Conrad always seemed ready to face-punch anyone, for any reason at all) and surprising displays of athleticism (like Heather Locklear – former Junior Olympian (who knew?) and BOTNS running relay MVP).

I won’t go in to much more detail for now, because I’ve decided to wait until the first few episodes of the reboot to air so I can then do a deeper comparison analysis. So until then, enjoy this classic BOTNS clip featuring two stars who will be appearing in the reboot: from The Facts of Life, Kim Fields and Lisa Welchel.

Duplicated Divas

While every diva from Mariah to J. Lo and Britney to Taylor have taken to playing multiple roles in their music videos, there’s something to be said for those who went a step further. So, today we’re hopping into the way-back machine and setting course for the early-to-mid 1990s, when divas didn’t just populate their videos in multiple roles, they populated them with multiple versions – of themselves.

So Many Multiples

Paula Abdul – Will You Marry Me? (1992)

When Terminator 2: Judgement Day  heralded in a new era for realistic visual effects in film, music videos were quick to jump on the bandwagon. One early adopter of the new technologies that became available was Paula Abdul. Already a veteran of dancing with an “added-in-post-production” partner (MC Skat Kat in her Grammy-award winning video for  “Opposites Attract”),  Abdul took that experience, personalized it, then multiplied it by five, resulting in the video for “Will You Marry Me?”, where Paula has what is probably her most ideal set of back-up dancers – a bunch of other Paulas! (a peck of Paulas? A gaggle of Paulas? hmm…)

 

Kylie Minogue – Did It Again (1997)

Even though it came out just a few years after “Will You Marry Me?”, Kylie Minogue’s video for “Did It Again” looked light years ahead in terms of realistic visual effects. Taking a gentle jab at her own persona(s), the vid showcases a quartet of genre-spanning Kylies as they take part in a mug shot session that goes splendidly off the rails.

 

Lots n’ Lots of Lookalikes

Annie Lennox – Little Bird (1992)

Sometimes you don’t need special effects, sometimes you just need a creative solution to a problem. After the release of her debut solo album Diva, Lennox became pregnant. So, by the time she was ready to release the third single from that set, “Little Bird”, she was very much not down for the rigours of a full-on video shoot. Solution? A video concept that places Lennox up on a nightclub stage where she presides over the evening’s actual entertainment – all of whom happen to be Annie Lennox impersonators, each depicting one of her iconic video looks from across her Eurythmics and solo career.

 

Gloria Estefan – Everlasting Love (1995)

Well, if it was good enough for Annie Lennox…

Already pregnant in the video for “Turn The Beat Around, the lead single off of her Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me  covers album, Estefan was probably couch-bound and waiting for her water to break when it came time to make a video for her (U.S.) follow-up single “Everlasting Love”. Taking a tip from Lennox, Estefan avoided an exhausting video shoot by enlisting a number of impersonators in her stead.  The resulting video becomes a fun, frenzied, female-impersonator free-for-all as Gloria after era-specific Gloria strive to steal the spotlight from one another (as well as from other assorted drag divas). Unlike Lennox in “Little Bird”, the one true Gloria makes nary a cameo, appearing only in clips from her former videos whose looks are being replicated in this one.

 

Bonus: 3 x 3

Destiny’s Child – Lose My Breath

And here to show that it wasn’t just a 90s thing, Kelly, Michelle & Beyonce go head to head to head with rival versions of themselves as “Street DC” dance battles “Sleek DC” before both end up falling in line when “Diva DC” arrives on the scene.

Green Fury, Olympian and a Possible Post-Mortem for “Powerless”

While I try to avoid doing back-to-back posts on the same topic, I’m making an exception for Powerless. The fate of NBC’s “civilians of the DC Universe” workplace comedy is hanging by a very tenuous thread, as it has recently been pulled from NBC’s schedule, even though they still have 3 unaired episodes. Though assumed by many outlets to have been cancelled, NBC still hasn’t officially made it so – and has stated it is still planning on airing the three remaining eps. So, looks like we will just have to cross our fingers and see. It would be a shame for this clever and fresh take on the superhero genre to die an early death. But honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me, as it really is more of a “niche” comedy that would probably be better suited for a Netflix-type platform (or even the CW), and doesn’t seem to have that “broad-appeal” factor needed for a major primetime network show.

Whereas straight-up superhero shows like The Flash and Arrow are able to build out their worlds and mythologies as they go, Powerless takes place in an already very-established world – one that the writers have mined for all its worth. This is truly one superhero production that could actually stand by the claim that it was “made for the fans”, because there are so many Easter eggs, random references and winks to trivial bits of the DC Universe that makes the fanboy in me squeal and clap with delight, but probably goes right over the heads of the average viewer.

Which gives a nice segue into the main topic of the post – a profile of the power couple of Powerless, Green Fury and Olympian.  Much like Crimson Fox, Charm City’s other high-profile hero, Green Fury and Olympian are both long-established DC heroes who have never quite made it to “A” list status, and although they both got started the same way, their courses through the DC Universe became drastically different.

Both heroes made their DC comics debut, along with a number of other international heroes, in the pages of DC’s kid-friendly title, Super Friends. Brazilian-born Green Fury (who had the power to exhale mystical green fire) and Greece’s Olympian, (endowed with super human abilities from the legendary Golden Fleece)  soon made the jump to the DCU proper as members of  international fighting force, The Global Guardians, teaming up with Superman in an issue of DC Comics Presents. The Guardians didn’t pop up much at all after that though, save for a guest stint by a modified version of the team in the pages of  Infinity, Inc. In this iteration of the GG, Olympian wasn’t even around and Green Fury was now going as Green Flame.

There’s our power couple in the bottom right corner, giving that giant’s shin a good working-over

And that’s where their fates diverged. Olympian would only pop up a few of more times over the next two decades (with one time being in the out-of-continuity title Batman: The Brave and the Bold). But Green Fury/Flame did much better. When the Justice League got U.N. backing and became an international entity (as detailed previously), the Global Guardians were dissolved. Now without a job, the resourceful Green Flame grabbed best pal and fellow ex-Guardian, Norway’s  Icemaiden and marched right up to the Justice League Embassy and simply announced that they were there to join. When their timely assistance proved helpful against and alien invasion, they were indeed signed up. Soon after, the heroines shortened their monikers to the much catchier Fire and Ice and much like Crimson Fox, went on the establish themselves as two of that eras most enduring Justice League members. The flirtatious and fame-friendly Fire even got a power upgrade when the metagene bomb activated a latent gene in her DNA, turning her from a ground-bound fire breather to a being who could switch into a flame form that enabled her to fly and project fire through her hands.

After her Justice League era came to a close, Fire briefly appeared with a new version of the Global Guardians (alongside Crimson Fox III, in fact) but after DC’s most recent reboot, has since been established as a charter member of the short-lived  Justice League International.

Meanwhile, Olympian struggled with garnering the spotlight, resulting in minimal exposure over the years, and he has yet to be established in the rebooted DCU.

Which makes his appearance with Green Fury in Powerless so enjoyable. In their episode, Green Fury confides to Wayne Security’s Emily Locke that she can never be taken seriously by the public or considered for the Justice League when things like her break-up with Olympian is front page news for the gossip rags (which Fury figures Olympian  leaked himself, just to get attention). She then agrees to film an endorsement for Wayne Security, think the PR will do her good (which aligns well with the motivations of the Justice League-era Fire). Then the commercial morphs into an explotative T & A shoot, but instead of calling it quits, she calls in Olympian. Ever happy for a gig where he can get maximum exposure for himself and his Greek-god bod, the shoot is reworked for beefcake instead of cheesecake, and comes off without a hitch.

Eventually, things do kinda work out for our power couple…in the end

The commercial is such a success that Fury tells Emily she even got a call from the Justice League…well, actually Justice League Europe. Emily tries to make her feel better by pointing out that the JLE is like, “one of the top five Justice Leagues”. And this exchange is a good example of that which is one of the strengths of  Powerless as well as its kryptonite: it’s humourous and enjoyable – IF you know that there actually was a Justice League Europe and that there have been a plethora of Justice League iterations and offshoots over the years, from which a top five could easily be ranked. Otherwise, it’s just another semi-amusing, non-contextual throwaway line for the majority of mainstream viewers.

So, even though the writing is pretty much on the wall for Powerless at NBC, maybe there’s still chance that someone like Netflix will swoop in and save the day for the citizens of Charm City (because Crimson Fox sure ain’t gonna do it – she already skipped town for a new gig in Metropolis…adjacent)

The Powerhouse of “Powerless”: Who Is Crimson Fox?

With DC and Marvel Comics laying claim to over a dozen television shows currently on the air, the new NBC comedy Powerless does something unique to stand out from the pack. It does this by focusing not on superheroes, but rather on the everyday joes who just happen to live and work in a world where a plethora of super-powered beings don flashy costumes to either wreak havoc or save the day – or sometimes both.

As it takes place in the DC Universe (albeit, a much more brighter one than the film DCU of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad and more lighthearted than the tv DCU found in the CW’s quartet of Arrow-verse shows) there have been multiple references to many of DC’s superhero royalty. We’re talking the big guns like Batman, Aquaman, Flash and the one character than has been significantly featured more than any other — Crimson Fox. Wait — Crimson Fox?

Always the hero, Crimson Fox bravely places herself between civilians and the deadly powers of Frostbite

Yes, on Powerless, this little-known heroine of the DCU has already crossed paths numerous times with one Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens) – saving her on first day of work at Wayne Security, battling Frostbite on her office building’s balcony and becoming her game-changing Fantasy Superhero League pick when she surprisingly manages to leapfrog over heroes like the Flash by saving a whole cruise ship full of people. It appears that Charm City has its very own protector (Powerless continues the fine DC tradition of creating fictional cities for their superhero stomping grounds).

It’s somehow fitting and hilarious that a show about the normal people living in an unknown city of the DCU only gets to have face time with one of its more obscure heroines. But for DC fanboys like myself, it’s also great to see a largely disregarded but still fan-favourite character finally get some mainstream exposure.

But who exactly IS Crimson Fox?

In a nutshell, she was a France-based heroine created by DC scribes in the late 80s specifically so that the newly-launched Justice League Europe would actually have a European member. She would end up becoming one of the more constant members of that era, eventually moving to Justice League America after it reformed following the folding of its International division.

But lets’s deleve a little deeper, shall we?

The Origin

Chantal D’Aramis was a research scientist who worked for a corporation called Big Time. Her main project was development of an irresistible perfume derived partially from fox musk. What she didn’t know was that the formula was also toxic, and shortly after she left Big Time to give birth to twin daughters (Vivian and Constance), she died of cancer.

Years later, Vivian and Constance learned that Moriarty, their mother’s former employer, had known all along of the toxic properties their mother’s perfume development was creating, but didn’t inform her until she had refined and perfected the product. Vowing to take him down, the girls started their own beauty brand, Revson which eventually eclipsed Big Time and ruined Moriarty. This drove him crazy with revenge and he ended up killing the twins father, Andre, and then vanished.

This motivated Vivian and Constance to seek out justice not only for themselves, but “for all honest people”, so they became Crimson Fox.

Yes, they became the Crimson Fox. Since they couldn’t very well run a business empire and fight crime as a costumed vigilante (although it seems to work for Bruce Wayne), they decided to fake Constance’s death and share Vivian’s identity. So, when one twin was running Revson as Vivian, the other was free to fight crime as Crimson Fox, and vice-versa. Vive le difference!

Crimson Fox’s time as an active Justice Leaguer coincided with the trading card boom of the 90s, leading to her appearance in a number of DC’s collectable sets

Powers

Both D’Aramis girls shared enhanced abilities that are believed to be a side effect of their mother being pregnant while working on her experiemental fox musk-based perfume. Crimson Fox had enhanced strength, agility, speed, endurance and healing ability. She could leap up to 20 feet in the air and complemented this with steel-taloned gloves that enabled her to attach to and climb most surfaces (and made a pretty good weapon on their own – as did her cowl, which she could manipulate like a whip). Crimson Fox also had a pheromone-control power that she could use to influence the actions of those near her.

Career

As previously mentioned, Crimson Fox became a member of the Justice League but kept secret the fact that they were twins. This was ultimately revealed after Vivian (as Crimson Fox) began a romance with fellow Leaguer, Metamorpho. Shortly afterward, Vivian was kidnapped by the villain Puanter and killed. Constance carried on as Crimson Fox, but there was still more tragedy to follow.

After Justice League America folded and reformed as the “big guns only” JLA, Constance attempted to reform the European branch with four other Justice League cast-offs. Unfortunately, they were infiltrated by the daughter of the supervillain The Mist who managed to decimate most of Crimson Fox’s new team, killing not only Blue Devil and  Amazing Man but Crimson Fox, herself.

But that was not the end of Crimson Fox! Years later a third Crimson Fox showed up as a member of the Global Guardians, one who insinuated that she had inherited the Revson business and apparently the abilities of Crimson Fox, too. Shortly after her first appearance, DC Comics rebooted their universe (again) and in the reshuffling since, Crimson Fox has yet to be reintroduced.

Until Powerless, that is. Now she’s back, more powerful and getting more coverage than she ever has before – which I find kinda nice after having already been killed twice.

And don’t worry, they eventually thawed her out

Oscar’s Record-Setting Films

lalaOn the topic of the Academy Awards’ and record-setting Oscar films, the focus is usually placed on the following three categories: films with the most Oscar nominations, films with the most Oscar wins, and films that have swept the “Big 5” awards (Picture, Actor, Actress, Director and Writing – Screenplay or Adapted Screenplay).

After this year’s nominations were announced, the total number of films that shared the top spot in each of these categories reached three apiece. So now, as Oscar night quickly approaches (this Sunday!), I thought it would be fun to have a little looksee at these particular films and dig a little deeper for some interesting trivial tidbits (including a few that can actually be applied as tie-breakers in a couple of instances, if you’re the type of person who really likes to parse things down to a single, definitive winner).

And now, the Oscars went to…

Most Academy Award wins
11 wins 

Ben-Hur (1959)
Titanic (1997)
The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003)

Of the three most Oscar-winning films, Titanic is the only one that is also tops in most nominations, with 14 (Ben-Hur received 12 nods, LOTR: Return Of The King, 11)

Titanic received its 14 noms from a possible 17 categories, but the year Ben-Hur received its 12 noms, there were only 15 available categories. So, even though their total noms received differ, the total noms they missed is the same, as both films managed to get nominated in all but three of the available categories in their respective years.

Even though it garnered the fewest noms of the three films, the 11 wins for LOTR: Return Of The King  represented a clean sweep of all of its nominated categories, making it the film with the largest Oscars sweep ever.

Most Academy Award nominations
14 nominations 

All About Eve (1950)
Titanic (1997)
La La Land (2016)

The 14 nominations received by All About Eve actually represented nods in only 12 categories (out of a possible 16), as it received two nominations apiece in both the Best Actress (Bette Davis, Anne Baxter) and Best Supporting Actress (Celeste Holm, Thelma Ritter) categories. Apparently cancelling one another out, none of the ladies went home with an award that night. Of the film’s eventual six wins, the only statuette it received for acting was given to George Sanders (for Best Supporting Actor).

Similarly, La La Land’s 14 nominations represent nods in “only” 13 categories, as two of the musical’s original compositions (“City of Stars” and “Audition”) made it onto the list of Best Song Nominees.

Titanic is the only film whose 14 nominations were in 14 different categories, giving it the distinction as the film with the most unique nominations ever.

Films That Swept The “Big 5” Awards
3 films

It Happened One Night (1934)
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

In the history of the Academy Awards, a total of 43 films have been nominated for all the “Big 5” awards – Picture, Actor, Actress, Director and Writing – with the above three being the only ones to manage a clean sweep.

The most recent film to join the ranks of Big 5 nominees is La La Land – which brings up an interesting point: None of the previous most nominated or most winning films had ever managed to have their impressive totals include all noms in Big 5 categories. This year, La La Land  became the first such film to finally break that barrier.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like La La Land will take it a step further and actually sweep the Big 5. Now, 4 out of 5 is definitely possible, but as much as I like Ryan Gosling, he seems to be, at best, coming up as a distant third place for Best Actor, behind front-runners Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea) and Denzel Washington (Fences).

But then again, we are living in a time of unbelievable voting outcomes, so who knows what will happen come Oscar night?

It’s Dynamite – For Kids!

0dyna2As I was going through the never-ending boxes of stuff in my storage, I stumbled across a lost pop culture treasure – my collection of Dynamite magazines!

Published from 1974 to 1992, Dynamite was a kid’s magazine that was mainly available through subscription or through Scholastic’s school-based Arrow Book Club. It could probably best be described today as a kid-focused mashup of Entertainment Weekly, People, MAD Magazine and children’s activity books.

And I unequivocally LOVED it – and it definitely helped spark my obsession with all things pop culture. I mean, not only did this mag cover EVERYTHING  (celebrities, movies, television, music, fads & trends) – it also featured human interest stories, advice, puzzles and games, comics (and how to draw them!), short stories, jokes & humour, contests & freebies and more.

And as if that wasn’t enough, occasional issues from the early-mid 80s, would be run as a “flip mag”, where the first half of the magazine would be Dynamite but if you flipped over to the back cover, it would be another magazine – Arcade, which consisted of “Fun and Games for the Computer-Age Kid” and was in response that era’s growing popularity of video games and computers.

I would be in a pop culture nirvana whenever my new issue arrived and I read each one cover to cover, over and over and over.

So to give the magazine its due, I thought I would just post a brief sample of some of the goodies found within (and on!) the covers of my collection, which spans from 1982 – 1985 (yep, pure 80s kid here!).

Enjoy!

 

 

Off the Record was Dynamite's 2-page round-up of "facts, faces, news and notes" from the rock music scene"

Off the Record was Dynamite’s 2-page round-up of “facts, faces, news and notes” from the rock music scene”

Artist Joe Kuburt had his own How-To-Draw feature, and his School of Cartoon Art provided the art for Dynamite's original comic strip - The Dynamite Duo (which was written by a pre-Goosebumps R.L. Stein!)

Artist Joe Kubert had his own How-To-Draw feature, and his School of Cartoon Art provided the art for Dynamite’s original comic strip – The Dynamite Duo (which was written by a pre-Goosebumps R.L. Stein!)

 And Now A Word From Our Sponsor was a regular feature that poked fun at current and popular commercials

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor was a regular feature that poked fun at current and popular commercials

 A typical Dynamite celebrity interview - this one with the star of my favourite show at the time (Scarecrow and Mrs. King), the lovely Kate Jackson

A typical Dynamite celebrity interview – this one with the star of my favourite show at the time (Scarecrow and Mrs. King), Kate Jackson

dynamite06

And to wrap up my short jaunt down memory lane, here’s a glimpse of one the aforementioned “flip” issues with Arcade magazine, featuring that hot “new” video game star, Pac-Man!

dynamite09dynaarcade