Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Thank you, David Letterman




The Late Show with David Letterman signs off for the final time tonight.

This is a sad event for us since we grew up watching Letterman and his departure leaves a big hole in the late night lineup.  Letterman shaped our sense of humor and we've enjoyed watching his shows for more than 30 years.

Back in 2010, we blogged about Letterman's long-running Christmas traditions.  Darlene Love began singing 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)' on Letterman's holiday shows in 1986.  Love performed the song again in 2014 and says she will no longer sing it on television.



In same 2014 episode, Late Show bandleader Paul Shaffer revived his tradition of singing 'O Holy Night' in the style of Cher for the first time in several years.


Actor Jay Thomas returned to The Late Show to tell, in Letterman's words, "the greatest talk show story of all time."


Letterman and Thomas also engaged in their annual contest built around knocking a giant meatball off the top of a Christmas tree with a football.



We've gotten a great amount of joy from Letterman's holiday programming we wish him well.  Our holiday seasons won't be the same without his Christmas shows.   If we ever have the chance to meet Letterman, the first thing we would say is "thanks for all the laughs!"

J.A. & RigbyMel

Sunday, April 5, 2015

It's The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown



Peppermint Patty: Now look, kid: these eggs are *not* to be fried. Nor are they to be roasted, toasted, or waffled.
Marcie: Yes, sir.
Peppermint Patty: These eggs have to be boiled. You boil them, then I'll show you how to paint them.

First aired April 9, 1974

Easter is coming soon, Charlie Brown (Todd Barbee) and the gang are getting ready to celebrate.

Peppermint Patty (Linda Ercoli) tries (unsuccessfully) to teach Marcie (Jimmy Ahrens) how to dye eggs. Marcy fries them instead.


Woodstock (Bill Melendez) needs a birdhouse, rain is beating down on him.



 Sally (Lynn Mortensen) has nothing to wear for Easter.


So the kids head to a department store in search of eggs, clothes and a birdhouse. Linus (Stephen Shea) says they don't need to shop for eggs and jelly beans;The Easter Beagle will take care of all that. Everyone is skeptical about this "Easter Beagle" (they're familiar with Linus' odd notions about holiday visitors), especially Peppermint Patty.

Peppermint Patty doesn't share Linus' faith in "The Easter Beagle."
The store already has it's Christmas decorations up and signs that announce "pre-Christmas" sales and "246 days until Xmas".


Snoopy finds a display of sugar eggs.


He looks inside one and imagines himself dancing with bunnies.


Marcie continues to fail at making Easter Eggs and Linus keeps telling her & P. Patty that the Easter Beagle will bring the eggs.


Is Linus right?  Will the Easter Beagle come bearing eggs and candy?  Will Marcy learn how to properly make Easter Eggs?

J.A. Morris says:
It's The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown is lots of fun, but there's not a lot of plot to discuss.  It's mostly just a series of scenes that feature beloved characters interacting with each other and amusing dialogue.


Mild 40-year-old spoiler:Unlike his Halloween folly, Linus' faith is rewarded, even if the Easter Beagle arrives due to Snoopy's intervention.  Marcie's attempts at dying Easter Eggs are very funny, I still cover my eyes every time she "waffles" eggs.


The special doesn't spend a lot of time on the spiritual aspects of Easter.  But we get a scene where Lucy (Melanie Kohn) calls Easter the gift-giving season.  Schroeder (Todd Barbee) tells her that "Easter's not a time for getting, it's a time of renewal, the start of Spring."  That's a nice way of summing up Easter's meaning and the season.


When this special was produced, the original Peanuts voice actors were long gone.  But the kids here are all well cast.

Vince Guaraldi was still around and provides another great soundtrack.  At this point, Guaraldi's music was heavily influenced by funk and fusion, he plays some electric guitar here.  The soundtrack is very different than the piano-based tunes we heard in the earlier specials, but it's still excellent.


For those interested in math and trivia:
When the kids visit the shopping mall, there's a sign that reads "Only 246 shopping days until Christmas."  For those keeping score, that would make it April 23.  Which is pretty late in the calendar for Easter, but not impossible.
 

It's The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown is a lot of fun and is highly recommended.

J.A. Morris' rating:





4 Easter Eggs!


RigbyMel says:

This is one of my favorite Easter specials.   I love that it refers back to the Great Pumpkin special.

Unlike the Great Pumpkin, the Easter Beagle does show up
I love its gently anti-consumerist message.

Christmas seems to come earlier each year!
I love (and am simultaneously frustrated by) Marcie's egg ineptness.
Marcie fails to grasp the concept of the hard-boiled egg
I love Woodstock's swinging bachelor pad with groovy sound system.
Groovy, man!
I love that Snoopy thinks to get him a birdhouse. (As we know, I am partial to Woodstock.)


I love watching Snoopy dance with his imaginary bunny friends.

Adorable!
I even love the springtime background paintings used -- I think they are exceptionally pretty.

Check out the daffodils and the blossoms on the tree
As J.A. Morris says,  Vince Guarldi's funk and fusion inspired score is way cool and it gets extra points in my book for excellent use of Beethoven's Symphony Number 7.  When all seems bleakest we get the somber second movement of the symphony.


When the Easter Beagle appears, we get the happier, dancing strains from the midst of the first movement.  Great stuff.   There's even some Minuet in G a la Bach that shows up in the scene where Snoopy dances with Peppermint Patty and Marcie at the shopping center.


It's The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown does a great job of presenting wonderful vignettes that give us the spirit of the characters and the spring season in a very satisfying way -- even if the plot is rather slight.


This special is still shown on TV often (sadly, it did not get a network airing in 2015) and is readily available on DVD and streaming services like Amazon Instant Video.   If you enjoy the Peanuts and have not seen the Easter Beagle, you owe it to yourself to check this out!

RigbyMel's rating:






4 Easter eggs


Friday, April 3, 2015

The Vicar Of Dibley:"The Easter Bunny"


Premiered April 8, 1996.

Geraldine: This is the awful moment where I tell you that the Easter Bunny absolutely and totally does not exist at all.
Alice: Well,  maybe not where you come from.  But here, we've got our very own proper Easter Bunny.  I've seen it!


It's Springtime in Dibley.  The residents of the small Oxfordshire village are preparing for Easter. This is the Vicar Geraldine Granger's (Dawn French) first Easter in the village.

Alice (Emma Chambers) tells Geraldine that the Easter Bunny visits Dibley every Easter and that every resident has seen it.  The Vicar scoffs, telling Alice there's no such thing as the Easter Bunny.  Alice reacts with consternation, saying that anyone who doubts the existence of the rabbit comes under the ancient curse and is doomed to have their firstborn child be a dunce.


The next day at a meeting of the parish council, Geraldine asks the council members about the Bunny.  Everyone backs up Alice about the existence of the "Dibley Bunny"  and they're very matter of fact in their belief.  The Vicar thinks the village has gone crazy.  In other business, Geraldine suggests that each member of the council give up something for Lent -- which leads to her being forced to give up one of her favorite things ... chocolate!!

Geraldine:  Sorry, have I just stepped into The X-Files
Shortly before Easter, Letitia Cropley (Liz Smith),  one of the more eccentric members of the parish council  (and that's saying something) falls ill.  When Geraldine arrives, Letitia is near death and asks the Vicar to speak to her.


She imparts a secret to Geraldine ---  Letitia has played the  Easter Bunny in Dibley for the past 30 years.  Letitia's dying request is for Geraldine to take over the role when she dies.

Geraldine is horrified at the request, but agrees. 
On the evening before Easter, the Vicar dresses up in a bunny costume and sets out to deliver chocolate eggs to every house in the village.


Things do not quite go according to plan, as she encounters...the Easter Bunny?

Is this the real Easter Bunny? 
RigbyMel says:

The Vicar of Dibley is a brilliantly funny British series and this episode is a standout.

It manages to walk a fine line between sadness and comedy and does so very successfully.

I especially enjoy Geraldine and the members of the council's attempts to avoid Lenten fines for giving in to their vices.  Hugo (James Fleet) and his struggle to avoid lustful thoughts about Alice, on whom he has a fearsome crush, is particularly funny.

Bunny Geraldine vs. chocolate eggs
Geraldine's comedic wistfulness over the loss of her beloved chocolate is comedy gold as are pompous head of the council David's (Gary Waldhorn) rather wicked efforts to tempt her to cheat.   There's not many TV shows that touch on Lent at all, so that also makes this interesting viewing from that point of view as too.

Hugo and Alice being sheepish around each other ... 
Even though Alice is on the "thick as two short planks" side of intellect (it is suggested that her mother fell victim to the alleged curse),  her childlike faith in the existence of the Easter Bunny is very sweet to see due largely to her portrayal by Emma Chambers.

As Easter does center on a death and a resurrection, it is appropriate that Letitia passes on the Dibley Bunny tradition, ensuring that the Bunny will live on after her.

Geraldine really does make an adorable Bunny!
This episode of The Vicar of Dibley is both touching and funny and Lent as well as Easter are used to excellent advantage without being a bit cloying.

If you're a fan of funny ladies like Dawn French and smart British comedy,  this episode is not to be missed!

RigbyMel's rating:






4 Easter eggs


J.A. Morris says:

I can't add a lot to what my co-blogger said, The Easter Bunny is an excellent holiday episode of a great comedy series.  Dawn French and her ensemble cast are funny as always and the "holiday" aspect of this episode has made it an annual event in our house.
Letitia shares her unique Passover pancakes recipe with the parish council.


It's very rare that an episode that focuses on a characters death can be sad and hilarious.  Most sitcoms that attempt this often turn dissolve into "very special episodes."  But The Easter Bunny succeeds, spending just enough time mourning Letitia before getting back to the jokes.


The Easter Bunny is available on a dvd titled The Vicar Of Dibley:The Specials & Series 2.


There aren't many Easter specials, episodes and movies, The Easter Bunny is a nice addition to that short list.  It's highly recommended and does a great job connecting the religious and secular traditions of Easter.

J.A. Morris' rating



4 Easter Eggs!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Easter Yeggs



Premiered June 28, 1947.

"Every year, I get some dumb bunny to do my work for me."
-The Easter Rabbit (Mel Blanc)

Bugs Bunny (Mel Blanc) is relaxing, reading a book when he hears someone crying.


It's the Easter Rabbit.  He's says he's "supposed to be happy and gay" while delivering eggs, but his feet are killing him.  Bugs is sympathetic and offers to deliver the "technicolor hen fruit" for him.  As Bugs hops away, the Easter Bunny breaks the 4th wall and tells us that every year he gets another rabbit to do his work for him.

Bugs' first stop is the home of a child known as "Dead End Kid".

Yikes!
The child immediately attacks Bugs, when Bugs tries to retaliate, Dead End Kid's family shows up armed to the teeth and turns their guns on Bugs.

YIKES!!
Bugs goes back to the Easter Rabbit and tells him he's changed his mind.  The Easter Rabbit convinces Bugs to try again.  The next home he visits is the residence of Elmer Fudd (Arthur Q. Bryan), who says he will turn the Easter Rabbit into "wabbit stew".

 
Bugs is prepared this time and smashes an egg in Fudd's hands.  They engage in a battle of wits, with Bugs enraging Fudd, causing him to pull a rifle on our hero.


While this is going on, the Easter Rabbit watches and keeps encouraging Bugs to deliver the eggs.  
Will Bugs stick with it?


J.A. Morris says:

I've mentioned in prior reviews that I'm a huge fan of classic Warner Brothers cartoons.  But I have mixed feelings about Easter Yeggs.


It gets off to a good start, with Bugs reading a book called How To Multiply.  And it gives us another great gag, with the classic "Bugs outline" as he runs out the door.


And the animation is great as usual.

The portrayal of the Easter Bunny as lazy was certainly cynical.  It was also somewhat refreshing compared to other holiday cartoons.  But the same cynicism and the presence of more guns than usual means it probably shouldn't be shown to very young children  Mel Blanc and Arthur Q. Bryan are good as always.

Lobby card for Easter Yeggs.
But I have one big problem with Easter Yeggs.  Bugs Bunny should NEVER lose a fight to a little boy (even one who sucks on a gun!).  And if he does, he should go back to the house and triumph in the end.  I'm aware that Robert McKimson specialized in "unconventional" Bugs shorts (his Rebel Rabbit is one of my favorites), but this cartoon goes too far.


Easter Yeggs has been released on DVD.  It can be found on Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 3


If you want a dash of cynicism in your Easter programming, check out this short.  But Bugs' defeat by Dead End Kid costs it an egg.

J.A. Morris' rating:





2 and a half Easter Eggs.

RigbyMel says:

There is lots of anarchic fun to be had in this Warner Brothers short and as J.A. Morris says, the lazy, cynical Easter Rabbit's conning of Bugs is an interesting deviation in tone from the typical holiday cartoon.


That being said,  I cannot get behind the Dead End Kid being shown sucking on a gun like a bottle.   It's a gag that just doesn't play well to my mind.    Like J.A. Morris, I was also disappointed that Bugs didn't get to give the Dead End Kid (or at least his family) some kind of comeuppance.  Maybe Warner Brothers was hesitant to have Bugs Bunny wreck havoc on a child?


 I did not see this short when I was a child, but if I had, I think I might also have been a bit upset by the notion of Elmer Fudd wanting to shoot the Easter Bunny!  So this is not a Looney Toons short that I would recommend for very young children.

Bugs turns Fudd into an Easter Egg!
That being said, there are enough silly gags and Easter anarchy to make this worthwhile for older children and for adult cartoon connoisseurs.

RigbyMel's rating:





2 and a half Easter Eggs.