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Richard Schaal in Jim Henson's teleplay, 'The Cube' (1969)

- This post continues from one posted at I'm Learning To Share, regarding some of Jim Henson's earlier muppetless productions.
Follow link to: Time out from the muppets:
Young Jim Henson's 'Tick-Tock Sick' (1960) and Time Piece (1965)

Other folks have previously blogged about 'The Cube', but as some of the links in those older posts appear to be dead, it looks like it's my turn...

The other night I did a bit of 'comfort viewing' and watched an old episode of Rhoda running on Hulu.

Among the instantly familiar '70s sitcom faces, I recognized
Richard Schaal, a character actor who was very visible on TV and in movies from the 1960s into the '80s.

I did vaguely recall that he'd once been married to Valerie Harper, which might have had a little to do with his recurring guest appearances in different roles on so many of the MTM shows.

Schaal became a member of Chicago's Second City improv comedy troupe in the early 1960s, and was one of their featured players for much of that decade.

In 1964, he joined the cast of the American TV version of
That Was the Week That Was, moved through the decade with guest shots on lots of TV sitcoms and dramas, had small roles in
'The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming', 'Slaughterhouse-Five' and other movies, and appeared with several other Second City alums on Broadway in the early '70's in Paul Sills' Story Theatre (and was on the subsequent Canadian TV series).

Also among Schaal's interesting credits is his leading role in an avant-garde existential teleplay, 'The Cube'.
It first aired in 1969 as an episode of the NBC anthology series, Experiment in Television, and was a creation of
Jim Henson, in one of his rare non-Muppet ventures.

In 'The Cube', ▼ Schall's unnamed character is suprised to find himself stuck in a small enclosed white-paneled space, apparently unable to leave as a variety of odd characters come and go as they please, adding to his confusion and anxiety.

Running time of the teleplay is about 53 minutes.

Alternate video link: The version embedded here is in color, with a relatively clear picture.
Perhaps given the look and feel of the piece, many people prefer viewing the much grainier black & white version that has been posted more often. (follow link)

- See also:
An episode guide for 'NBC Experiment in Television'(1967-71)

Nina Hagen tweaks The Tubes: 'White Punks On Dope' and 'TV-Glotzer' (1977, 1978)

An anthem of excess,
'White Punks On Dope' closed out the eponymously-titled
debut album by The Tubes,
released in 1975.

The song was a featured production number for the
San Francisco-based group's live shows, legendary in the bay area and beyond for being as much outrageous and satiric burlesque revue as rock act.

Written as a tribute to a select portion of their fanbase of the era, it struck a nerve and 'WPOD' became a popular graffito for many years following.

In the persona of Glam monster 'Quay Lewd', lead singer
Fee Waybill tumbled off of
his absurd platform shoes almost as often as he fell out of his
silver lame' (or aluminum foil) costume.

The Tubes made an
appearance on British TV's
The Old Grey Whistle Test on Tuesday November 8th, 1977, coinciding with their sold-out ten-day run of concerts at
London's Hammersmith Odeon, during their first overseas tour.
Recordings from those concerts were released the following year as The Tubes' 4th album, What Do You Want from Live.

(Later dates in that concert tour were cancelled when Fee Waybill broke his leg onstage, though reportedly not while in the Quay costume.

When Nina Hagen left East Germany in 1976, her earlier singing career was derailed.
After visiting England at the height of the Punk movement, she settled in Hamburg, West Germany, and formed the Nina Hagen Band in 1977, becoming a fascinating punk diva.

Her version of 'White Punks On Dope' appeared on her first LP, but was not a true cover in the strictest sense;
She changed the lyrics and meaning completely, turning it into a song about television addiction.

- Follow link to the lyrics section of a Hagen website.

Click on the 'Nina Hagen Band' album cover at the top of the left-hand sidebar, then click on 'TV-Glotzer (White Punks on Dope)' to see both the German lyrics and an English translation.

Below, her concert
performance of 'TV-Glotzer' at the Westfalenhalle Dortmund on December 12th, 1978 was televised on an episode of German TV's Rockpalast.

- A chronological collection of other Nina Hagen video clips can be seen at POCIMAS DEL DRUIDA.

- For a collection of rare and early Tubes video clips , follow link to The Tubes Project channel on YouTube.

Mel Brooks' 'The Critic' (1963)

(click on poster image to enlarge in a new window)

Prior to his career as a producer / director for TV and feature film, Ernest Pintoff received an Oscar for Best Animated Short in April of 1964 for his film 'The Critic', which had premiered in
New York the previous May.

In a gentle lampoon of the style of innovative animated films created by
Norman McLaren and other filmmakers from The National Film Board of Canada, 'The Critic' featured the voice of Mel Brooks as an outspoken senior citizen sitting in the audience.

Brooks had been writing for TV since the 1950s and
'Your Show of Shows', which led to his stand-up partnership with
Carl Reiner and their string of comedy albums that began in 1961.

In 1962 Brooks provided the book for the Broadway musical production of 'All American', but the show flopped, and it would be many years before Brooks returned to Broadway.

Brooks collaborated with Buck Henry to create TV's
'Get Smart' in 1965.
1968's 'The Producers' marked his return to movies, and his debut as a feature film director.

- For a very thorough examination of the creation of 'The Critic' and other Mel Brooks short films, follow the link to
Smarter Than The Average!

- For more about Ernest Pintoff's animation, follow link to
Cartoon Modern, where you can view 'Flebus', a cartoon he directed for Terrytoons in 1957, and Frederator has posted about Pintoff's
'The Interview', from 1961.

'Disneyland Showtime' with Kurt Russell, The Osmond Brothers and The Haunted Mansion (1970)

'Disneyland Showtime' first aired March 22nd, 1970 on NBC's Sunday night family-hour staple, 'The Wonderful World of Disney'.

The hour-long program featured Kurt Russell (already a Disney star) running around the Anaheim theme park with
The Osmonds (pre jumpsuits, pre-'70s bubblegum hysteria) and actress E.J. Peaker (fresh from her supporting role in the film version of 'Hello, Dolly!').

(The embedded 'playlist' below should play the program continuously through five segments, also giving you the option to skip ahead.)

Kicky, kitschy fun, with great vintage shots of the park and its patrons, but one of the biggest high points is a fascinating look behind-the-scenes at The Haunted Mansion ride, which had just opened the previous August.

- For more about the program and its production, click over to: 'Haunted Mansion Horror: Disneyland Showtime' at Tulgey Wood.

'Posh Nosh' (2003)

A brilliant parody of TV cooking shows,
'Posh Nosh' first ran in the U.K. on BBC2 in eight 9-minute episodes back in 2003, and has since shown up intermittently on various PBS stations in the U.S.

Richard E. Grant and Arabella Weir portray the hosts, restaurateurs Simon and Minty Marchmont, owners of 'The Quill & Tassel',
all too self-satisfied in their quest to "bring extraordinary food to ordinary people".

Learn to relax an avocado, bamboozle a parsnip, shave a fennel and too much more...

(follow links to view)

Episode 1: Architect's Fish and Chips ▲ (above)
Episode 2: Birthday Parties
Episode 3: Paella
Episode 4: Beautiful Food
Episode 5: Bread and Butter Pudding
Episode 6: Leftovers
Episode 7: Sauces ▼ (below)
Episode 8: Comfort Food

See also: The (archived) official BBC website, where Simon & Minty present:
- Food Philosophy
- Interviews
- Recipes
- Wallpapers and more.

Roland Kirk & John Cage in 'Sound', 1967

Director Dick Fontaine's 1967 documentary features composer
John Cage and jazz icon
Roland Kirk (it was 1970 when he became Rahsaan Roland Kirk) on separate but similar paths, exploring the possibilities of sound.

25 minutes, English w/ French subtitles.

- Streaming problems?
Here's an alternate link to this film, spread over three shorter video clips at YouTube.

David Bowie performs with Klaus Nomi & Joey Arias on SNL (1979)

In many ways, the fifth season of 'Saturday Night Live' was a handy portent of the lowering of expectations that would become necessary for survival in the 1980s and beyond (and not just when watching TV).

It was the first season of SNL without Belushi and Aykroyd (replaced by Harry Shearer), and the last season for what remained of the original cast. In Season 6, Charles Rocket & Gail Matthius hosted 'Weekend Update'. If there had ever been a time when SNL was fresh and new, by then it was gone.

Season 5 was not without its high points (they were just becoming fewer and further between).
A huge standout was
David Bowie's musical guest appearance on the
December 15, 1979 episode, hosted by Martin Sheen.

Bowie was in fine theatrical form, playing well to the camera in outlandish costumes, flanked by the perfectly enigmatic Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi as back-up singers.

The story goes that Bowie hired them for this one appearance soon after having heard about Klaus Nomi's performances at various hip New York clubs.

In the first musical segment, Bowie's 'The Man Who Sold the World' was given new life in an arrangement radically different from the 1970 original, one well-matched to Nomi's distinctive counter-tenor harmonies.

Dave's bulky and angular
'space-tux' costume necessitated Klaus and Joey becoming his 'bearers', and helped to inspire the variant that became a signature look for Klaus.

(Both outfits also have roots in the immobilizing cardboard costumes designed by Sonia Delaunay for Tristan Tzara's 1923 dadaist play,
'La coeur à gaz'.)

Below, ▼ 'The Man Who Sold the World'...

(That's Blondie's Jimmy Destri playing keyboards.)

Below, ▼ the second and third musical segments tacked together in one video clip.
'TVC 15' had been a hit single from 1976's 'Station To Station' album, while 'Boys Keep Swinging' was at the time still relatively recent, having been released in the Spring of '79 as a single and on the 'Lodger' LP.

While Bowie danced about during 'Boys Keep Swinging' in his VFX puppet costume, NBC censors apparently had no problem with the lyric 'Life is a pop of the cherry', though they did choose to mute out the line 'Other boys check you out'. Go figure.

The SNL appearance served as catalyst for Klaus Nomi's career, escalating his status on the
New York City club scene and leading to his (sadly brief) stint as an international recording artist.

- Follow link to
Madeline Bocchiaro's 1997 reminiscence of her friendship with Klaus, including some nice behind-the-scenes tidbits regarding the evening of the SNL appearance...

"...I asked [Klaus and Joey] who did their fabulous makeup (the meticulous details were not visible on TV). They boasted that they'd done each other's makeup; 'Joey did mine and I did his, and we did David's!' Boys will be girls."

Joey Arias is still active as a NYC-based singer, author, and performance / drag artist.

Klaus Nomi died in 1983. He was one of the first celebrities to die of complications from AIDS.

- The 2004 feature-length documentary film, 'The Nomi Song', is available on DVD and is highly recommended viewing. As of this writing, it can also be viewed online for free at SnagFilms.

Michael Palin & Terry Jones: 'The Complete & Utter History Of Britain' (1969)

'The Complete & Utter History Of Britain' was a short-lived British TV series created by Michael Palin and Terry Jones,
a few months prior to the formation of
Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Six episodes aired in early 1969, between Palin & Jones' appearances in the first and second seasons of 'Do Not Adjust Your Set'.

It has long been believed that no video from the series still existed, but some has resurfaced in recent years.

Below, ▼ the first episode, from January 12th, 1969 - - sadly, missing the first 2 minutes of the program...

(the embedded video is in a 'playlist' format, and should play continually through three parts)

The premise for the series was to present events from history as if television had existed at the time.

Though the results were often uneven, many elements used here by history buffs Palin & Jones would resurface time and again in various Python projects.

Below, ▼ episode 2, from January 19th, 1969

(again, the embedded 'playlist' should play continually
through three parts)

- These clips come courtesy of You Tube user Moriarty0001.
Follow the link to other Python-related curios on the channel.

Related material at YouTube:
- The Monty Python Channel
- The Monty Python Museum

'Look Around You'

Much of the world has already had plenty of time to discover 'Look Around You', British TV's inspired parody of educational programming.

I, on the other hand, am just discovering it now, so you'll have to excuse me while I take my turn to get excited about it.

It gets sillier; Looks like episodes are scheduled to begin airing here in the U.S. on Adult Swim. Looks like a perfect fit.

The first series of eight
10-minute episodes first aired in 2002...

(follow links to view)

Module #1- Maths
Module #2- Water
Module #3- Germs
Module #4- Ghosts
Module #5- Sulphur
Module #6- Music ▲ (above)
Module #7- Iron
Module #8- Brain ▼ (below)

- Plus the unaired 20-minute pilot episode:

The second series of six
30-minute episodes premiered in 2005.

Here are some links to several video clips from series 2...

- Medibot
- Di-Tutetamine Brohohibe
- Slimby
- Computer Games
- Petticoat 5
- Toothpaste
- Synthesiser Patel
- Music 2000

- See also the BBC 'Look Around You' web page.