NTN TV Schedule – August 2020

The Nod Television Network proudly presents seven shows (plus one) I think worth watching this week, for those looking for something new or something old. I’m thinking of making this a monthly feature, along with another cool idea I’ll be trying out soon.

Sunday | BBQ PIT BOYS – Cooking

The BBQ Pit Boys fire up the grill and prepare some delicious pineapple salsa spare ribs in the great outdoors. One of my favorite cooking shows online. If you’ve never cooked or baked anything, give it a try … though make sure you start with something simple. It’s super fun and very satisfying. And if you screw it up … don’t give up – keep on trying!

Monday | FOOTBALL – NFL

Frank Tarkenton’s 6-4 Vikings head into Pittsburgh to challenge Terry Bradshaw and the 7-3 Steelers. I’ve recently gotten into these old games for their slightly different style of play, but also fun to watch some of the greats actually play a game, rather than just see them in highlight reels. Originally telecast 11/26/72

Tuesday | JASON KING

“Wanna Buy a Television Series”, series premiere. Writer Jason King (Peter Wyngarde) tries to sell a script while adventurer Mark Caine tries to solve a deadly mystery. This is a follow-up to Department S, which I haven’t seen but now want to see, and based on the first episode is now my favorite old TV show of the moment. Originally telecast 9/15/71

Wednesday | STAR TREK CONTINUES

“Pilgrim of Eternity”, series premiere. Kirk (Vic Mignona) and crew encounter a face from the past, who may threaten their future. A great fan film series, and an especially appropriate choice due to the recent passing of Grant Imahara (Sulu).

Thursday | MOVIE – Science-Fiction

“Strange New World” starring John Saxon. Three astronauts frozen in space return to a post-apocalyptic Earth and try to resurrect the organization that sent them into orbit. This was Gene Roddenberry’s third attempt at a pilot for a post-apocalyptic TV series … and his third failure. John Saxon passed this week, so it’s a good time to honor him with a look at his work. Original telecast 7/13/75

Friday | FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES

“Inheritance”, series premiere. When Micki (Louise Robey) and Ryan (inherit their uncle’s weird antique shop, they are forced to retrieve a haunted doll before it can kill again. I showed this one to my daughter, and she was instantly sorry when the doll showed up. Originally telecast 10/3/1987

Saturday | BLACKSTAR

“City of the Ancient Ones”, series premiere. Astronaut John Blackstar finds himself stranded on the planet Sagar, and hunted by its evil Overlord. I never saw this one as a kid, but have fallen in love with it now. Filmation really did produce some stunning visuals and creative ideas. Originally telecast 9/21/81

BONUS!

DOUG HENNING’S WORLD OF MAGIC

Doug Henning always reminds me of Bob Ross – gentle souls who did cool stuff and tried to spread happiness. God bless them both. The link isn’t to the episode advertised above, but I figure it’s close enough.

The 90s Syndicate

It was 1987, and I was super excited in the cereal aisle at the grocery store. This was not uncommon in childhood, of course – it just took an awesome prize in a box of sugar goodness – but I was a teenager in ’87 and the excitement was due to an ad for something called Star Trek: The Next Generation on the back of a cereal box. This was my introduction to the show, and I remember telling my dad – the source of my Star Trek love – about how cool it looked, with a new ship, new crew … and that there was going to be a klingon on the Enterprise!

Back in the 80’s, syndicated TV was mostly the domain of game shows like Wheel of Fortune until Star Trek: The Next Generation showed up. I remember that it was a big story when The Next Generation managed to beat Wheel of Fortune’s ratings. Fast forward 30+ years, and though I’m sorry to say the show doesn’t do much for me these days, I am thankful for the syndicated TV goodness it helped spawn.

The syndicated shows of the 90’s almost never had as much budget as they needed, but they were all cool and creative. Because of the time in which they were made, they have a distinct look that I suspect really triggers good vibes for many Gen-X’ers.

Here are a few of my favorites – check them out if they’re new to you, or renew an old friendship if you remember them from way back when:

The Flash (1990-1991)

Not syndicated, but I sorta wish it had been after it was cancelled. We’ve been watching these lately, having scored a super cheap DVD set of the complete series at Zia Records, and I must say I’m enjoying them. The show was far from perfect, but it had some great moments and I genuinely like the people in it. The sad thing about Flash is that it only made it to TV because of the success of 1989’s Batman, and as a result ended up with a Danny Elfwood score and an awkward aesthetic borrowed from Batman and Dick Tracy. The style just seems out of place to me, and though it doesn’t ruin the shows, it doesn’t help them either. On the other hand, it’s full of absolutely beautiful mid-century cars, so that’s pretty cool. The Flash costume was a little jarring as well, but c’est la vie.

We were watching some of the new Flash episodes, but gradually got out of them when they did the stupid time travel bit for the umpteenth time. I really loved see Shipp reprise his role in the series, though.

Oh – and who doesn’t love Amanda Pays? So smart and cool – on Flash as well as Max Headroom. She did a fun guest appearance on Psych as a date for Corbin Bernsen’s character on the series, which is another family favorite.

I think my favorite Flash episode is “Beat the Clock”, which has a pre-What’s Love Got to Do With It Angela Bassett, and good performances by Ken Foree and Thomas Mikal Ford.

Highlander: The Series (1992-1997)

In my normal backwards way, I discovered this show way before I saw the movie … and if I’m honest, when I finally saw the movie I preferred Adrian Paul to Christopher Lambert as the immortal. I think it was that darn overcoat they had him wearing in the movie – looked like it belonged on Harpo Marx. I did enjoy introducing my daughter to the Kurgan, though, and then revealing he was the voice of Mr. Krabs.

Being a history-buff, I loved all the past lives of Duncan McLeod. I think I enjoyed the stuff set in the past more than that set in the modern day. I remember being super-jazzed to see Roland Gift from Fine Young Cannibals and Roger Daltry in some episodes. Highlander really had some legs, but I didn’t stick with it all the way to the end … by 1997 I was married and about a year away from having a kid, so life sort of got in the way. Still, the awesome opening will always stick with me. God bless Freddie Mercury!

Friday the 13th: The Series (1987-1990)

Okay – this series sort of screws up my premise that Next Generation led the way with cool syndicated shows, since it was also first-run syndication and showed up at about the same time. Oh well – it’s my story and I’m sticking to it, facts or no facts!

I don’t have a long-term relationship with the horror genre. I was never into the Friday the 13th movies, or really any contemporary horror movies in my youth. I didn’t grow up with that stuff, so all the blood and guts and shock horror really freaked me out. Classic Universal horror movies I could do … but Leatherface, Jason, Freddie, Michael Myers, flesh-eating zombies, etc. – no sir. Not my cup of tea.

That’s why I don’t know how I ended up watching Friday the 13th: The Series. It has almost nothing to do with the movies – I might remember there being some tiny thread connecting them, but I’m not sure. The premise – which would work beautifully for a horror RPG campaign, is as follows:

Lewis Vendredi made a deal with the devil to sell cursed antiques. But he broke the pact, and it cost him his soul. Now, his niece Micki, and her cousin Ryan have inherited the store… and with it, the curse. Now they must get everything back, and the real terror begins.

It now occurs to me why I started watching it – Louise Robey as Micki. She was pretty darn cute. Still, it was the show’s concept that got me to stick with the show. Each week, a new evil artifact was introduced and off the two leads went, trying to bring it back to the shop to end the curse. It was much more in the vein of Outer Limits than gory 80’s horror movies. I remember it fondly, and should really check back into it.

She-Wolf of London / Love & Curses (1990-1991)

Originally titled She Wolf of London, I caught one or two of the later episodes when it was renamed Love & Curses , and always wanted to see more. A bunch of them are posted on YouTube (how do they not get fined a billion bucks a year for aiding and abetting copyright violations?), but I’m happy to say I picked up the entire series on DVD last week for $12 – sweet price, even I end up not liking them much.

In this series, a woman named Randi Wallace (played by Kate Hodge) who travels to England to study the occult is attacked by a werewolf on the moors and becomes a lycanthrope. Her companion, Professor Ian Matheson (played by Neil Dickson), helps her deal with her curse while they run around encountering all sorts of supernatural evils and stuff. I love good, old fashioned episodic TV with fun characters.

Love & Curses could be a good set-up for a campaign as well, with one PC having a werewolf curse (or something similar) and the others having to survive dangerous adventures AND their dangerous friend.

And yeah, I had a thing for Kate Hodge as well …

So what 80’s/90’s syndicated stuff do you remember loving? Let me know in the comments – remember, sharing is caring!

For Your Viewing Pleasure

Hey folks! I missed the last couple weekends because, frankly, I’ve been busy as a one-armed paperhanger lately. I work in economic research in commercial real estate, so you can imagine that the business closures over the last few weeks have made for a very interesting (to use a very nice word) business environment. We don’t have much economic data to plow through yet, but I’ve been writing numerous articles for my people to help them better understand the situation. As a result, I needed a couple weekends away from¬† writing.

But now I’m back … with a pretty easy post to write. Today, I’m going to direct your attention to a few old shows I’ve found episodes of on Youtube. You might already have seen them, but they were new to me, and I found them fun. This isn’t a RPG post per se, but half the challenge in running RPGs is finding new sources of inspiration – hopefully this post will give you some ideas you can use, especially for modern games.

Sapphire & Steel

A British sci-fi show that ran from 1979-1982, I can only say that the vibe of the show is a little bit X-Files and a little bit Doctor Who … and that that description is completely worthless in describing this show. It’s really it’s own animal. The show stars David McCallum and Joanna Lumley, and the concept is sort of bizarre. They are agents, who might actually be personified elements, sent to contain weird distortions of time that are trying to force themselves into the normal time stream. I love that they are very circumspect, at least in the first series, of explaining just what the heck is going on, but the show is creepy and wonderful and McCallum and Lumley are excellent in it. I dug the show so much that I hit Zia Records and ordered the complete series. By the by – if you’re looking for cool stuff, sometimes pre-owned, I suggest Zia. I absolutely love going to their stores and browsing, but right now their online ordering is all I can do.

Zodiac

Another British show, Zodiac ran in 1974, and thankfully has nothing to do with the Zodiac Killer. This show stars Anouska Hempel as an astrologist who helps her paramour, a detective inspector played by Anton Rodgers, solve crimes. It’s not a bad mystery show, really, though it’s more in the vein of the shows, like Columbo, that showed you who the villain was at the beginning, rather than letting you figure it out along with the detective. I dig it because it comes from that mid- to late-70s period when things like UFO’s, astrology, psychic powers and big foot gained a weird legitimacy in popular culture – not as elements of speculation, but as things that were on the cusp of being made matters of fact. If you’re my age, you probably remember watching In Search Of, with Leonard Nimoy (I don’t mean watching the show WITH Leonard Nimoy, whic would have been great fun, but rather … oh never mind).¬† In Search Of was dedicated to pushing pseudo-science over the goal line into the realm of main steam science, and I really love that old vibe. Zodiac does the same, and I’ve had fun watching a few episodes.

Burke’s Law

A wonderfully weird show from 1963-1966. I’ve only seen the early episodes, which follow Captain Amos Burke (Gene Barry) of LAPD homocide and his lieutentant and sergeant solving murders. The twist is that Burke is a millionaire – I think he inherited it – who shows up at the crime scene in a chauffeur-driven silver Rolls Royce, and that the suspects are all pretty eccentric, not unlike the Emma Peel-era episodes of The Avengers. I also love that they re-use actors from episode to episode in different rolls, kind of like using a troupe of favorites. It’s a weird show filled with crazy characters, beautiful women and tangled cases that are fun to solve along with Burke. On a side note, one episode has Barbara Eden in essentially a genie costume showing off her belly button. Apparently just a few years later that was going to be a problem for prime time TV.

So there you go folks. If you were running low on things to watch, now you have some new old shows to check out. Up next, I present some stats on a few heroes of myth and legend – a little preview of my Gods & Heroes book. Have fun!

A Quick Dispatch from the Pandemic

Howdy folks – just a quick note today, since I’ve been pretty busy setting up work-from-home and not thinking a bunch about gaming stuff.

My wife and I did a jaunt to the nearby Sprouts grocery store to pick up a few things, and boy was it a normal, boring shopping trip. The place wasn’t super crowded, but there were plenty of shoppers, and everybody was calm. There were a few shelves picked over – mostly of staples and at the meat counter – but we got what were were after without too much trouble. If you’re having trouble finding things at the larger chains, you might check out smaller chains or shops, assuming they’re open.

Folks were eating at the Sonic (in their cars – they had removed the outdoor seating) when we went through the drive-thru for some fountain Cokes, and the roads weren’t empty. Looks like people in Vegas are getting through this pretty well. Now, during the week I’ve been driving into my office to get things done – most of the people who work near me are working from home (you didn’t have to ask them twice), so I’m pretty much all by my lonesome there. As a confirmed introvert, I’ve been training for this situation my entire life!

The morning commute to work has been reminiscent of what it was like 20 years ago. I have worked for the same company in the same general place for 25 years, so I have a basis for comparison on such things. Since the resorts on the Strip are shut down for the moment, and visitation is at a minimum, the central core of the city is pretty quiet. It’s weird, but not super-weird – it looked pretty similar the week or so after the 9-11 terrorist attack.

I hope this little missive finds people safe, reasonably happy, and not panicking. Spend some time with your family – we had a rousing game of Dungeon! the other night, which I lost pretty soundly. I recently found an intact copy of the one I used to own – love those graphics so dang much – and I’m really looking forward to the similar game being produced by Sean Aaberg in his Dungeon Degenerates line. My daughter is spending some of her lost Spring Break (she and her friends were going to go to Disneyland – her first trip like that without the parents) sewing on of his weird patches on my denim jacket. Actually a good patch for the times:

We’re doing some comfort-viewing of TV shows and movies we like (and what would the world do without cute/funny animal videos right now?), getting some reading done (just finished Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler and Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Michael Ward – both good books), and I’m still working on my own projects. Now’s a good time to renew ties with friends and family, and if there’s a brick-and-mortar store or restaurant that you dig, but cannot visit, think about getting a gift card from for a later date. A good measure of a person or a people is how they behave in tough times, so be kind, supportive and generally groovy to one another, folks, and we’ll hopefully emerge on the other side relatively intact!

I’ll leave folks with a bad movie that would have been better if you had replaced all the “real” people with characters from Robert E Howard’s Conan stories. Ann Blythe sure was pretty – such an interesting face.

For something quite different, maybe you’ll enjoy Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes.

FIGHT ON!