Monday, July 31, 2028


Welcome to the companion blog for the Unofficial Simon Oakland Tribute Site!  We are Rose and Ladybug, two loyal fans of the talented Simon Oakland, one of the most versatile character actors in the history of movies and television.  We both took notice of Simon in some of his various roles when we were younger, and took more notice when we discovered his role of Tony Vincenzo in the classic Kolchak: the Night Stalker series.  

The website we have been working on is meant to be a tribute for this talented actor, as we were disappointed that there didn’t seem to be any tribute sites to him already.  Our site is still under construction, but we have a focus on both Simon and just some of his many and varied roles.  In future entries, we hope to showcase our musings and thoughts on how he brought these different characters to life (and how they ended up inspiring us), along with other thoughts.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

In Memoriam, 2015 edition

Writing Simon's birthday posts is always bittersweet, for two reasons. One, he's gone from this life now. Two, the death tribute must be written the very next day.

It's also always hard to know what to say. There isn't a lot of information out there on Simon the person; much of what we know comes from bits and pieces of biographical information (some of which may or may not be entirely correct), a brief interview with Jack Grinnage on our website, and the three or four articles that Crystal and I have discovered over the years. What we know is very positive, and Crystal highlighted some of her discoveries and conclusions in her birthday tribute yesterday.

We would love for someone who actually knew Simon to come forward and bring more information so that we could learn more about this highly talented man and share it with our readers. We would also love for more Simon performances to become available, especially rare gems such as Ready for the People, in which he had a starring role. We would find it epic to witness Simon's violin playing or one of his stage roles. And we would be ecstatic for Simon to be more widely recognized and remembered to the point of even getting a book written about him and perhaps a movie.

Of course, with character actors such things rarely happen. They are remembered fondly, but oftentimes the viewers don't place the name with the person. With the Internet age, hopefully that doesn't happen as much now. But character actors are not the ones who get tributes, biopics, biographies, etc. written about them, except in very rare cases. This is more of a shame than ever since character actors are so incredibly talented that they slip into their parts so totally and completely that they are believable as everything from a callous outlaw to an honest military man. In many cases, they are every bit as talented as the headlining stars, and sometimes even moreso.

This is certainly the case with Simon. Of course, with his humble and unassuming nature, he was probably content to never be in the limelight enough to actually win awards, no matter how deserved. But we still wish he had. Performances such as Frank Epstein on Hawaii 5-O and Captain Beechum on The Twilight Zone are so completely opposite each other yet both are supremely powerful. Frank is a bitter and angry man, and it's hard to fault him for that, after the torture he went through that ruined his life and his friend's apparent betrayal to their captors. Captain Beechum is a stern and no-nonsense commander, but very compassionate and concerned for his men's welfare and also that of strangers he's never seen. Both try to do the right thing throughout their episodes and both are, in the end, good and upright.

Whether aligned with good or ill, Simon's characters were so very human ninety-nine percent of the time. And even the few that did not appear to show any redeeming qualities whatsoever were magnificently played. After all, for such a good person to portray someone as evil as Mel Barnes takes incredible talent.

Crystal and I have a new Simon project this year: a branch of the fansite on Tumblr, where we post weekly pictures and GIFsets and occasionally other material as well. This week it's my turn to do the pictorial tribute and it falls right on the anniversary of Simon's death. I chose to do the tribute on Captain Beechum.

It's hard to believe that this year marks 32 years since Simon left us. But we will continue to remember and celebrate him, and know that the countless people who appreciate Simon's amazing talents are enjoying his performances right along with us.

Even if some of them still haven't put a name to his face.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Happy 100th!

Well, Google is still being belligerent. Now it's not letting Crystal sign in to our shared account to post, so I will put up her tribute for her. Hers was ready even before today, and mine was ready this morning. It is very discouraging that Google has been so stubborn about us using our own account!

~ Lucky_Ladybug

Here we are, once again, on the anniversary of Simon’s birthday, and a very special one—his centennial! Trying to come up with something special for today has been a challenge, but one that I’ve been ready to take on.

Ladybug and I have talked a lot about Simon’s acting abilities in past entries.  And as wonderful an actor as Simon is, I wanted this post to be about Simon the person, rather than just Simon the actor.  Naturally, this was more than a little difficult to find out, due to an inconvenient lack of a TARDIS, but I’ve been able to gather somewhat of a portrait from some archive newspaper interviews that Ladybug and I have found (and all are available for reading as links on our website).

One thing that was evident in the interviews was Simon’s sense of humor.  There’s an article where he relates the numerous times that, as a character actor, people recognize his face but not his name, instead thinking that they met him somewhere before.  After relating the stories, he then goes on to say that he still enjoys them, whether or not the person in question ever figures it out.  The interviewers are always quick to describe Simon as friendly and approachable—indeed, he must have been, for so many people to just walk up to him and casually start chatting about where they’ve “seen” him before!

And, of course, Simon talked at length about the actor’s craft, like how he studies the different facets of their personalities and then portrays them as such.  He described the kinds of roles he likes, and how he will be choosy about them, saying in a 1967 interview that he was “…More interested in getting the right roles than anything else.”  He went on to describe the “right roles” as the memorable ones—which says something about what he must have thought of Tony Vincenzo, as it was a role he would revisit multiple times in the 70s.

More than one of the article writers had pointed out about Simon’s opinions on TV violence.  Simon saw it as a necessary outlet—that it was better for people to deal with their inner anger through that fictional medium, rather than something real.  And though he was aware about the criticisms of TV violence (even getting into a discussion with Jack Lord about whether or not the violence in Psycho led to a real-life case of someone getting killed in a shower), he continued to stand by his views, insisting that it should be realistic enough to make people think before enacting anything in real life, as well as giving young viewers enough of a scare to make sure they won’t try anything of the kind.  Something about this makes me think that if Simon had lived long enough to see the rise of video games in the late 80s and beyond, he probably would have had the same opinions about them, as well; and, who knows—he might have even lent his voice to a character or two.

Gathering all that about Simon from four interviews took a lot of looking just to find them.  There aren’t that many interviews about him—and one of the article writers points out that it is largely due to how humble Simon is, even adding that, in the middle of the interview, Simon would much rather talk about the other people he’d met and work with, rather than just talking about himself.

All in all, the portrait that I’ve managed to put together from these interviews is of a humble, good-natured, and intelligent person who enjoyed what he did, even if he didn’t always get recognition for it.  And while I feel bad that this recognition that Ladybug and I are giving him now is too late for him to read, we both feel very strongly that he still knows exactly what we’re trying to say.

Happy Birthday, Simon.  And thank you for everything that you gave us during your time here.

~ Crystal Rose

Happy 100th Birthday, Simon!

After a long battle with Google to be let back in to our account today, we can finally present our birthday tributes!

2015 is a significant year for Simon Oakland fans. This date, August 28th, would have been Simon’s 100th birthday. He brightened the lives of countless people during his lifetime and even now, 32 years after his death, his legacy lives on and new people are cheered by this man’s amazing talents and his special spirit. He was a great man as well as a great actor.

I’m thrilled that I was able to see several new things with Simon during the past year. Some, such as The Raiders and the pilot for Unsolved Mysteries, Crystal already saw long before, and I believe, has talked about them here. I definitely remember her wonderful words on Simon’s poignant character in The Raiders. Other roles, including his guest-spots on Lou Grant and Tightrope, I was the first of us to see. So I will discuss those.

The plot of Tightrope involves the adventures of an undercover policeman, played by Mike Connors in his first starring role. I have heard it’s based on the real-life adventures of actor Robert Philips, who was a police officer before he became an actor. The episode with Simon has him in the role of a mobster running an extortion racket. Mike’s character infiltrates the group and tries to break it up.

As always, Simon plays the role expertly and makes us believe in the character. He feels real. And while there’s no mistake that he’s the villain, Simon used his special tricks to give the character dimension and depth. He feels human, rather than just a cookie-cutter bad guy. I believe he survives the episode, although it isn’t expressly shown, and I was glad of it.

On Lou Grant, unless something was cut in the version I saw (which is always possible), they seriously underused Simon. He played a retired General who collects butterflies and clashes with one of the main characters, who’s upset that he’s after a very rare butterfly. It is certainly a unique part and character, but then, that certainly isn’t new to Simon. Even with only two scenes that I could find, he brought the character to life. He isn’t just a ornery guy who wants that butterfly; he’s a very three-dimensional character who isn’t trying to do anything wrong and doesn’t feel that he is.

Another thing I finally got to see is Simon’s guest-spot on Marcus Welby, M.D. I thought I talked about it here already, but I can’t find a record of that. It’s an episode from the seventh season entitled, How Do You Know What Hurts Me? Simon plays a gentle, kind man involved in a May-December romance with a younger girl who is very mysteriously ill. They have a lovely relationship and truly care about each other, and it’s one of the few times I’ve seen a May-December romance portrayed in a positive manner on classic television. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen Simon in and I was thrilled that it ended happy, with the girl’s problem discovered and corrected and her marriage stable.

I also saw Simon’s guest appearances on the police show CHiPs. He was excellent both times, but my favorite is the two-part episode from season 3, where he plays the manager of a female racecar driver. He acts gruff and growly and sometimes rude, but he honestly cares about her.

His other guest-spot is from season 5, where he plays a man who runs a car alarm company. He doesn’t want his young daughter joining the business, and she retaliates by disabling the alarms and driving the cars off so they appear to have been stolen! Her actions are truly outrageous and actually cost her father some important business and worse, his reputation. He was much too quick to forgive and put it aside under the circumstances; I really wanted to see him chew her out first. She really deserved it. But it was admittedly sweet to see him embrace her as a loving father.

It was so wonderful to be able to see so many things that I have wanted to see for years. And I was thrilled to see the Tightrope credit go up on, as I don’t think it was there before. Several other new items have been added as well, which I hope to track down before long. Hopefully someday, there will be a complete list of Simon’s works for us to pore over. Meanwhile, the hunt for new treasures and the celebration of ones already known is plenty exciting for Simon fans.

Happy 100th birthday, Simon. I know that wherever you are now, you’re bringing joy to still more people.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Simon on Celebrity Bowling!

A quick post to announce that MeTV has brought back the Simon episode of Celebrity Bowling! Each week they put up new videos to watch, so this is only available until next Monday. I'm not sure if it's only available to people in the U.S., so I apologize in advance if anyone has trouble playing the video.

Simon is wonderful, as always, and is very good-natured and cheerful. He doesn't say a whole lot, but from what I've read in interviews, that is probably typical of him. He didn't seem to be interviewed often and he had a quiet, humble nature.

~Lucky Ladybug

Friday, August 29, 2014

In Memoriam, 2014

Time and tide wait for no one, and, once again, the wheels of time have moved forward, bringing us 31 years since we lost an amazing and talented actor.  It’s sadly ironic that, two years ago, in 2012, I was composing a memorial post for Simon while still reeling from two additional celebrity deaths that year---Davy Jones and Richard Dawson, and now, in 2014, once again, two additional celebrity deaths are in my immediate consciousness.  Ladybug already spoke about James Garner, who Simon acted alongside in The Rockford Files; she’s already discussed that very eloquently.  The two recently passed I am referring to are Casey Kasem and Robin Williams, both of whom had prominent roles in my childhood---a sentiment which, I am sure, many others can relate to.  Both deaths led to a massive outpouring of love and support and tears from fans; everything from fanarts and fanfics of the characters they brought to life to just general appreciation posts filled the internet---exactly what Ladybug and I have been doing for Simon since we realized just how much he meant to both of us.

A celebrity’s passing can be jarring; if an actor’s role reaches you in a way that you never forget, of course, you’ll feel sad at losing them.  But what if they were gone before you even heard of them---before you were even born?  There’s no shock moment, save for the moment you check their biography and realize, “Oh… they’re gone.”

Ladybug and I had that moment with Simon of course, with each of us discovering this wonderful character actor, only to be followed with disappointment that he had passed before either of us had been born.  It is disappointing, no doubt about that---disappointing that we can’t send him fan mail to let him know that his “trick” (as he called it) of creating multifaceted characters worked, and that we can’t help but marvel at them all---from the despicable Mel Barnes, to the unearthly Empyrian, to the loveable Tony Vincenzo.

Those characters intrigued us, and made us feel things.  We wanted to see Mel Barnes get his comeuppance.  We wanted to believe Jim Nation was telling the truth, and we cheered when he proved his character.  And we wanted to see Tony’s reaction to Carl’s latest monster story.  And that certainly says something about an actor who is able to make people feel things even 31 years after his death.  I have no doubt in saying that Simon’s characters will continue to live on, just as Casey and Robin’s are sure to, as well.

That “Oh… they’re gone” feeling is a terrible one, no doubt.  But what helps in dealing with it is that while the actors are gone, their characters are not.  And when those characters live on---when they still find a way to reach us---it means that an actor has, in a sense, achieved immortality.  Even 31 years later, Simon’s trick of giving characters hidden depths is still working---Ladybug and I noticed, and it’s not even just us.  Just yesterday, TVLand aired “The Clarion” episode of Bonanza, the third of Simon’s guest appearances on that show (purely a coincidence that they happened to air it on Simon’s birthday, but a great coincidence, indeed), earlier this week, Encore Western aired the “Miguel’s Daughter” episode of Gunsmoke, and TCM always seems to have at least one of Simon’s movies listed in their “Upcoming Titles” if you go to his TCM profile---all of which serve as a testimony to the longevity of his many and varied characters.  They’re still relevant.  They still make us feel things.  And no matter how enamored I get with other fandoms and actors, and no matter how hard Patrick Troughton tries to run off with my heart, there’ll always be one heartstring that leads back to Simon’s hand, ready to give a little tug to remind me.

The wheels of time will continue to turn, but the name of Simon Oakland will never be forgotten.

~Crystal Rose

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Happy Birthday, Simon!

And so we now approach another end of August and another year of tribute to an amazing character actor. If Simon were alive today, he would be 99 years old. It’s so strange to think of how long ago it was that he came to this world, and so sad that he left it so soon.

It has been getting difficult to find available things with Simon that we haven’t seen before. So many of his performances are sadly scarce. But I have managed to turn up a few things: two of his Adventures in Paradise episodes and his Stoney Burke episode, Image of Glory.

The two Paradise episodes both feature him as the villain. In one, he does his usual trick of making the character seem human and not just an out-and-out evildoer. In the other, he plays the more rare cold-blooded killer. He has only played a handful of those, of which I’m glad, as I don’t like to see him play characters that terrible. On the other hand, however, I find those performances very impressive, just as I do all of his performances. Bonanza’s Mel Barnes, as repulsive as he is, remains a character whose episode I like to rewatch.

The Stoney Burke character, Sam Hagen, is a good guy, a father dreaming of his son being a rodeo star and unknowingly putting pressure on him to succeed. The son even tries to go into a rodeo event with a badly hurt leg because of not wanting to disappoint his father. Stoney Burke is aware of the leg problem due to encountering the son at the doctor’s office, and he tries to tell Sam what’s going on when it becomes obvious the boy is seriously endangering his health. Although at first Sam doesn’t believe it, he becomes horrified and panicked when he hears the boy going into the ring. He rushes to stop him. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too late and the boy is injured. We don’t know his final fate, but Stoney says that with his family rallying around him, he should be just fine.

Simon delivers a beautiful, heartfelt performance. The character is so believable and never over-the-top in his dreams of his son’s success and his sadness over his own failures. His love for his son shines through at all times and the climatic scene where he rushes to stop the boy is so poignant and powerful. He definitely ranks with my favorite of Simon’s characters.

I’ve also been reviewing some of my other favorite performances of his, most notably Frank Epstein from the Hawaii 5-O episode The Reunion. I remember Crystal spoke about that one at length, but I don’t recall if either of us came onboard to announce that we finally had learned that there was a bit more to the episode than what Netflix’s Streaming was willing to show us. (I really hope they fixed that preposterous error!) The Streaming episode cut off right when Epstein was gripping the gun and forced to make a choice between killing the man who had made him and his friends suffer 25 years ago and had devised a scheme to make them suffer anew in the present, or letting him live.

When the episode finally came on MeTV and I recorded it, I saw the minute or so that had been left out. Frank finally made the choice to let the man live. As Steve McGarrett put it, “He couldn’t break you 25 years ago. Are you going to let him break you now?” Frank lowered the gun and his wretched enemy said to him and Steve, “I have misjudged you. I have misjudged both of you.” Steve looked to Frank, who gave a nod, and turned to limp away on his prosthetic legs. It’s an extremely powerful scene and I am very upset that Netflix Streaming wasn’t showing it! It wasn’t just an error on my computer, since Crystal encountered the same thing when she watched it later.

While watching that episode with my mom the other night, she commented that Simon should have won an award for his performance in that episode. I thoroughly agree.

Sadly, as far as I know, Simon never did win an award for any performance. (If anyone knows otherwise, please let us know!) It is definitely a grave oversight for such an amazing, talented man. But considering Simon’s humility and how he often kept to himself, perhaps in some way it isn’t surprising. It would have been wonderful to see his talents recognized with an Oscar, Emmy, or Tony, but perhaps he was perfectly happy with his talents being recognized and appreciated just by the fans who watched him nearly every week.

As always, I am happy to count myself among those fans and look forward to experiencing more Simon performances, both ones I’ve seen and ones that are new to me.

And I am anxiously waiting for the premiere of Baa Baa Black Sheep on MeTV September 7th! It’s so exciting that on this, the 99th anniversary of Simon’s birth, one of the series featuring him in a starring role will be airing anew on television. And MeTV reaches such a high number of the homes across America that thousands of others will be able to experience this right along with me.

Also as always, the great Simon Oakland lives on, in his performances and in the hearts of those who love him.

Happy Birthday, Simon.

~Lucky Ladybug

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Jim Rockford and Vern St. Cloud

So it’s been a little over a week since the sad passing of James Garner. I suddenly realized that the Simon blog is a perfect place for a tribute, as Simon and James had some wonderful interaction. Really, it wouldn’t be at all right not to do a tribute here.

It was because of Simon that I first tried The Rockford Files. And while it took a long time for me to warm up to the show itself, I was instantly fond of Simon’s hilarious character from three of his four guest-spots. And eventually I was also fond of the priceless interaction between Simon and James Garner.

I found myself wanting to write a story where they try to solve another case together. I wrote up a scene for it, but I could never figure out a plot to go with it. So there it sat for a couple of years, waiting for the perfect plot.

Last summer, thanks to two more of my favorite guest-stars and one of their episodes, I finally had a plot. I wrote a story involving those characters, Ginger Townsend and Lou Trevino from The Queen of Peru, and made that the mystery that Jim and Vern have to solve. While I’ve fleshed out Ginger and Lou a bit differently now than in this story, and I forgot that the fourth jewel thief was caught off-screen in The Queen of Peru episode, overall I’m very proud of my effort. It was so much fun writing this story every step of the way, including Jim and Vern’s interaction. And with a few tweaks, I was able to use that scene I wrote so long ago.

The Rockford Files was definitely an acquired taste for me, but even back then, I liked James Garner as a person. I heard how kind he was to people on the set and I appreciated that. Hearing about how important his family was to him, and that he was married to the same woman all through the years, also added a lot to my respect for him.

I still prefer other shows over The Rockford Files, but gradually, gradually, the more episodes I saw, I began to like and appreciate The Rockford Files for what it was and what it had to offer. It’s certainly one of the most unique private-eye shows ever created! (Meanwhile, I fell in love with the original Maverick instantly, even though I wasn’t that fond of the sequel.)

One of my favorite things about The Rockford Files, which is also one of my mom’s favorite things, is the family element. It’s not usual to find a series about a private detective that shows his family. Frank Cannon’s family was killed. Joe Mannix’s mother is dead and he has a sometimes-rocky relationship with his father (albeit it thankfully improves later). But Jim Rockford’s father is alive and they have a beautiful relationship that is one of the cores of the series.

Character interaction is important on The Rockford Files, whether it concerns cast regulars or guest-stars. And certainly Simon’s Vern St. Cloud is one of the most colorful and unique of the guest-stars! Jim Rockford has never quite known what to make of him. They are two such different people who can never seem to stop clashing.

The first episode, Sticks and Stones, sets it up with both of them being a bit responsible for their problems. Vern is loud and brash and Jim doesn’t like that, nor does Vern like Jim’s easy-going manner or sarcasm. They struggle to solve the case nevertheless, arguing and occasionally getting along on the way.

When Jim exclaims that he doesn’t like what the Waterbury agency is doing to his friends, Vern retorts, “Oh yeah? Am I your friend?” and Jim gives him one of those classic stares as only Jim can and can’t even muster up a verbal reply. Of course, words are not needed; the look says it all. It’s a fun little scene that shows both that Jim really doesn’t like Vern and that Vern is quite aware of that fact. Vern scoffs at the idea that Jim would consider him a friend, and Jim can’t quite seem to wrap his mind around the concept, either.

Interestingly, by the end of the episode, they both seem to feel a little better about each other. Jim acts genuinely friendly, and while Vern can’t quite let go of his pride enough to thank him for helping, he gives a gruffly adorable farewell in the form of instructing, “Don’t take any wooden nickels.” There’s a definite fondness there that was never really brought out again.

It puzzles me how by The House on Willis Avenue there seems to be a complete rift between them, after that lovely epilogue in Sticks and Stones. Vern acts friendly towards Jim, although perhaps it’s falsely so. Jim, meanwhile, comes across as very antagonistic and disliking of Vern, in contrast to his friendliness at the end of Sticks and Stones. He tries to avoid meeting up near the beginning.

In Jim’s defense, the later discovery of Vern in Richie Brockelman’s office is certainly an unpleasant surprise. Vern shouldn’t have broken in there, the rascal. And he has the gall to try to blame Richie for taking a dead P.I.’s caseload, when that’s what Vern himself wanted! But since Jim was displeased to run into Vern long before that scene happened, it couldn’t fully account for Jim’s attitude.

In their final episode together, Nice Guys Finish Dead, the antagonism is fully on both sides, with Jim and Vern equally bitter about each other and their encounters. Either we’ve been having a case of bad writing for their interaction since The House on Willis Avenue or something definitely happened between the characters, off-screen, before that episode. Or else Vern recovering his license made him a much less likable character, since he was returning to the hardboiled world of the private eye and the personality he had cultivated to keep himself alive through the years.

I’ve speculated before that Vern may also hold some level of bitterness or jealousy towards Jim Rockford, who often would prefer fishing but always gets plenty of cases, while Vern is desperate for a case and often doesn’t have one. Vern has been in the “dog-eat-dog” business so much longer than Jim and often has so much bad luck. And especially in The House on Willis Avenue, he seems rather spineless. The bad guys even tell him that when he has his surgery, to make sure the doctors don’t leave out any of his guts; he can’t spare any!

However, Vern’s been a P.I. for over twenty-five years. As I mused before, he must be a lot more competent at the job than he appears to be and Jim thinks he is. No one could survive in that line of work for that many years just on dumb luck. It would have been nice to have seen a little more of Vern’s case-solving, instead of just using him as a sort of idiot comic relief in the latter two episodes and particularly in The House on Willis Avenue. He’s a more well-rounded character in Sticks and Stones. The writers must have decided they liked it better when he didn’t show quite as much depth to his character.

But in any case, bad writing or not, the interaction between the two is always amusing and fun to watch. Their characters clash so beautifully, so perfectly, that I still long for what Wikipedia said to be true, about them solving cases together and snarking at each other along the way. That really only happens in Sticks and Stones, and it’s definitely a missed opportunity that it didn’t continue in the other two episodes. Still, I’m grateful for every bit of interaction that does exist. Any time they’re on screen together, it’s a gem.

It’s a shame the writers couldn’t work in any scenes for them together in Simon’s final episode, Just a Coupla Guys. But these two actors do have one more wonderful bit of screentime together, in James Garner’s short-lived sequel to his other most memorable series. In the Bret Maverick episode A Horse of Yet Another Color, as I recall, Simon plays a shifty character trying to get hold of the titular creature. Unfortunately, it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I can’t bring up the details. Warner Brothers has finally released the series on DVD, although the price is far too much for one season, especially one that had less episodes than some! But I have been longing to see that episode again for Simon, and for the interaction between him and James Garner. Perhaps someday I shall.

And perhaps meanwhile, these two greats will find some opportunities to perform again together up in Heaven. I sincerely hope so. It would be a treat for everyone up there.

Rest in peace, Mr. Garner. You will be missed by many.

~Lucky Ladybug

Friday, July 25, 2014

Baa Baa Black Sheep returning to television

As usual, we have quite a few things we've seen with Simon piling up that we need to make posts and talk about. But while perhaps by now most readers are aware of this exciting news, I wanted to make sure to sign in and let everyone know, even though by now it's a few days late.

MeTV, one of the retro television channels, perhaps the most widely available one in the United States, has put up teaser trailers of shows they're bringing in the Fall. One of them is unmistakably Baa Baa Black Sheep/Black Sheep Squadron! The teaser features World War II planes in the sky while a snippet of the theme music plays.

This is very exciting news. I'm not sure how often this series has been available in the rerun market, but being on MeTV will certainly give it widespread availability. And with season 2 still not on DVD, here's our chance to pick up all the episodes of this wonderful series with Simon for keeps!

More good news is that MeTV, unlike fellow retro television channel Cozi, tries to make sure that their programs are uncut. I believe only three or four suffer from cut scenes, and that's likely because those were the only prints MeTV was able to get. There's a very good chance Baa Baa Black Sheep will be aired uncut.

As of right now, there are no details such as schedule days and times. My guess is that since there are only around 37 episodes, they will air it once a week. It may air in the early morning on Saturday, booting either Combat! or Twelve O'Clock High. Personally, I hope they will rearrange the schedule so that both of those shows will stay, too.

In any case, let us rejoice in this exciting move by MeTV! Below is the post from their blog featuring the teaser trailers. While you're at it, have a look at the other incoming programs too. There's some great stuff, as always, and some shows that feature guest-spots by Simon.

~Lucky Ladybug

Thursday, August 29, 2013

In Memoriam, 2013 Edition

It’s terrible that it’s been a year since this blog was updated. But even while, as Rose says, we ventured into other fandoms, we never forgot Simon. We never could. And during this bittersweet time, when Simon’s birthday and today, his death day, are here, we had to come and further celebrate this wonderful man with new posts.

Throughout the year, I have remained on the lookout for any and all new Simon footage and have sometimes chanced to re-watch some of my old favorites. And to my happy surprise, I have succeeded in turning up some more things with Simon that I hadn’t previously seen, including some I’d been trying to see for ages.

It’s been just over a year since a MeTV affiliate came to my area. I have been basking in the joy of having so many of the best shows available on broadcast television. And at long last, I was able to catch and record both Simon’s third Daniel Boone episode and his sole Kojak episode.

In both, he plays characters who are relatively good. In Daniel Boone’s Bickford’s Bridge, he is an adversary, strongly opposed to destroying a bridge he and his family built so the British won’t get to it. They have their crops on the other side of the bridge and he can’t bear to ruin the bridge and not have a way to bring in their food, after they slaved so hard to make their unusual home fully habitable. But in the climax, when the British arrive and there’s a battle, he sees Daniel in mortal danger and comes to rescue him. In horror he says that he lost sight of what was really important and was putting the bridge above human life.

On Kojak, he’s an ex-cop-turned-security guard, for a company that’s being targeted by bomb threats. He wants to report it to the police before someone gets hurt, but his boss forbids it on the threat of firing him if he tries. After having lived on the salary of a cop for so many years, and now having moved up to something more luxurious, he can hardly bear to leave it all behind. So he goes along with what the boss wants, amid protests.

While Kojak’s right-hand man Detective Crocker doesn’t like the guy, Kojak himself seems to be willing to give him a break, citing how he hires a lot of retired cops. And when confronted by Kojak and Crocker, he does agree to help them out. At the end, he’s furious over what the criminals have done and says he’s going to yell at his boss for ordering him to keep quiet. Kojak jokes that he bets the guy will really go in and end up saying “Good morning” instead.

This character reminds me a bit of Vern St. Cloud, in that he’s a strange mixture of being a bit spineless and yet will still stand up and do what has to be done. He’s very lovable to that effect, as only Simon can make him.

I also ran across a very disturbing villain, in the Tales of Wells Fargo episode Portrait of Teresa. He’s the former boyfriend of Teresa, and he’s very bitter and possessive about being dropped. He says that he doesn’t mind if other men want to date her, but first he must brand Teresa with his mark so that everyone else will know she was his.

Anyone else would play this character absolutely with no redeeming points whatsoever, and while Simon occasionally does that as well, he doesn’t here. The man is obviously off his rocker. To listen to him speak, to hear his utter desperation and his sincere belief that this is something that has to be done to keep hold of his honor … Simon succeeds in somehow creating a pitiable figure instead of an utter monster. This guy needs help. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get it; he ends up being killed in the climax after he incites a shoot-out.

I have been seeking the Disney film Scandalous John for quite some time and finally obtained it. It’s a Don Quixote-type tale, of a man living in the present who likes to pretend it’s the Old West. Simon plays his antagonist, his archenemy, but by the end of their clashing he has come to respect John and doesn’t want anything to happen to him. It’s a very moving part, and the movie in general, although billed as a comedy, really is more dramatic than humorous. I think it’s the only thing Simon did for Disney, and it is a gem.

And finally, I turned up his Men Into Space episode, Quarantine. It involves two scientists clashing repeatedly, frustrating the other characters. Simon’s character seems to particularly have a bad attitude. When the other scientist mysteriously falls sick, I wondered if they’d have it be that Simon’s character was responsible. But he isn’t, and is honestly concerned for his comrade. It’s largely due to his efforts that they manage to find a cure. And the two end up deciding to try to be friends and work together at the end.

While it’s always exciting to watch Simon in any role, I particularly love the thrill of finding a surprise good guy! His Men Into Space character surprised me the most, although I also wondered how Bickford would turn out.

Rose and I have both been watching some of Simon’s classic performances yesterday and today. As we reflect on a life over far too soon, we will continue to help keep his memory alive by sharing the joy of Simon’s amazing characters and continuing to seek out the performances we haven’t yet seen.

We love you, Simon. And we always will.

~Lucky Ladybug

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

There and Back Again--a Fangirl's Tale, by Rose of Pollux

It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?  It’s been a year since our last post, and, goodness, do we apologize for that.  LuckyLadybug and I have been on several journeys through various fandoms within the last year.  My own path took me away from Simon for a while--specifically, first to 221 B Baker Street, and then to the TARDIS.  But here I am, back again.  There’s no way I could stay away.

One would wonder whether or not my forays into other fandoms would somehow dampen my ability to enjoy Simon and his characters.  The answer, of course, is a resounding no.  If anything, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who have allowed me to enjoy some of Simon’s roles even more than before.

How?  I’m glad you asked…

Let’s start with the example of Simon in Get Smart.  That was the first time I was ever introduced to Simon, and one of my favorite roles of his for that reason.  Some time ago, I had been rewatching that episode for nostalgia’s sake.  Nothing had ever been said about the final fate of Simon’s unnamed cowboy character--all we know is, according to Max, that he missed the truck of mattresses and fell five stories to the ground.  No possible way the poor Cowboy could survive a fall like that, right?  I assumed so… until I watched the finale of season 2 of BBC’s Sherlock.  If I learned anything from that episode, it’s that there’s every chance that the Cowboy could have survived his fall!  I’d like to think he did--that there’s a chance the story could continue…

Even more intriguing are the parallels between Simon’s Outer Limits appearance and Doctor Who; both Simon’s Empyrian character and the Doctor have the same basic modus operandi--try to stop an intergalactic cataclysm with the help of human companions.  On the surface, it seems that their methods of recruiting human companions are different; the Empyrian merely kidnaps them, while the Doctor invites them.  Intriguingly enough, though, if you look back at the First Doctor, before he mellowed out, he, like the Empyrian, kidnapped his first human companions in the very first episode of Doctor Who; even more intriguing is the fact that Simon’s episode of Outer Limits aired three and a half months after the first Doctor Who episode.

But, I digress.  Comparisons and parallels aside, the fact of the matter is that the one everlasting reason I keep coming back to Simon’s roles is because of how he breathed life into them--every well-chosen dialogue, every movement, every expression came together into creating unique characters each and every time.  No two of Simon’s characters are the same--not even the villains.  Even the villains who appeared on the same show were different; William Poole and Mel Barnes, despite being oneshot Bonanza characters, have notable differences.  You can feel some amount of sympathy for Poole (assuming you believe the idea that it was his girlfriend’s death that unhinged him), but Barnes gets no pity--nor deserves any.

Even the good guys have their differences.  Lieutenant Schrank and Tony Vincenzo are both men who are literally 500% done with the things (more specifically, the people) they have to put up with on a daily basis.  But while Schrank comes across as brash and biting, Tony is just a big teddy bear who’s way too nice for his own good.

Character actors play scores of roles in their careers; most of the time, their names are placed behind those of the starring roles, while, sometimes, they’re lucky enough to get a starring role.  Regardless of the role, their challenge is to make you remember them, whether they’re onscreen for just one scene or throughout the whole thing.  And Simon definitely succeeded; I never forgot that scheming Cowboy in the years between my first seeing him and then later discovering how wonderful Simon was.  And there won’t be a role of his that I’ll ever forget.

And that’s what will always keep me coming back.  It’s just a bit more obvious today, on what would’ve been his 98th birthday.

Happy Birthday, you wonderful man, you.

~Crystal Rose