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The Preshow Entertainment was SUPERMAN the serial starring Kirk Alyn (a vaudevillian who died 6 years ago). This was a movie serial from 1948, told in 12 chapters (each week the theater would show a chapter with its cliffhanger to get you to return). This particular outing ran over 4 hours. We only got to watch the first 30 minutes (one and a half chapters), which was mostly the mythology and backstory. But it's a story most of us know and love, and seeing yet another version (though it was almost the first one), is always fun.

Noel Neill played Lois Lane. She was the same Lois in most of the George Reeves TV episodes (after Phyllis Coates left) that began a year or so after the serial ended.

One of the fun and/or funny things about this serial is that whenever there was an effect, like Superman flying, they animated it. It's almost like he turns into Mighty Mouse. But we all kind of liked that. There certainly was a wacky cool factor to it.

The movie chosen was our first TV Movie, perhaps the only one without a cheerleader or Kellie Martin or both. DEATHTRAPPY and SLEUTHY, MURDER BY NATURAL CAUSES is a Levinson/Link mystery featuring Hal Holbrook and Katharine Ross (we all wanted her). It's one of those twisty, turny, tricky yarns that is made to fool at every turn. And it does, if not for the overkill which made the piece skew dangerously close to parody at times. The road had so many bends I was half expecting Frank Sinatra, Jr. and Plato to somehow be involved.

Of course, we have to remember when this movie was made; February 1979, and what medium; TV. Put those ingredients into the mix and you've got a fine little mystery movie that I can recommend.

Holbrook plays Arthur Sinclair, a famous mentalist (read: entertainer) with a pacemaker. He's married to Allison (Ross), which is the biggest leap they ask of us. Enter Gil Weston (Barry Bostwick), looking as if he just returned from the studio after doing a duet with Barbra Streisand, an actor who gets bad reviews (Gil, not Barry). Allison and Gil, a secret couple, conspire to off Arthur by scaring him so badly his faulty heart will stop. A great idea (done before, but still great).

But Levinson and Link don't stop there. As mentioned above, there's more unfolding to come. As it turns out, Allison is just using Gil to kill Arthur then take the fall. That way Allison can have all of Arthur's money, and his lawyer too, who she has also been pounding. There's more after that, but I'll stop here, lest I give too much away. For all I know, you are sitting down to watch it tonight. If you are, make sure you catch the name of the play the characters are walking past. PRESCRIPTION MURDER. That was a play that became the pilot (the first of two pilots, actually) for COLUMBO. Also be on the lookout for Jessica Rains (she sure does!) who is Claude's daughter. She only has a line or two, but she's bad so that's perfect. And the always lovable Phil Leeds is in there too.

Writers Levinson (dead) and Link are heroes of mine. I mean, even without creating COLUMBO, they wrote some ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS and MANNIX episodes. And even at their tamest, they were still miles above the rest. The worst COLUMBO ("the TV show, not the yogurt!") is still better than the best of other mystery shows (I'm talking the pre-1980s COLUMBOS).

MURDER BY NATURAL CAUSES was directed by incredibly prolific Brit TV director Robert Day, whose THE HOUSE ON GREEN APPLE ROAD was one of the first, if not the first, TV movie. I actually met him in 1984 at his house on Bainbridge Island near Seattle. He picked us up from the ferry in his Rolls Royce. But there I go bragging about how incredibly well connected I am in the biz.

When I shut the tape off, AMERICA'S FUNNIEST VIDEOS happened to be on TV. We ended up watching maybe a half hour. Now we all know how lowbrow that show is. And we're all mad that we didn't come up with the idea for a show that costs $3.28 to produce and is a cash cow. But what we don't always admit out loud is how fucking funny it is. I never watch it for fear I'll be deemed (by myself) a simpleton. But I ask you this- What is funnier than people getting hit on the head? Or Santa falling off the roof? No sir or madame, not even a smoking monkey is funnier. I may have to start watching this show, and start being proud. We were crazy with laughter. We even watched some clips back a few times. I just hope I don't start watching Maury now. The evening was a bit special in that neither the SUPERMAN serial nor MURDER BY NATURAL CAUSES are available on DVD.

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