TV crossover musings (and missed opportunities?).

WARNING: This is an example of a rambling blog post that someone writes when they’re killing time waiting for something else to happen. If you’re fast enough, you still can escape with your lives.

Still here? All righty, then. Beware: All kinds of TV nerdity looms ahead. Apologies in advance.

Today, while out to my local Target in search of a few odds and ends as well as something for lunch, I wandered past the store’s media section and spied a few copies of the NCIS: The Tenth Season DVD set. I was reminded that as we head into the final days of August, season premieres are coming soon and so the previous season’s shows are starting to hit the various home video/on-demand viewing formats.


I’ve been a fan of NCIS since it was a two-part backdoor pilot episode of JAG, a series which was humming along on its own eighth season when its creator, Donald P. Bellisario, decided it was time to make up another TV show. The dude’s been rather successful in that regard over the years, you know. His name on a series has been a staple of television going back to the 70s, after all. As for this newest attempt, I’d already been a fan of Mark Harmon for years, but he’d dropped off my radar for a time until he did a guest stint for a handful of episodes of The West Wing during that show’s third season. To hear the story, it was that role which brought him to Bellisario’s attention and made the producer decide to cast him as the star of his new series. Lucky us, as it’s ten years later and I can’t imagine the show working with anyone but Harmon as NCIS agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

To be honest, a lot of what makes NCIS work isn’t the stories (though it has its fair share of good ones), but instead the characters and the cast of actors who portray them. Their chemistry is some of the best of any ensemble show, and seems to be the major reason the series not only has survived for ten seasons (getting ready for #11), but also has been a ratings king for most of that time. Indeed, NCIS is one of those rare shows that started out with modest ratings and then continued to increase its viewership with each successive season.

It’s freakin’ weird, yo.

(Shameless Whine: I really, really wanted somebody to land a tie-in license for NCIS novels. I’d have been on that like bacon on…well…anything. I’m pretty sure I could pull off writing Gibbs and the gang, by golly. Alas, it seems never to be.)

Interestingly, and with a few minor exceptions very early on, NCIS blazed its own trail after spinning out of JAG, avoiding any high-profile crossover episodes with its parent series. That was probably for the best, as the two shows are different enough in tone that they really didn’t need to prop up each other. Of course, I’d already been lamenting what I thought was an opportunity that Bellisario missed, by not having JAG need to investigate a case in Hawaii and perhaps requiring the assistance of former Navy SEAL and (retired?) private investigator Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV. It seemed to be a no-brainer, what with Magnum, P.I. also being a Bellisario-created series, right?

Oh, well.

Later, I thought NCIS might try it at some point, but then one episode had Very Special Agent Tony DiNozzo refer to Magnum as a TV character and series. NOOOO!!!!!! 

Dang it. So close….


Of course, my Magnum crossover fetish goes back to the early days of that series. Magnum, P.I. premiered on CBS the season after the original Hawaii Five-O wrapped after twelve years filming on location in the Aloha State. With a full production studio located there, CBS was looking to make use of those facilities so BOOM! Along comes Thomas Magnum. That show made the occasional reference to McGarrett and “Five-O” during its early seasons, but such nods and hat-tips faded as the series went along.

(Squirrel: In one interview I remember reading years ago, author Tom Clancy–at one time, at least–was involved in preliminary discussions to team up Magnum and his Jack Ryan character in some sort of TV project. That never happened, but I remember being stoked by it.)

NCIS cruised merrily along for several years–never granting my wish of some kind of Gibbs/Magnum teamup–before birthing its own spin-off, NCIS: Los Angeles, with a younger, hipper cast doing things their own way out on the left coast. While there were a few early crossovers between the two shows, the newer series has, like its predecessor, seemed content to go its own way.


Meanwhile, elsewhere on the Eyeball Network, McGarrett and his gang got rebooted with an all-new version of Hawaii Five-0. No sooner did I hear about that show than I started conjuring the possibility of this new crew needing to avail themselves of that aforementioned former Navy SEAL and (retired?) private investigator. Of course, Tom Selleck was still working for CBS, heading up a new show of his own, Blue Bloods, as well as showing up in the occasional Jesse Stone TV movie. Still, a dude can dream, right? McGarrett and Danno yanking Magnum off a fishing boat and out of retirement for some big case?


Then, Hawaii Five-0 did a crossover with NCIS: Los Angeles, effectively nullifying that idea, since–as we’ve already established–Magnum is a fictional character in the JAG/NCIS/NCIS:LA-iverse.

Curses! Foiled again.

I mean, it could still happen, of course. It’s TV, so anything’s possible, but you and me and the nerds among us would know all along that such an occurrence–should it come to pass–would be a canon violation, and we just can’t be havin’ any of that shit. Nuh-uh. No way. No how.


Still, for TV geeks like us, pondering this sort of thing is fun…even if I did just spend more time and energy on the notion than might be considered healthy.

Of course, I suppose a crossover can’t really be a crossover unless it features the quintessential crossover character, amiright? You know who I’m talking about….

JohnMunch (Click me to learn the Truth.)

Yep. Munch on that.


The DVD Geeks lower their standards…to include us. God love ’em!

Friends John Champion and Mary Czerwinski over at DVD Geeks have done us a solid.

For those not in the know, DVD Geeks is a kick-ass little weekly show that reviews the latest releases on DVD (and now Blu-ray, of course). While they do cover all the big-budget mainstream releases, where their show really lives is in their coverage of lesser-known titles that still are worthy of attention. They also take time to cover and review the special features included on a particular release. In addition to working in the industry, John and Mary are movie and TV buffs of the First Order, and are able to give you the honest good, bad, and ugly about the targets of their reviews. If you’re a DVD/BD connoisseur looking for some straight dope on all the newest releases, then give my pals a go.

For reasons surpassing understanding, they’ve seen fit to take precious time from their latest episode to include a review of the DVD edition of The Third Annual Shore Leave Comedy Roast for Charity: The Character Assassination of Robert Greenberger. Oh, yeah. Make way for the pain, baby!

Actually, John and Mary are quite forgiving of the roast in their review, and in keeping with their show’s format they make sure to point out the various special features Dave Mack included on the DVD. In particular, they give mention to the clips highlighting some of the so-called “funny” moments from the previous two roasts.

Check out the review and the rest of the latest episode here: DVD Geeks: November 14th, 2011

(You can also download an mp3 version here: mp3 me!)

Many thanks to John and Mary for pimpin’ us out to their listeners! And hey, you can get in on the fun, too! Copies of the roast DVD are available from the Infinity Dog himself, Dave Mack, over on his site. Look at it this way: this is the perfect parting gift for someone you’re planning on crossing off your Christmas list, anyway. Proceeds from sales of the DVD go to the American Red Cross, the official charity of the Shore Leave convention. All the details are right here –> CLICK ME.

(And for those wondering, the Director’s Cut of Bob’s roast is my preferred version, but you need the DVD to check it out for yourself. Money well spent, I’m tellin’ ya.)

The Roast of Bob Greenberger…now on DVD!

So, looking for something to watch? Netflix queue throttled back? Streaming not working? Well, hey! Have we got a deal for you:

As the title implies, we’ve held a comedy roast each of the past three years at the annual Shore Leave convention in Baltimore. Proceeds raised by donations during the roast are given to the American Red Cross, the con’s official charity. 2009 saw us tear into friend and fellow author Keith R.A. DeCandido, while last year’s target was the gracious and willing Michael Jan Friedman.

Now, you can join authors and regular Shore Leave guests Mike Friedman, Marco Palmieri, David Alan Mack, me and Kevin Dilmore, Keith DeCandido, and Peter David, as well as Bob’s own daughter, Kate Greenberger, along with your master of ceremonies, Alan “Sizzler” Kistler as we verbally skewer our pal and one of the truly nice guys, Bobby G. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Dave Mack and his merry band of elves behind the scenes, you can have your very own copy of this 88-minute testament to doing away with author guests at Shore Leave….or, at least, the ones listed here.

(For my money, Kate is the highlight of the show. What a wonderful talent, that lady is.)

Unlike the first two years, things were changed up a bit for this go-around, with the format of the roast being revised to a “PG-13” rating rather than the very, very hard “R” rating we previously employed. Doesn’t mean we’re any more or less funny than those other times. I mean…it’s us, for crying out loud.

Proceeds from sales of the DVD will benefit the American Red Cross.

Check out all you need to know by visiting Dave Mack’s website: DVD: The Roast of Robert Greenberger

And once again, I salute Dave and his lovely wife, Kara, for shouldering the burden of producing and directing the roast as well as handling the numerous logistical hurdles the event presented. Despite our best efforts to dick up everything we touched or even gazed upon, they put on a hell of a show.

The Six Million Dollar Man – The Complete Collection.

“Steve Austin, astronaut; a man barely alive….”

Unless you’ve been freeze-dried or living on an asteroid for the past 30-odd years, you know that those are the first words to one of the most iconic opening credits sequences in the history of television.

That’s right: Hyperbole is free here at stately Ward Manor.

When I was in single digits, The Six Million Dollar Man was the show to watch. Half the kids in my neighborhood — including me — were running around in slow-motion (only later incorporating that “dih-nih-nih-nih-nih” sound, when it became commonplace on the show). We had the big action figure with the hole in Steve Austin’s head you could look through and get “BionicVision” or whatever. I had Oscar Goldman and his exploding briefcase, and even Bigfoot with his bust-out chest panel. I may have had a lunchbox, but I don’t remember.

(It’s worth noting here that I still have all of the Martin Caidin Cyborg novels as well as the various novelizations from the TV show, along with those for The Bionic Woman. Nerdity is also free here at the Manor.)

Second only to the original Star Trek, The Six Million Dollar Man was my favorite show on TV back then. I watched Steve Austin go up against all sorts of bad guys, aliens, robots, death probes, and, yes, even Bigfoot. I remember my father coming home from work one evening and telling me there was going to be this new TV show about a guy who was sort of like Superman, but without the cape and costume. I also remember him telling me that the character was at least partially-based on a real incident involving a test pilot surviving a horrific crash.

I don’t think the first episode I ever watched was the actual first episode, but I recall being a pretty regular viewer after that. In those days before DVRs and VCRs, if you missed an episode, that was the way it went until a rerun came along, but at that age I really didn’t care too much about stuff like that. The show started to fade from being “appointment television” during the fourth season (AKA “Season of the Mustache”), and I think I only watched a handful of fifth season episodes, as I’m sure I moved on to something else that I don’t even remember now. By the time the “reunion movies” started in the late 1980s, I’d left home and joined the service, and didn’t even know about them until I caught them by accident one afternoon on cable. The Sci-Fi Channel (excuse me, “Syfy”) aired the show for a while several years ago, but I only watched the occasional episode. Sometimes I got lucky and caught one that made me remember why I enjoyed the show in the first place. Other times? Well…not so much. That’s pretty much the way it goes so far as revisiting movies and TV you loved during childhood, right? Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Ark II? I’m looking at you.

Anyway, skip ahead to March 2011, and my writing partner and hetero life mate, Kevin Dilmore, surprising me with an awesome gift: The Six Million Dollar Man – The Complete Collection DVD set.

Endless babbling continues…behind the cut!

Don’t touch that dial! Uh, I mean disc!

For me, one of the cooler things about the DVD era is/has been the ability to obtain home video editions of television shows in an affordable format.

More so than movies, I’ve enjoyed collecting and revisiting favorite series over the years. Though I’ve gotten very picky with respect to the movies I buy, I’m usually very jazzed to find out that a show – old or new – is being released. When I heard that a favorite show from my childhood, The Six Million Dollar Man, was finally coming to DVD after years of being caught up in all sorts of rights issues, I was pretty excited. I know the show hasn’t aged well, but I didn’t care. While I couldn’t justify dropping $250 in one shot for the entire series, Time-Life did make the first season available for a reasonable price, so I went ahead and ponied up. It arrived in today’s mail, and that’s what prompted this little ramble-fest. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to resist the original Star Trek had it been offered as a complete series, mail-order exclusive like ol’ Steve Austin was.

The Holy Chicklet Trinity

Aside from the obvious Star Trek sets sitting on my shelf (both original and remastered editions, nootch), I’ve also acquired what might charitably described as…well…an assload of TV on DVD. Though some shows are now coming out on Blu-ray, I’ve not yet made the jump to that format. I’m waiting for one of my two DVD players to die, at which time I’ll upgrade, but even then my purchases there will be very limited and particular. As for downloading content or streaming, for certain shows I figure I’m always going to want some kind of tangible medium to call my own, though I expect it will be limited to a short list of treasured titles.

Including the original Star Trek, of course. They are and always will be my White Album. Hell, I still have the original 79 episodes on a complete set of LaserDiscs. Uh…anybody want ’em?

Anyway, here are some favorite shows that I’m able to revisit at my leisure, thanks to the era of “Gimme that NOW!” home entertainment:

Ramblings about TV on DVD…behind the cut!

DVD Geekin’.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to hang out with friend John Champion, he of DVD Geeks, a weekly TV, radio, and podcast show devoted to the latest releases on DVD and Blu-ray. Their focus tends to lean more toward the special features included with the films or television episodes rather than the feature presentations (though those get their due attention, of course). John and I met thanks to social media venues like Twitter and Facebook, as well as he and his lovely partner in crime, Mary Czerwinski (aka “the Televixen”) and Kevin and I having mutual friends in the form of the gang from Trekcast.

Whew. Get all that?

Anyway, Kevin and I managed to catch up with John and Mary at Comic-con last month, and one of the topics of discussion was our mutual love for Roger Corman movies. DVD Geeks had recently done a segment on their show about two Corman cult classics which had just come to legit DVD for the first time (Galaxy of Terror and Forbidden World). They were planning another such spotlight feature for the next two Corman flicks in the queue, Piranha and Humanoids from the Deep), which were due for release in the coming weeks, but I was able to buy them at the con directly from the Shout! Factory booth. Nootch.

Anyway, John asked me if I wanted to get in on the DVD Geeking Action(tm) for the show, and…being the shameless whore that I am…I happily said, “Oh, HELL yeah!”

The result? Some serious B-movie nerding out. Check out the carnage for yourself:

DVD Geeks – 08.02.10

Many thanks to John for having me on. I hope I didn’t dick up his show too badly, and that we might be able to do it all again some time. We both keep joking about a “Hal Needham” retrospective, which would involve us offering our fanboy insight into such cinema classics as Hooper, The Cannonball Run, Megaforce, and my personal favorite, Smokey and the Bandit.

That, or a deconstruction of the many layers of meaning to be found within that masterpiece of celluloid, Showgirls.

Yeah, that’d take a whole lot more vodka than I currently have on hand. That’s easily remedied, though.


Revisiting Studio 60.

Recently, I’ve been enjoying a bit of an on-again/off-again “Aaron Sorkin marathon,” letting DVDs play as background noise while I work. I only own the first four seasons of The West Wing, and I started playing them on a whim several weeks back. Once I was finished with those, and still wanting some of that aforementioned background noise, I perused my rather expansive home entertainment library and decided to continue the Sorkin stylings with the series he created after leaving The West Wing, Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip.

Studio 60 logo

I was one of the early adopters for this show, and for all I know I’m one of the few people who still likes it. I heard about it during the spring and summer of 2007 before it aired as part of the fall’s new television season. A special “screener” edition of the pilot episode was released for rental via outlets like NetFlix and (I think) iTunes, and Kevin acquired a DVD via his NetFlix queue. He had already watched it and came away impressed. Knowing that I was a big Sorkin fan, he brought the disc to Casa de Wardo. We watched it on a Sunday afternoon, as I recall, and I remember liking it more than disliking it, and making a mental note to include it in the list of new shows I was planning to check out that fall.

To set this up: The West Wing was my introduction to Sorkin so far as television was concerned. For reasons I cannot explain to this day, I missed Sports Night when it was on television, and only after borrowing Kevin’s DVD set of the complete series did I come to understand just what I’d missed.

Stupid me.

Show ruminations behind the cut….

The Marine 2…really?

I recall watching The Marine on DVD a couple of years ago, thanks to my wife borrowing it from one of her friends at work. Setting aside the obvious jokes about the film being a showcase for a WWE wrestler, I knew it was going to be one of those hilariously bad movies within the first two minutes, when “the Marine’s” uniform was comprised of equal parts Marine and Army components.

It was all downhill from there.

And now I’m seeing ads for a straight-to-DVD sequel, subtly titled The Marine 2.

What the hell? Really?

First, the easy question: How bad does a movie have to be that John Cena passes on it? He was the title character in the original, but the sequel instead stars another WWE wrestler, Ted DiBiasi, Jr. According to’s description (which makes it out to be a shameless Die Hard clone, swapping the Nakatomi Tower for a tropical resort), the two movies have no connection other than their titles, which is always a sure sign of quality comin’ right at ya. From the ads I’ve seen, it’s apparent that the people behind this epic yarn have taken a commitment to accuracy on the military side of things as seriously as those behind the original flick.

Sounds like something I’ll watch if my wife borrows it from her friend (whom we miraculously didn’t disown after borrowing the first flick from her), but only if I can come up with a drinking game to go with it.

(Edited to correct the spelling of Ted DiBiasi’s name, just prior to disowning defcons_treklit as a friend…. ;D)

Taking Chance.

This isn’t a movie review. It’s just me rambling as I continue to consider the film I watched last night.

Taking Chance was but one on a stack of DVD’s I’ve purchased over the past couple of months, but until recently haven’t had time to watch. I knew it was a film I was going to want to watch, rather than simply let play in the background while I tended to other things. I also knew that watching it would bring back memories I had not revisited in quite some time, and to be honest I was reluctant to go down that road. So, on the stack of DVDs it sat, waiting for me to have an evening where I could dedicate my full attention to it.

Last night was the night.

I spent a good bit of time after the film concluded just sorting out what I’d watched, trying to make sense of the chaotic blur of memories as well as scenes from the film which were rushing around and past each other in my head. Beyond simply laughing at a joke, smiling or throwing out the occasional “Yeah!” at cool action, or flinching when something intense or even scary happens, it’s a rare occasion for me to have any sort of true emotional reaction to a movie.

Simply put, Taking Chance knocked me on my ass.

It’s not a war movie, nor a military propaganda piece. Based on actual events, it’s simply the story of one young man and the impact he made on those around him, in death as well as throughout his all-too brief life. The story focuses on Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl (as portrayed by Kevin Bacon), a Marine officer stationed at Quantico in 2004 who volunteers to escort home the remains of Private First Class Chance Phelps, a young Marine killed in Iraq. Strobl is at first drawn to Phelps upon learning they both hail from the same town in Colorado. Though he’s later told Phelps will be transported to Dubois, Wyoming, because that’s where his family resides, Strobl still opts to act as the fallen Marine’s escort. The balance of the film covers Strobl’s journey from the military mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to Dubois, accompanying the casket containing Phelps’ remains every step of the way.

I’ve performed escort duty, so I can attest to the care — even reverence — with which the body of a fallen service member is handled throughout the process of preparing the remains for transport home. No detail is overlooked, no task performed in perfunctory fashion. It is a solemn undertaking, carried out with precision and respect. In this and many other areas, the film’s accuracy is to be praised.

The scenes depicting PFC Phelps’ journey were difficult to watch. Unlike LtCol Strobl, I knew the Marine I escorted; he was one of mine. I got the call about his death on Easter Sunday in 1996, and I spent the next eight days inventorying his personal effects, overseeing every aspect of the preparations to take him home, and accompanying his casket. Except for the actual flight, I spent every moment of the journey from Kansas City to his home town in arm’s reach of his casket, to include sitting with it in a cargo hangar at the airport. I spent three days with his family and friends, listening to their stories and attending his funeral. I was struck by how loved and respected he was by the countless people I encountered. Everyone treated me as well as you might expect, given the circumstances, but the sad reality was that I was a stranger in their midst, and I had brought tragedy with me. It was one of the most emotionally-taxing experiences of my life, and it naturally was nothing compared to what the family was enduring.

As I watched the movie, I couldn’t stop those recollections from coming forth, but it wasn’t until I got to the scenes of Strobl standing vigil alongside Phelps’ casket that they all just seemed to push forward and hammer at me. I had to pause the film more than once and just sit there, processing long-dormant memories. Easter never passes without me pausing to remember the young Marine (I do the same thing on Halloween, owing to an unrelated yet similarly tragic incident involving another Marine), though this was something I hadn’t really pondered for years. In my head, it was 1996 again, and I had just returned home, drained from the heart-wrenching duty I’d completed.

It may well be the oddest damned thing that’s ever happened to me while watching a movie; the closest thing to a “flashback” I’ve experienced. When it was over, I just let the thoughts and memories roam at will, sorting themselves out. This blog entry was originally going to be about something completely unrelated to the movie or my reactions, but once I started typing it all just came out.

Thanks very much for your indulgence.

Kradical and TerriO will appreciate this.

During my lunch break, I ran to the store and now I have in my possession Madagascar: The Complete Collection, which features both movies as well as The Penguins of Madagascar. I’m gettin’ my Madagascar on well ahead of the forthcoming Nickelodeon series featuring said Penguins. I bought the set for the kids, you understand, and I will in no way derive any enjoyment of my own from the forthcoming viewing experience.

Nope. Not. At All.

Oh, and I really can’t leave this entry without typing Madagascar again.