Can I speak to Lily? Lily could probably have helped me

The most ironic words in the English language are “customer service,” a phrase many companies seem to reserve for the department which is designed to do anything but serve the customer.
I have my mobile phone service with a company which, to avoid them any embarrassment, I will call “BT&T.” My old smartphone has been acting up, and I felt like it was about time to get a new one. There was a brand new model about to be released, right in my price range, and with features I wanted, so I waited eagerly for the opportunity to purchase.
Finally, the day came. I got online at the BT&T website and placed my order.
Now, a smartphone is an expensive purchase, the type of thing that you normally have to sign for, and so I wanted it delivered to my office instead of my apartment. Fortunately, the BT&T website had a way to specify a shipping address during the order process. I thought I had done what I needed to do, but perhaps I missed clicking some final button — because, when I got my order confirmation, it specified that the phone would be delivered to my apartment, exactly what I didn’t want to happen.
I fired up the online chat feature of the site, and the first woman I chatted with insisted that I could change the shipping address from the website. But she kept directing me to the place where one would change their billing address. I didn’t want to change my billing address; this is a personal phone, not a work phone, and I want the bill to come to my home address, not my work address. I finally got through to her, and she transferred me to a higher-level chat person. That person was unable to help me, so they got permission to have someone call me on my (old) smartphone to discuss the situation. Again, the first person I talked to didn’t seem to have any of the answers, so she transferred me to an “order specialist.”
At this point, I’d been on chat and the phone a total of half an hour or more. I was at the office, and didn’t want my co-workers to think I was spending all day on personal business.
Now, here’s the funny part. The person on the phone transferred me to the order specialist, whom I could barely hear. I got up and moved to a quieter part of the building, but I could still not quite make out what the person was saying. I turned the volume on my phone up to the maximum, but still, nothing. I’d been able to hear the first lady fine, at a normal volume, but this person was just barely audible enough for me to know there was someone there, but not enough for me to carry on a conversation.
That’s right – BT&T, one of the biggest mobile and landline telephone service providers in the world, couldn’t give me an audible connection to their customer service rep — the fourth person with whom they had connected me (two on chat, two on voice). I finally had to just hang up.
I’m now resigned to getting an attempted delivery notice on my door from FedEx or UPS. At that point, I can call them and have them deliver the package to the office the next day. It will add a day to the process, but at this point an extra day’s wait is preferable to another 45 minutes on the phone with BT&T.

hail, hail freedonia

“Duck Soup” (1933) airs tonight at 7 p.m. Central on Turner Classic Movies, as this week’s installment of the family-friendly summer series “TCM Movie Camp.”

Marx Brothers fans – and I’m definitely one – know their work can be divided into two distinct eras. From 1929 through 1933, Paramount released films featuring four Marx Brothers – Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo. “Duck Soup” was the last of the movies the boys made for Paramount. Now, many people – and I’m definitely one – consider it their best, but at the time it was a flop, and Paramount dropped the Marx Brothers like a hot potato.

On stage, though never in the movies, there had been a fifth Marx Brother, Gummo (real name Milton). In the interim after the boys were fired by Paramount, Zeppo (real name Herbert) left the act and joined Gummo in starting a successful talent agency. Zeppo didn’t really have much of a comic persona anyway; he primarily played straight man to the others.

MGM, where boy wonder Irving Thalberg was still in a leading role, hired the three remaining Marx Brothers – Groucho, Chico, and Harpo – and their first MGM movie was 1935’s “A Night At The Opera.”

Zeppo isn’t the only difference between the Paramount Marx Brothers and the MGM Marx Brothers. At Paramount, the boys were more anarchic. But Thalberg – and those who followed him – put more of a story to the brothers’ comedy, and usually had them helping someone out. They were trying to help out young lovers in “A Night At The Opera,” trying to raise money to keep a hospital open in “A Day At The Races,” and so on. In some ways, this undermines the anarchy – part of the fun of the Paramount Marx Brothers is that lunacy is their first priority, and the plot is an afterthought.

Granted, “A Night At The Opera,” their first MGM movie, is one of their funniest – probably because of Thalberg’s craft as a producer. But Thalberg died during the making of “A Day At The Races,” and fans are in general agreement that the MGM Marx Brothers movies go downhill fast from there.

The trouble, of course, is that TCM’s parent company owns the MGM library, so TCM can show the MGM Marx Brothers movies as often as it likes. It has to pay for the rights to the Paramount Marx Brothers movies (strangely enough, it has to pay Universal, which at some point bought the rights to much of Paramount’s classic-era library). TCM shows “Duck Soup” fairly regularly, as well as “Horse Feathers,” and occasionally “Monkey Business,” but hardly ever shows “Cocoanuts” or “Animal Crackers.”

Enough of my quibbling. “Duck Soup” is on tonight, and as I said earlier I think it’s the all-time best Marx Brothers movie. The movie takes place in the fictitious country of Freedonia. The country is badly in debt, and its wealthiest citizen, Mrs. Teasdale, won’t loan it any more money unless Rufus T. Firelfly (Groucho) is appointed leader. Meanwhile, the ambassador for neighboring Sylvania is up to no good and hires Chico and Harpo as spies.

DISCUSSION QUESTION: Whose faith is more misplaced – Mrs. Teasdale, who for some unexplained reason thinks Groucho can run a country, or the ambassador, who thinks Chico and Harpo can overcome their ADD long enough to collect any useful information?

Anyway, this is a Paramount Marx Brothers movie, so as I indicated earlier the plot isn’t really that important. The movie is loaded with all sorts of humor – from verbal jousting to the famous (and completely silent) mirror scene between Groucho and Harpo. It’s just funny, at so many levels.

the rest of the year

It’s one of the curses of my life in recent years that three of the things I look forward to the most each year – the Nashville Symphony concert in Shelbyville, for which I’m co-chair of the organizing committee; the American Cancer Society Relay For Life in Bedford County, for which I’m publicity and online chair (and was just named volunteer of the year); and my annual week at Mountain T.O.P. Adults In Ministry all fall within about a six or seven week period in May and June. This sets me up for a huge letdown once they’re all over with. I want it to be Relay night again. I want to be pulling into Cumberland Pines again (especially since there were a few aspects of this year’s AIM experience where I’d like a do-over). But now I have 11 months until Relay next year (and I’m not even sure if we’ll have a symphony concert next year).

I have no time to mope, however. Ever since April 8, I’d been on loan to the Times-Gazette’s sister paper in Lewisburg. I was still writing a few things for the Times-Gazette – county government stories, plus a few features – but my day-to-day work was at the Marshall County Tribune.

I found out while I was at Mountain T.O.P. that my sojourn is over and I will show up for work on Monday at the Times-Gazette. I will hit the ground running; we have some hot county budget issues, and we’ll soon start (if they haven’t already) working on stories for our annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration supplement.

I also plan to try out for a play next month. Martin Jones is a pressman at the T-G with whom I’ve appeared in several productions. (I played his father in “Come Blow Your Horn”; he played my father in “Daddy’s Dyin’ … Who’s Got The Will?” We’ve also appeared together in other things.) He’ll be directing a production of “Don’t Drink The Water,” with auditions next month and the actual production in September.

And I plan to continue work on the self-published book of sermons and devotionals that I keep talking about. I have been making some progress, but now that Relay and all that is behind me, I can get even more serious.

On a related note, I am already included in a new book of devotionals. In honor of its 40th anniversary, Mountain T.O.P. has published “Walk Down This Mountain,” a collection of devotions collected throughout the ministry’s history, broken down into sections by decade.

I knew they were talking about it and had even given them some of my self-publishing experience and pointed them towards CreateSpace, the firm I used for my Bad Self-Published Novel. I did not realize until I flipped through a copy last month that my “cast-iron skillet sermon,” which I adapted for use as a Holy Time Out several years back, was included. The Kindle edition of the book is now listed on Amazon, but the paperback still has a placeholder page. And I don’t have the direct link to the CreateSpace page. I will post all of that to social media once I get it.

So maybe I’ll be busy enough this summer to avoid the post-Relay, post-Mountain T.O.P. letdown.


One of the last times I had any contact with Chris Shofner – I thought it was on Facebook messenger, but I can’t find it there – he asked when we were going to have lunch again. I don’t know why we didn’t set something up then and there; it was probably my fault.

We’d had lunch just a few months before. I happened to have the day off from work, but when I went out to my car to go and meet Chris, it wouldn’t turn over. I called Chris, and he good-naturedly came over, gave me a jump start, and followed me to AutoZone, where I bought a new battery I hadn’t planned on buying. Chris ended up buying my lunch.

In 1985, when I returned to Bedford County, tail between my legs, after my first career plan hadn’t quite worked out, I decided to go and put in an application at the hometown newspaper. I’d taken some newspaper classes as part of my mass communications major, and I’d spent a lot of time at the campus paper my senior year – mostly because I had a crush on a woman who worked there. But I hadn’t taken as many newspaper courses as I might have if I’d known I was going to spend 30 years-and-counting in the business.

Anyway, when I got to the T-G, the first person I talked to was Chris. He had not officially been named editor yet – that would come a few weeks later – but had been doing the job. He told me how much he liked my resume and how much he needed a reporter. He then took me in to see Mr. Franklin Yates, the publisher who’d merged the Times and the Gazette in 1948. Mr. Yates, who had a gruff exterior but a big heart, originally told me he ha nothing open – which I knew, from my conversation with Chris, was not the case. I figured I’d offended him somehow and gave up on working at the Times-Gazette. But it was just Mr. Yates being Mr. Yates.

After I’d left, Mr. Yates called Marvin Whitaker – who’d been my high school principal and who was, at that time, layleader of one of the churches at which my father was preaching. I’m sure Mr. Whitaker told Mr. Yates that I’d hung the moon and several of the stars. In any case, Mr. Yates called me in a day or two later and offered me the job.

I had a great relationship with Chris during the time he was my editor. He was kind, considerate, empathetic. We always felt like friends, not just co-workers, and he always made me feel like he appreciated what I did.

I loved that Chris was a musician on the side. When I first met him, he was in a band called Jet Set. They often introduced themselves as “Maxell recording artists Jet Set,” Maxell not being a record label but rather a brand of blank recording tape. Later, he and his friend Scott Pallot would put a lot of love and care into a children’s album.

Chris went on to work in marketing for a company in Memphis, but then – after a health scare – came back here to Middle Tennessee, where he was the press spokesman for the City of Murfreesboro for a number of years. More recent health concerns forced him to give that up, too.

Now that he’s gone, of course, I wish not only that I’d had lunch with him the last time we talked, but a lot more times. He was right here in town, and I didn’t take the time.

Chris was 61. He died less than a week after his mother, Betty, and I can’t imagine what that must be like for the family.

I hate that I’m going to miss visitation and the funeral. I know Chris will understand that I’ll be in ministry up on the Cumberland Plateau; I leave tomorrow morning for a week at Mountain T.O.P. But I’m sorry I won’t get to speak to his wife, attorney Ginger Shofner, or to his daughter Willa Kate. Please join me in keeping them in your prayers.

(NOTE: In the old days when news stories were typed on paper, ‘’-30-“ was typographer’s code for the end of a story.)

The Spoils Before Dying

If you missed “Eric Jonrosh’s ‘The Spoils of Babylon'” last summer, I feel sorry for you. But the good news is, “The Spoils Before Dying” starts next month on IFC.

“The Spoils of Babylon” was, supposedly, the magnum opus of novelist-turned-producer Eric Jonrosh, filmed at the height of the miniseries craze in the late 70s or early 80s (think “Rich Man, Poor Man,” or “The Thorn Birds,” or “The Winds of War”). Jonrosh adapted his biggest novel for the screen. But the network wouldn’t air it, and so it sat in a vault for years until last summer, when it was broadcast for the very first time, with each episode personally introduced by the bloated, bearded Jonrosh, along with his personal remembrances of the cast and the challenges faced during production.

Only that’s not it at all. There is no “Eric Jonrosh”; the fellow who introduced the miniseries last year was actually Will Ferrell wearing a fat suit and a fake beard and doing his best impression of latter-day, past-his-prime Orson Welles. “The Spoils of Babylon” actually starred Tobey Maguire, Kristin Wiig, Tim Robbins and Haley Joel Osment, although they were given fake actor names in the opening credits of the first episode, to tie in with the pretense that this whole thing was shot in the 1970s. It was a hilarious parody of the potboiler miniseries genre, with brilliant performances by the four leads and various guest stars including Val Kilmer, David Spade, Jessica Alba, Michael Sheen and Molly Shannon.

Well, “The Spoils Before Dying” will be the same thing — not a sequel to “Babylon” but supposedly a “fully restored” adaptation of a different (and just as non-existent) Eric Jonrosh novel, this one with more of a film noir feel:

I cannot wait.

Break out the taboo cards

When I first signed up for Mountain T.O.P. Adults In Ministry (AIM) in 1993, it was because I thought it would be fun teaching creative writing to teenagers as part of the “Summer Plus” program. I had no teaching experience; my only experience was as a writer.

I didn’t actually get to teach the class that first year, but I’ve taught it many times since. Some have been more successful than others. Creative writing is the type of workshop where the teens have to want to be there. If they don’t – maybe they got their first choice of workshop in the morning but were arbitrarily assigned to creative writing in the afternoon – it seems an awful lot like school. I try hard not to make it seem like school, but I don’t have all of the tools in my toolkit that a professional educator would have.

Anyway, the past couple of years, for reasons I won’t go into, I haven’t been able to make plans in advance to go to AIM. In both 2013 and 2014, I got the chance to go at the last minute – which was great, but what it meant was that the lineup of Summer Plus workshops was already in place and they didn’t need to add another one. So I participated in Summer Plus solely as an assistant in someone else’s workshops. Last year, for example, I helped out in a cooking workshop taught by Jean Nulle and in a photography workshop taught by Bobby and Robert Matthews. That was fun – I enjoy helping in a workshop, especially in crafty sorts of workshops where it works out for the helpers to jump in and do the project alongside the teens.

But I still missed teaching my own workshop. And so, this year, when I was able to get my AIM application in well in advance, I looked forward to creative writing. I waited patiently to hear something. In the past, some of the preliminary arrangements for Summer Plus would sometimes be made by the year-round staff, and so you’d get a call a month or two before camp confirming what you wanted to teach and so on. But now, all of that is handled by the summer staff – who’ve only been on duty a few weeks and who’ve been busy this past week running the first AIM event of the summer. So I’ve been on pins and needles waiting to hear from somebody and confirm that I would, in fact, be teaching creative writing.

I got my courtesy call today, and everything is “go” for me to teach creative writing. I will only have one session (which is my preference, although I’d have done two sessions if they’d needed me to). The other half of the day I will be helping out with someone else’s workshop.

I generally start out by having the students (along with any helpers) pair up and interview each other and write a simple paragraph which they can use to introduce each other to the group. Then we talk about the importance of good description. At this point, I generally break out the party game “Taboo.” In this game, a player must describe a word or concept to his or her teammates – but can’t use the five most-obvious clues, which are taboo. For example, you might have to describe “Superman” without using “hero,” “Clark Kent,” “Lois Lane,” “fly” or “Krypton.” A member of the opposing team stands over your shoulder with a buzzer, ready to penalize you if you say one of the “taboo” words. There’s an egg timer, and you try to get your team to guess as many cards as possible before time runs out and the other team takes a turn.

We use the game to make a point about colorful description, but it’s also just fun to play. Later in the week, I’ll use it at the end of the session if we have time to kill or the natives are getting restless.

I’m on my second Taboo game, and I really need a new one – the buzzer is made of parts from the first game and the second game put together, and some of the cards have out-of-date cultural references that I suspect have been changed in the latest edition.

How far we go with storytelling depends on who’s in the class and what level they’re at. Some years, we’ve worked on a short and simple group story, short enough to be read aloud during our presentation for parents and family members at the end of the week.

One year, Diana Simmons Woodlock, the daughter of Mountain T.O.P. executive director Ed Simmons, was my helper in the class – a bit intimidating, since Diana really is a teacher. She told me at the end of the week that she’d been skeptical about the group story idea but was amazed at how far we’d gotten with it. That made me feel good.

I talk to the teens about the importance of journaling – as always with Summer Plus, we’ll have teens from a variety of home situations, good and bad, and some of them would no doubt benefit from an outlet. (One year, a girl actually told me that her counselor had encouraged her to journal.) I give them blank journals at the end of the week as a gift. Most of the journals I have were donated to me some years back, but in 2013 or 2014 – during a brief window when I thought I might still be teaching the class – I realized that most of the remaining journals were very girly in appearance. As it happens, most of my students over the years have been girls, but there have been boys, too, and so I rushed out that year and bought two or three gender-neutral looking journals just to be on the safe side.

I can’t wait to see how things go this year.

Checking in

Well, I’ve been sloppy about blog posts the past week or two, because I’ve been putting everything on Facebook and I was so wrapped up in Relay.

I’ve about recovered, although I’ll get another taste tomorrow, when I go to visit Marshall County’s Relay For Life and take a few photos of it for the Tribune. I went to Tullahoma’s Relay in 2014, but this will just be the second time I’ve been to a Relay event other than Bedford County’s. Trina Rios, the chair of Marshall County’s event, came to ours last weekend, and I was able to introduce her to Jennifer Smith, one of our two co-chairs. I’m looking forward to seeing how Marshall County does Relay.

Marshall County’s event is not overnight — it runs from noon until midnight on Saturday. The American Cancer Society used to require that Relay events take place overnight. It was part of the symbolism of the event — it symbolized a cancer patient passing through the dark night of illness and emerging on the other side, either in remission or, barring that, at least an end to pain. There are enough prime-time or daylight hours for the public — since we want the public to come and patronize the various concessions run by our teams. But then the wee hours of the morning are just for the walkers, and the people on the track at 3 a.m. can take a special kind of pride in their participation. That’s the way it works in Bedford County.

ACS, however, dropped the overnight requirement. Part of the event must still take place after dark — so that you can have a luminaria ceremony — but you don’t have to go overnight. Some communities are moving to a schedule that puts their entire event during the day and/or evening, so that they can maximize public attendance and the concession/festival aspects of Relay.

I understand this, and support the communities making that choice, but I also have a soft spot in my heart for the symbolism of that overnight walk. I think of the late Dr. Gordy Klatt, who started Relay For Life in Tacoma, Washington, by running for 24 hours as an individual fund-raiser. I imagine him running at 3 a.m., and still being on the track as the eastern sky started to lighten up a bit. I think of him running as the sun rises, and I smile.

During Relay, I posted a closeup of my Martha Deason Award plaque to Facebook, as well as the funny video where I drop my phone as my name is called. The closeup of the plaque got a lot of hits and likes, so I felt it would be overkill to add the photo that my co-worker Adria took of me using my T-G camera a few minutes later. But I liked that photo, which went into the T-G today, and so I’ll share it here.


I still don’t know why they presented the award at night — in the past, it’s been part of the general awards given out at the end of Relay. I was walking back from somewhere, and Jennifer and Sharon stepped out of the gazebo to make an announcement. They mentioned the Martha Deason Award, which is our local Relay’s traditional volunteer-of-the-year plaque. I’d been making video all night, of course, and figured I’d capture the Deason award presentation as part of that. My smartphone was on a small, portable charger — the basic size and shape of a sleeve of Hall’s cough drops — with a cable connecting the two. Sharon was talking about the award, and when she got to my name, I was surprised enough that I let go of the charger. It dropped to the end of its cable and then jerked the phone out of my hand. I didn’t technically drop the phone all the way, just fumbled with it.


I thought I'd get some video of them presenting the award… Little did I know.

Posted by John I. Carney on Friday, June 5, 2015

It was a neat honor. I’m proud of it. There are a lot of others who probably do more, but I’m an easy target because people know who I am.

people say they monkey around

My sister got me a DVD of Head (1968) for my birthday. I’d seen bits and pieces of it once, but I’d never watched the whole thing until tonight.

“Head,” of course, stars The Monkees — Davy Jones, Peter Tork, Mickey Dolenz and Michael Nesmith. It came out right after the cancellation of their TV series. It was directed by Bob Rafaelson and co-written by Rafaelson and Jack Nicholson – yes, that Jack Nicholson – right before the two of them went on to make “Easy Rider.” (Rafaelson, in fact, had been an executive producer of the Monkees’ TV show, and directed some of its episodes.)

The Monkees were, of course, not the type of organic band that comes together in high school or college. They were cast, by TV and music executives, as characters on a TV show, to be TV’s answer to the Beatles. But the Monkees weren’t satisfied with just being TV characters. They were discouraged at first that they had no control over their music, but they pushed for and eventually got that kind of control. You can’t blame the Monkees for having been cast; they at least had musical talent, and the ambition of being something more than an assembly line product. Even John Lennon defended them in an interview:

“They’ve got their own scene, and I won’t send them down for it. You try a weekly television show and see if you can manage one half as good!”

The TV show “The Monkees” is family-friendly – so much so that reruns of it ran several times on Saturday morning TV back when the networks put children’s programming on Saturday mornings. (Kids, ask your parents.) The TV show owes a lot to the Beatles’ movie “A Hard Day’s Night,” with a little bit of the rebellion toned down and a little bit of slapstick thrown in. The musical numbers from both “A Hard Day’s Night” and “The Monkees” set a template that would be followed by music videos a dozen years later, and Michael Nesmith, working as a director in the period around 1980, is considered one of the innovators of the music video format. It was a proof-of-concept show he produced for Time-Warner Cable which led to the creation of MTV.

“Head,” which came out about the time that the Monkees’ TV show had been cancelled, and at a time when conventional wisdom cast doubt on the band’s future, is more psychedelic than “The Monkees.” There’s no real story – just a series of bits and pieces, jumping here and there, to and fro, with musical numbers mixed in.

It was a failure at the time, but I found it to be a lot of fun – and there’s some fun meta-commentary about the Monkees’ own struggles to break out of the box in which they’d been put. Toward the end of the movie, they’re literally trapped in a box. They’re also battling a Jolly Green Giant-sized version of actor Victor Mature, and at least one critic has pointed out that this is probably a not-so-subtle jab at RCA Victor, the Monkees’ record label. (RCA had also been their TV employer, since it was the parent company of NBC.)

If anything, “Head” reminds me less of a Beatles movie than it does of two other bits of psychedelia I’ve seen from that same time frame: Skidoo (1968) and Good Times (1967). “Skidoo” is Otto Preminger’s attempt to make a drug culture movie, and it has a bizarre cast including Jackie Gleason, Groucho Marx, Carol Channing, Frankie Avalon, Burgess Meredith and Cesar Romero. Skidoo attempts a plot, but just barely.

“Good Times,” not to be confused with the 1970s sitcom starring Jimmie Walker, John Amos and Esther Rolle, stars Sonny and Cher. It’s not very good as a movie but it’s a lot of fun if you think of it as a variety show – or maybe just a series of music videos. The plot, which is really just a framing device, is that Sonny has signed himself and Cher, playing fictionalized versions of themselves, to a movie contract with a powerful and vaguely-sinister studio executive (George Sanders). Cher is skeptical about the idea, but Sonny tries to convince her by brainstorming possible ideas for a movie, which turn into fantasy sequences built around musical numbers. There’s a western, a Tarzan movie, and so on.

“Skidoo” is one of those things you have to see once just for the novelty of it, but it’s not really a very good movie per se. “Good Times” isn’t a very good movie either, but I’ve watched it more than once just because the musical numbers are so great, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

“Head” seems like it’s in the same vein as “Skidoo” and “Good Times,” but it ends up being quite a bit better than either of them – maybe because it was trying, not just to pander to what producers imagined the youth demographic wanted, but to make a statement. The Monkees may or may not have hoped that it would be taken seriously as a work of art, but in any case it was a statement of defiance, an attempt to show that they were something more than sitcom characters.

for a few daleks more

A week from tonight, on Thursday the 28th, Turner Classic Movies will broadcast “Dr. Who and the Daleks.”

As you know, I’m a big fan of the TV show “Doctor Who.” I was first introduced to the classic version of the show in the early 1980s, when I was in college and Oklahoma Public Television ran Tom Baker or Peter Davison episodes every night.

I’m a big enough fan to know a couple of things:

  • “Doctor” is always spelled out in the title of the TV show
  • The primary character of the TV show “Doctor Who” is not called “Doctor Who.” That’s a rookie mistake. The character is “The Doctor”; the show is “Doctor Who.”

I have gone on at length in other blog posts explaining what “Doctor Who” is for those unfamiliar. I will, however, explain that the original version of the show (which ran from 1963 to 1989), a mid-90s TV movie, and the current version of the show (which started in 2005) are all part of the same continuity – one long storyline, if you will. The new version isn’t a remake or reboot of the original; it’s a continuation.

Anyway, “Dr. Who and the Daleks” is not an episode of the TV show. It’s one of two movies from the 1960s which attempted to launch a theatrical movie franchise. Both movies were adapted from stories that had already been done on the British TV show, but they made changes to the show’s basic premise and so the two movies are NOT considered part of that continuity I just spoke of. In the movies, “Dr. Who” is not an alien, he’s a human who just happens to be a brilliant inventor, the creator of a time machine (the TARDIS).

The Daleks, by the way, are the Doctor’s most-famous adversaries. They are like evil versions of R2D2 – not robots, actually, but cyborgs: living brains, bent on galactic dominance, in robotic, salt-shaker-shaped bodies.

The movies don’t hold up to the TV show, but fans may want to see them just out of curiosity. Peter Cushing stars as “Dr. Who.” The second movie, “Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.”, features a very young Bernard Cribbins, who would turn up decades later as one of the most-beloved guest characters on the new version of “Doctor Who,” Donna Noble’s grandfather Wilf. I have seen “Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.,” but I have never seen “Dr. Who and the Daleks,” so I have set to tape it next week on TCM. I don’t expect it to be very good, based on what I’ve read, but it could be fun just as a novelty.

goodbye, goodbye

I flipped over to IFC to watch “Comedy Bang! Bang!”, one of my favorites, and the movie “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” was ending. There’s a song, played at the end of the movie and during the credits, called “Goodbye, Goodbye,” by Oingo Boingo.

The catchy chorus made be flash back to 1993. On what would be the very last night of “Late Night with David Letterman,” NBC aired a promo for the show which featured that chorus – “Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye” – over slow-motion footage of Dave standing up from behind his talk show desk and walking away. I don’t think it was anything staged; I think they just got a clip from some previous episode, slowed it down, and added the music. It was minimalist – but strangely appropriate. I was surprised the network was doing promos at all, because of the awkward and highly-publicized situation that led to Letterman’s exit, and the fact that he was already preparing to set up shop elsewhere.

CBS, of course, is still on good terms with Letterman, and they know that his last shows – which have been great – are a ratings windfall. So they’ve been promoting them heavily. I saw one promo last night, referencing the very last show this coming Wednesday, which included just a little snippet of “Viva La Vida” – the Coldplay song with the lyrics about “when I ruled the world.” They didn’t actually have the lyrics in the promo – just the catchy string intro. But it still evoked a sort of nostalgia. One of those SNL decade-by-decade documentaries ended with that same song, used to that same effect.

Dave is scheduled to have Tom Hanks on Monday, and Bill Murray (who was the first guest on both “Late Night” and “Late Show”) on Tuesday. Like Johnny Carson, he has no announced guests for his final night, so we’ll see what happens then. The rumor is that there’s going to be some sort of all-star Top Ten list, with ten huge stars delivering the entries, but I don’t know which night that might happen. Surely Regis will show up at some point. Dave has pooh-poohed the idea of Leno making an appearance. Dave, in at least one interview, said Leno invited Dave to appear on one of his last shows, but Letterman declined, saying the focus should be on Leno. Dave then said Leno had been invited, but may feel the same way about stealing focus from Letterman. Still, I wouldn’t rule it out entirely. They were able to keep that Super Bowl promo a total secret a few years back, so perhaps they have some similar surprise here. (Maybe Wednesday’s show will end with them waking up in bed together, “Newhart” style.)

Oprah is on tonight, by the way.