A to Z Reflections

So the sponsors of the A to Z Challenge have asked us to reflect upon our experiences participating in this year’s challenge and to post our reflections. But before I begin, I want to thank those of you who ran the show. You put a lot of time and effort into it, and I’m sure those of us who participated in this year’s challenge appreciated your work.

Anyway, here are my reflections.

For my challenge, I posted each day in April — except Sundays — about mostly vintage or classic TV shows in alphabetical order, from “All in the Family” to “Zorro.” I had a lot of fun doing it and the response I got from readers was mostly positive. Many remembered watching the shows and appreciated the trip down Memory Lane.

Is that true? Did you like reading about those old TV shows? Do tell!

One aspect that surprised me a little was that my blog’s traffic didn’t pick up this April as it had in April in past years. In 2019, I had 12.4% more views in April than I had in March, even though March has one more day than April. In 2020, I had 10% more views in April than in March. But this year, I actually had 1.6% fewer views in April than in March. Well, it’s no biggie. I’m not about to start bawling over it.

I certainly can’t blame the drop in traffic to people spending more time at the mall because, due to the pandemic, haven’t most malls closed? In fact, even though restrictions have eased up a bit since last year, my guess is that most of us are, like me, still spending more time inside of our own houses than we are being out and about. Right?

I did get a glimpse at a lot of other bloggers’ A to Z posts, but most of those bloggers whose A to Z posts I read were bloggers that I’m already following. Hey, there are only so many hours in a day. Right?

That said, I did enjoy this year’s challenge and this makes it four years in a row that I’ve participated. I enjoyed being a part of the A to Z Challenge and encourage others to do so in the future.

See you back here next April.

Written for the A to Z Reflections post and for these daily prompts: Fandango’s One-Word Challenge (aspect), Word of the Day Challenge (traffic), Your Daily Word Prompt (bawl), The Daily Spur (mall), MMA Storytime (house), and Ragtag Daily Prompt (glimpse).

Z is for “Zorro”

“Zorro” was an American action-adventure western series produced by Walt Disney Productions and starring Guy Williams. Based on the Zorro character created by Johnston McCulley, the series premiered on October 10, 1957 on ABC. The final network broadcast was July 2, 1959. Seventy-eight episodes were produced, and four hour-long specials were aired on the Walt Disney anthology, “Disneyland” series between October 30, 1960, and April 2, 1961.For most of its brief run, the episodes were part of continuing story arcs, each about thirteen episodes long, which made it almost like a serial. Guy Williams played Don Diego de la Vega, the foppish dandy by day, and Zorro, the masked swordsman who slashed Zs everywhere by night.

Don Deigo was depicted as a former University student, newly recalled by his father from Spain to his home outside of what was later called Los Angeles. Just before reaching California, Diego learned of the tyranny of Captain Monastario, and realized that his father, Don Alejandro, summoned him to help fight this injustice. Although he won medals for his fencing back in Spain, Diego decided that his best course of action was to conceal his ability with a sword, and to affect the demeanor of a milquetoast intellectual rather than a decisive man of action. His alter ego, Zorro operated primarily at night, taking the direct action that Diego could not. Diego relied heavily on his wits, both with and without the mask on. Later in the series, Diego emerged as a respected figure in his own right, a clever thinker and loyal friend who just happens to be hopeless at swordplay.

Bernardo (pantomimist Gene Sheldon) was Diego’s manservant, confidant, and co-conspirator, the only person at first to know Diego’s secret identity. Unable to speak, Bernardo used gestures to communicate. He also pretended to be deaf as well as mute, the better to overhear the plans of Zorro’s enemies. He also played the fool, adopting clownish behavior so as to seem harmless.

Sergeant Demetrio López García (Henry Calvin) was fat, superstitious, and overly fond of drink, but he was also kind-hearted, brave, and loyal. Sergeant García believed that he must obey orders from his commanding officers, however cruel or unjust they might have been. Although García seldom departed from his sworn duty, he developed considerable respect for Zorro and later in the series was openly glad when Zorro escaped capture. Nevertheless, García dreamed of catching Zorro himself to collect the reward money, a dream that Diego encouraged from time to time.

Despite good ratings, the series ended after two seasons due to a financial dispute between Disney and the ABC network over ownership of “Zorro,” “The Mickey Mouse Club,” and the Disneyland anthology television series. During the legal battle, however, Disney kept the franchise going for a few years in the form of four new hour-long “Zorro” adventures that aired on the anthology series. Guy Williams was kept on full salary during this period, but by the time Disney and ABC resolved their differences, Walt Disney decided that public interest in the character had flagged.

I remember as a kid that I really loved watching “Zorro.”

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Y is for “Yellowstone”

“Yellowstone” is an American drama series created by Taylor Sheridan and John Linson. It premiered on June 20, 2018, on the Paramount Network.Kevin Costner stars as John Dutton, a sixth-generation patriarch of the Dutton family, which operates the Yellowstone/Dutton Ranch, the largest contiguous ranch in the United States. Wes Bentley plays Jamie Dutton, John’s oldest son, an attorney, and an aspiring politician. Although completely loyal to his father and family, he is constantly frustrated by their apparent intolerance of him. Jamie has an intense love/hate relationship with his sister Beth, who is played by Kelly Reilly. Beth is John’s daughter and a financier. Although well educated, highly intelligent, and a master manipulator, Beth is bitter, emotionally unstable, and suffers from a substance abuse problem.

Kayce Dutton, John’s youngest son, is played by Luke Grimes. He is  a former Navy SEAL. He initially lived on the local Native American reservation with his Native American wife (Kelsey Asbille) and son, but in the second season, he and his family moved to live at the Dutton Ranch.

Cole Hauser plays Rip Wheeler, the ranch foreman and John’s right-hand man and enforcer. Rip is fiercely loyal to John after being taken in by Dutton as a young runaway. He and Beth have and an on-again, off-again romantic/sexual relationship.

Rounding out the ensemble cast is Gil Birmingham, who plays Chief Thomas Rainwater, the nearby Native American tribal chief. He seeks to reclaim the Yellowstone ranch from John and his family, land that he considers stolen from the Native Americans who originally inhabited it.

The series follows the Dutton family, led by John Dutton, whose ranch is constantly under constant attack by those it borders — land developers, an Indian reservation, and America’s first National Park. It is an intense study of a violent world far from media scrutiny, where land grabs make developers billions, and politicians are bought and sold by the world’s largest oil and lumber corporations. Where drinking water poisoned by fracking wells and unsolved murders are not news: they are a consequence of living in the new frontier. It is the best and worst of America seen through the eyes of a family that represents both.

This soap-opera-ish, contemporary western drama is well acted and intense, with a lot of violence. But it’s quite an addictive and compelling TV show. Unfortunately, since it doesn’t air on a traditional broadcast network or on a cable network, it is only available to those who currently stream on NBC’s streaming service, Peacock, if you have Peacock Premium or Peacock Premium Plus.

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X is NOT for “The X-Files”

Of course, when I think of a TV show that starts with the letter “X,” I think of “The X-Files.” Unfortunately, “The X-Files” doesn’t start with the letter “X.” It starts with the letter “T,” for “The X-Files.” So being the stickler that I am, I had to find another TV show that actually started with the letter “X,” and there aren’t many to choose from. But choose I must. So the show I’m going with is one I never actually watched: “Xena: Warrior Princess.” Thus, all of the information about it below was gleaned from Wikipedia and a few other websites.

“Xena: Warrior Princess” was an American fantasy television series filmed on location in New Zealand. The series aired in first-run syndication from September 4, 1995 to June 18, 2001. It starred Lucy Lawless as Xena and Renee O’Connor as Gabrielle. Xena, a mighty Warrior Princess with a dark past, set out to redeem herself. She was joined by small town bard, Gabrielle. Together they journeyed the ancient world and fought for the greater good against ruthless Warlords and Gods.

The show was set primarily in a fantasy version of ancient Greece., which, as depicted in the show, was largely derived from historical locations and customs, modifying known places and events to generate an attractive fictional world. The settlements were presented as a mixture of walled villages and rural hamlets set in a lush green, mountainous landscape. They were often seen under attack from warlords, and travelling between them involved frequent encounters with small bands of outlaws. All of the main towns were named after historic towns of ancient Greece, and exhibit some of their essential characteristics.

Critics praised the series for its strong female protagonist, and it acquired a strong cult following, attention in fandom, parody, and academia, and has influenced the direction of other television series.

As I said, I never watched this show, but I’d be interested to hear what others of you who have seen it thought about it.

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W is for “Welcome Back, Kotter”

“Welcome Back, Kotter” was an American sitcom starring Gabe Kaplan as a sardonic high school teacher Gabe Kotter. He was in charge of a racially and ethnically diverse remedial class called the “Sweathogs.” Recorded in front of a live studio audience, it originally aired on ABC from September 9, 1975, to May 17, 1979.Mr. Kotter, a wisecracking teacher returned to his alma mater, James Buchanan High School in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York, to teach a remedial class. The rigid vice principal, Michael Woodman (John Sylvester White), dismissed the Sweathogs as witless hoodlums and only expected Kotter to contain them until they dropped out or were otherwise banished.

As a former remedial student and a founding member of the original class of Sweathogs, Kotter befriended the current Sweathogs and stimulated their potential. A pupil-teacher rapport was formed, and the students often visited Kotter’s Bensonhurst apartment, sometimes via the fire-escape window, much to the chagrin of his wife, Julie (Marcia Strassman).

The talented ensemble cast of Sweathogs included Vinnie Barbarino (John Travalta) as a cocky Italian-American who was the unofficial leader of the Sweathogs and the group’s hearthrob. Travalta’s role as Barbarino was his breakout to movie stardom. Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) was the hip black student known as the athletic Sweathog for his skills on the basketball court. Juan Epstein (Robert Hegyes) was a fiercely proud Puerto Rican Jew. He was one of the toughest students at the school, despite his short stature. On the few occasions when Kotter did his Groucho Marx impersonation, Epstein would jump in and impersonate Chico Marx or Harpo Marx. Arnold Horshack (Ron Palillo) was the class clown of the Sweathogs. He was completely comfortable with his oddball, if naïve, personality, and was known for his unique observations and his wheezing laugh, similar to that of a hyena.

Kaplan said that when he and Alan Sacks created the program, the fictional James Buchanan High in the show was based on the Brooklyn high school that Kaplan attended in real life, which appeared in the show’s opening credits. Many of the show’s characters were based on people Kaplan knew during his teen years as a remedial student.

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