Thursday, June 16, 2011

Button, button, who's got the button?

I do! I finally broke down and ordered some Voyagers related objects from Cafe Press. Because it was very inexpensive, I ordered the buttons. They are so cute! I love the creativity the designer employed using Bogg and Jeffrey's clothes as a template. 

This seriously makes me want to start a 'Retro' button collection, even if I have to get custom made little buttons. :D

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

One of the best short-lived series I've ever seen

When I say short-lived, I mean short-lived. As in, seven episodes, including the pilot movie! And you thought Voyagers! had it rough. If you could think of the worst show you've ever seen in your life, trust me, this is not it and it didn't deserve to be canceled so quickly. But alas, the show fell victim to a writer's strike in 1988 and wasn't brought back. I say it didn't have a fighting chance.

First the basics. What is Probe? 

Probe was a 1988 TV series, created by famed television mystery writer William Link and science fiction author Isaac Asimov. How could you go wrong with a combo like that? Link was noted for co-creating mystery hits like Columbo and Murder She Wrote. (I'm an unabashed Columbo junkie.) Asimov is practically a household name as one of the most prolific science Fiction writers of the 20th Century. If you haven't read his books, then you've probably seen one of his very popular science shows that used to air in the seventies and eighties. The opening credits of Probe have the feel of those shows. I find the electronica mixed with a classical music sound so adorable. It perfectly suited the eclectic mix of science, mystery and comedy that made the series. Here is a video of the Pilot opening credits.

The series starred Parker Stevenson as Austin James, a highly eccentric "slightly schizophrenic" genius who solved scientific and high tech crimes, and Ashley Crow as James' pretty, somewhat ditzy, yet ultimately supportive new secretary Mickey Castle. Austin is so "maladjusted" (Don't call him weird) He sleeps in his cupboard and calls it his 'Sensory deprivation tank,' and can almost sense your thoughts and hear you blink. He talks to an invisible computer that controls the warehouse. (Decades before Iron Man does in the movies.) and is always playing classical music to help him think. Just watch in the Pilot how he comes up with astute observations by digging through a suspect's vacuum bag dust! It was amazing. I highly commend writers such as Michael Wagner and others on this series for keeping me so enthralled in Austin's quirks, common sense and logical discoveries.

Some episodes of the show revolved around Serendip, a technology company founded by Austin, yet it's a company that he has no interest in running. Austin instead chooses to live within a huge, unobtrusive warehouse that houses all his experiments and tools and tricks of his trade. Though he is world famous for being a scientist, his true fascination lies with detection and crime-solving, ala Sherlock Holmes. And that's exactly who he is-a Modern day Sherlock, with Mickey as his Watson. 

Most often unwittingly, Mickey always manages to say the right thing at the right time and plant ideas in Austin's head that leads to solving each case. Though Austin is outwardly aloof and perhaps comes off strong and a bit full of himself at the outset, you come to realize that Austin has a huge heart and loves the world and people in his own way. If he didn't, he wouldn't be such a likeable hero. Following that way is why he does what he does-like spending ten years developing prosthetic legs for the handicapped.

Okay, let me just have a major OT fan-girl moment here-Parker Stevenson…A fantastic, uniquely and boyishly handsome and underrated actor. Parker has eyes like blue crystals and had the best seventies hair ever…make that one of the best heads of hair ever period! Of any time zone. I'm such a nut, if I saw a guy walking around with a head of hair like that today, I would not really think it's dated at all. Parker will forever be the best Frank Hardy from the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys Mysteries to me.  

(Yes, even though I know Frank in the Hardy books was brunette with brown eyes.) 

Aww what the heck? Shaun Cassidy will always be Joe Hardy for me too. I can't resist his huge brown doe eyes, impishly good looks and charming smile and feathery hair. I'm so guilty of rocking out in my room to 'That's Rock and Roll.'  One of his hits that he also sang on the show. I read online that Shaun is now being referred to as the 'Justin Bieber' of his day. I say Ptooey! Bieber can't even begin to fill Shaun's bellbottoms! And Shaun's expression in the pic dares him to try.--->

SIGH! I love the Hardy Boys. Joe's got the one-liners and cheeky remarks and Frank's the calm and collected man of the duo. They really make a great team. And yes, Nancy is very cool too. I started off as a fan of her books, and actually never really read the boys!

But this isn't a Hardy Boys blog…I got so off-topic. SORRY!

Probe was a mystery, comedy, and drama rolled into one exciting package. The series didn't last long enough to develop much of a romantic angle. In the final episode Mickey casually asks Austin-

"Why is it you decided not to get involved in relationships?"

"But I have. Me and the universe. It's all I can handle."

As with most male-female pairings on shows like these, the seed of love was immediately planted from the moment Mickey was swept into Austin's life of wacky criminal intrigue and scientific mayhem. There is a real sense of appreciation and a respect that develops. You just know that had the series continued these characters would have been bread and butter, salt and pepper and every other fine pairing you can think of. If the two promo pictures above and below are any indication, I think they would have made a lovely TV couple. I love Parker's sly, dimpled wide grin and Ashley Crow somewhat resembles a young Mia Farrow. I found her character at first exasperating, but then more and more engaging as the show progressed.

Probe developed a cult fan-following and many believe that it was the forerunner to shows like X-Files and Monk. I definitely agree. Probe was way ahead of it's time. It was a show that made you use your noodle, and not one you can easily walk away from and then know excatly what was going on when you returned.  Take it from a big mystery fan-you must pay constant attention to everything going on in the scenes of any mystery show. And in this case, Austin and Mickey were always on the go and spouting out theories and witticisms in nearly every scene.

As Parker Stevenson puts it: "I felt lucky at having a shot at it because it wasn't a 'formula' show. But it was complex stuff. . . it wasn't the kind of show in which a viewer could get up during the middle of it, get a sandwich and think, "I'll catch up when I come back." Viewers had to work at watching the show, and perhaps that was a bit too much to ask. Maybe that's why they tuned into Cosby instead."

Now I have major gripes with both ABC for canceling Probe and NBC for canceling Voyagers! SHAME on the blind ABC Eye and the stuck up Peacock! SHAME!
And to keep true to this blog-I found a big Voyagers! connection here-The second to last episode of Probe was directed by Virgil Vogel, who directed the two great Voyagers! episodes–Created Equal and Bully and Billy. The co-star on the Probe episode was none other than Miss Agnes Spence herself, actress Sondra Currie.

Probe is available to watch online! YAY! I urge all fans of sci-fi comedy/friendship shows to at least give this one a chance. Come on, it's only seven episodes. You can handle it. Catch every episode and you'll get a real blast from the past, because the person who posted them didn't cut out the eighties commercials. Because these videos were posted on Youtube in 2006, there was still a set time-limit intact, so each part is 5 minutes. But it's a quick jump to the next scene, no big deal. 

Go to this website to watch the episodes, find other links, there's even a Yahoo group I just joined. I found some of the pictures I used from there. (There are some dead links because geocities doesn't exist-boo!) and just click around to get some more general information.


At the very least, watch the Pilot movie. I LOVED it! You may be instantly hooked on the enigma of the brilliant Austin James and the dry humored manner in which Parker plays him. It seemed to be a tailor made role and one of his very best.