Monday, December 24, 2012

Jack Klugman 1922 - 2012

Klugman a game of pool I’m going to be honest here.  I saw many episodes of The Odd Couple, the TV series Klugman starred in with Tony Randall based on Neil Simon’s broadway play, but it was never must see television for me.  There’s probably more episodes I didn’t see then those that I did.  And if you asked me about any of them today I’d be hard pressed to give you a synopsis of any of them.  The Odd Couple  is not available for streaming on either Netflix or Amazon, so if I were to revisit the show now, it would mean either buying it outright or renting the discs of all five seasons one by one.  What I have discovered is that watching a series that ran many years by renting the discs is slow going.  Once I get into a series, I like to be able to watch  it at my leisure.  I became a huge fan of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and How I Met Your Mother because only because I was able to do this.  There’s just so many vintage shows I can afford to buy, and with most of them going to burn on demand at premium prices, collecting has become an expensive undertaking.

As for Quincy M.E., it is available for streaming on Netflix and has been in my queue for quite a while now so maybe I’ll make an effort to give it a try. 

But what I do remember about Jack Klugman is that he starred in four episodes of what I consider one of the top ten televison series of all time, The Twilight Zone.  Twilight Zone is one of those classic series that I do own in it’s entirety.  But even if I didn’t own them, I would still remember the Klugman episodes, which showcased how good of an actor he was even in the early sixties.   Each episode he starred in was some of the best of the series, and it’s hard to choose the best among the four.  These are my recommendations for essential Jack Klugman and I don’t think you can go wrong with these. The episodes are as follows:

1.  A Passage for Trumpet (1960) – Available for Streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Musician Joey Crown is down on his luck. A recovered alcoholic, he can't find work because no one trusts him. Broke, he hocks his trumpet but then steps in front of truck which knocks him onto the sidewalk. He awakens in a strange world where no one can see him and he presumes he's died. He eventually bumps into someone who can in fact see him, a fellow horn player who tells him that it's still within Joey's power to decide on life or death.

2.  A Game of Pool  (1961) – Available for Streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Jesse Cardiff is a frustrated pool player. He's very good at his game but his frustration comes from the fact that no matter how well he plays or how often he wins, onlookers always conclude that he's not as good as the late, great James Howard "Fats" Brown. He says he would give anything to have had the chance to play Fats and his wish comes true when the man himself suddenly appears. They agree to a game but Fats warns his eager opponent that winning has its consequences as well.

3.  Death Ship (1963) – Not available for Streaming on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

The Space Cruiser E-89 is on a mission to investigate new worlds and determine if they are suitable for colonization by Earth. The mission of the three man crew, composed of Captain Paul Ross, Lt. Ted Mason and Lt. Mike Carter, has been routine. But while investigating an apparently uninhabited world, Mason spots a metallic gleam in the landscape and conjectures that this might be a sign of alien life. The Cruiser prepares to land next to the mysterious object.  After landing, the men are astonished to find the wreckage of a ship exactly like their own.  This episode is part of Season Four.  None of the episodes from this season are available for streaming.

4.  In Praise of Pip (1963) – Available for Streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

In the early 1960's, small-time bookie Max Phillips (Jack Klugman) hates his life. His only pride is his son, Pip, then serving in the U.S. Armed Forces in Vietnam. When a young bettor uses company funds to bet with Max, then loses everything, Max returns his money, angering Max's bosses.

These are my recommendations for essential Jack Klugman and I don’t think you can go wrong with these.  You can read the TV Guide obituary here or watch the embedded video.


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