Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Happy Birthday, Bugs Bunny!

April 30, 1938 heralded the debut appearance of the rabbit that would eventually become Bugs Bunny in the cartoon, "Porky's Hare Hunt." His official debut as Bugs, and not as "Happy Rabbit" or as this unnamed rabbit co-star of Porky Pig was three more cartoons later, on July 27, 1940 in "A Wild Hare." So just like a lot of the greats of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Bugs Bunny has two birthdays!
"Porky's Hare Hunt" (1938)
When I was a kid growing up watching Saturday Morning Cartoons I absolutely LOVED Bugs Bunny and the Warner Bros cartoons. As an adult people have asked that personality question, "Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny?" To me the answer will always be Bugs Bunny. It's not that I don't love Mickey Mouse, too, but as a kid Mickey wasn't around. I wasn't around to watch the original Mickey Mouse Club and too old to watch the second version. I never even heard of the third one until recently! No, to me the cartoon legend that I watched on TV was Bugs Bunny, the one and only.

Bugs Bunny had a hugely successful Hollywood run, from his smashing debut(s) in 1938/1940 up until the post-war Fifties. By the time television was cutting into film's profits Bugs had made more than 100 cartoons. Of those he was nominated for several Academy Awards and won one. He made his last original Merrie Melody in 1964; by that time he had already made his debut on the Boob Tube. In 1960 he was the headliner on Warner Bros' new TV show, The Bugs Bunny Show. He and his pals were on TV for the next 40 years without a break!

So to celebrate the old gray hare, here's the color version of the Bugs Bunny show, a tune I have in my head after oh-so-many watchings.

And as an extra added bonus, here's Bugs' Academy Award winning short,  Knighty Knight Bugs from 1958.


So, what did you think?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Happy Birthday, Duke Ellington!

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was born on August 29, 1899. By the 1920s he was an accomplished composer, and by the 1930s he was an accomplished band-leader. He called his music "American Music," instead of jazz, and for his entire life he refused to be categorized.

If you have not heard any Duke Ellington music, you owe it to yourself to go to the local library or music store and get your hands on something. I can't begin to explain how great he was; you will have to hear him for yourself. You will not be disappointed.

Happy Birthday, Duke Ellington!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Encyclopedia Brown Turns Fifty!

I first met Encyclopedia Brown when I was in elementary school. From a young age I would read anything and everything; then as now I would frequent my library on a regular basis. It was even better when I was a kid because I had a library right there in the school building! I don't remember if my school librarian Mrs. Shenberg introduced me to the Encyclopedia Brown mystery series or not, but I do remember trying to track down each of the books in the series to match my wits against his.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Ken-Bun-Ki "Hero"

 Note: "Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki" is a series of articles I wrote for my Japanese City Hall newsletter back in 1996-97. They were articles about life in America or life in Japan as experienced by an American. This one is from May 8, 1997. 

"Who is your hero?"
This question is used often in American elementary school English class assignments. It's very popular. "Who do you respect? Why do you respect them?" This type of homework question was asked probably once every year for my twelve years of school.

Elementary school students write about fantastic characters or heroes from their favorite stories. Boys write about characters like Batman or Tom Sawyer; girls respect characters like Nancy Drew or Cinderella. Junior high school students usually write about famous people. For example, President Lincoln or Helen Keller, or more recent choices like professional basketball players such as Michael Jordan are all popular choices to this age group. Everyone wants to grow up to become somebody like the people they respect. High school and college students write about people they actually know or people around them. For example, they write about their grandfather fighting a disease, or a friend confined to a wheelchair, or a friend who is putting himself through college because his family is too poor to send him. At this age, the people we (Americans) respect are the people we know who are working and doing their best against terrible odds.

In Japanese there are various levels of polite and honorific speech. In English there really are no special vocabulary words that automatically show respect ("Would you...?" is better and shows more respect than "Will you...?" but that type of example is about the extent of English "honorifics.") However, this doesn't mean that we do not have respect for people. Each American has his/her own heroes.

As for my heroes, all of the names mentioned in this article are my heroes. I respect those people who overcome life's adversity and live their own lives. Who is YOUR hero?

This is the last installment of Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki, which has been published for approximately one year. Were you able to understand different cultures or different ideas? It's natural that people's opinions and ways of thinking are different. "Internal relations" means looking at others as well as yourself. It begins with knowing your own country and town.

Thank you!

Well, that was the last official "Russell Ken-Bun-Ki" article. I always wrote my articles a week or two before the intended published date because the editing, type-setting, and publishing efforts took so much time. I had written this sometime at the end of March, before I had gotten the word that the Mayor or whomever had decided to "cancel" me. My editor (who was my wife, Yuko) had already prepared this one, too, and knew it was a good one. So a month after the new fiscal year had started in April, my column ended on May 8.
I never got an official word as to why it was cancelled. "We are going in another direction" was all I ever got, kind of conversationally and kind of "please don't ask me..." So I let it drop. After all, writing these things was fun, but it was work. For the rest of my time in Miyazaki (I left four years later) various people would come up to me and tell me their favorite columns or the ones they disagreed with me on or what have you. So....I'm immensely proud of them, which is why I wanted to get them out there.
By the way, I hereby reject something I wrote here sixteen years ago. In my opinion athletes are not "heroes." I think it's become much more clear over the past 15 years or so that they and actors and comedians etc are not "heroes" whatsoever.
This article is the last official column. However, next week I will present for the first time anywhere the only "Russell Ken-Bun-Ki" article to ever be censored and rejected for publication by the Assistant Mayor of my town.

Happy Birthday, Carol Burnett!

Carol Burnett is most famous for her classic television variety series, which ran from 1967-1978. However, she also appeared in several motion pictures, which means that because today is Film Friday we are going to celebrate her birthday. Today she is 80 years old.

The movie Burnett is probably most well-known for is Annie, from 1982. She plays the evil Miss Hanigan, the woman who tries to cheat young Little Orphan Annie out of her happiness. She has one of the best lines in the movie: "Why anybody would want to be an orphan is beyond me." I always thought of her portrayal as being similar to her "Eunice" character from her television show: an unhappy person who basically means well but who lashes out when cornered.

Another film that is worth seeing is Noises Off from 1992. This is a famous British comedy play about an off-off-Broadway show and the hilarity that ensues both in front of and in back of the stage curtain. The show is much funnier but the movie has many funny moments. Burnett plays the lead actress playing the house-keeper; as she begins to suspect that her husband and co-star in the play is cheating on her, things get vindictive pretty quickly.

Burnett also appeared with Alan Alda in the serious comedy, The Four Seasons (1981). I hate to say this, but I was tired of Alda by this point and did not enjoy anything with him in it (not even MASH by this point, sorry!). So I never saw this. While doing research for this article I read a description of the story and it sounds like typical Alan Alda DRAMA with a capital "d." No, thanks.

Another famous film she appeared in was her first serious role, the mother of a son killed accidentally in Friendly Fire (1979). I remember watching this either then or later and being struck by just how talented Carol Burnett was.

Carol Burnett is an awesomely talented actress/comedienne and it is my pleasure to add my wishes to her special day.

Happy Birthday, Carol Burnett!


 co-starring Michael Caine, John Ritter, Christopher Reeve,
and Denholm Elliot in his last role

 co-starring Ned Beatty and Sam Waterston

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Magnificent Seven: The Justice League of America

If an editorial edict came down mandating that only seven members could remain in the Justice League of America, who would your choices be? Personally, I am not choosing any of the all-powerful members like Superman, Martian Manhunter, and Firestorm. Why? Because in my opinion none of them need to team-up with anybody else. If you can move a planet out of its orbit or alter a nuclear bomb into a daisy, you really don't need to team-up with anyone. Also, I haven't included Batman, who as a character works well with all the other super-heroes but as a team-mate doesn't bring anything that other characters wouldn't already cover.

The Magnificent Seven Justice League of America
in order of their original joining-up

I will probably get hate mail for this one, but let's face it: Aquaman has super-strength at a reasonable level (weaker than Wonder Woman but stronger than Batman), so if we want actual team-work to occur Aquaman is our guy. In his current series it's been shown that he is nearly bullet-proof and can also leap over buildings in single bounds. Personally, I would like to see him portrayed as similar to Marvel's Captain America or Namor the Sub-Mariner: no slouches in the power department. Besides, the Earth is mostly water. When aliens attack the oceans are going to have to be involved. Aquaman is in.

Not only is The Flash fast enough to atten all meetings and fight all the bad guys and then still return to his secret identity with time to spare, Barry Allen (and then Wally West) were both fun personalities to have around. As long as he is not portrayed as extra-super-ultra fast so that he can do absolutely anything, he's a great character. And I don't know if it's just me, but I always thought The Flash was one of those characters who works better in a group than on his own.

I don't really care if it's Hal, John, Kyle, or even Guy; the Justice League needs a member of the Green Lantern Corps on its roster. They need the power and the window to all sorts of space opera that a cosmic policeman would bring to the series. As for which one to use; each of these characters brings something different to the group dynamic. I was a die-hard Hal Jordan fan for my first years, but in the past 20 years or so I've very thoroughly joined the John Stewart camp. Guy Gardner is better as an antagonist, and not really appropriate to The World's Greatest Super-Heroes.

I would include Wonder Woman in the mix for some of the same reasons I included Aquaman: she is strong but not in Superman's range, so would logically need help from time to time. Similarly to the Flash she's a very dynamic and exciting character but somehow more interesting when playing with others rather than out on her own. I want to like Wonder Woman, but I just can't read her solo series. I love her on Super Friends and in the Justice League, however.

Each group needs a bit of "personality," and as he has been portrayed for nearly 50 years Oliver Queen has personality to spare. Plus without spotlight-hog Batman around, he can also function as the "stand back and plan" tactician type guy. Because, really, an archer works best when he has his eyes on the overall situation, not leading the charge.

Black Canary is one of the first "legacy" characters: her parents were crime-fighters and she grew up being watched over by their friends the Justice Society. She is an awesome hand-to-hand combatant, and her sonic powers (when handled correctly) are formidable. The fact that she's got long blonde hair and fishnet stockings in her costume is just a bonus.

The last spot is always the hardest to fill because each of the remaining candidates bring something different to the group, changing the dynamic of the series. If I went with The Atom the series would have more of a scientific slant. If I went with The Elongated Man stories would tend more towards the comedic side. If I went with Red Tornado, his ongoing effort to come to grips with his own type of humanity would definitely be part of the series. And if I chose Zatanna then the series would have a permanent link to sorcery. Obviously, in the end I chose Hawkwoman. Shayera Thol can lead the stories into both science fiction space opera as well as straight super-heroic action, and also into mysteries and horror. And instead of her husband, who could be a supporting character if the writer was so inclined, having Hawkwoman as a member gives us three female members in the group. Plus I would like to know if her political views are as conservative as her husband's; if so, she and Green Arrow can get into the same type of arguments that he and her husband used to get into.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

HB Lee Majors & Valerie Bertinelli!

When I was a kid growing up in the Seventies I had a few favorite TV shows that I loved to watch. The stars of two of my favorites actually share a birthday today, so I want to talk a little bit about Lee Majors and Valerie Bertinelli.

The Six Million Dollar Man ran from 1973-1978 with Lee Majors as Col. Steve Austin, an astronaut who crashes during a military exercise and is given bionic legs, arm, and eye in a top-secret experimental procedure. He then becomes America's top secret agent, using his super-human abilities to fight crime and to protect US security. Sometimes the stories were hokey, but in general they were played straight, especially at the beginning. Lee Majors made Steve a likeable fellow and the series was a big hit. I think it hit its zenith when it introduced The Bionic Woman, a love interest of Steve's who also suffers a crash. However, her body or mind rejects the bionic transplants. In a desperate attempt to save her life the doctors try an experimental procedure on her nervous system. She is saved, but somehow she loses her immediate memories, including the knowledge that she was in love with Steve. So he had to let her go, and Lee Majors made the melodrama work so well that I can remember the story nearly forty years later.

Unfortunately, after the introduction of The Bionic Woman the show went downward fast. Because she was so popular (she got her own series in 1976) the producers brought in a bionic dog and even a bionic Bigfoot. At this point the series was hopeless and I stopped watching.

Only later did I come across re-runs of The Big Valley, which also featured Lee Majors. We can talk about that show at some other time.

At about the time I stopped watching The Six Million Dollar Man (by the way, do you remember when that amount was actually pretty high? Now it's a bargain!) One Day At A Time made its debut. It ran from 1975-1984 and centered around Bonnie Franklin as a divorced mother. I wasn't much of a fan of her, but I did like her 15 year-old daughter Barbara, played by Valerie Bertinelli. She was adorable! For a few years I just watched it for her (and the comic antics of Pat Harrington as Schneider the apartment superintendent).
I think my favorite years were the second or third when she had a nerdy best-friend who wasn't her boyfriend. Pretty quickly she became a hot young woman, but the show was no longer interesting to me. I was graduating from high school, going to Japan, and going to college, so I never saw Touched By An Angel or anything else with her in it. She will always be one of my early TV crushes. 

Happy Birthday Lee Majors!
Happy Birthday Valerie Bertinelli!



Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Birthday, Eddie Albert!

Eddie Albert was a 2-time Academy Award nominated actor who did comedy and drama, but will probably be best remembered as Oliver Wendall Douglas on Green Acres from 1967-1971. His role was that of a never-satisfied always-cranky big city lawyer looking to get back to nature by running a farm. Somehow, he still managed to be a sympathetic character. Very seldom was Mr. Douglas an out-right unlikeable character, and I believe that was due in equal parts to the writers and to the acting skill of Eddie Albert.

A few years later he appeared opposite Robert Wagner in a "The Sting"-inspired show called, Switch 1975-1978 where they played cons against criminals in the pursuit of justice. Albert was again the hot-head matched with Wagner's suave debonair charm. Add in perky Sharon Gless (a few years before Cagney & Lacey brought her to fame) and you had a fun show.

Albert appeared in the Green Acres reunion special, Return To Green Acres in 1990 when he was 84 years old. Today would have been his 107th birthday. He died in 2005 when he was 99 years old.

The song "Green Acres" was written by composer Vic Mizzy, who wrote pop hits during the Thirties through the Fifties for groups like The Andrews Sisters and The Mills Brothers. This one-minute ditty, sung by Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor, is probably his best known song; it's the only one I recognized on his list of song titles, anyway. Well, except for another very famous TV theme song: Mr. Mizzy also wrote "The Addams Family" theme! 

Friday, April 19, 2013

National Library Week: Friday Film Books

To mark National Library Week, this week I am writing about some of my favorite books in my chosen topics: Monday Music, TV Tuesday, Wednesday Comics, and Film Fridays. Today being Friday, it's time to wrap this week up with some talk about Hollywood!  
TARZAN of the Movies by Gabe Essoe
I remember reading this book back in the 70s when I was confused as to whether Tarzan was "really" Johnny Weismuller or Ron Ely. Since that time, even with all of the additional Tarzans (most famously one from Walt Disney; who thought *that* would ever happen?), this book still seems to be the best explanation of how & why Edgar Rice Burroughs' creation made it to the screen.
And you gotta love the title: it's a "play" on the old Tarzan books and movies themselves, and actually represents truthfully what this "new" character was: none of them were "faithful" to the book, but that didn't necessarily make them bad. And by the way, if you have never seen any Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movies, I suggest the second one, I want to say (from memory) that it is "Tarzan And His Mate" but I could be wrong. The first one is good, but the second one is where he and Maureen O'Sullivan (Mia Farrow's mother) really hit their stride.  
The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
This is not a book about the movie (or the book) but the novel itself. It was published in January 1934, mere months before the movie of the same name came out featuring William Powell and Myrna Loy. By this time Dashieel Hammett was already working in Hollywood as a screenwriter and he sold the option of the story before it was actually published. Because of the close timing of the publication of the book and the release of the movie, the characters are almost indelibly linked to Powell and Loy. I read the book long after I had seen most of the movies in the series, so in my mind while I was reading this I was seeing and hearing Powell and Loy. It's a grand "novelization" of the story and a heckuva mystery, to boot.
That thin man on the cover? It's Dashiell Hammett himself, who unfortunately never wrote another book. He died within a few years of this being published.
BUGS BUNNY: 50 Years And Only One Grey Hare
Who doesn't love Bugs Bunny? As a kid there were two schools: Mickey Mouse Fans, and Bugs Bunny fans. I was always a Bugs man.
This book explains his (rather convoluted) origins as well as his Academy Award-winning film history and then his re-emergence on television. My favorite section is the one about all of his various adversaries. I always liked Elmer Fudd more than I liked Yosemite Sam, but I do admit that Sam as a pirate or politician or a shiek was pretty funny. My favorite was Wile E. Coyote, guest-starring on leave from a Road Runner cartoon, and the mountain lion with the lisp. And the Tazmanian Devil, of course.
The Wizard of OZ
The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History
I have read an actual book about the making of the picture, but the details and factoids threaten to drown the wonder and magic. This book, on the other hand, is the perfect mix of facts (Buddy Ebsen was going to be the Scarecrow, then switched to the Tin Man but was allergic to the silver makeup; it almost killed him) and photos. Am I aging myself by pointing out that this is the 50th anniversary edition, and yet there is now a 75th anniversary edition out? Gee whillikers!  

2004 Movie & Video Guide by Leonard Maltin
My friend Greg gave this to me a few years ago and I have used it ever since to mostly research movies I have never heard of! "Marie Antoinnette" starring Norma Shearer? Check. The films of Sidney Poitier? Check. The minutiae available can be mind-boggling, but on the other hand you open this up and you can lose yourself reading about all sorts of movies you never knew existed.  
The Academy Awards: Special Commemorative Edition
This is a book I happened upon during a trip back to Japan. It features two or four pages on every Academy Award year from the first (1928) through 2003. It also features the nominees and other notable winners like songs and the Japanese films that won Best Foreign Film. Of course, it's all in Japanese, too, so I can tell you such bits of trivia as "The Runner On Fire" is the Japanese title for "Chariots of Fire."  It's a well-organized and easy-to-read book (easy for me, anyway, haha) with plenty of photos and all the information that I could possibly need in chronological order.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

National Library Week: Wednesday Comic Book Books

To mark National Library Week, this week I am writing about some of my favorite books in my chosen topics: Monday Music, TV Tuesday, Wednesday Comics, and Film Fridays. Today being Wednesday, let's talk about some of my favorite books about comics. 
I'm sorry to say I don't know who wrote this book, as I no longer have it! :-( I bought it sometime in the late 70s when I was a die-hard Avengers and Defenders fan. It filled in cracks in my knowledge regarding earlier issues of these two series. If you don't know who the Avengers are, what the hell are you doing HERE!? So I'll talk about The Defenders; they were another Marvel super-hero team, founded mostly so that The Hulk could appear in another series. He started out as an Avenger but that didn't work out. Teamed up with other so-called "rebels" Doctor Strange and Namor the Sub-Mariner he found friendship. And Marvel found another hit series.
This book featured a photo of the cover of each issue, a credit about who worked on it, and a plot synopsis. It was quite fun to try to imagine these early issues, which to this day I haven't taken the time and money to track down.
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES by Paul Levitz & Steve Crow
Although this book is ostensibly a Role Playing Reference, because it was written by then-LSH writer Paul Levitz its history and character profiles are actually canon. The history of the Legion, for example, is a hugely helpful timeline of who did what when. And if there ever needed to be a guide to a group's members, the Legion is it! They are profiled chronologically in the order that they appeared and joined the Legion  (again, ostensibly so that you could pick which characters you want to use in your game). I bought this right before I went back to Japan to live, and in lieu of new comics this was a god-send.

For several years I didn't have any new comic-book books. I was in Japan, and if I could get real comics I was happy. I did read a few books about "manga" or Japanese comics, but none of them really made any deep impression on me. I did read Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy and many many many others) and Kenji Nakazawa (Barefoot Gen) but those were the comics, not books about them.
When I finally got back to the US I was again more interested in reading actual comics and not books about comics. Until I got to these few treasures....
The Legion Companion by Glen Cadigan
It was a good day when I discovered Two-Morrows Publishing. They write books about comics, and they do a very good job at it. They have biographies and profiles on artists and writers as well as a series of "Companion" guides, of which I have bought three. The first I found was dedicated to the Legion of Super-Heroes. If you are not a Legion fan, you probably will not understand the appeal, but this is a group that started out as a throw-away idea in some otherwise non-descript Superboy story then went on to become one of DC's greatest teams ever. That is quite the accomplishment, and with a history of more than 50 years there is a lot of space to cover.
This book is based on the behind-the-scenes stuff. So with the previous book telling us what happened during the year that Invisible Kid was the leader, this book tells us why Jim Shooter stopped writing the series and the editor replaced it with Supergirl. Interesting stuff for those of us who love these characters.  Plus the book features dozens and dozens of sketches and never-before-seen art by a legion of Legion artists. That's the good stuff!
Teenagers From The Future edited by Timothy Callahan
This time, it's an obscure book written *about* the Legion and their universe. I happened to find this  in a comic-book store in my original home town of University City, Missouri when I was there visiting family. (Shout out to the Star Clipper in The Loop!) There are more than a dozen chapters in this book with such titles as The Death and Resurrection of Lightning Lad, Women in the Early Legioin, Gender Identity & Homosexuality in the Legion, and The Racial Politics of the Legion. If you don't know the Legion (see note above) then you won't understand just how cool it is to read what others have to say about whether Element Lad is gay or why the second Invisible Kid is not a strong black man.

1000 Comic Books You Must Read by Tony Isabella
Full disclosure: I have met the author of this book and he is a helluva nice guy.
Still, that being said, I think that this book is probably the best historical overview of the comic-book industry. Almost all of the other books you can find are just about DC or just about Marvel or whatever; this book highlights the books that you should know if you're going to call yourself a comic-book fan. Obviously, most of them are before my time. Still, there are quite a few that I have, I have read, or that I have heard of (For example, I'm not a big horror guy, so although I was aware of Marvel's Dracula and Ghost Rider series, I never bought them.) Tony breaks them up by decades and once we get into the 80s and 90s and beyond there are plenty of books here that I would like to track down. In fact, I need to get this off the shelf and roam through my library to see if I can find any new collections to read.  

Walt Kelly The Life & Times of The Creator of POGO
by Thomas Andrae & Carsten Laqua
Wow, that's quite a mouthful of a title for such a little character! If you are not familiar with Walt Kelly's adorable (but quite political) comic-strip POGO, you owe it to yourself to go to your local library and check out something about him. This is brand new from 2012 so your library may not have this, but there should be POGO-phile or I GO POGO or other titles available. This one is an in-depth examination of Mr. Kelly himself, from his artistic work in high school to his initial career at Walt Disney to his comic-book work (he did OUR GANG/LITTLE RASCALS the comic-book) to his classic comic strip. It's fun and historically interesting stuff, so I heartily recommend it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

National Library Week: TV Tuesday Books

To mark National Library Week, this week I am writing about some of my favorite books in my chosen topics: Monday Music, TV Tuesday, Wednesday Comics, and Film Fridays. Today being Tuesday, let's talk about some of my favorite books about television. 

MASH by David Reiss
This wonderful show ended when I was in high school. At the time there were a few resource books printed to take advantage of all of the hoopla. This one is a trade paperback that was originally published in 1981. It was then revised two years later to include the last season and a half. It features biographies of all of the actors plus interviews with all of them AND profiles of their characters. Also there are episode guides for all 11 seasons. The only drawback to the book and it is minor is that all of the photographs included are in black and white. Still, as a resource on the cast and episodes it is hard to beat. 

Similarly, The Complete Book of MASH came out at about the same time. Most of their photographs are in color, but the information is not as in-depth as the earlier book. Whereas MASH went chronologically and alphabetically, Complete Book of MASH  is kind of all over the place. It has more in-depth episode guides, but doesn't list the writers and directors of each. So it's not a bad reference book, but although it is prettier, compared to the other MASH book it is not as good.   

THE AVENGERS by Dave Rogers
When I was in college I bought my comic-books at a used bookstore a few blocks from my campus. There I found this gem, a history of one of the greatest spy series ever. This is where I found out that the show originally starred another British actor and, oh yeah, some guy named Patrick Macnee. Partly by accident and partly by serendipity, the show became a huge popular culture touch-stone.

FANTASTIC TELEVISION by Gary Gerani & Paul Schulman
On another trip to buy comics in college I came across this book. At first I didn't know what to make of it; it features mini-histories of many television series as you can see here: I Dream of Jeannie (?), Batman, The Avengers, Outer Limits (I think?), Superman, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone (or is it The Night Gallery?), Space: 1999, and Six Million Dollar Man. At this time there wasn't a Twilight Zone book, so episode guides of that show was worth the price of admission! Plus at the time I didn't have a Batman book, either, so that was cool to read about them. But the greatest part of this book was the Irwin Allen section: Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, The Time Tunnel, Lost In Space, and the Land Of The Giants. This was before the LOST IN SPACE movie created a mini-boom in LiS merchandise, so for years this was my go-to reference for that show. I think it was the first time I had every read that Irwin Allen's shows were not very good. I think I *knew* that already, but it's something else to actually read it on a page. Still, the depth of content mixed with the fun photos make this one of my favorites.

The Star Trek Compendium by  Allan Asherman
I actually came across the ST:NG Companion by Larry Nemerek first; this was when I was still living in Japan and would buy books during trips back to the US. That would have been when the show ST:NG was still on the air. Even today, I have yet to see all of their episodes. So buying that book was a good way for me to see the "overall" picture of that series. It also helped me to realize that the Original Series version also existed. So although I did read ST:NG, I didn't read it as a reference as so much as a guide. The Star Trek Compendium on the other hand lists guest-stars, plots, and interviews that reference the 79 episodes and the movies. Although there have been an almost infinite number of Star Trek books, this one is still one of the best. 

Growing Up Brady by Barry Williams
I got this book while I was still living in Japan. I can't remember if my sister or someone sent it to me, or if I found it myself. Either way, I devoured it because I grew up on The Brady Bunch. It was definitely my favorite show as a kid. I had crushes on Marsha and then Jan, and I wanted my brother to be like Peter or Bobby. It was fun to read about the back-stage stories from "Greg" himself. This was just before Robert Reed died; I had no idea that he had been gay or that he was dying. I didn't watch the more recent Brady Bunch movies because I couldn't tell if they were making fun of the show or paying it homage; either way, I'd rather just watch another episode.

When my daughter came to live in the States, The Brady Bunch was one of her favorite shows, too.

The Official Batman Bat-Book by Joel Eisner
This is another one of those books that I purchased during a trip back to the States while I was still living in Japan. I think I must have found it during the Michael Keaton BATMAN movie hype era; I don't remember. The spine is cracked and broken now from reading it too much! 
The book starts off explaining how the show got started, then talks about the first season, the movie (yes, there was a BATMAN movie, in 1966) and all the cool gadgets made for it, the less-than-stellar second season, and then the third season with (sigh) Batgirl (Yvonne Craig).
I will have you know that I was not SUCH a Batman geek that I could answer ANY of the trivia questions included here. So there. And the five-plus page list of all of Robin's "Holy (fill in the blank)" seemed excessive to me, too.
Total Television by Alex McNeil
Of all of the books here, this is the most "referential." This 1250 page tome lists any and all series that ever appeared on television, from the earliest shows in 1948 to the 1995 season. So, obviously, this is nearly 20 years behind the times now (!). Wow, I blew my own mind when I wrote that. Anyway, since most of the shows I write about are from waaay before 1995, this hasn't been a problem for me yet. I can tell you that DARK SHADOWS was on from 1966-1971, for example, or that THE WONDER YEARS won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1988.    

The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier by Patrick J. White
This is probably my favorite book on this list because as a kid growing up I wanted to WRITE this book. I used to keep a notebook where I would write up all of the "missions" I saw on television with an eye to combine them all into a huge collection. Congratulations to you, Patrick White, for  actually doing what I dreamt about doing!  

 The book itself starts with how the series was created (never meant to actually sell!) and then goes into detail about all of the different spies and the cast changes behind them. and of course, there are episode guides and explanations of the tricks and devices used throughout the show. What a fun book!
Here On Gilligan's Isle by Russell Johnson & Steve Cox
This is one of the first books I bought after I moved back to the States permanently. I don't know how or why I came across it, but I'm sure that when I did find it I snatched it up. As a kid growing up there were very VERY few "Russells" out there to use as role models or heroes, so I always had a small man-crush on The Professor. Besides, you can't argue that among an island of idiots he was by-far the smartest!

After I read this book I learned that Russell Johnson had a homepage and was selling autographed photographs. I immediately wrote to him and asked for one. About a week later I received the cast photo as shown here with the autograph, "From one Russell to another! Russell Johnson." I treasure it.