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Direct Beam Comms #42


The Exorcist – Grade: A-

To be honest, I’ve never seen the original 1973 film of The Exorcist. It was never one of those movies that turned up all that often “edited for TV” on the networks and for whatever reason I don’t ever remember seeing it on any of our pay cable channels we got either. Now I’m certain that I’ve seen parts and pieces of the movie over the years when I happened to catch it here and there. But I’m also very certain that I’ve never seen the movie from start to finish.

mv5bmtuznjg2odk5m15bml5banbnxkftztgwntiwotm3ote-_v1_sy1000_sx1500_al_And that may be why the new FOX The Exorcist TV series caught with me — I really don’t have anything else to compare it to.

This version of The Exorcist story takes place modern day in the same universe as the film — one of the priests of the show (Alfonso Herrera) sees a newspaper article mentioning the events of the film. In the TV version it’s Chicago and one of Angela Rance’s (Geena Davis) daughters has been behaving differently ever since the death of a friend. And ever since her daughter began behaving this way weird things have started happening around the house like voices inside the walls and weird shadows moving behind doors. Enter young Father Tomas Ortega (Herrera) who goes in and realizes he’s in over his head and isn’t even quite sure what’s happening and gets Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) who has experience in exorcisms to help.

And that’s pretty much where the first episode ends, well after a pretty big/interesting twist to the TV version. So it seems like the story of the TV The Exorcist will be of these two fathers fighting for the soul of Rance’s daughter while at the same time finding out that there’s more than one demon involved.

I really got a kick out of The Exorcist — even if it does fall into the trap of having the demons only affecting people who are already religious which doesn’t quite make sense. Isn’t evil equal opportunity?

I went into it not expecting much — it doesn’t pay to expect much out of new TV series. But I left The Exorcist liking it a lot with the show giving off a strong The Sixth Sense and The Mothman Prophecies vibe in a good way. The show is creepy enough with a few genuine scenes of horror — even if there’s a few scenes where things happen that don’t quite make sense logically other than they happened that way in order to make the scene scarier.

I’m genuinely excited to see where this one goes — with one caveat. I think what worked so well here is that it seems like the story of The Exorcist is going to play out over the course of a season which is great. But only if that season is something like 10 or 13 episode. I think if FOX tries to turn the story of The Exorcist into something more/longer it’s not going to work.

But for right now The Exorcist looks to be the best new show of the season so far.

Also, I realized watching The Exorcist that this is Davis second foray in starring in a remake of a horror classic. She also starred in the 1986 movie remake of The Fly.

Star Wars Rebels – Grade: B+

Star Wars Rebels

Star Wars Rebels

This third, and reportedly final season of Star Wars Rebels on DisneyXD jumps ahead a few years in time from the first two seasons. Here, Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) has matured from a young boy to a young man, and where he once had burgeoning Jedi powers now wields these same powers as an almost master.

The only problem is that without the guiding hand of Jedi Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.) Ezra is being lured by evil forces to serve the dark side.

The story complexity of Star Wars Rebels is surprisingly deep. This is much more than a simple action series where the good guys go and fight the bad guys. Instead, this is a show about what can happen to people fighting the good fight if they even take one step in the wrong direction. Like is Kanan’s decision to train Ezra as a Jedi which could possibly help bring down the Empire a good one, if it also means there’s a chance Ezra might instead be turned to bring down the Rebellion?

Now the rumor is that this is the final season of Star Wars Rebels since there’s a desire to rather than having a bridge show between the two film trilogies to instead have a new series focused on events around the new movies. Which is fine — it’s just a shame that Disney can’t find a few extra dollars in the billions that Star Wars is bringing in to support, I dunno, two Star Wars cartoons instead of just the one?

Just an idea. 😉

The Good Place – Grade: B

913084_770The premiere of the new show The Good Place debuted last week on NBC. It was billed as a comedy but after having watched the first three episodes that all ran last week I don’t think that The Good Place had many laughs — I think I chuckled a few times during the episodes. But what the show really is, is one of the darkest and most disturbing things on TV in the guise of a comedy which is actually kind’a interesting.

In The Good Place, Eleanor (Kristen Bell) is a newly deceased person who ends up in “the good place” where the good people go and not the “bad place” where everyone else ends up. Except it turns out that there was a mixup where Eleanor should’ve ended up in the bad place but instead wound up in the good place. And after Eleanor hears what it’s like in the bad place, which involves lots of screaming and loud noises, she wants to stay in the good place and enlists the help of her soul-mate Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper) to stay. Which means he’s got to try and make her a better person.

Except that every time Eleanor has a bad thought or does something not good it makes bad things happen in the good place — like trash being strewn everywhere or giant ladybugs attacking the city. So it’s a question of can Chidi reform Eleanor before the good place is destroyed by her, or should he turn her into the good place overseer Michael (Ted Danson) and save everyone else?

Much of the comedy of The Good Place is supposed to come from Eleanor doing bad things like getting drunk, being selfish and envying others. And there are flashbacks to Eleanor when she was alive doing those same sort of things. However, what she did when she was alive wasn’t all that bad — she litters in front of an environmentalist and sneaks off to have sex with a bartender when she’s supposed to be her group’s designated driver. She’s not bad, she’s just a self-centered jerk.

And I think that’s where the darkness of The Good Place comes from. In the mythology of The Good Place only the best of the best get in. New arrivals watch an orientation film of why they made it to the good place and it’s obvious that the vast majority of people on the Earth aren’t good enough to make it to the good place and go to the bad place instead.

I think what interested me the most about The Good Place was thinking about just how people get picked to go into the good or bad place? It seems like there’s some algorithmic based decision going on there — doing good things adds up in your favor and bad takes away, but doing really good things adds up more than just slightly good and vice versa — but who made the algorithm and who made the good place? Is it god who’s pulling the strings?

In certain ways The Good Place reminds me of the 1980s The Twilight Zone episode “Dead Run”. In so much as in that episode it turns out that god isn’t the one deciding who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, that’s the devil’s job. And he’ll take anyone who’s even sinned in the slightest taking nice old grandmas who had impure thoughts and murders alike.

And The Good Place feels very much like the mirror of “Dead Run,” except here it’s the story of the lucky very few who avoid going to the bad place.

Honestly, if The Good Place were more of a drama I’d think it’s the next Lost wondering just what’s going on with the behind the scenes mechanics of the good place and the mystery of how and why everyone got there and what the bad place is like. Is the good place some lie? Are the people living in the good place not actually in the good place?

But since The Good Place is a comedy and not a drama I highly doubt this is the case. I’d be pleasantly surprised if there were something more hiding in the depths of the story of The Good Place, but I won’t be surprised whatsoever if there isn’t.

Lethal Weapon – Grade: C+

This new FOX series based on the 1987 Lethal Weapon film is basically Lethal Weapon-lite by way of the movie Last Action Hero where every police chase is a HIGH-OCTANE chase and every police shootout is a HIGH-OCTANE shootout. And, if a good character is going to be shot it’s going to be in their shoulder so they’ll be able to be up and around that same day. The bright shining spot of the mostly “we’ve seen this all before” Lethal Weapon is Damon Wayans as Roger Murtaugh who plays the role with just enough cheese to make the first episode at least watchable. Clayne Crawford as Martin Riggs, on the other hand, starts off the episode with a thick southern accent which he somehow looses after the first ten minutes. His version of the Riggs character seems to prowl the depths of depression one minute, pining over a dead wife and child while drinking shots and almost playing Russian Roulette, and almost joyous the next.

I get that the Riggs character is supposed to be a loose cannon and suicidal, but in tone I’m not sure that the TV version of Riggs is there yet.

MacGyver – Grade: F

I just threw up in my mouth a little.


Passengers movie trailer

The rom-com-space-con?

Cool Sites

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This week in pop-culture history

  • 1951: Linda Hamilton of Terminator, Terminator 2 and the TV series Beauty and the Beast is born
  • 1952: Christopher Reeve, Superman, is born
  • 1968: Night of the Living Dead opens in theaters
  • 1985: The TV series Amazing Stories debuts
  • 1987: Star Trek: The Next Generation premiers
  • 2001: Star Trek: Enterprise premiers
  • 2005: Serenity opens in theaters

2016/17 TV Preview

New series

It’s been a long while since I can remember the last time I was as disinterested in the crop of new TV series that are set to start debuting on network TV this fall. Usually, there’s at least something I can look forward to, some series I can get excited about. But honestly this year looks like it’s going to be mostly a bust on the networks.

The Good Place

The Good Place

All that I’m looking forward to on network TV this fall is the comedy The Good Place on NBC starring Ted Danson and Kristen Bell about a woman that died and accidentally went to “the good place” rather than the hot one and Star Trek: Discovery on CBS. Though this sixth Trek TV series is set to only air once on CBS before it moves to their streaming service.

And there’s a few new shows I’m looking forward to on cable and streaming too, one of which is Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is on BBC America and is based on the Douglas Adams (The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) book of the same name. This new TV version of the Adams novel is being written and produced by Max Landis (Chronicle). On Netflix is Marvel’s Luke Cage that’s a sort’a spin-off of the Jessica Jones show about a man, Cage (Mike Colter) who’s super-strong with super-tough skin that brushes aside bullets who decides to clean up the streets of New York.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to scoff at on network TV next fall than to look forward to.

If the last few years the networks have been trying to turn as many come books into TV series as they could, then this year it’s all about turning once popular movies into TV series, or rebooting once popular past TV series into modern ones. Which I have no problem with, except that nothing I’ve seen from any of these new shows makes me thing that the networks have anything other than a bunch of creative duds on their hands.

Time After Time

Time After Time

Based on the movie of the same name, Time after Time on ABC features author H.G. Wells (Freddie Stroma) building a time machine in 1893 and traveling to present day 2016 New York City to find Jack the Ripper who’s also travelled to New York City in the same time machine. Convenient, ain’t it? If the movie version was a love story between Wells and a modern day woman, then the TV version seems to be setting the two up as a male/female investigative duo ala Castle, Blindspot, The Blacklist, etc., etc., etc.

Emerald City on NBC is the latest attempt at a network to create a TV version of the Wizard of Oz story that various channels have been trying to do since at least 2002. This version of the Oz story has Dorothy being swept off to a totally reimagined and harder version of Oz that seems to be a mashup of Game of Thrones and Once Upon a Time.

Fox has two shows based on movies set to premier this fall; The Exorcist and Lethal Weapon.

The Exorcist

The Exorcist

The Exorcist looks to be essentially the story of the novel/movie about a girl possessed by a demon — with a little bit of things like The Conjuring thrown in for good measure. My one question about The Exorcist is if the entire season will be about the girl’s possession, or if each episode will be about some other evil forces possessing some other poor souls? It doesn’t help matters that The Exorcist is the second “possession” series on TV with Outcast also about demonic forces already on Starz.

The TV version of Lethal Weapon seems to take the zanier elements of the movie from Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) having a death wish which makes him practically fearless and his older, world-weary partner Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans Sr.) who has to deal with Riggs and is “too old for this @#$%.” But somehow I’d imagine that if it does take the zanier elements of the Riggs character that it’s not going to use the movie version of him being suicidal and his substance abuse problems. You know, all the stuff that made him seem human and not some cartoon character.

Frequency on The CW, takes the elements of the 2000 movie where someone from the present, here Raimy Sullivan (Peyton List), is able to talk with their father from 20 years in the past via a ham radio. And because she’s able to send information to her father in the past she’s able to change events in her present. But if other time travel movies/TV series have taught us anything, it’s that meddling in the past will being about unintended consequences in the present/future. Time After Time should take note!



On CBS there’s a series based on the movie Training Day and one on the 1980s TV series MacGyver. Much like with the movie, the TV version of Training Day follows a young, idealistic police officer (Drew Van Acker) sent to spy on a seasoned, up to no good, “King Kong ain’t got [email protected]#$ on me” detective (Bill Paxton).

MacGyver (Lucas Till) is a younger take on the character but with the overall concept of the original series — solving crimes/rescuing people/stopping terrorists by making whatever’s needed with what’s on hand to get the job done — intact. I was a huge fan of the original MacGyver as a kid, but somehow I doubt that this middle-aged man is going to be a fan of this new version of the show.


Returning series



If new series this year look crummy at least there’s a slew of great and interesting shows to look forward to.

Out of the gate early this fall are ABC comedies The Goldbergs, black-ish and Fresh off the Boat. While black-ish and Fresh off the Boat get a lot of good press for their diversity and somewhat controversial storylines, I’m more concerned with whether or not the shows are funny or not and these are.

The Goldbergs and black-ish return September 21 and Fresh off the Boat October 11.

Ash vs. Evil Dead

Ash vs. Evil Dead

I was a huge fan of the Starz series Ash vs Evil Dead right up until the very end of the final episode of the first season when things kind’a fell off the rails. That series deals with sad-sack Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) who accidentally released evil spirits from the bound in human skin Book of the Dead. And in Ash vs Evil Dead it’s up to Ash and his two friends Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) to figure out a way to undo what he’s done.

The show was everything I’d ever wanted in an Evil Dead TV series with over-the-top action, comedy and lots of gore. But that ending, it was so out of tone with what had come the previous nine episodes that it really frustrated me. That being said, I’m ready for loads more wise-cracking Ash in a second season of Ash vs Evil Dead which starts back up September 23. As long as they do some ‘splaining about that ending I’ll be back for more gore!

Star Wars Rebels

Star Wars Rebels

Existing alongside the current film franchises, the animated Star Wars Rebels on Disney XD tells the story of what was going on in the galaxy when the evil Empire was consolidating power and trying to wipe a nascent rebellion out. The stories of Rebels can be surprisingly deep and emotional for a series we already know the end to. Hint — none of the characters of Rebels show up in Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope so… Star Wars Rebels returns September 24.

The British series Black Mirror is available on Netflix October 11. This anthology series that originally debuted back in 2001 that’s a bit like The Twilight Zone but updated for modern day originally didn’t have a series run here in the US until Netflix picked it up a few years ago. And boy am I glad they did — this show about what happens when technology and all its uses goes wrong is consistently one of the best things on TV. Black Mirror can be so intense that I’ve yet to be able to go back and watch old episodes again even though I loved them the first time around.

The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle

The alterna-history The Man in the High Castle returns to Amazon Prime December 16. I was surprised as to just how interesting a show High Castle was since I’d never really been interested in any of the other original Prime series. Here, it’s an early 1960s where Germany and Japan won the second world war and now occupy most of the planet, the US included. These two superpowers are engaging in a Cold War of sorts with what’s left of the US set to be the battleground for World War III. Except that events in the first season of High Castle reveal that this may just be one reality of many, one where the allies won the war (ours) and others where Germany or the Soviets won it all.

Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul

Another sci-fi series The Expanse returns to SyFy this January. Based on the book series Leviathan Wakes, The Expanse takes place in a future where mankind has colonized most of the solar system and has brought along all of the problems we have here on the Earth like racism, war, disease, hunger… But all this pales in comparison to what starts happening when something’s released on an asteroid outpost that threatens to consume all of humanity.

Also sometime in January a fourth season of the PBS series Sherlock is set to return with, I’m assuming, four new episodes. The series has been on since 2011 and has so far aired a paltry 13 episodes of TV. They may be “paltry” but they’re also darn good!

And the show I’m looking forward to most returning next season is Better Call Saul on AMC, the third series about how lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) goes from a guy trying to go good to someone who’d have people killed if it would earn him any money which is set to debut sometime early next year.

Star Wars Rebels season 3 poster


Direct Beam Comms #32


Stranger Things Grade: A

strangerthings_promotionalstill.0.0The new series Stranger Things debuted on Netflix last Friday (July 15) and currently all episode are available to stream.

It’s 1983 and something’s not right in the town of Hawkins, Indiana. Outside of town sits a government installation out of which something has escaped. This thing found young Will (Noah Schnapp) riding home from a game of Dungeons & Dragons one night and stole him away leaving Will’s mother (Winona Ryder), the town police and Will’s friends searching for him.

Also escaped from the installation is a seemingly normal girl only known as “Eleven” (Millie Bobby Brown) from the tattoo on her arm who can do weird things like affect electrical appliances around her and has agents after her led by Dr. Benner (Matthew Modine) who’s willing to kill anyone who gets in his way if it means getting the girl back.

So far Netflix has promoted Stranger Things as a sort of TV version of Steven Spielberg’s movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extraterrestrial and Spielberg produced Poltergeist. And while Stranger Things does borrow elements from this period in Spielberg’s career I’d say that Stranger Things takes more from the work of the other pop-culture titan of the 1980s: Stephen King. Well, King by way of straight to VHS horror films mixed with a pulsating synth keyboard driven soundtrack.

Part of Stranger Things were scary. Really scary.

stranger-thingsIn the beginning of the first episode when young Will’s being chased by the something I can only described as a human-looking shape, I found the hairs on the back of my neck standing at attention. And at another part of the show when Winona Ryder’s character gets a weird phone call I took a breath so that I could hear every creepy thing emanating from the receiver.

That’s not to say that Stranger Things is strictly a horror series, though if I had to peg it in one genera I’d peg it squarely there. It also has elements of sci-fi and a definite sense of nostalgia for the early 1980s and young geek life before video games and the internet changed everything. But it’s not simply some nostalgia throw-back series.

Stranger Things is a show that’s set in the early 1980s but it’s not something that’s defined by that. The series could easily be set present day or the 1960s and would work just as well.

I wasn’t quite the age of the 1983 middle schoolers in Stranger Things but having grown up in Indiana the series gets a lot of what it was like in small town life back then pre-cable. Adults are really into basketball and you may get to watch your favorite show that night or the TV might be on the “fritz” and you might not. If you wanted to talk to your friends and you didn’t want to call their home phone letting the parents know what’s up you had to be creative. And if you were a geek the details in pop-culture matter. In the first episode two characters get into a fight over whether the Mirkwood was in The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings which really struck home for me. The details matter to a pre-teen pop-culture junkie, even the seemingly inconsequential ones.

After having watched the first episode the only negative I can see with Stranger Things is that it’s going to be hard — REALLY HARD — to only watch one episode of this series a week and not blow through all eight in a packed Saturday.

The Bureau aka Le Bureau des Légendes Grade: B+

THE-BUREAU-5-1200x520This French series that’s available on iTunes, the first episode of which is free, is an interesting show about spies that feels a bit like the classic British drama The Sandbaggers.

In The Bureau, French operative Guillaume (Mathieu Kassovitz) has returned home to France after eight years abroad on assignment for the DGSE (the French CIA) in Syria. He tells his teenage daughter, with whom he’s trying to rebuild his relationship with, that his job was to “make friends” of certain people and glean any information that might be useful to France from what they might say. He was less James Bond than someone looking to score a little intel for his side. But in Syria he made one mistake; it wasn’t falling in love with a Syrian national, it was lying about ending the relationship to his superiors.

Back home in France things are in a bit of a disarray at the DGSE where one of their operatives has gone missing also in Syria which might act as a domino and bring own several other operations he knew about. At the same time Guillaume, who’s now working as a case officer inside the DGSE, finds out that his love from Syria is also in France attending school. Which begs the question — is Guillaume being played by the other side?

It took a bit for The Bureau to get going in the first episode, and even when it did “get going” it was a slow, but satisfying burn. Here, the agents are less using secret gadgets, gambling at casinos and drinking martinis and more just getting close to important people to glean even the tiniest detail that might somehow be beneficial to France as a whole. But even if their job isn’t like James Bond’s, it’s just as dangerous as since capture of a DGSE agent outside of France might mean death.

And like I said it’s the slow burn, the bureaucracy of governmental work and the life and death stakes of the characters that reminded me somewhat of The Sandbaggers. Though admittedly by the looks of it the budget of an entire season of The Sandbaggers probably wouldn’t cover one episode of The Bureau. 😉

My only quibble with the series is that it’s not easily available here in the US. Overseas in the UK it’s apparently available on Amazon Prime but here it’s only out on iTunes. Which means if I want to watch the rest of the first season it’s going to cost me $20.

So, it looks like I’m going to be out of $20 in the near future.

Star Wars Rebels season 3 preview


Star Wars: Rogue One “Sizzle Reel”

Cool Sites

Saturday Morning Cartoons: “A collection of Saturday Morning (or Saturday-Morning-Like) cartoons and animated episodes.”

The Reading List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1984: The NeverEnding Story premiers in theaters
  • 1985: Day of the Dead premiers in theaters
  • 1986: Aliens opens in theaters
  • 1996: The Frighteners opens in theaters

Direct Beam Comms #17


Star Wars Rebels

221-ep-gallery-45_4132c032The second season of the wonderful Star Wars Rebels animated series wrapped up last week on Disney XD. I’ve enjoyed this show since the first season and really appreciate how the creators of Star Wars Rebels have been using design elements that were created, but never used, for the original Star Wars trilogy. While this is a series seemingly directed towards children, see “animated” and “Disney,” non-the-less at times the stories of Star Wars Rebels have had a depth not present in most other series being produced these days.

Taking place before Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, Star Wars Rebels follows the crew of the ship the “Ghost” who are smugglers by day and proto-rebels by night. It’s sort’a equal parts Firefly and Star Wars in that respect. But Star Wars Rebels also deals with all sorts of interesting ideas like if droids served in the rebellion, would they see themselves as veterans? And most importantly, how does Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.) train his apprentice Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) without Bridger being lured to the dark side?

Plus there’s a young Darth Vader (no joke, voiced by Darth Vader himself James Earl Jones) who’s not quite as in-charge as he is in later years, called in almost like a relief pitcher in baseball when the lower “Inquisitors” can’t get the job done against the rebels.

In fact, I catch myself from time to time wondering why some episodes of Star Wars Rebels are more action oriented than story and plot oriented as so many episodes are. Then I have to remind myself; obvstentively Star Wars Rebels is a cartoon for kids. All the extra stuff that I love about the show is just an added benefit that most other animated series don’t bother with. A-


Art of Euclase

Art of Euclase

The artist Euclase does some amazing Photoshop paintings featuring pop-culture figures like Tron, Furiosa and Riddick to name a very few. Her art is simply amazing and drool-worthy. Euclase’s work is, IMHO, in the same realm of that of the great James Bama.


Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

So Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released two weeks ago and did great at the box office. It received terrible reviews across the board but non-the-less the film broke all kinds of records and earned something like more than $460 million at the box office world-wide with $181 from the US alone on opening weekend. To put that number into perspective, Avengers: Age of Ultron earned $191 million its first weekend here in the US and went onto gross more than $1.4 billion worldwide.*

What does this mean for the comic book movies overall?

First, along with Deadpool which was R-rated and has made more than $600 million at the box office and will surly make loads more on home media, there’s no one way to make a superhero movie. Studios don’t have to follow the “Marvel Method;” or bright, shiny and poppy, in order to make a movie audiences are willing to see. If Marvel movies are going to be full of color and positivity, then DC seems to be taking the track of going dark and grim.

Which, with how much Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had to contend with the movie taking years to be released and bad press and bad word-of-mouth, seems to have worked for DC. And with the upcoming Suicide Squad movie later this summer, a movie people are actually excited about, I can only imagine that the hits will keep coming for DC.

DC movie release schedule:

  • Suicide Squad: August 5
  • Wonder Woman: June 23, 2017
  • Justice League 1: November 17, 2017
  • The Flash: March 23, 2018
  • Aquaman: June 27, 2018
  • Batman: 2018
  • Shazam: 2019
  • Justice League 2: June 14, 2019
  • Cyborg: April 3, 2020
  • Green Lantern Corps: June 19, 2020

*Though Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice did have a massive drop in ticket sales from its first to second week in release. That being said the movie made a load of money its first week so I’m sure that it’ll be profitable, just not as profitable as other similar movies.

The Reading List

This week in pop-culture history

  • King Kong opens in 1933.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey is released in 1968.
  • In 1978 The TV series The Amazing Spider-Man debuts on CBS.
  • The TV series Twin Peaks debuts in 1990 on ABC.