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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

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Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

What to watch in June:
Nothing at all.

Go to the beach.

Smallville Smallville, "Commencement" (***)
by Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer

A smashing good season finale finishes off Clark's senior year. There is one small hint of the "witches" subplot, but I have a strong feeling everybody would rather forget about that mid-season misstep. Smallville experiences a second meteor shower, with unexpected results for all the major cast. One regular dies, though not from a meteor. And the episode ends with a scene we have seen before, in Superman -- the Movie. No, not that scene. Smallville is coming back for a fifth season.

Prince Valiant Prince Valiant (****)
by Gianni and Schultz

When I was a kid, there were dozens of great comic strips: Peanuts, Pogo, Prince Valiant, Alley Oop, Buz Sawyer, Mandrake the Magician, Roy Rogers, Barnaby, Batman, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Gasoline Alley, Little Orphan Annie, Steve Canyon, and Tarzan to mention just a few. Twenty-five years ago there were still quite a few: Star Wars, Star Trek, Spider-Man, The Hulk, Latigo, Modesty Blaise, Conan, and Bloom County. I now collect only two. Doonesbury has turned realistic, and is giving the best picture available of what it is like on the ground for our service men and women in Iraq, and for those who have come home from that war. It shows the sad state of mainstream news media when you get the most honest picture of a war from a comic strip. Clearly, Gary Trudeau has spent a lot of time talking to the grunts on the ground, while the TV reporters listen to the brass. The other strip I collect is Prince Valiant, which has had new life breathed into it by Cadillacs and Dinosaurs writer and artist Mark Schultz. The current story line, about dinosaurs in Loch Ness, is well worth searching out.

Madagascar Madagascar (***)
by Mark Burton and Billy Frolick

The animated feature Madagascar is not really fantasy, except insofar as all talking animal stories are fantasy, but I do want to recommend it, because is a feel-good buddy movie about the friendship between a lion and a zebra that acknowledges the fact that lions eat zebras. One particularly heart-warming moment involves a cute little yellow duckie. The movie is fast and funny, crammed full of jokes, both visual and verbal, and pop-culture references for all ages ("It's a cookbook!"). It is the best non-Pixar animation since Shrek.

Have Gun -- Will Travel, Season Two Have Gun -- Will Travel, Season Two (****)

Gene Roddenberry got his start in television writing for Have Gun -- Will Travel, the best of all television westerns. Most of his scripts involve the battle of the sexes, and nobody on television at the time was as honest about the relationship between men and women as Roddenberry. He appreciated women, and we are not talking platonic appreciation here. Rumor has it that when Star Trek first went on the air Gene was sleeping with both of the female stars. He married one of them.

Roddenberry also wrote the movie, Pretty Maids All In A Row, which glorifies men who murder women.

Gene wrote 23 scripts for Have Gun -- Will Travel, more scripts than he wrote for any other TV show, including Star Trek. His stories appear in all six seasons that the show was on the air. The following Roddenberry stories are in Season Two, now available on DVD:
The Hanging of Roy Carter
Road to Wicksburg
The Monster of Moon Ridge
Maggie O'Bannion
Episode in Laredo
The Return of Roy Carter

Other excellent writers in this collection include Dirty Harry creator Harry Julian Fink and Star Trek writers Shimon Wincelberg and Gene L. Coon.

Copyright © 2005 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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