Today is Sunday, August 20, 2017

'Corner Gas fills WGN up with laughs

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Dear Ken: In your opinion what is the best sitcom on the air during this decade (since 2000)?

Dear laughing man: That’s an easy one, eh. The sad thing is most people have never heard of it, but “Corner Gas,” which airs on super station WGN out of Chicago, ranks right up there with Seinfeld in my book.

This hilarious Canadian-based series is about eight characters in the small Saskatchewan town of Dog River where nothing happens. The scripts are absolutely brilliant and written to fit each character to a tee. I figure there are at least six laughs per minute. It was created by and stars comedian Brent Butt, and he is as homely as his name, but is a comedic genius.    

You just will have to see it to know what I am talking about, but this sitcom will eventually become a legend --- even in the States. It debuted in 2004 and is in its fifth season. Go online to find more at The first four seasons are out on DVD. I should know, I’ve purchased them all.

Dear Ken: There is a British actor named Ian McShane that was simply smashing in a series called “Lovejoy” where he played an antiques dealer-divvy with a touch on the shady side. What has he done since this 1990s series that used to air on A&E?

Dear Ian fan: McShane, who has been plenty busy on TV and film, starred in a gritty, violent western series, “Deadwood,” from 2004-2006 on HBO. His characterization of Al Swearengen was excellent as one vile you know what.

He recently provided the voice of Tai Lung in the animated film “Kung Fu Panda,” and he has completed the film “Case 39” for release next year. Other film credits in the past two decades include “Agent Cody Banks,” “We Are Marshall” and “Death Race,” and he provided voices in “Shrek the Third” and “The Golden Compass.”

Now 66, McShane made 73 episodes of “Lovejoy” between 1986 and 1994.

Dear Ken: After Johnny Weissmuller quit making “Tarzan” films, he starred in some low-budget jungle action flicks as a white hunter named Jungle Jim. What years were those movies made and how many of them were there?

Dear jungle guy: Weissmuller worked on 16 “Jungle Jims” from 1948-1955. And then he starred in a “Jungle Jim” TV series from 1955-1956 for 26 episodes. They were really fabulous when I was 10 years old but not so fab now. But Weissmuller was hard to beat as Tarzan. Did you know he won five Olympic gold medals as a swimmer? That’s why the crocodiles never had him for lunch.

Dear Ken: I recently watched Katharine Hepburn star in “Rooster Cogburn” with John Wayne. Was that the only western the actress ever made?

Dear Hep fan: Hepburn made about 46 movies, and unless you count “The Rainmaker” (I don’t), then “Rooster” was her only horse opera. She was 68 when that film was released in 1978.

If you have a trivia question about actors, singers, movies, TV shows or pop culture, e-mail your query to Ken Beck via where you can also find classic films and TV shows on DVD or visit Sherlock’s Book Emporium in Lebanon, Tennessee.

Ask Ken Beck

Journalist Ken Beck, a longtime resident of Wilson  County, has recently become a contributing writer for Main Street Media and its local newspaper, "The Wilson Post."

Earlier this year Beck concluded a 31-year career with "The Tennessean" where he edited the Nashville paper’s “Sunday Showcase” entertainment magazine for 25 years. Besides interviewing stars of film and television, Beck wrote Tennessee travel and feature stories and a popular Q&A entertainment column.

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