09th Mar2011

Peter Engel’s Forgotten Children: Obscure Teen Sitcoms Part I

by Will

I’ve never made a secret of my love of bad teen television. My love for the TNBC franchise is only second to my Power Rangers obsession. That said, I watched that lineup from its inception to its demise at the hands of Discovery Kids. What some people may not know is that the bulk of the TNBC offerings were the work of one Mr. Peter Engel. Primarily a television producer, Engel’s professional journey has been somewhat unorthodox.  He got his big break producing teen sitcoms, primarily for NBC. Later on, he became Dean of Pat Roberson’s Regent University. Once that ended, he somehow found himself producing NBC’s Last Comic Standing. What I love most about Engel is that he found a way to build an empire by recycling the same tropes. We’re all familiar with the hits, such as Saved By the Bell and California Dreams, but I want to focus on the shows that never reached the same level of success as those shows, despite being cut from the very same cloth.

As I said before, we already know the bigger shows: Good Morning, Miss Bliss (which we now refer to as Saved By The Bell: The Junior High Years), Saved By The Bell, and its spinoffs The New Class and The College Years. Mixed in there was California Dreams (basically “Zack Attack: The Series”), which also had a lengthy run. Now, if we’re going chronologically, Hang Time would be next, however it’s not technically an “Engel Show”. Go watch the first season – it’s not even really a sitcom. Engel came onboard during the second season, and basically changed it into Saved By The Bell: The Basketball Team. No, even Hang Time isn’t obscure enough for what we’re here to do. I want to talk about USA High.

USA High was a Peter Engel show that aired, appropriately enough, on USA Network, from 1997-2001. It has been said that it was originally developed for TNBC, but it somehow became a companion show to Saved By The Bell: The New Class reruns when USA Network acquired the rights to them. At its core, USA High was Saved By The Bell: The Paris Years. Basically, it was all the SBTB adventures you’d already seen, only now they were set at the American Academy boarding school in Paris, France.

Oddly enough, it felt like the whole Paris thing was added as an afterthought, as there are no European qualities to the show whatsoever. The dorm where the kids live is just the Saved By The Bell: The College Years set reused. They hang out at Cafe USA, which is really just the American Chain Restaurant for Tourists version of The Maxx. There’s an outdoor nighttime set that they used for date episodes, but it was just some cafe tables next to a window. Honestly, the show could’ve been set anywhere, as the locale never really factored into anything that took place.

Anyway, let’s take a look at the characters, many of whom you’ll recognize. First up, there’s Jackson Greene (portrayed by Josh Holland), who’s our resident pretty boy schemer. Of course, most of his schemes are just attempts to date All American, albeit flatchested, Lauren Fontaine (portrayed by Elena Lyons). Oh, did I mention that Lauren is a waitress at Cafe USA? Next, we had our musclebound German heartthrob, Christian (portrayed by Thomas Magiar). Here’s where you might say, “Well, he’s German, so that’s European, right?” It might’ve been special if Saved By The Bell: The New Class hadn’t added a German kid to their cast the previous year. Then, there’s goody two-shoes honor student Ashley Elliot (portrayed by Kristen Miller), who traded in Jesse’s feminism for a cute British accent. In the “annoying little guy” role, we’ve got Bobby Lazzarini (portrayed by James Madio). Rounding out the cast is probably the biggest change from the SBTB formula, which was the role of Winnie Barnes (portrayed by Marquita Terry). While Lisa Turtle was originally a Jewish character (what? you didn’t know that?), it’s clear that Winnie was black from the get-go. She’s stereotypical enough that it wouldn’t be surprising to hear “I’ma cut you!” come out of her mouth. Switching things up, it’s Christian who’s madly in love with her instead of Lazzarini. All of their adventures happen under the watch of bumbling Headmaster (and Ashley’s father), Mr. Elliot (portrayed by Nicholas Guest). In the second season of the show, Lazzarini’s written out, and replaced by California Dreams alum William James Jones in the role of “Dwayne ‘Excess’ Wilson”.

Anyway, I’m always surprised that more people haven’t seen USA High, as there were a total of 95 episodes compared to Saved By The Bell‘s 86 episodes. I understand it never had the network/syndication exposure of Saved By The Bell, but I’m sure people just stumbled across it and said “What’s this show?”, without really knowing what they were watching.

Where Are They Now?

Most of the cast of USA High have faded into obscurity, as teen sitcom stars are prone to do. Engel’s really good at “keeping it in the family”, as shown by his decision to hire Jones from California Dreams. Josh Holloway went on to play a date rapist in City Guys (another Engel show), while Marquita Terry went on to join the cast of Malibu, CA (yet another Engel show). Elena Lyons appears to have gotten a boob job, and can be see in Broken Lizard’s Club Dread. Kristen Miller went on to costar in That’s My Bush, as well as She Spies. James Madio went on to appear in HBO’s Band of Brothers, and has a steady career in voice acting.

Engel Extra!

While USA High was cranking along on USA Network, Engel got One World added to the TNBC schedule. Basically, the show followed a couple who had taken foster kids into their home. It was heavier stuff than typical Engel fare, but it was still teen-focused. Honestly, the fact that it was on the TNBC schedule was a testament to how much the television landscape had changed by that point. Ten years prior, the show would’ve aired in the same primetime slots as ALF or The Torkelsons. As primetime got edgier, “family shows” were now being seen as kid’s fare. Anyway, the most recognizable cast member was Alisa Reyes, who had grown up as a cast member on All That. Apparently, she’s a DJ for Playboy Radio now. Oh, and it had that kid who starred in all those Johnny Tsunami Disney Channel movies. Anyway, One World tackled those hard hitting questions, like “Do foster kids hook up with each other?” No, seriously.

Join us next time, as we tackle City Guys, and a little known gem called Malibu, CA.

10th Jan2011

Adventures West Coast – The Archie Wedding: Archie In “Will You Marry Me?”

by Will

The beauty of writing these things when I do is that I get to miss the hype that accompanies the initial release. At that point, everybody’s writing about it and you run the risk of having your own opinion tainted by what you end up reading in those reviews. I read a lot of articles dedicated to this particular storyline, but luckily I no longer remember most of them. What I do remember is that most people hated the story, which sounds about right seeing as how most comic fans hate everything.

The Archie Wedding: Archie In “Will You Marry Me?” collects the eight-part headline making storyline where the ambivalent teenager finally puts an end to the 70 year old question: “Betty or Veronica?” The catch, however, is that he chooses both. Using a plot device that finds Archie walking up Memory Lane instead of down, he ends up getting a glimpse of his own future. Framed around Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”, Archie first chooses the path on the left, which shows him what his life would be like if he were to marry Veronica.

The Veronica Marriage turns out to be nowhere near as bad as I would’ve thought going into it. Considering Veronica has behaved like a spoiled bitch most of her existence, I expected her to make Archie’s life a living Hell. Instead, however, it seems that the marriage and partnership between Archie and Ronnie turns her into a kinder person, and they become a stronger unit for it. Mr Lodge sees potential in Archie, giving him a prestigious corporate job. Archie and Ronnie have twins. Archie, who next to Dick Clark is America’s oldest teenager, *gasps* becomes a responsible husband and father.

The thing I found funny about the whole affair is that up to the very point of proposal, the entire town had no clue which way he would go. Even Archie’s own parents only figured it out because the bank called to verify the amount of the check he had cashed to buy the ring, which indicated to them that he had chosen Veronica. There’s no indication that their relationship had really grown in the “missing years”, and it had the same impact as if he had simply proposed in high school.

After putting his twins to bed, Archie takes another stroll up Memory Lane, and ends up taking the other path. At this point, he finds himself back at the day of his college graduation, and he realizes that his future with Ronnie hadn’t (hasn’t?) happened. Here’s where things seemed a bit fucked up to me. You see, at the graduation afterparty, all signs point to Archie choosing Veronica. He even pulls her aside to talk with her, but she blows him off because all she can talk about is the European trip she’s about to embark upon. It’s at this moment that he realizes he’ll never fit into her jet set world. So, he slinks away from her only to cross the room and promptly propose to Betty. See, in the Veronica story, he was genuinely in love with Ronnie, but in the Betty story, he’s still in love with Ronnie, but *settles* for Betty. What a great foundation on which to build a marriage!

Archie’s parents seem bewildered by his choice. They were excited when it was Veronica, but freak out when it’s Betty. I think Mr & Mrs Andrews might’ve been a bunch of golddiggers. Also, Archie and Betty have no money, so their wedding is a small affair at Pop’s, while he and Ronnie had a media circus of a wedding. Once the festivities are over, Archie finds himself jobless, while Betty has a jr executive position waiting in New York. They move to the Big Apple, where Archie becomes a struggling musician, while Betty succeeds in the corporate world. He’s pretty miserable, which is only made worse one night when he’s berated by one of Betty’s superiors. Standing by her man, she tells off her boss, quits her job, and they move back to Riverdale. Gradually, things get a little better, as Betty begins teaching at Riverdale High, where Archie becomes the new music teacher. They both flourish in their new roles, and go on to have twins.

There are a lot of problems with this storyline, but the main one is that it’s simply not fun. Now, I realize that times have changed. While the comics do quite well in Europe, American children no longer grow up regularly reading Archie. That said, the books are still being published for that audience, yet this particular series clearly wasn’t written with children in mind. In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to know who is the target audience for the book. The general tone of it is “adulthood sucks”. There’s no real silver lining, nor is there an awesome ending. Give this thing to an emo teen, and he would promptly commit suicide, as its view on life is pretty bleak. If the book was geared towards adult Archie fans, then it’s still a slap in the face, as it serves as a mirror of their own mundane lives. It’s Archie’s lowest creative point since the time when he was featured in those Spire Christian Comics.

I now realize the story isn’t over, as this miniseries just served as a set-up to continued over time. There’s a new Life With Archie: The Married Life magazine which follows the adventures of Married Archie, both with Veronica and Betty. I just don’t know who would want to read more. It’s depressing, almost like certain Family Circle or Funky Winkerbean strips. For example, it’s just been revealed that Ms Grundy will succumb to cancer in an upcoming issue. Why?!! That’s like giving Mr. Belding Alzheimer’s?! Who the fuck wants to see that? This story is tailor made for the same people who always watched those Brady Bunch reunion movies. You know, where Bobby has a race car accident and Jan’s getting separated from her husband? It’s continuity porn for the mundane, and it never needed to exist.

I LOVE a good future tale, especially if there’s a chance that it might be the “definitive” future, but you use that format as an opportunity to take some chances! Say that Archie and Veronica tour the world as a Sonny & Cher-esque spin-off of The Archies. Say that Archie and Betty are saving pandas or some shit. Do NOT give Archie a 9 to 5 and a minivan!

I’m sure somebody out there was glad to see this, but I’m certainly not one of them. Then again, I want to think there’s more a more colorful future for Archie than the boring-ass shit depicted in this story. I did, however, like that Archie seemed to choose Veronica in both cases. Sure, it’s not balanced, but everyone loves a good bitch. Plus, you just know that Betty gets fat.

11th Mar2010

Don’t Wake Me Up If I’m Dreamin’

by Will


OK, so my love for California Dreams has been documented on this site before. That said, I pretty much thought I was alone in the CD fan camp. That’s when Jimmy Fallon came along and rocked my shit.

About a year ago, Jimmy Fallon took over Conan’s job, as the host of Late Night. Nobody really knew what to expect, as his SNL work was decent, but his movies had been terrible. As he took over the position, it was clear that his tenure would be quirky and off the wall.

As an example of this quirkiness, Jimmy decided that one of his first goals would be to organize a Saved By The Bell cast reunion. After all, it was the 20th anniversary of the show, and he wanted to pay tribute to a show we had all watched back in the day. Well, he got everyone to agree (including an AMAZING skit with Mark Paul Gosselaar AS Zack Morris), except Tiffani Thiessen and Dustin Diamond. Tiffani didn’t want to really be associated with the show, as that’s not what she “wanted to be remembered for today”. Dustin, on the other hand, is just an asshole now. So, no reunion.

Fast forward to last Thursday night: Jimmy’s been spending all week celebrating his 1 year anniversary, and he mentions his inability to reunite the cast. It was unfortunate, HOWEVER, he has gotten the next best thing. Without any promos or prior announcement (besides a twitter spoiler from a TV insider), Jimmy has managed to reunite the cast of California Dreams!

They all come out onstage, most of them looking great. Not only does Jimmy let each one give an update on what they’ve been up to, but then he had them perform the theme song! I just about died. In any case, I’ve always got an opinion, so here were my thoughts on the reunion:

-As great as it was to see everyone, not everyone was present. They were missing Lorena Costa (Diana Uribe) and Sly’s cousin, Mark Winkle (Aaron Jackson). It may seem insignificant, but these were 2 regular characters. Not only did the band practice in Lorena’s loft for the majority of the series, but she was also co-band manager with Sly. Plus, she was the rotating love interest whenever the guys got sick of Kelly Packard. Mark was the band’s keyboard player and handled vocals. His character was a bit of a whiny bitch, but he was still a Dream.

-Brent Gore, it was good to see you! As leader of the Dreams, Matt Garrison, Brent left the show after the 2nd season. He looked good, but he kinda looked like Aging Rock Star (think Rick Springfield).

-William James Jones, as drummer, Tony Wicks. Acting hadn’t been so kind to WJJ after California Dreams, as he was only getting cameo roles on shows like Living Single. He looked good, though, and it was great to hear that he’s got a wife and kids at home.

-Jay Anthony Franke, as mysterious heartthrob, Jake Summers. Basically, The Fonz of the Dreams. Oh, Jake, Jake, Jake…it was a brave move coming on TV. There were a lot of expectations, and I’m not sure they were met. He’s gained a bit of weight, and he’s bald. He was still kinda mysterious. Looked a bit like Duff from Ace of Cakes, though…He’s living in Australia with his wife, and they just shot a pilot. Lord knows what it’s about, as he didn’t elaborate. That said, he clearly wants the world to know about it. So there.

-Heidi Noelle Lenhardt, as Jenny Garrison. Full disclosure: Growing up, I was IN LOVE with her! She had an amazing voice, and she was just a striking brunette. She left the show after the first season, so she definitely left me wanting more. Seeing her at the reunion, however, was bittersweet.

First of all, she’s blonde now. Not really a fan. Also, it seemed like she was coming in slightly flat on her part of the song, so maybe she hasn’t been singing much these days. Anyway, I did love the tongue ring she was rocking!

-Kelly Packard, as Tiffany Smith. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much from her. She’s certainly been the most active, as she went on to Baywatch, and co-hosted Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Like Heidi, she said she’s taking care of her family, but mentioned that she had a movie coming out soon. It seemed almost like she was shy, and I felt she should’ve said more since she’s been doing more.

-Jennie Kwan, as exchange student Samantha Woo. She was so cute and nervous, but she was also gracious. Though she didn’t mention it, she was also a member of girl pop group Nobody’s Angel (you’ve seen ’em. They were on that Boy Meets World episode at that diner. Remember?). She was also the voice of Suki on Avatar: The Last Airbender.

-Michael Cade, as sleazy band manager with the heart of gold, Sylvester “Sly” Winkle. Cade looked good. I’ll give him that. He’s charismatic, and he’s still trying to make the acting thing happen. And he’s pretty ripped, especially for a 37 year old.

-When they performed, I wonder how they decided who would sing what parts. After all, “Matt” and “Jake” sang the same parts during different times in the series, as did “Jenny” and “Sam”. I felt kinda like Heidi should’ve sung more (since I felt she was better, vocally, than Jennie), but I guess it was only fair how they did it, seeing as how Jennie Kwan had been on the show longer.

Anyway, here’s the video so that you can follow along at home:

12th Aug2008

Saved By The Bell Sick Day & Lil Wayne’s Virgin Fest Failure

by Will

“All of my friends have a ring on their finger, they have someone”

It’s been awhile, and I don’t even know where to begin. I’m actually sick right now, and had a kickass day off work. Well, that is, if “kickass” translates into “felt like I was going to boot for a 24-hr period”. Plus, I’m guessing the abundance of Clyde’s rum & cokes last night didn’t help matters, either.

Anyway, it was a GREAT day for daytime television. First off, I got to watch 2 of my favorite Saved By The Bell sagas, back-to-back. Things started off with the 2-parter where Jessie’s old-ass dad was gonna marry the aerobics instructor and Jessie wasn’t havin’ it! You know, there weren’t a lot of episodes focusing on Ms. Spano, but whenever she got center stage, it was always a doozy. She was a diabolical beeyotch in those episodes. Plus, if her dad owns that resort, she must be LOADED – which, btw, conflicts with the story we were told back in season 1, about her parents being hippy protestors. I mean, her dad is clearly suckling on the big, sweet teat of capitalism now. That was followed up by the “Sorry You’re Homeless at Christmas” saga. Yes, the show does establish Zack as quite the poonhound, but I will never see what he saw in that homeless girl. Sure, she was sweet, but wasn’t that the point? “Homeless girl with the heart of gold”? Zack’s never cared about golden hearts unless he could sell them. The older I get, the more smarmy Zack’s tactics appear. I’ve said it before, but I think if The College Years had made it to a second season, we might’ve seen a very special episode with a date rape charge.

Next, I watched an all-day marathon of the short lived UPN show, Jake 2.0. Damn, was that a good show! Long story short, it’s The Six Million Dollar Man meets Chuck. Anyway, thanks to the show, my new celebrity crush is Keegan Connor Tracy. Go ahead and Google her, I’ll wait.

Then, I watched an entertaining episode of Gunsmoke, complete with William Katt playing a criminal, and a young Nick Nolte as a dead sheriff’s deputy. Say what you will about modern entertainment, but TV was awfully violent back then.

Then, I was surprised to stumble across Love, Actually, which is one of my favorite movies of all time (I love you, Martine McCutcheon!). Plus, this was followed up by A Goofy Movie, another of my favorite movies of all time (I love you, voice of Jenna Von Oy, attached to the sweet ass of Jenna Von Oy!). All this was capped off by a fresh episode of Ben 10: Alien Force, and my regularly scheduled Tuesday night onslaught of Whose Wedding Is It Anyway? If not for the fact that I felt like shit, it would’ve been a great day.

Let me just say that I don’t give a flying shit about professional sports, but I have loved every minute of the Brett Favre saga. You see, ever since There’s Something About Mary, Brett has belonged to pop culture. I don’t think I’d ever visited ESPN.com in my life, but it was a regular fixture on the BlackBerry over the past month. It might be worth me actually paying attention to football this season, just to see how this all plays out on the field.

So, I also went to Virgin Mobile Fest again over the weekend. Not as action-packed as last year. Foo Fighters were clearly the best act of Saturday, while I think Kanye took the title on Sunday. Kanye’s still dealing with the death of his mom, so he just starts freestyling and going on these rants, but you know they’re coming from someplace deep inside. You wonder if he’s having a breakdown right in front of you, but it’s a powerful form of “group therapy”. I LOVED Chromeo, and everyone should buy their album, Fancy Footwork. That’s right, I said BUY. Can’t get “Momma’s Boy” out of my head. The most… interesting performance, however, had to have been Lil’ Wayne.

So, Weezy F. Baby comes out on stage 45 mins late. By this point, the majority of the crowd has already begun to boo the stage. His posse comes out for about 10 mins, and they just strut around to a pre-recorded track. When he finally comes out, Weezy decides to get religious on us. He tells us that, first, he believes in God. He then, for some reason, asks the crowd if they do, as well, which is met with a pretty resounding “no”. Not sure if it was because they’re pissed at him, or if the Virgin Mobile Fest is simply the largest atheist music festival since John Lincoln’s “Jesus Ain’t In My Guitar” Tour of 1987. * Anyway, he goes into all his hits, plus he runs through all the guest verses he’d done on other people’s albums, which was a bit weird. You’d hear the music start for “Put On”, Weezy’d sing his verse, and then he’d move on to the next song. Then, he really kicks us in the collective balls: he surprises us with Kanye coming out (5 hrs before his own set) so they can do the Lollipop Rmx. Kanye gets through his verse, and when it’s Weezy’s turn, he gets 3 words into it, stops, and says, “Aw, man. I don’t even know that verse noway!” And he’s done. He doesn’t start back up. He doesn’t try to finish up by switching to the album version. No, he’s done. He proceeded to tell us hw much he loved us, which kicked off Whitney’s “I Will Always Love You”, and he ran around the stage. Then, they covered him in a red, terrycloth robe and he left the stage. I shit you not…

Energy levels fading fast. Well, that’s all I’ve got until next time. Oh, and I hate the New Facebook. Just sayin’…

*Don’t Google it – I made that shit up.

01st Apr2008

Wrestlemania, The Hills, and Mario Lopez

by Will

“The title sounds so promising until you open it up and Tobey Keith is playing chess with a child abductor.”

After a rousing night of Monday Night Television, several things popped into my head:

Doogie Howser ending on How I Met Your Mother! Just when I think that show can’t possibly get any better…

-Man, the night after Wrestlemania is Jobber City! Who are these people? Did I really just see a tag-team of thugs, named Cryme Tyme, go against a tag-team of rednecks?! Am I really not supposed to catch the subtext there?

-Must. Have.Cena.Nintendo.Throwback.T-shirt!

-Now, I’ve been watching WWE for years, and seeing commercials for Stacker-2 for just as long. If I’m not mistaken, there was even a Stacker-3. But was there ever just a plain, old Stacker?

-I never knew I loved Ric Flair until this weekend. Watching his retirement is like listening to Survivor’s “The Search is Over”. I grew up idolizing Ravishing Rick Rude. Yes, Rick Rude. Say what you will, but it was pimp as hell for him to win a match, go out to the audience, and grab a random woman to bring back into the ring with him. Sometimes, the chick was even there with her husband, but Rick didn’t care. He’d kiss her and she’d faint. Then, he’d do his Ravishing Dance over her passed out body. I can’t say wrestling taught me much about women. After that era, I found myself adoring The Undertaker. Whether he was the undead disciple of Paul Bearer, the American Badass, or all of the above, I was always anticipating The Last Ride. Recently, I’ve found an appreciation for the old school. Dusty Rhodes is probably the most charismatic man in pro wrestling. Screw The Rock; Dusty “wined and dined with kings and queens”. Despite all of that, none of them held a candle to Flair. He’s everything wrestling has been and everything it should be. He’s the last of the greats. You can have your Hulk Hogans and your Bret Harts. Flair was hardcore in an age where you didn’t have to be. He brought it time and again, and he introduced flamboyance to wrestling. I’m not even remotely a wrestler, but I know that my life will never be complete due to the fact that I will never get the chance to get in the ring with him. After all, to be The Man, you’ve to beat The Man. Whooo!

The Hills are alive with Heidi’s brand new boobies! Seriously, did they recast her this season? I knew she’d had some work done, but it’s almost like looking at a new person. Kinda like when Bewitched swtiched the Darrens, and thought nobody would notice.

-Speaking of looks, I’d blame it on jetlag, but LC is looking rough this season! I mean, “single-mother-working-a-double-shift-at-the-diner-while-wearing-cheap-foundation” rough. There were a couple of scenes where I even thought I saw a moustache trying to peek through. Maybe I made up that last part…

– I get what they were trying to do: “Let’s show how suave and sophisticated French men are”, but why the Hell did they track down Flock of Seagulls? I mean, did you see those dudes LC and Whitney were hanging out with? They just looked dirty. Too much of a skeazy vibe, and being French doesn’t make up for that.

-There were some cold-ass scenes on The Hills tonight. Sure, it was the old episode, but the part where Heidi gives a toasts to her parents, clearly omitting Spencer to his face, was harsh. Then again, I can’t remember the last time I saw a scene as uncomfortable as Spencer just ambushing her family in Colorado. I’ll give him points for balls and effort, but it got to a point where you just wanted him to leave.

-I’m convinced Real World Hollywood is going to suck. Why? Because they’re hyping it too much. The best RW drama is the kind that you don’t see coming. However, this is a milestone season, with a showy cast, and they expect big things. Yeah, well, they also expected big things from The Vegas Reunion, and that was a waste of time and film. It seems like Hollywood is trying to assume the mantle of the most-sex-havingest, debaucherous RW in history, but I just don’t see it happening.

-There are some people in this world who are simply untouchable, especially in terms of womanizing. No matter what they do, people continue to love them: Bill Clinton, Usher…Mario Lopez. I’m not sure if a lot of people know this about Mr. A.C. Slater, but the dude is supposedly a whore. I mean, this is the guy who cheated on The Doritos Girl (Ali Landry)! That might not mean anything right now, but travel back in time to 1998. People would’ve given their left nut to have the Doritos Girl (I have it on good authority that this was the case with Lance Armstrong). Mario cheated on her repeatedly, yet still convinced her to marry him. Then, he cheated on her at his bachelor party. And, rumor has it, and this is the most gangsta of all, he cheated during their honeymoon! Yet, everybody still loves Slater…

I leave you with this quandry: Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On”: most inspirational song of our generation, or thinly-veiled argument for women to stay in abusive/unfulfilling relationships?

13th Mar2008

Eliot Spitzer, Breaker High, Danity Kane, and Sanford

by Will

“Damn you and your lemonade!”

-Oh, the Eliot Spitzer saga…the only part that I enjoyed is that the chick’s name is Ashley Alexandra Dupre. That’s the name of the character I despised the most from Breaker High. Anybody remember Breaker High? It was a UPN weekday show that came on after Sweet Valley High. It followed the whole late-90s “Semester at Sea” craze, and was basically “Saved by the Bell on a boat.” It introduced America to Persia White (Girlfriends), Tyler Labine (Reaper and a bunch of canceled stuff), and Ryan Gosling (The Notebook, and crush to millions!). Anyway, Ashley Dupree was a Southern Belle, former beauty queen who was the bitch of the group. On most shows, this role is also known as “the hot chick”. For some reason, though, due to Breaker High‘s poor casting, you’re left to wonder, “Why does this chick think she’s the shit?” I mean, she was a fiesty redhead with a Southern accent, but that’s where the bus stopped. In all the pool scenes, she was the chick wearing the one-piece, and for good reason. She was played by Teri Conn, now Colombino, who’s made quite the name for herself on As The World Turns. Anyway, as for the escort, this is the best thing that could’ve happened to her. She’ll have a book deal by the last week of April.

-Two videos came out this week that leave me scratching my head. First up is “Damaged”, by Danity Kane. Now, I downloaded that album yesterday, and I’ve got to say it’s hot. If you liked their last album, you might not like this one. They’ve taken their sound in a whole new direction. If you liked Britney’s Blackout album (which I did), you’re going to LOVE Welcome to the Dollhouse. Anyway, the Damaged video. As I’ve said before, it’s a hot dance song, but it’s one corny-ass video. The dance moves are seriously stunted. They’re reminiscent of those videos Britney made back when everybody thought she’d had a boob job. Not “Baby One More Time” or even “Oops…”; I’m talking about “Sometimes”. These moves are just like that: where every movement is some elaborate arm motion, like they’re summoning the Megazord or something. Plus, I’m not really feeling Shannon’s look. Up to this point, we’re led to believe that Aubrey was the leader, but Shannon gets more screen-time in this video than she did in the entirety of this season of MTB. I guess they realized it’s hard to pass off “The Married One” as some sort of sex symbol. It’s the same reason all boybanders are told to say they’re single in interviews – it keeps hope alive for the fans. Anyway, Shannon’s got this Suzanne Somers of the Future thing going on, which is just kinda…off. I don’t know what spinning around on a space turntable has to do with a broken heart. Is that how they cure broken hearts in the future? It just doesn’t fit the theme of the song. And to cap it off, they’re dancing inside this dude’s heart? Isn’t that just exacerbating the damage? Like I said, some corny shit.

Then, we have Britney. Britney, Britney, Britney…I am seriously disappointed. She finally released the video for “Break the Ice”. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that not only do I ADORE that song, but I also predicted it would be the next single. But what does she do? She makes the video some anime piece of crap, that doesn’t even mimic the theme of the song. It’s cookie-cutter anime, as some blonde chick (who doesn’t even resemble Britney) kicks a bunch of dudes in the head. It’s the same type of shit that makes YouTube so popular. You know, where some American otaku takes a Nickelback song and uses it to highlight the timeline of the relationship between Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask. This video is just like that. Right now, there’s some kid in his mom’s basement, who’s splicing together a better video using this song and selected scenes from Death Note and Fullmetal Alchemist. And they had the audacity to end it with “To Be Continued”?! Britney, I know you’re a little stressed these days, what with the parental issues and your new gig on How I Met Your Mother, but please explain what blowing up a mobster’s skyscraper has to do with this song!

-Oh, man! BET added Sanford back to their schedule. You don’t know how happy that makes me. I’m a big fan of the obscure-failed-spin-off-of-the-successful-show formula. Just like with Three’s a Crowd, nobody remembers Sanford. Back in 1980, NBC was at the bottom of the ratings, so they got Redd Foxx to agree to reprise the role of Fred Sanford, from Sanford & Son. Well, rumor has it that, at some point, Demond Wilson had pulled a gun on producer Norman Lear, so he wasn’t invited to the spin-off. That left Sanford with no son, so he takes on Cal, a fat White, country White guy who had “worked with Lamont on the Alaskan pipeline”. Sidebar: I’ll admit that I don’t know much about the pipeline economy in the ’70s. I know they said Lamont went to work there, and I know that there’s good money in it, however, I don’t see some Black assistant junk dealer, from Watts, going to Alaska, with his fro and porn star moustache, working in the ice and snow. To me, that excuse was more of an insult that the way Family Matters just wrote out Jaimee Foxworth like she never even existed. OK, anyway, Sanford only lasted 2 seasons, with a total of 26 episodes. The first season follows Fred as he dates this rich widow. The interesting part is that he seems to feel really bad about it, like he’s guilty that he’s not honoring Elizabeth’s memory. I can understand this, but it contradicts the fact that he was engaged to Donna for a good chunk of Sanford & Son, and he didn’t seem to feel that union was an affront to Elizabeth. Anyway, the whole “Fred dating” angle got stale, so the second season saw good old Aunt Esther moving in, so she could find some reason to call Fred “an ol’ fish-eyed fool” every episode.

-Speaking of Jaimee Foxworth, why did no one tell me she was on Celebrity Rehab?! I totally would’ve been onboard had I known that. I skipped that show because I thought it was the barrel-scrapings from The Surreal Life. The Jaimee Foxworth Saga, however, is something in which I have a lot of interest. The Judy Winslow Paradox ranks up there with the disappearance of Chuck Cunningham in the annals of television history. It’s one of the great mysteries that is only just coming to life. Most child stars hit it big and don’t know how to handle themselves. She, on the other hand, hit bottom because she was kicked out of the limelight. I almost feel like no one close to the show talks about it because they feel somewhat responsible for her downfall. Either way, that bitch led a rough life. I’m glad she’s out of porn and getting help. It’s only a matter of time before her inevitable 700 Club visit.

-Can they just go ahead and crown Kaba Modern as America’s Best Dance Crew already? The music of Grease has never sounded as good as it did during that Master Mix!

-J Records really needs to soften up Leona Lewis’s image. Get her a new make-up person or something. Yes, I love her album. I’ve had the UK version since October, and I truly think this is only the beginning. A lot of people compare her to Mariah, but that’s not accurate, as she doesn’t have Mariah’s control yet. Emphasis on yet. That said, she’s got quite the jawline. If you’ve seen the video for “Bleeding Love”, you know what I mean. She gives off a bit of a tranny vibe. And not the most convincing tranny. Almost a To Wong Foo thing going on.

-I love Amy Winehouse, but I’m in love with Frank-era Amy Winehouse. Sure, she’s currently a crazy, drug-addled tabloid dream. That’s not what does it for me. I have the biggest crush on Soulful Jewess Amy. Sure, she had that snaggletooth, but so does Jewel, and we all love her. I just watched Amy’s True Hollywood Story, and it made me HATE her husband. It was all downhill once he entered the picture. Prior to that, she was curvy and oh, so sexy. Now, she uses her own face as an ashtray. Don’t do drugs, kids…

Human Giant and Free Radio are the funniest shows on TV these days.

-Drake Bell, of Nickelodeon’s Drake & Josh, is great casting for Superhero Movie, and it’s his biggest cinematic break. I just hope Josh Peck doesn’t end up like Kel Mitchell…

That’s it for now. I leave you with this question: who would you rather have show up at your door: Chris Hansen or Joey Greco? Trust me, folks. It’s not an easy answer….

17th Oct2007

Saved By The Bell: The College Years AKA The Adventures of Loser Zach & AC Sanchez

by Will

“In five years, we’ll all either be working for him, or be dead by his hand.”

So, the other morning, I caught Saved By The Bell, but it was from the era that many seem to have missed out on: The College Years. Everyone seems to know about the Miss Bliss stuff, even if they don’t realize that it never really “happened”. The same could be said for the Tori era, as every 20-something has gotten drunk with friends, and the topic eventually comes up, met with a “What the fuck was up with that? Where were Jessie & Kelly?” Sadly, though, most of my generation jumped ship at The College Years/New Class era. It seems they had just had enough. I’m not sure if the College Years attrition was due to the move to prime-time, or sheerly the fact the Bill Cosby was right, and that college truly is a different world from where you come from.

I’ll admit, the college season certainly blew the wind out of our sails. I think the producers had a lot to answer for, as they made high school seem like a veritable wonderland, where everyone was cool and even the nerds were popular. I think I speak for all of us when I say we were quite pissed off to find the contrary to be true. In terms of the college season, though, they were finally honest with themselves. No one was safe. Remember how Zach was the coolest kid on Earth in high school, with his cool hair and his time-out powers? Not so much in the college years. He was doughy, needed a haircut (his longer hair wasn’t even that stylish for ’93), and his schemes just didn’t work anymore. Our hero was now a mere mortal. And it wasn’t fun to watch.

One thing that the college years couldn’t do as well as the original series was the “very special episode”. I remember the Johnny Dakota anti-drug episode, with NBC’s then-president, Brandon Tartikoff. Everyone remembers the “I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I’m so…scared” episode. But did anyone see the College Years’ entry into the field? No? Well, allow me to tell you about it.

Seeing as how college is all about “finding yourself”, SBTB:TCY decided to focus on identity development. There’s an episode where this Latina has a thing for Slater, and begins flirting with him in Spanish. Unfortunately, poor Albert Clifford doesn’t know what the Hell she’s saying. He’s wondering why she thinks he knows Spanish, while she it muy disappointed that he doesn’t know his native tongue. She tries to convince him that he’s from the Southern hemisphere, but he just ain’t hearing it. Let me point out that she’s one of those campus revolutionary chicks. You know the kind…she’s hot because she’s got passion, and usually some weak guy will end up chaining himself to the student union, in some poor attempt to impress her and get into her hemp panties. Who am I kidding? Those chicks don’t wear panties!

So, A.C. calls home and confronts his dad, the good solider, about the crazy things this chick is saying. Well, it turns out that A.C Slater is actually A.C. Sanchez, as his father changed his name when he joined the Army. Apparently, it would help him blend in and move up the ranks better.
Now, A.C.’s got some soul-searching to do. I’ve written about it before, but it’s the whole Bill Cross Model of Minority Identity Development. That was Slater’s “encounter”, so next he throws himself into the cause, and turns on his Zach and Screech because they “just don’t understand”. Eventually, they have one of those sitcom endings, where Slater realizes he’s gone a bit overboard, while his friends reassure him that they’ll accept him regardless of his background, and that they’ll all get through it together.

Here’s what always got me: how the Hell didn’t Slater know he was Latino? How many other Jheri-curled, silk shirt & parachute pants-wearing kids were there are Bayside? None. Now, Slater never exactly acknowledged his geneology in the past, but he once referred to Bolivia. Now, he was an Army brat, so maybe he got confused. However, he couldn’t have thought he was White! First off, he was the only one who could dance. He was even better than Lisa, and her lame-ass “The Sprain”.

In a way, I want to blame Bayside. It was never a bastion of diversity. As far as black kids, there was Lisa Turtle (who doesn’t really count), and there was the Black nerd who had the Wolfman Jack voice. Now, I commend Peter Engel for going with a Black nerd, as opposed to the obvious Asian choice. Then again, there were no Asians at Bayside. I think someone better call the school board! Anyway, the black kids increased their numbers when that old-looking freshman popped up senior year, and asked Lisa to the Welcome Back dance. Man, was she embarassed! But I digress…If Slater had grown up in a more diverse environment, perhaps this revelation, or “revelación”.

It was a heavy-handed attempt at best. On the one hand, I want to commend SBTB for thinking outside the usual box. No zit-before-prom episodes. No we-got-ripped-off-buying-class-rings” episode. Not even a “I-get-radio-signals-through-my-dental-work” episode. The writers were moving to bigger and better things, but it fell with a thud. I’ve always wondered what we might have seen had the show continued another season. Maybe the “Screech celebrates Passover” episode. Or the “Alex has an eating disorder (College Years character; look her up). Or, maybe even the “Zach deals with his collegiate douchebaggery” episode. I’ve got to be honest: Bayside Zach was the kid that we all wanted to grow up to be, while California University Zach isn’t very likeable. Let’s face it, College Zach had “date rapist” written all over him…

16th May2007

Dress My Nest, Scrubs, Reality TV Background Characters, and The Future of Syndication

by Will

“And when the sky is falling, don’t look outside your window.”

So, I actually posted the other night, but due to a faulty wifi connection, it has been lost to space. Yup, no backup and nothing in the drafts folder. It sucks, too, because it was pretty stream of consciousness. I don’t even remember what it was about at this point.

Anyway, I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately, and this is sort of my State of the Television Address:

1) On Dress My Nest, former Queer Eye decorator Thom Filicia redesigns womens’ living areas to reflect their clothing style. This premise sounds sort ot hokey, but I’ll go with it. My problem, though, is with his assistant, Erika. I’ve read a lot of reviews on the show, and the general conclusions is that she’s probably there for Thom to bounce ideas off of, yet comes off sort of useless.

After watching the past 6 episodes, I’ve come to realize what she *really* is: She’s Thom’s hag. You see, we’ve got this whole stereotyped culture where no gay man is complete without his best galpal. And there’s the counter stereotype that no Big City single woman is complete without her “gay husband”. Yet, what strikes me is that Erika is very attractive. Not your standard hag material, which then made me realize that she’s the worst kind of hag: she’s single hottie hag who’s high maintenance as Hell. She’s the chick who just can’t find that “perfect guy”, and falls in love with Thom between her failed relationships. He ain’t having it, and would rather help her pick out a new pair of shoes. Or maybe this is all in my head and I’m going too far…

2) I don’t think there’s a better comedy than Scrubs on TV. That said, I find that Scrubs is usually so wrapped up in gimmicks that the special gimmick episodes don’t work. Case in point, the “sitcom” parody episode was on last night, and it’s really not that funny. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be unfunny, as a sort of slight at the genre, or if the formula just didn’t work for them. Scrubs never would have made it as a multi-camera, live-studio-audience sitcom. Then again, Three’s Company never would have made it as a single camera, non-laughtracked comedy. The musical episode of Scrubs also left a lot to be desired.

3) Man, what happened to The Riches? It started out so promising, and now I don’t even care anymore. I feel that’s the problem with most shows on FX. They are all about these amoral, anti-hero characters, that you don’t know whether you want to root for them or see them get caught in their lies. Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me, the Shield, Dirt, The Riches… all of these shows are mired in this, and while it has proven successful, I wish FX would stop going back to the well.

4) I feel bad for the employees of work-based reality shows who *don’t* get to be cast members. From Inked, to King of Cars, to Work Out, there are people who work at these establishments who just aren’t considered “TV” enough to be featured. How does this happen? I mean, do they film really early before the rest of the employees get to work? Do they give them paid days off to repay them for stealing their shot at fame?

If you hop over to www.skysportspa.com, you’ll see that there are about 22 trainers working for Jackie Warner, yet only 7 are in the Work Out cast. Now, I understand the need to keep things contained, but I’d love to swap out a few people. Erika contributed almost nothing to this season, so I’d love to replace her with Aimet, who appears to be the most ripped Black woman I’ve ever seen. In fact, Aimet and a few other of the female trainers snuck into episode 2 this season, when Jackie decided to have her girls night slumber party. They still didn’t let Aimet speak, though. I think they should rotate the cast in and out, because I like the show, but I’m tired of most of the trainers.

5) I am all about the Andy Griffith Show right now. I’m not sure why, but something about its downhome sensibility hits all the right notes lately. Also, Sheriff Taylor has some beautiful girlfriends, from Ellie the Pharmacist to Teach Extraordinaire, Helen Crump. It’s amazing that such a slackjawed everyman pulled women like that. Don’t get me wrong; I know that Andy Griffith was considered a handsome man back then, but there was something very “Clark Kent” about that role. Almost like they didn’t want him to come off too suave, so instead, he becomes this slow, drawling nice guy.

6) Speaking of frumping up for a role, I’ve had a real hard time watching I Love Lucy in recent years. The more I learn about that cast, the more I wish the show had been a reality show moreso than a sitcom. First, Vivian Vance was the hot one, but was uglied up so that she wouldn’t overshadow Lucille Ball. Vance had the more established career, until that show came along and pretty much had her typecast for life. Also, though, anytime I see a Fred & Ethel scene, it’s weird knowing that they’re not acting. William Frawley *hated* Vivian Vance, and on numberous occasions, referred to her as “That cunt”. Sure, it’s a classic sitcom, but I’m wondering “what if?” What if Vance had broken out as a sitcom star? What if she had been cast as Lucy? Would she have, then, married Desi Arnaz instead? It boggles the mind…

7) How I Met Your Mother is renewed for another season! Rock on! This actually wasn’t a surprise to me. I had a conversation with a guy from CBS last week, and I asked him about the fates of The Class and HIMYM. So, when CBS made the announcement yesterday, I was in the know. Man, it’s nice to actually “know a guy”.

8) Nick @ Nite’s qualifications are really starting to piss me off. So, everything I grew up with is now on N@N, yet there are glaring omissions. Family Matters? Hogan Family? Alf? My Two Dads? I know that these things are wrapped up in contracts, but it seems like Nick’s hurting when they resort to showing AFV. I mean, America’s Funniest Videos already comes on 2 other cable networks, which *aren’t* owned by Viacom, so what’s the need to take away a valuable N@N slot with something you can already see 3 times a day. it would be like giving Seinfeld a N@N slot (which, mark my words, should be about 3 years away.)

9)I think The CW or MyNetworkTV should buy up all of the TNBC library and run it weekday afternoons. People my age don’t realize it, but there aren’t any kids programs on basic TV in the afternoon anymore. Fox Kids was sold to Disney back in 2002, Kids WB went weekend only back in 2005. The only programming is on PBS, and it’s mostly for toddlers. The Saved by the Bell rights are always snatched up since it’s considered this “classic”, but I would kill a man to see California Dreams again. Or Hang Time. Or City Guys. Or even the horrible Malibu, CA or USA High (not TNBC, but still Peter Engel shows). When Aaron Spelling died, people always spoke of how many shows he’d created. That’s great and all, but when Peter Engel passes away, I hope he gets the same accolades. The man single-handedly programmed NBC’s Saturday morning for more than 10 years. Sure, a lot of it was crap, but so were most of Aaron Spelling’s creations.

10)Everyone’s worried about global warming. OK, I’ll take on a lesser cause. I’m worried about syndication. There used to be a rule that, to be syndicated, a show needed to be on the air for 3 seasons OR 100 episodes (whichever comes first). 3 seasons would yield about 66-70 episodes, but once you hit the 100 mark, you were set for life. That’s why Tina Yothers doesn’t work. That Family Ties money is still rolling in. You won’t be rich, but you won’t starve either.

Nowadays, though, shows aren’t lasting that long. It used to be that I could predict which shows would be entering sydication the next season. Then, the internet came about, and it would announce these things. But the cold, hard truth is that we’re running out of shows for syndication. These slots are being filled by court shows. Around here, *nothing* entered syndication this year. All they did was shuffle what was already there. Will & Grace, Girlfriends, Friends, Raymond…Nothing new.

Next fall, there’s Chappelle and Family Guy. One is good and one is bad. Family Guy has enough episodes to keep it nightly, but Chappelle only has about 30 episodes available. This can’t be “stripped” (meaning shown 5 days a week) because you’d burn through it in a month. Hence, this is the type of show that you put on Saturday nights, after the news and Mad TV. When no one’s watching. Plus, it’ll be cut for syndication (all syndicated episodes are trimmed about 2 mins to make room for commercials) and edited for content.

I’m not saying that I want crap shows to last just for us to have syndicated shows (this actually happens a lot, especially when a studio is trying to recoup their money). I am saying, however, that we need to find alternative show sources. Maybe go back to the 80’s concept of 1st-run syndication. This is when you take a show that has never been on a network before, and you just put it on a crap station like a former UPN affiliate during a saturday afternoon. Small Wonder, Hercules, Too Close For Comfort, Mama’s Family, Xena and Baywatch were all successful in first-run syndi. Also, game shows, like Jeopardy & “The Wheel” are considered 1st-run syndi. I know that “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” is adopting the concept this summer, but it’s also simulcast on TBS, so it really doesn’t count.

If we don’t act now, what will our fat children watch on the weekends, as they resist our pleas for them to go out and play? What about the kids?!

27th Apr2006

Meatwad, NOT Screech!

by Will

“I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”

Why the FUCK is “Saved By The Bell” on Adult Swim?!!!! Somebody answer me! WHY THE FUCK IS “SAVED BY THE BELL” ON ADULT SWIM?!!!! It is for cartoons only! CARTOONS ONLY! We have TVLand for that. Nick @ Nite, if you must. But NOT Cartoon Network. And CERTAINLY NOT Adult Swim. That is reserved for Family Guy and bad anime imports. Thank you, and good night.

01st Aug2005

Did You Know They Reuse Sets In Hollywood?

by Will

“You gotta have blue hair!”

So, here’s an interesting bit of old school TV trivia that surprised even me:

The main living room set on “What’s Happening?!!” is the same exact set from “Sanford & Son”, without all the junk.

This reminds me of other times when shows shared sets. Let’s take a trip through the 90’s…

-The first episode of “Living Single” was in the “Family Matters” house.

-The first episode of “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper” was in the “Growing Pains” house.

-The high school hallway/staircase used in “Saved by the Bell” were also used in “The Wonder Years” and “Power Rangers”.

-The dorm suite in “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” is the same suite used by the kids on “USA High”

-Actually, ALL Peter Engel shows recycle sets AND actors. TNBC was one big free for all. Watch any of them, and you’ll find yourself saying, “Hey, isn’t that Tony Wicks from ‘California Dreams’ standing in the middle of the ‘SBTB:TCY’ dorm room with that chick from ‘Malibu, CA’?” Trust me, if you’ve ever seen the second season of “USA High”, you know exactly what i’m talking about. Wow, I think I just referenced the most obscure shows in the Peter Engel teen dynasty. Half of the ones I mentioned didn’t last longer than 2 seasons…

Yup, I know I’m impressive….you scared yet? 😛