11th Mar2013

“I Wanna Xup, Baby” AKA Anyone Else Remember Xuxa?

by Will

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This is a post I’ve wanted to write since I started this site. I never quite knew how to approach it, but if I don’t try, I’ll probably never get around to it. How’s that for overhyping it? There are a lot of nostalgia blogs out there, but luckily we aren’t all into the same things. That’s cool – I’m used to be weird and different. Still, I’m amazed that no one has really delved into what we’re going to look at today. I mean, it’s ripe for today’s era of internet ridicule! Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about childhood crushes in my Twitter circle, yet no one mentioned this person. Anyway, today we’re talking about Xuxa.

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Permission to come aboard?

Xuxa (pronounced SHOO-shuh) is a name that means a LOT in South America, but sounds like baby gibberish to anyone in North America. Xuxa, AKA Maria da Graca Meneghel, DOMINATED the Brazilian children’s television scene for almost twenty years. She also banged Pele. Even people who don’t know a thing about soccer still know the name “Pele”. Yup, he hit it. A LOT.

pele

Anyway, Xuxa started her career as a teen magazine model, and the brilliant South American marketing machine decided “This chick would probably be good with kids.” And there was no turning back. There are even rumors that Michael Jackson’s people had sought her out to marry Michael and bear his children. After all, they both loved children, and it would also strengthen their brands. She politely declined, saying that she could only do that for love. So, that’s the story of how Pele beat Michael Jackson. I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m talking about any of this. Well, what most of Generation Y seems to have forgotten is that Xuxa had a brief yet memorable run on American television. Back in 1993, as the world was winding down on Turtles, but revving up on Rangers, Xuxa had a syndicated daily show for kids. And it was FILLED with glorious mindfuckery (I’m gonna try to get through this with as few YouTube clips as possible, ’cause I want this to stand the test of time; nothing’s sadder than an old post full of dead links)!

The marketing tagline for Xuxa’s US show was “It’s FUNbelievable!” Ya know, ’cause it was fun AND unbelievable. God bless ’em! Anyway, Xuxa was a cavalcade of bullshit. Honestly, it introduced kids to a lot of things they’d never experienced, and didn’t possess the vocabulary to define. Imagine if Lisa Frank was a flamboyant stripper, and was given her own TV show. It was like a rave sponsored by the United Colors of Benetton, with people in panda suits and beautiful women with a poor grasp on the English language. At the same time, you knew something was up with Xuxa. You didn’t know what, but you knew you were tingling in an area that hadn’t tingled before, and you didn’t know what to do about it. It wouldn’t be until a few years later, when fellow middle school classmates would say, “Oh, yeah. Xuxa’s totally a porn star.”

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She clearly missed her calling as Dana Plato’s stunt double

And where was she from? She was the blondest of blondes, so it seemed like she hailed from Sweden. I mean, just listen to how cutely she butchered the English language in that video clip! Schoolyard chums even said, “Oh yeah, she totally did porn in Sweden.” Clearly, they had more intel than I did – after all, this was pre-Internet. So, imagine my surprise when I later found out she was Brazilian! They had blonde people in Brazil? I never saw that on Telefutura! Yeah, there are two things wrong with that sentence: 1) Telefutura is FULL of blonde people and 2) Brazilians speak Portuguese and not Spanish. I had a lot to learn back then. Anyway, what they were probably talking about was Love Love Estranho – an erotic movie Xuxa filmed in 1982, in which she’s naked as she kisses a 13 yr old boy. In fact, she had even sued to prevent widespread release of the film.

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So, why don’t you remember this show? Well, it was only on for a season. In MD, it came on in the morning on WDCA Channel 20. I remembered watching it before school, but even I was too old for it by that point. Still, the tingling. I mean, look at those toy soldier cheerleaders and the knee socks! Plus, Xuxa herself wasn’t without controversy. Some of her outfits put the Slave Leia getup to shame, and she ended each episode by kissing a young, prepubescent boy on the cheek (just couldn’t get that out of her system, I guess). It was as sensual as it could be without her being employed by a local school system. The most jarring aspect to me, however, was that whole Hitler Youth intro. They’re shouting her name. They don’t even really know who she is, yet they chant for their sexy, foreign leader to arrive with her panda minions.

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Is anything behind that flag? I see a collar, but it could be a dickie…

I’ve often wondered what Xuxa meant to accomplish. I mean, she had already conquered South America, but apparently you haven’t “made it” until you succeed in America. Still, it was such a confusing show. She was WAY too sexual, even in a coy, covert way, to be surrounded by children. Today’s kids shows commonly have two layers: the juvenile humor for kids and something somewhat sophisticated for parents. Was that happening here? The animals and zany shit were for kids, but were Xuxa and the dancers for dads? If so, that could be why the show died so quickly. Dad ain’t watching as many shows with the kids as mom, and Xuxa was PRIME hater bait. I’m sure there were very few moms who walked away from that show with nice things to say about its host. Belie’ dat.

In a lot of ways, Xuxa’s appeal was similar to Michael Jackson’s: she was just a big kid, who never wanted to grow up. The problem they shared, however, was that you just can’t continue to hang around kids like that after a certain point. There’s an age when dressing up like a toy soldier should only be done in the confines of your own home. It was only a matter of time before some uptight parent group came after her.

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Unlike Michael, Xuxa’s not dead AND the years have been very, very kind to her. I’d really love for her to take another shot at American stardom. Apparently, her popularity is waning back home, but she could reinvent herself here (Hey, it worked for Trisha Goddard!). A mom herself now, Xuxa has started targeting her brand to kids ages 0-10. They could give her a show on E!, which seems to be the current home of reality shows based on performers unfamiliar to Americans (seriously, how many Americans listen to The Saturdays?). Or they could add her to The View, as I here some chairs are opening up over there. I don’t really care what they do, but she should know that one of her American fans misses her. I’m sure she’d like to know that.

xuxa

23rd Jan2013

1 Broke Plot: How 2 Broke Girls Shortened Its Lifespan

by Will

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I don’t care if CBS is the #1 network, there’s something seriously wrong with the pacing of their shows. We don’t even need to get into How I Met Your Mother, as its problems are apparent. It’s funny how it spent its first 3 seasons “on the bubble” of cancellation because a certain CBS exec didn’t like it, and now it just won’t die gracefully. Another problem is the pacing of Two and a Half Men. In the span of 1.5 seasons, Ashton Kutcher’s Walden Schmidt has gone through a divorce and had 2 serious girlfriends. The show has successfully weathered the departure of Charlie Sheen, but it seems like they’re throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. I mean, the Sheen era also had this problem (what exactly happened with his engagement to Chelsea?), but it’s more pronounced here. My biggest issue, however, is with 2 Broke Girls. I had a discussion on Twitter about it the other day, and the other party acted like I was pulling this out of my ass. If nothing else, I am a student of television. I understand the format and the business side of things. Plainly put, 2 Broke Girls rushed its main plot point so quickly that there really isn’t anywhere left for it to go.

In case you’ve never seen it, the show follows former socialite Caroline Channing, whose father has just gone to jail for some Bernie Madoff-like crimes. She’s blacklisted and penniless, and with nowhere to turn she finds herself under the wing of Max, a tough gal who’s sensitive under her brash exterior. If that wasn’t enough, Max is really great at baking, and dreams of one day opening her own shop. Caroline, who happens to be a Wharton grad, decides that her business sense and Max’s talent make the perfect combination. They’ll open a shop together, but in the meantime, they work at a local diner filled with colorful stereotypes. There are two conceits at work here: Caroline has to learn to live within her lesser means AND the girls have to struggle toward making their dream happen. To drive home the latter, the show always ended with an updated total of how much they’d saved toward their ultimate goal. This total also took into account losses, such as unexpected costs or bad investments. Kinda like Pokemon, it was nice to have a real-time figure, but it also made you realize that they had their work cut out for them. Then, they threw it all out the window.

In the first half of this, its second season, the girls have already established their cupcake shop. Did they win the lottery? No. Did Caroline’s dad have a secret stash of cash? No. Did they sell Caroline’s horse? No. You see, Caroline happened to find a newly vacant shop (which seems to have been the site of a murder, considering all the blood splattered on the walls), and she decides that now is the time to strike. Even though they only had something in the low four figures saved up, they manage to get $10,000 from Jennifer Coolidge’s Sophie. It still isn’t clear whether that was a loan or a gift, but the main point is that they now have their shop, while still juggling shifts at the diner. Why now? Where was the struggle? Sure, it’s not an instant success, so they’re still struggling, but it has creatively painted itself into a corner. They simply didn’t have the financial wherewithal to take this step and, in the real world, their business would fail. So, are we to look for another deus ex machina to keep their shop open?

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A typical sitcom has a lifespan between 5 and 7 years. Using that measure, the “getting the shop” development shouldn’t happen until the end of season 3/premiere of season 4. Then, you can turn your attention to the whole “Man, running a shop is harder than we thought” angle. It may not seem apparent, but this rush job has changed the main goal of the show. What began as “We want to open a cupcake shop” has now become “We want to run a successful cupcake business”. These are NOT the same thing; though subtle, there’s a big difference there. It’s the same thing I think of when I say that the show is called How I Met Your Mother and NOT How I Met My Wife (I still think there’s a reason for that). Also, the rushed timeline has cost the show certain aspects of character development. It had been criticized for the stereotypes of the other diner employees, but they were still important parts of the show. Someone had to understand that the shop would move Max and Caroline away from that world, but they seem to want to have their cupcake and eat it too. It’s so forced, like , “Hey, our manager from our other job just happened to be walking by our shop and came in to visit!” The diner folks may have been downplayed in an attempt to steer away from controversy, but the show is lesser without that interaction, as one-note as it may have been. Also, I don’t feel like Caroline was really experienced poverty enough. I mean, there were a lot of early season 1 episodes involving her discovering the Goodwill and other things, but she seems to have forgotten that she’s poor. In fact, she seems kinda OK with it. I think they could’ve squeezed a little more out of that aspect – at least through the end of season 2.

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Let’s talk about Caroline for a bit. When the show started, it was driven by sharp-tongued Kat Dennings, whose every line was some baudy double entendre. This season, however, the focus has been more on Caroline, which I think is probably the only good development of the season so far. That said, we still don’t know a lot about Caroline’s motivations. Most of her time has been spent trying to get laid, which then developed into new, yet ill-fated, love. Fine, but let’s look at the lifestyle aspect. Caroline really has no reason to stick with Max. Sure, she’s been somewhat blacklisted, but she’s still a Wharton grad, so there’s got to be something better for her out there. She was abandoned right after her father’s trial, but enough time has passed by now that she could move on if she really wanted to. No, I understand that she stays with Max because Max was all that she had when the upper crust of society turned its back on her. I get that. Still, outside of the dream of running a business, there’s not a lot to Max & Caroline’s friendship. After all, it was Max’s dream – Caroline just latched on because she saw a way to reinvent herself. At the same time, there’s this odd couple aspect that is being completely ignored currently. They come from two separate worlds, and by all rights, shouldn’t be friends. This is where the twitter disagreement came from, as the other party thought I was crazy for saying that Caroline wouldn’t be friends with Max due to her education and financial background. That’s exactly what I’m saying – your circle of friends tends to be governed by your socioeconomic status. There can be exceptions, but you’re not typically hanging out with millionaires unless you are one. Caroline kinda uses Max for her street smarts, but that relationship doesn’t go both ways. Now, Max isn’t exactly the most receptive audience, but I think the show could benefit from more culture clash, if only to prolong the conceit of working towards the shop.

So, the main question is WHY the rush job? What possessed the writers to rush the timeline on the cupcake shop? I’ve often thought that it was an odd time for Kat Dennings to sign on for a television series. Sure, it’s steady work/pay, but her star was just starting to rise in movies. She wasn’t Natalie Portman, but she’d done some good, snarky supporting work, and starred in Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist. It seemed like an odd time to theoretically devote yourself to 5-7 years of a show, where you could only do movies during season breaks. So, are they rushing things because she’s got an itch to get back to movies? Also, keep in mind that the show was co-created by Whitney Cummings. It’s not clear whether or not the Max character was written with Whitney in mind, as she was already committed to her self-titled NBC show. Still, Max’s “voice” is clearly Whitney’s, so I wonder if Dennings was more of a stand-in choice. There are enough clues to show that this wasn’t how the show was meant to unfold. For instance, they borrow the money from Sophie – a character who wasn’t even originally part of the show. Jennifer Coolidge was added early on as a subtle retooling of the show, but she wasn’t even a thought when the pitch was made. Now, I don’t expect that Whitney and Michael Patrick King had the entire series mapped out; Hell, even 24 was written 6 episodes at a time. I just feel like something happened behind the scenes, either at the studio or network level, that made the show speed up to where it is now.

As it stands, I don’t really want to watch the show anymore. I know that a lot of my Twitter pals don’t like it, but it’s not a bad show. I think the “cult status” world has gotten too comfortable with Arrested Development and Community that they just can’t deal with the multicam sitcom anymore. I get that, but I’m old fashioned. I like the characters and the dialogue (to think, people used to think Married…with Children was edgy!). Still, a lot of what made the show interesting was the struggle. These chicks were below the poverty line, but they were struggling towards a dream. Instead, they jumped on the first opportunity to come along, and got the funding out of nowhere. In my mind, they didn’t earn the shop yet. I know someone’s reading this and saying, “Will, it’s not real. It’s a TV show.” Yeah, I know, but there’s a science to these things. Right now, there are two ways to play it: they could lose the shop, causing them to have to start over. This would be a bad move, because they’ve already blown their “we got the shop” wad. OR they could continue to struggle, and eventually break even. At this point, though, that’s the path of a 5-season show, max (Which will still get it to syndication). We live in a different time, where maybe you can’t depend on getting 7 seasons anymore, but I still think that’s something you consider in season 3 and NOT season 1.5.

06th Dec2012

Play It Again, Karone: A Look Back On 20 Years of Power Rangers Music

by Will

Unless you’re new here, you know I like Power Rangers. Heck, if you are new here, that’s probably how you found me. My love has tapered over the years, but it has yet to fully be extinguished. In honor of this weekend’s finale of Power Rangers Samurai/Super Samurai, I decided it would be a good time to look at an important aspect of the franchise that is often overlooked: the music. While many came for the martial arts and “untrained” acting, I always loved the music. I’ve come to realize that there are seasons I love with theme songs I hate, just as there are seasons I hate with theme songs that I love. I thought we should rank them in order of worst to best, and discuss them. What makes me credible to do this? Well, I played piano, sang, took music theory…I know a thing or two about the mechanics of music. Plus, If there’s one thing I’ve learned about lists, it’s that you don’t have to be right. Simply, “if you build it, they will come”. Let’s get started, shall we?

15) Power Rangers RPM

 

So, remember how I said there were seasons I loved with music I hated? This is the best (or worst?) example. RPM is my all time favorite season because it’s what I like to refer to as Disney’s “Screw It Season”. After acquiring the franchise from Saban, The House of Mouse never quite knew what to do with Power Rangers. They had already decided to end production, and were testing a Power Rangers animated pilot. What we got was an older, darker Power Rangers – kicked off by the annihilation of most of the human race! Disney clearly didn’t care anymore, and that’s nowhere more present than in this music. That’s not a theme song for Power Rangers. If anything, it’s from some one-season syndicated sci fi show that probably starred Greg Evigan or Michael Biehn.

14) Power Rangers Mystic Force

13) Power Rangers Operation Overdrive

These are problematic for one key reason: Disney specifically requested demos in a “Black Eyed Peas” style. Now, I’ve always felt that the driving force of PR music is the fact that it’s dated, but in a good way. The best hails from power rock, shredding on the guitar. Even if the MMPR song sounded dated in 1993, you knew what it was trying to evoke. Disney was about to make these themes dated by the time the shows aired. They simply don’t work.

The biggest problem with the Operation Overdrive theme is that it doesn’t respect the “Go”. Power Rangers music scholars will point out that the emphatic “Go” is a common and important aspect of most PR themes, but there’s a proper way to use it. This is not the way.

Possibly related – I’ve never seen an entire episode of either of these seasons.

12) Power Rangers Jungle Fury

I actually don’t hate this one. The main problem is the dated sound mentioned above. If you’re going to go for “popular”, try to go for something timeless. This is reminiscent of stuff like Forever The Sickest Kids. Sure, they were on folks’ radar a few years back, but when’s the last time you heard of them?

11) Power Rangers Dino Thunder

This just didn’t do it for me. I think I wanted something a little more special. In many ways, this was like a homecoming season. The show celebrated its 15th anniversary, there was a multiseason crossover, and we got the return of perennial Ranger, Tommy Oliver. This was like Disney’s reboot of the original MMPR concept – colorful dinos and badass Tommy. This would’ve been a great opportunity for the MMPR remix we eventually got in Samurai. This theme just didn’t acknowledge the legacy, which we’ll talk about later.

10) Power Rangers Wild Force

Remember Disney’s Screw It Season? Well, this was Saban’s. I guess talks had already begun to sell to Disney, making this the worst series and theme of the original Saban era. Still, it’s miles ahead of the worst songs of the Disney era!

9) Power Rangers Time Force

8) Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue

7) Power Rangers Lost Galaxy

These three are bunched together because they share a lot of similarities. First off, they’re not very good songs, vocally – even by Power Rangers standards. What they share, however, is the fact that they all are built on incredible instrumental backbones. They all feature this odd synthesis between electric guitar and punctuated bells. The guitar work is reminiscent of the earlier themes, even though the chords aren’t as epic. Still, the instrumental aspect is almost a more mature version of the stuff we got in the Mighty Morphin days.

6) Power Rangers Ninja Storm

Remember how I mentioned that there’s a proper way to respect the “Go”? This song gets it. A little context: this was the first fully Disney-produced season. They needed to set the tone and start out with a bang. I love how the theme just kicks you in the face with “GO!” slightly off the beat. The guitars crank, and it has a sense of urgency.

5) Power Rangers SPD

Here it is: the highest ranking theme from the Disney era. Why? Because this was the return of original Ranger composer, Ron Wasserman, AKA The Mighty RAW. It sounds like it was left over from his MMPR sessions and I LOVE IT. Keep in mind, this is the sound that defined the series. His music was the backbone of every season up until In Space, which is THE definitive arc of the Power Rangers franchise. This was the kind of throwback sound that Dino Thunder could’ve used, but I’m glad we got it whenever we got it.

4) Power Rangers In Space

This may actually be the weakest offering from The Mighty RAW. It’s not that’s it’s bad, but its quality depends more on context, without the ability to stand on its own. As I said before, this is basically the final chapter of Power Rangers Book One. All the Zordon stuff and power transfers and whatnot culminate in this season. Knowing that going in, it kinda makes it more epic. On its own however, it’s decent, but not Wasserman’s best.

3) Power Rangers Turbo

2) Power Rangers ZEO

These 2 right here are the bees knees. They are indicative of everything Wasserman was capable of doing. One of the driving forces behind new PR themes in the early days was that they not only indicated a sense of urgency, but they also, lyrically, stressed the fact that things were about to be taken to the next level. It’s the kind of sentiment that gives toy executives boners: “Make them think these suits and zords are even more powerful so they’ll just HAVE to own them!” A lot of this was lost once Power Rangers switched to the more Sentai-like model of changing actors/powers/zords every season. You couldn’t really say “these Rangers are more powerful than the last” because A) they were all basically on the same level at that point and B) it’s a marketing tactic you can only pull so many times without squandering the goodwill you’ve built up with your audience. The newer model allows for easier access to new viewers, but it’s not a hard model to understand: pretty teens/grads wear spandex and fight aliens. Sometimes they drive robots shaped like things that connect to form bigger things. Still, in those days, if you were an early adopter, each season was like they were cranking it to 11, and there was an ebb and flow. Their old powers wouldn’t be strong enough for newer foes, so they got new ones to become stronger than before. And the music reflected that. Plus, on just a chord level, there is some amazing stuff in these songs. Check out the “Go!” scale in the Turbo theme. It hits, then there’s a crescendo, and then it descends in a minor scale. I mean, just from a music theory standpoint, that’s impressive. Plus, they’re all just variations on a theme. At the core, you can hear that they’re both simply built off of the Mighty Morphin theme. So, just like the powers, he was augmenting the music. Incredible.

1) Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

This is number 1 because it started it all. It’s a dated sound, yet it captures the spirit of Power Rangers. I think that’s a lot of why Saban brought it back with Power Rangers Samurai. At the end of the day, it all comes back to this. Everyone knows “Go Go Power Rangers”, but it was also interesting how the song was actually used. You see, during the first season, we really only got the first verse. Then, when they got the Thunder Zords in the second season, that’s when we learned there was a second verse. And that was the beginning of the whole “each new musical introduction ramps up from the last” thing. Sure, the longer theme allowed for a slower Megazord transformation, thus selling more toys, but it also kinda put the spotlight on what the whole Power Rangers thing is about: They know that the fate of the world if lying in their hands. They know to only use their weapons for defense. And that guitar solo at the bridge? JAY-sus!

So, there ya have it: a look back on the evolution of Power Rangers theme songs. In the end, I found that you can’t do better than the original, but if you keep it in mind, you can still make some wonderful sounds. Who knows what the future holds. Will we find out there’s a THIRD verse for the Mighty Morphin theme if it’s attached to Power Rangers Megaforce next season? Only time will tell. But it wouldn’t be the worst idea…

 

09th Nov2012

West Week Ever 11/9/12

by Will

I find that I’ve compartmentalized myself into a corner. Now that everything has a heading (Thrift Justice, Comical Thoughts, etc), I don’t really have an outlet for just random thoughts. I feel like G.I. Joe, when Ninja Force and Star Brigade gave way to Battle Corps. Battle Corps was the basic line, but still had to be put in a “subset”! In the past, I’ve said that Twitter kinda killed these posts for me, as I just ramble over there even though I’m limited to 140 characters. Still, I don’t have an outlet to just talk about stuff going on unless I make a whole post about it. So, I feel like this will be a good platform for that.

It’s no secret that I loved Best Week Ever. I used to consider that my barometer of success: I’d know I’d made it if I got to become a pop culture talking head on a VH-1 show (I have low standards). I also love my name, as well as a good play on words, so I give you West Week Ever. I wanted to call it “Ashley Banks Is Week”, but I wasn’t sure anyone would get the reference (not only is that my favorite episode of Fresh Prince, but I also love that Tatyana Ali released an album around that time that tanked as hard as her fictional album). I also considered calling it Friday Chat, but that wasn’t flashy enough, plus I couldn’t guarantee I’d get any comments. Finally, I thought about Friday Monologue, but that was just a bit too “on the nose”. So, West Week Ever. That’s what it’s called. Random thoughts on Friday. Read, enjoy, comment. So, let’s get started!

So, there was an election this week. Let me start off by saying that I don’t care if you’re Democrat or Republican. You do what you gotta do. My issue is when people claim to dislike Obama because of “all the debt he’s leaving for our kids” when nobody gave a fuck about those kids prior to his presidency. When we were racking up debt from 2 wars! But I digress. If you honestly felt like Mitt Romney was the best choice for this country, fine. But if you were really grasping at straws to cover that fact that it really bothers you that Obama’s black, that’s when I have a problem. I kinda respect you more when you’re honest, even if your stance is deplorable. However, when you’re a 15 year old girl, upset that Obama’s “taking my money”, I think you’d better have a discussion with your shift manager at Dairy Queen, instead of worrying your little head about the national economy. Obama don’t give a shit about your overtime OR the fact that you covered Tori on register. I don’t need to see stuff like this from you.

Anyone been following the Ariel Winter situation? For those who don’t know that name, she’s Alex Dunphy on Modern Family. Allegedly, Ariel’s abusive mom caused her to be removed from her home. According to the mom, Ariel’s trying to be emancipated so she can live with her 18 year old boyfriend. Ariel is FOURTEEN. Talk about “getting in on the ground floor”! Sure, she’s cute and all, but what the Hell do they have to talk about? SHE ONLY KNOWS SEINFELD THROUGH SYNDICATION, FOR GOD’S SAKE!

It also seems that Brooke Burke-Charvet was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. As sad as that is, my biggest question was “When did she take David Charvet’s name?” She’d been “Brooke Burke” forever, and David Charvet is SUUUUCH a douche. I mean, I think he was the first douche I ever encountered. I knew that’s what he was before there was even a word to describe it. Plus, if you’re known as “the douche” on Baywatch (!), something is seriously wrong.

I am ALL ABOUT Girl Meets World. I wish there were a Kickstarter, as I’d actually contribute to it. I kinda wish Disney Channel would attempt to rebuild TGIF, and that would be a great show for it. I’m not sure if people have realized this, but TV has evolved to the point where TGIF-caliber shows already end up on either Disney or Nick. That’s So Raven, iCarly, Cory In The House – the producers, directors, and writers of those shows are the same folks who were behind Full House and the like. People laugh at the idea that I like iCarly, but those jokes are just as lame as the stuff we laughed at in 1992. If TGIF came out today, most of those shows would go straight to SNICK. Not even ABC Family, as it’s trying too hard to be The WB circa 1999.

Here are my thoughts on the show: I totally think Cory and Topanga could have a 14 yr old, as that show was never really great at following a real timeline. They went straight from elementary school to high school. Then the whole college thing got fuzzy once they got married. Did they drop out? Who knows? Anyway, I kinda hate that the show will be on Disney because it’ll never follow the outcome I mapped in my mind. Let’s take a closer look at Boy Meets World.

Cory Matthews was what is known as a “simp” (see definitions 12 and 25). He went from being an intriguing, sarcastic grade schooler to being a head over heels schmuck. Seriously, watch any of the later seasons and Cory might as well be a 40 year old man, constantly frightened by the world, and worried that he was gonna lose Topanga. The “jump the shark” moment of that relationship was when Cory stowed away on a plane to surprise Topanga at Disney World (remember when Disney bought ABC, and every TGIF had to do an episode there?). While this was pre-9/11, I STILL couldn’t believe that he would violate FAA regulations for his puppy love.

A picture of ShaPanga that I totally stole off someone’s Tumblr.

This is my long and drawn out way of saying that there’s next to no chance that Cory and Topanga are still together. I’ll go as far as to say that Shawn Hunter is probably the real father of that baby. I mean, his character just became pure white trash by the end of that show, but he was a ladies man, and there was a brief spark between him and Topanga back when she first got hot in high school. In a moment of weakness, she gave in to Shawn, and Cory being the simp that he is, took her back. Everyone knows that Shawn’s the father of Riley Matthews, but they just don’t bring it up (think early Nip/Tuck) for fear that Cory would go out like Lane Pryce. If Cory and Topanga ARE still together, that shit’s over once Riley and her brother go off to college.

Anyway, this’ll be on Disney Channel, so it’ll be all laugh tracks and brightly colored interior decorating. I just have two requests: 1) I hope Uncle Eric lives in the garage and 2) FEENY!

 

 

21st Sep2012

Thrift Justice – Operation: Time Dig Part 2

by Will

So, has everyone changed their underwear? Are you sure you’re ready to proceed? OK, so we left off with me posting some of the pics from the website promoting the sale. Now let’s get to my experience digging through TIME!

The sale was to start at 10:30, and I planned to be there as the doors opened, but familial issues prevented that. In any case, I broke the landspeed record to Ellicott City, and got there about 15 minutes after everything started. The booth is located on the 3rd floor of Taylor’s Antique Mall, yet I could hear the sound of shuffling plastic as I walked through the door. I couldn’t tell how many people were there, but I knew I’d have competition. I bounded the stairs to find about 10 people already fast at work in the giant tubs filled with everything. From the pics, I had an idea of the items I’d be looking for, but this was clearly no time for a plan. I jumped right in and started digging in a tub that wasn’t being fanboy molested at the time.

Let’s just say that the “parts sale” description was more than accurate. While you could find some figures here and there, this was Heaven for anyone looking to replace lost figure accessories or restore old Joe vehicles. Two tubs were just G.I. Joe vehicle husks, while one tub was vintage Joe figures and weapons. Everything else was a mix of MOTU parts, Marvel Legends stands, orphaned zords, and anything else you can think of. I came prepared with my own plastic bag, as I really wasn’t sure how things were being priced. The ad mentioned that everything would be “priced to sell/no eBay pricing”, so that was certainly promising. Once I saw other folks with bags, I whipped mine out and started filling it. Since I didn’t really know what the pricing would be, I got greedy. I snatched up anything that seemed semi complete, semi collectible, and, most importantly, wasn’t already claimed by someone else.

Now, here’s the part that I’m ashamed to tell you. Ya see, the original title for this saga was “How I Almost Got Super AIDS”. I guess I was so high on the discovery at hand that I lost a bit of self awareness. As I was digging through a particular tub, I noticed that my hand was wet, but I just kept digging. At one point, I pulled my hand out and noticed my finger was covered in blood. It was my blood. Honestly, I was bleeding pretty badly. At some point, while digging through 30 years of detritus, I managed to cut my finger above the cuticle, and it did not want to stop bleeding. Beside the point that I probably just contaminated the batch, I was also losing out on valuable digging time! I didn’t have a tissue or anything, and while I tried the elementary school first aid of “suck it til it stops”, I just ended up with a mouthful of blood. At that point, I remembered an old receipt that I had in my wallet. I wrapped it around the finger, and kept it moving.

The white stuff is where the receipt fused to the nail. Fun!

I struck up conversations with a few fellow diggers, A) to find out how they’d heard about the sale and B) to somewhat distract them. Yeah, I’m a stinker like that. Once I found out we were looking for different things, I actually helped them out when I ran across something on their list. One guy was looking for vintage Joes, while another had seen some Voltron in the pics and had dragged his little boy down to help him look.

I made sure to hit each tub at least twice, simply because my OCD wouldn’t allow me to leave until I was sure I hadn’t missed anything. Over the course of this time, I struck up a conversation with the booth owner, Todd. It turns out  he’d acquired all of this stuff over the years via various yard sales and whatnot. Instead of throwing away incomplete pieces, he’d just throw them in a tub. Eventually, he had several tubs and his wife wanted him to clear the space before he brought in more. He’s a really cool guy. We discussed Toy Hunter/Collection Intervention (turns out he’d seen neither), I told him about ecrater (he’s tired of eBay being a buyer’s market now), and we discussed the current offerings from LEGO. He also revealed some bad news to me: it turns out, while he was unloading the day before, a guy came up to him and bought 4 of the totes before they even made it inside. Remember all the Transformers stuff you saw in the pics from the last post? Yup, that guy bought basically all of the Transformers stuff, and who knows whatever else was in those totes. Even without the Transformers, I still found some cool stuff, that can be broken down into about six categories:

1) Power Rangers Zord Parts

I actually have a post lined up next week that goes into a bit more detail about why I got this stuff, but the long and short of it is that I tend to buy “orphaned” zords. It’s a pet project of mine to reassemble Megazords by acquiring pieces at a time, on the cheap. When it comes to earlier zords, it doesn’t get much more obscure than this. What you’re looking at it is:

-Thunder Power Turbo Transporter (Ninja Storm): It’s basically just a launching semi.
-Most of the Deluxe Centaurus Megazord (Lost Galaxy): this is one of the zords released when they started not even caring to identify the separate component zords. It debuted near the rushed end of Lost Galaxy and existed merely to be blowed up.

-fist from unknown zord

-Yellow Galactabeast (Lost Galaxy)

-Time Force Megazord micro playset (Time Force): I actually hate micro playsets, and I just grabbed this out of greed

-Senturian Synergizer (Turbo): this was the role play weapon for Ranger ally, The Blue Senturian. Yes, it was spelled that way. Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure he’s dead now.

-Head of the Red Dragon Thunderzord (MMPR season 2): this is one of those parts that was easily lost. You laugh at me now, but watch…

-Astro Megazord Shield (In Space): this is definitely going to come into play in an upcoming post!

-Galaxy Megazord Sword (Lost Galaxy): again, future post

-Firebird Thunderzord leg stand (MMPR season 20: like the Red Dragon head, it’s another easily lost part – especially since it’s removed to form the Thunder Megazord

2) Hasbro

Yeah, I know some of you are disappointed, but this is pretty much all that was left intact! If you were into restorations and picking up accessories, you’d have had a field day. I, on the other hand, just sold off all the G.I. Joe and Transformers stuff that was in my e-store, and I’m in no hurry to start any restorations at the moment. Plus, as far as my own collection, I’m over vintage and focusing mainly on the anniversary stuff. So, here’s what we have:

-OK, I kinda lied about the “not doing restoration” thing. I actually have a box of TF parts, and I recognized this gun when I grabbed it, but for the life of me, I can’t remember who it’s for. Have I ever told you that transformers are not my strong point? The research is the reason it takes me forever to list them on my site. Help me out, Bot fans!

-It looks like a Dollar General Duke, but I’m not convinced that’s what it is. I know it’s the newer body style that I collect, but since I’ve yet to actually see a DG Joe, I’m reserving judgment. What say you, internet?

-Of course you recognize vintage Deep Six! I never had him, but always wanted his immobile ass, so I fixed that. Dreams do come true!

-I honestly don’t care enough about those Transformers to insult you with incorrect info. They’re incomplete anyway. To the parts box!

3) Marvel Bases & Accessories

This pic points out something I’ve always found interesting about thrifting: one day’s finds may not actually “pay off” until down the road. I picked up a 10″ Toy Biz Silver Surfer about 2 months ago, and he’s just been sitting on my site. Besides the fact that the articulation sucks, I feel like he has sat there because I didn’t have his board. I mean, who wants Silver Surfer without his surfboard?! Well, lo and behold, while digging through this completely unrelated tub, I found the board! Not quite sure what I’m going to do with those figure bases yet…

Don’t worry – like we tell today’s youth, it gets better!

4) Playmobil

You can’t tell from the pic, but there’s a veritable shitload of Playmobil here. I have to admit that this stuff I got mainly for my site. When I see Playmobil, I hear cash registers and see dollar signs. Why is that? Well, it’s probably because Playmobil is the official toy of white upper middle-class parents who don’t want their children playing with licensed toys. “No, put down that Spider-Man and play with this shaggy-haired airport worker!” If it didn’t bring back warm memories of Kindergarten, I’d despite Playmobil much like I do anything by Melissa & Doug. Anyways, this stuff don’t come cheap, and these happened to be vintage pieces. One day, I might take better pics of the stuff, but the copyright date on most of the accessories is 1978. Also, I had no clue that Mattel was once the licensed reseller of Playmobil.

The best part of this acquisition, however, is that it allows me to show you the most racist, yet most hilarious Playmobil set I’ve ever seen:

This guy learned the hard way that you do NOT insult the loincloth of the king’s prized monkey!

5) Minicomics & Manuals

I’m a BIG fan of pack-in premiums from old toylines. I’m still collecting Kenner Action Toy Guides, so this stuff was right up my alley. Todd seemed to think these were the best items I’d found, so let’s see if you agree with him.

Yup, vintage Masters of the Universe minicomics. And yes, there are doubles, so I await your tribute.

Precursors to the Action Toy Guides, these are all Star Wars, all the time! Some of them were even woven together instead of stapled. I’m not sure if that’s how they came back then, or if they had been restored. Again, lots of duplicates.

And I couldn’t forget Hasbro, baby! In fact, I even scored a few vintage G.I. Joe blueprints amongst others below!

6) Pop Culturesplosion!

If you follow me on Instagram (and you totally should; williambrucewest), you’ve already seen a version of this picture. I needed a caption for it, so I said something like “My childhood, kicking you in the face!” Of course, the nerd police jumped on me because I have a 200x He-Man and a Sailor Moon in the pic. Haven’t you ever heard of “creative license”?! Anyway, it was really just an excuse to take a pic of everything that was left, yet didn’t really fit into one of the other categories. Yes, you see:

-Rock Lord

-James Bond Jr (who we all knew was one of Bond’s bastard children, even though they claimed he was a “nephew”)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Krang’s walker

M.A.S.K. Raven (that should get me some Underscoopfire traffic!)

-Mego Pocket Heroes Spider-Man (it’s funny to me that most figures in this line look like they’re masturbating. You can tell me it’s unintentional, but this was a company with a hot tub in the center of its headquarters. From the stories, Mego was like something out of Caligula!)

-Sailor Moon

-200x He-Man and Battle Cat

Knight Rider Key Car (put key into spring loaded hole and launch K.I.T.T.)

Justice League lenticular S-shield (I LOVE holograms and lenticular stuff!)

Stompers-esque truck with A-Team logo

A-Team Face figure

Bravestarr Laser-Fire Backpack

-Mr T trading card

Lazer Tag sensor (sadly, seeing this in the pic on the site was the sole reason I decided to check out the sale. Post to come on all that…)

Rambo bazooka and tripod

-General Lee friction car

So, that pretty much wraps it up. I brought home a lot of crap, but I use “crap” endearingly. I was pleased as punch with what I got, as it certainly beat the junk I probably would’ve found at a yard sale. There are worse ways to spend a Saturday morning, and it’s not every day that you get a chance to go back in time and put your hands on stuff that you’ve either only seen online OR you remember your mom throwing away. Sure, I’ll be out in the streets at yard sales this weekend, but I’m sure I’ll just find the usual Rescue Heroes and broken JAKKS WWE figures. This will probably make me depressed, and make me realize I’m wasting a lot of gas. At those moments, though, I’ll think back to the time dig. There’s more stuff out there, just like this, and it’s waiting to be found. It’s not always on the surface, and sometimes you have to dig for it. I’ll be there, and next time, I’ll wear gloves!

18th Jul2012

Laughonomics Part 3: The Bower Agency & Rob’s Diner

by Will

This is Day 3 of this, so in the words of Lt. Rasczak, “Rico, you know what to do!”

                                                                               (courtesy of wtbr.com)

Show: Who’s The Boss
Business: The Bower Agency
Outlook: If you were born before 1990, then you already know the drill. Tony Micelli’s a former baseball player who accepts a job as a housekeeper in CT in order to give his daughter a better life. In the 80s, America had seemingly caught Male Housekeeper Fever (Pfizer would later develop a pill for that).

Tony’s employer was Angela Bower, a New York advertising executive who bordered on neurotic. In the third season, after being fired from her job, Angela starts her own company, The Bower Agency. While we rarely see her at work in those years, she manages to keep her Jaguar and house in Connecticut, so I guess she didn’t completely suck at it.

Verdict: The Bower Agency is still around and thriving. Angela’s son, Jonathan, was an early adopter of the Internet, as he didn’t have friends and was trying to learn more about his latent homosexuality. Going to work for his mom, Jonathan helped take the company into the 21st century.

During the first decade of the 2000s, The Bower Agency became a strong boutique ad firm, as the bigger ones were failing. At the moment, The Bower Agency’s biggest account is the Lifetime Network, and was the inspiration behind AMC’s recent series The Pitch.

Show: What’s Happening!!/What’s Happening Now!!
Business: Rob’s Diner
Outlook: What’s Happening!! followed friends Roger, Dwayne and Rerun as they got into typical high school adventures, from cheating on tests to bootlegging Doobie Bros concerts. They spent a lot of time hanging out at Rob’s Diner, the local teen spot and workplace of comic foil Shirley. The show would only last 3 seasons, due to Rerun’s offscreen antics and suspenders addiction.

All was not lost, though, as the show was brought back 6 years later, in syndication, as What’s Happening Now!! At this point, not only is Roger a writer, but he and Shirley are also the new owners of Rob’s Diner. He runs the place with his wife Nadine, while Dwayne’s a computer programmer and Rerun sells used cars.

Verdict: Rob’s Diner was destroyed during the LA riots. I mean, the show was set in Watts! After the diner was destroyed, Roger experienced a bit of a mental breakdown. His wife left him for a detective in Georgia, while his best employee moved to Detroit to get into radio. Once he got himself together, he sold his house to a local junk man, and moved to New York. Last anyone heard, he was a funeral director in Brooklyn.

17th Jul2012

Laughonomics Part 2: Jefferson Cleaners & Punky’s Place

by Will

Well, if you read yesterday’s post, then you already know how this is gonna work. If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, now’s your chance. Go ahead, this’ll be here when you’re done. Done? Great. Let’s do it!

                                                 (stolen from some dude’s MySpace. Ha! MySpace…)

Show: The Jeffersons

Business: Jefferson Cleaners

Outlook: George Jefferson was created as the foil to Archie Bunker. As Archie was a blue collar racist, George was an up and coming businessman. While the two shared the same level of racism, they were neighbors until George’s dry cleaning business took off. At that point, George, his wife “Weezy”, and his shapeshifting son Lionel moved on up to the East Side.  Ya see, after a bus rear-ended him, George used the settlement to open his first dry cleaners store. Over the course of the show’s eleven seasons, he would go on to own approximately seven stores throughout New York City.

Verdict: Jefferson Cleaners is most certainly closed. You see, these stores thrived during the early to mid 80s, when the rents were low, and NYC wasn’t exactly a great place to visit. After all, this was before Giuliani and the Disneyfication of Times Square. I mean, George was stabbed by a girl gang and had to hire Andre the Giant to bodyguard him. It was hard on those New York streets!

The show was cancelled in 1985, and we’re left to imagine what happened next. Here’s what I see: Weezy, ironically, succumbed to lung cancer in 1987 (I guess they should’ve taken that nickname more seriously). After Weezy’s passing, George’s heart just wasn’t in the business anymore. He had built it for the two of them, but now there was only one. As the rents increased in the city, this era also marked the dawn of the discount dry cleaner. These wouldn’t become common until the late 90s, but New York and LA are always ahead of the curve. So, George sold the business, and it’s not really clear what happened after that. While there were reports that he bought a mansion in Bel Air, a mid 90s Philadelphia newspaper mentioned that he had become a deacon at a local church.

                                                                        (courtesy of thatsimportant.tumblr.com)

Show: Punky Brewster

Business: Punky’s Place

Outlook: Considering how many iconic “child of the 80s” favorites aired on NBC, it’s amazing that its ratings were in the tank during that era. Name an 80s hit: Knight Rider, The A-Team, Sister Kate…All NBC shows. In some cases, NBC managed to get a sitcom AND a cartoon out of a franchise, like ALF and Punky Brewster. Today, we’re going to talk about the latter. Punky Brewster starred Soleil Moon Frye, as an adorable orphan who’s taken in by curmudgeonly Henry Warnimont. He’s a grumpy widower, but she comes into his life and brightens his world (it’s really all in the theme song, if you need the whole story). Along with her friends Cherie, Margaux, Allen, and dog Brandon, Punky got into all sorts of adventures, from being trapped in refrigerator to meeting Andy Gibb.

During the second season, everything went to shit. You see, Henry owned a photography studio, called Warnimont’s. And at the beginning of the second season, Warnimont’s burned to the ground (just like Edna’s Edibles, and Webster’s apartment, and The Hogan Family’s house – damn, were there no fire prevention PSAs in the 80s?!). On top of that, Henry suffered a bleeding ulcer, and was drinking Maalox like it was a bottle of Mad Dog. And then the social worker came and put Punky into the system. Oh yeah, and NBC cancelled the show.

Like many 80s shows, Punky Brewster resurfaced in first-run syndication, and all was right in her world. Not only had Henry rebuilt Warnimont’s, but it had also been bought out by a larger company. They allowed Henry to stay on as manager, but it lacked the creativity he needed. For some reason that could only be explained via sitcom logic, the senior citizen quits his job and invests in a hamburger joint that Punky and Cherie had dreamed up: Punky’s Place.

Now, let’s take a minute to look at this. We’re not talking Rachel’s Place here; it wasn’t a standalone, family style casual dining joint. No, this was a teen hangout, built in a mall. It was essentially Punky’s version of The Max, only the paint scheme looked like Lisa Frank had suffered a seizure in the place. In case you’re not picking up what I’m putting down, this was a VERY 80s place. Punky’s Place could’ve been located on the lower level of the mall from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Verdict:  You read that last paragraph, right? Hell, no! Punky’s Place has been closed since 1991. It was replaced by a Showbiz Pizza, then later by a Woolworth’s and a Kay Bee Toys. Before the mall was torn down in 2002, the space was occupied by a Pac Sun and a Gamestop. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, as it was the kind of concept that Punky was bound to grow out of. It’s like on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, when they give a tween’s room a makeover, with walls covered with Finding Nemo and Bratz images. That shit ain’t gonna be cute when she’s 17. This was the same principle. It lasted just long enough for Punky to get to high school and find the whole thing to be lame.

When Punky got to college, she found that she had an…odd roommate. At first, she just thought the chick was a know it all, but it turned out that she was actually a witch – an irresponsible witch, who had a penchant for fucking with the timeline ’cause she didn’t know what she was doing. So, it’s not even clear if Punky’s Place ever existed in the first place. The good news is that Henry’s still alive and kicking at the age of 95. He likes to sit on his stoop and watch the police cars as they go speeding by.

Well, that’s all for today, kids. Tune in tomorrow for…ya know what? Let’s make it a surprise.

16th Jul2012

Laughonomics Part 1: Jack’s Bistro & Over Our Heads

by Will

I’ve always loved TV. Sure, you’re probably thinking, “Well, I love TV, too.” No, I LOVE TV. I was basically raised by it. It’s not just that I like watching TV. Like Kenneth Parcell, I love the industry, the magic, but also the business side of things. I’ve always had a fascination with business, and while watching a LOT of shows in syndication recently, I started noticing just how many fictional companies were depicted. Since most of these shows are anywhere from 20-30  years old, I started to wonder what exactly became of those businesses. Are they still thriving? Did they survive the introduction of the internet? To borrow a page from my pal ClaymationHowl, I figured we’d use this week to take a look back at some of this TV businesses and see where they ended up.

 

 

Show: Three’s Company/Three’s A Crowd

Business: Jack’s Bistro

Outlook: Anyone who’s seen Three’s Company knows the basics: Jack Tripper is a cook who lives with two girls. Sure, the landlords change, and the girls change, but his dream stays the same: he wants to own his own restaurant. In season 7 of Three’s Company, that dream comes true and he opens Jack’s Bistro. Since Jack specialized in French cooking, the menu featured items like Coq Au Vin. He was conned into renting the rundown restaurant from his former boss, Mr. Angelino, and when Three’s A Crowd started, the building was purchased by Mr. Bradford – the father of Jack’s live-in girlfriend.

A cute little restaurant, Jack’s Bistro only has about 6 tables in the entire establishment. Not only is this to promote an intimate feel, but it’s also probably due to the fact that there are only 2 employees – Jack and his surfer-dude stereotype assistant E.Z. At any given night, only about half of the tables are full. Business was NEVER booming.

Now, let’s focus on Jack’s personal issues. Just as Three’s Company dealt with the taboo of mixed-gender roommates, Three’s A Crowd dealt with the taboo of a cohabitating unmarried couple. Jack wanted to marry his flight attendant girlfriend, Vicky, but she wasn’t having it. Her parents had gone through an ugly divorce, and she didn’t want that for herself. Jack agreed to live with her, but he never really gave up on trying to change her mind about marriage. She was constantly on the go for work, and her father was Jack’s landlord. Let’s just say that Jack was dealing with stressors in every area of his life.

Verdict: Jack’s Bistro is closed. In fact, it’s been closed  since about 1987. When watching the one season of Three’s A Crowd, it comes off like Jack was more in love with Vicky than she with him. Hollywood loves a happy ending, but we were spared the season 6 finale wedding event. So, I’m able to be realistic and say that their relationship lasted about 2 years. Vicky simply loved her freedom, and Jack wanted to settle down. Mr. Bradford, not afraid to kick a man while he’s down, wanted a tenant in the space that would actually be able to pay the rent. The real estate was simply too valuable to waste, and it’s currently the site of a Starbucks. Since Jack boxed in the Navy, he went on to become a sports writer. He got married, and had three kids. Sadly, in 2001, he passed away after collapsing in a grocery store.

Oddly enough, the Regal Beagle is now a thriving franchise known for its happy hour deals. There are currently 15 locations in southern California.

                                                            (courtesy X-Entertainment.com)

Show: The Facts of Life

Business: Over Our Heads

Outlook: You know the story – there’s the Eastland School for Girls, which is chock FULL of students, yet the housemother Mrs Garrett only seems to give a shit about four of them: Natalie, Tootie, Blair, and Jo. After they graduated from school, they helped Mrs Garrett open her own bakeshop, Edna’s Edibles. In season 7, the store burned to the ground, but was rebuilt as Over Our Heads – something of a Gadzooks/Spencer Gifts hybrid. Mrs Garrett got married and moved to Africa, so the store was run by the girls and Cloris Leachman. Oh, and Mulleted George Clooney. These stores were ALL the rage during this era, as you could buy a giant nonworking pencil, or chattering teeth, or a large set of novelty lips. Pretty much if Judge Stone on Night Court had it, Over Our Heads sold it. If you want a closer look, Matt over at X-Entertainment did an INCREDIBLE job dissecting everything in the store. Needless to say, this was the kind of store that could ONLY thrive during the late 80s/early 90s. You can barely find a real Spencer’s these days, so good luck finding a copycat.

Verdict: There’s no way in Hell Over Our Heads is still open. The Facts of Life went off the air in 1988, and I’ll say that it the store survived until about 1992. Not too shabby, really. It was long gone, however, before it got the chance to jump on the Beanie Babies/POGs bandwagon. That might’ve actually saved it. All was not lost, however. In The Facts of Life Reunion, Mrs Garrett, now widowed, came back to America to start over. The movie ends before we see where she ends up, so here’s where my imagination takes over. Not only do I see her reopening Edna’s Edibles, but she also has the good fortune to be ahead of the curve on the whole cupcake craze. She rides this wave, and even ends up with her own TV show. At this point, Mrs. Garrett is probably the Paula Deen of baked goods.

Anyway, that’s it for today. Tune in tomorrow, when we discuss Jefferson Cleaners and Punky’s Place.

 

 

30th Jan2012

Who’s That Guy?

by Will

My rants tend to take a nostalgic bent, but I find I try to stay away from the true “retro blogging” front. I rarely venture earlier than ’93, and there are so many bloggers that already have a handle on the ’80s stuff. That said, the folks over at UnderScoopFIRE! and ColdSlither Podcast have really kind of stoked the fires for my nostalgia. Having followed them on Twitter, and listened to their podcasts, I realize that they’re my kind of people. Every day, I can count on a great debate like “Stone Cold OR The Rock?” or “Ma’am and George Papadapolis OR “Philip and Maggie Drummond?” These aren’t the debates you get from CNN, but these questions must be asked! So, the wheels have been turning, and I’ve started thinking about 80s pop culture, and some of the quirk inherent to that era. One such phenomenon I’d like to refer to as “Who’s That Guy?”

Sitcoms have really evolved over the past 50 or so years. Before we settled on the whole single camera, no laugh track model (The Office), we had the multicamera, studio audience model (Three’s Company). In the beginning, these shows usually starred some comedian or variety act, maybe a husband and wife team. Then, we got to the 70s where things were a bit more politically charged, and sitcoms began to explore the workplace (Mary Tyler Moore). In the ’80s, however, shit got weird.

In the 80s, shows centered on a family model, and tended to have male family friend who Just Might Be Gay. Who’s that guy? Why is he here? What’s his motivation? He wasn’t just a wacky neighbor, as those had been around for years. No, this was something different. Of course, he couldn’t actually be gay, as Three’s Company showed us that you could only be gay if you weren’t (Ha! He’s only pretending). No, these characters seemed like they were testing the waters of America’s acceptance of the potential of a gay sitcom character. The role disappeared in the 90s when shows gravitated towards the Living Single model – centered around a group of friends who are primarily not immediate family; I’d say Friends model, but any black person under the age of 50 will tell you that Living Single did it first (Honestly, I think TGIF’s Going Places might have actually pioneered the whole thing, but I digress). It’s said that the funniest jokes have some truth to them, so it stands to reason that these roles were possibly meant to ease America into the idea of homosexuality, without fully understanding how best to accomplish that. After all, this was new territory for the era, so there wasn’t really a road map as to how to successfully pull this off. These characters were always played as “bachelors”, but little “bacheloring” was done on their part. It’s kinda like your middle-aged uncle who lives with his “friend”, Kevin. At most, they were played for comic relief. Still, their addition always seemed a bit off, as if mandated by the network. I want to take a closer look at some of these characters.

In the sitcom Webster, real-life couple Alex Karras and Susan Clark take in little Emmanuel Lewis, and hilarity ensues! Not really. Anyone with eyes knew that this was just a Chinese knockoff of Diff’rent Strokes. I wonder if white folks were as crazy about adopting black kids as TV led me to believe. Seriously, TV made it seem like a typical yuppie weekend agenda was:

_Play tennis at the club

_Brunch

_Detail the BMW

_Go down to the orphanage and look at the black kids

The saddest thing about Webster was that he wasn’t even a part of the original premise. It was just meant to be a show about the couple, but everyone was apparently riding the wave of black adoptions (gotta catch ’em all!), so Webster was pigeonholed into the show. And then he took over. And the real life couple wasn’t pleased.

Anyway, despite all the behind the scenes drama, something interesting was happening onscreen. You see, the show introduced Jerry (played by Henry Polic II – how do you even become a “II”? Don’t you have to be a JUNIOR? Anyway…), who was the male secretary to Katherine Papadapolis. Hold up, MALE SECRETARY?!! But that’s a WOMAN’s job, like housekeeping (little did we know the 80s would also turn that occupation on its head, too). Anyway, I’ve watched a LOT of TV. We’re talking a LOT. That said, I can’t remember an important episode featuring Jerry. I do remember him dressed up as Dracula once. Otherwise, I just remember him as looking like he could be Cousin Larry Appleton’s stand-in. As a child, though, all I could think was “Why is he here? They already want me to believe these rich white folks want Webster, and now I’ve gotta make sense of him, too?!” I don’t know if there were any episodes about Jerry going on dates with women way out of his league, or a rushed marriage storyline or anything. In hindsight, part of what taints my memory of him is the Britcom, Take A Letter, Mr Jones. In that show, John Inman (of Are You Being Served? fame) plays a male secretary, and I don’t think John Inman EVER played a straight character, so I guess I’m applying that bias to Jerry on Webster. Was Webster sending a message through established gender roles or was it trying to change established gender roles? Let’s move on to another example, shall we?

 

 

Another quirky 80s sitcom was Too Close For Comfort, starring Mary Tyler Moore/Caddyshack alum, Ted Knight. This show was all over the place, partly because it went from network to first-run syndication – changing plot points as it went along. Mainly, Knight played Henry Rush, a cartoonist whose most popular strip was Cosmic Cow. He lived in San Francisco with his wife and hot daughters. Oh, and Monroe Ficus.

Played by Jim J. Bullock, Monroe started out as a friend of Henry’s daughters. While he’s a klutz and always tends to gum up the works, his heart is usually in the right place. Over time, Henry becomes a bit of a father figure to him – especially once the daughters are written out of the show. The problem with Monroe, though, is that he’s a character that just doesn’t exist in that time period. I mean, in today’s vernacular, you would classify him as a manchild, but not in the Judd Apatow sense of the word. Those characters just don’t want to embrace responsibility, while Monroe just had a Peter Pan naivete about him. He never dated any of Rush’s daughters, nor did he even try. I’ve been watching the show a lot lately on Antenna TV, and he doesn’t seem to ever really have girlfriends. Then, there’s the “very special episode” where he’s raped during his shift as a mall guard. It’s played for comedic effect, even though there’s a buried message about how men can be raped, too. He’s embarrassed to go to the police, but Henry convinces him that he should. The whole message isn’t conveyed very well, and you find out he was raped by a burly senior citizen, so it’s still “Haha, poor Monroe!”

As a character, Monroe was a sweet kid, but what was his true purpose? Sure, he served as a foil for Henry (much like the Urkel and Carl relationship from Family Matters), there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered about the character’s motivations. Early on, we learn that his own parents don’t really even care about him, from dissuading him from visiting, to not even calling on his birthday. This is part of why Henry decides to make time for him, but why did the Ficus clan disavow him?

Then, there’s the fact that the character was played by Jim J. Bullock. A longtime HIV survivor, Bullock has never been shy about his sexuality, and he actually learned he had the virus during the final season of Too Close For Comfort. I often wonder if Monroe never chased women because they felt the audience wouldn’t believe it OR if Monroe was actually as gay a character as network TV was willing to allow at the time.

Here’s where I wanted to talk about Joey Gladstone from Full House. I’ve always had a problem with Full House because I don’t know why Danny Tanner puts up with all those freeloaders. Seriously, Joey wasn’t a blood relative, and it seemed like they were helping him more than he was helping them. Also, when you get married, it’s time to move out. When you have a baby, it’s time to move out. When you become a DJ, it’s time to move out. You do NOT move into the attic, expand said attic, or install a studio in the basement. As you see, though, most of my problems were actually with Jesse – Joey was just along for the ride. Plus, any theories about Joey were dispelled by Wolfgnards’s excellent takedown of what was really going on in the Tanner household.

So, we’ve gone over just a few examples here. There are others who fit the mold (Dexter on Silver Spoons, Ralph Simpson on Gimme A Break!, etc), while others don’t (Charley Dietz on Empty Nest). In fact, speaking of Charley, he’s indicative of what happened later on in the decade. Played by “Joe Isuzu” actor David Leisure, Charlie was an oversexed douchebag, much like a real-life version of Family Guy‘s Quagmire. In the latter half of the decade, most of the “Who’s That Guy?” characters would follow this path, as womanizing cads with little moral character. If psychology tells you anything, these guys are actually more likely to have issues dealing with their sexuality than the characters like Jerry and Monroe. But this has already gotten too cerebral, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna actually use my degree for a blog post!  Can you think of any other characters who fit the mold? Am I way off base here? Do you just want me to hurry up and talk about comics and toys again? Stay tuned!

 

13th Jan2012

The Gang Goes Seinfeld All Over Their Asses

by Will

Unless you’re new here, you know that I know next to nothing about sports. As a result, I tend to relate even less to sports fans. And don’t get me started on fantasy teams! Nope, not a sports guy. What I do know, however, is TV. Sometimes, when I really get into a show, I start thinking about how things could’ve gone differently. This morning, I had quite the revelation about the darling of Must See TV, Seinfeld.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve surely caught an episode of Seinfeld in syndication. You’ve probably seen all the watercooler episodes, like Soup Nazi, Man Hands, and Mulva. If you’re like me, you’ve seen them all. As it was marketed, Seinfeld was a “show about nothing”. Or so they claimed. You see, in the finale, they decide to pull the finale macguffin that “everything wasn’t as it seemed.” Sure, it wasn’t anything as daring as the Roseanne finale, but the thesis was that the Seinfeld crew were, and always had been, assholes. To sum it up, the gang are on the way to LA, but the plane has to make an emergency landing in a small town. While there, they notice a fat guy being mugged, but instead of helping him, they just kinda laugh. Since this was a violation of a newly-instated “bystander law”, which required citizens to intervene in such cases, the four are arrested. At this point, several guest stars from the past are paraded into the courtroom to support the idea that, yes, the four are horrible, horrible assholes. Episode ends with them being sentenced for a year, and our last image is of them on their cell.

I HATED that finale. It served to give the show a retroactive thesis that didn’t exist. Sure, they were all selfish characters, but they never did anything malicious. Their biggest crime was probably that they were always looking out for themselves, which, at times, *may* have been at the expense of others. The parade of cameos was almost necessary to build this case against them, but it really came off as “Larry David doesn’t know how to end this show.”
That finale bothered me so much that I couldn’t watch syndicated episodes for over a DECADE. Seriously, the show ended in 98, and I just started watching again last year. What brought me back? I got into syndicated eps of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and one season’s plot concerned a “Seinfeld Reunion”. From a TV fan perspective, it’s so unique to a see reunion take place within the story of another show. The only other example that comes to mind is the Night Court reunion on 30 Rock. I also enjoyed the idea because the ideas being thrown around actually sounded like Seinfeld ideas, and not something from left field like that finale.

So, how’d we get here? Well, this morning, it dawned on me that the Seinfeld finale was PERFECT…for another series. That show: It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. I’ve often felt it to be the show that “out-Seinfelded” Seinfeld. Sure, they own a bar, but that’s just a setting. At the end of the day, it’s another show about nothing. That said, the characters will go to malicious lengths to get what they want. They been addicted to crack, conned a priest into becoming a crackwhore, opened the bar to minors, tricked pro-lifers into unprotected sex, bought a boat to seduce women on international waters, etc. And that’s just the first few seasons. There’s no other way for the show to end BUT for them to all be in a jail cell. So, the Sunny gang has Larry David to thank, as he’s already done the heavy lifting on what will be the beat sendoff for their show. As the show is currently in its 7th season, they reportedly have 2 more to go. Charlie Day’s been popping up in real movies, while Rob McElhenney’s starting up 2 new shows. So, it’s only a matter of time before they have to pull that trigger. Seeing as how they’ve done amazing parodies of Million Dollar Baby and Catfish, I’d love to see them go out with a parody of the Seinfeld finale. It would finally put that story to good use.