Tag Archives: TV

Review of the new Transformers season one set from Shout! Factory



I just received my copy of the new Transformers season one DVD set and I was pretty darn impressed…





For the last few years it’s been a wonderful time for fans of 80s cartoons.  Between the lovely Filmation sets released by the now sadly defunct BCI Eclipse, Warner Bros. stepping up to the plate and offering action cartoons like Thundercats and the Silverhawks, WEP/Anime Works/Media Blasters releasing the complete series of Voltron, Time Life releasing the complete Real Ghostbusters, and Shout! Factory picking up dropped licenses for a ton of DiC and now Sunbow cartoons, releasing 30-odd episode sets instead of the paltry 4 episode discs for shows like C.O.P.S. and Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, it’s just been great.


With the recently released Transformers season one 25th anniversary edition, Shout! Factory has stepped up its game and taken on a tent-pole series, looking to correct the mistakes in the show’s past DVD releases (both in terms of price point, attractive packaging and actual animation and sound snafus from the 2002 Rhino releases.)  Taking a nod from Time Life and their release of the Real Ghostbusters, Shout! is putting together multiple DVD sets that’ll hopefully appease both casual and hardcore fans.  This set is the first of 4 individual releases that will comprise the complete Transformers cartoon.


This first set includes all 16 episodes from season one, a 20 minute documentary featurette featuring a lot of the creative team responsible for the original toy line, the Marvel comics series, and the cartoon, a G.I. Joe-style "Knowing is half the battle…" PSA featuring Bumblebee, three archival Hasbro toy commercials, a printable script for the episode "Transport to Oblivion", and a large b&w Autobot magnet.   For the most part, these episodes are from the same masters that Rhino used in the 2002 releases, but Brian Ward and his team painstakingly researched the discrepancies between the original masters and the broadcast versions, and replaced most of the incorrect footage (and sound) with the correct sections from the 1" broadcast tapes.  For casual fans these changes will be transparent, but for longtime viewers, these new DVDs are the closest we’ve gotten to how the show was originally shown on TV.  Unfortunately, the 1" tapes segments tend to stick out a bit, and can be a bit jarring as the animation flows between the crisp sequences of the original masters and the softer, slightly duller 1" broadcast tape.  On the whole though, knowing that the original broadcast versions are preserved far outweighs the visual bumpiness.


Here’s an example of the corrected animation from the episode "Fire in the Sky".  Look to the missing Decepticon symbol on Skyfire’s chest in the original master footage from the 2002 Rhino release on the left, and the newly inserted footage from the 1" broadcast tape on the new Shout! DVD on the right…





The episodes included on disc 1:

-More Than Meets the Eye: Part 1

-More Than Meets the Eye: Part 2

-More Than Meets the Eye: Part 3

-Transport to Oblivion

-Roll for It

-Divide and Conquer

-Fire in the Sky

-S.O.S. Dinobots


The episodes included on disc 2:

-Fire on the Mountain

-War of the Dinobots

-The Ultimate Doom: Part 1

-The Ultimate Doom: Part 2

-The Ultimate Doom: Part 3

-Countdown to Extinction

-A Plague of Insecticons

-Heavy Metal War


As far as the packaging, presentation and bonus materials go, I was very impressed by the attention to detail and that Shout! had and eye on the style of the original toy packaging when designing the slipcase, sleeve inserts, disc art and the episode guide.  The foil embossed slipcase is brilliant and just plain beautiful (especially compared to the rather dull silver digipaks of the original 2002 Rhino release.)   This is the best work I’ve seen from Shout! when it comes to their 80s cartoon releases.  The menu navigation is light years better than the old Rhino DVDs as well, with an included feature to play multi-part episodes together without interrupting the flow of the cartoon by cutting out the opening and closing credits on the in-between episodes.  The 20 minute "From Toy to Comic to Screen" featurette takes its cue from the docs that Andy Mangels did for the BCI Eclipse He-Man, She-Ra, and Dungeons and Dragons sets, and is well produced.  The main focus of the doc centers around Hasbro acquiring the toy license from Takara, the development of the Marvel comic series, and eventually how the story-lines for the three platforms differed, and features creative talent that worked for Marvel, Hasbro and Sunbow past and present.  It’s not quite as in-depth as I was hoping, skirting talk of the production of the series for the most part, but according to the specs of the Complete series set, we can expect two more docs in these individual sets, as well as two additional and exclusive docs on the complete set (including a voice actor reunion), so there’s room for more down the road.   Also, it was kind of weird that the interviewees hid all mention of Marvel when talking about the comics, they’d just refer to "a comic company", or "that comic series".  As for the toy commercials, two of them pertain to G1 toys, while a third is for the G2 Optimus Prime re-release.   It’s really interesting seeing these, though it can be distracting while watching them because the child actor’s faces were blurred (I’m guessing for rights or residuals issues.)  There’s also a glimpse of the Sunbow Marvel comics commercial in the documentary which kind of makes me hope that these will be included on future sets or maybe the complete set, but I’m not holding my breath…


All in all, for a set retailing between $20-30, fans couldn’t really ask for anything better considering the Rhino DVDs have been out of print and fetching upwards of $100 a set.  This is the first time the Transformers series has been released with this much loving detail at such an affordable price in the US, and hopefully it’s just the icing on the cake as there are three more sets, as well as the G.I. Joe series to look forward to. Brian Ward and the team at Shout really did a great job with this set.



Twitter
del.icio.us
Reddit
Slashdot
Digg
Google
StumbleUpon

Adapting the Watchmen, what is the point?


If there’s one thing that I lament about the film-going experience as I get older, it’s that I move further and further away from the boy who used to watch movies with unquestioning wide-eyed amazement.  When I turned thirteen I started looking at film with a slightly more critical and as the years packed on with an increasingly cynical eye.   It’s a very rare experience for me to walk into a film without the baggage of 20 odd years of cinema watching experience, comparing and contrasting to genre and style.  It’s hard to not have a jaded outlook, in particular when I have any sort of vested interest in the material, and growing up a comic book collector during the 80s and 90s it’s hard not to have such an interest in a film adaptation of the Watchmen.

More importantly, if this film accomplishes nothing else, it has made me question the point of adaptation in general.  I can’t claim to completely understand it, but the yearning to see stories from various other media adapted into film is incredible for me.   As a pre-teen I couldn’t think of anything more exciting than seeing the Lord of the Rings made into films.   As a comic collector I burned to see my favorite franchises turned into major motion pictures, and it’s a feeling that’s hard to shake to this day, especially in the wake of the Watchmen adaptation.  But when I stop and truly think about what adaptation requires, and what it ultimately offers, I have to wonder just how pointless it is.  What is the point of making a film like the Watchmen when I can read the comics the way they were intended to be taken in?  Is it to capture new readers of the comic, to hold up the greatness that a lot of us believe the Watchmen holds and force it on an audience that would only take a chance on it in the film medium?   Is it supposed to outshine the original?  As someone who has already experienced the story in its original form I have to say that no matter how spot on the film was, it would only ever be something that can come close to the original, but never supersede it.  The original, for what it is, has little in the way of flaws, and doesn’t need to be told any other way.  It can only ever be a much quicker way to experience the story, something that is antithetical to the original work.  If I wanted to get somebody to experience the story, I’d just give them the book.  At the end of the day, the Watchmen is a specific story that works as it was created and any adaptation would just pale in comparison.  It isn’t something like Spiderman, which is an icon, a concept of a character that can be used to tell any number of stories.  For someone who is not intimately versed in super hero comics to catch the film, well I think they’d be missing the point of the story anyway.

When I walked out of screening with my wife, my first reaction was that the movie was all muffin top and no actual muffin, but let me back up a second.  All the beats were there in terms of story points, and visually the movie is stunning.  I had the same reaction that a lot of comic fans seem to be having with the flick in that it’s amazing to see the characters from the comic leap to the screen picture perfect.  Again, even this reaction is because of the baggage I’m carrying from watching super hero movies for the last 30 years.  Up until the mid 90s it was very rare that a comic book character could be visually translated onto the screen with such faithfulness to the source material.  The Christopher Reeve Superman was good, but only about half right.  The Michael Keaton Batman, though special in his own right, was a bit off from the caped crusader in the comics.  When you get right down to it, the foam rubber Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the first live action film were some of the very first truly amazing visual translations of characters from comic to screen.  Over the past decade this has been a focus that filmmakers seem to increasingly nail on a consistent basis, and for a group of characters like the Watchmen to make the transition almost wholly intact, is incredible, if only because the source material isn’t ripe for adaptation.  For a movie studio to put as much time and money into the translation without the benefit of a huge merchandising machine in place in this day in age is wild.

It’s the visual culmination of years of trying to perfect the balance between pleasing the fans, logistics of production, and advances in technology.  The thing is that 30 years of super hero films have trained the audience that anything better than horrible is just fine with us.  So a picture perfect visual adaptation of the Watchmen isn’t an aspect that the film can really rest its laurels on.   The other celebrated aspect to the film is the fact that it managed to keep enough of the tone and content to garner an R rating.  The original comics are unrelentingly “adult” in content; in particular when compared to the rest of the output from the publisher (DC comics) at the time it was published.   When you get right down to it, super hero comics are aimed at a young audience, and that was one of the conventions that the Watchmen sought to challenge.  The hurdle the movie is attempting to leap across is the fact that most films these days are specifically molded to appease the sensibilities of the largest possible audience, which is why most “adult” fare is targeted to a PG-13 crowd.  Show just enough to appease those with darker sensibilities, and hold back just enough so that the content is suitable for most teenagers, and bang, that mystically profitable age range is targeted.  Unfortunately, most uncompromised stories don’t fit very easily into any sort of age specific category.  Life in general just doesn’t fit into predetermined boxes all that well.  So the fact that the Watchmen is rated R, and a deservedly hard R, could be viewed as another accomplishment on the path to an uncompromised adaptation.  Again, though, a laurel not to be rested upon.   Side-stepping the mediocrity of the film industry, as admirable as it is, shouldn’t be celebrated, it should be expected.  Even if it were, the violence and adult content in the Watchmen comics are not a selling point.  I think I’d have to philosophically side with Sam Peckinpah on this one and admit that these characteristics of the original comics are an abhorrent necessity in conveying the story.   It’s not cool to watch Rorschach chain a child murderer to a hot water heater in a building he just set afire, giving him a hacksaw as a means to disfigure himself with the possibility of an uncertain escape.   It’s not cool to watch as an inmate’s throat is cut with a box cutter in order to get him out of the way of cell bars that need to be acetylene torched.   It’s not cool watching a woman brutalized and half raped for character development; it’s necessary to tell the story that Alan Moore set out to write, and it’s there to disgust the reader.

So what’s left?  Story, acting, tone (not just of the R rated variety, but in terms of overall plot and world), and execution (in terms of direction), this is where the film starts to fall apart for me.  It’s been awhile since I’ve read the original comics, and after walking out of the screening I felt like a lot was left out, though I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what.  I know of the fan gripes, that the Black Freighter comic-within-a-comic story was excised for the theatrical cut (to be released on DVD as a cartoon later this month, along with the possibility of be re-cut into the expanded edition of the Watchmen film on DVD), that the Newsstand and the relationship been the proprietor and the kid who reads the comic was left unexplored, the dropping of the prison psychiatrist’s back story, and probably the most popular gripe, the alteration of the final sequence in the film and dropping of the giant squid Macguffin.  Those aspects didn’t bother me as I’m much more concerned with the core story, not all the little details.   I mean when you get right down to it, it would simply be impossible to include all the plot threads and details, there just isn’t enough time to incorporate it all.   No, an adaptation from a long format to a short calls for cuts to be made, fat, no matter how interesting, to be trimmed for the core story to come through.  So does it?  I have to say yes.  All the “important” stuff is there, the dynamic between Rorschach and the rest of the Watchmen (and the rest of the world for that matter), Dr. Manhattan’s abandonment and eventual rediscovery of humanity, the dissection and exploration of super heroes as saviors or gods, the futility of doing things the right way, and an expose on the dark depths to which humanity can find itself when it loses its way on the path to righteousness and moral right.  All of the landmark elements from the comic series are represented, yet the film still seems (at least to me) to lose its own way in the midst of adaptation.

There are a couple themes that seem to have been partially dropped, and an aspect to the original story that can’t translate verbatim and possibly could have been redirected but wasn’t.   First off, I don’t think the overall tone of the story was kept intact in the translation.  Reading the original comics isn’t a fun beautiful experience on the whole.  I believe that many of the characters are drawn (both literally and stylistically) to be so ugly that it’s hard to follow their stories without disgust.  In fact I think it’s really hard to pick a character that as a reader you can truly get behind so that the focus isn’t placed on watching that one character interact within the world created, but instead for the reader to be forced to watch all aspects of the world not unlike the social conditioning of Malcom Macdowell’s character in A Clockwork Orange.  If there is a hero in the book it’s the bond between Dan’s Night Owl II and Rorschach.  Aspects of both characters are admirable, but neither is strong enough to carry the role of a hero for the story.  Back to the point, the world of the Watchmen is ugly and dark, it isn’t polished, and when it appears to be it’s just a thin veneer covering something rusty and broken.  Zach Synder made a conscious effort to adapt the material in such a way that this gritty ugliness is polished and beautiful to watch.  Scenes are set to overbearing music cues that are at once both too perfect and too pop for the good of the story.  The soundtrack is full of hit songs and memorable anthems and don’t speak to the world of the film at all except in the most obvious and coincidental ways.  The one section in which this really worked for me was the opening credit sequence after the brutal murder of the Comedian, which is a couple minute montage set to Bob Dylan’s The Times They are a-changin’ (illustrating the formation and ultimate failure of the Minutemen super hero team, and their impact on society.)   It’s heavy handed, but it works.

Unfortunately, there are too many sequences that follow during the next hour or so that keep up this absurd music video-like quality to the film so that the world of the Watchmen isn’t given a chance to breath on its own.  It’s suffocating, and in the end the obvious tone to the music is what informs the tone of the scene, not really what’s playing out before your eyes.  At its most inhibiting, the music can completely tear you out of the film you’re watching and put the viewer in the mindset of other films.  The flash back sequence of a 70 foot tall Dr. Manhattan obliterating Vietcong troops set to Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries is such an obvious reference to Apocalypse Now that it borders on pretentious (“You’all like crazy overblown scenes from films about the war in Vietnam?  Well here’s a crazy overblown scene about the war in Vietnam, set to the music from that original example!”)

The cinematography itself is also so pretty and picture perfect that it does nothing but damage the tone of the story being told.  Everything is so rich and colorful, every movement of the characters is so choreographed and precise that it’s a wonder to behold, awe inspiring really.  But honestly, I don’t think this is what we’re supposed to be feeling while watching the film or reading the story.  I think the blame doesn’t necessarily fall with the director so much as the source material which is being adapted.   If there is an obvious downfall of the comic book medium it’s in the limitations with which the storytellers and artists have to tell a story.  The medium emulates life, but it’s forced to take snapshots of movement and moments, and begs the reader to read between the panels.  Comic pages end up looking like a collection of all the most perfect moments imaginable in a story, but by nature it almost has to be (where film doesn’t.)  Also, during the 80s (in particular) mainstream comics were still on the precipice of achieving a more realistic coloring style and were still shackled by the garish color conventions that printing had to offer at the time.  Where the film takes these cues and relishes in them, is when I believe it becomes a misinterpretation of the limitations of the medium.  It has to be very difficult as an artist to keep yourself from picking the absolutely perfect moments to draw in a comic.  Aesthetically specking this is process an artist normally goes through to make interesting and pleasing artwork.   To a degree this can translate to film in general, but it’s only one choice of many to convey particular moods and tone.   For whatever beauty there is in the grittiness and violence in the original Watchmen comic, in the picture perfect snapshots of moments and it’s vividly colored world, I think it has to be weighed against how unsettling it was when taken in context of practically every other super hero comic being published at the time.  This beautifully rendered chaos becomes ugly in this comparison.

As for the path not taken with the adaptation (that I alluded to above), another key factor of the original comics are their deconstruction of the super hero mythos within comics in general.  This deconstruction just doesn’t translate well to film because there are too many factors to take into consideration for an audience not steeped in comic history, and it’s too meta (for lack of a better term.)  It won’t work for people who aren’t steeped in these conventions because the concepts aren’t novel to the history of cinema (which obviously wasn’t a concern of Moore when writing the comic.)  Cinephiles and the majority of film goers have been inundated with truly realistic depictions of flawed heroism and the dangers of getting behind anti heroes,a nd honestly I don’t think that audience distinguishes all that much between a character’s chosen occupation.  Flawed cop or caped crusader, it’s all the same to most people.  I believe there was a chance to redirect this deconstruction at a more clearly defined target, the super hero film as a genre in particular.  Sure, the content of this deconstruction would deviate some from the Watchmen source material, but the heart and soul of one of that source material’s original aims would be kept intact.  I truly think that as a piece of “important” literature, the Watchmen’s interpretation of the super hero ladden world is one if it’s crowing acheivements. 

Getting back to the misplaced tone of the film, there are distinct choices to portray certain aspects to the story in a much more grandiose manner that mar the tone.  There is little super heroic fighting in the original comics for instance, and when Synder adapted the material he chose to heighten these moments, turning them into exactly what the original comics were intending to deconstruct and downplay.   Watching Silk Spectre II and Night Owl make an assault on a street gang or a maximum security prison is like watching all of the horribly unrealistic action that is common to films such as the Matrix, X-Men, and Ghost Rider (not to mention that the methodology and consequences of the violence is increased.)  These non-super powered characters are doing truly unrealistic and super powered things like punching through concrete, and throwing people clear across rooms.  Watching Rorschach scale the side of a building evokes the feeling one gets when watching Spiderman do the same thing, and that is a terrible misinterpretation of what the Watchmen is all about.

I will say that incongruous to my feelings on the adaptation above, I loved the change in the ending of the film.  Whereas the giant-squid-alien Macguffins that are used as a doomsday device/deterrent in the original comics are a terribly interesting way of bringing the final outcome of the story to fruition, I am completely blown away by the poetry Snyder managed to squeeze out of the new destructive device.  Having Ozymandias trick Dr. Manhattan into building devices that would emulate his powers of atom level disintegration under the guise of generating a free source of energy is genius.  When the “bombs” go off vaporizing many major cities in the world, both putting into play Ozymandias’ ultimate goal of world peace through banding together against a common foe, and framing Manhattan for this destruction in the process (by using his power’s signature and instrumenting a portion of his loss in humanity and eventual exile from Earth), Snyder effectivly turns Jon Osterman into God, the ultimate deterrent for war.  Synder taking such a stab at Christianity is so much in the vein of what Moore was doing with the original Watchmen comics that it almost makes up for the fast and loose way he handled the build up to the reveal of the story, almost.

I also have to say that again, adaptation issues aside, a good majority of the characters do translate well to screen.  Jackie Earl Haley as Rorschach is amazing (though a tad too emotional when compared to his monotone print counterpart), more so when not wearing the mask.  Patrick wilson’s Night Owl manages to capture the essence of the original character, at some times more convincingly than int he comics.  Some don’t fare so well though, particularly Malin Akerman as Laurie Jupiter.  Her portrayal of the character is too strong and confident, she’s played as a sex bomb and doesn’t seem to be the same broken down dependent character from the original comics.

All in all I still just have to wonder what the point of the whole experience was.

Twitter del.icio.us Reddit Slashdot Digg Google StumbleUpon

Didn’t want to wait almost two more weeks to post this…



Hello all, sure has been awhile huh?  Guess it’s about time I updated the blog and brought it into the new year, though I haven’t been completely neglecting the site as you can see from the slight facelift I’ve given it.  I’m still pretty dense when it comes to website construction, so I’ve been slowly tinkering with the code in hopes of getting this place shaped up into a slightly less messy place to visit.  Call it pre-spring cleaning, except all the content is staying put, I just took some time to put a fresh coat of paint on the walls.  If nothing else, there is no fear of stabbing yourself accidentally on the old horribly sharp and generic header I used to have…





Anyway, on to the topic of conversation I wanted to get to today, the remake/reboot of Friday the 13th, which I saw this past weekend with my wife.   Granted it’s not on DVD yet, but it will be so I figured the best place to store it on Branded would be in the Buried column.  It was sort of a weird experience as we decided to catch an evening screening (we typically only hit the theater before noon on the weekends to take advantage of the half price tickets at our local AMC), and we don’t usually watch horror flicks in the theater since my wife really isn’t partial.  She bit the bullet though as we had a free ticket courtesy of the pretty interesting Friday the 13th DVD documentary His Name was Jason.  I was expecting the place to be crowded as it was a Saturday night and we were seeing a relatively popular flick, but our screening was only about 1/4th full.  I was also hoping to have a decent audience as it’s always more fun to see certain flicks (like comedies and horror movies) with a bunch of people who get into the screening, but we were plagued from the audience from hell.  Through the entire running time of the film the teenagers that were in the room with us kept playing musical chairs.  The ones that weren’t seat hopping kept getting up to leave for five minutes at a time before stomping back in.  Needless to say it was hard to get into the movie what with all of the ADD addled kids about.


As for the film itself, I was sort of happily surprised and disappointed all at the same time.  I’m not a diehard Jason fanatic, and though I love plodding through the first 8 Friday films from time to time, I’m not particularly bothered by the idea of a remake or reboot, or whatever they hell they want to call this new flick.  In fact the one thing I kept reading going in was that the new movie squishes aspects of the first four Friday films into one plot, which seemed like a good idea and it boded well for the idea that the filmmakers might ditch the horrible 40+ minute lead up most of the originals employed.  I mean when you get right down to it not that many people are probably watching a slasher film for good character and plot development, at least not a series like the Friday films.  Actually, I think character development is a great place to start talking about the new flick.


If there is one thing that I don’t envy about the process that sequel and remake writers/directors must go through, it’s the balancing act between giving the audience what it’s looking for while also trying to put an interesting spin on an old story or concept.  I mean how many times can we see Jason kill a bunch of camp counselors before it gets boring?  In particular when dealing with a weirdly iconic character like Jason Voorhees, how do you paint him from a different angle?  He started out as a deformed "mostly-drowned" child/hallucination, shifted into a fully grow potato sack wearing inbreed hillbilly, took a side step into hockey mask stealing stalker, and eventually graduated into becoming an undying soulless zombie maniac (do we even need to envoke his cyborg years?)   He’s been mother obsessed, self obsessed, Corey Feldman obsessed, a disgruntled pawn of Freddy Kruger, and yes, okay, he was even shot into space.  What’s interesting to me is that throughout all of this Jason has managed to stay pretty static character-wise.  Sure, he’s put into new situations from time to time, taken a stroll through Times Square, spent some time as a demon worm, an even been a guest on the Arsenio Hall show, but he’s pretty much the exact same mute coveralls-wearing lovable mug.   The Jason I grew up with took the concept of Michael Meyers from the first Halloween film and brought it to a whole new level.  He is the boogie man, a mostly faceless killer who acts out of pure fanatic revenge at first and later on out of a meaningless impulse.   He’s not of this world; he lives in the shadows and pops up totally unexpected from out of no where with an almost teleportation-like quality.   He serves at the ultimate punishment and the consequences of walking the wrong path, and he has no needs.  Hunger doesn’t deter him, money won’t stop him, and he won’t even bat an unleveled eye at a half naked woman.  So as a part of the filmmaking team for the new flick, how do you deal with the character’s iconic status?   Where do you deviate, what past character traits to you pay homage to or resurrect?


Well in the case of the new film, the creators decided to develop Jason’s character, enough so that the new incarnation only resembles the tried and true icon.  Underneath the hockey mask is a new Jason, one that I personally don’t care all that much about.  The problem I have is that the new Jason thinks too much.   He’s painted as a monster with plans and day to day rituals, a man with needs, preferences, and dare I say it feelings!  The filmmakers have made him the worst kind of being, a human being.   In the new flick Jason has an underground labyrinth home base; a series of dugout tunnels where he keeps an odd assortment of baubles and junk.   I don’t know about any of you, but the Jason I grew up with has no time to amass a collection of anything, even disturbing rotting junk.  The new Jason is so won over by the sight of a girl who looks enough like his mother that he not only hesitates in killing her, but he abducts her, keeping her captive in said underground lair.  On the surface this isn’t all that beyond the scope, but when you stop to think about it for even a minute it flies in the face of what the character is capable of.  Hostages kept for any length of time need to be fed, they need water, and they need a place to poop for crying out loud!


On top of this the filmmakers have instilled an odd intent into the new Jason, leading him to set traps for his victims, keeping them pinned down so that he can come back to them later.   The new Jason isn’t the unstoppable force of nature he used to be, but more of a plotting, scheming, opportunist.   I guess in my mind, when you’re dealing with a character as iconic as Jason (yet not as old-as-the-hills like say Santa Claus), it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to humanize him.  Though I haven’t seen it, I think Rob Zombie did something similar with his iteration of Michael Myers from his Halloween remake.  I don’t need to identify with Jason as a character, I just need to be poop-in-my-pants scared of him or rooting him on as he kills annoying kids.  Even though I think the intent of making the character (in the new flick) relate-able was to up the disturbing factor, it just didn’t work for me.


Part of the problem for me is Jason’s antihero status from the original series of films.  Though the first film is 98% without the character, it’s set up in such a way where the viewer doesn’t really bond with the camp counselors, not to mention the fact that so many of the kill scenes are shot from the first person perspective of the killer.  It trains us to anticipate and eventually begin to enjoy the slaughter.  In the third film the main characters take on such underdeveloped stereotypical roles, that they serve as nothing more than lambs to the slaughter, deaths we just can’t wait to see soon enough.   By the fifth film we’re no longer watching for plot, and by the seventh Jason might as well be playing King Ghidorah to Tina Shepard’s Godzilla!   What I’m getting at is that half of the fun of Jason is rooting for him (or against him in either Part 7 or Freddy Vs. Jason), and it’s really hard to get behind his character in the new flick because he’s more real, and well, to be blatantly obvious, he’s killing people.  I know how stupid that sounds, but think about it for a minute.  As viewers, do we ever root for the three psychos in Last House on the Left?  Do we really want to see Laurie Strode lose to Michael in Halloween?  Do we really want to see the demon Pazuzu for Regan to masturbate/stab herself with a cross in the Exorcist?  Hell no.  But we do want to see Jason slaughter a bunch of braindead kids, and in order for this dynamic to work, I think his character needs to be as inhuman as possible (to the extent of making him a zombie in the later films.)


By this point I’m sure you’re asking yourself how I could have simultaneously been happily surprised with the flick.  I guess my biggest fear going into the film was that it was directed by Marcus Nispel, the same guy who brought us my least favorite horror film of all time, the remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  I don’t really want to get into that flick, but I will say that I absolutely adore the original film, and the remake missed the point of its predecessor completely.  I don’t particularly care for the trend in modern horror of making the genre so damn mean.  Be it torture porn (Saw, Hostel, et al), or flicks like Severance (that take interesting and fun characters, let you get to know them for 40-50 minutes, and then force you to see them killed in a sadistic and just downright mean fashion), I just have a hard time relating to this generation’s horror.   I expected the new Friday the 13th to be just more of the same, and I was completely surprised by how well Mr. Nispel nailed the tone of the original series.  There’s a little bit more of each of the trademarked elements for sure (more T&A, more annoying characters, more gore, etc.), but it really works as a whole.  Believe it or not, even for the faux-Jason, the film is fun to watch.  Go figure.  I wish I had more to say about it, but it’s really just refreshing to see a flick like this and enjoy myself in this day and age.



Twitter
del.icio.us
Reddit
Slashdot
Digg
Google
StumbleUpon

"Is that even possible?" [pause] "I guess so."



I’ve been on a John C. Reilly kick lately, and this past week I sat down and watched the flick The Promotion (written and directed by Steve Conrad.)  I wasn’t expecting to really connect with the film at all as it’s sort of set up with a pretty standard comedy plot and stars Seann William Scott (he of Stiffler fame from the American Pie movies) who I’m not all that enamored with.  Honestly, I was expecting to enjoy Reilly’s performance, a few jokes here and there and that’s about it.





Part my initial disinterest was that the flick seemed to be drawing from the same cultural ennui of flicks like Waiting, Office Space and more importantly Clerks.  I experienced Clerks at the perfect age, 19, right smack dab in the middle of my initial career as a grocery store stock clerk and budding film buff, and connected with it in a very visceral way.  For my money Kevin Smith totally captured what life was life like for a 20-something pop culture nerd working in retail, whittling away the hours with humor as the world (customers, supervisors, family, etc.) slowly sucked away at your soul.  Well, with a lot of genres (sub-genres, sub-categories, what-have-you) it seems like there are one or two films that do a great job of addressing the particular subject matter, and thereafter other flicks just seem to be watered down imitations or parodies.  For me, in the minimum wage lackey category of comedy films, Clerks stands head and shoulders above the rest (with a nice honorable mention to Office Space, even though it deals more with corporate misery), and after watching flicks like Waiting or Kill the Man I was getting kind of tired of the genre.  When I saw the trailer for the Promotion, I was expecting just more of the same.


Actually, I think part of my disinterest lies simply with the fact that I’ve moved on from that time and place in my life.  I’m over ten years older, working a slightly more rewarding office job (I still emotionally connect to Office Space just fine thank you), and I’m less interested in wallowing in sarcastic hopelessness, preferring a bit more upbeat fare (in general, not as a rule.)  Again, watching the trailer for the Promotion, which revolves around two grocery store assistant managers vying for the coveted store manager position at a new location, I was expecting to be less than engaged by the plot.


For the first half of the film everything was going exactly as I figured.  I was really enjoying John C. Reilly’s Richard Wehlner, there were a couple of really funny jokes (in particular a handful about an annoying banjo teacher/gay dominatrix type), and a few surprising cameos (in particular by Jason Bateman and Bobby Cannavale.)  I was actually a little surprised that Seann William Scott didn’t bug me all that much (something I also noticed in the flick Southland Tales), though there wasn’t anything particularly engaging about him either.  Then, as the rivalry between Reilly and Scott started to heat up a bit I found myself wanting the film to side-step the clichéd plot (where one of the two would take on the role of the villain and you’d start rooting for the other by proxy) and veer into more uncharted territory.  The weird thing is that it did.


I as mentioned before, the film stars Scott as Doug Stauber, who is an assistant manager at a grocery store chain located in Chicago, and along with his wife (played by Jenna Fischer) is just trying to make a go of life in middle class America.  Figuring on being the shoo-in for the Store Manager position at a new location under construction, the couple decides to take a chance on buying their first house.  At the same time, Canadian transplant Richard Wehlner (Reilly) (and his family, including his Scottish wife played by Lili Taylor), also an assistant manager (though for a chain of Canadian sister stores), and a recovering drug addict, transfers to Chicago putting Stauber’s "shoo-in" status in jeopardy.  As the bigwigs descend on the store to check up on Doug and Richard, each end up dealing with their own demons, be it a gang making life on parking lot duty hell, the possibility of slipping back into depression, alcohol and drugs, or their need to get ‘promoted’ in order to grab a hold on their life.


Though the film is mainly a comedy, it manages to avoid some of the more obvious or gratuitous plot machinations, and pretty much plays the jokes in a subtle manner (even the more outrageous humor isn’t in your face.)  The flick manages to balance the gags with plenty of introspection and does a surprisingly amazing job at illustrating a more real-life struggle for success.  This is what kills me about most movies where the characters are always shooting for the stars, where success is defined only by achieving what in the long run only a very few people can.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for striving for greatness, but I’m also content in not shooting myself into the cosmos.  Becoming an amazing success is wonderful, unless the trip there and beyond is horrible.  Anyway, about halfway into the film I started hoping for a particular outcome, and was surprised when it occurred.  Where Clerks deals with the grind of working a Middle
American job with sarcasm, apathy and slack, The Promotion deals in hope, duty, and a positive work ethic.  It’s the other side of the coin, and sort of the next logical step after a film like Clerks (which is sort of where Smith was going with Clerks II, just without the goofy dance sequences, inexcusably ignorant fanboys, and donkey sex.)

Why I’m a dork, part 63: The List…



There are a ton of reasons why I’m a nerd/dork/geek/what-the-fuck-ever, but if I had to pick one that exemplified this blog, it would probably have to be the word document file that I’ve been working on for the past four years that I call "the list."  What is on this list you probably aren’t asking?  Well I’ll tell you.  It’s a list of every film I’ve ever seen.  Not so dorky you say?  Well it’s also annotated.


Over the course of the past four years I’ve spent a good bit of my spare time reading over IMDB lists, complete video and DVD release guides, and any other list of films I could find to compile a list of everything I’ve ever seen, film-wise.  I was pretty proud of myself at first because this sprang out of boredom at work as I tried to think of some project that would take a long time, and when I decided to draw up the list, I figured that I’d never finish it.  I have seen quite a few movies, but the thing that I felt was going to be the biggest stumbling block was finding thorough lists of flicks.  See most of the lists and guides I was reading were either yearly best-of’s, or limited to what has been released either on video or DVD, and even then these weren’t exhaustive as they leaned toward more popular fare.  So between these, 6 million Google searches, and my collection of movie ticket stubs that I started collecting about 20 years ago I managed to put together a pretty exhaustive list.

Is anyone still reading this?  God bless your inexhaustive patience and limit for boredom if you are.  So were there any stipulations to what could and couldn’t find a home on the list?  There sure were.  First off, I had to feel like I remembered a decent amount of the plot in order for the flick to make it on the list.  If I remembered the title but couldn’t remember the plot, I nixed it.  Second, and this is the super stupid anal part of this list considering I’m the only person who will ever see it besides what ever estate lawyer lackey is forced to read through it upon my death, I had to feel like I watched the flick from beginning to end.  So anything that I’ve seen edited on TV didn’t make the list either.

So what are these annotations you probably aren’t asking about?  Well, once I finished the general list it didn’t seem quite as cool as I had hoped.  I did mention that I was a dork right?  So in order to make the list cooler than G. Gordon Liddy the night before the Watergate scandal broke, I decided to run through the list and mark each movie with some code.  First, each flick was marked to show who (out of my circle of friends and family) that I saw the flick with.  Then I marked it as to whether or not I saw it in the theater.  Then whether or not I owned it.  Then I figured I’d try and mark the approximate number of times I could remember watching it.  This list was really starting to take shape now.  I had to make a key for the various notations.  As a coupe de grace, I decided to highlight all the flicks that I wanted to own on DVD, and then whether or not they were available on DVD, so now the list was all colorful as well.

Outside of feeling like the biggest anal-list-retentive geek on the planet, I felt like all the time and effort I put into the this was well worth the, well, effort, if for nothing else, than for giving me fodder for other boredom relieving activities like "count the seconds".  Have you ever found yourself on the toilet with a calculator so bored that you decided to mathematically deduce the total number of seconds you’ve been alive, or the approximate number of breaths you’ve taken, or the possible number of times you’ve pooped in your life?  Liar, I saw you doing it.  Wil Wheaton has done it.  Well, he wasn’t on the toilet, but that’s neither here nor there.  Anyway, this list has a ton of statistics fodder for crap like this, from the approximate proportion of my life I’ve spent watching movies, to the ratio of films seen with each of my friends, and who I am more likely to see a flick with.  Last warning, I mentioned I was a dork, okay, so stop screaming at me.

One thing I’d like to do it to be able to compare this list to someone else’s like another movie buff that’s seen a ton of movies.  I mean, even though the list took four years to finish and refine, at the end of the day there are only 1950 films on it. Is that a lot?  Dunno.  Doesn’t look like a lot, but then it felt like a lot when I set out to make it.  I think I might need therapy…

Don’t you understand, the only thing I’m good at is riding this bike!


Wow, when the heck did the middle of November jump in our laps?!?  Mentally, I’m still back in late August trying to figure out how to not go stark raving mad because of all the changes at work.  Sheesh.  I’m totally neglecting the internet right now (actually it feels like I’ve been out of the game so to speak since the start of the year.)  But I’m not writing to complain about my silly life woes, no I’m back to get into a fun head-space, and what better way to do this than by cracking open a bootleg copy of one of my favorite all time movies, the 1986 BMX cult classic RAD.

Growing up in the 80s I had a chance to catch the insane home video boom right from the beginning, what with all of the mom & pop rental shops opening and the initial flood of movie titles on VHS and Beta.  My family was a late adopter in terms of getting our own VCR, so instead we’d rent one every other weekend from a little store tucked in a corner of a Gooding’s shopping center down the street from us.  As a kid I was a creature of habit when it came to renting movies, not only because I loved watching the same flicks over and over, but also because there were only a handful of titles that I was interested in packed into that tiny rental store.  I remember that the store was divided pretty evenly between Beta and VHS, and the little old couple that owned it only ordered the flicks in one format or the other.  For some reason my parents only ever really wanted to rent a VHS player, so I was severely restricted in terms of titles to rent.  Usually it was a choice between three or four movies, Red Dawn, War Games, SpaceCamp, and RAD, and for some reason the flick that I was always choosing was RAD.   It was also around this time that I realized just how much VHS tapes used to cost back in the day.  I think on my sixth or seventh rental I got up the courage to ask my mom for a copy of the movie for Christmas, so we asked the rental store owners how much a copy cost. ;’When they told us that a new copy of the movie would run about $110, both my and my mother’s jaws hit the floor.  Owning VHS was apparently only for the very, very rich in 1986 (well actually it was aimed at store owners for rentals as the industry really hadn’t caught a whiff of just how much people wanted to own copies of films.)

So I never got a copy of RAD on VHS, and later on when I starting building my own library of films, I was cheated again as RAD has never been officially released on DVD.   I had to resort to picking up a bootleg copy on ebay, which was just a crappy port of an old VHS rental ripped and burned to disc.  My copy did come with a nice bonus disc though, which included the majority of the RAD soundtrack songs.

The flick begins with the very iconic Tri-Star opening (with the Pegasus running kitty corner into the screen and then leaping over the logo), something that I associate with plenty of Saturday afternoons spent glued to the TV during movie marathons.

Anyway, I thought I’d sort of go through the movie chronologically and talk about the stuff I find interesting.  RAD is part of an unofficial trilogy of flicks in the 80s that touch on the 3 main popular extreme (for lack of a better term) sports of the decade (skate boarding, which was covered by the movie Thrasin’, surfing covered in the seriously underrated flick North Shore, and BMX.)  Though there were a couple other BMX movies in the 80s (namely the Aussie flick BMX Bandits, which was more about escaping murderous thieves than BMX), none were as cool to me as RAD.  The opening features a plethora of professional BMXers free-styling over the credits, set to the rocking Jon Farnham tune, Break the Ice (which deserves to be held up with other 80s triumphant movie rock ballads like Rock Until You Drop from Monster Squad, and You’re the Best from Karate Kid.)

The flick was produced by Jack Schwartzman, the husband of one of the film’s stars, Talia Shire (and father of Wes Anderson regular Jason Schwartzman.)  It was directed by Hal Needham, the guy responsible for many of the goofy Burt Reynolds car-centric comedies of the late 70s and early 80s (like Smokey and the Bandit and the Cannonball Run series), so you know that he can handle the fast paced action of RAD.

I think it was during this credit sequence that I got the most jazzed while watching the flick.  The pro BMX riders doing all sorts of stunts (which I can only hazard a guess to what the names are by using the internets) would always get me in the mood to go outside and try them myself.  Trouble was that I’m horribly uncoordinated when it comes to most physical activities, not to mention that I’m deathly afraid of pain and looking too much like an ass (a trait I’ve since grown out of), so I’d get pumped, go outside to ride my bike (a sweet powder blue and white GT Performer covered in pink GT stickers), fall off once while trying to do a simple trick and then pedal back home in a huff.  Pretty sad I know.  Guess I would have been the definition of a poser.

Anyway, the flick’s main star is Bill Allen who at the time was a 24 year-old guy who looked a hell of a lot like a young Powers Booth.  Playing opposite of Allen was a young Lori Loughlin, who would later on play Uncle Jessie’s girlfriend/wife on Full House for six or seven seasons.  Rounding out the cast (in terms of the more known established actors) are Ray Walston of Fast Times at Ridgemont High fame, Jack Weston (who I remember mostly from Dirty Dancing, Ishtar and Short Circuit 2, but who also had turns in flicks like the Cincinnati Kid and the original Thomas Crown Affair), and H.B. Haggerty (who was a familiar wrestler and starred in another underrated flick from the 80s, Million Dollar Mystery.)

In the above screen caps you can take a gander at two of my favorite 80s BMX memories, the first being a fabled full pipe and the second my favorite freestyle move though I have no idea what it’s called.  Basically it’s when someone does an endo, starts pogoing on the front tire and whips the frame of the bike around in circles, stepping over it as it flips around.

The opening credits sequence is one of those (for me) breathtakingly awesome bits of 80s nostalgia and excitement that I revel in like a drug.   Between the sickly sweet fist pumping heartfelt ice breaking and right making anthem playing over the free-styling action, and the non stop montage of professional BMX riders doing all your basic tricks and such, it’s just 80s perfection.  Every time I hopped on my GT Performer heading out for school in the morning, this is the kind of thing I had in my mind’s eye.  Sure, I couldn’t do much besides popping a wheelie or coming to a side-sliding stop, but I always imagined I was just as talented and, well, cool.  Never meant to be though.

Anyway, back to the film.   The action opens on Cru Jones and his two friends Becky and Luke, splitting up to do their morning paper routes…

What follows is a montage (of which this film has in spades) of the three playing out every possible BMX cliché and fantasy, at least in terms of riding around a local neighborhood goes.  There’s riding through construction sites (which was always a favorite of mine growing up within a series of newly built subdivisions…)

…followed by the perfectly timed (or not so much so) jump off of one structure onto a car (and the hilarious wipe out that ensues, complete with straightening of hair and uttering the word “gnarly”.)

To illustrate just how ensconced Cru and his compatriots are in their small town, the local fire department is shown getting their delivery mid-street at the appointed time, as well as a friendly garbage man who obviously gives Cru a ‘lift’ on a regular basis…

Of course, everything isn’t wine and roses.  The filmmakers had to make sure and keep an edge to the characters, which is where the ornery residents of the ‘hood come in.  You’ve got the guy who doesn’t appreciate his paper thrown into his flower bed, and the most typecast curmudgeon of all time, Ray Walston, who gets a walkway full of spilled coffee and newspaper, courtesy of our hero Mr. Jones.

The sequence ends with Cru in the middle of town staring down an iconic clock tower pumped at another shot at his own best time.  Again, though this sequence is pretty cliché, it does address a lot of what it felt like to cut through my own neighborhood, using my regular shortcuts through golf courses, and light woods to get to school or my friend’s houses.

There’s even a nicely executed bit with Cru riding though a specifically rigged section of fencing (again, another childhood fantasy of secret passageways hidden throughout the subdivision), which he then turns to face revealing the plot of the film in an advertisement for Helltrack, a 7-Eleven sponsored BMX event coming to the small town.

Again, the plot is pretty straight forward with the corrupt owner of a BMX company (an actual company Mongoose, who I’m sure didn’t realize how their company was going to be painted when they agreed to be featured in the film) putting on Helltrack to promote one of his star riders, Bart Taylor (played by real life Olympian Bart Conner), and securing a million dollar T-Shirt licensing deal.  The catch, and the entry of our hero into the story, comes with a local town hall meeting where the residents want to know if local talent can enter into the race.  After some thought, Mongoose owner Duke Best (played with plenty of sleeze by Jack Weston) decides that there will be a qualifying race, the top contenders of which will be featured in the final Helltrack race.

If you’ve ever seen a kids flick in your life you can probably figure out the rest of the film from here.  But this is beside the point as the cult status of this film isn’t in its intricate plot shenanigans, but in the 80s laced cheese, and fun BMX sequences.  One of my favorite of which takes place in a lumberyard where our heroes have a clubhouse (again, another staple of my childhood fantasies realized on film.)  Again, like with the morning paper route antics, this group of BMX nerds is apparently frequently confronted by a local motorcycle cop (played by the iconic H. B. Hagerty) who chases them for sport.  In this bit, it involves riding around huge stacks of freshly cut & stacked wood, as well as a mountain of logs that Cru ends up very unconvincingly riding up to evade the policeman (you can see the planks through the logs the stunt rider used to scale the heap.)  It’s crazy and over the top set to a goofy fun rock song called Get Strange by the act Hubert Kah.

Of course, there’s also the angle of the Cru’s home life with precocious sister Wesley (place in pitch perfect Peppermint Patty tomboy by Laura Jacoby), and his hardworking depressed mother played by Talia Shire (who brings way more gravitas to the role than the film probably calls for, but is plenty welcome.)   Basically, the old push and pull of Cru’s hopes and dreams of becoming an ace BMXer, and his obligation to get good grades and go to college (the money for which his mother works hard to earn.)   It’s not enough that there’s a super evil greedy BMX company owner to contend with.

Completing the template set up by films like the Karate Kid, Cru also has to master that perfect race winning BMX trick, the awe inspiring 360 degree mid jump back flip.  It’s surely the crane kick of this film, though is eventually more or less useless in the grand scheme of things.

The film really picks up steam with the introduction of the main villains of the piece, Bart Taylor and his twin toadies, Rod & Rex Reynolds (played by the dreamy real life twins Carey and Chad Hayes respectively.)  They’re introduced in the weirdest fashion, a parade through the center of town.  Granted, the whole Helltrack business would probably be a big deal, but parade worthy?  I don’t know.  Of course, blowing into town along side Bart, Rod, and Rex is the lovely Christian Hollings (played by the one and only Lori Loughlin, who looks about ten years older than the character she was cast to play.)

One of the weird themes in this flick involves our hero Cru not always portrayed in the best of lights.  As I mentioned in the beginning of the film he’s not the best paperboy, annoying shop keeps by riding through their stores, and knocking coffee out of senior citizen’s hands willy nilly.  There’s also a short bit with Cru jumping a fence into the school parking lot right into the middle of a group of yuppie teens, who granted probably deserved it, though it’s still unprovoked and not the nicest.  During the parade, there is a weird sequence where Cru and his friends stop the parade to let a lady in a car on a side street through the traffic, but then to the angry sneers of the evil BMXers and being chased by the local fuzz, Cru beats a hasty getaway by jumping his bike onto a car and riding over it.  Maybe it’s just the crotchety old curmudgeon in me, but this would have pissed me off and I’m sure dented the hood and roof to hell and back.  Maybe I’m just getting to old to appreciate these teen action flicks.

By far, my favorite sequence in the entire film revolves around a school dance that Bart, Rod and Rex are forced to attend while in town.  The scenes feature two of the zaniest, most ridiculous dance sequences ever put to film (including both Rodney Dangerfield performances in Caddyshack and Back to School.)  The first is the stupendously retarded evil line dancing bit, set to the song Music That You Can Dance To by Sparks.  Bart Taylor is decked out in his supremely “cool” suit jacket over a plain yellow T-shirt looking like a reject Billy Zabka clone and is dancing with a hussy all gussied up to look like Debbie Harry.   They’re both so stiff and trying way too hard to exude sexiness that they come off laughable, particularly in their Macarena-like dance moves (don’t you dig the crossed arms grasping the shoulders dance move?)   The look of evil intensity on their faces is offset by the absurd faux break dancing styles of the Reynolds twins dancing around a zebra-striped, skintight-lycra-wearing shell of a woman.  Hands down, the evil dancing craziness reaches a nice crescendo when the twins drop to the floor doing the god awful push-ups move, followed by a double dose of the worm that has to bee seen to be believed.

As all this is going on inside, Cru (who has come to the dance Dutch after being rebuffed earlier in the film), is doing a bunch of freestyle BMX tricks outside the school gym.  A crowd begins to gather, when all of a sudden Lori Loughlin arrives and a very tenuous, yet lasting connection is formed between the two star-crossed lovers…

…which leads to the single most insane dance sequence ever!

Set to Real Life’s Send Me an Angel, Cru and Christian proceed to rip up the floor BMX style, dancing on their bikes.  The above screen captures just don’t do this sequence justice.   In fact I don’t have the words to adequately describe just how over the top, hilarious, and amazing this sequence is (check out youtube for the proof and judge for yourselves…)
This craziness is followed by a lightening fast procession of falling in love montage scenes set to With You by John Farnham.  Again, it’s predictably hokey, but lovable just the same and ends with the oddly named Ass Sliding scene.  Why is there a nice concrete slide in the middle of the woods leading down into a nearby lake?  Don’t know, but it makes for some zaney love scenes…

Again, adding to the idea that Cru isn’t the best person in the world, he ends up sort of cheating during the Helltrack qualifying races by riding outside of the boundaries to avoid entangling with the other racers, and skipping over obstacles.  It’s a weird message to send to kids, and it sort of ends up muddying the film a bit.  Ces’t la vie though.  The sequence is scored by the rocking Thunder in Your Heart by John Farnham, which is equally as high five inducing as the opening song Break the Ice.   It’s rare that a movie like this get two fist pumping anthems…

Of course, by taking part in the qualifiers, Cru has to pass up on taking his SATs, and really pisses his mother off.

To complete the clichéd plot, Cru is wooed by both Duke Best and the evil BMX hussies to come ride for them, and just as soon as he turns them down, our hero finds more obstacles in the way of riding at Helltrack…

Enter the last bit of cult styling to the movie with the introduction of the Rad Racing team, as Cru and his friends find that they have to have a liquid corporate sponsor in order to ride at Helltrack.  The group decides to print up their own T-Shirts with their newly formed team logo and sell them to raise the money they need to race.

Of course in all the ruckus there is some strife for the blossoming relationship between Cru and Christian.   If this film holds the record for the most insane dance sequence, then it also holds the record for the corniest make-up love scene involving a god awful poster featuring pandas and ice cream, reenacted by the two doe-eyed lovers.

As a quick aside, take a look at that monster comic book rack in that ice cream/convenience store!

Again, falling back on the Karate Kid template, the film features a ‘sweep the leg’ moment as Duke Best informs Bart, Rod and Rex that they need to wipeout Cru no matter what it takes (punctuated by Weston knocking back some whiskey.)

The film builds to the crazy BMX track called Helltrack, and boy does it live up to its name.  Featuring an almost two story vertical drop and some craze jumps (for standard BMX bikes at least), not to mention a giant cereal bowl (of Kix no less), Helltrack was a very convincing set piece.

Again, another strength of this movie was that it featured a bevy of real BMX superstars…

A). Team Hutch – Jeff Ingram. B). Team Robinson – Richard Fleming. C). Factory DK – Robert Rupe. D). Powerlite – Danny Millwee. E). Redline Team – Scott Clark. F). Norco – Kirk Bihun. G). GT – Mike Napareho. H). Binghams Schwinn – Glen Adams. I). Peddle Power Rider – Chris Phoenix. J). Team Robinson – Travis Chipres. K). GT – Eddie Fiola (who also did most of the stunt riding for Cru in the Film as well as being the Technical Advisor on the stunts.) L). GT – Kevin Hull. M). Skyway – Richie Anderson. N). Vans – Beatle Rosecrans. O). Hutch – “Hollywood” Mike Miranda.

All in all, this is one of my favorite cheesy films from the 80s, one that I can watch a hundred times in a row and never get tired of.  I’m sure true BMX fanatics can’t stand the flick, but as a kid I loved it to pieces.  Hopefully one day it’ll get a true DVD release, but in the meantime I hear that Bill Allen is signing copies of the bootlegs (as well as selling headshots.)  Also, don’t forget to check his site for some more Rad trivia, straight from Cru’s mouth…

Buried in DVDs now buried in the Branded archives…


Did you ever wonder how some people can find the time to have multiple blogs?  Well I did, and then for some insane reason decided to start up a second about a year or so ago called Buried in DVDs where I waxed deconstructive on my favorite movies and my DVD collection.  I felt awesomely productive for a few months, and then I was all of a sudden asking myself where in the hell did I think I’d find the time for a second site and promptly stopped updating it.  I think I initially wanted to keep this content separate from Branded as I was going to get into a lot of non-eighties flicks and TV shows, but honestly, I don’t really think it’s necessary to paint myself into such a tight 80s corner.  So I’ve decide to integrate the archives of Buried in DVDs into Branded (a process that is one hell of a time sucker. )

Anyway, for anyone curious, there are a handful of Buried posts, well, buried in this site now (you can access them through the banner on the sidebar.)  Hopefully this will free me up to posting about movies and TV shows again as I at least feel it’s all working toward the same goal (and site) now…

The Essential TV Guide Fall Previews of the 80s, Part 5: 1982!




Apparently I really started perking up and paying attention to the new fall schedule sometime in 1982 because this is the first issue of TV Guide that I’ve flipped through where I recognize and remember watching most of the shows previewed.  I guess it kind of makes sense in a strange way.  I just turned five, started kindergarten, and was probably very aware of my nightly impending bedtime, and thus was more prone to arguing so that I could stay up and, I don’t know, watch Knight Rider or something.  ’82 was also the year that I missed out on a ton of Saturday morning cartoon time as my Dad decided that it would be good for me to get outside and meet new kids, so he enrolled me in the local soccer league (which he co-coached.)


    


When I first starting taking a close look at these TV guides I was figuring that there’d be a ton of crazy ads with way out of date prices (either insanely expensive appliances or insanely cheap food items), but for the most part everything has been about the same as it is now (at least for what would qualify for the equivalent by today’s standards.)  That VCR above though is exactly what I was hoping to see.  Granted the video revolution was still in its infancy and no where near the peak it would reach in the mid 90s, but seriously, was $600 ever a good ‘on-sale’ price for a piece of hardware like a VCR?  It was normally $900.  In 1982 dollars!  I think that’s like 1/10th what my parents paid for their Mazda 626 around that time.  I mean, doing the whole automobile divided by electronics equation for today’s standard, well, I think…  Wait, no, I think that computes (scratching my head and doing the little calculator mine in the air)…  Yup, I guess you could evenly divide about 10 decent sized HD TVs into one Volkswagen Rabbit.  Damn!  Still though, I can’t bring myself to buy an HD TV so I guess if I were in my parents shoes back in ’82 I also would have waited until about 1987 to get our first VCR as well.  Going by those theoretical calculations, I should be joining the HD movement sometime in the next decade or so.


I was glad there was a different Vivran ad in this issue as well.  It makes a nice sister ad to the one I posted a few weeks ago.  The main difference is the hilarity.  I know when I screw up at work because I’m too tired to count money, I want my boss to give me the equivalent of a low level legal narcotic to keep me going (okay Vivran isn’t really anything near a narcotic, but take enough of them and I’m sure it’ll feel a lot like taking some speed.)  Besides, the ad makes me laugh when I shift the situation in my head to another profession, like a rough and tumble news helicopter pilot ("I destroyed three News11 copters and killed 2 traffic correspondents before my dispatcher gave me some little yellow pills that kept me in the air and flying for hours…") or a daycare worker ("I wiped twenty kids runny noses with the same tissue before I realized that the first kid had the chicken pox.  Thank god my supervisor had some Vivran Stimulant Tablets handy because it was my turn to walk the kids to the bus today…")


    


Like I mentioned above, in getting to the show previews in this issue I’m finally feeling a little like I’m on more recognizable ground.  Take that first 2-page spread featuring Joanie Love Chachi, the 9 to 5 sitcom spin-off, TJ Hooker and Cagney and Lacey.  Though I haven’t watched many episodes of any of these shows (with the possible exception of TJ Hooker which I have some garbled, yet vivid memories of), I’ve been well aware of them all since they debuted.  I guess my threshold for remembering pop culture starts at 5 years-old.


I guess this is also the beginning of a comfortable time-frame in which these actors and actresses would go on to stay (more of less) in the public eye.  I mean TJ Hooker is Heather Locklear’s beginning of a very long love affair with network television as she’d go on to star in no less than 4 more long running shows (yeah, I’m including LAX as it went to a partial season run, but c’mon, Melrose Place, Spin City and Dynasty all in one career?)  Heck, while I’m at it I might as well point to Shatner as well.  This would be his second big hurrah after Star Trek. I wish I could say the same thing for Adrian Zmed, but this was more of his last hurrah after his turns in Bachelor Party and Grease 2.  He sure does encompass that early 80s hunk look very well (not to mention giving Locklear’s feathered hair a run for it’s money.)  There’s also Scott Baio in his post Happy Days, yet pre-Charles in Charge glory with Joanie Loves Chachi (which I’m all of a sudden dying to see after taking a gander at the opening credits, shudder.)


Of course, then there’s Silver Spoons, my hands down favorite 80′s kid-centric sitcom (with Punky Brewster and Diff’rent Strokes coming in at a tie in second place.)  If there was one person I wanted to be like growing up it was Rickey Schroder, and if I could have two wishes I would have wanted his house.  Rickey was basically a live action version of Richie Rich, though he was a little more frugal (having come from a slightly broken home.)  Looking back though I think I was more influenced by Joel Higgins’ performance as Edward Stratton III, who suffered from the worst case of arrested development ever.  That’s who I basically am these days, though without the family fortune (inherited from a grandfather who invented the inner tube.)  Add to this the awesome Erin Grey (I never made the Buck Rogers connection as a kid oddly enough), and great guest stars like Jason Bateman and Alfonzo Riberio and you had the perfect kid sitcom.


I was surprised to see Rock Hudson in the Devlin Connection preview, as I didn’t realize he was still acting at this point.  I heard his name bandied about by my parents a lot when I was young, but I’ve never really gotten a chance to watch any of his movies, so he’s sort of a name without a face to me.  There’s also a preview for Ripley’s Believe It or Not, which the perennially scary Jack Palance lent his presence and amazing voice to.  Rounding out the group above is a preview for the show Voyagers!, which I had never heard of.  From what I gather after watching the intro, it’s basically the same type of show as Quantum Leap, only with an adventurer and a kid sidekick righting historical wrongs throughout all of history.  It’s weird that I missed it though, because it looks like a show that would be right up my alley, and I see that it’s on DVD, so I might have to check out and see if Netflix carries it.


    


If you remember back a few posts ago I made a little fuss over another preview, which starred Pricilla Presley, Burgess Meredith and a Chimp (which actually turned out not to be a fictional show, but rather an animal variety show.)  Well, if only I’d waited a little bit I’d have seen that Burgess Meredith took another whack at a sitcom starring along side a bunch of animals (and Sally Struthers, who is actually the true star of the show), and even though it’s no Every Which Way but Loose spin-off (instead it was an All in the Family spin-off), I’m sure it was still enjoyable.


We also get a preview of a show that really seemed to hit the 80s on the head, at least fashion wise (like the Zmed), Square Pegs.  Like Locklear, it was the beginning of a long career in television and film for Sarah Jessica Parker, and coincidentally was just released on DVD this past week.


As a side note, has anyone ever seen a more sexually suggestive design for a television special ad than that one starring Sylvester Stallone ever?  Holy crap, he’s starring as his own penis in that mock up.  Weird.


    


There’s an interesting little ad for Madame’s Place, a show with a puppet that I have a hard time keeping separate from that crazy Genesis (or was it Phil Collins solo) video with all the weird looking puppets.  Here’s a bit of Madame from youtube.  I guess this was Corey Feldman’s shot at stardom between the Bad News Bears sitcom and flicks like the Goonies.  Always glad to see one of the Coreys pop up.


On the page opposite the Madame ad, there is an interesting advert for a science special hosted by Peter Graves and presented by the fine folks at Atari.


Probably the weirdest ad I’ve seen so far in any of these TV Guides was the small one above called Beefeaters Delight!  From what I can gather the ad is for entire sides of hanging beef at amazing prices, but what I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around is the idea that it’s being presented to the general public instead of in another more industry-centric fashion.  I mean, I realize there are a ton of hunters out there that kill, keep and eat entire deer carcasses, but seriously, who invests in an entire half cow?  I mean, that’s why we have supermarkets right?  I do have to say that the insert advertising 5lbs of hotdogs or Bacon for $.99 a pound is mighty tempting.  I wonder what that would work out to in 2008 dollars?


Again, because the majority of these TV Guides came out of the Los Angeles area there is a smattering of ads for the Z Channel (as well as the listings in the guide itself.)  I thought I’d take a second to point to the wonderful documentary on Z channel again, as well as the trailer for the doc…


There was also an ad for the Miss Piggy Show special that aired in ’82.  Here’s a clip via youtube


    


Unfortunately there weren’t as many Saturday Morning Cartoon ads in this issue, just the one above (which is almost identical to the version that ran in comic books at the time.)  As I mentioned above, I think I was being forced to ‘take a break’ from SMC’s at the time to play soccer on the weekends (the strongest piece of evidence is that besides the Looney Tunes I don’t recognize any of the shows in the above ad, and I’m only partially familiar with the line-up in the ’82 ABC ad as well, never having seen the Mork & Mindy, Laverne & Shirley, or Little Rascals cartoons.)  The Meatballs & Spaghetti cartoon looks pretty weird and is both a little bit of a holdover from the 70s family as a traveling band sort of show, as well as being kind of progressive in terms of the MTV generation and coming before shows like Kidd Video or that Wolfman Jack cartoon.  It wasn’t until recently that I discovered all of the very odd sitcom to cartoon spin-offs of the late 70s and early 80s like the Gilligan’s Planet cartoon (or the Mork and Mindy/Laverne and Shirley cartoons mentioned above), which featured out favorite castaways building a spaceship and landing on a distant planet, again getting lost/stuck.  I was also surprised by the Pandamonium cartoon, which has a very odd mixture of anthropomorphized animal comedy and action (in the main characters battles with Montragor master of evil.)


Aside from the shows I am familiar with in this issue (like St. Elsewhere above), there are also a bunch that caught my eye, if only because of the actors involved, but like Voyagers! above, some of the plots seem right up my alley as well.  Take for instance the preview for Bring ‘em Back Alive, which is an adventure show based on the life of Frank Buck a 30s era animal collector/adventurer starring Bruce Boxleitner (of Tron, Scarecrow & Mrs. King, and Babylon 5 fame.)  Apparently the studio was looking to cash in on the success of Indiana Jones pitting the Buck character against Nazis and junk (not to mention adapting a 30s era adventurer.)  Awesome!  (Here’s the intro via youtube.)  Similarly there was another IJ cash-in with Tales of the Gold Monkey starring Stephen Collins as Jake Cutter, a cargo pilot and all around Harrison Ford wannabe (here’s the intro.)


There were also some shows that weren’t quite up my alley, at least not at the time, like Gavilan (starring Robert Urich post Vega$ and pre Spenser for Hire), or the weird TV spin-off of the 7 Brides for 7 Brothers play and film starring MacGyver himself, Richard Dean Anderson, as well as Peter Horton (who would become a household name in my family later on for his turn on 30 Something), and a young, cute-as-a-button River Phoenix.


Speaking of household names, probably my mother’s favorite show of the 80s was St. Elsewhere. Between having a stellar cast (including Howie Mandel, Ed Beagley Jr., Denzel Washington, David Morse, Mark Harmon, G.W. Bailey, Stephen Furst, Ronny Cox, Helen Hunt, and William Daniels just to name a few) and the intense plot lines (Mark Harmon’s character contracting AIDS was our family’s ‘who shot JR’), it quickly became a must watch series.


    


Joining Silver spoons and St. Elsewhere were another couple of family favorites, Family Ties and Cheers (though I saw more episodes of Cheers in syndication later on as I think it was on past my bedtime.)  Next to the Cosby Show, I think Family Ties was the biggest show for me in the 80s and Michael J. Fox is certainly up there as one of my favorite actors from my youth.  If I wanted to be Rickey Schroeder, than I wanted to be best friends with Fox.


I thought it was pretty weird seeing Michael Dudikoff in the Star of the Family preview.  I have a hard time not thinking of him as a second rate action star as I watched the American Ninja films religiously.  It’s weird when he pops up in comedies like the above sitcom or Bachelor Party (hmm, another connection to the Zmed.)  Same goes for Ron Glass, who stars as Felix in the fourth incarnation of the Odd Couple (after the play, film, and first sitcom.)  I have to admit that I’m more familiar with Glass from his turn as Reverend Book in Firefly than his time on Barney Miller.


We also have the second attempt to launch the Powers of Matthew Star show.  Apparently Peter Barton had a pyrotechnics accident the year prior which caused the fledgling show to shut down while he recovered.  I wonder if this was the show that helped to typecast Louis Gosset Jr. as the grizzled older mentor character, which he would go on to play throughout his career (in films like Iron Eagle or the Punisher?)


  


1982 also saw the introduction of a show that I’ve always considered as one part of a trio of action shows that feature a vehicle as the main focal point (and to an extent character) of the series, Knight Rider.  The other two are Airwolf (doing for helicopters what Knight Rider did for Trans Ams) and Street Hawk (ditto for motorcycles.)  I watched the living heck out of KR growing up.  I had the electronic toy and action figure set and would endlessly debate the episodes with friends well into high school.  In the context of this TV Guide Fall Preview issue, it really does seem like 1982 was a stellar year for William Daniels (with this and St. Elsewhere beginning; 2 long running shows.)  I still can’t believe that the show is being reconceived for modern audiences though (I missed the pilot movie, and from what I hear thankfully.)


Well, I didn’t get this up last week like I’d hoped, but I do plan on doubling up this week.  There’s a possibility that I might get to the 1979 issue (as I finally found a cheap copy on eBay), but I might just plow on ahead to 1983.  We shall see.

The Essential TV Guide Fall Previews of the 80s, Part 4: 1978! Yeah, I know that still makes no sense…



I’m back this week with the fourth installment of this series on vintage TV Guide fall Preview issues.  As I’ve explained in the previous posts, though I generally talk mostly about the 80s, I have a weird preoccupation with the Quantum Leap time travel theory, so I decided to include the ’77-79 issues as well.  So this week we’re going to take a look at the highlights from 1978.  By the time this issue hit newsstands and grocery store checkout lanes I think my parents had just moved into a house in Austin and were ready to stop referring to my age in months.  I’m sure I was still completely unaware of TV in general, probably spending more time on trying to grasp, walk and understand one-syllable words, you know all the basic fundamentals for an enjoyable TV watching experience…

    

As has been the case, the first chuck of the TV Guide is mostly ads, like the obligatory Toyota one above.  What I found interesting in this issue was the sort of sloppy, left-field-ness of the ads.  Take for instance the Anacin ad opposite the Corolla one.  Where is the word Anacin?  In the small print.  Weird.  You’d think it’d be in big block letters over that disturbingly moster/robot looking ‘medical’ pain diagram.  Heck, you’d think there’d at least be a picture of the pill bottle down at the bottom.  The other ad that really got to me was the one for Vantage cigarettes on the next page featuring a very Photoshop filtered looking image of a one Vince Dougherty (who looks like the lovechild of Kevin Nealon and Tom Snyder.)  I guess this got to me because I’ll be honest, I can’t figure out who the guy is and why he’s telling me all about Vantage giving him the good taste and low tar he desires.  After googling him I came up with a Vince Dougherty that is a member of the Pennsylvania government (which corroborates the ad location), but makes me wonder if he was paid off by the tobacco company to back their brand.  Again, weird, especially set against the article on the new fall lineup of cartoons and children’s programming on the facing page.

Back on a more normal level is the great Zenith System 3 television ad up next.  Why doesn’t anyone make a TV that feels like a piece of furniture anymore?  That’s the kind of setup that can really tie a room together (design and flow-wise.)

One awesome aspect to flipping through these old TV Guides is seeing all of the shows that either didn’t make it very long or featured familiar stars on the rise.  The preview for Apple Pie stuck out for me because it starred Dabney Coleman (who I fell in love with after repeatedly watching him help out Henry Thomas as a secret agent in Cloak and Dagger, and terrorize Dolly Parton, Lilly Tomlin, and Jane Fonda in 9 to 5 as a kid), but it wasn’t until I took a closer look that I realized the lady in the picture is Rue McClanahan from the Golden Girls.  I’m so used to seeing her a little older that I totally didn’t recognize her.

    

It was also pretty cool to see Pricilla Barnes in the Preview for The American Girls making her first big jump from guest starring on a bunch of shows to starring in one of her own (that is before she replaced Suzanne Somers on Three’s Company.)  She was one of those actors that I never really put a name to the face until I saw her in Mallrats (playing the topless fortune teller with three nipples) and then in her very disturbing turn in Rob Zombie’s the Devil’s Rejects (probably the most uncomfortable I’ve ever felt watching an actress on screen ever.)

Also, I’d like to reiterate just how much I love illustrations in ads, even airbrushed work like in the Right Guard advertisement above.  I wonder where the artwork for that piece is right now?  Probably in a landfill or something, which I think is a shame because it would make a nice piece of pop art.

Up next we’ve got a preview for a show that I’ve surprisingly never seen, the original Battlestar Galactica.  Of course it’s making a resurgence these days, what with the uber popular reinvisioning that all of the geeks are aflutter about (and yet another show I haven’t seen.)  Coming on the heels of the Star Wars explosion, the show (much like Buck Rogers) seemed like it was reaching for something it couldn’t quite provide yet (at least not on a TV budget.)  I’m honestly surprised at myself for never taking the time to watch the show as I’m really into 70s sci-fi and Dirk Benedict.  My only real connection to BG were the toys that I saw floating around in the various comic book shops I frequented in the late 80s.  It’s also the second time I’ve thought about Lorne Greene this week after reading about an awesome Bonanza View Master reel that he helped to goof up for the kids back in the day (in an article written by Brian Heiler of Plaid Stallions.)

At first blush I was going to pass up scanning the preview for Mary, but after reading the description I was intrigued.  It wasn’t the toned-down, sketch-comedy approach Mary Tyler Moore was going to take at a variety show, but the cast she had lined up to help her out.  Along with some names I don’t immediately recognize are Swoozie Kurtz, David Letterman, and Michael Keaton.  Really!?!  I’m dying to see this now as I’ve always wondered where Michael Keaton learned to hone his genius comic timing.  I didn’t think he did stand-up (though you never know), and this would go a long way to explaining it.

Again, as I’ve mentioned before, I love these old TV Guides because of the wealth of Saturday Morning Cartoon ads they have crammed in them.  Above is the ’78 ABC line-up featuring the debut of the Laff-A-Lympics, Challenge of the Superfriends, and Fangface.  Below is a really nice CBS ad featuring some cartoons I’ve never heard of like Web Woman, Micro Woman and Superstretch (though I have a sneaking suspicion that they’re all part of the Space Sentinels cartoon.)  There’s also Jason of Star Command, another 70s sci-fi show I’ve yet to see (but I’m actually excited about as it’s a spin-off of Space Academy, which seems 10 times more action packed not to mention starring the one and only Sid Haig, also of Devil’s Rejects fame.)

    

Rounding out the cartoon ads is the novel approach by NBC, which made advertising into a board game for the kids.  It’s probably the worst board game in the history of the format, but nonetheless it’s still interesting.  I’ve always been curious about the Godzilla cartoon, as it seems like such an odd character for a cartoon series (on the other hand, live action with a man in a suit is no problem.)  Same goes for the Fantastic Four cartoon, which eschewed Johnny Storm in favor of a robot sidekick.

The spot illustration on Us Against the World II is kind of cool if only because it’s a prime example of the quick ad drawings done by Jack Davis in the 70s.  From the stories I’ve read, he’d whip out stuff like this in minutes all day long, getting the work of practically an entire agency’s staff done in a day.

Now if there was one show that my parents never missed it was 20/20.  Growing up this was the one show that my parents never argued over, and it always signaled my bedtime as it tended to come on later in the evening during the 80s.  It also signaled the end of a lot of boyhood debauchery and fun as they always seemed to be right on top of the latest dangerous fads, dishing out the possible consequences to my parents before I even had a chance to try and convince them I was capable of handing what ever it was.  I can vividly remember agonizing over asking my parents for some nunchucks and a couple of Chinese throwing stars, and then completely dropping the idea when I walked in on them watching an expose on the dangers of these exact things.  I also never realized that Carl Sagan was a correspondent in its original incarnation.  I wonder if he and Geraldo ever did any stories together, like unlocking the hidden secrets of the universe (only to find a lot of concrete and nothing much of interest…)

    

This issue also contains the premiere and preview of Mork & Mindy (which has been finally getting more DVDs released) and Taxi, as well as the preview of WKRP in Cincinnati.  This reminds me of the review I did this time last year for the truncated WKRP DVD set that came out.  Though I still enjoyed getting a chance to watch the first season, I still wonder what it was like to watch it first run getting all of the original music, and in turn understanding some of the jokes a little more.

Walking right in step with the rest of the weird advertising in this issue is an ad for the Sunbeam Coney Island Steamer (being hawked by none other than Shirley Jones.)  Honestly, I’m not sure if I can think of a more useless and depressing appliance than a hotdog steamer, which only cooks 1-2 hotdogs at a time.  Talk about wasting precious counter space in the kitchen.  I’m going to have to side with Alton Brown when it comes to appliances like this; if you can’t use it for ten other things, ditch it.

    

I’m pretty much unfamiliar with the rest of the previewed shows in this issue, though I recognize a lot of the stars (like Connie Sellecca, who would go on to star in the Greatest American Hero, or Scott Baio taking a break in between Happy Days and Joni Love Chachi.)  Coming off of his guest starring role in Soap yet before he was Spenser for Hire, Robert Urich was Det. Dan Tanna in Vega$, and after becoming a football legend Joe Namath tried his hand at acting in the Waverly Wonders.  All in all this was a really fun issue to peruse.

I’ll be back next week with the 1982 issue (I still haven’t found a copy of the ’79 issue that isn’t insanely priced on eBay.)

The Essential TV Guide Fall Previews of the 80s, Part 3: 1977! Yeah, I know that makes no sense…



Well, I finally got around to throwing a banner together for these TV Guide posts.  Makes it seem more official I guess.  Anyway, I was planning on getting to the 1982 Fall Preview issue, but I received the ’77 and ’78 editions in the mail this week, so I think I’ll go ahead and get to them first.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I sort of have this odd Quantum Leap-centric idea about the time period I want to cover on this site (nostalgia and ephemera-wise that is.)  I like the idea of covering stuff that has taken place over my own lifetime, much in the way Sam could only leap (time travel for all those non-initiated Quantum Leapers out there) throughout the timeline of his own life.  Honestly, I think this was a coy way that the writers could keep the show relevant for the viewing audience’s experiences, straying away from the idea of leaping into medieval or prehistoric times for instance.  It provides a bit of grounding I guess.  Anyway, it worked well for that show, and I think it’ll do for me as well.

So with that in mind, I present the highlights from the 1977 TV Guide Fall Preview issue.  Again, the first thing I noticed about this issue (like the 1980 issue) is that the digest itself was folded and stapled instead of being perfect bound like a book.  This makes for very difficult scanning; well difficult while trying not to destroy the issue as well as trying to keep relevant pages together.

    

Also, as I’ve been noticing with these older issues of the Guide, most of the advertising is set aside for cigarettes and booze, but there are a few other odds and ends that are interesting.  I didn’t realize that there was a deluxe version of Kraft Mac & Cheese available in the 70s.  Mainly I subsisted on ramen during my college days, but every once in awhile as a treat I’d pick up the deluxe Mac & Cheese dinner (in particular the one with bacon bits included, you know to simulate eating something a little more substantial.)  At first glance I thought the plated dinner in the ad looked a little weird with the two strips of bacon and the paltry makings of a BLT on the side of the plate, but right now it actually sounds pretty good.  I do have to say that it throws off the illusion of a quick and easy dinner though; I mean if you’re going to fry up some bacon and slice a tomato, why not go ahead and cook?

I also dug the heck out of the Quaker Oats cookies ad.  First off I really love spot illustrations in ad work, especially when it’s quality like this (are those watercolors?)  But I also love it when the company mascot is front and center without just using the familiar iconographic image (like the Quaker man on the boxes in the coupon.)  It’s kind of interesting (and a little weird maybe) to see Quaker man fishing with some kid and his dog while enjoying a picnic of cookies and what I can only hope is milk in that thermos.  It’s kind of nice to think that Quaker man enjoys relaxing in his off time with hobbies like this, though I think in this modern world it’s a little creepy that he’s off alone with a strange kid.  Heck, maybe it’s his nephew or grandson, but then for continuity’s sake I’d like to see the kid in a Quaker outfit as well.  Also, who developed the crosshatching pattern for peanut butter cookies anyway?  My mom always stuck to this tradition when baking them for our family when I was younger.

The Toyota Celica ad is kind of cool too.  I like that the designers were trying to ape the look and feel of a Mustang with the liftback version of the Celica.  Making them feel a little more American I guess.  Did you realize that car is ‘hot’?  On the other hand we have what I believe to be one of the most annoying ads I’ve seen in a long time (barring TV and radio that is) for the Vivatar 603 pocket camera.  I get that the ad guys were trying to visually put a spin on the idea of other brands offering only ‘half a camera’ because the new Vivatar offers a build in flash, but because they cut the ad in half and shuffled with around like that on the page it’s just annoying to read.

    

As far as the previews go for 1977, there sure are some whoppers as well as some weird ones.  Above we have a preview for a show called Operation Petticoat (based on a movie of the same name) starring John Astin and Jamie Lee Curtis.  I think it’s kind of weird to have a sitcom set aboard the claustrophobic confines of a submarine (in particular with the main crux of the story surrounding the sexual tension of the crew vs. a bunch of military nurses that they are transporting.)  After doing a little research though it looks like this was truly a vehicle for John Astin as he directed the first few episodes as well as starred as the sub’s captain.  I’m not sure how well the show did though as it only lasted for a season and a half, not to mention that Astin and Curtis jumped ship after the first season.

’77 was a very nautical year as the Love Boat also launched from port.  Growing up there were two shows that it seemed like my sister never missed, Love Boat and Fantasy Island, so I caught my fare share of episodes while hanging out with her.  Looking back, the concept of the show was just marketing genius.  Having the majority of the stories surrounding the plethora of guest stars that came aboard each show is almost a way of having sweeps episodes year round.  I wish the studios weren’t being so stingy with the DVDs that finally came out this year though (only releasing half a season of a 31 year-old show and charging full season rates is absolutely piratanical I tells ya.)

The TV set in the ad adjacent to the Love Boat preview looks a hell of a lot like the TV my family had until I turned sixteen.  Same faux-wood box, and channel tuners.  I wonder if TVs are being built that can last 16 years like these old monsters did?  I doubt it.

I absolutely love the Camel ad in this issue.  It screams action, adventure, and maybe a little James Bond, though only if an actor that looked like a cross between Tom Selleck and Patrick Duffy played Bond.  I’m as interested as that bikini-clad assistant and the bearded seaman in what Camel man has found in the depths of the sea!  I am seriously considering picking up smoking now…

With these older TV guides I’ve certainly hit the Saturday Morning cartoon ad jackpot as all three major networks make a showing.  Above we have the line-ups for NBC and CBS including shows like The Adventures of Muhammad Ali, the New Archies and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Space Academy.  I really dig the illustration done for the Space Academy show as it makes it seem ten thousand times more thrilling and action packed than the actual Filmation show was.  It is kind of odd that the CBS ad is a truncated version of the ad they ran in comic books at the time (which you can see here in this post I did awhile back), and it really shows in how poorly it was translated to the digest size format of the TV Guide.  It’s also sort of weird because the times the shows are listed to air are different.  It raises a question about whether comic book printings used to feature regional ads or if this was just a mistake.  I can see the line-ups jumbling around from city to city, so the different TV Guides might have slightly different ads, but I always figured comic books were distributed country wide with the same ads.  Anyone out there know?

    

Rounding out the cartoon ads is this beauty from ABC featuring one of my all time favorite shows, the Hanna Barbera Laff-A-Lympics.  I never seemed to catch this show at home when it aired in re-runs, but I swear, every single time my family was out of town or on the road it seemed like the only cartoon that I’d find on TV in the various motels we’d stay at.  It brings back a lot of fond memories of waking up to the show, and then off to the complimentary Ho-Jo’s continental breakfast.  I could so go for some plain scrambled eggs, bacon, and corn flakes while watching Blue Falcon and Dynomutt face off against Yogi Bear and Quick Draw McGraw in a battle of river rafting right about now.  Also, I totally missed out on everything Kroft while growing up and I am dying to see the adventures of Bigfoot and Wildboy…

One of the best parts in picking up these old TV Guides is getting a feel for what a week in the life of a 1977 TV viewer was like.  I get a little of this watching shows like Freaks and Geeks (hearing Sam, Bill, and Eli pontificate on catching the latest Three’s Company, Welcome Back Kotter, and Bionic Woman episodes), but it’s really neat to see it for myself in an artifact like this.  Again, I put out a plea to studios everywhere, get over your stupid money grubbing rights issues and put some of these shows out on DVD!  I need to see Jamie Sommers and her bionic dog fight crime.  At least they finally started releasing decent sets of shows like Welcome Back Kotter (instead of the pointless 4-episode best of discs.)  The following page is just as exciting as the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew face off against Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein, while later on in the evening the Bionic Man is captured by Killer Sharks!  You never see stuff like this anymore.  When was the last time Meredith was captured by sharks on Grey’s Anatomy?  When was the last time a bionic dog was introduced into a show’s cast?  Makes me miss shows like Buffy as it was about the closest we got to stuff like this…

There was also an ad for an odd show called Lucan about a boy raised by wolves.  At first blush I figured this was a werewolf show, but I think it’s more of a raised by animals deal.  I guess they should have thought twice before using the dripping blood font which just confused and unnecessarily excited me.


    

I thought it was interesting that the editors at TV Guide were keen on getting feedback from viewers in the premiere of CHiPs, going so far as to provide a little mail in coupon.  I wonder why this show and not all of them?  Were they being paid by NBC to facilitate it?  Well if I could have at the time, I so would have written "Heck Yeah!" on the back and sent it in.  I talked about my love for this show when I shared my set of CHiPs sticker cards a while back.  I can’t wait to pick up the second season

I was surprised to see an ad for the network premiere of the Making of Star Wars so soon after it hit theaters.  I’d have to say that for once, a crazy claim on an ad has actually stood the test of time as well.  I’d be willing to wager that Star Wars still holds the title as the most popular movie of all time.  I also thought it was cool to see an ad for the season opener of Wonder Woman which boasts the jump in time from the 40s to a modern setting.  I watched my fare share of this show in re-runs growing up and it never dawned on me that it was originally set during WWII.  Shows how on-the-ball I was as a kid.  Oh and lets all make sure not to miss the Muppet show (I really liked that the original owner of this issue circled all the shows they wanted to make sure not to miss.)

Much like my infatuation with the Rodeo Girl TV movie from the last post I made, I am now equally as intrigued by the disturbing ad for Curse of the Black Widow.  I am so speechless.  A spider-woman with huge boobs and creepy human appendages!  Wow!  I bet it has nothing to do with gigantic female spiders, but if it does, please somebody get me a copy of this film…

There’s also another, much better though just as small, ad for Sha-Na-Na in this issue.  Again, what was the draw of 50s nostalgia during the 70s and 80s?  I guess it’s no different than my current 80s obsession.  Also, on the facing page, what’s up with that weirdly sincere cigarette ad that’s playing off of a cover of the Saturday Evening Post?

    

There were a lot of cool shows starting up in 1977, but the one I’ve probably watched the most of over the years is Soap.  My mom introduced me to this sitcom when we’d both stay up late on the weekends during the late 80s and 90s watching Soap in syndication.  I was hooked on all of the spoofy storylines and loved seeing all the actors who I knew from their later work in this earlier hilarious show.  I’m pretty sure I even watched its spin-off, Benson, before I realized that this show existed.

 

Last but not least we have a couple of previews for some more sci-fi oriented shows that debuted in ’77, The Man From Atlantis and the TV version of Logan’s Run.  Though I doubt it’s as cool as I’m making it out in my head, I would really like to see TMFA as I’ve always been curious about the idea of a live action version of either Namor or Aquaman (though I’m completely un-interested in the pilot to the show that they tried to pawn off on us last year.)  Before Dallas and Step By Step, Patrick Duffy sported webbed hands and feet in four TV movies and finally this show, battling mad scientists and criminals.  Who’d of thunk it.  Also, on a totally unrelated note, I just realized that all of the preview pictures in this issue have a spotlight shining on the stars.  Nice design touch TV Guide…

Next week I’ll be back, most assuredly with the ’78 issue of the TV Guide Fall Preview…