Dont Copy

Five Things – 07.27.15 – Gourmet Video, For People Who Know And Love Video

1.  Magnavox Magnavision Demo Video – In 1981, Leonard Nimoy held a secret meeting with an alien emissary that appeared in his apartment and translated specific instructions on how to operate a Magnavox Magnavision Laserdisc player.  Thankfully, this meeting was recorded and is now available for everyone on YouTube.

MagnavoxNimoy’s never looked better than this, and his apartment is pretty much the apartment I dreamed of having as a kid.  That late ’70s/early ’80s ‘futuristic’ style really gets me.

NimoyApartmentThe video mostly consists of this rock that lights up and beeps, and Nimoy repeats what it said back to it to confirm his understanding.  It’s their one trick, and they stick with it.  There’s a few examples of Laserdisc technology, like rewinding and slowing down an epic football tackle or skipping to your favorite moment in an ABBA song (there’s a LOT of ABBA here), but for the most part it’s beeps and words.

Laserdiscs ConversationIt’s a charming video, for sure – this disc was included in the packaging of the Magnavision so that users could get a quick tutorial on the ins and outs of the machine.  I can’t really tell if it succeeds or fails at that, but it’s got a lot more character than it probably should have.  Here it is:

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Five Things – 7.20.15 – Newies But Gooeys

1. Betamax Salesman Training Video – You might look at something titled “Betamax Salesman Training Video” and think, snoozefest.  You might be right! But not this time.

Sales PitchThere’s a lot to love about this video – the fashion and set design of the era, the trumped-up abilities of the video tape recorder and, most of all, the smug salesman pitch that makes me happy I was never on a 1977 showroom floor.

Role PlayThe video encourages salesmen to roleplay their sales pitch to each other, and the tension that appears between the two example salesmen  when figuring out who’s going to be the pitch-man is a little awkward and…romantic?

awkwardHere it is, every talking point of the beautiful Betamax console unit in 6 short minutes.

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Five Things – 7.13.15 – Time to Buff Up The Old Brain Muscle

1.  GamePro TV – A complement television program to the magazine of the same name, GamePro TV hit the airwaves in 1990.

Gamepro TVAs you can tell, the show was VERY ’90s. It closely resembled the format of the magazine with segments for game tips, game reviews, and sneak peeks of to-be-released games.  They answered viewer mail and encouraged submissions. In classic ’90s form, they used bright, loud graphics and obnoxious video effects like unnecessarily imposing live action on top of video game footage…


SWAT Tip…regardless of what that might cover up. A tip for a Mario game is pretty useless if you can’t see what Mario’s doing!


The review segment (“ProView”) is a fair representation of GamePro‘s magazine reviews, using the same rating criteria.  It’s also the most level-headed, least flashy part of the show.  But still pretty flashy.

ProView“My Man, Mega Man”! Also he gets Cossack’s origin story wrong, but who’s keeping score?

There’s also a segment called Inside Info which serves as less of a tips segment and more of a video walkthrough.  They even showed you the endings of games! Who would want to see that!

For some reason, the show just didn’t take off.  It seems like it should have, and the effort was definitely there, but it didn’t. I’m not sure what it was missing. It was cancelled and then sadly revived a few years later as an infomercial sort of show that removed viewer submissions and plastered a permanent 1-800 subscription number at the bottom of the screen.  Then it went away again and came back in 1998 as a retooled version of itself on Fox Sports Net…and went away again in 1999.

Here’s an ep:

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Five Things – 7.6.15 – What’s a Yummie Bear?

1. Back to Next Saturday – NBC’s 1985 Saturday Morning Preview special, while not as ambitious as the Krofft spectacular I mentioned a few weeks ago, is pretty noteworthy in and of itself.

Back to SaturdayThe special stars Keshia Knight Pulliam as herself, who is put to sleep by her babysitter (Lisa Welchel from Facts of Life) and wakes up in some sort of Saturday Morning dreamzone.

Lisa Welchel and Keshia Knight PullamAs Keshia tries to get back home she teams up with what is the whole Saturday morning roster to pitch in.  Well, those that were easy to work into a cheaply made special.  The big draw of this year’s Saturday Morning lineup is the Punky Brewster cartoon, so the cast of the live action show is the first to team up:

Punky and RudyThe gang runs into the Snorks and the Smurfs, but those guys would be pretty expensive to animate in with them so they just show a couple of clips.  They do a little better with the new Gummy Bears show, but not much:

Gummy BearKidd Video gets the gang back on track, as does Spiderman – two easily filmable properties:

spidermanUp to this point Keshia’s been trying to find her way out of this weird dream world and the ever-growing gang has been trying to help her.  Shestarts to get distressed that she’ll never get back home and Lisa the babysitter appears in her dream to weirdly sing her confidence back.

Weird SongAnd then the whole gang shows up for the final number, a funky song about how they “Gotta Get Back”.

Gotta Get BackShe wakes up back at home, realizing it was just a dream…. OR WAS IT?

OR WAS ITSo yeah, a cut above what they probably could have gotten away with.  They put a bunch of their star power in the room and let the magic just happen.  Here’s the whole special, it’s actually pretty fun in a baffling “they made this?!” sort of way:

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Five Things – 6.29.15 – Thrill To The Awe And Mystery Of The Hidden World

1.  Secret Video Game Tricks, Codes, & Strategies, Volume 1 – Whew! That’s a mouthful! This video is one of dozens of “How to Beat Videogames” tutorials from the 1980s, most of which focus on exploiting glitches and bugs to gain advantages in difficult parts of games.

VIdeo Game Tips TItleThis one’s no different, except that it features exclusive tips from the US Video Game Team (a real thing!)

Video Game TeamThe video takes you through glitches and scoring tips for some of the big names like Gradius, Contra, Adventure Island and Castlevania II as well as some of the more obscure ones like Ring King and Iron Tank. While usually you just get a bunch of gameplay video in these things, this title sets itself apart with wacky 80’s graphic transitions and what appears to be a studio setting in which the team members execute these amazing tricks using NES Advantages.

VG Transition AdvantageThat second picture looks like something from the  Spaceship of the Mind in Cosmos.

Here’s the whole thing.  Let me know if these Metal Gear passwords work.

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Five Things – 06.22.15 – You Mean Am I Young Enough?

1. Disney’s Captain EO Grand Opening Special – Disney had a habit of producing huge, celebrity-laden prime time television specials around events happening at their theme parks.  Any park’s opening got a special, and big name rides like Splash Mountain got them, too.  They’re all amazing, every last one.  They’re the perfect balance of cringe and glitz, trying to appeal to everybody in the living room and in doing so failing to really be anything.  There’s no better example of this than their 1986 special around the mega-blockbuster 3D movie created just to play at Disney parks, Captain EO.

Captain EO TitleProduced by George Lucas, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, starring Michael Jackson, and featuring a movie theater tailor-made for that movie specifically, the event was definitely special-worthy.  The thing is, they didn’t really have anything to say about it that I didn’t just say just now. But they had an hour to fill, and fill it they did.  The special is hosted by Justine Bateman and Patrick Duffy, and I don’t know if two hosts have ever had less chemistry.

Justine and PatrickJustine and Patrick 2When they’re not dogging each other’s ages, they’re blandly introducing the celebrities as they arrive to the red carpet in old timey cars.  Disney spared no expense in securing the A-list for their big premiere.  They also invited John Stamos. Hey-oh!

StamosO.J. Simpsons also came.  There’s a joke here about O.J., Michael Jackson, and gloves, but I’m not making it.

OJ“In Russia we also have three D’s, it’s Depression, Detention, and my favorite, Defection.” Seriously, Yakov? I can’t believe Disney let him do that.

YakovThe special also featured (read: soaked up most of the runtime) performances by Belinda Carlisle, the Moody Blues, Robert Palmer, and Starship.


While a cultural trainwreck, the special is still a great showcase of what Disney did so well in the ’80s and still does today – they blend their Hollywood power with their real-world theme-parks in a way that makes you feel like you’re really missing out if you weren’t there.  I can bag on this in 2015 but the 1986 me would have eaten this up and asked for more.  Watch it for yourself!

Unrelated, but relevant: This poster. Amazing.

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Five Things – 06.15.15 – I’m Doing Business And I Am In The Dough

1.  The Drak Pack – What if Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein’s Monster had kids? I can buy Dracula and maybe Wolfman, but I have a hard time seeing how that was possible with Frankenstein’s Monster.  What if the descendants of those monsters inherited their powers? Medium believable. What if those kids were ashamed of the menace their ancestors had caused and set out to become good guys? Now you’re talking… even though you can’t really blame Frankenstein’s Monster for any menace that might have taken place in his case.  Well, Hanna-Barbera answered those what-ifs in 1980 with Drak Pack.

Drak Pack

The Drak Pack featured Drak, Frankie, and Howler, the predictably named offspring of their notorious fathers.  They were normal kids but could turn into their monster selves by way of a three-way-high-five called the “Drak Whack”.  This allowed them to use their superpowers; Drak could teleport, fly, and change shape, Frankie had super strength and could shoot electricity (?), and Howler has an ultrasonic howl.

Drak Pack Human FormCan you guess which is which?

The trio engaged in normal save-the-day stuff, usually caused by their nemesis Dr. Dred who looks like Vincent Price but is voiced by someone who is not Vincent Price.  Guess he was busy with Thirteen Ghosts of Scooby-Doo!

dr dred

They also kept in touch with their mentor, the original Dracula, referred to in the series as “Big D”.  I’m guessing this is Drak’s dad? I’m not sure why Dracula would sponsor a group of kids determined to make up for his atrocities, but whatever. They used a super hi-tech room to contact him, for some reason.

big d

Dr. Dred had a cabal of monstery bad guys consisting of a sycophantic toad, a vampiress who could turn into a snake, a human fly and a mummy.  Not sure how the battle lines got drawn this way across the monsters, but whatever.  It’s a fun watch and a unique take on the then-pretty-stale HB formula of the time.  Here’s an episode:

Drak Pack – Color Me Dredful by mangaphile

Drak Pack aired from 1980 to 1982 which may seem like a long run, but actually only sixteen episodes were produced.

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Five Things – 06.08.15 – Why Dontcha Come Along and Mosey

1. The NBC Saturday Morning Preview Revue – In the ’70s and ’80s it became the norm for the big three networks to trot their Fall Saturday morning lineups in a prime time special on the Friday night before.  Wrapped with some original content, the specials were largely clips and “trailers” of the new Saturday morning shows.  A lot of times the Networks took the opportunity to integrate their other prime time properties into the special as hosts of a sort, but in 1974 NBC went full kid and had Sid and Marty Krofft produce their preview special.  And the result was really something.


The whole special is filled with intricate marionette movements, costumed characters, and ’70s television glitz and glamour.  Jimmy Osmond hosts the show, and the Kroffts really put him through the ringer as far as his routine goes.

Jimmy Osmond

Shows were previewed through Mr. TV, a television with human legs. And that’s not horrifying.

run joe run

Several members of the Krofft family were in attendance, even though their shows ran on competing networks!


The special centers around Osmond and Petey the Peacock’s interactions, with Osmond playing the straight man and Petey goofing things up.  The featured shows premiering that Fall were Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, Run Joe Run, and Land of the Lost.  Then there’s a rush at the end to work five or six more properties in, and then long standing shows like the Jetsons get a name-check after that.  In between all of that, there are some really awkward musical numbers.

music number

There was probably a better way to perform “Lazy River” than this.

The Electric Mushroom

Electric Mushroom. Subtle.

The finale centers around a circus sideshow, which maybe isn’t the parallel you want to attach to your programming.  The show kind of falls off of the rails at this point – Jimmy’s pretty tired and the verses to the songs aren’t really as tight as they were just twenty minutes before. Also, they cheese out on the artwork for each show, like this poster for the Star Trek cartoon:

star trek

Then they pick it back up for the big finish, which involves clowns…


And a genuinely impressive musical number with said clowns, marionettes, balloons, and more.


I sound like I’m bagging on the special, and I sort of am, but this is a huge level of effort on a thing that most networks usually just sort of took the easy way out with. It’s a really fun watch, even the bad stuff.  They definitely don’t do it like this anymore. Here’s the whole special, complete with some cool commercials for Mr. Bubble, McDonalds, and Kool-Aid.


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Five Things – 06.01.15 – Time is Only a Place

1.  Science Fiction Theatre – This anthology series ran from 1955-1957 in syndication, a prelude to The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.  Science Fiction Theatre took a more realistic approach than those two series, but the concepts explored were just as far-reaching.

Science Fiction Theatre

Hosted by actor and war correspondent Truman Bradley, owner of one of the best names ever, Science Fiction Theatre is probably best known as the show that George McFly was a fan of in Back to the Future.  The producers of the show had an ambitious view of the future of color television and produced the first season of the show in color.  Few could view it that way, though – the technology wasn’t quite there yet. The second season was produced in black and white to save money. The show’s a great snapshot of the fifties, both in its vision of the promise of the atomic age as well as the uses of the television studios of the time.  In the first episode, Bradley fires a live round into a television to make the point that you can’t see a bullet in flight. That’s pretty bold!

Truman Bradley   The show’s got a slick look in its design and its set dressing.  The typesetting for each episode’s title is fantastic:


Here are a couple of episodes, one with a more down-to-earth premise (“Beyond”), and one with a further-reaching idea (“Time is Just a Place”). These are so good.

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Five Things – 05.25.15 – Knit Your Bit

1.  Propaganda Posters – In honor of Memorial Day, I thought I’d share some of my favorite propaganda and recruitment posters from the wars of the Twentieth Century.  For various reasons these posters have caught my eye over the years and stuck in my memory. Usually it’s a design thing, a unique artistic approach, but some times it’s just the message itself that catches me off guard. And sometimes it’s both!


Aside from being gorgeous, this is an interesting ‘soft’ sell – the horse’s friendship as a reason to join is a unique angle. And a tempting one, I can imagine.

Car ClubThe posters about what you can do to aid war efforts at home have always interested me – they’re frequently things that would be good everyday practices, like joining a car club.  Then there are ones that encourage you to eat as much corn as you can, like this:


Little American

“Knit Your Bit” is a fantastic slogan:


This one’s got some remarkable detail to it.  The text reads “Germany Is The War”.

Germany is the War

Finally these ads for those on the supply lines are surprisingly powerful and prideful:

On the JobOn The Job 2

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