Book Bird

Five Things – 02.1.16 – Bring Back The Glove

1. The Weird Al Show

Here’s a 1997 Saturday Morning kid’s show hosted by “Weird Al” Yankovic.

Weird Al Title

Produced by Dick Clark Productions, taped at NBC Studios, and broadcast on CBS, The Weird Al Show had a lot going for it.  In many ways it took the formula that made Pee-Wee’s Playhouse so popular; it starred a well-known personality, it championed the use of different types of media, it had a funky set, it taught a lesson, and offered some degree of star power in its guests.  Trebek

The intro to The Weird Al Show is impressive.  It’s got stop-motion animation, CGI, hand-drawn animation, and live action all set to a “Weird Al”-penned song.  Each episode had its own lesson, which was pretty clearly stated after the intro, and most of the episode would foot up to that lesson.  The segments were broken up with television show and commercial parodies as well as “Weird Al” music videos, and Al recaps the episode’s lesson at the end.


The writing is actually pretty solid, and this might be what ended up hurting the show – it’s a bit on the subversive side for ’90s children’s television, in an age when parent groups and the FCC were watching that sort of thing closely. I can imagine the CBS censors taking a heavy hand with the scripts, and the balance of the show being affected by that.


Whatever the reason, The Weird Al Show was cancelled after one season, and that’s kind of a shame – there was potential there.  Here’s an episode, see for yourself.



2. Twin Peaks Newspaper Ads

These are a few of the black-and-white ads that ran in the TV sections of newspapers while Twin Peaks was in premieres.  I really love their simplicity and the consistency of design from the premiere to the finale. Some spoilers here if you haven’t seen the series, obviously.

Twin Peaks 4

Twin Peaks 2

Twin Peaks 6

Twin Peaks 3

Twin Peaks 5

Twin Peaks 1


3.  The Book Bird

This charming 1978 PBS show featured John Robbins, a former schoolteacher, illustrating scenes from passages of books as he read them.  Think Reading Rainbow meets Bob Ross with a great stop-motion intro.


4.  2 Legit 2 Quit

Here it is: MC Hammer’s fourteen-minute epic featuring just about every ’90s R&B personality under the sun and then some.  I can’t figure out if this is hard to watch or if I’m just not worthy to see it. Speaking of ’90s R&B personalities, Jim Belushi really gives it his all here.


5. Pure Moods

This mid-90s “As Seen On TV” CD release set the public’s impression of what ambient music was back DECADES.  Full disclosure: I bought this CD.  While most of its songs are top-40 new-agey stuff, it did turn me on to Jean-Michel Jarre so it wasn’t a total loss.





Space Shuttle 1

Five Things – 01.25.16 – And By Our Daring

1.  Space Shuttle – This week marks the 30th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, which was a defining moment of my childhood. Thinking on it reminds me of what a space nut I was as a little kid; living in Orlando, Florida makes it pretty easy to catch space fever.  I saw Challenger’s doomed liftoff on the playground at school, in second grade, and remember that afternoon very clearly.  It feels like milking the tragedy to share the archived news footage surrounding the event, so instead I’m choosing to share this NASA informational film from the 1970s on the promise of Space Shuttle technology.

Space Shuttle 2

Titled simply “Space Shuttle”, the film makes the case for the transition from single-use rocket technology to a more reusable method of operation.  In addition to the cost benefits, space shuttles allowed for more frequent missions which would pave the way to a more firmly established human presence in space.  By the late eighties, as the film puts it.  Sigh.

Space Shuttle 3 Space Shuttle 4

No matter how the promise stagnated, it’s nice to see in these 1970s NASA materials this hopefulness toward what our future in space may look like.  It feels a bit like that hopefulness has surfaced again, just lately.  Seems like we have the private sector to thank for that. I’ll take it!

Here’s the film – it really is a pleasant sip of tea.


2.  Reverse The Curse – Nebraska Public Television is at it again!

Reverse The Curse

Reverse The Curse was designed to teach elements of oral and written storytelling, using a pretty dire premise.  Two bungling archaeologists break into King Hoptoit’s (get it?) tomb and are trapped there by an ancient curse.  King Hoptoit comes to life and the three of them spend the series using knowledge of story elements to lift the curse.

There’s a lot of singing and dancing in here. It could be about half as long without the weird James Taylor sing-and-dance-along. The production is pretty rough but there’s a charm present – I think it comes from the fact that these local PBS outlets were really making the best of their opportunities to create learning programs for the public.  There’s a definite effort here, the realized promise of television as a learning tool to be created and used by anybody.  Almost doesn’t matter whether it’s good or not, in that light. Almost

With that lofty statement out there, here’s Reverse the Curse:


3. Better Homes New Cook Book – From the layout to the font to the ingredients, the first few pages of this cookbook are like a nice warm hug from 1965. 

Better Homes New Cook Book








4.  ColecoVision Super Action Controllers – Coleco got an early start on hamfisted accessories to sell you to play a handful of games slightly more fluidly on their consoles! That said, these are pretty slick-looking. This page is from a press kit full of game and accessory one-sheets:

Action Controller


5.  Star Wars 1978 Ad – Here’s a great illustrated ad for a bevvy of Star Wars toys.

Star Wars Comic Ad





View Screen

Five Things – 1.18.16 – Suppose You Wanted To Count Five Things

1. Star Lore – Here’s a weird one.

Star Lore

This local Public Television show produced by the University of Nebraska at Omaha features a librarian who is kidnapped by an alien queen to teach the queen about story structure.  It’s basically Santa Claus Conquers The Martians but with a librarian instead of Santa and, well, whatever the aliens are instead of Martians.


Each episode focuses on a different aspect of story – plot, characters, etc… The alien queen speaks in a harsh, halted, almost Russian accent that can’t be an accident given the era in which this was produced.


Here’s an episode. It’s so weird.


2.  Telstar Arcade – The Telstar game system was produced by Coleco and released from 1976 to 1978.  Here’s an ad for the Telstar Arcade, a slick triangle console with a wood paneling appearance.  It offered a light gun and a steering wheel!



3.  Star Wars 1984 Premiere – In 1984, Star Wars made its television debut and it was a pretty big deal.  Here’s the special wraparound bumpers for the premiere, hosted by Mark Hamill himself. You can catch the wave of excitement here, and get a sense of what a big deal this really was back then in a television landscape with so few options and a ‘gotta-catch-it-live’ setting.


4.  Civilization – Dyan Cannon sings “Civilization” on the Muppet Show.  As you do.


5.  Jimmy Smith – The Sermon – Live in 1964.  Enjoy.



Good Food

Five Things – 1.11.16 – This Isn’t Gonna Be Your Ordinary Opportunity

1. Otherworld – This short-lived sci-fi series ran for three months in 1985 on CBS.  It sits in the bucket of failed 1970s and 1980s science fiction shows, but like many of them it’s kind of charming and has a fun idea.


While in Egypt, the Sterling family takes a tour of the Great Pyramid of Giza during a celestial event in which several planets are in alignment.  Somehow this transports them to another world.


Otherworld 2

The family stops an officer to ask for help, but it turns out this world’s got a crazy class structure and all of the provinces are closed off from each other and no travel’s allowed.  The officer (actually Commander Kroll, a real bad dude) treats them belligerently and in the ensuing scuffle is shot by the Sterling son. Interesting note: Kroll’s played by TV’s Jonathan Banks, better known as Mike from Breaking Bad.


The family takes Kroll’s transport into the city, where they cheese some papers and get indoctrinated into society.  It’s clear that this society is far advanced from where 1985 Earth was,  and it turns out for good reason – they’re all androids.  There’s a radiation present that affects the human Sterlings and nobody else, and they end up having to leave the colony and set out on the road for answers.  It’s not an easy departure, what with Kroll on their trail, but they make it out and pave the way for a glorious series of discovery and fun.

Or 8 episodes.


The world, Thel, is actually pretty interesting.  There’s high technology, a totalitarian religious government, and myriad isolated zones each with their own culture, technology and customs.  The production is no slouch either, there’s decent effects and good set design and fashion.


It seems like a fertile ground for a science fiction series, but apparently it just wasn’t in the cards.  Here’s the pilot episode. It’s actually pretty fun!


2. Partridge Family, 2200 A.D. – If the Bradys did it, you know the Partridges couldn’t be far behind.


This animated series aired on CBS in 1974, and looking at it I have to admit that I gave The Brady Kids too hard a time.  They at least had a somewhat inventive premise; Partridge Family, 2200 A.D. is just a Jetsons ripoff.  Seriously, they made this series instead of making a teenaged-Elroy version of Jetsons.


Here’s the intro; episodes are a little harder to find.  Still kind of catchy, no?


3. Buster Sales – Thrill as a teenage Blockbuster Video employee is taught to recognize and make the most of sales opportunities by a creepy guy trapped in a video monitor!

Remember all those tapes?


4.  Pizza Hut Back to the Future – Pizza Hut was a pretty big licensing partner for Back to the Future II‘s theatrical release.  They had a pretty nifty set of sunglasses you’d get with a purchase. They also had this over-the-top futuristic commercial.  Now that we’re out of 2015, I can safely say they were way off base.


5. Howard Johnson’s Commercial – Meanwhile, in a simpler time, Howard Johnsons just wanted to sell fried clams to children.



Droid Revolt

Five Things – 1.4.16 – That Warm Bean Flavor

1.  Droid World – This gorgeous Star Wars book was a part of the read-along The Further Adventures series released in the early 1980s.  Each book was about 20-25 pages long and came with a record or cassette that you played alongside it.  Illustrated by Dick Foes, the artwork was much more impressive than it needed to be.

Droid World 1

The Rebels have captured a damaged Imperial Warbot and not even R2-D2 can extract information from it.  Luke and the droids head to Droid World, a space station occupied entirely by droids and one human – Captain Kligson, the man they hope can access the Warbot.

Droid World 3

Droid World 4

Kligson allows the droids on board, but not Luke.  While there, the droids uncover a plan to revolt against Kligson and inform him. Turns out the Empire planted the seeds of revolt. For some reason.  Everything falls apart after that, and it’s all-out war on Droid World.

Droid World 7 Droid World 6

Kligson is killed, but then it’s revealed that that was a decoy Kligson because the real Kligson knew about the revolution but needed the droids to uncover it before he could do anything. For some reason.  Anyway, Kligson reveals that he built a Warbot of his own and basically dials the whole war on Droid World up a few notches.

Droid World 8

Kligson wins, Droid World is in shambles, and C-3PO and R2-D2 head back to Luke.  They express sadness for Kligson’s situation and you think that Luke’s going to suggest that Kligson come join the Rebels, but instead the story just ends.

Here’s the whole story.  Decent job mocking up Luke and the droids’ voices.


2.  The Brady Kids Did you ever feel like The Brady Bunch was just too rooted in reality? Like it’d be more fun if they travelled through time, or went to space, or if there was magic? Executive Producer Sherwood Schwartz sure thought so, and four seasons into The Brady Bunch‘s run he approached animation company Filmation about a cartoon spinoff.  The result hit the air in 1972, called The Brady Kids.

Brady Kids

The parents and Alice were left out of the show, and the actual kids did the voices of their character for the first season.  There were a few new characters, too: Marlon is the magical bird you see above, there were two pandas called Ping and Pong (groan), and a dog called Mop Top.

Ping Mop Top Pong

The series only really lasted one season; Filmation added a five-episode second season to meet the minimum required number for syndication.  Only half of the kids signed on to lend their voices to the second season.

Here’s an episode where they go to ancient Greece to meet Euclid, and Wonder Woman joins them disguised as a math teacher.  For some reason.


3.  Puffin Biscuits – Seen over at The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit, this ad for Puffin Biscuits really scratches that space-age itch.

Puffin Biscuits


4.  Maxwell House – I don’t know where to start with this 1960s Maxwell House commercial.  The overacting husband? The over-reacting wife? The harsh, patronizing tone the husband takes toward his wife when he learns they’re out of coffee? The Benny-Hill-esque sequence in which the harsh, patronizing husband weeps at the table? The comically oversized Maxwell House jar? The overly passionate kiss when the day is saved? The issues in this household run deeper than keeping the pantry stocked, for sure.


5.  Insist on Slinky – This 1957 Slinky ad found over at The Bird Feed is just an absolute stunner.

Slinky 1957



Five Things – 12.28.15 – Top 5 of 2015

Here are the most viewed, voted, and commented-on Things from the past year.  There’s a pretty great mix here of corporate cheese, baffling games, retrofuturism, and Leonard Nimoy; it provides a good glimpse of the scope of the Timid Futures embrace.  Here we go, in reverse order…


#5 – How Nuclear Radiation Can Change Our Race – Mechanix Illustrated gave us this chilling look at an impossible future back in 1953.

How Nuclear Radiation Cover

How Nuclear Radiation Cover 2

The article links our inevitable nuclear doom with a rapid and widespread mutation that splinters the human race.  The new race loses a toe but gains much more: height and head-size.  And because of their larger heads and the presumably larger brains within those heads, they may have intellect and powers far beyond our own.  We will either be enslaved by them, hunt them down and exterminate them, be hunted down and exterminated by them, or learn to work together.  Yes, the article lists every possible outcome of a society with two similar races.

Check out the rest of the “article” here: Five Things – 3.23.15


#4 – Windows 95 Training Video – When producing the world’s first Cyber-Sitcom, Microsoft dug a hand into the ‘what’s working’ bucket of the day and plucked out Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston.  It was a reasonable move, I guess, but I can’t see how this worked out well for anybody involved.

Windows Guide

Aniston and Perry are brought into Bill Gates’ office to audition for a Windows 95 training video. Meta enough for you? What follows are a lot of stereotypes, a ton of dad jokes, some distorted views of what “cool” kids those days were like, and a lot of delicious cheese.

Matthew Perry and Jennifer AnistonInsideHere’s the video. Also check out the original writeup here: Five Things – 8.17.15


#3 – Pie Face – Basically the family version of Russian Roulette.

Pie FaceI noticed in the holiday blitz this year that they brought this awful game back! Now a whole new generation can make pointless messes!

(Five Things – 1.26.15

#2 – Dune Activity Books – With activities like “Weigh the Big Baron” and “Color The Dead Guys”, the Dune activity books are right up any child’s alley.  Pretty sure this is exactly what Frank Herbert intended for his series.

Dune Activity BookWeight Baron Halleck Dead(Five Things – 2.2.15)


#1 – Magnavision – Finally, here’s a meeting between Leonard Nimoy and the space rock that has bestowed laserdisc technology upon our species.


This is a really beautiful example of Nimoy’s seemingly “up-for-anything-ness” when it comes to selling things in a sci-fi light. That’s not a dig; I genuinely love whenever he used a vague Spock association to sell anything.

NimoyThis one’s not so vague.

Conversation Laserdiscs ApartmentHave you seen that episode of Futurama where Leela speaks with Nibbler for the first time and spends the whole scene paraphrasing what Nibbler’s saying for the audience? This whole video is basically that. It’s great.

(Five Things – 7.27.15

That’s… that.  It’s been a great year, and I want to thank you all for your likes, comments, and emails about all of this stuff.  I’ve got some fun stuff in store for 2016, and I really look forward to sharing it with all of you.  Happy New Year!




Five Things – 12.21.15 – Holy Cats, You Killed A Dragon

I usually fill up December’s Five Things with one of my favorite, well, things: old toy ads.  I decided to expand things a bit this year as you’ve seen the past few weeks but I still wanted to focus at least one week exclusively on toy ads, and what better week than the lead-up to the ultimate toy day of the year? Merry Christmas, or Toypocalypse, whichever you happen to celebrate. 

1.  Kenner’s Star Wars Line – The Patient Zero of licensed movie products, here it is at its genesis.  This minute-long ad has C-3PO and R2-D2 employed by “the Earthlings at Kenner” to introduce the Star Wars games and toy line.   Included in this ad are the Death Star playset, the land speeder, a remote-controlled R2-D2, and more.


2.  Poochie – This Poochie’s not the kung-fu hippie from Gangsta City, but she still keeps it real.  It’s pretty confusing what Poochie’s role here is – the ad seems to imply that Poochie enables a girl to say what she means and how she feels, like she wasn’t able to do that beforehand.  Is Poochie some sort of Dumbo-feather, then, a false totem of confidence? We’ll never know. Frankly, it’s all a little insulting. Any Poochie girls still out there?


Interestingly enough, this is from 1983.  It feels much more ’90s than that, doesn’t it?


3.  Dungeons and Dragons – It would be difficult for this commercial to be less about Dungeons and Dragons than it is.  It’s got some sort of mashup thing going on where lines of dialogue crash into each other and the narrator’s sweating trying to fit in important disclaimers.


4.  Suzy Homemaker – Ugh.  My disdain for this toy is tempered only by my love of the simple layout. “She gets more fun out of being a cook than a kook”!

Suzy Homemaker


5.  Game and Watch – Before NES, before Game Boy, this was the Nintendo product to have.  Look at all of these teens having fun with a tiny hand-held mini-game!

Neat to see the animated Donkey Kong and Mario & Luigi, though!


Happy Toypocalypse!



Donna Banner

Five Things – 12.14.15 – It’s Their Own Fault The Bus Left Late

1. It’s a Totally Happening Life – We’re pretty big Beverly Hills, 90210 fans in the Timid Futures household.  Really big fans. I watched the show religiously while it was in premieres, and we bust out the re-runs whenever we get a chance. We catch ourselves having long conversations between each other about characters and their motivations. Most characters; we don’t typically explore Andrea.


Every holiday season we make sure to watch all of the Christmas episodes; there are good ones (Season 7’s Secret Santa and Cindy’s marital strife stands out) and not so good ones (Season 4’s lame clip show and airplane’s-gonna-crash “drama”), but there’s one that’s a clear head and shoulders above the rest. I’m talking about “It’s a Totally Happening Life”.

Gang 2

By season 3, 90210 was pretty smug about its status as a tastemaker among teens.  Each episode had the hottest music of the day, the fashions were (sometimes laughably) on point, and the show frequently took it upon itself to try and introduce new fashions like a radish boutineer for a school dance or his-and-hers diamond earrings as wedding gifts. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that they were confident enough to take on a classic movie, It’s a Wonderful Life for their 1992 Christmas episode.


The backbone of the episode features two angels in heaven, Clarence and Miriam.  Fun Fact: The actor doing Clarence is Quaid’s work-buddy-turned-attempted-killer in Total Recall.  Miriam gets Clarence’s attention because there’s a disaster about to happen to a bunch of rich kids in Beverly Hills and it needs celestial intervention.


Miriam introduces each member of the gang to Clarence, and the audience, as if we were meeting them for the first time.  She goes over their current place in the series’ soap-ish story arc so that everyone’s up to speed: Brenda and Kelly are fighting over Dylan, Steve’s on suspension for breaking into school and trying to change his grades, Andrea’s boring and in love with Brandon, Brandon’s awful, and Donna is organizing a charity event for less-fortunate children.  And David’s just recording it all on a video camera.


The camera angles in this episode are completely off the rails.

In the midst of their besmirchment of It’s a Wonderful Life, Brandon and Andrea also take on Twas the Night Before Christmas with a modern, hip, pointless version that begins with ” Twas the Day Before Midterms, all through the school/ the teachers were jammin’, the students were cool.”

Twas The Day Before Midterms

The first half of the episode, outside of the angels’ commentaries of how cool and beautiful the gang is (seriously), consists of the soap-opera storylines being lit on fire: the love triangle heats up, Brandon breaks up with his girlfriend and kisses Andrea and that somehow goes poorly, and David’s got some hangup about not being a senior like the rest of them.  It all results in the gang bailing on Donna for the charity thing she’s organizing.  She’s screwed for about 5 minutes and then the gang is forced to go to the event anyway.

Mad Mad 2

All of this leads up to the event that’s what gets the angels involved: there’s a drunk driver on a semi about to smash into the school bus and kill everyone on board.  Just like It’s a Wonderful Life, right?   Seriously, the only parallel here is that there are angels.


Clarence confidently reveals that he already diverted the drunk driver, but it turns out that he diverted the wrong guy and he only gets one use of that special power because of angel rules.  The angels stress over this for a few seconds and then God Himself intervenes on the behalf of a bunch of rich kids in a school bus.  Sorry, starving kids around the world, the BH gang needs God’s attention!

Bus Crash

The gang safely arrives at the charity event and Steve’s there dressed as Santa to join them.  There’s a little Christmas warmth and then we’re out.  This whole thing is just a weird episode, just a really weird episode, and I can’t figure out the decision-making process that led to where this whole thing ended up.  At the end of the day, though, it’s very Christmas-y so mission accomplished.


Oh, and Miriam got her wings.

Here’s the episode.  While I have my gripes, I can’t turn away. That’s kind of the thing about this series, and why I love it.  I have bigger gripes about the series, ones that will never be resolved.  I wish John Sears had been an ongoing nemesis for Steve, like that he had bought a rival magazine company after college.  I wish the New Evolution cult had continued to haunt Kelly for the rest of the series, trying to throw wrinkles in her life for walking out.  I wish David had continued trying to make his music career take off.  Oh, wait.

Here you go.  Poor Donna.

*And if way-too-deep discussions about 90210 are as much your thing as they are mine, check out The Blaze wiith Lizzie and Kat podcast.  I seriously can’t stop listening. 


2.  Visiona 1 – Here’s Italian designer Joe Colombo’s take on the living space of the future, presented as the Visiona 1 exposition sponsored by Bayer in 1969. Beautiful stuff.

Visiona 1-1 Visiona 1-2

And here’s some video of the exposition itself, where people can actually get in and fiddle with the space.  It’s oddly comforting to me that the bathroom is still cluttered.


3. Japanese Twin Peaks Coffee Commercial – At some point this week I got impatient for the Twin Peaks revival on Showtime and started clicking around.  I came across this 1993 Japanese coffee commercial.  Amazing!


4. Peter Pain Spooks Christmas Spirit – Peter Pain was a Ben-Gay anti-mascot. Kind of like the Noid, but for Ben-Gay.  That gives me just enough information to barely understand this comic.

Peter Pain


5. Thine Own Wish Wish I Thee – Oddly worded, but beautiful.





Card Banner

Five Things – 12.7.15 – Thanks For Lending Me The Suit

1.  A Bionic Christmas Carol – This 1976 episode of The Six Million Dollar Man does a copy/paste of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in a way that fits mostly, but not entirely.

Bionic Christmas

Steve gets assigned to investigate a potential sabotage issue at a space-tech factory…on Christmas Eve


He’s not happy about it, but he goes because that’s his job, I guess.  I thought that Oscar Goldman, Steve’s boss, was being set up to be the Scrooge in this analogy, but nope.  The real Scrooge is Budge, the owner of the space-tech facility. The show goes to great lengths to illustrate this, including both his adamancy that his employees work on Christmas Day and his shut-down of an employee-funded Christmas tree decoration.

Budge Tree

His chauffeur, Crandall (get it?), is Budge’s nephew and is taken advantage of left and right.  Crandall insists that Steve spend Christmas supper with his family and takes him home to meet them.  The family’s got no tree, no presents, nothing, so Steve does a little Bionic-ing on a nearby, large, not-Christmas tree to make up for it.

Bionic Tree

The story takes a weird turn when Steve shows up to Budge’s estate and Budge topples over a ledge, landing in Steve’s arms.


The doctor tells Steve and Crandall that, conveniently, due to Budge’s condition he will hallucinate for the next three hours.  This gives Steve an idea, and I thought I knew where this special was headed, but I was a little bit off.


Instead of a ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, Steve dresses up as…Santa.  He somehow still accomplishes the same thing as Santa Claus that the ghosts do, though, and Budge comes around.  He wakes up, dismisses the crew slated to work at the factory that day, and shows up at his nephew’s house with a bag full of toys.  Because now he’s dressed as Santa.


Here’s the thing: this is a really lazy attempt at a Christmas episode, but for some reason I was glued to it.  There’s just something about The Six Million Dollar Man, it appears, where the premise transcends the lazy plotlines.  It’s a pretty tightly-paced show, especially compared to its contemporaries. God bless us, everyone, indeed.


2. Soviet Union Christmas Postcards – Stumbled across some gorgeous Space-Race-Era Christmas cards from the Soviet Union at Flashbak. Definitely hit the link to see them all, but here are my favorites.  They’re beautiful and peaceful-looking, sometimes despite their warmongering overtones.

Rockets Cosmonaut Globe Horse


3. Frankie Frank – Did you know that Mr. Potato Head had pals? It’s not a surprise that given his runaway, unexpected success that attempts would be made at doing the same thing with other food items.  Heres’ Frankie Frank, the hot dog that you push stuff into.

Frankie Frank

He wasn’t alone, either.  You can see Mr. Mustard Head (?) in the box art, but there were still more! Here’s the rest of the gang.

Picnic Pals


4. Motown Merry Christmas Medley – There’s something about this 1987 Motown Christmas Special segment that really, genuinely gets me.  It starts with Marcia Warfield doing a bit about optimism and hopefulness and then snowballs (no pun intended?) into a really impressive medley.  Enjoy Carrie McDowell, Natalie Cole, The Temptations, Ronnie Spector, Darlene Love, The Pointer Sisters, Run DMC, Smokey Robinson and more in true holiday fashion.  They really just don’t do it like this anymore.


5. #bringbackmst3k – It’s not every day you get to help resurrect your favorite TV show. I’ve been a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 since I was eleven years old, and this show probably shaped my sense of humor more than any other.  Through it I gained an early love for old movies, both good and bad, and got a head start on some crazy obscure pop culture references that in some cases I would only understand years later. I still watch the show regularly, and there are still jokes that I get for the first time.

So when series creator Joel Hodgson announced a Kickstarter campaign to bring back the show with a new cast, I was all in.  Well, not all; I don’t have 5.5 million dollars on me.  But I was in, and I hope you’ll be, too.  he’s got an impressive roster lined up this time around with Jonah Ray, Felicia Day, and Patton Oswalt, and it’s looking like the writing will be of the level we’ve come to expect from this show.  The Kickstarter’s in its last days, so kick in if you can!

In honor of the show, here’s a 1998 tour of the now-defunct Best Brains studios.  Some cool gems in here for fans of the show – the cardboard cutout of Mike from Hobgoblins stands out for me.



Al Banner

Five Things – 11.30.15 – No One Should Be Chillin’ On The Curb At Christmas

1. Weird Al and the Winans – In 1992 WGN ran a Christmas Special featuring/starring megahit gospel group The Winans.  Seems like your typical Christmas song and dance, a few celebrities like R. Kelly and a so-young-but-so-old Edward James Olmos pop in, and a message of peace and love.  And then there’s this weird thread woven throughout the special featuring Weird Al and his journey to become a true gospel singer.  This whole thing is just one cringe after another.

First Al

Al shows up to the Winans’ party dressed in an awful turqoise tuxedo and ready to wow them with his gospel skills, but he comes off a little flat – according to the attendees.  I thought he did just fine.


He’s advised that he needs to get his soul right if he wants to sing true gospel music, and so he’s sent out into the neighborhood to bring some street toughs in to the warmth of the celebration. All of these things are accented by Al’s exaggerated slang and posturing.

Up High

Bringing in the street toughs is not enough, so Al delivers a Christmas tree to a less fortunate family, and then for some reason is tasked with digging a hole to plant it. As he does so, a gospel choir gathers around him…


…and Al is shown the light.


He returns to the Winans’ party triumphant – dressed down as himself – and joins the gang in that timeless Christmas classic, “Go Tell It On The Mountain”.

Real Me

Real Me 2

Here’s the Al-centric bits of the special.  Protip – click the settings icon and turn off annotations. Or leave them on if you don’t want to be able to see the video. Up to you.  And get ready to cringe, and then get ready to cringe again. There’s no way this could have been made today.



2.  Woolworth’s 1983 Christmas Ad – Presumably there was a time when circuses were looked upon favorably and this 1983 ad for Woolworth’s Christmas offerings relies heavily on that presumption.  There’s not a part of this that’s not bizarre, creepy, or both. How about this guy and his popcorn popper?


Here’s the spot.  It’s charming in its off-puttingness.  That’s not easy to pull off.


3.  Toygro Garage – Here’s an actually charming 1920s newspaper ad for the Toygro garage.

Toygro Garage


4.   Betsey Wetsey – Not sure what our society’s fascination is with dolls that feel sadness and also consume food and then excrete it, but it’s not a new thing; here’s a 1950s commercial for Betsy Wetsey, the original doll who cries “real tears” and goes to the bathroom.


5. Playskool Tape Recorder – This thing certainly looks like it could go five rounds with a toddler. My eye keeps getting drawn to that oh-so-90s band-aid, though.

Playskool Tape Recorder