I'm Telling!

Five Things – 05.23.16 – Dare You Let It In Your Library?

The Stephen King Library

Stephen King’s pretty well-regarded nowadays, but in the 1980s and 1990s he had a polarizing level of fame. While he had a dedicated fanbase, he tended to be regarded in the mainstream as a shlocky horror writer who put out a new book every week and opinion of him was formed on whether you liked that sort of thing or not.  He was a bestseller, sure, a rockstar of a writer, but it seemed like there was a level of respect for his writing that he never got.

Besides the fact that his crazy creative output in that era meant you always had something new to read, the volume also provided an easy business opportunity in the space that Time Life and Columbia House had forged – subscriptions.  Enter the Stephen King Library.

For $7.95 (the first time, $14.95 each shipment thereafter) you got a new King book, hardback. It’s crazy to me that there could be a book subscription service for one author, but there you go. I love the commercials for the service; this one seems to imply that publishers are approaching people on the street to try to sell Stephen King books:

While I love the cheesy comments and the hokey “scary music”, the comments reinforce that shlocky image that King’s writing had back then. It’s not wrong, really, just… incomplete.  The narrator also clearly hands the first guy a copy of Needful Things but calls it Dolores Claiborne.

*wheeze*

Here’s some commercials for specific books – The Stand, which would be a steal even then at $7.95:

I love that the extra content is pitched as something that we “weren’t allowed to see before”. Here’s one for Gerald’s Game:

These visuals aren’t really backing up the content of the books themselves; did anything really come up out of the ground in The Stand? That’s more of a Pet Semetary thing…

The Stephen King Library is still alive and kicking, too! That’s even crazier to me than the fact of its existence. I’m just glad that time has borne out King’s reputation as a great writer and we can all now move on to arguing about whether those fat cats in Hollywood are doing his work justice. How many days until The Dark Tower releases?

 

Coming Soon: Portable Computers!

Here’s a cringeworthy trip through all of the newest tech for those geeks with tons of disposable income in 1994.  It’s neat to see how big our ideas were and how limited our ability to execute those ideas was. The delay on that videophone cannot be unseen.

That’s, what, $9,000 worth of tech in that video? $10,000? And a printer you can use in the car? Worthless.

K-Tel Records: Looney Tunes

From the people who brought you the Sesame Street soundtrack, here’s Looney Tunes. Not the Looney Tunes you’re thinking of.  It’s weird.

 

I’m Telling!

Even weirder? How about I’m Telling!, which is basically The Newlywed Game but with child siblings instead.  This one didn’t last long – it ran from September 1987 to March 1988.

 

Uncle Sam Says Garden

Beautiful poster encouraging Americans to grow their own food in order to cut down on waste.

Uncle Sam Says Garden

-ds

Mad Maze

Five Things – 05.16.16 – Less Than You Think, Jack

Prodigy Commercials

The internet was introduced to my house in 1990 through Prodigy, an early online service that touted all of the features of online living we take for granted today in a crude, difficult-to-use format that was still the best experience of the era.

Prodigy LogIn

Prodigy came to us bundled with a 2600k modem and a pre-set user ID that was a nonsensical combination of letters and numbers that could not be changed.  You had to memorize this user ID or keep it written down next to the computer or you were hosed.  Once you logged in you could do some rudimentary shopping, play some basic games, pay more money to play some good games (looking at you, MadMaze), or read the news.  Each of these experiences involved a roughly 3-5 minute load time between each screen.  Then there were the message boards, which were the real meat of the experience for 11-year-old me.  I became the secretary of the Sierra Hint Club, an organization of nerds who provided hints for the Sierra adventure computer games for anyone who wanted them.  Yeah.  Pretty great way to be eleven.

Mad Maze

Anyway, I loved Prodigy and it obviously has a special place in my heart.  I soon learned that the modem could be used for other things like BBS’g and got into all that later, but Prodigy remained the family internet portal until AOL sucked everything up later in the ’90s.  I came across these early 1990 ads for Prodigy and really love the way they sum up the promise of the internet.  Nobody would really deliver on this promise in a game-changing way for quite some time, but they did the best they could and going from zero to this was really something.

In the mid-90s when competition was a bit stiffer, they had to up their “cool” game a bit.  Barry White helped. Still centered around the message boards and communities, though.

Did I mention you had to pay for X number of hours per month? Could you imagine having to measure out your internet like that now?

 

Sugar PSA

This ’90s Fox Kids PSA about the effects of eating too much sugar is very ’90s and very horrifying. The kid goes to Sugar Hell!

 

 

1975 Sesame Street Greatest Hits

Selling soundtracks on TV in 1975 was a pretty crude effort, apparently.  Here’s a Sesame Street ad that features some terribly off-model plushes and some really awesome animations from the show mixed all together into a really weird combination.

 

Q*Bert Board Game

There is everything to love about this commercial for the Q*Bert board game.

 

Dungeon! Ad

The font on the “Dungeon!” part kills me.  I love it.

Dungeon!

 

-ds

Five Things – 05.09.16 – I’m Talkin’ Quarter Pounder Beef On The Hot Hot Side

Don’t Look Now

Last week we saw a failed attempt at a prime-time spinoff of You Can’t Do That On Television called Whatever Turns You On.  Well, here’s a failed attempt at a carbon copy of You Can’t Do That On Television, 1983’s Don’t Look Now, produced for PBS station WGBH by the YCDTOT creators.

Dont Look Now Dylan

Don’t Look Now copied and pasted the sketch format from YCDTOT, making slight adjustments so that it could qualify as a different thing.  Canada had Barth, the US had a sleepaway camp cook who specialized in gross-out food.  Canada had a recurring firing squad gag, the US had a recurring kid-on-the-pirate-plank gag.  Instead of green slime, there was “yellow yuck”.

Yellow Yuck

Don’t Look Now added a few things to differentiate it from it’s Canadian sister, though.  The show was performed live, which allowed them to take phone calls from viewers.  If the viewers could answer questions posed by the show, they’d win a T-shirt.

Call In

Several “man on the street” segments featured real kids telling jokes to the camera.

Man on the Street Man on the Street 2

The crude humor and subversive “grown ups are awful” attitude are the focal point of both shows, and predictably so; it’s a very ’80s children’s television theme, and also grown ups are actually awful.  Here’s the first episode.

The kids don’t have the chops that the Canadian kids have, none of the adults are anywhere near the level of Les Lye, and the potty humor feels even more forced than usual, but there’s still a level of charm here.  It’s a bold move for a PBS station to commission a program that betrays the established trust from parents about the content of kids’ programming on public television, and that’s probably why it backfired.  Don’t Look Now premiered on October 2, 1983 and the finale ran 28 days later on October 30. So it goes.

Also, that segment about what happens to your poop after flush it is legit fascinating.

 

Pre-War Travel Posters

There’s a great roundup of British pre-war travel posters over at Flashbak. Here are some of my favorites – hit the link for the rest.

‘To Hampshire and the New Forest Quickly by the New “Bournemouth Limited”’. Poster produced for Southern Railway (SR) promoting train services to Hampshire and the New Forest. The poster shows a panoramic view of the countryside with a quote by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). Artwork by Leonard Richmond, who studied at the Taunton School of Art and Chelsea Polytechnic and exhibited widely both in London and abroad. He painted landscapes and figures and designed posters for the Great Western Railway (GWR) and Southern Railway (SR). Dimensions: 1016 mm x 1270 mm.

Poster produced for the London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS). Artwork by Norman Wilkinson. A famous marine painter, Wilkinson made a major contribution to the art of camouflage. He designed posters for the London & North Western Railway, LMS and Southern Railway, and organised the Royal Academy series of posters for the LMS in 1924. He also worked for the Illustrated London News and Illustrated Mail. "

British Tourist and Holidays Board poster. Artwork by Norman Wilkinson.

 

Frogger/Empire Strikes Back Commercial

This Parker Brothers commercial for its Frogger and Empire Strikes Back Atari games doesn’t quite have the synergistic thread that Data East had with their Robocop/Bad Dudes spot. The custom animation for Frogger is great, though.

 

Compuserve Ad

This seems like your average early-internet ‘hey you can manage your whole life with this service’ ad until you notice that it’s from 1983. That’s some future-stuff.

CompuServe

 

Mc D.L.T.

Jason Alexander foreshadows his Pretty Woman role in this 1985 spot for the Mc D.L.T. burger.

They used that much styrofoam for EVERY hamburger. That’s bonkers.

 

-ds

Slime

Five Things – 05.02.16 – Much As They Actually Exist In Space

Whatever Turns You On

Did you know that You Can’t Do That On Television had a spinoff?

Whatever Turns You On

Whatever Turns You On was an early attempt to take what was clearly resonating with kids and prime-time it up a bit. This was in 1979, before the show had appeared on Nickelodeon and become a hit in the U.S.  The move to prime-time brought with it Ruth Buzzi, live music performances, and a little bit more of this:

Whatever Turns You On

At the end of the day it was still a kid’s show – the bulk of the cast was carried over from YCDTOT, the jokes were still of the bathroom variety, and there was plenty of green slime to go around.  It’s definitely a little more in the Laugh-In direction than YCDTOT, though.  Check it out.

Whatever Turns You On failed to really distinguish itself from its kid-show counterpart, and was cancelled after only 13 episodes.  You Can’t Do That On Television, though, would soon go on to huge success.

 

Yar’s Revenge Theatrical Trailer

This epic ad for Atari’s Yar’s Revenge played in theaters in 1982.  The trailer explains things in a way that the game itself never did. I actually almost understand it now.

 

The Birth of Cosmos Game Ad

This game looks amazing. Is it played on top of an iPad?

tumblr_nm7qehOfHQ1qztcdbo1_1280

 

Buffalo Bee Fun Page

This full page magazine ad for Wheat Honeys and Rice Honeys reminds me of a time when kids were really hard up for fun activities.

Buffalo Bee Fun Page

 

1989 Sesame Street Book Club Commercial

You may have a stronger brand identity, Sesame Street, but you’re still no Sweet Pickles.

 

-ds

Benny Binion

Five Things – 04.25.16 – I’ll Be Bigger Than Ollie North

1987 NBC Saturday Morning Preview

ALF hosts this Friday Night preview of NBC Saturday Morning lineup featuring, well, ALF. The premises for these specials are always so ridiculous, and this one’s no different:

ALf Loves A Mystery

The special begins in the Tanner family garage, where ALF is on the phone with his agent regarding his new prequel cartoon series. ALF and his buddy Brian decide to imagine a mystery story specifically featuring characters from the shows in the NBC Saturday Morning lineup, which is natural and makes sense.

ALF and Brian

The special then turns into a Film Noir homage, which kids are totally into, with ALF providing the narration and Brian starring as the detective. Brian’s invited to the Countess (Jackee’s) mansion, where random stars from NBC Prime Time programs like Our House, Rags To Riches, The Golden Girls, and others are gathered and given the challenge to find the treasure hidden within the house.

Shannen Jackee Betty

The kid faction of the party teams up to solve the mystery, awkardly led from clue to clue by clips and voiceovers from the Saturday Morning shows.

Clue Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Smurfs, the Gummie Bears, Archie, and that awful animated version of Fraggle Rock help the gang along.

Fraggle

The adults at the party, predictably, are all bad guys.  They’re also dumb.  They follow the children around as the kids solve the mysteries, waiting for their chance to steal the treasure once it’s found. Shannen Doherty masquerades as “kid-cool” to try and trick them!

Shannen Kids

The joke’s on all of them, kid and adult alike, when Jackee tries to take it all for herself at the end.

Ending

I won’t tell you how they get out of that particular pickle, but ALF and Shannen Doherty DO go on a date after all is said and done.

This special is so bad and hamfisted, but in a really good way.  Even Shannen Doherty’s redeemed in it.  I can’t figure out how the effort spent on this was justified, but I’m glad it was.  Here’s the whole thing. Also included are some VERY ’80s Cherry 7-Up, Milky Way, Snickers, Wendy’s, Diet Coke, KFC, and Crave Cat Food commercials.

Also I forgot about Chicken Littles – that 39 cent price point is nice.

 

Discover Atari

This early 1980s “Prism” campaign for Atari shows the breadth of the company’s offerings past just video games, but still mostly focuses on the video games.  They know which side of the bread gets the butter.  Still, a good looking campaign with some great motion graphics and some EPCOT-level synth.

That’s Jack Palance doing the voiceover. You hear it now, don’t you?

This one interestingly focuses on the whole portfolio of Atari’s offerings – minimizing the games as much as they probably can.  Makes Atari look like a much different company than it was – the company they probably wanted to be.

 

Safe As Houses

This charming 1983 UK Public Information Film uses a mixture of animation and live action to teach kids about electrical safety. Voiced by Judi Dench and Michael Wiliams, it’s kind of like a G-rated “Shake Hands With Danger”.

 

Atom Bomb Blasts

This 1950s-era postcard from Benny Binion’s Horseshoe Club boasts the spectacular view of atomic weapons testing that can be had nearby. Amazing.

Benny Binion

 

Burpee Cover

Potatoes have never been so beautiful. A cover from an 18th century seed catalog.

Burpee Cover

 

-ds

 

 

Kotter

Five Things – 04.18.16 – Foxes Will Be Destroyed

Future Magazine Covers

The relatively short-run Future, and later Future Life, magazine featured sci-fi stories and futurology from 1979 to 1981.  It included some pretty top-shelf contributors like Harlan Ellison, Roger Zelazney, and Issac Asimov and the interviews of high profile figures in the science and science fiction community are impressive but what really stands the test of time for Future are the covers.  There’s something about magazine covers from this era – it doesn’t seem to matter what the genre is, the covers are impressive. Here are some of my favorite Future and Future Life covers.

1978 Orbiter Comic Improved Human Return of the Airship

Russians

 

How’s the Weather, Lucy?

Before there were programs and apps that allowed us to do the same thing, we had Colorforms: semi-adhesive reusable plastic elements of our favorite television and movie brands that we used to build scenes of said television shows and movies.

Colorforms

They were probably pretty toxic, and we probably shouldn’t have put our hands on them or put them in our mouths.  They smelled like chemical factories and that smell never really wore off.  As far as the variety of sets goes, it got a little out of hand; there wasn’t just one set of Coloforms for a given brand, there were several sets for many different situations.  Case in point: a Peanuts set that exists only to give Lucy different clothes to wear depending on the weather.

 

Jungle Book Toy Box

This 1966 cereal ad for a Jungle Book themed toy box has a pretty exclusive design itself.

Jungle Book Toy Box

 

Keep Rabies Out

A pretty heavy-handed 1970s UK Public Service Announcement about the dangers of rabies. Why doesn’t anybody think of the cat shows?

 

 Robocop + Bad Dudes

Hats off to Data East for having the foresight to combine two different games into one commercial. Because, why not?

 

-ds

 

Cooper Sanchez – Illumine

My dear friend Cooper Sanchez is at it again this weekend with Illumine: Art and Light In The Gardens.  If you’ve read miniature ships, which I wrote and he drew, you’ve seen Cooper’s incredible ink work.  If you’ve read distant friends, arizona, or (soon) the mister, you’ve seen the strong influence he’s had on my own drawing.  More than just pen and paper, though, he’s got this amazing ability to take the stuff in his head and get it out into the world without having it pass through the sieve(s) that most of us struggle with.  Sometimes it’s on canvas, other times it’s with light, still others it’s with nature, and sometimes it’s all of these.  It’s sometimes simple, sometimes complicated, but always pure. He’s got a really lovely way of looking at the world, and this show promises to back me up on that.

The show is on Saturday, April 16th at 6pm in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta.  If you’re local, you should go. If you’re not, you should move.

Illumine

-ds

 

Ladies

Five Things – 4.11.16 – Trying To Get The Planet Ready For Space Beings

The Amazing Live Sea Monkeys

In true 1980s and 1990s take-a-popular-thing-and-make-a-kids-show-out-of-it fashion, comedian Howie Mandel was prompted by his daughter’s enthusiasm for those mail-order and store bought packets of brine shrimp labelled as Sea Monkeys and made a few Hollywood calls. The result, The Amazing Live Sea Monkeys, debuted on CBS in 1992.

Sea Monkeys

The series starred Mandel as a Professor who enlarged three Sea Monkeys to human size, and the antics that result from such an assault on nature.  Each of the Sea Monkeys had a distinguishing trait that would typically either initiate or dial up said antics.

Octapotamus

CBS was in a tough spot for live action kids programming in 1992, specifically.  Pee-Wee’s Playhouse had just ended its run, and after The Amazing Live Sea Monkeys‘ cancellation, Beakman’s World would take its place.  Those are two really solid kids shows – wish the same could be said for Monkeys, but it really falls flat. Probably from trying too hard.

Here’s an episode.  11 episodes feels like too much of this.

 

1975 Betamax Promo

This debut promotional video for Sony’s Betamax comes off as a little hyperbolic, but it’s important to remember the significance of this technology when it came out.  It really was a new era and the idea of freedom from having to be in front of a living room television on a specific day and at a specific time must have been intoxicating in the 1970s.

Heaven

There are some great visual effects used for the conversations illustrating society’s tether to the live television experience, too.

Time Exercise Ladies

Here’s the video.  “It’s only purpose is to serve you.” I love it.

 

 

Vader Lives

This comic ad for Star Wars merchandise really goes on a limb in assuming you’re up to speed on the Star Wars saga.  Probably a safe bet, given the medium.

Vader Lives

 

Brylcreem Ad

The 1950s were not kind to slightly unkempt men, at all! This commercial for Brylcreem is pretty great, though and the stop-motion effects at the end are fantastic.

 

Sun Ra – Night Music 1989

My man Sun Ra appeared on a 1989 episode of the short-lived Lorne Michaels-produced Night Music, also known as Sunday Night.  If you’re a Sun Ra fan, this is fantastic. If you’re not, this will be terrible. Kind of the way it goes with Sun Ra.

 

-ds

Clean It

Five Things – 04.04.16 – That Men May Fight

You Dont Know Jack

In the summer of 2001 ABC tried to create a televised version of the crazy successful trivia video game show You Don’t Know Jack.   It was not successful, but it did end up being kind of crazy.

YDKJ Title

The show was pretty loyal to the game’s format. Instead of the game’s regular host Cookie Masterson (who still performed as the show’s announcer), Paul Reubens played Troy Stevens – and did a really great job at it.

Troy

The guests selected were pretty colorful people, some with pretty colorful talents.

Contestant

The “standard” trivia questions were typically worded or executed in a unique way, true to the video game’s style.  There were also mini-games throughout the show, just like in the game, that offered bonus money.

YDKJ Question

The “Dis or Dat” minigame picked one player and gave them two categories. Troy would then run through several items that the player had to place in the correct category.

Dis or Dat

Dis or Dat 2

Narrative arcs sometimes carried through the shows as well, centered around Troy.  The final round is the same as in the video game, the “Jack Attack” lightning round that pits the top two contestants against each other . Reubens really puts on his Pee-Wee hat for this round.

Jack Attack 2 Jack Attack

All in all, a fun show – I guess America wasn’t ready for game shows that didn’t involve asking if you wanted to be a millionaire or what’s in a briefcase.  You Don’t Know Jack ran for six episodes and was cancelled.

Here’s an episode.

 

Wall Street

Wall Street Title

This bizarre 1982 arcade game has two types of rounds. In one, you are rescue workers saving stock brokers who have jumped out of windows in attempts to commit suicide.

Wall Street 1

In the other, you are presumably a banker or stock broker running through the streets of a foreign city destroying tanks that are pursuing you and collecting large sums of money.

Wall Street 2

Here’s some gameplay.  I don’t understand. I mean, I understand the gameplay, but not the container that the gameplay was placed in.

 

YWCA Posters

In 1918, the YWCA provided personnel to assist the Armed Forces in World War I.  Here are some gorgeous posters from designed to raise money for the effort.

Men May Fight Help Our Boys Care for Her Building For Health Back Our Girls

 

Clean It

This mid-’80s McDonald’s training video features a Michael Jackson ripoff encouraging employees to clean the restaurant.  I use the term “training video” loosely, as there’s not much how-to here other than “clean it”!

 

Castlevania Soundtrack

The score for the original Castlevania on the Nintendo Entertainment System is real funky! Who knew, or remembered?

 

 

-ds

Hog

Five Things – 03.28.16 – It’s That Party Line Piggy

Adventure in Telezonia

This 1950 film teaches kids how to use the phone correctly, politely, and efficiently. And if in the process of learning a kid picks up some nightmare fuel along the way, so what?

Telezonia

The film is produced by and features the Bil Baird marionette puppets as the residents of Telezonia, but I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re immediately introduced to the main character, for lack of a better word, named Handy.

Handy

Handy travels the phone lines of the world listening in on people’s conversations. He knows when you’re sick and on the phone with the doctor, he knows what you’re ordering for dinner, and he knows when you’ve lost your dog like Bobby has.

Listening In Bobby

Handy tells Bobby he can help him find his dog and instead of putting up flyers or going outside he whisks him away to the land of Telezonia to learn about phone etiquette with his friends.

Telezonia 1

Telezonia’s what you would expect a society built around and beholden to the telephone to look like.  The residents all have specific roles in telephone usage. For instance, this guy tells you to wait for a dial tone. Remember dial tones?

Dial Tone

This girl is the party line expert.

Calling the Party Line

And this guy’s job in this society is to hog the party line and make everyone hate him.

Hog

I’m not going to drag out the ending; they find the dog and it’s all thanks to the telephone skills Bobby learned in Telezonia.  Here’s the film – I’m not sure what’s scarier – the puppets themselves or the antiquated way telephone operation used to be!

 

 

Ark II Animated

Space:1970’s got a great set of animatics for a never-realized animated version of the post-apocalyptic kid’s show, Ark II.  Check out the link for the rest.

Ark Animated

 

Victory Garden Poster

A gorgeous, gorgeous poster compelling Americans to grow victory gardens to feed themselves during World War II. I love everything about victory gardens, besides the conditions that necessitated them.

Victory Garden

 

Primley’s Chewing Gum Ad

And a beautiful ad from the 19th century for Primley’s Chewing Gum!

Primleys

 

The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Check out this amazing poster for The Abominable Dr. Phibes!

Phibes Poster

And a newspaper ad which is just as good in its own way!

Dr Phibes Newspaper

And this amazing trailer!

 

-ds