Five Things – 06.27.16 – All Seven Functions

The Diamond Head Game

Despite being shot on location in beautiful 1975 Hawaii, this very short lived game show didn’t accomplish much beyond giving host Bob Eubanks a chance to get a tan.

Diamond Head Game

The Diamond Head Game featured four mini-rounds consisting of basic trivia with contestants pulled from what can only be referred to in this post-Arsenio era as a Dog Pound. These contestants are also the entire audience, presumably given the restrictions of the location, and they’re really happy to be there.

Dog Pound

Once all four first rounds are done, the climb up the mountain begins.  The four winners of the first round are pitted against each other to remember a list of nouns and recall them one after another.  This is as mind-numbing to watch as it sounds.

Final Four

Once a winner emerges from the mountain climb the final round begins: the money volcano.  Or, a wind chamber with flying tickets.


The contestant is given one last chance to trade their haul for a secret prize and, if they decline, are given each ticket they collected one at a time. The tickets have dollar values or prizes on them, but if a contestant pulls a one dollar bill they lose it all.  They’re given the chance to bow out and keep their winnings after each ticket is revealed.


Here’s the show – it’s actually really worth watching for the novelty of a mid-70’s game show shot outdoors in a beautiful location but not for much past that.  For every element in the game there’s a show that did it better.

Also, the theme song was another Alan Thicke joint, too. That guy is made of theme songs.


RCA Remote Control

This 1960s introduction film for the remote control is pretty charming. While it’s definitely impressive and I can appreciate the waves this thing made at the time, I imagine somebody in the future will look at a how-to video for a Harmony remote or Homekit integration with the same smug appreciation.


Kite PSA

In which a mime performs a terrifying death before two children to illustrate the dangers of retrieving kites from power lines.  Canadian film and television was painted with a really special brush back in the ’80s.

How about that appearance?



Color Computer 3

Love this commercial for the Tandy Color Computer 3.

And an accompanying print ad.

Color Computer 3

Just plug it into your TV!


Florida Oranges

Keep a pitcher cold and handy!

Florida Oranges



Whew Intro

Five Things – 06.20.13 – A Neon Sign Designer


This short lived Game Show featured an amazing set, a strange format, and good old Rod Roddy.


Whew! is basically a string of lightning rounds with a little twist – in the “normal” part of the game one contestant tries to get through the board in a set amount of time while the other places ‘blocks’, little land mines that take away five seconds each time they’re uncovered.  If the blocks are uncovered, the defending contestant gets the money.


The first contestant to win two rounds gets to go to the final round, which is basically the same thing but with ten ‘villains’ delivering the questions and no blocks. If they can make it through each villain they get the grand prize, $25,000.


The set is pretty fantastic, but I have a hard time putting my finger on specifics.  It alternates between a grandiose production and something in somebody’s basement, but you can tell someone had their eye on design in all components – even in the live, composited stuff.

Whew Set Lightning Final Round

Whew! lasted just over a year before being cancelled – April 1979 to May 1980.  A pretty wacky show, and it moves really fast.  Here’s an episode.


Home Alone (NES)

Of course there was a Nintendo game for Home Alone; there was an everything else for Home Alone, so why not  a game for the NES?

Home Alone Cover

Different versions of the game were made, each platform having its own format and objectives.  In the NES version (developed by Bethesda, current developers of the Elder Scrolls and recent Fallout series!) the premise is pretty simple: evade Harry and Marv for 20 minutes until the police show up. Kevin picks up different traps and places them around the house to slow the Wet Bandits down.  It’s not as easy as it looks. Get caught and it’s game over.

Oh No

Here’s a longplay.


Pepper’s Ghost

I wish I knew more about this fantastic 19th Century poster.  What I do know is there’s a wrong way to put a bunch of different fonts together, and then there’s this way.  I can’t stop looking at it. It’s beautiful.

Pepper's Ghost


What is Pippin?

A somewhat dry intro to Apple’s ill-fated video game console, the Pippin.  Would you have paid $700 for this in 1995?



Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli never fail to scratch the itch.




Five Things – 6.13.16 – Now That We Know What Hi-Fi Means

Finders Keepers

What if Highlights magazine and Legends of the Hidden Temple had a baby and that baby married Supermarket Sweep? It would be an outrage, that’s what if.  Babies can’t get married!

Finders Keepers

Nickelodeon had lightning in a bottle in the ’80s with their game shows – Double Dare, G.U.T.S., and the aforementioned Legends of the Hidden Temple were all really original ideas that celebrated being a kid.  Finder’s Keepers was…kind of a mess.

FK Contestants

The show pitted two pairs of kids against each other in two rounds of hidden picture to earn the right to ransack rooms of a house in order to find a specific object.  The objects were ridiculously hard to find, sometimes even for the host, and if one team failed the other team got points.  This is what usually happened.

Challenge 1

Hidden Ball

The team that has the most points after two rounds, either by finding hidden pictures or by not-not-finding the hidden objects, gets to go to the final round. Here they go across the whole house with the added task of figuring out what object they need to find based on some really poorly crafted riddles.


It’s a pretty good idea for a game show, but there are so many points where either a lack of skill or a lack of care on the showrunner’s part kept it from being a good game show.  Still, I can’t imagine the kid audience in the ’80s being discerning enough to pick the show apart on these things.  I sure wasn’t.

Here’s an episode from 1988.  Plus some great Nick bumpers.  In pretty good quality, too!


Newton Guided Tour

When you bought the Apple Newton, one of the first PDAs back in 1994, this video was included to show you how to use it.  It’s a little dry and could be about ten minutes shorter, but there’s a lot to like about the cheesiness of it all.  The music, the sedated narration, the fashion, and the very ’90s montages of people using this bulky obscenity in the real world contribute to make this a great snapshot of the realities and the aspirations 1994 technology. We wanted to be 2010 so badly!


Thorazine Ad

I don’t know if this 1958 print ad for Thorazine is supposed to make me as antsy as it does.  Seems kind of counter to the message.



British Motorway Public Information Film

This short PSA from the ’80s about how to use the motorway is probably the prettiest thing I’ve seen this week.


The Teppaz Presence

Runner up.  This vintage ad for the Teppaz Presence Player is pretty gorgeous, too.

Tepper Presence





Five Things – 6.6.16 – I Hope That You Still Love Me When This Is Over

The New Treasure Hunt

This colorful 1973 game show is a little bit Let’s Make a Deal, a little bit Deal or No Deal, and a lot of bizarre.

Treasure Hunt Title

The show, a reboot of Treasure Hunt from the 1950s, uses the old familiar trope where a master spy has hidden $25,000 in one of thirty gift packages laid around a television set.


The host, Johnny Jacobs, goes through three rounds in which three females (always females) were selected for a chance to try and find the loot.



When a contestant picked a package, they were also given an envelope that had a dollar amount on it. She then had the option of keeping the money or rolling the dice on the contents of the package.  The package’s reveal was intentionally long and drawn out, often including sketches or gags, to play on the contestant’s emotions.

Old Timey Car


This aspect of the show was apparently a driving reason behind the show’s decision to only feature female contestants – in addition to the creepy idea that females’ emotions were easier to exploit, they also feared the males’ reactions to being strung along and frequently let-down. The seventies, ladies and gentlemen!


At the end of the episode, if the check has not been claimed, the spy briefly returns to reveal where he stashed it. As a spy would do.

Spy End

Makes sense.  Here’s an episode.


Thayer’s Quest

Rick Dyer’s Videogame company, RDI Video Systems, had designs for a laserdisc-based home console called Halcyon that could play Dragon’s Lair-type content at home.  The Halcyon was scrapped but the flagship title for the system, Thayer’s Quest was converted to play in arcades on old Dragon’s Lair cabinets.  Check out a walkthrough – the animation is pretty incredible.

Could you imagine playing this in your living room in the 1980s?


Le jardin Anime

This beautiful French coloring book from the 1920s or 1930s is featured over at 50Watt.  Hit the link for more scans, these are some of my favorites:

Le Jardin Anime Cover





1970 Playmobil Little People Ad

Of all of the great things about this ad, the glimpses of the ’70s living room and the great synth button toward the end are at the top.


Glass Works with Vinegar

Or, you could just use vinegar.



Kid's Court

Five Things – 05.30.16 – And The Wind Would Carry Your Light To The Skies

Kid’s Court

Court shows are the connective tissue of the daytime TV schedule.  They seem to be necessary components for local TV stations to function. They’re everywhere and have been everywhere for decades.  Perhaps I have rose-colored nostalgia glasses on (I have several pairs), but I feel like the court shows of the 1980s were a little more level-headed and not the dramatic scream-fests that they are today.  Wapner wouldn’t tolerate that sort of behavior.  Nickelodeon’s kid-centric version of The People’s Court was a good show – not necessarily in the sense that it was fun to watch so much as that it did a great job of taking that dispute drama and putting it into a forum that worked for children audiences.  Also, it was pretty fun to watch.

Kid's Court Title

Kid’s Court featured comedian Paul Provenza as the host but not the judge. Every episode’s case was taken from a kid’s letter sent to the show, and the plaintiff and defendant were kids acting out whatever beef was in the letter.

Kid's Court 1

Sarah Stinks

It is unknown whether these kids were given clothes to wear or whether this kid picked this outfit out on his own:


The majority of the show is Provenza going around the room getting the jury’s (the audience’s) take on the situation, and as more details of the case are revealed the kids in the room can see how their opinions change. At the end of the episode two audience members are chosen to make their final cases for the plaintiff and the defendent, and as with actual legal cases the result is determined by who more people in the courtroom clapped for.  Enter the judge, whose only role is to measure the applause.

Judge O Meter

Kid’s Court ran from 1988 to 1994, ending two years before Judge Judy came along and set a new bar for how loud court shows needed to be. Here’s an episode.


Rax Ads

Here’s some ads for Rax restaurants.  This one features their spokesman in the 1980s, musician Big Al Anderson.  Big Guy likes fast food.  Trust Big Guy.

Prepare your OWN sandwiches from a salad bar? I’ll stay at home, thanks!

Then there’s Pasta Man. You know, Pasta Man. Big Al’s in there, too!

You want to turn my Rax into an Olive Garden? I’ll stay at home, thanks!


Shel Silverstein on the Johnny Cash Show

A magical segment from the Johnny Cash show where Shel Silverstein shows up to play “A Boy Named Sue” with Cash, followed by a solo “Daddy What If” that yanks my heart out.



How do you one-up those creepy Kewpie dolls? Make them slightly smaller and harder and shinier and sell them to young girls as charms to be worn around the neck. Large charms. Oodles!


Wheelee Board

Finally, an ad for the only skateboard you’ll ever need.




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.


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


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.




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.



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.




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?



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.



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.


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.


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