1. The TV Wheel – As I’ve said before, I’m something of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanatic. I first caught on to the show in 1991. I was 13, and MST3k had everything I wanted – witty jokes, old movies (some not too terribly old), and a kids-show vibe that came out during the host segments, with Joel Hodgson’s puppets and prop-comedy. The jokes were smarter than I was, and I actually learned a lot from repeated viewings and sometimes research on specific lines. Even the letters from viewers at the end of the show were great, and gave the show a real “local-access” feel. I was sad when Joel left the show in 1995 to pursue other interests, and gave Mike, the new host, a pretty hard time when he took over. I mean, not directly; I didn’t write hateful letters to him or anything, I just caught myself refusing to laugh when it was a Mike joke. I got over that quickly enough, and now I’m kind of torn on who I like more as the host – they’re both fantastic.
Anyway, back to Joel’s “other interests”. In 1995, Joel developed a pilot concept for HBO called The TV Wheel. I was in high school at that point, one of my big interests of study being television production, and The TV Wheel came along at exactly the right time. The concept was amazingly simple and analog in a world where television was turning more and more to digital tricks; the show was one long take, the camera set in a fixed position in the center of a wheel. The wheel had sets on it, in wedges that resembled pie pieces. The actors would play their sketches on a wedge in real time, live, and they’d finish (successfully or unsuccessfully) and the wheel would turn and the next scene would unfold. The concept relied heavily at points on the use of forced perspective, with a toaster in the foreground seeming like a monolithic structure and humans in the background, affected by the enormous toast spat out, to use one example.
I loved it. I absolutely loved it.
The pilot aired on HBO, and I didn’t get HBO, so I had to watch it on Comedy Central, who aired the pilot commercial-free the one time I saw it. There were hits in it and there were misses in it, but what I saw as a 16 year old kid was a concept that I had never even thought could be a thing. I adored it and at the time I was so happy and excited for Joel, who had pulled one great idea off and was now moving on to another.
Well, the pilot never got picked up, and the TV Wheel project died in the water after its initial airings. It’s a shame, really. To me, it’s easily the most creative television idea of the 1990s, and perhaps that was its downfall. I found a VHS copy of the Comedy Central premiere (which has a great 30 minute intro by Joel explaining the concept, rife with puppets and a puppet uprising), and a video file that has graced my weekly MST nights with my friends, but every time I watch it I get a little sad that there’s not more. Joel has moved on, doing great things now with several other MST3k alums on Cinematic Titanic. Maybe I should move on, too.
But there’s still the memories. Badassdigest’s got a better write-up on this phenomenon than I could provide, and seeing that post this week inspired me to pay my own homage. It really is one of those moments in time that, if you catch it, stays with you forever, and for that I’m grateful.
There’s videos on YouTube, and you can get the idea pretty clearly from those videos. But is it too much to ask for an official release?
2. Winsor McCay – Some of my favorite comics of all time were drawn by Winsor McCay. Little Nemo is astounding in its full-page form, transcending conventional comic-strip expectations and providing whole, complete works of art on a regular basis. Nemo’s story is fantastic too, and continually inspires me with its relevance despite the shackles of being forced to create an ongoing story for regular publication. Heck, even the NES game is great. What I didn’t know about McCay was that he designed a World War I poster urging Americans to buy Liberty Bonds. This thing is incredible:
Look at this thing! The swords! The threat! The clouds! The headband! Gah!
3. Orbital with Stephen Hawking – So, this happened: Orbital played the Opening Ceremonies of the Paralympics in London. Not only that, they had Stephen Hawking on stage with them providing an intro, which turned out to be his own sample! This video is pretty inspiring:
Orbital’s been one of my favorite bands for a long time, and I’ll finally get to see them this year at Moogfest! Cross one more thing off of the bucket list.
4. The Adventures of Super Mario Bros 3 – I can’t believe I’d never seen this before. As a kid, I was completely on board with Captain N, the Game Master, which incorporated a lot of Nintendo properties into a stew that made everything in it mostly irrelevant, but this!
Goofy title aside, the fact that someone would capitalize on Mario 3 above all other Mario canon, astounds me. And there’s a level of polish to it! Check it out:
I don’t know why this gets me so much – Mario and Luigi reading a scrapbook of their adventures, referred to amongst themselves as “Super Mario Bros 3”. I don’t know!
5. Kelly and Dylan – So apparently Jennie Garth and Luke Perry are an item now. Again. And they reunited over an Old Navy commercial where they reprised their old 90210 roles. To me, this is awesome. This is how things should work. Although, she should have hung in there with Brandon. He’s the better fit.