- Alice in Wonderland/Alice Through The Looking Glass – This 1985 TV Movie adaptation of Lewis Carrol’s classic novel is as notable for its star-studded lineup as it is for how weird it gets with its star-studded lineup.
Broadcast on CBS as a two-night event in December 1985, the story pretty closely follows the novel’s story beats. There’s a way in which one could view the special as Alice travelling through Wonderland meeting al sorts of fantastic characters. There’s also a way one could view it as Alice travelling through Wonderland meeting one fading Hollywood legend after another.
Seriously, the roster is insane. It includes Red Buttons, Sherman Hemsley, Shelley Winters, Scott Baio, Sammy Davis Jr., Imogene Coca, Telly Savalas, Anthony Newley, Roddy McDowall, Sid Caesar, Ringo Starr, Carol Channing, Sally Struthers, Harvey Korman, Merv Griffin, Patrick Duffey, Steve Allen, Eydie Gorme, Steve Lawrence, Jonathan Winters, Ernest Borgnine, John Stamos, Beau Bridges, Lloyd Bridges, and Red Buttons. Among others!
The big departure from the book is the obscene amount of musical numbers – the first hour of the special has nine (!) songs and the second hour has ten. The songs are where the oddness of the whole thing really shines the brightest. Here’s Sherman Hemsley singing about how he hates dogs and cats…
…Sammy Davis, Jr. transforming from the caterpillar to a human to perform a funky version of “You Are Old, Father William”…
…and on the top of the pile, Carol Channing singing “Jam Tomorrow”. This performance has stuck with me for thirty years, and the ending is pretty great nightmare fodder.
It’s not a bad special, really; it’s just weird. Really weird. See for yourself.
2. The Crystal Maze – The early 1990s saw this beautifully bizarre British game show, a sort of Legends of the Hidden Temple for grown-ups that embraced teamwork, sci-fi and fantasy, and mad scrambles to catch flying cash in a wind chamber.
The Crystal Maze was made up of four zones, each representing a different slice of space and time: Aztec, Futuristic, Industrial, and Medieval. Each zone had its own set of challenges appropriate to the setting, and each challenge had the chance to grant the players crystals that could later be exchanged for time in the wind chamber.
The neat thing about The Crystal Maze was that it was completely co-operative. There’s one team in each episode and the team either wins or loses as a whole. There are circumstances under which one team member drops out of the game, but they’re few and far between.
The Crystal Dome is the final portion of the game, where the team trades their crystals for time spent catching gold and silver banknotes that are blowing around. The amount of banknotes caught affects the prizes the team gets at the end.
Between the elaborate set design, the enthusiastic “Dungeon Master”, and the all around friendliness of the game itself, this might be the best game show that I’ve ever seen. Where was I between 1990 and 1995? Oh, that’s right. In America.
Here’s the first episode. It’s a little weird that there’s no music in it, but otherwise solid stuff.
3. Archie Gets All The Brakes – I love old comic book ads like this that masquerade as actual stories. Archie had a ton of them.
4. Batman Forever VHS Commercial – This five-minute video was produced to appeal to retailers in the hopes they’d carry VHS copies of Batman Forever in their stores. It’s beautifully cringe-worthy, especially when it gets down to about two straight minutes of marketing-speak in the middle.
5. Awful Coffee Ad – Just terrible. Harvey doesn’t deserve her!