Five Things – 3.27.17 – Dough-licious

The Jim Henson Hour

This 1989 experiment tried to marry the light and dark sides of Jim Henson’s work into one weekly television event.  It didn’t really take.

Henson himself hosted the weekly hourlong anthology series, setting up the episode’s lineup and theme.  The first thirty minutes were called “MuppeTelevision”, hosted by Kermit and structured like a modern-day Muppet Show.  A muppet named Digit served the Scooter role in coordinating the production, and the tradition of a weekly special guest was still intact.

The second half hour was, for the most part, a more serious offering.  This segment was typically one story told over thirty minutes exploring the more poignant, emotional, story-led side of puppetry.  The short film Lighthouse Island aired here, as did several episodes of The Storyteller, starring John Hurt.

The series was a ratings flop, and only 9 of the 12 episodes produced ever made it to air before NBC cancelled the show. A shame, as there’s something special here. Here’s the first episode.


Cathy Ads for McDonald’s Salads

It was an odd-yet-very-eighties move for McDonalds to offer a line of salads as a standard menu item. I’ll ignore the fact that they chose to put them into cups so that you could shake them to toss and mix the dressing, which added the frustrating experience of eating a salad from a cup. Ok, I guess I won’t ignore it.  Still, an even odder decision was to use comic strip character Cathy to sell the McDonalds Salad idea. Here are a few commercials with her as the pitch-person.



Ack, indeed.


Powdered Donutz

It’s 1981! Candy can be cereal! Anything can be cereal! Everyone’s making cereal!



ALF (SEGA Master System)

It’s no surprise, given the TV show ALF‘s wide success, that a video game would release featuring the Melmac-ian jester.  It should also be no surprise that it was awful.

It’s a pretty simple premise: ALF’s scouring the town looking for tools to repair his spaceship, evading men-in-black and other, more pedestrian perils.  These men-in-black are pretty awful at disguise, their characters eternally hunched over with comically ‘grabby’ hands.

Still, the music’s charming and although the premise sounds A LOT like E.T., at least this game adaptation isn’t total garbage. Here’s a playthrough.


Baby Ruth Ad

And a beautiful, beautiful early-20th-century ad for Baby Ruth. The original driving stimulant. Except for, you know, drugs.



Five Things – 11.28.16 – I Doubt My Feet Can Disco

The Burger King Kingdom

McDonaldland gets some flak for its suspicious similarities to the world of H.R. Pufinstuf, and alot of that flak is deserved, but at least there’s some charm and originality to McDonaldland that redeems the effort.  Burger King’s 1976 attempt to rip off McDonaldland, on the other hand… there’s no redemption here.


We’ve talked about the original Burger King mascot here before, that man who performs basic magic tricks for children in the lobbies of the fast food restaurants that bore his name.  He’s the leader of the “Burger King Kingdom”, a realm that involves an underwhelming roster of supporting characters and also takes place in our world and also is barely magical.


Sir Shake-a-Lot is a knight wearing milkshake armor. He’s a human who shakes a lot, that’s his whole thing.  It’s supposedly because he’s cold because he likes milkshakes so much, but it comes off like he’s mocking an actual condition.  His catch phrase is “Great Shakes!”


The Duke of Doubt is the main villain of the Burger King Kingdom. His power is…doubt.  He doesn’t seem to cause any real trouble, doesn’t steal hamburgers or thwart plans or anything. He just doubts that things that are true are actually true, and is typically proven wrong by the end of the commercial. His catch phrase is “I doubt it!” Clever!


The Burger Thing bears the worst name of the gang and has the appearance to back it up. He’s a giant Hamburger puppet with a disturbing human face and the voice of Frank Welker. Total nightmare.


Lastly, the Wizard of Fries is….actually pretty cool. He’s a robot who can take one french fry and duplicate it endlessly.

I will admit a certain bias toward McDonaldland; I was a McDonalds kid growing up, and I have a head full of fond memories of the McDonaldland gang in all of their various toy/cookie/playground-ride forms.  I like to think that I can rise above this bias, however, look at the two realms objectively, and still say that the Burger King Kingdom is garbage. If you need specific evidence, look no further than the leaders of each realm. Ronald McDonald is a magical man, a clown being who can manipulate the world around him and travel seamlessly between his dimension and ours whenever the children of our world need him.  The Burger King is merely a man who knows magic, a man who lives in our world, apparently in our very country, yet declares himself king and attempts to impress us all with parlor tricks.  One is a pale, pale version of the other.

Here’s a string of Burger King Kingdom commercials. That robot’s pretty cool.



This 1970s predecessor to Peanut Butter M&M’s was one of Wonka’s few chocolate efforts, few compared to what you might expect given the man’s, you know, chocolate factory. Oompas were half peanut butter, half chocolate, wrapped in a thin candy shell.  The packaging was fantastic.

oompas-1 oompas-2

They’d later experiment with fruit flavors instead of the chocolate and peanut butter, but the whole idea ended up being a bust.


Ski or Die

A spiritual sequel to the arcade and console megahit Skate or Die, this game tries to apply the grit and style of 1980s skateboarding to the less-popular-but-still-popular-but-not-really-gritty world of skiing.


You basically did what you did in Skate or Die, just replace anywhere you would “skate” with the word “ski”. There was limited open-world interaction, mainly getting to and from events which were the real meat of the game.

I dunno, it’s not awful. There are definitely worse games. Here’s a playthrough:


1980 Radio Shack Christmas Commercial

Radio Shack’s your place if you’re looking to pick up the latest Kingman, Zackman, or Alien Chase video games!


Seven-Up Punch

This recipe/ad for a Seven-Up punch is breathtaking.

Seven-Up Punch



Five Things – 08.31.15 – Faster Than You Can Say Modern Art

1. Pioneer Laserdisc Demo – In 1980 Pioneer enlisted the help of Patrick O’Neal and Mr. Wizard to host a demo video for their Laserdisc player.  It’s quite a bit stuffier than Leonard Nimoy’s effort for the Magnavision, but it still has a certain charm to it.

Laserdisc PageThe first half of the demo is O’Neal explaining the history of, well, media.  Not entirely sure what purpose this is supposed to serve – I’m pretty sure that Laserdisc owners, the target and only market for this video, are already on board with the notion that their product is of better quality than radio broadcasts.  O’Neal then takes us through the unit itself, a top-loading machine that does not seem to have a remote.

O'Neal LaserdiscHe goes into a little bit of detail about the mechanics of it, showing an animated video that pre-summarizes Mr. Wizard’s portion of the demo to come later.

Laser DiagramHe shows off some of the more specific features of the Laserdisc player, including the ability to fast forward, slow down, and freeze-frame scenes. They always use football footage for these sorts of things – did anyone actually buy a Laserdisc of a football game from the past? Who would want that? Regardless of that, O’Neal shows us just how to cue up a specific scene. While standing at the Laserdisc player. Without a remote.

ConsoleThis really sums up a lot about 1980s technology without having to say anything. A gorgeous, complicated mess.

Don Herbert takes over the second portion of the demo, on the other side of the disc. He basically Mr. Wizards the Laserdisc technology, showing the ins and outs of how it works.

Mr. WizardLaserChalkboardIn an awkwardly bold move he then produces a cone of chocolate ice cream out of nowhere, takes a lick, and smears it on a disc to show how rugged it is compared to vinyl.  Again, was anyone questioning this?

Ice CreamIt’s a little more clinical than it probably needs to be, and one questions the value of these things at all – they’re a pack-in to the Laserdisc purchase, so they exist solely to further sell you on the thing you’ve already bought.  That said, they’re about 10% actual instruction and 90% fluff of the technology.  Still, there’s a charm there in a way and I can imagine a super-excited, rich, techno-nerd guy coming home with his new Laserdisc player, hooking it up, and really digging into this.

Here’s the video.


2. Archie Pilot – Here’s an unaired 1964 pilot for an Archie sitcom.  Why didn’t this take off?! It’s pretty good!


3.  Space Dust – Before there was Pop Rocks, there was Space Dust – a terrifyingly creepy, “sizzling” candy.

Here’s the horrifying package. Would you buy something that looked like this if you saw it in the store?

Space Dust


4. Explore the Universe – On the other hand, this old NASA poster is over-the-top cute. I mean, come on!



5.  Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens – This song is a staple in my house right now; my two-year old son can’t go more than an hour without it, it seems.  I’m not complaining! Here’s a live 1974 version of Louis Jordan performing “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens”.

Great solos!