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 – 10.24.16 – That Robot is Jeremy

Trilogy of Terror

First aired as the ABC Movie of the Week in 1975, Trilogy of Terror is an anthology of short horror stories starring Karen Black of B-Movie horror fame.  All three stories push the envelope of what was considered ‘proper’ 1970s television.


The first, “Julie” features a student whose infatuation with his teacher goes to questionable extremes. Turns out (p.s. I’m going to spoil these for you, so skip to the video if you want to watch unspoiled) she was controlling him all along….and then murders him.


The second, “Millicent and Therese” features two sisters at polar opposites to each other; Millicent the straight-laced brunette and Therese a blonde-haired wild child.  After some mild antagonism, Millicent decides that Therese needs to be killed.  She succeeds. SPOILER; they are the same woman. Spooky!


The third story, “Amelia”, is probably the most memorable of the lot. It’s your basic creepy-doll-is-actually-alive story, but it goes a little bit further in the gore department than you’d probably expect for a show in the ’70s.  Just a little bit, though.



Here’s the whole batch together – it’s definitely worth a watch. Again it’s pretty tame by modern day standards, but there are probably a few moments that will make you more uncomfortable than you were expecting.


1985 Halloween Safety PSA


This overlong PSA from 1985 helps kids make good choices on Halloween, from pumpkin carving to costume selection to safe behavior in the dark.  Also it’s hosted by a gentle, animated Jack-O-Lantern.  The costumes, color, and “action” sequences are fantastic.


And, of couse, it wouldn’t be an ’80s Halloween PSA without some good old scares about candy that’s been tampered with by injecting medicines and razor blades.  Here’s the PSA.


Monster Party

This 1989 Bandai game for the NES features a “batter” named Mark who’s been enlisted by a Gargoyle named Bert to travel to his land and defeat every well-known monster in the universe.  Bert fuses himself to Mark to give him supernatural abilities on top of his amazing “batting” skills.


Ridiculousness aside, that’s a pretty awesome premise. Bonus points for the cat boss that throws kittens as weapons. Enjoy this playthrough.


1988 McDonalds Halloween Certificates

McDonalds had an idea in the 1980s where you’d buy a book of certificates for free ice cream and other treats and give THOSE out instead of candy.  It was a medium decent idea.  Then they added a confusing layer about a voucher for a Roger Rabbit doll when you bought the VHS of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and it got too complicated. That guy in the Roger Rabbit costume looks pretty depressed.


Crazy Crabs

Nothing to do with Halloween, but those crabs are crazy!




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.


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


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?




Five Things – 10.5.12 – Air Supply’s, Like, Going On

  1.  CBS 1983 Saturday Morning Preview – I love these things.  I know I’m stating the obvious if you’ve read more than a few of the posts here, but it’s true.  There’s something special about them – these shows that were hastily created to talk about other shows, using some of the star power leverage of whatever network is involved.  The setups are usually pretty flimsy and laughable, and because of that they’re pretty charming.  CBS’s 1983 preview special featured arguably their biggest star at the time, Scott Baio, and has probably one of the flimsiest, most laughable setups of them all.  Let’s go to Scott’s Place.

Scotts Place

Scott’s set up a hot nightclub in Hazzard County.  Not just any hot nightclub, a hot nightclub.  In Hazzard County.

Dance Club

This 1980’s New York City nightclub in the middle of Hazzard County is filled with young hip kids who look like city kids dancing in the background the entire time.  Naturally, this catches the attention of Boss Hogg and Rosco P. Coltrane.

Boss and Rosco

And Boss Hogg immediately begins working on a way to profit.


While Boss Hogg gladhands Scott Baio to get a cut of his profits, Rosco interviews a young lady about just what’s going on.  The young lady, using her young lady slang, explains that Asia, Air Supply, the B-52s, ELO, and U2 are what’s “going on”, causing Rosco to somehow deduce that the US is under attack. He alerts Boss Hogg to this, which prompts Hogg to place the entire club under arrest.

Shut Down

This misunderstanding exists for, seriously, about ten seconds before it’s cleared up. Boss Hogg and Rosco join Baio for the remainder of the special, looking at the upcoming shows.  It’s revealed at the end that the entire reason for the club’s existence in Hazzard County is because there’s a Dukes of Hazzard cartoon debuting on CBS that week!

Pretty flimsy premise to introduce a bunch of cartoons, but I’ll take it.  In addition to the Dukes, the shows featured in this special are the programs that made up the Supercade – Donkey Kong, Pitfall, Frogger, Donkey Kong Jr., and Q-bert.  There’s also a bit for Charlie Brown and SnoopyBenji, Zax and the Alien Prince, and The Biskitts, which is basically The Smurfs but with puppies.


For some reason there’s a Krofft puppet narrating the entire thing, and also Scott Baio performs a song.

Baio Music

Krofft Puppet

The one note I had at the end of this whole thing was, they couldn’t get the Duke boys to appear on the show centered around their cartoon debut? I’m guessing they thought including the bad guys was enough.  Here’s the special – the Levi’s ad toward the end is actually animated pretty impressively.


2.  Atari Jaguar Promotion – Atari tried to regain its foothold in the video game console market in the mid-1990s with the supercharged Jaguar system.  It didn’t go so well – the system was expensive and, by most accounts, underperformed the other consoles of its generation even though it was technologically superior.  It’s commonly looked at as an ugly spot of video game history, and when you take a look at the console’s promotion you can kind of see it coming.

Chewing Up

It seems like the marketing department at Atari was given the direction to fill their promotion with “attitude”, and I guess they succeeded at that.  The tone is abrasive, rude, and very ‘bro-ish’, which I recall turning me off of the system back then and only repulses me further today.

Do the Math

They really played up the 64-bit nature of the system. Really played it up.  Like, it was the main message.

Ironic that the commercial features a class for Video Game Marketing 101, a class these guys could have used. To put the icing on the cake, here’s a 30 minute infomercial that ran on cable TV that just drips with sterotypical bro-ness.  It’s really hard to watch, like a sixth grader trying to act like those people he sees on TV.  It’s deliciously hard to watch.



3.  Railroad Pamphlet Covers – Here are a couple of railroad timetable covers from the 1930s and 1940s that I found visually inspiring.  You can catch more of at Classic Trains Magazine.

Like a Kitten



4.  Do the Arches – I’m not sure what’s more offensive, that Jaguar infomercial or this cheesy, cheesy song.


5.  Goofus and Gallant– And a beautiful Goofus and Gallant comic from Highlights in 1988

Goofus and Gallant




Five Things – 07.27.15 – Gourmet Video, For People Who Know And Love Video

1.  Magnavox Magnavision Demo Video – In 1981, Leonard Nimoy held a secret meeting with an alien emissary that appeared in his apartment and translated specific instructions on how to operate a Magnavox Magnavision Laserdisc player.  Thankfully, this meeting was recorded and is now available for everyone on YouTube.

MagnavoxNimoy’s never looked better than this, and his apartment is pretty much the apartment I dreamed of having as a kid.  That late ’70s/early ’80s ‘futuristic’ style really gets me.

NimoyApartmentThe video mostly consists of this rock that lights up and beeps, and Nimoy repeats what it said back to it to confirm his understanding.  It’s their one trick, and they stick with it.  There’s a few examples of Laserdisc technology, like rewinding and slowing down an epic football tackle or skipping to your favorite moment in an ABBA song (there’s a LOT of ABBA here), but for the most part it’s beeps and words.

Laserdiscs ConversationIt’s a charming video, for sure – this disc was included in the packaging of the Magnavision so that users could get a quick tutorial on the ins and outs of the machine.  I can’t really tell if it succeeds or fails at that, but it’s got a lot more character than it probably should have.  Here it is:

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Five Things – 06.08.15 – Why Dontcha Come Along and Mosey

1. The NBC Saturday Morning Preview Revue – In the ’70s and ’80s it became the norm for the big three networks to trot their Fall Saturday morning lineups in a prime time special on the Friday night before.  Wrapped with some original content, the specials were largely clips and “trailers” of the new Saturday morning shows.  A lot of times the Networks took the opportunity to integrate their other prime time properties into the special as hosts of a sort, but in 1974 NBC went full kid and had Sid and Marty Krofft produce their preview special.  And the result was really something.


The whole special is filled with intricate marionette movements, costumed characters, and ’70s television glitz and glamour.  Jimmy Osmond hosts the show, and the Kroffts really put him through the ringer as far as his routine goes.

Jimmy Osmond

Shows were previewed through Mr. TV, a television with human legs. And that’s not horrifying.

run joe run

Several members of the Krofft family were in attendance, even though their shows ran on competing networks!


The special centers around Osmond and Petey the Peacock’s interactions, with Osmond playing the straight man and Petey goofing things up.  The featured shows premiering that Fall were Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, Run Joe Run, and Land of the Lost.  Then there’s a rush at the end to work five or six more properties in, and then long standing shows like the Jetsons get a name-check after that.  In between all of that, there are some really awkward musical numbers.

music number

There was probably a better way to perform “Lazy River” than this.

The Electric Mushroom

Electric Mushroom. Subtle.

The finale centers around a circus sideshow, which maybe isn’t the parallel you want to attach to your programming.  The show kind of falls off of the rails at this point – Jimmy’s pretty tired and the verses to the songs aren’t really as tight as they were just twenty minutes before. Also, they cheese out on the artwork for each show, like this poster for the Star Trek cartoon:

star trek

Then they pick it back up for the big finish, which involves clowns…


And a genuinely impressive musical number with said clowns, marionettes, balloons, and more.


I sound like I’m bagging on the special, and I sort of am, but this is a huge level of effort on a thing that most networks usually just sort of took the easy way out with. It’s a really fun watch, even the bad stuff.  They definitely don’t do it like this anymore. Here’s the whole special, complete with some cool commercials for Mr. Bubble, McDonalds, and Kool-Aid.


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Five Things – Reader’s Top Five of 2014

The votes you didn’t know you were making all year are in, and here are the top Five Things that the visitors to Timid Futures enjoyed in 2014.  Most of these I could have seen coming, but there are a couple of surprises! Thanks for visiting, reading, commenting, voting and sharing – I have a blast putting it together every week and it’s great to see that I’m not alone in loving this stuff.

We’re going to go in reverse order this time, counting down to the most popular Thing of 2014.  Isn’t that dramatic!

5.  Nightmare on Elm Street Video Rental Ad – (originally posted 9.1.14) – This “commercial”, targeted to video rental store owners and starring Robert Englund himself, does a pretty great job of showcasing just how popular the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise was at the time.  It also shows just how into the role Englund himself was and is a great example of that ’80s cheesy-marketing-tie-everything-into-everything strategy.  It actually works and is cringe-worthy at the same time.

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Five Things – 6.9.14

1.  The Goonies (Famicon) – The Goonies was released in 1985 and was, domestically, one of the top 10 performing movies of the year.  So it makes sense that a video game was created in Japan for the Famicom system and never really released or sold over in the US, right? Goonies Famicom The game loosely followed the structure of the movie, featuring levels like the Fratelli’s hideout, and the pirate ship at the end.  It diverged from the movie in its objectives, where Mikey uses things like bombs to open doors and rescue the other Goonies.  This default state of kidnapped Goonies would surface again in the much weirder Goonies II.  There were also tons of human-sized rats that had to be defeated, and the Fratellis were never far behind.  One of the Fratellis, apparently, was a music buff and would blast you with musical notes – you had to find a pair of headphones to minimize the damage the notes somehow caused.

The Goonies eventually did make it stateside, but not in a way that consumers could buy.  It showed up in those compilation arcade cabinets like the Playchoice 10 that allowed people to burn quarters playing a selection of Nintendo games. PlayChoice 10 Seems like a huge missed opportunity not to offer this for sale on the heels of the film’s success.  Konami did release the much weirder and more awesome Goonies II in the US to much acclaim, but that’s its own story… Continue reading

Five Things – 5.3.14

1. Fallout Shelter Testimonial – Here’s a segment of a 1960’s program that features a family of ten who tested out a fallout shelter for 7 days.  An 8’x11′ fallout shelter.  Last week we saw the pretty side of this fear-mongering effort with its unique design and fashionable filmstrips but this is another, weirder angle.  I can only guess that this was meant to convince people that they themselves could handle the hell that would be the recommended two weeks in a fallout shelter, but these people don’t even seem to sell the experience very well.

Couple of things here.  Ten people in an 8’x11′ underground box.  There’s no way to sell that.  The dad sells fallout shelters, which is why he and his family participated in the experiment; that said, you might not want to admit that you started to freak out three days into the experience and the kids helped you keep it together.  Three days into a seven day experiment, and seven days is half of the recommended time that a family would be expected to spend in a fallout shelter in the event of a nuclear explosion. And upon entry into the fallout shelter, one of your (eight) kids just jams his hand into a fan resulting in “multiple cuts”.  Could you imagine having to deal with that within the first twenty minutes of a real nuclear war?

Anyway, weird, right?
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Five Things – 3.24.14

1. Colossus: The Forbin Project – I came across the trailer and artwork for this film this week, and it pretty much has it all.  Man creates super computer that can make itself smarter, super computer then makes itself smarter, super computer “enslaves” man to make sure man doesn’t kill himself.  Kind of a grim tale, but it’s told in fabulous 1970’s style.  Here’s the poster art:

Colossus Poster

Three fonts for the title, and it works! And don’t get me started on the illustrations. Also, “Practically Perfect” is a bold claim, Vincent Canby…



This one’s a little more art house but no less awesome. If anyone’s doing some early birthday shopping, I could use this on a white tank top.

Some beautiful shots from the movie.  This is the future I want to live in, computer overlord or not:

B&W Wide Shot


And the trailer:

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