“Meet Us In September” was the slogan for the ABC Network’s Fall 1969 lineup. These sizzle reels capture all of the programming news of the 1969 season. There’s so much to love about this campaign! The font choice and graphic work is fantastic, both in the overall face of the campaign and the show-specific stuff:
Not sure what to make of this Johnny Cash segment.
Here’s a compilation. The Bewitched promo is interesting, too – really assumes you already know what the whole show is about. Which, I guess, in a three-network world in 1969, is a pretty safe assumption.
Dynamix 1989 Video Catalog
This reel of upcoming games from the small-ish (bigger now that they were acquired by Sierra) game company Dynamix is earnest and sweet. A-10 Tank Killer was on a heavy rotation in my house. David Wolf: Secret Agent looks like something right out of Decker.
Pennywise – Microwave Cooking (1985)
There are few things more comfortingly charming than seeing these two British women in 1985 discussing the merits of the microwave. Using “units consumed” as an indicator of value, no less! Is this an alternate reality?
I’ll admit, I’m not entirely sure what I’m watching here – particularly in the first half without subtitles. When you imagine the Soviet side of the Space Race presented to children, though, I doubt you imagine something this beautiful, colorful, and hopeful. The second half presents an inspiring vision of our future in space. Imagine where we’d be if we’d worked together on this back then.
The Cure’s First TV Appearance
Robert! Put on your long hair!
Is there any time that a live performance of “A Forest” isn’t a contender for the best part of your day?
This 1989 NBC show features a married couple who die in an accident, yet their ghosts live on in their house and they have to live with/around the living family that moved into their house after they died and only one member of the family can see them and it’s not Beetlejuice and somehow they still got away with it.
In the spirit of fairness, there are a few adjustments to the formula. Ghost Husband Grant (played by Eric Idle) was a professor in life, and his hoity-toity ways conflict with Living Husband Mike who’s an unrefined plumber.
The person who can see the ghost family is not the youngest member of the family (Derek, the super cool teenage babe-hound) but the oldest – curmudgeonly Grandpa Jack.
Jack hates Living Husband Mike, too, so he and Grant have some common ground. Also the Ghost couple can apparently leave the house without being devoured by sandworms.
Nearly Departed lasted all of four episodes before being cancelled. Two went unaired. Perhaps it was the too-obvious Beetlejuice draft, but I doubt it. It also directly claimed inspiration from the 1937 Cary Grant film Topper, so there’s at least some admission of its derivative nature. Instead, I think it’s that it just wasn’t very good. Eric Idle’s fine in it, and there are some good bits, but it’s just not very unique in any aspect. The plot lines are typical sitcom tropes and the premise doesn’t do anything to elevate the stories.
Also, why would this family have a bed that fit four people and cram into one side of it if they weren’t aware that there was a ghost family next to them? And why would Mike hug Grant and find something tangible at all?
Here’s an episode where Grandpa is tasked with babysitting babe-hound Derek, but instead goes off to play poker and leaves the ghosts in charge… hilarity!
This 1979 PSA instructs kids how to make a quick breakfast – a “quick fast”, if you will. I’m on board with the idea, but toast with cheese AND peanut butter? That’s weird, right?
Also, where does that bowling part fit in to all of this?
Pink Panther Flakes (1971)
I’ll take a piece of toast with cheese and peanut butter over whatever this garbage is supposed to be. It’s pretty bad when the commercial won’t even show you the cereal.
The vocal on the verse is pretty amazing, though.
Silent Running Trailer
They don’t make trailers like this any more. There’s something charming about the combination of the uneventful font, the deadpan narration, the blatant ‘this is what the movie is’ nature of the clips and the progression of the trailer’s narrative, and the circus-ringleader copy playing up the robots and Joan Baez.
MST3k Season 2 Promos
In honor of the recent release of Mystery Science Theater 3000 season 11(!) on Netflix, here are some promos announcing season 2. It’s pretty neat to see the promos reference TV’s Frank as the “new villain”. It’s also neat to see some of the Comedy Channel’s look and feel.
This 18-minute promotional video for the TurboGrafx 16 game system pulls a page or two from the Saved By The Bell book of video effects.
Most videos like this have a terrible-yet-fun narrative angle threading the game showcases together, but outside of an awkward little kid occasionally playing unseen games we get a rapid-fire tour through just about the entire TurboGrafx library. From Bonk to Darkwing Duck to Super Adventure Island to…Riot City…well, there’s a lot to see here.
The tour through the extensive game library is broken up by accessory after accessory. The portable Turbo Express, the CD Player, and the 5-controller connectable Turbo Tap all make an appearance, promising to turn your slick TurboGrafx system into an expanded clunky mess.
The infomercial concludes with a hard sell on the Turbo , the PS4 Pro of its day boasting increased speed, better graphics, and a higher price point. And a subscription to their Nintendo Power, called Turbo Force.
For what amounts to a relatively unremarkable informercial, it’s actually pretty great – the graphic treatment is insultingly ’90s, the voice-over treatment given to each game is genre-appropriate to the point of being offensive, and the ability to look at the excitement around the gaming technology in 20-year-retrospect gives one a pretty satisfying smug feeling. Definitely worth a look:
Moon Zero Two Pressbook
Speaking of worth a look, I’ve been a fan of Moon Zero Two since I saw it featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the 1990s. The set design, the costumes, the soundtrack, the goofy animated intro, the goofy live-action dance numbers, it’s all fantastic. Zombo’s Closet of Horror features a 12-page pressbook for the movie that’s just amazing in its depth of offerings to all members of a community. Hit the link for all of the scans, but here are some of my favorites:
MTV Spring Break 1993 Special
Is there anything more perfectly 1993 than this special concert during MTV’s legendary annual Spring Break stunt featuring Lenny Kravitz, Living Colour, the Black Crowes, and Stone Temple Pilots? If there is, it’s on you to show it to me.
Of particular note are those black and white MTV bumpers… I may break those out into their own thing at some point. Amazing stuff.
1980s Showtime Free Preview Weekend
I wore my VHS player out during the HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime free preview weekends. My family would take shifts recording as many movies as we could. Thanks to these weekends I can still recite Caddyshack 2 verbatim. This Showtime segment featuring Bill Harris hits that sweet spot.
For a bonus, check out the graphic design of this 1987 Showtime bumper. I want to live in it.
That bass line!
Safeway Supermarket Ad w/ Bob Weir
And to round things out, a stiff, muted Bob Weir championing a good cause in a 1980s Safeway ad. Just weird all around.
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.
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.
Nothing to do with Halloween, but those crabs are crazy!
My love for science fiction can probably be traced back to the time I saw Total Recall when I was eleven years old. I somehow convinced my parents to buy me a VHS copy from Sam’s Club and I think I spent the next two or three days watching it over and over. I liked space stuff before then – I was a huge Star Wars fan – but Total Recall was the first time I remember falling in love with a science fiction idea. I even bought (convinced my parents to buy) the Piers Anthony novelization, a Piers Anthony novelization of a film adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story, and read it to tatters. It actually holds up, if you’re the forgiving type of person.
Anyway, Total Recall is probably my favorite movie of all time. It’s not the best movie of all time, of course, not by a long shot, but there’s so much there that works. So why nine years later someone thought it would be a good idea to use the franchise to make an episodic series that’s more Blade Runner than Total Recall is completely beyond me.
Total Recall 2070 aired in 1999 on Canadian channel CHCH-TV and on Showtime in the US. It’s a sequel of sorts to the film, at least in the timeline. The fact that I had to look that up should tell you how thin the connection is between the film and the series; beyond the presence of the Rekall company (who I couldn’t imagine would still be in business after the Quaid debacle), the concept of memory-implant excursions, and the existence of the planet Mars with people on it, there are really no similarities between the two. Oh, it re-uses some spacecraft shots from the movie. But that’s it.
It really has more in line with Blade Runner – instead of the mutants in Total Recall there are androids, and some of those androids are up to things that shouldn’t be possible given their programming. Programming supplied by Rekall, because they do apparently do that sort of thing. Detective David Hume’s partner is gunned down by a gang of these rogue androids, and his investigation into the case partners him up with a rookie (who, spoiler alert, is secretly an android created by an unknown-to-the-rest-of-the-world manufacturer) and takes him to Mars. What time the series doesn’t spend exploring the nature of android psychology and paying marginal lip service to the world that Total Recall built is spent on flashy gun battles, awkwardly placed cursing and similarly awkardly-placed gratuitous sex scenes.
So not so unlike Total Recall on that last part.
It baffles me that they had a series that really fit so well in the Blade Runner universe but chose instead to shoehorn the idea into Total Recall. The series has a few things going for it – the sets are pretty good, the action’s fine, the effects are decent and the ideas are interesting – but the acting and writing are terrible and the episodes themselves are overlong and dull. It’s not hard to see why it was cancelled after one season, leaving several plot points unresolved.
Here’s an episode. It’s hard to recommend spending the time on it. You’d be better off reading the novelization of the movie. Also, NSFW warning: there’s nudity in this link.
World War III Comic, Part One
This 1950s nuclear-scare comic book really dials up the enthusiasm for atomic weapons of all shapes and sizes (atomic bazooka?), frequently at the expense of common sense or complete sentences!
With such memorable lines as “I’m on fire! Being burned alive! Eeeeeahhh!”, it’s hard to believe this comic didn’t make it into our public school curriculum. Did the US’ Super Atomic Guided Rocket make it to Moscow? Find out next time!
Nuts for Nintendo
This 1988 segment of “20/20” is pretty charming, not because it characterizes the Nintendo craze as a phenomenon – it was – but in the way it illustrates it as something adults just can’t understand, like the children are possessed and speaking a different language.
Freemans Egg Powder
This poor girl’s left arm needs a little help.
Vanguard Atari Commercial
This spot for the Atari game “Vanguard” illustrates the camaraderie of a group of high school boys generated from the game. And their inclusion of poor Luther.
Well, they called it what it was. No razzle, no dazzle, no confusion. Also, this was apparently before drop-shadow was invented.
Avery Schreiber and Jack Burns host this 1973 ABC special, under the premise that the comedy duo is setting up a surprise party for Schreiber’s nephew. Burns pulls some strings to invite who he considers the Hollywood A-list: Bugs Bunny, Yogi Bear, Batman, Superman, and Lassie.
Oh, and Rick Springfield.
Oh, and Superman is played by Chuck Woolery.
As they wait for the party to begin, each attendee shows off a reel of their Saturday Morning show: Lassie Rescue Rangers, Superfriends, Yogi’s Ark, and Mission: Magic, which looks absolutely bananas. Springfield predictably introduces his cartoon musically.
Can’t find the full episode of this anywhere, so I don’t know how the party goes but thanks to Avery Schreiber’s son we have about 15 minutes of ’70s-era-TV-magic. And it is magical.
The Power of He-Man
This 1983 home video game features some fantastic box art, a pack-in comic, some great advertising and….some mediocre graphics and gameplay. I’m a little upset that I wasn’t aware of this game in 1983, when I was in the middle of my He-Man Mania. He-Mania? Nevermind.
Pretty ads, right? Here’s our hero in the game:
Oh wait, here he is as He-Man:
The first portion of the game is a side-scroller in He-Man’s speeder.
The second portion is a gorgeous ripoff of Yars’ Revenge set in Castle Greyskull.
Here’s a playthrough:
To me, this film is more chiliing than The 8th Day from last week. It’s a 1961 public informational film that goes to lengths to both educate its viewer on the nature of fallout and radiation itself as well as provide information on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. This one has a kinder hand than most films of this type – there’s not a lot of fear here, just a compassionate sort of education. And some great illustration.
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Trailer
There’s everything to love about this trailer. I could only imagine how stunning this would have been in 1954.
How to Dance Manual
Beautiful, beautiful design on this 19th century dance manual cover.
1. The Yummy Awards – Last week we saw CBS’ 1983 Saturday Morning special, a half hour show with a bizarre premise that seemed incongruent with its goals and that didn’t really make a lot of sense if you applied any sort of thought against the plot. Well, NBC did pretty much the same thing that year, except it was twice as long and much tougher to watch.
This the First Annual (and Last) Yummy Awards Show, hosted by a young Ricky Schroder and Dwight Schultz, mega-stars of Silver Spoons and The A-Team respectively. The Yummy Awards is an event attended solely by children and intended to honor Saturday Morning programming with a trophy that contains real ice cream, sometimes a custom flavor depending on the recipient.
All of this is clearly meant to introduce NBC’s Saturday Morning lineup and maybe I’m not justified in being a little let down by this, but there aren’t even nominees to the categories. For example, the first category is “The Best Comedy Show Starring Three Singing Animal Brothers”. Who else is it going to be?
That’s another thing – the show is kind of inconsistent about how they’re interpreting the cartoon characters in the real world. In the case of Alvin and the Chipmunks and the Flintstones (winners of the Best Comedy Show with Stone Age Stars Who Have Rocks In Their Heads), they’re life-size costumed characters. The Smurfs remain animated, as shown in their dance number with Fame‘s Lee Curreri:
Papa Smurf shows up later to accept the award for The Best Show Starring Little Blue Persons Three Apples Tall from The Facts of Life’s Tootie. Mindy Cohn also appears to present an award with Lassie.
They’re really leveraging the NBC star power in this special. Dwight Schultz is in full Murdock mode throughout, performing hyperactive bits that frequently fail to land. It’s awkward to watch him basically perform to himself, but you can’t say he didn’t try.
An hour later, we’ve given awards to The Chipmunks, Mr. T, The Flintstones, Thundarr the Barbarian,TheSmurfs, Spiderman, Shirt Tales, and Hulk. We’ve watched musical performances by costumed Flintstones and Chipmunks (separately)…
…seen even less articulated costumes for other characters like Gumby…
…watched Bozo the Clown and Tina Yothers discuss the detriments of drug use…
…and seen a live action version of the cast of Thundarr the Barbarian.
It’s crazy, the whole thing is clearly phoned in from a scripting and production standpoint but at the same time so much effort went into it. I can’t figure it out. Here’s the whole thing – I stand by my earlier statement that it’s tough to watch, but it’s the good kind of tough to watch.
Bonus: the second hour of the video is a full episode of CBS’ Saturday Supercade, for some reason.
2. Atari 2700 – Here’s a 1981 article from Electronic Games for the unreleased successor to the Atari 2600, the “Remote Control VCS” or Atari 2700. It featured wireless controls and a few other enhancements, but was basically intended to be a fancier 2600.
I love the ‘scoop’ on the new console but I also love the layout of this page! It looks like the 2700 got canned because there was no way to pair the remote controllers to a specific console, so if you were in range of another 2700 your controllers would control each others systems. Whoops!
3. Panasonic VHS Advertisement – In which a robot from the ’80s unintentionally makes us feel a little guilty about our attitude toward electronics.
4. Planet of the Apes VHS ad – And for something to put in that well-performing Panasonic VHS machine, how about all of the Planet of the Apes movies?
$19.98’s a steal. I’m being completely serious. Even back then, that’s an great value!
5. Jell-O – And finally, here’s a gorgeous Jell-O print ad for raspberry Jell-O – arguably one of the worst flavors in existence, but a gorgeous ad nonetheless.
1. Just Say Julie – Late-1980s MTV had two Julie Browns. There was Downtown Julie Brown, the cool Club MTV host and then there was Miss Julie Brown, the goofy comedienne. The latter Brown’s show was Just Say Julie, a mostly one-woman show that drew heavily on her celebrity-mocking stand-up act.
Brown played a valley girl with a bit of an agenda against pop stars like Tiffany and Debbie Gibson, and a bit more of an agenda against Madonna.
The show was an unintentionally beautifully sort of clunky stream of consciousness, with Brown’s monologues taking up the bulk of the time. There were also music videos but these were mocked in a proto-Beavis-and-Butthead style. Sometimes she’d even show up in them!
She played up a rivalry between herself and Downtown Julie Brown, the “Evil” Julie Brown. Her unrequited love for Jon Bon Jove was a recurringtheme as well. Both running gags resulted in payoffs later in the series!
Here’s an episode. It’s almost hard to tell from the grainy, hiss quality here but this was a pretty popular show and managed to upset a lot of celebrities!
1. Secret Video Game Tricks, Codes, & Strategies, Volume 1 – Whew! That’s a mouthful! This video is one of dozens of “How to Beat Videogames” tutorials from the 1980s, most of which focus on exploiting glitches and bugs to gain advantages in difficult parts of games.
This one’s no different, except that it features exclusive tips from the US Video Game Team (a real thing!)
The video takes you through glitches and scoring tips for some of the big names like Gradius, Contra, Adventure Island and Castlevania II as well as some of the more obscure ones like Ring King and Iron Tank. While usually you just get a bunch of gameplay video in these things, this title sets itself apart with wacky 80’s graphic transitions and what appears to be a studio setting in which the team members execute these amazing tricks using NES Advantages.
That second picture looks like something from the Spaceship of the Mind in Cosmos.
Here’s the whole thing. Let me know if these Metal Gear passwords work.
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.
Shows were previewed through Mr. TV, a television with human legs. And that’s not horrifying.
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.
There was probably a better way to perform “Lazy River” than this.
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:
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.