Five Things – 3.6.17 – POWER PLUS

TurboGrafx 16 Infomercial

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.



Five Things – 12.7.15 – Thanks For Lending Me The Suit

1.  A Bionic Christmas Carol – This 1976 episode of The Six Million Dollar Man does a copy/paste of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in a way that fits mostly, but not entirely.

Bionic Christmas

Steve gets assigned to investigate a potential sabotage issue at a space-tech factory…on Christmas Eve


He’s not happy about it, but he goes because that’s his job, I guess.  I thought that Oscar Goldman, Steve’s boss, was being set up to be the Scrooge in this analogy, but nope.  The real Scrooge is Budge, the owner of the space-tech facility. The show goes to great lengths to illustrate this, including both his adamancy that his employees work on Christmas Day and his shut-down of an employee-funded Christmas tree decoration.

Budge Tree

His chauffeur, Crandall (get it?), is Budge’s nephew and is taken advantage of left and right.  Crandall insists that Steve spend Christmas supper with his family and takes him home to meet them.  The family’s got no tree, no presents, nothing, so Steve does a little Bionic-ing on a nearby, large, not-Christmas tree to make up for it.

Bionic Tree

The story takes a weird turn when Steve shows up to Budge’s estate and Budge topples over a ledge, landing in Steve’s arms.


The doctor tells Steve and Crandall that, conveniently, due to Budge’s condition he will hallucinate for the next three hours.  This gives Steve an idea, and I thought I knew where this special was headed, but I was a little bit off.


Instead of a ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, Steve dresses up as…Santa.  He somehow still accomplishes the same thing as Santa Claus that the ghosts do, though, and Budge comes around.  He wakes up, dismisses the crew slated to work at the factory that day, and shows up at his nephew’s house with a bag full of toys.  Because now he’s dressed as Santa.


Here’s the thing: this is a really lazy attempt at a Christmas episode, but for some reason I was glued to it.  There’s just something about The Six Million Dollar Man, it appears, where the premise transcends the lazy plotlines.  It’s a pretty tightly-paced show, especially compared to its contemporaries. God bless us, everyone, indeed.


2. Soviet Union Christmas Postcards – Stumbled across some gorgeous Space-Race-Era Christmas cards from the Soviet Union at Flashbak. Definitely hit the link to see them all, but here are my favorites.  They’re beautiful and peaceful-looking, sometimes despite their warmongering overtones.

Rockets Cosmonaut Globe Horse


3. Frankie Frank – Did you know that Mr. Potato Head had pals? It’s not a surprise that given his runaway, unexpected success that attempts would be made at doing the same thing with other food items.  Heres’ Frankie Frank, the hot dog that you push stuff into.

Frankie Frank

He wasn’t alone, either.  You can see Mr. Mustard Head (?) in the box art, but there were still more! Here’s the rest of the gang.

Picnic Pals


4. Motown Merry Christmas Medley – There’s something about this 1987 Motown Christmas Special segment that really, genuinely gets me.  It starts with Marcia Warfield doing a bit about optimism and hopefulness and then snowballs (no pun intended?) into a really impressive medley.  Enjoy Carrie McDowell, Natalie Cole, The Temptations, Ronnie Spector, Darlene Love, The Pointer Sisters, Run DMC, Smokey Robinson and more in true holiday fashion.  They really just don’t do it like this anymore.


5. #bringbackmst3k – It’s not every day you get to help resurrect your favorite TV show. I’ve been a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 since I was eleven years old, and this show probably shaped my sense of humor more than any other.  Through it I gained an early love for old movies, both good and bad, and got a head start on some crazy obscure pop culture references that in some cases I would only understand years later. I still watch the show regularly, and there are still jokes that I get for the first time.

So when series creator Joel Hodgson announced a Kickstarter campaign to bring back the show with a new cast, I was all in.  Well, not all; I don’t have 5.5 million dollars on me.  But I was in, and I hope you’ll be, too.  he’s got an impressive roster lined up this time around with Jonah Ray, Felicia Day, and Patton Oswalt, and it’s looking like the writing will be of the level we’ve come to expect from this show.  The Kickstarter’s in its last days, so kick in if you can!

In honor of the show, here’s a 1998 tour of the now-defunct Best Brains studios.  Some cool gems in here for fans of the show – the cardboard cutout of Mike from Hobgoblins stands out for me.



Five Things – 11.24.14

1.  Jack and Jill Magazine Covers –  Jack and Jill is a kids’ magazine that started its run in 1938 and is still in publication. Think Highlights with less Goofus and Gallant and more of an outside-the-doctor’s-office circulation.  It was created by the same family behind Country Gentleman, and maybe that explains why I can’t get enough of Jack and Jill‘s covers either.  The more recent covers aren’t much to write home about but it’s interesting to see how the covers of the past reflected the design sensibilities of the day. Here’s a batch from the ’60s that I’m tempted to print out and frame and/or live in:



November 1967

November 1966

“My Father is a Personnel Consultant” – riveting!

1966A preview for the Grinch! Amazing.

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Five Things – 11.3.14

1. That Refreshing Look – The appropriately-1950s-named Vendo corporation produced this promotional film touting the benefits of Coca-Cola’s new vending machines.  The part that’s actually about the machines themselves is a little dry, but the crisp color imagery of 1950s American life at the beginning and the ‘roleplay’ selling scenarios at the end are fantastic.

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Five Things – 10.27.14

1.  Nightmare on Elm Street (NES) – Of course Freddy had a video game.  He had a few, actually, but the NES game was the one I played as a kid.


(His pose is less menacing than I think they were intending.  He seems to be saying “I give up!”)

Developed by Rare and published by our license-loving friends at LJN, Nightmare on Elm Street was one of the first (and only) NES games to support four players.  Using the NES Satellite, you could team up with your buddies to defeat Freddy once and for all. Taking an idea from the film series, the game tasks you with collecting Freddy’s bones in order to destroy them in the furnace at the High School.  Just as in the Friday the 13th game there are a bunch of artificial bad guys thrown in as atmosphere, like bats and ghosts.  They save Freddy for the boss fights, which makes sense.  You have a sleep timer which, if depleted, sends the player into a dream world where the enemies are tougher.  You can fill this sleep timer with things like coffee and boomboxes.

Freddy screen

The title of the game was at the top center of the screen AT ALL TIMES.

The framework of the game is pretty solid; Castlevania II did the same thing and ended up being a great game.  A Nightmare on Elm Street, however, is not.  It’s maddeningly, artificially difficult – particularly when you’re just one player, which most people were.  Still, a better effort than Friday the 13th and the attempt at a four-player experience is nice.

Here’s an ad for the game:

Nightmare Ad

“ENTERACTIVE”.  And another one:

Nightmare Ad

I know these are probably stock pictures, but I like to think that Robert Englund was really excited about getting a NES game and went out of his way to make these ads happen.

Here’s a playthrough:


Interestingly enough, the original concept of the game was apparently that YOU were Freddy and you had to stop these kids from finding your bones.  A controversial premise to be sure, but that would have been pretty great.  Especially if they had integrated the Power Glove.

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Five Things – 3.3.14

1. Wonderbug – Part of the Krofft Supershow in the back half of the ’70s, Wonderbug was about some kids who find a magical car in a junkyard.

Wonderbug Title

In its non-wonder state the car was called Schlepcar and was pretty hideous.


Then, when a magical horn was sounded, Schlepcar would turn into Wonderbug, a mildly less hideous supercar that had some sort of computer dashboard, articulated eyes and mouth, and also could fly.  The original Smartcar! Sorry!


The intelligent flying Wonderbug would help the kids solve crimes and stuff like that, but like most Krofft offerings the articulation was pretty crude.  Kind of like Speed Buggy on ketamine.  Still, the show’s got Seventies Good-Time all over it, especially in the also-signature-Krofft explanatory intro:

As Krofft Supershow segments go, Wonderbug performed decently.  It had a few products licensed from it, like this gorgeous lunchbox:

Wonderbug lunchbox

I’m not sure what constitutes a Krofft sucess versus a Krofft failure, but I think a gorgeous metallic lunchbox is a point in the “win” column.  Check out C.C. in the back seat! What a blast that dude is having!

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Five Things – 11.25.13

1.  Turkey Television – In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, here’s a mostly-forgotten sketch show from Canada called Turkey Television.  It was commissioned by Nickelodeon after the success of You Can’t Do That On Television, but didn’t fare quite as well.  It premiered in 1985 and was cancelled after one season.

While much of the material was first-run for the series, the show also featured content from other sources like Weird Al videos, found footage (with new voice-over and sound effects), and that wonderful Fish Heads music video.:

The cast featured some alumni from You Can’t Do That On Television and some Canadian comics.  Here’s some more footage from Turkey Television – definitely one nof the more bizarre and obscure offerings from early Nickelodeon:

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Five Things – 10.21.13

1.  Wizards and Warriors – Decades before Game of Thrones, there was Wizards and Warriors.  In 1983 CBS took a gamble on the idea that the general public was ready for swords and sorcery, that it was finally time to wrest the concept from the hands of the nerds, pull it out of the basements of America, and hold it aloft for the world to see.

Wizards and Warriors

They were wrong.  Sure, movies like Conan the Barbarian performed well with a general audience, but it appeared America wasn’t quite ready for a weekly fix in their living rooms.  Wizards and Warriors made it 8 episodes in and was cancelled.

Here’s the first episode – shared here mainly for the intro. It’s got a real “cop show” feel to it, for some reason.  I’m gonna admit, I didn’t make it through the whole episode. If you do, let me know and we’ll work on some sort of badge.


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Five Things – 8.19.13

1.  Oz Theme Park – So apparently, in North Carolina, there’s an old theme park dedicated to The Wizard of Oz.  I know! It was built on Beech Mountain, a resort town, in an effort to keep the area profitable year round.  It focused on the book series rather than the movie, opened in 1970 and closed in 1980.  After that it fell into beautiful disrepair, as Seriously For Real shares:

OZ Gates

The Tin Man’s house:

Tin Man

I want to jump into this one of the Scarecrow’s house:

Scarecrow House

The park was restored about ten years after its closure, and seems to be open for business again…ish.  You can apparently rent the space out for parties, and they have a fall festival there every year.   I know what I’m doing this fall. ALL FALL.

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Five Things – 5.13.13

1.  Gemini Man – In 1976 someone had the bright idea to make an action series on TV based on H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man.

The Gemini Man


Called Gemini Man, it featured established TV actor Ben Murphy as a special agent who had had some sort of accident which turned him invisible.   He wore a watch which helped him control this, allowing him  to become invisible for 15 minutes every 24 hours.  What a weird restriction to a super power.

The show itself lacked a defining edge, and fell into a vat of similar sci-fi-themed action television shows of the 1970s.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing; there’s a lot of awesome stuff about those shows.  The “future” technology is usually a pretty fun variant on an already-extinct technology, like reel-to-reel computers that filled up an entire room, and the futuristic outfits are usually the same way.  Plus, these shows are a font-lover’s dream.


Gemini Man lasted one season and then was no more.  In that year, it spawned a couple of gorgeous magazine covers:

Gemini Man Magazine


Gemini Man Annual (front)


Gemini Man Annual (rear)


The Annual included a comic intro, linked from fourcolorcraic:

Gemini Man Comic

In 1981, somebody slapped two episodes together and called it a TV movie.  Titled “Riding with Death”, the movie was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, which is how it got on my radar.  I loved the episode so much that I found and watched (some of) the first season.

Stick with the MST3k episode.

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