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!

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.

-ds

 

Five Things – 1.9.17 – Nickel, Nickel

Hammerman

It should come as no surprise that MC Hammer, he of the pop charts and the parachute pants and the very-safe-edginess and the runaway early-90s success, had his own cartoon.  Hammerman ran on ABC in 1991, and only lasted one season.

(My computer keeps trying to correct Hammerman to Hamilton.  Guessing this is the only time those two shows have been compared.)

Hammerman follows the adventures of Stanley Burrell, a youth center worker who becomes the superhero Hammerman when he wears a pair of magic shoes passed along from aging superhero Soulman.

This is all explained in what is perhaps the laziest theme song ever rapped.  That includes the end credits of Leprechaun in the Hood.

Hammer hosts each episode with a live action intro and outro, and the episodes usually focus on some issue relevant to kids or a larger societal issue.  A villain pops up and Stanley has to turn into Hammerman to put the villain down.  The background music gets to dip into the MC Hammer library, which is probably the only standout feature of this series .

It’s a pretty lazy effort all around – this sort of thing should be right in my sweet spot, but it’s really tough to watch all the way through. It’s remarkable in its laziness, though, and maybe that goes to show both how iconic MC Hammer was in 1991 and also how eager TV Networks and (maybe) kids were for cartoons related to any already-existing-and-popular property.

Here’s an episode. It’s titled “Rap-oleon”.  Like Napoleon.  Shudder.

 

Cookie Monster IBM Film

Jim Henson was contracted to do a series of short films for IBM in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They’re all pretty great, but some of them in particular offer glimpses of the Muppets to come. Here’s one such glimpse – an early Cookie Monster with teeth and claws, eating a sentient computer.

A toothed Cookie Monster is a recipe for some real, lasting damage.

 

Lock’n Chase Ad

I’m in love with the illustrations in this ad for Data East/Taito’s 1981 Arcade Game Lock’n Chase.

 

Big Trak

A beautiful design for an awful toy.  Big Trak was a “programmable” utility vehicle that intelligently performed tasks that you told it to do.  I can only imagine how clunky and limited the interface must have been to ‘instruct’ Big Trak to do anything. Also, I’m sorry, but if you program Big Trak to bring me an apple and if Big Trak dumps that apple onto the floor in front of me, I’m not going to eat that apple.

 

1939 Pepsi Ad

As a Coca-Cola kid and a (now) soda-free grown-up, I can safely say that this 1939 animated ad is the best thing I will ever associate with Pepsi.

Now where’s my coffee?

 

-ds

Five Things – 11.21.16 – He Collected Old Things From Ships

Sapphire & Steel

If there was ever a premise that deserved a better go than it got, it’s the 1979 ITV Sci-Fi/Fantasy Series Sapphire & Steel.

ss-intro

Sapphire & Steel focuses on the adventures of the two titular characters, transdimensional Operatives charged with keeping our timeline intact. Not really clear on what’s meant by ‘our’ timeline – Earth’s? This whole dimensions?- but that’s not really relevant. What is is the concept posed in the series that Time is both a progressing, stable entity as well as a malicious sort of chaos when it’s allowed to be.

ss

A central element of the show is that a focus on the past, an obsession with relics or memories, can weaken the forward progression of Time and allow chaos to break into our reality in the form of ghosts and other malicious beings. Some of these beings hail from the beginnings and ends of Time itself, searching for weak points in the timeline to break in and do damage.  Sapphire and Steel are two of 127 Operatives tasked with preventing this, and each Operative possess unique abilities. Sapphire can manipulate Time on a small scale, creating loops or seeing things that happened in the recent past. Steel can directly combat these manifestations of the past, and possesses a supernatural strength and telekinesis.

time-loop

When I say that the premise deserved a better go than it got, I’m not really bagging on the show itself. The production’s as good as it could have been given the budget it had, and the audience numbers reflect the quality of the idea.  At the end of the day, though, it’s a 1970s British Sci-Fi serial and reflects the qualities of similar programs from that region from that time. It’s slow, dry, light on effects, heavy on words.  It’s a testament to the novelty of the premise that it’s such an interesting show despite these things.  Lack of effects aside, the title sequence is beautifully done.

ss-intro

 

Sapphire & Steel ran for five seasons (actually five “Adventures” – isn’t that adorable?) before being cancelled for various reasons.  Its relative popularity gave it a good merchandise run as well as some recent audio plays.  Here’s the first episode of the first Adventure. There’s a lot to like here.

 

1971 Dick Cavett Show Thanksgiving

In 1971 The Muppets joined Dick Cavett for the Thanksgiving episode of The Dick Cavett Show.  It’s pretty great stuff.

 

Punch Crunch

I can understand, from a sales and marketing angle, why Quaker would want to improve upon the already-flawless flavor of Cap’n Crunch cereal with varieties on the original recipe.  Peanut Butter Crunch and Crunch Berries, after all, have stood the test of time. I just don’t think it’s necessary – the original recipe is all you need.  For every Crunch Berry success, though, there seems to be a miss.  Punch Crunch was a miss.

punch-crunch

Introduced in the 1970s, Punch Crunch also welcomed Harry Hippo as a potential new mascot.  Neither Punch Crunch nor Harry lasted long.

 

K-Mart 1980s Thanksgiving Sale

From back when 8am was an acceptable start time for a doorbuster.

 

Trust Swanson

The first TV dinner, produced by Swanson, was a Thanksgiving meal. Depressing, right? Let the illustration and design of this ad make up for that.

trust-swanson

Ignore the plastic peas.

-ds

Five Things – 10.13.14

1.  Victorian Visions of 2000 – Here’s an amazing collection of cards made at the turn of the 20th century that illustrate a Victorian vision of what the turn of the 21st century might look like.  Check out the whole set, for sure, but here are a few of my favorites:

Personal Flight

Personal flying machines.  Safety is apparently not an issue in the year 2000! Put your kids on a tiny platform in the sky! I think I’m most interested in whatever the propulsion method must be for the dragon-looking device on the left.

Weather Machine

A weather machine.  Mad scientist not included.

Undersea Tourism

Tourists explore the ocean depths in an undersea boat.  While the Victorians took liberties with the technology of the future they did not seem to think fashion would change at all.

Train-Boat

Train-Boat.  Or Boat-Train.  I wonder how these tracks were imagined to run in deep seas?

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