Tag Archives: music

Five Things – 5.29.17 – A Swinging New Way To Spend The Summer

Meet Us In September

“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?

Luna (1965)

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?

Five Things – 5.22.17 – Stories For Boys

 

It’s About Time (1966)

What if you had a silly TV show set in a remote jungle location and you had an idea for a second, unrelated-yet-just-as-silly TV show set in a remote jungle location and you just re-used props and sets from the first silly TV show for the second silly TV show and crossed your fingers that nobody would notice? That’s pretty much Sherwood Schwartz’s approach to It’s About Time, the second silly TV show to Gilligan’s Island‘s first silly TV show.

He actually probably didn’t cross his fingers that nobody would notice. He probably just didn’t care.

It’s About Time follows the adventures of two astronauts, Mac McKenzie and Hector Canfield, who get sent back in time to caveman days and end up living with caveman family Gronk and Shad, . Gronk is played by Joe E. Ross. essentially a caveman version of his Gunther Toody character from Car 54 Where Are You? Shad is played by the lovely Imogene Coca.

The cavemen speak in broken-but-very-very-passable modern English.  The rest of the tribe are suspicious of the astronauts, but are eloquently suspicious.  The plot lines revolve around either the astronauts bringing modern civilization to the cavemen, or trying to adjust to/reconcile their worldview with the cavemen’s.

Now here’s the interesting part – the show was retooled 2/3 of the way through the season to address the sagging ratings.  They basically flip the premise, where the astronauts find a way to return to the present and bring the cavemen with them. The episodes then revolve around the cavemen’s acclimation to 20th Century life. That’s a courtesy the Gilligan gang didn’t get until their TV movie finale!

It didn’t help. It’s About Time was cancelled after the first season. While it’s definitely not up to par with Schwartz’s stronger efforts like Gilligan’s Island or The Brady Bunch, there’s still something special here. There’s just a lot of other stuff weighing it down.  Here’s a few episodes.

 

 

1980 Coleco Catalog

There is so much to love about this 1980 Coleco Games and Toys catalog. So much to love! This Holly Hobbie oven looks like something out of a haunted house. And how about that plaid stroller?

 

1987 Train Ride to Coney Island

This is a pretty great snapshot of New York City in the late 1980s.  Those kids need to jump into a pool of Purell after laying around on the seats of that train, though .

 

Goonies Famicom Commercials

The Goonies, as a movie, couldn’t be more American in how the kids act, what motivates them, and the nature of their reward. The beautiful insanity of the Goonies videogames, however, we’re just not capable of that.  Kudos to Konami for taking a solid foundation and launching it into the stars.  These ads for both Goonies games really hammer that insanity home.  I’ll also take this opportunity to repeat the fact that Goonies II is one of the greatest video games of all time.

 

U2’s First TV Appearance

This 1980 TV appearance is a completely different band.

 

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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.

 

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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?

 

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Five Things – 11.7.16 – Pappy Drew It

Beyond Westworld (1980)

What if the catastrophic events of Westworld (1973) and its sequel Futureworld (1976) were not the result of one company’s hubris, mismanagement, or ill intention but rather the beginnings of the schemes of one man with a larger plan in mind? That’s the premise behind Beyond Westworld, the short-lived 1980 television series based on the hugely successful film. And, I guess, also based on the hugely unsuccessful sequel.

Beyond Westworld Ad

Beyond Westworld follows John Moore, the head of Delos security, as he thwarts rogue ex-Delos scientist Simon Quaid’s attempts to unleash his special brand of psychotic robots upon the world.  He’s assigned a beautiful partner – of course – named Pamela Williams, and together they work to keep safe a world on the brink of an android holocaust.

quaid

Its a pretty great premise, right? Unfortunately, it comes out pretty flat. Only five episodes were produced, two of which weren’t even aired before cancellation. The plot lines are pretty mundane, especially given the license the show had to literally do anything they wanted in a world filled with murderous androids who could look like just anybody on the street.

foam-robot

Still, the premise and the tie-in to Westworld warrant a look at the series. The look of the show, of the sets and costumes, is fantastic – it was even nominated for an Emmy in Art Direction – but, like the Logan’s Run series, fails to deliver on a fantastic what-if.  For whatever reason it’s difficult to find episodes online; perhaps the powers that be envision a world in which there is only one Westworld television series in existence, and if that is the case I’m glad that the one we have is the one we have.  Here’s some of the promo material for the 1980 series, though – there’s definitely some charm here.

 

 

Pappyland

In the “this show could never exist in this form today” department, here’s Pappyland.

pappyland

Pappyland is what you’d get if an inferior version of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse married an inferior version of The Secret City and had a child.  The show, which premiered in 1993 on New York Public Television Station WCNY-TV, focuses on Pappy Drew-It (that’s right) and his magical friends.  They hang out in a magical cabin, draw pictures, and go on bluescreen adventures.

pappyland-gang drawing

None of this is inherently bad – except that it is.  The drawing itself is pretty good and it’s clear that the whole show is a labor of love but everything just kind of comes off as half-baked and thrown together. Which would sort of be fine, but it’s clear that it wasn’t half baked or thrown together! Also, am I the only one creeped out?

pappyland-in-space

Here’s an episode. Feel differently? Do you have fond memories of this show? Let me know!

 

Doctor Dreadful’s Food Lab

The gross-out version of the Easy-Bake Oven.

 

Pumpkin Dream Pie

This 1959 recipe from Jell-O’s got my interest – from a design and a flavor perspective.

Pumpkin Dream Pie

 

Stephane Grapelli – How High The Moon

Because it’s beautiful. Here’s Stephane Grapelli playing “How High The Moon” in 1991.

 

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Five Things – 9.12.16 – To Cogitate And To Solve

Mathnet

Mathnet appeared as a serial segment on the public television show Square One in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  For me, it was Square One – everything else about the show was either a prelude to or epilogue from Mathnet.

mathnet

Mathnet parodied the 1950s police procedural show Dragnet.  Kate Monday and George Frankly solved “crimes” (more like mysteries) by using logic and math.  It works better than you’d think.  Segments ran each day in sequential order, with the case usually being solved by the end of the week.  All together the storylines run from 30 to 60 minutes.

friday-and-frankly

Mathnet was a core component of Square One up through its final season in 1992.  It continued in replays through 1994, then showed up on Nickelodeon’s Noggin network after that. I also remember it being shown in the classroom on rainy or otherwise lazy days.  Here’s an episode.

 

The Box (Network)

How do you go up against MTV  in the mid-80s, the undisputed kings? You create a video jukebox, allowing viewers to call in and use special phone numbers and codes to put in your order for current or classic music videos, thus programming the air.

the-box

The Box ,originally the Video Jukebox Network, hung its hat on this idea of empowering the viewer. it even featured videos that couldn’t/wouldn’t be seen on MTV or were banned. Each of the over 100 affiliates had its own playlist, so there was a pretty good chance your order would get played quickly.

eazy-e

MTV eventually bought The Box, and a couple of years after the purchase the network was shut down in 2001 – a pretty good run.  It was never a true competitor to the music video giant, but what a way to swing for the fences technology-wise.  Here’s some of The Box.

 

Canadian Library PSA

A grainy, poor quality, but nonetheless charming animated 1992 PSA for the library.

 

1989 Fraggle Rock VHS Club Commercial

Mail-order book clubs are a pretty poor investment, as are mail-order music clubs, but I think mail-order VHS clubs took the cake as the worst way to spend your money of the 1980s.  Here’s one for Fraggle Rock.

 

The Box (Orbital)

Got 30 minutes? Of course you do.  Here’s Orbital.

 

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Five Things – 08.15.16 – We Fly On, Untouched

Escapes

On one sunny afternoon in 1986 Vincent Price, dressed as a mailman, delivers a VHS tape to a kid named Matthew.  The tape, Escapes, is a horror anthology hosted by Vincent Price.  He starts watching it, and so do we. I’m not sure which level of inception we’re at at this point.

Escapes

It’s really just five short horror stories wrapped by Vincent Price and given a strange intro and outro to make it make sense.

Vincent

There are five stories here: Something’s Fishy, Coffee Break, Who’s There, Jonah’s Dream, and Think Twice.  None of them are particularly scary in the execution, and some are downright stupid, but they’re all good snapshots of ’80s cable video production.  Coffee Break is probably my favorite of the batch; it feels like an early Stephen King short story minus the actual scary ending he probably would have written.

Coffee Break

What strikes me about the ending (spoilers) is that characters from each of the stories come together in a “shocking” final scene, proving that this isn’t just some acquisition effort at getting a bunch of unrelated stories and running them side-by-side. As an MST3k fan this video conjures up memories of Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders, which is actually slightly more involved in stitching the standalone stories together than this piece is but actually has a bunch of acquired, unrelated pieces in it – from different decades even. Still, same idea.  It’s worth a watch, there’s something warm and familiar about it all.

 

World War III, Part Two

The thrilling followup to last week’s 1950s scare comic about World War III. This installment features battles in the air, on land, and under the sea… and doesn’t really resolve much. It actually  makes the story much more confusing as to what the makers of the comic’s real agenda was. I’ve also never seen it spelled “Commy” before reading this comic.

WWIII Part Two

 

Nintendo Interactive Retail Store Displays

This 1992 training video about maintaining Nintendo console in-store play units goes further than it needs to in the effort to entertain.  Probably as far as it can. It’s hard to believe that this is this guy’s real voice – it sounds like the voice someone would use to make fun of this guy’s real voice. That’s a compliment, though, I think!

 

19th Century Obesity Ad

There’s very little to appreciate about this fat-shaming newspaper ad from the 19th century, but the aesthetic appeal of the images and the wall of text do catch my eye.

Fat People

 

Bluegrass 45

Current obsession: This 1970s Japanese Bluegrass band.

 

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Five Things – 06.20.13 – A Neon Sign Designer

Whew!

This short lived Game Show featured an amazing set, a strange format, and good old Rod Roddy.

Whew!

Whew! is basically a string of lightning rounds with a little twist – in the “normal” part of the game one contestant tries to get through the board in a set amount of time while the other places ‘blocks’, little land mines that take away five seconds each time they’re uncovered.  If the blocks are uncovered, the defending contestant gets the money.

Blocks

The first contestant to win two rounds gets to go to the final round, which is basically the same thing but with ten ‘villains’ delivering the questions and no blocks. If they can make it through each villain they get the grand prize, $25,000.

25000

The set is pretty fantastic, but I have a hard time putting my finger on specifics.  It alternates between a grandiose production and something in somebody’s basement, but you can tell someone had their eye on design in all components – even in the live, composited stuff.

Whew Set Lightning Final Round

Whew! lasted just over a year before being cancelled – April 1979 to May 1980.  A pretty wacky show, and it moves really fast.  Here’s an episode.

 

Home Alone (NES)

Of course there was a Nintendo game for Home Alone; there was an everything else for Home Alone, so why not  a game for the NES?

Home Alone Cover

Different versions of the game were made, each platform having its own format and objectives.  In the NES version (developed by Bethesda, current developers of the Elder Scrolls and recent Fallout series!) the premise is pretty simple: evade Harry and Marv for 20 minutes until the police show up. Kevin picks up different traps and places them around the house to slow the Wet Bandits down.  It’s not as easy as it looks. Get caught and it’s game over.

Oh No

Here’s a longplay.

 

Pepper’s Ghost

I wish I knew more about this fantastic 19th Century poster.  What I do know is there’s a wrong way to put a bunch of different fonts together, and then there’s this way.  I can’t stop looking at it. It’s beautiful.

Pepper's Ghost

 

What is Pippin?

A somewhat dry intro to Apple’s ill-fated video game console, the Pippin.  Would you have paid $700 for this in 1995?

 

J’attendrai

Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli never fail to scratch the itch.

 

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Five Things – 05.30.16 – And The Wind Would Carry Your Light To The Skies

Kid’s Court

Court shows are the connective tissue of the daytime TV schedule.  They seem to be necessary components for local TV stations to function. They’re everywhere and have been everywhere for decades.  Perhaps I have rose-colored nostalgia glasses on (I have several pairs), but I feel like the court shows of the 1980s were a little more level-headed and not the dramatic scream-fests that they are today.  Wapner wouldn’t tolerate that sort of behavior.  Nickelodeon’s kid-centric version of The People’s Court was a good show – not necessarily in the sense that it was fun to watch so much as that it did a great job of taking that dispute drama and putting it into a forum that worked for children audiences.  Also, it was pretty fun to watch.

Kid's Court Title

Kid’s Court featured comedian Paul Provenza as the host but not the judge. Every episode’s case was taken from a kid’s letter sent to the show, and the plaintiff and defendant were kids acting out whatever beef was in the letter.

Kid's Court 1

Sarah Stinks

It is unknown whether these kids were given clothes to wear or whether this kid picked this outfit out on his own:

Fashion

The majority of the show is Provenza going around the room getting the jury’s (the audience’s) take on the situation, and as more details of the case are revealed the kids in the room can see how their opinions change. At the end of the episode two audience members are chosen to make their final cases for the plaintiff and the defendent, and as with actual legal cases the result is determined by who more people in the courtroom clapped for.  Enter the judge, whose only role is to measure the applause.

Judge O Meter

Kid’s Court ran from 1988 to 1994, ending two years before Judge Judy came along and set a new bar for how loud court shows needed to be. Here’s an episode.

 

Rax Ads

Here’s some ads for Rax restaurants.  This one features their spokesman in the 1980s, musician Big Al Anderson.  Big Guy likes fast food.  Trust Big Guy.

Prepare your OWN sandwiches from a salad bar? I’ll stay at home, thanks!

Then there’s Pasta Man. You know, Pasta Man. Big Al’s in there, too!

You want to turn my Rax into an Olive Garden? I’ll stay at home, thanks!

 

Shel Silverstein on the Johnny Cash Show

A magical segment from the Johnny Cash show where Shel Silverstein shows up to play “A Boy Named Sue” with Cash, followed by a solo “Daddy What If” that yanks my heart out.

 

Oodles

How do you one-up those creepy Kewpie dolls? Make them slightly smaller and harder and shinier and sell them to young girls as charms to be worn around the neck. Large charms. Oodles!

 

Wheelee Board

Finally, an ad for the only skateboard you’ll ever need.

Wheelie

 

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Five Things – 05.23.16 – Dare You Let It In Your Library?

The Stephen King Library

Stephen King’s pretty well-regarded nowadays, but in the 1980s and 1990s he had a polarizing level of fame. While he had a dedicated fanbase, he tended to be regarded in the mainstream as a shlocky horror writer who put out a new book every week and opinion of him was formed on whether you liked that sort of thing or not.  He was a bestseller, sure, a rockstar of a writer, but it seemed like there was a level of respect for his writing that he never got.

Besides the fact that his crazy creative output in that era meant you always had something new to read, the volume also provided an easy business opportunity in the space that Time Life and Columbia House had forged – subscriptions.  Enter the Stephen King Library.

For $7.95 (the first time, $14.95 each shipment thereafter) you got a new King book, hardback. It’s crazy to me that there could be a book subscription service for one author, but there you go. I love the commercials for the service; this one seems to imply that publishers are approaching people on the street to try to sell Stephen King books:

While I love the cheesy comments and the hokey “scary music”, the comments reinforce that shlocky image that King’s writing had back then. It’s not wrong, really, just… incomplete.  The narrator also clearly hands the first guy a copy of Needful Things but calls it Dolores Claiborne.

*wheeze*

Here’s some commercials for specific books – The Stand, which would be a steal even then at $7.95:

I love that the extra content is pitched as something that we “weren’t allowed to see before”. Here’s one for Gerald’s Game:

These visuals aren’t really backing up the content of the books themselves; did anything really come up out of the ground in The Stand? That’s more of a Pet Semetary thing…

The Stephen King Library is still alive and kicking, too! That’s even crazier to me than the fact of its existence. I’m just glad that time has borne out King’s reputation as a great writer and we can all now move on to arguing about whether those fat cats in Hollywood are doing his work justice. How many days until The Dark Tower releases?

 

Coming Soon: Portable Computers!

Here’s a cringeworthy trip through all of the newest tech for those geeks with tons of disposable income in 1994.  It’s neat to see how big our ideas were and how limited our ability to execute those ideas was. The delay on that videophone cannot be unseen.

That’s, what, $9,000 worth of tech in that video? $10,000? And a printer you can use in the car? Worthless.

K-Tel Records: Looney Tunes

From the people who brought you the Sesame Street soundtrack, here’s Looney Tunes. Not the Looney Tunes you’re thinking of.  It’s weird.

 

I’m Telling!

Even weirder? How about I’m Telling!, which is basically The Newlywed Game but with child siblings instead.  This one didn’t last long – it ran from September 1987 to March 1988.

 

Uncle Sam Says Garden

Beautiful poster encouraging Americans to grow their own food in order to cut down on waste.

Uncle Sam Says Garden

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