CBS All Star Rock n’ Wrestling Saturday Spectacular (1985)

The Prime-Time Saturday Morning preview specials of the 1970s and ’80s have a bespoke magic to them, self-serving events created from scratch for the sole purpose of promoting other things elsewhere on that same network and using big star power to do it. It’s never a simple roundup, never a straight “hey, here are our new shows,” and it’s that complicated presentation that makes each special shine in its own way. The ridiculous lengths to which the Saturday Morning properties are contorted to create the narrative of a prime-time special make for some fascinating television. Fascinating, but not always good.

These specials are almost always a mash-up of different brands and properties, the implication being that the network’s destination is a real place where all of these brands co-exist with each other. Much cheaper than doing an actual cross-over of shows, the specials allowed kids to see characters from a variety of shows interacting with each other – in most cases, these would be kids’ only chances to do so. I’ve talked about a few of these before, but want to look at a particularly weird one today, 1985’s “All Star Rock n’ Wrestling Saturday Spectacular”.

CBS had a medium-okay Saturday Morning lineup in 1985, a lot of fodder but a few standouts. Most notable was the launch of a new show, Hulk Hogan’s Rock n’ Wrestling, a lucrative extension of the insanely popular WWF franchise that explored what the world would be like if professional wrestlers focused their effort on fixing or furthering the bad things that happened in it. It was a big deal, and it’s no surprise that the WWF layer would be the narrative thread through which CBS’s Saturday Morning lineup would be promoted.



The special gets weird right out of the gate as we’re brought into a disruptive scene: Hervé Villechaize’s news program(?) has been hijacked by Rowdy Roddy Piper, who spends a few minutes strutting around on his new platform bad-guying it up, yanking a few jeers out of his audience.

He settles into a throne – that was somehow already waiting for him on the set even though he had just stormed it out of nowhere – and starts a talk show that features some pretty big talent and the highlights of the new lineup.

I could go beat-by-beat in illustrating the weirdness but it’s probably easiest to just say that none of this makes sense. Piper’s guests are Patti Labelle, New Edition, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, and Pee Wee Herman. Pee Wee makes his appearance in the middle of a punched-up scene from King Lear, on a full Shakespearean set with Piper and Lou Albano in full Shakespearean garb. Because punched-up scenes from King Lear are what kids are thirsty for .

The one thing that does make sense in this special is Rowdy Roddy Piper’s villainy, and he does an amazing job throughout. He’s at his best and the show is at its most coherent when Piper’s slamming the guests, the audience, and Hulk Hogan himself even though he’s not there. Piper’s amazing in this special and his character is completely on-brand.

Every now and then we see Villechaize’s efforts to get control of his show back, alluding to a big star that’s going to help him do it. You think it’s going to be Hulk, right? Well, said big star is actually Cyndi Lauper who comes in, does a little trash talk of her own, and pied-pipers the guests and the audience alike out of the studio and presumably onto another set designated for Herve’s show.

It’s fun! It makes no sense, but it’s fun! There are a few good looks at the new Saturday Morning product, but most of those clips feel like ‘gotta do’ fodder. The trailer for “Hulk Hogan’s Rock n’ Wrestling” is the only real exception. Here’s the special. They don’t make them like this anymore. They couldn’t.

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Five Things – 04.25.16 – I’ll Be Bigger Than Ollie North

1987 NBC Saturday Morning Preview

ALF hosts this Friday Night preview of NBC Saturday Morning lineup featuring, well, ALF. The premises for these specials are always so ridiculous, and this one’s no different:

ALf Loves A Mystery

The special begins in the Tanner family garage, where ALF is on the phone with his agent regarding his new prequel cartoon series. ALF and his buddy Brian decide to imagine a mystery story specifically featuring characters from the shows in the NBC Saturday Morning lineup, which is natural and makes sense.

ALF and Brian

The special then turns into a Film Noir homage, which kids are totally into, with ALF providing the narration and Brian starring as the detective. Brian’s invited to the Countess (Jackee’s) mansion, where random stars from NBC Prime Time programs like Our House, Rags To Riches, The Golden Girls, and others are gathered and given the challenge to find the treasure hidden within the house.

Shannen Jackee Betty

The kid faction of the party teams up to solve the mystery, awkardly led from clue to clue by clips and voiceovers from the Saturday Morning shows.

Clue Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Smurfs, the Gummie Bears, Archie, and that awful animated version of Fraggle Rock help the gang along.

Fraggle

The adults at the party, predictably, are all bad guys.  They’re also dumb.  They follow the children around as the kids solve the mysteries, waiting for their chance to steal the treasure once it’s found. Shannen Doherty masquerades as “kid-cool” to try and trick them!

Shannen Kids

The joke’s on all of them, kid and adult alike, when Jackee tries to take it all for herself at the end.

Ending

I won’t tell you how they get out of that particular pickle, but ALF and Shannen Doherty DO go on a date after all is said and done.

This special is so bad and hamfisted, but in a really good way.  Even Shannen Doherty’s redeemed in it.  I can’t figure out how the effort spent on this was justified, but I’m glad it was.  Here’s the whole thing. Also included are some VERY ’80s Cherry 7-Up, Milky Way, Snickers, Wendy’s, Diet Coke, KFC, and Crave Cat Food commercials.

Also I forgot about Chicken Littles – that 39 cent price point is nice.

 

Discover Atari

This early 1980s “Prism” campaign for Atari shows the breadth of the company’s offerings past just video games, but still mostly focuses on the video games.  They know which side of the bread gets the butter.  Still, a good looking campaign with some great motion graphics and some EPCOT-level synth.

That’s Jack Palance doing the voiceover. You hear it now, don’t you?

This one interestingly focuses on the whole portfolio of Atari’s offerings – minimizing the games as much as they probably can.  Makes Atari look like a much different company than it was – the company they probably wanted to be.

 

Safe As Houses

This charming 1983 UK Public Information Film uses a mixture of animation and live action to teach kids about electrical safety. Voiced by Judi Dench and Michael Wiliams, it’s kind of like a G-rated “Shake Hands With Danger”.

 

Atom Bomb Blasts

This 1950s-era postcard from Benny Binion’s Horseshoe Club boasts the spectacular view of atomic weapons testing that can be had nearby. Amazing.

Benny Binion

 

Burpee Cover

Potatoes have never been so beautiful. A cover from an 18th century seed catalog.

Burpee Cover

 

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