Friday, December 30, 2016

Show Notes for HMOTD 035: Communists Are Unreliable


0:07 "...and now it's time for the comedy stylings of Homer Simpson!" We referenced this bit once before in the episode about the Riverfront disaster, but the podcast, thanks to the sweeping effect of current events and the bummer last bit of WKRP Season 3, has definitely had a "getting beaten to a pulp by Mr. Burns's hired goons" feeling lately.

1:50 Pulp clich├ęs: You don't really need to go much further than pulpcovers.com to get a good sampling of the kind of stuff we're talking about here. I would love it if someone came up with the pulp cover we discuss here for "Secrets of Dayton Heights," by the way.

2:18 "America? Who was that lady I saw you with last night..." Echoing Les's "Loose Lips Sink Ships!" bit from "I Am Woman" a couple of weeks ago and Les's general Walter Winchell-like tendencies. The bit about Communism's "broad shoulders" seducing the farmboy always makes me chuckle.

3:06 Secretary of Agriculture-designate John Block: We never got a chance to go into John Block! Well, what I'd wanted to say was that Block was yet another Reagan appointee who used his position in government to help business conglomerates get filthy rich. Small farmers were being foreclosed upon at record rates in the 1980s (this was the FarmAid era, remember) and huge agro-corporations snatched them up.

8:15 Sam Anderson: Yes, we will see Sam Anderson again in Season 4; I'm trying not to spoil myself for which episode so I can try to spot his chameleonic presence. Also, I like that this bit happens at 8:15 in the podcast.

9:33 "People don't remember that the Secret Service is part of the Treasury Department!" It's true, or at least it was prior to 2003. Lampshaded perfectly in the episode.

10:40 "Les has the exact same origin as Cigarette-Smoking Man." "Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man" is a bit of a silly episode in the final analysis, but it's still one of my favorite X-Files eps. Especially satisfying was finding out the subplot with Cancer Man wanting to be a pulp writer was based on the real-life pulp fiction career of E. Howard Hunt, who was also suspected of being a JFK assassin.

11:52 "Les quotes Hal Holbrook." The double reference had to have been intentional. Hal Holbrook first did Mark Twain in the mid-'50s; it started off as a university class project! How neat.

18:20 "The guy hitting on Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot": Joe E. Brown, an old vaudeville and circus hand, played Osgood Fielding III.

19:25 Cincinnati Redlegs: It's true, it's true, the Reds called themselves the Redlegs from 1953 to 1958.

22:33 et subseq. The Manchurian Candidate: Boy, Rob really likes this movie! Honestly, though, it's pretty much perfect for the purposes of this episode. And it features possibly the most evil "evil mom" character in film history.

[Rob: I do indeed! Brain-washing, assassination, Janet Leigh, Momism, the Yellow Peril, the Communist threat and the anti-Communist threat blurred into one, Janet Leigh, Frank Sinatra, all the creepy JFK synchronicities, Janet Leigh... it is the essential Cold War movie. We could do this podcast for another ten years and I would not run out of relevant Manchurian Candidate clips. But on the eve of 2017, this bit seemed particularly relevant: the right-wing demagogue / Russian-patsy giving a rousing speech ("worked on here and in Russia for over eight years") to, quote, "rally a nation of television viewers into hysteria ... to sweep us into the White House with powers that will make martial law seem like anarchy." No puppet, no puppet: you're the puppet.]

24:40 The timing of Harvey leaving Les and Les's mom: My only theory about this is that the crime of stealing secrets at the Pentagon happened after Harvey left young Les. So in my imaginary story, my headcanon, if you will, Les was born in 1940, something happened to expose Harvey as a Communist then, he left the family, and as the Pentagon was finished in 1943, Harvey worked there sometime after leaving the family, and his past was exposed again as he was caught up in the 1950s Red Scare investigations. Convoluted, sure, but WKRP is not unfamiliar with convoluted retcons.

29:10 Elia Kazan: Sure, the Elia Kazan tale is complicated and full of personal grudges and political equivocation, but again, Kazan was part of the late '30s theatre scene that produced some of our greatest actors, directors, and writers, many of whom were dedicated socialists or Communists and paid the price 15 years later.

31:25 Lavender Scare/homosexuality and Communism/homosexuality and espionage: This Wikipedia entry is a good starting point. The Cambridge Five, of course, featured gay spies Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, and sublimated homosexual desire is a major plot point in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

36:46 The first Red Scare: The chaos of the U.S.'s involvement in World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, and a generation-old fear of the boogeyman "anarchism" and of labor activism contributed to the virulent and kneejerk Red Scare of the later part of the 1910s. Emma Goldman was indeed deported to Russia, and Socialist elected officials were stripped of their offices.

37:50 "They were waiting for the Joe Welch moment..." I recall reading at least a couple of thinkpieces during the election that expressly referenced the famous "Have you no sense of decency, sir" moment of the Army-McCarthy hearings. And let's give Joe Welch credit for standing up to McCarthy on television, certainly! But McCarthy lost his support, became a pariah, got censured, and died of hepatitis all in under three years. And it was almost entirely his own fault.

[Rob: Yeah, if all it took to expose the man behind the curtain in 2016 was staring straight into the camera and getting earnest for a moment, well, we wouldn't be where we are, would we?]

39:35 "Exhuming McCarthy" Excellent editing work by Rob to not only close out our Red Scare discussion with R.E.M.'s excellent track off 1987's overtly political LP Document, but also remind us that the bridge between "Secrets of Dayton Heights" and "Out To Lunch" is Joseph McCarthy's alcoholism.

[Rob: Thanks, Mike. And I assume most people of a certain age know this, but just in case, that is of course the actual Joe Welch moment sampled in the R.E.M. song.]

41:05 Drunk work: I've referenced this a couple of times on the podcast, but in the commentary track of the Mr. Show DVDs, the cast praises Paul F. Tompkins's "drunk work" in the "Talking Junkie" sketch (starting at about 1:18). I concur; I've always thought of this as a quintessential drunk bit and Paul F. Tompkins's love of old-timey drinking is well-attested.

47:50 "They make it look real good." I mean, okay, in the first season of Mad Men there's that episode where Don feeds Roger all the oysters and booze in revenge for his hitting on Betty, and he makes him walk up the stairs and puke in front of the client, but overall, when you think drinking on Mad Men... hell, even the throwing up is sometimes glamorous and heartfelt!

48:36 "Bright Future In Sales": More power pop from Fountains of Wayne!

50:43 Helen Hunt in Desperate Lives: Desperate Lives was a 1982 CBS TV movie where you learned not to take PCP, not even once. And man, when the Keyboard Cat meme hit, I was rolling. The later addition of Hall & Oates (with special guest Keyboard Cat) only added to the hilarity.

53:10 Atlantic article on alcoholism on TV. A fascinating read!

53:52 Christopher Cross: Yes, yes, Mike "Mr. Yacht Rock" Grasso got the title of the song wrong! It's actually "Arthur's Theme (Best You Can Do)," and yes, it won a goddamned OSCAR. Which led to one of the funniest chyrons in the entire Yacht Rock web series.

54:38 My Favorite Year: Is Peter O'Toole as a very thinly-disguised Errol Flynn one of the best double-drunks in all of cinema history (a drunk playing a drunk)? It's up there.

54:56 Tom Hanks as Uncle Ned: Man, the reaction to our Uncle Ned bit on Twitter was phenomenal! Apparently Generation X was collectively scarred by watching Alex P. Keaton get launched across a room by a DT'ing Tom Hanks. HE SPOKE IN FRONT OF THE WORLD BANK!

59:25 "Daddy, what's liquor?" So I made reference to the infamous and baffling "Daddy, what's Vietnam?" Time-Life commercial, which you can find here. Featuring Martin "Shit, I'm still only in Saigon" Sheen! Also, two of the best Kids in the Hall sketches having to do with drunks: Daddy drank! and Girl Drink Drunk!

1:01:20 "Why did we have Prohibition?" I know, I know, it's Ken Burns, but Prohibition was a pretty good look at the strains of political activism that led to the 18th Amendment.

1:01:55 The August Civic Holiday: Look at all these different local holidays! It's like "Wild Card: The Holiday!" I feel like Canada has been holding out on me; this makes you guys 43% more adorable!

[Rob: I actually misspoke: while, as Mike reveals, people have apparently been making cracks about lazy Catholics and "Saint Monday" for centuries, the Canadian nickname for the holiday in August is "Saint Civique," making it specifically a crack about French Catholics. And blandly named Canadian holidays.]

1:02:23 St. Monday, Decameron: So the reference to Italians having too many holidays is in The Decameron, Seventh Day, Second Story, where the ribald wife who's having an affair does not expect her husband home because both husband and wife forgot it was the saint's feast of the obscure St. Galeone/Eucalion.

1:03:30 Irish Sweepstakes/drinking: Sorry to get so personal with the alcohol stuff, but you grow up Irish, and this kind of thing is in your blood. I was indeed tee-total for quite a long time (NOT straight edge, by the way, as much as I wanted to be). The Irish Sweepstakes, though, that I can talk about freely. Before there were state lotteries in Massachusetts, you could play the ponies or the greyhounds, play the numbers or bet football with your friendly neighborhood bookmaker, or buy Irish Sweepstakes tickets.

1:08:46 The Finnish door-opening video: Watch it for yourself. I don't know whether this video has any real mind-erasing properties, so watch at your own risk. I'll let Rob post a picture of his dad from the late '70s so we can see any possible resemblances:

[Rob: We're through the looking glass here, people!]
1:10:13 Danny Devito on Taxi: You guys have seen my dad in Charles Manson mode, but by 1979 or so, he definitely looked more like Louie DePalma.

1:14:00 TV Guide article on the writer's room: Here's the great Jaime Weinman with a blockquote from the 1983 TV Guide article.

1:17:30 Carly Simon album covers: The cover of 1975's Playing Possum definitely shocked me. Very provocative indeed, to use the words of David St. Hubbins.

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