Wednesday, September 20, 2017

HMOTD 046: Are You Earth, Wind, or Fire?

Mike and Rob watch Venus & Herb go through "Changes," then donate some time to "Jennifer & Johnny's Charity."

(Full show notes appear at Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser two days after each episode is released. All audio clips are the properties of their owners/creators and appear in this work of comment and critique under fair use provisions of copyright law.)

Check out this episode!

Monday, September 18, 2017

"It's still a nice place to work."

The two WKRP episodes we're covering this week – "Changes" and "Jennifer and Johnny's Charity" – were a pleasant surprise, a pair of episodes that cover Important Issues but in a witty and subtle way. In "Changes," we observe a pair of identity crises as Venus agonizes over appearing "black enough" for an interview with a black magazine, while Herb decides to ditch the polyester and Get With The Eighties... at least for a little while. And in "Jennifer and Johnny's Charity," Jennifer and Johnny fight a proxy war over President Reagan's cuts to aid to the homeless and mentally ill and the place of private philanthropy and charity to fill the gap caused by Reaganomics.

We've talked about the back half of Season 3 and its run of issue-based episodes' sometimes heavy-handed look at current events. There's a much defter touch in these two Season 4 episodes, helped considerably by Tim Reid's chance to work alongside his longtime comic partner Tom Dreesen. But the one thing that came to my mind, especially at the beginning of "Changes" as we casually hang out with the WKRP staff and in "Jennifer and Johnny's Charity" as we watch the Big Guy play video baseball against Andy, is that these little character moments, this thoroughly earned comfort with these eight characters, will all soon be over for Rob and me, and this podcast.

I'm going to miss the Big Guy and Johnny and Jennifer and Bailey and Venus and Herb and Les and yes, even Andy in a few months when this podcast has wrapped. And that's making me treasure the little stuff, the subtle touches – all those quiet character moments – all the more.

When I think about big ensemble sitcom casts that earned this kind of easy, almost effortless depth of character, it's tough to come up with those that can match WKRP! Cheers, maybe. Those other '70s classics Taxi and Barney Miller have to be in the conversation. But when the writers of WKRP trust their actors and their audience with all that rich worldbuilding and continuity, all that depth of character, there was nothing like it on television.

After this week, we've got four pairs of WKRP episodes left and a couple of final podcasts to wrap this whole thing up. We'll also be talking more about The End of WKRP and What Happened to Everyone After the Show both this week and in the weeks to come. Until then, I'm going to try to savor it all as best I can.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Show Notes for HMOTD 045: Are Those Crab Puffs?

3:27 Koko's death scene: Dave's big dramatic death scene in the second episode of the Yacht Rock webseries, which I also included because it hits so many elements of how awesome YR's Christopher Cross character is (thanks to the innocent hayseed portrayal of Rick & Morty's Justin Roiland). But yeah, I too heard this song in my childhood dreams, Koko.

4:57 Divorcecore: Here's the episode of BYR that I think first hooked both Rob and me; such a genius concept made all the more powerful by again, the childhood nostalgia connected to these 1980s albums featuring newly-solo Baby Boomer artists who had been through personal and/or professional divorces.

5:08 Coupland's Generation X: Here's a tumblr that collects all of Coupland's definitions from Generation X, and here's the entry for "musical hairsplitting."

5:40 George Orwave: Such a fantastic episode of BYR and a genre that needed a name desperately. (The video for top George Orwave track "Somebody's Watching Me" by Rockwell received an exhibit writeup at We Are The Mutants, by the way.)

7:13 Interview with Michael McDonald: I can't imagine what it was like for the Yacht Rock crew to see this interview only a year or two after the webseries wrapped. Also worth reading, and I know I've linked to it before, but this Rolling Stone oral history of Yacht Rock is great and has the "Showbiz Kids" story, which always elicits a smile. RIP Walter Becker, by the way.

7:45 "A handful of Porcaros": A great excuse to use the "my brothers in Toto" moment from Yacht Rock 4. If you aren't familiar with the history of Toto, they're not only session musician prodigies but three members of the band are the sons of legendary Wrecking Crew member Joe Porcaro. Here's a great LA Weekly piece about how the Wrecking Crew era naturally led into the Yacht Rock era.

10:22 Theme song to Dallas: Let's nerd out about '80s TV themes for just a moment. The Dallas theme was written by composer Jerrold Immel and he's kind of a one-hit wonder TV theme-wise, although he did do the themes for Dallas spinoff Knots Landing and a personal scifi favorite of my childhood, Voyagers!

11:38 Marina Rock: And here's a third episode of BYR for you to check out: Dave's genre of Marina Rock.

12:20 Retail Rock: I gotcha back on this one, fam: an site full of tapes from the late '80s/early '90s played over the PA at K-Mart stores. I've spent more time than I care to admit here.

14:57 "A Marina Rock Linda Ronstadt": I haven't stopped laughing at this since we recorded this episode a month ago: good one, Rob.

17:20 I Am Not A Stalker: Holy crap, this site is amazing; here's the "movie locations" section.

18:45 "Everybody had to bring someone on the Dip list": I only realized after recording this episode that this is a pretty common trope in a bunch of movies: Dogfight, a great little indie flick from 1991 with Lili Taylor and River Phoenix, and the French farce Le Dîner de Cons and the American remake Dinner for Schmucks (thanks to my wife Jenny for the reminder on this one).

24:45 The Big Guy's mascot costume: So satisfying to be able to reasonably surmise that the Big Guy made the WKRP Carp. Our discussion of sports mascots in the late '70s is back in HMOTD 011 Pig vs. Fish. A good episode to listen to if you're new to the podcast, by the way.

26:45 "The Baby": Discussed in our classic "Real Families"/"The Baby" episode with Leah Biel. Definitely for my money the high point of the Arthur/Carmen relationship; Gordon Jump's portrayal of a nervous middle-aged dad-to-be is a near perfect blend of comedy and drama.

28:15 "What'd you think? Little Carmen was trackin' The Moose?" Gotta give Hank the Hunk credit, that's a great turn of phrase. And Alice Nunn's cackle just perfectly brackets this scene, as I mention later.

31:45 Dave's "dumb show for smart people/smart show for dumb people" theory: One of my personal highlights of this episode. I have never liked Frasier, honestly, for just the reasons Dave discusses here. And yeah, MTM shows took the silly sitcom format and did something new and deeper with it, as we've discussed in earlier podcast episodes.

37:38 Alice Nunn: Thanks to Dave for bringing us the genius of Alice Nunn. I had to use the entire Large Marge scene, by the way; it'd be no good without the "tell 'em Large Marge sent ya!" coda. Fun fact: Nunn's first film role was as a nurse in the classic Dalton Trumbo 1971 anti-war film Johnny Got His Gun, featured prominently and memorably in Metallica's first-ever music video, for "One" off ...And Justice For All.

41:23 Revenge of the Nerds/college comedies/snobs vs. slobs: Probably my favorite part of the episode is this section talking about the evolution of the underdogs vs. rich kids trope from a reliable standby for comedy to something that leaves us all a little cold. We didn't mention the Deltas in Revenge of the Nerds installing spycams in the goddamn sorority house, or the statutory rape in Animal House... the nerds are the villains now, but maybe they were all along.

43:45 “There are just five or six stories” [Rob:] I just want to salute Dave's confident assertion that there are only five or six basic plots, and "rich skier's Dad buys the mountain and threatens to kick off all the snowboarders" is one of them.

48:05 Bailey wants a computer: Here's a good vintage computer ad of the type I was thinking about, and here's a little of my writing at We Are The Mutants on old Texas Instruments computer books. Do you dig Halt and Catch Fire Season 1-style computer nerds? Check this site from the creators of VisiCalc.

58:38 Diet trends of the '80s: Check this timeline of fad diets: the Scarsdale Diet in '78, Dexatrim came out in '79, Jane Fonda's first video workout in '82, Jazzercise on video in '83, and AYDS got taken off the market in '88 thanks to declining sales for obvious reasons.

1:01:03 Diet pill scares: Here's a fantastic time capsule of a New York Times article from... yes, February 1982, right around the time this episode aired, about the active ingredient in Dexatrim at the time (and about a dozen other diet pills), phenylpropanolamine, or PPA, and a 26-year-old who suffered a stroke from pills containing PPA. PPA was finally banned in 2000 by the FDA after being held responsible for "200 to 500 strokes a year" in people between 18 and 49. Jesus.

1:02:15 "Jogging In A Jug": Nothing bonds any two Americans together quicker than making fun of Canadians. But alas, unlike milk in a bag, Jogging In A Jug is not Canadian; it's actually from Alabama. I like how Rob's defense of it not being Canadian is "It's a real thing!"

1:03:46 "Five hundred and seventy dollars." Damnit, Dave, you tricked us both. I thought this was some kind of obscure background research for Yacht Rock that stuck in your head 12 years later.

1:04:50 "Oh great. A drug expert!" Another L. Ron Bumquist moment, this time from Les.

1:05:30 “As Frank Zappa once said…” [Rob:] I’m sorry Les got cut off here; I wanted to hear what Zappa said! Probably he was going to refer to a PSA Frank made in the late 1960s about the dangers of amphetamine abuse.

1:07:25 "Another Merry Mixup": That title is horrible; it sounds like a lost Looney Tunes cartoon. Here's Jaime Weinman's write-up of the script, and here's a link back to HMOTD 007: Nowhere Band, where we cover the "The cocaine? It's on Carlson's feet!" coke payola episode.

1:08:49 Robert Ridgley: Yeah, I'm a fan. The Colonel James is one of the most delightfully disgusting film characters of the past three decades; I debated whether to use this scene ("Oh, you think so, Doctor?") or the scene where he inspects Dirk Diggler's... er, equipment, but I figured the coke overdose scene fit better with this episode being about drugs. Here's The Secret History of Paul Thomas Anderson with a little glimpse at young PTA being around these foul-mouthed hard-drinking comics and being inspired by them to create his cast of characters for Boogie Nights. Here's Ridgely as Boris; goddamn, Blazing Saddles is STILL funny. If you can stand '60s camp gay stereotypes, here's Ridgely in a commercial outtake from the 1960s. I could've sworn Ridgely had a bunch of cartoon outtakes as well, but I think I was confusing his role as Thundarr with the famous Thundercats outtakes.

1:11:48 Max Wright: Yeah, a tragic tale that does tie in well to our Paul Reubens porn theater episode. And as Dave mentions, if you're a famous dude who needs to stay in the closet in the '80s and '90s, you've got to be dealing with tons of internal conflict. Spoiler alert: we'll be seeing Max Wright's "blue-haired lawyer" character again this season.

1:15:55 Swearing on television in the '80s: Dave's totally right; the impulse to open up the cuss horizons on broadcast TV in the '80s was largely due to HBO's subscriber numbers; here's a good video history of cursing on American TV. And here's the D&D scene from E.T. (also 1982!)

1:18:53 "Turn Your Love Around": Certified ESSENTIAL Yacht hit from George Benson's 1981 hits compilation, The George Benson Collection. Here's the cover to Breezin' , one of my first vinyl purchases in my middle age. He's wearing a Herb Tarlek tux!

Among the rest of the music in this pair of episodes: Midnight Star's "Hold Out" and David Sanborn's "Carly's Song" from the booth scene with Venus, Jackie, and the Big Guy, and "The Old Songs," the Manilow song that Shout! Factory could not get permission for. Lighten up, Barry, sheesh.

1:25:18 End-of-show plugs: Dave's Twitter is at @David_B_Lyons and here's the Beyond Yacht Rock website at Feral Audio.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

HMOTD 045: Are Those Crab Puffs?

Mike and Rob welcome very special guest Dave Lyons from Yacht Rock and the Beyond Yacht Rock podcast to Hold My Order. The three of them go back to school with Arthur in "You Can't Go Out Of Town Again" and enter the sleazy world of early-'80s "Pills."

(Full show notes appear at Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser two days after each episode is released. All audio clips are the properties of their owners/creators and appear in this work of comment and critique under fair use provisions of copyright law.)

Check out this episode!

Monday, September 4, 2017

"I felt the raw power of really smooth music."

I tell this story in a little more detail on this week's podcast, but back in 2007, I saw on a friend's Livejournal a link to a ten-part web comedy series that would absolutely change my life. Yacht Rock charted the fictional rise and fall of the highly-trained, West Coast pop music that pretty much soundtracked my entire early childhood. Much as I do WKRP, I associate the music of Steely Dan, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, and Christopher Cross with a more innocent time in my life, when the stereo of our huge station wagon was always tuned to Top 40 radio and these guys dominated the charts with their signature smooth sound.

The Yacht Rock series's combination of lovingly comedic piss-taking and dead serious respect for the music pretty much won my heart from the get-go. I guess the impulse in diving back into this music from the late '70s and early '80s is pretty similar to Rob's and mine in starting Hold My Order. You take a piece of pop culture that loomed large in your childhood and you critically engage with it as an adult, ferreting out all the mysteries within. I am guessing that the Yacht Rock guys had a similar feeling in finding the connections between all those session players in the liner notes of old vinyl LPs that we might in, say, connecting Jane Addams to Edie McClurg.

Over the past decade I've taken a lot of pleasure in sharing the series with friends and family who I think will "get" both the humor and the appeal of the music the show featured. Also over that same decade, the genius of the series (and of giving a name to this genre of music) has been co-opted and pretty blatantly misunderstood by mediocre tribute bands, feckless satellite radio stations, and washed-up sports writers. (Sorry, Bill.)

Last year, four of the guys from the series started a podcast called Beyond Yacht Rock, where they do for other as-yet-undefined genres what they did for Yacht. Reconnecting with the music, getting a new favorite podcast, and meeting tons of Yacht Rock fans on the internet has been for me one of the brightest spots in what's been (for a lot of us I think) a pretty crappy last twelve months or so. Getting to know the Yacht Rock guys as they've graciously given me a chance to talk about Yacht as revolutionary force and to defend Billy Joel on their website has been even better.

So this week, join me in welcoming our very special guest, Koko Goldstein himself, David Lyons, to Hold My Order! Dave's kept the WKRP fires burning on the BYR podcast by prominently featuring Steve Carlisle's WKRP theme on one of their episodes, and when I found out he was a big fan of WKRP I knew I had to ask him aboard our vessel. Our episode drops as usual on Wednesday and it's a jampacked edition of the podcast, with all kinds of backstage Hollywood stories from Dave, as well as a look at two very good episodes of WKRP: "You Can't Go Out Of Town Again" and "Pills."