Friday, December 25, 2015

Show Notes for HMOTD 019: The Year WKRP Saved Christmas

0:00 Our intro: Rob believes doing comedy does not "play to our strengths," but I dunno... I like any opportunity to be goofy on this podcast. I'm looking at you, Matt Grasso.

3:00 "Bah, Humbug": Our podcast for Season 3 episode "Bah, Humbug" will likely be airing sometime in summer, so that'll be a nice Christmas-in-July type event for you all to look forward to.

7:48 1980s Christmas Albums: I think if you are a child of the 80s, you will know what I mean here. The CD that spun constantly in the late 80s in my house? A Very Special Christmas, with the Keith Haring art on the front.

8:08 British Christmas #1s: Okay, here's how Wikipedia tries to explain the "Christmas Number One" phenomenon. My wife is desperate to find a Top of the Pops 2 Christmas compilation that can be viewed in the States, so if you have a lead on that, let me know!

Speaking of which, here's a sampling of what you can expect from these Top of the Pops 2 retro compilation Christmas episodes: "The episode featured previously lost footage of David Bowie performing 'The Jean Genie' from Top of the Pops in 1973, some rarely seen footage of Ringo Starr romping in the snow performing his solo hit 'It Don't Come Easy' as well as classic festive songs by Slade, Shakin' Stevens and the Pogues with Kirsty MacColl."

By the way, I was wrong about the irony (yes, they do authentically love 1970s Christmas glam) and I did get yelled at for getting the title of Wizzard's 1974 classic "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday (sic)" wrong. You can view the video here to see what I'm talking about. It's weird, right?

Um, merry Christmas, Jenny!

10:50 John Hughes movie with Jan Smithers: Can we fantasy-cast this one? Jan Smithers as the protagonist coming home for Christmas, John Candy as the uncle, maybe Paul Dooley and Beverly d'Angelo as the nosey parents, Alan Ruck as the depressed younger brother and Anthony Michael Hall as the geeky younger brother, Joan Cusack as Jan's old high school friend... title can be "Sweet Home Chicago" or something. Boom. Yes, I realize realistically all those actors' ages might be wrong for a mid-80s Jan Smithers vehicle, but hey, it's my fantasy all-star John Hughes movie cast.

18:45 A Christmas Story: Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon, what a lovely final scene with them switching on the big console radio and sitting in the glow of the Old Man's carefully-selected tree. I'm so glad I've come back around on A Christmas Story.

22:45 A Charlie Brown Christmas: I also hadn't rewatched A Charlie Brown Christmas in ages before this podcast and yeah... I read those little Peanuts collections religiously in my youth and I wonder why I was always such a gloomy depressed kid. Jeez, Chuck, cheer up for Christ's sake.

24:00 Heat Miser: That song is WAY too earwormy. But yes, the Rankiverse is presented here in the Wikipedia entry. And Heat Miser's song about a green Christmas is particularly fitting in our 21st century global warming-inflicted holiday season; the forecast says Boston is getting a 70° Christmas Day. Remember kids, Carl Sagan says in a greenhouse climate, the chief precipitant would be rain, not snow. That's not right!

26:35 Horsin' Around: Bojack Horseman incisively reminding us why Christmas episodes are awful. *coff coff*

30:54 Bing Crosby and David Bowie: Oh god the awkwardness it burns

32:55 A Very Murray Christmas: I'm resisting the Bill Murray special out of sheer cussedness. Y'all should let me know if it's a must-watch.

33:35 Festivus: Here's Dan O'Keefe the Elder's Wikipedia page, and a little background on the holiday's history.

36:15 "A level of seriousness applied to a sitcom which is by definition something to joke about..." LAMPSHADE ALERT

38:00 Santa at NORAD: The department store was a Sears!

[Edit: Aw man, I hate to be the guy to ruin Christmas, but The Atlantic takes a blowtorch to the undoubtedly CIA-directed mid-50s PR push of Colonel Shoup and the NORAD Santa Phone story.]

39:20 The Singing Dogs: Who's your favorite Singing Dog, guys? Also, excuse my out-of-nowhere dis of cats.

This mention of "Jingle Cats" would be a bad place to mention 17th century polymath Athanasius Kircher's "cat organ" and the Monty Python sketch based on it, right?

40:45 Winning Through Intimidation: Hey, this was a real book! The author, Robert Ringer, wrote books espousing that "liberty must be given a higher priority than all other objectives and that a laissez-faire free market is the clear solution to America's economic troubles." Yep, right on for Les.

44:00 "Sparky": There's an ongoing joke making fun of Sparky's (nick)name throughout this episode, which I have to wonder how he took. Also, much like "Bad Risk," I think "Sparky" ended up getting partially rehabilitated in my eyes, especially as I listened to this episode with my parents on the way back from our Christmas luncheon and they cracked up at EVERY clip from the episode. Sparky is pretty funny for an amateur in this episode, I will give him that.

48:25 The Cisco Kid: You can watch the entire episode of "Cisco Kid" here. We should also mention that Kampmann and Torokvei were assisted by an up-and-comer named Martin Short in this endeavor. I'm wondering who was the first person to do a re-dub like this; was it indeed Woody Allen's What's Up Tiger Lily?, or is there an earlier example? I remember there was an L.A. comedy troupe in the 80s who did something called "Mad Movies" as well.

50:10 PJ Torokvei: You know, I'm sure we'll talk more about the late PJ Torokvei and her story, especially when we get to "Hotel Oceanview" (which was co-written by Steve Kampmann), but I'd really like to point out this touching remembrance of her from her friend Stan Brooks, a TV writer and producer.

51:27 "The Bullpen": Jaime Weinman lets us know that two of these callers were, in fact, Steven Kampmann and Peter Torokvei. Hilarious.

55:28 Derek Dougal and the Cincinnati Skids: Hey, they used a version of the name of the real indoor soccer team in Cincinnati; they were actually called the Cincinnati Kids, which somehow manages to be even worse than the "Skids." They were owned by none other than Pete Rose. The Cincinnati Kids lasted for exactly one season, 1978-79.

Sparky's line read of "What are the rules?!" in this scene kills me, by the way. He's so excited to have something to talk about!

57:38 British sitcoms/American game shows: Had a random Facebook conversation this week about the UK sitcom/U.S. game show thing, using Blockbusters as an example. This game show lasted only a couple of years in the U.S. but became a veritable institution in the UK.

1:00:15 Breakfast foods equivalents for the WKRP cast: The only things we were able to come up with on our family drive is that Jennifer is a grapefruit half with a cherry, and Bailey is granola.

1:01:25 Wingy Manone's "Tar Paper Stomp": Weird fact: it was one of New Orleans's famed streetcars that took Wingy's arm.

1:03:50 Jerry Vale/Gary U.S. Bonds: I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the odd confluence between this episode of HMOTD and our talk about Jerry Vale and the Goodfellas Minute podcast's recent look at the Jerry Vale performance in Goodfellas. He does sing like an angel.

1:06:14 Miller Lite commercials: I fell down a HUGE rabbit hole when I was trying to find Miller Lite commercials for this episode; I remember them faintly from childhood, but man, much like the Rankiverse, there was a whole series of these things with the same star-studded cast! Bob Uecker! Bubba "Hightower" Smith! Dick Butkus! John Madden! MICKEY SPILLANE?! This minute-long one set at the "Miller Lite open" is, I feel, the Woodstock of these Miller Lite ads. Watch for Rodney Dangerfield's arrival in the second half as a meta-commentary on his outsized 1985 career peak.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

HMOTD 019: The Year WKRP Saved Christmas

Well, "Jennifer's Home for Christmas" and Rob and Mike are feeling festive; not even "Sparky" can dim the holiday joy! Fisher King bless us, every one!

(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, December 21, 2015

Happy Holidays! When are they over again?

So after editing this week's Very Special holiday episode of Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser, there was just one thing we couldn't figure out: what to title it! Usually we use a memorable line from one of the two episodes of WKRP and leave it at that. But with "Jennifer's Home For Christmas" and "Sparky" we maaaaaybe didn't have the usual panoply of lines and catchphrases to choose from.

In "Jennifer's Home For Christmas" we see the hustle and bustle of the modern world and the stress of those two weeks before Christmas laid out clearly, robbing some of our friends at WKRP of their Christmas spirit. And I'll be honest, I was feeling pretty much the exact same way this Christmas. There's always so much to do, so much shopping to be done, so much planning... and all with something like 2 or 3 hours total of daylight every day. (I'm no astronomer, that may be an exaggeration.) Editing the podcast was only one of many Christmassy labors this year.

So finally, I sat down to the listen to the episode. And even after all that editing, I listened to the clips from the WKRP episode, and then us talking about our childhood Christmas memories, and our memories of Christmas television specials and cartoons and music, and... well, my cold dead heart grew at least three sizes right there, purely from jaded Gen-X nostalgia. It was finally Christmas.

And apparently Rob had a similar experience while listening to the episode; thanks to WKRP, the Christmas spirit finally took hold in both our holiday-harried hearts. So in honor of those cheesy 1970s and 1980s Christmas specials from our tube-addled childhoods, what other title could we eventually settle on than Rob's suggestion of... "The Year WKRP Saved Christmas." Fisher King bless us, every one!

We'll see you on Christmas Eve Eve!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Show Notes for HMOTD 018: We Are Definitely Talking Cordoba

0:30 Intros. Oh, SideSHOW Bob.

4:18 FM. Guys, I love Steely Dan. Much as Rob tearfully and bravely confessed last season to liking country music, I love all this smooth shit from the 70s, unreservedly. Sure, a campy throwback-loving Generation-Xer such as myself might come at it sideways ironically through Yacht Rock. But then pretty soon, much like the creators of Yacht Rock, you're drawn in by the technical excellence and out-of-this-world smoothness of Messrs. Fagen and Becker. So I've been waiting and waiting to get the Dan on the podcast. FM is a weird little artifact, especially the soundtrack, which, as the commercial says, features tons of live performances caught on film. Apparently the commercial didn't rate Tom Petty and REO Speedwagon, which kind of makes sense in '78. The single, "FM (No Static at All)," was recorded in the same series of sessions that produced Steely Dan's legendary Aja. "FM (No Static at All)" saw Steely Dan put away their knives and record with The Eagles, no matter if the neighbors were listening or not.

4:50 The HMOTD Live broadcast! Hey, did you miss the live show the first time out? Don't worry, you weren't alone. But you can listen to it on our mixlr channel. The broadcast is in two parts here. And watch that space! It's our own live internet radio station and might be active at some point in the future...

5:30 Captain Mikey.
The story of Mikel Hunter and the Iranian radio station is pretty fantastic. Here's a set of broadcast clips from that period on NIRT. [Rob: Wow, those clips are great, and very WKRP-esque. Wish I had tracked them down to include in the episode. Something cool and surreal about hearing Wolfman Jack doing a shoutout to all his Iranian friends.]

11:10 ¿Quien es Mas Macho? This clip works great not just for this episode and the discussion of Ricardo Montalbán but also for HMOTD 016: Muy Dinero and our discussion of 70s hunks and macho.

13:05 Ricardo Montalbán and The Cordoba. Okay, first erratum this week: it was the Chrysler Cordoba, not Chevrolet. My mistake.

Some stuff on Ricardo Montalbán: his quite lengthy career encapsulates all the contradictions and challenges of being an "ethnic" actor in a less enlightened age. I remember a few months ago watching one of those retro satellite channels and seeing a Hawaii Five-O episode in which we are asked to buy him as a Japanese crime lord. Ugh. But he fought hard for Latino and Mexican representation and respect in Hollywood at a time when this kind of activism wasn't always smiled upon.

On the automobile front, '79 was the last year of the classic giant Cordoba; in the 80s, fuel efficiency concerns shrunk the Cordoba to a mid-size sedan... by modern standards anyway. Back in 1980, this was practically a compact. And yes, you should watch the original 1975 commercial. It's a trip. While we're 70s SNL-adjacent, these type of commercials always remind me of the SNL "Royal Deluxe II" commercial. [Rob: Yes, if you watch the whole commercial, the final title card makes a point of saying (in over-the-top calligraphy) "Cordoba: The Small Chrysler."]

[Edit: Hey, listener Cathy Sandifer helps us out, finding a commercial for the smaller 1980 Cordoba! "I like what they've done to my car." Sorry, Ricardo, you're a great actor but I'm not buying it. And that poor automobile engineer; he reminds me of the "scientician" from the Troy McClure educational film. "Uh."]

17:20 Arbitron. Here's a quick look at the corporate history of Arbitron.

20:35 Music ratings and Soundscan. Another little erratum: Soundscan (begun in March 1991, and the Billboard Hot 100 started using it in November 1991) didn't take effect the very week that Nevermind took over Number 1 from Michael Jackson's Dangerous (and notably Garth Brooks as well, January 1992), but Soundscan did play a big role in that sea change in the complexion (so to speak) of the Top 40 in late 1991 and early 1992.

21:21 Racial disparities in the census: A quick hit on how the U.S. Census continues to undercount racial minorities.

24:22 DJ 3000: Well, hot dog, we have a wiener! Never gets old.

24:55 M.A.M.M.A. Don't Allow No Guitar Players In Here. [Rob: Another erratum, and this one is on me. I have a vivid memory in my head of John Denver joining forces with the Electric Mayhem to drive M.A.M.M.A. to self-destruction, Kirk or Number Six style--but apparently that memory is a Nowhere Band / Don Pesola style hallucination: it was Dudley Moore, not John Denver, who brought the Music and Mood Management Apparatus to the Muppet Show, and Dudley was in league with M.A.M.M.A., not its enemy. How on earth did those wires get crossed? (As you can see, M.A.M.M.A. is pretty transparently a reskinned R2 unit--Kermit even calls it "a fugitive from Star Wars." Here's M.A.M.M.A's big musical number.)

27:15 Nielsen Boxes: A few weeks ago, I did yet another in my series of TV Guide close readings on my Facebook. In this particular issue there was an ad, repeated several times, for a news story on the nightly news about a box that could "make you one of the most powerful families in New England." It was weird-looking, with a bunch of multi-pin sockets, and while my instinct screamed Nielsen box, it didn't look quite right. Well, leave it to Friend of the Podcast and guest host Chris Tatro to find that it was indeed a Nielsen box, and that Nielsen boxes have always been frickin' gorgeous pieces of retrotech. Check out that link to the 1970s and this one to the 1980s in Nielsen's history.

29:43 Max Headroom: Wow, what is there to say about the Max Headroom TV series on ABC? There was a moment, kids, in the late 80s/early 90s, when ABC did some weird shit on TV. Between Max Headroom, Twin Peaks, and the sorta underrated Wild Palms, ABC was definitely on the cutting edge, taking chances, laying the groundwork a generation before the New Golden Age of TV. Max Headroom was undoubtedly my first exposure to the cyberpunk genre, and I honestly don't want to know what William Gibson would think of that. On that note, yeah, Rob got some good "ratings" on this Tweet, and justifiably so.

41:05 Barbara Walters/Local women broadcasters: We didn't include a clip from Anchorman but you can slot your own favorite one with Christina Applegate in here. Say what you want about Will Farrell and Adam McKay, but at the core of the silliness of Anchorman was a real story about how local television news changed in the mustache-and-sportscoat era to allow for women reporters and eventually anchors to take the stage.

43:13 NPR Voice/This American Life/Ira Glass: So my tiny brush with NPR fame is that for about a year back in the early 00s, I was a web intern at WBEZ in Chicago. (LONG story.) I saw George Wendt in the hallway one day and saw Ira at the office Christmas party once... and yeah, that's pretty much all the brushes with fame I had there.

44:50 Alec Baldwin: Delicious Dish: definitely an underrated series of SNL sketches.

46:00 Received Pronunciation: One of my favorite Received Pronunciation references was in Will Self's future dystopia The Book of Dave where the people in the provinces speak "Mokni" and the priestly caste in "Nu Lundun" speak "Arpee." And as far as the "generic Iowa newscaster's accent," it's called "General American" which is just great.

47:35 Vocal fry: Here's a good look at vocal fry from NPR's Fresh Air, and Naomi Wolf's controversial Lean In-esque anti-vocal fry Guardian piece.

[Rob: And here's the NYT story on NPR voice, the vocal fry segment of TAL, the episode with Fred Armisen as Ira's doppelganger, the episode of Alec Baldwin's Here's The Thing with Ira.]

50:00 Valley Girl speech: We all say "awesome" and "like" now, and a lot of us uptalk now... it's true, and has been true for 30+ years.

54:00 Monetary Policy in the United States: Here's Thomas Mayer, and of course that clip is Ben Stein, another casualty of the Nixon/Ford White House. The less said about Ben Stein over the past decade-plus, the better.

56:00 Coffee Commercial/Wonder Bread: The original Yuban coffee commercial from '72, and Rob's Wonder Bread ad from 1929 below. We need more treasures of this kind from your hard drive, Rob!

Here's the Wonder Bread ad, along with an equally shady "prey on your insecurities" ad for Listerine, both reproduced in Roland Marchand's Advertising the American Dream.
59:13 Porkopolis: [Rob: The book to read on these topics is William Cronon's Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. It's a massive, magisterial work of business and environmental history and the chapter on meat will simultaneously enlighten and nauseate you. Not a quick read, but I learned more from it about how the machine that is America actually works than from umpteen presidential biographies.]

1:04:49 Alternate History: [Rob: To tie this back to another recurring theme on our podcast, the history of American comedy, if we came up with a pork-centric alternate history where Cincinnati became the second city of the United States, would it also become the home of Second City?] Mike: That is totally what I'm sayin'!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

HMOTD 018: We Are Definitely Talking Cordoba

Mike & Rob talk Max Headroom, the ratings game, pork packing, and a surprising amount of Ira Glass, along with the WKRP episodes "Baby, If You've Ever Wondered" and "Bailey's Big Break."

(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, December 7, 2015

Old & Non-Noteworthy: Ratings in the Post-Max Headroom Future

In our podcast dropping on Wednesday, which covers the WKRP episodes "Baby, If You've Ever Wondered" and "Bailey's Big Break," we talk a lot about the ratings systems used by radio and TV throughout their history. It's a topic of particular historic obsession for me, as you'll find out in the podcast.

And while a lot of things have radically changed in the media landscape in the last 35 years, there is still an impulse and an implied need for programs to be ranked, quantified, and rated. Sure, there's millions of channels of content out there on YouTube, the iTunes Store, and the web at large instead of just three networks, but the principle is still the same. In fact, I'd go so far to say that we've finally reached that dream/nightmare posited by 1980s cult TV show Max Headroom, of constant live updated ratings.

I'm not the only one to have noticed how we've slipped into that Max Headroom future. This article by Annalee Newitz, late of io9 and Gizmodo, takes a look at how we got a dystopian media/cyberpunk future when we weren't looking. And when you think about pageviews and downloads as the ultimate live rating system, you realize that like any other system, it can be gamed. Sure, YouTube has created countless independent media stars in the last half-decade or so. But there are also online venues where the system's quirks favor certain very loud megaphones over the little guy.

And I say this with a large amount of self-awareness and irony! When we decided that the three iTunes Store categories for HMOTD should be "TV & Film," "History," and "Comedy," I was going under the naive, non-podcast-listener supposition that Rob and I are pretty funny guys with an occasionally amusing podcast, and thus we fit best there. And then I decided to visit the Comedy page and was confronted with a wall full of professional comedians with powerhouse podcast networks. We never even came close to New & Noteworthy there. Consider this our own personal "debuting at 8 o'clock on Monday nights" launch hurdle.

In your face, Anna Faris!
But despite that, what a run we've had while eligible for New & Noteworthy! Sustained stays at the top of TV & Film and History in both the U.S. and Canada, and a few flirtations with the top of New & Noteworthy overall in Canada! Tons of you have discovered us in our first couple of months on iTunes thanks to this exposure, so I guess we can't complain too much about how New & Noteworthy works. It got us in front of a whole lot of new people! For those of you who joined us in the past eight weeks, thanks again for reaching out, posting on our Facebook page, and retweeting us on Twitter.

But in the next few days, we're likely going to be dropping from eligibility in the "New" part of "New & Noteworthy." I'm not under any illusions that we'll ever qualify for "Noteworthy" without some kind of out-of-left-field celebrity endorsement, so this may be the last week you see Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser on the front page of TV & Film on iTunes. After this, we're going to need you, our loyal listeners, to keep spreading the word! Friends from other podcasts have been talking us up on Twitter, and we've had recently some enormous gains in our Facebook page membership. Keep letting people know about the podcast! iTunes has gotten us started, now it's up to you to keep us going!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Show Notes for HMOTD 017: Alone On A Rainy Parched Beach

0:00 Mike Fright: We had to cut a fairly substantial bit from this week's podcast looking at the AV Club's selection of "Mike Fright" as their "Very Special Episode" of WKRP, their consultation of WKRP-on-the-internet legend Jaime Weinman for choosing this episode, and our minor qualms with the choice of "Mike Fright." We will, at some point I hope, spend a good chunk of time on air talking about Weinman and all the work he's done, but suffice to say if you wanted to see episodes of WKRP in anything close to their original form prior to the Shout! Factory DVD, you needed Weinman's painstaking reconstructions of them.

5:55 The Merchant of Venice Pawn Shops: Again, Frank Bonner takes his 45 seconds to explain a new client and kills it. We both loved the bit that the owner of the Merchant of Venice Pawn Shops will settle for "The Battle of the Green Berets" if WKRP can't do the national anthem.

6:45 Elgar Neece and his phone: Well, Elgar's "mobile" phone with the curly cord and the regular handset is actually completely plausible. They were called "Attaché Phones," and were invented in the late '60s by a little outfit called Melabs, a subsidiary of Smith Corona, the typewriter company. The briefcase phone technology was later obtained by Livermore Labs. Look at these beauties! All that solid state technology! Handsets with rotary dials! Little blinking lights! All lower-case brand name inscriptions. So gorgeously retro.

8:20 Ohio's Tavern: Okay, so let's unpack all the references in this little section. The Hardhat Riot was the event in the aftermath of the Kent State shootings, where blue-collar workers busted the heads of student protestors in New York City who... tried to get into City Hall.

Fern bars were the garishly decorated, cocktail-serving pick-up joints that were all the rage in the 70s; kind of weird to realize that they were started by the opening of the first T.G.I. Friday's and that fern bars went down some kind of evolutionary blind alley to become those omnipresent chains where you can find "good food, good fun, and a whole lot of crazy crap on the walls!" The Regal Beagle, of course, was the beachfront dive/singles bar in Three's Company.

And the rec center in Dazed and Confused, a place where older teens and young adults could hang out, bring a sixer of Lone Star, and play some pool, foosball or pinball. Sorry, that scene where McConaughey opens the door to the soundtrack of Dylan's "Hurricane"... just classic.

10:15 Two bits: You know, earlier in this episode we see Johnny and Venus checking off their college football betting cards. I can't imagine Venus would've not realized that they were talking about dollars and not cents. Andy, now that I could believe.

Also, if like me you've always wondered why two bits equals 25 cents, well, it all goes back to pieces of eight.

14:45 Rocky: Yeah, in late 1979 Rocky II had been the big film of the summer. Does Rocky II's having Rocky actually beat Apollo Creed undercut the subversiveness of the ending of the original Rocky where Rocky merely goes the distance? There's probably a corollary theory to our Carter-Reagan observations that the Rocky series simply echoes what's going on in pop culture at the time. I want to somehow equate Rocky doing a crossover wrestling bout with Thunderlips (Hulk Hogan) in Rocky III as a metaphor for Reagan firing the air traffic controllers, but that might be a reach.

16:50 "Mythology and Jerry Springer..." I finally got Sifl and Olly into the podcast, guys!

17:30 "This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen..." Few things on a guy I think Rob and I both really love, Orson Welles. If you need a primer on The War of the Worlds broadcast, the Wikipedia entry is a good start. The book I had as a kid was called The Panic Broadcast, by Howard Koch. It not only had the story of the broadcast and the script, but lots of material on the aftermath.

Friend of the podcast Leah Biel lets us know on our Facebook page that WKRP's "Turkeys Away" aired on CBS, the same network, 40 years to the day after The War of the Worlds broadcast. Awesome fact.

And at 21:37, you get to hear Orson Welles be just about as perfectly Orson Welles as he can be, playing the wily trickster and raconteur from his underrated 1973/1975 classic F For Fake.

23:40 Jean Shepherd and I, Libertine: The I, Libertine hoax actually happened in the mid-1950s, during Shepherd's real underground years on New York radio. His fans, the "Night People," were a fanatical bunch. Steely Dan's Donald Fagen wrote this bittersweet remembrance of being one of those fans and the disappointment that came as he grew older and saw through Shepherd's schtick.

A little side note: another of these New York underground DJs of the time, Bob Fass, subject of a great recent documentary called Radio Unnameable, was the heir to Shepherd's audience as, Fagen says in the above article, "the cool early '60s were over and the boiling, psychedelic late '60s had begun." Anyway, in Fass's Wikipedia entry you can find this ("citation needed") tidbit, which ties into Network later.
[Fass] also plays a major role in Marc Fisher's book, Something In The Air, which covers radio's impact in the post-TV years. The Washington Post columnist describes how the "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!" scene in the film, Network, grew out of an actual incident when WOR's Jean Shepherd exhorted his listeners to throw open their windows, stick out their heads, and shout, "Excelsior!"
25:24 Network: So much to say about Network. I was thinking I should apologize for using the entire clip of Howard Beale's fiery rant, but it's just impossible to cut. Every word is perfect. Another piece of media I saw early in life that I didn't fully understand at the time. I recently read David Itzkoff's Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies, a superb quick read on the stories of all the principals of the making of Network, especially Paddy Chayefsky's travails in writing (and essentially directing) the film and Peter Finch, who played Howard Beale, and his sudden death after the movie was a hit.

[Rob: Eagle-eared FOTP Leah Biel points out that that is Peter Finch, not William Holden, ranting as Howard Beale. Good catch, Leah. (Holden plays his boss.)]

30:15 Fight Back with David Horowitz: Yeah! I remember David Horowitz very well. The show even started in the late 1970s, no doubt inspired by Ralph Nader's movement for consumer rights. It started as a local show in the 1970s and went syndicated in 1980. A lot of local stations had investigative, "I-Team" type reporters, and David Horowitz was lucky enough to be that guy in Los Angeles where he could get a syndication deal.

[Rob: Suckers they be saying they can take out David Horowitz...]

33:40 Patter of Little Feet: [Rob: Apparently, this episode was, or at least might have been, inspired by Gordon Jump's real-life marriage. Here's Jump, as quoted in Michael Kassel's America's Favorite Radio Station:
"My wife and I, at that point in time, were sort of fun, crazy people, you know, and we didn't know that we were being observed as we were coming out the studio one night. We went dancing down the street together. You know, sort of a la Gene Kelly and Singin' in the Rain, and we were just sort of whistling along and swinging our hands and doing little dance steps going down the street."
"Behind us was [episode writer] Blake Hunter, and he was watching what we were doing. And the idea, I think, of middle-aged people having those sort of close relationships--I think it stimulated a thought process in him and it wasn't long before they were telling us about this show they had in mind."
How cute is that, fellow Arthur/Carmen lovers?]

37:32 "They have a really active social life!" I love this scene. Also, I'm pleased in retrospect to hear that the live studio audience's delayed reaction to the "Maybe it was that night Anson Williams hosted The Tonight Show" comment means I wasn't alone in puzzling out what that reference meant. I also wish we had room to use the scene where Jennifer, Bailey, and Les (!!!) tease Herb about his sexual conservatism vis-à-vis Arthur and Carmen.

39:35 The Tonight Show guest hosts: Johnny Carson didn't entrust his sacred desk to just anyone, guys.

[Rob: No, just Kenny Rogers, George Carlin, Helen Reddy, David Brenner, Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, Roy Clark, Steve Martin, Tom Smothers, Rich Little, Robert Klein, Don Rickles, David Steinberg, Gabe Kaplan, Orson Welles (!), John Davidson, Burt Reynolds, McLean Stevenson, Rob Reiner, Sammy Davis Jr., Beverly Sills, John Denver, Martin Mull, Harvey Korman, David Letterman, Richard Dawson, Bert Convy, and Kermit the Frog. And that is just the list for 1978-1979.]

46:20 Maude: "Maude's Dilemma" aired in November 1972, two months before the Roe v. Wade decision, during Maude's first season! Just like "Les on a Ledge" and "Who Is Gordon Sims." This Chicago Tribune article from 1992 is a good summary of the issues and controversy around abortion on TV, both in 1972 and 1992. Part 1 and Part 2 of "Maude's Dilemma" are available on YouTube, for now.

49:49 "Tell her about Korea." Silent Generation and Generation X come head to head in Freaks and Geeks, hilarity ensues. The body language of everyone in that scene, so delightfully awkward. Joe Flaherty is definitely the underrated comedy power in Freaks and Geeks.

51:45 The mid-70s birth trough: This article and chart speaks volumes. The only comparable birth trough was the one during the Great Depression, which led to the Silent Generation. Curious.

53:27 Plate of shrimp: I include this famous clip from Repo Man for three reasons: 1) Miller here is talking about the pattern recognition/apophenia aspect that Rob talks about with respect to generational analysis, 2) Miller and Otto very nicely demonstrate the hippie-Boomer/Generation X difference in mentality, and 3) the fact that in the past two weeks I've been editing this podcast, Rob and I have observed "plate of shrimp"/Baader Meinhof Phenomenon-type coincidences happening all over the place.

Also, I should not neglect to mention something we missed during "The Contest Nobody Could Win": the real Donald Pesola in both versions of the episode is played by Tracey Walter, Miller-from-Repo Man himself. #plateofshrimp [Rob: Thanks to FOTP Ned Codd for pointing that out.]

54:07 Howe and Strauss: We've talked about them before, but Howe and Strauss's 1991 book Generations was the first work of theirs to posit a repeating four-generation cycle throughout American history. And as we've mentioned in both the past and in this episode, Josh Glenn's Hilobrow site has a great, more granular division of generations. In this scheme, Rob is a Reconstructionist and I am a Revivalist, who are known to be "precocious and earnest, entrepreneurial, and dedicated to renewing bygone cultural forms and franchises." Wow.

55:10 Douglas Coupland: I think I'm also of that age where Coupland's first few novels, specifically Generation X and Microserfs, were hugely influential on my college years. In Generation X, Coupland posits that the "Nintendo-wave" Gen-Xers will become a generation of "Global Teens," a term quite wittily co-opted by Gary Shteyngart in his novel Super Sad True Love Story (which we mentioned in the last episode's Show Notes as an American economic dystopia) for the name of the Facebook/Twitter/Tinder/Yelp equivalent in his novel's 2030s future.

57:05 Logan's Run: Hey, speaking of which, Logan's Run predicted Tinder! Logan "swiped right" on Jenny Agutter on "the Circuit." Who wouldn't, honestly. In all seriousness, this clip was included a) because 1970s film trailers are SO overblown, as we saw with Earthquake back in HMOTD 006, and b) the Logan's Run future is such a great précis of that 1960s and 1970s idea/fear of a young adult-centered society.

59:48 "Whoa, hey, lay off, pops!": I love this sketch. It encapsulates all the generational hair-splitting I tend to do. What could be more Generation X-in-the-90s than Bob reading a paper copy of The Onion and David wearing a Buffalo Tom t-shirt?

1:01:15 "This blue CD..." Weezer! Coming full circle from the first episode of the podcast and our riff on KISS.

1:01:26 "One day... you'll be cool." "Honey... they're on pot."

1:07:05 Diff'rent Strokes's "The Bicycle Man": Another profoundly sexually uncomfortable 1980s sitcom episode, along with Too Close For Comfort's "For Every Man There's Two Women" and Small Wonder's "The Bad Seed."

1:08:20 The Cincinnati Triangle: First things first... you like our new in-show bumper for our semi-regular Cincinnati Triangle segment? That is the awesome Ghost Box band The Advisory Circle with "Everyday Hazards," which has a lovely 1970s paranormal documentary feel to it, don't you think? Further information on bonefish: many South American bony fish have electrical fields! Rob brings us word of his colleague Bill Turkel's work on electric fish and their role in the history of human research into electricity, Spark From the Deep. And lastly, Deep Ones are the horrifying aquatic race from H.P. Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Sorry, Big Guy, but we must leave no stone unturned in our search for the truth.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

HMOTD 017: Alone On A Rainy Parched Beach

Rob & Mike experience the power of radio in "Mike Fright" and meet Carmen Carlson in "Patter of Little Feet."

(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, November 23, 2015

We're the MTV Generation. We feel neither highs nor lows.

"Oh, here comes that cannonball guy. He's cool."
"Are you being sarcastic, dude?"
"I don't even know anymore."

Our upcoming episode uses the WKRP Season 2 episode "Patter of Little Feet," and the impending birth of the Big Guy and Carmen's daughter Melanie Carlson in 1980, as a springboard to go off one of the most possibly quintessentially narcissistic Generation X tangents: trying to define Generation X. You honestly can't get much more solipsistically Gen-X than that.

In the process, on this episode dropping Wednesday morning, I may have said some controversially exclusionary things toward a cohort of mid-to-late 30s individuals who routinely want to be counted as Gen-Xers as opposed to Millennials. I've seen them called Gen-Y or the Revivalists or even "Generation Catalano" (if you get that reference, you are undoubtedly a member). And for these individuals, despite what I say on the podcast, I should offer a fairly definitive apologia. In my Generation's house there are many mansions, and there is room there even for those of you who love Saved by the Bell and not The Brady Bunch.

"Yeah, I worked at a coffee shop, and I played with all these bands. We made this kind of music... it's really cool, it's like heavy metal music, but we just wear everyday clothes."

Mostly it was this article that convinced me; it posits the hinge point in Millennial-ness as the moment when the World Wide Web and mobile technology was second nature and built-in from childhood as opposed to something that was acquired. Yes, certain 35-year-olds can remember dial-up internet access, and payphones, and not being able to text their friends, and compact discs, and AOL chat rooms; I will absolutely concede this much. They are the last pre-internet generation.

It also makes me think that arbitrary year markers don't make the Generation; only time and history and cultural trends can determine where those invisible boundaries are. Sure, the Baby Boom is pretty clearly marked out by pure demographics, but who are the final Baby Boomers, anyway? Is the beginning of Generation X 1961? Maybe a little later? It's a tricky business.

"You seem very sweet. And you seem to like Dr. Zaius."

It's kind of what Rob talked about back in HMOTD 007: Nowhere Band about the 70s vs. the 80s. New decades don't begin on the stroke of midnight, January 1, 19x0. They creep in around the edges, maybe after the previous decade has hung around a couple of years past its expiration date. The same thing is true of generations. There are these interzones in the years where one generation bleeds into the other. This late 70s/early 80s birth cohort are one of those.

You'll see why we're talking so much about generations on Wednesday morning, as HMOTD 017 drops. It's a 70+ minute look at two rather good WKRP episodes that you can listen to on the way to your (U.S.) Thanksgiving dinner! Of course, if you'd prefer something a little more traditionally Thanksgiving, now's a great time to (re-)listen to our look at the WKRP classic "Turkeys Away" episode, HMOTD 004: I Thought Turkeys Could Fly.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Show Notes for HMOTD 016: Muy Dinero

2:30 "Les decides to make a late-night visit to Jennifer's apartment...": Probably one of the most memorable scenes from my childhood memories of WKRP, especially when Les tries to out-macho Steel with downing an entire martini. "All newsmen drink, Jennifer. That's the kind of rough and tumble guys we are." "Good night, and um... congratulations to the both of you on... your... very fine looks." And again, not to harp on the Les Nessman, Secret Bisexual Swinger thesis, but Les's demeanor throughout the scene is borderline flirtatious with both Jennifer and Steel.

4:15 Logjammin'. Jeff Bridges could just read "...Karl Hungus" quizzically off the opening credits of Logjammin! all day long and I'd be a happy dude.

5:05: Blow-dried hunks in cigarette ads: First things first: if you want to see my TV Guide scans (sadly devoid of blow-dried crispy-haired cigarette hunks), you can check them out on my Facebook, albums 1 2 3 and 4. But yeah, this array of cigarette ads should convey what I was trying to describe.

6:20: Sheik chic: This is another set of symbols that I remember quite vividly from childhood; the image of the Arab sheik meant conspicuous wealth. In fact, before the Japanese were going to own us in the mid-1980s, the Arab oil sheiks were going to own us in the late 70s (sometimes literally, as seen in ABSCAM below) So, as Rob and I detail, there was the second 1970s energy crisis (that one was triggered primarily by the Iranian Revolution and not Arab sheiks, although OPEC definitely benefited). ABSCAM (which was going on right now but not revealed until the early 80s, and yes, I was the one guy who liked "American Hustle" unreservedly). "Rock the Casbah" (another early 80s example). Toledo's own Jamie Farr in The Cannonball Run! And Americathon, such a weird little artifact of this late 70s moment... we'll talk more about Americathon in a bit.

[Edit: And listener and friend of the podcast Adam Sloka reminds us about Frank Zappa's live double album from, yes, again, 1979, Sheik Yerbouti.]

Not sure about the idea of African-American fashion co-opting Arabic dress in the 1970s, but of course there was the return to African fashion among African-Americans in the 1960s and 70s, and sub-Saharan African fashion and culture have of course been touched by Arabic cultural influences over the course of history.

10:00 Americathon. If you like the famous 1970s comedy troupe The Firesign Theatre, this movie was the brainchild of Phil Proctor and Peter Bergman. And yeah. This is yet again another piece of media that I saw at WAY too early an age to understand in any kind of nuanced way, but boy, did it leave me with a great, deep, abiding love of satirical American economic dystopias (*coff*Infinite Jest*coff*). Or indeed, more recently, Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story. America selling off/giving away bits of itself to survive, that geopolitical autophagia sort of thing, is a very powerful metaphor for runaway American consumerism. Americans in the far future of 1997 living in their own rusted-out gas guzzling 1970s cars is a no less powerful indictment, even if Americathon itself is fairly silly. But I think satirical silliness is another crucial part of the American economic dystopia; it's a way of forgiving ourselves for our greatest sins by joking about them (again, the idea of humor being a "benign violation" and a way of laughing away anxieties). As David Foster Wallace says in Infinite Jest, when the Canadian tennis academy students are watching an ironic filmic look at recent history which has dispossessed their country in favor of American "experialism," "This American penchant for absolution via irony is foreign to them."

Whew. That got serious. Let's get back to talking about hunks.

16:40 Rating the super-hunks. No mention of hunks can be made without pointing to Kate Beaton.

18:40 Down With Love. [Rob: The clip is of course from  Down With Love, Peyton Reed's beautiful and I think underrated pastiche of Doris Day/Rock Hudson style sex comedies of the 1950s-60s. Barbara Novak's fictional book Down With Love is a riff on Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl, an ur-text of the kind of Cosmo you-go-girl feminism-lite we're talking about in the podcast. See? Even when we're picking funny audio clips, we're trying to edumacate you.]

19:32 The Burt Reynolds centerfold. We didn't talk about the centerfold much in our Monday Turd Ferguson Burt Reynolds post, because we knew we'd have a lot of hairy-chested Burt Reynolds content in this episode of the podcast. But here's a listicle of 10 facts about the iconic image. Email from listener My Mom this week, in part, tells us young'uns: "Boy, he was sooo big in the 70's. Dinah Shore was probably the first Hollywood cougar, the best thing was they didn't try to hide their affair and because of that people accepted it much more than one would have expected." The Dinah Shore affair was news to me! And related to our Helen Gurley Brown/Tonight Show reference: "P.S. He was a great guest on The Tonight Show. Quick, funny and he was definitely in on the celebrity joke." Incisive 1970s media analysis from Our Moms, everyone.

22:35 Pierre Trudeau, superhunk. Well, hey, if you don't buy our citation of Pierre Trudeau as a superhunk... his son, Justin, recently elected Grand Poobah of the Canadian Dominion (I think that's the proper technical term, but I'm just a dumb American, what do I know) has, in the elation around his recent election, been literally called "hunky" all over the world.

23:30 Endlessly parodied. So here's a few little facts I found in my research about parodies of the Burt Reynolds poster (and by "research," I mean a Google Image Search for "burt reynolds parody poster"). I didn't see Rob's camel but I did see Bullwinkle J. Moose, who also hits our "knobbly, weird-looking lumpy hairy mammal" thesis pretty well.

[Rob: I found it! And if you bid now, it can be yours!]

So, the first hit is for a Harvard Lampoon parody poster featuring... Henry Kissinger, which makes our discussion of him later in the podcast delightfully relevant. But here's the thing: Henry Kissinger himself was a 70s hunk! He coined the aphorism "power is the ultimate aphrodisiac" and dated some of the hottest women of the early 70s, all while hobnobbing with famous Hollywood film producers!

(Please, try to picture in your mind the Kissinger Voice saying the following sentence: "You know I like these HotPants very much." And check out later in that article, 1971 Gloria Steinem's assertion that he is "the only interesting person in the whole Nixon Administration." Also, Henry is a Gemini... ladies.)

Nixon himself told Kissinger to knock it off: "Kissinger [needs] to be more discreet regarding his glamorous young women, especially in public and especially in Washington D.C. He feels it's okay for Henry to be a swinger in New York, Florida, and California, but he should not be in Washington." Heyo!

24:35 Chippendales. Like Playgirl, Chippendales and other male exotic dance troupes are a commodification of male sexuality that could only have happened in the 1970s (that's a great article, by the way; the way straitlaced men of the late 70s react to female desire is hilarious).

26:50 Gay macho. You can Google "gay macho" and you're going to get about half poststructuralist academic treatises and half porn. I think this says it all.

29:15 More Kate Beaton! I love Kate Beaton's 1980s Businesswoman; again, probably because she reminds me of the outfits my mom wore throughout the 80s.

29:30 Annie Lennox. Much ink and many pixels have been spilled over the years on this video and its iconography.

29:50 David Byrne's big suit. I think David Byrne has to be considered one of the most important visual artists of the latter half of the 20th century, in addition to being a great musician. Between the design aspects of the Talking Heads' albums and the motion picture and performance work in both Stop Making Sense and True Stories, he's a true genius.

30:55 "Why are Armenians eating lasagna?" God, I crack up at this EVERY time.

36:05 "We could do that, but it would be wrong." The way I know these lines is from the SNL skit where Nixon reimagines his Oval Office conversations as a big practical joke.

37:55 Phyllis Schlafly and Anita Bryant. Here's some more information on Schlafly, and the campaign to stop the Equal Rights Amendment. And Anita Bryant's key role in anti-gay adoption and teacher movements in Florida and California, specifically the Briggs Initiative. Interesting fact: Ronald Reagan opposed the Briggs Initiative as former governor of California and someone who knew he'd be running for President again in 1980. Times change.

42:35 Busing. You can read my post in the blog about busing here.

45:50 The Carlson poster. Yeah, I'm not afraid to take credit for the concept behind our logo (after all, who says "HOPE" better than the Big Guy?), but the actual graphic design work on it (and pretty much the design of every part of our podcast and blog) is all Rob.

Also, this tweet from our pals at @WKRPQuotes gives you a great image of the original, no-less-goofy "serious" campaign poster.

47:55 Brewster's Millions. I'm speaking of the 1980s Richard Pryor vehicle/basic cable staple, not any of the earlier versions. I'd vaguely remembered that there was at least one earlier film version of the story, but jeez, did you know that Brewster's Millions has been adapted more than ten times for the screen, including multiple Bollywood versions, and the story itself goes ALL the way back to a 1902 Gilded Age novel?? I did not know this before today. I think we're due for a 2010s Gilded Age remake, don't you?

48:25 "Welcome to the Biff Tannen Museum!" In case you missed it on Marty McFly Day a few weeks ago on the podcast as we talked about character actor Thomas Wilson's work as Coach Fredericks on Freaks and Geeks, we also linked in the last installment of Show Notes to the Biff = The Donald revelation. I also liked Rob including this clip for the intimation that one day, all museum professionals like me will probably be working at the functional equivalent of the Biff Tannen Museum.

[Rob: Yeah, this clip only makes sense if you know that Biff = Donald Trump, and we are all living in Biff's timeline. This is only tangentially related, but the best thing I read during the explosion of Back to the Future thinkpieces last month was this essay by Tim Carmody: Back to the Future, Time Travel, and the Secret History of the 1980s. Also recommended: David Wittenberg's book Time Travel: The Popular Philosophy of Narrative. I have seriously considered creating a podcast just about time travel so that I could talk endlessly about Back to the Future and Wittenberg's book.]

49:10 "A long time ago, in a city far far away, Arthur Carlson was born." Hey, Johnny "the Grail Knight" Fever acting as hype man for the Fisher King's special destiny here! Also, I involuntarily giggle every time I hear "In the decade ahead, America will be in space. Arthur Carlson is already there," followed by the cheesy laser gun sound effects.

51:05 Personal memories of Star Wars. Yeah, I'm really sorry I disappointed everyone, both in college and on this podcast, with my childhood ambivalence towards Star Wars. But yes, my early formative science fiction memories were probably... a bit more eclectic. Douglas Adams loomed very large, as did British series like Doctor Who, Blake's 7, The Prisoner, and Children of the Stones, oddball American network sci-fi outings like V and Otherworld and Max Headroom, and of course little-remembered educational TVOntario series Read All About It. My blog post above also cites Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, which I must grudgingly admit was also my jam back in the day. But by junior high and high school, though, I was all about TNG, and then in college DS9.

(Question: is stating "you probably haven't heard of it" more or less hipster than "I liked them before it was cool"? I need a ruling.)

54:00 Disappointment at the Special Editions. It was specifically when Luke, Obi-Wan, C-3PO and R2 come into Mos Eisley and Lucas had cluttered the approach with piece after piece of CG visual garbage. The crowd of diehards at the Boston Common Theatre was just... baffled. I was baffled because they were baffled... so really, bafflement all around.

[Rob: We didn't know each other in 1998, Mike, but I also saw the re-releases at Boston Common. Maybe I was one of those groaning diehards!]

58:15 "I like 70s in my Star Wars." This is probably my favorite minute or so of this episode.

[Rob: There's already been some great discussion on our Facebook page from you the listeners sharing your own Star Wars and other 1970s sci-fi memories. Mike's confusion as to the correct spelling of C-3PO (didn't they used to say "See-Threepio"?) led me to double down even more on my 70s Star Wars vs 80s Star Wars dichotomy: 70s Star Wars had a much more freewheeling, we're making this up on the fly, vibe: phonetic spelling for the droid names, cheap paperback novels that make no sense in continuity, an empty cardboard box being the hottest Christmas gift of 1977, coked-out Carrie Fisher singing the Wookiee Life Day song on the Holiday Special... The geek need to lock down, codify, and systematize everything (which I understand and share, but in my old age and wisdom try to resist) only gains the upper hand in the 1980s.]

[Now then, when are we going to talk about Planet of the Apes?]

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

HMOTD 016: Muy Dinero

Mike & Rob discuss sheiks, hunks, and Star Wars, plus the WKRP in Cincinnati episodes "Jennifer Falls In Love" and "Carlson For President."

(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, November 9, 2015

The Man From Jupiter

This past Friday, I posted a story to our Facebook page from Vanity Fair that I'd seen trending on Facebook and several other places. The topic was the long, dark retirement of Burt Reynolds.

I know that for some, Burt Reynolds is the punchline to a joke we've long forgotten. Emblematic of a certain kind of now-vanished masculinity, in the 1970s he was one of the biggest movie stars in the world. And then, in the 1980s, just as suddenly, he slid into professional purgatory. Some (like the author of this Vanity Fair piece) argue it was his marriage to Loni Anderson and their subsequent reign as the king and queen of American tabloid journalism in the 1980s that led to it. Others might suggest that Burt himself was never that strong of an actor in the first place, and the era of the blockbuster was not built for his laconic old-school cool. But by the mid-1990s, Burt Reynolds was divorced, 15 years removed from his glory days, and on the precipice of bankruptcy.

Some might ask why Boogie Nights didn't propel him back to the A-list, as Pulp Fiction did for fellow 1970s casualty John Travolta. It's pretty well-known at this point that Reynolds had problems with director Paul Thomas Anderson, but that conflict, that energy, fuels what is likely the best performance of Reynolds's career. Maybe the financial and emotional desperation going on in Reynolds's real life at this point was a factor as well; but it's noteworthy that his Oscar campaign, as mentioned in the Vanity Fair piece, was apparently a non-starter despite all the buzz and despite the reality that none of the performances of 1997 – not even the Oscar-winning performance of Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting – could match up with Reynolds's Jack Horner. (Okay, maybe Robert Forster in Jackie Brown could.)

One thing that I think is worth noting, and this is going all the way back to our first season podcast episode "Rock Throw, WV," is that Burt Reynolds was fully of and a favorite son of the Old South. Playing football in the South in the 50s and 60s (and really, the role of football in this particular time and place must have made Burt feel like a king among men at a very early age), he was recruited to Florida State on a football scholarship but suffered an injury and so never played in any substantive way and thus turned to acting. His breakout role in Deliverance is one that indelibly marked mainstream America's view of the South, as much as Smokey and the Bandit did later in the 1970s. And the story of his financial rise and fall in the 1970s and 1980s is also the story of the rise of the New South: boom and bust. The Vanity Fair article mentions his disastrous restaurant venture "Po' Folks," but there's also this little gem in his Wikipedia entry (which sounds suspiciously written by a publicist, to be honest): "In the late 1970s, Reynolds opened "Burt's Place", a restaurant/nightclub in the Omni International Hotel in the Hotel District of downtown Atlanta, Georgia." How much more New South could you get than a nightclub in the midst of the corporate spires of downtown Atlanta?

I'm going into depth on Burt here because in Wednesday's podcast, we talk about the phenomenon of 1970s macho, and Burt's place in that particular pantheon. And WKRP obviously is inexorably intertwined with this, given both the themes of the episode "Jennifer Falls in Love" and the real-life Burt-and-Loni drama. The 1970s were a unique inflection point for American masculinity, given the tensions of a "Free to Be You and Me" generation coming of age, the rising women's lib and gay lib movements, and the overall perceived decline of the United States geopolitically. Burt Reynolds's rise and fall are a pleasingly metaphorical echo of that crisis and its resolution in the Reagan years and beyond.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Show Notes for HMOTD 015: Don't Hit It To Me

0:00 So an interesting thing happened over the course of recording, editing, and doing the Show Notes for this episode: I think I like "Baseball" less and "Bad Risk" MORE now. Again, analyze any piece of media for long enough and hidden gems will start to emerge. I still connect with "Baseball" on a visceral level, but I see Rob's critique, especially compared to other great baseball episodes (we had to cut a bit on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "Take Me Out to the Holosuite," which comes in a close second to "Homer At The Bat" among baseball episodes for me). And "Bad Risk" actually has a lot of really strong bits, and while I would argue it is still a bit weird structurally and thematically, it's better than I initially gave it credit for.

1:22 "It's extremely basic." Rob and I have discovered that disagreement makes for good radio podcast, and while we're not quite at the "Mike, you ignorant slut" level yet, I would humbly offer that our disagreements on both "Hoodlum Rock" and "Baseball" have made for some of our best episodes.

3:50 "It's a fashion show...": Might as well link to a shot of the team in their pre-game huddle.

5:10 "Because you're the most wholesome!": We had to cut a bit about Les citing Bailey as "the most wholesome" and how it jibes with our "Les Nessman, secret swinger" thesis. More on this later.

5:40 The Scorecard: I gave it a shot. Click here to embiggen.

So a few things here; for a game that was likely cobbled together from footage, it's remarkably plausible. The lineup and position switches all work out. A few notes. 1) I can't figure out how Bucky drove in a single run in the fourth inning. The final line score, seen here, seems to indicate that however Bucky got the rally going, it was in the fourth. For him to have gotten an at-bat in the fourth, WKRP would have had to have gotten a lot of hits in the second and third. It's possible, but not probable. 2) The first, fifth, and seventh innings are kosher, though. We see them basically in their entireties. WKRP bats around in the fifth, with Les killing the rally, and then Carlson, Fever, Quarters and Flytrap get up in the sixth to let Marlowe lead off the seventh. 3) I decided to score Moose's inside-the-park home run as a home run and not a four-base error because damn it, the Big Guy deserves it.

I feel a little embarrassed to have spent this much time on this.

8:15 "Don't you think you've had one too many?" "Absolutely." I wish there was more Bucky Dornster in WKRP, but maybe that's why he's such a great character. Small bits. This is the last time we'll see Bucky; he's only in "Hold Up" and "Baseball." Thanks, Bill Dial. You made me smile more than should be possible with about three minutes of combined screen time.

10:08 "If I can psychoanalyze you a little..." Hey, turnabout's fair play, we do it to Les later.

10:48 Grantland Rice: When we think of flowery, epic-poetry level sports prose, we're really thinking of the tradition founded by Grantland Rice, which is obviously a legacy still felt today.

14:45 The Python Barber Sketch: If you're not someone who's memorized Monty Python sketches (and really, how much more of a Freaks and Geeks-type confession could that be), the gag here is that Michael Palin's barber is a homicidal maniac who is afraid he's going to kill his customer and he plays an audio tape of him cutting the customer's hair. Which, of course, somehow leads to the classic Lumberjack Song.

15:57 Carlin's Baseball/Football Routine: I wonder if you could chart how football replaced baseball as the national pasttime by how crowds reacted to the lines in Carlin's classic baseball/football bit. This recording is from the period of the First Gulf War, which I think says it all about the crowd's reaction.

17:47: "There's a lot of time to sit and think..." While baseball's leisurely pace undoubtedly leads to a lot of great baseball prose, it also leads to the dead air that leads to all kinds of random factoids being talked about between pitches and batters.

I should add that it's not impossible to write poetry about basketball; my uncle, noted poet Michael Sweeney, does just that in his collection In Memory of the Fast Break. His recollections of the 1960s Russell Celtics were some of my earliest encounters with poetry and undoubtedly colored both the way I look at sports and poetry. Thanks, Uncle Mike.

18:30 "The Sweet Science": The phrase comes from way back in the early 19th century. Interesting story about how sportswriter A.J. Liebling brought it back in the middle of the 20th.

19:20 The Python Cricket Sketch: I think I might subconsciously be trying to prove my geek bona fides in this sports-centric episode by pulling off the elusive double Python clip inclusion. I wonder if subconsciously I am using this many Python clips because the time period I discovered Python (junior high) was also the time period of my greatest athletic embarrassments in gym class.

20:10 "Baseball emerges in... 19th century New York": You can do worse than watching the entire 18+ hours of Ken Burns's Baseball. I'm not so much of a hipster contrarian to admit that he did a fantastic job with this series. Episode 1 gives you the true, urban origins of the game. As my British wife slowly became a baseball fan over the course of the Boston Red Sox's 2007 World Series run, we watched the miniseries and it gave her a fantastic grounding in the history of baseball.

26:05 Moose Carlson: Moose Carlson is very obviously flouting the unwritten rules of baseball here. There's been a lot of discussion in the past few years about showboating, bat flipping, and the so-called "unwritten rules of baseball," but since Moose's leisurely promenade around the bases could be considered payback for Clark Callahan's calling in the fielders, I suppose the Big Guy is justified. But still, Moose, pick up the pace!

28:30 Clark Callahan/Ross Bickell: I want a ruling on the deep psychology of Ross Bickell a) having to watch his real-life wife tease all the members of the WPIG team and having to act angry about them getting distracted and b) the aforementioned sub rosa flirtation developing between Loni and Gary.

29:40 Homer at the Bat: Ozzie Smith falling through the dimensional vortex at the center of the Springfield Mystery Spot is honestly the funniest four seconds in the history of television and I will brook no argument or contradiction on this.

Here's a detailed, loving oral history of the episode, where I grabbed most of the factoids about this Simpsons classic.

Also, happy trails Don Mattingly. Now trim those sideburns, you hippie.

31:48 The Diary (Freaks and Geeks): Rewatching this episode for the podcast was such a treat. As Rob mentions, that sequence where all the geeks get picked last, all soundtracked to XTC's "No Language in Our Lungs," is yes, extremely painful to watch. But yeah, Martin Starr kills it in this episode, especially the prank calls. Oh, and Coach Fredericks is watching What's Happening!! in that clip. Also, Biff Tannen wishes you a happy Belated Marty McFly Day! Make Hill Valley Great Again!

36:00 "Herb Tarlek is selling life insurance!" I want to commend Rob for his prescient choice in our live radio set from a few weeks back of the Knack's "Good Girls Don't," which actually does get played in this scene where Johnny and Venus are hiding from Les.

40:00 "It was The Monster Who Sold Life Insurance-insurance-insurance!!" More fodder for my Venus as scholar of pop culture thesis! He loves old '50s monster movies! Also, check out them playing another snippet of great music, the Rolling Stones' "Bitch."

46:15 Network: I recently finished a great book: Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies by Dave Itzkoff. We're going to have more, much more to say about Network as the podcast unfolds, including at least one more time this season; it's impossible to see television in the late '70s in the aftermath of Paddy Chayefsky's masterful satire without considering its impact on the pop culture of the time.

50:40 Apologetics/Les having Borderline/Histrionic/Narcissistic Personality Disorder: The cluster of personality disorders in the DSM-5 in "Cluster B" all seem to apply in one sense or another to Les Nessman, with maybe the exception of Antisocial. I cited Borderline and Histrionic in the podcast, but Rob is right; there is a healthy dose of narcissism in there too. And again, we are speaking of Les Nessman, not ourselves.

55:00 Conspiracy theorists: Here's a great article on the psychology of conspiracy theorists, and yet another, which appeared just this week and despite the title is less about psychology and more about the social conditions (i.e., "perceived power imbalances," *coff*late 70s*coff*) that lead to conspiracy theorizing. Some good links in that article, though.

56:50 "You drove all the way over there, and Charlie wasn't there?" This is definitely a drug deal, guys. But it's also an example... of a trope! Also, I mentioned the "So I says to Mabel, I says" line from The Simpsons, which people have been puzzling over for years.

58:20 "One that has been featured on 60 Minutes... twice!" Friend of the podcast Leah Biel reminded us after HMOTD 014 that the Point/Counterpoint bit from SNL was an explicit reference to 60 Minutes's popular liberal/conservative head-to-head feature. And of course, Airplane! used the actual Point/Counterpoint folks (James J. Kilpatrick and an off-screen Shana Alexander) in a cameo. "I say, let 'em crash!"

We end the podcast with a bit of the classic SNL sketch from the Christopher Guest/Harry Shearer/Billy Crystal/Martin Short era, the Minkman Toys/60 Minutes sketch. Martin Short has literally never been better.