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.