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.


  1. Hi - I just found this podcast and will have to listen. I mean, I have to listen to anything that mentions me. It's the law.

    You're not the only one who have expressed reservations about the choice of "Mike Fright" but I wanted to pick an episode that, while I liked it, was more representative of the show and the radio aspect of it rather than necessarily the "best" episode (because a lot of the VSE segments were about episodes that had an interesting theme or were representative of their time, not necessarily the best of the series). I mean it's not a huge deal either way, of course.

    1. Jaime! How excellent that you found us. Mike & I are both fans of yours - I read Something Old, Nothing New for years, and not only for the WKRP content - and we have been talking for a while about reaching out to you. We've actually mentioned you a couple of times on the podcast - now I'm trying to remember which episodes precisely.

      Hope you enjoy HMOTD! I can't imagine you will learn anything you didn't know about WKRP, but I hope you will enjoy the more general history and pop culture digressions.

    2. Hi Jaime! I'll echo what Rob said: we're thrilled you found HMOTD and we've definitely been hoping we'd get a chance to chat while the podcast was ongoing.

      Ultimately in our (cut) AV Club discussion we came around on choosing "Mike Fright," not just because it is a pretty good representational episode of WKRP but also because it allowed Noel Murray to reflect on his own upbringing as the literal son of a Southern rock radio personality, which fits WKRP's and specifically Hugh Wilson's background perfectly.

      Again, very glad you found us and we hope you enjoy the podcast!

  2. Thanks for the shout out for my generational schema — I've just discovered your podcast. I was a big WKRP fan as a kid...

    1. Josh: So glad you found us! We've been chewing over your HiLobrow schema as long as we've been talking about doing this podcast, probably longer.

      I am still reeling somewhat from the revelations I had after writing this blog post (, and I realized the next day that I was only acting as a gatekeeper for "Gen X" because *I* had some substantial "impostor syndrome" about being at the tail end of Gen X. I feel generally speaking being on the cusp of the Reconstructionist/Revivalist transition fits me pretty well, as I can see and appreciate both sets of generational impulses... as this podcast probably amply demonstrates. :)

      Thanks for listening!

  3. Since Jerry Springer was brought up I will take this opportunity to mention that you should look up "Springer Union Terminal" on youtube. Trust me.

  4. Just listened to this. The whole Mr Carlson wanting a little girl segment was way off base since he never said that. You played the clip before you talked about it. And the song request to Venus, he said something about a sexy young lady. There was never any "little girl" talk. Ick!