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!