Friday, January 22, 2016

Show Notes for HMOTD 021: Huggable Herb

0:00 "The Tarleks": Rheostatics! We are all richer for having heard them this morning. Sorry, slipped into a Gord Downie-on-Live Between Us impression there ("I was raised on TV/Like so many of you I see around me...").

Seriously, though, the year this American lived in Toronto (1998-1999), Rheostatics were EVERYWHERE. It might have been the continuing appropriateness of their 1996 single "Bad Time to Be Poor" to the social program budget cuts of the late-90s Mike Harris regime in Ontario (also quoted by Downie on the Tragically Hip's Live Between Us during "Nautical Disaster"). But yeah, much like Sloan and the Hip, Rheostatics are one of those Canadian bands that don't have a big following south of the border, which I will never understand, but me, I'm just a huge fan. Check out the always-game Frank Bonner reprising his signature role for the band in the video for "The Tarleks." He's definitely looking in 2004 more and more like the Bert Parks of 1980. And the song and video's concept of Herb as an avuncular emotionally-aware guru... well, that just might pay dividends by the end of these podcast notes.

Thus concludes our An American Looks at Late-90s Ontario Politics/Canadian Music Corner.

Edit: No, wait, I'm not done with the CanCon! I highly recommend Have Not Been the Same, a fantastic look at the Canadian rock scene from the 80s into the 90s. I know a lot of you Canadians lived through this, but for me, it was eye-opening.

10:40 Miss America: Dig those LYRICS! Much like the Star-Spangled Banner (Francis Scott Key) and the WKRP opening theme, hearing the Miss America song past its opening refrain is a trip. In this case, it's a deep, icky delve into 1950s-style American patriarchy... there's no subtext! Absolutely none! Still, you may hate the message, but you've got to love that voice.

11:50 The Tortellis: That Tortellis reference was probably solely because of an earlier discussion on Facebook about Frasier and spinoffs. Quoth Rob: "Frasier?!? Frasier's not even the best Cheers spinoff, is it?"

12:42 Abe Simpson watching Super Bowl III: I want to thank Friend of the Podcast Leah Biel for letting us know on Twitter this past Saturday about the NFL Network's rebroadcast of Super Bowl I (a.k.a., "the AFL/NFL Championship Game"). In fact, they're rebroadcasting it tonight (Friday, January 22) the RIGHT way, this time without interjections from modern commentators. Please watch, because otherwise this Super Bowl thing might not make it!

13:25 Party Line: Here's Bert Parks on the Game Show Wiki.

13:50 The history of television: I feel like that might be a good side-podcast for Rob to do. Call it "Channel Ocho: The Secret History of Television"! Or maybe "Invisible" History, because "Invisible" is the new "Secret."

14:40 "He even looks like Herb!" The resemblance is uncanny!

16:10 Bert Parks' firing from Miss America: Parks was replaced by Ron Ely for a year and then "Hour Magazine" mainstay Gary Collins. So the Miss America producers tried to go for crispy-haired hunks in the aftermath of firing Parks. If they'd only had HMOTD 016: Muy Dinero to listen to in the early 80s to know that era of 70s hunks was over!

21:45 "...throw away the polyester and start wearing organic blends." Friend of the Podcast Brent Oliver sent us this link a while back to a Frank Bonner syndication promo out of Seattle's KXLY; sadly, we had to cut a bit out of this week's episode about the massive cognitive dissonance of seeing Bonner do Herb shtick in what looks suspiciously like a fine Hollywood cashmere sweater.

24:09 Malcolm in the Middle: Oh man, just having the audio for this scene and hearing Bryan Cranston's roller-disco-related intensity makes me think of one of those Malcolm in the Middle/Breaking Bad mashups.

24:57 TV Dads: We're certainly not the first to notice the change in sitcom dads over the past 60 years. The evolution from hyper-competent TV dad to buffoon dad is well-trod ground.

28:10 Workplace sitcoms vs. Family sitcoms: One thing that the TV Guide project has shown me is how many of the shows I watched growing up were workplace sitcoms. The family sitcoms that played in first run in the 1980s didn't really grab me! Sure, I watched Cosby like everyone else in America, but after school in syndication it was always Barney Miller, Taxi, and WKRP! These were not families!

31:10 "You taste like a burger." Enjoy this Paul Rudd supercut from Wet Hot American Summer. *tsks loudly, slumps to pick up garbage off the ground*

34:18 "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" Hey, this episode is bookended by Herb singing! And it's important to the episode, because it's the evolution of Herb from singing trashy Rod Stewart to sensitive Billy Joel!

40:25 Sneaky Snooper: There's comedy, there's high comedy, and there's the quintessential entertainment value of the Sneaky Snooper.

45:35 "Sometimes I just like to... be with a woman, without pulling anything!" This to me was the key line of dialogue in both of these episodes. Herb is relieved he doesn't need to perform to his usual level of outsized predatory masculinity, and he desperately desires the emotional support and care that a platonic relationship with a woman can provide. I mean, he could try to get that from his guy friends, but yeah, one step at a time in 1980.

Patriarchy, folks. It's the worst. (Let's think about this when we get to Free to Be... You and Me below and how its message got lost in... ta-da, the reactionary Reagan 1980s.)

51:20 MTM: The Wikipedia page for WKRP in Cincinnati says, "Like many other MTM productions, the humor came more from running gags based on the known predilections and quirks of each character, rather than from outlandish plots or racy situations," with a [citation needed], so if y'all need a citation, you are welcome to use HMOTD 021.

53:30 Free to Be... You and Me: A few of these songs (especially the Rosey Grier one that we use as the outro bumper to this segment) are just burned into my memory, and hit that "grown man weeping in front of his computer" button in my brain. I don't remember having the Free to Be... You and Me record but I definitely heard a bunch of the songs growing up. The Wikipedia entry says they were played in schools in the late 70s and early 80s (sometimes in filmstrip form!!!), so that's a possibility.

Of course, I heard that Ronald Reagan had all copies of the LP in public schools burned in 1983 and replaced with posters of Arnold Schwarzenegger mocking fat kids for not being able to do a single pull-up. This childhood memory might be conflated and manufactured, though.

59:15 Wine at my wedding: Coincidentally, this episode dropped on my 9th wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary, Jenny! Here. Bag o' wine. *hands you a bag in the manner of Herb Tarlek*

1:00:05 "Battle Creek Michigan, Les?" Hey, speaking of my lovely wife, she got THIS book last year and it is so awesome! If you love old comic book ads, this guy found the original plastic tchotchkes and put them alongside the original ads! Also, I finally got MST3K into the podcast, guys!

1:05:15 Gay Coding on TV: If you want a sampling of Paul Lynde's Hollywood Squares gay jokes, check out this section of his Wikipedia page. Yeah, we can be and are a little nostalgic about the "necessity" of camp and gay coding on TV, but the story of the end of Lynde's life... really pretty sad.

1:06:10 Billy Joel: C'mon Rob, I ask you: you're trying to tell me THIS MAN is a doofus?

For additional Joel-iana in the vein of "genius or doofus... or both?" please read Chuck Klosterman's original Joel piece for The New York Times (and order Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs on Amazon, I mean, come on) or this more recent piece ranking Billy Joel's 50 best songs with a preface that, I think, nails the paradoxes and contradictions of Billy Joel's oeuvre.

Also, apparently the correct pronunciation is "Close-terman", with a long O, not "Claw-sterman." Sorry, Chuck.


  1. I watched KRP in its first run and began collecting salt and pepper shakers because of this episode! I only got about five before I lost interest, but I still have them!

  2. Just listened to this episode today. Did you guys notice the laugh track is missing from "Herb's Dad"? I have a copy of the episode from syndication and the laugh track is there, so I'm not sure how it was left off in the Shout Factory release. I hate to admit this but the episode is much more enjoyable with the laughtrack. There are at least one or two more episodes in the box set with this issue. When you guys get to Season 3 if you run across an episode like this, it may make for an interesting sociological conversation how laugh tracks influence our enjoyment of sitcoms for better or worse.

    Keep up the good work guys and thanks for the entertainment!

  3. Great podcast as usual! One small correction. You mentioned that the Jefferson Starship song "Jane" and the album that Johnny was holding came out in 1978. It actually came out in November of 1979. I remember watching the episode when it was first run and hearing "Jane" in the background - at the time it was one of my favorite songs on the radio.

  4. I definitely remember Free To Be... my favourite was Mel Brooks sure he was a girl because when he grows up he wants to be a cocktail waitress.

    Rob, I stand in solidarity with you. Bruce is me, I heart Billy Joel 4Evr