Friday, February 5, 2016

Show Notes for HMOTD 022: They Never Sent Me a Carter

1:20 "Hold me closer, tiny dancer": We searched high and low online for a syndicated version of "The Americanization of Ivan" with "hold my order, terrible dresser" still intact and couldn't find one (many thanks to Friend of the Podcast Leah Biel for helping out in the search). Ironically, the longtime desire among fans for the "good" broadcast versions of WKRP episodes has led to the "bad" versions disappearing down the internet memory hole. This leads me to some thoughts on the ephemerality of "disposable" television history, but I'll maybe save those for another time.

Also, when Ivan asks if Cleveland is a fun place, all I could think of is CLEVELAND! (NSFW)

3:55 The Kitchen Debate: Here's the Wikipedia page on the Kitchen Debate. 1959, such a crucial year in the postwar competition of ideas and visions of the future between East and West. The progressive technocratic-consumerist impulse that Fred Turner talks about in the second half his remarkable book The Democratic Surround comes to its fullest flower in the late 50s and in America's attempt through the United States Information Agency to export its vision of the future through trade fairs, modern art, and other cultural artifacts.

4:15 Andy Travis, Aspiring CIA Agent: If Les Nessman is our George Smiley in "The Americanization of Ivan," Andy is definitely our Ricki Tarr.

5:25 "They never sent me a Carter." The reaction this joke gets is just tremendous. Only in the first quarter of 1980, am I right? There was really no other choice for a title for this podcast episode. Like many of my favorite HMOTD episode titles, i.e., "What Do You Want, the World?" being about both Herb and his dip (no chips) AND about 1970s men's reaction to Lucille Tarlek's brand of feminism, it works on two levels. They never sent nuclear-fear-paralyzed 1980s Mike a Carter, either.

7:30 "...we'll get to them." Rob's perfectly-timed pause after talking about "an icepick in the back of his brain from Felicity and Character Actress Margo Martindale" has made me crack up every time I have listened to this episode.

8:00 Famous defectors: Ooooh, Wikipedia somewhat confirms my off-the-cuff thesis! I'm not going to plug this table into Excel and try to make a graph, but I definitely see a trend, when I sort by date, of military and intelligence defectors pre-1970 and artists and athletes post-1970.

10:05 Top Secret/Ernő Rubik/Rubik the Amazing Cube Saves Christmas: Three quick hits here: 1) That Top Secret module was "Operation Fastpass," published in 1983. I remember Top Secret being more Ian Fleming than John le Carré, but that may have been because I was 12 when I was playing and my espionage fandom was not as sophisticated. 2) Ernő Rubik is an interesting dude and the story of the cube's "defection" even more so! I wonder what sorts of Russia House-style KGB/CIA shenanigans were happening behind the scenes of those 1979/1980 toy fairs! 3) If you really want to watch Rubik the Amazing Cube save Christmas, here you go. Rubik fix. Rubik fix EVERYTHING.

[Rob: Actually, I think the earliest Top Secret adventures are as much Gary Gygax as Ian Fleming - not that Gygax wrote Top Secret, but you can see them struggling to break out of the dungeon format: lots of 20'x20' rooms with 1d6 KGB goons. But then there was a brief period when the production values got really good: I loved "Orient Express."]

11:06 "Let's ask Wikipedia!" We wanted to adhere so closely to the late Cold War period while recording this episode that we decided to use an acoustic modem with coupler for all our Internet access throughout this episode, lent to us graciously by our buddy in Seattle, David Lightman.

13:20 The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan: A fascinating and horrifying conflict, one that haunted the edges of my own childhood on the nightly network news. Reading this Wikipedia page revealed a bunch of stuff I didn't know, including the death of a U.S. Ambassador in a rescue attempt from a kidnapping by a Communist Afghan faction.

16:50 "What Fits Into Russia?" Dave Thomas kills me in this sketch. "Capitalist convicts and kangaroos," Jesus.

[Rob: Hee. Dave Thomas' signature talent is shouting in a vaguely foreign accent: What Fits into Russia, Lin Ye Tang, angry Bob Hope... (and Doug McKenzie I guess?)]

18:55 Elton John's tour of the Soviet Union: Here's a quick look at Elton John's 1979 tour. WKRP again with their fingers on the pulse of what was current in rock 'n' roll.

20:25 Rock and roll behind the Iron Curtain: My favorite type of Wikipedia article is one that surveys a whole bunch of stuff and puts it under a non-encyclopedia type heading. To wit: "Rock and roll and the fall of Communism." Here's an interesting article about the CIA possibly inspiring underground rockers in the waning days of the Soviet Union. The Velvet Revolution. Atlas Obscura's piece on the Bone LPs is here, and an article on the "stilyagi," one of the Russian music subcultures we mention. And while there's very little on the web specifically about Pere Ubu's David Thomas visit to Siberia in 1990, just a little Googling led to a bunch of interviews (warning: PDF) where he talks about geography, music, and culture that left me with a profoundly hauntological feeling.

24:05 The Day After/Testament/Threads: The Day After and Testament were both released in November 1983. Just reading the plot description of Testament now, at age 40, more than 30 years after I first watched it, just... well, it turns my stomach. It hits me on a deep, dread-evoking level that I can't even try to give voice to.

Threads aired in 1984 and of course gave voice to a whole other set of nuclear concerns for the UK, given the Trident missile controversy raging in the UK in the 1980s.

[Rob: Something we could've discussed, but didn't get to: Ronald Reagan watched and was quite affected by, The Day After. "It's very effective and left me greatly depressed," he wrote in his diary after seeing it. "Whether it will be of help to the 'anti-nukes' or not, I can't say. My own reaction was one of having to do all we can to have a deterrent & to see there is never a nuclear war."]

26:10 Samantha Smith: She was sort of a secular saint, especially in New England where I grew up. I would love to see The Americans cover this series of events on the show eventually.

27:40 Cosmos, "Who Speaks for Earth?" The nuclear winter theory was Carl Sagan's hobbyhorse at this time and while it did not end up being the climate event that humanity had to fear in the 21st century, it does demonstrate Sagan's heartfelt dedication to peace and disarmament.

28:00 WarGames: I really want to rewatch WarGames with all the knowledge of the Cold War defense and computer sectors I have as an adult now. Who is Falken modeled on, by the way? The Wikipedia page says Stephen Hawking, which doesn't seem to line up to me as far as computer science goes. Here's a piece of way-out-there trivia: the writers wanted John Lennon to play the role of Stephen Falken (!!!).

[Rob: Reagan was also much impressed by WarGames. After seeing it (on opening night!) he interrupted a meeting of his national security advisers to ask if anyone had seen the movie. Nobody else had, so he spent the next ten minutes describing it in detail, then asking if it could really happen. This sparked the U.S. government's first serious engagement with cybersecurity. For more, see this article by Stephanie Schulte and this recent NYT piece--which really should give some credit to Schulte.]

[Edited to add: Mike saw that piece and a fine set of tweets resulted:

30:50 Superman IV: I just want to use this very flimsy excuse of a reference to Superman IV: The Quest for Peace to tell all of you to rush to Netflix right now and watch Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films. Golan-Globus forever!

40:45 "The Trouble with Tribbles": Man, do NOT insult the Enterprise when Scotty is around, you dumb Klingon!

41:18 Michael Pataki: Here's Michael Pataki in Star Trek, Rocky IV, and check out the Phyl and Mykhi credits here. Man, those chyrons. Pretty shaky, CBS. Here's Jaime Weinman's great obituary for both Michael Pataki and the character actor guest star.

45:55 "Nikita": Here's "The Girl in the Video," and Anya Major in the iconic Ridley Scott-directed 1984 commercial for Macintosh. And here's a quick Cold War music video hitlist: "Nikita," "Russians," "99 Luftbalons," "Breathing," "Games Without Frontiers" (used expertly on The Americans), and "Two Tribes." And we never got to mention Chess! Tsk. I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine.

(I'd be remiss if I didn't plug my own vaporwave remix/reimagining of the Rocky IV training montage music (lots of Michael Pataki in those clips of Drago training, btw) by the immortal Vince DiCola. And "Burning Heart" features the quintessential Cold War lyric: "Is it East versus West/Or man against man?" Survivor, always posing the eternal questions.)

50:05 WKRP on The Americans: It's in the Season 2 premiere "Comrades," and Henry, Paige, and their babysitter are watching the Season 4 WKRP episode "Pills."

55:58 "Looks like Star Trek." Les was right! The two loungers are in the exact same positions as Sulu's and Chekov's chairs! And as I went through the scene after Darlene redecorates, those posters she put up (you can see one or two of them in the image above) definitely have a New Age/motivational appearance to them.

57:22 Play Misty For Me: One thing this podcast has done is made me fall in love with the over-the-top-ness of 1970s film trailers. Play Misty For Me was indeed Clint Eastwood's directorial debut. The crazed stalker is played by your favorite sitcom grandmatriarch, Lucille Bluth/Malory Archer herself, Jessica Walter! And that voice over is actually NOT Orson Welles, as much as it sounds like him (and as much as you might imagine Orson relegated to doing v/o for film trailers in 1970). It's actually legendary cartoon voice artist Paul Frees, arguably doing his Orson impression. He was the Maurice LaMarche of the 1960s and 70s! Let's not even mention Frees's centrality to the Rankin-Bassiverse.

"You're not dumping me, Buster Blue-Eyes!" "Get off my back, Evelyn!" Wow.

1:01:05: Les's walls: I love Herb's "ohoooo yeah" here. Reminds me of "Les is my best friend, I'm gonna help him!" from "Les on a Ledge."

1:02:52 "Laser Show": Fountains of Wayne! I really dug their early stuff, like "Radiation Vibe," but in the "Stacy's Mom" phase, I kinda tuned out. Also again: sorry, Nicole.

[Rob: The first three songs on Welcome Interstate Managers are the zenith of 1990s-2000s power pop, never to be rivaled.]

1:04:30 The Wolfman: More Hilarious House of Frightenstein content for you Ontarians.

1:08:15 "Sometimes a Fantasy": I'm secretly planning to work sequentially through the entirety of the track listing of Glass Houses at the end of the next 8 podcast episodes, but DON'T TELL ROB, everyone. Your Billy Joel-related challenge this week is to watch the 3 minutes and 50 seconds of the video for "Sometimes a Fantasy" (where Billy Joel's embodied, bearded id impels him to place an obscene phone call to his ex-girlfriend) without cracking a smile. Oh, Billy Joel. You are invulnerable to derision and irony. (brb making a gif of bearded Billy Joel nodding sensually/creepily in approval).

[Rob: Aaugh! /charlie brown]


  1. Even reggae music added to the 80's Cold War playlist.

    "Earth Crisis" by Steel Pulse (1984):

    1. "Super Powers" have a plan / Undermining Third World man / Suck their land of minerals, creating famine and pestilence." They don't write 'em like that anymore. Thanks, LMF!

  2. Pataki was Count Malachi of the Malachi brothers - a demolition derby duo, not drag racers.