Friday, September 30, 2016

Show Notes for HMOTD 028 Minisodes

[All notes by Mike unless noted otherwise. Thanks one more time to guest Leah Biel for helping us with this week's minisode Show Notes!]

HMOTD 028a: Real Incredible People

An American Family, is, as we mention, too long a series and too colossal a touchstone for us to do justice to in a regular episode, let alone a minisode. Suffice to say the visual vocabulary of “documentary cameras living with a family” would have been familiar to the 1980 network TV audience for “Real Families.”

To wit, in 1979, SNL’s then short-film auteur Albert Brooks released Real Life, a surreal take on the An American Family trope. The sadly departed Dissolve website did one of their weekly features on Real Life; it’s well worth checking out.

Candid Camera did indeed start on radio as Candid Microphone (here’s a typical episode with Bela Lugosi as a guest)! The 1939 World’s Fair was indeed the origin for “vox pops”/”man on the street” interviews. And here’s some information on Mass-Observation, yet another thing I knew nothing about before this podcast. It pays to have a real-deal history professor on your podcast, folks.

And on the Real People/That’s Incredible axis, check out the young Eldrick Woods and the Rubik’s Cube Championships on That’s Incredible, and on Real People, a piece on Weirdness Magnet Mount Shasta and this mindblowing intro which promises both a King of the Hobos Election piece AND a UFO story. And here’s the ad for the debut of Real People in 1978 that I read on the minisode. Weirdness lived on network TV before 1983. Sic transit gloria mundi.

HMOTD 028b: The Age of the Long Skinny Mic

Our inspiration for exploring the game shows of our youth was, of course, the dual appearances of “Master of The Hollywood SquaresPeter Marshall and TPIR (that’s The Price Is Right for all you non-cognoscenti) announcer Johnny Olson in “Real Families.” [Leah: Johnny was as ubiquitous to announcing game shows as Bill Cullen was to hosting them. To pin Olson down to Price is probably a bit unfair.]

Quincy Jones’s 1962 exotica jam “Soul Bossa Nova” (full song here) was used as the theme song to Definition, which in turn was the childhood influence for Canadians like Mike Myers to use it as the musical accompaniment to his opening dance number in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, and for Toronto rap duo Dream Warriors’ 1991 alternative rap (bordering on Hippie Hop) single “My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style.” [Leah: This wasn't Q’s only foray into game show themes. The 1970s underrated Jack Narz classic Now You See It theme was Jones’ trumpet-funk “Chump Change.”]

For a very... different type of game show theme song, try Alan Thicke’s theme for The Wizard of Odds. [Leah: Earworm city; the odds are that you'll be a winner today. You should listen to the entire theme song (it's on one of the two game show theme CDs Game Show Network put out when they cared about the classics. My copy is, yes, also signed by Peter.) After the vocal, there's another set of instrumentals in several different music styles, including a dirge and old-timey music that would be just fine in a Keystone Kops silent. Weird. Just weird.]

Rob’s observation is confirmed by Wikipedia, by the way: “[Definition] was frequently mocked for the cheapness of its prizes (monetary awards in $10 amounts, small appliances or pen and pencil sets).” It’s like Gifts from Grandma, the game show!! [Leah: Bonus points to Jim for pronouncing Z whichever way the contestant said it. Zee or Zed, it's up to you.]

As you can see, Leah and I went a little deeper and more obscure in our game show nostalgia than some might. My tastes in game shows as a kid were quite wide-ranging -- sure, like everyone, I loved The Pyramid, The Whammy, The Showcase, The Blank, and The Wheel (oh wow, I just realized, we NEED a Game Show Tarot deck, don’t we?) -- but on the obscure side I can remember really loving the original Jim Perry run of Card Sharks, High Rollers (also with Alex Trebek), Chuck Barris’s New $50,000 Treasure Hunt (check out that pair of stories under Controversy on that page by the way… good old Chuckie-baby), and, as we talk about here, Sandy Frank’s Face the Music. All these shows, I’m noticing, are from the same WKRP period of the late ’70s/early ‘80s. Huh.

[Leah: The show I almost mentioned before Face the Music was Place the Face, a real 1950s game show hosted by Bill Cullen, the gold standard in game show hosts. You can't really tell from what we talked about here, but my game show wheelhouse goes back to the 1950s. I'm particularly fond of I’ve Got a Secret, especially the Garry Moore run, and I really like the original 1956-65 version of Price.

Any time you want to do a game show podcast, Mike, I’m in.]

HMOTD 028c: A Former Marine?

[Leah: Get out your snorkels, it's a really deep dive here. This conversation, much like the script pages I read, fleshes things out, but I can see how it didn't make the final version of the podcast episode. I hope you enjoy it anyway.

I do feel it's important (and fun!) to know about what didn't make it, especially with the shows you really like. One of my favorite modern Broadway musicals is Next to Normal, which started out off-Broadway, then had an additional out-of-town tryout in Washington, DC before going to a Pulitzer Prize-winning run on Broadway. Each move led to retooling and changes in the show. Alice Ripley, the show's lead actress, once said that her knowledge of these changes, the song cuts, the script deletions, what used to be there, fleshed out the character for her and how she portrayed it each night, even if the audience didn't know about the cuts.]

[Rob: Snorkels are not recommended for really deep dives.]

Blake Hunter was another alumnus of The Tony Randall Show and after writing 12 WKRP episodes, went on to Diff’rent Strokes (where, yes, he did pen the infamous “Bicycle Man” two-parter with Gordon Jump), and then finally, in 1984, co-created with Martin “Silver Spoons” Cohan a little show called… Who’s The Boss? Definitely a favorite of mine as a kid, and another example of Hunter creating a three-dimensional, fully-realized (and sexually active!) older character in Katherine Helmond’s Mona.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

HMOTD 028c: A Former Marine?

Guest host Leah Biel takes Rob and Mike on a tour through her script for "The Baby" and some of the changes the Blake Hunter-penned episode went through before air.
(Full show notes appear at Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser the Friday 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!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

HMOTD 028b: The Age of the Long Skinny Mic

Inspired by Peter Marshall and Johnny Olson's appearances in "Real Families," Rob, Mike, and Leah take a trip down memory lane with a look back at some obscure game shows from the '70s and '80s.

(Full show notes appear at Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser the Friday 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!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

HMOTD 028a: Real Incredible People

Rob, Mike, and guest host Leah Biel take a look at the "reality TV" shows that inspired the WKRP episode "Real Families" and the history of reality TV.
(Full show notes appear at Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser the Friday 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, September 26, 2016

HMOTD 028: Bonus Minisodes!

Happy Monday, HMOTDians! We have our schedule for our three bonus minisodes this week, and here they are:
  • Tuesday, September 27: HMOTD 028a: Real Incredible People, our look at the pop culture threads that fed into WKRP's "Real Families" episode, including reality media both before, during, and after the early 1980s.
  • Wednesday, September 28: HMOTD 028b: The Age of the Long Skinny Mic, our (mostly Leah's and Mike's) nostalgic look back at our favorite 1970s and 1980s game shows.
  • Thursday, September 29: HMOTD 028c: A Former Marine?, our look at some of the changes that Blake Hunter's script for "The Baby" went through before going to air, as well as Blake Hunter's care for the characters of Arthur and Carmen.
All episodes are between 8 and 10 minutes long and will drop at 7 am Eastern each day in all the usual places (here on the blog, iTunes, Stitcher, Twitter, and Facebook). On Friday we're planning to do some brief Show Notes for each episode. We hope you enjoy this look at the HMOTD cutting room floor!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Show Notes for HMOTD 028: Nothing On The Tube Is Real!

[All notes by Mike unless noted otherwise. Thanks to show guest Leah Biel for helping us so generously with this week's Show Notes.]

2:40 “Welcome, Leah Biel!” Many thanks again right at the top to Leah, not only for joining us for this episode, but also for dropping so many bits of WKRP trivia and memorabilia in our Facebook this past year or so. [Leah: If you haven’t seen my previous comments under every Facebook episode link, you might want to. No pressure.]

4:11 “Episode order is always intriguing…” It’s true! We talked about episode order way back in Season 1 with the release of “Preacher,” an episode that was recorded early in the season and which was aired at the very end of Season 1. And of course we told the story of “Who Is Gordon Sims” getting held back to later in Season 1, after Hugh Wilson had built up some goodwill with the network. [Leah: According to my scripts, “Hotel Oceanview” was PROD #0002, “Real Families” was #0003, and “The Baby” was #0004.]

5:12 “Lucille, does your family watch a lot of television?” Speaking as a kid who, in 1980, probably watched way too much television, unsupervised, this sequence where the Real Families interviewers take Lucille to task for the kids watching too much TV is just brilliant. [Leah: My copy of the “Real Families” script has an extra page with the lines for the TV audio in the background of this scene. As you might expect, it’s obviously broad, unfunny, and borderline just-plain-bad, to drive the point home even further that the Tarleks aren’t exactly watching Masterpiece Theatre, or even Mousterpiece Theatre.]

6:31 “Every time a channel would pick it back up, I would watch it.” WKRP has, of course, disappeared from standard classic syndication in the past decade or so, but it has had a very active afterlife on cable and now digital. You can see in its bouncing around “up and down the dial” in the '00s and '10s the difficulty and expense of securing music rights.

7:53 Rob’s picture of Gordon Jump: After seeing the Gordon Jump photo’s prominent place on Rob’s office wall (closeup front, and back), I can see now why students might think he’s Rob’s granddad.

8:10 “My pair of crew jackets.” [Leah: Here are the jackets as I got them from a crew member who shall go unnamed but whom I eternally thank, and this is the avatar that was mentioned on the podcast.]

9:02 “He’s been a radio/television college professor for over 30 years.” [Leah: My father doesn’t have an actual website, even though he does get quoted a lot, but you can find him on Facebook.]

11:22 “From that Brady Bunch episode!” It’s not the height of The Brady Bunch’s run, to be sure – it’s basically a half-hour-long ad for Kings Island – but it’s one of those episodes I watched so many times as a kid; I can still visualize the Yogi Bear poster that accidentally got swapped with Mike’s important architectural drawings. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention here the secret connections between Kings Island, the Banana Splits, Sid and Marty Krofft, and Hanna-Barbera, and between Kings Island, Taft Broadcasting, and Paramount Pictures. Turns out, if you grew up in the ‘70s, a vast web of huge corporations was trying to sell you things through the TV shows you loved! Gasp! [Leah: I mentioned Kings Island in particular because somewhere on the Internet exists a photoset of Gordon and Gary visiting various places in Cincy, including Kings Island.]

12:23 “People that are around my age or younger sometimes won’t get my references.” Any connection between my agreeing with Leah and the subsequent WKRP clip prominently featuring Steely Dan’s “Peg” is purely coincidental. [Leah: “Sometimes” actually means “usually”, but I try my best to make them understand.]

14:20 “This episode is presented as an episode of Real Families.” I am guessing that to the average Boomer or even Gen-Xer watching this episode in late 1980, the premise of this episode was not that tough to process (as we discuss, M*A*S*H did an episode like this in mockumentary style in 1976), but for older folks, it seemed to create a lot of confusion (as we’ll see later on with the story of Peter Marshall’s mom). [Leah: For some reason, QTQ-9 in Australia did a promo for WKRP using only footage from “Real Families”. Why use the one episode that looks so much different from all the others?]

16:41 Talking on television via live connections: I honestly had assumed that this kind of live televisual communication was an outgrowth of the satellite era (which started in 1962 with the launch of Telstar), but it’s not! As Leah notes, both Edward R. Murrow and Hy Gardner (the originator) used this format in the 1950s. According to Wikipedia, Person to Person used “a microwave link and wireless microphones” to accomplish these feats.

17:48 The label “Reality TV”: Next week, in our bonus minisode, we’ll discuss the history of reality television.

19:51 “We enjoy our backyard very much!” Well, I’m gonna have to brag here about the awesome animated gif of this particular scene that I created for the HMOTD Twitter account.

21:03 “And as someone who does Herb Tarlek cosplay…” [Leah: I’m so proud of this. You can’t see it, but there’s a white belt, and the jacket is actually from the ‘70s. And the TV Guide cover portrait I’m holding is also real.]

25:00 Herbert R. Nietzsche, Jr.: One bit that did get cut from our episode was Johnny’s explanation of Herb’s secret identity: “In the first place, Herb's name isn't Tarlek, it's Nietzsche. He's directly related to the famous nihilist philosopher. See, he came to America to prove through the use of polyester that God is dead, and I think he's succeeded admirably, don't you?” By this point, I theorize that Johnny is literally trying anything to get the Real Families crew off his back after tantalizing them with tales of Herb’s lingerie, kickbacks, and morals charges.

26:32 “So anyway, what was I saying… right, the windows!” From the absolute classic documentary Room 237, which is about all the secret messages hidden throughout Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 (!!!) film, The Shining. There was literally no other choice to lead into our discussion of the impossible architecture of WKRP the station.

27:58 “Hard worker, loyal husband, all-around fine person…” This connection between “Real Families” and The Manchurian Candidate is GOLD. Well done, Rob.

29:23 Floor plan of WKRP: John Hadjuk, you’re up. I mean, that sketch is no Overlook Hotel floorplan, but it’s definitely a valiant attempt. [Rob: John didn’t give up, either: Here’s his second attempt, which adds an airshaft, but still doesn’t answer: why does Jennifer, the receptionist, sit with her back to the entrance? And what is she staring at all day?)]

30:10 “No walls!” Thanks to Leah for reminding me to mention: this clip is actually from Season 2's “Most Improved Station,” but it fit so well here.

32:17 Episode music: So yeah, two tracks off of Steely Dan’s Aja in this episode! I was pretty stoked about that when watching “Real Families.” Season 3 of WKRP is going to be chock full of Yacht Rock, and I for one couldn’t be happier. “Once In A Lifetime” by Talking Heads sadly does not appear on the Shout! Factory DVD.

33:35 “C’mon Herb, we’re just trying to get to the truth!” Frank Bonner, as we’ve said in previous podcasts, is a great comedic actor, but if he doesn’t nail this final monologue, in my opinion, the whole episode falls apart. It’s very much a callback to the rants of Howard Beale in Network, which we’ve talked about numerous times on the podcast. [Leah: no relation, but I do love that film.]

40:13 Photo of Leah with Peter Marshall: Here is the photographic proof! [Leah: I’ve still never seen Yellowman. I’ve also never run into Peter again, despite the number of conventions I go to. Of course I made the right choice.]

40:35 Memories of 1970s and 1980s game shows: As with reality TV, watch for our minisode coming out next week on the off-week, where we’ll discuss our memories of 1970s game shows! For now, though, you can watch the WKRP cast in their epic battle against The Looooooove Boat.

42:05 “I’ll see if Travis is still here, I’ll call him on the intercom……. TRAVIS!” Hee. This is a great gag. [Leah: Agreed. Much like the bonefishing routine in “Patter”, I would have liked to see this joke return every once in a while throughout the rest of the series. I could be wrong, but I think this was also a one-and-done.]

44:33 The difference between “shipping” and “OTP”: “Shipping” as a concept could be reasonably traced back to the original “slashfic” of Kirk/Spock, but the term “shipping” started on Usenet in the ‘90s in reference to Dana Scully and Fox Mulder on The X-Files. It’s probably not too surprising to hear that I was right there on at the term’s birth. OTP as a term actually does originate in pre-internet fandom; Fanlore cites a Trek fanzine from 1984 as the first appearance of the phrase!

45:15 Bob and Emily Hartley: This clip is from the 1973 episode “Mister Emily Hartley.” [Leah: Season 2, episode 8. I believe the oft-told story is that the creators of The Bob Newhart Show saw how well Bob and Suzanne interacted with each other when they were both guests on The Tonight Show and they just knew she was the one.]

48:20 “They have a maid”: [Leah: do you suppose they’re still employing the housekeeper whom Arthur once claimed to be getting messages from Wally Schirra?]

50:30 The unsweetened version: “Unsweetened” is TV jargon for “without laughter or applause tracks.” Probably the classic example of “sweetening” from pop culture is the scene from Annie Hall when Alvie’s friend is working in Hollywood and liberally adding laughter for all his bad sitcom jokes. Sorry I can’t find an Annie Hall clip that doesn’t have The Big Bang Theory spliced in, but that in itself sort of tells you a little about the timeless disdain for canned laughter and applause. [Leah: I mention M*A*S*H in particular because the DVDs of that show have the option to watch with or without the laugh track. More shows should do that.]

53:32 “Johnny has one of the more interesting encounters.” To me, Johnny’s time with Peggy Sue is a direct sequel to Johnny’s adventures in “God Talks to Johnny.” And the concept of the near-death experience, or NDE, was really coming into its own by the end of the Weird ‘70s, much as we discussed last time out with ghost-hunting in the ‘70s in “Jennifer Moves." The NDE found its seminal text smack dab in the middle of the ‘70s with Raymond Moody’s 1975 Life After Life, which Peggy Sue explicitly calls out by name.

59:00 The Mandela Effect or Berenstain/Berenstein Bears: I am surprised that it took us two seasons and change to finally cite The Mandela Effect.

1:02:40: “Andy is off doing whatever.” We didn’t include our puzzlement over the subplot of Andy encountering a seductive candy striper straight out of a porn movie… mostly because it didn’t work at all for us here in 2016. [Leah: But that red tracksuit is just so…]

1:06:03 et subseq. The Miracle of Life: 1983’s Nova special “The Miracle of Life” featured in utero photography by Swedish macrophotography pioneer Lennart Nilsson, as well as footage of an actual delivery.

1:10:10 Rob’s birth, rye whiskey, and Dr. MacDougall, “M.D.”: After listening to this story, I couldn’t help but picture Rob’s folks explaining this story to young Rob in the manner of Kramer in the famous Seinfeld “driving the bus” monologue. “Well, people kept ringing the bell!”

1:13:24 Hypnosis during birth: Hey, you know what’s weird? My wife and I were over in England earlier this month, and on Radio 4 there was a story on what’s being called “hypnobirthing” being used by the NHS... so it’s coming back around!

1:15:10 “Keep It Under Your Hat”: Allyn Ann McLerie, here in the Doris Day musical Calamity Jane, is, as we discussed, amazing. Much like both Sylvia Sidney and Carol Bruce the actresses and Mama Carlson the character, Allyn Ann McLerie started off as a Broadway ingenue and had to transition to the kind of roles offered to women of a certain age in the 1970s, and she knocked them all out of the park. Here’s a supercut of McLerie as Mrs. Reubner on The Tony Randall Show, and here’s all three pages of the TV Guide profile that Leah mentions: 1 2 3

1:16:38 Hugh Wilson and The Tony Randall Show: [Leah: I really think this series is what led to her getting Carmen, particularly the season two episode “The Taking of Reubner 1-2-3” (great title!), a showcase episode for her written and directed by Hugh Wilson. Note also that this episode ends with a Dragnet-influenced tag, much like the season one WKRP episode “Hold Up.”] [Mike: And hey, that episode also features Michael "Ivan" Pataki!]

1:18:12 “Where’s Charley”: [Leah: The 1952 movie adaptation of the stage musical (with Ray Bolger) is one of those films that, I believe, has never been officially released on any home video format. The only bit of the film I’ve ever seen is this clip of “Once in Love with Amy”, but I saw it from an original print on a big screen at the Library of Congress’ Culpepper Archives. Apparently, moves were being made to release the film on video at long last, but the article I found about it is from 2011 (yet listed as updated in 2015). Watching part of it again this week, I do see elements of Carmen in Amy. She was also in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, another hard-to-find film that I got to see once at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, because I knew she was in it. It’s not easy being a fan when the person you admire does things that are hard to come by, but she’s worth it.]

1:19:45 “Goodbye Johnny”/Lou Grant: [Leah: Here’s the promo, if you missed it. A very dramatic role.]

1:20:05 Barney Miller: [Leah: “Homicide: Part 1” (she’s only in the final scene of that episode) and “Homicide: Part 2” aired October 30 and November 6, 1980, respectively, and “The Baby” aired November 22, 1980.]

1:21:46 “Check out Carlson Industries”: Here’s a quick link to Leah’s tumblr! [Leah: I may not update it every day, or every week, but rest assured that I am always looking out for the good, the weird, and the wonderful to put on it.]

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

HMOTD 028: Nothing On The Tube Is Real!

Rob and Mike are joined by very special guest and WKRP ultra-fan Leah Biel for two format-busting episodes of WKRP: "Real Families" and "The Baby."
(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, September 19, 2016

Do you ever turn that camera off? No? Oh.

This week, we've got an exceptional pair of WKRP in Cincinnati episodes to cover: the wild and sometimes surreal meta-ness of "Real Families" and the down-to-earth dramedy of "The Baby." And we're thrilled to also be able to welcome a guest host we've been waiting to have on the show for a long time, WKRP superfan and curator of the excellent Carlson Industries tumblr, Leah Biel! Leah's been a friend of the podcast since very early in the first season, and we're delighted to have brought her on for such a rich pair of episodes.

Here's the only problem (if you can even call it a "problem"): the three of us talked for almost two and a half hours! And as you know, we try to keep our episodes to about 70, 80 minutes. With clips, that's really only about an hour of conversation. And there were so many worthwhile tangents we slipped down during our 150 minutes on Skype. Editing this episode, which fell to me this week, was probably one of the toughest edit jobs I've had in the whole run of HMOTD.

We've clipped tons of worthwhile segments in our year and a half on the air, but this week more than any other demands that we give you, our loyal listeners, a peek into some of our Deleted Scenes. It's also more than a little appropriate this week, given how often in this episode we cite Leah's impressive collection of WKRP scripts, most of which contain scenes that never made it to air. With the absence of DVD special features on the otherwise-excellent Shout! Factory DVDs, these scripts are the closest anyone's likely ever to get to an official set of WKRP deleted scenes.

So next week, on our off-week, we'll be presenting a short "minisode" or two with some of the segments that just didn't fit into our final edit. They're still being assembled at this point, but you will definitely get our detailed conversation about the history of reality television and Leah's and my shared love of 1970s game shows (thanks to the presence of Peter Marshall and Johnny Olson in "Real Families") as well as some other goodies we couldn't fit into this podcast. The minisode(s) will show up on your HMOTD feed here, on iTunes and on Stitcher.

Stay tuned then, fellow babies, for our look at "Real Families" and "The Baby" on Wednesday, September 21 and then the week of September 26 for our Deleted Scenes!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Find An Episode

Looking for our discussion of a specific episode of WKRP in Cincinnati? Or maybe you just like reading chronologically top-to-bottom instead of bottom-to-top? Either way, our new Find An Episode page has got you covered. Dig deep into the early seasons of HMOTD and WKRP!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Show Notes for HMOTD 027: All The Men in Landersville Are Going Bald

For those of you who are new to HMOTD, this is where we explain some of the unexplained references from the actual podcast and expand upon stuff we didn't get a chance to go deeper into. You can read Show Notes for all our past episodes here.

2:40 and elsewhere The 1980 SAG/AFTRA Strike: We did a little further explanation of the timing and causes of the strike in our Monday post here.

5:03 "On the other hand...": It does pain us to have to be this cruel to a show we love. At least with "Young Master Carlson" we had the awful racial politics and unlikability of the Little Guy, both actor and character, to talk about. But this episode had nothing. What a way to start our big third season, huh? More on this later.

7:42 "Is this another one of these meta moments?" This will NOT be the last meta moment of the podcast, just sayin'.

8:10 Hammy Hamster: I first heard of the oeuvre of Hammy (short for "Hamilton," perhaps?) in the world of Red Dwarf. He's the rodent equivalent of Marlon Brando! The joke about Tales From the Riverbank: The Next Generation would have been particularly au courant in 1991.

8:40 "There's a Blackadder episode...": The otherwise genius "Private Plane" from Blackadder Goes Forth, featuring the memorable (if a bit hammy, ha ha) Rik Mayall as Lord Flashheart.

10:10 "We're gonna need another Hammy!" Did you catch my Dinosaurs reference?

10:30 BBC rules on human voices for animal actors: Research on this odd policy of the BBC led down some weird cul-de-sacs: here's an obituary for the very first voice actor for Tales From the Riverbank in the 1960s, Johnny Morris, who dubbed the Canadian animal cruelty home videos into British English. In it, it's implied that a public outcry over excessive anthropomorphization of animals on television led to the policy being put in place. More fascinating is the tidbit at the end of the obituary where it's said that instead of leaving his vast Hammy Hamster and Animal Magic fortune to his family, he left it to his partner on Animal Magic, Terry Nutkins, who believe it or not is NOT an anthropomorphic squirrel.

11:30 More Hammy: META MOMENT NUMBER 2

13:43 Armistice Day to Veterans Day: Sorry for all the muddle on the alive/dead Veteran Holiday Venn Diagram in the episode, folks. It is all a bit confusing. But here's a quick prĂ©cis: Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day, and Rob was right, it began in order to celebrate Civil War veterans who died in battle (and I'd be remiss if I didn't link to podcast favorites The Drive-By Truckers' moving song "Decoration Day" here). Veterans Day, as discussed on the podcast, is for all veterans. The name change from Armistice Day happened in 1954, which is over a quarter-century before the WKRP episode, which... isn't all that recent, really, but I suppose old habits die hard.

15:05 1970s Holiday Inflation: I'm totally right on this. First, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1971 made five holidays (including Veterans Day) into Monday holidays to provide government workers with guaranteed three-day weekends. As Linus tells us, Arbor Day was established in the 19th century, but only came into vogue in the 1970s as the ecology movement picked up steam. Flag Day is another 19th century holiday that got a new lease on life in the 1970s, probably due to the bicentennial.

17:35 The "Flying Mayor": Harold Johnson, the Flying Mayor of Moraine, Ohio, passed away in 2011. Moraine, Ohio was also the hometown to... WKRP's own Gary Sandy! One has to wonder if Gary suggested Harold to the producers as someone who could provide an airplane quickly enough to record some scenes during the strike.

19:10 Yet more Hammy: META MOMENT NUMBER 2A

22:21: "Who Shot J.R.": First of all... GREAT find, Rob. I thought this novelty song about the "Who Shot J.R.?" plotline was by Ray Stevens, but it's not! It's Gary Burbank, a radio DJ who ironically ended up in Cincinnati in 1981, where he spent nearly three decades on Cincinnati's biggest station, WLW! His own background is rife with WKRP-esque radio hijinks: in 1973, he was fired from his station in Louisville, Kentucky for staging his own assassination on the air!

23:54 The 1988 Writers' Guild Strike: If you love 1980s television as much as I do, the list of impacted shows during the March-August 1988 strike is TREMENDOUS. Johnny Carson got special dispensation to go back on the air with himself as chief writer in May because, of course, you never fuck with Johnny. Letterman, it turns out, was lying or at least exaggerating about his writers being absent during that summer of '88 when I was staying up late to watch Late Night; as part of Carson Productions, he also negotiated a separate settlement. Let's see, the strike of '88 also brought The Smothers Brothers back to TV in what was only the beginning of the late '80s' flood of late-'60s nostalgia. The 1988 revival of Mission: Impossible recycled scripts from the original version to avoid Writers' Guild interference, as did Britcom-to-U.S. import Dear John. And while animation writers were exempt from the strike, it still dealt a serious blow to Pee Wee's Playhouse, which only released a few episodes in 1988 and would be canceled in 1990.

(And speaking of Pee Wee's Playhouse, you MUST listen to this episode of the Netflakes Podcast about Pee Wee's Big Holiday on Netflix with regular hosts Dylan Clark-Moore and Caroline Diezyn featuring special guest... Rob MacDougall!)

24:55 New Media, VHS/Betamax/Videodisc: Oh God you guys, this hits me on both the retrotech level AND the '70s/'80s media levels. First things first; there is NOTHING better than the videocassette sales Top 10s from 1980s TV Guides, folks (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). (Well, maybe the videocassette ads.) We've all been through the jokes about VHS vs. Beta, but whither the videodisc? I wanted a videodisc player SO badly growing up. They were huge! They cast a rainbow! They were super high-tech! And now the videodisc version of tons of movies are considered collectors' items. LaserDisc, the standard format from the '70s and '80s, itself is part of a messy, multiplicative set of formats and history.

25:55 Ed Asner and Powers Boothe: What a study in contrasts. And I really like both these actors! But I definitely respect Ed Asner more.

28:30 The history of the traffic helicopter/Francis Gary Powers: I realize in this episode I say "Some JFK assassination theorists..." just like the narrator of Ancient Aliens says, "Some ancient alien theorists believe..." I mean, this isn't a bad thing, per se. But if you want some deep paranoia about the rash of deaths around the House Special Committee on Assassinations in 1977, check out this page put together by JFK conspiracy authority Jim Marrs.

Regarding Francis Gary Powers and Lee Harvey Oswald, one thing that didn't make it into the podcast is that Oswald, while in the Marines, was stationed at Atsugi Air Base in Japan, where some (but not Powers's) U2 spy flights originated. Both Don DeLillo's Libra and Oliver Stone's JFK link the two men, DeLillo more symbolically and Stone more literally with the theory, put in the mouth of Assistant District Attorney Susie Cox, that Powers was allowed to be shot down to scuttle the planned May 1960 Eisenhower/Khrushchev summit.

(Also, Ed Asner played putative JFK assassination conspirator Guy Bannister in JFK. Moving on!)

32:02 "Les, let's turn this town on its ear." "Had Enough" appeared on The Who's Who Are You in 1978. Definitely part of, and perhaps even on the vanguard of, the Boomer rock generation slicking up their production and sound. Strings and synths! They should have let John Entwistle write more songs! Er, "Boris the Spider" notwithstanding. I have also been giving some thought to the idea of Buddy and Les as a possible metaphor for the actors' strike itself; two men, putting themselves in danger all on their own, to prove what seems ultimately like a minor point.

33:40 "Maybe do a little vaporwave with that." I'll just re-plug my reimagining of Vince DiCola's "Training Montage" from Rocky IV. A full album from omnicontinuum is coming! Someday. When I have time.

33:54 WKRP Music Google Spreadsheet: Mike Hernandez is the man! Here's a link to his spreadsheet, which has been by our side for every music discussion on HMOTD so far. Fantastic work, Mike, and thanks.

35:10 Improv/Michael Fairman: This entire discussion is about IMPROV, by the way. So don't use any other term in the comments, okay? So, about IMPROV. Going Clear is the name of the HBO documentary, which was apparently denied a chance at a Best Documentary Oscar by zealous IMPROV adherents. It did win three Emmys, though. As I said, I dallied in researching the occult and Weird origins of IMPROV back on Usenet in the '90s; here's a good link about that. Speaking of the occult and Weird origins of IMPROV, the story of IMPROV-founder-adjacent rocket scientist Jack Parsons is one that never gets old; this book is a fantastic introduction. And God bless Bojack Horseman for giving us one of the best code words to reasonably discuss IMPROV online yet. [Rob: Not just Bojack! This New Yorker article on the Upright Citizens Brigade makes exactly the same comparison, between IMPROV and a certain profitable Hollywoo religion. Weird, huh?]

39:29 "I'm Dottie Dahlquist, I live next door." Yeah, Ken and Dottie just never get over the way Wayne Craven and Mr. Furgood do. This episode could have been a classic, but there's just not enough of the main cast and the bits just fly past too fast to take real effect. We'll again talk more about this later.

41:08 Backdoor pilot spinoffs: Pretty fantastic list of backdoor pilots here on TVTropes, most of which never got made. Just a cavalcade of weird, ill-advised ideas for TV shows.

44:20 "Mr. Craven, I would like to ask you a question about the phone company..." Here's the ad I mention at 45:43. Not sure if there's much more to be said about the heights and the fall of AT&T but it's worth linking to the Wikipedia article about the breakup of Ma Bell (got the ill communication).

49:10 "If I remember my early '80s serial killer fiction correctly..." Francis Dolarhyde was indeed pretending to be a meter reader, not a phone company guy, but that's okay. We'll have more to say about the late '70s/early '80s Golden Age of Serial Killers later this season, stay tuned.

52:35 "The regulars outside of Jennifer don't have a lot to do..." You can see Frank Bonner's disheveled self up at the top of these Show Notes. One thing that didn't make it into the podcast was Gordon Jump's earnest line read of "I'm the guard" as he escorts Jennifer's bank boxes full of jewelry into the house, all while wearing a CLASSIC 1980s barracuda jacket. Such an '80s dad jacket, folks; before Members Only, there was the mighty barracuda. Made famous by Elvis and Steve Fuckin' McQueen!

52:50 et subseq. Jumping the Shark: God, the sense of loss and disillusionment in Ron Howard's voice as he talks about Fonzie jumping the shark! So sad!

So. Let's talk about WKRP jumping the shark in Season 3. It's funny, but before we got into recording Season 3, I thought all the WKRP cognoscenti's lukewarm reactions to Season 3 were outsized overreactions... yes, even those of Friend of the Podcast Tommy Krasker in his excellent paean to the new and interesting directions WKRP was headed in Season 4 before its cancelation. I remembered "Real Families" and "Hotel Oceanview" specifically as being fantastic, and upon rewatch they were. But now, having recorded a handful of Season 3 podcast episodes... yes. It is a bit unnerving how distant from the concerns of radio that WKRP gets in this first third or so of Season 3. Now, the middle and back thirds of Season 3, I think, return to the concerns of a radio station exceptionally well; a lot of the plots are character-based but they're at least based at WKRP the station.

Regarding early internet pop culture stalwarts, the owners sold the term and domain to TV Guide of all people, and so the old site's archives are now on a site called "Bone the Fish." Quite clever. Here's WKRP's entry on "Bone the Fish." [Edit: Turns out these are not the original JTS archives.] Interesting the episodes that people think made the show "jump the shark."

55:15 Funny Girl and Still Yet More Meta: Funny Girl is sadly still sitting on my to-read pile a month or so later.

Here's the link to The Whole Shebang, by the way. And yes, Rob's Canadian politeness is exceptionally good at cloaking how well he busts balls.

59:16 "What will we do, baby, without us?" The guys at the Beyond Yacht Rock podcast weighed in on my question on whether Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams' rendition of the Family Ties theme should be considered Yacht Rock:
So there you have it.

1:02:06 America II: Richard Louv's 1983 book was really a mindblower for me; I wish that people had listened to his warnings about social atomization in the aftermath of the urban turbulence of the '60s and '70s. And yes, that original first printing cover was something else.

1:04:10 "The Fifties are the haunted house of the American century." From this Greil Marcus piece on Pleasantville and the two versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Marcus is, as usual, genius; his analysis of the 1978 Snatchers as an indictment of New Age/human potential groupthink is fucking on point, and now I need to rewatch it with that in mind. "Leonard Nimoy's turtlenecked pod psychiatrist," indeed.

1:05:11 et subseq. "This is Hawkins."/Spielberg's Suburbs. Boy, the release of Stranger Things couldn't have come at a better time for this podcast episode, huh? (I'm going to see awesome millennials-who-love-the-80s electronic band S U R V I V E, who did the killer Stranger Things score, in concert this winter, by the way. Be jealous.) But here is the story that we mention about Steven Spielberg in Rolling Stone magazine, and it is a treat. Take some time and settle in to read it, with the additional knowledge from this quaintly naive 1982 New York Times article that "Pervasive Use of Cocaine is Reported in Hollywood" that "some people have attested to the large quantity of drugs on the location of the critically acclaimed 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind.'"

1:10:44 Ed and Lorraine Warren/Ghostbusters: Yes, even though we're going to lose the Cincinnati Triangle quotient in Seasons 3 and 4, it's worth it for this discussion of the difference between '70s and '80s weird and our shared love of Ghostbusters. (No, not The Ghost Busters.)

Ed and Lorraine Warren were amazing real-life paranormal investigators, and The Conjuring series has brought them back to prominence, with Lorraine Warren even appearing at recent Comic-Cons! (Ed passed away in 2006.) Their involvement with the Amityville case was after the fact and not reflected in the 1979 film (erratum from podcast episode), but we cannot ignore their contributions to the "possessed Raggedy Ann doll" case of "Annabelle" or the famous UK haunting in Enfield in the late '70s.

Dan Aykroyd's love of and respect for the paranormal is well-known. The care that's given in the first 15 minutes of Ghostbusters to what a paranormal research lab in a university in 1984 would look like is evident and just lovely.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

HMOTD 027: All the Men in Landersville are Going Bald

We're back! Season 3 of HMOTD begins with the WKRP episodes "The Airplane Show" and "Jennifer Moves," plus actors' strikes, hamster voices, suburban ghosts, and the busting of same.
(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, September 5, 2016

What have you got in mind, Buddy?

Hey, HMOTD fans, welcome back! Wednesday marks the release of our Season 3 premiere, covering the first two episodes of Season 3 of WKRP In Cincinnati. "The Airplane Show" and "Jennifer Moves" aired on November 1 and November 8, 1980 respectively.

If you are a dedicated student of television history, you will indeed notice that these debut dates are quite late! The American television season in the pre-cable era started religiously in September, mid-season replacements notwithstanding, of course. You'd get your Fall Preview issue of TV Guide in the first week of September and settle down to discover all your new shows and returning favorites. But in 1980, that didn't happen.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) went on strike on the very patriotic date of July 4, 1980. It was a pre-agreed three-month strike, designed to hit the TV and movie industries right as pilot season and fall premiere recording was underway. Not only that, but the strike delayed the release of the resolution of possibly the most famous cliffhanger in television history, "Who Shot J.R.?"

Variety from July 23, 1980. The strike-pertinent article in question is "Actors' Strike Halts Production," but there are some other gems, like mention of a musicians' strike in the UK, the working out of 20th Century Fox's "magnetic video" rights, and the story of Bermuda Triangle researcher Richard Winer losing his leg in a retributive bombing by drug dealers he was trying to remove from his Florida neighborhood!

We tell the story of how the strike specifically impacted WKRP in this week's episode, of course, so no spoilers here. But it's interesting and a bit poetic that WKRP's strike-delayed Season 3 debut episodes would air as bookends to the election of Ronald Wilson Reagan on November 4, 1980. Reagan, who would go on to do more than possibly any other individual in American history to destroy the American labor movement, was ironically himself a former union man. And not just a union man, but SAG President, from 1947 through 1952! And in 1959, after the controversies of the blacklist, Reagan returned to the presidency of SAG as a conquering hero to help negotiate Hollywood actors' famous television "residuals" system. Doubly ironically, the 1980 SAG/AFTRA strike was also about the union confronting the impact of disruptive technology on actors and industry workers. In 1960, it was the plummeting attendance at motion pictures due to television; in 1980, it was the predicted impact of pay television and home video on network television actors.

So here we are, about to begin the Reagan era with two WKRP stories that seem to exemplify it: the regret and sadness over the failed remembrance of veterans in "The Airplane Show" and 1980s America's move to the Weird Suburbs in "Jennifer Moves." Join us on Wednesday for our Season 3 premiere!