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.


  1. Interesting anecdote about Blake Hunter's career - he takes good old loveable Gordie Jump and makes him inot a "special guest pedophile" on Diff'rent Strokes. Was this meant to stretch his range as an actor?

    1. I keep wondering if we ought to talk about "The Bicycle Man" on the podcast, Terry. But that would require re-watching it, and I really don't want to. In the meantime, The AV Club did a long piece: