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.]

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