Wednesday, January 31, 2018

HMOTD 050: Soul Suds

Mike and Rob arrive at the final two episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati: "To Err is Human" and "Up and Down the Dial." 

(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, January 29, 2018

The WKRP Best Episode Ever Tournament: It's Awesome, Baby!

First off: we still need your questions and comments for the Listener Mail segment of our penultimate episode! Send your messages to in the next week, and thanks to those of you who've reached out already!

Okay, now the moment you've been waiting for: the revelation of the brackets for our 32-episode WKRP Best Episode Ever Tournament!

(You can also download a JPG version of the bracket here.)

Our voting starts tomorrow, on Tuesday January 30, with the four matches in the Station region. Each regional poll will stay up for three days:

Station region (Matches 1-4): 1/30 - 2/1
Very Special Region (Matches 5-8): 1/31 - 2/2
Zany Region (Matches 9-12): 2/1 - 2/3
Family Region (Matches 13-16): 2/2 - 2/4

Next week, we'll wrap the tournament with some rapid-fire two-day rounds:

Regional semifinals: 2/5-2/6
Regional finals: 2/7-2/8
Final Four: 2/9-2/11

And we'll hold voting for the Championship from February 12-14! The champion will be revealed on the 15th and we'll discuss the tournament on our final episode.

All voting will take place on Twitter, and you'll need an account to vote on the polls. Sorry, but it's just the easiest polling venue to manage and provide for fairness of voting.

And stay tuned for our look at the very last two episodes of WKRP, "To Err Is Human" and "Up And Down The Dial," coming this Wednesday, same time, same place as usual!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Show Notes for HMOTD 049: Venus Is A Girl's Name

2:35 Our hiatus and Lisa's blog: Lisa Faden's blog is at Breathing In, Breathing Out. It is a powerful read, and I'm grateful to Lisa for sharing her journey with all of us. And once again, thank you to all our listeners for your kind words and well wishes. It's meant a lot to Lisa and Rob and family, and to me.

4:23 "What the first line of The Invisibles?" Ah, I misremembered it, Rob was right, it's "And so we return and begin again." I suppose this loses me a spot in any eventual Invisibles read-along podcast.

8:40 Andy's side of "The Creation of Venus": This was the big revelation of the episode for me, showing Andy's nervous time during the Pilot behind the scenes, contradicting the laconic cowboy he seemed back in 1978. The writers have done so much with Andy, and Gary Sandy as we've noted time and time again is in a different class than he was back in Season 1. Most Improved Cast Member!

10:00 Carol Bruce: Yeah, probably not controversial at this point to say that Carol Bruce has also shown tons of versatility in her four years on the show, and totally justifies the decision to use her for the series.

13:00 Reshoot of the format change scene: This is probably the biggest bummer of the episode for me. They shouldn't have even tried to do this. I do appreciate the scenes between Pilot-era Johnny and Venus meeting each other for the first time, though. Two guys who'd become best buds during the series having their meet-cute which we never got to see the first time.

[Rob: I don't mind the alternate version! I think it's less about being "low energy" and more about showing us how Johnny is winging it / making the Fever character up on the spot. I also think it forces us to embrace a Rashomon-style approach to continuity, as we discuss. What we saw in the pilot might be what that moment seemed like to the WKRP audience, or maybe to Arthur; what we see here is what the moment might have felt like internally to Johnny and maybe Andy and Venus too.]

15:33 Simpsons memory clip: It's a very visual joke, but Lord knows it's probably one of my favorite single moments in Simpsons history.

15:52 "It's a love sign, ruled by Venus." Libra is a super interesting sign! It is indeed ruled by Venus, and the "love" part of the sign is said to involve Librans' appreciation of fine art and fine clothes. Hmm, seems perfect for our Venus now that I think about it. It's also the title of probably my favorite Don DeLillo novel (1988's Libra, about the life of Lee Harvey Oswald). In that book Clay Shaw, CIA asset and possible assassination conspirator, explains to Oswald that the Libran be either balanced or impulsive and brash. It kind of makes you think of Venus's double nature throughout his time on WKRP, doesn't it?

19:12 Other carnivorous plants: Carnivorous plants are creepy and weird; I've always had a kind of irrational fear of them, stemming I think from a 3-2-1 Contact segment I saw growing up with microphotography of bugs getting captured and eaten. Shudder. Or maybe it was this Vincent Price-narrated (!!!) educational film called Death Trap. Also there was Little Shop of Horrors which I liked not one bit as a kid. In conclusion, carnivorous plants, while badass, can also GTFO.

25:03 "In 2017, we're all nerds now." I really did shudder to think about the ramifications of this statement.

26:45 "Trials and Tribble-ations": Oh man. I think my love of this episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine came out sufficiently on the show, but the Memory Alpha entry does give all the background including the fact it was inspired by the success of Forrest Gump and that it was originally going to be set on the planet of "A Piece of the Action." But it would be about the planet 150 years later, now adhering to the Enterprise crew's behaviors as they had the 1920s gangsterse, "as a social commentary on the Trekkie phenomenon." I actually kind of want to see Rob Moore's script for this episode now.

[Rob: That's interesting: shades of Galaxy Quest, though the DS9 episode would have preceded the film by a few years.]

31:07 Broadcast intrusions/David Foster Wallace: My piece on the history of broadcast intrusions is here (it's also been syndicated at one of my favorite sites on the paranormal, the Daily Grail), and the classic David Foster Wallace piece on the meta-reflexiveness and irony-saturated landscape of television is here. The MTM/St. Elsewhere stuff starts on page 158.

32:23 The Tommy Westphall Universe: Wading into the history of the Tommy Westphall theory is about as labyrinthine as the theory itself! These guys claim they invented it on (big ups to Usenet baby!) back in 1999, but I've also heard rumors that late comic legend Dwayne McDuffie arrived at it independently in 2002 as well. I'd forgotten that Tommy and his father put his snowglobe down on top of a TV set at the end of the episode as the St. Elsewhere theme plays in the background. Just hammer that metaphor home, Tom Fontana. I love it, though.

34:58 The Wold Newton Universe/Planetary: The Wold Newton universe theorizes one single event, a meteorite strike near the British town of Wold Newton, created all the pulp heroes of the first half of the 20th century (this concept was indeed ably recycled by Warren Ellis in his Planetary comic series, a longtime favorite of Rob's and mine, with Ellis's concept of "century babies" all born with superpowers on January 1, 1900).

[Rob: Here Mike mentions our longtime mutual friend, Jess Nevins, Two-Fisted Librarian and probably this timeline's number one expert on the pulp, comic, and dime novel fantasies of yesteryear. You might remember him from the Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana or his hypercomplete annotations to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and other comics, which frightened even Alan Moore, and that's saying something.]

38:01 Bishop Berkeley: Bishop Berkeley's philosophy is a little more complicated than my potted version, but subjective idealism tells us that everything is real insofar as it is sensed by a mind.

40:50 Mad About You/Seinfeld: While the jokes about George being emasculated by having to watch Mad About You are pretty retrograde today (and now that I think about it, an incredible burn to the producers of that show by the Seinfeld crew!), hearing the theme music tinkling over George's agonized facial expressions in the closing credit of that episode still makes me chuckle.

45:37 "The Impossible Dream": I liked keeping this little "not-intended-for-air" bit about Rob pondering whether he should sing.

49:24 Walter Cronkite/Dan Rather: So we had the timeline a tiny bit off; Cronkite had been replaced by Dan Rather back in March 1981, so he'd been out of the seat for a year by this point. So this bit probably would've involved, as Rob theorizes later, Les getting some appropriately avuncular advice from Uncle Walter.

52:30 Aurra's "Make Up Your Mind"/Ernie Watts's "Chariots of Fire": Two pieces of excellent music on Venus's show in this pair of episodes. Aurra's aforementioned sick jam, which is just in that perfect post-disco, early-'80s funk place of artists like Cameo and Rick James. And in the last episode we had to cut a discussion of Peak Vangelis triggered by the appearance of this amazing jazz cover of the massive Vangelis hit, the "Chariots of Fire" theme song, by jazz saxophonist Ernie Watts at the beginning of "The Creation of Venus."

59:47 "New York's gonna eat him alive." The conversation between Andy and the Big Guy here is very meta, isn't it? The Big Guy represents the kind of old, idealized, fictional universe where a kid from the sticks can make it big in the city. Andy is the brutal realist. Kind of an amazing little clash of worldviews there.

1:02:38 "He doesn't do anything really bad to anyone." I was wrong, of course: only last episode Les was stealing Bailey's incomplete piece from her typewriter in "Dear Liar." Call it my hiatus hangover.

1:05:43 John Hodgman's Vacationland: Rob's right: every geeky 40-something dad I know has been raving about this book. I'm not a dad but I'm going to pick it up ASAP because Hodgman is awesome.

1:07:24 Dave's Theory of Narratives: Ably described by Dave Lyons back in HMOTD 045, at around the 43-minute mark.

1:09:11 Moms episode: If you missed the episode with our moms, it's HMOTD 030. And given all the talk about "bad moms" in this episode, I'd point you to the 46-minute mark there, for Rob's mom Betty Jo's incisive assessment of the "bad mother" character in pop culture.

1:09:32 Drag in comedy: Again, keep in mind Rob and I are a couple of cisgender guys working all this out. But it is undeniable how much of my formative media, especially sketch comedy, utilized drag. John Cleese of course lampshades it delightfully in the Piranha Brothers sketch with his "female impersonator" punchline, but this of course is also inspired by the fact that Ronnie of the notorious Kray Brothers (the model for the Piranhas) identified as queer.

1:11:26 Canadian TV bracket: Here's the beginning of the bracket that roiled Canadian Twitter for well over a fortnight.

[Rob: I called it wrong! In the end, Mr. Dress-up beat out Kids In The Hall, proof once again that democracy simply doesn't work.]

1:16:13 Steps: Whoo boy. What can you say about the Steps sketch in 2017/18? Two straight and one gay comedian play essentially gay community "types": Dave as airheaded twink Riley, Kevin as the always politically correct Smitty, and of course Scott as Butch, the, er, shallow butch cocksman. And then you have the additional weirdness of Bruce cross-dressing and playing a lesbian who hates "when fags do [drag]" but who's going to dress up as Rush Limbaugh at a warehouse party and my brain just exploded. It's a recursive set of political and comedic statements, it's problematic and hilarious, it's downright Brechtian and I love it despite its obvious flaws.

1:18:25 YMCA: How much did middle America understand about "Y.M.C.A." when it came out? I've tried to find some evidence that either that the whole country was in on the reference, or that nobody outside of the gay community knew the double meaning, but I'm guessing that in 1978 it was somewhere in the middle. Urban hipsters probably understood, but your average housewife in, say, Iowa probably thought it was a wholesome paean to the Y.

1:19:44 VHS or Beta: I found this lovely NEC ad when searching for "VHS vs. Beta" and it's actually super illustrative! The rootin'-tootin' rich Texan oil baron wants Beta for its superior picture, and the couple about to start to necking on the rec room couch probably want to watch a horror movie on VHS. It's perfect!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

HMOTD 049: Venus Is A Girl's Name

Rob and Mike are back! And they're traveling back in time to revisit the Pilot in "The Creation of Venus" and watching Les come to terms with his career in "The Impossible Dream."

(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, January 15, 2018

News You Can Use

Happy new year, fellow babies! We've got lots of news to share with you this morning. First of all, we're very excited to say that HMOTD will be returning to your airwaves on Wednesday morning! HMOTD 049 will drop at the usual time, 7 am on Wednesday. We cover the meta- flashback storytelling of "The Creation of Venus" and the coda for Les Nessman's dreams of network stardom, "The Impossible Dream."

Then it's only two more episodes of WKRP to cover in our January 31 episode, the final two episodes of Season Four: "To Err Is Human" and "Up and Down the Dial." So, you're probably asking, what happens after that?

Very glad you asked! We're planning two podcast wrap-up episodes in February.

Our first, HMOTD 051, will be an opportunity to review the podcast. We'll be searching our archives for bits we've cut from past episodes. We'll also hoping our community of listeners (and maybe a few of our past co-hosts!) will take this opportunity to talk about the show and the podcast. So let's start now: if you have questions you want to get read on the air about WKRP, HMOTD, or any of the many tangential topics we've covered over the past three years, get them in now! Send an email to in the next couple of weeks and we'll try to get as many on the air as possible.

And our very final episode, HMOTD 052, will review both our trip through WKRP and some of the Big Themes we've hit upon during the podcast. We'll talk about what this journey through WKRP has taught us about the TV of our youth, America during the Carter-Reagan hinge years, and about ourselves, frankly! It should be a good one.

But amid all this hoopla in the next few weeks, watch our Twitter account at @HoldMyOrderWKRP as we will be undoubtedly doing some form of "Best Episode Ever" tournament using Twitter polls. After all, this podcast started by ripping off being inspired by Just One More Thing (who recently did a "Best Columbo Villain" tournament), so why should we stop now?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Show Notes for HMOTD 048: Harold, A Little Razorback Hog

1:50 "WKRP is on the fourteenth floor..." So why do buildings often not have a numbered thirteenth floor? Obviously, it's triskaidekaphobia in action, but there's actually a little more to it than that. Unsurprisingly, 99% Invisible, the great podcast/blog on architecture, infrastructure, and design has an article about it.

4:35 Get to the bank on Friday afternoon: I'm a little bit of a strange case here, as the first bank account I held as an adult had an ATM card attached (right around 1992, 1993). So my late-Gen X self doesn't personally remember the days of having to get to the bank before 5 on Friday. Here's a piece from NBC News in 1977 about the early days of off-hours withdrawals and electronic banking.

5:43 "Three bucks on a hun!" Money Mart! An Ontario staple in the early '90s, or so I'm told. This commercial is Poochie-riffic. Zero line-ups! It is interesting to see basically a payday loan company market to young urban go-getters like this. Their market has changed radically in the past quarter-century, for sure.

[Rob: "Poochie-riffic" is exactly right, Mike. This ad for Canadian jackals financial services firm Money Mart was beloved and endlessly quoted when I was in college. That particularly unconvincing phrase, "Three Bucks on a Hun," spawned many parodies, rebus puzzles, and at least one campus band.

Would you call the guys in the ad "young urban go-getters"? They're young, yes, but they're not yuppies--it's clear they're working construction, which makes them very much the target market for payday loans and similar predatory services. Even in university I did have the awareness to wonder if all the hilarity around "three bucks on a hun" was directed at the cheesiness of the ad or also contained some snobbishness about the world of people living paycheck to paycheck.

Money Mart has been sued multiple times for charging illegal interest rates--according to plaintiffs in one 2003 case, when you include all Money Mart's ancilliary fees, they were charging the equivalent of 120,000% annual interest (that's, like, $120,000 on a hun!). Money Mart has paid out millions in damages but admits no wrongdoing.]

[Mike: Well, the commercial actors were wearing flannel, and I forgot that 1992 was itself sort of a hinge year when it comes to what that signified.]

6:30 Grown-ups loving fire engines: It's not just Arthur Carlson and Ray Stantz who love fire engines and fire houses, how about the great Rube Waddell!

8:35 Johnny's derring-do: Here's that TV Guide article about Howard Hesseman, Man of Action!

9:10 Caribbean vacation: Andy's Caribbean getaway is, as we talked about last season, entirely in keeping with the early-'80s trend of Caribbean countries marketing themselves to budget-conscious American vacationers.

9:50 "This is where they got the idea for Die Hard": Actually, did you know that Die Hard was based on the same series of novels that gave us Frank Sinatra's relatively gritty 1968 film The Detective? Nothing Lasts Forever, The Detective's 1979 sequel, was the basis for Die Hard and also very much part and parcel of the novelistic branch of the '70s disaster movie (like Thomas Harris's Black Sunday) we've talked about a few times over the course of the podcast. See, that's a much less annoying factoid than reminding people that Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

14:00 "Officer Shanks. Explain fire." Damn, that's a great line. And yeah, fire is really really hard to explain! Les is absolutely right to demand this answer.

[Rob: I think I came pretty close with "rapid oxidization"!]

14:25 "This is starting to feel like a bottle episode." From the Community second-season episode "Cooperative Calligraphy."

21:12 Gilligan's Island Lagoon: I don't need to say that the Gilligan's Island lagoon has a secret history, do I? I mean, at this point, are any of us shocked?

23:26 et subseq. Battle of the Network Stars: Get yourself to the AV Club to read this fantastic detailed oral history of Battle of the Network Stars. Its heyday was 1976-1985, really smack dab in the middle of my TV childhood. A lot of the shows are on YouTube, but if you want to go right to the Reid vs. Baio obstacle course video, you can do so here. Poor Tim. He got destroyed.

I misspoke a little bit on the Alvin Garrett thing; it was his stature that ostensibly led Cosell to describe him in such a way. And as we hear on the obstacle course call (and in a previous broadcast from 1972), Cosell certainly called other white athletes "monkeys" too. [Rob: And "gazelles"!]

And on the topic of celebrities on game shows in the '70s and '80s getting money: my own memory is that celebrities in the 1970s definitely used to be awarded cash winnings (for instance, on Celebrity Bowling) but by the '80s celebrities on special celeb-only versions of game shows often would be playing for a charity. Not sure what this means, but it's interesting.

31:25 Cincinnati Chili: Yes, we pretty much had to cover Cincinnati chili before the end of the podcast; it's one of those specifically southern Ohio things that definitely needed a call-out and I'm so happy we didn't have to shoehorn it in (like that Battle of the Network Stars stuff above, heh). If you want some disturbingly high-resolution shots of "plates" of this "chili," here, knock yourself out. But the origins of this chili do seem to come from Greek tomato-based dishes like moussaka. On the whole, I'd rather have the real Greek thing.

34:13 Hawaiian pizza: And on the flipside, yes, Hawaiian pizza, London Ontario's own contribution to unaccountably popular fast-food flavor juxtapositions.

42:20 "Jennifer and Johnny's Charity": We talked a lot about the failure of the federal government to look after the sick and poor in the early years of Reagan's first term during HMOTD 046.

46:27 "Rutabaga is a funny word." I hate to link to a Dilbert in these dark times of Scott Adams having gone batshit crazy, but I always liked this strip about inherently funny words. Also, slight correction: the Scottish rutabaga is a neep, with a P.

48:02 "It felt very New WKRP": We talked about Les having been fully Flanderized in our April Fools episode on The New WKRP In Cincinnati.

50:50 Jaime Weinman on "Dear Liar": Here's our old stalwart WKRP fire-keeper Jaime Weinman on "Dear Liar" and how out of character everyone seemed.

52:22 Janet Cooke: This drama played out to its conclusion mere months before this WKRP episode aired. Here's a good summary piece from the Washington Post's then-ombudsman about "Jimmy's World" (the original piece), its initial rapturous reception and subsequent rejection. Another piece from 1996 about her life since the scandal is really heartbreaking.

58:10 Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass: The Blair and Glass cases resemble Cooke's only in their use of fabrication to preserve the respective fabulists' careers; as Rob noted, their crimes were far more persistent and egregious. Interesting how they, as men, were able to get away with much much more (and how their eventual "punishment" resulted in far fewer long-term career ramifications than Cooke's).

I'd be remiss if I didn't A Million Little Pieces, another famous early '00s case of fabulism, and yet another case of a man getting out of controversy relatively unscathed. There's also the JT LeRoy case, a little more complicated than James Frey's book.

And this section wouldn't be complete without the greatest journalistic fabulist of our age, Peter O'Hanraha-hanrahan.

1:00:18 Dan Rather: I may be rather harsh on Dan Rather in this segment, but come on. The Killian documents were such an obvious modern-day fabrication, it's embarrassing that no one on the CBS News team was able to see this, pull the producers aside, and say you may want to reconsider running with this. Absolutely, I blame the ratfuckers/dirty tricksters who unleashed this hoax on the world, but Rather and his team deserve much of the blame for cutting corners and not doing journalism. It's a shame his stellar career had to end this way, but it's no excuse for abdicating your responsibilities.

1:05:48: "Who's Pulitzer?" Like many other Gilded Age magnates, Joseph Pulitzer did attempt to buy himself some peace of mind with his philanthropic endowment of Columbia University's school of journalism and the Pulitzer Prizes.

1:10:59 Spider Jerusalem: Subject of the oddly prescient comic series Transmetropolitan (1997-2002) by Warren Ellis, Spider is a futuristic Hunter S. Thompson muckraking gonzo journalist reporting in a futuristic City that embodies all the best and worst of America.

1:11:34 "Huhuh. Bummer." The official subtitle of our podcast ever since our entry into the Reagan/Trump years.

1:11:44 The Future of Journalism: This clip courtesy the aforementioned CBC and Rob's colleague at Western, James Compton.

1:15:00 Local news: Of course, as soon as Rob and I posit that local news is the way for us to reclaim a journalism not dependent on capitalism... evil conglomerate Sinclair Broadcasting decides the way forward in propagandizing Americans is by taking over local news broadcasts.

1:16:07 Barbara Cason: One slight correction, Barbara Cason did not play the head nurse on Trapper John, M.D.; she was just a returning guest star.

[Rob: That clip of Cason is from Cold Turkey, a Norman Lear comedy from 1971, about an entire town that tries to give up smoking. Friend of the podcast Leah Biel recognized it right away.]

Friday, January 5, 2018

Happy New Year and some more Important Announcements!

Happy new year, fellow babies! We're excited to announce the tentative release schedule for the final four episodes of Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser!

  • HMOTD 049 (consisting of "The Creation of Venus" and "The Impossible Dream"): Wednesday, January 17
  • HMOTD 050 (consisting of "To Err Is Human" and "Up And Down The Dial"): Wednesday, January 31

After we review these final episodes of WKRP Season 4, we're planning two wrap-up episodes! HMOTD 051 will air on February 14, and our very last episode, HMOTD 052, will drop on February 28. More on the contents of these wrap-up episodes very soon.

Other release information: next Friday, January 12, we'll release our long-delayed Show Notes for HMOTD 048, and on Monday, January 15 we'll have our usual pre-episode release Monday Post. In that post, we'll talk more about our two wrap-up episodes and some of the fun we have planned to get you, the listeners, involved!

We want to thank you all again for your patience and understanding as we navigate some tough times. We'll be wrapping up this crazy project almost exactly three years after we started (April Fool's Day 2015), and it's been quite the journey. Thank you all for being part of it!