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!

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