Wednesday, February 28, 2018

HMOTD 052: Maybe Think Of Me Once In A While

In the final episode of HMOTD, Mike & Rob pay tribute to WKRP creator Hugh Wilson, ask "where are they now?", and look back on the TV series and the podcast as a whole. Thanks for listening, everyone.
(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, February 26, 2018

...Good day, and may the good news be yours.

Mike: Rob and I have spent a lot of time referencing The Invisibles during the podcast, the seminal 1990s comic series by Scottish comic phenom Grant Morrison. We talked back in HMOTD 038 about how Morrison started to weave chaos magic into the text of The Invisibles, trying to live the life of his protagonist, international playboy-terrorist King Mob, and ended up paying the price with a near-fatal golden staph infection. Morrison claims he helped fight off the infection by giving the bacterium a promise that he'd feature it in The Invisibles, binding the infection, making a totem spirit out of this demonic invader who came to kill him.

I only mention this because the night we recorded our final episode, HMOTD 052 (dropping on Wednesday morning), which was already a fairly intense experience emotionally, I was just beginning to feel sick from a flu that I am still faintly suffering from now, 10 days later. My buddy Richard McKenna, co-editor over at We Are The Mutants, mentioned that sometimes when you finish a big project that's been stressing you out, your body's immune system will just sort of shrug its shoulders and give up on you. I'd also noticed that in the past, especially when I was still in the corporate world and I'd miss days of work due to stress or my body falling apart after a particularly challenging project. I suppose it's fitting that the illness that came with the completion of the primary creative project of the last three years (!!!) of my life is commensurately massive.

The night Rob and I recorded 052, I felt a weird... buzz in the air, that was only partially due to the virus then colonizing my cells. Ultimately, I think it was down to the fact that was really hard to record this thing! As natural and easy as the conversation was (and one of the great personal developments of this podcast the past three years for me has been the rapport that Rob and I have built, how very quickly we grew able to toss topics back and forth between us with a casualness and ease), there was a hovering knowledge that after tonight, we wouldn't be doing this anymore! Like a lot of you have mentioned on Twitter the past couple of weeks, I didn't want this whole thing to end. It felt like teetering on the edge of a tall building (callback!), weird feeling in the pit of my stomach and all.

But all things must pass. I've been listening to old episodes of HMOTD this week while I've been sick, thinking about my favorite parts of the podcast, thinking about those weird tangents Rob and I have taken, the historical topics that stretched their pertinence to the episode of WKRP featured that week, and I smile. But I also just smile thinking about the show itself, about Gordon Jump's goofy facial expressions, about Jan Smithers and her naturalness, about Howard Hesseman's barely-contained ego (and id), the lightning in a bottle that was the chemistry between these eight actors, about all the genius plotlines, both serious and silly. About the memories of sitting in front of the big living room TV from 7 to 8 pm every weeknight, watching a show I was too young to really understand but somehow seemed perfect and right and true. A family that wasn't a family, a collection of oddball archetypes that somehow became part of the Tarot of my childhood mindscape.

I mention "I Am Woman" in this week's wrap-up show as one of my favorite rediscoveries of the podcast. And as you'll listen to Wednesday's episode, I think you'll see the big historical and philosophical themes that Rob and I talk about in our episode's latter third neatly embodied in "I Am Woman." That we owe a debt to history. That even the seeming least and quietest among us can roar like a lion when given help from our friends. The idea that we are all connected and we can only experience that connection when we get out from behind our desks at work and just go and have a drink at the Cricket with our friends and family.

I won't miss the hours in front of Audacity, or the hours combing for just the right clip, but I'll miss everything else. The Big Guy, Jennifer, Andy, Herb, Les, Johnny, Bailey and Venus. I'll miss getting the chance to chat with Rob for a couple of hours every few weeks. And I'll miss all of you.

So in case we didn't say it enough in HMOTD 051, thank you. Thank you for letting us do this, thank you for being there, and thank you for loving this show as much as Rob and I did, and do. I hope you enjoy our final episode, dropping in two days.

Rob: Now, see, I definitely got tired of Audacity, but digging around on YouTube for just the right clip--or being surprised and delighted by whatever wonderful bit of audio archaeology Mike exhumed--is still one of my favourite parts of doing the podcast: Hammy Hamster, Stan Freberg, Terence McKenna, the "Who Shot J.R." song, Red Dwarf, Boards of Canada, Too Many Cooks, vocal fry, Mr. Show, SCTV, occasionally The Simpsons, so many long wordy 1970s movie trailers, so many great musical stings, 3 Bucks on a Hun, Old Skull, "The Tarleks," Miller Lite ads, Americathon, The President's Analyst, Olly's Mom on Sifl & Olly, "never bet against Pete Rose," that girl who "wouldn't have sex" with VALIS... Each of those little clips, or at least each of the really good ones, was for me like the whole podcast in miniature: a tiny dose of history recontextualized in the present, a quick hit of something you'd long forgotten or maybe never knew, collapsing the distance between present and past.

I was also coming down with something when we recorded 052.* I don't think germs can travel over Skype, so I don't believe Mike infected me, or vice versa, but I wouldn't rule out Morrison's nanobot machine elves. Certainly I felt that same weird buzz, and the same mix of emotions, as Mike and I arrived at the end of a project that's brought me so much fun and satisfaction for the last three years.

(* You'll hear my voice getting pretty gravelly in 052 - but it goes well with the aged voices of Gary Sandy, Howard Hesseman, etc in the "where are they now" clips we dug up. Right after editing 052, I listened to one of our peppy early episodes (it was HMOTD 018: We Are Definitely Talking Cordoba) and we were talking so fast I thought I'd somehow sped up the playback! Ah, we were young and sprightly once, and also we used to record in the morning with coffee instead of in the evening with beer.)

We were talking on Twitter about favourite moments of the podcast. I have more than I can list, or even remember. (I do sometimes listen to old episodes; I feel self-conscious about doing so, but whenever I do there's something silly or brilliant or brilliantly silly I'd forgotten.) A short list of favorite moments would have to include all Mike's sweet stories about his parents and his funny only-child upbringing, all his astounding knowledge about pop culture and music and Arthurian myth. It would include all our guests, for damn sure. It would include all the random research rabbit holes the podcast led us down: Computer Date Zero, the secret history of the Gilligan's Island lagoon, Simon's debut at Studio 54, the guy who played Chewbacca's wife in the Star Wars Holiday Special, the medieval origins of the TripTik, Mexican black velvet painting sweatshops, why the French love Jerry Lewis, BBC rules about human voices for animal actors, the word pal-imony, sports mascots, the Hull House origins of American improv comedy, "Loni in the Sky with Diamonds," the Cincinnati Triangle, and whether the Watergate burglars wore pants. (Oh, and once again I have to thank Mike for all his extra hours writing our amazing Show Notes: another 2000-3000 words of meta-meta-commentary on each of our episodes of meta-commentary!) It would include all the ridiculous riffs and unplanned creative whooshes: Ad Rock's heart to heart with Venus in "Hoodlum Rap," our Russia House thriller about the defection of the Rubik's Cube, Vincent Price's Men of Action (or was it Frightenstein's?), John Hughes' "Sweet Home Chicago" starring Jan Smithers and Joan Cusack, Good Morning Tehran, Thomas Pynchon's silver age sitcom about the Big Guy's Navy days, the WKRP alignment chart and the Sam Anderson political compass. And the Fisher King theory! Which I insist remains a shibboleth designed to separate out our true fans... ;)

And of course it would include all of you. Thanks so much, everybody. It's been a blast.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

HMOTD 051: Listen Up Fellow Babies

The first of our two podcast wrapup episodes is dedicated to you! The fans, followers, listeners, and especially guest hosts of Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser! In this super-sized penultimate episode, Rob and Mike talk with some of our past guest hosts and review some Listener Mail!
(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, February 12, 2018

Turkeys vs. Fish... WHO YA GOT?

Well, the championship matchup in our Best Episode Ever is set, and I'm guessing not a lot of us are surprised.

Yes, "Turkeys Away" will face off against "Fish Story" in the final match of our Best Episode Ever tournament. "Turkeys Away" methodically stomped its way to victory in the Station region and beat "Who Is Gordon Sims?" over the weekend. "Fish Story," likewise, handily defeated its very high caliber fellow Zany episodes and reached the Final Four by squeaking out a narrower victory against "Real Families."

(We'll pass along some of our observations about the tournament in Wednesday's podcast; we recorded it during the Elite Eight round.)

"Turkeys Away" is the favorite, obviously. It's a justified classic, not only within WKRP's run but in all of television sitcom history. But I think everyone here knows Rob and I have a real soft spot for "Fish Story," an episode that manages to balance three zany plotlines: Venus and Johnny on the air drinking with a state trooper; Herb (in the WKRP carp suit), Les, and Bailey doing a promotional appearance at a local university where they face off against the cultured WPIG pig mascot; and the Big Guy and Andy trying to explain away all the zaniness to a reporter doing a piece on the station. The story behind "Fish Story" is one we told back in HMOTD 011, and makes the episode's eventual success somehow all the more satisfying.

But ultimately? The choice is yours, fellow babies. Here's the final poll in our Best Episode Ever tournament, and it's going to stay up until Saturday morning the 17th of February. Good luck to both competitors, and keep an ear out for our Giant-Sized HMOTD 051, a Valentine's Day tribute to our fans and past guest hosts, dropping on Wednesday, February 14!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Show Notes for HMOTD 050: Soul Suds

BIG REMINDER: Get those Listener Mail questions in to us ASAP for our penultimate episode! There's still time, despite what we said in our post-credits "blooper." Email before next Wednesday the 7th!

1:00 Hugh Wilson, RIP: As we said, three hours' notice was not enough time to do justice to the man who brought us WKRP, but rest assured, HMOTD 052 will take a deep dive into the man and his career.

2:23 "I learned the news of Hugh Wilson's passing... from Les Nessman." That's @WKRPQuotes on Twitter, well worth a follow!

4:50 "White guys drive like this..." It's true, it's true! We're so lame!

5:45 Big Guy Office Props: If I were to rank my Top 3 Big Guy Office Prop bits, it'd probably go: 3) inflatable raft, 2) Soul Suds standees, and 1) Apollo 11 rocket. But they're all so damn good. The one where he flings a desk drawer out the window is funny, but always makes me nervous about the people on the ground outside the Flimm Building.

5:59 Standee: I was hoping there'd be a really good Secret History of the Standee but I couldn't find much online. Although the Wikipedia entry has this lovely image from the Roaring 20s of some cartoon-y standees for a clothes shop.

[Rob: Here's an 80s CanCon anecdote for you: at some point in the early 1980s, my sister acquired a standee of pouty Canadian dreamboat Corey Hart, sunglasses and all. Long after her infatuation with Corey faded, he lurked in one corner of our rec room, giving people heart attacks when they came down the stairs.] [p.s. Holy heartthrob: the Corey hotline was real??!?]

7:39 Media/communication failures on WKRP: I mean, I guess we shouldn't be too surprised that a series about radio has so many plotlines that hinge on communications and how funny it is when they break down, but there's the episodes we mentioned in the episode, plus "An Explosive Affair," "Mike Fright," and of course tons of Les jokes ("killer lizzard," for one). I have a feeling either Rob or I could get a good Media Studies-type paper out of this.

14:13 Tom Sullivan: Hey, Tom Sullivan is from Boston and a Harvard graduate, not to mention a musician, screenwriter, and author! His memoir, If You Could See What I Hear, was released in 1975 and was adapted into a movie in 1982 starring Marc Singer, the Beastmaster himself, and Shari Belafonte!

Also, I wanted to mention, apropos of the mention Rob gave of the nameplate on Mr. Sherman's receptionist's desk, that Mr. Sherman has that classic 1980s executive toy, the Newton's Cradle, on his desk.

[Rob: Is it able-ist to wonder what appeal a Newton's Cradle would have to a blind person?]

14:50 "Handicapped": I want to give a sincere apology for using the term "handicapped" and not "disabled" or "person with disabilities" in this episode. As someone who grew up in the time period that this show depicts, it's awfully easy to slide back into outdated terminology, especially when you're watching a show that is set during that time. But honestly, that's no excuse, and I apologize unreservedly and will most certainly do my best to avoid this in the future.

21:48 The Metric Marvels! You see that '70s cartoon style I'm talking about here? It's very Schoolhouse Rock. I actually remember this PSA much better. Man, the late '70s really were a golden age of PSAs, weren't they? (BLATANT PLUGS IN LAST-EVER SHOW NOTES, AHEM)

[Rob: Here's a Canadian PSA from the same era, explaining what is obviously the most critical use of metric system: the difference between 3 cm, 30 cm, and 100 cm of snow. Note the little flying bug (snowball? will-o-the-wisp?) wearing the Canadian metrication logo as a hat. I'll bet this guy is the reason I remembered that logo as "adorable."]

23:26 French Revolution: So yes, the French Revolution not only gave us the awesome idea of chopping the heads off the monstrously wealthy, but they also gave us uniform units of measurement. Alas, decimal time did not take off, and neither did the Revolutionary calendar, as beautiful as it might be.

24:01 The British get the Prime Meridian: Rob was absolutely right. The trade was that France would recognize Greenwich (instead of Paris) as the Prime Meridian if the British signed onto the metric system. While the British technically did as early as 1884 recognize the meter, as Brexit has shown, it has never dislodged the mile and the yard in British hearts.

24:40 A cubic decimeter of water: I was right! A cubic decimeter of water simultaneously takes up one liter of volume and weighs on kilogram. Not bad for having my metric dreams crushed at the age of 8.

26:10 "You like Canadian late-20th century graphic design?" Yes. Yes, Rob I do.

28:15 Meet The Meters: Used copies are going for $40 on Amazon. I'm not ashamed to say I teared up a little seeing that cover. My goodness, what nostalgia. Basically the only books I used to take out of the library at this age were about math.

30:31 Old Skull: When Rob included this clip in the episode, I was floored. I'd forgotten all about the most punk of all hardcore '80s bands, Old Skull! Yes, three 10-year-old kids in the late '80s singing songs about how much Ronald Reagan fucking sucked. Sadly, the two brothers at the center of the band both died in the early '10s. The story of Old Skull always reminded me a bit of The Shaggs, too.

31:29 Madam C.J. Walker: Really, just an amazing story; Madam C.J. Walker is literally one of the world's first truly global brands, as Black beauticians across the Americas used her products and trusted the name (and face) on the packaging.

34:23 Afro Sheen/Frederick Douglass: Both Rob and I didn't remember clearly if this ad was real or a Robert Townsend/Eddie Murphy-era satire, but no, it's absolutely real and actually kind of awesome. Frederick Douglass is being recognized more and more.

[Rob: I can't get enough of the line, "I've been watching the progress of our people, and I'm quite familiar with the natural."]

35:31 Huey Lewis: I've had "Do You Believe In Love" stuck in my head all week, thanks Huey. Good song, GREAT dorky early '80s video. I bet that woman is like, "Hey, The News, get the hell out of my bedroom." But WKRP music maven Michael Rodriguez reminds us in this comment from our Facebook that only Sean Hopper of Clover went on to join the News.

39:41 Johnny/Hirsch: It's a great scene and a great pairing. What more can be said? It feels like Hesseman is finding Ian Wolfe to be a comedic brother-in-arms in that scene.

42:47 "It makes everything make sense." It's true! Whether the arc was planned out or not, kudos to Hugh and the writers to be able to stick the landing like this and explain away 4 years' worth of zany schemes and Mama's conniving.

49:44 News radio on AM: The all-news format began in the early '60s but really didn't take off until stations like 1010 WINS in New York changed format in 1965 and heavily branded their content with slogans like "You give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the world" and their famous use of the xylophone intro to Ib Glindemann's "Construction Site," memorably used in Goodfellas as news of the Lufthansa Heist comes over Henry Hill's radio.

51:12 "Another Merry Mixup": We talked about "Another Merry Mixup" back in HMOTD 045, and here's Jaime Weinman's article about it one more time. Hey, sincere thanks to Jaime Weinman for being one of our polestars throughout this podcast for WKRP lore, along with...

55:13 Michael Kassel: If you take your WKRP fandom seriously, you really should pick up a copy of Michael Kassel's America's Favorite Radio Station: WKRP In Cincinnati. Thank you so much, Michael Kassel, for all your hard work in interviewing the cast and crew.

1:06:32 "Leave it to Gordon." This quote about the show's cast and crew being a family shoots up to the top of my list of Gordon Jump's Being Adorably Kind list; I don't know how I'd rank Gordon Jump's Lasagna and Gordon Jump And His Wife Dancing Like Singin' In The Rain, but those are definitely my top 3.

1:07:59 Cheers: Boy that Cheers post-finale interview is just a horrible mess. I cringed like five times just listening to 45 seconds of it. I will tell you, though: people in Boston in 1993 were fucking INTO having the Cheers cast here in town. But the finale itself... I love that final couple of minutes, still, to this day.

1:12:45 "Life on Mars finale... just Google it": If you must know how the American version of Life on Mars ends, spoilers I guess.

1:14:00 Lincoln in the Bardo: I really need to read this book. I'm a George Saunders fan from way back and everything I've heard about this book has been exceedingly good.

[Rob: I liked it a lot: funny and sad and Saunders has a lot of fun with the language. I'm a sucker for faux 19th-century grandiloquence.]

1:20:14 Post-credits: As we said above, it's not too late to get your questions into us; we definitely would like a few more emails before next week! And hey, the Twitter tournament is heating up! We've got three regional rounds still going today and this weekend! We were too shaken up from having to end the podcast to look at a damn calendar. Oh well, it's a good blooper. :)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

WKRP Best Episode Ever Tournament!

Fellow babies! Here is a blog post where you can find all the links to our WKRP Best Episode Ever brackets, polls, and results.

Live brackets (remember to scroll down):

Links to Polls:

STATION region (voting closes morning of 2/2)
VERY SPECIAL region (voting closes morning of 2/3)
ZANY region (voting closes morning of 2/4)
FAMILY region (voting closes morning of 2/5)

STATION and VERY SPECIAL regional semifinals (voting closes morning of 2/7)
ZANY and FAMILY regional semifinals (voting closes morning of 2/8)

STATION and VERY SPECIAL regional finals (voting closes morning of 2/9)
ZANY and FAMILY regional finals (voting closes morning of 2/10)

STATION vs. VERY SPECIAL (voting closes morning of 2/11)
ZANY vs. FAMILY (voting closes morning of 2/12)

Final matchup timing TBD