’78 Network Promos!

Proud As A Turkey!

Proud As A Turkey!

 

Continuing a fine Kriofske Mix tradition, this year’s Turkey Day post was inspired first and foremost by this clip:

Behold, the Fall TV Season Promo! Back in the day, the Big Three networks advertised their lineups via a series of commercials centered around a theme or slogan, often in song. In their ’70s/’80s heyday, they were inescapable every September. Although they never entirely went away, in an age of the internet, streaming platforms and 1,000+ channels, they’re obviously far less necessary. Still, if you once wanted to learn anything about the new fall season which constituted a crushing majority of what you could watch on TV, well, these promos and TV Guide were your best bets.

NBC had some catchy, memorable slogans; their 1978 effort was not one of them. Of course, considering that year’s slate of new shows, perhaps the excruciating pun of “NB Seeeee Us” was the least of their problems. Not one of those shows lasted beyond one season–only Diff’rent Strokes survived (it’s absent here because it was actually a mid-season replacement that premiered in November.) In fact, the 1978-79 season might be NBC at their pre-Comcast nadir, with only three shows rated in the entire top 25 (Little House on the Prairie, NBC’s Monday Night Movie and CHiPS)! I haven’t even mentioned Supertrain.

CBS looked only slightly less desperate that season, despite their somewhat silly (though less clunky than NBC’s) slogan–do you really want to “be turned on” by the likes of Archie Bunker, Lou Grant and Weezie Jefferson? Sure, they had the great WKRP In Cincinnati on their schedule, but have you even heard of Flying High or American Girls? Why feature Bob Newhart when his show ended the previous season? That they led off by stumping for Mary Tyler Moore’s spectacularly ill-advised variety show Mary suggests they were lazily resting on star power rather than quality. I haven’t even mentioned the Star Wars Holiday Special.

In the late ’70s, ABC was by far the most popular of the Big Three (their ’78 season alone had Mork and Mindy and Taxi), but this wasn’t always the case. Prior to those halcyon days of Happy Days and Charlie’s Angels, ABC was usually a distant third place. Concerning promos, this worked in their favor, for there’s a treasure trove of stylistically daring ABC material on YouTube from the late ’60s and early ’70s–just look at this Fall ’72 extravaganza, whose opening graphics nearly emulate the trippy vortex sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Alas, by ’78 the network toned down the visuals, although those bright colors violently swirling around the ABC logo are quite something. The most interesting thing about that fall’s “We’re The One” campaign is how the network gathered any of its stars who were willing (or maybe contractually obliged–remember, this is also the time of Battle of the Network Stars) to appear in a rousing, strained musical number (this being ’78, it has more than a hint of disco in it.) The first few scenes in the above clip are reasonably entertaining, with various stars toting ginormous, gaudy lightbulb-dotted letters around L.A, hamming it up as some stars do (Hi, Rerun!). Naturally, they all converge on a charmless, cramped soundstage in order for the letters to spell out the slogan, and passionately sing about their employer. They just don’t make ’em like this anymore; despite their unintentional charms, I’m mostly thankful for that.

Stairway To … Something

For your annual Turkey Day clip, we go back to the long-lost realm of 1980s public access TV, New York division. A friend brought Stairway To Stardom’s YouTube page to my attention some time ago, and in particular, Lucille Cataldo, whose one-of-a-kind rendition of her own song “Hairdresser” will permanently alter the way you see the world (somehow, it was never a hit).

Given the holiday, I briefly considered highlighting this food-centric gem (apparently from the real life Sweeney Sisters); instead, I present Gloria Huddle’s truly original version of the Manhattan Transfer hit “Operator”. She inexplicably kicks it off with a dramatic reading of a scene from the 1966 Michael Caine film Alfie, then recites the song’s lyrics over the recording. You be the judge as to whether she’s being totally serious or not (part of me thinks this is actually Lily Tomlin or Andrea Martin in character.) Be sure to watch all the way to the end–her facial expression at the applause is not to be missed.

Gordon Found!

Go directly to 18:09 on the video above and you will see a commercial I’ve spent years scouring the internet for. If you watched TV or listened to radio in Milwaukee in the 1980s, chances are you’ll remember this ad. I hadn’t thought of it in eons until I saw mention of it on an online discussion board a few years ago.

These spots for the now-defunct Gordon Furniture (located across the street from my childhood dentist!) are nothing special visually–it’s all about the audio. The music, genuinely weird for a furniture store, plays underneath the ad copy, and is barely audible apart from a repeated high note that sounds like someone’s incessantly poking a mouse (or plucking a nose hair).

The pièce de résistance, however, is the jingle at the end: three disembodied echoing voices that say, in succession, “Gordon, Gordon, Gordon”, followed by an eerie ascending musical cue more appropriate for a sci-fi movie than a furniture store ad. As I said, this was ubiquitous on Milwaukee radio and TV from as early as I can remember well into the ’90s. The question is, why this music for this business without any other pretense? Did they want your shopping experience to be one teeming with mystery and intrigue? Did the owners give the job to a relative or a family friend? Did it run for years and years out of a sense of stubborn pride and recognizability (like the deathless Bernie and Phyl’s jingle in New England?).

The jingle died when Gordon Furniture died (I believe in the mid-late ’90s); it’s now gone, but as you can see by my ramblings here, decidedly not forgotten.

Top Ten TV Shows of 2013

I haven’t done a best-of list for TV before; given that the medium increasingly produces more quality work than the movies (though not when weighed against the quantity), I can’t not consider all the great television I watched this year (reading the excellent TV anti-hero tome Difficult Men also altered my perspective a bit).

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1. BREAKING BAD
Matthew Weiner (and David Chase), take note: this is how you end a major series, not only with a final episode that satisfies as a conclusion but with an entire season that works as a whole, validating all the narrative twists that came before and laying out the inevitable consequences behind Walter White’s actions (without any lazy moralizing, either). In third-to-last episode “Ozymandias”, series creator Vince Gilligan took the White family to a darker, more shocking and cathartic place than I’ve ever seen in any TV series or film.

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2. ORPHAN BLACK
Without a doubt the year’s best new show, partially due to an ingenuous, rife-with-possibilities premise (clones become aware of each other and try to unlock their origin) but mostly because of the awesome Tatiana Maslany, who stars as all seven clones (thus far uncovered) and is so downright convincing in each individual part, whenever she appears in a new role, at first you’re honestly not entirely sure it’s her. Let’s hope she and the show’s writers can maintain such invention in season two.

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3. FAMILY TREE
Although structured like his beloved mockumentary films, Christopher Guest’s underrated first attempt at a series carried a gentler, subtler tone that must’ve confused viewers looking for Eugene Levy (though the redoubtable Fred Willard eventually shows up). For this change of pace, Guest has a reliable anchor in Chris O’Dowd, superb as an affable, somewhat aimless man researching his ancestors. Nina Conti is also a real find, playing two fully formed, richly enigmatic characters: the lead’s ventriloquist sister, Bea and her furry puppet companion, Monkey. Let’s hope for a second season, period.

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4. NEW GIRL
Having already improved dramatically in 2012, this year New Girl surpassed Parks and Recreation in becoming the most consistently funny and surprising network sitcom by taking risks (Jess and Nick getting together, Schmidt’s moral degeneration, Winston’s growing weirdness) that paid off because of the extensive character development in place since the pilot. That the pilot’s Damon Wayans, Jr. should return and slot right in with the ensemble is just icing (preferably on a cookie instead of a cake).

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5. VEEP
After a promising first season, Armando Iannucci’s pitch-black satire of Washington DC and its petty, vain political inhabitants really took off by becoming darker and funnier and shrewder in its portrayal of an arena ripe for ridicule that’s nonetheless populated by flesh-and-blood beings in varying degrees of power who aren’t entirely self-serving monsters (well, perhaps only 99% of the time). In addition to a deserved Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale, maybe Matt Walsh or Timothy Simons or anyone else in this ensemble will receive some Emmy recognition in season 3.

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6. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT
The original was my favorite television comedy of the ‘00s, so I feared an inferior sequel; at first, that’s exactly how I felt about Netflix’s 15-episode re-launch. Not until episode 7 did I fully get what Mitchell Hurwitz and co. were trying to do here, constructing a mosaic of a series that becomes funnier and more resonant as each piece of the puzzle snaps into place. As entertainment, some pieces connect more seamlessly than others, but as a whole, multiple viewings of season 4 reap substantial rewards, just like (but different from) the first three seasons.

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7. THE MIDDLE
Used to be I anticipated Modern Family and merely tolerated its less flashy Wednesday night neighbor; now, in their fifth seasons, while MF still elicits a few chuckles every episode, I get much more out of The Middle. What began as a Patricia Heaton vehicle heavily influenced by that other quirky show with the same title (preceded by “Malcolm In”) has grown into the best working class sitcom since Roseanne (although it’s nothing like Ro’s show), with an ensemble that works splendidly together. And could Eden Sher (as magnificently awkward teen Sue Heck) just get an Emmy nomination already?

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8. MAD MEN
Not this show’s best season by any means (I’d rate any of the previous five above it), possibly due to the ugliness of Don Draper’s descent into a figurative hell of his own making (loved Linda Cardellini, but her later scenes were too brutal to watch). Still, set in 1968, that decade’s most turbulent year, it gave us such goodness as the enigmatic Bob Benson!, Ken Cosgrove’s perilous exploits with General Motors, the insane-even-for-this-show drug episode, the beautifully executed return of Peggy into the fold and of course, that sobering, unexpected final scene which I hope bodes well for the show’s forthcoming conclusion.

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9. BUNHEADS
It now seems too good to be true: ABC Family airing a show by Amy Sherman-Palladino that was essentially Gilmore Girls II: Welcome to Paradise (the fictional California town it was set in). I’d never recommend it over the earlier show to anyone (with the exception of aspiring ballet dancers), but what a treat it was to see such a unique, screwball comedy-driven, decidedly feminine sensibility on TV again. Major talent Sutton Foster needs another series, ASAP—maybe pair her up with fellow stage vet Kristin Chenoweth and hire Bryan Fuller to devise something for them.

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10. IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA
Unless you’re a literal cartoon (The Simpsons, South Park), you’re supposed to be past your prime by the time you reach your ninth season. Thankfully, this live-action cartoon justified its presence on the air by simply turning out a number of classic episodes (impressive, after an uneven, tired season 8). If you love this show (which, as my husband notes, is essentially Seinfeld on crack), how could you hate Country Mac, Dee’s whirlwind of a stand-up career, the Flowers For Algernon and gun control satires, and best of all, “The Gang Saves The Day” which gets uncomfortably, hilariously deep into each character’s psyche and peaks with a note-perfect parody of Up?

Also (mostly) worth watching: Archer, Children’s Hospital, Grimm, Happy Endings, Inside Amy Schumer, The Mindy Project, Modern Family, Mom, Parks and Recreation, RuPaul’s Drag Race

5 Things: Milwaukee TV Nostalgia

welcome milw vis

We’re gonna do it!

 

In YouTube’s infancy, a user who dubbed himself “MilwaukeeTV Madman” posted a treasure trove of commercials and station promos from the 1980s/early 1990s. By doing so, he revealed perhaps the website’s greatest asset: the ability to recall ephemeral touchstones previously stored deep within one’s memory. Silly but prevalent things from my childhood I haven’t thought of in years suddenly returned, from the super-nerdy jingle for Kahn’s men’s clothing stores to the fact that, from approx. 1984-85, Kohl’s Food Stores (not the department store) tried (and failed) to re-brand themselves as, ahem, Kohl’s II (actually kind of fitting in a golden age of movie sequels)

Sadly, it was  too good to last. MilwaukeeTVMadman’s channel was eventually shut down due to “copyright infringement”. I still periodically scour the web for similar artifacts from that era; below are five good ones.

1. Epic Channel 6 News Intro

This actual intro from the city’s then-CBS (now Fox) affiliate’s newscast actually made the internets earlier this year, prompting numerous Anchorman-type jokes. Personally, I’m not familiar with this one–it might be from the really early 80s, which I’m too young to remember well. Then again, when it came to the 10:00 news, we were more of a Channel 4 family .

2. Emergency TV Service

The quality here’s not the greatest, but if you watched Milwaukee TV in the 1980s, then you surely remember this deathless jingle. Hey, it’s still in business!

3. The Bowling Game, Brought to You By Geiser’s

Since it ran every weekday on once independent (now CW affiliate) Channel 18 at 7:00 PM (usually after a rerun of Gimme A Break! or Family Ties), The Bowling Game’s rousing, dorky theme song is forever etched in my brain–it seems so quaint that thirty years ago, people watched bowling on TV on a daily basis! Also, skip ahead to 8:50 for an ad for a once-ubiquitous, now long gone regional potato chip brand.

4. Is That A Hub Tag On Your Car?

Well, is it? Another catchy, if less-ubiquitous jingle (which is really all this ad had going for it) with an unforgettable spoken tag line. Speaking of which, I wish someone would post a commercial with the old Ernie von Schledorn jingle (“who do you know vants to buy a car?”).

5. Hello Milwaukee

Milwaukee’s version of the “Hello (fill in name of city)” jingle still makes me feel all warm and gooey inside. This article is vindicating, if only for proving that the jingle originated in my hometown. Although Milwaukee’s changed since the ’80s (mostly for the better), Channel 12 retains that same awful logo.

Sake To Me, Turkey

Continuing a dubious tradition I began three years ago, here’s your annual Turkey Day clip. I actually love local commercials and normally wouldn’t hate on this one, but I just can’t forgive them that song. Enjoy this advertisement for a Grand Rapids sushi joint. No words can prepare you for its wretchedness/awesomeness:

While we’re at it, let’s check out what Dr. Steve Brule has to say about sushi (or “shushi”):

Wheel Loves Raymond

 

I’ve already linked to this clip on my Facebook page, but wanted to spread the love. It’s kind of long, but pretty mesmerizing. Initially, I was going to watch just the first minute or two, but in the end could not look away. Raymond would have been an instant celebrity had YouTube existed in 1993; given Pat Sajak’s recent admissions, I guess I’m not too surprised he made it on the air.

Alex Trebek, on the other hand, would not have tolerated this shit.

Hello, I’m Shelley Duvall!

 

Thanks to Scot Colford for bringing this glorious supercut to my attention.  I especially like how she kind of resembles Florence Welch in the last clip.  Let the Shelley Duvall revival begin in 2012!

Know When to Fold ’em

This year’s Turkey Day post comes from the good people at Everything is Terrible! Enjoy this bewildering montage of clips from the Kenny Rogers-hosted 1980 Grammy Awards; you know you’re in trouble when Donna Summer is the only sober one in the room.

Hello and Thank You!

 

The clip above sums up everything I love about MST3K. The episode this appears in has also finally made it to DVD as part of a five-disc box set containing every Gamera movie they riffed on. As for the particularly atrocious dubbing, we have the infamous Sandy Frank to thank.

On that note:

Personally, I’d rather not think about the living corpse pictured in the link above “gadding about the house all day.”