Archive for October, 2009

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THE HALLOWEEN THAT ALMOST WASN’T

October 27, 2009

Take Judd Hirsch (TAXI and NUMBERS) as Count Dracula, 1970’s TV spokeswoman and personality Mariette Hartley as the Witch, LAUGH IN”s Henry Gibson as Igor, and Broadway and TV character actor John Shuck as Frankenstein, and put them together for one live-action TV special, and you get THE HALLOWEEN THAT ALMOST WASN’T.  One of the funniest Halloween specials that seems to have unfairly fallen by the wayside.

This is not meant to be an attack on the classic GREAT PUMPKIN, so put the knives and slings, and pitchforks down.  I enjoy GREAT PUMPKIN very much, but I want to put the spotlight on HALLOWEEN THAT ALMOST WASN’T.

The story is simplicity in itself.  It’s almost Halloween, and all is not well in Transylvania.  There’s an ugly rumor going around that Dracula is going to end the holiday.  Dracula is furious about this (“Halloween is my national holiday!”).  He’s not the only one upset.  Two young kids who love this holiday as much as Dracula, have heard the news, and wonder what will happen to the fun they’re planning on having.  These kids don’t know it yet, but they’ll wind up being instrumental in bringing about the happy ending.

Back at Dracula’s castle, Drac has summoned his legion of monsters to discuss the crisis.  It is at this meeting that Dracula learns that the Witch is there to strike a blow on behalf of equal rights.  Either Dracula meets her demands, or she won’t fly over the moon, and that’s it for Halloween.  When Dracual refuses, the Witch leaves for her castle, and locks herself in.  It’s up to Dracula and the other monsters to get the Witch to do her job, by luring or forcing her out of the castle.

But like I said, this is all played for laughs.  Writer Coleman Jacoby and Director Bruce Bilson pack this 30 minute special with plenty of bits of physical comedy, pop culture (for 1979) references, and hilariously cringeworthy throwaway jokes.    I have a hard time picking out favorite lines and moments, because there are so many.  One moment, like Dracula and Frankenstein disussing how a popular movie made Frank take up tapdancing, will put a smile on myface.  Then another moment, like the Witch’s demands which include having the Witch’s picture replace Dracula’s on the souvenir T-shirts, makes me laugh.  Then ANOTHER moment, like Dracula abusing Igor or doing his “teeny tiny bat” incantation puts me away-you have to see this last one for yourself, what happens after he’s a teeny tiny bat is even funnier.

I wish I coiuld tell you where to get this on DVD, or which TV stations or cable networks will run it, but I can’t.  What I CAN do is tell you to get yourself over to YouTube, where someone had the good sense to upload it, and in very good quality, too I might add.  I’m not tricking you when I say that this HALLOWEEN is a real treat.

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And Now for Something Completely 40

October 21, 2009

I must have been 7.3141529 years old, and was under the impression that the English had no sense of humor to speak of.  How could I not when the only British TV my parents ever seemed to watch were those period pieces of MASTERPIECE THEATRE, and network miniseries based on classic works of literature?  I was certain at that age that if I ever went overseas, I’d have a rotten time, because the English didn’t seem to have a sense of humor about anything.

That is until I saw this advertisement on WGBH.  It was a short advertisement for a TV show.  The clip featured this 6 foot 4 gentleman dressed in a 3 piece suit, having a conversation with another well-dressed gentleman.  The 6’4″ man stands up, and begins to walk around the office, which is no larger than my bathroom, in the most bizarre, and extraordinary manner I had ever seen.  The audience wwas exploding with laughter, and this strangely walking man, was English!

In case you haven’t guessed, this was the first time I ever saw the climax of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks skit.  This was my introduction to the wonderfully silly and anarchic world of Monty Python.  Even though I was too young to watch it back then (my parents would have had a fit if they caught me watching Monty Python at that age), I knew this was something I’d want to investigate and check out later.

Later came when I was about 15.  Two events joined forces to bring me into the Python legion of fans.  First, I made a friend who had moved into my hometown form Boston, and who happened to know almost every Python routine word-perfect.  He enjoyed trying to engage me in the routines, especially since he knew that, at the time, I had no idea what the hell he was talking about  The other thing that happened was that my folks had finally decided that I could start staying up later on Friday nights.  That meant that if I was lucky, I’d catch Monty Python on WGBH.  The first complete episode I ever got to see was the “Book at Bedtime/Kamikaze Highlanders” episode from the third series.

I could not have asked for a better episode to start with, because it gave me a clear idea of what they wanted the show to be.  I was seeing a fantastically series of surreal skits connected by Michael Palin and the gang trying to make sense of RED GAUNTLET by Sir Walter Scott.  I couldn’t wait to tell my friend about it.  Of course, he knew that episode backwards and forwards, but we still enjoyed a good laugh remembering it.  The second one I saw from the same series was Michael Palin starring as Reg Pither in the “Cycling Tour (“I’m just a jack-in-the-box/and whenever love pops, I’m gonna bounce up and down on my spring….”).  Absolutely hilarious.

I have since seen all 45 episodes.  After I saw most of them, I started seeking out the movies.  I think I actually saw them in the order they were made.  I recorded AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, and HOLY GRAIL.  I was able to rent LIFE OF BRIAN (which rreally is more about radicalism and terrorism than anything else, but that’s another column-please don’t start a holy war here, the People’s Front of Judea have been especdially hard hit by the recession).  The movie I had to shell out the most for was MEANING OF LIFE, because , at the time, it wasn’t available on video.  I didn’t get sick from the famous restaurant scene, but I don’t know what posessed me to eat lunch while watching it.

The highlight, for me thi=ough, was getting to see SPAMALOT in NYC the night before it won best musical.  I got to meet Chris Seiber, who’s currently playing Lord Farquaad in SHREK, and had my picture taken with Hank Azaria.  .  Unfortunately, Tim Curry didn’t come out to meet the audience, that would have been great.

So, now Monty Python turns 40.  It’s hard to believe that I am one year younger than this group, but have pretty much known who they were my whole life.  I’m really grateful for how this group has shaped and cultivated my sense of humor.  We Python fans a re a special group, a community, almost a family.  A very silly family that knows that Norwegian Blues have beautiful plumage, that cheese shops without cheese aren’t much of a cheese shop, a Gumby isn’t a green clay figurine, and that one wafer thin mint can cause a huge biohazard in a stuffy French restaurant.

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More madness about Madsion Avenue

October 19, 2009

In a recent post, I targeted two advertising camapigns that were a major insult to my intelligence.  In case you couldn’t figure them out, they were Old Navy , and their insipidly stupid talking mannequins (and yes, I hope an Old Navy exec is reading this-my 5 year old god daughter is smarter than your commercials!), and Burger King with their morons dressed as menu items.  Thankfully, I haven’t seen that in a while.

Buth ON and BK are far from the only companies trying to suck IQ points out of our brains.  My next targets are Light and Fit Yogurt, and Chef Boyardee.  I’ll start with the yogurt, and their dainty little vampire shoplifter.  You must have seen this eyesore of an ad.  The woman in the commercial has the yogurt.  She rips off the cover, places the cup to her mouth.  We are then FORCED to listen to this deees-gusting slurping noise, while we watch her guzzle the stuff, and watch the container collapse.  The cup falls to the ground, and she looks coyly around, like she just did the cutest widdle thing—tee-effing-hee.  Folks, does the word SHOPLIFTER mean anything to you, ’cause that is exactly what she is doing, right in the store.  I keep PRAYING that a store security guard comes along and hauls her shoplifiting ass to JAIL.  Seriously, I don’t care how hot and seductive she thinks she’s trying to be.  She JUST STOLE MERCHANDISE!!!!

Then there’s the Chef Boyardee “secretly nutritious” campaign inwhich parents don’t want their school aged children to realize that what they’re eating is nutritious.  Chef Boyardee blatantly rfails to realize to things in their effort to insult our intelligence.  1.  As soon as these “kids” see themselves on TV, or see a similar ad for the SAME PRODUCT, they’re gonna KNOW it’s nutritious.  Secondly, these “kids” are of an age where they could probably read what’s on the can for themselves.  It ain’t a secret anymore, Chef.  No matter how much Mom bangs the pots and pans, or has an inner conversation with herself in which she GIVES AWAY what the can says.  The secret is out.  Is it any wonder I use my DVD player almost every night?

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They Don’t Get It

October 15, 2009

The other night, I happened across a channel on YouTube run by bobtwcatlanta.  It is a treasure trove of tv theme songs/opening sequences from the 1970’s, ’80’s and ’90’s.  And I’m not talking about the ones you can see or have seen time and again, I ran into some rarities I NEVER expected to see again.  If you like nostalgia like I do, I urge you to check this person’s channel out, and be ready to spend hours remembering.

As I enjoyed this trip, a thought struck me.  These opening sequences and themes served a real purpose.  They actually helped establish time, place, and character.  Every once in a while, one of these themes would break out and become a hit song in it’s own right.  You also got to put names and faces together, so you’d nknow who was who.

But, now, you don’t get this luxury, or that pleasure.  Oh no.  Madison
Avenue, and it’s unholy alliance with the major networks have convinced each other, and you the American Public, that you don’t have the patience or the attention span to sit through such things.  Now, you’re expected to know who’s who, without having SEEN the show before, and you’re lucky to get a guitar riff or string hit.  Get real, Madison Avenue, CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox.  If we can sit through the 60 minutes or 30 minutes worth of crap you’re passing off as entertainment these days without flipping stations, we can sit through a 30 or 60 second opening sequence WITH theme music AND matching names to faces.

Neil Patrick Harris, the star of one of CBS’s top-rated sitcoms understands this.  He made a huge point about it at this year’s Emmy Awards when he chastised the networks for abandoning this creative art form.  If one of TV’s most visible and bankable stars can recognize that theme music to TV shows has merit, then why can’t the bigwigs in the boardroom?

Answer:  They are AFRAID!  That’s right, they’re afraid that you’re not going to stick around to watch their show if they actually take the time to introduce it the way they used to.  They can hear you reaching for your remote to change the channel, or worse turn off the TV all together, and do something more worthwile, like reading, or calling a friend, or spending time with your family.  These are all unacceptable to the network bigwigs, and Madison Avenue, no matter what their PSA’s tell you.  What the networks REALLY should be concerned about is the fact that people are doing these awful things to their networks because their shows are CRAP.

I say bring back the theme song and the opening sequnece.  Give us credit for having patience and an attention span, you’ll also be putting some talented songwriters to work.  And in this economy, that’s far from a bad thing.

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An open letter from Madison Avenue

October 7, 2009

Dear America,

We, the advertising houses of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles think you’re stupid.  We advertisers are not willing to give you enough credit to realize mannequins don’t talk.  We expect you to believe people actually dress as hamburgers and talk about being broiled.

Furthermore, we  expect you to think that all men are incompetent jocks who can never say or do the right thing, and therefore, must be corrected by their wives, who have never done anything wrong in their lives.  The wives , however, along with the husbands MUST be outsmarted by their bratty, know-it -all, overly fashion centered kids..

As long as you dump your hard-earned money on our products, we’ll keep treating you like idiots with our advertising campaign.  We hope you never wise up and realize that we are treating you like you’re stupid.  Because if you do realize this, we’ll actually have to start trying to be clever and intelligent, and we’re just too damn lazy to do that.

Yours insincerely,

The advertising agencies of America

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The Zone is now closed

October 7, 2009

I haven’t had the time or the energy to post about the movies I’ve seen, so my MovieZone is now closed. Thank you to my friends and readers. I’ve enjoyed interacting with you.

However, I am going to keep posting to Wordspace about topics I feel strongly about. My new blog will be simply Andy’s Zone. Look for my first post coming soon.