Maybe if they’d brought in an *actual* spotwelding torch…

So I finally managed to slip the credit card out of Shoemom’s sight long enough to purchase the Bob & Ray movie. (On the principle of making hay while the sun shines I also bought the Not Always Right book, and am loving it, but that’s another post).

At any rate, yes, the B&R movie. An Award-Winning Film.… all twenty minutes of it. Plus a lengthy written insert by Keith Olbermann, video intro by Jeffrey Lyons, a Mary Backstayge episode set to a picture montage and — inexplicably, esp. given that the rights to all of their own TV series eps combined would probably have been less expensive — three Carson-era Tonight Show appearances.


[harrumphs slightly]


I really should’ve known better. You know the interview avoidance technique described in this post? The post I wrote? Buy this movie for a live-action demo.

I was off in my initial impression; the filmmakers don’t want to crack their artistic code, they think it’s really cool that they haven’t. You can tell, because the first five-ten minutes — showcasing the duo ‘relaxing’ before an afternoon’s taping — are shot in that peculiarly Sixties art-house style, the one where the more random the conversation gets the more incredibly cool it must be. In this case: not so much.

Which would not be even as awkward as it is had Olbermann not recounted, in his excellent essay, being treated to a fine display of backstage charm not much later at WOR (Ray, on correct nautical terminology: "Don’t want to have them step on some whale ship. We can’t say that on the radio…").
And there are other indications in the current subject that they know exactly what they’re doing; notably a certain funny half-smile Bob gives the camera at one point, that’s mirrored in several of the still pics. Also Ray’s restless dark eyes, noticeably too sophisticated for a podgy middle-aged face. After awhile the viewer starts following them as the last best clue to why anybody thought this film worth creating…

Meaning that what we have here is a documentary whose major theme is that the subjects really didn’t care about being in this documentary. Lovely.

It gets better once they settle down to work — a couple on-the-fly promos, one Matt Neffer episode recreated from a script, and a rework of the Komodo Dragon sketch — inasmuch as the camera goes from unwanted to utterly unimportant, and the indifference becomes part of the show.
It still resembles nothing so much as a documentary I once saw on twins who’d created their own language. Worlds conjured up literally off a few muttered cues and the degree of slyness in a grin. There’s one really incredible sequence in which their producer (the guy whose mustache is bothering them in the YouTube clip) throws a bunch of non sequitur sounds into their scripted taping, and they’re just effortlessly caught up and twirled into the vortex.

…all of which, it must be said, essentially boils down onscreen to ‘two guys who happen to be very, very good at making each other laugh.’ You think we could get a bit of the larger picture over here, please? Creative, historic, what they had for lunch that day, whatever? Olbermann’s essay would’ve been a lot more effective as an interview cut into the film, along with any others they could round up.

The special features don’t help a lot. Some of the pics are cute, especially the oldest ones. Of the (undated) Tonight Show clips, one is the Slow Talkers of America, one is an obscure-but-deserving tale of a legendary pizza flipper… and in the third Ray looks distressingly ill, not to say a bit too realistically out-of-it. Major ‘the hell?’ factor happening here. Didn’t any family members check this thing out prior to release? For that matter, where are the family members? If they got Jeffrey Lyons, they could probably have pried Chris Elliott or his daughter Abby off the SNL lot.

Ah well. Reminders of imminent mortality excepted, not a bad waste of an hour. Definitely a waste of at least fifteen of the thirty bucks, but that’s OK, I’d probably have just blown it on Starbucks’ punkin scones anyway. Now, I get the scones and complete indifference from a couple comic geniuses. It works out.
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Heebeedee funnee happidee horbdee postee!

OK, if you got that, we’re good. If not, here’s a quick primer:

…I don’t know about you, but I feel much better.


Seriously, the replenishment people came through like champs, the leggings are on their way, and all’s right with my little world once again. Of course, the warehouse people could still take issue with my polybags, but I have a backup plan. To wit: I care nothing for such petty matters as employment, for I have this day uncovered the GREATEST POP-CULTURE MASHUP EVER IN THE HISTORY OF STUFF.

Hint: Star Wars: Episode IV was filmed partly in England, yeah? And the Muppet Show was also filmed in England, right around the time the ST phenomenon was peaking…

Oh yes, my friends, they did. Luke, the droids, Chewbacca, and the Princess Leia… sort of. That’s where the Pigs in Space crossover comes in.

Why there hasn’t already been an Internet shrine erected to this half-hour of film, I have no idea. To think, all those poor souls out there scarred for life by the Holiday Special… perchance I can bring a new hope into their trembling lives. (‘New hope’, see what I did there? Just made that up now. Dang, I’m good.)

All this, and an Argyle Gargoyle too…

Harlan Ellison, eat your heart out… on second thought, nevermind.

In case you’re wondering why Shoemom and sis haven’t been gracing these pages much lately, despite allegedly living with me, fear not. It’s only that Shoesis has lately acquired Season Seven of Little House on the Prairie, and the two of them are currently eye-deep in the amber waves of schmaltz.

We all watched this show as kids. Some of my fondest preteen memories involve the weekly episode, a big bowl of popcorn, and permission to stay up to 9pm, to watch TV in my parents’ queen-sized bed, oh, bliss!
Then, after awhile you would start noticing that life on the prairie was possibly getting kinda sucky… but that was OK, it was historical and stuff. Then, you’d catch yourself keeping a running tally of Rotten Things That Somehow Kept Happening to Mary… but you’d still be able to convince yourself that Grace wasn’t really using her baby to beat out the window during the fire at the blind school. Barely. This is the strange power that Michael Landon held over TV viewers, and it is awfully hard to explain to the young’uns today.

"A frontier dude with a perm?" they snort. "Striding around his prairie Hell, sobbing like a Robert Bly wet dream?" You do not hear the rest, because they are too busy racing to TWoP to record their delight. You are frankly kinda glad to be rid of the little whippersnippers.

But there finally came the ep where Albert’s teenage girlfriend got raped by the guy in the clown mask, and you were faced with one of those defining road-forks of childhood: to continue believing that the prairie dude with the perm had all the answers — in which case you were rewarded with an ep in which he literally called down fire from heaven to heal his dying son on a mountain altar — or to have your sentimentality circuits shorted permanently. Picking interestedly at the scar optional, but funny.

That I am not even allowed in there now, watching a couple more sniffly orphans see their parents killed in yet another wagon wreck, should be a pretty good indication of which camp I ended up in.

Still… occasional apparent psychotic breaks aside, there remains something endearing about the Landon mythos. Even the most fraught eps were wholesome, in that they were so completely innocent of any desire to hurt. I don’t think there’s ever been a media figure so totally unable to tell where drama ended and camp began; the sheer sincerity of it all loops back around on itself, meets the man’s undeniable charisma, and becomes something almost hypnotically entertaining.

Frankly, I enjoyed this iteration of the Seventies Sensitive Male a whole lot more than Alan Alda’s brittle, knowing version. Both were almost hysterically out of place, both operated off a deeply flawed sense of mission, both evolved series so inner-directed that they resembled therapy sessions… but Landon’s was about the flaws, and Alda’s the fastidious shame of having them. Obviously (one series lasted nine years, the other eleven) both models resonated with large segments of the public; I guess it’s another of those polarizing things.

…When I figure out what it all means, I’ll let you know.

The Seven Days meme: Day Four

day 01 | a song
day 02 | a picture
day 03 | a book/ebook/fanfic
Day 04 | a site
day 05 | a youtube clip
day 06 | a quote
day 07 | whatever tickles your fancy


I am thinking this would be an excellent time to thank Bad Movie mecca the agony booth for being the amazingly rich source of entertainment it’s been to me for so long. Love siterunner Albert Walker or not — frankly I’m a bit bemused by the way he runs his forum lately, which is why I’m not saying this there, despite being tempted many times after finishing a recap…

Anyway, he gets all kinds of points for running his site according to real-world literary standards, not Net ones. Not only is his grammar excellent, but his snark is consistently intelligent, insightful and damn funny. Same thing goes for the recaps others post under his supervision; inasmuch as I’m paying off old laffs I must single out Jordon Davis, Jet and Mark ‘Scooter’Wilson. Enshrining Mr T’s place in pop-culture history is a noble work and all, but — in the context of the Internet — the booth’s greater achievement  may be giving wits of their calibre a congenial place to shine.

Well, that and making it through that one Deep Space Nine ep where Quark gets a sex change…

If you wanna have fun, it doesn’t matter at all…

Happiness week @ Shoe Central continues with a theme of universal love, hope and brotherhood…

…well, OK, not exactly. We haven’t reached the ‘bang the tambourine at airports’ stage of happiness yet, and frankly, we hope we never will. We have fond memories of encountering George Carlin in a book of advice to young people: "Question everything. Question – and resist!"

Of course, we also recall a painfully apt line from the Barenaked Ladies: "I’m so sane/it’s driving me crazy…"

Somewhere in-between lies our enduring fascination with children’s media.


So, can I drop the royal ‘we’ now? Oh, I already have? Great.

Ahem. Not to worry, I’ve already rambled on at some general length on this subject… no, not the third person majestic plural, children’s TV. And faithful readers will recall that the outlook at that point was pretty grim.

Well, guess what: this post is about the tiny little ray of sunshine that’s burst through since then. Big & Small. Airing on TreehouseTV, here in its native Canada. (Although I am linking to the CBBC version because it includes much more introductory goodness). Various points on the schedule. Fifteen minutes a pop. 100% pure, unadulterated happiness. Go on, try a clip. See if you’re not grinning like an idiot within seconds.

OK…so the Canadian version doesn’t have Lenny Henry’s voice. Everything else – the charm, the wit, the riotous imagination – is blissfully intact. Big is still a gentle giant who invents good luck machines and dreams of counting the stars. Small still has a pet sock named Fang and dreams of being the Best Camper Guy Ever and…looks like a cross between a bunny and a goldfish.

As it turns out, he and Big are actually Grogs. This recent discovery clicked everything into place for me, because it means they’re from the same creature shop that has been making me very happy indeed since ‘way back when their ancestors used to show up between YTV programs in the early ’90’s.
These are good people to have in your corner when you’re stuck babysitting on a rainy afternoon. They have the same understanding Henson & co. (the original generation at least) did – that using felt critters means that you can actually get away with a whole lot of good stuff. Because nobody would ever dream of questioning the motives of cute fuzzy puppets, would they now?

No, really. Despite decades of warning, you can still get away with a surprising lot. You can, for instance, create a realistically hyper, egomaniac little kid, pair him off with a realistically capable but imperfect guardian, give them a common fascination with all the world has to offer…and somehow sneak it onto the international kidvid slate without a single parental complaint (that I can find, anyhow). It is the last best hope for resistance against the perfection of the average: the human personality, in all its chaotic glory.

As it happens, that’s also the foundation of the finest comedy humanity has to offer, so it’s no huge surprise that the average Big & Small episode is a mini-screwball masterpiece. Pocoyo does something similar with childish attitudes, but it’s hampered more by its peculiarly British sense of mission. B&S on the other hand are purely North American, over-the-top parodies of the spoiled brat and ineffectual parent archetypes that’ve been pervading our ether since Dr. Spock.

In recognising them, you laugh at them; in laughing at them, you learn from them; in learning from them, you understand them…and hey presto, expanded horizons. I have never, ever understood why more kids’ series haven’t picked up on this very simple formula. Probably saves a metric buttload in Child Development consultants. Not to mention songwriters.

Right, enough gushing, more sleep. It’s impossible anyway to really convey the funnie of this series in print; the fun comes from watching the expressions and voices and reactions. So…go watch it, OK? Seriously.

Bob & Ray linkage of the week

Getting this out of my system early this week, as I’ve got other stuff to worry about (as in, Oh God I Just Posted All The Fiction Now What?!)

Anyhow, this isn’t so much new! and exciting! as housekeeping – I’ve had these YouTube clips on Favourite for ages, but somehow’ve never gotten around to linking them here. Which is odd, because they really do deserve it. Besides showcasing B&R at their most personable, it’s also a fun little window into the David Letterman phenomenon circa… I’m not sure, really, except it must be the very early stages. There’s some background whooping and hollering that suggests Chris Elliott has been newly installed under the seats.

Part One involves intros and a typically unique take on shilling the latest project (the flick in question is Author, Author!, and yes, it’s a comedy):

Part Two showcases a couple of skits from their prime (you can tell, because the second opens with a decidedly, albeit good-naturedly, un-PC flourish):

Ooh, this hurts.

Topless Robot recently did a ’10 Most Ridiculous Things About the Original GI Joe Movie’ list, and lo, I was gleeful. Because I loved the original GI Joe series with all my little mindless-pop-culture-consuming heart, and that damn Cobra-La trifled with that heart like Aztecs looking for fun on Saturday night.

And then I read the opening paragraph, about the live-action movie remake. I had not known there was to be a live-action remake, possibly because my brain shut down and started going ‘nuh-uh! nuh-uh-uh!‘ whenever I tried to take it in. I mean, we can all agree there are inherent issues in recreating the Joeverse in living colour, yes? For one thing, just try casting Cobra Commander. "Er…yes, you do wear a totally face-concealing mask for the entire picture. But it’s shiny!"

Apparently, though, there are depths to which my inner child’s heart can still sink:

"In just a few weeks, the majority of us will be exiting theaters on the opening night of the live-action G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra, either laughing till we puke or pummeling each other out of sheer, unadulterated rage. Between Schumacher-esque Joe body armor, Storm Shadow’s sneakers and Duke’s childhood buddy Cobra Commander, we all know we’re in for something painful–but whether it’s Troll 2 painful (hilariously bad!) or Love Guru painful (assisted suicide) remains to be seen."

Sneakers? SNEAKERS?

…’scuse me, I’ll be over in this corner weeping for a little bit…

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