09 August 2009
Saturday/August/15 2009 Filed in: Weekend Showcase
Got a minute? How about two?
Enjoy the Stars Wars Weekend Film Festival!
Star Wars in Bun-O-Vision in Less Than a Minute (With Out-Takes)
Star Wars without Bunnies in One Minute
Friday/August/14 2009 Filed in: Weekend Showcase
The Lost Art
TV show openers used to blend melody and lyrics to lay out setting and premise. But we just don't have that kind of time anymore. Can you imagine ABC's Lost starting with cheezy theme music and a voiceover?
"They were on a plane but they crashed on an island and there was this hatch thing and a smoke monster and did we mention the polar bear...?"
Not So Long Ago
But there was a time that TV theme sequences were integral to the programs we watched. For example...
Lalo Schiffren's iconic 5/4 time signature and pulse-pounding beat set the tone for this series.. Married to the theme music was a masterwork of film editing. A sequence of rapid-fire jumpcuts carefully tailored for each episode ratcheted up the sense of urgency that was the lifeblood of the series.
The opening sequence for this show, allegedly pitched to NBC as "MTV Cops," set the stage for fashion-forward glamour and high-life excitement. Jan Hammer's Top-40 current, on-the-money theme was pitch perfect.
The Miami Vice opener seemed to draw its inspiration from Hawaii Five-O.
When this show premiered a lot of people thought Hawaii was a quiet place where people lazed around on the beach all day, eating cocoanuts and sipping pina-colodas.
Not so, screamed the classic theme sequence. In one short minute, the beautiful island culture and history blends with a darker, gritty undertone of big city crime and punishment.
As a side note, Morton Stevens, composer of this, one of the best TV themes ever, also composed the melody for Gilligan's Island.
Our continuing question though: did Kam Fong really need the different character name, Chin Ho? Did Zulu really need the different character name, Kono?
Does a TV theme really make a difference?
You be the judge. Here's is the official opening of the breakthrough TV series,The Prisoner, with Ron Grainer's theme music that fused contemporary and traditional influences into something quite different for the time.
And here's what the theme might have been...
What are your choices for Classic TV show openers?
Thursday/August/13 2009 Filed in: Entertainment / Media
Yoo Hoo, It's Me... My Name is Pinky Lee... Somebody Help Me!
September 20, 1955 -- A Generational Apocalyptic Moment.
That was the day Baby Boomers learned that sometimes bad things happen to good people.
Pinky Lee -- the frenetic, atomic-powered host of a popular children's show -- had a heart attack and died an agonizing death on live television.
Not So, Actually.
Okay, he didn't really have a heart attack and he didn't actually die that day. He did, however, have a bad reaction to nasal drip medication and he collapsed on camera. For millions of kids watching, it was easy to think the worst.
"Somebody Help Me..!"
During a live commercial, he said "Grow up to be big and strong like me" or words to that effect, then jumped to click his heels. He landed badly, staggered and cried out, "Somebody help me..."
The screen went dark and that was the end of Pinky Lee. Not the man but the brand.
After a long convalescence, his comeback was thwarted by the fresh success of the Mickey Mouse Club, the new afternoon go-to show for kids.
End of Innocence - More Bad News for Mid-Century Children
A few years later, Superman's George Reeves would prove to be not so invulnerable, after all. And only a few years after that, a young president would never return from a trip to Dallas. Pinky Lee was an early lesson to Baby Boomers that even the mighty can fall.
Plunk Your Magic Twanger, Froggy
TV Exposes Young Baby Boomers to Grim, Haunting Images of Hell.
Andy's Gang, an early 1950's kid's show, may have been a horrific glimpse through the dark portals of the very depths of Hell itself.
The star of the show was a demonic hand-puppet named Froggy the Gremlin, conjured up by host, Andy Devine, with the strangely suggestive chant, "Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy"
Revenge of the Jedi
Froggy, frozen-featured and lurching, exhibited the Jedi-Master ability to force his victims to do things (embarrassing things, humiliating things, awful things) against their will. His raspy, gutteral voice, repeating the phrase "you will, you will," was the stuff of nightmares.
Echoes of Timothy Leary: Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out...
Some journalists have even suggested that Froggy's exhortations planted seeds of rebellion into the adolescent collective consciousness of a Baby Boomer generation that would later turn-on to drugs, tune-in to counter-culture and drop-out of society.
That may be a stretch but there is something evil and twisted here. And that children-of-the-corn audience and their cacophonous clammer is truly blood curdling, isn't it?
Read other Apocalypzia posts in the Entertainment / Media Category.
Wednesday/August/12 2009 Filed in: TV Commercials
This Guy's Got It All
-- Sinewy guns, a manly job hoisting milk pails and a high-class dame lighting his smokes. Now if he could just shake that annoying cough and see someone about the blood in his spittle.
Much has been said about America's love affair with the automobile, but that relationship seems shallow compared to the more torrid long-running tryst with the cigarette.
In the mid-1960's upwards of $180 million was spent annually on TV advertising for cigarettes -- a lot of money even back then.
Cigarette commercials have been banned on US TV since January 2, 1971. (The last one was a Virginia Slims commercial on the Johnny Carson Show the night before.) But until then, cigarette commercials dominated TV advertising. Some were clever and some were not.
Let's take a brief look back...
Welcome to Marlboro Country
Though originally launched as a product targeted toward women, Marlboro came to personify the rugged individual of the Old West. The imagery was so strong that a cowboy on a billboard was enough to suggest the brand.
The strange time-twisted reality of the Marlboro campaign was not that cowboys in the 1800's smoked Marlboros but that there were still guys out there with cowboy hats, horses and spurs, driving cattle across the plains.
Ironically, the rumor was that even during it's heyday, Marlboro didn't sell as well west of the Mississippi where Chesterfield was the more preferred brand.
Winston Tastes Good Like A Cigarette Should
This is one of the least creative marketing campaigns of all time. Could a product claim be any more vapid or vague? Did other brands not taste like a cigarette should? And speaking of should, shouldn't it be "as a cigarette should?"
A simple-Simon rhyme matched with a clunky jingle. This commercial ranks at the bottom of the Apocalypzia ad scale.
We can't even imagine Dr. McDreamy lighting up after a particularly grueling neuro-surgerical operation on Grey's Anatomy, but there was a time when stars of popular TV shows did in-character commercials. They weren't exactly product placements, but something close. Listen to my story of a man named Jed...
Even Fred and Barney got into the act.
Show Us Your Lark Pack
During the time that cigarette commercials were allowed on television some of the best minds on Madison Avenue created them. The following Lark commercial is not an example of their best work.
The great Stan Freeberg spoofed the Lark commercial in a way that only he could.
Seeing the Masked Man and his faithful Indian companion in, perhaps, a final cameo was the perfect payoff for this commercial. A special treat for Lone Ranger fans was seeing stoic Jay Silverheels break character to get the last laugh.
He has even more fun with his Tonto character here.
See other Apocalypzia posts from the TV Commercials Category.
Tuesday/August/11 2009 Filed in: TV Commercials
Coke is the King of Soft Drink Hill.
And they stormed their way to the top of the heap with a history of in-your-face TV commercials that were anything but subtle.
While rival Pepsi was selling lifestyle, attitude and point of view, Coke's message was that their branded bottles of sweetened water were absolutely necessary before you could have any real fun.
See what we mean...
More For You
Apparently before she got right with the Lord, Anita Bryant drank a lot with strange men at the beach. That aside, the main message here is that Coke is the life of the party. Not the brilliant blue sky, the silver surf or sparkling conversation with pretty people. It's all about the Coke.
Things Go Better With Coke
Either this guy is trapped in the Matrix or somebody forgot to take the green filter off Camera One. At any rate, once again, Coke is required for you to have a good time.
I'd Like To Buy the World a Coke
Probably the most iconic of Coke's commercials, this Up with People wannabe is clearly self-serving and sappy. What if the world doesn't want a Coke? If you like Coke, fine. Maybe I'd rather have a Yoo-Hoo. Ever think about that?
Coke Is It!
If the 1980's movie Fame crashed head-on into High School Musical and there were no survivors, this commercial is the twisted wreckage you'd be left with. Why would you want to drink anything that would make you act like this?!
It's the Real Thing
This commercial is Coke's attempt to do the Pepsi lifestyle thing but in a desperate just-buy-the-damn-Coke-why-don't-you? kind of way.
And Where it All Began...
Apparently, Coke started out as a necessary substitute for adequate air-conditioning. More importantly, it was the drink of choice for that fast game of 5-Card-Stud with the other desperate housewives from down the block.
Monday/August/10 2009 Filed in: Philosophy / World View
October 30, 1938 -- Bergen and McCarthy Save the World
One of the best known ventriloquist / dummy acts of all time was Edgar Bergen and his wooden-headed companion, Charlie McCarthy.
Though not technically the best voice-thrower -- his lips twisted a bit when he spoke -- Bergen was skilled enough to make audiences believe that dummy Charlie had a mind of his own.
Pulling the Strings
Amazingly, the act's greatest success was on radio. Charlie was the center of attention, often engaging one-on-one with guest stars. Bergen was happy to allow the dummy to have the spotlight while he pulled the strings in the shadows.
But something happened during the Bergen and McCarthy radio show on the night of October 30, 1938.
War of the Worlds
That same night, at precisely the same hour, Orson Welles broadcast the infamous War of the Worlds program on a competing network. The program was presented in such a way that tens of thousands of people across the country panicked, believing that the US was actually under attack from an alien enemy.
But many people listening to the radio that night never heard the sci-fi program because they were, instead, tuned the very popular Bergen-McCarthy show. Wikipedia reports that, consequently, some people credit the Bergen and McCarthy with "saving the world" that night.
No Clear Nor Present Danger
Of course, we understand now that there never was a genuine threat. The world was never really in danger. It was all make-believe. There was no pending apocalypse. Just a fabrication. Smoke and mirrors. An elaborate hoax.
Edgar Bergen and his wooden-headed companion, Charlie McCarthy. The world's greatest ventriloquist / dummy act until January 20, 2001.