(2) Thu Nov 26 2009 09:34:
Happy Thanksgiving! We already did Thanksgiving early this month, with Susanna in Salt Lake, 'cause we were going to be moving right now. But we're not moving, and all the vacation time I saved up for the move will be spent working on the novel and possibly on some Beautiful Soup updates. I'm on vacation more or less for the rest of the year. The downside is that there's no one in town to have a day-of Thanksgiving with but Sumana, who doesn't like having a fridge full of Thanksgiving food twice in the same month.
In that spirit, let me help you waste some time. Recently, through Jaime Weinman's weblog, Sumana and I discovered the YouTube channel of bobtwcatlanta, who's put up hours and hours of video: old commercials, which I thought would be kind of interesting, but which have paled in comparison to the amazingly engrossing intros to old TV shows. Sumana and I have spent a couple hours watching these intros and marveling at the crap that used to be on TV, and also at the surprising non-crap where we were expecting terribleness of a cosmic-microwave-background-like uniformity.
Occasionally we were so astounded (positively or negatively) by an intro that we wrote down the name of the show for later research. Now, I share this list with you. Although this list reads like Leonard's wacky list of fake TV shows, this is 100% stuff that was shown on real televisions. (Except, possibly, the last one.)
- "Gung Ho" (1986): Scott Bakula's first TV series, a nine-episode sitcom about lean manufacturing. Also starring Patti Yasutake for the ultimate Trek crossover. Of all the shows on this list, the one I have the most genuine interest in watching.
- "Charlie Hoover" (1991): "Wow, they're really going for a Sam Kinison feel on that imp from hell character, that's a little tasteless." "And Sam Kinison as the imp from hell!" "Okay..." It seems Sam Kinison didn't die until 1992. The non-Sam-Kinison actor, Tim Matheson, went on to play the vice-president on The West Wing, and I gotta say the show would have been a lot more interesting if the Sam Kinison imp from hell had been following him around.
- "The Home Front" (1991): An interesting-looking drama with a huge cast about the WWII home front. About as obscure as a 1991 major-network TV show from 1991 can be in 2009.
- "The People Next Door" (1989): Wes Craven is billed as creator of this Young Ones-lite surreal sitcom.
- "The Famous Teddy Z" (1989) looks like an OK dramedy about Hollywood, but Sumana and I were captivated because the star, Jon Cryer, looked exactly like our friend Stuart Sierra. We're talking an amazing resemblance. Jon Cryer now stars opposite Charlie Sheen on "Two and a Half Men" and only looks a little bit like Stuart Sierra.
- "Civil Wars" (1991): One of the most depressing TV shows ever, a lawyer drama about divorce court. The intro sets the scene by playing depressing dialogue ("He's a monster!" "If he's a monster, it's because you made him into one.") over grainy wedding footage. Stay tuned through the commercial break, folks! Amazingly, this lasted two full seasons.
- "Here's Boomer" (1980): This one you really gotta see. It's the second intro in that video; just sit through Pink Lady and Jeff. This is a saccharine show about a dog who solves people's problems. The only good thing about this show is that it's funny to imagine the sappy theme song playing over the scene in Battlestar Galactica where Boomer shoots Adama.
- "Lifestories" (1991): Some kind of medical drama that... I really don't know. If you only watch the visuals it looks totally generic, but Robert Prosky is credited as "the Storyteller", and here's what the Storyteller has to say in the intro:
There are dramas we can see, and others that mature, full of conflict and battles and tension, where we cannot: inside our bodies. Finally the two will intersect. That intersection is what this program is about. We are a mystery to ourselves, and nowhere more so than in our bodies.
There you go, now you know as much as I do. Except that I also know the show had Dwight Schultz in it.
- "Good Grief": This one made it into the list simply because watching the intro gave no information about the show. My best guess was that it was about a pro golfer who befriends the angel of death. I was kind of close: it's about the wacky employees of a funeral home. Not recommended.
- "Q.E.D." (1982): I'm just gonna quote the IMDB user summary: "The tales of Quentin E. Deverill, an eccentric expatriate American professor who uses his unique skills to solve mysteries in Edwardian London." Starring Sam Waterston. AWESOME.
- "No Soap, Radio" (1982): Another intro that gives no information about the show premise (they just put the camera on a roller coaster and showed that footage). However, it does give you enough information to stay away: "Starring Steve Guttenberg." IMDB says this five-episode wonder is about "The third-generation owner of a seedy hotel in Atlantic City." It took guts to name the show after a joke that's funny because it's not funny.
- "Bring 'Em Back Alive" (1982): Bruce Boxleitner is 1930s Steve Irwin! Not as awesome as it sounds.
- "Square Pegs" (1982): Sarah Jessica Parker's first TV show, a kind of proto-"Freaks and Geeks". The introduction is extremely well done.
- "The Devlin Connection" (1982): Someday I'll find it, the Devlin Connection. I did not expect to see a crime show starring Rock Hudson, but IMDB says this wasn't even the first crime show starring Rock Hudson. Not that interesting; we put it down because an extended Apple II sequence in the intro made us think Rock Hudson's character might have a sideline in computer programming, but no such luck.
- The New People (1969): All the excitement of "Lost", in the 1960s.
- We saw promos for the fall of 1969, and they were already using the moon footprint video as shorthand for "important news".
- Also in 1969, sketch comedy group The Committee had a TV show that doesn't show up on IMDB; maybe it never really aired.
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