Great Moments in Bad Retro-TV

Marlin Perkins Doing Sweet Dick-All

Years before the Crocodile Hunter, we had Jim Fowler on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.  This dude was one tough bastard.   He did all the dirty work on the show, like wrestling crocodiles or counting canine teeth on enraged lions.  

Meanwhile, Marlin (who was old enough to have traveled with Lewis and Clark) would narrate the show from the safe comfort of his wood-paneled TV-studio office.  

The only wildlife he ever came in contact with was the baby chimp he’d sometimes hold while telling the story.

Thanks for coming out, Marlin. )

 

The Wonder Twins’ Ridiculous Transformations.

Anyone between the ages of 35-45 has probably watched the Superfriends cartoon on Saturday mornings at least once.  

Remember the Wonder Twins Zan and Jayna?  (With the identical bad Spock haircuts and Spock ears?)  

Whenever there was trouble, they’d  touch knuckles and yell out “Wonder Twin Powers ACTIVATE!“.  Then one would transform into water and the other, into an animal, and they’d try to save the day.

The lamest episode I saw involved Jayna taking the form of (I shit you not ) a  giant lobster while  Jan took the shape of in “Ice Reflector”.  

This was so the 50-foot lobster could use icy satellite-dish to deflect the evil alien rock music that was coming from coming from a guitar-shaped spaceship that was terrorizing the city.  

If you think I’m making this up, I’m not.   This was an actual episode.  

Excellent cartoon storyboard writing, there, Hanna-Barbera.   Just what were you smokin’ at the time?  )

 

Dated Sit-coms that make you Cringe.

Take Welcome Back Cotter, for example.   I had almost completely forgotten about this show until I caught a re-run flipping through channels.   And only now do I realize how much this show SUCKED.       

Every episode was just so God-Damned predictable.    Cotter told a lame joke (and you just wanted to pummel him!)   Horshack laughed.  Washington said “Hi There“.  Vinnie Barbarino said  “What….where….who?“.   Epstein had a note from home.   Cotter ended the show with another joke.   The studio audience would break up into hysterical laughter.  Yok! yok!  yok!

This same tired schtick took most of the show, leaving maybe 2 minutes for original plot and character development.

I could understand liking this show back in 1975.   But that’s because I was only 10 years old at the time.   

But Cotter was also popular with adults…GROWN ADULTS!  

…what was THEIR excuse?

(Or back in the 70’s, were people just stupid?)

 

Cheesy Production of Pre-MTV Music Videos

Remember when the Monkees sang “Valerie”?   And there was a really complicated guitar riff in the middle of the song?  

Notice this is when the camera conveniently panned  to a close-up of just the fingers playing on the guitar neck. 

But that was really Mike Nesmith playing…wasn’t it?…WASN’T IT?  

(Yes.  Of course it was.)    

I also laughed at the Partridge Family.  Nothing like seeing a 12-year-old Danny Bonnaduce and the two other maggot-children lip-synch and sound like they’re 25.  

One of the worst examples was an episode on Petticoat Junction.   “Guest singer”  Jack (I’m just a Bill) Sheldon sat at the piano and sang “Talk to the Animals”  (Why, in Gods name, we’ll never know).  Meanwhile, Chesty Jo and Boobie Jo sat next to him and made goo-goo eyes at him while he played.

Never mind that his hand movement didn’t even remotely match the keyboard sounds. 

Come on…we all know you’re lip synching and not playing…but can you at least TRY TO PRETEND that you’re not?

 

The Evil Twin Plot Twist…ad Nauseum

Seems in the 1960’s, you couldn’t shake a stick without bumping into an identical twin.  Sit-coms had ’em everywhere.  Bewitched had Elizabeth Montgomery play two different roles:  Samantha, and Serana.   But at least these were two different characters.

But on Gilligan’s Island, a “guest castaway” was in identical double for Ginger.   I Dream of Jeanie had an evil twin.   Captain Kirk had a doppelganger on Star Trek…twice. 

Get Smart gets the prize.   Maxwell Smart, Ninety-Nine, and The Chief each had an identical twin, on three separate episodes.  

Oboy, a hat trick. 

I guess the show’s producers were really keen to show off their new “split-screen technology”.  

Either that, or the fall-out from the atom-bomb tests of the 1950’s created all these mutant-twins. 

 

Cheesy Rock’n Roll Stock Music

Take any TV show or teenage movie, circa 1961-1965, you’re bound to see the following scene:

Somewhere there is a live band playing “rock and roll” music.   Groovy teenagers dance, while the parents/chaperones look on, puzzled. 

For added cuteness, maybe an adult “square” will attempt to clumsily dance to this “crazy new music”,  while the kids encourage them.  And everybody is happy.

(Gagggg…I’m feeling nauseous here). 

I’ve always been puzzled by the music, though.   Notice none it includes any actual top 40 hits you’d have heard on the radio at the time.   There is never any mention of the Beatles or the Stones or any other contemporary groups.  

It’s just this cheesy generic plinky electric guitar and drums (and optional horn accompaniment, regardless of whether the band had horns or not).    And the only place you ever hear this music played was on 1960’s sitcoms or movies. 

I’m just curious…did any such records albums actually exist back then?  Or is this another Great Conspiracy Theory?

 

Thoughtful Applause

This was a major phenomenon of the 70’s, when many shows were taped in front of a “Live Studio Audience”.

How many times have you seen this?:

A main character (Mrs. Garrison,  Mr. Drummond, Maude, etc.) might say something poignant about racism, or child abuse, or woman’s rights…whatever.  

This would be followed by a dramatic pause, after which the studio audience would approvingly burst into thunderous applause.  Then pause, and fade out to commercial as the applause continues.

Once again (gaggg!) my gorge rises whenever  I see this self-righteous preaching.  I hated it back then, and I hate it today.  Even when I saw these shows as a kid,  I recognized this as sensationalist manipulative tripe.

Look, if want to learn about values and ethics,  I’ll take a philosophy course, or talk to a parent, clergyman or any other role model/mentor…

…but I refuse to take moral guidance from the same IDIOT BOX that gave us “B.J. and the Bear” and “What-choo talkin’ about Willis?”.   

 

Guest Celebrities you’re Supposed to worship 

Another big phenomenon in the 60’s and 70s’ was that guest celebrities would play themselves on the show.   And the plot typically involved the main characters getting star-struck and acting like blabbering idiots when the celebrity showed up.   Apparently we’re supposed to think this is funny. 

For example, in one episode of Chico and the Man,  Freddy Prinze giggles and pretty much wets his pants like a little school girl when Sammy Davis Jr. walks into Ed’s garage.    

Oh, yeah..RIGHT.   A big tough Latino dude from East L.A. is going to act like this when he sees a Vegas lounge singer.      

Man, it was embarrassing to watch (even though you knew Freddie was just following a script).

It’s also downright insulting (because TV is telling us that THIS is how WE would act if we met a movie star…!). 

Sorry, I don’t think so.

 

Questionable Deputies’ Names on the Dukes of Hazard

Remember Sheriff Roscoe’s deputy, Enos?   WTF kind of name is that?  

I mean, aside from the Old Testament, name ONE OTHER PERSON you know called Enos!

And do you remember when Enos left the show, what his replacement was called?

….Cletus!

Enos and Cletus.  (Snicker).     Seriously.

Come on…(be honest!).  Don’t those two names resemble other words that describe…um…certain parts of the human anatomy? 

As a kid, I thought those names were hilarious and I constantly made fun of them in the schoolyard.  Even my Mom caught onto the joke.

 Tell me the writers didn’t do that on purpose!  )

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22 Comments on “Great Moments in Bad Retro-TV”

  1. Steph Says:

    Ahahahahaha! That last bit was the funniest!

    IS there a guy in the OT named Enos? Enoch, yes, but Enos?

    Okay, I just googled it. Enos is one of the books in the Book of Mormon!! But we’ll let it go. Your point is still valid! 🙂

    I used to LOVE Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, by the way, AND Get Smart!!

  2. Friar Says:

    @Steph

    Yeah, Get Smart was one of my favorite shows growing up (even WITH the identical twins).

    We used to watch Wild Kingdom at my Grandma’s after supper. Disney was on right after that.

    I think the first American Chimp is orbit was also called Enos. But don’t quote me on that.

  3. Brett Legree Says:

    Enos and Cletus work at the Neutron Factory.

    Okay, I made that up.

    But.

    There’s a guy who goes by “Pickle” where Friar and I work. So… what does that say about our company?

    Anyway, back to the subject. The scary thing is, a lot of these shows are trying to be halfway serious. I can see if it is a show like Rocket Robin Hood or The Mighty Hercules – those are supposed to be messed up.

    Of course, you could also find this kind of thing in more recent shows. If I *ever* meet a real life person who is half as much a loser as George Costanza, I’ll mercy kill the poor sap. It was seriously unbelievable to me that anyone would hang out with a guy like that. Sure, it was a sitcom, but really guys…

  4. Sandie Says:

    MonkeyBoy went through a phase involving lots of SuperFriends reruns. I had managed to block that show from my mind until I was forced to see them over and over again at the behest of a three year old. Wonder Twin Powers…ACTIVATE!

  5. Friar Says:

    @Brett
    That’s what I think is so delightfully funny about Superfriends and Cotter and all those other shows. They were TRYING to be semi-serious and good.

    I dunno if our culture has changed that much, or if people were just naive and stupid 30-40 years ago…but GOD! People thought those shows were GOOD? C’mon!

    As for Enos and Cletus…they make the Widgets at the Neutron factory. But I think Boss Hawg runs the place.

    @Sandie
    I guess Superfriends is so bad, that even comic-book geeks like you and me can’t stomach the plots. 🙂

    One of my favorite bits of trivia is the narrator of the show was Ted Knight (Ted Baxter from Mary Tyler Moore!). Hahahah! How can an accomplished actor like him read those scripts and keep a straight face?

  6. Allison Says:

    Hehe I used to love Superfriends! They were probably reruns by the time I got to them, but I remember coming home after swim lessons and watching Superfriends… and Scooby Doo. 😀

  7. Friar Says:

    @Allison

    Everybody I think has watched Superfriends at one point or another.

    I’m dating myself..I remember when they first came out in the mid 70’s on Saturday Mornings. That was a really big thing back then…

    Though it’s been on TV in one form or another ever since (It’s actually on at midnite where I live on one of the cartoon retro-channels). That’s what gave me the idea for this post! 🙂

    I always thought Batman and Robin were so USELESS. They had zero superpowers.


  8. I always thought the wonder twins had the best abilities of the entire cast but they made the worst decisions about how to use those abilities. Those crazy twins!

    During the 80s, I was a huge Dukes fan and I even had a yellow t-shirt that said “I heart Bo.” It had his picture on it and everything. And I was just nine years old!

    I loved Fantasy Island and The Love Boat too. Those were great shows! Ah, now I’m feeling all nostalgic.

  9. Friar Says:

    @Melissa
    I was always amazed at how the writers would come up with imaginative ways to use the Wonder Twins’ powers to fight evil. “Form of…an ICE ROCKET! ”

    I always thought the Wonder girl got the best of the deal…she could change into any animal. Her brother just got to change into lame old WATER….I’d be ticked off, if I were him.

    I loved the Dukes of Hazard too (I guess the girls liked Bo..and we guys had a crush on Daisy).

    My grandfather also loved the show. He’d explain the plot to me as it happened, in his think Polish accent…(Yeah, yeah, Grampa, I get it..I’m tryin’ to watch the show here!) 🙂

  10. Steph Says:

    @ Brett: I laughed out loud about your George Costanza comment! Ditto, but man, they were ALL neurotic and somewhat annoying! There wasn’t a “normal” person on that show! (which is kind of why it was funny: because they were all caricatures).

  11. Friar Says:

    @Steph and Brett

    What bugged me is how Jerry could be such an idiot, yet he managed to get all those babes to go out with every week.

    My Grandma couldn’t stand George. She summarized it perfectly in her thick accent:

    “I don’t like George…he screem too much!” 🙂


  12. Wondertwins — I’m a bit younger than your designated age range, but I loved that cartoon and played the “Wondertwins, activate, in the form of a….” game with my friends all the time; so fun!

    Oh yeah, loved the Monkees.

    Another hilarious post!

  13. Friar Says:

    @Jaden

    Heh heh heh. I didn’t realize the Wonder Twins were so big. I guess the re-runs were popular for many years after they stopped making the show.

    I was a bit too old to play “Wonder Twins”. But I did pretend to be the six million dollar man! 🙂


  14. I think people were just not so jaded in the 70’s, and remember that while welcome back Kotter looks lame now, that’s because there’s been 30 years of shows built upon that show, they have been polished over and over until the latest sit coms don’t seem so annoying.

    Also, you have to remember the other shows that were on tv back then, shows so horrendous that you have blanked them out of your memory. laurence welk, the white shadow, good lord, the horror!

    remember The Devlins? that was the worst Hannah Barbera cartton, so cheap they recycled the same audience shots in every show…

    seriously though isn’t Jim Fowler the guy who has dedicated his life to saving people and animals across the world? I remember a recent tv interview where he was living in this old elementary school
    spending all his moey on helping people, really cool!

  15. Friar Says:

    @Darren

    You have make a good point. When Welcome Back Cotter was on…TV was barely 30 years old. Mabye with 30 years hindsight, it’s easier to make fun of bad shows.

    OMG…I almost completely forgot the White Shadow! That was pure cheeze (So was “Fame”).

    Hahahahh. I remember the Devlins. What a rip-off of the Evel Knievel!

    I always thought Jim Fowler was cool….I don’t know what Marlin’s qualifications were. (Assist cook to Lewis and Clark?) 🙂

  16. wendikelly Says:

    I had a Dad who didn’t let us watch TV..except unless a President was getting shot, we were landing on the moon or Bobby Kennedy’s funeral was on.
    My Mom was a little less strict, so once in awhile I would sneak in Dark Shadows after school or wacky racers on the weekend or Road Runner, if my Dad wasn’t home.
    Most of those shows I have no memory of at all. I did see reruns of Welcome Back Kotter years later and just didn’t get it. Must have been past its prime by then cause the hair styles…oh my….
    It’s funny now though cause I have no lifetime habit of tv so its just never on. I always miss out on these things.

  17. Friar Says:

    @Wendi

    I never saw most of these shows till I was 10. (That’s when we got a TV antenna and we finally got to see all those great shows from the States across the the border in Plattsburgh, NY).

    But once we did see the TV shows, we caught up with an vengeance. 🙂

    Mom put restrictions on how many cartoons we would watch, but we’d still sneak in some good viewing time now and then. 🙂

  18. Kelly Says:

    Friar,

    “I’m dating myself.” No wonder your friends bug you about your marital status. 😉

    Oh it really is giggle day in my world. Sorry.

    I love your writing. You just crack me up with your wit.

    Wendi,

    You had MY DAD? How is that possible? Walter Cronkite, Muhammad Ali, or football. Or baseball. Or basketball. Or hockey. Or golf… you get the point.

    Two girls in the house, and NO Bo Duke. My little sister was more rebellious than I was, so she sneaked in some of that cartoon watching in the afternoons if Mom wasn’t paying attention, but by then I was too old to get it. Wonder Twin *yawn.* I remember them all, but only in flickers of walking past.

    Hence, I am the twit you see in front of you today. When my daughter’s school outlawed “Daisy Duke shorts” two years ago, I had to ask someone what that meant. (Was that a real concern for first-graders?)

    It’s all Dad’s fault that I love PBS and can’t stand slapstick or cheesy stuff. Oh, well, there are worse things to blame your Dad for.

    Oh, and Friar, truly cheesy stuff is still available at the movies. Would someone please explain why so many people like There’s Something About Mary to me?

    Nevermind, I think the news is on PBS. Gotta go.

    Regards,

    Kelly

  19. Friar Says:

    @Kelly
    I think the Dukes of Hazard worked on both levels…the guys had Daisy Duke to drool over..and the women had Bo. I think the girls in our neigbhorhood liked Bo (also Shaun Cassidy from the Hardy Boys).

    I dont’ think Jessica Simpson holds can compare to Catherine Bach…the original Daisy.

    I think the whole Something about Mary movie was forgettable..except the hair-gel scene. (But then again, I’m a guy, I relate to gross-out humor!) 🙂

    We get a lot of PBS here in Canada. It’s significantly more interesting than our own CBC (which is a sad statement on the CBC).

  20. Kelly Says:

    Friar,

    My sister had 752 posters of Shaun. Enamored big-time. I liked the books much more than that awful show (speaking of cheesy).

    Me? I didn’t have any embarrassing crushes… what’s wrong with Andy Gibb?

    My one brush with pop culture. The rest of the time I was pretty geeked out and paying little attention, until I got slammed by the Beatles in about 1980 and realized my parents had been HOLDING OUT on me. How could I not hear the White Album until 7th grade music class?

    Teen years spent catching up. 🙂

    Later,

    Kelly

  21. Friar Says:

    As guys, we used to make fun of Andy Gibb and the BG’s with their squeaky high voices. But we loved the music.

    That was in 1979…then suddenly things changed 180 degrees and everyone decided Disco sucked. (An unfair backlash against the Brothers Gibb, I always thought). Such is the fickleness of the fans.

    My parents have little or no interest in their own pop culture. I know more about their generation of music (the 50’s) than they do (Because they spent all their time listening to the boring CBC!) 🙂

    I knew of the Beatles since my earliest memories. But I didnt “discover” them until 1980 (when I was 16). Then I couldn’t get enough of them (They’re still my favorite).

  22. coffee Says:

    whatever happened to is it me, Freddie Prinze Jr., anyway?


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