I am, quite literally, a year behind on the times with this, but I just started watching Portlandia (it just arrived on Netflix) and the opening song from the first episode has been stuck in my goddamn head for a week now. It's always good to see that a sketch comedy show with a budget you could hold in a change purse can produce something like this. Even without the humor, it's a good and almost unfairly catchy tune.
So, I don't really like CGI. While I understand the effort that goes into it, I just don't think it'll ever look as good as miniaturization, pyrotechnics and the like. So I am really digging on this HBO intro from 1983.
Ever wonder where canned laughter came from? Well, a man named Charley Douglass and his invention the Laff Box [sic] was responsible.
The one-of-a-kind device was tightly secured with padlocks, stood more than two feet tall, and operated like an organ. Douglass used a keyboard to select the style, gender and age of the laugh as well as a foot pedal to time the length of the reaction. Inside the padlocked concoction was an endless array of recorded chuckles, yocks, and belly laughs; exactly 320 laughs on 32 tape loops, 10 to a loop. Each loop contained 10 individual audience laughs spliced end-to-end, whirling around simultaneously waiting to be cued up. There was also a 60 second "titter" track in the loop, which consisted to individual people laughing quietly. This "titter" track was used to quiet down a laugh and was always playing in the background. When Douglass inserted a hearty laugh, the titter track was played along with it to smooth out the final mix. This titter track was receive minor changes every few months. A man's deep laugh would be swapped out for a new woman laugh, or a high-pitched woman's giggle would be replaced with a man's snicker.
Witness! the apex of simulated mirth with the Laff Box:
Arrested Development and Andy Richter Controls the Universe are two shows which really, really stand up to repeated views. And, therefore, I have seen the entire runs of the two series at least a half-dozen times apiece. That is slightly over six and a half straight days of the same twenty-six hours of television. Needless to say that after such viewings, certain things tend to jump out. For instance, I love this prop from Lucille's apartment in AD. It almost looks as if it were painted on the wall and then a frame set out in front to make it look like a painting; a sort of trompe-l'œil.
So, when I was watching Andy Richter tonight, for the first time in a while, I saw this image, and ended up fast-forwarding through three episodes of AD to figure out if I was looking at the same Fox studios prop, two years apart in time (that Richter episode aired in '02, AD in '04.)
As you can plainly see, they are two separate vases, but are almost certainly created by the same individual.
Orson Welles didn't just shill frozen peas and cheap wine. No, he also phoned-in an ad for a long-forgotton Milton Bradley board game called Dark Tower (no relation to the Stephen King epic.) If you remember Krusty the Klown showing Bart how to record for a toy -- I'd try to find a link but I've no intention of even trying to find a iPhone recording of a VHS tape that somehow hasn't been taken of YouTube yet -- the acting is roughly that quality.
I wrote previously about IDing a cover of a book I own from several seconds of noticing it as set-dressing in an unrelated production. Watching Law & Order recently, I caught a new one:
L&O S4E14 "Censure"
Yep, that's Lt. Anita Van Buren, under cover and reading a copy of the 1974 Bantam printing of Gravity's Rainbow. A book I owned for years.
I put down that book in sheer exasperation more times than I could count. When I moved, I finally realized that if I was going to ever read the damn thing, it would be on an eReader and I sold my copy, along with 75% of my library.
Back before the popularity of cable, Netflix, P2P and all that good stuff, they showed feature films on network television. I'm going to assume this is either blindingly obvious to most of you reading this, but I'm pretty sure at least one or two of you was born well after cable became prohibitively expensive. Anyway, the first October after my family moved to America -- and sometime after I figured out what Halloween was by straining myself silly reading a magazine article in English -- I saw these commercials aired on WPIX, Channel 11 (or as I heard it for months: "shellaveleva.) Happy Halloween y'all.
I watched the hell out of PBS's Ghostwriter as a kid, and I saw this episode below long before I knew who William Gibson (or, for that matter, Julia Stiles) was. Coming back to it, I find it a little weird that a kids' show would have a pre-teen character mentioning that she read Neuromancer. Yeah, the episode was the Internet Special of the series and she's supposed to be a bit of a delinquent -- can you guess who turns out to be the hacker? -- but that book is a chorus line of sex, drugs and violence. I wonder if this is one of those cases wherein whoever was supposed to check these things probably thought it was just some run-of-the-mill/made-up SF novel and let it slide. Either way, damn if I don't wish I had paid more attention and picked up the book when I was nine rather than nineteen. I'd be a millionaire by now. Or in a Turkish prison. Maybe both.
Hurricane Irene -- a timely subject, I know! -- unleashed a fury of references to the eighth season Simpsons episode "Hurricane Neddy". If you don't recall, it's the one where Ned Flanders' life goes to hell after his home collapses in a hurricane. Anyhow, my friend Sarah posted the following screenshot on her Facebook wall, in response to the mad dash for supplies, and rumors of stores taking advantage of folks in said mad dash:
To which I immediately replied with my favorite gag from that show (and set it as my profile picture for the duration of the hurricane):
"I'm a surfer!"
...and was immediately drawn in to a discussion by a (slightly older) mutual friend asking me to verify the fact that I was aware that the Butthole Surfers were an actual band.
Well, not only am I aware, but Electriclarryland and Independent Worm Saloon were two of my absolute favorite albums in high school. I am totally sure that, at some point between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, I could sing along to every song on either record. So, here are two of my favorite tracks off either album: "You Don't Know Me" and "Cough Syrup":
I was on a nostalgia kick last night and, as these things usually go, it ended with my watching about a half-dozen cartoons intros on YouTube. Going further and further back in time to my childhood, I looked up one of my favorite cartoons from back before I even understood enough English to grasp the dialogue. Howie Mandell's Bobby's World wasn't the greatest cartoon of the 90s, but it ran for nearly a decade and I caught a fair amount of it growing up. However, the disconnect between my watching this cartoon and my education in film means I didn't notice one very important thing until last night. Let's see if you get the "oh, shit!" moment I had last night. Here's a hint: it becomes the most blatant at around 0:25 in:
Here's the big solution:
Now, I could be wrong, but unlike, say, anything from the Fox stable -- Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, et. al. -- Bobby's World was not particularly known for its smirky adult moments, so a reference to The Shining, of all films, is all the more surprising and delightful.
Also, because someone was willing to put a lot more time and effort into this connection, you can see the cartoon's music overdubbed onto the film's video here. The creator disabled embedding, so you'll have to follow the link through but it's worth it.