1976 Donnie & Marie New Years Eve Special

Season 2 – Episode 9
The 1976 Donnie and Marie Osmond New Years’ Eve Special

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Mark and Chris discuss the incredible 1976 Donnie and Marie Osmond New Years’ Eve ABC Special!

“Happy War (Xmas Is Over)”

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“So this is war, and what have you done?”

It’s all over much too quickly. Christmas is a handful. Right after Halloween, we start getting the circulars, the flyers, the wasted tree catalogs (my favorite being Williams Sonoma, what with their $100 macaroni & cheese lobster, so gosh-darn decadent!) True multi-faceted meanings of Christmas and the holiday season in general; the first day of the rest of your season is a time of true store-bought joy.

My daughter rules Christmas. Her word is law. Christmas is also her birthday, so it’s a double feast, a double celebration, double cake and pie, extra whipped cream. I love her, but jeez – tone it down, pull on the reins and let us all catch our breath (I know she won’t). There’s a whole bunch of new toys she isn’t playing with, and what really matters is the package. Tearing into those meticulously-wrapped boxes is part-and-parcel – the celebration.

Skimpy tree in the corner needs to come down, but pick-up isn’t until the 5th, so all we’re doing is collecting needles at this point. Television is the worst; advertisements manipulating heart-strings, telling me I’m the worst parent in the world because I won’t buy my 8-year-old daughter a $200 iPhone (hell, it’s contract free!). This kid breaks things just to prove a point, but she can’t help it. She’s a kid. Cell phones are supposed to be toys for adults, not children.

I saw the coolest thing at my nearby Rite Aid. It was an Atari 2600, not with cartridges. All the games were pre-loaded into a console that was modeled after the Atari 2600. It had the joysticks included, and it looked like so much fun. I might just buy it in clearance. I never had an Atari. The best I could manage was a second-hand Coleco Vision that smelled of old socks. I paid for the thing with bus tokens, 5 packs, which meant I had to take a long walk to school for five weeks. My friend, Jeremy, scoffed at me. He had a Commodore 64, so he was definitely The Pimp!

I like one thing about Christmas – decorating the tree, getting all freakin’-fun-festive, and then I get that tune stuck in my head; something stupid from a television commercial, something from Target. Visions of sugarplum fairy entrails roped around a gorgeous Douglas Fir dance in my mind. “A Christmas Story” plays non-stop and I’ve got the dialogue memorized. I keep telling that kid not to stick his tongue to the pole – what an idiot!

Now we slam abruptly into the New Year. My Christmas tree is giving me the finger. It really is! I peak past the doorway from the kitchen and there it is, flipping me off…but it’s so festive! God kill us all, every one! So this is war, and what have we done? I don’t mean “what have we done?” as a simple, rhetorical question, but a droning David Byrne mantra – “My God! What have I done!” I’ve become an enabler in the holiday tradition.

“Let It Go”, the song tells us. So we’ll make some soup for the poor, because if there’s anything television tells me, it’s that poor people love soup. That should calm the shakes and bring us swan-diving into 2015! Hug a cop! Yeah, I said it! In summation, Christmas is a horrible holiday; at once filled with so many historical and religious inaccuracies, but also a foundation for materialism-induced misery and…it’s all over much too quickly.

Happy New Year Everybody!

The 1980 Osmond’s Family Christmas

Season 2 – Episode 8
The 1980 Osmond’s Family Christmas

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Mark and Chris discuss the heavily produced and popular Donnie and Marie 1980 Xmas Special! Stars such as Peggy Fleming and Doug Henning perform!

 

Do You Wanna Watch ‘Gloria’? Sure, We All Do!

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Gloria Stivic is an unusual entity. Pampered, spoiled, precocious; Gloria (as played by Sally Struthers) represented the tenuous bridge between liberal husband Michael “Meathead” Stivic (Rob Reiner) and conservative (although by today’s standards, libertarian) father Archie Bunker (four-time Emmy winner Carroll O’Connor). Both male characters attempted to mold Gloria to fit their image, and both never seemed to succeed (possibly because she was more like her mother, Edith, than either of them). In some ways, Gloria entertained old school concepts of womanhood balanced with more progressive ideas. She was the breadwinner in the house while Michael pursued his academia.

It would seem to write itself that Struthers would get her own spin-off. “All in the Family” yielded several spin-offs in the ensuing years (“The Jeffersons”, “Maude”, “Good Times” among them) and Gloria was an uncommonly popular character for the time. “Gloria”, premiering in 1982, plays as a series of leftovers and hand-me-downs – even the sets are evocative of shows running at the time. The living room looks like a redress of Archie’s living room in “All in the Family”, and the kitchen resembles the set used for “Family Ties”.

“Gloria” begins, ostensibly, as she unpacks for a new life in Fox Ridge (although officially more of a planned community in Google Maps, it’s actually right off the Northern State) where she takes a job as Veterinarian’s assistant. The veterinarian is played by the great Burgess Meredith. This high-concept premise seems like it was written by committee. I get the feeling different ideas were being thrown against a wall. We have a wry, impish old man. We have a cute kid in little Joey, Gloria’s son. We have the single mother struggling to make ends meet (like “Alice”). We have the dizzy supporting characters, most of them men. We have a dog. Instant television series!

“Gloria” is why I hate most sitcoms. The forced laughter and applause. The contrived situations. There’s nothing natural here, either in occurrence or development. The Christmas episode, “Miracle At Fox Ridge” feels more like a lump of coal in a dirty sock than a handsomely-wrapped box with a homemade bow. There is no actual miracle, unless you count the snow at the end of the episode. But this is New York on Christmas. It’s happened before, so it ain’t exactly a miracle.

Basically, it’s hard out there for a single mom. Gloria has ditched “Meathead”, or the other way around, packed up and gone back to New York. Little Joey wants a bicycle for Christmas, but Gloria tells him not to get his hopes up (nice holiday message there, huh?). Pretty routine. Little Joey (he’ll always be known as “little”, I don’t care how old he is now) gets his bike and we’ve all learned a valuable lesson. I think. I’m not sure.

For all her whiny, annoying qualities as an actress, Sally Struthers does manage (much like Jean Stapleton’s Edith) to impart common sense through her dizzying histrionics. This is something most actors and characters on newer television shows cannot manage. So here’s to “Gloria”.

In glória Dei Patris, Baby!

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Cobra (1986)

Season 2 – Episode 6
Cobra (1986)

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It’s time for yet another holiday movie! This time it’s 1986’s fantastical action packed movie, Cobra!

Stallone in his hayday! Nielson at her hottest! Cool 50’s car chases….Christmas movie? YUP!

 

“The Machine That Goes ‘BING!'”

Bing Crosby. BIG Bing Crosby. The amiable, impish face and the posture of the Penguin from Batman. Actually, I wonder if Burgess Meredith thought of dear old Bing when he was waddling about, thrusting umbrellas and rocking his monocle and top hat. Maybe a little bit on the Bing, a little bit on Mr. Peanut? Who knows? I know of Bing Crosby from the classics – “White Christmas”, “Going My Way”, “The Bells of St. Mary’s”, The “Road” movies with Bob Hope.

Tacoma’s favorite son is still working to this day, despite being dead for over 35 years. He appears in television commercials, radio spots, dramatic and reality-based programming. I wonder how he cashes his checks. Talk about Bing Crosby to somebody from what Tom Brokaw coined, “The Greatest Generation” and it’s like you’re talking about God, and while the Big Guy could probably croon with the best of ’em, I seriously doubt he could hold a candle to Bing.

Yes, Bing made the ladies swoon. Maybe some of the men too. I remember an old Warner Brothers cartoon with some hens falling over themselves listening to an animated version of Crosby all decked out as a rooster, but then there was another crooner competing for the attention, and this one looked like Frankie (as much as a rooster could resemble Frankie, that is). Next thing you know the crooning roosters are trading fours.

These guys were the Elvises of their day. They could make a girl crazy just by hitting a note. My guess was it didn’t take that much to impress girls back in those times. In the race to woo the ladies, Ol’ Blue Eyes eventually overtook Crosby, but the legacy remained intact. Crosby’s recording of White Christmas is the best-selling single of all time with 50 million copies sold since 1942; more than Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Michael Jackson ever sold.

The David Bowie/Bing Crosby “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” duet still gets airplay on the radio stations as part of their nonstop Christmas song pukefests, as does the music video taken from the 1977 Bing Crosby Christmas Special, Merrie Olde Christmas. Nothing can prepare you for the delightfully baroque image of androgynous rocker Bowie kickin’ it with Bing.

We’re treated to Twiggy, internationally recognized singer/supermodel best known these days for her turn in 1980’s “The Blues Brothers”, but she doesn’t hold a candle to pretty Mary Crosby (before she shot J.R. on Dallas or wooed Robert Urich in “Ice Pirates”). Bing and Twiggy go all folie à deux and meet Charles Dickens. Twiggy imagines herself as Tiny Tim, very weird. Inexplicably, David Bowie pops up again to sing “Heroes”, making out with himself against a black background – ah, the seventies!

Stanley Baxter troubles me. If not for the fact that he plays a handful of ancillary characters, then it’s because he’s trying to do a Bob Hope impersonation and failing. Later in the show, he shows up, dressed as a court jester. I was reminded of Woody Allen’s character in “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex…”. For the record, Woody does a much better impression of Bob Hope. Hope is conspicuously absent from the show, and his absence is sorely missed.

The final kicker to the whole mad affair is the fact that as of the show’s airtime and broadcast, Bing Crosby was dead and buried, in the ground and rotting. To close the show, he sings his signature song once again, and I am reminded of James Joyce.

“Snow is falling. Falling in that lonely churchyard where Bing Crosby lies buried. Falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living, and the dead.”

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

Bing Crosby Merrie Olde Christmas (1977) – VHS Rewind!

VHS Rewind!

Season 2 – Episode 5
Bing Crosby Merrie Olde Christmas (1977)

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Christopher Hasler:  After the exuberant, life-affirming, Christmas-is-here holiday cheer provided by the Osmond family on our last episode, the BING CROSBY MERRIE OLDE CHRISTMAS simply sucked every ounce of life and good cheer from your estimable VHS Rewind hosts. We thought the mix of the Christmas season with Bing (Mr. White Christmas himself) Crosby would yield at leats an hour of perfectly pleasant Christmas carols (if nothing else) but Bing and his producers throw us a curve by not only giving us a Christmas special that is devoid of any Christmas spirit but by having Bing and his talent-less family pack their bags and go to England for the duration of the program(!)…we are treated not to the kind of kitsch that was a hallmark of the Osmond special but some rather dry, droll (veddy veddy droll) british humor(!)…Bing not only has a conversation with (the ghost of) Charles Dickens but Twiggy (yes, Twiggy) has an extended musical number where she essays a few of Dickens’ better known characters…an excruciating 50 minute program is enlivened by a few small (very few, very small) bits including an appearance by David Bowie, some hilarious jibes at former Crosby partner Bob Hope, terrible line readings by the Crosby family members, a few pleasantly sung christmas carols…Bing filmed this program in Sept 1977 and was dead by the time this puppy aired in November 1977…it damned near killed us at VHS Rewind…