October 2008 Archives
1984 was a good year. The Detroit Tigers won the World Series. Van Halen released a great album. Our great nation-state declared war on Eurasia, then Eastasia, then Eurasia again, all while systematically streamlining our language to eliminate thoughtcrime and creating a super-civilization. All hail Big Brother!
But 1984 was also good for one other thing: movies.
Here's a partial list of movies that came out during 1984:
If you're between the ages of 25 and 35, you probably look back fondly at Sega Genesis. It was the most perfect of all video game systems. Its controllers were sophisticated, but didn't take a Masters in Engineering and the dexterity of a Harvard neurosurgery resident to operate them. The graphics were 1990s tech (16 bit!), so they were real looking, but not real enough to keep you up until 3 in the morning in some role playing game, plotting a siege on Zangnar Castle with your buddy Gunter, who lives in Germany and keeps asking you to send him Levi's.
With Sega firmly entrenched as the best game system of the early 1990s, the games began to get pretty awesome. The Madden games began to develop into the juggernaut that they are today. The NBA games got a little more intuitive to play. And then came NHL '94.
It's tough to say who the person was in charge of developing this game over at EA Sports. What isn't tough to say is that this person deserves some kind of medal, maybe a Nobel Prize. The guy sat down and said, "OK, here's what's awesome about the game and here's what sucks. Let's keep all of the awesome things, and get rid of all the crappy things." They took out fighting, which never worked the way it should have (and didn't in future versions on the Sega platform). They left in the ability to spear someone and take them out of the game with a well-timed hit. They allowed you to turn off off-sides. And because there were only three buttons, changing your guy on the ice, passing and one-timing your shots wasn't all that difficult to do. They made a couple of absolutely kickass players, like Jeremy Roenick on the Chicago Blackhawks (who could pretty much score at will by going into the corner and coming across the crease) and Pavel Bure of the Vancouver Canucks (who was easily the fastest player and could kill on breakaways).
There was no better game to stay awake playing all night in college. And it wasn't only exciting to play; it was exciting to watch, which made setting up a tournament all the more fun. Not only that, the game could store your profiles and keep stats, so you could call someone out if they were particularly crappy at it. There was always one dude who just couldn't get the game. He'd try like hell to play it, but he'd get his ass kicked time and time again. The go-to excuse was always that the controller wasn't working and he'd quit, then someone would take over his game and all of the sudden the controller worked fine.
The proof of NHL '94's worthiness was NHL '95, which brought fighting back and tried to make the game more "real." The problem with that is that it became less fun (and more difficult) to play. For whatever reason, EA struck gold with NHL '94 that they just couldn't replicate.
Let's talk for a minute about Steve Martin. He's someone who has been both wildly overrated and wildly underrated at varying points in his career. When he was doing his wacky Steve Martin stuff in the 1970s, with his stand up and SNL appearances, and the 1980s with the movies, his overexposure had him contending with some serious overrated issues. Let's face it: evolving tastes make the things that made us laugh 30 years ago kind of stupid now, but walking around with a fake arrow through your head has always been about as funny as kick in the crotch.
When's it going to be Jm J. Bullock's turn? Every generation needs an actor like this that they can count on for a few good laughs.
He was first introduced to the world as Monroe J. Ficus on the syndicated Too Close For Comfort program that starred Ted Knight as a San Francisco-based cartoonist. Monroe was the goofy next door neighbor, constantly annoying Knight, but otherwise winning the adoration of the rest of the family for his good natured stupidity.
When Hollywood Squares came back to the air in 1986 with John Davidson as the host and Joan Rivers as the center square, who else would producers choose as the resident foppish, effeminate square with a quick wit? Jm J Bullock, of course. Bullock filled the role with Paul Lynde-ian flair. He had the same goofy wardrobe, similar inflection in his voice and the same prepared one-liners that send the audience into an uproar.
These days, Bullock is mostly a forgotten relic of the 1980s, the kind of celebrity that you expect to be performing with Bonnie Franklin and Diana Canova in Branson, MO. IMDb.com doesn't list anything of note in his filmography since playing Willy Tanner's brother in ALF's final season. Since then, he's been relegated to roles that have basically cast him as the gay guy. He's not the greatest actor to grace the small screen, but he's a decent one, better than that .
The bottom line is that he's Paul Lynde for Gen Y. So where's his variety show? Where are his cameos? His talk show appearances? Where's his role as the gay uncle on How I Met Your Mother? Let's get these things in the work for Jm. He probably needs the paycheck.
What is it?
After Bon Jovi’s appearance on stage singing “Wanted Dead or Alive” at the 1989 MTV Music Video Awards brought such rave reviews, the execs at the network were struck with an epiphany. Why not bring bands together that are ordinarily known for playing their music with amplifiers and put them on stage to play their songs without the plugs in the amplifiers? Why not broadcast this show on the network in primetime? And since these instruments were “unplugged” from the amps, why not simply call the show Unplugged? It was a stroke of genius from a group of people who also hired Martha Quinn.
There's an episode of Family Guy where Joe, Cleveland, Peter and Quagmire are all sitting in a vat of beer at the Pawtucket Patriot brewery, and the conversation drifts to people they'd strike from the face of the Earth if they were God. Joe picks Debra Messing and Cleveland picks French Stewart (incidentally, those are two excellent choices). Quagmire suggests that French Stewart is no Tim Daly and none of the guys know who Tim Daly is. The whole scene culminates in Quagmire storming off because no one likes, knows or has even heard of Wings.
Seth MacFarlane is a pop culture God. They guy could go toe to toe with anyone. He's obviously making fun of Wings as completely generic and inoffensive; the kind of stuff watched by people who don't really think too much about what it is they want to watch (which makes it all the more odd that Peter Griffin had never heard of it). Here's the thing: that's selling the show a bit short.
Is it kind of generic drek? Yeah, probably. But to be totally fair, it ran for 8 seasons, and had a lengthy run in syndication. As far as sitcoms go, it ain't half bad. There are countless shows that are far less watchable than Wings.
Tim Daly and Steven Weber played brothers that ran a Nantucket-based airline. Thomas Haden Church has been reborn in recent years, thanks to Sideways, but his initial birth was as Lowell, dimwitted handyman at the Nantucket airport. And his good-natured idiocy came off charming. Among the other characters at the airport were Fay, the ditzy ticket agent; Roy, the ornery, overweight competitor of Joe and Brian; Helen, the lunch counter girl; and Antonio Scarpacci, the immigrant cabbie played by inimitable character actor Tony Shaloub. Lots of stereotypical characters here (they should have just broke down all the barriers and had a 1940s mobster character holding a violin case and an Asian guy with a triangle hat and buck teeth), but in the context of the show, it didn't insult the intelligence of its audience too much.
So, Seth MacFarlane, if you're reading this: I'm just going to go ahead and assume that this is one of those schoolyard things where you make fun of the things you like the most. This way, you and I won't have a problem.