The Great Depression. A time of relentless turmoil and tragedy was the setting for one of the most celebrated television shows of our lifetimes. Long time reader Anonymole requested that I compose a retrospective of America’s most beloved TV family, whose bonds of love and faith saw them through unthinkably difficult circumstances. To that end, here’s a little overview of some of the best loved characters in the sizeable Walton clan:
Family matriarch Mabel “Mama” Thomas, played by Mabel King, was a smart, no-nonsense single mother with a touching devotion to her two teenage children, Raj and Dee. Though she wouldn’t hesitate to give Raj a whoopin’ with her belt when the situation demanded, her unconditional love was the glue that held the family together. Mabel King also played Steve Martin’s adopted mother in The Jerk.
Roger “Raj” Thomas, played by Ernest Thomas, was the oldest of the Thomas children. An aspiring journalist, Raj once convinced The Doobie Brothers to play a concert at his high school and also contributed a subversive piece to the school’s underground newspaper entitled “Principal Bradley Smells Badly”. Raj spent much of his time hanging out at Rob’s Place with his friends Dwayne and Rerun.
Dee Thomas, played by Danielle Spencer was the sarcastic, wisecracking youngest daughter of the Thomas clan. A perpetual thorn in brother Raj’s side, Dee’s incredible comic timing quickly made her the show’s indisputable fan favorite.
Freddie “Rerun” Stubbs played by the late Fred “Rerun” Berry was Raj’s fat friend. Rerun was one of three main characters that ensured The Waltons was a perpetual wellspring of fat jokes. He was also a very fucking weird dancer. In the mid-90s, a friend of mine that lived in Newark, NJ found a flier hanging on a lamppost advertising an appearance by Mr. Berry at a nearby auditorium. It advised that he would be performing “comedy, dance, rap and testimony”. I really wish I could have seen that show.
Dwayne Nelson played by Heywood Nelson was Raj’s non-fat friend. He often greeted his friends with an enthusiastic “Hey, hey, hey!”
Shirley Wilson played by acclaimed actress Shirley Hemphill was the gruff but lovable waitress at Rob’s Place. She was often spotted with a pick or a pen protruding prominently from her afro.
All in all, The Waltons, which was loosely based on characters from the 1975 film Cooley High, was a meticulously crafted drama well-deserving of its acclaim.
Mea Culpa: I have actually never watched an episode of The Waltons in my life, Mole. But I bet that up until now, you were none the wiser.
It’s a tough time here at TV Gumbo. If you happened to turn on your TV today, I’m sure you were instantly inundated with a perpetual loop of scenes showing a horde of armed inbreds storming the Capitol on Wednesday. As I sit here biting my tongue bloody in an effort to refrain from self-righteous “I told you so”s, most of the decent people I know remain numb and horrified at having taken in these images. Not me. I saw this for the inevitability it has always been right from the get-go. Not too long ago, I would surely have reacted to these disturbing events with a long-winded sociopolitical entreaty on some self-important blog or another. But times have changed and so have I and the utter futility of hoping for some utopia that will never come based on the spurious notion that humans have a “purpose” above and beyond mere survival hasn’t just fully sunken in, but it has actually become my private panacea.
Mass lunacy is beyond the reach of political strategy or appeals to reason. Humanity’s most enduring lunacy-inducer is, of course, religion. Religion was designed to make people feel good about themselves. Religion tells us that we are chosen, made in God’s image, destined for greatness. Religion is the diametric opposite of reason. Reason is frightening to those unpracticed in its use because it demands bold and unfettered investigation of facts that directly contradict the tenets of most religions. And since religion was designed to make us feel good about ourselves, for most, the sobering introduction of reason into their worldview is too frightening a prospect to entertain — it will, by definition, almost surely make us feel bad about ourselves! To recap: deep down, most of us know that life is a zero sum game and that when it is over, we will no longer be in possession of consciousness. We know, because we understand the rigors of the scientific method, that Homo Sapiens is not apart from the animal kingdom but a part of the animal kingdom. We have one “purpose” and it’s the same as that of every other living thing: go on living. In pursuit of this purpose, we fuck, we fight, we eat, we sleep, we squabble over territory and eventually, we die. The Animal Kingdom, just like Marlin Perkins taught us in our youths.
For all practical purposes, there is no such thing as “human potential”. There are roughly 8 billion of us crawling all over the globe and any notion of “positive collective human evolution” is already rendered impossible by that number alone. In order for such a massive sea change in our collective views to occur, MOST of those 8 billion people would have to be in agreement about our past follies and best future course all at the same time. This is just never going to happen. Because for every one of these people that show up in each generation to push the species forward…
…there are about 100 of these evolutionary cul-de-sacs to undo everything they accomplished:
In short, it is hopeless. As such, the best thing you can possibly do for yourself and your sanity is to shit-can all hope for our species. At worst, it will save you from a lifetime of disappointment. At best, it will allow you to reassess your own self-image, strip it of its perceived importance, and move on to simply enjoying the experience of having an experience for as long as you can.
TV Gumbo is here to help you in that endeavor. Sunday is the best day of the week to stay indoors and watch TV but of course, today is a bit different than your average Sunday. Therefore, I am pleased to provide you with this convenient viewing guide for Sunday, January 10, 2021 that will enable you to stay on top of every breaking story in this rapidly developing series of cataclysmic events (at least until dinnertime):
12:00 p.m. MST – The Brady Bunch “The Big Sprain”: Carol is out of town visiting her sick aunt when Alice sprains her ankle, leaving Mike and the kids to fend for themselves. Meanwhile, Alice’s boyfriend Sam wonders whether or not he should take someone else to the upcoming Meatcutters’ Ball.
12:30 p.m. MST – The Brady Bunch “Brace Yourself”: Marcia is distraught after getting braces, and is convinced that they’ve made her ugly. Her brothers and sisters try their best to make Marcia feel less self-conscious, but they have little success.
1:00 p.m. MST – Gilligan’s Island “How To Be A Hero”: The castaways attempt to make Gilligan feel like a hero.
1:30 p.m. MST – Gilligan’s Island “The Matchmaker”: Mrs. Howell decides to engineer a romance between Gilligan and Mary Ann.
2:00 p.m. MST – Gilligan’s Island “Beauty Is As Beauty Does”: Gilligan stages a beauty contest to decide who will be crowned Miss Castaway.
2:30 p.m. MST – Gilligan’s Island “Don’t Bug The Mosquitoes”: A popular American singing group, the Mosquitoes (Bingo, Bango, Bongo and Irving), land on the island hoping for some quiet and relaxation.
3:00 p.m. MST – Gilligan’s Island “The Postman Cometh”: The castaways hear on the radio that Mary Ann’s boyfriend in Kansas is getting married.
3:30 p.m. MST – Gilligan’s Island “The Second Ginger Grant”: Mary Ann falls backwards while watching Ginger perform on stage, and when she awakens she thinks that she is Ginger.
4:00 p.m. MST – Mama’s Family “Grandma U.S.A.”: Mama competes in the Grandma USA contest.
4:30 p.m. MST – Mama’s Family “Buck Private Bubba”: Wanting to impress his girlfriend, Bubba enlists in the Army.
5:00 p.m. MST – The Love Boat “She Stole His Heart/Return of The Captain’s Brother/Swag and Mag”: A kleptomaniac seeks the help of a psychiatrist to deal with her problem. He tries to distance himself from her when they begin falling for each other. Capt. Stubing’s brother Marshall returns to the ship to get married. He has second thoughts when his fiancée reveals that she is broke, and is tempted by a past fling. A television star comes aboard the ship to accept a hero award on behalf of his character, a tough detective. A loudmouth begins harassing him, causing him to look bad in front of both his manager/girlfriend and number one fan Vicki.
I implore all of you to bravely fulfill your civic duties by keeping your ass parked on that couch and watching TV for the remainder of the day…for the good of the country.
Baby, if you’ve ever wondered wondered what ever became of me I’m living on the air in Cincinnati, Cincinnati, WKRP
Sometimes it seems that my entire raison d’etre is to obliterate people’s illusions and destroy their precious sense of nostalgia.
Here I go again.
WKRP is a staple of “classic television”, a designation which signifies nothing more than that a show is old enough to justify syndication on TV Land. What it most certainly does not signify is quality. WKRP, for all its retroactive accolades, sucked syphilitic monkey testicles. It was neither funny nor good. I can already hear the rising chorus of protestations over this assertion: “But ‘Mudge, what about the Turkey Drop episode?!” Granted, the premise of this over-hyped Thanksgiving episode involving the crew’s collective realization that turkeys can’t fly had comedic potential, but like everything else on this self-consciously rock-n-roll flavored sitcom, the ham-fisted delivery of jokes that might otherwise have landed effectively rendered the whole thing unwatchable.
This post is the result of TV Gumbo’s very first viewer request from our old friend Anonymole. I considered making a Viewer Request post a weekly feature of the blog, but then I remembered that TV Gumbo currently has 11 followers, and that includes its two authors, so for now, “Mole’s Request” will have to do. (Incidentally, Mole, you can go fuck yourself with a branding iron for making me pay so much attention – on a Sunday, no less — to how many N’s and T’s appear in the word Cincinnati.)
I’d like to approach WKRP from a different angle but before I do, let’s just get one more potentially controversial thing out of the way: Bailey was infinitely hotter than Jennifer. Period.
The character of Dr. Johnny Fever played by consummate “every dad” Howard Hesseman was unintentional self-parody. Rather than expound upon the myriad ways this pasty, slack jawed middle-aged character actor was a ludicrous choice to play a super-hip rock and roll DJ, I would instead like to analyze the many promotional band posters that decorated his studio. Ostensibly, WKRP was supposed to be a “classic rock” radio station, Venus Flytrap’s soul-heavy overnight shift notwithstanding. I just did an exhaustive search of Google images of the studio over the show’s four year run and found some interesting things adorning the walls.
In keeping with the station’s format, posters of the following artists were par for the course: Eric Clapton, Aerosmith, Journey, Rod Stewart, Pat Benatar, Supertramp, Blondie, ELO, The Rolling Stones, Kiss, Foreigner, Sammy Hagar, Charlie Daniels Band, The Cars, Jimi Hendrix and The Police.
But I’m guessing there was at least one person on the show’s creative staff whose tastes weren’t so predictably pedestrian.
Whoever this person was, he or she saw to it that the following artists/albums were given their due:
Sandinista by The Clash
Classic rock radio DJs have precisely 4 Clash songs from which to choose if they want to pay an on-air homage to “The Only Band That Mattered”: London Calling, Train In Vain, Rock the Casbah and Should I Stay Or Should I Go. So the prominent placement of the promotional poster for the Clash’s highly misunderstood triple-album opus “Sandinista” in Johnny Fever’s studio is quite the head-scratcher. Were it not for the instantly recognizable Cockney accents of Mick Jones and Joe Strummer, nothing on this album would be recognizable as The Clash. Every track is experimental, dub-heavy and difficult, with nary a melody lingering in one’s mind after digesting this obscurely politically charged post-punk artifact.
Survival by Bob Marley & The Wailers
Nothing by Bob Marley is ever heard on classic rock radio, except for Clapton’s white-bread cover of “I Shot The Sheriff”. But this late-era Island Records release from The Wailers was at once the most overtly political and militant statement of their career. I consider this one of their undisputed best but if you were one of those people who proudly displayed a “Legend” poster in your college dorm room, I guarantee that you are unfamiliar with everything on this record.
That’s Leather Tuscadero to you, Potsie.
Beat Crazy by The Joe Jackson Band
Sniffin’ pot, smoking glue Whatever terrible, things they do Smokin’ LSD and such It must be the reason why they can’t talk much
Before he smoothly implored us to come steppin’ out into the night, Joe Jackson was quite the punky subversive. WKRP would never have played a single track from this album.
Never Say Die! By Black Sabbath
A Black Sabbath poster hanging in the studio of a classic rock station is to be expected. A poster for Black Sabbath’s 1976 crapfest Never Say Die! is an entirely different matter. This was the final Sabbath studio album with Ozzy at the vocal helm and appropriately, it is the sound of advanced stage alcoholism. The title track was passable. As for the rest of it…there’s not enough booze in the world to make this sound good.
Remember when Midge Ure’s haunting vocals took us on a ghostly and heartbreaking trip to Vienna? Of course not. And neither does Johnny Fever or anyone else associated with WKRP. But that didn’t stop them from hanging the poster.
The Dictators were an early 70s proto-punk outfit from New York. Here’s a sampling of their lyrics:
We’re the members of the master race Got no tact, and we got no taste First you put your sneakers on Going outside to have some fun
Don’t forget to wipe your ass!
Tongue in cheek Fascism aside, a song like this would never make the cut at WKRP. But Howard Hesseman sure looked proud of himself sitting in his little DJ chair beneath the promo.
I know this post probably had a lot less to do with the actual TV show WKRP In Cincinnati than you would have liked, Mole, but I have to play to my strengths, you know? I may not know shit about TV, but I know music and I can recognize hipster posers when I see ‘em.
Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, Skunk Ape, Abominable Snowman…call it what you will, but this cryptozoologist’s wet dream has been occupying our collective imaginations for far too long. Decades of unverified accounts and peripheral “proofs” of this legendary beast’s existence have formed the basis of an endless sleep-inducing debate between believers and skeptics the world over.
But what if the myth were confirmed? What the hell would be so exciting about the discovery of another less-evolved member of the primate order? It seems to me that once the novelty wore off, the over-hyped Sasquatch would simply find herself classified into phylum, order, genus and species like any other animal found in a standard biology text.
The 1970s was the indisputable height of the Bigfoot craze. There were ubiquitous films, documentaries, comic books, and of course, god-awful board games whose packaging was considerably more entertaining than the incomprehensible assembly of cardboard and plastic pieces contained therein.
And of course, since every 70s craze had to find a way to join forces with every other 70’s craze, it was only a matter of time before the writers of The Six Million Dollar Man would find a way to shoehorn Sasquatch into an extremely belabored plot line. As the title of the show made clear, it took six million 1970’s dollars to rebuild Astronaut Steve Austin and retrofit him with a couple of bionic limbs, a super-snooper eye, and wedded bliss with Farrah Fawcett. So imagine his surprise when he stumbled across a bona-fide Sasquatch only to find that he, too, was bionically enhanced! Now, it turns out that this wasn’t the actual missing-link primate it seemed to be at first glance, but an incomprehensibly hairy robot constructed by some Earth-studying aliens for protection. Protection from what, exactly, I can’t say. Bigfoot, perhaps? I don’t deign to feign an understanding of alien economics, but whatever 6 million Earth dollars converts to on their planet, it’s certainly WAY too much cash to expend on transforming Andre the Giant in an ape suit into an exquisite specimen of interstellar technology.
All this served to do was muddy the waters even further. Now a brand new subset of dorks can debate whether Bigfoot’s origins are even of this world while they wait for the next goddamn Doctor Who to reveal himself. Just what we needed.
Fuck Samsquanch. Quit playing hard to get and show yourself already, you hairy putz.
Hello, my lovely TVers. I hope that all of you are having a fabulous week. Frankly, I’m ready for it and the holidays to end, but before they do, I just HAVE to fill you in Lifetime’s latest masterpiece, A Recipe for Seduction. If you didn’t get the opportunity to watch the “mini movie”, don’t worry. Paul and I watched this amazing piece of cinematic history for you!
This film reminds me of the literary genius of Tina Belcher and her fan-fiction, minus the zombies that make out. Our adventures starts, where we that “Jean” is the director of the film. Just “Jean”. Apparently, Jean is on par with Selena, Madonna, Prince, Rupaul…all the entertainment greats. A family dinner is taking place, where we meet Jessica, Bunny (Jessica’s mom), Lee (Jessica’s friend/assistant), and Billy (Jessica’s boyfriend.) The dinner crowd is raving about the food, prepared by the new chef, a Mr. Harlan Sanders, who has this crazy little thing called a secret recipe that will make him famous one day. Billy whips out an engagement ring and asks Jessica to marry him. Much to the embarrassment of her mother and the other guests, Jessica tells Billy that she needs some time to decide if she wants to spend her life a man-sized, sweater-wrapped douche. The next day, Bunny wastes no time letting Jessica know that she’s a dumb whore who shouldn’t have embarrassed her, and what an inconsiderate bitch she is for not agreeing right away to marry Billy to save the family company. Soon, Jessica meets Harlan, a muscled Latino with no southern accent and doesn’t even remotely resemble a Harlan or a Sanders. It is clear that these two people were meant to be together. Bunny sees Jessica and Harlan together and gets piiiiiiissed. She meets with Billy at the country club, where Lee happens to overhear their discussion about Jessica and Harlan, and he learns that Billy and Bunny have slept together. *projectile vomiting* Back at the house, Billy bribes “Crouton” a.k.a. Harlan. Colonel Sanders ain’t having that shit. His love for Jessica outweighs any bribe he could receive. Bunny and Billy realize that Lee heard their discussion at the country club, so they plan and try to execute Lee’s murder. Jessica goes looking for Harlan and learns that he has “left”, when in fact, he is locked in the pool house by Billy. Just as Billy is preparing to shoot Harlan, Lee steps in and knocks the fuck out of Billy and Bunny attacks Harlan. Fast forward a year, Harlan and Jessica are getting married and Billy is visiting Bunny at a funny farm. They are plotting revenge on Harland and Jessica. This ending has led me to believe that perhaps there will be A Recipe for Revenge 2! I will be anxiously awaiting that day and you can guarantee that I will give you a rundown.
Welcome back to Beverly Hills, dudes and dudettes! Have you recovered from the rollercoaster ride that was season 1? I hope so, because season 2 is going to be even more cray-cray. Have your popcorn and barf bags ready…
Additional Notes on the first season:
After going back and reading over my previous entry about BH 90210, I realized that I left out some important details from the 1st season. Firstly, Dylan is a recovering alcoholic who attends AA meeting. Secondly, Anhdrea lives outside the WBH school district which is apparently a big no-no (though I can’t figure out why. Perhaps someone could explain it to me?). And last and most certainly least, the “gang” hangs out a restaurant called The Peach Pit, a greasy, 1950’s style diner. Brandon works at the Peach Pit for the entirety of season 1.
The majority of Season 2 is set on the beach, where Brandon has found a job at the Beverly Hills Beach Club as a cabana boy (I had to Google “beach club” and “cabana boy” because I had no idea what either of those things were until today.) It is here that he meets his first tragic girlfriend of the season, an older woman who is sleeping with the owner of the beach club, the same owner that offers to pay for Brandon’s dream car if he agreed to be the man’s “driver” for the summer season. What Brandon didn’t know is that when the man says “driver”, he means he needs someone to service more than just his cars. You see, the boss has 395938 women on the side and to keep his wife happy while he’s boinking all the chicks, he needs Brandon to give her some of that famous Walsh lovin’. Our boy doesn’t go for that bullshit. We knew you’d do the right thing, Brands.
Speaking of doing the right thing, Ahndrea talks Brandon into becoming a “big brother”/mentor for a kid that she finds annoying. The child becomes attached to Brandon quickly, wanting to follow him around everywhere he goes and telling people that Brands is his big brother. At first glance, the child really does seem annoying, but we quickly learn why he behaves the way he does: his mother is abusing him and he needs someone to give him some stability and positive attention. The mom in me (that I keep deeply hidden in the recesses of my depraved, dark mind) popped out and I started tearing up. “I’ll make you a bologna sandwich with a side of Dunkaroos, Cool Ranch Doritos, and a Fruit Punch Capri Sun juice pouch and we can watch Power Rangers all day if you want!”, I thought. Yeah, I know, not a funny topic at all. Please don’t let it ruin the rest of the post for you!
Meanwhile, Dylan’s father is arrested for embezzlement, which freezes his assets, leaving Dylly without money. Enter Dylan’s mother, who hasn’t been in her son’s life since he was 6 years old. She’s a hippie that’s been living in a treehouse somewhere in Hawaii (which sounds much more appealing to me than raising a kid!) She tries to make up for lost time by being overbearing and just plain annoying as fuck. Dylly gets so annoyed that he starts skipping class and not acting himself. For people who don’t think moms can literally drive you insane, watch this show (or live with mine for a while.) For the record, Bitchface isn’t pregnant.
Branda, Donna, BAG, and Ahndrea are taking summer school, where they opt for a drama class. This situation turns ugly when Brenda and Ahndrea fall for their drama teach and end up in a physical fight over the guy, who definitely isn’t a Hyun Bin but isn’t quite a Steve Bushemi either. These girls are desperate and not at all picky about what gets their juices flowing. BAG dresses up like a female and actually looks better than Tori Spelling. Tragic.
The gang go on a camping trip where they stay in the world’s shittiest cabin and have the world’s shittiest time. HOWEVER, Brandon ends up falling off a cliff and Dylan saves him, then falls off the wagon when he drinks a bunch of those little in-flight bottles of liquor. It’s all his mom’s fault. She made him do it! I’ll leave you with that cliff-hanger for now…
Remember that one episode of Three’s Company when someone overheard something they weren’t supposed to hear and they got the wrong idea? Remember that? And then all sorts of hijinks and pratfalls and sexual innuendo ensued?