Sunday, July 27, 2008

"If you're a fox, don't try to be a turtle": Hey Dude, 1.06 - Rehearsal for Romance

You better watch out for those man-eating jackrabbits and that killer cacti. Heeeeeeey Duuuuuuuuuude.

This is the first time I had to watch the episode first before writing my "Memories" reaction, since I couldn't remember one thing based on episode title alone. The only thing in this episode that triggered my "ohhhhh yeah!" memory reaction was when Melody was nervous around the guy she liked and accidentally said "I'd love you" instead of "I'd love to."

Commenter annakelly gave me the idea that when I recap a show I previously haven't done yet, I should probably do a quick run-down of the major characters. I sometimes forget that if you don't have the episode sitting right there in front of you, it can be hard to remember the details. So here are Hey Dude's main characters, and when I repeat one of the three shows I've already done, I'll do quick character breakdowns for those too:

Mr. Ernst - The bumbling ranch owner
Brad Taylor - The rich-girl horse trainer
Ted McGriff - The troublemaking cute guy
Melody Hanson - The sweet, innocent all-American blonde
Danny Lightfoot - The Native American staffmember (a Hopi according to Wikipedia)
Buddy - Mr. Ernst's son, who at least in the beginning hates being taken out of the city to stay at the ranch
Lucy - The ranch hand who had minor parts in some episodes but is in the opening credits for some reason

People who show up later:
Jake Decker - Mr. Ernst's nephew, a sort of "Ted replacement" when Ted leaves the show if I remember correctly (it was a sad day for all when Ted left)
Kyle Chandler - Another "Ted replacement" sort of character, who according to Wikipedia was also Lucy's ex-boyfriend's son. Can't they just have a new staffmember who isn't somehow related to a preexisting character?

And now onto the recap:
Mr. Ernst shows off his new brilliant idea to the Bar None staff--original Bar None merchandise to sell at the ranch. Items include Bar None spaghetti sauce, pickles, mayonnaise, boot polish, and salad dressing. Best of all though is a new fashion accessory line of Bar None-branded items, including a bow tie, bowler hat, suspenders, and dress socks. Ted comments to Melody that at least they know it can't get any worse. Cue, of course, situation getting worse: Mr. Ernst expects the staff to wear the new items around the ranch.

Opening credits! I love this theme. Yippie-tai-yai-yay, etc.

A very ugly, very 80s-looking couple walks by. The lady has one of those 80s woman fro's that my mother so had back then and big round glasses, and the guy is wearing a polo shirt, cowboy hat, and porn mustache. 1989 was a special time. Melody is working at the front desk, and her eyes catch a boy that I think is supposed to be cute, except that I don't see anything particularly attractive about him. Yet she is so overcome by his mediocrity that she can't speak to him without tripping, stumbling, or clumsily knocking things over, just like that obnoxious Fergie song that I hate. Thank you for getting that stuck in my head, Melody. I can't believe you were my favorite character. Sweet, sensitive piano music plays as Melody meets eyes with the boy and then falls off her desk stool. Mediocre-guy walks over in a fluorescent orange t-shirt that looks like something I would've worn in first grade. He introduces himself as Bill, and Melody stupidly asks if he's there on vacation. He's with his parents and is bored out of his mind because it's his first summer away from college and he'd rather be boozing it up with some hot coeds instead of mingling with that ugly 80s couple in smelly horse stalls. After more awkward conversation, Melody makes a date with Bill to show him the lake later. This is when she gives her awkward, "Sure I'd love you--love to" response that is all I could recall from this episode.

Mr. Ernst is in his office trying on the bowler hat in the mirror and talking to himself. The bowler hat just isn't saying "Bar None" to him. Maybe that's because he should've picked a cowboy hat or something that at least somewhat calls to mind ranch life. He tries on a variety of other hats in the mirror, complete with comments in accents that go with the "personality" of each hat, which is I think supposed to be funny but really is just cringe inducing. He pulls on a ski cap, and I think he's trying to sound Canadian here, but it's really bad. As in "how 'bout that Wayne Gretzky, eh?" bad. Then he tries a sombrero and talks in a Mexican accent that is equally bad, as he tries to say "Beinvenido al Bar None" while trying several times to roll his tongue on the "r." Was Mr. Ernst always this annoying?

Brad enters the girl bunk in full Bar None-branded getup, commenting that the new accessories are a fashion-conscious person's worst nightmare. Melody tells her about how she acted like a stammering dumbass around Mr. Mediocrity and how she has a date with him tonight that she's so nervous about. The way Melody says, "Then he asked me... to show him the lake" with a weird pause in the middle like that makes it sound like she forgot her line for a second but they just kept filming anyway. It was just weird delivery. She's nervous because he's an older guy and she wants to impress him. Brad, instead of telling her to just whore it up, says it's too bad there's not a guy around here she could talk to about these things, and Melody says that Ted is "kind of a guy." Brad thinks asking Ted for advice is a big mistake and that Melody should just be herself, but then we'd have no story. Melody is apparently an idiot and decides to talk to Ted, and hilarity is sure to ensue.

Ted's not wearing his bowler hat, and he says that Mr. Ernst has no authority over him to make him wear it. Except that, he kinda does, 'cause he's the boss and all. I for one though am happy that Ted is not wearing the bowler hat, because the black cowboy hat he's sporting makes him look much cuter. Melody, on the other hand, is of course wearing her bowler hat like the sweet obedient girl she is, along with some really high-waisted 80s shorts and a tucked-in baggy shirt. nice. Ted (who, by the way, is David Lascher, who later appeared with Melissa Joan Hart on Sabrina and was also on an episode of Full House for two seconds) offers to help Melody through the "Ted School of Romance." He just wants to get Melody in a sexy schoolgirl outfit is what I'm thinking. Melody ponders that maybe Brad is right and she should just be herself, but she is too stupid to do so and decides to take Ted's help. Ted says that in order to prepare for her date with Bill, she needs to first go on a "practice date" with Ted where he will teach her how to act on a real date. Why the hell didn't Melody just ask Danny for advice? Wasn't he the sensitive "full of wisdom" type? I seriously don't remember her being this stupid when I was a kid. Mr. Ernst comes over and Ted pulls off his cute cowboy hat to reveal his bowler hat underneath. Conformer! Melody tells Mr. Ernst that she just doesn't think the bowler hat is working for her, so he gives her a new Bar None top hat to wear. And because Melody is a freaking idiot, she wears the top hat around instead of just sticking with the bowler hat. Or growing a pair and telling Mr. Ernst that the hats look ridiculous and are not ranch-related at all.

At the boys' bunk, Danny complains to Ted that the new bowler hats are not only hideous, but also give you a terrible case of hat-head. I am now reminded of that bully from the Pete and Pete shorts. Anyway, so Danny takes off his hat to illustrate the concept of "hat-head" to Ted, but honestly his hair doesn't look much different from usual. A top-hatted Melody with Brad arrives for Melody's fake date, which Danny and Brad are apparently sitting in on. Ted says that rule #1 is that no matter what the guy says, Melody should respond that it is the most interesting thing she's ever heard. Melody doesn't have a brain, so she goes along with this. Brad thinks this is the stupidest thing she's ever heard. Ted says that guys also love it when a girl talks about sports. Melody says that she loves to watch figure skating. Of course she does. Ted says that she'll need to talk about "guy sports" such as football, boxing, or hockey, and basketball and baseball are OK but not quite as impressive. Football I'll give him, but how many boxing enthusiasts do you meet out there? And hockey? The only places where hockey has a chance at being bigger than either baseball or basketball are Canada and some parts of the northern US. But maybe that just feels that way now to me since my baseball and basketball teams just had banner years while my poor hapless Bruins have sucked since about the time this show was on the air. Ted tells Melody to bring up the subject of sports and just agree with whatever the guy says. And to once in awhile throw in a line like, "I caught a puck at a hockey game once!" because it makes her seem like a fan without actually requiring her to know anything. Melody today would so be one of those "pink hat" Red Sox fans that I despise.

The date proceeds outside to the lake, with Brad and Danny still following and laughing. Ted tells Melody to try to "accidentally" brush up against a guy while walking next to him, and he demonstrates this in a really adorable exaggerated way. Melody tries and nearly pushes Ted off the path. Then they find a rock by the lake, and Ted says that on her real date, she should sit down and ask Bill to sit with her, and since the rock is so small they'll have to sit really close together. Danny points out the tackiness of all these date tactics, and of course, because everyone on this show is a stereotype, he is reminded of an old Indian folktale: a fox wants to catch a deer but doesn't know how, and he sees the deer step on a turtle and slip and fall on the turtle's hard shell. The fox has an idea--"I will lay in the ground, and when the deer steps on me it will fall, and I will pounce on it." Because apparently just like small children in Baby-Sitters Club books, characters in old Indian folktales do not use contractions. But when the deer steps on the fox, the fox is badly hurt because he doesn't have a hard shell like the turtle. The moral is, of course, "if you're a fox, don't try to be a turtle." And Oh. My. God. Did Ted just say what I think he said? Yes, yes he did. Ted just said that no, the moral of the story actually is "don't listen to silly fables told by a red man in a bowler hat." wow. That so would not fly on children's TV nowadays. It's so weird how no one thought twice about this back in '89, but now I had to pause and rewind to make sure I heard him correctly. Anyway, back to the episode. Melody decides to try to think of a few ideas of her own, such as skipping rocks on the lake. Ted tells her that she needs to act like a mature woman with this older guy, not be skipping rocks like a little girl. Ted so wants to teach her how to skinnydip in that lake.

hee! On her date, Melody wears white Keds with light-purple socks (a combo I so would've sported in the 80s), a white skirt with bluish-purple flowers on it, and a light-purple sleeveless blouse. The matchy-matchy-ness of the socks with the blouse makes it seem like my mother picked out her outfit and is giving me horrid flashbacks to my youth. And her hair is pulled to one side with a big banana clip, combining the 80s trends of the side ponytail and the banana clip when it's really best that both be forgotten. Bill is wearing jeans that look like they may be acid washed, but it's hard to tell for sure with the quality of this video.

Melody asks if courses in college are a lot harder than in high school, and Bill says that there's more reading and papers, and it's kind of like high school only moreso. Does that even make any sense? It's more like high school than high school itself? Maybe this guy deserves brain-dead Melody as his date. Melody replies that that's the most interesting thing she's ever heard, but Bill says he actually thought it was pretty boring. Melody lamely responds that she meant that it's interesting how boring it is. She tries Ted's accidental-arm-brush trick, but Bill has chosen that exact moment to tie his shoe and she falls right over him. They reach the lake, and Melody asks if Bill would like to sit on that small rock. She awkwardly tries to find a spot next to him, and clueless Bill says, "Did you wanna sit here???" like he was expecting her to sit in the dirt in a white skirt or something. Melody tries to fit next to him and knocks him on the ground, but Bill says it's OK because the ground is softer. Melody can't think of anything to say other than "yeah, ground is great that way." I am reminded of the Friends episode where Chandler awkwardly says "gum would be perfection" while on a date. I didn't even watch Friends that often yet that scene sticks out to me for some reason. Then stupid dumbass Melody says that she "caught a puck at a baseball game once," because, you know, girls are so stupid that they don't even know the most basic things about sports. Bill laughs at her, and Melody apologizes. She picks up a rock and fiddles nervously with it. Bill says it looks like a pretty good skipping stone, and no, it doesn't. It's round and bumpy, you idiot. Melody (cue happy moral of finally learning to be yourself) offers to teach him how to skip rocks but says they'll first need a better stone (see, I told you). Sappy "ranch"-sounding music plays, and Danny voices-over the line about "if you're a fox,don't try to be a turtle." We are left to assume that the date went well and that Bill got himself some action in the hayloft that night.

Flash forward to Bill's last day at the ranch. He's wearing a really hideous neon orange button-down shirt with, like, black splotches all over it. I can't tell you how lucky I feel to have been too young to date in the 80s. Bill and Melody are exchanging addresses and promising to write all the time. I can just see pathetic little Melody writing him ten-page love letters and sending them to Bill's dorm where he has a different girl over every night and uses the letters as beer can coasters. Bill loved the story Melody told him about the fox and the turtle and tells her kind of condescendingly to be sure to send him any more of those if she comes up with them. If only he knew that story came from a "red man in a bowler hat." Mr. Ernst interrupts their goodbye, saying that his Bar None merchandise just wasn't selling, so as of today they will be selling merchandise more appropriate for a Western ranch. But because Mr. Ernst doesn't have any brain cells, he has now decked the staff out in those giant brightly colored foam cowboy hats. Bill jokes to the staff that they look great in their new hats, and we fade to the closing credits.

Random Thoughts:
-Wikipedia tells me that some of the on-location ranch in Tucson, Arizona, where this was filmed, is still standing, although dilapidated. That's kind of cool in a sad way. That also means that this show pre-dated Nickelodeon Studios.
-Every time I typed "Bill and Melody" I'd think of Bill and Melody Korman of the Baby-Sitters Club series.
-I used to love the coyote howl at the very end of the closing credits.
-Since this show's a couple years older than most of the shows I've covered so far, it was weird to see how much less I remembered from it as opposed to the shows I first saw when I was nine or ten instead of seven. I still remembered all the characters, and I remember a few key episodes, but the show as a whole is fuzzier in my mind than Salute Your Shorts and Pete and Pete.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"I can smell your fear": Salute Your Shorts, 1.02 - Zeke the Plumber

First, I want to note that I added a link in my previous post to explain the "big yellow joint" reference at the end in case it confused people. Second, I just found out today that there is an Are You Afraid of the Dark blog, so Midnight Society fans should check it out. It is cooler than this blog because it contains screenshots. I wish I knew how to do that because it could be fun to include a few here and there. Anyway, on to the recap.

This was one of my favorite episodes of this show, so I remember lots of things about it. Harry the Hippo. Telly's "I gotta get outta this ball" nightmare. The creepy Zeke mask. "I can smell your fear." Donkeylips wandering around in a jack-o-lantern mask that he can't see through. Ug hanging upside-down from a tree. This show as a whole was so much cooler than my experience with camp, which was just a Girl Scout day camp I went to for two weeks when I was eight and nine.

Sponge is walking through the woods with his video camera, narrating what appears to be an educational video about camp. He comes across Budnick, who is carving "Ug Lee is a loser" into a tree. Ug catches him, but unfortunately has not caught him in act and cannot prove that Budnick did it. Ug knows that all the proof is on Sponge's camera, and he chases after Sponge as Budnick warns him not to give the tape to Ug.

Cue opening credits. I'd comment on the awesomeness of the themesong, but I'm sure everyone still knows it word-for-word to this day.

That night, Budnick is going to tell Ug and the group a ghost story about Zeke the plumber. Donkeylips points out a spider crawling on Budnick, and Budnick freaks out because he hates spiders. How foreshadowing. Zeke used to clean toilets at camp, but the smell didn't bother him because he had his nose bit off by a parrot in the Philippines while in the army. One day, Zeke hits a gas pipe while digging a hole, and he of course can't smell the leaking gas. He lights a match (OK, first off, why was a janitor digging a hole, and secondly, why would he randomly light a match?) and becomes, as Budnick says, "a human party-popper." All they ever found of him (besides his upper lip) was a toilet plunger, which Budnick passes to a skeptical Telly, who thinks it's lame. She passes it to Michael, who agrees. Budnick tells them that Zeke's plunger has a curse on it and that anyone who touches it will be haunted by Zeke at night.

Back at the girls' bunk, Dina is spreading a ring of toothpaste around her bed because a book called "A Girl's Guide to Ghouls" recommends toothpaste to ward off ghosts. ("It's something four out of five doctors recommend.") Telly asks, "Which doctors?" to which Dina responds with lame pun #1: "Exactly. Witchdoctors from from the islands of Lombago." Dina totally has a New York accent when she says the word "haunted." Telly and Z.Z. (who by the way was also DJ's friend Kathy Santoni in this episode of Full House) laugh at her and go to bed, but a minute later they are up spreading toothpaste around their beds too, claiming that they want to ward off ants. Umm, wouldn't that attract ants? They could at least make their lies believable.

Over at the boys' bunk, Michael is having a nightmare. This is the part that really creeped me out as a kid. I was 9 when this episode was first on, and masks have always freaked me out for some reason. So, in Michael's nightmare, Zeke the plumber is in his bunk, wearing a creepy mask with a bloody bandage where the nose should be, plunging a phantom toilet. I never could figure out as a kid whether Zeke was supposed to be wearing a mask or whether that was his real disfigured face, but this time I noticed that Budnick mentions that it is in fact a mask, because his real face was burned in the fire. But then, as one of my friends pointed out, why would he have a nose bandage over the mask? That bandage was freaky. Anyway, for some reason, ghost stories that involve getting visited in your dreams always scared me more. I swear I was more creeped out by Zeke than by any episode ever of Are You Afraid of the Dark. Zeke pulls a ratty, wet animal from the toilet and asks Michael if he knows what it is. It is Harry the Hippo, Michael's stuffed animal he has embarrassingly brought to camp. Michael asks Zeke where he got it, and Zeke says he got it from inside Michael's head, where he keeps all the things he doesn't want anybody to know about. Michael tells Zeke that the kids at camp can't know that he has a stuffed animal and "used to" suck his thumb, but Zeke pulls out a bullhorn and announces, "Attention, everybody! Michael Stein sucks his thumb, and he has a stuffed animal at camp." He points the bullhorn right at Michael and adds, "You baby!" ha. That was pretty awesome, even though I always sympathized with Michael here because I so would've been the kid with my stuffed animal hiding in my sleeping bag. Zeke wants to see what else Michael has inside his head and leans his dirty, wet plunger towards Michael's face, and umm, ewww. That in and of itself is nightmarish enough. Michael wakes up suddenly and finds Harry the Hippo and tosses him into the trash. Now that has always bothered me. I felt so sad when he threw away Harry. And also, logically speaking, Budnick or Donkeylips could very easily see Harry in the trashcan. He was better hidden in Michael's bag.

Dr. Kahn morning announcement: "This is Dr. Kahn. Due to a slight mix-up at the dairy this morning, please discard all milk cartons labeled 'Expiration date: 1983.'" hee. I was a little one-year-old then. In the common room, Michael is exhausted, and Budnick says he heard him whimpering about Zeke and Harry the Hippo last night and how he's a wuss for being afraid of a silly ghost story. I blame this episode for my use of the word "wuss" throughout the early-90s. Telly is also tired and falls asleep at a table while Budnick whispers "Zeke the plumber" into her ear. In her nightmare, Zeke claims to be a custodian who grants wishes. Telly's wish is to play professional ball. (Oh, Telly, don't you know from that Are You Afraid of the Dark episode that you're supposed to be 100% specific in your wishes or something will go horribly wrong?) Zeke, of course, twists her wish around and sends her to a (dance) ball, complete with a frilly white dress. The ball is empty except for Telly and Zeke, and Telly says balls are for sissy little girls. Zeke quite awesomely replies, "But you are a sissy little girl, aren't you?" Telly tries to escape and finds that the doors are locked and she is stuck there for the rest of her life. As Zeke dances with his plunger in mechanical movements that are really creepy, Telly repeats, "I gotta get outta this ball..." over and over until Michael wakes her up.

Michael and Telly compare nightmares and realize that Zeke seems to know what they're most afraid of. That is some crazy 1984 shit going on there. Back at the boys' bunk, Sponge tells them that because Budnick created such a strong mental image in his story, they both ended up with the same guy in their dreams. They want to get Budnick back for all this, but he walks in at this point and teases them for being scared little babies. Budnick was always such an ass. Michael challenges Budnick to spend one night out in the clearing where Zeke died. They bet that if Budnick chickens out, he has to stand up in front of the whole camp and admit what a big wuss he actually is; if Budnick wins, Telly will wear a dress for a day and Michael will carry around Harry the Hippo (that part of the bet always made me happy because it meant that Harry would be rescued from the trash). Telly gets off kind of easy, doesn't she? Yeah, she hates wearing dresses, but big deal. It's nowhere near as humiliating as walking around with a stuffed animal if you're a teenage boy.

Everyone is gathered at the spot in the woods where Zeke supposedly died, and Donkeylips brings Budnick some food he'd asked for. Budnick flips out that the potato chips aren't ruffled, so Donkeylips pretty much tells Budnick to fuck off, saying he had been planning to stay out there all night with him but has changed his mind. Budnick calls him a "ten-ton traitor tuna." Everyone leaves Budnick alone in the clearing, and they head back to the bunks to plot how to scare him. Ug wants in, and even Donkeylips swears that he wants to get Budnick just as much as everyone else ("cross my heart, hope to die, stick a pizza in my mouth"). Ug has his own special plan in mind, and Michael and Sponge plan to use one scare tactic and have the girls use another. They give Donkeylips a big jack-o-lantern mask to wear so that he can run at Budnick screaming. These sound like pretty lame scare tactics so far. Donkeylips can't see a thing through the mask, and as they all leave the bunk, he wanders behind blindly bumping into walls. And this is what I never understood--why couldn't he just take the damn mask off until it was time to scare Budnick? It's not like it was stuck on his head or anything. That annoyed me so much as a kid.

Meanwhile, Budnick is using his food and soda cans to make alarms and traps. I do agree that ruffled chips would have much better sound quality for an alarm. The other kids try to sneak over to where Budnick is staying, but he hears them crunching on the potato chips he's sprinkled around. The girls run out of the bushes screaming, and that's supposed to be scary? Startling for a second, maybe, if he hadn't already heard them coming, but not scary. Fail. Budnick ends up having the last laugh because he stuck his head inside his shirt and put a melon where his head should be. The girls try to shake him awake, and they scream as the melon falls to the ground, of course prompting lame pun #2: "I always knew he was a melon-head." Budnick apparently took the time to draw a smiley face on the melon. Telly calls out that Budnick should learn that he can't scare them with a stupid little trick, but oh wait, I think that's what he just did. Sorry, Telly. Budnick jumps out of the chair as the girls run away screaming. He raises his arms triumphantly and proclaims that he is the master of the universe. No, Budnick, that would be these guys. Then Michael and Sponge with some weird sort of sheet-on-broomsticks "ghost" contraption run out of the other side of the bushes, also screaming. Now, I give them points for the sheet, because that can be a little creepy in the dark, but the screaming? How is that scary? He knows their voices. The "ghost" itself without the screaming would've been far more effective. The boys trigger the shaken-soda-cans alarm and end up with soda all over them.

Budnick calls everyone out of the woods and celebrates that he has won the bet. They hear a noise in the woods, and Michael tells Budnick that since he's so brave he should go check it out. Budnick does, continuing to mock them. He turns around and is face to face with Ug dressed as Zeke. Budnick tries to play it cool, providing us with lame pun #3: when Ug/Zeke demands Budnick's head, Budnick replies, "Sorry man, I'm kinda attached to it" and then unnecessarily adds, "in more ways than one." Budnick runs away from Ug/Zeke and toward one of his traps. Ug/Zeke catches up to him and makes the mistake of saying, "I can smell your fear," which clues Budnick in on the fact that this Zeke is a fake, because the real Zeke of course does not have a nose. When I was little I'd get annoyed here because I took "I can smell your fear" to be an expression that you shouldn't take literally. But I guess it could be argued that someone without a sense of smell wouldn't think to use an expression that involved use of the word "smell." Budnick triggers his hanging-tree trap, and Ug/Zeke is thrown upside-down, hanging from the tree by a loop around his ankle. Budnick goes all Scooby-Doo on us with his "now let's see who you really are" and is shocked to see that it is Ug. Ug is pissed that he's hanging upside-down from a tree, and Budnick heads off to get a knife to cut him down.

As he heads back celebrating, this really creepy music that sounds like a broken jack-in-the-box starts to play as Budnick finds himself walking straight into a path of spiderwebs. Spiders, as you will remember, freak him out more than anything, and he panics. Seriously, the music here is disturbing. Budnick calls for help, offering things like his stereo and tapes (woo cassettes!) to anyone who'll help him, and the other kids hear him but laugh and wait for him to start giving away the really good stuff like the portable TV. Budnick offers to be their slave forever, and the kids come out to "rescue" him. Budnick tries to weasel out of the bet, but Telly is not having any of that. The kids all shove their stuff they'd been carrying into Budnick's arms and tell him to enjoy carrying it back to camp.

The next morning, Ug is still hanging upside-down from the tree (that can't be safe or good at all), and in the light he notices the "Ug Lee is a loser" carving in the tree he is hanging from. ha. He hears footsteps and thinks that it must be Budnick finally returning with the knife, but it is only Donkeylips, still wandering around blindly with the jack-o-lantern mask on. Ug screams in frustration as we head to the closing credits.

Random Thoughts:
-Did Sponge's video camera thing last more than the first few episodes?
-I so didn't realize till college that the actress who plays Telly is named Venus DeMilo. When I was thinking back on the show I thought I must have been making that up until I confirmed it online.
-Old laptop!!! Sponge's early-90s laptop is gigantic. And why the hell does he have it at camp? You couldn't do much more on them than type back then, right? What use would it be at camp, even to a nerd like Sponge?
-During the closing credits, my copy has a voice-over ad for Marc Summers' Mystery Magical Special, airing as part of Nick-or-Treat!!! (Tagline: "Marc Summers unexplains it all," which really doesn't make a whole lot of sense.) But remember Nick-or-Treat? Where they'd call you on Halloween and you had to answer the phone with "Nick-or-treat" and you could win a prize? I assume you had to send in a postcard with your contact info to enter (the good old days of "send in a postcard for your chance to win..."). I never entered because I was scared they'd actually call, and in those pre-caller ID days I was not about to embarrass myself by answering the phone with "Nick-or-treat" only to have it be one of my brothers' friends. I used to wonder whether you could at least say "hello" first or if that would disqualify you. And remember that Marc Summers special? It was on every year for a long time. I wonder if it's floating around online somewhere. It would make a fun Halloween recap.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Passengers will refrain from killing my soul!": The Adventures of Pete and Pete, 2.12 - Yellow Fever

My memory of this episode is pretty fresh because I've watched it as an adult on dvd already. But I remember that when I was 12 and watching it for the first time, what stuck out to me was the "If You're Happy and You Know It" scene. And Ellen sitting next to someone else and getting Pete angry.

This episode will be hard for me to snark too heavily on since I love it so much. As Big Pete narrates that the real education on a field trip occurs on the bus ride there, we see a spinning bus wheel superimposed over a roadmap, and hey! That's a map of my home state of Massachusetts! I see Fitchburg and Leominster and Worcester (where I went to college). Anyway, according to Pete, long trips cause people to change--friends to become enemies, enemies to become friends, and a field trip to become a trip into the darkest recesses of your soul. See, this is why I loved this show. I loved how it could put a bizarre twist on mundane events that every kid could identify with.

A really fake-looking CGI moth flies by the schoolbus. A teacher is giving the kids the rules before their field trip to the Glurt County Milk Museum. (This show really loved its weird-sounding made-up words.) The most important rule is that no one is to sing "If You're Happy and You Know It," as it is disturbing to busdriver Stu Benedict. Busdriver Stu is awesome. Also insane. We see a flashback to his relationship with fellow busdriver Sally Knorp (Ellen Cleghorne) and how "If You're Happy and You Know It" was their special song. One day though, this exchange occurred:

Stu: If you're happy and you know it clap your hands. [Silence.] ...Sally, you didn't clap your hands.
Sally: I'm not happy, Stu.

Soooo awesome. So, they break up, and no one knows what will happen if Stu hears that song again.

Someone has sent Ellen a love note and promised to reveal his identity by sitting next to her on the bus. This bothers Pete even though he and Ellen are just friends. Pete wonders who the secret admirer might be: one of his best friends Bill or Teddy (I saw Teddy in a bit part on an episode of Scrubs a few years ago and was like "It's Pete's friend!!!!!!"), shy-kid Wendell Hyde, arch-nemesis Endless Mike (greatest bully name ever), or even Mark Twib, a nerd with big flickable ears who has been constantly "twibbed" since second grade.

Even though he thinks he won't do anything to stand in the admirer's way, Pete sits next to Ellen anyway. Ellen is pissed off. Stu welcomes everyone aboard the Yellow Fever, which will take them away from "the twisted wreckage of his shattered life." I love Stu. With that, the field trip begins.

Pete narrates that on bus rides, kids reveal parts of their personalities that no one was meant to see. Wendell Hyde reveals his secret ambition to become a wedding/bar mitzah singer. The kid has a pretty good Richard Cheese-esque lounge-singer voice. Just being on a bus makes Della Summ constantly have to go to the bathroom. Teddy is famous for eating his entire lunch five minutes into a bus trip and has devised a plan of taking small bites at timed intervals throughout the ride so that he'll still have half left at the end for lunch. Bill turns into a prankster, making a sign that says "HELP! Being Kidnapped! Call Police!" and sticking it to the bus window. Pete says his own mutation, however, is the weirdest. He's still in the seat Ellen needed, mocking her "loverboy," and Ellen accuses him of being jealous.

Bill's kidnapping prank works, as a cop notices the sign and pulls the bus over. Pete gives Bill a high-five, but Ellen isn't amused because she has no sense of fun. She's disgusted by Pete's immaturity and tells him he might as well go flick Mark Twib. Meanwhile, the cops put Stu through a series of coordination tests, including hitting a tennis ball into a stack of donuts. He is also made to be the bottom half of a wheelbarrow-race pair with one of the cops.

Stu hears Pete arguing with Ellen and orders him to the back of the bus, leaving Ellen the seat she wanted and Pete next to Endless Mike. Bill moves up to sit next to Ellen. Pete can't believe that Bill was the secret admirer, and Endless Mike delightedly rubs this in his face.

Stu realizes he's lost and panics. He stops by a field with a scarecrow and asks through the loudspeaker if the scarecrow knows how to get to I-87. When he gets no answer, he stumbles out of the bus saying, "Excuse me, Farmer Extremely Unhelpful... oh. You're straw." Ellen is growing sick of Bill's immaturity (really, Ellen, they're 15-year-old boys. What do you expect?) and says she doesn't think this is going to work. Bill has no clue what she's talking about, and Ellen realizes he didn't write the note after all. However, she decides to make Pete jealous and puts her arm around Bill. How non-immature of you, Ellen. During all this, we see Stu through the bus window beating and stabbing the scarecrow with a pitchfork. Endless Mike convinces Pete to get revenge on Bill. He gives Pete warmed, mentholated shaving cream (that he just happens to have with him on a field trip?) to squeeze into Bill's hand when he's not looking, which when applied to a popped zit will sting like crazy.

Pete's shaving cream prank is successful. High-and-mighty Ellen is of course disgusted, and Endless Mike welcomes Pete into his club. They celebrate by pouring bottles of Krebben Up down the bus aisle (ahh, yes, this show's love of the term "Kreb"). The rushing liquid makes Della have to go again, and the bus pulls over as all the kids empty out. Della can't go with anyone thinking about her, and Stu sees a poor random kid and says, "You! You're thinking about her! You disgust me." This is why Stu is so awesome.

Ha! I'd forgotten about this moment: just before they get back on the bus, Teddy is burying his empty lunchbag and failed lunch-eating flowchart saying "I hate myself!" This episode has way too many unbelievably great moments in it.

Endless Mike deviously tells Pete that he must also get revenge on Ellen, by flicking Mark Twib to piss her off. Pete does so, and Ellen is not happy. Pete's twib has set Mark over the edge. Back on the bus, he launches into "If You're Happy and You Know It." Stu gets this creepy smile across his face and begins to sing along. The whole bus joins in as Stu gets up and dances in the aisle. The kids start to notice that no one is driving the bus and that they're about to crash, but Stu is completely possessed and keeps singing. The cheap CGI moth flies by the bus. Wendell snaps Stu out of it with some wedding/bar mitzvah standards, and Stu hits the break just in time to stop the bus from going over a cliff.

When they finally reach the Milk Museum, the teacher says that whoever sang the forbidden song will receive an F for the project and four weeks detention. Pete feels bad for driving Mark to do it and takes the blame. Endless Mike kicks him out of his gang, but Mark is grateful. Pete apologizes for flicking his ear, and Mark confesses to writing the note to Ellen. He decides to let Pete and Ellen figure out their relationship on their own. Ellen, meanwhile, is impressed that Pete took the blame for Mark. They apologize and make up. As the crappy CGI moth flies by once more, they agree to sit next to each other on the way home.

Random Thoughts:
-Best. Themesong. Ever.
-My college roommate grew up in the same neighborhood as the house in the opening theme. She was almost an extra in one episode. My freshman-year roommate went to high school with Ellen, who was three years older than us.
-yay mid-90s fashions! I am especially fond of Pete's blue plaid flannel shirt and Ellen's floppy hat.
-Little Pete is not in this episode.
-Obviously, the blog title refers to the Snick trademark big orange couch. But now whenever I go to my blog and see "Big Orange Couch" my mind automatically thinks "Big Yellow Joint."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"Kaloo-cuckoo!": Doug, 1.01 - Doug Bags a Neematoad

For my first real post, I thought I'd start with Nickelodeon's first original Nicktoon.

This episode is labeled episode 1, which makes sense because it is the episode where Doug moves to Bluffington. It is listed as airing on August 11, 1991 (the day the Nicktoons premiered) on imdb,, and Wikipedia. However, I watched Nickelodeon that day. I'd been anticipating the launch of the first three Nicktoons for weeks, possibly months, and I was on vacation at my uncle's lake house in New Hampshire with my family that August. I was at the pool and missed Doug and most of Rugrats, but I caught the premiere of Ren and Stimpy and watched both Doug and Rugrats later that night when Nickelodeon rebroadcast all three episodes. The episode I saw on August 11 was not "Doug Bags a Neematoad," but was episode 2, "Doug Can't Dance/Doug Gets Busted." The Rugrats and Ren and Stimpy episodes were both the same ones that had aired that morning, so you'd think Doug was the same episode too. I have no way of proving that I'm right and the first-aired episode was "Doug Can't Dance," but I remember it so clearly. I was confused when months later I finally saw "Doug Bags a Neematoad" and wondered why he was just moving then.

I remember the ads leading up to the Doug premiere: The one where they (I think) showed a pencil drawing Doug, where Doug voiced-over talking about himself, how he was 11 1/2 and how his favorite food was banana pudding. I remember the Nickelodeon bumper ad where Doug was carrying one end of a long orange "Nickelodeon" bar, and Porkchop was sitting on the other end of it rather than holding up his side. Porkchop waves, Doug drops his side and it falls on his foot, he says "ow!" in a weird non-Doug-like voice, and Porkchop slides down the bar to Doug and licks his face. From the actual episode, I remember Skeeter "translating" Doug's Honker Burger order into Bluffington slang ("no stinkers" equaled "no onions") because the lady at the counter can't understand him. And I remember the "kaloo-cuckoo!" "Neematoad mating call" that I have no clue how to spell.

Doug's family is in the car, moving from Bloatsburg to Bluffington. As the car drives past the "Welcome to Bluffington" sign, the population clicks over to include the Funnies and reads "20,001." Doug ponders that he "1" must be him. They arrive at their new house, where Doug worries about fitting in while Judy notices a cow in the front yard. Was Bluffington originally supposed to be a rural hicktown and Bloatsburg the "big city" or something? I don't remember it ever being particularly rural ever again.

Doug's parents send him off in search of some fast food, and new-neighbor Mr. Dink offers to help him by showing him a "Welcome to Bluffington" video even though Doug insists that he has no time. The Honker Burger is mentioned in the video, and so Mr. Dink gives Doug directions and sends him off. On the way, Doug worries again about fitting in and fantasizes that the Mayor tells the townspeople that Doug has chosen the path of the Loser and orders them to "honk this loser out of town." A crowd of heads and hands holding bike horns honk angrily at Doug and laugh at him, until he snaps out of his fantasy to realize he is holding up traffic, which is honking at him in real life.

Doug enters the Honker Burger to blank stares and mumbles of "new kid...." He orders his family's burgers, and the cashier claims she can't understand him. We then meet Skeeter Valentine, who jumps to the rescue and translates the order into Bluffington slang: "New kid wants three moo-cows [cheeseburgers], one no cukes [pickles], one no stinkers [onions], one wet one [fish sandwich], four [something that translates to "large fries" that I can't hear clearly, and then something that sounds like "and four from the vine" that we don't get to see a translation for]." Doug asks how to order a salad from the salad bar, to which Skeeter replies by adding to the order "and one salad from the salad bar!"

Skeeter introduces Doug to a random group of kids we never see again, and they laugh at the fact that he's never had beets before. Doug goes to pick up his order and sees Patti for the first time riding her bike outside. He slips on a ketchup packet, and the ketchup lands right on Roger Klotz's new suede shoes (his shoes were suede? I always figured they were leather boots or something). Roger offers to "help" Doug by letting him be the first guy to bag a neematoad, and tells him threateningly to be at Stintson's pond at 7:00 tomorrow morning. Doug fantasizes about being the most popular kid in Bluffington and impressing Patti after returning with a neematoad.

The next morning at Stintson's pond, Roger and his friends tell Doug that the way to capture a neematoad is to shout the neematoad mating call "kaloo-cuckoo!" over and over until a neematoad appears. Doug for some reason actually does this. I know I would've been terrified of Roger too, but even I wouldn't have gone that far. Doug's comment: "Man, the things a guy has to go through to keep from being a loser." Oh poor, clueless Doug. After awhile Doug notices Roger and his friends laughing at him from behind the bushes. He feels humiliated and fantasizes about returning to the Honker Burger with a bag over his head as Patti walks by and Doug pathetically says (still with bag over his head) "Yoo-hoo? Cute girl? Hey.. excuse me... it's me, Doug" and trips into a puddle. He is so adorable. He snaps back to reality and goes over to Roger to say "ok I get it; joke's over," but then Porkchop, covered in mud and sticks, emerges from the bushes. Roger and his gang of course mistake him for a neematoad, and Doug "bags" him, making Roger look like a loser. Roger vows to catch his own, larger neematoad.

Doug celebrates at the Honker Burger with new-friend Skeeter, who also thinks that Porkchop is a real neematoad despite Doug plainly spelling out several times that it is just his dog. This is the same Skeeter who is later revealed to be a genius in one episode? Patti is eating a Honker Burger at a nearby table (what 11-year-old goes to a burger joint by herself?), and Skeeter offers to introduce them. Doug once again clumsily slips on a ketchup packet and slides right under Patti's table. He panics that he "thinks he just squirted ketchup on a girl," but it conveniently landed right on her burger. Patti tells Doug he has wonderful aim.

That night, Doug reflects in his journal that Bluffington is already starting to feel like home. He hopes that Skeeter will become his "best human friend" (so as not to offend Porkchop), thinks Mr. Dink is nice but a little crazy, and thinks he may be secretly in love with Patti. He wonders what happened with Roger, and we flash back to Stintson's pond, where Roger is shouting the neematoad mating call all night in an attempt to show up Doug and capture one of his own.

Random Thoughts:
-Wow, I forgot how much I love the music in this show.
-Title screen: Doug gets his foot caught in the paint can and walks with it stuck to his foot over to shut off the lightswitch.
-The animation is a little choppy in this episode, kind of like watching early episodes of The Simpsons, only not as severe.
-Mrs. Funnie's voice sounds different in this episode, but maybe I just don't remember her very well. I have always hated her line about being "One hungry Funnie family."
-Tippy Dink. ha.
-I keep typing "Dough" instead of "Doug."
-Whoa. I just checked out imdb, and Danny Cooksey, aka Budnick from Salute Your Shorts, was the voice of Roger??? How did I never know this until now??? (He was also apparently Montana Max on Tiny Toons.)

So, there we go. Recap number 1. I promise the memories won't be as insanely long from now on. The whole thing about episode 2 airing first is just bothering me. :)


Welcome to my Classic Nick memories blog. After being inspired by Tiff of BSC Headquarters, MilkMan of the Full House blog You Miss Your Old Familiar Friends, and most recently by Kristen at BSC Revisited (plus the many other fun nostalgia blogs that I know are out there but that I haven't been able to browse yet), I finally decided to break down and start my own blog. I'll be going through my growing collection of old Nickelodeon shows and reliving my 80s and early-90s childhood. I like BSC Revisited's concept of having a brief "memory reaction" before the recap reaction, so if you see this, Kristen, please know I am using your idea because I think it's a great idea and not as a way to "copy" you. :) I'll try to update once a week. We'll see how it goes.