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Archive for the ‘Family Matters’ Category

by Beal

8

There are very few (if any) holidays that are as inherently zany as Halloween. From the boatloads of candy to the low rent pranks to the costumes (oohh the costumes!), not to mention all the scary stuff, this spooky pagan holiday is ready made screwball entertainment and I for one LOVE IT. Seriously, there’s nothing better than a quality HALLOWEEN-ISODE if you ask me. Sure it’d be fun to cobble together a costume, go out trick-or-treating and engage in neighborly shenanigans, but isn’t it so much more enjoyable to curl up on your couch with a plastic pumpkin full of fun (okay fine, KING) size candy bars and watch your favorite television characters do it for you? Their costumes are so much more elaborate and well-fitting, their top-notch pranks go off without a hitch and their haunted houses seem really fun. That said, if I had my way, EVERY sitcom (and most serialized dramas*) would be REQUIRED to air a Halloween Special ANNUALLY or risk  a hefty fine.

However, most shows don’t take advantage of the intrinsic amusement that IS Halloween. The following are five shows that did, in a memorable fashion, commemorate Halloween with special Halloween-isode:

5.  My So Called Life “Halloween” 1994

halloween my so called lifeInterestingly (or maybe not so much) this is my LEAST favorite episode of this show. Now that’s not to say this episode wasn’t good, because it was, it just always pissed me off when I was really in the mood for some teen angst and flannel and what I got was a bizarre ghost story. If I remember correctly, legend has it that some punk kid in the 1960’s (whose 90’s counterpart is obviously Jordan Catalano) named Nicky Driscoll attempted some prank in the high school gymnasium and fell off the ceiling rafters only to be impaled by a high-heeled shoe on the floor. (I’m pretty sure I didn’t make this up). The spookiest part? Angela totally finds a library book he once checked out! And for the rest of the episode, sees his ghost around the school. Wait a minute? Was this a very special episode? Was this “The One Where Rayanne Drops LSD in Angela’s Sunny-D?” Because it might as well be. Let’s also not forget that kid sister Danielle dresses up as Angela to go trick-or-treating with cat/rat/slut Sharon, Rayanne and Brian sleep together (literally sleep) in the boiler room at school and Mr. and Mrs. Chase make everyone throw up with their gratuitous, I’ll just leave it at that.

4.  Frasier “Room Full of Heroes” 2001

RoomFullOfHeroes-smallWell, it wouldn’t be a party at the Crane’s if it wasn’t pretentious, uncomfortable and psuedointellectual and a costume party should be no exception, which is why Frasier decides to throw a douchey “dress as your hero” party, that no one wants to attend, as evidenced by the fact that no one but Niles, Martin, Daphne and Roz attended. (Really think about that. Imagine if you threw a PARTY and the only people that came were your brother, your father, your father’s housekeeper and your pathetic co-worker. Time to re-evaluate your life). At any rate, Frasier dresses up like Sigmund Frued because he’s obvious and a tool, Martin dresses as Joe DiMaggio, Niles as Martin (in a blatant attempt to suck up, but, because it’s a sitcom this obviously takes a comedic 180), Daphne as Elton John (what?) and Roz as, wait for it, Wonder Woman. Initially, she pretends that she misunderstood and thought the party was a superhero party, but later we discover that in fact, Roz’s hero is actually Wonder Woman–It must feel awesome to get mocked at a party where you were the only person attending that is not directly related and/or employed by the host.

3.  Family Matters “Dog Day Halloween” 1990

ve4pir.jpgBank robbery hostage situation combined with Halloween? Uh, yes please! I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but for some reason Steve Urkel and Laura Winslow make their way into the bank on the evening of October 31 just as some crooks roll in for a stick up. What business two 9th graders had at the bank of an evening, we’ll never know. The important thing is that Laura is rocking a terrific Tina Turner get up and poor cheese-loving Steve, dressed as Superman, fails to save the day (enter the fattest Chicago P.D. ever Carl Winslow). Oh, and if you thought Laura’s costume was impressive, get a load of Judy’s (Ms. Jackson’s if you’re nasty), which is the most authentic looking child’s Halloween Costume I have ever seen.

2.  Freaks and Geeks “Tricks and Treats” 1999

freaks-tricks-715848Talk about a fun old fashioned Halloween! The Weir’s and their friends really bring it! Mom’s in the kitchen baking festive cookies that all the trick-or-treaters are tossing on her lawn for fear of poison and razor blades. Dad’s bitching about every aspect of the holiday. Lindsay’s ditching her mom and their annual tradition of handing out treats together in corresponding costumes to engage in local mayhem with her friends and little Sam is dressing up in a makeshift robot costume and going trick-or-treating with two other virgins-for-life who’ve dressed as Charlie Chaplin Hitler and the Bionic Woman. Things get tricky when Lindsay inadvertently targets Sam in her Halloween havoc by nailing him with a couple of eggs, RUINING his Halloween night. Oddly, Lindsay felt awful about hitting her little brother and his cohorts with eggs and hustled home to finish handing out treats with her mother in lieu of smashing mailboxes and pumpkins with her friends. Sam [probably] went to his room, removed the silver painted cardboard box from his person and cried like a bitch.

1.  Roseanne “Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down” 1991

Deadgar and MortyIt would have been easy to populate this list exclusively with episodes of Roseanne. When it came to the Halloween Special, this sitcom was not fucking around. Along with The Simpsons, the program really cornered the market on spooktacular (Oh, I just had to use that word at some point. HAD TO) specials. In this installment from season 4, the Queen of Halloween lures her stick-up-her-ass neighbor Kathy Bowman into the house so that she will discover Dan’s bloodied body on the kitchen table with his guts hanging out. Rosie cruelly enters the room with a bloodies shirt, wielding a rather large knife, scaring the bejesus out of Kathy, forcing Roseanne to spend the rest of the night stalking Kathy at the Lodge costume party, in order to quell any attempt at revenge. The greatest scene in this episode however, is Dan and Roseanne’s vaudevillian-esque dead ventriloquist show, it “kills” me every time!

“Say isn’t that Jackie over there? I hear she’s a truck driver now!”

“Well that’s a switch, Jackie in the front seat with her feet on the floor.”

 

*It would be ridiculous for say, Lost or 24 to include a Halloween special in their plot-line, but welcome nonetheless.

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by Beal

On the rare occasion that I do get up off my couch and venture out into the real world, it’s hard for me not only to cope without the constant entertainment that the rectangle of moving colors and sounds provides, but also to see people and places outside the context of the small screen. Case and point, my most recent trip to Chicago.

I flew the 1.5 hour junket from D.C. on a sunny Thursday morning. About 10 minutes prior to our final decent I could notice the thickening of the suburbs outside my tiny window. Hmm, I bet if Lanford, IL were real, we’d probably be flying over it right about now. Guessing in my head that what I saw below me was far enough from the city, but close enough to Elgin to logistically be the official locale of the Conner family of Delaware Ave, Lanford, IL.

family-matters-1989

As the plane began its decline, my thoughts switched from the Conners, to the Winslows, because whatever neighborhood I was staring out at, had a lot of yellowish/brownish brick houses that looked pretty much exactly like Carl and Harriet’s. Not to mention my overwhelming urge to belt out “CHOOM CHU CHU CHU. . .

After de-planing (that is a real word, I think) I gathered my bags and followed signs to board the El Train, at which point I remembered the episode of ER in which Dr. Gant (Omar Epps) attempts suicide by jumping in front of the train. He is rushed to County General and when the unidentified victim’s beeper goes off, the doctors discover that they’re treating one of their own.

WaynesWld2_Still_PK_7864My primary reason for visiting Chicago was to attend Lollapalooza a three-day outdoor music festival, not unlike Waynestock, which technically took place in Aurora, and was technically a movie (based on a TV skit) but hey, close enough. Coincidentally, the last musical performance I witnessed involved Joe Perry from Aerosmith (in my case joining Jane’s Addiction) and after the credits rolled, I, like the Indian shed a tear for the amount of disgusting garbage that three days of partying on created.

IMG_3301After my three days at the festival, I spent a lovely Monday touring the city, and that’s when things got television-wise, way out of hand. I quick jaunt around downtown and I was inundated with more television references than I could handle. It was one thing when I walked past Wrigley Field on Saturday night, and thought, not fondly of an American pastime but, obviously, of Larry and Balki. But, when I saw this other Chicago landmark, I couldn’t figure out why I felt like I had been there before (and maybe I had) but mostly it’s because for eight years on TGIF, we saw those two Chicagoan cousins rushing off the train to patronize the arts.

After walking around downtown and enjoying the many other buildings and the skyline that both Perfect Strangers and Family Matters made feel important to me, I made my way down to the Art Institute of Chicago. I know what you’re thinking, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which although it’s a movie, I can talk about because it is, as I type, it is recording on my DVR. A perfect plan. I type ABOUT the movie, while it records enough of the program to allow me to fast-forward through all the commercials. Plus, I’ll get to revisit the museum, from the comfort of my davenport, allowing me to see the following gems once again.

212937_f520hb_67.231.1So, I was at first ashamed to admit that the when I first saw the Frank Lloyd Wright window, a stunning piece of design and architecture in its own right, all I could think of was D.J.’s side of the room on Full House, if only a George Michael poster were inlaid in front of it. I felt like much less of an idiot though, when after a little online research, I discovered that IN FACT D.J.’s wallpaper is based on a F.L.W. Picture 1window design and that I, although ignorant in origin of design, feel quite proud that I could recognize the similarities between two of Frank’s finer works.

iowa-american-gothic-grant-wood1And finally, no visit to the Art Institute of Chicago would be complete without a viewing of American Gothic, an American institution of its own. This is one of those images, that I’ve seen so many hundreds of time in my life, that seeing the REAL version was sort of a let down. Like, wow, my neighbor had that poster in college, it’s equally as powerful to view it now. Somehow though, through my disappointment I was able to see it in a whole new light. It’s at time’s like these that I really wish I had any kind of photoshop skills because when I saw American Gothic, all I really thought was, hey, that looks just like Joanna Kerns from Growing Pains and Sir Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame. NEAT!

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Although it is occasionally overlooked, especially in the era of modern television where Tivo or DVR can fast forward through it, and DVD’s allow it to be clicked past with the touch of a button, the INTRODUCTION is still as crucial as it ever was in initiating the program you’re about to watch.

Intro’s come in all varieties. They might use an original song, such in the case of Gilligan’s Island or The Beverly Hillbillies, that remind us of the initial premise of the show. In case you ever forgot HOW Gilligan and the gang got stuck on the island or WHY the Clampetts are living in the lapse of luxury, their 30 second intros are a quick and catchy reminder to the viewer of a “three hour tour” gone awry and how ol’ Jed discovered some black gold (oil) and “moved to Beverly, Hills that is.”

Other shows give us cheery, almost motivational songs, full of family-friendly lyrics, sung over pictures of smiling cast members, allowing us to realize just how great this program is about to make you feel–Full House and Family Matters come to mind.

Still, nothing beats a great instrumental number over a brilliantly produced montage.

Here is a list, in no particular order (because really, can ANYONE choose their favorite program intro?) of my top ten favorite television program introductions:

 

1. Dallas

Seriously, best song ever. It’s my cell phone ring, and has been for about two years. The rich people and Texas-y shit visuals make it all the more amazing to listen to.

2. The Golden Girls

This song is all the rage back in St. Olaf, oh and at my house too. I like to hear it about three times per day, and nothing makes me happier than watching Blanche saunter down the hallway boldly with her eye shades resting on her forehead. 

3. Doug

So I can’t find the actual intro, but the song is the most important part. I would say that this song is in my head 60% of the time that I am awake. I think that counts for something.

4. Beverly Hills, 90210

A greater guitar riff has never, nor will ever, exist. Combine that with high fives, muscle flexing, surfboards and high wasted pants, and you’ve got yourself a hit.

5. The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Throw that hat right up, Mary, just throw it right up into they air! You’re sooo going to make it!

6. Laverne & Shirley

Another total classic, and perhaps Wayne and Garth solidified this one for me, but seriously, it doesn’t get much better than this.

7. Rescue Rangers

Action, adventure, use of the word “gumshoes,” terribly generic 80’s rockin’ jam with repetitive lyrics. Animated perfection.

8. The Dick Van Dyke Show

Is he or isn’t he going to trip on the ottoman? And how great is the voice over for who stars in the show? Since when could we not just READ that on the screen?

9. The Wonder Years

Joe Cocker! And this grainy olden timey film. I’ll save you the half hour and just tear up now.

10. Pee Wee’s Playhouse

Everything I ever wanted in a television program, or life, can be found in this two minute, 27 second introduction. God bless you Paul Reubens, god bless you!

 

–BEAL

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