Saturday, 30 July 2016

The Big Rock Candy Mountain with Joan Crawford

With the Joan Crawford Blogathon at The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood still running, I'm using today's post for a bit of bonus entertainment. Here, for your viewing pleasure, is a short film from 1969 (the same year she did "Eyes") featuring Joan Crawford telling us all about the wonders of supermarkets on behalf of Pepsi:

My favourite part is when she tells the little girl to eat her toy. That's confusing and hilarious.

I thought you might also dig this episode of classic radio series The Black Museum. Hosted by Orson Welles, it's kind of a proto Night Gallery about the Scotland Yard museum of crime. Every week, Orson picks out a sinister object on display and tells us it's blood-soaked history.

This episode is from 1952 and is called "The Brass Button":

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Night Gallery 01x00: Eyes

This is my post for the Joan Crawford Blogathon, celebrating the life and work of one of Old Hollywood’s most legendary actresses. It’s an event well worth checking out, full of great entries looking at all aspects of her career, hosted by the wonderful In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.

Steven Spielberg was only twenty-one years old when he was hired to direct a segment for Rod Serling’s new series, Night Gallery. It was Spielberg’s very first paid directing gig, and he was going to be working with Joan Crawford on the story of a blind woman receiving an ocular nerve transplant.

Joan Crawford.

The grande dame of the classic era. Mildred Pierce. Sadie Thompson. Daisy Kenyon. The woman F. Scott Fitzgerald had once written about as “the best example of the flapper.” The legendary rival of Bette Davis and chairwoman of the Pepsi Cola board of directors.

It was a little intimidating.

Sid Sheinberg, head of Universal’s television division at the time and the guy who’d given Spielberg the assignment, suggested it might be a good idea for the young director to take his star to dinner. So, Spielberg, under-dressed and fresh-faced, found himself ringing the doorbell of a bona fide legend.

A voice called to him from inside, telling him the door was open and he could come right in. So that’s what he did, and he found Joan Crawford with bandages around her eyes, getting a feeling for how a blind woman would work her way around a room. Neither producer William Sackheim (producer of Night Gallery) nor Sheinberg had told Crawford her director was going to be a guy who, according to Spielberg, “looked like he was fourteen.”

“She was hoping they would hire George Marshall, Henry King, or Henry Hathaway, or King Vidor,” he told TheHollywood Reporter.

“She finally walked over to me,” Spielberg remembered in a 1982 interview with Gene Shalit, “Undid her wrappings, and she looked at me, and she almost screamed, and she said: ‘My god! We can’t go out for dinner! People will think you’re my son!’”

By this point in her career, Crawford was taking fewer and fewer acting jobs. She was mostly focused on her work at Pepsi, and she’d had an absolutely terrible experience on Hush… Hush Sweet Charlotte, which resulted in her being replaced by newly minted centenarian Olivia de Havilland. She’d experienced illness and personal turmoil through the 60’s, and now in 1969, she was willing (and excited) to take the part of Miss Menlo for the Night Gallery pilot.

By all accounts, she was the consummate professional on set, treating Spielberg with respect and encouraging the crew to do the same. Also by all accounts, she had tried in vain up to the eleventh hour to get him replaced with someone more experienced.

“I think he’ll be great someday,” she told Universal, in most versions of the story, “But can’t we get somebody who’s great right now?”

When all was said and done, she was pleased enough that she did a small cameo for him on his episode of The Name of the Game, and the two of them corresponded on and off until Crawford’s death in 1977.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Raquel: The Raquel Welch Total Beauty and Fitness Program

"Are you in great shape and want to stay that way, but you're looking for a method to maintain your high standards? Then I made this video for you. Are you almost in great shape, but not quite, and looking for the extra something that allows you to make the grade? Then I made this video for you. Or have you gotten to the point where you're just fed up? You've never been in great shape and you wish this whole fitness craze would dry up and blow away? Then I made this video especially for you!"

That's how Raquel Welch starts her beyond fabulous 1984 exercise VHS Raquel: The Raquel Welch Total Beauty and Fitness Program. The narration plays over scenes of her having a great time driving a dune buggy, lounging on an actual yacht, and dressed up like a drill sergeant leading a pack of runners.

If you're anything like me when it comes to exercise, the drill sergeant thing and the looming threat of maybe having to run will make you back away from this program, but don't! First of all, and most importantly, there is no running involved. None. I'll explain more in a minute, after I've gotten some history out of the way.

Last year, Jane Fonda's famous aerobics videos were released on DVD. Just in time for DVD to become obsolete. (I'm kidding! Kind of!) But here's the thing, however you may feel about Jane Fonda, her workouts leave something to be desired by modern standards. Wearing legwarmers and doing jumping jacks is not what it used to be, and I think we can all blame high fructose corn syrup for that.

Meanwhile, Raquel Welch's totally boss and bananas workout routine has not been released on anything but its original VHS format, and that is a travesty.

During the 80's, celebrity tutorials really took off. The most famous was the aforementioned Jane Fonda workout, but there was also the Donna Mills makeup guide The Eyes Have It! (which is seriously so good, because it too is from 1984 and recommends navy blue eyeliner and swears diagonal blush looks good on everyone as long as they blend it into their foundation), as well as countless other diet and routine based cardboard-wrapped boxes of secrets.

In Raquel, Raquel explains to us that there are three things that can make you look like Raquel Welch: genetics, eating a strictly monitored diet, and exercising intensely at least twice a week. She can't help us with the first part, and the second part is 90% psychological, but she's going to show us her favourite approach to the third one. That approach is a yoga routine that's totally adaptable to where you are on the fitness spectrum.

It's pretty timeless.

Granted, she teaches you all of this while wearing a zebra print bathing suit in front of a class of people with feathered blonde hair and neon leotards, but that just makes it all the more awesome.

None of the things she does in the opening montage have any bearing on the actual content of the video, which is comprised of twenty-seven poses that she encourages you to learn gradually and at your own pace. They range from things as simple as bending at the side with a specific breathing technique, to grabbing your own ankles from behind. Which might not sound hard, but takes some practice.

I think you should watch it. If you don't like the actual exercises, there's enough 80's cheese to cover a jumbo tray of nachos, and if you do like the actual exercise it's really useful.

The best part? It's not on DVD, but it is available on YouTube in its entirety, right here!

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Super Friends – The Lost Episodes: Terror on the Titanic

I’ve decided that we all need a little more fun at the moment, so instead of looking at Rod Serling’s Patterns like I was going to, I am instead recapping an episode of Super Friends where they fight the Titanic.

Yes. The actual Titanic.

Saturday Morning Cartoons went extinct a couple of years ago. With streaming services allowing parents to curate their kids’ viewing, and 24hr cartoon channels available, the once noble establishment that brought forth everything from The Jetsons to the North American Pokémon craze died a peaceful, largely unnoticed death.

But, for fifty years of broadcast television, it was a coveted block of time carved out for the wild imaginations of kids, and the advertisers trying to target them. A devil’s pact of calculated branding and genuine fun.

The history of Super Friends, in particular, is a mess full of title changes, network changes, syndication deals falling through, and so much behind-the-scenes drama it’d make a hilarious HBO drama set at Hanna-Barbera in the 70’s. You’d never guess how much backstabbing went into producing each seven minute episode about a super hero friendship team.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

I Dream of Jeannie 04x10: How to Marry an Astronaut

I got an email request to do a recap of this specific episode of  I Dream of Jeannie, and of course I was stoked! If there’s ever an episode of something you’d like me to recap, then feel free to email me at I might not have access to what you want, but I’ll certainly try!

The last time we checked in on Jeannie, she was squaring off against her sinister lookalike sister, Jeannie II. Major Nelson was oblivious to subtle details, Roger was being blinked to every corner of the earth, and Dr. Bellows was convinced that he was hallucinating James Bond outfits on the people at work. Pretty run-of-the-mill stuff for Cocoa Beach.

We’re now into season four, and there’ve been a few changes worth mentioning: Jeannie II has appeared a couple of times since her last visit, so some of the grudges you might expect to resurface are water under the bridge; Dr. Bellows’ wife, Amanda, is now a regular feature on the show; and Roger’s character has been turned into a cartoonish playboy instead of a realistically girl-crazy astronaut. It’s all the usual characterization fatigue you see on sitcoms. The really bizarre changes start in season five.

And, even though a genie and an astronaut almost get married in this episode, this isn’t the one where Major Nelson and Jeannie tie the knot. The title, “How to Marry an Astronaut”, is a take-off on How to Marry a Millionaire, the classic Lauren Bacall film that was turned into a TV series in 1957, with none other than Barbara Eden in the role originated by Betty Grable.

One day, I’ll subject you to an episode of that, but right now we’re sticking with Jeannie. Or Jeannies, as the case may be.

The pink and gold bottle that Jeannie calls home is resting in its usual place on the desk, and we see that inside, Jeannie is rocking out to some ragtime on her Victrola while she reads Brides Magazine. Her Victrola is very cute, painted with pink and red flowers that match her outfit, but it’s also a weird choice. She lives in the 1960’s and was trapped in a bottle for a hundred and fifty years, so where’d she get it and why doesn’t she want a record player instead?

These urgent questions are swept aside, when the living room fills with a distorted version of Jeannie’s blink sound, and Jeannie II appears. She calls a few times for her sister, pacing the room with a hip-swishing sashay that sets her harem pants rippling like water. Barbara Eden changes the whole vibe of that costume just by altering her body language. It’s really impressive.

Jeannie II notices the open bottle, the stopper sitting right next to it, and raises an eyebrow at the universe.

“Oh…” she smirks, “That’d almost be too easy.”

Still, you can’t take the spots off a leopard. Jeannie II pops the stopper in, and as her trapped sister realizes what’s going on and starts to stomp her feet and call for help, she advises getting some kind of alarm system. After all, she notes, Jeannie gets stuck in there an awful lot.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Dimension X: The Green Hills of Earth

It's a big day for space enthusiasts today.

On July 20 1969, Apollo 11 put American astronauts on the moon. Pretty cool.

To celebrate, apart from the Coke commercial above, I thought it might be fun to listen to an episode of 1950's Dimension X, an NBC radio program highlighting science fiction short stories.

"Adventures in time and space, told in... future tense!" Norman Rose would announce each week, driving me up the wall since childhood because all of the stories are told in past or present tense, they just take place in the future.

I've chosen the episode "The Green Hills of Earth," based on the short story by Robert Heinlein.

Dimension X lasted for a little over a year of broadcasts that adapted stories from Ray Bradbury, Issac Asimov, Robert Bloch, Clifford D. Simak, Frederic Brown, and Kurt Vonnegut. In 1955, it was revived as X Minus One, and featured many of the same stories.

And swing by tomorrow, to get instructions from Barbara Eden's Jeannie on "How to Marry an Astronaut!"

Monday, 18 July 2016

Bonanza 01x08: The Philip Deidesheimer Story

Good old Bonanza. Since the last episode started out fun and ending up kind of annoying, the series is going to balance things out with an episode that starts out depressing and ends up even more depressing. Keep some tissues and maybe a bottle of gin handy for this one.

Also, I hope you like learning about structural engineering.

We begin the happy fun-time parade with a beautiful young woman in a fancy pink dress. She’s Helene Holloway, daughter of Andrew Holloway. It’s the night of Helene’s engagement party, but Holloway is more concerned with business matters. He owns the Ophir silver mine, and Helene is engaged to his superintendent. She makes her father promise to have a nice evening with no work-related discussions, just as the doorbell rings.

Wow, a doorbell! This family is really wealthy! (I’m not being sarcastic. Doorbells were not available to common folk in this time and place. The Cartwrights don’t even have one.)

Helene’s fiancé, Gil Fenton, shows up with his old friend and future best man, Adam Cartwright! Of the Ponderosa Cartwrights! Helene says she’s surprised that they were on time, and Gil says it’s all Adam’s fault. Our boy is punctual. And looking pretty chic in his fancy party clothes.

Holloway explains that everybody is under orders not to talk about work, so he’ll make this conversation about work really short. Gil shouldn’t worry about the mine’s output for the evening, because Holloway put the night shift on the third level.

Gil blanches.

“You what?” He gasps, “I told you we couldn’t work the third level without new timbering!”

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Dungeons and Dragons 01x03: The Hall of Bones

Daisy's back with another exciting episode of Dungeons and Dragons! For those of you who don't know, Daisy is our semi-regular guest blogger. A long time fantasy fan, her looks at the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon are always hilarious and insightful. To find more of her stuff, click the tags at the bottom of the post, or the spiffy D&D banner in the sidebar. Take it away, Daisy!

Today's episode is called “The Hall of Bones.” Woo, spooky! It’s written by Paul Dini, who, among many other things, worked on Batman: The Animated Series.

We open to the kids hurrying through some kind of creepy swamp. Magical ecosystems, man. Screw ‘em. Apparently they’re being chased by something, and we get our first glimpse of it when Diana narrowly evades being caught by some sort of hairy flying monster. Point Diana. Uni’s not so quick, though, despite being on all fours, and manages to get swept up by the… griffins? Flying monkeys? Oh, yup, they’re flying monkeys. Uni loses a point.

Bobby freaks out, of course, and rescues Uni by… knocking a tree into the flying monkey that’s holding her, and nearly killing them both. He manages to catch her before she can smash into the ground and presumably break all of her legs or get crushed by the falling tree.

I’m not giving him a point for that, even though it technically worked out. After that flower crap in the last episode, I’m drawing the line on dumb luck here.

Sheila freaks out and herds Bobby and Uni away from the remaining winged primate threat. Hank fires off some shots at the monkeys, and… what’s this? Hank’s magical arrows disappear before they can do anything. Bobby tries to knock over another tree, because that’s how Bobby rolls, but his club just smacks uselessly against the trunk. Looks like everybody’s having performance issues. Eric encourages everyone to dive behind him and holds up his shield, which seems particularly brave given the circumstances, and it actually works! At first. A flying monkey dives at them and is repelled. Point Eric.

Eric: “They’ll never break through this!”

Dammit, Eric. Now you’ve jinxed it. Of course, that’s the moment when Eric’s shield gives out. Bobby speculates that the batteries are dead. It’s actually a pretty good metaphor.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

The Big Valley 03x04: Time After Midnight

Lloyd Bochner always cheers me up. When describing him, a lot of people use words like “interchangeable” or “bland” or “that one guy.” I prefer to go with “Canadian” and “perfectly modulated voice” or sometimes I just yell: “It’s a cookbook!”

That last one is because after a long career of guest starring roles and small parts in movies, Bochner remains best known for his episode of The Twilight Zone, “To Serve Man.” But did you know he also made TV history with his recurring role on Dynasty? He played the first television character to die while doing the horizontal mambo, when Joan Collins’ Alexis overwhelmed him with a heart attack in the sack. Never say I don’t teach you things.

Today we’re watching him in an episode of The Big Valley. It’s the one where Jarrod goes blind, and I’m honestly so happy because it’s the best character-goes-temporarily-blind episode ever, with the possible exception of the Happy Days where it happens to The Fonz and they make him put his motorcycle back together as therapy. And by the best, I kind of mean the worst.

Temporary blindness used to be on the trope list right after amnesia. (There’s also an episode of Big Valley where Jarrod gets amnesia, it’s called “The Man from Nowhere” and two seasons later, Victoria – that’s Jarrod’s mother if this is your first visit – has her own case of amnesia. It’s a show that never lets you down.) By the mid-70’s, most primetime dramas figured out that blindness shouldn’t be a gimmick, and we start seeing more accurate and interesting portrayals of blind characters like in Little House on the Prairie or Longstreet.

What stops the whole thing from being offensive, most times, is that the trope had its heart in the right place. It was usually trying to teach us about loss, or perseverance, or the things we take for granted. The results were usually more cheesy than insensitive, as we’ll see shortly.

Monday, 11 July 2016

First Aid Tips from Kevin Tighe

I'm allergic to everything.

Okay, not really, but it feels like it today. The backs of my eyeballs are itchy, it's awful.

Proof reading and taking screenshots are not my favourite things to do at the moment, which means the recap I'm working on is being pushed to Thursday, and we're all going to learn whether or not to put butter on a fresh burn.

This is a PSA Kevin Tighe (Roy on Emergency!) did back in the day, and it's both amusing and informative:

Now, as the little scrawl says at the beginning, this is old first aid, but it's also not particularly harmful stuff, so take it with a grain of salt and learn how the TV paramedics did things in the 70's.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Lucy Before Lucy: Du Barry Was a Lady

In 1768, a young woman named Jeanne Bécu hatched a plan to cement her status in the world. Born the illegitimate daughter of a seamstress and unknown father, Jeanne was determined to improve her standings by becoming the official courtesan of King Louis XV of France. But in order to obtain that position, Jeanne needed a noble title. She got one by arranging a quickie marriage and falsifying key documents to imply she had some totally fake and very impressive ancestry. That’s how she became Madame du Barry, and it was only the beginning of her scandal-filled and tragic entry in the history books.

In 1939, Cole Porter thought the du Barry/Louis coupling would make a good backdrop for a sexy musical. (In his defense, he kind of thought anything would make a good backdrop for a sexy musical, it was his genius and his curse.) Broadway audiences saw the first production mounted with Ethel Merman, Bert Lahr and Betty Grable in the lead roles. The songs were raunchy and the jokes were raunchier, but it didn’t sit well with the tastemakers, and one New York Times critic wrote:

“The authors have struck a dead level of Broadway obscenity that doesn’t yield much mirth.”

I’m pretty sure that means there was too much innuendo and not enough story to back it up. Raves for the performances were the only positives to be found in the bleak petrified forest of newspaper reviews.

Which brings us to glamorous 1943, when Hollywood decided to make a version of Du Barry Was a Lady without Merman, Grable or Lahr – the things people actually liked about the show. Good idea, Hollywood.

MGM was interested in the film as a vehicle for Ann Sothern, so they bought the rights for her and started making promotional materials with her face on them. Sothern had become an unexpected sensation in 1939’s Maisie, where she played an adorably candid Brooklyn showgirl and wound up with her own film franchise and radio program. What MGM didn’t count on was that Sothern didn’t want to do the picture. (Some sources claim it was because she was pregnant with her daughter at the time, but that’s unverified and a little fishy given how the dates line up.)

It was such an unexpected surprise, the cartoon version of Sothern can still be seen in the title cards of the finished film:

Enter Lucille Ball, Sothern’s good friend and an actress transitioning between studios. It was decided that this was to be Lucy’s first outing at MGM after they'd bought her RKO contract.  Lucy would play May Daly and Madame du Barry in a dual role that revolved around a dream sequence. There would be towering wigs, dripping pearls, giant skirts, and songs. Lots of songs.

Lucy, as anybody who's seen Mame will tell you, couldn't really sing. This was handled by having Martha Mears dub her on most of her songs, except the finale number "Friendship." Occasionally, you can hear normally dubbed actors' own voices on what were considered "character songs" or songs that were supposed to be more humorous than pretty.

("Friendship" later found its way into the I Love Lucy canon when Lucy and Ethel perform it in "Lucy and Ethel Buy the Same Dress" from season three.)

For her Technicolor debut, hairstylist Sydney Guilaroff had an idea about Lucy’s coiffure. Several years before, Lucy had started colouring her blonde hair a subtle red-gold in order to stand out among the crowd of RKO stock beauties. Guilaroff wanted to take this to the next level, and dyed it an intense shade called “Tango Red.” He then swept the whole thing into a coiled up-do and hair sprayed the hell out of it. In Lucy’s autobiography, she claims she had to crack the lacquer with the brush at night, like busting open an eggshell.

Later on, during another film for MGM called Without Love, Lucy would work with hairstylist Irma Kusley (also Katherine Hepburn’s go-to favourite for movie star hair). It was Kusley who'd stick with Lucy through all the television shows and shades of dye to come. And though Guilaroff is generally credited with creating the Lucy look, Kursely was the one who honed it into what we remember.

Meanwhile, another red-haired comedian was making waves at the studio.

Red Skelton had impressed MGM in 1940 with a screen test that included his best routines. “Doughnut Dunkers,” in which he did an array of impressions of how different people dunked their doughnuts; “Guzzler’s Gin,” which was later adapted for a small segment in 1946’s Ziegfeld Follies, as well as the inspiration for Lucy’s own Vitameatavegamin bit; and “Impressions of Movie Heroes Dying,” which was pretty much exactly what you’re thinking.

They didn’t quite know what to do with him, though, and it wasn’t until he stole every scene in 1941’s Whistling in the Dark and made hits of its sequels, Whistling in Dixie and Whistling in Brooklyn, that they decided he was worth investing in. 

In 1942, he starred in a splashy musical with Ann Sothern called Panama Hattie. The chemistry had worked, so MGM thought Skelton would make a good fit for the role of the hatcheck boy who wins the Irish sweepstakes, accidentally drugs himself, and dreams he’s Louis XV. (This was all arranged before the Sothern/Ball switch.)

The script for Du Barry Was a Lady was undergoing major reconstructive surgery while the studio was putting together its cast. A lot of the naughtier jokes were jettisoned, along with several of the Cole Porter songs which would be replaced by studio-written alternatives that better fit the clean comedy stars MGM was trying to create. The role originated by Bert Lahr had just about everything changed as it was stretched like a piece of taffy to suit Skelton’s comedic style.

Roles were dropped, merged, or morphed, character’s names were changed for no obvious reason.
Like Gene Kelly’s character, who in the play was named Alex, is now named Alec. On top of which, he’s no longer trapped in a loveless marriage without the money for divorce, and in the dream sequence he’s the dashing and mysterious Black Arrow. And while nobody really minds watching Gene Kelly swash some buckles, it does make his sections of the film strangely earnest compared to the others.

The story ended up so that Skelton's character was in love with the lead showgirl at the nightclub where he worked. When he wins the Irish sweepstakes, he decides that he finally has enough money to sweep her off her feet, but she's already in love with Gene Kelly because she's a heterosexual woman and he's Gene Kelly. Come on. No way Red Skelton can win that fight.

Still, Red's got a zany idea that involves dosing his rival with a roofie. Only he ends up drinking it himself and dreaming he's the king of France, Lucy is his mistress, and Kelly is a dashing revolutionary sworn to kill him. (He can kill as many kings as he wants as long as he keeps saying words with his voice...)

In the end, the movie suffered from the same overall complaint that the play did. While all the lead performers are terrific, the story itself is strangely without charm. But, unlike the play, the film has all the grandeur of an MGM spectacle to cover its weaknesses.

The whole thing comes across like a sugary confection of bright costumes, vaudevillian song and dance numbers, and some unexpected delights. Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra performing in powdered wigs, and brief appearances by both Lana Turner and Ava Gardner are small highlights, with the first film appearance of Zero Mostel being a big one. Mostel plays Gene Kelly's best pal, a smarmy fortune teller who steals most of the early scenes.

For Lucy fans, it’s an interesting halfway point between the glamour girl phase and the start of her career as a comedienne. And, as Lucy herself later said, if nothing else it was a wonderful thing for her to work with Red Skelton.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Blacke’s Magic 01x07: Address Unknown

Magicians make great TV, everybody loves a good mystery, and the creators of Columbo and Murder, She Wrote clearly knew how to construct a winning series. That’s why it’s such a surprise that 1986’s Blacke’s Magic doesn’t really work.

Loveable Hal Linden is Alexander Blacke, a retired magician who teams up with his conman father, played by Harry Morgan, to solve crimes. Most of their solutions involve big illusions and set-ups that instantly call to mind The Sting – and that’s where the problem comes in. Swindles, disguises, and splashy big con finales replace the more interesting aspects of putting someone who thinks like a magician into high stake logic puzzles. (Something much more capably accomplished with the BBC’s 1997 series Jonathan Creek, if you’re interested.)

Today’s episode opens with two men meeting in a shadowy parking garage. One of them, Dale Richmond, is a nervous-but-stalwart businessman type. The other is the worst things about the 1980’s congealed into human form. He starts the conversation – which appears to be about gathering information about military corruption – with “Yo!” and calls his contact “guy.”

His name is Billy, and he’s driven a red sport scar to a clandestine meeting. He’s here to tell Dale that he wasn’t able to get “the letters,” but he’ll definitely have them tomorrow.

Billy is terrible at whistle-blowing, just the worst ever.

Billy’s boss, a man named Hilliard – or possibly Yaryard, but I chose the one that’s an actual name – has a senate hearing tomorrow afternoon, giving anybody with a key easy access to an empty office. Billy will be in and out of Hilliard’s drawers without him knowing a thing.

Dale stresses that he just needs correspondence between Hilliard and “the General.” He doesn’t want anyone taking extra chances.

Aw, come on, Dale! Does Billy seem like the kind of guy who’s cocky enough to take extra chances?
Billy shoots a finger gun, winks, and jumps into his sports car. They’ll get this corruption scandal outed in no time.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Are You Afraid of the Dark? 01x02: The Tale of Laughing in the Dark

We’re celebrating Canada Day with this nation’s greatest contribution to the history of television: Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Did you know, non-Canadian friends, that many of the most popular children’s shows were and are Canadian co-productions? It's true! We're really good at stuff for kids!

Are You Afraid of the Dark? was co-funded by Nickelodeon and Cinar to capitalize on the juvenile horror craze of the early 90’s. Scholastic’s Goosebumps series was flying out of book fairs, and everyone wanted to capitalize on the trend. Later on, Goosebumps itself would be adapted into a Canadian TV show, but it wouldn’t be very good.

Debuting on YTV in 1991, Are You Afraid of the Dark? is an anthology series about the Midnight Society, a group of pre-teens from different backgrounds and different schools, who sneak out one night a week to meet around a campfire in the woods. There, they tell one another spine-tingling stories appropriate for ages seven and up.

The leader of the Midnight Society is Gary, son of the owner of a magic shop, and grandson of a member of the original Midnight Society. It’s kind of implied that this first incarnation was like the real life Lovecraft Circle, which consisted of writers like Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, and H.P. Lovecraft himself.

Tonight’s story teller is Betty Ann, probably my all-time favourite of the kids. A shy, sweet girl, Betty Ann likes exploring deep-seated fears and monsters and disturbing implications. When her stories end, everything’s always just fine… or IS IT?!