10 Years Of Complications

Yesterday it occurred to me that today marks the 10th anniversary of Complicated Animal. It’s a record I made in a series of bedrooms for the princely sum of zero dollars. It now serves as a weird time capsule of my mid-20s, filled with cigarettes, canvas shoes, and minimum wage jobs. That said, I’m still proud of it, so here are some random reflections:

Writing and recording took two years. I remember being stressed about the endless process and telling Aaron McLeod Dyste Bales that I felt like I was trying to finish Chinese Democracy. This reference meant something in the 2000s. I still like the fact that it’s a pretty heavy record; I recall describing it to people as a grunge-Motown album, and mixed and mastered it with that in mind. The records I was most influenced by at the time were Ready To Die, Musicology, Jailbreak, The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads, and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. The intent was to do for a punk record what I felt like those albums were doing for their genres. On the Prince tip, I purposely cut a phone message off the end of “Valley Forge Winter” so the album’s run-time would be 43 minutes like Purple Rain, which I figured was the ideal length. I'm not good at picking gateway songs, but these days I think "The Black Watch" might be the one - if you like that tune, you might find things to like about the rest of them. The tracklist was set up with vinyl in mind, so the last song on side 1 would be "Galapagos." Complicated Animal features my worst composition (“Tara”) and my best composition (“Winged Victory”). My personal favorite is probably “Morning Up In Motown.” That was a different time for Detroit, and playing a show down there felt like gigging after the apocalypse. “Salem Mass” is not as good a Halloween song as “Skullduggery” from the first album, but it features my buddy, Mike McKeogh, and is based on actual events, so those are wins. One of the tracks has a backwards phone message left by my brother, Tom McCartan, while he was at EPCOT Center. We were in Flatfoot with Aaron at the time, and these songs mix in my mind with all the stuff we did with Jim Diamond for Wild Was Our Mercy. Tom’s bass and Aaron’s harp on “Fight For Tomorrow” still mesmerize me they’re so good. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I was very depressed. All I wanted to do was destroy the world with my guitar, and I think the production bears that out. I wouldn’t recommend it for most people, but if you want to listen to a loud/fast panic attack, this album is the one. The opener, “Brothers Grim,” drops the F-bomb 11 times. I’m not much of a singer and the songs slip in and out of tune constantly, but I meant well, and I stand behind the lyrics, even the bleak ones. And they’re pretty bleak. That’s about it, other than it now seems super-adorable that it was "released" on myspace. That was a long time ago. But Tom, Aaron, Mike, I love you guys and thank you for all of the support over the years. I’m glad we’re all together on that big, grungy mess. It’s been an honor and a privilege. -jz, 2018

https://theroarband.bandcamp.com/album/complicated-animal

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Frankenstein Operator's Manual

Happy Halloween, everyone.

As a self-professed writer, it is incumbent upon me to actually write and release material, which is what has been done here. As the old saw goes, America is about a Ford in every driveway, a chicken in every pot, and a Frankenstein in every laboratory.

The market has been flooded with simulacrums, but there's only one guy who offers the real bolts-on-the-neck experience you'll be demanding from your Frankenstein.

Ah, I can sense you are intrigued, this is excellent!

Why burden yourself with questions about which Frankenstein has a steady yearly growth and a strong market? These are investments and probable co-habitants with your family. Gone are the days when a Frankenstein could be caught raiding the potato shed - no, no, these days Frankensteins are treated with the same respect as anyone else. This not only clouds the issue of "is a Frankenstein really a human?" but also makes you give pause when noting your dependents once tax season rolls around.

Get the straight-talk you need in order to make informed Frankenstein decisions, now available in long-essay form as Frankenstein Operator's Manual. Might as well hop on the train now, next year is the 200 year anniversary of the original novel being published, so you'll be hearing about it anyway. Give in!

It's only $.99, and it should be available in Amazon's Kindle store within 72 hours. So go search my name and kindly get yourself a dozen.

As a tease, please enjoy this first section for free:

PART I: Monster Mechanic

Welcome to my monster garage. Shopping around, are we?

I love it. I love to see a family outing like this. And look at this guy here! He looks like he’s just about monster-age, huh? Are we maybe hoping Mom and Dad will be getting us our first monster when we turn 16? Haha, that’s okay, you don’t have to say anything—I know how it is. He’s a sharp one, isn’t he Mom?

Mom?

Never mind.

Oh, you’ve heard some things about Frankensteins, have you? Been browsing online, huh? No, that’s great, you want to be an informed consumer. Any questions I can maybe tackle for you? As a certified monster mechanic, I firmly believe in passing what I know on to the next generation of enthusiasts. I sense some skepticism in your tone - what kind of things have you been reading about?

Ah, I see: the novel.

Okay, forgive me, but I’m going to stop you there. Do me a favor and take a look outside at the road you were just driving on. You don’t see a lot of Ford Quadricycles tooling around out there, do you? Of course not, and that’s because these complex, paradigm-shifting things evolve. Mind you, actual, dyed-in-the-wool Darwinian evolution-evolution is not in play here, since we’re talking about a man stitching together dead body parts and reanimating them with electricity. This is completely at odds with the notion of survival of the fittest. But my point is, such tinkering leads to more and more refinement, and so we find progress.

Think of that grainy film footage of the bouncing Sky Car with the whirling cocktail umbrella propeller—ludicrous, right? And yet, here we are, over 100 years in the future, and hover conversions are completely standard-issue. See, these are not machines so much as they are events. But, you’ve gotta start somewhere, and that was very much the case with Frankensteins. So, here’s the deal with your 1818 Mary Shelley Frankenstein: it’s a curiosity that should be admired for what it was and what it inspired. But it’s certainly not practical for the post-modern age, even in a fun, “retro” kind of way. Have you ever seen one? Sure, sure—school, right? British Literature? Yep. Where it’s used as a text book, just as it should be. A text book for booooooooring.

I reread it a few years ago, having found a reissue that featured some quality woodcut illustrations. It’s a handsome edition, no doubt, but it speaks volumes that the best part of my reread ended up being the pictures; I liked the physical book more than its contents. And this is not to say that it’s not an important part of the canon - the idea is as sound as ever, and continues to inspire different interpretations (cough Jurassic Park cough). And it’s a keystone example of Romantic writing. Boy, is it ever Romantic.

If it feels like homework, that's because it is homework. You like extended passages about scenery and not a lot of monster-talk? Well, then you’ll definitely not hate the 1818 model. If Mary Shelley had only replaced 90% of her glacier descriptions with ghoulish murders, this would have been a real barn-burner. Or a real windmill-burner, if you’d rather. However, she did not, and so, proto-sci-fi and gothic novel street cred aside, we’re all free to tip our caps and immediately move along. This kind of book cannot be expected to wind the clock of a twenty-first century audience, so let’s just skip it.

If you really want to make the investment and jump into the market, you should- hm? Oh yes, there’s definitely a market for Frankensteins, and it is insatiable. But you want to stick with your Universal Pictures Frankensteins of the 1930s and 40s, as these are the strongest, most desirable models. The Hammer Film Production-makes are great in their own ways, but there is no replacing the flat-top, neck-bolt look of a vintage Universal. And they are an investment, I cannot stress this enough. The market goes through cycles, and right now it’s a little soft, meaning it’s the right time to buy. And you needn’t worry about Frankensteins coming back—Frankensteins always come back. I mean, if the sequels aren’t a tip-off, consider that the original novel-model Frankenstein is almost 200 years old. There’s no getting rid of it, no matter how hard the mob tries.

Say, why don’t you all grab a cup of coffee from the machine over there, and I’ll give you a brief primer before you get out to those Monster Swaps. No, no charge, folks. What kind of monster mechanic would I be if I let you spend your (I assume) hard-earned money on some clunker? You’d be unhappy, that piece of junk would end up back in circulation, my business would fail, and my reputation would suffer.

Oh, are you not familiar with my reputation? Take my word for it: my reputation is very well-reputed. Should you need qualifications and certifications, look no further than my almost 30 years of being in the Frankenstein-racket. Yes, when I was a boy, I’d wander the monster scrapyard of the local library. There, I would pore over the sacred texts of Crestwood House’s 1985-issued picture book adaptations of the classic Universal Monster films. My mentor was that bespectacled master of vintage cinema, Bob Dorian, whose woolen suits and silver hair oozed authority across the landscape of early-80s and late-90s basic cable. It was Dorian’s bumpers before and after AMC’s featured-creature picture that loaded up my impressionable grey matter with only the most trivial of trivia; indeed, I can still recall his analysis of Jack Pierce’s post-immolation makeup continuity like it was yesterday.

Listen, I understand your apprehension with undertaking such a pastime, believe me. Let’s face it: in 1931, we as a species were still not that good at making movies. The medium itself is only around 30 years old at this point, and the talkie feature is still box-fresh at around 5 years, so, you know... they still needed some practice. This is an era where you’ll find a lot of gangster pictures and some of your shittier, pre-Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes.

Frankensteins from this earlier age simply feel heavier. It’s as though the director and his camera had just indulged in a turkey dinner and were having trouble getting up off the couch. With every movement of the camera, you can almost hear the crew groaning from the strain of it all. Likewise, with audio recording still in its nascent stages, film scores blare through your speakers with a piercing mid-ranginess unencumbered by the spatial organization found in the stereo spectrum and multi-track mixing. This means that no matter how menacing the timpani pulse, how angular the threatening brass line (you know the one—it goes “Bwah-bw-bw-BWAH-bwah!”), it’s all doomed to sound like a pile of hot mono garbage being manually cranked out of one of those old-timey phonograph horns.

Editing seems equally laborious, as though cuts were made by pure memory of footage shot. We clunk along from one angle to another, each one seemingly spooled on its own projector, to be swapped out against that of another projector, situated next to it. You can almost hear director James Whale muttering to editor Clarence Kolster, “Did we run out of stock here? The scene isn’t really over. Well, just fade to black, I guess—we’ve got to keep this moving.”

And move they do, for while the sludgy feel of film mechanics is still working itself out, the stories being told move at a brisk pace, rarely approaching the 90-minute mark. Surely, we can take the time to appreciate them for what they are. You won’t see a lot of gearheads sticking with their Model A in a world filled to the brim with seat warmers, cup holders, and satellite radio (cups weren’t even the same size back then!), but you will find them admiring the most well-preserved and detailed editions still in circulation.

As such, we need to be clear about the pros and cons of investing in a Frankenstein, and what to look for out on the market.

The Five-Point Frankenstein Service Inspection

You're going to want to run a five-point service inspection on any Frankenstein you're thinking of acquiring. It's a common-sense system I've developed over my many years in the business. I'd recommend it to anyone, but especially someone new to the trade. These are the hot spots you can look for on-site when you’re kicking the tires, as they say. The five pertinent questions you should be asking yourself are as follows:

How Mad Is Your Scientist?

While the passage of years has made Mad Science as commonplace as the concept of telephony or the notion of baking altitude, it's interesting to acknowledge that there once was a time in which all science was considered to be rather mad. Mind you, the era we're speaking of here (the turn of the twentieth century Frankenstein hey-day) is not that time, and therefore any monster-building doctor can be certified "completely mad." But for a while, it was pretty well-accepted that if you spent your days zoning out and puttering over microscope slides for hours on end (or even knew what a microscope was) then you must've had a screw loose. As we shall see in the analysis that follows, the entire spectrum of madness can be found in the history of Frankensteins, from the morbidly-curious to the stark-raving bonkos.

What Kind Of Brain?

Sometimes the monster-to-brain relationship is a shell game; the second you look away from your Frankenstein, someone might plop some new gray matter into that big, green cranium. Whose brain is this? Tough to say, but the track record as we know it shows a rogues gallery of leaky think tanks, cycled from one vaguely-European flesh-pod to another. A lot of the older model Frankensteins you'll find on the market will be either missing serial numbers or featuring heavy wear and tear, so count on doing some detective work as you decipher what form of psychotic cerebrum you're going to be living with.

What Are the Lab Conditions?

Mad Science, not unlike regular science, requires plenty of room in which to be done. Mad Science, very much unlike regular science, also requires plenty of privacy, lest the local medical oversight committee, constabulary, or villagers stumble upon the unholy results of your toils. Thus, we commonly see remote, abandoned, or re-purposed locations serving as home base for some of the most innovative of mad scientists. Since pre-war Europeans had nothing but time and rocks on their hands, most of these spaces will be large and made of stone. This suits the amount of voltage flowing through the area at any given moment, and makes any required chain-fastening an easy, yet secure experience.

Where Are Your Notes?

A classic trope we shall see worked again and again, the mad sciencing notebooks are typically just as secreted as the laboratories themselves. But listen, aspiring mad scientists: stitching bodies together and then filling them with life-giving life is a complicated process. These are not IKEA instructions, and for as intuitive as it all might seem (You: 'I have a body, this should be a breeze...'), there are many, many steps between taking the parts out of the box (here, a coffin) and the final, murderous product. You need to take notes—there is no purpose for these experiments if you're going to have to relearn the processes every time you want to cook up a fresh race of super-people.

Mind you, these notes are controversial—what some might consider "too hot for TV," like the backroom goings-on of the commodity market, or the Area 51 files. You need to find a place to keep them safe. Then, at some point, off-screen, share this hiding space with your son/daughter/assistant/granddaughter etc. At the very least, you want the existence of the notes to be known, even if the hiding place remains classified. You might want to consider having your probably-deformed lab assistant write up some copies during some of that elusive monster-building downtime; the above-mentioned labs tend to blow up or burn to the ground quite regularly, and as there is no "cloud" to speak of, you'll need that information passed on somehow. Try making each version with a different cover to toy with the obsessives who love continuity!

How Angry Is the Mob?

It's always important to know what level your local mob is at. A great workaround solution to this is to send a member of your staff into town for some all-purpose reconnoitering. The townsfolk are the oil, and your stooge is the dipstick. It's always good to check the level, color, and viscosity of your potential mob. Oh, and make no mistake: they are always teetering on the brink of moving from "mob" to "angry mob." Who's around, who stirs the most waters, who has lost loved ones at the hand of the very same golem you are currently trying to shoot life back into? Feeling shorthanded and overwhelmed by the number of things piling up on your to-do list? Maybe kill two birds with one stone and have your assistant dip into the local pub on the way back from picking up the cadaver hands. Be sure to have them leave the hand-basket outside, and then do some light probing over a draught of the local microbrew. This is in imitation of what society would call “normal behavior” and should not raise too many suspicions. Through this line of inquiry, it should be easily determined who will be a problem, and who will simply be influenced by those who have a problem.

And on more thing, before we run down the various models you’ll be wanting to keep an eye out for: don’t be precious about the name.

We’ve all been there, mixing at a cocktail party, discussing Frankensteins. And, as sure as the sun sets in the west, it’s only a matter of time before some haughty know-it-all clears his throat and informs the discussion, “Ah, excuse me? ‘Frankenstein’ was the name of the doctor – not the monster.”

First of all, you need to never invite this person to another cocktail party; they are a total buzzkill, and you want to be keeping the company of stone-cold chillers. Why are you hanging out with this snob? Second of all, Dr. Frankenstein put this monster together with his own two hands and a lot of love. And a lot of manic delusion. But he built that beautiful, murderous brute, and that brute was brought to life and ushered into this world at his whim. If that is not fatherhood, then I don’t know what is. Therefore, the monster is a Frankenstein – a true son of the baron who wanted to harness the fire of the gods. The name applies to both creator and created, and while anyone in the business will tell you it is sometimes confusing, we professionals embrace it as an idiosyncrasy of a different, less-smug age. As such, I declare the argument over the doctor-and-monster nomenclature closed, forever.

Now let’s learn you some Frankensteins.

...to read more of this definitive study, check out Frankenstein Operator's Manual: An Essay by Justin Zeppa in Amazon's Kindle store. Right here.

Also, be sure to listen to the Sauropod. It's good for you.

When Sauropods Ruled the Earth: Podcasting the 21st Century

Happy 2017, my fellow Earthlings. I understand this has been going on for nearly 10 months now, wow! I've been in my bunker for most of that time, working away on loads of things for you to hear about and be pressured to buy on this very social media platform.

But not today, friends - no, today I offer you a free thing. A free thing I like to call...

...the Sauropod.

Here's the deal: me and the kids have been working all summer, putting together some audio shows for you fine people. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll fast forward a bit, I get it. But the shows are free - all we ask of you is to "subscribe" to our "feed," which means you'll "let the phone download our new episodes as they come through" our "channel."

(A "podcast" is a radio show you can either download or stream to your phone, and start and stop whenever you want. The feed is like a channel, so if you subscribe to the Sauropod feed, you'll be getting at least four different shows a month, and whatever else we throw up there.)

Anyway, sign up for that and have some stuff to listen to in the background. We're on Facebook, Twitter, probably Instagram at some point? Whatever - as long as you are giving us five-star reviews wherever you're listening to the show, and telling everyone you know about how artfully we string together curse words, that's all I can ask for.

If you need to find out how to get a podcast and have an iPhone, go here:

https://www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts/fanfaq.html

If you need to find out how to get a podcast and have an Android, go here:

https://www.androidcentral.com/how-use-podcasts-google-play-music-android

Just search for "Sauropod" and look for the big, green S. And thanks for listening.

No Sleepwalking Allowed (or, How The Unnatural Adore A Vacuum)

In his first year in office as President, Donald Trump has had a hard time of being perceived as Presidential. So when a moment arises in which he simply has to say a handful of words that every American should agree with, you'd think he'd say them. He likes it when people like what he says - it's kind of his thing. So when he does not take advantage of a moment in which almost everyone will like what he says, that should tell you something. The thing this should tell you is that he supports the people he should be denouncing.

This should have been a gimme for the President - no one with any sense of morality would disagree with a condemnation of white supremacy. This is a man who normally cannot stop talking, yet he was silent over this? It means this is exactly what it looks like. Do not be distracted by today's reluctant statement. Be distracted by two days of no statement. The two days in which silence reigned did more to boost the bigotry in question than anything in recent memory. This was a Presidential stamp of approval.

This is a time that will be captured in a bottle. This bottle is what the future will judge us by. It is not enough to shrug in response, there must be an outcry. No matter how you voted in 2016, this is the time in which you must wake yourself from the sleepwalk. This is not right/left, this is right/wrong. If this movement is not stopped here and now, it will lead to a catastrophic devolution of the Union. President Trump's refusal to condemn white supremacists by name is an endorsement of white supremacy. If you endorse President Trump with your vote in 2020 and with your words today, you are now endorsing white supremacy.

This is the opportunity to stop this movement where it is - history teaches us that a failure to do so will result in violence soaking its way into the fabric of our culture. Refuse the normalization of violence. Refuse the normalization of bigotry. I refuse these things, and I refuse to stand by any person who will stand by this President.

Other Things Ronnie Wood Has Rejected

The headlines blare from across the pond a saga of hair preservation!

Yes, 3rd most popular Rolling Stone and recent father of twins, Mr. Ron Wood, has just announced that he 1.) had lung cancer, 2.) did not want chemo because he wanted to keep his hair intact, 3.) makes important life-decisions based on baffling criteria, 4.) has had successful tumor-removal surgery, and 5.) is ready to hit the road with the London lads in a few months.

That’s pretty hardcore, dishing out a mega "Fuck you" to both cancer and chemotherapy, but it certainly makes us want to take stock of the other things Ronnie Wood has rejected.

Rejection #1

Certain meals.

Perhaps it was the glimpse of opening act, the Spin Doctors, that Mr. Wood caught before the Stones played Toronto's SkyDome that made him nauseous that fateful evening of December 3rd, 1994. But more likely we’re looking at a situation in which he had rejected the Pork Souvlaki Sticks brought to his table at Mr. Greek’s restaurant on Bremner Boulevard, thereby offending the cook (chef?), who proceeded to under-fry the Fried Kalamari [sic] Dinner, instigating what the Brits would call “a funny tummy.”

The streets of the Big Smoke did spin for Mr. Wood that night, but he would forever-after bring a taster on tour with him so such stomachy rumblings would never occur again. And they never did.

Rejection #2

Cigarettes.

After boosting the tobacco industry and turning kids onto cigarettes for the past 50 years by looking cool as hell, Ronnie Wood decides to reject smoking.

Finally faced with his own mortality through a last gasp of biological imperative in twin-baby form, Ron chucks his ciggies and switches to vaping, much to the delight of his wife and new mother to his bloodline.

Wood also nails the rare hat-trick of simultaneously rejecting his longtime smoking friend and bandmate, Keef Richards. Mr. Richards has subsequently been seen smoking by himself, wondering why Ronnie’s vape is so special and gets to be inside. He was later spotted smoking in a doorway, wondering what Mick thought about the vaping, and if he would soon act in classic Mick-fashion, pitching a fit and storming off mid-rehearsal.

Mr. Richards was then espied chuckling to himself, wishing Mr. Wood was there to share in the joke and Mr. Richards’ spot-on impression of Mr. Jagger.

Rejection #3

The life of a “bargee.”

It’s true, Ron Wood was born into a family of “water gypsies” who piloted various river and canal barges. And yet, this was not enough for the incorrigible Wood, who found easy access to the muse and wound up, as did all the great British rockers of the day, attending art college.

Did he make the right decision, leaving a life of punting tourists around the Thames? (Full disclosure: I am, for some reason, picturing the entire Wood family to be wearing wide-brimmed hats and striped shirts, like Venetian gondoliers). Time will tell, but let’s note that he has apparently been successful with his art (he has sold some – people have been willing to pay money for it), and has cultivated some repute as a musician of sorts, appearing as a guitarist for The Birds (UK), and The Faces.

Oh yeah, and the Rolling Stones, the second most popular rock band of all time. I guess he’s doing fine. But I have a feeling the barges will always be there, should he need them. Barges, and the bargees who barge them… are forever.

So I did a Google image search for “ronnie wood boat” and would you believe it…

Rejection #4

A couple of wives.

Listen, this might be punching below the waistline, but Ron’s good for it. He’s tough, and he knows the wrongs he needs to right (total shot in the dark there, could really go either way). The first ex-Mrs. Ronald David Wood was back before Ronnie’s head was replaced with a rawhide chew. Krissy Findlay was a swingin’ 70s model, and that seemed like enough at the time, but then the 70s started to end, and with them, this unholy union.

Fast-forward a few years to the mid-80s, and other-70s model, Jo Kerslake, finds herself on full-time Ron Wood-duty. You might find that sentence hyperbolic, but the Wikipedia page actually highlights her as being with him “regularly on tour, looking after his wardrobe and diet.” And you just that know Mr. Wood has an expansive wardrobe to mind.

This lasted until about 2008, when Ron left her for another model (late-teenager, Katia Ivanova), but this was short-lived, and he eventually settled down with the seemingly-sane head of a theatre production company, Sally Humphreys, who was 31 years younger than him. Ms. Humphreys then went insane, marrying him, and bearing his 68-year-old self a set of twins. Which, I think we can all agree, is classic Ronnie Wood.

Rejection #5

Death.

Let’s face it, Ron’s been hanging with a fast crowd for the past 50 years. Boozers, losers, junkies, egomaniacs, reckless vagabonds, and Rod Stewart. He probably should have died several times over, either from his own vices, or someone else’s. Like, if you’re close with that very tight-knit circle (it’s very, very tight – Charlie Watts isn’t even allowed to know the secret handshake), there’s a 37% chance you will die from either a hovercraft incident, or Keef Richards falling from a tree and landing on you.

Yes, not unlike Buffy, Ron has been dancing with the Grim Reaper for decades, blowing smoke rings into his bitchin' skull-face while grooving his way around the pendulous swinging of the scythe. And so, Mr. Wood lives on, rocking more stages, rocking more glossy, wide-collared shirts, and forever marrying beyond the traditional cultural age-gap. And who are you to judge, culture? It arguable that you wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for his tasteful co-writing on “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll.”

So I guess what I’m saying is: live and let Ronnie Wood live. Because he’s got his own album to do.

Slimer Joins the Cavs: An NBA Odyssey

Those who know me, know that I've been following the National Basketball Association pretty closely this year. As a Detroit Pistons fan, it was a pleasure to see the lads in blue make the playoffs again. It's also been an historic run for the 73-9 Golden State Warriors, and their utter shellacking of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first two games of the 2016 Finals seemed to doom the grand finale to being a letdown after the 7-game bloodsport that was the Western Conference Finals.

The 48 point differential of the first two games was so overwhelming, that I was compelled to put my spongy mind to the task of solving LeBron's problems for him (which is kind of how he likes everything to be done), just to make it entertaining for the rest of us while we wait for the glorious inevitable to happen.

So I ask you: what on Earth can be done to stop the complete psychological dismantling the Warriors are inflicting upon The Bron and Company?

Fortunately for Coach Lue, I recently stumbled into a wild idea that just might work. It was inspired by what I initially thought was a hallucination, but later discovered to be quite real. Perhaps you saw this madness too? As a hint, here’s my initial response to what I’m referring to:

“Did I just see Kobe Bryant flying a helicopter, dressed as a Ghostbuster?”

Yeah, it looks like Kobe is spending his retirement bustin’ ghosts, presumably because “bustin’ makes him feel good.” Presumably, inexplicable cross-promotion makes him feel even better. There is no universe in which this idea makes any sense, but modern marketing is so insistent upon it, who am I to argue?

So, we all know that this premise is absurd, and yet... my brainbox suggested that perhaps the concept could be retro-fitted and applied to the slow-motion basketball Hindenburg called the 2016 NBA Finals Cavaliers?

Quick as a jackrabbit, I pieced together a bogus (Bogut?) press laminate in the ol' Photoshop, took a mortgage out on my friend's new house (his approval was implied, in that he did not catch me in the act of doing so), and cruised down to Cleveland to camp out for a few days and bend the ear of the Cavalier's front office. What follows are the results, as laid out in my week-long NBA Finals Diary.

I now humbly present you with what is surely the greatest thought that has ever been thunk:

Slimer Joins the Cavs

Balls to you, hoop-heads - you’re welcome.

Day 1:

At first glance, you might think the Golden State Warriors could be physically outmatched by the Cavs – you’ve got your LeBron James, your Kyrie Irv- well, I guess not. You’ve got your Dellava- wait, hang on… uh, you’ve got, um, team-dad, Richard Jefferson, and you’ve got – wait, did I say LeBron already? I did? Oh. Well, you’ve mostly got LeBron to be your 4, feeding shooters like Kevin Lo- well, uh, like J.R. Smith, sometimes, and getting those boards.

But what if the Cavs tried something more outside the box? For while the Tristan Thompson trade has been mildly beneficial, it seems to have overshadowed their trade for Slimer, who’d been unsuccessfully jockeying for a starting position on Anthony Davis’ Pelican team before heading north to The Cleve. Who needs another big man to block the Warriors’ paint-game and grab those rebounds when you have on your squad a spectral entity that is not bound to the laws of either space or time?

No one, is the answer you’re looking for. No one needs that.

You want to talk about flying down the court? Slimer can literally bring you just that. Your transitions will be more effective, your fast breaks will feature more bullet passes from Bron to Slimes and back, and your match-ups will inevitably improve, because no one can find footing amidst all the ectoplasm. My calls to the Cavs front office remain unrequited, but hopefully they can implement this plan before it’s too late. I mean, before it’s later than it already it is. Because boy-howdy, it is late.

Day 2:

You guys, Game 3 is upon us, and the hot takes are stacking up like it’s the dining room of an International House of Hot Takes. And still, the world has yet to accept this outrageous plan I’m advising for the Cavs. Take LeBron – I look at this man-child and I see a guy who really wants another ring. Will he seize the moment and do what he has to do to achieve this? By which I mean, will LeBron James start Slimer?

The issues are simple: Andre Iguodala is all up in Bron’s business, therefore, he will need someone’s (or something's?) assistance in dealing with the Splash Brothers, should they be required to show up for this series. In my estimation, the only thing that might be able to counteract the incredible passing and team-play of Golden State is that rascally, hotel-haunting, binge-eating Slimer. Ol’ Number 00.

He can reach inside and there won’t be a whistle, because his matter is translucent, and the refs are easily confused by the Necker Cube-like questions of whether or not he actually, physically fouled the ball-handler. Sure, you can check Steph’s arm for slime and have a pretty good idea that it came from either Slimer or Dellavedova, but they might have to take this to the replay table when the score is tight and the paint gets crowded.

That said, if Steph and Klay get hot, it doesn’t matter how much mucus is on the ball – these are the greatest shooters the game has ever seen, and if they can manage looks over OKC center Steven Adams, they can certainly get looks through a paranormal small forward. Remember when Ray Allen hit that magical 3 with the help of the Gatekeeper to win LeBron his first title in Miami? Believe, Cavs Nation (aka “Believeland”). Believe.

You know, in ghosts.

Day 3:

Folks, all the big guns showed up last night: LeBron. Kyrie. J.R. Richard Jefferson. (yeah, I dunno who he’s supposed to be either – I think he washes LeBron’s Kias in the off-season). And most importantly: Slimer. They showed up, on time, fully-dressed, and prepared to give the roaring Believeland crowd one last glimpse of this vaunted lineup before Golden State starts hammering the coffin nails.

Notice how those shots were falling last night, as though by some manner of ethereal magick? Well, that was very much the case, as Slimer crushed his switches, drew plenty of fouls, and effectively neutralized the Splash Brothers with his Beverly-esque defense, great handles, and overall grossness. Because he’s made of slime.

He even managed to slip into the afterlife between halves to bring forth the ghost of LeBron’s jumpshot! Truly, we are dealing with some power not of this reality. This prolonging of the inevitable is a victory for all of us basketballers, and we should savor it like we would savor the melted remains of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Big-Man. That said… Warriors in 6.

Slime Brothers 4-lyfe!

Day 4:

From popular basketball website, www.BronBallz.edu -

SLIMER WILL PLAY GAME 4

Cleveland – NBA Commissioner Adam Silver held a press conference this morning, addressing recent concerns from a wide range of franchise owners, as well as the Players Association, regarding the addition of Slimer to the Cleveland Cavaliers active roster.

“There has been an outcry across the land. I’m here today to reaffirm that, in the eyes of the Association, ghosts are people too, and Slimer will be allowed to play Game 4 of this year’s Finals.”

Silver, with his 2014 dismissal of Donald Sterling and the recent flagrant foul conference and subsequent fining of Draymond Green, has been cementing a legacy as one of the most prolific policy-makers in the history of the NBA. He was joined at the press conference by Cavs small forward and focus of the controversy, Slimer, who made the following statement:

“Yrrrrgggggblraaargyglargblarg!”

The power behind his words heightened the emotion in the room, bringing several NBA beat reporters to tears.

“I don’t care if he’s a corporeal being or a non-corporeal being, a demon or an angel. Or a big ball of slime. He has a right to play – let him play,” wrote Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver in a recent piece, condemning those who would stand in the way of ghost-progress.

Commissioner Silver wrapped up the conference with another brief statement, informing the world that he has asked noted ghost-rights activist, Walter Peck, to assist with easing the Association through this transition. Mr. Peck is known for his participation in the Ecto-Containment Unit Meltdown of 1984, during which time, he and his colleagues “liberated” several million ghosts, releasing them into Manhattan at great expense to the city.

Mr. Peck had little to say, other than he was honored by the Commissioner’s request, and that he would do whatever it takes to keep Slimer playing for as long as the Finals continue. He then pointed at the myriad cameras and audio recording devices in the room, stating, “Shut this off – shut these all off,” before exiting the room.

Day 5

Whoa, what an incredible Game 4 last night, huh? Listen, I don't like to talk about "winners" and "losers." Let's just say that I think we all know how this is going to shake out from here. If there's any doubt, this picture will definitely speak a thousand words:

Thus ends my painstakingly detailed coverage of this week in the 2016 NBA Finals - gotta get back home and stop the foreclosure of my buddy's house! Way to go, basketball teams - you're all winners, except for most of you.

Shocktober Leaveth

Well, yeah, those last blargs were late, what did you expect? That is how hard we do Halloween around these parts. And yeah, we're backdating - what good is time travel if you can't backdate!?

Our time traveling adventure is complete for this year, and I hope you all learned next to nothing. Also, a special thank you to those who helped support the audiobook, I appreciate your patronage. Also - who's to say Halloween needs to end right this second? Why couldn't we do a Halloween In December-type of thing, huh? We can and we will. Or, rather, you will. And while I have had a wonderful time almost engaging with you here, I must now depart in order to get back to the business of getting back to business.

unCivil lives on, and you shall hear its name uttered once more, sooner rather than later. Also, I have no doubt you've been wondering what happened to our heroes, Elyse, Will, and Colin, correct? The next step of their story will be written down for your eyes to read, and that's all I can say about it at this point. Mystery abounds!

Since blogs and blargs rappel backwards, down the cliff-face of time, may you future readers please benefit from this, a table of contents from the past. Bottoms up:

Justin Zeppa's Time Traveling 31 Days of Halloween Daze Days. Yes, This Is Happening:

October 1st: Full House
October 2nd: Perfect Strangers
October 3rd: Mr. Belvedere
October 4th: The Andy Griffith Show
October 5th: Kate & Allie
October 6th: 3rd Rock From the Sun
October 7th: The Brady Bunch
October 8th: Step By Step
October 9th: Growing Pains
October 10th: My So-Called Life
October 11th: The Beverly Hillbillies
October 12th: My Three Sons
October 13th: Eerie, Indiana
October 14th: The Secret World of Alex Mack
October 15th: Living Single
October 16th: Boy Meets World
October 17th: Girl Meets World
October 18th: Pretty Little Liars
October 19th: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
October 20th: Blossom
October 21st: Night Court
October 22nd: Will & Grace
October 23rd: Family Matters
October 24th: Bewitched
October 25th: ALF
October 26th: Home Improvement
October 27th: Roseanne
October 28th: Encyclopedia Brown
October 29th: Even Stevens
October 30th: Murder, She Wrote
October 31st: Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Skip all this shit!

October 31st: Are You Afraid Of the Dark?

Heppy Helloween

With Halloween falling on a Saturday this year, I felt it only appropriate to stick the landing with this series by taking you back to the Saturday nights of yore. Yes, in the 80s and 90s, Nickelodeon was not only hooking kids on the pleasures of green slime and impossible-to-navigate Hidden Temples, but also occupying your Saturday nights - known as "Snick" - with some sketch comedy, some old favorite franchise-characters, and some Canadians saying things in ominous voices. So... at this point, I feel obliged to ask you...

Are You Afraid Of the Dark?

Don't answer that, it's rhetorical. Also, I can't hear you, this is a computer. The point is, the title is a backhanded taunt, saying "Come, listen to Canadian teens weave their tales of despair in an anthology format!" And so, having answered the rhetorical question despite reassurances that we don't actually need to, we shall go listen to those Canadian teens.

Space: Sleepy Hollow, NY
Time: January 8th, 1994
Episode: "The Tale of the Midnight Ride" Season 3, Episode 1

It's not an ep of AYAOTD? without your campfire bookends. This is the first episode of the third season, so we're getting a little rollover with the cast, meaning some of the indistinct, flannel-ensconced teens you were used to have been swapped out with other indistinct, flannel-based teens. Oh, worry not - the Canadian accents remain, but certainly the cast photo has changed... forever.

One of these switcheroos is Head Wizard Gary's kid-brother, Tucker - the generation gap is made clear by his brazen lack of flannel and surplus of sleeveless yellow denim:

Everyone (I don't know their names, and I watched this show for, like, five years - they're that indistinct) leaps out of their seats in protest. They're borderline unhinged at the prospect of Gary's brother being a part of their clandestine ceremonies (and yet no one questions mega-nerd Gary's presence...), reacting as though Tucker had slept with each of their respective spouses at some point.

Gary tells them that they either accept Tucker into the Order (it's gotta be an order, right?), or his parents won't let him come out to summon pagan spirits of the forest and dance around the fire wearing masks. I'm kidding of course, they just tell scary stories, but if I'm Gary's parents, I don't know what the hell my kid is up to out there, and I certainly wouldn't send my other son out to be indoctrinated. Maybe Gary's parents are the lynch-pin to the whole goddamn Midnight Society, and this is but a tier of their new world order pyramid scheme? I truly hope so.

So, Tucker begins to weave his tale, by which I mean "Washington Irving's tale," with a beat for beat summary of what the Legend of Sleepy Hollow is. From there, we'll get a retelling of the same story, beat for beat, from one character to another, and then a full-on re-enactment of this story, again, beat for beat, but with bicycles.

Our hero is the "new kid in town," Ian, who is suffering from a severe case of early-90s hair and having a body made out of almost 100% Adam's apple:

Hey, Ian, Ellen DeGeneres' stand-up act from '92 called and would like its wardrobe back. This is him meeting local girl, Katie, whom he soon finds to be afflicted with being Canadian. Indeed, the whole of this incarnation of "Sleepy Hollow, NY" just oozes maple syrup and Mountie hats. Everyone wishes everyone else a "Heppy Helloween," and is either "Sorey," or "Sceered," and all of them are wondering if the Leafs won last night.

Reading between the lines of this encounter, Ian decides to log some serious friend-zone time with Katie, decorating for the school's Helloween Dance, introducing us to Brad Brom Bones, Katie's ex and an all-around jackass.

I'm not saying it's impossible to bully while wearing your button-down shirt tucked into your stone-washed jeans, but I am suggesting this might not be the most intimidating of looks if you're looking to compensate for your Canadian citizenship and your shortness by acting like a big-wheel.

From the looks of things, Brad 1.) Doesn't understand what the phrase "We're not going out anymore," means, and 2.) Doesn't like having plastic pumpkins dropped on his bean by a beaky ganglefitz like Ian. Fortunately, no decorations were harmed in the making of this scene, because the next thing we know, we are so enjoying this high school dance!

At least until Ian shows up, dressed like - would you believe it? - a colonial-era guy who looks a lot like Ichabod Crane might have. He brings with him a key element of early-90s dances, which consisted of two things in great abundance: sweaty palms and plenty of New Jack Swing (I'll leave it to you to determine which dish Ian brought to pass). And then it devolves into your typical bully-fest, with Brad retelling Tucker's initial retelling about the Legend, while Ian does what he can to look fearless.

He's sent to retrieve the pumpkin, which gives the best performance of the episode. He's made a bold choice in having his innards glow green, but it turns out to be the best choice.

Something-something-something, Brad shows up, taking advantage of his shortness by doing your classic Headless Horseman fakeout, which invariably portends an appearance by the real thing.

Having won the day with his prank, Brad caveman-grunts for Katie to join him, but she (not unlike the aforementioned jack o' lantern) makes a choice as well: she chooses to stand by her stork. I mean, "man." I mean, "awkward boy." Brad sneers himself away, leaving Ian and Katie to deal with an actor who must be teething, as he completely gnaws the scenery as a spectral Ichabod Crane.

They give him some directions home, not realizing they've put a fold into the fabric of the space-time continuum. This might be an issue, but there's no time to reflect, as we're then led into a dizzying labyrinth of her being walked home and Ian walking back to the school, and her following him back to the school, and them then going back towards home... fucking hell, in or out, you two, make up your minds, already! But wait, are you seeing this?

Oh, Brad - you are such a committed prankster, renting a horse and projecting your shadow on the building like that! Ha ha, Brad, very funny - you can come out now, you jokester...

Oh shit! That shadow just jumped out of the wall, what're you gonna do now!?

I have to give the showrunners some credit - too often we're promised a haunted rider, only to be teased with fleeting glimpses of such a terror. I assume this is to avoid our scrutiny of the practical effect of headlessness, but they really deal some major haunted rider here. Oh, are you as worried about the innaccuracy of that pumpkin head as I was? Worry not...:

Oh yes, he popped that pumpkin-head right off without blinking (because he has no eyes, you see) - nice. Anyway, something-something-something, they get chased around a bit, just as the retelling of the retelling of the retelling foretold (now retold), and the Headless Horseman, his headless-effect still preserved and intact through careful use of editing and video toasting, erupts into a charmingly-bad, horse-shaped fireball.

And so ends our tale, just as our time traveling sojourn comes to a close as well. What a time we've had, eh? I would suggest we learned something at some point, but I highly doubt it. As the season ends, I shall now douse the campfire, deactivate the chronopod, and fold my domino mask neatly back into the sock drawer, where it belongs. We'll regroup momentarily, but for now, I declare this meeting of the JZ'sTT31DOHDDYTIH-adventure closed. Heppy Helloween, broomheads.

October 30th: Murder, She Wrote

The ghost of Barry Williams' career.

Those who know me, know I am constantly talking about my "wheelhouse." What's in my wheelhouse, what's out of my wheelhouse, how I feel when something is blatantly of my wheelhouse as opposed to the feeling of a thing that is not sheltered by this triumphant house-of-wheels. What I'm saying is, the place we're visiting tonight is where my wheelhouse lives, and it's a little coastal Maine town that sure does resemble a coastal Californian town, and answers to the name of "Cabot Cove."

Murder, She Wrote

Here we go - now we're in the hot zone! It's Cabot Cove and no one gets out alive. I don't care how puffy the shoulders of your business-casual blazer, how permed your hair is - when Jessica Fletcher's around... well, let's just say she's something of a GPS for trouble. You know, because trouble seems to follow her everywhere. She's mostly a trouble-preceder.

And so on and so forth, insert your "stop inviting her to parties!" jokes here, for that shit is bush-league. I you wanna go deep-MSW, let's first acknowledge that the 80s were probably the last great run of seemingly ordinary citizens being pushed too far by either society or greed or Donahue, and suddenly getting an idea in their gourds: "Hey, I might just be able to get away with it!"

Like that magical time before fingerprinting became a forensics go-to, the 1980s were the sweet-spot for such crimes of passion. The computers are laughable, crunching the same amount of data as my toaster, the internet and any kind of networking was the purview of the Pentagon or mail-ordering basement nerds, and DNA was still seen as some kind of voodoo-science curse word - alarming, but not to be paid too much mind. Why, it was a brand of double-helix hokum that proclaimed to be the blueprint for who we are as a people, hahahahahahaa! Ridiculous.

As such, we saw a lot of Isotoner-clad hands entering from a frame's negative-space, choking former lovers and/or clonking "people in the way" on the head with table lamps. Because it's the 80s.

Anyway, this is fertile ground for that precocious, genre-loving sleuth, JB Fletcher! This episode proclaims itself to be about a headless horseperson, but things are never quite as they seem on this show.

And so, let us unravel the mystery while Murder, we'll watch!

Space: Wenton, VT
Time: January 4th, 1987
Episode: "Night of the Headless Horseman" Season 3, Episode 11

Right away, we find that we're not even in Cabot Cove - but worry not! There will be murder if JB's in town. Maybe she's the headless horseman seen here, chasing down this teacher/poet of noodly means?

I know almost nothing about this beleaguered character, but I already know he deserves whatever he gets here - get him, JB!

What? Oh, you're just showing up at the train station, of course...

Yes, it turns out the noodly man is a former-lover (I may be remembering that wrong) who has invited her to Vermont-country to pretend to be his mom. Because he's a lanky four-eyed goober. Confused by this web of deceit and side-parted hair? Don't worry, our heroine is just as flummoxed!

I now present to you...

The Worst Fucking Dinner Of Jessica Fletcher's Life

Sure, we're going to linger here because I really like the look of that tavern - I want to live there and hang things made of copper from the rough-hewn cross-beams, you know? But watch JB's face as this dinner with a friend she hasn't seen in ages - who, mind you, has just told her that she is supposed to be pretending to be his mommy - unfolds.

Oh, man - nothing worse than a waitress with a tin-ear for letting important conversations breathe.

"Tiffany, what do you mean you're breaking up with me!? I thought we had something spe-"

"And how are we doing here? Did you get a chance to look at the drink menu?"

Did you not notice us engaged in an intense, half-whispered conversation across the table? Did you not notice that one of us is weeping openly because the world is crumbling beneath our feet? Fuck your drink menu, just give us a minute here! I mean, not that that is what's going on in this situation, but the flavor of intrusion is the same.

Oh, hello, local dentist we met through sheer happenstance at the train station, are you-

Oh, well help yourself to a goddamned chair then, why the hell not? All I wanted to do was get caught up with this Ichabod-looking dude I know from somewhere, and scold him for making me into a mother-figure. Well, Doctor, I guess you'll be wanting to see this drink menu, and-

Oh, what the fuck - Barry Williams!? Who even let you through the door! And where is Marcia, Marcia, Marcia? Yeah, waitress? I'll take a couple fingers of scotch over here please - neat.

And so progresses Jessica Fletcher's evening - all she wanted to do (if we rely solely on the above screen-captures) is dig into that delicious pumpkin entree before her. But, say what you will about her scrawny buddy, he does end up acting out a fantasy we've all had at one point or another: Punching Barry Williams in the face.

Take that, Greg Brady! You always lorded your age over Bobby and Peter, always dictated the male-Brady agenda without consulting those you supposedly led! And just what role did you play during the vanishing of the original Mrs. Brady, the woman who gave you life, only to learn the hard way that you were an abomination whose existence could only lead to one or the other's ultimate undoing! Also, you're acting like you've slept with Dorian's girlfriend, and he doesn't like it!

Hey, check it out - it's this episode's haunted rider, looking appropriately washed-out and hastily shot - congrats, you totally fit the bill as a classic MSW character.

This uncomfortable transaction (uncomfortable in plotting, uncomfortable in execution), leads everyone to the scene of the crime and the newly-headless body of said-Barry Williams. Oh no, not Barry Williams. No, say it isn't so. So sad - well, I guess these things happen!

But who is guilty of the beheading, hmmmm? Is it the suspicious-looking horse-minder with the neck-sized scythe?

Or could it be these suspicious-looking prep-school Dead End Kids who apparently don't have classes to get to, and also peep on everything from their attic perch?

It definitely couldn't be the not-suspicious-looking dentist who keeps appearing for tangential reasons and has no clear-association to the case until the framed glamour-shot of a former flame known as Gretchen is espied by J-Fletch in his office. No, no - it couldn't be him.

Meanwhile, these spoiled little rascals have holed up in the tack room, afraid of the information they almost have that somebody else almost wants.

They come extremely close to eating each other before deciding to float their half-baked explanation of all the head-hunting going on. It's obviously the most obvious suspect, doing the obvious by burying an obvious head-shaped trophy in the most obvious spot - the very stables he obviously works in. Their theory bears fruit...

...until it doesn't - no, that burlap sack does not carry a severed head, no matter how hungrily the local law enforcement digs into it. It's just cold, hard, skimmed cash, the result of white collar crime done the blue collar way - one piece at a time.

Tossing aside this red herring, we then grind our gears while making the big turn into a new theory - a theory involving that Gretchen glamour shot and the homemade necklace that annoying waitress was wearing the night of that terrible dinner filled with terrible people doing terrible things...

Oh, you thought she was your passport to endless guacamole refills and the reason your water had lemon in it, even though you specifically asked for nary a slice of citrus to break the surface. Sure, she did those things, but who was the facilitator? Who could have given her such a gorgeous, hand-crafted necklace, especially when it looks so similar to Gretchen's?

In fact, it is Gretchen's, and the hands that made this symbol of their love can also be found deep in the mouths of prep school boys the county-over. That's right - it was the dentist who took his revenge on Barry Williams and his recounting of the ultimate conquest of Gretchen (later conquering the waitress as well, then regifting his former-lover's former-lover's golden string of symbolic love). I can't say I blame him - look at this guy's face, moments before he takes a tooth-scraper right to the jugular:

Yeah, that's right - you bleed out in great spurts, Greg Brady, or Johnny Bravo, or whoever the hell you are. You bleed out and have your boots put on the wrong feet and your tooth-based wickedness not covered by your HMO. You deserve all the tools in the world to be slammed into that great big Brady-neck of yours.

And this one finally reaches the end of her rope:

That's right, Jessica - fuck it all! Who cares about murder when you can hop a day-train the hell outta there and back to the sleepy village of Cabot Cove, where the killing is easy, the fish are jumping, and the lobster is high.

October 29th: Even Stevens

How to manage a milk surplus and influence people.

Back to sunny California we travel, to a time that feels not so long ago, but actually was, forcing us to stare into the void of our mortality and wonder what we've done with our lives these past 13 years...

Oh, are you not doing that? No, I'm not doing it either, hahaha, I was just checking to see if, uh... you know, it's cool if that's what you want to do, but I would mostly never do something like that, so...

Even Stevens

I stand by my assertion from when this was originally on the air that this is a quality, underrated gem of a show. Shia LaBeouf, no matter what has happened to him in the past 10 years, was a young comedic-prodigy. I went over this with Urkel, I know, but it bears repeating that he is hitting beats that most grown-ups can't handle. And he does it while effortlessly modulating between arid deadpan and explosive-hurricane. I mean, he won an Emmy for it. Well deserved.

And Christy Carlson Romano holds her own, as does the supporting cast and writing-staff. I don't recall what this episode is about, but I did read that it has something to do with our haunted rider-theme, so let's just get into it.

Space: Sacramento, CA
Time: September 7th, 2001
Episode: "A Very Scary Story" Season 2, Episode 12

No surprises here, we're going to start with Ren watching (go figure) that darned Horror Movie Marathon:

I think at this point, 29 installments into our time and space traveling journey, we should note just how booming Channel's Horror Movie Marathon is. Since there is, apparently, at least one person in every household watching it at all times, year after year, I have to imagine that the ad-space to be of Super Bowl-caliber prices, right? Are there bidding wars to see who can grab up the most air-time between Horror Movie Part III and Horror Movie Part IV in which to sell their Hot Pockets?

The answer becomes inessential, because the broadcast of someone watching that broadcast is interrupted by a scary phone call, just like every other Horror Movie Marathon watch, and something-something-something, almost-timely Scream-jokes later, we're given Louis in his costume:

Again, I'm not sure why I found this episode listed under a haunted rider category, but I can only assume they were referring to Louis' penguin-jockey outfit. Which, let's keep it real... is kind of awesome. But this is it for the haunted rider motif - he's in this thing for most of the ep. We can say with certainty that he is definitely a rider, but will he be haunted? Will he?

At school the next day, we find many of our heroes engaged in a circle of conspiracy:

You huddle like this when 1.) You absolutely need to talk about someone behind their back, but they're only a few feet away, or 2.) You need to examine the wares of your conspiracy (the conspiracy presumably plotted out in a previous huddle). In this case, it's the latter:

Those are some quality fake eyeballs, I think we can all agree, but I'm sorry to inform you that the intended purpose of this bag of oculi is simply that of gross-out MacGuffin, though they do become the first clue to the mystery about to unfold.

Can we take a sec to appreciate how committed the folks of Lawrence Junior High are to their festoonery?

I really want to believe that no proper school-funding was used for this, but I have a very hard time imagining students and teachers dragging in garbage bags of fake cobwebs and oversized mummy-heads to build this fantasy for themselves. And come on, it's Principal Wexler - the man's a pompous dullard, of course he okayed the transfer of funds from the pensions to the decorating budget. But, why is Tom Gribalski wearing sunglasses indoors, hmmm? Mystery abounds!

Ah yes, we get a glimpse into something only hinted at in previous minutes - the Ren Stevens-dictated eye exams being given by Principal Wexler and Coach Tugnut. Because these are the guys you want poking at your vision organs - run for it, Tawny!

Just when we'd thought we'd seen every variation on Halloween ornamentation, we're knocked out of our socks by this revelation:

Those giant pumpkins they sell seeds for at Home Depot! Yes, the ones that nobody is patient enough to follow through with!

Well, apparently some sly-boots somewhere followed-through, because this ep is overloaded with 'em, and they look spectacular. If we could combine Stevens-Pumpkin Giganticism with Russo-Pumpkin Hoarding and Seaver-Pumpkin Planing, we could see the entire fabric of the pumpkin cosmos unraveled and re-knitted from those goopy winter squash skeins into an expansive, orange afghan! In space!

And just what is going on with these kids today and their sunglasses??

Louis is intrigued. but not enough to pursue it, for he's too fixated on his eye-prank. Are you noticing a theme here? He's "blind" to the truth and missing the neuron-synapse retinal layer for the rods and cones, if you know what I mean. You don't know what I mean? Let's move on then.

Hey, mystery solved!

Looks like (get it? looks like?) Wexler and Tugnut are zapping out eyes and brainwashing the students with their pro-milk agenda, those monsters! Well, glad we got that cleared up, that about does it for-

Oh wait, there's more to it, I guess. Louis finally notices something's up when all of his peers begin zombie-shooing him to his eye exam, leading to his investigation of the school basement:

It turns out he Wexler and Tugnut are mere pawns of an eyeball-loving overlord. But who could be so sinister, and why would they even bother? Don't let this revelation snap your neck in twain, but it's...

...Evil Ren Stevens, mwah-ha-ha-ha!! And by "Evil" I mean "wearing a decent Halloween costume." I guess we shouldn't be so surprised, considering she was touting her eye-plan in the first scene (who in the Sacramento school administration let the 8th grader set the medical agenda!?), and the lair is sporting multiple neon signs spelling out her name.

Her plan involves some machinery left over from Wardenclyffe Tower that will transmogrify the entire student body into a "Ren-plicate" of her student body.

Why, you ask? I have no fucking idea, it's just good, clean evil, I guess.

Get over yourself, Ren - that's way too much business-casual for one basement, I don't care if you are a PTA-endorsed eye-health dictator. Anyway, it seems like all hope is lost and this is the world we'll be inhabiting, so-

Wait! Tsk - why didn't we see it before?

It was alllll just a story to scare that Beans-kid out of the house so these Stevens could return to the business of getting Even. With Dad, I mean - they wanted watch their VHS copy of Getting Even With Dad. Ah, family.

October 28th: Encyclopedia Brown

Too bad he never found the treasure.

What is it about the haunted rider archetype that compels us so? In Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow the headlessness certainly plays a part, as do the throwing of incendiary gourds and brandishing of cutlasses. And let's not ignore the equine factor (now that is a reality show I would watch, Hollywood - I hope you're paying attention), as horses are large, fast, full of snorts, and smell like corn poop.

All of these elements seem to forever fascinate us, making this the most Halloween story ever written. Perhaps its timeless appeal is due to the the seeming lack of complexity (pretty straightforward, a guy being chased around), combined with the ambiguity of the haunting's details (allowing our imaginations the mental real-estate to consider whatever answers we can dream up)? We will never know. This is just a lazy blarg with negative-integrity, and so we'll leave those artsy questions to more learned people - people like...

Encyclopedia Brown

Starting in the 1960s, we, as a people, became inured to the idea of allowing the scales of justice to be held by a tween. Encyclopedia Brown was a clever bastard, no doubt, and he was a much-needed guardian of kids being picked on or exploited by other, meaner kids (which is to say 'kids,' because, as we should all feel free to acknowledge in this space, kids are kinda dicks).

However, many of his cases were straight-up, high-level crimes that could easily upset the ultimate outcome of Idaville's great experiment with democracy. One could not help but feel shaken to the core by the inherent incompetence of a community of adults who could not handle their own affairs and routinely asked a kid at the dinner table for help. What is this world coming to, you ask? It's coming to Encyclopedia Brown's garage and paying a quarter a day to get its shit straightened out, that's what.

Space: Idaville, ME
Time: July 10th, 1990
Episode: "The Case of the Ghostly Rider" Season 1, Episode 11

So, right away we can get the feeling that this is not an actual, official, Big Paper-endorsed, Halloween episode. I'm sorry this happened, and I'm unsure of why it's on the Wiki-list we've been pulling from, but there's still a haunted rider, so whatever. We can tell it's not legit-Halloween because we're opening in what appears to be a mining town called Old Glenville, and it's so rare that a half-hour show can successfully combine two genres like Halloween and Old West Ghost Town - there's just too much going on, too many cliches to cram into such a small space!

Also, I don't recall Old Western mining towns being prominent in Maine, where Idaville was set (in the books anyway), but this show was a one-season, low-budget HBO-thing, predating readily accessible digital shortcuts, so we'll cut 'em some slack. Plus, what a great haunted rider!

You can't hear him here because this is simply a photograph, but he's holding that noose and shouting, "Revenge!" Okay then, way to make a great first-impression - you are certainly haunting the hell out of Old Glenville.

More specifically, he's haunting Bugs Meany and the Tigers. Bugs, being a model citizen and the school valedictorian, wants to do right by his municipality and calls in Chief Brown, EB, and local badass, Sally Kimball, to defeat evil. Ha, I'm just kidding you - Bugs Meany is Encyclopedia Brown's blood enemy and his name is goddamned 'Bugs Meany,' so I don't see how you could miss that.

Also, this implies that Bugs is willfully admitting to breaking into the property because he was afraid of the rider, who probably had more legal right to be there than he did, so his actions make no sense. And why are they all so chummy here? Enemies don't call each other's dads for help, this is madness. And yet, for some reason, Bugs gets glory shots like this:

Encyclopedia Brown gets even more glory, though:

Classy blazer, female bodyguard, and a head full of LA Looks gel? He's like a cool Bond villain! Or, taking the Def Leppard t-shirt into consideration, a cool Bond villain's roadie.

He's promptly burdened with the story of what Old Glenville is and what the owners want to do with it, and blah-blah-blah - this haunted rider with the noose is terrorizing the facility and somehow keeping the owners from rehabilitating it per their dead grandfather's (I think?) wishes.

A potential Old Glenville investor actually says, "All this ghost-talk has got everybody spooked! No pun intended."

Hey, guy, no pun delivered, so don't even worry about it - ghosts are supposed to spook people, that's why they're also known as 'spooks.'

Whatsherface, the true heir, busts out the photo album, and EB and Sally settle in for a tedious unloading of backstory. Also, we're sure this is taking place in Maine?

"Too bad he never found the treasure." Well, that's a leading non-sequitur if ever I've heard one. This is not unlike people who drop names in conversations, knowing that you don't know who they're referencing, just so you'll be forced into asking whom they're talking about, thereby trapping you within a conversation you never really wanted to have in the first place. You're not just offhandedly mentioning a nearby treasure without hoping whoever you're talking to will say, "Duuuuuuuuuhhhhh, wha? There's a treasure?" Just explain the treasure-situation to us up front, don't go fishing for treasure-questions. Goddammit all, I'm sorry, but it just makes me mad! BE. NORMAL.

So, we learn there's a treasure, and from there we can put together that everyone wants to get their mitts on it, including this guy:

Hey, it's that guy! You know, that guy - he's in everything!

(Runs to check IMDB for what this guy's name is...)

Ah-HA - Taylor Negron! Yeah, that guy! He of Hope & Gloria and The Last Boy Scout fame! Here he plays a great-nephew who was not in the deceased's will for some reason, and he has just injured his wrist, so pay attention, amateur sleuths!

Do we know the haunted rider is this guy when he freaks out, hand bandaged, nervously dumping a bucket of ice all over and denying the treasure/ghost story by shouting "It's just an old, silly story THAT PEOPLE LIKE TO TELL!":

Or is it when we meet a grizzled prospector with a fake beard who obviously has his arm tucked into his shirt:

Or is it when the ghostly rider appears again and does everything one-handed?

Encyclopedia Brown just cannot put his finger on what is amiss here, and ends up meditating himself into an incredibly bizarre dream-fantasia. It is here, deep within his subconscious, that all of the darker corners of his mind are revealed, leading us to this disturbance:

Sally Kimball doing a scarlet lady saloon dance all up in Chief Brown's business is wrong on so many levels. It's especially gross to see Sally, a strong, girl-positive role-model in the books who helps her friend keep his head out of his ass, being relegated to a Freudian prop for middle-aged men to leer at. She deserves better than this, I don't care if this was 25 years ago.

I also have a note here reminding me that, at some point, Bugs Meany tells Encyclopedia to "Get bent," which I quite enjoyed. He really leans on it too, so it's a drawn-out "Get bennnnnnt." Ha!

Hey, look who the bad guy is!

Yep, it's the guy we suspected all along - however did Encyclopedia know? He rattles off an explanation about the prospector wearing the wrong boots and the saddle being of an English riding-make, completely ignoring the fact that this guy was acting weird and guilty the entire time. Come on, EB! There weren't even that many suspects!

Oh, and I guess you should know that there really was a treasure, and now Old Glenville can be restored to its former glory, whatever that could mean. Sorry, I need to baste my memories in rubbing alcohol to get that awful dream sequence out of my head, but there you have it - haunted rider story, round 1! I sincerely hope that there are better ones to come!

I will apologize to you by departing with a more empowering image of Sally Kimball, doing as all kids of the late-80s and early-90s were doing: ninjitsu.

October 27th: Roseanne

"I've beheaded the washing machine!"

From the man-centric world of Home Improvement, we flip to the other side of the same coin - a world where the ladies are in charge, the matriarchy is standard-issue, and the furniture is... eclectic. I'm talking prime time with the Queen of Halloween:

Roseanne

That voice aside, who among us does not hold a special place in our hearts for this ball-busting, blue-collar show about life in the humid Midwest? The pedigree of the writing staff alone is enough to leave one awestruck: Carrie Fisher! Amy Sherman! Norm MacDonald! Joss-fucking-Whedon! It's a smorgasbord of cutting-dialog experts, all sitting on their slab of oak (I guess?) with their gourmet cheeses and cold cuts surrounding them, whipping up scene after glorious scene of perpetually combative people going at it as they, like the rest of us, try to make it through their day, all in the face of the world's idiocy.

Whatever, I'm not here to sell you Roseanne, that shit sells itself, and part of the reason it does is because it gave us 8 seasons of Halloween episodes. I just paused in my typing for a moment because I had to raise my hands in surrender - okay, Roseanne, you win! You're the all-time Halloween-ep champion! You make Night Court's 5 episodes look even more like the garbage they actually are.

And, not unlike our visit with the Taylors, we're kicking it oldest-school, and shall start... at the beginning.

Space: Lanford, IL
Time: October 31st, 1989
Episode: "BOO!" Season 2, Episode 7

We must open with what I imagine to be a regular occurrence in this house: the entire family engaged in battle over food - in this case, caramel apples.

At this point, representatives from the Plot Union inform me that I need to point out some beats for you, my beloved reader. They are mostly concerned with the one in which Dan drops a line about a contracting client he's concerned with impressing for some reason or another - blue-collar and all that, you get what I'm saying. Also, they've asked me to point out that this normal Conner-morning-coming-down is quickly infused with a timeless story-arc standby: prank war.

From the look of Jackie's reaction, Dan is obviously gaining ground in said-prank war, but this will be a back-and-forth runner throughout the episode.

Speaking of Jackie, let's just take a moment in this calm before the storm to revel in a beautifully laid-out laundry room spectacle:

This and the images that follow are almost Norman Rockwellian (I trust whoever directed this episode gained notoriety as 'the Norman Rockwell of water heaters') in the way they reflect the America of the day. You know, like this:

Classic Darlene - that's the kind of kid you want to have, at least until David moves in. Leave it to Becky to be in a pissy mood - she's going through her terrible teens and the mood-swinging is the most frightening thing about the entire episode.

The aforementioned Plot Union dictates that I explain her behavior; she's not that into Halloween to begin with (again, because she's in her terrible teens, you see), and also, she's not invited to the party she thought she was going to. Roseanne is a good mom, and helps her to better understand why this is all so important.

Turns out, it's mostly because of the candy.

More shots fired in the prank war, as Roseanne pretends to fool Dan into thinking she's choking. Nice try, Roseanne, but Dan knows the score, and walks away from the collapsing body of his beloved wife without a care in the world.

So amazingly bleak! But, I ask you: how often do you really get gallows-humor in prime time?

Meanwhile, everyone is dressed up and ready for the big event - even pouty Becky has turned her attitude around, thank goodness.

And here we see how Roseanne was superior to other family shows - there's no lingering, no synth-cue, no trying to sell it. It's just dealt with and discarded, because life rolls on and it's fucking Halloween.

We proceed to the trick-or-treating/house of horrors, where we find our old friend, Biker-Vest Skeleton!

You just knew he was gonna show up here. By my count, that is 6 out of 27 programs featuring a cameo by Biker-Vest Skeleton, which means you have an approximate 22% chance of running into him while watching Halloween-themed television in October. Small sample size, I know, but save it for your Ultimate Zone Rating calculations, poindexter.

DJ, by the way, is dressed as a ninja:

Yes, it may be 1989, but already we see the early-90s ninja lifestyle being committed to by a generation of young people.

Now, simply enjoy the bloody pageantry of it all, as we move through the Conner's tunnel of terror. Here's Dan with his take on the blade-to-the-head:

Jackie looking incredible and sacrificing her evening to screaming and being held hostage by a table:

That's an odd combination, corn-on-the-cob and grapes, right? It looks nice for the presentation, and the symmetry is immaculate, but I would have questioned the flavor-profile of that dish.

Back in America's laundry room - there he is again! I'd know that silhouette anywhere!

And here we see a trick-or-treater dressed as a middle-aged shell of a man, who- Oh, I'm sorry, it's actually just the guy Dan was talking about at the beginning - the one he's doing the big job for.

"Is this a bad time?" he asks the man with the fake ax in his head at 7:30 on Halloween night - who is doing business like this!? Look at a calendar, jackass! Hell, look around you, you're surrounded by trick-or-treaters as you walk down the bustling street and up the steps of the heavily-decorated Conner house! Wake up!

Ah, we'll forgive him though, for he is totally down with helping Roseanne scare Dan, thusly bringing an end to this prank war that has shed so much fake blood. Willingly place your fate into Roseanne's hands and you can be seen as nothing but noble.

I'm not going to lie to you, I was concerned about the tie - when he cries out, "That's a $50 tie!" I thought I sensed some real anguish there. I know I have my favorite ties, just as I know a strip of decorative fabric that's supposed to help us be taken seriously can cost an absurd amount of cash - maybe this was his favorite tie! Now what!?

It turns out any concerns we may have regarding this bit-part's dresswear are unfounded, and Dan falls for the whole thing, to everyone's delight. Because people love working for clients who conspire with their wives for the purpose of public humiliation, right?

Not to be outdone in the prank war, Dan's reprisals are a bitch to behold:

Roseanne, being an old hand at this by now, relents in the face of this live chainsaw... or does she??? In the final scene, Dan finds her reluctantly telling her parents they can come visit for three weeks. Dan reacts as we all would:

Psyyyyyyych! That's right, Dan - don't forget that in the small pocket of television known as Lanford, Illinois, the matriarchy rules. Forget ye not who be the Queen, peasant - bwa-ha-ha! Also, her name is the title, so her victory should kind of go without saying.

October 26th: Home Improvement

Cored and scored.

Okay everyone, let's get into it. This is the last week of the season, and oh, what a season it's been. It'll be fun to map out where we've been on our journey through television time and space - especially when we note that the 70s are severely under-represented. But that's okay, I think we can all agree that the 70s were an incredibly funky time and are best left ignored. I prefer my 70s to be viewed through the prism of, say, a Topher Grace or a Fred Savage, thankyouverymuch.

But here's the deal: we're heading into Legends territory. Yeah, that's right, it's time to turn this thing up to another level, friendo. It's time to get serious about our Halloween partying. Oh, you thought the Tanner Family of ALF infamy (aka the "Tanner IIs") were good at throwing a party? Willie couldn't handle this much holiday cheer; he'd fuss and fret himself right into a timely grave.

So, we're going to hit the two shows that really made Halloween episodes their bread and butter, and then we'll close this shit out with some eps featuring a twist on the classic Washington Irving story. I'm of course talking about... Rip Van Winkle - no, you idiots! The headless horseman, Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, curses and all that jazz! There seem to be a lot of shows out there that talk a big game about ghostly riders, so we'll just see which one emerges the victor.

But for tonight, we have other plans. That's right, kids, we're going there. And by "there" I mean "A couple miles from my house." Grab your candy bags and perhaps some more power while you're at it - we're in for some...

Home Improvement

I will admit to taking a certain amount of pride in this show when I was a kid - it was set around Detroit, there were a lot of Michigan-related shout-outs, Tim Allen was a native, which meant he wasn't just cashing-in on our bizarre culture of formerly being the arsenal of democracy, only to be relegated to being the brand of an awful NFL team that didn't actually play there, so it was all totally legit. Also, it was funny and all of America was watching the goings on of Tim "The Toolman" Taylor and his family in southeast Michigan. You know, the southeast Michigan they film on a soundstage in California. It was like they were watching us! Kind of!

Anyway, I've tried to look up what neighborhood they were supposed to have been living in, but it's just a vague "metro-Detroit" and that's about it. My guess is this could be Royal Oak or Birmingham or something like that? He had his own TV show and a backyard with a fence, so probably not Franklin - that seems too spacious, too rural. Well, I'm sure we'll live with not knowing... for now.

This show took great care with its Halloween eps, making them them a cornerstone to their series. As with all shows, results may vary depending on the quality of the overall seasons themselves, but let's get into those prime eps, when the world was new, and we wished our own neighbors were philosophical eccentrics, rather than some rough folks with a chicken wire fence and a garage bigger than their house. We start... at the beginning.

Space: Detroit(ish), MI
Time: October 28th, 1992
Episode: "The Haunting of Taylor House" Season 2, Episode 6

We need to keep this real and start with a filming of Tool Time, and that's just what we do. Tim and Al Borland bust each other's chops back and forth in sparring fashion, and despite Tim exploding his pumpkin into Al's face (not a euphemism - he actually blew up a real pumpkin), Al wins the day by carving his hero, Mr. Bob Vila:

It's hard to underscore just how huge Bob Vila was at this point in time - he was a curiously-legendary figure in plaid, sent from the heavens to assist us with ceiling fan installations and such-like, and we couldn't have been more glad about it. The early 90s were a strange time.

Wow, we are barely into this ep, and already getting a cameo from Biker-Vest Skeleton! Truly, he/she is the reason for the season! (#BikerVestSkeleton)

Apologies to Jill here for stripping even more dignity away from a character who must already endure a lifetime of man-dumb. At least she can find solace in the fact that she's not this guy:

While it's true that some of the moron-manliness has not translated 25 years into the future, it must be noted that Jill gets her licks in, and every episode is about Tim being an ass in one way or another, resolving with an admission of and apology for being an ass. It's also true that sometimes that ape-grunt is still funny.

But before we linger too long on those qualifiers, do you see something towards the front of the house, by Tim...

Could it be...?

Yes! A second Biker-Vest Skeleton hanging from the wall! See, I told you guys this house was legendary. And before we can even grab some Sweet Tarts...

...we're blindsided by another one! How many thousands of dollars did the Taylor's sink into Biker-Vest skeleton, I wonder!? I mean, I see the appeal, sure, but I've never seen this level of commitment to the aesthetic before. And I am loving it, by the way.

I know what you're thinking at this point, because I thought it too - you're looking over Tim's shoulder, deep into the set, past the minor Chicago Chronicle crepe streamers (#ChiChronCrepe), and over the stairway railing. Could it be... again?

No, I'm sorry, friends - this shot clearly shows this skeleton to not be a Biker-Vest Skeleton. It does however show you Jonathan Taylor Thomas dressed up like a pirate, so there's that. People would grow to love and trust JTT in the same way they did with Vila, and for a certain window of time, JTT was referred to as having the gravitas of "a young Bob Vila." Side note: Nice Lambert Lanterns on that railing there (#LambertLanterns).

The real meat of this story is about eldest son, Brad, being roped into dressing up like Raggedy Andy for Halloween by his girlfriend, Jennifer. This poor bastard - even Jill secretly knows it will be hard to recover from such a debacle. And yet she continues to fit the costume for him - come on, Mom!

And, of course, Wilson shows up to offer advice to be bastardized by our grunting hero...

...who then helps Carrot-Suit Jill (#CarrotSuitJill) with the party-preparations:

I will bet you $10 zillion that he's pouring Hi-C Ecto-Cooler into that cauldron. Because these people knew what it meant to party in 1992 - somebody hand me a Zima!

Do you guys remember this kid, Curtis?:

I don't either, but it feels like they were exploiting his character's autism and/or lack of social filter in the off-chance he might take off like Urkel had (Urkel was such a big deal, I'm not kidding). I suppose every show took a crack at that around this time, but obviously it didn't take in this situation. And who cares - you had caveman grunting, "more power," Al's beard, Wilson's fence, JTT, etc. Plenty of popular identifiers, Home Improvement - don't worry about trying to have it all.

Oh man, and then this happens, and Brad is left looking like the biggest nimrod on the planet when his girlfriend shows up, dressed for the motorcycle apocalypse with some other dude - that is so awful!

And it's a young Rider Strong no less! He's mere seconds away from being cast as television's Shawn Hunter, and he's in the prime of his life! And Jennifer is played by the actress who played Cory Matthews' girlfriend, Wendy, on BMW and oh shit, are the universes ever colliding here! Side note: Shawn- I mean, Rider- I mean, "Danny," was apparently very influential in my own fashion choices from about 2000-2009.

Fortunately Brad is able to glean some advice from the rubbish Tim spits up in the backyard, and Brad is able to rest easy, knowing everyone will get theirs in the end. But what's that behind him...?

Biker-Vest Skeleton #4!! And it is absolutely not Biker-Vest Skeleton #3, because we can definitely see the blank, cardboard backside of that Biker-Vest Skeleton taped up behind #4.

Oh, so back to the revenging and everyone getting their comeuppance, the kids at the party are led down to the Taylor's basement, where the haunted house has been set up - and we're talking fog machines, black lights, cobwebs, flying-mummies - all the good shit that lazy ol' Mr. Belvedere couldn't be bothered with at his house. Oh, and Al in a toolbox with vampire fangs. That a-hole kid, Danny, invites all of these terrors upon himself upon dropping the now classic (maybe?) line: "I've seen your show - it should be called Fool Time."

And let's not forget Al... oh, Al. You thought you could get away with the Vila tribute-pumpkin?

I don't think so, Al.

October 25th: ALF

Starring the couch as himself.

History has proven that no matter how bad an idea it seems from the outset, there will always be a void in our hearts and minds that can only be filled with felt and googly-eyes. Be it the Muppets, Crank Yankers, or Dinosaurs, the marketplace has continually proven that it can, at any given time, bear the weight of at least one puppet-based program. In the 1980s, that crown was worn by a little slice of stupid I like to call...

ALF

Let us not forget that this story of an Alien Life Form living with a rather boring suburban family and chasing cats was so compelling, so deep a universe, that it had to be supplemented with a Saturday morning cartoon series. ALF was everywhere at one point, a burgeoning Kermit, but way harder to look at.

I mean, I could go on and on about the likes of this and Out Of This World or Small Wonder and how they reflect the yearnings of their times to explore space via that newfangled NASA shuttle, or to know an android that can pass for a human being. I could do that, but I refuse. It's Sunday, let's clench our jaws and hope for the best with these folks, the lesser-Tanner Family.

Space: Los Angeles, CA
Time: October 26th, 1987
Episode: "Some Enchanted Evening" Season 2, Episode 6

A cold open featuring ALF dressed with a fake-nose-and-glasses prop. Kill me now.

As this unfolds, we are reminded of how completely unlikable Willie Tanner is. He's hard to look at, he sneers at anything and everything, and I refuse to believe that young Brian is his true son. And if he is, let this be a lesson to everyone that it doesn't matter how old and noodly a man gets, his old, noodly guys can still swim.

And yet, we are given a clue into his perpetual crankiness while we are offered a glimpse into Willie and Kate's private life:

It's that awful bed! Man, they're all so high-strung because they haven't had a good night's sleep in years - look at that thing, it's like a torture device! I've seen better mattresses in Alcatraz, and the amount of squeaking that tenuous metal frame surely does whenever Kate closes her eyes and thinks of England must sound like the Wheelers are attacking them on behalf of the Nome King. And get a real blanket already!

Anyway, a recent contribution to Willie's neuroses is his worry about not being promoted. He then hatches the stupidest plan to get into good graces with a boss he dislikes by having a Halloween party for his co-workers and not inviting the boss. What? Doesn't matter, because ol' ALF, hellbent on going trick-or-treating, has sworn to help Willie out if he's allowed to go. Willie mostly tells him to go straight to hell before rolling over onto that colonial corn-husk mattress and drifting off into a back-wrenching slumber.

But hey, look at this house - they have really gone all out here, huh? But do you think they have enough punch? I get the feeling Kate was worried about having enough punch.

We must give them credit though, for they've added something new to the pageantry of Halloween decorations, something called: balloons. Oh sure, we've seen inflatable props in other eps, but the balloons are used as a real theme here, garnishing the corners like American flag bunting on Opening Day. Nicely done, Tanner IIs!

Young Brian returns from trick-or-treating with sister Lynn, and rightfully pays tribute to the alien living in his garage.

Things get a little dicey when they start talking tithe percentages, but it appears that most of what was hauled in are mini-Mr. Goodbars, so who cares. Mr. Goodbar: Letting kids down since 1925.

But I'll tell you, for as much as I loathe their patriarch, we are not being let down by the Tanner IIs decorating abilities:

Man, this is a tour de force of decorating, utilizing paper products, jack o' lanterns, balloons, bowls of treats, etc. This is how you do your house for Halloween, people. Do not do as they do, but do decorate as they do.

So, the party's on, and ALF gives Willie a minor heart attack when he shows up wearing a fake zipper and starts mingling with the crowd - a crowd that includes the aforementioned hated boss. What??? Yeah, turns out ALF called everyone, including the boss, and told them to wear costumes and have a great time. Obviously, Willie hates it, but ALF is the life of the party, doing Elvis impersonations and busting chops from the three-point line.

During his shenanigans, we're offered a panoramic view of this show's true star: that couch.

Maybe it's the weird framing that is dictated by tedious puppeteering, or maybe it's an optical illusion stemming from the odd back-segmentation, but this couch is enormous and gets the lion's share of screen time. An awful lot of things go on behind that couch, and I wonder if perhaps another spin-off was in order? Maybe a buddy-cop show called Alf and Couch? I don't know, we'll workshop it 25 years ago.

All of these shenanigans leads to Willie's boss hurting his back while limboing, and it is during this time of great weakness that Willie is able to take the coward's way in and leverage his promotion in exchange for some sensuous puppet-massaging.

As though to prove to the nation that he is not complete slime, Willie reluctantly acknowledges that ALF helped his financial situation tremendously by being more normal than the people he lives with, and so, takes him out trick-or-treating:

We end on a cat joke, and I am left wondering about the resolution of the couch's storyline, which I felt was underdeveloped. Classic ALF.

October 24th: Bewitched

Endora, Endora, Endora!

Humans are weird, compelled by instincts that have been carefully calibrated through years of natural selection, all of which have been thrown into discord with the advent of the Spinning Jenny and the Google searchbar. Our culture has exponentially accelerated in its amorphous way since the Industrial Revolution, leaving these base, lizard-brain compulsions to find their place in this new world.

One such compulsion is the concept of "taking sides," and here is where we begin; for whatever reason, I have always felt like I needed to make a choice between Samantha Stephens and Jeannie. This is primal, this is silly, and this is completely unnecessary, but even as a boy, I knew that the two could not coexist in my heart. And so, I have always been a Bewitched man.

Bewitched

Come on, it's Elizabeth Montgomery rearranging the world around her at will, and being a real class-act about it the entire time! Her family... not so much, but Sam was always the coolest/hottest woman on the block. And let's be real, the "Yes, Master," idiocy of I Dream Of Jeannie is the fucking worst. Like, Night Court bad.

So let's journey back, back, deep into the 1960s (the early seasons somehow posthumously colorized, which was surprising to see, but pleasant enough to look at), when magic was as competitive as it has ever been. My guess is that Sam was totally a Gryffindor.

Space: Patterson, NY
Time: October 28th, 1965
Episode: "Trick Or Treat" Season 2, Episode 7

You know you're in for a good time when Endora shows up early in an episode. Not that we really care, but she becomes upset when Samantha can't go with her to a volcano ceremony because she has to host the Tates and one of their clients for a dinner soiree. Endora hates it, just as she hates the negative portrayal of witches-as-stereotypes, which was a popular theme throughout the show.

Let me share ith you that this is my favorite TV house - if I could pick one to live in, it would be this one. The only thing that could make this home more 1965, is if their bed was sunk into the floor like John Lennon's in the movie Help! The mod furniture, the bizarre collection of art on the walls, the carpet like a smooth putting-green... that is the life for me.

At this point, I feel it only proper to give Darrin some time in the spotlight.

Darrin Stephens: The Very Model of a Modern Major Minor Modern Man

So we all remember Darrin, correct? Let's take a look at him to refresh ourselves:

Yes, there he is, all gamey and filled to the brim with tics... Here's the thing: I know that Darrin Stephens was very much a man of the 1960s - shit, just look at that suit. And he works in advertising? That was a very 1960s profession. And while Bewitched is mostly about the Sam and her posse of magic-slinging gals, let's consider how this affects Darrin, and if we would do anything differently were we in his hair-oils.

If you look at synopses of the massive 36-episode run on Season 1, you'll note that it was very Samantha-heavy, as it ought to be; the trials and tribulations of Bewitched are those of Sam and her attempts at assimilating into the mundane lives of mortals. Cruising down the list of plots to Season 2, suddenly everything is about Darrin and teaching Darrin a lesson or mixing something up and ruining Darrin's life in one magical way or another.

If he's not being turned into a chimpanzee, he's being turned into a pregnant man, or being sent off to find some ingredients for a brew that will save his wife's life, or being messed with by a cackling Paul Lynde. And I ask you: would you marry a lovely witch if it meant Paul Lynde suddenly had access to your living room and could come and go as he pleased? No, you would not, but Darrin did. And he must be in it to the end, because that is a massive sacrifice to make in the name of love.

Look at him here, being a good sport, and doing his part for Halloween '65, with a little help from his friend, 60s-suit.

One of these trick-or-treaters is actually Endora, who has changed herself into a girl, as played by a young Maureen McCormick, better known as the eldest, most condescending Brady-sister:

Because Marcia always gets the best one-off bit-parts - Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! Anyway, Marcia/Endora put a werewolf hex on Darrin for doing his job and abetting the Halloween party supply impresario who will be joining them for dinner.

It takes Samantha about 5 seconds to figure out what's happened, but wouldn't you know it, it's almost time for them to host their dinner party!

And what does Darrin do (not to be confused with What Darin-Do)? He does what all of us would do, and runs upstairs to shave his fingers.

This is a monumental disaster that could derail his entire career, and yet he takes it in stride. Naturally, we all know that shaving-alone is not enough to break a werewolf curse, and before you can say, "Hey, shoot that nervous ad-man in the heart with a silver bullet!" he's full-wolf:

Of course, Halloween party-supply guy loves it, thinking this is all some fun holiday prank, but Darrin is mortified by the entire situation, all sovereignty having been stripped from him by a saucy Agnes Moorehead.

However, there are only so many minutes in a half-hour sitcom (26, in fact), so it's only a matter of time before Samantha gets Endora to turn him back, leaving him to wonder what horrors will be inflicted upon him in days to come. He is found, like all modern men are, in a dark linen closet, sweaty and chewing on fabrics.

Here's to you, Darrin! Maybe you were a dick sometimes, but I think we can all agree that between this and the Paul Lynde-thing, you did not deserve such a fate. At least he has that awesome house and that awesome Elizabeth Montgomery to go home to and comfort him after a long day of being manipulated by forces beyond his comprehension. We raise our martini glasses to them all in tribute.

October 23rd: Family Matters

Brought to you by Big Peanut Brittle.

Hey, we all know...

Family Matters

We know it, we love it, we bought the "Do The Urkel" cassingle, we worry about what happened to their youngest daughter. In the annals of Miller-Boyett Productions, the Winslow Family reigns right up there with the Tanner Cult, taking their mantle of feel-goodery and carrying it ever-onward into a new age of Urkel-based multiple-personalities and busting on a dimwitted young man named Waldo Geraldo Faldo.

Yeah, the show got really weird towards the end, moving from a pleasant family-thing into a visiting-neighbor-all-the-time-thing, and well... here we are, still wondering what happened. But in the beginning there was near-normalcy, and despite their future Halloween eps, it is in the beginning that we shall indulge.

Space: Chicago, IL
Time: October 26th, 1990
Episode: "Dog Day Halloween" Season 2, Episode 7

As we knock on the front door of the Winslow Family's abode, we are confronted with Eddie completely pulling off his Frankenstein-look:

He and his jackass buddy, Don King, are headed out for trick-or-treat, but (would you believe it?) it appears the lads are more interested in the tricks, as they are busted with several eggs and rolls of toilet paper. And soap, which is a prank I've never understood, as it seems almost helpful - it's almost like mowing somebody's lawn and thinking, 'That'll show em...'

Anyway, you can't pull a fast one on Carl and Harriet, especially when they, like so many families (and their matters) of the era, are so on top of what the barometric pressure is like outside.

This whole time, we've just been waiting for the party arrive, and arrive he does: Steve Urkel. This popular American icon shows up and does not disappoint, laughing and snorting and punning his way through the scene, even busting out the ol' peanut brittle springy-snake routine:

Yes, Officer Winslow, the ever-alert watchman of peace throughout Cook County, falls for the dumbest trick in the book. As though anyone is after peanut brittle ever, let alone Halloween. Wake up, Carl! Laura's loving it though, isn't she?

Needless to say, as the evening winds its way along, Laura, dressed as Tina Turner, and Steve, dressed like - well, this:

...end up at a bank together for some reason. I know Steve has to cash his paycheck, just as I know Steve has to dance (Steve Urkel dancing in the early-90s was as sure-fire a thing as Fonzie going 'Heyyyy'), and he does both with his paycheck-dance, but I don't recall why Laura was there with this person she so utterly loathed.

But before we're able to linger on this oddity (Laura, just say you don't want to see him!), we have a trope we need to exhaust; yes, according to the laws of sit-coms, if a bank is introduced in the first act, it must be held hostage in the second. Matters (as I'm taking to calling it) does not disappoint, and within seconds, an Abe Lincoln enters and holds everyone at gunpoint.

Hilarity ensues as Steve is chosen as the robber's familiar, and he is tasked with getting the cash behind the counter into the bag. Urkel being Urkel, he fucks this up big time.

Let us now pay tribute to young Jaleel White, the Shia LeBeouf of his day, and a performer who was almost freakish in the accuracy of his timing and physical comedy beats. He was very, very good at being Steve Urkel, if only because he was so weird. This weirdness can sometimes be off-putting, but in this case it becomes compelling, and you just can't take your eyes off it. So, cheers to you, Jaleel - your rubbery, crotch-centric dancing will live on forever in the syndication of our hearts.

Meanwhile, back at the homestead, a snapshot of life in 1990:

Yes, that's elusive daughter, Judy, dressed as Janet Jackson during her tour of duty as Vice Admiral of the Rhythm Nation, and lil Ritchie as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Wow, did they ever nail 1990. Ritchie dishes out a 'cowabunga" and we lap it up like cats at a milk saucer, pleased that the 1980s have finally drawn to a close, and eager to start this new decade of pizza, ninjas, and skateboards.

Anyway, would you believe that Carl is the cop who gets to save the day back at the bank-situation? With the peanut brittle snakes no less? It's true! Why, this episode would hardly be the classic it is if some random officer showed up instead - that's just good writing! Just look at this man's face as he takes down the bad guy like a boss:

You go, Carl! And you go too, Steve - back to your house and out of Laura's life. And you too, Judy Janet Jackson - you go to your room in the fourth season and don't come out until, well, ever!

October 22nd: Will & Grace

The birth of Shu-Shu Fontana.

Another beloved institution, this is the story of a guy and a gal living together in the lap of some serious luxury. They both like men and they have some over-the-top friends who kind of make up for how unlikeable the title characters are as people. I'm of course talking about...

Will & Grace

It is strange to think that the man who once defined the directing of Cheers would go on to craft this puppy, but Jim Burrows will do as Jim Burrows will do - he did give us some classic Frasier eps, so he has carte blanche.

Having lived through this era of the late-90s, this is a little cringe-worthy to see. Here we see more and bottles of olive oil and wine appearing as set-fixtures, more and more $300 Chinese silk throw pillows piled-up, more and more charming nooks with leathered furniture that are worth more than my life, and lamped-up to within an inch of their own. This is not an apartment, it is a catalog of excess. To paraphrase a question I asked back in Belvedere, how many lamps does one space need!?

Let's find out.

Space: New York, NY
Time: October 26th, 1998
Episode: "Boo! Humbug" Season 1, Episode 5

Back in New York again, we look past Will and Grace to see that they have so much money! We can ignore the fact that they come off as wry grouches at all times because the candy-grab must be amazing here, so let's-

SLAM.

Oh, that's right, Will and Grace don't "do" Halloween. That's right, they are Halloween Scrooges, too busy with their curries and their Swedish films about the bleakness of all things to indulge such fantasies. As opposed to these guys:

These Jack and Karen kids are completely indulging their fantasies, and are headed downtown to the Village Halloween parade, where they shall be worshiped like Halloween stars. And good for them! That sounds so much better than what their friends have planned. Or, should I say, had planned?

That's right, their boring night-in is interrupted by Will's mega-client, Harlin Polk, and his two mute children, Nixon and Buzzy-Bee. It turns out he needs to seal a very serious business deal and felt like it would be totally normal to drop by, unannounced, to leave his heirs with these joykills.

And I swear to you, it is like pulling teeth to get Will and Grace to take these kids out trick-or-treating - Grace finally relents with a sigh that is typically reserved for agreeing to let your mother-in-law move in with you. IT'S JUST TRICK-OR-TREATING, CHILL OUT.

Fortunately for us, these two kids really give 'em hell throughout, throwing things, vomiting, ruining possible romantic opportunities - it is such a relief to see the wind taken out of their keepers' sails.

Thank goodness Karen and Jack are living it up downtown on their behalf, hanging with the queens and drinking beers from paper bags - now that is how you do a Halloween!

And as we wind down to an exhausting finale where everyone had plainly run out of ideas as to how to resolve any of Will and Grace's trials, we are confronted with some serious scene-padding in the form of silly-string.

I seriously doubt that interior designer Grace would have been as happy about that shit all over her pristine apartment in real life, but the point is that these two morose misers have allowed the blocks of ice around their hearts to melt, and have finally opened their hearts to the miracle that is Halloween. By which I mean, they would never commit to a full Halloween episode like this again.

Ah well, as Abraham Lincoln was once misquoted as saying, you can't win 'em all, but you can cast Gary Grubbs in a recurring role to save your bacon when the premise gets lean.

October 21st: Night Court

Is this any way to run a courtroom? You bet it isn't!

I was going to start this installment by disarming you with a confession to be made, which is the fact that I don't remember anything about...

Night Court However, the word "confession" implies that I have been hiding some sort of secret shame about having no memories of this situation nor its inherent comedy, but this is patent-leatherly untrue. I don't care that I know nothing of Night Court , and likewise, I don't care who knows it.

At this point, Night Court 's sitcom footprint is that one episode of 30 Rock where they reunite the cast, and even that episode sees me confusing it with the episode of Arrested Development featuring Judge Reinhold, playing himself, playing an actual judge on a pilot for a show called Mock Trial with J. Reinhold . Everyone say it with me now: "My name is Judge!" Heh heh... goddamn, 30 Rock and Arrested Development were funny shows, weren't they?

Sorry, what were we talking about? Oh, that's right - fucking Night Court .

Night Court , as far as I can tell, does not star Judge Reinhold, but rather Harry Anderson, who would later gain notoriety (or not, let's get real) playing a fictionalized version of syndicated newspaper columnist, Dave Barry, on Dave's World , which was another sit-com of several seasons that no one has any concrete memories of. Clearly, Harry Anderson is the forget-me-now agent responsible for the vast cultural amnesia that blankets the bridging of the 1980s and 90s.

Now that we've determined what Night Court is not, let us focus on what it actually is: I have no idea what Night Court is.

I feel like I've heard of a "night court" in some reality-based context, but I'm uncertain if this has always been a thing (what I imagine to be small-claims cases so useless that they are filed through in off-peak trial hours), or if this is a case of life imitating art, and it wasn't a thing to be referenced until Night Court hit the airwaves. Again, who really cares.

I will now answer my own snide, rhetorical question with the words "apparently someone," because this thing lasted 9 seasons. 9 seasons!? Seriously?

Yes, that is almost 200 episodes, and that is a fact about Night Court that we know to be true. We can also say that they loved doing a good (hopefully) Halloween episode, because our Wiki-list says they did five (???) of them (#9seasonsand5halloweeneps). Again, this is absolutely something we do know about Night Court .

How it plays into our trick-or-treating theme is unclear, but sometimes it's worth the extra walking required to get into town and hit up local businesses and/or branches of government. Kids love coupons for 5% off on a second ice cream cone following the full-price purchase of a first, just as they love nocturnal parking ticket rulings, or whatever it is that goes on with this premise. Will this be worth our time? The night jury is still out on that, so with no further ado, I give you Night Court . I guess.

Space: New York, NY

Time: October 31st, 1985

Episode: "Halloween, Too" Season 3, Episode 5

Sooo... turns out there's a reason Night Court is not often spoken of, and that is because this show is awful, 5 Halloween episodes?? Oh, we are so not sitting through those, one is more than enough, thank you.

With reluctance, I offer you a synopsis. First, Bull is an idiot.

I mean, I know that's the point, but this 'Bull-carves-a-pumpkin' thing is so stupid. Would you believe the studio audience loved it, though?

If there's one thing that Night Court can bring to the table, it's a gallery of 80s "stars."

John Larroquette! Mary-Margaret Humes! And Mama Fratelli herself, Anne Ramsey, oh my!

I know, I can already hear you asking why Marshall Teller/Dawson Creek's mom is there at all, but apparently this was a very good time for MMH. She plays a woman with zero common sense, as evidenced by her falling in love with Harry, the wacky Judge of the aforementioned night court. Yes, in the long tradition of naming characters after the actors who portray them (looking at you, Danza), Harry=Harry.

Dear gods, I hate Harry Anderson. I had no opinion of him before, and now I have too many opinions, most of them revolving around his lousy jokes and bad ties. Indeed, this entire show is a museum piece, one offering a glimpse into a world before political correctness. The result is sheer horror, with entendres crashing into each other, one after the other, stacking themselves into great heaps of offensive debris, and we realize that none of these people would be able to keep their jobs in the modern world. There'd just be too many lawsuits, and they already spend all of their time in night court anyway.

Everyone is terrible with the exception of Markie Post, who basically serves as a target for everyone to shit on. This poor woman thought she was liberated, but has come to find that the world is still run by greasy Larroquettes wearing greasy 3-piece suits, and greasy Andersons dressed as greasy judges, groping everything in the room with their eyes, if not their hands, or tearing them down to satisfy their own insecurities. And I hate it.

But I'll tell you what I do like... and it's this green leather couch!

I will take five of those, thank you kindly.

Anyway, Dawson's mom is a witch, Harry thinks it's weird and they end up splitting. This leads us to an oddly morose costume party featuring Harry dressed as Mel Torme, forever besmirching the Velvet Smog's good name.

And by the end of this trainwreck, we leave feeling exactly as Charles Robinson (playing 'Mac Robinson,' offering a twist on the matching-names thing) looks here: disappointed and ashamed.

I watched some of the other episodes, and they never get better. I'm now left wondering if perhaps Night Court belongs to another age? Like, had this come out in 19 65 , maybe they would've gotten away with the misogyny and the bad puns and the broad prop-comedy, since that was more in keeping with society's vibe at that point? Perhaps it would've been revered as a scathing screwball classic, like The Dick Van Dyke Show or something.

But then I remember it didn't come out in the 60s, and that they were simply brushing aside 20 years of very, very gradual progress, all just to put up 9 seasons ( 9 seasons!! ) of their shitty program. So, fuck you, Night Court , I find you guilty!

October 20th: Blossom

Opinionations no one asked for.

No show held more sway over young women like Blossom. A look back through family photos of this era finds every girl of the time dressing like a Blossom stand-in, as though hoping against hope that they will be harvested from obscurity to be the floppy hat-wearer against whom various light-readings will be taken and mic movements rehearsed.

This is why I always wear a Miguel Cabrera shirt to baseball games - someone just might mistake me for him, and then, upon discovering it's only me, will still like the cut of my jib and sign me up to do some damage on the basepaths. By which I mean, losing every baseball game as quickly as possible. Anyway, it's...

Blossom

We know many things about Blossom Russo and her show - the historical record is relatively intact regarding this tale of a hat-wearing teen girl and her wacky family and friend. The most important thing to remember about Blossom is hats. Put one on, make it funky, and have the time of your life. The second most important thing to remember is to have a whimsically-nonsensical name, like "Mayim," or "Von Oy" (mit umlauts, por favor). Again, make it funky. The third most important thing is dancing - if your hat and name are appropriately funky, so too shall be your dance moves. The fourth and final most important thing to remember is whoa. You know as in, "Whoa!"

And that's about it - consider yourself a Blossom-master.

Space: Los Angeles, CA
Time: October 26th, 1992
Episode: "All Hallows Eve" Season 3, Episode 9

We open to find the season in full swing, thank goodness. Blossom's dad, Nick Russo, is doing as many families of the era (read: the Seavers), and decorating with live pumpkins. However, rather than creating spatial boundaries using vertical pumpkin-planing, he's gone full squirrel-in-autumn, gathering up as many pumpkins as he can fit in his hair, and then hoarding them in the hollow of his tree (read: the kitchen counter).

Yes, families luxuriating in the festive spirit, as families will do. Watch as they gather 'round the fridge for some good old fashioned - whoa! Yes, what you're about to see is correct - this is idiot-brother Joey totally facing Blossom! 90s-style!

Ooooh, that's cold, Joey. And she's the star of the show, so you just know the issues between them must be near-irreparable! And they are: turns out that Blossom may or may not have betrayed Joey's plan to go to some sleazy party dressed as a sleazy athlete - a sleazy good time all around.

Meanwhile, fuck-up brother Tony has a scheme he's trying to work with his old man, and Buzz, his old man's old man, in which they dress up like Wilson Phillips to win a fabulous $5,000 cash prize. First of all, Nick and Buzz can barely fucking believe it. Second of all, our buddy, Biker-Vest Skeleton is back, hooray!

Needless to say, they definitely spend the rest of the episode driving the cross-dressing gaggery into the ground, and that's about it. Just a lot of mileage out of Wilson Phillips jokes. Back at the house, however, Blossom and Six ready themselves to reluctantly woman the door for the trick-or-treaters.

Please note the extra love with which the Russo's have decked their halls. They've decided to work with a medium we've yet to see fully unleashed in our travels: cobwebs. Yes, what better way to haunt your house, than to coat it with a thick layer of fake spider-webbings. You'd be disgusted to the point of vomiting in real life, but you're delighted like a child on this magical evening. And speaking of seeing the world through the mind of a child...

There's this guy, grounded and plotting to sneak from his room to go to that sleazy party. They've managed to cram everything boys like into this representation of Joey's room: baseball, stereos, classic cars, globe-cartography, and plaid wall paper. This could be a quintessential snapshot of Americana, a'la Norman Rockwell, had Joey not so fully-committed to his 'look." Um, Joey? There's that rule about accessorizing and taking off one thing before you leave the house... you might want to consider it. Meantime, downstairs finds that gals abandoning their door-minding duties in order to watch Channel's very popular Horror Movie Marathon:

They find themselves frightened into practicality, wisely locking windows and slamming doors in the face of one Mr. Joey Matthew's-Brother Lawrence in amusing fashion. Ah, but it never gets old, watching some poor bastard fall off the side of the house over and over again. This eventually leads us to a one-man performance, in which Joey duologues with himself about his situation. You know, like a crazy person.

I never watched this show enough to know... is this standard-issue with Joey Russo? Was he always having full-length conversations, out loud, when forced with a major life-roadblock, or is this simply resultant of severe head trauma?

Regardless, he (they) decide to use the back door into the kitchen, leading to this scene, directly coded from the Italian Masters' school of posed-pageantry. We shall call it: The Unmasking Of Joey Russo:

Whoops! Sorry, Joey! Everyone is busted as Dad and the Gals finally make it home after a long night of trolling the local biker bar - surely the punishment for sneaking out and not manning the trick-or-treating door must be severe, correct? Or is it?

No, the answer is it is not. And Lady Nick brokers a fragile-but-Dad-approved peace, proclaiming amnesty in this touching Halloween scene:

It's just that simple, kids. Wear a hat and lie through your teeth for everyone, and your family may also remain intact.

October 19th: The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air

In which Uncle Phil purchases an alarm for his pencils.

So, of all the places we've been visiting on our journey through time and space and nougat, we've yet to really hit the jackpot with our treats. I know, I know, we've done okay for ourselves - sure, Belvedere was handing out Mars bars, as his countrymen would do, and Obie was trying to get those goodie bags into circulation, though they were made up of variouis health foods (as come people of the early-90s would do), and sure, even the Clampetts have come away from things with waxy pumpkin-faces filled with what I assume must be sticky, candy from a stickier, less-refined era. But we haven't really hit the house, the one where you just know you're getting king-sized Zagnuts, or some such monstrosity - a candy bar to feast on and exploit like the Sioux would've done with the bison.

We haven't hit that place... until right now.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Again, explaining what this show is "about" is completely beside the point, as this show is as omnipresent as air - think The Beverly Hillbillies with less oil and more dancing, and you've pretty much got it. No, the real point is that we've finally struck gold with our trick-or-treating needs, and we have the tools with which to evaluate such a haven, as will be outlined in the words to come.

Space: Bel-Air, CA
Time: October 29th, 1990
Episode: "Someday Your Prince Will Be In Effect (Parts 1 and 2)" Season 1, Episodes 8 & 9

Granted, we're in Bel-Air, which is some pretty rare-air to begin with - there's a very good chance we're going to come away from this neighborhood with a gilded Snickers or a crumpled handful of Elon Musk's business cards. But how do you know you've struck paydirt? Or Paydays, rather?

1.) What's your couch like?

Considering the time period we're tromping through, a great rule of thumb is "the lighter-in-color your couch is, the more wealth you possess." Now, as this is a clip-show (Really, Fresh Prince? A clip show after seven episodes?) from the first season, we are pre-Banks' living room rehab (aka P.B.L.R.R.), meaning the couches aren't too light, but they are covered with innumerable flower patterns and golden fringe fit for Versailles. Embroidery = wealth, you can expect no less than a half-pound of chocolate.

2.) How are your walls?

If your walls are embossed with several layers of molding, so that it seems your home was constructed with an extra-Escheresque lack of dimensional ending, then you probably have crates of full-sized tropical Skittles to rain down on the serfs of your choosing; no end to your paneling-spiral, no end to your wallet.

3.) Are you wearing a sweater?

If you are, then you are already one step towards living on the right side of the tracks - just by virtue of your ability to wear two shirts at once and not worry about your wardrobe being drastically depleted - or by your ability to not wear it, and drape it over your shoulders instead!

4.) What's your sweater look like?

You know what it looks like - it's got autumn leaves all over it!

5.) How do you decorate?

Look at how proud Geoffrey is of his handiwork, as well he should be; this guy's been hitting the autumn harvest look with extra-aggression! Ooh, and there's that posh couch again... no decorations required there.

One need look only as far as Uncle Phil and how overwhelmed he is by the amount of dead-harvest that has filled his beautiful home to know that this is a house worth visiting. Autumn Harvest = King Size Reese's:

The party is on! I mean, after an extraordinarily long prologue, in which the family goes to the mall (on location, no less!) to buy costumes and get dates. As you do. But finally, after an episode-and-a-half, the party is blowing up, and Geoffrey couldn't be more pleased:

For he knows that if a guy shows up dressed like a bunch of grapes, this will be a party to long-remember. He's grapes - that's crazy!

Carlton somehow manages to get himself a fancy lady for his date, and while it's inexplicable, it's not nearly as unbelievable as the outfit Will shows up in. Everyone reacts to the look as they should:

At this point, he is one green face-paint away from being Jim Carrey as The Mask. I keep waiting for his tongue to roll out of his head like a staircase, replete with "ah-ooh-ga" sound effects.

Will's date - the girl who works at the mall and has glasses and a hairnet, and therefore no apparent value in the dating world - eventually shows up and is given a regal introduction:

Oh, she might look like a swan now, but no matter how hard she wants your attention, Geoffrey's Autumn Harvest look wins the evening - please note that despite being partially-obscured, those dried corn stalks are still larger in-frame than her - with ballgown! Needless to say, hardly anyone at this classy soiree can fucking believe it:

Oh, and Carlton's date? Yeah, turns out she's a thief, kind of like a sexier version of the old lady shoplifter in that one ep of The Andy Griffith Show ("...An' old ladies ought never to clink."), but with a little Carlton-betrayal on the side. That's cold, girl, but I get it. He just oozes 'weak one of the herd.'

Needless to say, no one can fucking believe it:

I get it, sit-com writers - no Halloween is complete without a visit from the local constabulary ringing-up a character for something stupid while dressed in something equally ridiculous. Which does make it a wonder they didn't get Carlton for trying to be taken seriously in that autumn leaves sweater - now that is criminal.