October 17th: Girl Meets World

The horrors of helicopter parents.

Hey, why not follow up a day of Boy Meets World revelry by checking in with its belated spin-off progeny...

Girl Meets World

This is probably the most recent Halloween episode we'll be watching this year, so allow me to describe the feel of this budding nostalgia-vulture.

I've watched a few episodes, and I'll be honest with you... it's kind of a strange experience. Picture all of the BMW constructs you've come to know and tolerate - the best friends, the love interest, the class oddball, the snarky, knowing parents - and then wrap them in a blanket of moist, yellow fever. The faces are the same, and yet slightly... different? Shawn Hunter is still Shawn Hunter, except he is a she, and she is a blonde named Maya. Former-Torkelsons cast-off, Minkus, has emerged from his chrysalis of time, having transformed into a stunning Farkle - the hallmarks of his role remain, yet his elfin features have been toned down in favor of floppier bangs.

This show emits the feeling that any of these characters could wake up at any moment and realize that it was all just a dream. Is there a chance that the final episode sees William Russ emerge from his coma, finally unfettered from this delusional projection of hope for his family? Will he turn to a shocked Betsy Randle and tell her about this strange dream of one of his idiot sons somehow stumbling into a healthy family-life that enables and even encourages his predisposition to talky, self-involved monologues about life and how to live it, so long as you're living it within the rigid structure of his morality?

And if Betsy Randle ends up being the Suzanne Pleshette of this world being met by so many of her genetic inheritors, where does that leave the incomparable Ms. Pleshette? Does she likewise become Betsy Randle, and if so, does this change the tenor of this show from that of Child Manipulating World, to one wherein the family-Matthews continues to collectively mourn the loss of their matriarch, their own Pam Tanner? Will the memory of Ms. Pleshette be paid tribute to with a somber pre-closing credits title card that acknowledges her loss and projects a promise by the cast and crew to never forget her!? I really have no idea, but it certainly bears looking out for in seasons to come.

John Adams High is exactly how you remember it, except it's actually John Quincy Adams Middle School, and this lauded Philadelphian institution (named after one of Pennsylvania's almost-neighbor's finest citizens) is now located in New York for reasons to be determined. The setting you've grown so used to has survived, yet the traditional 3-4 camera set-up has not; two-shots next to lockers are borderline-claustrophobic as the producers cast the fate of their fourth wall to the winds, offering us a too-close examination of our protagonists and the world they are supposed to be introducing themselves to. It puts one in mind of the episode of Frasier Jim Burrows shot entirely from the point-of-view of the fireplace.

Even those who are actually the same - same actors, same characters - even they are slightly-off in this dreamlike scenario. Cory grapples with his latent control-issues by helicoptering over the aforementioned Girl, Riley, teaching her classes and inexplicably imploring her to take the world and make it hers. His once off-putting teenaged face is now adult and equally off-putting, as he frowns it into a veil of earnestness.

Meanwhile, Topanga stands in the doorway, shaking her head, and thankful that her daughter was actually the product of an office-affair with some hunky sales rep. from another branch, who will only be revealed to us in later seasons, when Riley needs a runaway plot-line that can arc over several episodes (my guess: Jonathan Turner). Naturally, with this affection towards her brilliant, bastard of a daughter, she can't help but rue her decision to stay married to the dope they call Cory, forever starring in his own episode of Man Repels World. Her despair may be buried deep within her heart-chakra, but all the dreamcatchers in all the world cannot stop its tendrils from choking the joy out of her spirit, at which point things can only end one way: Woman Meets the East River.

From there, universes collide with the fury of paradoxical television casting-couches splintering into endless zero-gravity shards, for Danielle Fishel will have finally fulfilled the prophecy of becoming the Suzanne Pleshette-infused Betsy Randle that millenials will turn to upon waking forever-after .

I look forward to many more seasons of callbacks, guest cameos, and unvarnished grief!

Space: New York, NY
Time: October 2nd, 2014
Episode: "Girl Meets World Of Terror" Season 1, Episode 11

Well, I'm afraid it's time for me, your time-traveling pilot, to face at least one fact while we are on this journey together: Disney's Girl Meets World might not be aimed at 34-year-old men. It's just a hunch, but I have to say, I did not find much to relate to here, and rather than blame the show, I'll just blame myself, and we can carry on looking at costumes and lanterns.

Okay, so Riley's brother, Auggie, is the host of this ep, and it's done in anthology style, probably to not linger on any one idea for too long. We get some quality production design during his narration segments, as we bloody-well should; Disney owns Marvel, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Disney - I think they can afford the child-sized casket.

We're taken to a story about Farkle, in which he is fearful, as evidenced by this:

Perhaps he's reluctant to be pulled into Cory Matthews' world, as well he should be, or maybe he's just not ready to be a part of Riley's steampunk gang...

...though, again, he should be.

Here we find Auggie shouting-out the master (as well he should), and I wonder who the audience for that visual gag is, though I suppose Alfred Hitchcock Presents is on Netflix, some maybe there's some hope for the future yet? Eh, probably not - especially when Riley can't even make it through a sleepover because she's haunted by bizarre grandmothers and clever shadow puppets:

And no girls' slumber party would be complete without the boys popping in to scare them with their rubber crone mas-, um, rubber werewolf demon(?) masks.

Hey, it's their first season, the cast is young and has not yet whittled itself down to its core elements, so cross your fingers that Cory has to move to Pittsburgh for some reason. Perhaps to live with a Monkee. Or Lenny Kosnowski rather.

October 16th: Boy Meets World

"You tortured a fellow named Yogi Tyler?"

I'm not going to dwell on this show for too long here, in the preamble. We all know this show, and I sort of made my bones tearing apart the inanity of control-issue Cory (I refer you to my 2002 general computer skills 101 newsletter project, featuring the seminal essay Boy Manipulates World. Because the older I get, the further I entrench myself in the same bullshit. It's like comfort-food - just the same ol' comfort-bullshit). Yep, it's...

Boy Meets World

Let's just start by saying that the nosedive this show eventually took was not a Ben Savage issue - he's a Savage, he's a professional, and he sinks his teeth into the scraps he's given just like any good Savage would do. Nor is this a writing issue, because this was a fun little show until they tried to give the characters depth. No, this is a Cory Matthews issue, and thankfully it does not come into play in these two eps we're going to be chewing on, for reasons that will be revealed soon enough. Mystery-enough for you? Doesn't matter, we're going there anyway.

Space: Philadelphia, PA
Time: October 28th, 1994
Episode: "Who's Afraid Of Cory Wolf?" Season 2, Episode 6

We begin with Cory locked away in his room on Halloween night, being incredibly dramatic, as Cory is wont to be. Fortunately, his best friend, Shawn Hunter, shows up, dressed in a carbon-copy Cory costume:

This is not unlike the Angela/Danielle Chase outfit of My So-Called Life, and is further proof that dressing up like and impersonating somebody you know will never not be funny. And Shawn really nails it:

"Wow, Shawn - I wish I was as cool as you!"

HA!

Oh, I'm sorry - you wanted plot? Goddamn it all: Through flashback we find out that the episode was instigated by neighboring fuddy-duddy, Mr. Feeny, as played by the very fine actor, William Daniels. Daniels reluctantly delivers our premise, his jaw clenched like a tightened C-clamp, uttering some nonsense about a wolf loose in the Philly suburbs. Cory absorbs this and immediately gets himself bitten by something in the bushes. Naturally, he is concerned. Unnaturally, he assumes it was the wolf.

He takes his assumption to the highest authority in his shared-bedroom, big brother Eric.

Eric Matthews Sanity Watch '94

At this point, Eric is still relatively healthy and sane, his mental stability not yet shaken to its core the way it would be, deep into the series. It was those dark times that saw him wandering in and out of scenes, saying random things in a very random way, derailing whatever whining older-Cory was doing at that moment, and generally serving as a batshit-crazy catalyst that would spice up the, by then, heavy proceedings.

Certainly, he's sane enough to fuck with his lil bro, weaving him some story about teenage werewolves. Cory being Cory, he falls for it as soon as the words leave his brother's mouth, leading him to find further information on his curse. This quest takes him to Frank's House of Yogurt (and Some Occult), where strange things are afoot.

"There are things, and there are things."

So says the yogurt-slinging Lugosi in the lustrous sliced-oranges shirt, before leading our hero from the tastefully-festooned dining area into the back room. What terrors will be found there, we wonder?

Phyllis Diller!? Aw shit, the horror. Run for it, Cory! Don't let her get into her Fang material!

It's all your run-of-the-mill charlatan fortune-telling, confirming Cory's suspicions, and making him act even weirder than usual. From there, we get some more of Cory freaking out, seeking help from a sensible Mr. Turner (whose advice is quickly dismissed as being too reasonable), warding off the girl who inexplicably likes him, and howling in the halls.

Just as he howls at home:

The writers have mined a lot of 'bad-dog' humor here, and while I'm more of a cat-person, I do recognize that many people in the world are into dogs, so... whatever.

Hey! Look who it is:

That's right, it's Cory's kid-sister, Morgan - you know, the one who was eventually written off of, and then back on the show (with a recasting, mind you). Morgan's shown up to play ball, sporting a very thorough devil get-up, despite being benched for most of the episode. But thank you for trying, Morgan - we appreciate the effort.

As opposed to Cory, who has now alarmed everyone to the point where his dad rolls his eyes and realizes he needs to engage in a heart-to-heart with his spawn.

Look, any puberty-talk is going to feel weird and sticky, so let's ignore the characters and instead focus on the subtlety with which the Matthews family has decorated their house - please note the jack o' lantern (naturally), the folk-artsy witch on the landing of the stairs, and that odd Halloween wreath hanging from the bookcase? That's kind of a weird thing to prioritize when you're going for a tasteful, mid-to-late-90s crafty-Halloween feel, right?

Anyway, puberty-talk accomplished, all that remains is finding out what bit Cory in the first place, meaning the episode ends with that classic chestnut: It was all just a rabbit.

Cory, you are such a ninnyhammer.

But wait! This show can offer us so much more.

Space: Philadelphia, PA
Time: October 31st, 1997
Episode: "The Witches of Pennbrook" Season 5, Episode 5

And so, here we are, a few years into the run of the show, during which time Cory has started becoming really annoying - to a point where we must wonder what Topanga's deal is, because surely she could do better? The point is moot, as these two anchors (Topanga is an anchor-by-association) don't even show up until six-and-a-half minutes into the ep, which is brilliant. Your show kind of a drag? Well, marginalize your lead and focus on the more entertaining supporting cast, sure! The less Boy in Boy Meets World, the better.

But what have we been doing up until Cory and Topanga's arrival and subsequent fast-forwarding? We've been spending time with Eric and... Candace Cameron Bure?

DJ? Is that really you? It really is, and it's refreshing to see this cross-pollination between television institutions. Just as it's refreshing to watch her do a startlingly-accurate Stevie Nicks impersonation with those scarves.

So, she plays "Millie," a new gal in the building that Eric lives in with Shawn and his older brother, Jack, as played by Joey's-Brother Lawrence. Millie starts laying it on pretty thick with Jack, causing Eric to bristle at losing his best friend. Shawn's cool with it though, especially after it's revealed that Millie comes with her own sexy coven.

Oh, did I not mention they're all witches? Yeah, that's the deal, they're witches. Otherwise this screengrab only exists because I like the shirt Shawn's wearing.

I just checked ebay and it's not there, but keep your eyes peeled for it, huh? Thanks.

Later that evening, we check in on Mr. Feeny, who's busy stretching out the stodginess within by giving the trick-or-treaters a pretty hard time. Just look at him, getting off on being withholding:

Classic Feeny. As the kids leave, disgusted by the thesauri he's handed out to them, Eric swings by for some advice. He's suspicious about this Millie-character, her sudden appearance, her infatuation with their apartment balcony, her speaking in multiple personalities - you know, the usual things we deal with when coming of age. Feeny offers his sage wisdom of Eric pulling his head out of his ass, hands him a thesaurus, and sends him on his way. Mentoring, consider yourself done!

Isn't this great, ignoring Cory's B-story? Who needs that guy! Oh, it's a pleasure scanning past him as we head back to the apartment where the likable characters (seriously, this show should've just been called Older Brother And Best Friend Of Boy Meet World) are partying with the coven. Jack and Shawn are gobsmacked to realize that all of the black demon hoods (leftovers from the Happy Guys of Pittsburgh from Belvedere?) and talk of demigod worship is not simply a lark, but rather the real deal. It turns out that they'll just have to be sacrificed if this coven wants to get its demon-worship off the ground.

And Jack and Shawn can't fucking believe it!

There's no need for them to panic though, for Eric has been lurking in their midst the entire time and is carrying some ammo with him:

Eric Matthews Sanity Watch '97

At this point Eric is still relatively sane. But he's definitely a dumb-dumb.

Needless to say, evil is thwarted, the coven pisses off, along with DJ Tanner, and this show grinds on for another two-and-a-half seasons. But not before we get one more slice of show cross-pollination...

Clarissa? I mean, um, Sabrina!? Is it really you?? It really is, and with Sabrina's clever appearance on an episode about witches, we could only hope that this would lead to a mash-up of the two shows melding into one big mess of teen-programming. Alas, it never came to be, and the world is all the worse for it.

The ep then concludes with that classic chestnut: It was all just Shawn being turned into a hideous frog-puppet.

What the hell? Boy Meets World, you are so weird.

October 15th: Living Single

Tight, like glue.

Okay, so this seems like an extraordinarily 90s show from the 1990s. I say "seems like" because I have never seen it. That said, it stars Queen Latifah, who is and has always been a legend - I mean, "U.N.I.T.Y."? Get the hell out of here, that song is strong. So, since we know next to nothing about this program, let us use our interpretive skills, combined with the power of some incredibly-light internet browsing, to figure out who these people are and what they're doing for Halloween.

And while I can't tell you much about the show at this point, I can tell you that, ooh, in a 90s kind of world, I'm glad I got my girls. Especially since they're...

Living Single

Premise-wise, we're looking at a Friends scenario, with six attractive singles in their late-20/early-30s, living in close proximity, and probably looking to lay one another. Hey, when in Central Perk, right? Riiight... Let us hope this New York residence is kinder to us than the one in Kate & Allie.

Space: Brooklyn, NY
Time: October 27th, 1994
Episode: "Trick Or Trust" Season 2, Episode 8

We begin with a cold open of Halloween-lovers doing as Halloween-lovers do - scooping pumpkins, baking seeds, and fixing the dumbwaiter. I give tremendous credit here to resident goofball, Obie, who is not quite a Gomer, but definitely the Xander of the group. Witness the depths of his prankery:

He has committed to an ideal set-up, and he's invested in a prop I've never seen before, that being the bloody-stump cap. How long did Obie spend thinking about this moment? It must've been at least a 24 hour lead-time - time enough to concoct such a scheme, purchase the bloody-stump cap, put it in his toolbox, and then wait for the perfect moment, when the whole cast would be there. Sure, maybe he needs a hobby. Or maybe - just maybe - this is his hobby.

Anyway, this is expanded into your B-story, as Obie enlists his girlfriend and future-wife, Synclaire, sister of Latifah's Khadijah, who's dating a fellow named Scooter, to help him successfully prank Max, the forever-grumpy, forever-present non-roommate roommate. Two things: 1.) No fewer than half of the Living Single roommates are currently not living single. This becomes even stickier if you include Max and Kyle's love/hate back-and-forth - they might be technically living as singles, but they've secretly reserved their hearts for each other without even realizing it. 2.) Max is so not impressed by anything, which is a shame, because she's constantly hanging out with some very fun people who do a bang-up job with their decorating.

Right off the bat, we see the ever-present paper products, but we're also seeing some mid-90s "goodie-bags" as I believe they were (are?) known. Yes, plan your trick-or-treating route carefully, and you too can maximize your candy haul by front-loading your itinerary with goodie-bag houses, thereby getting "more bag for your knock."

Elsewhere, resident magazine writer Khadijah has decided to ignore her perpetual deadline and join her beau, Scooter, at Halogen Records' costume party. Regina, Khadijah's BFF, and the one who strikes me as being the most fun, goes with, even joining her in Scooter's apartment, where she has been tasked with retrieving a talking parrot. At first I thought this was going to be an actual parrot, and we'd see the ep devolve into a "try to get the escaped pet back into the house" situation. But no, it was a stuffed animal, and this is going to be a classic misunderstanding (not to be confused with a classic mix-up) involving what would become a saucy email in the 00s, and eventually a saucy text in the 10s - yes, that's right: it's a saucy fax.

A fax! That is so 90s! But as Regina demonstrates, the perils of the saucy fax were nearly identical to the perils of today, when one's sidepiece blows up the phone while it's on the coffee table in front the partner being cheated on - of course they're going to look! And look they do.

It is, of course, appropriately vague in all the right places, but with definite clues between the lines that could change it from "saucy" to "sexy" at any given moment. They decide the best course of action is to sit on this info, play it cool (by which I mean "play it suspiciously over-the-top") with Scooter until new information is brought to the table, and find their scarlet woman. Though isn't it really Scooter who would be the scarlet one here? Ladies, don't worry about who it is, just throw that saucy fax in his face and have him to explain himself before you drop him off at the curb next to the other garbage, right??

Anyway, the Halogen Records Halloween party is clearly booming, laden as it is with quality paper products, but here we can actually see the evolution of one such product:

Here is what I think happened - again, thank you for asking:

Example #1 sees the Living Single '94 version of this sign as a large, plasticky sheet to be hung from the vertical pumpkin plane of your choice (in both cases represented here, the front door was chosen). But here's the deal: Halloween is a holiday based on opening and closing those front doors. I suspect that the size and material of the '94 sign made it the one decoration that was constantly falling down, being caught as it was by billows of door-closing wind and the adhesive of cheap tape reacting poorly to the plastic. By the time of Example #2, the Alex Mack '95 paper product roll-out, this had been course-corrected with a smaller surface area and a sturdier, cardstock makeup. Nobody retro-fits like Big Paper during the Halloween season. Nobody.

Back at the brownstone, these two jokers launch prank after prank at Max, with rubber cockroaches, rubber hands, and rubber eyeballs all making appearances (Big Rubber being a major source of ad-revenue at the time). But nothing tops the exchange between Max and Kyle, who has made mention of a Halloween date, but appears to be flying solo . Max is delighted and asks him about it. Kyle waves her off: "It's not until midnight. Oh, that's when today turns into tomorrow, and you are unemployed for yet another day."

Whoa! That is some dry ice right there, that burn is so cold!

And, back at the party, after a night of suspicious sneers and Regina sniffing every woman in the room in search of the saucy fax-sender, the truth finally comes out and the classic misunderstanding is revealed.

It wasn't a sidepiece - it was just an up-and-coming artist for the label who was thanking him for the nice business dinner. That's all I need to hear - case closed!

Feel relief that that situation resolved itself, because back at the brownstone, tragedy befalls the group. Literally:

The roommates who are still single begin their recalculations regarding who they'll eventually be sleeping with and/or marrying. Stunned by this turn of events, America begins the grieving process over an inert Obie. Max panics at the sight of him sprawled across the landing, most likely dead. Except...

...He's totally fucking with you, me, Max - the entire world! It's a triumph of pranking (I mean, as far as pranks go, which is, admittedly, not very far), one that takes a village to pull off. But pull it off they did.

And Max can't fucking believe it.

October 14th: The Secret World Of Alex Mack

Reflective puddles of terror.

As we nudge our way half-a-decade deeper into the 90s, we find ourselves back in the blazing sunlight of California, where the tech start-ups breed like rabbits and the chemical-spills flow like... you know, chemicals. As the premise of this show (of a girl who gains superpowers after being covered in the gravy drippings of some evil lab or another) proves, you'll want to watch where you step. But don't let this deter you from such a venture, because you'll still want to check out...

The Secret World Of Alex Mack

This is a Nickelodeon program from back in the day, and it was kind of science fictionish and weird in the best of ways, utilizing your obvious oddball parents, a brainiac older sister, an empowering best friend, and cartoony villains of the corporate-variety to paint a high-concept picture with a low-budget brush, and pretty much getting away with it.

Space: Paradise Valley, CA
Time: October 28th, 1995
Episode: "The Secret" Season 2, Episode 10

This visit to Paradise Valley '95 begins with a pretty slow burn up to the actual Halloweening, so just know that there's a haunted house that will figure prominently in this ep. We can now fast-forward to Alex, her buddy Ray, and their mutual-buddy, Louis, dressed up as Raggedy Ann, one of Baron Samedi's voodoo henchmen from Live and Let Die, and a computer... doctor?

Don't be disoriented, no, this photo was not taken in an English garden - that's just the stock grandmother wallpaper pattern of choice for the Macks. And lest we be unfair in preemptively judging their taste, let's check in with them as Mom and Dad get in on the Halloween action:

Classic Mom and Dad, you guys. It's also classic-90s, especially with this McAllister-esque battle-schematic Ray has drawn up for the trick-or-treating.

This is another example of thorough planning, and indeed, Ray comes across as the most normal of any of these characters. When asked for advice by his best friend with mutant abilities, he offers his sensible take on things, deferring immediately when his advice is ignored or marginalized, all with an air of, "Hey, you're the one with the superpowers, you do what you're gonna do."

And yet, Ray is perceived by the Mack girls as a candy-loving goof who will not be comprehended! Alex tells her sister that Ray thinks the local haunted house is "full of ghosts" (which... I mean, it's a haunted house, this is not a reach), and Annie dismisses him with, "He should know, he's from another world himself." Whoa! Why the vitriol, Annie? When has Ray ever not been a helpful, enabling sidekick? He is the one person in on the secret-part of The Secret World Of Alex Mack who is not a blood relative nor has anything to gain from keeping this Secret secret. At least pretend like what he has to say matters!

But then, Annie has her own drama to deal with, as a gentleman caller by the name of "Brice" shows up, dressed like Shitty Zorro, in order to "keep her company." Uh-huh. Here is his entrance, followed by the actual dialog exchanged between the two:

Annie: "Hi!"

Brice: "Trick-or-treat."

Annie: "Hey, how's it going?"

Brice: "Cool."

Oh, so smooth. "We got it, everyone!" the director calls out. "Check the gate and let's move on to the next set-up - there are no further takes necessary because this chemistry is smoldering!" I don't even have the punctuation to fully-outline how absolutely wrong the "Cool" was in that situation. He was certainly not answering Annie, but he was definitely responding to something that nobody said.

Anyway, we rejoin Alex and Co. wrapping up their record-breaking Halloween route with a stop by the now-infamous haunted house. Alex goes inside, somewhat apprehensively for a woman who can will objects into motion without touching them and turn herself into a motile mercury-spill. But hey, teens have so much stuff to deal with, who can blame her as she steps into the abandoned house of her future - oh, the places you'll go!

The haunting commences with the exploitation of an unexpected prop, that being a bust of some Caesar - presumably one of the shittier Caesars, like a Trebonianus or a Jotapian or some other barracks Emperor. It more or less "comes to life" and starts taunting Alex from down the hallway, cackling as though some major and hilarious victory has been won (wow, you got her attention - nice job, statue). Anyway, the sight of it gets me thinking: 'Oh, what a weird little detail to haunt - who has a bust of Caesar these days? Why don't I have a bust of Caesar?'

No sooner does this cross my mind, then the bust's head just fucking explodes mid-laugh!

What? It was a spectacular move, and one that made me laugh out loud because it was so random - why would the thing just explode!? It's a rare example of what psychiatry has labeled Taunting Statuary Combustion Suicide, but boy, does it ever have impact!

Upon reviewing the scene in question, the show clues us into the bust blowing-up being Alex's doing by using her "zapping" sound effect. No other effect is used beyond the audio cue and the explosion, so I guess it's a read-between-the-lines thing, and changes the diagnosis to Taunting Statuary Combustion Homicide. But it also underscores how quickly a person can become inured to the Alex Mack power-zaps, especially when she's doing them through the entire episode, and for the most arbitrary reasons. She's levitating newspapers onto porches, turning easily-reachable lamps off with bolts from her fingertip - this is such a waste of her amazing gifts, and yet it accurately assumes any teenager would do the same thing. "Oh, did I leave the garage door open?" Zap - the door is closed. "Oh, did I forget to feed the dog?" Zap - the dog is no longer an issue.

So anyway, the bust explodes, Alex is frightened, something-something-something, and she meets the ghost of a woman who haunts the place. It turns out this lady has powers too, and they end up engaged in a furniture fight that looks a little shabby, filled as it is with post-production motion effects, quick edits, and the felt-but-unseen presence of the underpaid PAs who must have spent an entire day throwing around settees and trying to stay out of the shot.

That being said, it's cable, it's 1995, and we're not yet a half-decade from T2, so you've just gotta believe that the lion's share of the budget is going to that liquid-metal morph, so I suppose we should expect a modicum of corner-cutting on the practical effects.

Meanwhile, it's absolute mayhem back at the Mack residence, where Annie and Brice's attempts at snuggling are repeatedly interrupted by hordes of trick-or-treaters. What this show lacks in quality paper products and lanterns, it more than makes up for with enthusiastic trick-or-treating extras.

Let's please note the cardstock skeleton on the front door, which is rapidly emerging as its own minor motif, having been seen in yesterday's Eerie, Indiana ep and the Belvedere ep - look, it's even wearing the same haunted biker-vest!

I get it, there are only so many paper products in the world, and again, let's face it: even in its second season, The Secret World of Alex Mack probably did not have an outlandish budget. Witness the outcome of the titanic furniture battle - a pleasant sit-down.

Something-something-something, the ghost is haunted, Alex becomes her bestie, life moves on. And what of Annie's romance with the poor line-reader? It ends as all the best high school dates do...

...with Mom and Dad coming home and sucking all the air out of the room. Works every time!

October 13th: Eerie, Indiana

Mom and Dad'll never know!

As the buzz wears off following our Richard Whorf love-fest, let us carry on, from the oddness of the early-60s to the oddness of the early-90s, where the epicenter of weirdness can be found in the name-appropriate...

Eerie, Indiana

So, this is kind of like your proto-Buffy, what with its mystery-solving and its acknowledgement that strange things are going down everywhere in Sunny- uh, Eerie, leading to supernatural stalls that must be mucked. Marshall Teller is an everykid who has been relocated from the Garden State to eerie Eerie (insert obligatory Jersey-bash here), and whose Mom would go on to live by a creek and become the mother of that insufferable bastard, Dawson. Oh, how we wish this series had been picked up instead.

As noted earlier, the 90s saw the media in the hands of those raised on the media of the 60s, so we're going to see a lot of carefully-trivial deep cuts and throwback-nods here; this caliber of adoration would eventually fuel a thousand fan-sites online, where liking things so much that you almost hate them has become the currency of the day.

But not here - not yet. Here is strange little bastion of early nerd-culture, a safe-haven that was needed for those of us who watched Universal monster pictures on AMC and sopped up the Bob Dorian-laced trivia about Jack Pierce's scar-tissue appliques and Lon Chaney Jr.'s sad dog-face before going out to look for Bigfoot in the backyard. Let's go there now, and let's pull the rope-ladder up after us - the other kids will never understand.

Space: Eerie, IN
Time: October 20th, 1991
Episode: "America's Scariest Home Video" Season 1, Episode 5

Now here's a show that gets it. Just look at these guys, suiting up for their Halloween adventure, just as star Omri Katz would do in a few years as Max on Hocus Pocus. They are itemizing like soldiers, synchronizing the watches of of their trick-or-treating supplies like they're fresh out of the castle break-in from Where Eagles Dare. But hey, look at this get-up:

Rubber crone masks, back in vogue! What was old is new again, except they are, by definition, still old (Richard Whorf, these masks are for you!). And as a true sign of the times, we're getting Bush 41 and Gorbachev, who were and remain pretty decent crones.

But then, we do catch further glimpses of Halloween '91 throughout the ep - please note the tasteful use of what we now recognize as Lambert Lanterns (#LambertLanterns), and just look how far mask technology had advanced from the days of Chip and Sudsy!

It's difficult to articulate to the modern audience just how much of a phenomenon America's Funniest Home Videos was at the time. You've got your ambitious stand-up, Bobert Saget, taking invaluable time from the Tanner's hugging schedule to host this weekly tribute to the idiocy of Americans. Hey, we all know that no matter what school of comedy you hail from, be it the Bob Newhart School, or the Richard Pryor School, or the Dane Cook School etc., I think we can all kind of agree... watching dudes get hit in the balls is pretty hilarious, right? I thought as much. So, count on the power of a sit-com star, the power of dudes getting hit in the balls, the realness of the ball-hitting, and the fabulous $10,000 cash prize, synergized with Coulier on America's Funniest People - whoo boy, you have entertainment for an entire nation's worth of families.

Anyway, young Marshall and his buddy, Simon, were of the perfect age to know a good scam when they see it, and so, try to videotape Simon's brother, Harley, doing something crazy so they can win that sweet Saget prize money. One thing leads to another, and the janky A/V set-up that was standard issue in this age before streaming is fried in a way that suggests Mom and Dad are going to be so mad when they get home.

This is because 1.) What did you do to my VCR, do you not know how heavy and expensive these are in 1991!? and 2.) Lil Harley - a king mixer if ever I've seen one - is trapped inside the mummy movie they'd been watching.

Whoops! And of course, due to the transitive property of entering a television world, if you are going to recast the Incredible Hulk with your pet cat, expect a Bill Bixby and/or Lou Ferrigno in your living room. We have this here, in the shape of said-movie mummy.

Surprised to the point of evacuating the house and smacking each other around, the boys anxiously follow some prospective trick-or-treaters back up to the Teller front door to see what the hell happens next. And who could be so wicked as to answer a rung doorbell on Halloween, I ask you?

What!? Why, it's Marshall's sister, Syndi, as played by Julie Condra. Now, J-Con is best known in my mind for portraying "Madeline" in what has to be a top-10 episode for The Wonder Years, "It's A Mad, Mad, Madeline World," in which she comes as close as any woman ever would to besting Winnie Cooper (Kevin, of course, was far too weak to deal with such a self-assured powerhouse, and so went back to wallowing in his broken childhood romance for many more seasons, the dolt).

Anyway, she does her big sister-thing to everyone involved, and because she's not a psycho, does not realize the mummy is an actual mummy. Classic older-sibling move. This eventually leads to the fellas capturing the mummy, only to realize he's not the actual mummy, but rather the famous actor Boris Von Orloff, played by Judge Claude Frollo himself, Messr. Tony Jay. "Hellfire" indeed, my friends!

They look on, stunned, as that little fucker, Harley, trashes the set of his movie and loves every minute of it. As do we, the audience.

Moments later, it's all over and the body-switch/TV-reality pseudo-science circuit is completed right before Mom and Dad get home. Well done, all round - they'll never find out!

In conclusion, check out this series, it was a weird little gem of its time for weird little people, and one that celebrated the weirdness of previous eras as well. I give it 10 out of 13 rubber crone masks.

October 12th: My Three Sons

How many sons do I have this season?

This is one of those shows that sits in a weird spot with us as a culture. It was on during a golden age of sit-com programming, one that was equal parts goateed-Gilligan and talking horse-friend. It then proceeded to just go on and on, rotating-out the cast, adopting the neighbors, switching from black and white to color, and offering us a glimpse into the average, white American living room during some fairly dramatic times.

We can watch the transition from Cleaver haircuts that Ike would approve of, to something shaggier and decidedly more "groovy." This was fitting, as the spirit of the 60s led them ("them" meaning the aforementioned three sons and whomever was declaring ownership of them - in this case, the guy from The Shaggy Dog, hence the haircuts) to tune-in, get dropped-out of ABC's lineup, and then turned-on by a little hippie network called CBS, which ran it for even more seasons.

Hey, I could bust chops on Frawley & The Gang all the live-long day, such is my love for this series, but we have an ep to get to, according to this list. Besides, the only thing anyone remembers at this point, 50 years later, are the toe-tapping wingtips from the opening credits. Why these were not replaced with Cuban-heeled Beatle boots with side-zippers, I cannot profess to know. Perhaps I knew the answer once, but have since forgotten it? I guess you could say that makes me an absent-minded professor? KaBOOM - oh, you chumps just got MacMurrayed so hard.

Space: Bryant Park, IL
Time: October 25th, 1962
Episode: "The Ghost Next Door" Season 3, Episode 6

"Richard Whorf-who?" you are undoubtedly asking. Well, it is little-known but now-remembered that Richard Whorf was both a cast member of Cagney's Yankee Doodle Dandy and a television director in charge of both of these last two episodes. Yes, 6 days prior to his Beverly Hillbillies Halloween Stunt-Spectacular, Whorf dealt the world this slice of Midwestern Cold War Americana, thereby owning October of 1962, and inadvertently (or maybe advertently - who am I to proclaim knowledge of his aspirations?) becoming a pioneering voice for Halloween on television

We begin with Bub (as played by television's favorite man-cherub, William Frawley) meeting the new neighbor, an older woman with a habit of talking endlessly and spinning yarns about anything remotely-related to what you were in the middle of mentioning. Ah, even in the early 60s, this brand of obnoxious human was around - there is something comforting in that knowledge, though Bub cuts right to the quick, explaining to Steve that she's just incredibly lonely. Goddammit, Bub, stop making me see people as actual humans rather than the grab-bag of neuroses and habits they continually project upon those around them - they're so much easier to dismiss like that!

Anyway, it's all a lot of set-up for Chip and his buddy, Sudsy (I am now forever going to replace the word "buddy" with "sudsy" in my vocabulary), who are getting ready for Halloween '62 in the fashion of all kids that year: rubber crone masks!

Yes, rubber crone masks were definitely to 1962 as Batman and Joker were to 1989. Through all of their efforts, the boys manage to scare exactly no one. They try the lovely Ms. Sudsy's Mom...

...they try insurance salesman, Walter Neff...

...and they eventually settle on their own faces, realizing that a couple of kids wearing rubber sweat-suits and trying to make weight before Coach totally gets teed-off was probably far more gruesome than whatever look they were initially going for.

But before the "classic mix-up" of this episode (all shows from this period were working the "mix-up" angle pretty hard, which I guess is what made it so "classic") involving the old lady next door (who has moved into a house that is said to have been long-abandoned, but whose inevitable detrimental effect on local property values was apparently not enough to ruffle Steve Douglas' feathers), we need to check out this rare, Zapruder-like footage of an actual trick-or-treating occurring, '62 style:

Again, we see minimal-to-no decorations, just as we see minimal-to-no reaction by Mr. Douglas at the sight of such horrors. This makes sense - figuring Steve Douglas to be the same age as MacMurray himself, he'd be in his early-50s at this point, meaning he's lived through the Depression and a couple of World Wars, one of which he probably fought in. "Oh, a skeleton, huh?" Steve Douglas says to the masked child on his doorstep, completely unimpressed. "You think that's frightening, try watching the flesh get burned off the skeleton of your best friend by artillery shells on Peleliu."

However, it's worth noting that this was 53 years ago and the ritual is basically still the same. We are nothing if not committed, as a people, to our goofy holidays. And I ask you, isn't that what Steve Douglas watched his best friend die in the Pacific for? As for Chip and Sudsy and the mix-up, I'll leave it to you:

Seems like a witch to me - classic case. And you tell me she talks incessantly? Hell, I'd run screaming from the house too.

In conclusion, I feel like our Impromptu Richard Whorf Tribute Extravaganza was far more successful than last week's Jane Curtin-thing. Here's to you, Richard Whorf! You were taken from our Halloween episodes far too soon - salud!

October 11th: The Beverly Hillbillies

Ce-ment fish biting today?

Ah, the 1960s - the world would not see the likes of its non-intuitive oddball television premises until all of those absurd, can-you-believe-they-got-away-with-this? premises were recycled wholesale some 30 years later. That's right, come and listen to this story 'bout a man named Jed.

The Beverly Hillbillies

Is there any more American premise than a backwoods family falling into untold riches via a sexy non-renewable resource? The Kardashians have nothing on the Clampetts.

And hey, apparently they had a Halloween episode, so let's see how the other half of the 1%-half lives and celebrates this day of tricking and/or treating. My best guess is that there may be some manner of cultures clashing between our heroes and the citizenry of the future-home of Brenda Walsh. Something along the lines of, "Mr. Drysdale, you've hung up your Halloween decoration using Jethro's rope-belt!" Pull up a chair next to this giant mixing-bowl of cereal and let's dig in.

Space: Beverly Hills, CA
Time: October 31st, 1962
Episode: "Trick-Or-Treat" Season 1, Episode 6

So, this one threw me for a second - I thought there'd been a clerical error of some kind, some sort of mistake. It's weird, this one, let's be real about it. At this point, we're only 6 eps into what would be a 9 season run. I know, I'm always doing that, italicizing how many seasons a silly show gets to underscore how unbelievable it is. But, come on... Mister Ed got 6 seasons? Sure, My Mother the Car only got one season, which is not worth emphasizing, but the 30 episodes that one season produced totally does. 30 episodes! Shit, Fawlty Towers only has 12!

My point being, early in the run of any series, you're going to have that 'finding-yourself' period with a cast and crew - you can't totally entrench characters into caricatures (as is the inevitable evolution of any good character) until they've had some time to stretch out. So, here we are, in the Hills of Beverly, six eps in and working our premise with the same enthusiasm of a pilot. And herein lies the trouble, for I was certainly not going into the Beverly Hillbillies Halloween episode prepared to watch Irene Ryan grapple with the literal and figurative distance between the old life she knew for lo those many hundreds of years, and her new life of wealth and leisure. Oh sure, I'd anticipated Granny fishing in the ce-ment pond - that's what The Beverly Hillbillies is mostly about - but I had not anticipated the cloud of angst hovering over her head - it's practically Angela Chase-esque!

Likewise, I'd also not anticipated watching Jed Clampett get misty-eyed at the sight of his daughter, Elly May, dressed up in an out-on-the-town dress and ready to meet new, exciting people in California. It was an actual goddamned moment, a nuanced example of a father-daughter relationship that offered dimension to both of these so-called "hillbillies." Naturally, I shouted at the television, "Noooo, stop making me feel things, Buddy Ebsen! I did not sign up to have goddamned feelings be acknowledged!" It was a tender scene, and it moved me. By which I mean, 'It moved me from a headspace built for outlandish 1960s sit-com premises, into the one that makes me cry when Alan Grant sees his first Brachiosaur in Jurassic Park.'

Anyway, these two things combined, along with Jethro's (who, along with Kramer, Gomer, Fester, Jazz, and Balki is a titan from the storied pantheon of well-meaning television dipshits) general dissatisfaction with the strict open-carry laws of Beverly Hills, lead to Jed flexing his patriarchy and introducing the family to the neighbors in an attempt to better fit-in. Well, heh-heh, wouldn't you just know it... it happens to be Halloween that very same night!

We learn this through an odd device seen in much of this first season, which is the use of a parallel story of Jed's cousin, Pearl, who confuses a person with some familiarity of the world with her daughter, Jethrine. Jethrine, of course, is actually just Max Baer dressed as a lady-version of Jethro, so the normal-guy assumes they've dressed up for trick-or-treating, though we soon find out that such a thing is not a "thing" in the Hills from which these 'Billies hail.

Cut over to the Clampetts visiting the neighbors, and we now understand why the family is oblivious to the assumption that they've simply dressed like they're impoverished, in celebration of the holiday. This is a classic mix-up, the kind of mistaken-identity humor that bolstered this entire first season, and would soon build the entire canon of story ideas for The Munsters. And while it almost kind of works as a source of humor, it totally works as a glimpse into Halloween '62.

Things we can learn from this set-up:

1.) House decorations were not really a thing. Indeed, this space seems like a mortuary lobby featuring a table of lost and found items.

2.) Those rich folk sure knew how to put a Halloween gift basket together - look at the size of those things!

3.) Rubber crone masks were very in. Don't believe me? Oh, then let's move on to the next phase in our journey, and part 2 of what has now become an impromptu Richard Whorf Tribute Extravaganza...

October 10th: My So-Called Life

Dress for brooding.

Um, excuse me? Yeah, those are not going to fly at this blog-party. Like the general rule of no street shoes on the gym floor, this blog has its own guidelines, and they are 1.) Doc Martens at all times, or 2.) Chuck Taylors at all times. There are to be no gym shoes on the blog floor.

Haha, did I get you? Did you feel judged and rejected by your peer, who, providing you are not a 97-year-old Burmese woman, is me? Because, peoples, let's face it: school is kind of a lot like that. Especially school in the 90s - oh yes, if you Millennials (you know, all 30 years-worth of you I will now marginalize by referring to as one name, because I'm sure that covers it) wanted a taste of life before your pocket-phone, back in the good ol' days when bullying was not only not cracked down on but, in a way, almost passively encouraged, I am here to tell you all about...

My So-Called Life

Well, not me exactly - at this point, I was still rapidly transitioning from Animaniacs over to the alternative nation - but Angela Chase definitely knows all about it, and through her so-called 'struggle,' we shall all learn how to so-called 'get by' in this, like... life.

I'm sorry - go when? Oh, go now, I see!

Space: Three Rivers, PA
Time: October 27th, 1994
Episode: "Halloween" Season 1, Episode 9

So much not going on in this episode, where do we even reluctantly begin?

Okay, it's 1994, it's Halloween, it's time for internal-monologues. Seriously, you guys? You know the early-90s? They were so all about wondering about what a 'Shoop' was, and internal-monologing. And it was awesome. For example, Angela ponders the nature of Halloween at school.

'I should've worn a costume... but who would I be?'

Ah, you've hit that nail right on the head, Angela Chase - I mean, like, who are any of us really, right? Angela's quest for identity is promptly dealt with as a set of vintage clothes from the early-60s is foisted upon her in the never-ending lounge-period forum known as the Liberty High Ladies Room.

Rickie's breath is taken away: "Oh look - mohair!" Rickie, you are adorable. Yes, teens of the early-90s were totally into one textile and one textile only, and to this day, we still associate the word "grunge" with "mohair."

This is followed by some tall-tale about Nicky Driscoll, a greaser kid who died at the school under mysterious circumstances, and I'm sure you can fill in the rest - think of a plotline one step removed from your average Are You Afraid Of The Dark? episode, and you're pretty much there.

Meanwhile, Angela's sister, Danielle, throws down what has proven to be the most evergreen gag of any of these programs we've been visiting, dressing up as the brooding Dame Danes herself:

You see, kids? Not only were the 90s a time of free-thought and mohair, they were also totally self-aware. What, you think you can inspire people to rock the vote without at least acknowledging how fucking lame it is to exercise your franchise? There's, like, so much paperwork! But if Chris Cornell can get his shit together long enough to register with his district, then so can I. It's also worth noting that little sister Danielle was played by a Wilhoit - you know, of the Full House Wilhoits? Yeah, she was Nicky and Alex's cousin, the poor thing.

Meanwhile, Mom and Dad, who are still working through a rough-patch of Dad-almost-cheating, have been so obsessive about Halloween that they've actually forgotten to obsess over the one detail worth obsessing over: costumes for Camille's party! I'm surprised by this scattershot-planning only until we're offered this glimpse at the Chase Family's crazy-wall:

There are simply not enough surfaces upon which to pin the many, many facets of our complicated, so-called lives! Quick, honey - let's start work on an addition so I can have more wall-space to attach shit to!

This leads them to a visit to your local enchanted costume mistress, who offers them a pirate outfit and a Rapunzel dress. For whatever idiot-reason, Dad scoffs at this notion: "You as Rapunzel? Come on..." Please drink in the face of a woman who has just been told by the man she committed her life to, and was recently almost-cheated on by, that she cannot be Rapunzel:

And where are these preconceived notions about Rapunzel even coming from!? I hear 'Rapunzel' and I think of two things: 1.) I immediately confuse it with Rumpelstiltskin, and 2.) oh right, the girl with the hair. Nowhere in that spectrum of acknowledgment is it written that a woman must be of a very particular timber in order to pull off the Rapunzel-look. Basically, you just need to be a woman, preferably with hair, though we can work around that.

From there, everyone breaks into school for... pranks, or something? These kids - they spend all day waiting to get out of school, only to spend their evenings breaking back in - bah! (does dismissive old-man two-handed wave-away gesture). "Why are you doing this?" mega-nerd Brian asks Angela as he ushers her carefully inside.

Brian, don't ask me stupid, sensible questions - it's the early-90s, didn't anyone tell you? Nothing we do is going to make any "sense," you know? You can't expect me to just explain myself, it's way more complicated than that. In fact, everything's way more complicated than that (early show-title proposal: My Way-More Complicated Life). Ours is a generation that's going to look at the world from a totally different viewpoint, you know? I mean, we don't even carve pumpkins in a traditional way - look how wacky this one in the background is:

See, it's totally breaking down our idea of what a carved-pumpkin can be. It's like we can't even help ourselves! To wit, even as Angela wanders through the haunted halls of school, doing the ol' time-travel to see the reason behind someone's haunting-thing, one can't help but note how so not 1960s these Halloween decorations are.

Paper products hanging from the rafters without any sense of style or purpose, the grim party balloons suspended with an equally devil-may-care attitude, not to mention the random piles of shit on the floor... no, this Halloween dance just screams of early-90s dishevelment - what one would be tempted to call 'grunge.'

Alas, how sad it is to think that by this time, the dream was already in its final death-throes. The stoic visage of a freshly-dead Kurt Cobain grimaces from that copy of Rolling Stone that was in heavy circulation in all schools at that time, a prophet of things to come. By '96, it was all over, the final albums having been put out, or about to be put out, by the traditional 90s bands, before their overdoses and break-ups and the ultimate flying-too-close-to-the-sun of MTV and the record industry. I look at Angela, Brian, Rayanne, Rickie, and whoever the hell else was around, and I wonder what could've been had they - and the entirety of the early-90s vibe - not been cancelled.

Within four years of these mohair-clad revolutionaries being booted from the airwaves, an unbearable blond kid named Dawson would take over, white-washing away that scuzzy 90s bathroom graffiti with his chinos and his private boat-launch and his goddamned Katie Holmes bedroom-visits - what kind of world was that? You tell me a show that prominently features competitive yacht-racing is going to go for 6 seasons and then tell me that it's somehow more real than the one with the Halloween ghost time-travel and the Christmas angel? Well then, stop this so-called world, I want to get off.

October 9th: Growing Pains

How many kids do they have this year?

I hope you've brought your Clearasil and your bad attitude, because we're about to go through some...

Growing Pains

Has any one sitcom been so loaded with off-camera scuttlebutt about its cast? You've got your Alan Thicke: Facts Of Life theme song writer, last name built for double-entendre headlines, model Canadian. He plays Jason Seaver, psychiatrist(?)-extraordinaire, and he kind of runs the show, which could just as easily be called Thicke Pains. Or Growing Thicke.

He is married to Mrs. Seaver, who is probably a Margo or a Deborah or something. I am 87% convinced the actress' name is Joanna Kerns, and while he looks like she might be a castoff from the same factory, she is definitely not Judith Light. I know it can be easy for the two to overlap and become one in the mind's-eye, but a mind's-eye view of anything is merely an analog remembrance of physical forms moving through space, so don't take it at face-value.

The Seavers - Becky! I think Mrs. Seaver is a "Becky," it just came to me - have a brood of wise-cracking kids (as was custom in the 1980s), starting with eldest son, Mike, played by mid-show born-again religio, Kirk Cameron, followed by the daughter, played by Tracey Gold, whose character's name is not nearly as memorable (Carol?) as the eating-disorder that plagued the actress during these trying, Seaver-ful times, and both are joined by that unloveable, wisecracking, youngest son, Ben, played by a Jeremy. I suspect his last name is Miller, but who knows, who cares, and who cares, wins. Oh, and in a twist no one saw coming, Leonardo DiCaprio shows up towards the end of the show's run as Luke, the troubled lad who is ushered into the family through some seemingly lax foster-regulations. Well, it's the late-80s/early-90s, what the hell you gonna do.

Space: Huntington, NY
Time: October 31st, 1990
Episode: "Happy Halloween (Parts 1 & 2)" Season 6, Episodes 7-8

Eh, I'd forgotten about Chrissy - I assume you all did as well? Which is unfortunate, because the show opens on her hopes and dreams of a decent Halloween, now threatened by genre-appropriate weather. We slap our heads and think, 'Ohhh, that's right, they had another kid at some point...'

Fortunately, she is relatively harmless, as far as TV children go - we've definitely encountered worse (looking at you, Nicky and Alex). The Seavers have done what they can do with their dump of a house (Chrissy makes reference to trick-or-treating in the "rich" neighborhood, and I'm like, "Kid, take a look at where you live..."), using the Lambert-method (perhaps it should be renamed the Seaver-method?) of hanging lanterns to create a mood.

And not only lanterns on the establishing interstitials - we're talking an entirely new credit sequence, cobbled together from various clips of this mammoth two-parter. Yes, there are two of them to sit through, I am so sorry. Anyway, remix the theme-song with some vaguely monster-mashed lyrics, do this extra-special crediting, and you're off to the races on your tricked-out Halloween ep.

But how does your garden-variety Long Island family celebrate? Sure, the paper products you've come to know and expect are there, but the Seavers have added chunks of something unique to their party-stew: autumn harvest.

Sure, this is mostly about dried and dead cornucopia plants being strapped to your banisters and picket fences, but it's also about so much more. Like pumpkins. Yes, as this family gathering gathers itself, we can take in the splendor of their pumpkin-fueled merriment. They're utilizing a method called "Pumpkin Planing," in which the dimensions of a space are demarcated by pumpkins carefully arranged to represent the boundaries of these different vertical planes. It keeps everything from looking like one of the portraits seen in the "traditional" opening credits, and is not - I repeat, not - just a matter of pumpkins being scattered around the set at random.

We can even see this in the kitchen, but what of the foreground pumpkin, all partially-carved, but not fully jack o' lanterned.

Why leave it half-done like that, were you really so busy that you couldn't finish popping out the second eye triangle? Oh, if only that's what Thicke was busy fretting about - if only. No, the reality is, Mike (played by television's Kirk Cameron) is missing, and who knows or cares where he is. Ah, did I not mention that it's now officially storming outside and that Clan Seaver has attempted to quiet the screaming of oft-forgotten Chrissy by staying in and telling ghost tales from in front of and behind some calculated midground-planed pumpkins? Because that's what's happening.

We're getting an anthology-style telling of scary stories, each one less-scary than the one before, so I won't waste your time here any more than it's already being wasted. Just know that by the time we get to Mike's story (yeah, yeah, for whatever reason it turns out he's still alive, goddammit), it's all such a snoozefest that we almost hope Halloween is cancelled from that point forward so we'll never have to listen to it again. But, notice the heavy dead harvest/pumpkin planing at work here:

If this was my Halloween ep, this is how it would end - with the family gathered 'round the roaring fireplace, and young Chrissy staring out the window, waiting for some sign that her brother survives. She waits all night, but the sign never comes. The end.

Also, everyone please note, Ben has taken the Halloween toilet paper-gag to its natural conclusion:

And Jason and Maggie can't fucking believe it.

Hahahahahahaaa!

October 8th: Step By Step

Inattentive archers wanted.

I don't know about you, but this place definitely carries the feel of your local Wisconsin. Let's flash back to the early 90s, when some well-paid television exec came up with an idea:

"Hey, do you guys remember when we had that bunch of Bradys and we gave them a series that still runs in syndication everywhere, all the time? Well, we should do something like that, but without the pleasant atmosphere of California to muddy things up with its sunshine and great vibes. Somebody get me Patrick Duffy, a Thighmaster, and a midwestern state with zero sex appeal, pronto!"

Step By Step

That's right, we're checking in on the Lamberts - you know, Frank, Carol, J.T., Dana, Mark, Al, and the other two kids, whose names have been lost to history (Claire? Brandon?) And let's not forget stonery cousin Cody living out in the rock 'n' roll party van in the driveway! Dude!

All of these ingredients combine to form a comedy stew of family-sized proportions, buttressed by an under-the-table beauty salon, shady construction deals, and innumerable misunderstandings that are quickly resolved through some good old-fashioned communication. And yet, I wonder... will there ever be a second time around? Let us knock on that perfectly Lambert-planed door and find out.

Space: Port Washington, WI
Time: October 28th, 1994
Episode: "Something Wild" Season 4, Episode 6

Ugh, right off the bat we get driveway-fresh Cody, the Codiest Cody of them all.

And what is this, this, this... extension growing off the back of his head? Is this a mullet in the wild or is this a fifth limb that will soon end with a foot or hand? And why? We are deep into the 90s at this point, this wasn't called for. Sure, we were not that far removed from the Juno award-winning uber-single "Achy-Breaky Heart," but that doesn't make it right - it does not!

So, Cody is working on the world's largest jack o' lantern, just as he's working on his Pauly Shore material. Again, we are well into the 90s here, Son-In-Law is a hit, MTV veejays have a lot of entertainment clout, and Jury Duty is not yet a glimmer of the disappointment it will end up becoming. And still, none of this was called for.

Elsewhere, we follow the drippy kid, Mark. He's pining after the "bad girl" at school, which is makes sense and is respectable. Especially after you realize it's the original Bad Girl herself, Academy Award-nominee, Jen Lindley!

That's right, Capeside's world-weary sophisticate polishes her routine here as JJ Jenkins, your mother's worst nightmare - you know, because she has a 1930s Brooklyn accent. Look, I know Jen Lindley's backstory was one of drunken townhouse parties and pill-popping limo rides with that dude from Roswell, but I'm willing to bet that there's room in that canon for a few months of Jen - I mean "JJ" - living with an Aunt and Uncle in Wisconsin, before returning to the posh Upper Best Side for her final flameout. You know, the final flameout before the one that happens when Abby gets drunk and dies falling off the pier.

I was surprised by how deep the sets are on this show. At one point, Frank moves from upstage to downstage in the kitchen (roughly the size of a roller-rink) and it takes him about 20 minutes to get there. Here we see enticing glimpses of that back room with the bonus dining table I don't recall being used by anyone - so much potential back there! Think of all the possibly-comedic situations that have happened and will continue to happen there that we're probably, maybe missing, all because we don't have access to that room!

What follows is an awful scene with two guys who act like Beavis and Butthead. It's unclear whether they're supposed to actually be Beavis and Butthead, or if they're a couple of randos doing impersonations, but reference is made to them having shown up for Dana the year before, so they must have been a smash when they were on. Again... it's 1994. I'm not going to dignify them with their own screen-grab, because that's exactly what they want me to do. You can't give attention to people like this - it only leads to them sticking around longer. Utter. Shit.

Let's focus instead on what happens when worlds collide! Mark's squeeze comes over, sasses her way past Carol, and makes right for party table #2, this one set up in the foreground.

Look at the investment the Lamberts have made in their party-planning - you've got no fewer than three big bowls for candy, a spooky tablecloth, and matching cups 'n' plates. Who wouldn't want to take her bad attitude over there for some French-onion dip?

Also, is this the Lambert Family, or the Lantern Family? Yes, in the first real decorating progress since the days of ChiChronCrepe (as it's now known - #ChiChronCrepe), a sound investment in paper products has been supplemented with strings upon strings of lanterns. This adds a new dimension to the vibe-cranking, and demonstrates the stranglehold power mood-lighting can wield over a situation. Not getting enough lanterns inside? Why not check on the porch for further lanterns.

Sure, let yourself get talked into poor decisions to the soothing ambience of lanterns. Still not enough proof of celebrating a lantern-based lifestyle? Why not check out the interstitials of the house's full exterior - that's right, both of them have been tweaked for this Halloween ep. This commitment to Halloweening in a Halloween ep is unprecedented.

Meanwhile, the action at party table #2 will not be stopped, with Carol literally stewing over her juices, if not directly in them (because punch can be expensive to put together).

She inwardly gloats over the small victory of being vindicated in having two party tables: 'And Frank thought we didn't need any party tables, that stupid sonofabitch - well who's snacking now, huh, Frank!?'

And honestly, between the commitment to lanterns, quality paper products, and amazingly-flavorful punch, the Lamberts seem to be having the best party we've seen on our adventure - and who are all those guests!? Whoever they are, they're about to get slapped across the face with the cold fish of reality, as lil Marky Lamb-nerd gets hauled in by the cops for egg-on-house crimes in a tableau torn straight from the headlines of Mr. Belvedere.

...and just like in Belvedere, the kid's middle-class and white, so it's all no big deal and that house can clean the egg off its own facade for all we care.

But Frank and Carol can't fucking believe it.

I'll never get over their reactions here, they just send me right to the floor.

October 7th: The Brady Bunch

Here's a story.

Pay no attention to that Vietnam War, that Watergate break-in, or that shuttering of the Apollo moon program - we've journeyed back here in the early-1970s to find some peace and a little stability, okay? Following the bludgeoning administered by our impromptu Jane Curtin Tribute Extravaganza, we need to find solace in the arms of an enemy we know all too well.

The Brady Bunch

For possibly the first time in the show's history, we are actually relieved to see it. Spending two days floundering in the Curtin back-catalog will do that to a person. Here, we at least know what we're in for, correct? That's right, wood paneling and white belts - you've got it, friend.

Now, as my parents have always told it, having been raised during the original run of this program, they knew. You know - they knew. They knew it was dorky at the time. Kind of like my sister and I always knew that DJ Tanner's first day of school outfit could only lead to her eating alone in a phone booth, or that Joey Gladstone's material wasn't on-par with that of, say, Howie Mandel. We knew that that family was flawed and demented in their quest for happiness. As was apparently the case with the Bradys. "They were never cool," has been the standby dismissal from those children of the 60s, all of whom are now old enough to know that history is written by the survivors, if not the winners.

Do kids still pass through a Brady Bunch phase, I wonder? In the decades before streaming libraries, there were ample opportunities to get caught up with the clan through the endless rerunning of what must now be a threadbare syndication package. Back in the early days of cable, you could count on making fun of the Brady outfits for at least an hour of your day, knowing - just as our parents and the Brady-actors before us knew - that their's was a hollow grooviness, a grooviness so prefab and paisleyed, it could never groove as much as anyone wanted it to. That's just one of the many, many groovy curses associated with this family.

But is there another curse - a more haunted curse that they must deal with? It's time to get a baseline reading on our electromagnetic frequency detectors, because something about this place is off-putting and distinctly Brady...

Space: Los Angeles, CA
Time: October 27th, 1972
Episode: "Fright Night" Season 4, Episode 6

Right from the get-go, I have to throw a flag. It's time for all good Brady-children to be in bed, lights-out, the whole deal, so this must be, what - 10 o'clock? 11 at the latest? And what are Mike and Carol up to at this hour, hmmm? Heh-heh-heh, I think we all know what they're up to, heh-heh-heh. Only so many things a young couple like that can engage in at this time of night, heh. You know, consenting adults doing as consenting adults do... like working on their sculpt of Mr. Brady's head.

That's right, this power couple spends it's late-night sensual detours posing, kneading, scraping, and glazing clay into humanoid form, just like the rest of us. What, you're saying you and your mate don't spend your evenings like this? That's crazy! That would imply that this anomalous hobby of Carol's may fall prey to becoming a plot-point somewhere, some time - maybe even in this episode!

Anyway, not all is serene patriarchal effigy-shaping in the Brady house; Jan thinks she sees a ghost, because of course she does - it's a very "Jan" thing to do. But is there more to this run-of-the-mill corporeal shroud-haunting than meets the eye? The answer... just might surprise you.

Except it won't - no, this is all the result of the jackass brothers, who snicker and revel in their small deception, as though they'd pulled off the goddamn heist of the century. This prankery is soon figured out and dismissed by Mother and Father Bernini (The Bernini Bunch would've killed as a premise), soothing the hysterical younger daughters. But what of the oldest daughter, you ask?

For all the fun that's been had with Marcia over the years - you know, the trueness of her moral compass stemming directly from how attractive she is, and the "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!"-ness of everything she does - it's something of a relief to see proof that she actually was that way. Just look at this expression as she casts doubts upon and then ultimately dismisses the story of those who are ostensibly in her charge:

And Marcia does quickly emerge as representative for the double-x chromosomal faction of the household, sometimes going from the bedroom into a hallway bustling with activity in order to liaise with a representative for the parent-caucus, before reporting back carefully-filtered information to her cadre of sequestered priestesses.And it's only a matter of time before she begins pulling the puppet-strings she's so carefully unspooled, allowing them temporary-leave from their chambers to do a little old-fashioned snooping.

"What's a slide-projector doing under Greg's bed?" they ask, having broken into the boys' room and successfully rifled through their personal possessions. A great question, girls - until you replace the words "slide-projector" with "browser-window," and suddenly Greg's glaring audio/visual proclivities come sharply into focus. Ah, but I kid those Bradys and their human-desires. Check out Marcia, throwing some actual shade and blocking out most of Jan's face. You just know she posed that way with the ghost-slide on purpose.

Anyway, having reverse-engineered the ol' slide-projector trick (and mercifully not found Greg's other box of slides), they scheme up a plot of their own, this one a modest proposal of the boys spending a whole night in the attic without getting the witlessness scared out of them. Who would not take this bet? Just look at these greedy idiots:

Anyway, the fellas beg and plead with Mike and Carol for permission to sleep in the attic, puh-leeeeease, pretty-please?? The parents cave under this overwhelming, attic-based pressure, offering a considered, "Since tomorrow isn't a school day... sure." And things play out from there as you'd expect - the girls giggle over their new catch-phrase, "All systems are ghost," and the rivalry is brought to conclusion with the discovery that, doggone-it, the girls pranked the boys! To quote the tsking Carol: "Fun is fun, but you can take a joke too far!" Truer words have never been scolded-through, Carol!

And here we find these sage, motherly words of advice borne out, as both groups of pranksters join forces to create a super-prank to play on that unsuspecting, kind-hearted, simple housekeeper, Alice. Oh, Alice says she doesn't scare, does she? Well, let's see what happens when she's faced with the illuminated skull of her beloved meat-man, Sam, huh!?

Or the ghostly waves of bed linens that died too soon, flying at her stupid, lovable, housekeeping-face! Take THAT, Alice, you perfectly-pleasant, wonderfully-agreeable, genuinely good person - here, have the stuffing scared out of your ignorant, helpful-self! Cook our meals and care for our general well-being, will ya!? Well, here's what I say to that!

Oh, I'm sorry - were you not really Alice, but rather Mike and Carol, bumbling through the house while carrying around that stupid husband-sculpture, only to have Alice accidentally destroy it while she cries out in her fear of the unknown?

Is that what happened? Oh boy. I blame Greg. Or Jan. Or Cousin Oliver. Anybody but Marcia. Because, you know: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.

October 6th: 3rd Rock From the Sun

Languid in Cleveland.

Hey, I just realized, if we follow up that, um, interesting Kate & Allie episode from yesterday with the 3rd Rock From the Sun Halloween ep., then we've just cooked up an impromptu Jane Curtin Tribute Extravaganza! And there is no one more deserving of an extravaganza than Jane Curtin. So, despite my fuzzy feelings toward this show, it shall be done.

3rd Rock From the Sun

As I recall, this is a very mid-90s premise of aliens adopting human form and trying to fit into society (which, I just realized, exactly matches the premise of the very mid-70s Coneheads sketches, followed by the very mid-80s Out Of This World which are, in themselves, a mirror of the very mid-60s My Favorite Martian, and on and on and on - I assume Jane Curtin was in all of these shows as well).

John Lithgow gets to be tall and play against type as a goofball, having already locked up any roles dealing with fathers of the Pacific Northwest and the sasquatch who define them). French Stewart gets to squint and play to type (French Stewart is clearly a squinting alien), and Kristen Johnston, while not playing as tall as Lithgow, somehow manages to exude more authority than him, though this is possibly due to how tall her boots are playing their roles. And through it all, lil Joey Gordon-Levitt grows up before our very eyes. Brace yourself for... something.

Space: Rutherford, OH
Time: October 29th, 1997
Episode: "Scaredy Dick" Season 3, Episode 5

Guys, look, I don't know what to say. This was a very languid interpretation of a Halloween episode. The premise was languid, the writing was languid. The performances were given with gusto, sure, but the reaction was, alas, so, so languid.

There's a school of thought out there that says "Acting is reacting." Ooh, something that clever has to be right, correct? They don't make sayings so elegant, so self-referential, and then leave them unresolved and vague, do they? They wouldn't dare. First, we have an actor reacting to the situation written for them, then we have the other actors reacting to that actor.

They've all made the best choices available to them. By which I mean, they've all made the biggest choices available to them. I mean, right off the bat we get Lithgow carving a pumpkin (on his professorial office-desk for some reason??) and just goes full-Kramer on it, scooping a spoonful of guts into his mouth. And then reacting. You know, as actors do.

Plot points if you must: Dick has to go to the doctor's office, but he's afraid to. How this fear has not yet been addressed in the previous two seasons's worth of episodes is a mystery, but here we are.Also, Sally and Tommy help protect Jane Curtin's character's house from pranksters, leading to a prescient scene in which the heroes become the villains as their methodology begins mirroring that of various black ops. sites and their prisoner is dehumanized in egg-based ways.

Any pity we feel is brushed aside as we're simultaneously given a glimpse of how the Dr. Albright-half lives, which, in this era of mid-to-late 90s transition means acres of tan wood and a decorative fish tank. We can all agree that this is preferable to the wallpaper from her previous series, and it appears that no barometers were exploited during the making of this episode.

And then there's this guy:

Sure, the purpose of him existing might be lacking (French Stewart plays a character who, like Lithgow's, is afraid of things - like, any things) but the demeanor and empty wrappers are familiar enough to possibly frighten us into healthier lifestyles? Maybe? I admit to looking exactly like this at least once a week.

Moving right along, we finally get to go to a Halloween party, though there is no evidence that Kathy Santoni was the prime mover this time around. I would guess the odds are very slim that she was involved, though within the strange geography of television-America, anything is possible. But for now, let's assume it's a Pendleton University function and therefore when Lithgow shows up looking like a satiny Cap'n Crunch, it's to be expected.

Mind you, this man won three Emmys and a Golden Globe for his performance in this role. His performance of a role as an alien. Don't dwell on it, let's just note how the crew has gone with the now-traditional Chicago Chronicle Crepe Streamers motif, as this series of blogs rapidly withers into a simple inventory of Party City backstock. But as long as the carved-pumpkins are burning brightly...

...as opposed to being chewed-up desk-mash, we are obliged to knock. Even if all we find are these guys:

And let's consider that perhaps this First Annual Jane Curtin Tribute Extravaganza comes down to the narrowness of our focus? Perhaps we'd have been better-served by an analysis/celebration of Working It Out or O.C. and Stiggs? Well, don't lose too much sleep on it - like the characters we've just blown some time with, we were simply reacting.

October 5th: Kate & Allie

Two Emmys heavier.

Kate & Allie, huh? Look, I don't remember anything about this show. I'm reasonably certain that Jane Curtin was in it, and if the title is any indication, I suspect we're looking at a classic case of Eighties Ladies.

This has to be one of the most 80s of 1980s sitcoms, for it has seemingly not translated into easily-accessible reruns that continue satisfying a contemporary audience. That being said, we are in the midst of a streaming-culture hungry to binge-watch anything, so perhaps the next wave of post-millenials will adopt the pantsuits of your Kates and Allies and Murphy Browns, and restore them to their proper place within the primetime canon. What a future that would be.

Anyway, straighten your shoulder-pads, bitches, and let us long remember Ms. Curtin's interpretation of Kate. Or Allie. Or both - it is called Kate and Allie, so maybe she alternated? However you'd like to interpret it, we're going to their (or her) house to check in on the celebration. Basically, what I'm saying is: it's Curtins for you.

Space: New York, NY
Time: October 27th, 1986
Episode: "Halloween II" Season 4, Episode 6

Holy shit, is everyone okay? Are you all right? No, just take a minute - take all the minutes you need. No no, it's no trouble, we're time traveling, we can make all the time we need for this, just... catch your breath.

Listen, I don't know what that was back there. I mean, I understand that it's all part of the experience, and that just as people at home have to open their doors without knowing what's on the other side, we the trick-or-treaters are just as unaware of what we'll be faced with after ringing the bell. But come on, what was that?

Huh? No, I don't know what the deal was with the upstairs neighbor disappearing from the closet - stop trying to figure it out, you will never figure it out! Say what? No, I don't know how Jane Curtin won two Emmys for this, or that the series ran for 5 seasons and was critically-acclaimed, I just don't - it was on the Wiki map, so we're here. And I have to assume that the Academy felt so bad for Jane Curtin, they were like, "You have done more than anyone else ever could, or even would, to save this show from simply being people in a vacuum saying random sentences for 25 minutes, so... here. Take these awards and hang on, we'll either find something better for you, or you will fade into obscurity but you'll do so at least 2 Emmys heavier."

Will you listen to yourselves!? You're trying to figure out the story and how this made it to air without any jokes - I get it, but it's a complete waste of time, trust me! Remember how it was kind of strange getting used to their cold open and the fact that it didn't have a studio audience laughing at their comments? And how we all just thought, 'Oh, this is one of those shows without a laugh track, okay...' until a few minutes later, following a string of almost-jokes, there emerged a tittering-response to something someone said, and we were like, "Oh shit, there is a studio audience, it just hasn't been laughing or reacting to anything that's been going on."

Yep, I remember the gag where there's a costumed mix-up, of course I do. It was a familiar plot device that we're aware of, it felt comfortable and offered some sense of security, like seeing Sean Bean show up in the background - you suddenly know exactly what you're in for. But they didn't even play that gag up the right way, because it immediately descends into some Greenwich Village oddball ghost-whispering that ran on far too long... it was almost like this was wholly taken from the very first Halloween special, ever - you know, when they hadn't figured out how to do shit the right way. This feels like network standards were finalized on October 30th, 1941, and everyone was like, "Well, just put together something for tomorrow, it's not like anyone outside of these 17 people has a TV yet - we'll figure out something better next year." And the result was this show.

This is going to happen though - some jackass is going to hand out circus peanuts because they think someone likes 'em. You just throw them out when you get home. Just as we'll throw out this episode.

But first, as we are obliged to report on the Halloween-ness:

This is respectable, I'll give it that - they're trying to crank the vibe for an entire episode, and they're utilizing paper products to exploit as much of their $45 prop budget as possible - including that groovy, slouch-capped pumpkin, dressed like a member of the E. Street Band circa the 1975 Born To Run photo shoot. This is a good thing. However, might I suggest they invest that $45 in re-evaluating their wallpaper choices instead?

$45 for props and then, I don't know, pass a hat around the crew to get a little more cash and get something less disorienting, something less-easily made into curtains? (Or "Curtins" if you will?):

And here's a common theme in these 80s homes we've been hitting... barometers.

We, as a people, were obsessed with two things in the 1980s: 1.) Michael Jackson and 2.) barometric pressure. Also, according to items found on Jane Curtin's shirt, bowties, Member of the British Empire medals, and... oil refineries?

And how many metric tons of ceramic mugs do you think this elaborate kitchen-scaffolding could support? GET A DRAWER. It's just a question. I have many, many questions. Like, how could these candles be burning like that - all by themselves!?

Jane, you deserve better than this. Susan Saint James... maybe not so much. Your performance will doom you to Kate & Allie purgatory for some time, I'm afraid. And we need to move along as quickly as possible, before this confused-laugh-track syndrome has time to corrupt us like it wants to. Murphy Brown this is not, and we owe a hearty apology to Candice and the Crew for mentioning them in the same breath. Yes, even Miles.

October 4th: The Andy Griffith Show

Shazam!

Here's the deal - we were programmed to go to Long Island, circa 1984 to check in with Ricky Stratton and the gang from Silver Spoons, but it seems like we're still working out some issues with our time travel, and also that episode cannot be found on the internet. As it is, something about the Jack Dodson/Howard Sprague appearance in that Mr. Belvedere episode seems to have influenced our movements, because the world is now black and white and shot on film. What the- Oh, I see. It's just...

The Andy Griffith Show

Nothing says old-timey like this show. From the fins on the cars, to the audience that clings to it like it's an actual portal to the mid-20th Century, I can't imagine "the kids today" understanding what they're seeing. You have a better chance of explaining ancient irrigation systems predicated on the use of an Archimedes screw than understanding the subtle nuances of a lovable town drunk (Otis! Again!), and the notion of having to go all the way to Mt. Pilot to take in a picture show with your long-time ladyfriend whose deal you cannot seal until your reunion TV movie some 20+ years later.

Shit, we're talking an opening credit sequence spent walking in the woods (walking!) and carrying fishing poles to the tune of someone whistling. That's right, this thing is so old that it pre-dates actual instruments.

Not that the comedy doesn't hold up - this low-key drive down the sleepy dirt roads of Mayberry was fueled by the power of the Desilu vision, and all the comedy chops that entailed. It was guided by the subversive hand hidden within the good ol' boy charms of Ben Matlock, Esquire himself. Yep, even back in the day, the old man was still kind of old. Or "Ol'" if you will.

Of course, this oldness was on purpose, so picture a viewing audience of the 1960s doing the same clinging-to-the-portal, in search of the far-easier to understand 1930s. For the dustbowl did not present the same pants-stirring questions that Elvis' hips did, just as the depressed Hooverville unemployees never had to endure the high-cut skirts and Hammond B-3 organs of lounge-sleaze that were quietly secreting themselves into the punchbowl of every backyard barbecue. Indeed, the only organ appropriate for meditating on to these foot-dragging reluctos was the one found in church, where it was carefully monitored by only the most pious of God's janitors.

Whatever the reason, be it the quality jokes or the nostalgia for a time before Barney Fife had a Twitter account, no tour through TV Land would be complete without a trip to the Taylor's house (Sheriff-Taylor, not Toolman-Taylor... yet), after which, we'll stop by Otis' place - I heard he's handing out travel-sized bottles of gin. Hooray!

Space: Mayberry, NC
Time: October 7th, 1963
Episode: "The Haunted House" Season 4, Episode 3

To put it out on Front Street, this is not an "official" Halloween episode of the kind we've been spoiled with on our journey thus far (minus the debacle in San Francisco). But hey, it's the 60s and television is still in its relative infancy, and this ep. has some actual spook-related things going on, so we'll let it slide.

We begin, as all great stories must, with Ron Howard stalking the streets with a baseball bat.

He and his buddy, Arnold (easily destined to become Opie's personal Lumpy Rutherford), are engaged in a sort of primordial Sabrmetric analysis concerning Mickey Mantle's odds of hitting a wrist-bending "dipsy-doodle" pitch, which, while fun to say, does not exactly strike fear into one's heart the way mention of, say, Mariano Rivera's cutter or Carl Hubbel's screwball does.

The statistical analysis will have to wait several decades before Jay Jaffe or Ben Lindbergh can get their accountant-paws on it, and the point becomes roundly moot as little Ronnie Howard takes a respectable swing and smashes the pitch in question through one of the windows of what we are told is "the Ol' Rimshaw House." Yeah, you read this scenario correctly, it's allegedly haunted by the ghost of Ol' Man Rimshaw (makes sense), who once "put chains on his hired-man and done away with him with an ax!"

To re-quote the normally-unflappable Gomer Pyle, "Shazam!" (pronounced correctly as three syllables: "sha-zay-um!").

That's right, Gomer's here, along with The Man himself, Deputy Barney Fife, who has roped him into going along to the Ol' Rimshaw House to retrieve the missing baseball, having himself been roped into doing so by Sheriff Andy, who was, in his own way, roped into dealing with the situation by his son, Apollo 13 director Ron Howard.

This seems like quite a lot of rope for a half-hour situation comedy, but it was not nearly enough to satisfy your typical 1960s audience, because we're also treated to the rare gift of Don Knotts playing with a jump-rope.

Drink it in, world - this is the power of television at it's finest.

Anywho, after a lot of back-and-forth, Andy, who has been dealing with the matter of Otis and his mysterious moonshine, goes along with Barn' and Gomer to check out what the hell is going on at the local haunted house.

As the story goes, this was the episode that inspired the Don Knotts masterwork The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, and indeed, the interior of the Ol' Scrimshaw House does look like a dry-run for that epicenter of gardening tool-based murders, the Simmons Mansion. We're even treated to the Ol' Oil Portrait With Moving Eyes trick, ripped straight from the playbook of one Mr. Bugs Bunny.

This, plus some moaning and random knocking, sends Barney and Gomer running off with a case of the so-called "squidgets." As it happens, it turns out that the haunting of the haunted Ol' Rimshot House is actually just Otis and his moonshining buddy "Big" Jack Anderson, as played by Nestor Paiva, whom you will, of course, recognize as the sweat-soaked captain of the boat searching for the infamous Gill Man in the beginning of Revenge of the Creature From the Black Lagoon. Of course.

They suspect they've gotten away with their unnecessary post-Prohibition bootlegging, carefully going over every element of the operation with all the volume and gusto of SPECTRE villains, until they find themselves faced with the very ax that started this whole darned situation, all those (I assume) years ago.

It levitates with a combination of its own accord and Andy using some fishing line, which he must be constitutionally-obligated to have on his person at all times. This freaks them out and the Andy Taylor Way of playing mind-games on alcoholics wins over the power of crippling addiction. Behold, a small gallery of soggy faces that only their mothers could possibly (though improbably) love:

In conclusion, if you're into watching husky guys do things, this is the place for you. For Mayberry represents a simpler, huskier time, when grown men jumped rope with nary a care, and the only thing we needed to fear was fear itself, and a sweaty man with a face like a freshly sat-in beanbag chair. Horror indeed.

October 3rd: Mr. Belvedere

Buckle your rust-belt.

Yeah, sorry, we're still in the 1980s - my god, the fucking 1980s. Sure, it was a golden age for Prince, but one could argue that it's always a golden age for Prince, so that factor cancels itself out, leaving us with nothing but a society built on permed hair and a thirst for Tony Danza that could not be slaked.

Look, you try getting the chronopod to work right, okay? It's a very complicated thing, bending the rules of space and time! Still, we are in fact moving backwards, there are only 8 callers ahead of us in the phone queue for time-travel tech support, and we need to check in with Eton's favorite son...

Mr. Belvedere

Man, where has this show been? I mean, I remember it existing, I remember watching it, the Bob Uecker, the rooty-toot theme song - all that stuff. But there hasn't really been a 4-hour block of reruns on TBS to really hammer that nail into the knotty pine of our cultural ether, has there.

In short, I don't know what we're getting ourselves into when we knock on this door that we will subsequently be obliged to dropkick our jacket through. But knock we shall.

Space: Beaver Falls, PA
Time: October 31st, 1986
Episode: "Halloween" Season 4, Episode 3

Uh-oh - we've got ourselves another Halloween cold open. Fortunately any dread we have that this will turn into another Full House atrocity is quickly allayed with a line from the youngest son, Wesley, who explains to Mr. Belvedere:

"Friday's Halloween! It's the day I get to go out, and if people don't give me stuff, I can terrorize 'em!"

Heh-heh, I like this kid already.

From there we're launched into that ever-annoying thing called plot, this one about Mr. Belvedere's failing eyesight. It's a little heavy, this cataract surgery angst, and the family rallies behind him (for we quickly realize that these people are obsessed with Mr. Belvedere and what he's doing, and should consider expending that energy on productive things like volunteering for local charities or building ships-in-bottles), but it eventually leads to him wearing an eyepatch around for the rest of the ep. so there you go.

But let's take a moment to soak in the flavor of this typical mid-80s living room!

Check out what's going on behind Uecker - anybody know what time it is?

I get it, I get it, it's an aesthetic, and as time travelers we can certainly appreciate it, but tell me, how many clocks does one family need? And what is that portrait above the fireplace!? Speaking of the fireplace, who doesn't love one blazing away to offer warmth to one and all? This one seems like it's more than up to the challenge... until you catch a glimpse of the ol' cast iron number back there, fresh from Benjamin Franklin's workshop:

The Owens family just can't get warm enough! I imagine young Wesley and daughter Heather spending valuable homework time in the basement, shoveling mounds of coal into Titanic-sized boilers. They would pause only to read their stoking indicators because they absolutely cannot incinerate enough natural resources - and goddammit, it's just not hot enough in this house!

Anyway, from there we get a visit from the Happy Guys of Pittsburgh, who are like your garden-variety Oddfellows or Elks or Knights Templar or Illuminati - that kind of thing. Apparently a series-long runner is these guys always trying to get Uecker's George Owens to join them. And they're not messing around, for they've brought out the legendary Jack Dodson, a thoroughbred character-actor from the Andy Griffith stable. I can only describe his voice as one that was lightly-sketched with a No. 2 Ticonderoga pencil, and then partially erased. And do not miss his stirring performance in Munster, Go Home! as the ocean-liner crew member who explains England's elaborate animal-quarantine laws to a fretful Lily Munster when Grandpa accidentally turns himself into a werewolf.

But here's the thing: as George and Marsha mull the prospect of assembly-line pancake breakfasts and riding in parades on little motorcycles, we notice something strange. He's wearing his wedding ring on his right hand.

Here are my theories, thank you for asking.

1.) Ueck was a right-handed catcher for the Brew-Crew back in the day, so maybe this was one of those Whitey Ford "gouge the baseball with your ring for movement" things.

Or, better yet,

2.) This is a symbol of the Owens' open- relationship, and they swing like crazy throughout metropolitan Pittsburgh, going to key parties and taking advantage of discreet, consenting-adult naughtiness. I mean, this would explain why this family with three able-bodied children and a normal-sized house requires a full-time, live-in butler, right? It's not exactly Downton, and these kids have to earn their allowance somehow.

My theory is soon given credence, as older-son, Kevin (think Robbie Douglas Mk II), departs for his Halloween party, wearing a full suit of armor (how is he getting anywhere in that thing?).

Ueck takes the time to offer some fatherly words of advice:

"So, listen, Kev, uh... If you save some fair maidens, save a couple for me, huh?"

His wife is standing right there!

But it's no big deal - she's laughing uproariously. I think I'm onto something here...

Kevin, by the way, has already performed his role in this piece by inspiring Belvedere to meditate on his body failing him and how that makes him feel. My guess is that it makes him feel lazy, because check out all the decorating this "professional" butler has done:

Thanks a lot, Mr. Belvedere, you've really gone all-out this year with the candy corn, and the... candy corn.

By the way, that's Wesley's friend, Miles, wearing the headgear and dressed-up like "a beaurocrat." Belvedere takes the time to dole out some light verbal-abuse of the Danny Tanner-model, referring to this kid who will grow up with troubling self-esteem issues as "Metal-mouth."

Side-note - oh, no one knew Mr. Belvedere had trouble with his eyesight? Look at how many reading-lamps are grouped around that chair in the back corner! Nobody thought to say, "Wow, we sure have a lot of lamps in this one area of the living room, don't we?" Combine this with the school of wall clocks on the opposite side of the room, and you have a motif of clustered everyday objects - I imagine them having, like, seven mailboxes nailed to multiple posts at the end of the driveway, and while I know nothing of feng shui, that can't be right, can it?

Meanwhile, secret societies are totally ready for prime-time, as we join George and Marsha at the Happy Guys meeting. The cult- uh, club, is jumping around in robes and praising Abaddon, "the shadow who dwells beneath the bridge."

I am loving this - how was this show not more successful!? And just look how Happy these Guys are:

But George declines their membership offer (was it somehow not kinky enough for this veteran swinger?), and we rejoin Belvedere and the kids trick-or-treating. Their doorbell-ringing goes unanswered, so Wesley teaches a butler who is desperate to recapture the strength and freedom of his youth, how to TP someone's house. Finally!

The next thing we know, Belvedere is brought in by the cops, having rampaged his way through the neighborhood, TPing and destroying the belongings of those who have slighted him in even the most benign of ways.

Fortunately for him, he's white and middle-class, so his reckless behavior and damage to the property of others is waved through the gates of justice with a laugh and a wag of the finger, as though it had never happened at all. Oh, Belvedere, you are a treasure - we couldn't possibly hold you accountable for your actions! And we'd never think of trying.

October 2nd: Perfect Strangers

Moving right along.

Look, I know I promised variety on this adventure, and I swear we'll get there. But, right now, it's Friday night and the mood is right, so...

Perfect Strangers

Perhaps what made these Strangers so Perfect, was how imperfect they really were.

That is what the last sentence of this blog would be if it was a think-piece. Fortunately for us, this is not that - we're watching television here, so rest easy. There will be no thinking.

Hey, who doesn't remember Larry and Balki, two self-involved Chicagoans played respectively by Mark "Major League Biotch" Linn-Baker and Bronson Arroyo Pinchot Grigio. These two twits spent the back-half of the 1980s trafficking in two-man comedy tropes the world had not seen in almost hours. Between Perfect Strangers, Bosom Buddies, Working Stiffs, and any other goofball/abrasive straight-man routine you can dredge up from the septic tank of your cultural memory, this genre was a force unto itself. By which I mean, it was something that forced itself upon us.

Not that we minded, of course - no, this is the show that anchored the original TGIF lineup, and spun off a certain rare-condition you may have heard of, called Family Matters. Those of us who had never been to Chicago were offered a vivid tourism experience; it was as though we were actually there, running late outside of Wrigley Field, or locked in battle against that trademark wind while huddling against the facade of a dreary skyscraper, just as they were locked in battle with that crazy revolving door. And who could forget that theme song? It is the most triumphant of all sit-com themes this side of The Jeffersons, one that all subsequent shows chased but were unable to surpass, directly resulting in this modern age of cold opens.

Sure, Balki is so stupid that one questions whether Mypos was bombarded with pesticides during his gestation, and sure, Larry's moral code descends ever-closer to undistilled sociopathy over the course of the series, equalizing only when he's caught red-handed and forced into contrition by an appalled civilization, but then, he has been saddled with being caretaker for his idiot cousin, so can we really blame him? Sure, maybe this wasn't the best show, but it was apparently good enough at the time. And maybe what made these Strangers so Perfect, was how imperfect they really were.

Oh, goddammit.

Space: Chicago, IL
Time: October 28th, 1988
Episode: "Aliens" - Season 4, Episode 3

This is more like it - right off the bat we see an improvement in the spirit of the holiday. Larry and Balki are having a Halloween party to watch the vaguely-named "Horror Movie Marathon." You know, the Horror Movie Marathon. On the Channel. They've invited everyone they know (Harriet Winslow in the house!), and no one has RSVP'd (they clearly run with a savvy crowd). Only their inexplicable girlfriends, Jennifer and Mary Anne, bother to show up, but soon realize the error of their ways and promptly leave. Hopefully to take some time to reconsider the life-decisions they've made that have led them to dating these guys.

Within minutes, we're delivered a fine rendition of the classic Balki-catchphrase, "Of course not, don't be ridiculous." Was this really in every episode? Oh, did you miss him saying that? Just wait a couple minutes, because he says it again. Oh my.

But look at how the fellas have invested in their decorations! It's almost as though they've maintained the mentality of children! You could almost say they're man-children. You could almost say that.

Anyway, from there, we progress into some silly business, wherein Larry suspects that Balki might be an alien. He's laserblasting his meals, denying the pod in the closet, and walking through closed doors.

Larry's suspicions are confirmed when Balki starts flying.

Sure, why not.

And check out how decked-out the Chicago Chronicle is with their decorations! Slow news day, huh? And yet, this is a sign of some high-quality behind-the-scenes folks: you take Full House's $45 Halloween ep. budget from the episode that aired the same night as this one, and you invest it in paper products.

Because streamers, party garlands, and skeleton cut-outs are cheap and can cover immense amounts of surface-area when you really want to crank that vibe. Hell, I might set my own place up like this - no more fretting about not being able to paint your apartment! People, in this digital world we live in, this could save Big Paper.

And to top it all off, lest we heap too many laurels on these goofballs, your deus ex lazy writing resolves everything with that classic chestnut: It was all just a dream.

Goddammit.

Grab the candy and let's get the hell out of here, before we're invited to their next party.

October 1st: Full House

And now...

Hey gang, welcome to JZ'sTT31DOHDDYTIH, as those of us in the biz refer to it. You've all got your masks on and your bags for the loot, right? We should also probably bring some eggs and toilet paper, because we're starting in San Francisco, home of...

Full House

I don't want to hear it, why would we not start here? Full House is the sit-comiest of sit-coms, a benign half-hour of tepid feel-goodery we're all familiar with, whether we like it or not. Watching it is the television equivalent of climbing back into the womb because the outside world is too scary.

Would you believe that for as colossal an institution as this show was and remains - an institution that not only abused every trick in the family sit-com book, but also came to define and ruin those tropes - they never did a proper Halloween episode? For all of its on-location shooting in Hawaii, its trips to the Magic Kingdom in a brazen flaunting of cross-promotional Disney-Weinger Synergy (Weingergy?), for all of its wedding episodes, birth episodes, smoking public-service episodes, and episodes where simple misunderstandings invariably lead to big consequences and wacky mix-ups... no Halloween worth a damn.

Oh, to be sure, they hinted at it, teased it in careless, backhanded ways, but I don't think they're even listed on the Wikipedia Halloween Episode Map. Right away, this is a red flag. All right, so let's get going and walk up the steps of that deceptively-large townhouse that the Tanner Family calls home...

Space: San Francisco, CA
Time: October 28th, 1988
Episode: "It's Not My Job" - Season 2, Episode 3

See, right away we should be suspect - it's Halloween as a cold open. This is basically the production saying, "We're not doing a Halloween episode, but I guess we should do something we can run in the network promos."

Sure, they've made a ten-minute attempt at decorating the house, but it's all kind of within a $45 budget, and has the air of a set-builder who was concerned with not ruining the paint-job. I can hear them now: "Yeah, just place a bunch of fakey jack o' lanterns around, and who gives a shit."

So you get this, the guys attempting some awful Three Stooges-business, and an Elvira joke from DJ that really shoves our faces in the 1988-ness of it all.

And that's it - off to the opening credits we go, and then it's on to a normal episode. The pumpkin decorations have been removed, Stephanie gets a cavity, Kimmy Gibbler steals her scene, Jesse's parents swing by and make out in front of the kids before berating their son for wanting to write jingles (as they probably should), and the scariest thing about the episode is that it looks like Stamos' tie might have an eating-disorder.

Like Super Hans confronted with a broken bathroom door, I decry this as bullshit. For there can be nothing worse than a reluctant acknowledgment that Halloween exists, and then a whole lot of acting like it never happened. Oh, but it did happen, Full House - it did.

Fear not, for they have another chance to redeem themselves.

Space: San Francisco, CA
Time: November 17th, 1989
Episode: "Divorce Court" - Season 3, Episode 8

November 17th? See, they weren't even trying. But, oh damn! Kathy Santoni's having a Halloween party, and DJ totally wants to take a break from rating guys on the Gibbler Scale of Studliness in order to be there, as would we all. Unfortunately, we will never find out what a Kathy Santoni Halloween party is like, because the show immediately detours from this premise and gets bogged down in the swampland of sister-drama - something about wanting a room of one's own.

Meanwhile, the fellas decide to race in order to prove who is the least soft (no race is needed - they are all equally soft), and make a bet, as soft-gentlemen will do: whoever wins gets to pick the other guys' Halloween costumes. Truly, the stakes have never been more Full House.

Here, Halloween is exploited as a story agent, and then abandoned. It only returns to cash in on the cultural phenomenon that was Tim Burton's first Batman picture (what, no Griff Tannen outfits? No Drunk Clown from Uncle Buck?).

And if you must know about the costumes that soft race-"winner" Danny Tanner picks out, here you go:

Ha.

Anyway, as the nation comes together to shout "I can't deal with the pressing global, social, and economic issues facing me and my family, I just want more Full House!" the universe responds with another trip back to the well. And so I call upon you, Fuller House, to make amends, do yourself a favor, and give us the Halloween ep. we deserve. Whatever that might mean.

Until then... get the eggs and toilet paper out, I've been wanting to do this for a long time. And let's get Gibbler in on it too - she's right next door, and she'd probably have a blast.

Shocktober Approacheth

Some months ago, I had the following conversation with my friend, Tom, who had asked a very simple question whilst we were scrolling through the Netflix.

"Did you see The Avengers?"

"Yeah... it was okay."

"What?"

"Eh. I've never really been into the whole cape-thing."

"What's 'the cape-thing?'"

"You know, the superhero-thing - I mean, okay, there's Batman-"

"Cape."

"And Zorro - well, I guess Zorro had a cape..."

"See?"

For a moment I considered throwing the Rocketeer out there, but quickly realized that the Cirrus X3 jetpack could easily be dismissed as a fire-cape.

"Robin Hood - did Robin Hood wear a cape?"

"His name is 'Robin Hood.'"

"I guess he did, huh? Or at least, like, a half-cape."

"It sounds like you're actually really into capes."

And with that, the issue was resolved: I loved capes more than I ever knew.

Which leads me to my next topic: Halloween. Most of us love Halloween, correct? I feel like we're culturally on the same page with this, and I am delighted that we, as a people, take it seriously. It is ritual, it is sacred, and we all dig it like crazy. Especially me, for while it is little remembered, having been lost in the debris field that is the internet, this time of year brings something else to mind:

This one time, I wrote a book.

And it's a Halloween book, you see, so if it's not to be brought to mind now, then when? It's called The Creeps (Chapter 1 is called "The Girl In The Cape" - I am so into capes, how did I not see this??) and it's out there in a big way, baby. You can find it for your Kindle, where Amazon will presumably drone-deliver it directly into your device, and it's also now available for Nook, a reading platform that just can't help but sound adorable. Options for you, the beloved reader, so you can go get that thing.

But that is not all. Oh no, no, no.

As a modern writer, I am well-aware of the monumental task being set for the world when organizing words into sentences to be read at one's leisure. Even the above-stated sentence can seem like a slog when acknowledging how difficult it can be to get a few moments to oneself. Go ahead and ask me how long I've been staring down the barrel of Donna Tartt's Pulitzer-winning The Goldfinch - and I fucking love Donna Tartt! (Side note: Anyone out there know Donna Tartt? Please shoot me her email, I'd like to ask her how the The Goldfinch ends.)

As The Penguin said in that episode of The Twilight Zone (I believe he is in all of them), we readers desire a state where there is "time enough at last." And while that will most likely never happen, we can at least paint more layers of media on the time we do have at our disposal. As a modern human, I am sensitive to this, and have taken the liberty of removing the guesswork. And you know what that means... that's right: Audiobook.

I have read it so you don't have to. Just let me spin you a yarn! And hell yeah, I did the voices! Some of them even have accents that meander all over the British Isles, often within the same sentence! It is one Sean Connery-impression away from taxing my entire bag of vocal tricks, but I leave it to you to decide if it was worth it. Listen in the car, at your job, during your workout, while your loved ones are sharing their deepest fears and desires with you - they won't even notice. Because they're already texting. All I ask in return is that you buy 900 copies and tell everyone you know about it, constantly. #ImATotalCreep

So. The files have been uploaded, the damage has been done, and The Creeps audiobook adventure will be "dropping" on Audible in a week or two - they're kind of vague about it, but quality control is as quality control does, so whatever. Should we refer to it as a countdown to some thing? VA-Day? As in "Victory over Audio Day" (hearing being the most sonic of all the six senses)? Rest assured, when I know, you will know.

In celebration of this momentous occasion, and while we wait for Audible to do whatever it is it's doing, Team Creeps is rolling out some hot time-wasters.

They are as follows:

1.) First thing's first (hence the number): If you've not already done so, please go to my Author page and "Like" it, even if you really don't. While it's been holding steady at around 60 people who have offered their tacit approval by clicking that button and then immediately forgetting about it, Facebook keeps promising me incredible things if it breaks 100. They treat it as though it will magically open a portal to Spain, and with all the urgency of an old-timey chain-letter. So let's definitely get in on that - data regarding your intimate browsing preferences are not going to exploit themselves!

2.) There is a website now, if you'd like to see what goes on with my projects. www.justinzeppa.com - go figure.

3.) Because Team Creeps celebrates Halloween harder than any Team ever (I have no proof of this), and to spare you from being constantly reminded about everything I'm currently reminding you about, I'm just going to hammer you with some stupid blogs. You lucky ducks.

That's right, everyone put on your domino masks - we're off on a trick-or-treating adventure of our own. We'll be stalking the streets and knocking on the doors of families we all know and love and loathe, time-traveling our way through 50+ years of Halloween-themed television shows. KaBOOM!

Look, I love me some TV, let's make no bones about it. As a kid, I watched tons, in lieu of cultivating adequate social skills (we now live in a world that communicates almost exclusively through pop-culture references, so who's laughing now, I ask you!), and as an adult, it's exactly the same. The point being, every day in October, I shall use this lifetime of watching-experience to pilot you through a fantastical, fictional neighborhood of TV family homes. We shall knock on their doors and look past them, into the living rooms of decades gone by to see how they celebrate Halloween.

As our guide, we will be using Wikipedia's outstanding List Of Halloween Television Specials, as complete a resource on the subject as you will ever find, and one I have been seeking out for at least 15 years. I'll try to take you through as many eras and genres as possible, and try to keep a healthy balance of the familiar and the exotic. Mind you, we'll be focusing on Halloween episodes (hereafter known as "eps"), not specials, so you'll need to get your Great Pumpkin fix elsewhere. For we have bigger Miller-Boyett fish to fry.

In conclusion, yes, you've read this correctly: I'm watching television, and you're going to read about it. You're welcome, and Happy October to one and all. See you tomorrow.

unCivil! (or, Emblazoned Saddles: The Re-naming of a Theatrical Colossus)

Summer! Hot, sweaty, wildly-fluctuating summer! Oh buddy, I know you know what this damp t-shirt means… that’s right, it’s Civil War musical comedy time. Or it was, anyway.

Like a carnival asked to show its permits, the Civil War musical comedy has pulled up stakes and left town for the season. There’s always a sense of sadness in the air as we take down the set decorations and box up the cast and crew.

In the kitchen, Rick Kunzi and Director Steve Bebout finish the last of the wine and pick at the leftovers, plotting program-and-turkey sandwiches for the next week. They’ve already vacuum-sealed castmates Mitch Jarvis, Brian Charles Rooney, and Antwayn Hopper into freezer bags, with plans of thawing them out for the next time the neighbors invite themselves over for dinner. The lid of Matt Stocke’s Gladware has been snapped shut to seal in the juices, and Ian Lowe naps peacefully in the corner, his snoozing face the very definition of innocence – it’s been a big day for him too.

Mike Abbott is sedated with safari-grade tranquilizers and placed back into his crate, the remaining space of which is then filled with Styrofoam peanuts to protect his glossy finish. Adam Barnosky hoists the Bobby Spencer back into the rafters for safe-keeping, and we breathe a collective sigh of relief that he’s made it through another round of performances, just as bright and winsome as when Dad bought him for the front yard display all those years ago.

And who could forget the rest of the band, crew, and festival staff, who worked ‘round the clock to get this show exploding into people’s faces like a double-jammed Kentucky long rifle? Yes, they did that thing and they did it with aplomb - to each of them will be delivered a repurposed bowling trophy as reward for their efforts. (If you’ve not yet received yours, just keep calling your postman’s home number every day until he gives you one.) There’s a reason for this season, and it’s called giving. It is also arguably called taking. Speaking of which, let us take a trip back in time to last month…

How I Spent My Summer Playcation

Yes, this past July we traveled deep into the dark heart of Adirondia. It was there, in the woods of upstate New York, that our people found refuge at the Adirondack Theatre Festival of Glens Falls. The air was thick with James Fenimore Cooper, and the streets were bursting with charming bistros. There, having finished our artisanal sandwiches and reluctantly acknowledged that none of us has ever actually read The Last of the Mohicans, we learned that the local constabulary had agreed to our putting up a show - a little something I’ve spoken of before, now replete with a newer, user-friendlier name: The unCivil War.

Oh, I’m sorry – you were expecting a more opulent title? Something gauche and hyper-dramatic, like Gods and Generals or The Killer Angels? Something like 2014’s award-winning Bayonets of Angst perhaps? Well, you’re in luck, for the legacy of Bayonets lives on in the much-easier-to-deal-with title of The unCivil War. It is also sometimes known as unCivil, just as it is always known to be a copyediting nightmare.

But so what? We may have changed the name, but the scathingly ridiculous content remains, so there’s no need to adjust your metrics – if anything, we’ve increased our laughs by 33% just by getting more people through the door without weighing them down with the eternal question: “What is a ‘Bayonet of Angst?’”

And where did that name come from anyway? Uh-oh, it looks like we’re in for another episode of...

Entitlement Issues

To find out, I went on sabbatical from my day job, took two and a half courses on “Research” at the local community college (the half-credit comes from a class I walked-out on because the professor had a different opinion than I did, so fuck that guy) and delved deep into the Zanadu Archives, seeking answers.

I will be honest in admitting that the Archives operate under a flawed organizational system – flawed in that they are kind of just stacks of shit in no particular order. From an archivist’s perspective, the upside is that you can look at the stacks and go, “I betcha that thing I wrote down that one time is still here somewhere.” Lo and behold, that thing I sought was in there somewhere, and upon focusing my search in some period-era notebooks (’02 to ’03 was an era of Mead Five Star composition books, which were just like regular comp books, but had college ruling and plastic covers – ooh-la-la, perfect for when friends drive over them!), I was able to find my original list of potential titles for the admittedly silly script I’d been toying with.

It was the fall of 2003, and with social strife enveloping the globe and pouring onto the page, I knew I would need a title that could sum up the whole bloody package. Aspiring to create the greatest (the only?) Civil War comedy the world has ever seen, I soon began comparing any candidates to the greatest title the world has ever seen. I am, of course, talking about the decadent wordsmithing of one Mr. Irving Stone and his novel… The Agony and the Ecstasy.

One more time: The Agony and the Ecstasy.

The Agony and the Ecstasy!? Not to fall back on vague blanket-praise, but I think he fucking nailed it! What else is left to even mention at this point? You’ve got your lowest-of-the-low Agony, you’ve got your never-been-higher Ecstasy - case-fucking-closed! Not since War and Peace has a title so assuredly proclaimed itself to embody the complete duality of opposing states, and even Tolstoy reads as starkly pragmatic when placed next to that beast of a name.

Anyway, I can’t really recommend the novel because I’ve never read it, just as I can’t recommend the Charlton Heston / Rex Harrison-starring film adaptation because I’ve never seen it from start-to-finish (all I remember is the scene where Heston’s Michelangelo receives a vision from god regarding the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling that appears to be an optical of a humble postcard of the ceiling as it appears now, superimposed over a shot of clouds bursting with heavenly rays of light). However, I can recommend any writer taking him or herself too seriously to try besting TAATE’s dramatic heights. Certainly I was obsessed with doing so:

Okay, a couple things jump out at me right away.

1.) I did not know how to spell the word “Bayonets.” To save face, I was just about to throw the name “The Bayonettes” out there for some girl band to grab, but it looks like they already exist - good for them!

2.) If you look closely, you can see that there's a doodle of a Frankenstein on the back of the page. This is pretty standard-issue.

3.) This story was extraordinarily close to being straight-up called The Angst and the Agony, which one could argue does not exactly hold its cards close to the vest. Considering the other options appearing on this list, Bayonets of Angst was the correct name for the show at the time, but as was the case during any James Brown gig or with the broadcast schedule of NewsRadio, times change.

So here we are, changing with those times, plowing the bow of our present into the yielding mucus membrane of the future, leaving behind naught but the Weltschmerz of gun-swords and the past. Who needs the past to present history? There are ‘needs’ and then there are ‘needs.’ And right now, I need some tin cans, two bunches of bananas, and no less than three (3) hoop skirts. You guys can handle that, right? Guys? …Guys?

And while I cannot guarantee what the name will be tomorrow, I can guarantee it will probably, presumably, in all likelihood, have the term "unCivil" in it. #unCivilmusical, #Idontknowwhathashtagsmean.

(As no tedious retelling of a Playcation is complete until you’ve been made to sit through a slideshow of photos, here are a few:)

The Cast – arguably the most important factor in getting the wardrobe and props to hit their marks.

Drinking with co-writer, Rick Kunzi. We did this a lot, mostly during the day.

Large, blond man points to poster, world sighs.

You will never be able to accurately measure the breadth of your ego until you’ve gotten your own street lamp banners.

All the world’s a stage, but especially the actual stage-part.

Herek Vs. Reynolds: A G-Chat Poem

Sent at 10:42 AM on Thursday
me: Hey everyone, it's me, Stephen Herek
director of the Bill and Ted movie
Dont Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead
and the Mighty Ducks
I'm glad you're here with me on-set while we shoot our next blockbuster
a re-working of Alexandre Dumas' Three Musketeers
starring Kiefer Sutherland
Charlie Sheen
Chris O'Donnell
Oliver PLatt
Rebecca DeMornay
Tom: what is happening
me: and TimCurry
I've had a great idea
remember a couple years ago when Bryan Adams rocked the planet with his
love ballad from Prince of Thieves?
well check it - that was one gravelly voiced guy doing a powerful power-
ballad
well, we got this Disney cash to throw around
so we're going to get THREE gravelly-voiced guys to sing OUR powerful
power-ballad
Bryan Adams
Rod Stewart
and Sting
and we're calling it "All For Love"
kind of a twist on the popular phrase from the novel, right?
And it works because 1.) It worked last time
and 2.) There are THREE times the vocals
just like the THREE Musketeers!
See how easy it is to craft a hit?
And we'll follow the template laid down by our fellows at Morgan Creek
Prods
we'll get the THREE of them to stand around with each other and sing
while we cut to action sequences from the film!
It's just that easy!
All right everyone, let's get to work!(end scene)
I heard that tune as hold music for Citizens Bank 4 minutes ago. Hilarious.
Sent at 11:13 AM on Thursday
me: hey gang, it's me, Stephen Herek again
remember the gravelly-voiced actor who played Guy of Gisbourne in Thieves?
well, I've got great news
we got him for Musketeers!
Michael Wincott up in the house!
and remember how his ear was cut off in Thieves?
well, we're giving him a freaking eyepatch in this movie
'Teers will be the greatest reimagining of Thieves EVER.
Action!
Sent at 11:34 AM on Thursday
Tom: ha!
Sent at 11:42 AM on Thursday
me: Hey everyone, it's me, Kevin Reynolds
director of Fandango
Waterworld
and Thieves
remember when Steph Herek remade Thieves as 'Teers?
and he tried to out-Reynolds me, Kevin Reynolds?
well, fuck that guy
'Teers is no homage to my classic, Thieves
so to course-correct this nonsense, I'm reimagining the
reimagining
and I'm calling it
The Count of Monte Cristo
and oh, you better believe you can count on Revenge
listen, we've got a hot new bland-faced actor in the mold of Costner
and its Jim Caviezel
or Guy Pearce
they're kind of the same person
and we're cutting the power ballad - revenge needs no crooning
just more swashbuckling
I'm getting Richard Harris to show up too
and I'm throwing in Napoleon
and pirates
and a prison escape
and treasure
and Dagmara Dominczyzcyzyzyzczyk
who's 10x hotter than either Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonios or Rebecca
DeMornay
also, great news
we've got Michael Wincott locked down to be the baddie who runs Chateau
D'if
it will be the most Reynoldsian exercise of Reynoldsian tropes
because I'm Kevin Reynolds
and you're not, Herek
so fuck you.
Sent at 11:49 AM on Thursday