Archive for the ‘Way Back When’ Category

The Simpsons to remove iconic 1991 episode featuring the voice of Michael Jackson from ALL platforms   Leave a comment

Image result for The Simpsons Michael Jackson

 

…This is sad and heartbreaking.

The Simpsons Executive Producer Jamees L. Brooks announced earlier today that he will personally oversee the removal of the iconic 1991 episode from existence. The episode from Season 3 (1991-1992) titled “Stark Raving Dad” features the voice of Michael Jackson, who is credited in the episode’s credits as “John Jay Smith”.

That episode was memorable for 1-minute song Michael Jackson wrote and performed alongside Bart Simpson’s voice actress Nancy Cartwright:

 

 

…I saw it when it first aired. It was such a touching episode and was long considered by series fans to be one of if not the best celebrity episode in the show’s history. Not just because of the featured celebrity but how they worked with Michael Jackson after the 1990 TV premiere of the Black or White music video on FOX to keep his direct involvement in the recording of the Season 3 episode a closely guarded secret. When the episode first aired back in 1991, viewers immediately recognized his voice and looked for his name in the credits. Everyone knew it was him but was shocked to see his name was not in the credits. It actually was: Brooks revealed several years later they decided to use the alias “John Jay Smith” per his request not to have his name featured in the episode’s credits. A few other celebrities have made the same before and since so it wasn’t exactly uncommon.

Brooks made the call to basically wipe the episode from the existence after he saw the HBO Documentary Leaving Neverland. The Documentary features one of Jackson’s former accusers coming forward with new accusations. The new accusations come a few months before the 10th anniversary of Jackson’s untimely death. Jackson died suddenly in 2009 from a medical drug overdose. The accuser, who had apparently been forgiven by the Jackson family and was present for Michael Jackson’s public memorial service in 2009 shocked the family with this documentary.

The surviving Jackson brothers got in front of cameras and condemned the documentary as well as the accuser a few weeks ago. They view the new accusations as a betrayal since they had invited him into their home after Jackson’s death as well as nothing more than a cash grab. More so given unlike before, Jackson is no longer alive and can’t defend himself from the new accusations. It’s worth noting The Jackson family is following through on a lawsuit against the accuser and HBO for defamation and libel. His 3 kids are aware of the new accusations and the family is pulling out all the stops to protect them during this very difficult time.

I have not seen the documentary myself and have no desire to personally. This is not the same as R. Kelly and Bill Cosby. Michael Jackson was tried and acquitted a few years before he died but the court of public opinion still considers him guilty of the charges he was proven NOT GUILTY of in court. I don’t hear calls for R. Kelly’s music to be pulled from iTunes or The Cosby Show being pulled off Hulu. Like Cosby, Jackson had his day in court. The evidence proved he was not guilty. The star witness–one of his alleged accusers–said Jackson never hurt him ever. So, why this now?

One word: Money.

Brooks doing this tells me he belived Jackson was guilty of what he was accused of and was just looking for a good excuse to erase this episode from existence. Well, he got what he wanted in this documentary. Not only is the episode being pulled off TV but is also being removed from ALL streaming platforms and digital stores such as iTunes, Google Play, Hulu, Amazon Prime and YouTube. Brooks even plans to go so far as to remove the episode from future DVD and Blu Ray box sets as well as having existing box sets with the episode in stores recalled so they can be destroyed and replaced. No, really.

I plan to download the episode via iTunes, Google Play and YouTube when I can to protest the decision. The episode first aired 28 years ago. Why do this now? It makes no sense. The best time to have done it would have been back in 2004.

 

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It’s a shame we had to wait 25 years for the Queen Biopic Bohemian Rhapsody   Leave a comment

Image result for Bohemian Rhapsody

 

…The main reason being the band’s lead vocalist Freddie Mercury is Bisexual. The biopic follows the rise of Queen, their falling out and reunion in time to perform at Live Aid in 1985 does not shy away from “The Controversy”. I had heard rumors there was some difficulty casting the role of Freddie Mercury specifically because of that. Rami Malek, who landed the role did the job well. Mercury’s sexuality had been questioned before and during his time apart from the band and the movie doesn’t shy away from it. There are a few moments in the movie some may find uncomfortable to see or have their kids see (The movie is rated PG-13). I won’t say what they are since those moments should not be focused on.

The real focus should be the movie’s namesake song:

 

Originally released in 1975 on the Album A Night at the Opera, the nearly 6 minute track bombed HARD though the band vehemently defended it and stood by it as their greatest song ever. It wasn’t until its appearance in a certain movie 17 years later the genre-crossing song finally got the long overdue respect it deserved.

…What movie? This one:

 

 

The story goes Mike Myers, who was a huge Queen fan insisted on Bohemian Rhapsody over I’m in Love with my Car, which is on the same Album and was considered a better fit for the sequence. Myers was so insistent on Bohemian Rhapsody he threatened to scrap the entire movie if it was not used. He not only starred in the movie but was also the Executive Producer so…yeah. It’s said Freddie Mercury saw the above scene before he died of AIDS-related Pnemonia in 1992, liked it and gave his blessing for the song to be used in Wayne’s World.

…Bohemian Rhapsody dethroned the stanglehold Michael Jackson had on the top charts for almost 10 years running. This despite the song having been originally released back in 1975.

Anywho, the movie ends with the 1985 Live Aid concert. Billions were raised to help with the severe famines in Africa. Michael Jackson’s iconic single We Are the World (featuring a who’s who of legendary artists including Stevie Wonder and Kenny Rogers) was made around the same time as the concert and if you ask me, there should be one every 5 to 10 years. Freddie Mercury, who knew his time was short pushed for Queen to be included in the concert. He passed away 7 years later in 1992. The surviving members of Queen started an AIDS research group in his honor.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t share this awesome cover from 6 years ago:

 

 

The video went viral at the time but as you can see, it’s a drunk guy singing Bohemian Rhapsody from the back of a police car.

…Then there is this:

 

 

…I know there were people in that crowd who were at Live Aid in 1985. The story goes, Green Day planned to do an instrumental and ran the pre-recorded track first when the crowd started singing. They were so moved, they fired up the band and recorded over the pre-recording.

Queen’s impact crosses generations. Every time the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Briuns won a title I would fire up The Anthem:

You know the song but might not have known where it came from ^_^

On that note:

…You see where I’m going now? Queen is Timeless.

As a bonus, here is their performance from Live Aid 1985 in full:

From the Video’s Description:

00:36 – Bohemian Rhapsody
02:42 – Radio Ga Ga
06:53 – Ay Oh!
07:34 – Hammer To Fall
12:08 – Crazy Little Thing Called Love
16:03 – We Will Rock You
17:18 – We Are The Champions
21:12 – Is This The World We Created…?

I bolded the ones that made the cut in the movie, in order. They had to cut the other 3 for time presumably. The home release will undoubtedly have the full set plus the original concert as bonus content.

 

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Some of my Favorite Sitcoms from the 1980s and 1990s   Leave a comment

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…Not gonna lie: I don’t remember much about the 90s that didn’t involve TV or video games. And I’m proud of it. LOL.

I’m gonna split this nostalia trip 4 categories actoss four different posts: Kids Shows, Cartoons, Sitcoms and Drama. I’ll cover Anime in my Anime Blog separately. Each Category will get a separate post because of how much I know I like to write ^_^

For those who were born in the late 90s or otherwise don’t watch broadcast TV much, sitcoms were TV shows that ran for 30 minutes from the 50s to the 90s.  The older generations might recall The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, The Jeffersons and Sanford & Son. Those were all Sitcoms. Sitcoms were often family oriented and depcited people or families of the time. Episodes also often had a lesson or message for viewers to learn.

Here are a few of my all-time favorite sitcoms.

 

Sitcoms

Image result for 1990s TV Shows

 

 

This was the shit RIGHT HERE. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air ran from 1990 to 1996 and lasted 6 seasons.

 

Some stuff about the cast you may or may not known:

 

  • Will Smith was actually the least experienced actor on the show at the time it began filming episodes. He would often forget his lines, much to the chagrin of the other cast members. It’s easy to forget he was an above-average hip hop artist trying to transition into acting. By the time the final season finished filming, Will Smith had landed his first major motion picture role as Captain Steve Hiller in the 1996 action thriller Independence Day. He reportedly beat out Tom Cruise for the leading role (Cruise was cast in 1997’s Mission Impossible).
  • James Avery getting cast as Uncle Phil is the stuff of legends. The story goes, Avery walked into the room not knowing who he was and chastised him for his demeanor and casual dress. Will Smith turned to Executive Producer Quincy Jones (the same Quincy Jones who managed Michael Jackson) and told him “I want him”. Reportedly, John Amos (Good Times, Roots) and Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption) had also been considered for the role. He passed away in 2010.
  • Janet Hubert, who played Vivian Banks for half the show’s run was famously fired because of her personal beef with Will Smith. She was angry Will didn’t advocate for the rest of the cast more and James Avery often had to talk her down, reminding her it’s HIS show. Daphne Reid was hired to replace her as Vivian Banks for the rest of the series. When Will Smith recently talked of wanting to do a possible reunion special, she made it known she still hates his guts. Ouch!
  • Alfonso Ribiero, like Jaleel White was defined by the character he played on TV: Carlton Banks. A little known fun fact about Alfonso: Before he was cast for the role, he trained to be a backup dancer for Michael Jackson. If you ever wondered why The Carlton Dance was so precise, now you know why. Tom Jones, who sings It’s Not Unusual made a guest appearance on an episode in a dream sequence after years of fan request and the renewed popularity of his song thanks to its use on the show.
  • Karyn Parsons, who played Hillary Banks was a talk show host for two years during seasons 4 and 5. It was a good way for those who only knew her for her role on Fresh Prince to see her in a different light.
  • You probably already know this but DJ Jazzy Jeff worked closely with Will Smith when they toured before the show. The “Jazz is thrown out” sequence was only shot once. In episodes in which he would be thrown out, he would always wear the same clothes he wore in the original shot to be consistent.

…Karyn Parsons, Tatiana Ali and Alfonso Ribiero are all of Trinidadian descent. I only just learned that from reading the show’s IMDB section. The only reason I mention that is because my family is from Trinidad ^_^

Alfonso brought back the Carlton Dance for his appearance in Dancing with the Stars back in 2014:

 

 

…He saved it for last and yes, he won the competition. He held off using the dance until the very end on purpose knowing he would only get to use it once and knew that if he saved it until the end, he would win the competition. His DWTS appearance also revitalized his acting career and celebrity status. A few years earlier, he revealed in an interview he left the business after the Fresh Prince ended because all anyone saw when they looked at him was Carlton Banks. Fortunately, he was able to get by on royalties from the show. After his DWTS appearance, he was able to find work in various TV roles.

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Family Matters ran from 1989 to 1998.

…Man oh man. The IRONY of that video’s screenshot. I just finished reading the trivia section on IMDB for the show. I am now about to reveal to everyone the mystery of what happened to Judy Winslow. The character was appearantly doomed from the start and more so when Urkel became popular.

Valerie Jones played Judy in the first episode and was replaced by Foxworth afterward. The problem is her character had little screen time and was often ridiculed or the butt of jokes in almost all of her on-screen appearances. In other words, she was disposable. The story goes when Foxworth asked for a pay increase, the show’s producers were so pissed at her request she was promptly written off the show after four seasons. They told her she was let go due to budget cuts. This is why when she’s seen going upstairs, she’s never seen again. Later episodes revised the show’s canon to make it as if she never existed. If you look at family pictures in the living room after her last appearance, you will see she is no longer included. I do wonder if they never planned to keep the character for as long as they did given her abrupt exit without closure. They could’ve said she died and though morbid, it would’ve still been closure.

What happened to Foxworth after she was kicked off the show is tragic but unfortunately not uncommon: She got into porn at 19 and later, substance addiction. Fortunately, she got clean and is doing well now. She explains how and why here:

Fans of the TV series noticed Foxworth was left out of the reunion special that happened a few years after her OWN appearance. In a statement she released online, she explained she was not told of the planned reunion and though she was not surprised she was left out because of her checkered past since leaving the show, she felt that her omission was a missed opportunity. She also professed a willingness to be a part of a series reboot which the other cast members discussed.

Speaking of, here’s whart the other living cast members look like now:

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Rosetta LeNoire, who played Ester Winslow was 85 years old when she left the show in 1997. She passed away in 2002 at age 90. Michelle Thomas, who played Urkel’s love interest Myra passed away from stomach cancer the same year as her final appearance. Orlando Jackson, who was added to the show later on got into legal trouble after leaving the show. Believe it or not, Reginal VelJohnson was the only actor to appear in every single episode of the series on both ABC and CBS.

It is interesting to note Family Matters is actually a spinoff of Perfect Strangers in which Harriet Winslow (played by Jo Marie Payton for all but the last season) first appeared as an elevator operator.  She as well as Reginal VelJohnson were the most experienced cast members. Fans were familiar with VelJohnson from his appearances in the Lethal Weapon movies in which he also played a cop. Jo Marie revealed later she wanted to leave the show sooner but didn’t because she was under contract. When CBS bought the show, she agreed to do a few episodes of what ended up being the 9th and final season.

New Edition, Dave Koz, Shanice Wilson, Tracie Spencer, Freddie Jackson, Missy Elliott, Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers, Portrait, All 4 One, Immature, MC Lyte, Donna Summer, and Shai all appeared during the show’s run.

Image result for Family Matters Jaleel White

Now let’s get to some trivia about Jaleel White and the character that made him famous, Steven Quincy Urkel:

  • Before being permanently cast, Urkel made a cameo appearance in Full House (1989) in which he helped Stephanie Tanner (played by Jodie Sweetin) feel confident wearing her new glasses in school. He also appeared in an episode of Step by Step in 1991 and Meego in 1997.
  • White revealed apparently, he was originally going to be cast in the role of Rudy Huxtable on The Cosby Show when Bill Cosby decided to make the character a girl. That role was eventually given to Kiesha Knight-Pullam.
  • White had also apparently been considered for a role on Saved by the Bell, likely the role of Screech (given to Dustin Diamond).
  • Voiced Sonic the Hedgehog in the first 3 animated TV series.
  • At the time he was cast as Urkel at 13, he assumed he was out of the business since no one was calling him. Then he was cast for the role of Steve Urkel. Jaimee Foxworth auditioned for Judy Winslow 7 times just so you know. One of them was eventually cut. The other one became a TV Icon.
  • Apparently, Jaleel White had to shave weekly and was told to not work out to maintain his on-screen character. He noticably underwent several growth spurts throughout the course of the show.
  • In a 1999 interview, White revealed he had NBA aspirations when it looked like his acting career would be over. When he was told he couldn’t work out to maintain the Urkel character, that prettymuch ended his hoop dreams. He apparently played one on one with George Clooney during the latter actor’s run on ER since their respective sets were nearby.
  • In the same 1999 interview, White professed his hatred for the Urkel character. He couldn’t find other acting roles similar to Roberto Ribiero for prettymuch the same reasons. He would later walk back those comments in 2011, saying by the time the show’s run ended in 1998 he was just done and wanted to move on. He doesn’t hate the character anymore but has zero interest in doing it again.
  • The character of Stephan Ur’kel–in which White plays himself–gave fans a look at White’s range. The character was used sporatically throughout the series as Laura Winslow’s love interest. When given the choice to permanently have Stefan instead of Steve, she chose the latter because even though she loved Stefan she cared about Steve too. White pitched for Stefan to replace Urkel but was shot down because of the overwhelming popularity of the latter.

 

 

Image result for Steve Urkel and Carlton Banks

 

I opened with these shows mainly so I could now discuss the significance of the non-traditional roles played by Urkel and Carlton as Black Youth on Primetime TV.

This scene involving Carlton sums up what I’m trying to say:

 

Uncle Phil said it best: “When are we gonna stop doing this to each other?”

By “This”, he means the concept projected by Blacks that Blacks who find success outside Sports or Entertainment are sellouts. Blacks who are do not conform to how they think Blacks should be or are but still finds success is a sellout to them.

Carlton and Urkel were both non-conforming Black Young Men and their characters–especially Carlton’s–were introduced at a time when too many Black and Brown Males bought into the unrealistic myth that their only hope of relevance, fame and fortune was Sports of Entertainment and if that didn’t work out, they could turn to crime.

I do not having more sitcoms with a predominantly Black cast in non-conformist roles was a missed opportunity. Tyler Perry tried to bring that back with his studio but he let the fame go to his head. That seems to happen to everyone made famous because of Oprah. Just sayin’.

Movng on. Other sitcoms I watched with a predominantly Black Cast include:

  • Martin (Starring Martin Lawrence)
  • The D.L. Hughgley Show)
  • The Steve Harvey Show (featuring Cedric the Entertainer)
  • The Bernie Mac Show
  • Livin’ Single (Co-Starring Queen Latifah)
  • The Cosby Show
  • Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper
  • Sister, Sister (Starring Tia and Tamara Mowry)
  • Smart Guy (Starry Taj Mowry)
  • The Wayans Brothers (Starry Shawn and Marlon Wayans)

Those are just the ones that immediately came to mind too. I know I missed a few.

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…Obviously I was gonna go here. As the only one of the featured shows to actually get a spinoff series, I would remiss not to. The iconic sitcom ran from 1987 to 1995.

I have actually seen every single episode of this TV series. Like Family Matters and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, some of the cast members we already established or accomplished actors. In this case it was Bob Saget and Dave Coulier, who were friends in real life as well as John Stamos (Daytime Soap Opera). Story goes, Stamos got together with Coulier and Saget after the first season and hung out in Las Vegas. The new friendship between Stamos and Coulier was incorporated into the show as well.

Bob Saget was the host of America’s Funniest Home Videos and actually maintained his role as host during the entire length of the show’s run as Danny Tanner. His TV family even appeared in an episode of AMV in the audience in character. Candace Cameron Bure (Then just Candace Cameron before she married)–sister of teen start Kirk Cameron of Growing Pains fame–reccommended his sister audition for the role when she asked him about it. She would later push back against speculation (backed by her cast mates) the only reason she got the role of DJ Tanner is because of her more known older brother. Dave Coulier made recurring appearances on Nickelodeon before he signed on to Full House as well as during the first 3 seasons.

Everyone else including Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who took turns playing Michelle Tanner were newcomers.  They were not credited as separate people until the final season because the producers didn’t want viewers to know two people shared the role of Michelle (They were credited as “Mary-Kate Ashley Olsen” but written as one name). The problem is as they grew, they became more distinctive in both personality and appearance. Mary-Kate is Right-Handed and Ashley is Left-Handed for example. At Stamos’ insistence they chose not to cut one of the twins and just elected to not address the subtle but obvious differences on air and otherwise. The Olsens, unlike Tia and Tamera Mowry are actually not identical twins.0

I know of two instances in which they both appeared on-screen at the same time. One was in the first season when relatives came to visit. The other twin was cast as a cousin. The other instance I remember offhand was the 2-part finale. Michelle was involved in a horse-riding accident and suffered amnesia. The other twin was cast as her missing memories. They appeared together again in the final curtain call.

There was a planned ninth season but it would have aired on the then new WB Network. The other cast members decided the time had come to end the show when John Stamos and Candace Cameron both announced they would be leaving after the 8th season, which aired between 1994 and 1995 on ABC. Most of the cast went to private life for 21 years after the series finale until the new series, which premeired in 2016. John Stamos and Lori Laughlin (played Becky) continued their acting careers on other syndicated shows.

The Olsens used their status to pursue careers in acting (It Takes Two) and voice acting before transitioning into Fashion and College in New York. The twins were constantly followed by a throng of media everywhere they went and the lows of the Olsens were well documented to put it mildly. When asked, Bob Saget vehemently defended his former co-stars and expressed disappointment at the girls being denied privacy from the media during their lows.

The cast reunited in 2015 in honor of the 20th Anniversary of the series finale. The cast discussed the possability of doing a new show together and most were on board.

 

 

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…That new show is Fuller House, which is available on Netflix. Same concept as the original series with a new cast of kids. They even got twos to play the baby again.

Noticably absent from the new series is Michelle Tanner. Her absence is explained on-screen as her just being too busy with her fashion empire in New York. Fans often mistook this as taking shots at the Olsens when it’s anything but that. The Olsens were part of the conversation when the original cast discussed the new series (Co-Produced by John Stamos) but they elected not to make an appearance for now. When asked about the absence from the new series, the other cast members dodged the question and redirected the discussion to the new series.

There is some speculation the reasons ABC (now owned by Disney) didn’t pick up Fuller House is because the Olsens were not part of the cast even in a recurring role and the older members of the original cast–Saget, Stamos, Coulier and Loughlin–wouldn’t have alot of screen time. Netflix offered to run the show and the rest is history. I do think the we will see Michelle Tanner make an on-screen appearance eventually and I also think when is being kept a closely guarded secret.

The new series uses the same premise as the original series: After the sudden and unexpected death of her husband, DJ Tanner is left to raise her three sons by herself. Her sister Stephanie and her best friend Kimmy Gibbler both offer to move in and help her with the kids. Kimmy moves in with her teenage daughter Ramona.

For those who may be wondering “Whatever happened to DJ’s boyfriend Steve?”, don’t worry. It’s covered and no, he wasn’t the one who died. DJ’s Single Mom status is a major plot bunny toward the end of the first season, the end of the second season and the first two episodes of the third season too actually. Kimmy’s ex-husband Fernando joins the cast halfway through though the first season (officially credited as a permanent cast member starting in the second season). The two remarry by the end of the second season. Kimmy’s younger brother Jimmy joins the cast toward the end of the second season. He and Stephanie end up hooking up by the beginning of the third season. One of the more touching moments touched on early in the first season is Sephanie wanting kids but being physically unable to have any. At the end of the third season, Kimmy offers to be a surrogate for her and her brother. In the season 3 finale, Kimmy reveals she is pregnant.

Season 4 is set to premiere later this year. Unlike 20 years ago, the whole season is shot at once. Also unlike 20 years ago, the series is not shot in front of a studio audience (The crowd reactions are pre-recorded). The same sets were obviously used with some noticable modern additions such as cell phones and tablets.

Movng on. Some other sitcoms I watched during the 80s and 90s include:

 

  • Punky Brewster
  • Married With Children
  • Family Matters
  • Home Improvement
  • The Wonder Years
  • Charles in Charles
  • Who’s The Boss
  • Boy Meets World
  • Seinfeld
  • Saved by The Bell
  • Small Wonder
  • Alf
  • Herman’s Head

 

Image result for punky brewster then and now
…You know you’re old when Punky Brewster is pregnant with her fourth child and will be 42 years old next month. Time has been good to Solei Moon Frye, who continued her acting career after the show ended in 1988. Once she hit pubety her freckles faded, she became taller and almost overnight she was no longer the spunky orphan who had captured the hearts of millions on TV. She had a recurring role on The Wonder Years in the early 90s before making her return to doing sitcoms. When asked about a possible series reboot, she said she wants one of her two daughters to play the character she made famous 30 years ago.

Whew.

I think I let this go on long enough. I will do the other three categories over time and will try to do them before the end of the summer. Man, I the nostalgia was something else with this one!

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If someone from the 1980s and 1990s saw what’s on TV today, they would be horrified and disgusted   Leave a comment

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…More so when you consider the wholesome and staggering variety of programming that was available 30 years ago. I mean just on Network TV–today commonly known as “Free TV”: PBS, CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX and The CW (Formerly known as The WB)–since the only subscription TV service available for most of that time was Cable. Unlike today, it didn’t matter if you didn’t have cable. You could find something for you on Network TV with relative ease. A common problem was trying to watch two popular or favorite shows in the same time slot on two different channels.

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…Man, this takes me back. LOL.

This is the channel guide for the TV Stations that covered Boston in the early 1980s. I wasn’t born until 1984 but all of them are now available on Network TV. WNAC became WHDH and until a few years ago, it was the local affiliate of NBC. Due to a contract dispute, WHDH split between Channel 7 (Local Programming) and Channel 10, which became NBC 10 (National Programming). WXNE became WFXT and is the local affiliate of FOX. WLVI would become the local affiliate of The WB and later The CW. WSBK would become the local affiliate of UPN and then The CW before they merged and it became an independent network again. WGBH changed to Channel 44 and PBS was Channel 2. When the National Networks switched from Analong to Digital about 10 years ago–prettymuch making non-HD TVs obsolete–as a side effect, you now had access to local channels in neighboring regions.

USA Network, ESPN, HBO, CNN, Cinemax, The Disney Channel, TBS, Nickelodeon, Showtime, TNT, MTV and BET were some of the first Cable networks. Cartoon Network, The Discovery Channel, The Travel Channel and others would come later and over time. Pay Per View, which is still around now but is somewhat obsolete allowed viewers to watch a movie after its run in theaters ended for a whole day. Basically, early digital rental. Same with WWE (Then still WWF) Pay Per Views and (obviously) Porn. Boxing matches were on HBO while ESPN and NBC carried the Olympics.

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It’s not shown but Old School Gamers knew to switch to Channel 3 if they wanted to play their NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, Sega CD, Sega Saturn, Sega 32x, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast or Playstation 1 console. All the consoles released after the PS1, Dreamcast and N64 required AUX or Video and later HDMI. The Reason Channel 3 was used is because it’s a “dead” channel. I’ll spare you the technical details but basically the RF Adapter hacks your TV to allow you to see and hear the game you play or in the case of VCRs, watch home movies.

Getting back to my earlier point, parents didn’t have to worry about what their kids might be watching back then like they do today. You knew whatever your kid was watching wouldn’t impress them to do anything stupid, dangerous or provocative. Even the stuff on Cable TV. Sure, you might see stuff like that but you didn’t have to worry about kids emulating what they saw on TV. Nowdays, you do.

In my next two blog posts, I will talk about some of my favorite TV Shows and  Movies from the 1980s and 1990s. There will be a bit of crossover as some shows premeired in the 80s and continued into the 1990s or premiered in the 1990s and continued into the 2000s. I’ll give movies and TV shows their own blog posts. Gamers, I will do one on my Video Game Blog too don’t worry.

 

 

Straight Outta Compton and N.W.A. 27 Years Later   Leave a comment

I watched the movie Tuesday afternoon in Boston. The audience was diverse and the theater was packed despite it being a Tuesday afternoon. Not surprising given who it’s about.

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Top: NWA’s Movie Counterparts. Ice Cube’s son plays him in the movie.

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The remaining Members of N.W.A. and Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray and Jason Mitchell, who played the late Eric “Easy-E” Wright (from top-left): Ice Cube, Gray, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, Mitchell and MC Ren.

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…Before I begin, I do want to point out Straight Outta Compton is the name of both the movie and the 1988 album by N.W.A. The movie’s nearly two hours long and likely due to time, I noticed certain scenes shown in the movie trailer weren’t in the theatrical release. More on that in a little bit. To those who may be wondering thankfully, the actual music is used. Having ALL of the original members having a part in the movie’s production sure helped of course (LOL).

N.W.A.

Anyone even remotely interested in Rap or Hip Hop knows and if they don’t, SHOULD know that without N.W.A., there would be no Snoop Dogg, Eminem or 50 Cent. There would be no Tupac, Death Row Records, Aftermath Records, Shady Records or Menace II Society. Before there was Bone Thugs N Harmony, there was N.W.A.

They legendary rap group had the balls to speak their minds through their music at the height out the “War on Drugs”. They had the balls to say what everyone was thinking but didn’t have the balls to say. As Ice Cube’s son says as him in the film, their music was a reflection of their reality. 27 years later, the imfamous song Fuck tha Police is heralded as the most controversial track ever recorded. Why?

The track speaks for itself (Lyrics included):

…Unsurprisingly, the track has gained a recent surge in popularity and universal appeal in recent years for obvious reasons. Most folks are familiar with the song Express Yourself, which is actually on the SAME album as Fuck tha Police. The cover track is the first one as well.

Now let’s talk about the movie Straight Outta Compton. As I noted at the top, all of surviving members of N.W.A–Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella and MC Ren–played a part in the movie’s production. Ice Cube and Dr. Dre co-produced the movie. As he said in a recent interview on ESPN, he didn’t give preferential treatment to his son, who plays him in the film. Jason Mitchell plays Easy-E, who died of AIDS in 1995. In the days since the movie’s release this past weekend, Easy-E’s daughter made some comments on Twitter some interpreted as concern over how her father is portrayed in the film. She clarified her statements the same day and announced she’s working on a side project about her father. Mitchell has been tapped to reprise his role as Easy-E in it as well.

Another thing folks have been saying online is how MC Ren and DJ Yella were barely there and that Dre, Easy-E and Ice Cube dominated screen time for the most part. Shouldn’t be a surprise given Dre and ‘Cube co-produced the movie (LOL). Seriously though, the movie was done as a tribute to Easy-E. Ren and Yella know that so it’s all good.

That said, one of Dr. Dre’s ex-girlfriends said Monday his abusive relationships with his girlfriends was conveniently left out of the movie. Those who know about it knows he settled all that a while ago and publicly apologized. Her words were for the majority who may not be aware. Ice Cube got into fistfights with alot of people shortly after he left Ruthless Records but only one was shown in the movie. Like I said two paragraphs ago, Easy-E’s daughter raised concerns about her father’s portrayal in the movie. At the end of the day, Straight Outta Compton is about the rise and fall of the GROUP N.W.A. I’ll get to this later on but since the group broke up–and this is already well-known–Dr. Dre and Ice Cube have gone on to enjoy success since they left the group.

Moving on, the movie is interesting in which there were no cameo appearances by living persons who were around at the time. After Dre left N.W.A., he teamed up with the Suge Knight and formed Death Row Records. Tupac makes a brief appearance (not actually him, mind you) in the booth recording his smash hit Hail Mary. Snoop Dogg (not playing himself) also makes a brief appearance where he

There were a few scenes that were mentioned in the trailer that diffent make it to the theatrical release: in one, Easy-E pulls an AK-47 out of a black duffel bag. A scene with him holding it does make it into the movie. Another scene cut was Dr. Dre talking to his wife in jail after his arrest in Miami. I assume they and others were cut due to time constraints. Hopefully. they will all be included in the Blu-Ray/DVD Release, which I plan to buy when it comes out.

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Now, let me direct your attention to Suge Knight, above. Alot of folks agreed his portrayal in the movie was spot-on: Suge is alot of things he would later go out of his way to try to sweep under the rug. As Dre would find out in the movie when they worked together, Suge is a user, a snake, violent and greedy. What made him especially dangerous was he didn’t have a problem doing his own dirty work. Now that he’s dying in prison from a medical complication, he can’t hurt anyone anymore. As the saying goes, the longest rope has an end.

You can’t talk about the deaths of Easy-E, Tupac and Biggie Smalls and NOT talk about Suge Knight. Why? Because his name comes up as a person of interest in all three deaths. We know Biggie and Pac were shot but Suge was one of the last people to see both of them alive just before they died. We also know Suge later admitted in an interview after Biggie’s death he was the one who instigated the Biggie vs. Tupac beef that lead to both of their deaths. Their murders remain unsolved to this day and by the way, the two didn’t have a problem with each other. They were both victims of the Rap Game.

As for why Suge’s name is mentioned in regards to Easy-E’s death, it’s because it was well-known they didn’t like each other. In the movie there is a scene where Suge Knight and some of his boys jump Easy-E in the studio to force him to cut Dr. Dre from his contract with Ruthless Records, who was unofficially working for Death Row Records at the time.

We know Easy-E died from AIDS but the million-dollar question yet to be answered is how did an otherwise reasonably healthy man get it? Two things about AIDS have changed since 1993: AIDS is no longer a death sentence and sex with an infected person is no longer the most common way it’s spread. That said, there is a theory that’s been growing in popularity since Suge’s arrest that he had Easy-E injected with HIV-positive blood. After all, Easy-E didn’t know he was infected until it was too late. What makes it even more suspicious is Suge Knight’s disrespectful comments about Easy-E’s death after being told of his portrayal in the movie by his attorney. Just makes him look even more guilty if you ask me!

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Left to Right: Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Marshall Mathers aka Eminem aka Slim Shady and Andrew “Dr. Dre” Young.

Switching gears, Dr. Dre is easily the richest former member of N.W.A. and it’s mostly because of the two guys pictured with him above: 50 Cent and Eminem. Dre signed Eminem to Aftermath in the late 90s, turning the Hip Hop world upside down in Eminem’s debut track Forgot about Dre:

…The rest, as they say is history. Even his haters know to gave credit where credit’s due: He knows the game better than anyone else. He’s got the eyes and ears for it.

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Ice Cube, who made his acting debut in the 1991 movie Boyz in the Hood is the most prolific former member of the group. You probably know him from such movies as XXX 2: State of the Union, Are We There Yet?, The Barbershop and Friday. Ride Along 2 will be in theaters September 18 and according to his IMDB page, The Barbershop 3 is coming sometime next year. Ice Cube returned to the recording studio for the first time in over a decade a few years ago for a live show. He’s still got it and he’s come out of retirement as an artist.

Getting back to the movie Straight Outta Compton, they clearly took a page out of Selma’s playbook with the movie release’s timing: Selma, which was released in theaters earlier this year came out just before Eddie Gray’s death in Baltimore. I talked about it in a blog post on the subject. The same can easily be said about Straight Outta Compton with CNN’s coverage of African American men being pulled over by police, usually ending in their deaths.

The movie touches on this as noted in the trailers where members of the group are shook down by police early on. The reason? They just happened to be black men standing outside their home or workplace. This was–and still is–the reality of black young men and it’s the main reason I stayed the fuck off the streets during the 1990s. THAT is one of the main points the Black Lives Matter Movement is raising: We live in a country where one race is assumed guilty even if proven innocent simply because of their skin color.

Oh, that reminds me: For the Los Angeles and Compton premieres of the movie, there was a heavy police presence “as a precaution”. Not long after, this meme showed up on the internet:

Tongue in cheek but sadly relevant: The same week the Aurora, Colorado theater shooter (not saying his name) got what he deserved, there was another mass shooting in Texas in which two people were killed. A third shooting happened at yet another theater in Lafayette the week after but only the gunman was killed (suicide). All three were white. CNN sounded pretty disappointed nothing happened at Straight Outta Compton’s premeires in L.A. and Compton in an interview XD

…Not owning your mistakes doesn’t mean you’re off the hook.

In closing, I give this movie a 10/10 easily. They didn’t outright say it but I think N.W.A. knew they would have to wait before they could do their biopic in their own words on THEIR terms. Owning the music used certainly helped: In other recent biopics based on black artists, they couldn’t use any of their actual music due to how expensive paying for copyright permission would have been. This is why you wanna maintain ownership of your music: Once you sign a contract with a label, it’s no longer yours.

There are many takeaways in the movie, most of which were clearly directed at both those who lived at the time and young people today. The LA Riots after Rodney King’s trial was touched on in the movie. That was a clear nod to the Black Lives Matter movement of today. Towards the beginning of the movie, a kid on the bus ‘Cube is riding on throws up a gang sign at two members of the Crips driving next to the bus. The Crips stop the bus with guns drawn and prettymuch tells the kid (and the others) the “Gangsta Life” isn’t something they want to get caught up in. Not unless they wanna end up dead or in prison. This was a pretty important scene given it was a lifestyle alot of kids idolized at the time.

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…Whew, ok I think I covered everything…oh, wait scratch that: As of this writing, Straight Outta Compton’s grossed $60.2 Million at the box office and there is even talk of an Oscar nomination. The same was said about Selma but the movie was subbed when Oscar time came around. This movie getting an Oscar would be both vindication for N.W.A. and the acceptence of rap by the mainstream, which not even Eminem’s 8-Mile got.

Only time will tell.

As a bonus for reading this much, here’s a scene from the movie:

 

 

Family Sitcoms need to come back to Prime Time TV   Leave a comment

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Who could have imagined the late 1990s would have been the end of the Family Sitcom. We are in an age where “Reality” TV, hour-long dramas and docu-dramas dominate all the networks. While I would normally place all the blame on the networks for taking the easy road–it actually costs much less to shoot “Reality” TV than Sitcoms–the public is equally to blame for so readily buying into it. Those of my generation are the last to have grown up watching sitcoms. While sure you can watch the classics on Cable/Satellite and Netflix/Hulu, the fact of the matter is that’s still the past.

At the same time I’m well aware times have changed since I was in high school: 9/11, Social Media, The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Barack Obama becomes President, ISIS, etc. (American) Values have changed as well like it or not. There’s also the internet and You Tube. Networks have tried to launch family sitcoms but none have had the following shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, The Brady Bunch and Saved by the Bell in addition to the shows pictured above and many others had. They’re called classics for a reason XD

The sitcoms were also where many child actors who weren’t in the movie biz got their start in show business. Many people forget The Jamie Foxx Show (1997-2000) was when Jamie Foxx became a household name. Yes, he was known as a comedian who did stand-up work but this was the show where he went mainstream. A few years later folks found out he could sing, too in the Ray Bio-Pic xD

Random fun facts:

  • Katy Segal, who played Peggy Bundy on Married with Children voiced Leela on Futurama.
  • John Stamos, who played Uncle Jessie on Full House had a recurring role on the last 3 and a half seasons of the NBC Hospital Drama ER.
  • Most famously, Extra’s Mario Lopez played A.C. Slater on Saved by the Bell.
  • Alfonzo Ribiero, who played Carlton Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air has appeared on various reality TV shows in recent years as a celebrity contestant.
  • John Witherspoon, who played Pops on the Wayans Brothers voiced Grandad on The Boondocks.
  • Finally LeVar Burton, who played Kunta Kente in Roots and hosted Reading Rainbow is bringing Reading Rainbow back for a new generation.

We will never have anything like this again anytime soon. It really is a shame the networks are convinced “Reality” TV, Mocumentary and Docudramas are all people care about right now. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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For those who haven’t been paying attention, Full House is the latest classic sitcom to join the “New Gen” Bandwagon. Fresh off the heels of Girl Meets World (sequel to Boy Meets World) comes Fuller House, which of course is the sequel to Full House. It was announced a few weeks ago Netflix will carry Fuller House On Demand and may start airing episodes as early as this fall (!). The first season will be 13 episodes long.

The basic plot’s the same as the original: D.J.’s husband suddenly dies, leaving her to raise two children and another she’s expecting on her own. Her longtime best friend Kimmy Gibbler and her sister Stephanie move in to help her raise her sons and new arrival. Sound familiar? The rest of the original cast will make guest appearances as well.

Should be interesting.

A random fun fact: This has become a bit more known since the series ended in 1995 but the original premise for Full House called for Joey and Jessie (Played by Dave Coulier and John Stamos) to be gay and Danny Tanner (played by Bob Saget) to be revealed as having been in the closet about being gay himself so it would be three gay men raising three girls. The producers didn’t think the network would ok it so they scrapped the idea. The irony being the idea probably wouldn’t work now either since folks insist on being offended >.>;

It is also interesting to note half of the original cast stayed in show business since the original series ended. Candace Cameron, Jodie Sweetin and Andrea Barber went back to private life. The story goes all three agreed to sign on to the new show when the whole cast got together for the original show’s reunion party earlier this year. Stamos pitched the idea a few years earlier but they needed everyone on board to make it work so…yeah. As you already know, Bob Saget hosted America’s Funnies Home Videos (before You Tube was thought of!) while also doing Full House. Dave Coulier returned to standup comedy after the show ended but also did theater work. Stamos himself…well, I already told you earlier.

As for the Olsen Twins…well, Google says hi. ‘Nuff said.

 

Making the case for bringing back Weekday Afternoon Cartoons   Leave a comment

 

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In this age of Netflix and other on-demand streaming services, most who grew up during the late 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s have all but forgotten that just 7 years ago, the weekly cartoon block disappeared from Broadcast TV forever. The reason: The Children’s Television Act (1996). It’s not the law itself that’s actually at fault: It’s the networks’ faults for not simply complying with the new law and instead phased out their Kids TV Blocks on Broadcast TV. Kids WB was the last holdout and lasted until Summer 2006. Even worse is in both cases, the networks didn’t have the deciency to make an announcement to let people know they were dropping kids’ programming from their broadcast TV lineups.

The funny thing is I didn’t even know legislation had been passed until last week regarding Kids’ TV programming. Turns out that wasn’t the point to begin with: The networks only cared about the bottom line and apparently felt the monetary investment likely needed to be in compliance of the new act wasn’t worth it and switched the Kids’ Programming to Subscription.

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It’s worth noting Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and The Disney Channel were affected by the shakeup on Broadcast TV but in a big way: All three networks created additional channels to cater to certain audiences:

  • Nick at Nite: Formerly the 10PM to 6AM block on Nickelodeon, reruns of TV shows from the 1960s and 1970s aired during this time. When Teen Nick launched on Nick about 10 years ago, it ran from 9PM to Midnight with programming for older kids and young adults. When the channel launched shows from the 80s and 90s were added to the lineup. Nick now reairs programming from earlier in the day from 10PM to 6AM.
  • Nicktoons: Nick’s original programming now with its own channel! Hey, Arnold!, Rugrats, Spongebob, Rocket Power, Avatar: The Last Airbender and so on. New Nicktoons still premiere on Nickelodeon though seasons 3 and 4 of The Legend of Korra were online only due to low ratings.
  • Teen Nick: Formerly Snick on Nickelodeon, as I mentioned above it ran programming for its aged audience at night. Nick was smart like Disney and adapted with the times: They understood the kids who watched Nicktoons in 1992 were now teenagers in 2002 and were likely finishing high school (as was my case, anyway). Like Disney, they adapted with the times to compete with Fox and WB/CW’s primetime lineups at the time. The show also runs reruns of old shows like All That (where Amanda Bynes got her start) and Clarissa Explains it All (Where Melissa Joan Hart got her start). Considering most of the actors and actresses from those shows have continued their acting careers–most notably Keenan Thompson, who is on NBC’s Saturday Night Live (SNL)–it’s worth seeing what they were like back in the day.
  • Nick Jr.: After running weekday mornings from 9AM to 3PM for 20 years (1988 to 2008), the advent of Dora the Explorer led to Nick Jr. becoming a separate channel.
  • Disney XD: Disney’s equivalent of Teen Nick Prettymuch.
  • Disney Jr.: Disney’s equivalent of Nick Jr.
  • Boomerang: Cartoon Network’s early lineup: Cartoons from the 70s, 80s and 90s air in reruns 24/7. Mostly stuff by Hanna-Barbera, Viacom and Turner. Prettymuch whatever isn’t owned by the other networks.

Today, there is no kids programming on weekdays period on the broadcast networks (Fox, WB, CW).  Those slots are occupied by talk shows, afternoon news and paid advertisments. At the same time, unlike just 10 years ago, about 85% of U.S. households have a subscription TV service like Comcast or DirecTV. That means there’s no incentive for the networks to bring cartoons back to their broadcast counterparts. There’s also the legit concern of having to cater to FCC regulations, which was a factor to the abolishment of the Weekday Cartoon Afternoon blocks.

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For now, if you want to get your cartoon fix Netflix is the go-to choice. The Streaming Giant has been adding more and more old-school kids programming to their streaming service. Stuff those of us who got to experience the last generation of kids’ programming before Cable and Satellite were assumed in to be in most households.

That period from 1988 to 2002 was an amazing time to be a kid with a TV set: Ducktales, Tale Spin, Batman: The Animated Series, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, X-Men, Looney Tunes, Animaniacs, Spider-Man, Superman: The Animated Series, Gargoyles, Beetlejuice. I could go on. Sailor Moon (Reboot currently airing on Crunchyroll), Dragonball, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Digimon and Pokemon also aired on broadcast networks back then.

Sweet Nostalgia!

Kids these days. They have no idea what they missed XD

On the one hand the programming available today really isn’t much different than when I was a kid. The clear difference was balance. I’ll speak more to this in a separate blog about Sitcoms of the 90s and early 2000s.

 

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