Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

Remembering As the World Turns September 21, 2010

Filed under: 1980s,Memories,Television — Emily @ 3:54 pm
Tags: , , ,

The "As the World Turns" opening logo, as it appeared in the 1980s

Some warbled, dramatic music and a slowly rotating Earth – that is the As the World Turns intro that I remember from my childhood. It was the era of the Snyders and their farm, the Lily/Holden/Dusty love triangle, the James Stenbeck who always (shock!) returned from presumed death, etc. Growing up, every afternoon between 1 and 2 p.m. my mom was watching As the World Turns, which means that most days, so was I.

I stopped watching the show years ago, except for the summer after graduate school when I was unemployed and got sucked back in to day time tv again for a few months. The beauty (or perhaps tragedy) of soap operas is that even if you haven’t watched the show in ten years, you can pick right back up, since there is always a core group of characters who have grown up or grown old on the show. And so, from time to time (as in, once every few years…), I have read the weekly update in the newspaper, and know what’s going on in Oakdale.

I’m not sure whether to be sad, pleased, or indifferent about the apparently imminent death of all soap operas. Several soaps have left the air over the past few years, and new ones aren’t replacing them. Apparently more people want to watch judge shows than soaps now. As the World Turns was the latest soap to fall victim to this trend – it aired its final episode last Friday. Out of nostalgia, I watched the finale.

What is a fitting send-off for a show that’s been running for over 50 years? Certainly not the uneventful, dull episode that the writers came up with. I suppose they were focusing on closure for those Oakdale residents who managed to survive to the end without being murdered, dying of a rare disease, going to prison, getting amnesia, etc. Here’s what I gathered from the finale:

  • Jack and Carly are happily married – again – and have a baby on the way, not to be confused with the baby that Jack recently discovered he’s not the father of.
  • Lily and Holden are once again having problems (in fact, it looks like they are separated/divorced), but it looks like these true loves are going to find their way back to each other again.
  • Lucinda and John Dixon rekindled their love for one another while in Europe, and they plan to live the rest of their days enjoying each other’s company, much to Lisa’s chagrin.
  • In the strangest development, Barbara Ryan is happily involved with a much younger Henry, and they seem to spend their time dancing to disco music at home, even with a disco ball and multi-colored lights. She even dissolved her partnership in her fashion company with her son, Paul. Luckily, Paul had been about to do the same thing. They have now “set each other free,” and Paul is happily involved with Emily.
  • Emily’s much younger sister, Allison, moved away with Tom and Margo’s son Casey. I couldn’t quite figure out what they were doing. Surely they are older than college aged by now.
  • Margo was quite distraught about her youngest son leaving home, but Tom helped her focus on the positive, and now that they are empty nesters, they conveniently switched homes with Katie and Chris, who just got engaged and are planning to fill a house up with kids.
  • Coincidentally, Katie and Chris’s condo once belonged to some guy who died and was in a relationship with Luke (Lily’s son). The guy’s heart was transplanted into Chris, so Luke came over to listen to Chris’s heartbeat with a stethoscope.
  • Bob Hughes retired as Chief of Staff at the hospital, and the show ended with him leaving his office saying , “Goodnight,” with a globe spinning on his desk.

It was weird to see everyone (except Luke – bummer for him) so happy on a soap. That’s actually why it was so boring. Soaps thrive on tragedy, intrigue, and drama. If I had been in charge of the finale, I would have included a shocking or untimely death, an unexpected revelation, and most importantly, plenty of cameos of former characters. Since they episode was centered around Bob’s retirement, why not have a huge retirement party and have some old familiar faces come to town for the event? I don’t know who’s alive or dead, but what about some of the other Snyders, or Craig Montgomery, or Lucinda’s other daughter Sierra. What ever happened to Nancy Hughes? Even if they couldn’t afford to have cameos, or couldn’t figure out how to work these characters into the finale, they could at least have ended with an epic video montage. I certainly would have enjoyed that.

Cast of As the World Turns

Random Memories of the Show

  • Actors who have gone on to success – Not that being on a soap opera doesn’t spell success as an actor… But, some of the faces I remember are Meg Ryan as Craig’s first love, Betsy; Marisa Tomei as one of Lisa’s many children, Marcy, I think; Julianne Moore as Bob and (Lisa’s?) twin daughters Frannie and Sabrina (am I remembering their names correctly?); William Fichtner as Josh; etc.
  • Duncan’s castle – ATWT wasn’t the only soap to feature an exotic setting. Other shows had deserted islands, king’s palaces, or villain’s secret lairs. But I was intrigued as a child by the idea of Duncan McWhoever’s Scottish castle on the outskirts of Oakdale. I remember that he was originally involved with Barbara, then Shannon, then Barbara. And somewhere along the way he had Kira as a foster child (played by Lauren Hill from the Fugees). Who could resist a Scottish man’s charm? I wonder whatever happened to Duncan, and to Jessica and their daughter Bonnie.
  • Casey’s death – Not young Casey, but his namesake – the Casey that much older Lyla married. Lyla was Craig and Margo’s mother. Whatever happened to her? I need to do some Wikipedia reading! I don’t remember what sort of illness he had, but I remember very well how emotional the episode was where Margo decided to grant his wish for an easy death by pulling his plug. 😦
  • The Pond – Ah, the Snyder pond – site of secret rendezvous and romantic starlit dates. All the Snyder kids hung out here at one time or another.
  • The Yacht Club – The site of summer teen drama – all the high school kids would hang out here and get involved in all sorts of shenanigans no doubt.
  • The Snyder family tree – See below for my thoughts on this fun, ongoing mess of a geneology.

Family Tree Game

  • My favorite thing about watching a soap was always trying to plot out the complex family trees. It was best not to dig too deep, or you’d discover that someone was actually married to his sister, or that his stepdaughter was his aunt, or something else bizarre like that. My favorite family tree was always the Snyders, so just for fun I’d like to try to list everyone that I remember by memory. I’ll include a link to the actual family tree when I finish.
  • Emma Snyder – the matriarch! She seemed to spend all her time standing at the kitchen counter giving her many children advice, or just listening to them lament about all their problems. Her children:
    • Seth – I believe he was the oldest
    • Iva – She was adopted, so it’s okay that her brother, Holden, married her daughter Lily. Oddly enough, Lily was the result of Iva being raped by Josh (played by now successful character actor William Fichtner), yet somehow Josh was accepted into the family when he married Ida’s sister, Meg.
    • Ellie – My favorite actress who played Ellie was the one with the short dark brown hair. I don’t really remember what she did on the show. Mostly she just popped in and out of town for visits.
    • Caleb – I think he was one of the sons, but he may have been a Snyder cousin. I do remember that he was married to Julie, and that one night Holden got drunk and slept with her, resulting in a child, or some such.
    • Holden – Ah, the heart throb of Oakdale. I remember him best when he was young and always working in the stables, when he wasn’t swimming in the pond with Lily or having romantic picnics with her. As far as I can tell, he’s the only Snyder who stuck around until the end of the show.
    • Meg – Yeah, I can’t remember what she did either. The sisters never had much to contribute, I guess.
    • Angel – I think she married into the Snyder family. Maybe she was married to Caleb and then Seth for awhile.
  • Let’s see how I did with my Snyder family tree – Pretty close. As I suspected, Caleb was a cousin. I forgot that Holden also married Angel. It’s crazy how many marriages, divorces, and illegitimate children are represented in this family!

Let’s face it: soap operas are about as cheesy and over the top as tv gets. And you can fast forward through a one hour episode and catch all the “important” stuff in about ten minutes. Everything is so drawn out – the long pauses, the contemplative stares or daydreams, the dramatic zoom-in close-ups, etc. The writing is pretty elementary, the acting is usually not great, and the stories are usually predictable. Still, there’s a certain charm to soaps, and it seems like there should still be a place in the world for them. Really, what’s the difference between me finding comfort in a primetime show like Parenthood, and a stay at home mom of the 1980s keeping up with the lives of the Hughes and Snyders in Oakdale? Well, I could think of a few… But hats off to As the World Turns for entertaining millions of women (and some men, too) for over fifty years!

What are your favorite memories of As the World Turns, or any other soaps that you watched?

  • For more As the World Turns nostalgia, visit this website, which does actually feature a video montage that includes some of the old school scenes I would have liked seeing in the finale.

V: Then and Now November 12, 2009

Back in the 1980s, reptilian aliens arrived on earth dressed in fake human skin and red jumpsuits, and speaking in warbled voices about promoting peace and the betterment of the human race. Twenty-five years later, the aliens are better at disguising themselves (through some sort of human skin cloning procedure), and they sound and dress just like humans, but they are still using the same manipulative techniques of telling people what they want to hear.

The Cast of the New V

I am thoroughly mesmerized by both the 1980s miniseries and the new tv series that share the title of V. This single-letter creeped me out big time when I was younger (especially in its recognizable format of oozing red spray paint on a black background. I was five years old when the first miniseries aired in 1983, and six when the second one aired a year later. I am surprised that I watched them at such a young age, and it’s no wonder that I was disturbed: aliens eating gerbils and mice and taking out their fake human eyeballs to reveal yellow lizard eyes, people ripping the fake human skin off of alien visitors, and then there was the birth of the inter-species twins – one a seemingly “normal” baby with a forked tongue, and the other a full-fledged lizard child!

The creepy logo of the original V miniseries

But of course I watched V! Everyone did at the time. According to creator Kenneth Johnson’s website, the original miniseries drew an audience of 80 million viewers! I know that my family tuned in to every episode of both miniseries (from what I hear we should pretend like the short-lived tv show follow up never happened). The new ABC version has now aired two episodes, and while it hasn’t drawn anywhere close to 80 million viewers (more like 10 million), it has created a lot of buzz and has received a near unanimous two thumbs up from critics.

In preparation for the new show, I recently watched SyFy’s marathon of the original V miniseries. I am amazed but pleased that the show has stood the test of time! Sure, there are plenty of blatantly 80s music, cheap special effects, and melodramatic moments (a la all those ’80s primetime soaps), but the story and the characters are fascinating! As a child, I didn’t pick up on the Nazi allegory. But as an adult, the parallels are obvious: the V’s persecution of scientists (just as Nazis targeted Jews), the recruiting of Friends of the Visitors (similar to Hitler’s youth), the swastika-like emblem on the V’s uniforms and flags, etc.

The new version seems to have abandoned the parallels to the Nazi regime, and instead frames the arrival of the visitors in the more timely concerns of our post-9/11 world, namely the threat of terrorism and the difficulty of fighting it. I found it especially interesting that FBI agent Erica (Elizabeth Mitchell) was investigating a terrorist cell that actually consisted of alien visitors. This is a smart change from the original: rather than the spaceships’ appearances marking the first time the visitors came to earth, the new version reveals that many of the visitors have already been here for years, living secretly among us, while plotting a human takeover from within our ranks. That’s actually much more disturbing than in the original (which was pretty creepy, too, as I mentioned earlier). At least in the original version the resistance fighters could easily identify the visitors by their weird voices and distinctive uniforms. As for the new version, how unsettling to think that these aliens look exactly like us, and there’s no easy way to know that they aren’t human. Erica had worked with Dale for seven years, and while he seemed like a nice guy, he was all too eager to kill her when she got too close to the truth.

While the social/political allegories differ, the main theme remains the same: the struggle to preserve the human race and to convince the world that the visitors’ supposed agenda is not what it seems, and that they and their message are indeed too good to be true. Both shows also play out like a suspense thriller, mixed in with a bit of drama. The easiest way to compare/contrast the remaining characteristics of both versions is to take a look at the main characters:

  • The Leader of the V’s

    Formidable foe Diana wasn't as friendly as the new version's Anna.

    • Then – Diana – Jane Badler was so distinctive in this role that she is easily recognizable, probably even now, as evil, conniving, ambitious Diana. She was a ruthless leader who had no qualms about destroying an entire race, using mind control to extract information from a prisoner, or even murdering an innocent priest. Still, though, if she had been dressed in an evening gown instead of her alien-issued red uniform, she could have easily blended in with the ladies on Dallas or Knots Landing.

    Anna is the "too good to be true" leader of the V's.

    • Now – Anna – I am amazed by Morena Baccarin’s transformation into short-haired, blinky-eyed alien leader Anna. I hardly recognize her as the actress who played Inara on Firefly. I have been impressed by her captivating and commanding portrayal of a charming and devious leader. Her interaction with reporter Chad Decker has been great, and her “behind closed doors” plotting against the humans has been disturbing but well played. She brings a strange allure, combined with a certain amount of creepiness, to the role that was mostly melodramatic campiness in the original.
  • The Leaders of the Resistance

    Mike and Julie were the resistance leaders of the 1980s miniseries.

    • Then – Cameraman Mike Donovan and Scientist Juliet Parrish – Mike was played by the beastmaster himself, Marc Singer, while Juliet was played by Faye Grant, who is known more now for being married to 7th Heaven alum Stephen Collins than for any of her post-V roles. Mike was the more interesting character, since he was usually the one infiltrating the V’s ship and exposing their true faces, but Juliet had the responsibility of leading the resistance when she didn’t even know anything about being in charge. Regardless of which character was more interesting, they were a duo worth rooting for, and I’m sure the ’80s television audience was pleased when they became romantically involved.

    Erica and Jack are the modernized leaders of the resistance.

    • Now – FBI agent Erica Evans and priest Jack Landry – There’s not much chance of the new dynamic duo hooking up like Mike and Juliet did, since this time around one of them is a priest. I like the changes the writers made in the main characters. A scientist and a camera man wouldn’t have as much influence as an FBI agent and a priest, considering the scenario presented in the new version. As an agent, Erica has access to files concerning the visitors, and as a priest, Jack will be presented with many challenging scenarios. How can a priest, who vows to do what is right, be honest, and keep people’s deepest problems confidential, among other things, be involved in a movement that will no doubt involve deception and bloodshed? On the other hand, if he chose not to act, he would be turning his back on a huge threat to the safety of God’s children. I really like his character so far. I know Joel Gretsch best for his role as an FBI agent on The 4400, and while I was skeptical about seeing him as a priest, he has done a good job, and he has great chemistry with Elizabeth Mitchell. It’s strange for me to see Mitchell decked out in makeup, nice clothes, and with perfect hair, since for the past couple of years she’s been stuck on an island looking pretty rough, as Juliet on Lost. Since we last saw her in extreme peril on that show, it’s nice to see that she has landed a juicy role on V. I really like Erica, but I do wish she weren’t such a clueless mom! She should know that her son’s “promise” to not get involved with the visitors doesn’t mean much.
  • Trouble-making Teens
    • Then – Daniel Bernstein and Robin Maxwell, visitor Brian – So far there is no human villain in the new version that matches teenaged Daniel’s despicable, self-serving ways. While he was busy working his way up the ranks of the V organization, his parents were tortured by Diana and his grandfather was packed up into a pod as future food for the aliens. Basically, he was willing to step on anyone and everyone for his own selfish gain. I hope that the new version will give us a human just as worthy of being despised as he was. As for the young love storyline, the ’80s version gave us sweet, love struck Robin, who fawned over visitor Brian like he was the latest teen heart throb. Unfortunately for her, Diana turned that budding relationship into a mating experiment, and Robin went through all the trauma of teen pregnancy, compounded by the many unusual side effects that went along with carrying and giving birth to alien offspring.

    I doubt that an alien-human hybrid born on the new "V" would look anything like this precious lizard baby from the original version.

    • Now – Tyler Evans and visitor Lisa – I am quite curious about how the new version will develop Tyler’s crush on visitor Lisa. So far, Lisa seems to be a relatively good-natured alien, but then again, looks can be deceiving. In the original, Brian seemed nice and genuinely interested in Robin, but it turns out he was just as power-hungry as Diana. The possibility and consequences of alien-human offspring don’t seem as monumental in the new version, since it seems like it would have already happened, what with so many visitors already being integrated into human society. I wonder how the writers will address this issue. But I’m gektting way ahead of the story here. Right now, Lisa is simply Tyler’s motivation to get involved with the Visitors.
  • The Ambitious Reporter
    • Then – Kristine Walsh – Kristine’s professional ambition, and willingness to step on anyone for the sake of her career, made her an extremely irritating character. I felt no sympathy for her until her one redeeming moment, when she finally stood up for what was right.
    • Now – Chad Decker – Oh, Scott Wolf. I loved him as Bailey on Party of Five, but wasn’t sure what to make of his more grown up character on Everwood. So far I am intrigued by his portrayal of the ambitious but slightly good-intentioned reporter. I hope he doesn’t fall into the same sticky web of power and fame that Kristine did. I’d prefer that he join the resistance and work against the V’s from the inside. After all, they need someone with an inside connection.
  • Human-friendly visitors
    • Then – Willie (and his waitress girlfriend Harmony), Martin – I really liked Martin in the original. He was the noblest of the visitors – willing to risk his life for the sake of doing what was right. So far there isn’t a character like him on the new version. Willie and Harmony were almost comic relief. I was amused to discover that Robert Englund, best known for playing horror icon Freddie Krueger, played such a dopey, gentle-hearted character. He and Harmony’s relationship was really sweet, especially after she still accepted him despite learning of his true appearance and eating habits.
    • Now – Ryan Nichols (and his human girlfriend Valerie Holt) – Ryan is definitely not comic relief. He is intense about everything from picking out an engagement ring to answering his cell phone to sneaking off to a mechanic’s shop to get his reptilian arm repaired. I like him, though. I’m not so crazy about Valerie, mainly because she’s not very interesting so far. I have a feeling she won’t be as accepting as Harmony if she finds out the truth about Ryan.

    Dale is Erica's not-so-human FBI partner

  • Dale Maddox – There is no counterpart in the original to this visitor disguised as a human FBI agent. In a way, I suppose he is the new version’s Kristine Walsh, since Kristine and Mike were close until she basically went over to the “dark side” (Dale and Erica are close professionally speaking until he reveals his true nature and disappears). It makes sense for the writers to introduce an entirely new character to be the leader of sorts for the terrorist visitors who have infiltrated human society. I look forward to seeing more of Alan Tudyk in this role, especially since Dollhouse, on which he played the villainous and basically insane Alpha, has now been canceled. It is strange to always see him in these bad guy roles, since he was such a goofy, likable character on Firefly (may Wash rest in peace…)

Many questions remain unanswered for the moment on the new series:

  • What is the Visitors’ true agenda?
  • Do the Visitors plan to eat the humans, steal all the earth’s resources, destroy the earth, or all of the above?
  • Is Tyler going to be a lizard-baby daddy?
  • Will any more of the supposedly human characters be revealed as Visitors?
  • Will reporter Chad Decker hold on to his journalistic integrity (is there such a thing?!), or will he become a media puppet through which Anna will spout propaganda to the public?
  • Will the writers pay homage to any classic V moments, such as Diana swallowing a gerbil, or Mike ripping off the fake human face when he fought one of the aliens?

Hopefully, the new show will have a chance to find its footing and tell its story before it gets canceled. It is worrisome that there was a drastic ratings drop from episode one to two. I suppose it’s good news in a way that the show only has two more episodes to air before going on a planned hiatus until the spring. Perhaps by then viewers will be ready to tune in again after months of anticipation. If not, then at least we always have the truly classic original to return to for a complete and satisfying tale of manipulative, lying lizard visitors from outer space and the human resistance movement that brought them down with a lot of heart, hope, and helium. (In case you don’t recall, hot air balloons were an important factor in the humans’ final battle with the visitors…)

What do you think of the new V so far? I’ll leave you with a scene from the original miniseries that really disturbed me as a child, but which I now find quite amusing, particularly because of the dated special effects.


Music Monday: George Michael’s “One More Try” August 3, 2009

Filed under: 1980s,Music — Emily @ 10:49 am
Tags: , , ,

The year: 1987. The man: George Michael. The look: a shock of hair with bleached tips, a dangling cross earring, a well-defined and close-cropped beard, a black jacket with huge shoulder pads, black jeans, and black pointy-toed boots. The setting: an abandoned living room with curtains billowing from the breeze flowing through the opened windows, and with every piece of furniture covered in white linen, except for an oval mirror, left uncovered so that GM can gaze at himself in the mirror and draw a heart. The song: the epic “One More Try,” one of my favorite tunes from one of my favorite ’80s artists. It is such a heartfelt, emotive song of lost love, and of a broken heart. Enjoy. 🙂


Retro Weekend: Best TV Show Theme Songs (with Lyrics) July 25, 2009

To wrap up my look back at the best tv show theme songs, I’ll list the ten best theme songs with lyrics. Again, I am limiting myself to the post-1980 tv world, but this time I managed to fit all the sitcoms and dramas into one list, unlike the instrumental theme songs. I hope you enjoy listening to and reminiscing about these songs as much as I did!

  • The Dukes of Hazzard – I mostly associate this show with the house of a lady who babysat me in the early 80s. It was an old, creepy (to a kid, at least), isolated house, with lots of mysterious steps and closed doors. The main living room is the only place that I and my siblings were allowed to go, and the one constant about the room is that, at least in my memory, The Dukes of Hazzard was always on the television! Maybe my parents happened to drop us off there on the same weeknight every time, or maybe there was some channel that always showed Bo and Luke joy riding in their General Lee, but whatever the case, this theme song’s laid back, country tone was an appropriate soundtrack for that house. “Just two good ole’ boys, never meanin’ no harm…” As for the song making this list, it is a classic tune that was perfectly suited for the show. Too bad that the show itself hasn’t held up well over time. I tried to stomach an episode awhile ago, and it was just awful – pure campiness, horrible acting, and very little plot.
  • Diff’rent Strokes – I have a vague memory of using this theme song as my answering machine greeting my freshman year of college. That’s about the time I bought a couple of “TV’s Greatest Hits” CDs and started reminiscing about the best theme songs. I love the end of the bridge with the harmonized “and together we’ll be fine.” This song has a funky beat and catchy lyrics. Fun times.
  • Growing Pains – “Show me that smile again, don’t waste another minute on your cryin’.” I love the sentimental, heartfelt lyrics of this song, and it is so singalongable. Whether it was the original version or the later version with the barbershop quartet singing, this may be my favorite tv theme song. It helps that I had a crush on Kirk Cameron in the ’80s.
  • The Golden Girls – Um, I just claimed that Growing Pains was my favorite theme song. Scratch that. Golden Girls takes that title hands down. What other theme song do I still spontaneously sing at random times – something I’ve done for almost 20 years now! What a wonderfully nostalgic song about lasting friendship. Sing it with me now: “Thank you for being a friend. Traveled down the road and back again. Your heart is true you’re a pal and a confidant. And if you through a party, and invited everyone you ever knew, you would see the biggest gift would be from me, and the card attached would say thank you for being a friend.”

  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air“Now this is a story, all about how, my life got flipped – turned upside down…” Back in the day, kids at school (myself included!) would pride themselves on being able to recite this tv theme rap from beginning to end. It really is fun, and was certainly an appropriate style for star Will Smith. His career as a rapper sure seems like a distant memory now that he’s a full-fledged movie star. I’ve seen reruns of this show from time to time, and it is quite dated, super cheesy, but still fun to watch.
  • Gilmore Girls – This theme song took some time to grow on me. At first it was too cutesy, sappy, and sweet, but after I had made my way through the first season or two of this mother-daughter dynamic duo show, I was singing right along with Carole King and her daughter Louise Goffin, as they sing about being there for each other – “all you have to do is call my name, and I’ll be there on the next train.” The song really is perfect for the show’s quirky tone and themes of sisterhood, family, and friendship.
  • CSI – From the opening chords to the dramatic closing chorus of “you, you, you, you…,” this song is very memorable. The song, “Who Are You” by the Who, may have been around long before this show began, but the crime show was my introduction to it, and so I will always associate it with those opening credit images of Warrick examining a shoe string, Grissom smashing a fake human head with a sledgehammer, and the other CSIs doing similar things looking equally attractive and stylish. The spin-offs, Miami and New York, are cheap imitations of the original, and though their theme songs are also by The Who, they lack the punch of “Who Are You.”
  • Smallville “Somebody SAVE me!” With that emotionally charged opening line, Remy Zero introduced us to the trials and adventures of a teen Clark Kent and his band of unsuspecting classmates. This show has lost a lot of its quality over the years, but the first couple of seasons were outstanding and fascinating. I still love the song, and it fit the show perfectly. The fairly recent trend of using pop songs as tv themes doesn’t bother me. If the song is well suited for the show, then why not use it? Another show and song that almost made this list are Dawson’s Creek’s “I Don’t Want to Wait” by Paula Cole. I guess you could say that the WB perfected the art of choosing pop songs to represent tv shows.
  • FireflyWe move now from a couple of pop song themes, to one that is entirely original. Joss Whedon wrote the theme song, and Sonny Rhodes performed it, and it is about as close to theme song and musical perfection as you can get. It has a Western sound, and a mysterious melody, perfect for a sci fi space western, and its lyrics are very poetic and closely related to the show’s themes:

Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don’t care, I’m still free
You can’t take the sky from me
Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain’t comin’ back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can’t take the sky from me
There’s no place I can be
Since I found Serenity
But you can’t take the sky from me…

  • Veronica Mars – “A long time ago, we used to be friends, but I haven’t thought of you lately at all.” I’ll close out the list with one more pop song, the Dandy Warhols’ “We Used to Be Friends.” This edgy, unusual song perfectly represents this edgy, unusual show and its edgy, unusual heroine, teen PI Veronica Mars. As the show began, we learned that Veronica had once been popular but was now at the bottom of the totem pole, so the “used to be friends” lyrics are appropriate. Here is a character who channels her anger and sadness over what has happened into solving crimes and righting wrongs, all while trying to keep herself and her dad afloat in the social waters of Neptune. Can you tell that I was a big fan of this show? I didn’t even mind the new version of the theme song for season three. The slower, jazzier style seemed appropriate for Veronica’s new life in college, as she faced a slightly more grown up set of concerns and problems.

This wraps up my series of posts about the best tv show theme songs, unless I get around to making a list of the best “classic” (read: old) tv show theme songs. So which of your favorites did I leave off?

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Unzipping My Case Logic Cassette Carrying Case: Part One July 13, 2009

Filed under: 1980s,1990s,Memories,Music — Emily @ 11:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

Last week while I was reminiscing about the Michael Jackson music I listened to growing up, I was reminded of how I used to create “playlists” of sorts by recording songs off the radio. Did anyone else do this? It required a lot of patience. I had a lavender jam box (with a neon orange “record” button and a purple strap for carrying it around), and I would sit next to it listening to the radio, with the “record” and “pause” buttons both pressed down. As one song wrapped up, I would place my finger on the pause button, and if the next song was one that I liked, I would quickly unpause the stereo to add the song to my cassette tape of favorite songs. Usually, I was waiting for a specific song to come on. This must be why I am so good at “Name That Tune.” I developed an ability to recognize a song by its opening chord!

In this age of mp3s and iTunes, it is much easier to obtain copies of your favorite music, and to arrange it just the way you want it. You can have a playlist of workout tunes, songs from movies, songs about peaches… You can be as generic or creative as you want. We didn’t have that option in the ’80s and ’90s. The closest we came to flexibility was having the option to record over previously dubbed songs when you got tired of those. And whereas today you can have thousands of songs at your fingertips, as a child and teen I was lucky if I had 150 (that’s probably how many songs I could carry around with me in my 15-cassette Case Logic case.) I think this limited access to songs in the pre-mp3 era makes me value the music I was listening to back then more, even if the songs haven’t aged well.

In the spirit of reflecting on my radio dubbing glory days, I now present to you the contents of my Case Logic cassette carrying case. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find my oldest tapes, which date back to about 1987. Hopefully I’ll dig them up for a later installment. For now, here’s “Part One”: what I was listening to and recording between 1988 and 1992. (I am so glad that I meticulously wrote down every song title and artist on each tape.) It is interesting to see how my musical tastes changed, as well as how popular music changed, over that period.

Cassette #1: 1988-1991 There must have been some recording over old songs for this tape to span so much time. Looking back, standouts on this tape include “Praying for Time,” “Eternal Flame,” and “More Than Words.” But I also love me some Roxette (remember “Fading Like a Flower”?) and Milli Vanilli (“Girl you know it’s true! G-G-G-G girllll…”).

  • Side One
    • “Every Heartbeat” – Amy Grant
    • “Dangerous” – Roxette
    • “Pure Energy” – Information Society
    • “Can’t Touch This” – MC Hammer
    • “Different Light” – Doug Stone
    • “One Moment in Time” – Whitney Houston
    • “Blame It on the Rain” – Milli Vanilli
    • “Back on My Feet” – Michael Bolton
    • “Praying for Time” – George Michael
  • Side Two
    • “Eternal Flame” – The Bangles
    • “More Than Words” – Extreme
    • “Voices That Care” – Multiple artists (recorded for troops during Operation Desert Storm)
    • “Release Me” – Wilson Phillips
    • “Unbelievable” – EMF
    • “Miracle” – Whitney Houston
    • “Escapade” – Janet Jackson
    • “Freedom” – George Michael

Cassette Tape #2 (1989): – Wow, how the times have changed. Paula Abdul’s music career is a distant memory, Donnie Osmond is now an emcee for pageants and such, Michael Damian isn’t on The Young and the Restless anymore (but apparently he rereleased “Rock On” on an album this year), and Milli Vanilli has long since been exposed as musical frauds (such a shame – I really liked their songs). Who knew that New Kids on the Block would be the ones still making music 20 years later? Bon Jovi’s music has stood the test of time well, but I much prefer his late ’80s, early ’90s work to his albums of the past decade.

  • Side One
    • Aerosmith (that’s how I labeled it, so not sure what song it is! Maybe “Love in an Elevator.”)
    • “Right Here Waiting” – Richard Marx
    • “Forever Your Girl” – Paula Abdul
    • “What I Am (I’m Not Aware)” – Edie Brickell
    • “Walk of Life” – Dire Straits (I had it incorrectly labeled as Bruce Springsteen!)
    • “Lay Your Hands” – Bon Jovi
    • “Batdance” – Prince
  • Side Two
    • “One More Try” – Timmy T
    • “Soldier of Love” – Donnie Osmond (it seems weird that Donnie Osmond sang this song!)
    • “Hangin’ Tough” – New Kids on the Block
    • “Gonna Miss You” – Milli Vanilli
    • “Rock On” – Michael Damian
    • “Seeds of Love” – Tears for Fears
    • “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time” – New Kids on the Block
    • “We Didn’t Start the Fire” – Billy Joel

Cassette #3 (1992) – This tape represents my musical tastes in 8th and 9th grade. You’ll notice that I had developed an interest country music. In my opinion, this time period was country music at its peak, before it went downhill into the pop-crossover arena. I still belt out some Lorrie Morgan tunes from time to time (especially “Something in Red”), “I Still Believe in You” was my favorite song of ’92, and Wynonna had some good tunes (initially) after leaving The Judds. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are, of course, still enjoying success, but “Under the Bridge” is one of my favorite songs, and definitely my favorite of theirs.

  • Side One
    • “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” – George Michael and Elton John (“Ladies and gentlemen… Mr. Elton John!!!” – I love that part.)
    • “Like Two Sparrows” – Tanya Tucker
    • “Call Me Lonesome” – Radney Foster
    • “Shake the Sugar Tree” – Pam Tillis
    • “If There Hadn’t Been You” – Billy Dean
    • “Watch Me” – Lorrie Morgan
    • “Under the Bridge” – Red Hot Chili Peppers (how’s that for a transition? Lori Morgan to the Chili Peppers.)
    • “Never Knew Lonely” – Vince Gill
    • “In This Life” – Colin Raye
    • “If You Ask Me To” – Celine Dion
    • “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” – John Parr
  • Side Two
    • “Take This Heart” – Richard Marx
    • “The River” – Garth Brooks
    • “One” – Elton John
    • “Jam” – Michael Jackson
    • “Jesus He Knows Me” – Phil Collins
    • “I Saw the Light” – Wynonna
    • “Tell Ourselves” – Clint Black
    • “Another Day” – Jon Secada
    • “End of the Road” – Boyz II Men
    • “I Still Believe in You” – Vince Gill
    • “Saddle Up Your Horses – Steven Curtis Chapman

That’s all for Part One. There’s only so much transcribing that I can handle at a time. Next week, I’ll reveal what I was recording during my high school years (’93-’96). You’ll see names like Ugly Kid Joe, Mr. Big, and Crash Test Dummies. Good times! Did you see any of your favorites on these cassette tape playlists? What else were you listening to? If you still have your own collection of radio-recorded songs, I’d love to know what some of them are.


Retro Weekend: My Favorite Saturday Morning Cartoons June 19, 2009

When I was growing up in Louisiana, Saturday mornings meant coffee milk (I guess to a kid that sounds more appealing than “cafe au lait”), a special breakfast (usually something like pancakes, French toast, or beignets), and a couple of hours of cartoons. Based on my perusal of the Saturday morning television schedule for every year of the ’80s on Wikipedia, it seems like my prime cartoon-watching years were 1983 to 1989. I have a lot of memories from those six years, but for this post I’m only listing my very favorite Saturday morning cartoons. It’s sad to me that there’s hardly such a thing as that anymore, but then I guess today’s kids have access to cartoons 24/7 on the various children’s cable networks. But the fact that these shows only came on once a week was what made watching them so special.

  • Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies (1984-1990 on CBS) – I had actually forgotten about this show until today, when I was watching The Muppets Take Manhattan. There is a scene in the movie where Miss Piggy imagines what it would have been like to grow up with Kermit. In her daydream, we saw Piggy, Kermit, Gonzo, and a few of the other muppets as babies. These little muppet babies were so cute, that someone decided to loosely base a cartoon series on them, and so Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies was born. Watching this show as a child, there was something very fun about seeing these familiar characters with diapers and pacifiers. And my guess is that I’d enjoy watching the show as an adult, too. There’s just something fascinating about those muppets. Click here to view the Muppet Babies intro.

  • The Littles (1983-1985 on ABC) – “Here come the Littles… always running to and fro…” I loved this show so much that my sister was easily able to convince me that Tom and Lucy lived in her bedroom walls. I loved the idea of little people living in elaborate passageways in the walls of a house, flying tiny airplanes and using common household objects as furniture. To this day, I still sometimes have dreams that I discover secret passageways in my house, which is kind of related to the idea of this show (but also related to books I read as a child). The catchy theme song, the cute characters, and the adventurous plots all caught my attention. Click here to view The Littles intro.

  • The Real Ghostbusters (1986-1991 on ABC) – I watched all the cartoons based on live-action movies (including The Karate Kid, Star Wars, and Teen Wolf), but this was my favorite. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the later versions of the show, which included some silly Slimer cartoons and eventually a new generation of ghostbusters. I remember being impressed that the cartoon characters actually resembled the characters from the Ghostbuster movies. My favorite character was probably Egon Spengler. He had cool white hair. Click here to view The Real Ghostbusters intro.

  • Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (1986-1990 on CBS) – So technically this isn’t a cartoon, but it was at the heart of my Saturday morning tv viewing. I loved how all the furniture had names, and I liked the recurring segments, such as the Secret Word, Pen Pal Letters, and Penny cartoons.

  • Captain N: The Game Master (1989-1991 on NBC) – I remember really enjoying this cartoon, which found high school student Kevin and his dog, Duke, being sucked through a vortex in his tv to another universe known as Videoland, where he had adventures with various Nintendo heroes and villains. As a fan of Nintendo games, it was fun to imagine what would happen if I were transported to these characters’ worlds. (Imagine how fun that would be now, to race around in Mario Kart, or explore new worlds in Mario Galaxy!) Click here to view the Captain N intro.

Other cartoons I watched, and think I liked, but don’t really remember much about:

  • Beetlejuice (1989-1991 on ABC) – I recently watched the Tim Burton movie on which the cartoon was based, and I enjoyed the morbid quirkiness of it. The cartoon was, I’m sure, more kid friendly, but still with that same feel to it.
  • Star Wars: Ewoks (1985-1986 on ABC) – I also remember the Star Wars: Droids show that came on after this one, but I usually didn’t stick around for that. I loved these furry little creatures! I suppose I was in the target demographic when Return of the Jedi was released in 1983.

  • Mister T (1983-1986 on NBC) – You have to love any show in which Mr. T is the coach of a gymnastics team who travels the world solving mysteries!
  • The Flintstone Kids (1986-1988 on ABC) – Hmmm, might this idea have been “borrowed” from Muppet Babies? Whatever the case, I and other kids flocked to any show about familiar characters as babies/children. I also enjoyed Captain Caveman and Son, which aired along with this show.
  • ALF: The Animated Series (1987-1989 on NBC) – I watched the sitcom, so it was only natural that I would also watch this animated spin-off, which was actually a prequel about ALF’s (his actual name was Gordon) life on his home planet, Melmac, before he came to Earth.

It’s interesting how many cartoons in the ’80s were based on existing tv shows and movies.I wonder if that trend started in an earlier decade and continued into the ’90s, or if it was exclusive to the ’80s. I certainly enjoyed the trend, so I’m not complaining. What were your favorite Saturday morning cartoons? Did I leave out any that you loved? Keep in mind that I was thinking specifically of shows that aired on Saturday morning, which means I couldn’t include some of my favorite cartoons (He-Man and Scooby Doo come to mind). More to come on those later.

Hope you enjoyed the first installment of my Retro Weekend segment. Check back next weekend for more ’80s or ’90s goodness.

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