Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

Twin Peaks: “I’ll Have a Giant and a Log Lady, with a Slice of Cherry Pie” August 8, 2009

A wise giant. A dancing dwarf. A red curtain. Sounds like a fairy tale, and in some ways it is, but it’s certainly a warped, offbeat one. I’m referring to Twin Peaks, the short-lived primetime drama that aired on ABC from April 1990 to June 1991. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 18 years since we last saw Agent Cooper, Audrey Horne, and the rest of the gang inhabiting this small Washington town.

I’ve spent the past few weeks rewatching the entire series (30 episodes from two seasons). I had rewatched season one about seven years ago, but hadn’t seen season two since I was 13 years old. It was interesting to watch the series from beginning to end in a short span of time, and as an adult. There are certain aspects of the show that entertained me more as a teenager (such as the Andy/Lucy plot), and others that I appreciate and understand more now (such as the grief everyone experienced over Laura’s murder). One thing that remains the same is that the scenes that disturbed me as a 12/13 year old are still disturbing now. I can’t think of any other show that can go from comical to downright freaky so fast.

For those of you who are familiar with Twin Peaks, I hope that reading this post brings back some good memories. For those of you who have never experienced the show’s oddities and intrigue, I hope that this assessment of the show will pique your interest. I will make every effort to be spoiler free.

  • The Pilot Episode – This introductory episode to the series made my list of All-Time Favorite Television Pilots. Everything about it was perfect, from the music, to the discovery of Laura’s body, to the townspeople’s reactions. As a teenager, I didn’t really understand all the fuss over this girl, but now that I am a parent, I found Laura’s parents’ reactions to her death heart-wrenching. And once I was in that emotional state, I was more deeply affected by other characters’ reactions, including Laura’s best friends Donna and James, the town doctor, and the kooky psychiatrist. The introduction of Agent Dale Cooper was also a refreshing change of pace from TV’s typical FBI agent. Instead of an arrogant, bullying fed, he was a kind, cheerful man who was in tune with things that most people were not.

  • The Music – I loved the music on this show, including the theme song, which is on my list of Best Television Show Theme Songs. I love that each character had his/her own theme song, and how the instrumental music was constantly setting the mood (more so than other shows, in my opinion), whether the scene was quirky or ominous. Take for example a scene where we are looking up at a rotating ceiling fan from the first floor. Under normal circumstances, this would be nothing to be concerned about. But somehow, this image, combined with the sound of a skipping record player and some creepy music, sets up one of the most disturbing scenes in the entire series. The soundtracks to season one and season two are available at Amazon, so you can go there to sample the music and get a feel for the mysterious and dream-like mood that it sets.

  • The Main Characters
    • Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) – MacLachlan is an unusual looking guy, with his robotic demeanor and slicked back black hair (at least it was back then), so he was well cast as this quirky, zealous FBI agent who stumbles upon – in his opinion – a wonderful little town, delightful people, and some delicious cherry pie. He comes to town to investigate the murder of Laura Palmer, since there are some similarites to another murder he had investigated. Over the course of his investigation, he makes many friends, and is “visited” by some visions containing clues to the mysteries surrounding Laura’s murder.
    • Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean) – Sheriff Truman just may be the most normal person in Twin Peaks. He doesn’t mind going outside the law to get things done with his Bookhouse Boys, but he also stands up for what he thinks is right. He’s also in a relationship with Josie, but other than his relationship with her, he always seems to be on the job.
      • Shelly Johnson and Bobby Briggs (Madchen Amick and Dana Ashbrook) – Shelly is a waitress at Norma’s cafe, and Bobby is a perpetually absent high school student. They are either very brave or very stupid, since they are seeing each other behind the back of Shelly’s violent, brutish, truck driver husband Leo. Shelly is one of the more likable characters on the show, but you have to wonder why she’s involved with a jerk like Bobby. Their plotline is one of the scarier ones on the show, next to the murder investigation.
      • Donna Hayward and James Hurley (Lara Flynn Boyle and James Marshall) – Before her lips were scary and she was on The Practice, Lara Flynn Boyle was on this show. Donna was Laura’s best friend, and James is a loner who spends more time riding his motorcycle than hanging out with the other kids from school, but after Laura’s murder, he and Donna become close and begin conducting their own investigation into the murder. Their relationship is very angsty and complicated, but I like them as a couple.
      • Norma Jennings and Big Ed Hurley (Peggy Lipton and Everitt McGill) – Norma comes across as very normal. She’s a former Miss Twin Peaks who owns the town diner, where she serves excellent coffee and pie, among other things. She and Big Ed, who owns a gas station in town, have been in love for years, but circumstances have prevented them from actually being together. Norma’s no-good husband, Hank, is in prison on the verge of parole, and Ed’s wife, Nadine, is, to put it nicely, mentally ill. Norma and Ed act as parental figures to the younger characters on the show, and are often approached for advice or a shoulder to cry on.
      • Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer) – He is the richest man in town, and arguably the most morally reprehensible. In the world of soaps, he is the show’s villain, when it comes to business practices and relationships. He’s willing to do what it takes to get his way, and has little concern for anyone other than himself.
      • Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) – Audrey is Ben Horne’s daughter. She wears bowling shoes and plaid skirts, and dances around her daddy’s hotel lobby acting all cute and innocent. But when no one’s looking, she sneaks into a secret passageway and spies on her father, listening in on his supposedly private conversations in his office. This curiosity is what gets Audrey involved with Laura’s murder investigation and some other complications. She is a hopeless romantic, and falls awkwardly in love with Agent Cooper, who, being the gentleman he is, gently rejects her advances since she is only a teenager. Audrey is quite an entertaining character, perhaps one of my favorites on the show.
      • Catherine and Pete Martell (Piper Laurie and Jack Nance) – On the surface, this husband and wife pair seems more suited for a conventional primetime soap. They got married years ago after wealthy Catherine fell in love momentarily with Pete, a workman for her father. Their love has long since cooled off, and so now Catherine is involved in affairs and questionable business practices while seemingly simpleminded Pete is content to go fishing and make coffee for visitors.
      • Jocelyn Packard (Joan Chen) – Josie is a mysterious Asian woman who is the widow of Catherine’s brother, and so she owns the Packard family lumber mill that Catherine believes should be hers. Josie also is involved with Sheriff Truman. It is difficult to figure out Josie. Is she a sweet, innocent, misunderstood woman, or something more devious?
      • Deputy Andy Brennan and Lucy Moran (Harry Goaz and Kimmy Robertson) – I mentioned that these two were some of my favorite characters when I was younger, and that’s because they provided the comic relief that balanced out all the dark and disturbing stuff. Andy and Lucy are both complete ditzes, and both work for the police department. Their relationship hits a snag when Lucy finds out she is pregnant, and much hilarity ensues.
      • Leland and Sarah Palmer (Ray Wise and Grace Zabriskie) – Both of these actors are recognizable from other roles – Wise most recently as the Devil on the CW show Reaper, and Zabriskie as Susan Ross’s mother on Seinfeld and as Lois Henrickson on Big Love. Over the course of season one, viewers witness their different ways of dealing with the loss of their only daughter. Leland turns to big band music and dancing to mask his pain, while Sarah spends a lot of time crying, crawling across the floor, and seeing visions of horses and strange men. Theirs is an interesting psychological character study.

  • The Strange and Unusual Supporting Characters
    • The Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson) – The Log Lady is a woman who not only carries around a log at all times, but pets it and converses with it. No one else can hear what the log says, but she occasionally shows up at the police station or cafe to relay a message from the log to Agent Cooper.
    • The Giant (Carel Struycken) – One of the early signs that this was no ordinary show was when this giant appeared to Agent Cooper in a dream and delivered some cryptic clues about Cooper’s investigation. I’ll never forget the episode in which the giant appeared to Cooper and repeatedly said “It is happening again.” So bizarre.
    • The Dwarf (Michael J. Anderson) – Also known as “The Man from Another Place,” this dwarf in a suit appeared a handful of times on the show, mostly in Cooper’s dreams. He dances around and speaks in a strange voice.
    • The One-Armed Man (Al Strobel) – Originally he was only supposed to appear once, wandering through the Twin Peaks hospital, just as an homage to The Fugitive, but David Lynch liked the character enough to write a more integral role for him.
    • Nadine (Wendy Robie) – As I mentioned earlier, Nadine is Ed’s wife. She wears an eye patch, is feverishly working on her latest invention – silent drape runners, and possesses super strength. A lot of people complained that she was just too ridiculous, but I appreciated the comic relief her character provided.
    • Dennis/Denise (David Duchovny) – Yes, before Agent Mulder came to be, David Duchovny portrayed a cross dressing DEA agent on Twin Peaks. The role didn’t last very long, but I thought it was worth mentioning here.
    • Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) – Dr. Jacoby, the town psychiatrist, has an affinity for all things Hawaiian, and he wears eye glasses with different color lenses. He was Laura’s psychiatrist, and so he plays a role in the murder investigation. A couple of interesting tidbits about Russ Tamblyn – he played Riff in West Side Story (1961) and is Amber Tamblyn’s (Joan of Arcadia) father.
    • Bob (Frank Silva) – Long silver hair, a jean jacket, and a maniacal laugh are three things that make him a memorable character.
  • The Plots

    • The central plot of much of the series was the now well known question, “Who killed Laura Palmer?” Several episodes into season two, this question was answered, and so the initial premise of the show was resolved. David Lynch actually never intended to reveal Laura’s killer, but had to change his plan due to network pressure. The show went downhill after giving viewers the answers, but I am glad that we found out the answer to the question.

    The Log Lady occasionally provided cryptic clues related to Laura's murder.

    • Another major plot centered on a business rivalry involving a planned housing development and a lumber mill. This was less interesting to me, but at least it made more sense now that I’m old enough to understand what was going on.
    • And in the tradition of more conventional primetime soaps, there were plenty of love triangles and betrayals. When I was 12, I didn’t notice that just about everyone except Agent Cooper was caught in the middle of some sort of romantic entanglement. For example, cafe owner Norma juggled her recently paroled, homicidal husband, and her high school sweetheart Ed – a situation that was further complicated by the fact that Ed’s wife Nadine was bonkers.
    • But it wasn’t just the main plots that drew me to Twin Peaks – the show’s tone and atmosphere are what really made it special. The jazzy music, the bizarre characters, the wind blowing through the trees ominously, an owl hooting outside while a lounge singer serenades the crowd at the Roadhouse. All of these things are what made the show absolutely mesmerizing and fascinating.
  • Overall assessment – I highly recommend all of season one, through about episode nine of season two. After that, the show became more uneven and absurdist, but is still entertaining. So if I haven’t convinced you to watch it yet, here are a few more reasons:
    • Unique characters – None of the show’s characters are stereotypical, and there’s more to almost all of them than meets the eye. If you like interesting characters, look no further than Twin Peaks.
    • Early 90s culture – The clothes, the hair, the technology, all represent the early 90s time period during which the show was made. I love watching stuff from my formative years and being reminded of how things were then.
    • Laughs, chills, and thrills – There’s a nice mix of humor and horror. By horror, I mean disturbing storylines and images, but nothing gory. David Lynch certainly knew how to make an audience chuckle and then shiver, and it’s this strange balancing act that makes the show unsettling.
    • Good conversation piece – Once you’ve experienced the strangeness of Twin Peaks, you will want to talk about it with other people who have watched, and they will be happy to do so. There are a lot of interesting questions and points to discuss.

If you’re new to the show, I’ll leave you with this clip that gives you an idea of its weirdness. If you’ve seen the series in its entirety, keep reading afterwards for my thoughts on how the series ended.

You are now entering a spoiler zone. I will discuss some details of the series finale, so if you don’t want to know, don’t read on!

  • The one disappointing aspect of the show is the way it left viewers hanging after the finale. David Lynch opted for an open-ended finale, in case the show got a last minute renewal. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and so some of our favorite characters were left in the most unfortunate of circumstances. Some of these situation would have been resolved in season three, but now we’ll never know. And some of the plots felt hastily thrown together and not in keeping with the show’s previous tone. Here’s how things ended (spoilers abound ahead – read on at your own risk!)
    • It was revealed that Ben Horne is actually Donna’s father, not Dr. Hayward, who raised her with her mother. In a fit of rage, Dr. Hayward, who up until that point had always been very level headed and calm, hit Ben over the head with a fire poker, leaving Ben unconscious and bleeding on the family hearth.
    • In attempt to draw some negative publicity toward her father’s business rivals, Audrey chained herself to a bank vault. Unfortunately, shortly afterward Pete Martell and his brother-in-law arrived to open a safety deposit box, the contents of which they had been dying to discover. Too bad for everyone who was in the bank that the box contained a bomb, which exploded just after they opened it. Presumably, this killed Audrey, Pete, and others in the bank. I like to think that they miraculously survived, in the tradition of soaps everywhere.
    • Josie supposedly died of fear at the same time that Agent Cooper was having a vision of Bob asking him, “What happened to Josie?” Our last image of Josie is her being trapped in the knob of a drawer in her hotel room. Say what? I hope they were going to resolve that in season three.
    • Agent Cooper entered the Black Lodge, had all kinds of strange encounters, but somehow managed to get back to reality with his new love, Norma’s sister Annie (played by a young, pudgier Heather Graham). Unfortunately, he came back possessed by Bob, and the series ended with Cooper bashing his head against a bathroom mirror and otherwise acting like a lunatic, while Sheriff Truman stood cluelessly on the other side of the door. After all that Cooper went through, it was just awful to see the show end with him being overcome by the evil that he was fighting against. Oh well. Overall, the show was still one of my all-time favorites.

Hey Dude: Man Eating Jackrabbits, Killer Cacti, and a Girl Named Brad August 1, 2009

“It’s a little wild and a little strange, when you make your home out on the range…” Do you remember Hey Dude, a show that aired on Nickelodeon from 1989 to 1991? I used to watch it every afternoon after school, and I’ve enjoyed reminiscing about it today. If you have a few minutes, join me for a memory walk down the dusty road to the Bar None Ranch.

Hey Dude was Nickelodeon’s first original live action television series, and aired as part of its teen-oriented afternoon lineup, which as I recall also included Salute Your Shorts and Nick Rocks. Hey Dude was entertaining, and more importantly for a tween girl, had a few cute guys in the cast. Its characters and some of the plots seem awfully familiar to Saved by the Bell, but the cast of that more popular show was actually much younger at the time this one began. That being said, perhaps there is just a lot of common ground on any teen sitcom: a goofy authority figure, an arrogant but popular cute guy, a beautiful rich girl, a dorky dweeb, etc.

  • The Plot: Mr. Ernst, a former accountant, buys the Bar None Ranch and moves there from New York City with his son Buddy, in an attempt to escape big city life and the pressures of his job. He hires a handful of teenagers for the summers, and they have various adventures, disagreements, and romances during their time on the staff. I came across this interesting website today that gives a “then and now” photo tour of the show’s set. (It was filmed on location on the grounds of a real dude ranch outside Tucson, Arizona named the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch.)
  • The Characters
    • Mr. Ernst – This bumbling, balding, bespectacled boss man was the closest thing to an authority figure at the ranch. I just remember him being a big dork. The actor who played him, David Brisbin, has had the most successful post-Hey Dude acting career of any of the cast. Over the past 18 years he has appeared on several tv shows, including The X-Files, Bones, ER, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Brothers and Sisters.
    • Lucy – She was the only other adult working at the ranch, and she supposedly appeared in all but one episode (I don’t remember her that well, but I guess a grownup lady wouldn’t have been on my radar). Debrah Kalman, the actress who played Lucy, never did any other major acting work, something that is true of most of the cast.
    • Buddy – If Mr. Ernst was this show’s Mr. Belding, then Buddy is the dude ranch’s Screech. He was annoyingly dorky, and in the early episodes always had his trusty dog Cassie by his side (I hated the shot of Buddy and his dog in the opening credits – it was so cheesy). I suppose Buddy was supposed to be the pre-teen boy who aspired to be like the cool older kids who worked for his dad. The actor, Josh Tygiel, didn’t do any acting beyond this show.
    • Danny – Like Lucy, I don’t remember Danny very well at all. He was an easygoing (read: boring) Hopi Indian who also appeared in all but one episode. I must have been totally fixated on the cute guys! Joe Torres, who played Danny, has only appeared in one movie since his role on Hey Dude – he was in a movie called Groove, released in 2000, about a giant rave in San Francisco. Sounds more exciting than his role on this show!
    • Ted – Ted was my favorite character. He was the flirtatious troublemaker who had an on again, off again romance with Brad. I was disappointed when he had to leave the dude ranch to attend summer school, but he eventually returned. Of the teen cast, David Lascher has had arguably the most successful acting career. He played Josh on the tv show Clueless, another Josh on the longer running Sabrina the Teenage Witch, a boyfriend on Blossom, and one of the many cute guys in the movie White Squall.
    • Brad – I’ve never heard of another girl named Brad besides this character. She was the stereotypical spoiled little rich girl, who just so happened to be an excellent horse trainer. I always wondered why the guys were more interested in her than in sweet and cute Melody. Actress Kelly Brown left acting after Hey Dude to focus on starting a family. According to Wikipedia, she remains good friends with the actress who played Lucy.
    • Melody – Earlier, I said that David Lascher has had arguably the most successful career, because Christine Taylor is right there with him in terms of her movie and tv credits. But she is probably more well known for being married to Ben Stiller than for her roles in Friends, The Wedding Singer, Zoolander, Arrested Development, etc. Her most memorable movie role was as Marcia Brady in The Brady Bunch Movie and A Very Brady Sequel. She was a fantastic and hilarious Marcia. Back on her breakout role as Melody, she was the sweet, down to earth Melody, who worked as a lifeguard at the dude ranch.
    • Jake – Jake is described on Wikipedia as Mr. Ernst’s nephew, “an eccentric slacker who likes to play the drums.” I don’t remember that about him, but I do remember that he was Ted’s replacement. Actor Jonathan Galkin never did any other notable acting work, but he has found success as the label manager for DFA Records.
    • Kyle – Kyle was the tall, skinny cowboy who showed up in later episodes, and he became a romantic rival of Ted’s, as they were both interested in Brad.
The cast of Hey Dude, in all of their late 80s glory

The cast of Hey Dude, in all of their late '80s glory

  • The Theme Song – I used to belt out this theme song at the beginning of every show, right down to the ridiculous voice over about “man-eating jackrabbits and killer cacti.” Do you remember all the words? Click here to listen.
    • It’s a little wild and a little strange…
      when you make your home out on the range.
      So, start your horse and come along.
      ‘Cause you can’t get a ride if you can’t hold on.
      Singin’ yippee kai aie ay. (Yippee kai aie what?)
      Like the cowboys say. (Sing it again now.)
      Yippee kai aie ay.
      ‘Till the break of day.
      (You’d better watch out for those man-eating jackrabbits… And that killer cacti!)
      Hey Dude!

Since I couldn’t find the theme song and opening credits on YouTube, I’ll leave you with this “tribute” of sorts to the show, which is sung to the tune of “Hey Jude.” I appreciated the short clips from the show, as well as the references to other Nickelodeon shows. This is definitely a video that will only be appreciated by others who grew up watching these shows. Enjoy! To those who weren’t there, I apologize. On this video, the guy asks if anyone can remember a single plot from the show, and I actually do. Well, in bits and pieces. I remember an episode where Brad and Ted ended up handcuffed to each other for some reason, and another one where Brad, Ted, and Kyle all played miniature golf together. That’s all I’ve got. What do you remember about the show?


The End of an Era: My Final Radio Mix Tape July 27, 2009

The past couple of weeks I’ve been chronicling my musical tastes from my childhood and teen years, as evidenced by my collection of cassette tapes with songs from the radio. Until a week ago, I was limited to the tapes in my Case Logic carrying case, but then I discovered an entire box of tapes hiding under a pile of junk in the back of a closet. What a fun find that was!

Today, I am sharing with you the “playlist” on the last blank tape I ever filled with radio songs. I wore out this cassette in my Toyota Tercel and in my freshman dorm room. I don’t know how Celine Dion keeps making it onto my tapes, but I recall really liking Jewel and Lenny Kravitz at the time (and still do). Other standouts: Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” and Primitive Radio Gods’ “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth…” (talk about a one hit wonder!). I can’t really remember how John Mellencamp’s “Key West Intermezzo” goes, but I’d sure like to hear it again because I remember that being a favorite.

Summer 1996-Summer 1997 (Freshman Year of College)

  • Side One
    • “Big Me” – Goo Goo Dolls
    • “Too Much” – Dave Matthews Band
    • “Can’t Get You Off of My Mind” – Lenny Kravitz
    • “Mission Impossible Theme”
    • “Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot” – Sting
    • “Killing Me Softly” – The Fugees
    • “Give Me One Reason” – Tracy Chapman
    • “You Still Touch Me” – Sting
    • “Sister” – The Nixons
    • “Breathe” – Collective Soul
    • “Are You Gonna Go My Way” – Lenny Kravitz
    • “Creep” – Radiohead

  • Side Two
    • “Where Do You Go” – No Mercy
    • “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand” – Primitive Radio Gods
    • “All Along” – Blessed Union of Souls
    • “All Coming  Back” – Celine Dion
    • “Key West Intermezzo” – John Mellencamp
    • “That Thing You Do” – The Wonders
    • “You Were Meant for Me” – Jewel
    • “Angel” – Jewel
    • “Don’t Speak” – No Doubt
    • “Foolish Games” – Jewel

And now, for your listening enjoyment, and so that I won’t be the only one who has this song stuck in my head today, enjoy this video of No Mercy’s “Where Do You Go.” For some reason, this song was often playing when my alarm went off in the morning. Not exactly a “get up and go” kind of song. Sing with me now: “Where do you, where do you go? Where do you, where do you go?” 🙂

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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 Two July 20, 2009

Last week I revealed the lineup of songs on my cassette tapes from the late ’80s and early ’90s. This week I move on to my high school years, 1993-1995. I’ve still been unable to locate the cassettes from my senior year of high school and freshman year of college. After that, I stored away my tapes and moved on completely to the world of CDs (I started buying CDs around my junior year of high school, but kept recording songs off the radio or friends’ tapes until ’96). I am still hoping those tapes will turn up because they represent the last remnant of an era.

The good news is that the songs I’m going to list today are some of my favorites, especially the ones on the ’94-’95 tape. That was my junior year of high school, and it was around that time that I came across 93.1 FM, a radio station out of Alexandria, LA, that played edgier music than the more pop and top-40 oriented 101.9 out of Monroe. On 93.1, I discovered a whole new world of music that I loved! Before we get to junior year, take a look at this cassette of songs from sophomore year.

  • Songs from Sophomore Year (1993-1994) – Well, apparently I had moved on from my freshman year country phase, and into sentimental pop music from Celine Dion and Amy Grant, mixed with ’90s grunge and rock. I love the over the top sound of Collective Soul, the hyperactiveness of EMF, and the sweet harmonies of Extreme.
    • Side One

      • “Smells Like Nirvana” – Weird Al
      • “Come As You Are” – Nirvana
      • “Breathe” – Collective Soul
      • “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down” – George Michael (I liked this song so much that I had to have it on two tapes – it’s also on one from ’92)
      • “Beauty and the Beast” – Celine Dion (yikes! )
      • “Remember the Time” – Michael Jackson
      • “Good for Me” – Amy Grant
      • “Everything About You” – Ugly Kid Joe
      • “To Be with You” – Mr. Big (great song!)
      • “Best for Last” – Vanessa Williams
      • “More Than Words” – Extreme (“Now that I’ve tried to talk to you and make you understand, all you have to do is close your eyes and just reach out your hands…”)
    • Side Two
      • “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen (I was a fan of the Wayne’s World soundtrack)
      • “Something to Talk About” – Bonnie Raitt (one of my favorite singalong songs)
      • “Mysterious Ways” – U2
      • “Everything About You” – Ugly Kid Joe (guess I forgot it was on Side One)
      • “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana
      • “My Lovin'” – En Vogue (“Never gonna get it, never gonna get it, never gonna get – wh-wh-wh-whoa!”)
      • “I Will Remember You” – Amy Grant
      • “Lies” – EMF
      • “Unbelievable” – EMF

  • Songs from Junior Year (1994-1995) – Looking back over these songs, I think I can officially say that the mid-90s is my favorite musical era. REM? Offspring? Radiohead? Awesome, awesome, awesome. I love all the songs on this tape. They don’t make music like this anymore.
    • Side One
      • “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead” – Crash Test Dummies (“Peter Pumpkinhead went to town, spreading wisdom and cash around…”)
      • “Strange Currencies” – REM
      • “Come out and Play (Keep ‘Em Separated)” – The Offspring
      • “Loser” – Beck (“And my time is a piece of wax fallin’ on a termite, that’s chokin’ on the splinters.”)
      • “Creep” – Radiohead
      • “If You Leave” – OMD (I was ten years late recording this song from Pretty in Pink, but it’s a good one)
      • “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” – Bryan Adams
      • “Losing My Religion” – REM
      • “You Oughta Know” – Alanis Morissette
      • “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” – Deep Blue Something
      • ‘Til I Hear It from You” – Gin Blossoms
      • “Can’t Help Falling in Love” – UB40
    • Side Two
      • “Runaway” – Real McCoy
      • “Misery” – Soul Asylum
      • “Here for You” – Firehouse
      • “December” – Collective Soul
      • “Come to My Window” – Melissa Ethridge
      • “I Live My Life for You” – Firehouse (sigh…)
      • “Say It Ain’t So” – Weezer
      • “I Only Wanna Be with You” – Hootie and the Blowfish
      • “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – The Proclaimers (Love the song, love Benny and Joon)
      • “Come and Get Your Love” – Real McCoy
      • “As I Lay Me Down” – Sophie Hawkins

  • Songs from Junior Year, cont’d (1995) – I’m going to assume I was recording these songs at the end of junior year, but it could also have been the beginning of my senior year. This is quite an eclectic collection. Apparently I had figured out how to record songs off of my parents’ record collection and onto my blank tapes. The result: a cassette tape that features songs from Bye Bye Birdie and The Music Man, mixed with Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, and Stone Temple Pilots. I guess I had to be in a weird mood to listen to this one. I stand by all of these songs except perhaps “Lucas with the Lid Off.” That one hasn’t held up well over time. Check out the video here and see what you think.
    • Side One
      • “Overture” – from Bye Bye Birdie
      • “How Lovely to Be a Woman” – from Bye Bye Birdie
      • “The Telephone Hour” – from Bye Bye Birdie (“What’s the story, morning glory, what’s the word, hummingbird. Did you hear about Hugo and Kim?”)
      • “Honestly Sincere” – from Bye Bye Birdie
      • “Hymn for a Sunday Evening” – from Bye Bye Birdie
      • “One Last Kiss” – from Bye Bye Birdie
      • “One Boy” – from Bye Bye Birdie
      • “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” – from Bye Bye Birdie
      • “Rosie and Bye Bye Birdie” (Finale) – from Bye Bye Birdie
      • “Bed of Roses” – Bon Jovi
      • “Blaze of Glory” – Bon Jovi
      • “Always” – Bon Jovi (these three were from the greatest hits album Cross Road)
      • “Goodnight My Someone” – Music Man
      • “Sincere”- Music Man
      • “Being in Love”- Music Man
      • “Gary, Indiana” – Music Man
      • “Lida Rose and Will I Ever Tell You” – Music Man
    • Side Two
      • “Runaway Train” – Soul Asylum
      • “Sun Maid” – Soul Asylum
      • “Crying” – Aerosmith
      • “Amazing” – Aerosmith
      • “Crazy” – Aerosmith (All three of these Aerosmith songs sounded like different versions of the same tune, but I didn’t mind.)
      • “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” – REM
      • “Another Night” – Real McCoy
      • “Lucas with the Lid Off” – Lucas
      • “Interstate Love Song” – Stone Temple Pilots

I’ll leave you with this video of The Offspring’s “Come Out and Play.” Every time I hear this song it reminds me of how my friends and I used to drive around town in my Toyota Tercel, with the windows rolled down and the music turned up. Good times.


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

Filed under: 1980s,1990s,Memories,Music — Emily @ 11:00 am
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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: A “Very Special” Saved by the Bell Moment June 28, 2009

Filed under: 1990s,Memories,Television — Emily @ 10:58 pm
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I didn’t have much time to write an in depth 80s or 90s themed post this weekend (I was vacationing in L.A.), so instead I’ll remind you of a classic Saved by the Bell moment. Remember the episode where Jessie was so stressed out about school that she started taking caffeine pills, and developed an unhealthy dependence on them? The climactic scene (see below) features Zach confronting her, and a struggle ensues over the pill box, resulting in Jessie bursting out into a very dramatic rendition of the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited.”

This scene is the epitome of Saved by the Bell cheesiness, but it has stuck with me over the years. Being the dork that I am, I have reenacted Jessie’s emotional rollercoaster from this scene many times.

Do you have any favorite Saved by the Bell episodes or moments? As ridiculous as the show was, it was still fun to watch. Click here to read about it on Wikipedia.