Monday, March 30, 2020

And now a word from THEIR sponsor: Bert Jones, Superstar?

I used to think Baltimore Colts quarterback Bert Jones was one of the biggest stars in the National Football League. That is, I assumed he was. After all, he was in all those ads, like the Ivory soap spots:

For a while, I thought he was massively overrated, but that view is as ignorant as thinking that after a practice, Jones uses a deodorant soap. "No way!"

In reality, Jones had a storied career at LSU and is in the College Football Hall of fame, but was not on the elite tier of QBs in the pros.  He was the NFL MVP in 1976, but injuries limited his career. He led the Colts to a solid run in the mid 70s, but that was overshadowed by the likes of the Steelers and the Raiders.

 He was a star but not a superstar, maybe, but he was a national figure with this ad campaign. He also did a print campaign for Chaps by Ralph Lauren, but according to an interview with Jones himself, he only did this one TV spot. I would have sworn he was in a bunch of these. Did I just see this one a thousand times?

One of my favorite aspects of this particular commercial is that Jones, then gearing up for a final season with the L.A. Rams, wears a generic #7 jersey with "BERT JONES" on the front. Or IS it generic?

Maybe Bert Jones is playing for the Louisiana Bert Joneses.  I'd love to get a look at the back of his jersey because I hope it says "BERT JONES" on the back, too.  "And at quarterback for your Bert Joneses...number 7...Bert Jones!"

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Top Ten #61

1) One Day at a Time: The revival of the 1970s/1980s sitcom scored decent ratings in its return on Pop TV, and Pluto TV launched a tribute channel devoted to the original.  Of course, every time I turn it there, it's showing All in the Family, but I guess that's close enough.

2) Amerika: BOTNS investigated an unusual network promo and wound up digging into this 1987 multi-evening event.  That's right, "miniseries" is far too mundane a term for the ABC epic presentation:

3) The Facts of Life Down Under: And this was the movie that started the investigation.  I have to say, at first I laughed at the ad NBC ran to promote it, but if I had to watch this or 14 hours of Amerika today...

4) John Tesh: I can't tell you how thrilled I was when TESH was the answer in a crossword puzzle my girlfriend and I did recently.  I can't tell you because I am very ashamed.

5) Johnny Carson: Shout! Factory TV is touting that Carson reruns are coming in April, but there is already a lot of old Tonight Show on Prime Video, and it's big-time hacked up, but it's great.

6) The Muppet Show: Earlier this week, we looked at and were disappointed by a Vanity Fair website piece claiming to explain why the classic series is not on Disney Plus. It did not.

7) Alex Trebek: Remember the classic episode of Cheers (Season 8's What Is...Cliff Clavin) which features Cliff's spectacular performance on Jeopardy! I had vivid memories of Clavin's shenanigans but forgot how good Trebek was.  The whole thing is great.

8) Dianne Kay: Happy birthday to the former Nancy on Eight Is Enough, prominently featured in this promo campaign:

9) John Candelaria: This weekend I watched a compressed version of a May 1984 Pirates/Dodgers Game of the Week from Three BY GOD Rivers Stadium because why not? Vin and Joe were in the booth, luminaries like Steve Sax and Pedro Guerrero played for the Dodgers, and how about that immortal 1984 Bucco outfield: Joe Orsulak, Marvell Wynne, Doug Frobel!

But it was cool seeing tall lefty The Candy Man on the mound for the Pirates.

10) Quincy, M.E.: Yes! Another "new" Quincy promo is on YouTube! Nothing better to take my mind off world events than seeing a good one of these:

Oh, man. A virus? It had to be a virus episode?

Saturday, March 28, 2020

BOTNS Investigates: Part 2 on the Facts of Life meets Amerika

Only in the magical world of 1980s television could Australia collide with a Soviet-occupied United States with an assistance from Edna Garrett and her plucky band of Eastland alumni! Yesterday we looked at an NBC promo for its original telefilm The Facts of Life Down Under (calling it a "telefilm" gives me way more joy than it should), a spot mocking the competition: night one of ABC's sprawling, much-hyped miniseries Amerika:

I had forgotten all about this event, which starred Kris Kristofferson, Robert Urich, Mariel Hemingway, and many more in a 7-part depiction of America in 1997, 10 years after a Soviet conquering of the nation (just how they did it is unexplained in the movie).  It was a big deal at the time, though.  Before we look more into it, let's address the fact that the great David Letterman made the definitive statement on the TV night of February 15, 1987 with the piece that leads off this clip:

Amerika did indeed beat The Facts of Life Down Under in the ratings on Sunday night, but as the night went on, it wasn't exactly dominant and even got beat by NBC's Thursday night lineup. Ratings went down as the event progressed, and it was not a flop, but was nowhere near the success its massive budget and hype would have led ABC to envision.

As ABC's special Viewpoint town hall-type show with Ted Koppel shows, the program drew controversy and criticism, and if it seems quaint now that a TV miniseries should draw such debate, remember this was 1987 and the Cold War was still a strong presence in everyday life. One noted US/Soviet "expert," Ted Turner, was disgusted by what he saw (a little bit) and ripped it on ABC. His own TBS announced it would offer an "alternative viewpoint" in its programming the week of Amerika.

According to the 1987 UPI article linked above, Turner thought the movie was "redneck" and was peeved by the notion of any kind of occupation of either superpower by the other.

One of my favorite contemporary clips reporting on the controversy is this CNN bit reporting on Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca's move to pull ads from the broadcast because the programming is too intense and not conducive to selling automobiles:

Amazing info from Wikipedia: ABC instigated the miniseries in part in response to an op-ed piece by Ben Stein (yes, that one) in the wake of The Day After. Stein suggested ABC make a movie dramatizing the threat of the Soviet Union by showing the effect of an occupation on the American people.

This is all pretty heavy! I think I'm ready for another look at The Facts of Life Down Under:

Friday, March 27, 2020

BOTNS Investigates: NBC goes low to promote The Facts of Life Down Under

The other day I was watching promos and ads on the YouTube channel of the great SeanMc when a promo for The Facts of Life Down Under popped up.  I never actually saw this movie (though I remember Mike's deep dive into The Facts of Life Goes to Paris), so I was curious to see how NBC promoted it. Let's take a look:

"Harry, this is BORING!"

Amazing, isn't it, to think that NBC wasn't confident enough in its long-running (then in its eight season) juggernaut sitcom.  Instead of just telling the nation about this Premiere Movie Event, it spent precious airtime mocking...mocking...Russia? Serious movies? Quality television? 

I was puzzled trying to think of what the ad referenced. The Day After? No, that was years earlier, unless this was a rerun, but would that warrant a blatant shot? A TV premiere of White Nights?  No, it wasn't that.  A special one-night network presentation of What a Country? No...

Well, investigation reveals what the opposition was on February 15, 1987. The TV program this ad is teasing is of course...Designing Women on CBS!

No, it's not. Yes, that sitcom was on at 9:00 P.M. on this Sunday, but the real opposition was on ABC: the first part of Amerika, a 5-night event miniseries:

Aha! how could I have forgotten the then-controversial (but now kind of a footnote?) television spectacular? More on that tomorrow, including the TV personality who linked these two competing programming choices in hilarious fashion at the time, but first, back to that NBC promo above.

Does anyone else think the dad in the living room looks kind of like Jeffrey Tambor crossed with the "I'm a BIG fan" guy?  And why are there not Tony Hoty NFL on CBS promos all over YouTube?

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Here's why the Muppets aren't on Disney Plus--no, wait, actually it isn't

One of my biggest complaints about Disney Plus since its launch is the distinct lack of vintage Muppets material. Most conspicuous by its absence is The Muppet Show, and there has been no official explanation for its status.

So I was excited to see a headline in my feed this morning proclaiming,
Why Doesn’t Disney+ Have More Muppet Stuff?
The curious case of Disney’s Muppet erasure, explained.

Let me save you some time: This Vanity Fair article, while an excellent summary of what Muppet material is NOT on Disney Plus, does not "explain" the situation--at least not in terms of, you know, answering the question in the headline.
What we get is speculation that outgoing Disney CEO Bob Iger didn't care for the property because it wasn't his acquisition.  There are informed comments from a Jim Henson biographer and some comments that refute possible culprits like music clearances.
What we don't get is any word from Disney (to its credit, the mag asked Bob Iger and Disney Plus for comment; I think it's funny to think of Bob Iger sitting down at this point in time and explaining in detail why a 45-year-old TV show isn't on his company's streaming service) nor any facts that would explain why Disney Plus doesn't have more muppet stuff.
We will just have to keep waiting. The article does provide a few nuggets indicating hope for the future. My hope has been that they have been doing something with the original series--perhaps some kind of remastering to get it ready for a big debut alongside forthcoming original series Muppets Now.  For now, thanks for nothing, Vanity Fair!

(Click here to hear our episode discussing Steve Martin on The Muppet Show)

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

YouTube Spotlight: Alex Karras endorses The Transformers

"Folks, these robots are hot."

This great Thanksgiving-ish ad for the Transformers toys (part of our Transformers episode playlist) features NFL'er/actor Alex Karras, but not in his 1970s best mode. No, this is the kinder, gentler 1980s Karras, the Uncle George of Webster.  In fact, his calm, measured tones, though perhaps inappropriate for conveying the urgency Hasbro wants parents and grandparents to get, makes me surprised he doesn't turn to his right and say, "Don't worry, Web, we'll get one for you, too."

"Go now while stars have a good selection," is a reasonable message, yes, but it's not exactly a Crazy Eddie ad. I'd like to think Karras worried that if he unleashed his full pitchman charisma, department and toy stores across the nation would make Black Friday a bloodbath of stampeding toy-crazed consumers.

And how about that surreal moment in which Karras mouths the "more than meets the eye" tagline!

My favorite part, though, is the gentle wonder with which Karras opens the ad: "It's a working microscope!" Gee whiz. What will they think of next?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

On this National American Diabetes Association Alert Day...

let us consult the great Wilford Brimley, who after starring in Our House--wait, what is up with the name of this day? It has both "National" AND "American" in the title like it needs to cover both.  What is this, Major League Baseball?  Anyway, enjoy a video: