“When the stars come out to play, babe
A twinkling show, ooh — dinner! — out of sight
Yeah, the night time is golden light time — big dipper!
At McDonald’s (showtime), it’s Mac Tonight!”
We’ve recently returned from a week-long sojourn to a tropical paradise, and thus were unable to commit the 10-12 hours a day we hoped watching the NBC Networks Olympic coverage of events like water polo, handball, indoor volleyball, ping-pong (sorry, table tennis), field hockey and trap shooting. We were, however, able to catch part of NBC’s prime time telecasts, the carefully cultivated, perfectly orchestrated alchemy of prestigious events of which the Americans just happen to win the majority. And if you think watching NBC’s tape delay broadcasts here in America is tough, try doing it twenty miles (or was it kilometers?) from Venezuela.
Upset about the admittedly completely unnecessary and pedantic Mary Carillo explains London segments? Fine. But better than coverage not starting til 9pm EST and then finding the telecast constantly interrupted by an unknown Aruban man in a desolate, sad locker room set, serving as something of a local Bob Costas amid open lockers and prop gym bags. Even worse is that these interstitials preempted the commercials. The Olympics is the Super Bowl of commercials. Normally we’d prefer to fast-forward right through all of them, but if we had our choice of watching a random guy pontificate about Michael Phelps in Papiamento or watching every single McDonald’s commercial, we’d choose the latter. At least the second option gives us a the chance for a sports celebrity cameo, or a catchy jingle, or, God willing, a new Happy Meal Toy. Or we could just use that time to visit the bathroom or get a snack, but, instead, while Aruban Bob Costas chats with the small island’s foremost track and field expert, we flip over to Lifetime to see if Forrest Gump is still on, not sure how long this detour from London is going to last (which, we admit, is a very specific experience, so we apologize if this particular situation does not apply to you).
Okay, so we’re exaggerating here. It really wasn’t that bad. But neither is watching the main events on tape delay here in the contiguous US of A, despite all the caustic vitriol spat at NBC over its delayed gratification approach to the games. What the people who level all the criticism at NBC for withholding the most interesting (to Americans) events til after 8pm (and, really, til 11pm) don’t seem to consider, or put much stock in to, is that most Americans (save for those who are currently employed and spend most of their day
watching Razon Ramon documentaries producing high quality journalism and insightful media criticism), aren’t home at 2pm to watch the entirety of the Tween Women’s Uneven Bars final. That doesn’t mean that NBC couldn’t cling to journalistic integrity, demonstrate a responsibility to delivering unfiltered, untainted Olympics coverage, and air the whole event live. But then what? Rebroadcast it again later? In its entirety? Or in repeats is it permissible to edit the events down? And does NBC, even with its seemingly infinite cadre of cable channels, have the airtime to show the same competition twice? On the other hand, if they air everything in real-time, what does NBC show in prime-time? Grimm repeats? Rock Center: Live from Westminster Abbey? Start the Tonight Show three hours early? No. Make no mistake, NBC has not spent billions of dollars securing the rights to the Olympics to present sports in the most comprehensive, informative, honest and fan-friendly way. They’re in it for the same reason ESPN is (despite what its acronym might imply), to make gobs and boatloads and gobloads of money. Let’s not forget that.
And let’s not hold that against them. For NBC, the Olympics is a two-week-long special edition of America’s Got Talent (Phelps, Gabby Douglas, Missy Franklin) and The Biggest Loser (Mckayla Maroney, any country other than the USA). It’s the marketing push Whitney really needed. And to suggest that NBC has some responsibility to the American citizen not to present the most popular events in the most melodramatic, heavily-edited, Al Trautwig-hosted, Cinderella-story way is silly, and, really, hypocritical. Yank all 10pm dramas in favor of Jay Leno, shame on NBC. Expect NBC not to value Olympic ratings above all else, shame on you.
Last night Prince Fielder became only the second player to win the MLB Home Run Derby twice, equaling the feat achieved by Ken Griffey, Jr (whose success in the event can no doubt be attributed to the freedom to wear his Mariners cap in his preferred backwards position, enlivening him and providing optimal comfort in the batter’s box). The derby itself, taking place at the Kansas City ballpark that most of the country just learned is named Kauffman Stadium, was an interminable display that painfully reflected the American ideal of bigger is better, an incessant cacophony of bombastic, intolerable, verging on nauseating home run calls (the half-life on Chris Berman’s “back, back, back, back….GONE!” is exactly two). Three hours into it, and there we still were for some reason, watching Prince Fielder and runner-up Jose Bautista tee-off on meatballs lobbed in by AARP-card carrying batting practice pitchers (or, in Robinson Cano’s case, disappointed fathers). One can only watch baseballs be launched into centerfield fountains so many times before the tweens earnestly but unsuccessfully shagging pop flies quickly become vastly more entertaining. We freely admit that there was a time when we were once highly engaged in the Home Run Derby. But now, what we wouldn’t give for Roger McDowell and a cow in right field.
But it wasn’t just our yearning for something more exciting and less vacant that reminded us of MTV’s Rock N’ Jock Softball. We couldn’t help watch Prince Fielder deposit ball after ball into the right field stands and not remember first seeing him as a young boy accompanying his father Cecil “Big Daddy” Fielder at those true mid-summer classics. Unfortunately, as Grantland notes in its superb primer on the halcyon days of Rock N’ Jock, video of those games is stunningly difficult to find online. You can spot Cecil in the starting lineup during the Star Spangled Banner in one of the earlier match-ups, but that’s about it. Other than that brief appearance, tragically, there’s no video evidence that Cecil was a Salamander or an Aardvark, let alone any footage from those MTV broadcasts that show a young baseball prodigy named Prince, and we’re all losers for it.
However, there is some proof of Prince’s early talent. However, this phenom ability was found in throwing a baseball, not sending it 440 feet with a Louisville Slugger, as illustrated by this 1992 McDonald’s commercial with Cecil.
Although Prince is on the other side of the ball in this commercial he still comes out on top. Burger royalty then, baseball royalty now.
It’s finally here, folks! Our much ballyhooed, frequently teased, oft-delayed player-by-player odds for Survivor: ONE WORLD! And this time we’re sweetening the deal by including celebrity look-alikes. Yes, these predictions are coming five episodes late, but that just gives us better insight and helps us provide you with more accurate, educated odds. So let’s get to it, A-B-C style.
Alicia: If not for Colton, you’d probably take the crown as The Worst. As it is though, the two worst seem to have allied with each other and found common ground in being The Worst. She fashions herself as a villain, and a tough bitch, but she’s yet to truly display the physical or social skills that will get her to the end (she has, however, displayed far too much of her chest, sporting a variety of wildly ill fitting tops). If she sticks with Colton, Team The Worst could actually, grossly, go far, that is if they don’t kill each other first. Odds of winning: 30-1
If we show up in your list of Gchat contacts (which, we admit, is unlikely) you may have noticed that our icon (or avatar!) is a green, more Irish-looking, version of the McDonaldland character Grimace (who himself is the icon (or avatar!) for our personal website (which, we admit, is in dire need of a revamp). That roly-poly green creature (also seen in our header above) is, of course, Uncle Grimacey, Grimace’s uncle (on his father’s side, obviously), who was trotted out by McDonald’s in the late 80s to promote their minty St. Patty’s-themed concoction, the Shamrock Shake. So in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, and the Shamrock Shake (and the end of the March holiday blitz), we bring you Uncle O’Grimacey at the height of his fame:
And, yes, we got a Shamrock Shake today. Duh.
We once spent no joke two hours going down the Wikipedia-YouTube rabbit hole reading about and then watching the classic McDonaldland characters (and then reading about and watching (and then reading about and watching (and so on (and so on)))), and we recommend you do the same. Just start here and we’ll see you in the morning.
(and we think we just broke the record for most unnecessary parenthetical digressions in a 200-word post (congrats!)).
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Every era has its own specific genre of TV show, and within that genre there’s a hierarchy: the forerunners, the second-rate but solid middle class and the imitators. For example, in the late ’90s you had shows like Friends and Seinfeld at the forefront of the “good-looking single young people in NY” genre, and then a second tier, with shows like Mad About You, that were good, not great, but still run for over 100 episodes, and then you had outright copycats like The Single Guy and It’s Like…You Know that burn out after one or two seasons. Or in the 1970s (as you can read much more about in the AV Club’s ‘70s Sitcom Primer), you had the top dogs like All in the Family and Mary Tyler Moore, then a second level with series like Maude and Rhoda, and then the bottom rung with shows we’ve never heard of because we’re too young (but possibly including Bridget Loves Birney). Likewise, the late ’80s/early ’90s was the golden age for saccharine, safe, wholesome family sitcoms, a genre which basically dominated the airwaves from about 1986 until Seinfeld and Friends changed the game in the mid-’90s. Your preeminent shows in this era included The Cosby Show, Growing Pains and Full House, who were a cut above other successful shows like Who’s The Boss?, Family Matters and Major Dad; and then you had the bottom layer, cheap xeroxes and flashes in the pan like Baby Talk, Getting By, and Day By Day. Right there, in that second tier – the shows that never set the ratings world on fire, programs that are not looked back on as innovators in the genre, and yet ran for many seasons in first run broadcast and in syndication – you can find The Hogan Family. Premiering in 1986 as Valerie, starring Valerie Harper (of MTM and Rhoda, mentioned above), and morphing into Valerie’s Family and ultimately the Hogan Family after Harper left the show due to creative differences following the second season (killed off via car accident on the show), the show ran for 6 seasons with 110 ten episodes across two networks. It never won any major awards, was never critically acclaimed, and was never atop the Nielsens. And yet it was a staple on NBC for many seasons (paired with ALF, natch), and could be seen for years in reruns on local channels and basic cable networks. Buoyed by Sandy Duncan, who stepped in for Harper as Aunt Sandy (creative!), it was a workhorse; a dependable, middle of the road sitcom that perhaps defines the era. Also, no other show featured Edie McClurg and Willard Scott.
Before he was Michael Bluth, Jason Bateman was David Hogan, and if not for the brilliance of Arrested Development (which couldn’t be further from The Hogan Family on the sitcom scale) that could have been his most memorable role (besides Teen Wolf Too. And this). But The Hogan Family is where he cut his chops (and for which his work as director qualified him as the youngest ever member of the DGA), and you can see a little bit of oldest brother David Hogan in most responsible brother Michael Bluth, both of whom often had to play the father figure in their respective TV families.
Indeed, one could argue that Bateman’s finest work can be found in the Hogan Family episode “Burned Out, as the Hogan clan, still reeling from the loss of their matriarch, must watch helplessly as their house burns down, the result of a rogue lamp in the attic (because that sort of thing happened in those days). Scroll to approximately 6:00 to see Bateman work his magic.
Interesting bit of trivia about this episode, courtesy of Wikipedia:
The episode had a commercial tie-in with the McDonald’s Corporation, who financed the expenses accrued in damaging the set for the fire. As a sponsor that evening, McDonald’s commercials aired promoting fire safety.
Because that makes sense.
McDonald’s, we know we speak for Jason Bateman when we say thank you. Thank you.
And, because it’s somewhat relevant, let us again remind you about Justine Bateman.