As Season 3 of The Adventures of Pete & Pete rolled around, it was plain to see that the town of Wellsville (where the show was set), was changing.
Artie (the strongest Man in the World) had taken leave of (little) Pete, and it seemed that Ellen had just become to (big) Pete what he claimed in the earliest shows: just a girl, and a friend.
The final season of the show, would ping-pong between the older and younger siblings of the Wrigley household, with a few episodes even pitting the two against each other.
Splashdown, would be one of those episodes.
Another Summer is upon Wellsville, and this year, (big) Pete has a job: as junior lifeguard for the Wellsville Municipal Pool! Along with the job, (big) Pete has his eye on 2 things: a beautiful brunette named Linda, and the throne of Senior lifeguard Matt Uplinger: The Krebstar Hydro-Thrustinator 2000.
Unfortunately, (big) Pete has to pay his dues like all lower ranking “officers” must, by performing menial duties. These including such character-building jobs, like cleaning out the pool after it’s closed for the day.
One evening, Matt informs (big) Pete of two problems. One of them, is an unidentified “urinator” who has been reported in the pool. The other, is (little) Pete, whom Matt feels could stir up trouble.
While Matt explains an added chemical agent in the water will help them catch the first culprit, (big) Pete gets a little help keeping lookout, when local Kreb Scout member Monica Prime, eagerly volunteers to help.
Matt’s thoughts on (little) Pete prove true, when the younger Wrigley brother declares war on Adult Swim – the one time during the day, when all kids must leave the pool, and the adults take over for one hour.
After an incident with (little) Pete and electric eels, Uplinger ups the stakes for (big) Pete: if he can prevent (little) Pete from ruining Adult Swim, he can become a Senior Lifeguard…which will allow him to sit upon the Hydro-Thrustinator 2000!
(Big) Pete tries to have a casual conversation with his brother about leaving Adult Swim alone, but as expected, (little) Pete has his reasons.
“Adult Swim is a disease,” the younger Pete explains to his elder. “The pool is for everybody. Why do they get to hog it?”
The next day, as Adult Swim begins, (big) Pete sends a dog running off with a tape player around its neck…playing a cassette that sounds like Mr Tastee’s ice cream truck music!
The sound causes all the kids at the pool (including (little) Pete), to give chase, clearing out the pool, and making the transition to Adult Swim painless…impressing Matt!
Needless to say, (little) Pete is furious about the trick, and sends the dog back with a message of his own: “Vengeance will be mine, blowhole!”
Not wanting to spend the rest of his Summer hunting for the Urinator, (big) Pete leaves that hunt to Monica Prime, and steps up to take charge of Adult Swim. Matt then relays the rules: (little) Pete will get three strikes. Once he uses them up, he’s banned for the rest of the summer.
(Little) Pete almost gets away with (literally) pulling the plug during Adult Swim (disguised as an older woman named Mrs Blotard), but (big) Pete catches him in the act. The first strike is given, and (big) Pete tries to plead with his brother to stop…but (little) Pete promises not to give up.
Soon after, (little) Pete’s friends Nona Mecklenberg and Wayne Pardue, attempt to summon Pete with a special call (that Wayne saw on Flipper). Nona questions Wayne’s logic, when suddenly, (little) Pete appears…riding a jet ski! Adults scatter from the pool, but soon, (big) Pete appears with a jet ski of his own, and the second strike is given.
This time, Nona and Wayne are placed in the ‘docking zone’ area of the pool, along with (little) Pete. While (big) Pete tries to stay firm, Ellen and Pete’s parents feel that he’s being too hard on his little brother.
(big) Pete attempts to patch things up, but mainly to tell his brother that “adults have rights, too.”
“Not to kick us out anytime they want,” expounds (little) Pete. “The whole world is theirs! All we’re asking for is one, stinking, pool! We belong here, and you know it!”
“Pete, things are different now,” says (big) Pete. “I’m a lifeguard.”
“No you’re not,” responds the younger. “You’re a traitor! To all kids…everywhere!”
(little) Pete’s words hang in (big) Pete’s head as he cleans the pool that evening. While doing so, he is surprised to see Linda taking a late-night swim…but the mood turns sour, as he sees she’s swimming with Matt, who claims (big) Pete still has to prove himself, if he wants to move beyond pool-cleaning.
This pushes (big) Pete over the edge, and the next day, he attempts to take full-command over Adult Swim (“Kids, OUT! Adults, IN!”). With Adult Swim’s 60-minute time limit, (big) Pete goes into monitor-overdrive. The minutes tick by, until finally, only a minute remains.
Matt congratulates (big) Pete on having put his little brother in his place, but (big) Pete is still convinced his brother will do something.
But in a matter of seconds, Matt makes (big) Pete forget his problems, declaring him Senior Lifeguard, and allowing him to ascend to the kingly seat, overlooking the pool!
(big) Pete begins to relax in his new perch…until he sees (little) Pete on the high-dive board! (big) Pete yells for his brother to just wait for Adult Swim to end (in a matter of seconds!).
“Why blow your whole summer?” yells (big) Pete.
“Because there are some things in life worth dying for,” replies the younger brother. “You used to know that. You used to care!”
As everyone watches, (little) Pete ignores his brother, and dives into the pool! The kids cheer at (little) Pete’s defiance, but Matt demands (big) Pete finalize his brother’s banning from the pool.
“I hate to do this Pete,” says (big) Pete, rising from his chair, “but you leave me no choice!”
However, everyone looks on in shock, as (big) Pete cannonballs into the pool!
This seems to break the mood, and everyone takes to the water: kids, and adults! Pete’s rebellious act shows that the pool can be enjoyed by all!
All are fine with this, except Matt , who swims out to (big) Pete, to relieve him of his post…only for (big) Pete to point out…that Matt seems to have ‘relieved himself!’
The water-changing chemical agent shows a green bloom around Matt, and Kreb Scout Monica Prime appears. She tells that she figured Matt didn’t put the actual chemical in the pool, to keep himself from being caught. Monica though, being an honorable and decent Kreb Scout, happily did her civic duty by helping out!
With Matt exposed, his authority is all-but-destroyed, and the Wellsville Municipal Pool becomes a haven where all are welcome now!
And that, was Splashdown.
Word was that as Season 3 went along, it entered into uneven territory. Even so, Splashdown is one of its most notably fun episodes.
The gags fly fast and furious as (little) Pete digs in with his attempts to make a stand for the kids. A lot of the ridiculousness of the gags (like how he managed to appear on a jet ski in the pool!), keep that strange charm that the show began with.
Along for the ride with (little) Pete are Nona Mecklenberg, and Wayne Pardue. While Wayne is the ‘third wheel’ of the group getting little respect, Nona’s attitude at times makes her a good match for Pete in several situations.
It sometimes seems that (big) Pete should be the more grounded one, but here, (little) Pete definitely manages to show his older brother the error of his ways.
We also see more of Ellen just being relegated to the “girl-and-a-friend” territory, with Pete setting his eyes on Linda. Over the course of Season 3, Linda would be one of several girls that (big) Pete would go after, almost as if the writers were just scrounging for ways to keep (big) Pete’s teenage love life afloat. In this episode, Linda serves as little more than another pretty face for (big) Pete to try and impress, as he attempts to seem like an authority figure.
Much like some earlier episodes, it is fun to see some things taken to extremes, like the Krebstar Hydro-Thrustinator 3000, which looks like the most awesome throne a lifeguard could want…and a definite explanation as to why (big) Pete would want some of that power (as well as a vantage point to eye Linda.
I recall first seeing this episode without total concentration…so I almost missed the first time when (little) Pete disguised himself as the portly Mrs Blotard, in an attempt to pull the plug in the pool (the costume worked out pretty well). Plus, the showrunners have a little fun with showing the adult swim people, doing fancy water ballet routines (I wonder how long that stuff took to film?).
For Season 3, Splashdown would be one of a couple episodes that would pit the Wrigley brothers against each other. Most of the final season, would separate the brothers into their own group of age-appropriate friends, as they maneuvered their way through school, bullies, driver’s ed, and a few other things, before their adventures would come to an end.
The past year regarding the race to see who will be the next President of the United States, has been a spectacle in itself (largely egged on by a number of media networks, on a mad quest for ratings).
As we come up on the National Conventions regarding the major political parties, a certain businessman who has decided to run, put me in mind of an episode of the animated television show, The Critic. In the show’s 2nd season in 1995, cocky businessman Duke Phillips, thought he had what it took to take control of one of the most powerful countries in the world.
And so, let’s dive into my latest Retro Recap, of The Critic‘s episode, All The Duke’s Men.
As the show starts, we find Jay Sherman working with his son Marty, to write a speech. Marty wants to run for 8th grade class president, at the United Nations International School he attends. However, when they try to find a ‘hook’ that they can use to drum up support, Marty claims that he doesn’t have anything major going for him, as he’s just an average kid.
Jay figures this is the hook they need, feeling Marty claiming he’s just like his classmates, is the perfect slogan to pitch to them (“they’ll lap it up like cheap booze at Drew Barrymore’s Sweet 16 Party!”).
Marty goes before the students the next day, telling how he’s “The Regular Kid,” and that he’ll work hard to build the best homecoming float ever.
He also eagerly shouts out to many different members of the school in their native languages (even Klingon!), and gets plenty of affirmative returns!
The campaign slogan works, and Marty wins by a landslide!
Jay shows a video of the kids cheering for Marty to his girlfriend/assistant Alice, and his boss, Duke Phillips. This causes Duke to consider running for President of the United States.
“But you’re not a politician, you’re a businessman,” counters Jay.
“All the better,” says Duke. “I made a multi-national media conglomerate out of a humble fried chicken franchise.”
(This is true, as the giant sign outside of the Phillips Broadcasting building, tells how it was formerly Duke Phillip’s House of Chicken and Waffles)
After seeing how well Marty’s campaign went, Duke asks Jay to become his speech writer, and even offers him any position in the government he’d like.
Jay thinks long and hard about this, and asks his friend, actor Jeremy Hawke, for some advice.
However, Jeremy doesn’t provide anything concrete, except telling how easy it was for him to ‘play’ a President in a spy film (right).
Meanwhile, Marty attempts to rally his class to help him build the homecoming float. However, when they find that electing Marty means they’re expected to do work, they abandon him! Fortunately, Jay, Alice, and her daughter Penny, agree to help him.
During their work, Jay explains his trepidations about Duke to Alice, afraid that his boss will end up standing for the wrong things if he runs for President. She counters this thought, encouraging Jay to act as a conscience, and guide him.
Duke then goes public with his Presidential plans, quickly catching the people’s ear about ‘who’ he is. He first appears on a late-night talk-show, with host Tom Snyder.
“It’s time we had a President who’s not beholden to ‘special interests,'” Duke tells Tom. “I’m a self-made Billionaire, and the only person who can bribe me, is a Bazillionaire.”
Positive public opinion quickly escalates for Duke, and he grows even happier when he receives a request to meet with Bob Dole, figuring he’s got the Republicans “running scared.”
The two meet, and Duke eagerly tells of his wish to become the Republican Party nominee. However Bob warns Duke against it, threatening to release a video of Duke getting teary-eyed over reading a poem to a cat.
“Fine, I’ll run as an Independent,” promises Duke, wishing to still keep his ‘secret shame,’ secret.
While Duke struggles to make his way Independently, Marty struggles in his attempts to build the homecoming float by himself. He wishes to just give up, but Jay reminds his son that building a great homecoming float, was one of his campaign promises to the other 8th grade kids.
“But all they want to do is goof off and eat candy,”complains Marty.
“Well son, as President, you’re above that,” says Jay (before remembering how well ‘goofing off and eating candy’ worked out for a certain 2-term President in the 1980’s).
Jay then works on more speeches for Duke, pushing him into the good graces of the NRA, the Jewish Community, and zombies (“I promise you zombies, more raw human flesh, than any President since Roosevelt!”).
We then catch up with Marty. The Homecoming Parade is now on, and his float concept of George Washington on a horse, has only been completed up to the horse’s hindquarters.
The 8th grader’s float is still entered into the parade, but a stray flaming baton from a cheerleader in front of the float hits the sculpture, leading to it becoming (in the words of Principal Mangosuthu), “A flaming horse’s pa-toot!”
Even so, the students cheer at the final result…though the float soon breaks away, crashing into a theater (advertising Cats: Now and Forever), followed by a huge explosion.
“And nothing of value was lost,” sighs Jay.
Back at Duke’s campaign headquarters, the picture is less rosy.
His campaign adviser tells him that he’s not a big hit with women voters. Duke then shows his ignorance to the common person, when he is surprised that women have the right to vote.
He is also forced to take down a number of anti-Irish campaign ads, when he is informed that ostracizing this part of the population is also politically incorrect.
Duke then tries a number of new tactics. They range from marrying actress June Lockhart, to using a hypnotic, ‘evil eye’ on negative reporters.
Jay grows doubtful about continuing to work on the campaign given Duke’s current actions, but is enticed to continue as speechwriter, when Duke promises that Jay can make and star in a film if Duke wins the election.
With the Guam Primaries(?) coming up, Duke wants Jay to write him a new speech. He also introduces Jay to his Vice-Presidential running mate.
“He’s a former ambassador, cabinet member, and ex-governor of New York,” Duke proudly proclaims.
Those criteria might fly fine for some, but to Jay, it can only mean one thing: Duke has chosen Jay’s Dad, Franklin Sherman, as his running mate! And Franklin, is known for his little…quirks.
The Primaries get underway, and as expected, Franklin babbles away like a crazed mental patient.
After the fiasco, Duke demands Jay write a speech wherein he can fire Franklin, but Jay claims he can’t do that to his own family.
Things reach a head when during a review of Francis Ford Coppola’s new musical (“Apocalypse Wow“), a loud and flashing message is broadcast, demanding people “vote for Duke!”
This causes Jay to vocally refuse to help Duke any further, and once more refusing to help him fire Jay’s father.
Duke then takes over the stage of Jay’s show, and ‘honestly’ tell the people watching, what he really will do as President.
“I’ll run this country like I run my company,” he proclaims. “I’m gonna raid the pension fund, dump chemicals in the ocean, and sell our best assets to the Japanese!
“Half of you states are in the toilet, and you’re not coming out! New York, you know what I’m talking about! California, kiss your smoggy butt goodbye! New England, you’re going back to Old England!”
After leaving the stage, June Lockhart tells Duke off, claiming she wants a divorce, and thinks he’d be a terrible President.
She also calls on her former TV co-star Lassie to attack Duke, and the entertainment mogul finds himself trying to fend off the angry collie.
Needless to say, it looks like Duke’s campaign is over, as Jay shows up to deliver the final words.
“Well, that’s our show for tonight, folks! We didn’t review many movies, but tune in next week, when we have Gentle Ben, maul Newt Gingrich! Good night, everybody!”
And that was All The Duke’s Men.
It’s hard to believe that all these years later, the show’s story has somewhat become reality, as we currently have an opinionated businessman trying to take the Presidential Seat (I won’t name names, but you all know who).
Of course, much like The Simpsons, the show’s writer gets in plenty of jabs at former Presidents and wannabes. There’s a few jabs at Reagan, and in Marty Sherman’s run for class president, former Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis can be seen (“I thought I would start small, with an election, I could win.”). Though even the school’s 8th grade class has no faith in Mike, booing him off the stage.
There’s even a scene where Duke wonders what became of Independent Presidential candidate Ross Perot, and we see that Ross and his VP nominee James Stockdale, are down on their luck, delivering pizzas.
We also see how Duke’s wealth and power, extend into other parts of his empire, outside the media. Duke takes Jay to his theme park, and shows him his Hall of Presidents exhibit, with a number of figures having their speeches changed to drum up support for Duke.
John F Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, and Bill Clinton’s audio have changed to give their support, but the figure of “Slick Willy,” looks a little different (see left).
“That’s not Clinton,” points out Jay. “That’s just one of your mechanical Hillbilly Bears.”
“Yeah, but so far nobody’s noticed,” replies Duke.
Of course, Jay manages to slip in a few of his own ‘wishes’ into his bosses’ speeches. One that comes to pass, is the tarring and feathering of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Duke originally promises to do this if elected President, but when other political figures see how well Duke’s poll numbers are doing, they try to fulfill some of his campaign promises to get voters on their side. Bill Clinton is one person, and he signs the bill that leads to Arnold promising: “I’ll be BAWK!”
Like some other episodes of the show, this one has some jokes or story points that seem to still bring up some topics that are relevant, all these years later.
Notable is when Duke appears before the NRA to gain their support.
“I believe Americans have the right to bear arms,” Duke declares, “Except for vicious, cop-killing assault rifles!”
Needless to say, that exception is met with a ‘flurry of outbursts’ from the crowd.
However, Duke strikes back with some heavy weaponry of his own at the naysayers (“Bazooka Duke says chew on this!”)…and his ‘I mean business’ tactic actually wins over the survivors in the room.
Marty Sherman’s running for Class President works as a nice lead-in and parallel to Duke’s story, notably in how fickle voters can be at times.
With such an entertaining story about politics as this one, it should also be noted that writer Patric Verrone, has quite a remarkable list of credentials. He attended both Harvard College and Boston College Law School. He was editor on the Harvard Lampoon, and even wrote for The Tonight Show, before going into animation writing, on shows like The Critic, and Futurama. Plus, he is also a former president of The Writers Guild of America (West).
In writing this Recap, I decided to see if Patric was on social media, and hit the jackpot. I inquired about some of the eerie coincidences in the episode, to current events. His response?
Hotchie Motchie indeed, Patric. Hotchie Motchie, indeed!
Almost 20 years later, it’s surprising how often I find myself referencing the animated series, The Critic.
Touted as being from the creators of The Simpsons, the show followed New York film critic Jay Sherman, as he attempted to put up with reviewing plenty of dreck from La-La-Land, dealing with his crazy socialite parents, and getting into strange situations on each episode.
Sadly, the show didn’t fare too well. After its 13-episode run on ABC, the show was picked up by FOX, for what would become a 10-episode second season, before being cancelled completely from television.
Jay did return to the public eye in 2000, in several animated webcomics. However, unlike the original television series, Jay simply was there to review recent films, not have a series of wacky adventures.
In light of a certain film sequel coming out this week, that has been verbally reviled online since it was announced (I’ll let you figure out what film it is), I thought I’d do a Retro Recap, regarding one episode that could almost be on the same wavelength as that internet vitriol.
After reviewing Al Pacino’s latest film (Scent of a Jack@$$), Jay confides to his stylist Doris, that he’s written a screenplay. He asks her to read it to give her opinion, but she turns down his request.
Fortunately, Jay gets positive feedback from several of his closest friends, as well as his sister.
He also ends up getting a ‘celebrity endorsement’ from his friend, action-film star Jeremy Hawke (though it wasn’t Jeremy who read it, but his script-readers who gave Jay’s work a positive endorsement). Of course, Jeremy has some additional ideas on how it could be improved:
“All it needs is a few car chases, a rap song by Salt N Pepa, and a ‘message’ of some sort!”
Of course, Jay isn’t easily swayed by these suggestions, but when Jeremy sees the script as having true potential to become a successful film, he takes his friend’s advice, and decides to take his script to Hollywood!
Before heading west, he asks to take a sabbatical from his boss Duke Phillips. Jay’s feelings are that making a film and reviewing them at the same time, might be considered a conflict of interest.
“You want to hear a conflict of interest?” asks Duke. “I own a cigarette company, and a company that sells nicotine patches. I own a baseball team, and I bet against them. I love America, but for tax purposes, I’m a citizen of the Dutch Antilles.”
“Gee, thanks for sharing all that with me,” says Jay. “Now that I know all your secrets, you don’t have to kill me, do you?”
“If I do,” says Duke, narrowing his eyes, “you’ll never see it coming.”
Those words are on Jay’s mind, as he and Jeremy take off in an airplane. As they fly over the Midwest, Jeremy remarks how in the space between New York and Los Angeles, are all the people that see his movies (which are often not so thought-provoking).
Down below, a farm father and his son are working in a field.
“Look Pa, the 9:25 to Hollywood,” calls out the son, pointing skyward.
“Yep,” says Pa. “Those are the folks that fill our lives with blockbuster movies, moronic situation comedies…award shows, where award shows win awards?…get my gun, boy!”
Shortly afterwards, the plane’s pilot tells the passengers that they are being shot at by farmers (again).
Eventually, the plane lands in Los Angeles, and Jay and Jeremy head to Quality Pictures.
Jeremy introduces Jay to the head of the studio, Gary Grossman…who at first wants to throttle Jay for how he has bad-mouthed so many of the studio’s pictures (“your bad reviews have cost my Japanese Masters over one billion yen!”).
Luckily, Jeremy steers the conversation to Jay’s script. Gary skims it, and offers Jay $100,000 for it!
Jay eagerly accepts, but is shocked when Gary explains that Jay has agreed to take payment, for the studio to NOT make his script into a film.
Gary claims it is ‘too good,’ and quickly puts it in a bin with a number of other scripts, that were also ‘too good.’ These scripts include topics such as a lesbian love story, and a biography on Galileo.
Gary then offers Jay a consolation, by asking him to write the script, to Ghostchasers III.
Jay is at first against this, since he hated the previous Ghostchasers films. Plus, he’d be becoming his own worst enemy: the kind of person who writes the kind of films he often hates to review on his show!
However, Jeremy tells Jay that this could be his chance to make the series better. If the film is well-received, it could be his stepping-stone to making the kinds of award-winning films with deep subject matter, that Jay yearns to make!
Jay decides to give in, and quickly falls into the Hollywood nightmare.
Talking to several of the studio executives, he finds that the only cast member they got back from the first sequels is (in their words), “The Black Guy.” When asked about possible improvements to the story, they tell Jay that merchandise sales didn’t do so well on Ghostchasers II, and they pitch a few ideas that could turn that around, leading to Jay taking “copious notes.”
Jay also has to deal with Grossman providing ideas, one of which is a 50 foot battery with the voice of Pat Morita (his idea, since a battery company is willing to give money to finance the film).
Feeling that talking to people in the studio is getting him nowhere, Gary allows Jay to meet with some directors, to get some ideas on where to take the plot of the film. His guests include Oliver Stone, Francis Ford Coppola, and Spike Lee. But even here, he finds little respite.
Jay meets up with Jeremy again, and explains that things aren’t getting any better. Jeremy soon recommends that Jay just try to enjoy himself out in Los Angeles, feeling that he’s focusing too intently, and that relaxing might help him.
Jay gets a makeover and a sports car, and invites his son Marty out to partake in sightseeing. However, Marty soon makes Jay see that he’s doing little more, than being “a showbiz phony.”
“My God, you’re right, son,” says Jay. “I’ve forgotten why I came to Hollywood: To write the sequel to the sequel to a movie I didn’t think they should have made in the first place!”
(actually he came to sell his script and get it made into a film, but it seems that Jay has forgotten all about that part of the plot)
Marty’s pep-talk causes Jay to get ‘back on track,’ and soon completes the script, noting that it feels as if a divine force was guiding his hand…though, not quite (see right).
Jay then turns in his script to Gary…but when Jay asks for an opinion on it a few hours later, Gary takes off in his sports car, with Jay giving chase. Eventually, Gary crashes, and Jay demands to know what he thought of it.
Gary quickly spews forth words such as ‘crummy,’ excrement,’ and ‘junk.’
The next day, Jay finds his parking spot moved, and his office now being redecorated as a private bathroom for Tom Cruise. The writing is on the wall that Jay has been canned, and that his script is most likely not going to be used for the sequel.
Jay returns to New York, and three months later(!), Ghostchasers III is released.
Jay immediately lashes out about it on the air, even going so far as to list the addresses of the studio executives of Quality Pictures! However, the scene cuts to the following disclaimer:
This is followed by the video feed returning, with Jay in a towel, as he’s hauled off to New York State Penitentiary for 30 days.
Along with having a rather forward bunkmate (“let me give you a shiatsu massage”), Jay soon finds there are worse things, when one day, the prisoners are subjected to a screening of Ghostchasers III.
“Is there no end to my torment!?” he wails.
The clip we see, shows a Rick Moranis-like character, telling the Ghostchasers that New York is being attacked by an 80-ft Ed Koch! This is soon followed by a giant version of the city’s former mayor, causing chaos, as he asks loudly, “How’m I doin?”
The response from the audience isn’t good, and they soon start a riot.
“They hate it,” says Jay, growing happy that the men in the room also see just how bad the film is. “For once in my life, I truly belong!”
His bunkmate returns with some popcorn (“no salt, just the way you like it”), leaving Jay to think that his remaining days in the penitentiary, might not be so bad after all.
And that was L.A. Jay.
Definitely not one of the best episodes of The Critic, but I did love how it poked fun at the often ridiculous ways that Hollywood seemed to work against good taste.
The struggle to make something tasteful, while being brushed up against an army of P.R. and marketing people, is definitely shown in how noone at the ironically named Quality Pictures, seems to care about story, but only about making money.
We’ve all seen plenty of examples of studios putting product placement over story in many films (*cough*BatmanandRobin*cough*).
A surprise several years after I saw the episode, was the revelation that Gary Grossman, was voiced by Billy Crystal! Billy manages to alter his voice enough, that the tone seems a perfect fit for the illiterate ex-gigolo turned film-studio head.
What’s also funny are how some references have taken on a different meaning all these years later.
Notable is a quote given to Coppola as he lays out his ideas for where the third Ghostchasers film could go: “I think one of the Ghostchasers should be a woman. She should be strong, intelligent. Someone like, oh I don’t know, my daughter, Sofia.”
In 1993, Sofia was still taking the slings and arrows for her role in The Godfather Part III. Though almost a decade later, she’d be seen as an up-and-coming director in the independent film world, garnering plenty of praise for the film, Lost in Translation.
The show could also poke fun at Hollywood making sequels to current films (like Jurassic Park, Speed, and even Home Alone).
In going over his pile of ‘too good’ scripts, Gary Grossman is surprised, when he finds a script for Revenge of the Nerds IV.
“What are you doing here you beautiful thing, when you could be making me a mint!”
At the time the show aired, Fox had actually released Revenge of the Nerds IV as a TV-movie, so once has to wonder if the show writers knew about this, and if it might have been a little jab at the studio.
It’s also fun to see the Variety headlines that Jeremy is reading (circa 1994):
The more things change, the more they stay the same…
There is also a running gag throughout, as every other thing Jay is given, from a director’s chair, to his office at the studio, has his name papered over the name of Andrew “Dice” Clay.
This may have been a jab at Clay, who after being an actor in the late 80’s, largely switched over to stand-up material at the time the show was made.
Another fun bit is when Jay daydreams about being able to one day write something, that could garner him an Academy Award.
In his imagination, he accepts the award, but also uses the win as a platform to bring attention to something he feels needs to be addressed: “Independence for Quebec!”
This is followed by a number of Quebeckians cheering for him from their basement viewing area, chanting: “Viva Jay Sherman! Viva Quebec!”
Of course, much of the recap was truncated, as the writing gets so intricate at times, I could have spent another 1500 words itemizing everything. Though I think the recap works pretty well in this “abridged” form.
I have another Retro Recap coming up soon for a Season 2 episode of The Critic, so we’ll see how that one fares compared to this one.
*With the rise of DVD’s in the late 1990’s, one feature many promised with the addition of Special Features, were audio commentaries. These would often contain dialogue from the film’s crew, or even film historians. In this category, I’ll discuss some of the audio commentary tracks that I feel are rather compelling, and end up being entertaining, in regards to the information provided, and what is being said.*
One item that quickly caught my attention with the rise of the DVD, were audio commentaries. However, while some studios went straight to the behind-the-scenes personnel like film directors and writers, someone at Warner Brothers actually had a really great idea when it came to repackaging some of their more ‘classic’ feature films.
One film that had grown to be a classic in their library, was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, based on the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.
For special features on the film’s DVD, a new documentary had been made, along with pulling together several other items from the archives…but when it came to audio commentary, the studio went the extra mile.
Though unable to secure Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka) or director Mel Stuart, they were able to get the actors who had played the five main kids in the film.
They were Peter Ostrum (Charlie Bucket), Michael Bollner (Augustus Gloop), Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt), Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregarde), and Paris Themmen (Mike TeeVee).
Plus, since the making of the film, it had been 30 years since they had all been in one place together!
The commentary rarely ever gets boring, and there’s a constant exchange of words and memories throughout. I thought I’d share a few of them here, for the film’s 45th anniversary.
What’s funny as the commentary goes on, is hearing that both Denise Nickerson and Julie Dawn Cole, seemed a bit boy-crazy in their early teen days.
Very quickly, it’s mentioned how they had a crush on Peter Ostrum, oftentimes taking turns on who ‘got’ Peter during various days.
Other times, there was talk of how the runner-up would end up with the assistant director’s son, Bobby Rowe.
One fun bit is where the girls try to draw Peter into the conversation about their pre-teen infatuation with him:
Denise Nickerson: Peter, does this just make you blush just thinking that two women were just fighting over you? But we did it so politely, and so civilly, didn’t we?
Julie Dawn Cole: Yeah, we did.
Denise Nickerson: Yeah, we understood, one day was mine, one day was yours (aka Julie’s), it was a good fight.
Peter: Moving right along…
In several portions of the commentary, the actors discuss how the film’s director, Mel Stuart, could often be so exacting, that he would keep pushing and pushing on an actor until the scene was perfect.
Paris Themmen makes note of this in Mike Teevee’s introductory scene, in which he tells the news reporters that his Dad is going to get him a real six-shooter one day.
When Mike’s father proudly replies, “not til’ you’re twelve, son,” Paris shares a behind-the-scenes fact:
Paris Themmen: Ok, great line, one of the big laughs, I’ve seen it in theatres and everybody laughs at that line…it took us at least 45 takes to get him to say that line right.
Denise Nickerson: Oh, my-
Paris Themmen: I’m sorry, I don’t know where the actor is now, I apologize, but, it was a combination of his read and things going wrong with the set and so forth, and, that was the take that just took a lot of takes.
Not quite a type of wart…
For playing such a brat on-screen, Julie Dawn Cole was nothing like her character…in some respects. Though she wasn’t a stuck-up loud-mouth, she somehow managed to keep her everlasting gobstopper, as well as one of the film’s golden eggs (which were not meant to be taken!).
Of course, Julie also had her own ‘trial by fire,’ when it came to Veruca’s golden tresses:
Julie Dawn Cole: It was in the day, 30 years ago, when the main obsession was about split-ends, and every single shampoo product was about curing the split-ends. And we had a German makeup lady, who was obsessed with split-ends. And she used to twist my hair like into a tight rope, and then run a candle down it, and burn the split-ends off. And if you look during the movie, my hair shrinks, because it caught fire, several times!
A fun game is to see if one can see how short Julie’s hair is in certain scenes. The scene where she enters the factory, was her first day of shooting, and the day that it was at its longest.
The Dangers of Chewing Gum
When it came to gum-chewing as Violet Beauregarde, Denise Nickerson was often seen on camera chewing away, before she eventually swelled up into a blueberry for her big scene.
During the commentary, a question arose regarding all that chewing:
Paris Themmen: Did your jaw ever get tired?
Denise Nickerson: I spent two months in the dentist’s chair when I got back.
Paris Themmen: Really?
Denise Nickerson: This was before sugar-less gum, so yes, I did spend a lot of time at the dentist.
Of course, a reminder of her role seeped back into the real world with Denise, when she returned to the US after filming:
Denise Nickerson: So, I’m sitting in my math class two days later in New York City, I went to Rhodes School, I’m on the fifth floor of a brownstone in New York City, and all the kids start looking at me, and pointing at me and snickering you know, and I’m like: “What? What?”
And my girlfriend looked at me and she says, “you’re turning blue!”
Well the makeup had started resurfacing through my pores, and only my neck, my face, and my hands were blue. Ladies room was on the second floor so needless to say that I flew down there, never got asked for a date in that school but uh, what can you do?
Over the years, some child actors are often plucked out of obscurity, bask in the limelight for a bit, and then return to ‘the real world.’ That was the case with Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie Bucket. Though he was offered a multi-picture deal following the film, Peter’s family declined the offer.
Though the other four kids do get in trouble, Charlie was not as innocent as he was in Dahl’s book. Charlie does transgress into being a semi-bad kid when Grandpa Joe (played by Jack Albertson) convinces him they should try the fizzy-lifting drinks, and while he doesn’t meet a horrid demise, Ostrum does tell that the scene was anything-but-pleasant:
Peter Ostrum: Jack (Albertson) and I thought this was going to be great fun-
Julie Dawn Cole: And?
Peter Ostrum: and it wasn’t. We wore these leather, “girdles” is the only way I can describe them and, all your weight, is hanging, right on your crotch. Jack made reference that the music that should be played to this, should be from “The Nutcracker Suite.”
Peter shares quite a few other stories about Jack Albertson, who also showed them some of his old vaudeville routines during the production.
Much like The Wizard of Oz, the film was not a hit upon its release, but through re-releases, television, and home video, the film quickly became a staple in the viewing diets of many young persons.
I wasn’t raised on live-action musicals as a child, though I did see it when I was 4, and then 6 years later when in 4th grade, when most of the class voted to see it as our pre-Christmas movie.
Much like Julie Dawn Cole had to work through her dislike of chocolate (true story!), I slowly came around to the film over the years, though still don’t hold it in quite as high regard as most people out there.
Even so, it isn’t without its charm, and its behind-the-scenes stories about how it was created, still entertain me to this day.
Once upon a time, making-of specials and documentaries, were incredibly “thick” with material.
You’d get people to sit down and reminisce, often coming up with the most amazing stories from the production they were thinking back on. All of a sudden, an incident that hadn’t been thought of in years would resurface, or the meaning behind a particular scene, would become clearer. To me, I ate up many of these documentaries like Reeses Pieces.
However, in more recent years, making-of specials have become flash-in-the-pan. They are often whittled down to 20-30 minutes, usually with the briefest of ‘talking heads’ from the crew, and more time given over to the cast.
Though when it comes to many of the making-of films I’ve seen, one name often comes up: Laurent Bouzereau
Bouzereau is one of the most well-known film documentarians around, with a major focus on the works of both Alfred Hitchcock, and Steven Spielberg.
His association with Spielberg largely began in the 1990’s, when he produced and directed a number of retrospective/making-of documentaries for the laserdisc-format.
Several that stand out from that time, include his making-of special for Jaws (which clocks in at almost 2 hours!), and his retrospective on Spielberg’s 1941.
In 1996, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial was released on laserdisc, and as an added feature, a 1 1/2 hour documentary by Bouzereau was included.
With the documentary’s 20th anniversary upon us this year, I couldn’t help but share some of my thoughts on one of the best ‘lost documentaries’ that you surely have never heard of (I mean, how many of us even HAD a laserdisc player growing up!?).
In The Beginning…
What many don’t know, is that E.T. originally started out as another project by Spielberg. A darker humans-meet-aliens story, called Night Skies.
Producer Kathleen Kennedy (left) shares a story about how Spielberg requested she research an incident where a farm family was terrorized by extra-terrestrials (sounding similar to one scene in Close Encounters), and use that as the basis for the film.
Also of interest, was Kennedy seeing a film called The Return of the Secaucus Seven, and requesting that its writer/director John Sayles, write a draft for this film…though 14 years later, she couldn’t recall just why she felt Sayles was the perfect fit for the project.
However, upon reviewing the first draft of Night Skies that Sayles wrote, Steven found it wasn’t quite where he wanted to go, and dropped the dark angle, soon after starting over with something simpler.
Steven also called a halt to the alien development, which was originally being handled by physical effects maestro, Rick Baker!
Recently, Baker did release some images of just what the Night Skies alien development was, before Spielberg decided to look elsewhere. As one can see in the image below, the creatures were definitely going in a different direction.
Though in going over the information, it almost feels like that “terrorized family” aspect that had originally intrigued Spielberg, ended up going into another 1982 release that he produced (and wrote), called Poltergeist.
Opening up with E.T’s Screenwriter
One of the often unsung heroes of E.T., is screenwriter Melissa Mathison.
One film that Spielberg had loved was The Black Stallion, which Mathison had also written. Once he had the framework for his ‘boy and his alien’ story, he asked her to work on fleshing out the rest of it.
In the early 1980’s, Mathison was married to Harrison Ford, and she claims she drew some inspiration from Ford’s son and his friends, for the Dungeons and Dragons game scenes in the film.
She also revealed something startling in part of her interview. When researching how to form E.T. as a character, she would poll random children for ideas, and found something consistent with a few of them:
“I was struck by the fact that several of them mentioned, that they would like, if this magical creature came into their life, they would like him to be able to ‘heal.’ And I thought it was such an incredibly poignant idea to come from a child. And they weren’t talking about ‘save someone’s life’ by healing, they were talking about, ‘take the owies away.'”
It definitely is something unconventional when it comes to aliens. One would most likely expect lasers or cool spaceships, but a healing factor was not something I don’t think an average adult would ever consider.
Unlike Sayles’ Night Skies first draft, Mathison’s first draft for E.T. so impressed Steven, that he claimed that he could have started shooting it the next day. Over the years, he would often claim it to be the best first draft he ever read.
Mathison also worked with Spielberg again in the last few years, when she was involved with the screenplay for Spielberg’s upcoming adaptation, of Roald Dahl’s book, The Big Friendly Giant.
Sadly, she passed away last year at the age of 65, but one has to wonder what her final screenplay with Spielberg will bring, when his latest film is released.
Chatting with the Cast
The documentary also gets the chance to talk with the main human cast of the film. They include Henry Thomas (Elliot) Drew Barrymore (Gertie), Robert MacNaughton (Michael), Dee Wallace Stone (Mary, the kids’ mother), and Peter Coyote (known only as “Keys” in the film, because of the ring of them on his belt loop).
There are some fun background facts about some of the actors. Peter Coyote tells of his embarrassing audition for Indiana Jones (he was auditioning for the lead), in which he tripped over his feet and knocked over a lamp. He lost the role, but his clumsiness stuck with Steven, who called on Peter for the role of Keys.
Of those that are speaking, it is Thomas and Barrymore who get the most time.
Thomas shares quite a few insights into production, including his audition, in which he ad-libbed trying to keep a government agent from taking away his alien friend. The whole clip is included on the documentary, including Spielberg’s words off-camera a few seconds after the conversation ends, going: “Ok kid, you got the part!”
Drew also mentions how she originally auditioned for the Carol Anne role in Poltergeist, but Spielberg claimed she wasn’t right for it. Instead, her ability to spin all sorts of crazy stories (she told him she was going to tour with a punk-rock band), led him to cast her for the role of Gertie.
Unlike most films, E.T. was shot in the order of the shots as we see on film, which allowed the kids to find E.T. and grow to understand him, in the same vein as what we see on-screen. This meant that by the time they got to the big scene where E.T. is sick and dying, the emotions were genuine (and, to which Spielberg mentions, many of those shots were got on the first take).
Being Candid with Steven Spielberg
I don’t know what it is about Laurent Bouzereau, but he seems to have a way of just putting Spielberg into such a relaxed state of talking, that Steven just opens up in some of the most surprising ways.
There are a few times where Steven gets so excited thinking of something, that he almost works himself into a frenzy.
Notable is one scene in which E.T. is eating some watermelon, and his left hand (performed by an off-camera mime named Caprice Rothe), reaches for a seed that has stuck to his face, and casually plucks it off. The discussion then lead into this:
“I mean, who would have thought of that, except someone who is really in touch with human behavior? And she really had a great understanding of the way the human body moves and what we do with our hands and our bodies. It’s just a tiny moment people don’t ever recognize in the movie, but I’m really proud of what she brought to that scene, just by taking a little piece of food off the lip-brought E.T. to life, like that! He was alive in that moment, completely alive! Nobody was running him. There were no wires, there were no servo motors going, that was really someone from somewhere else.”
Steven also reveals how he would often voice E.T. off -camera, and we see him in one behind-the-scenes clip, hunched off-camera doing a high-pitched voice, feeding Henry Thomas E.T.’s lines.
Supposedly, Thomas got so used to hearing Steven saying the lines, that after seeing the film at its premiere, he could still hear Steven’s voice in his head!
The bit where Spielberg discusses this is also memorable, because he even starts trying to mimic E.T.’s voice to Laurent (off-camera) during the interview.
Of Missing Scenes, and Sequels
What is most thrilling about the making-of special, is that there are actual clips from scenes that we’ve seen still pictures of, or may have been referenced in some of the film’s storybooks, but never seen in motion.
One of the most famously talked of, is when Elliot is taken to the Principal’s office after freeing the frogs in his science class. The unseen Principal, is actually Harrison Ford (and in one interview, Thomas tells how amazed he was to be in the presence of Han Solo).
There was even an alternate ending to the film, than what we know now.
The alternate ending, shows Elliot playing Dungeons and Dragons with Michael and his friends. However, unlike the earlier scene where Elliot is shunned, he is the Dungeon Master of the game, and as we pan up from the group of boys playing, we see on the roof of the house, the communications device E.T. used, possibly foreshadowing that the two may meet again.
Word was that after seeing the film cut with the goodbye scene in the woods, it was felt that that scene said all that needed to be said about the parting of the two friends.
There was even some discussion about a sequel for a bit, but eventually, it was decided to drop any thoughts of one. Kathleen Kennedy tells how the feeling was that it would “cheapen the film and its experience” for the audience.
As Spielberg states:
“I never made a sequel to E.T., because I can’t ever make an E.T. movie as good as what I did. I would only shame the memory. I would only show people ‘the flaws.’ E.T. isn’t a ‘mechanical cottage industry,’ that invites further adventures of E.T. and other kids on the planet Earth. It is a one-time event, and to do two or three or four movies based on that one character, is creating a franchise, that I didn’t frankly think was the honest and right thing to do.”
Probably the closest we ever got to an E.T. sequel, was the Spieberg-endorsed The E.T. Adventure, which was a fixture in all of the Universal Studios theme parks for awhile.
In the ride, guests would ride bicycles to help E.T. get home, where his healing touch would help save his dying homeworld.
The ride was very much in the same vein as the Peter Pan’s Flight attraction at Disneyland, with the ride vehicles suspended on an overhead track, giving the illusion that you are soon flying over a cityscape, and onto E.T.’s homeplanet.
Even though the film was touted for its effects work, it feels that much like Back to the Future and The Goonies, it is the characters and the story that take more precedence.
The documentary also gives plenty of shout-outs to the crew who built E.T., as well as the various little persons and others who helped bring him to life.
There is talk about the attempts to make E.T. seem believable, but also having to deal with the limitations of the animatronic technology of the time.
Also of note, is a small interview with Ralph McQuarrie, who was a major design influence on Star Wars.
McQuarrie was commissioned to design E.T.’s spaceship, whose design was a Jules Verne-inspired ship, with squat little landing legs coming out from its ‘body,’ almost making it resemble E.T. in a way.
A Word of Warning
When the film was done, word was that Spielberg later regretted scenes at the end, in which as the government agents attempt to stop Elliot and the other boys from escaping, they do so while brandishing firearms.
On-camera, Spielberg mentions how if the film is ever re-released, he intends to use computer technology to “fix” those scenes.
6 years later, he was true to his word when a Special Edition of E.T. was released, with the guns being replaced by walkie-talkies.
The Special Edition of the film received the same amount of flack that was directed at George Lucas for his Star Wars Special Editions. Though unlike those films, when E.T. came to DVD in the fall of 2002, it also contained a disc with the original cut. 10 years later for the film’s 30th anniversary (feeling old yet?), the Special Edition cut was nowhere to be found.
I originally saw the documentary in 10 parts on Youtube, before copyright claims ended up making the person take them down. It has recently resurfaced cut into two pieces, though with some missing pieces here-and-there, making some of the conversations severely disjointed in places.
Unlike the full 2-hour Making of Jaws piece that was included on that film’s recent Blu-Ray release, The Making of E.T. has never been re-released since its 1996 premiere on the E.T. laserdisc release.
Several snippets of commentary were included in a small book included in the 2002 DVD’s special edition boxset release, but it just doesn’t feel the same as Laurent’s documentary.
He has a way of painting his making-of pieces with the kind of informative format that just keeps me coming back to watch them over-and-over again. Then again, I have been one of the weirder persons who craved stuff like this (I’m also the guy who hopes for audio commentaries on Blu-Ray releases these days, even though that practice is pretty much dead).
If you’d like to know more about Laurent Bouzereau, and the other works he’s done, you can find out more at his website, Nedlandmedia.com
In going over several episodes of Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Pete & Pete, I was soon enamored with how entertaining a lot of them could be. Sure, some dealt with stories that defied logic, but oftentimes, there was something tangible to keep many of the stories, grounded.
While some of the Pete’s adventures outside of the school would be some of their more entertaining episodes, there were a few entertaining nuggets within the youthful prison known as “public school.”
Only a few school episodes made their way into the 8-episode first season, and one of them, I felt would be good for a recap.
As the episode begins, (big) Pete quickly relates to us how he is largely against the use of power tools…mainly for the fact that they can easily mutilate you.
However, he soon has to come face-to-face with this fear, when he receives his latest school schedule in the mail, with one word that he dreads the most: Shop.
Several of Pete’s friends have also made it into the class. Out of all of them, Ellen is the only one eager to get her hands dirty. Pete meanwhile, has just one goal in mind: to blend into the class, and get out of it with a ‘C’ (and with all of his appendages intact).
Of course, some schools have kids that never seem to go beyond a certain grade level, and this class has one of them, in the form of “Endless Mike” Hellstrom, a Shop Class “lifer.”
Mike’s taken shop enough times, that he knows the ins-and outs of the class. As well, he hints that if the instructor likes what you’re doing, he may assign you to work on his “special project.”
The class’ instructor, Mr Slurm, is definitely a notable presence, for the fact that he is missing his left hand, and has replaced it with a metal claw (that also has multiple attachments). Just like what his special project could be, most of the kids speculate on how Slurm lost his hand…well, all of the kids, except for Pete.
The class also becomes a lucrative business opportunity for (little) Pete, who shows up after the first class, to sell insurance to those who value their lives (“Our motto is: ‘When you least expect it…expect it!'”).
(big) Pete tries to slack off on paying attention during class, but is called out by Slurm during a discussion about different kinds of wood, meaning he may need to rethink his plans to coast through the class.
He attempts to find some sympathy in Ellen, but she soon abandons Pete, growing ever more fascinated with crafting an interesting project using metals and wood.
When it comes time for MidTerm projects, Pete takes the easiest route possible: taking a piece of wood, sticking a nail in it, and topping it off with a candle.
“It’s Danish-modern,” he insists to his friends.
While Slurm goes from person-to-person dispensing grades, he stops at Pete’s project, declaring it to have “real poetry,” and calls for the rest of the class to see what he’s done.
Slurm then surprises Pete and the rest of the class, when he tells that Pete will also be helping out on his, “special project.”
As Pete is put to work on it, he is only given cryptic instructions on what to do (usually aided by Endless Mike). All his efforts result in little information, with the work he’s done, padlocked in a green metal cabinet.
The more he works on the project, the more convinced Pete is that he’s working on something dangerous. Ellen suggests that he ask Mike about it, but Hellstrom refuses to divulge anything.
One day, thanks to some of his friends and (little) Pete, (big) Pete manages to have both Slurm and Mike distracted, giving him a little time to take a look at the blueprints for the project. However, before he can fully make sense of them, Slurm returns, and informs Pete that his work on the project is now finished.
Even so, concern eats away at Pete’s mind. Breaking into school after hours before the final day of class, he attempts to look for proof, but is caught by Slurm, and taken to his office.
Pete demands to know what he has been an accessory to, and that is when Slurm reveals the secret: Pete was helping to build an air conditioner, for Slurm’s office (with three settings!).
Scrabbling for something to say about this secret project being little more than a way to cool off the office he’s in, Pete blurts out, “But, that’s not fair!”
“Fair?” asks Slurm, the jovial sound of his voice becoming serious. “You have no idea what ‘fair’ is, Mister Wrigley. What’s fair is when someone thinks it’s worthless to take Shop, and so he makes worthless things because he has no respect for the wood, or what he can do with it. What’s fair is for that worthless student, to get an ‘F!’
“Now, what’s not fair,” continues Slurm, holding up his metal claw, “is when something’s taken away from you at a very young age, before you have the chance to discover its power.”
Slurm then goes on to tell Pete that every year, he has a student just like him: they expect to do little work, and get out of the class with a ‘C.’
With the Final day of class just hours away, Slurm assures Pete that he’ll get his ‘C,’ but that there’s no need for him to come in, since he doesn’t want to be there.
“Besides,” mutters Slurm. “You couldn’t make a chopping block if you tried.”
This sends Pete to start retrieving some wood, telling Slurm that he will have something to show the next day. Slurm just lets him to it, and Pete gets to work (unsupervised, and even using the power tools).
The next day, Pete is there with his finished product: a spice rack.
Slurm tests Pete’s knowledge of certain techniques, and Pete responds appropriately. Slurm is also impressed with how Pete was able to get such a nicely-crafted product, by only using the power saw to cut the base. For his efforts, Slurm gives Pete a ‘B+.’
As Slurm walks away, Pete recaps his Shop Class journey, with a closing monologue:
“Okay, so maybe I didn’t exactly, ‘slay’ him, but at least I proved to him that I could do it. And I guess, that’s what Mr Slurm wanted me to learn, all along. He just had his own way of teaching me, and even though I still think that tools are loud, sharp, and can kill you, when make something you’re proud of…sometimes, it’s worth the risk.”
Unlike Pete, I wasn’t required to take Shop Class in high school. In my time in the mid-1990’s, it was a class you could choose to take.
However, in Middle School, it was one of three required courses we were to take, though randomly decided for you if you’d take it in in your 6th, 7th, or 8th grade year. We worked with wood, cut metal, though it was largely about precision, and following directions. In the end, even though I was interested in art, the three-dimensional aspect and use of power tools, made me not as eager to really learn, and like Pete, I pretty much treated the class as something I wanted to get out of quickly.
In some ways, my IT teacher does remind me a bit of Slurm. I recall him being a man serious about the craft, though not having a missing hand.
Though when it comes to Slurm on the episode, one would assume with a name like his, and his missing hand, the writers would have made him a more comically-dangerous Shop Class teacher…but instead, the writers and actor Jude Ciccolella, bring a surprising, emotional seriousness to this man.
One notable scene lasts just a few seconds. As Pete scans the bookshelf behind Slurm’s desk, it shows a button that says “I love Voc(ational)-Tech,” and a Birthday card from Slurm’s wife. It’s often not thought of by some students, that there is more to a teacher’s life, than what goes on for those hours during the school day, and maybe, Pete begins to understand a little more about Slurm.
While it doesn’t feel to me like Slurm is a die-hard Shop teacher, there is believability that he feels a seriousness to what he is teaching.
His speech to Pete regarding ‘what’s fair,’ is one of my favorite moments in the episode. So far, Pete’s really done nothing but exude a “I don’t want to be here” attitude over every aspect of the class, and in this private moment, Slurm gets to tell him, “you think you’re special? Well, you’re not… there have been students before that were just as hard-headed as you.”
Slurm is a teacher that obviously doesn’t hate Pete, but he is most likely disappointed that he is not applying himself. Of course, the comment when he pretty much seems to refer to Pete as a ‘worthless student’ would probably not fly in today’s day-and-age (it’d be viral on Twitter pretty quickly, and Slurm would be out on the streets). However, it provides motivation for Pete to prove that he can do something, and have some worth.
A notable bit is when Slurm gives Pete some praise for the work he put into his spice rack, giving him a small smile, before he goes back to a more serious expression.
The episode is also notable for the introduction of “Endless Mike” Hellstrom, who would become a thorn in Pete’s side as the seasons went on.
Another notable item, is that in this episode, (little) Pete largely takes a backseat to the events. His only appearance is in two scenes, largely dealing with him selling insurance to several of the Shop students. It’s a little humorous to see (little) Pete in a suit, but it won’t be the last time he dresses up.
What’s funny that I never noticed as a kid, was some minor continuity. When Slurm tells how one kid got his hair caught in a machine…and that hair pulled that kid into the machine to his death, one who takes notice is Teddy Forzman. If you watch Teddy for the rest of the episode, he’s wearing a hairnet, most likely very concerned based on Slurm’s speech.
Though in the end, it wouldn’t be the last time we’d see Mr Slurm. Some teachers end up working multiple roles in a school, and in Season 3, Slurm would return as (big) Pete’s Drivers Ed teacher…though played by a different actor, and used more for comedic than dramatic purposes this time. As well, that episode (titled Road Warrior) ret-conned a lot of what had been established between Pete and Slurm in this episode. Even the good will the character showed towards Ellen in Shop suffered from the new character direction, as well.
During the 1980’s, when Walt Disney Television Animation was beginning their rise to popularity, their parent company tried to find numerous ways to recycle some of the studio’s characters, into newer properties.
Carl Barks’ adventuresome Scrooge McDuck character, would be translated into the TV entity known as Ducktales. Chip and Dale would find a new group of friends, and become adventuresome detectives, in Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers.
For a younger set, that bear of very little brain, Winnie the Pooh, would entertain the Saturday Morning Cartoon circuit, with The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, starting in 1988.
This series would expand the world of The Hundred Acre Wood, both in scope and character, beyond what had been written by Pooh’s creator, A.A. Milne.
Having a sister born right around the time of the show’s premiere, I often have fond memories of watching the series with my siblings. Even when episodes came up in reruns, we’d often stop and watch them (as well as had the 10 volumes released on VHS back in the day).
Of all the episodes I watched, there was one that definitely stood out. And that, was Find Her, Keep Her.
In the middle of a blustery winter storm, Rabbit, Pooh, Piglet, and Tigger, are huddled around a carrot still in the ground, near Rabbit’s treehouse. Rabbit is trying to keep the carrot bundled up from the fierce cold. Suddenly, a tiny voice can be heard in the wind, crying out for help!
The group soon finds the source of the cries: a small baby bird has been blown out of its nest in the storm, and is clinging desperately to a branch high up in a tree!
The sight causes Rabbit to panic, and he rushes to get a ladder to help the little bird. However, as he attempts to enter his house, the strong wind blows the front door off its hinges, with Rabbit clinging to it! The wind blows the door back towards the others, who are then scooped up by it!
However, as it flies through the air the little bird loses her grip on the branch, and flies right towards them, with Rabbit managing to catch her in Pooh’s honey pot.
The group then crashes right into Rabbit’s home, wherein he loses his temper that now his house is a mess. The little bird apologizes for causing the mess, though Piglet manages to assure her it wasn’t her fault.
It turns out the little bird is named Kessie, and she reveals this by speaking in the third person (“Kessie alright.” “Kessie sorry.”).
When Pooh volunteers to take care of her along with Piglet and Tigger, Rabbit scoffs, claiming they “can’t even take care of a carrot!” Rabbit then says he will take care of the little bird, claiming she’ll be “no trouble at all.”
Needless to say, the first days of Rabbit’s caring for Kessie are a standard ‘stressed parent’ scenario. However, it is during this time that the little bird creates a nickname for him, calling him “Rabby.” Rabbit tries to get her to call him “Rabbit,” but she seems incapable of doing so.
Shortly afterwards, Pooh and Piglet stop by, and Rabbit asks them to give the little bird a bath, while he goes to tend to his garden, in preparation for the upcoming Springtime, slamming the door on his way out.
During the bath, Piglet asks Pooh why Rabbit seems so grumpy around Kessie.
“Well, perhaps he’s just not as fond of her as we are, Piglet,” reasons Pooh.
Of course, the bubble bath gets out of control, and an explosion of soap and suds soon permeates the treehouse, with Kessie happily floating away in a soap bubble.
Rabbit sees this and gives chase, eventually plummeting off a cliff into a pile of snow. Luckily, Kessie floats down, happy about her flight. It is then that Rabbit makes her promise not to fly so high, ever again.
“But, but I like it,” she pleads.
“And I like you,” says Rabbit, quietly. “And I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
Needless to say, the tone of his voice makes the little bird promise.
Time passes, and Spring finally comes around. During this time, Kessie has grown from a baby into a young bird, and has come to help ‘Rabby’ around his garden. As they tend to the crops, Rabbit finds a carrot in a flower pot. Kessie then claims that it was the first carrot she ever planted, and she placed it in this pot specially for him.
Shortly after this, Tigger shows up, and requests to take Kessie on a little romp through the forest. Naturally, Rabbit doesn’t want Kessie associating with someone like Tigger, claiming she’s helping him tend his garden. In his usual awkwards-thinking, Tigger then starts trying to ‘help’ unweed the garden, but ends up pulling up multiple carrots. Naturally, this extra busy-work leads Rabbit to grouchily clean up the mess, and reluctantly let Tigger take care of Kessie.
When the two come across a large tree, Tigger claims he can bounce to the top, only for the tree (near the edge of a precipice), to fall over, dangling both Tigger and Kessie from the tree. Kessie’s cries for “Help!” reach Rabbit’s ears, and he attempts to save the two, but the tree is balanced so precariously, that anymore weight will send it tumbling over.
Rabbit then asks Tigger to swing his tail, and toss Kessie up. It looks like this will work, but Rabbit loses his grip on Kessie’s wing, and she falls over the edge.
However, salvation comes in the form of Owl, who manages to save the little bird. Kessie claims that she loved the sensation of flight, and wants Owl to teach her more.
“It shall be my pleasure my dear,” says Owl. “A little practice, and you’ll be able to fly south for the winter!”
Needless to say, Rabbit claims that he doesn’t want Owl teaching Kessie anything. When Rabbit reminds Kessie about the promise she made about “not going too high,” she claims she understands, and he promises they’ll have “lots more fun than flying.”
After this scene, Rabbit seems happy to still have the little bird in his life, but Kessie can often be seen dejectedly looking out her bedroom window, staring up at the sky.
Time passes, and Fall is soon upon the Hundred Acre Wood. As Kessie walks through the forest, she sees a flock of birds flying overhead.
Seeing noone around, she climbs up a nearby tree, and attempts to fly, but her attempts fail. It is during one of these attempts, that Pooh ends up catching her!
Even though Rabbit told Owl not to teach Kessie to fly, Pooh decides that he, Piglet, and Tigger can try and teach her.
They attempt to use a large band of rubber to launch her over a cliff, but are interrupted when Rabbit finds out what they are doing.
After chastising the others, Rabbit turns his attention to Kessie, his voice sounding hurt when he reminds her about her promise to him.
“But Rabby,” she pleads. “I just have to fly. It, it means everything to me.”
“…does it mean more than I do?” asks Rabbit, quietly.
The moment is interjected when Tigger tries to get a word in, and Rabbit demands he let go of the rubber band…into whose trajectory Rabbit has walked into, sending him over the edge of the nearby cliff!
At the sight of this, Kessie actually takes flight, and saves Rabbit! The others cheer over her newfound talent, as Kessie claims that now she can fly south!
“Oh boy, kiddo!” Tigger happily proclaims. “There’s nothing holding you down now!”
“Don’t you think I know?” says Rabbit.
The words cause the group to quiet, as they watch Rabbit slowly walk away, his ears drooped down.
Later that evening, Kessie finds Rabbit by his fireplace.. When she asks him to read her “one last bedtime story,” he sadly gets up and goes to his room.
“You don’t need me to read you a bedtime story,” he says. “…you don’t need me, for anything.”
The scene ends with Kessie sitting in a small rocking chair by the fireplace. She begins to sob, as the scene cuts to Rabbit in his bedroom, holding the stuffed rabbit he gave Kessie when she first came into his life.
As Kessie’s crying echoes across the scene, snow falls outside, soon blanketing the Hundred Acre Wood…a sure sign that winter is coming.
The next day, the others are ready to see Kessie off, but she claims she can’t leave without saying goodbye to “Rabby.” However, the others claim he must just be “busy” with his garden, and Kessie asks Pooh to tell Rabbit that she’ll never forget him.
As she takes flight, Rabbit’s voice can be heard, and we see why he wasn’t there: he had been looking for Kessie’s first carrot, and wanted to give it to her as a present!
Rabbit rushes past the others, and to the edge of the precipice where his little birdie has taken off.
“Kessie! Don’t Go!” Rabbit callsout. “I’ve changed my mind! You can fly! Just…don’t…go away…Kessie.”
His words trail off as he can’t see her in the sky. Sadly, he drops the carrot, and trudges back down the hill, resting on a small rock.
Suddenly, giggling can be heard, and the ‘first carrot’ drops from the sky, before Kessie flies into rabbit, ‘tackling’ him into a hug.
“Did you think I would leave, without saying goodbye to you?” she asks.
The scene then cuts away to sunset, later that day. Pooh and Piglet are sitting under a tree, with Pooh hoping that an early Spring might mean Kessie will return sooner.
“It’s the most peculiar thing,” wonders Piglet. “For the longest time, I thought rabbit didn’t like her.”
“You know, Piglet,” replies Pooh (exhibiting some wisdom for a ‘bear of very little brain’), “Sometimes people care too much. I think it’s called Love.”
Piglet ponders this for a little bit, before wondering if they should tell Rabbit.
“Don’t worry,” says Pooh. “I believe he already knows.”
The camera then moves to a nearby tree, where we see Rabbit staring off into the sky, Kessie’s first carrot sitting in a pot, nearby.
And that was “Find Her, Keep Her.”
With over 50 episodes produced, many of them often dealt with fun or comedic topics. Even so, this episode is often cited by many as being rather ‘deep.’
In a way, it’s almost a precursor to the parent-child connection storytelling, that PIXAR would use in its Toy Story films.
Rabbit has often been one of the more excitable characters in the series, and oftentimes, the one who demands logic or order. In that way, it makes the most sense that he would be the one character that would take seriously, the responsibility of taking care of Kessie.
Rabbit’s role in The New Adventures, would also delve into some more emotional topics, like feeling under-appreciated, in the episode A Friend in Deed, and How Much is That Rabbit in the Window?
Kessie would be one of quite a few new characters introduced in The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. There was also a devious Heffalump and Woozel duo, a family of Heffalumps that the group befriended, as well as an expansion of unseen-yet-voiced human characters that Christopher Robin would interact with.
Yet out of all these characters, Kessie would be the one that somehow ended up getting the most mileage beyond the series.
In Season 3 of the series, Kessie returned to the Hundred Acre Wood. Though unlike in Find Her Keep Her, Kessie appeared to have grown up during her time away. This included now calling Rabbit by his official name, claiming she was too old now to call him “Rabby.”
This episode, titled A Bird in the Hand, also dealt with a familial topic: in this case, Rabbit not quite realizing that Kessie is not the little bird she once was, and can take care of herself. I think anyone whose had a parent be a tad overbearing, can relate.
In 1998, a direct-to-video special titled Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving, would create a Christmas special, that revolved around using several episodes from the The Adventures series, including Kessie’s introduction. This tied into a subplot in Seasons, wherein Kessie sent Rabbit a letter that she would be coming to visit him for Christmas.
Like some specials made after a series has ended, it wreaks havoc with having a logical timeline. Kessie is not the adult version we saw in A Bird in the Hand, so one assumes that in the special, Kessie somehow visited Rabbit a few months after she set off to fly South for the winter…which, kind of defeats the purpose of her going away?
Though Kessie’s most surprising return role, was in 2001. A new Pooh-based show was developed for The Disney Channel in 2001, titled The Book of Pooh. Here, the characters were realized as moving puppets, with the show’s content aimed at a younger demographic.
The Disney-created character of Gopher, was nowhere to be seen in The Book of Pooh, but unofficially, Kessie became a regular member of the group! I’m sure plenty of people who had never seen The New Adventures, wondered just where she came from.
Once The Book of Pooh ended in 2003, Kessie’s career much ended. One has to wonder if the little bluebird might return someday?…only time, will tell.