The best of Salem Saberhagen (some of it anyway)

The best of Salem Season 2

Sometimes, I wonder where I got my sarcasm from. Other than my dad and Raphael from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (aka my favourite), it was Salem Saberhagen from Sabrina the Teenage Witch. His acerbic wit and zero chill was a revelation to witness as a kid. He was punished by the Witches Council to live the rest of his life as a black cat for a failed world takeover attempt. But that doesn’t stop him from telling Sabrina and anyone who’ll listen about themselves and I love him for it.

Nicholas Bakay’s voice work and writing turned Salem into the icon he remains today and I salute you.

Other comedy compilation videos: The Best of Razz Prince and 100 deep burns by Dr Niles Crane

Dopesick: a miniseries about America's opioid problem

DOPESICK Trailer 2 (2021) Michael Keaton

It’s great to see Michael Keaton in more things these days and that’s a major part of why I’m looking forward to watching Dopesick. Based on the book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy, the 8-episode series focuses on “the epicenter of America’s struggle with Opioid addiction”.

Keaton stars as Dr. Samuel Finnix, a well-liked doctor in a Virginia mining town who becomes a pusher for a pharmaceutical salesman who sells him OxyContin. Finnix begins to prescribe the drug with devastating effects and finds himself fighting to reclaim his integrity and the lives of his patients.

7 episodes are available to stream on Hulu now (the seventh just came out yesterday) with the final episode scheduled for 17th November. It’ll also be available to stream on the Star content hub of Disney+, Disney+ Hotstar and Star+ from tomorrow.

Zack Handlen's review of 'Marge Be Not Proud' is superb

I’ve never got into episode reviews for TV series, especially for shows like the Simpsons (mostly because I don’t watch new episodes and why would I want to read someone else’s opinion on a show I already love?) Except there’s good reason—you can learn something new. And I did when I read Zack Handlen’s review of ‘Marge Be Not Proud’, the 11th episode from Season 7 (aired in 1995). In a nutshell, Bart wants a video game, can’t get it, sees his friends steal it, gives into peer pressure, does the same, gets caught and tries to hide it from his parents. The main theme of the episode was the love of a mother for her son and examining what could possibly break it (or at least damage it a little). We also saw the effects of Bart wanting something so badly that he did something unthinkable, even for him. Where Handlen excels is digging into those themes further from each stage of the episode:

“Marge Be Not Proud” is, at heart, about being a kid, and about how something you want so desperately, so badly that it’s killing you, no really, it is honest to god killing you right now how much you want this—how that sort of wanting isn’t the same as needing. And how easy it is to take for granted that your parents will always treat you the same way, no matter what; how corny and annoying and, gah, lame Moms can be, right up until they aren’t there anymore. There’s a fundamental stasis to the core relationships of The Simpsons. Homer and Marge will always be married; Maggie will always be the baby; Lisa and Bart will always be in grade school; and so on. Bart’s never going to hit his teenage years, find drugs, maybe dabble around in punk for a while, date someone with lip-piercings, or lose his driver’s license. But this episode, however briefly, gives a sense of what it make be like for him to get older and break his mother’s heart, when he’s still young enough to feel that loss.

I’ve been in this situation before and, although it was fleeting, it hurt like hell. It’s a stereotypical notion that mothers love their children unconditionally (emphasis on ‘stereotype’ as this is not an unbreakable rule). Kids test their parents and get away with a lot but that one time you don’t is the worst.

While some fans felt the shoplifting element was too pointed and “more of an afterschool special” (I literally saw two comments like that and I don’t get it), it made sense. Bart’s character is based around being bad and getting in with some of the baddest kids in the school who steal and use fake IDs. Of course he’d find himself in that position and cross the line he’d toed for years (that’s human years, not Simpsons years). We always knew there’d be a happy ending because bad times never last longer than an episode (not including ‘Who Shot Montgomery Burns?‘) but the journey towards that resolution was the interesting part. And there were plenty of jokes in there, my favourite being Homer’s meandering diatribe at Bart for stealing.

Stealing, how could you?! Haven’t you learned anything from that guy who gives sermons at church, Captain what’s his name? We live in a society of laws! Why do you think I took you to all those Police Academy movies? For fun? Well, I didn’t hear anybody laughing! Did you? Except at that guy who made sound effects. Where was I? Oh yeah, stay outta my booze!

And I’ll leave it there.

Simpsons video game related: Play 3 Video Games Featured On The Simpsons

25 of the worst branding fails from 1995-2020

Fast Company looked at some of the worst commercial mistakes of the last quarter-century. Microsoft Vista made it in which, in retrospect, seems a bit harsh. But Calvin Klein’s controversial jeans commercial showing questionably-aged models rightly appears (I’m not gonna say outright what it appears to depict because I don’t want those words on the site). And who remembers Flooz? Or that Folgers commercial? Or the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad?

What are some of your worst branding fails since 1995? Let me know in the comments.

An oral history of the weird Folgers "incest" commercial

Folgers Coffee Brother & Sister Home For Christmas 2009 Christmas TV Commercial HD

Living in the UK, I never got to see this controversial Folgers coffee commercial. But I found out about it through this oral history by GQ:

“Coming Home” opens with a taxi dropping a young man off outside a snow-covered house bedecked in Christmas decorations early one morning. A young woman excitedly opens the door and establishes that she’s his sister by pointing at herself and saying “sister!” He’s weary, having just returned from volunteering in “West Africa,” and the two share a cup of freshly-brewed Folgers coffee while their parents are still asleep. (In some versions he even says “ah, real coffee,” as if he didn’t just come from where some of the best coffee in the world is produced.) He hands her a small present, but instead of opening it, she peels off the red bow and sticks it on his shirt. “What are you doing?” he asks. “You’re my present this year,” she responds. The camera zooms in on her shy glance, then cuts to his furtive, flirty smile. Those three seconds sealed its fate forever.

When I first saw the ad, I thought: wait, are they fucking? (Then, every time after that: okay, they’re definitely fucking.) As I would come to learn, I was hardly alone. The reaction to the ad was an example of the internet at its most fun—the phenomenon of collectively realizing that the specific thing that you believed you’ve singularly noticed is actually a widely-held opinion. Memes, articles, and parody videos abounded. It even inspired a genre of vividly-rendered fan fiction known as “Folgerscest.”

It is weird and does give off incestuous vibes. But the people behind the commercial didn’t feel that way:

Jerry Boyle (SVP and executive producer at Saatchi & Saatchi): You kind of get sucked into the story, which is nice. It was all very, very innocent. Obviously what’s happened since then has been a real … something that nobody imagined happening. And our client is so wholesome. It was, we thought, emotional.

What people read into it—once that took off—was just insane.

This was my favourite reaction, and the first one to notice the strange vibe between the brother and sister:

Alexa Marinos (corporate communications manager): I’m a marketer by trade so I always pay attention to commercials and ads, particularly holiday ones because I’m always curious to see how brands flex and adapt their marketing for the holiday season. I used to do all my writing in front of the television. So when, I’ll call it, “Peter Comes Home for Christmas 2.0” aired I was sitting in front of my laptop. And I just remember immediately critiquing the spot in my head as a marketer. Particularly the casting, the casting seemed off to me. I was like “why is Peter’s little sister 22 instead of four? And why is Peter, like, vibing on his little sister?”

I hope nobody ever puts a gift bow on me.

Non-creept commercial related: Commercial Break: a YouTube channel for archiving commercials

Toy Galaxy on Samurai Pizza Cats

The Many Controversies of Samurai Pizza Cats: Racism, Gag Dubs & Disney Trying to Kill It!

They’re cats who are also samurai and they like pizza. What’s not to love? Unfortunately, racism and a bunch of other issues stopped Samurai Pizza Cats from being greater than the premise was and Dan Larson tells the story of its history.

If you want to see what all the fuss was about, you can stream it for free on Peacock or Amazon Prime.

That time Bully Maguire went on Family Feud

Bully Maguire on Family Feud

I’ve already shown my love for Steve Harvey memes but I’ve recently got into “Bully Maguire” memes, involving clips of Toby Maguire’s rendition of Peter Parker in Spider-Man 3. This one is expertly crafted, showing Parker trying to win a staff job with double the money. Look out for special guest star Harry Osborne.

Adverts for defunct brands and discontinued products

90's UK TV Adverts - Defunct Brands/Discontinued items.
90's UK TV Adverts - Defunct Brands/Discontinued Items (Part 2)

As a way to feed my nostalgia habit (and an act of self-care because the world is always on fire in some way), I watch old adverts from the 90s. It reminds me of my childhood and I can revisit adverts or products I’ve not heard of for decades. They also act as mini time capsules for brands and products that are no longer with us.

The above videos show some of those defunct brands and products from the UK, ranging from one2one (originally Mercury One2One, then becoming one2one, then rebranding as T-Mobile UK, then merging with Orange as Everything Everywhere, and finally becoming EE. Phew!) to Dollond & Aitchison (the opticians), the Goldfish credit card (later bought by Barclaycard), and Tandy.

Peter Sellers as Laurence Olivier as Richard III reciting lyrics from The Beatles's 'A Hard Day's Night'

Peter Sellers was a classic character actor but this took it a step further. In 1965, on an episode of a Beatles-tribute variety show called The Music of Lennon and McCartney, Sellers did a rendition of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ in the style of Laurence Olivier’s Richard III.

Watch Olivier’s original performance for a comparison of this meta-acting delight.

Slate's interview with the "MORTAL KOMBAT!" guy

The dude who shouts “MORTAL KOMBAT!” in the movie and video game advert, Kyle Wyatt, spoke to Slate about how it all came about and how it affected his life. But if you were thinking it catapulted him to stardom in some way, you’d be mistaken:

So had you played Mortal Kombat at the point that you were recording the commercial? Did you have any idea what the commercial was for?

Had no idea, bro.

So they didn’t even tell you why they wanted you to specifically yell the words Mortal Kombat?

Oh, no, no, no, man. It was a gig. I was able to pay my rent that month.

Deep down, isn’t everything just a gig or a moment in our lives?

Mortal Kombat "Mortal Monday" TV Commercial

Was Spock bad at logic?

Julia Galef appeared in Episode 462 of Wired’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast to call out Spock’s flawed logic.

[…] Not only does Spock have a terrible track record—events he describes as “impossible” happen 83 percent of the time—but his confidence level is actually anti-correlated with reality. “The more confident he says he is that something will happen—that the ship will crash, or that they will find survivors—the less likely it is to happen, and the less confident he is in something, the more likely it is to happen,” Galef says.

Still better than Nostradamus, probably.

Star Trek related: the last 10 seconds of every episode from Star Trek: TNG (Season 1), some kind of Star Trek: The Next Generation supercut, and a site dedicated to collected Star Trek memorabilia

The history of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

DefunctTV: The History of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

I LOVED ‘Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?‘ and I’m happy that Defunctland made an in-depth video about it. The show had an a cappella vocal group, taught kids geography and problem solving, and a cool cartoon to boot. It also had interesting—and thematically relevant—ways of funding:

The show was primarily funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by the annual financial support from the viewers/stations of PBS (1991–1995). Toyota funded the show for its first three seasons with Holiday Inn co-funded for the second half of the first season and all of season two. Delta Air Lines provided funding for the show’s final two seasons (1994–95).