STAR WARS REWIND! Building Empire

David Anderson and David Lawler provide a running commentary for Jamie Benning’s stunning fan documentary, Building Empire.

Hosted by DAVID B. ANDERSON and DAVID LAWLER

Produced by DAVID LAWLER

Edited by DAVID LAWLER

BUILDING EMPIRE: A FAN DOCUMENTARY
Written and Directed by Jamie Benning

© Frequent Wire, David Lawler and David B. Anderson copyright 2018 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Anderson, David Lawler and selected guests each episode. This podcast, “STAR WARS REWIND” is not affiliated with Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, Buena Vista, George Lucas, or Bad Robot Productions. Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All television, film, and music clips appear under Fair Use as well.

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STAR WARS REWIND! Star Wars Begins

Happy Star Wars Day!  May the Fourth Be With You.  David Anderson and David Lawler provide a running commentary for Jamie Benning’s stunning fan documentary, Star Wars Begins.

Hosted by DAVID B. ANDERSON and DAVID LAWLER

Produced by DAVID LAWLER

Edited by DAVID LAWLER

STAR WARS BEGINS: A FAN DOCUMENTARY
Written and Directed by Jamie Benning

© Frequent Wire, David Lawler and David B. Anderson copyright 2018 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Anderson, David Lawler and selected guests each episode. This podcast, “STAR WARS REWIND” is not affiliated with Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, Buena Vista, George Lucas, or Bad Robot Productions. Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All television, film, and music clips appear under Fair Use as well.

Monkees vs. Macheen: “The Frodis Caper” a.k.a. “Mijacogeo”

“I’m as puzzled as the Oyster.”

Here we are at the last episode of the series and the end of these regularly scheduled recaps. I’m full of conflicting emotions because I don’t want this to end, yet I’m glad the series went out with this bizarre and fun episode. “The Frodis Caper” a.k.a. “Mijacogeo” aired for the first time on March 25, 1968 and was directed by Micky Dolenz, written by Micky along with Jon C. Andersen on the story, and Dave Evans on the teleplay. Evans wrote eight other Monkees episodes, mostly in the first season. Andersen penned four that were filmed in season two. The subtitle, “Mijacogeo,” was made up from the first couple of letters of each of the Dolenz family member names, “mi” for Micky, “ja” for his mother Janelle, “co” for his sister Coco, and “geo” for his father George. It was also the name of the Dolenz family childhood dog.

The episode begins with a montage edit of tight shots on the various parts of a Rube Goldberg-style alarm clock, activated by the heat of the rising sun. This culminates in a record player needle dropping onto “Good Morning Good Morning” by The Beatles. It was unheard of to have songs by popular recording artists on television shows in the United States at the time, let alone a band as big as The Beatles. Of course we know the Monkees had hung out a bit with The Beatles the previous summer and were present for some of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band sessions.

Mike, Davy, and Micky wake up and notice that Peter is not in his bed. Flash-cuts to the empty bed as the others wander around calling for him. They agree to search the premises and meet back there at 0800 hours (That would be a long time to search because their individual alarm clocks read 6 a.m.) There’s a double edit from two different angles as Mike says “Okay guys, let’s go” and Micky and Davy move to leave but then rewind back to Mike. The editing freezes the action and there are screen captions that read FREEZE FRAME.

In less than one minute of episode, there were already tons of editing tricks drawing attention to the fact that it’s a filmed television show. These flash-cuts, captions, close-up shots, unusual angles, montage edits, and fourth-wall-breaking moments permeate the entire episode. Of course some of these techniques were used by the directors/editors throughout the series; Dolenz threw them in all in at once. He does get credit for one fully original touch. In the DVD commentary for this episode, he mentioned that he chose to use a two-camera setup to shoot “Frodis Caper” and points out that this was never done before on sitcoms. On the commentary, Dolenz indicated that it made the shooting go faster and gave the episode its unique look. Even after this, a two-camera setup wasn’t done very often, if at all, and I can’t think of an example offhand. In other words, after all these years, this episode still really stands out.

My husband, a casual Monkees fan at best, loves this episode and even showed it to his film-making partner to illustrate both the directing/editing techniques as well as the surreal humor. Dolenz made directing into a secondary career. Starting in the late ’70s and early ’80s, he directed for television in the U.K., notably a couple of comedy sci-fi kids shows, Metal Mickey, and Luna. He also directed episodes of Boy Meets World, Television Parts (Michael Nesmith’s Elephant Parts spin-off TV movie), and The Box, a short film starring Terry Jones and Michael Palin of Monty Python.

The Monkees look around downstairs for Peter, ignoring the fact that he is sitting there in plain sight. While Mike and Micky screw around, performing a “Lost and Found” sketch with flash-cuts to Peter’s opening title picture, Davy finds a weird “statue.” Mike and Micky quickly figure out that the statue is indeed Peter. He’s been hypnotized by the television, which is showing a crudely animated eye making a pulsing sound. The other three somehow manage to shut off the television before it hypnotizes all of them.

After the opening titles, the Monkees (without Peter) scramble around the neighborhood to see who else was affected. Mike and Micky find the whole Parker family mesmerized by the television screen. This appears to be commentary from Micky Dolenz and the other writers regarding television and its ability to brainwash the masses. (And once again, the Monkees were way ahead of their time. This is frighteningly relevant today.) There’s a great comment from Micky Dolenz in this article, a list of “10 Interesting Facts about The Monkees TV Show.” “Most TV is like dope,” Micky Dolenz told Seventeen magazine in 1967, “It’s just there to put people into a state where they’ll believe anything anybody says— like the announcer of the six o’clock news. Our show gives you the idea of being an individual. That’s what we represent to the kids: an effort to be an individual, an attempt to find your own personality.” [“I’ve always found it fascinating that you can identify the problem while being part of the problem.” – Editor’s Note] Mocking the media/television and its effects on society and culture was an overall theme of The Monkees, such as with “Captain Crocodile,” “Monkees a la Monde,” and “I Was a 99-lb Weakling” (to name a few).

Davy, Mike, and Micky rush over to the television station KXIW (the same television station call letters from “Some Like it Lukewarm”), where they find the stagehand hypnotized by the television eye. Micky wonders, “What kind of a warped, maniacal mind could be plotting such a conspiracy?” Cut to Rip Taylor as Wizard Glick, shrieking, “It’s working!” and laughing evilly. The Monkees apparently saw that scene because they cut back to Micky who tells the audience, “Oh, that kind of a warped mind.”

Our heroes decide that this is a job for Monkeemen (cue the Monkeemen theme). Monkees run to a phone booth to change into their superhero costumes. Bad luck, there’s a sign in the phone booth informing them that Federal law prohibits the use of phone booths for “the purpose of changing into or out of secret identities.” They see a telephone company truck and there’s a hilarious moment of Monkee-panic, “it’s the heat!” They squeeze out of the phone booth, Three Stooges-style. This episode has a nice combo of surreal and physical humor.

Next is a montage edit of Glick revealing his “maniacally warped plan” to take over the world with the Frodis. Between close shots of his mouth, there are a series of weird flash-cuts as he talks, such as: “…that’ll release the incredible power of the Frodis (shot of Frodis eye), “…with the aid of my villainous henchmen” (shot of the four henchmen who each have a tiny handheld television), “…I can control the minds of millions!” (shot of Hitler. Sieg heil!).

A henchman alerts Glick to the fact that the “Monkeemen Monitor” is activated for the first time in five years. This gives us an indication of how long Monkeemen have been together, and that this is not Glick’s first time dealing with them. In response, Glick orders the release of the two-headed org.

The Org lumbers after the three panicking Monkees. They look for help from the Monkeeman Manual, which Micky pulls (possibly a copy of the script) out of his pants. First we’ve heard of this manual. They follow the ridiculous instructions: “To dispose of a two-headed org, jump up and down three times, roll a head of cabbage, and giggle.” But where were they keeping the cabbage? When the org falls, the Monkees sing “Ding dong, the wicked org is dead!” Wizard Glick is so very much a parody of the “Wicked Witch of the West” character from The Wizard of Oz. Rip Taylor looked like he was having a fabulous time. (Could ya die?)

This episode in particular and The Monkees series in general, frequently had a Sid and Marty Krofft psychedelic kids’ show vibe. The Krofft Supershow, Space Nuts, and Dr. Shrinker are a few of the ones I’m old enough to remember. The Aquabats! Super Show, which I watched with my daughter from 2012-2014, was clearly inspired by Krofft shows and The Monkees.

Next, Glick sends out the TV repairmen. Both the Org and the repairman are released by comically-labeled levers. They rush out with their televisions displaying the eye and try to catch the Monkees off guard. Hilariously, one of the repairmen hypnotizes himself when he checks to make sure his TV is working. It seems Glick would’ve failed again, except that Mike suddenly says “You know what? It’s seven thirty, six thirty central time. It’s time for The Monkees. I wonder if anybody around here’s got a television set.” Fourth-wall-breaking and it moves the plot along. Nice. Repairmen come from everywhere to oblige him.

The Monkees are tied to chairs, but they are not hypnotized, which is inconsistent. Micky decides to use mental telepathy to contact Peter to come get them out. Using a chant he got, not as Mike guesses, “while studying transcendental meditation under an Indian mystic,” but rather that came free with a cereal box top. Hilarious double joke at the expense of their sponsor, Kelloggs, and the Beatles’ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi days. Peter hears the message and leaves the house to go help his friends. (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo apparently means “devotion to the mystic law of the Lotus Sutra.”)

Peter wanders through the town and toward the television station while Glick watches him on his monitor. (The monitor is sort of a witch’s crystal ball.) [Another allusion to The Wizard of Oz – Editor’s Note] He stops to chat with Valerie Kairys, who’s been wandering around the station, also not under the Frodis’ spell it seems. Ultimately, he ends up right in Glick’s clutches when he knocks politely on the station door and Glick is there to greet him.

Next scene, a very miffed Peter is tied up with the other Monkees. Peter notes that there’s a telephone and he hops over to it and calls the police, explaining to the cops that they’re being held captive at Mammoth studios by “these weird people that want to take over the world.” Somehow Mike’s hands have gotten free, so all four Monkees escape and turn the tables on Glick and his men. The cops show up, one played by Bob Michaels, who was also the cop that Micky “directed” in character in “The Picture Frame.” Seeing Glick and his henchmen tied up and the Monkees free, they come to the conclusion that the Monkees are the villains.

They’re not under arrest for long, as the cops suddenly have an urge to watch Dragnet and are easily tricked into looking at a television in the shop window. Unfortunately it also gets Peter. So he’s going to spend much of this episode out of his mind, as he did in the previous episode, “Monkees Blow Their Minds.” They carry Peter back into the TV studio but the ease of their escape ends up being a trick by Glick: now they are in chains and guarded by some guy called Otto.

Mike and Micky con Otto into giving them the keys to the chains by challenging him to a card game. Otto turns out to be a card shark, pulls cards out of his mouth, and shuffles like a pro. They realize they can’t play a real game with him, so Mike and Micky both make up a game on the spot, “Creebage.” (I guess they can read each other’s minds.) They bluff through the rules, declare that they won, and stand up and take the keys. Otto protests “But I have a Creebage.” This scene is reminiscent of the Star Trek episode “A Piece of the Action” when Kirk made up a card game called “Fizzbin” to facilitate escape from gangster-imitating aliens. [“A Piece of the Action” premiered on NBC January 12, 1968 – Editor’s Note]

Creebage or not, the Monkees unlock themselves and carry Peter off to somewhere else in the television studio. Frustrated with carrying him, they hang him on a coat rack. A Hilarious screen caption points out that the coat rack is a “Prop.” Poor Peter is a prop himself at this point. The Monkees search in vain for The Frodis room, until Nyles (yeah, he’s still wandering around) comes out and hangs up a sign that identifies the right door (“Yeah, Frodis room”). According to the Imdb, “Frodis” was the Monkees’ code word for marijuana, and they would smoke it in a lounge built for them off the soundstage where the series was filmed (called the “Frodis Room”).

Mike, Micky, and Davy rush into the Frodis room and find a ridiculous plant with a football eye socket with the drawing of the hypnotic eye pasted over it. Frodis pleads with them that he’s being used by Glick, who kidnapped him when his spaceship crashed. He asks them for help. The boys are “moved” by the Frodis’ story and start crying. Micky gets off the hilarious line, “I can’t stand to see a grown bush cry!” They pick up the Frodis to carry him back to his ship, but before they get far, Glick and his men block them.

The onscreen caption announces, “Typical Monkees Romp.” This one is a spacy, slow-motion run through the backlot to the song “Zor and Zam” (Bill Chadwick/John Chadwick). The lyrics seem to be a mythological protest song. It’s a weird choice tempo-wise for a chase scene. There are lots of slow-motion shots, low angles, and odd close-ups, not to mention a random shot of show producer Bert Schneider lying on a stretcher.

The Monkees (carrying Peter and the Frodis) somehow reach the flying saucer before Glick gets there. As the song ends, the Frodis pops his head out and blows smoke all over the bad guys. Glick is utterly stoned: “I don’t want to fight anymore. I just want to lay down in the grass and be cool.” Frodis laughs in his demented, squeaky little voice. (Micky Dolenz’ own voice) This reminds me of Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part I (1981) when Gregory Hines blows the giant joint onto the Roman soldiers who are pursuing them. Since it’s a film, they didn’t have to be as subtle as “Frodis Caper” but there is a similarity.

The last segment, and the last scene ever on The Monkees, is Micky’s choice of musical guest, following the precedent set up with Davy/Charlie Smalls and Mike/Frank Zappa. Peter never got to bring his choice of guest on (“Monkees Mind Their Manor” would have been a good spot) but stated he would have wanted to bring on Janis Joplin. Micky introduces Tim Buckley (1947-1975) who sings “Song to the Siren.”

Buckley began his career in folk rock in the mid-1960s but experimented with other music styles, such as jazz and funk. The song he performs here, “Song to the Siren” (Tim Buckley/Larry Becket) was not on an album until Starsailor (1970). A better known version was a 1983 cover by the band This Mortal Coil, which made the UK top 100 and was used in the films Lost Highway and The Lovely Bones (and in a random perfume commercial I recall from the early 2000s). This beautiful song has been covered by many other famous musicians, including Robert Plant, Bryan Ferry, and Pat Boone. Read more about it here.

Sadly, Buckley died in 1975 from a heroin overdose. His estranged son, Jeff Buckley (1966-1997) was also a singer/songwriter. His only studio album, Grace, was a critical, though not commercial, success and Rolling Stone ranks it 303 among the “Greatest 500 Albums of All Time.” Like his father, Jeff Buckley also died young (drowning accident).

This episode didn’t take my breath away for the wittiest dialogue or unusual plot, nor is it one that I have a lot of personal attachment to, but it is still one of best and most memorable. I’m so glad The Monkees went out on a high note. It seems appropriate that this was the perfect way for The Monkees to end: a paranoid, Sci-Fi parody about an evil entity pacifying the world through television. The Monkees were self-aware and never afraid to mock the system that made them or to make fun of themselves. Micky Dolenz and crew took the surreal humor, present in many episodes, up a level, making “Frodis Caper” one-of-a kind. I wonder what would have happened if the four Monkees had spent less of their energy on taking over the music and instead put their creativity into the episodes as Micky did in this instance; they might have found an unexpected way to make a statement.

As it stands, I’m glad the show ended when it did. It’s a drag when shows keep going long after they’re any good, they “jump the shark” etc. The Monkees was already showing signs of wear and tear, which could have been a sophomore slump that might have been corrected by hiring fresh writers. We’ll never know. Fifty-eight episodes are what we got, and I enjoyed the majority of them. As Micky said the show was about individuality, and to me it’s also about rebelling against authority, being young, about going beyond what you think is possible, about music, humor, and friendship. I thank The Monkees, not just the four band members themselves, but everyone who worked on the show and the music. You’ve given me a lifetime of fun, laughs and inspiration.

Thanks to everyone for reading and sharing! I’ll be back in the summer with another post listing my favorite moments of the series and again in the fall with a post about Head. In the meantime, I’ll see you in The Monkees Facebook groups.

by Bronwyn Knox

Every couple of weeks, “Monkees vs. Macheen” examined the crazy, spirited, Ben Franks-type world of the Pre-Fab Four: David Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork alias The Monkees.

Monkees vs. Macheen: “The Monkees Blow Their Minds”

The Monkees Blow Their Ending

“The Monkees Blow Their Minds” was directed by David Winters, written by Peter Meyerson, and aired March 11, 1968, second to the last Monkees episode in the original run. To my delight, this episode features James Frawley, director of 29 of the 58 Monkees episodes, as Rudy, dimwitted henchmen to Oraculo. When I saw this episode in the 1980s, I had no idea this actor was one of the directors, possibly the best director of the series. Knowing this makes it so much more fun. Thanks to MeTV, I’ve recently enjoyed Frawley’s performances in The Outer Limits episodes, “The Inheritors” Pt. 1 and 2 and various episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

“The Monkees Blow Their Minds” kicks off with a musical guest segment, like the one from “Some Like it Lukewarm” with Davy and Charlie Smalls. Frank Zappa (1940-1993), musician and founder of the band The Mothers of Invention, was Michael Nesmith’s pick. Zappa, who also appeared in Head, makes this episode memorable for me. (It certainly wasn’t the storyline.)

For this chat, Mike and Frank impersonate each other. Aren’t they tricky? Zappa wears a Monkees 8-button shirt and has his hair tucked up in one of Mike’s green wool hats. Mike wears a long, bushy wig and a rubber nose. “Mike” introduces “Frank” and pretends to interview him about the psychedelic music scene. Frank, as “Mike,” comments on the tricky editing style of The Monkees and overall, the conversation is full of the ironic self-parody that frequently characterized the second season. I wonder how much of the Monkees audience at the time were into Zappa, The Monkees being a popular show for kids and The Mothers of Invention being an experimental, underground phenomena. That’s more or less what Nesmith and Zappa were joking about in their conversation.

The best part is when Mike conducts Zappa as he musically destroys a car. This is set to the song, “Mother People” by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention from the 1968 album We’re Only in it for the Money. I wish this part had gone on longer. By the way, you can also see Zappa playing a bicycle on this clip from The Steve Allen Show in 1963.

My first memory of Frank Zappa was the 1982 song “Valley Girl,” featuring his daughter Moon. (So shoot me, I’m a child of the ’80s.) He was in the news a lot in the mid-eighties for testifying before the United State Senate against the PMRC, a story that I followed closely. I would imagine that by the time this episode aired on MTV in the 1980s, a lot of people were as tickled as I was to see him on The Monkees. I even became a casual fan; intrigued enough to listen up for his songs on classic rock radio, sit through his surreal film 200 Motels, and buy a copy of the album Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch. That album has some hilarious cover art. Speaking of cover art, the cover for We’re Only in it for the Money is a parody of the Beatles album cover for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Relevant because of the various Monkees references to that album, and because Mike was present at the recording of “A Day in the Life.” You can see Mike about 2/12 minutes into the promo clip.

Back to the recap. Peter arrives at a spooky shop, looking for the “World’s Leading Mentalist,” a.k.a. Oraculo– a scruffy looking magician played by Monte Landis. Oraculo’s dim-witted assistant Rudy (Frawley) greets him. I love the set decoration: weirdness and skulls everywhere, including Oraculo’s staff. Peter explains that he’s got writer’s block and hopes Oraculo can help him. He needs to write a song for the Monkees audition at the club Cassandra. Oraculo perks up at the mention of an “audition.” He tells Peter to look deeply in his eyes and tries to mesmerize him.

That failing, Oraculo pours him a cup of tea. Rudy distracts Peter with a full size skeleton while they sneak a potion into Peter’s beverage. This little bit of physical comedy was funny and I hope Frawley had a good time performing with the Monkees when he wasn’t directing them. The drug completely zones out Peter, which I interpret as a possible subversive statement about drug use.

Next scene: Mike, Micky, and Davy set up for their audition at the club. There are indications that this was filmed much earlier in the second season (April 1967, nearly a full year before it aired), such as the black velvet matching 8-button shirts and Mike wearing the wool hat as well as Micky’s merely wavy rather than full on curly hair. The black shirts were previously seen in “The Card-Carrying Red Shoes.” Peter walks in late, still zombified. Latham, the club manager, was played by Milton Frome, who appeared in The Monkees first season episode, “Monkees on the Line.” Peter can’t remember how to play his bass. He crows like a rooster, destroys Micky’s drum, and over-all wrecks their chance to impress Latham in the audition.

Oraculo summons Peter backstage. Peter’s now wearing an outfit that looks similar to Rudy’s fake Middle East-style costume (they resemble organ grinder’s monkey outfits). On stage, Oraculo auditions for Latham. His act is to levitate Peter four feet off the ground. We see that it’s a trick aided by Rudy who is off stage using ropes to pull him up and down. Latham hires Oraculo instead of the Monkees. Micky, Mike, and Peter suspect that Oraculo has “stolen” Peter’s mind.

The Monkees go back to their pad and plan one of their cons to distract Oraculo and free Peter. (There’s a rare voice-over from Davy setting this up, making me think scenes were dropped or missing.) Mike calls the mentalist, pretending be an amnesiac who has forgotten where he put his suitcase containing 50,000 dollars. Naturally, Oraculo is interested. Cut to Oraculo already at Monkee’s house. He tries to hypnotize Mike, but Mike sees the same, “Cowardice, and, um, dishonesty, and a general lack of scruples” that Peter saw.

Alone with Peter at Oraculo’s shop, Rudy looks at himself in the mirror in one of Oraculo’s capes and top hats, wishing to become his Master. Micky and Davy sneak in behind him. Micky impersonates Oraculo and gives Rudy commands, “Come to me Rudy.” Rudy realizes pretty quickly that it’s not Oraculo, (wrong accent, Micky) but Micky promises a great treasure to share with Rudy, and this lie is enough to get Rudy to go join Oraculo.

As Micky and Davy try to get Peter’s mind back, they launch a romp to “Valleri” (Boyce/Hart). The first moment with the skeleton driving the go-cart out the door is epic. In these romp shots you can see that the Oraculo set is the same as the Monkee’s pad. At one point, Davy and Micky even carry Mr. Schneider around. The shop scenes are cut in with scenes of Mike at the pad with Oraculo, who tricks him into drinking his hypno-potion. Mike has the same hilarious gagging, full-body reaction as he did in “Wild Monkees” when he drank gasoline. The romp has a few cute moments and some cool weirdness, but is generally pointless and doesn’t enhance the plot. Afterwards, Peter’s still in a trance so Davy just hits him on the head with a mallet.

Rudy shows up at the Monkees pad, seemingly through the wall the way it was edited. This tips off Oraculo that something is wrong, so he orders brain-dead Mike to spill the whole scheme. I’m going to stop and say how much I’m enjoying Monte Landis’ performance. This whole episode is a lesser version of “The Devil and Peter Tork,” with Peter losing something vital to a scheming villain. But Landis’ line delivery makes me laugh out loud. I’ve enjoyed every one of Monte Landis’ seven performances and they were varied enough that I honestly didn’t notice he was the same actor when I watched these episodes as a kid.

Later, Micky and Davy bring Peter back to the house, but he’s still spellbound. On top of that, Mike is missing. There’s a classic Monkees scramble to their usual fast-paced incidental music as Micky and Davy look for their friend in places where he wouldn’t fit: under tables, in jars, in the cupboards, etc. They chain Peter to the wall for safekeeping while they go look for Mike. Weird over-dub of Micky saying, “This overlapping chain link is perfect for both sport and formal attire.”

Micky and Davy burst into Oraculo’s shop to rescue Mike. Rudy knocks them out with the mallet, and Oraculo orders Rudy to give Micky and Davy the potion. He boasts about what a sensation he will be with his four psychic slaves. Clip from the show “Here Come the Monkees” (pilot) showing the four Monkees in the prison-break cutaway. Good times. He summons Peter, who breaks the chains out of the wall to obey his command.

At the club Cassandra, Latham introduces The Great Oraculo. Backstage, all four Monkees are now dressed like Peter. Burgess Meredith is in the audience as The Penguin who he played on Batman. His costume is slightly different however, black top hat instead of purple, so that Screen Gems wouldn’t get into legal trouble with 20th Century Fox, perhaps. It’s a random, pop-culture sight gag, memorable and well executed.

Oraculo works the crowd. Choosing a woman from the audience, he asks her to hold up one to thirteen fingers behind his back. (Thirteen fingers? Heh.) She holds up three. Rudy blatantly signals him the answer. Oraculo “guesses” right and the audience is dazzled. Next, Oraculo picks Davy, disguised in a suit and fake facial hair. He claims he’s a lawyer, and Oraculo offers to predict his future. “At the age of 29, you will be the youngest judge ever to sit on the Supreme Court.” Davy makes a fool of him. “But I’m already 35.” The audience boos. Next, he finds Micky in disguise and asks him to help demonstrate that he’s impervious to pain. Micky touches his palm with a lit cigar, instead of whatever prop Oraculo had planted, and Oraculo howls in agony. Once again the audience expresses disdain.

Backstage Oraculo checks on the “psychic slaves.” Foolishly, he smacks Micky instead of giving him another dose of potion. Micky is revived and quickly smacks the other three awake. HOLD IT, hold it. They should have shown this before the scene of the Monkees as audience plants. That would have made sense because then we would have understood that the Monkees were alert and executing a plan to make a fool of the bad guy. It’s completely plausible in the reality of the show that the Monkees could pop in and out of disguises that quickly. They did it all the time. With the scenes in this order, I have no idea what happened.

Rudy tries to save the day by calling the “psychic slaves” out on stage. They circle Oraculo, who commands them to go rigid. The Monkees defy him, falling limply to the stage floor. The audience boos. The Monkees turn this into a human dog act, barking and jumping through hoops and so on. They cut in the “I’m Gonna Buy Me a Dog” romp with Monkees playing with the dogs from “I’ve Got a Little Song Here.” Lame. I don’t mind when they recycle footage for a fun effect, triggering the audience’s memory like they did earlier with the prison break scene, but this is just lazy filler. On stage the dog antics continue and Rudy ends up with the bone from “Some Like it Lukewarm” in his mouth.

That line was a nice nod to The Monkees recurring theme that everyone wants to be in show business. Then, alas, the episode abruptly ends and goes to the black and white performance clip of “Daily Nightly” (Nesmith). There are two things to note in the end credits. First, James Frawley does not get an acting credit as Rudy. I’m guessing Frawley was acting for fun and he didn’t need a credit. The second looks like an error, they misspell “Valleri” as “Valerie.”

“Monkees Blow Their Minds,” was not amazingly original, but was at least amusing before the sloppily-put-together scenes in the last act, and the production team’s general failure to wrap things up. I did enjoy Zappa, Frawley, and Monte Landis so it wasn’t all bad. It’s just one of those things like “Monkees in Texas” where I wonder if they lost a reel or just couldn’t come up with enough footage to make a more satisfying story. Well, that’s showbiz!

In two weeks, it’s the final episode: the delightfully weird “Frodis Caper.” See you then!

by Bronwyn Knox

Every couple of weeks, “Monkees vs. Macheen” examines the crazy, spirited, Ben Franks-type world of the Pre-Fab Four: David Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork alias The Monkees.

“Blade Runner, 1982”

“Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave.”

Blade Runner, 1982 (Harrison Ford), The Ladd Company

I knew I had to end my Vintage Cable Box series with, what I regard to be, one of the greatest movies ever made. Nothing can prepare you for Blade Runner after a couple of years of the standard cable television fare. Occasionally, you had the big-budget spectacles, fine examples of genre film-making, Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick, but Blade Runner was unique. I only vaguely remembered trailers and teasers running on broadcast television. I never saw a preview at the movies, nor did I even see the movie in theaters. Ridley Scott had made a name for himself as a first-notch filmmaker with The Duellists and Alien after paying his dues in production design and advertising. The script and story treatments for Blade Runner floated around for a couple of years while Scott was preparing an adaptation of Dune. The Dune project fell through (and would eventually be helmed by David Lynch), and Scott was eager to start working on Blade Runner, based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

The year is 2019, and the place is Los Angeles. Our world in 2019 is a dystopian nightmare. Constant sheets of acid rain have destroyed the already-dilapidated metropolis and most humans have taken to life in “off-world colonies” (“The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity,” the advertisements proclaim). Replicants, initially considered a form of android but then ret-conned in 2017’s Blade Runner 2049 as “manufactured humans” have become a dangerous liability when confronted with their slave status and the built-in obsolescence of a four year life span. In an effort to control these replicants, developer Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel) implants memories in them, but this backfires when they inevitably crave life more than the humans who built them. Errant replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) leads a bunch of them to jump ship and return to Earth to meet their maker. Enter Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a replicant killer more commonly known as a “Blade Runner.”

Deckard is tasked with interviewing a beautiful woman, Tyrell’s assistant, named Rachael (Sean Young) who may or may not be a replicant. It seems Tyrell’s task is to either deceive authorities as to the identity of his replicants, or perhaps make his replicants believe they are human. It takes a while for Deckard to come to the conclusion that Rachael doesn’t know she’s a replicant. She saves his life when another replicant, the sub-intelligent Leon (Brion James) tries to kill him. He takes her back to his apartment and promises to keep her secret. Tyrell tells him she has no shut-off date; that she is, in effect, unique. Deckard retires the remaining replicants, but Batty proves to be a challenge. He taunts Deckard and leads him on a merry chase through the Bradbury Building. While Deckard is intent on finishing the job, Batty is fighting for his life, even as he knows his time is limited. Batty is incensed that Deckard has mercilessly killed his friends, and he tortures him for it. Ultimately, he spares Deckard’s life and perhaps Deckard has re-discovered his humanity.

Blade Runner was unfairly maligned by critics upon release in 1982, but over the years, the movie has attained an enormous cult following, culminating in the release of Blade Runner 2049 last year. In 1992, a “director’s cut” was released which removed the original film’s narration (considered by Scott to be tedious) and introduced a scene where Deckard dreams of a unicorn, making the reveal at the end of the movie (Deckard discovers a small origami unicorn in his hallway) ambiguous about Deckard’s humanity. Personally, I do not believe Deckard to be a replicant because, for me, it would make the ending of the movie and Batty’s sacrifice less meaningful. I would rather Deckard learn the lesson of his humanity, rather than believe him to be an amnesiac android. Blade Runner 2049 continues along this line of reasoning; perhaps what we value as humans is our capacity for understanding the gift of memory, and when our memories are manufactured, we will retain less of that value. Everything about this movie is perfect.

That about wraps it up for Vintage Cable Box. Again, I want to thank my readers. It’s been so much fun going back and revisiting and re-living these movies and that crazy time period, that time-line of what I saw and experienced and how it shaped me. Blade Runner just might be the most influential movie of the last 40 years, and it played constantly on cable television back in those days. Blade Runner 2049 manages to successfully evoke all of the best qualities about the original movie (and even improve upon certain aspects), which surprises me. Before I sign off, I have to thank a few people. Mark Jeacoma hosted these articles on his VHS Rewind! page. Andrew La Ganke suggested some great movies and found me a couple of hard-to-find titles. Geno Cuddy suggested Metropolis and provided a copy of the movie for me. Tony Verruso from the Vintage HBO Guides on Facebook was a staunch ally in dark times. Thanks for reading.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month. Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

Monkees vs. Macheen: “Some Like It Lukewarm”

Girls, Girls, Girls!

The “Some Like it Lukewarm” story is set up with a sign for the “KXIW-TV Rockathon Contest, $500 First Prize.” I’m so happy that, since this is one of the last few episodes, it’s about their struggles to make it as a band. Mike, Micky, and Davy are in line at the station with other bands, waiting to sign up. Peter is absent for some reason. Mike gives Davy and Micky a pep talk: Since they desperately need the money, the best thing to do is to act like they don’t need it. Got that? Davy tests out the suave, casual attitude, claiming “We don’t need it.” This confuses Micky, who wigs out because of course they do. The director (James Frawley) must have given Peter’s lines to Micky for that scene.

The Master of Ceremonies was played by real-life Philadelphia D.J., Jerry Blavat, who is still going strong today. The Monkees approach him and presumptuously request the prize money. Of course Blavat treats them like they’re crazy, so they sing for him, going into a doo-wop bit. Mike performs an excellent D.J. patter routine, possibly an imitation of Blavat himself. When they demand the money again, Blavat informs them that the contest is for mixed groups only: without a girl in the group they can’t even compete. He leaves shouting about how he digs “Girls, girls, girls!” Micky helpfully explains for our benefit that one of them is going to have to be “a chick.”

“Some Like it Lukewarm” was a tribute to the 1959 film, Some Like it Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis. In the film, Lemmon and Curtis play two broke 1920’s musicians, who are in trouble with the mob because they witnessed a gangster execution, and so they pose as women and join an all female band. Sounds like a Monkees plot to me. The BFI lists it as one of the films you should see before age 14 [Why that specific age? – Editor’s Question], and it is considered one of the best films of all time. “Some Like it Lukewarm, “ which debuted March 4, 1968, was written by Joel Kane, who also wrote for The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and Wild, Wild West, and Stanley Z. Cherry who worked on Gilligan’s Island and The Addams Family.

Back at the pad, the Monkees choose which lucky guy will become a lucky girl. The editors treat us to a montage of the Monkees impersonating women: Micky as Mrs. Arcadia in “The Chaperone,” Mike as Princess Gwen in “Fairy Tale,” Peter as the mom from “Monkees vs. Machine,” and Davy as Little Red Riding Hood also from “Fairy Tale.” I think the only episode they left out was “Dance, Monkee, Dance” where they pretended to be female dance students. In my recap for “The Chaperone” I talked a little bit about comedies that have men dress as women. You can read about that here. Mike, Micky, and Peter all nominate Davy to play the girl. Reluctant, he backs himself into the closet and comes out with a mop on his head that looks like a long wig. To Davy’s disbelief, a janitor approaches and tries to pick him up.

Back at their pad, Davy stands behind one of those old-fashioned dressing screens and questions how they’re going to turn him into a woman. Micky explains that a woman is a “rag, a bone, and a hank of hair.” I tried to find out about this rag, bone, and hair nonsense; it seems that it’s from a poem called “The Vampire” by Rudyard Kipling (1897).

“A FOOL there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you and I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair
(We called her the woman who did not care)
But the fool he called her his lady fair—
(Even as you and I!)”

First, they hand Davy a scarf (rag). Then, they hand him an actual bone. He looks at the camera and says “Woo!” Was that supposed to be suggestive? I think it was. Last, they hand him a wig (hank of hair). Davy comes out in the wig and dress and asks how he looks. Micky: “Kind of like a raggy, hairy bone.” Davy complains that he doesn’t know what to do with the bone (fill in your own dirty joke here), and that he doesn’t know how to act like a woman.

Peter pulls out a book, How to Act Like a Feminine Female in Three Easy Lessons. This episode is so weird. I can only imagine why Peter has that book. It would be hilarious if this was the overdue library book from “The Picture Frame.”

He reads off the lessons. Lesson One: “All feminine females must learn to walk with small delicate steps.” Davy walks around with this feet tied together and falls. Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman. The notion that women have to walk and act a certain way is absurdly funny, even 50 years later. What I’m getting at (and maybe the show was too) is that when men are trying imitate women they seem to choose the superficial, exaggerated characteristics. For a comedy that would be the obvious choice.

Lesson Two: “When a feminine female walks from north to south her hips must move from east to west. A small loud bell in each direction will help to teach this technique.” Davy tries this out, with pots and pans tied to his hips, feet still tied with a small rope. Mike gives directions to Micky who shouts them to Davy. “Faster. Slower. East. West.” Davy spins around in circles. Some of us females have never had these lessons. My husband tells me I walk like Redd Foxx, the Sanford and Son years.

Lesson Three: “The feminine female must glide like a swan when she walks with her head high, erect and motionless. The best way to teach this is to place a book on top the head.” Mike and Micky place an enormous book, perhaps The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, on Davy’s head. He sinks into the ground. From the floor he asks, “Isn’t this fun?” Well, it is for me, Davy.

The Monkees return to the television station to show Blavat that they have a girl in the group. Davy tries to leave but the other three hold him back. Blavat checks “her” out and tells them they are now officially entered in the Rockathon contest. All the above happened in the first five minutes. We’ve gone entire episodes where far less happened. Blavat tells Davy he’s cute, which makes Davy all growly. Micky reminds him, “Money, money. Anything for money.” That does seem to be the name of the game.

Back at their pad, Davy expresses doubts about their plan. Cut to a parallel all-girl band in a similar dilemma. They’ve dressed one of their female members in a suit of armor (that we’ve seen in other episodes) and goatee/mustache. Daphne pulls off her facial hair and frets that they’re bound to find out she’s not a boy. I would have loved a scene where they taught Daphne to walk like a Masculine Male. Hey Daphne, can you walk like you’ve got a pair?

Cut to the contest. Blavat introduces the girl band as the Westminster Abbeys. They play a sped up version of “Last Train to Clarksville.” To make them sound like very tiny girls I guess. Also the “boy” is the lead singer, so shouldn’t they be trying to hide his/her ‘girly’ voice since he’s supposed to be a dude?

The Monkees admire the band musically and visually. The drummer is the lovely Valerie Kairys. They show a clip of the Monkees playing “Clarksville” back in the old days, sped up to match the tempo. Davy accuses the one in the beard of being a bit “effeminate.” I feel like the reveal of the “boy” in the band should have come after we see them play. It would have been obvious, sure, but funnier to have the Monkees seeing them first on stage at the same time the audience does. Then they could reveal Daphne removing her facial hair.

As they leave the stage, Blavat introduces the members as Harmony, Melody, Cacophony, and William the Conqueror. Clever reference alert: Westminster Abbey is a Gothic abbey church in England where all the monarchs had their coronations, starting with William the Conqueror in 1066. The band did well; scoring a 98.6, which is the top rating on the applause meter/thermometer that Blavat is using to judge the contest.

The Monkees force Davy on stage; Blavat ogles “her” some more. They do a half-assed job of lip-synching “The Door into Summer” (Chip Douglas, Bill Martin) while Micky, Mike, and Peter physically keep Davy from fleeing the stage. This is most ridiculous for Micky because he’s supposed to be behind the drums. The Monkees also score a 98.6 on the applause meter, putting them in a first place tie with The Westminster Abbeys. Blavat announces that both bands will have to come back tomorrow for a tie-breaking “battle of the sounds.”

Once they get home, Davy immediately wants to remove this disguise, but the others are worried someone from the show might stop by. Right on cue, Blavat knocks on the door. He has a big bouquet of flowers and wants to see “Miss” Jones. The other three hide, so I guess this is only supposed to be her address. He keeps calling himself, “The Geator with the Heater” and “The Boss with the Hot Sauce,” real life nicknames that he used when he hosted a dance/variety television show called The Discophonic Scene. In the context of him chasing “Miss Jones” however, the nicknames sound positively lecherous.

Blavat comes in and declares his love for Davy and sexually harasses him with the promise that if “she plays her cards right” the Monkees could win the contest. Blavat pursues Davy, forcing him to back away nervously. Davy says he’ll have to think about it; Blavat gives him until tomorrow. Watching this in the days after the big Weinstein scandal is absolutely surreal. I have to hand it to Jerry Blavat for fearlessly playing this sleazy part, especially since they used his real name.

When Blavat leaves, Peter, Micky and Mike tease Davy. Peter says all he has to do is go out with him, and they’re a cinch to win. Mike says if Davy lets Blavat kiss him, he might own a television station. They’re kidding of course, but Davy’s rightfully pissed, “One more remark like that, and I’ll hit you with me purse.”

Later, Davy declines to go out to eat with the others and asks them to bring back a tuna fish sandwich. Cut to the Westminster Abbeys having the same conversation with Daphne: If she has to go out as a boy, she won’t go. Cross-cut of Davy and Daphne going stir crazy. They each decide to go to “Some Little Out of the Way Place That Nobody Goes.” Thanks to this sight gag, this turns out to be a literal location:

Davy sneaks in, wearing a huge coat and sunglasses and asks for a secluded booth. The waiter can help him, “I have a booth which is so secluded, that last week three of our best waiters disappeared while trying to find it.” He takes Davy to a booth that’s already occupied by Daphne. Davy apologizes, and they both take off their sunglasses and immediately fall in love.

Daphne was played by Deana Martin, daughter of singer, actor, and Rat-Packer, Dean Martin. According to IMDB trivia, Deana got the opportunity to play Davy Jones’ love interest after Davy escorted her to her brother Dino’s 16th birthday party. There’s a nice article here where Deana Martin talks about her friendship with Davy.

They are in the middle of making vows of love to each other when Mike, Micky, and Peter noisily enter the restaurant. Okay, I guess they got pulled over by the cops for having long hair, otherwise Davy wouldn’t have arrived first. I assume Davy took the bus since they must have had the Monkeemobile. Yeah, it moves the plot along, but it isn’t logical. Also, for some reason Davy was carrying his girl boots in a large bag with him, because he panics when he hears the other Monkees, and as he leaves, he drops one of the boots. Daphne picks it up, “Wait my darling, you forgot your… high heels?” How very reverse-Cinderella. Davy goes home and hides under his covers just in time for the others to come home and give him his sandwich. Davy realizes he’s lost a shoe.

The next day at the contest backstage area, Davy sees Blavat coming and dives into Daphne’s dressing room to avoid him. Since he’s dressed as a girl, Daphne doesn’t recognize him at first. When she sees he only has one shoe, she realizes she has the other one, and Davy’s game is up. Davy takes off the wig and admits he’s been fooling everyone. He explains that he didn’t tell her because a girl as nice as her wouldn’t go for someone that wasn’t honest. She outs herself as William the Conqueror by holding up the little mustache and goatee. They admit they did this for the same reason: to enter the contest. Davy feels it was terribly wrong.

After all the different cons the Monkees perpetuated over the course of the previous 55 episodes, I sort of wonder why he feels guilty now. On the other hand, most of the time when they dressed up and assumed other identities they were trying to help some innocent person or foil some villain. Here, the con was strictly about winning money.

Cut to Davy having presumably just confessed to Blavat, who must be so embarrassed. Blavat yells at him for deceiving him and disqualifies him because the contest called for mixed groups. Davy tells him that’s what they are, and both groups perform “She Hangs Out” (Jeff Barry) all together. Unfortunately, this relegates the girls to go-go dancers on the sides of the stage. Really, they couldn’t let a couple of them have instruments? Let’s assume they won and split the $500 between both bands.

Next is a segment with Davy Jones hanging out with Charlie Smalls (1943-1987). This was supposedly a sample of the “variety show” style the Monkees wanted, where they would chat with musical guests after the comedy. Charlie plays the piano while Davy explains that they’re writing songs together. Davy asks why he (Davy) doesn’t have soul. Charlie says he has to explain rhythmically. “Your soul would emanate on the accented beats one and three. Where my soul emanates on the accented beats two and four.” He uses the Beatles as an example, claiming they play “hard and funky” on one and three. They demonstrate with some clapping. I don’t know if I buy this scientifically, but they end with a positive message, “Everybody’s got soul.” They sing more of the song “Girl Named Love,” which appeared on the album, The Birds The Bees & The Monkees.

Sharon Cintron, 1963 Playmate of the Month, is listed as “Maxine” in the end credits, but the band girls were named Harmony, Melody, and Cacophony in the dialogue.

Overall, I really enjoyed this episode. Unlike the previous few, there were many hilarious moments and funny lines. The plot moved along and tied up neatly with charming performances from Davy Jones and Deana Martin. This was admittedly a Davy-centric episode. One of the complaints I’ve read about The Monkees was that too many of the plots revolved around Davy’s love life. Since I’m almost at the end of the series, I decided to take a count (yes, I went full-on nerdy with a spreadsheet) and see how many episodes used this plot device (these choices were my opinion; there were some episodes with female characters, but the plot didn’t revolve around them) and decided that there were eleven (18%) out of the 58. That’s not so bad. However, I would also double-count this particular episode as one that is about their struggles as a band (six episodes or 12%). There were far too few of those for my taste.

by Bronwyn Knox

Every couple of weeks, “Monkees vs. Macheen” examines the crazy, spirited, Ben Franks-type world of the Pre-Fab Four: David Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork alias The Monkees.

“The Buddy System, 1984”

“You’ve gained seven pounds. If you want to put something in your mouth, try a gun.”

The Buddy System, 1984 (Richard Dreyfuss), 20th Century Fox

Okay, what the Hell is going on here? Why can’t Dreyfuss and Sarandon make it work? There’s no direct hostility (at least later on), but there is anxiety between two people, man and woman, in their late ’20s, early ’30s (ostensibly, and I’m just guessing, based on the dialogue) who miraculously have sex and then decide to be good friends. Even though they know the ins-and-outs (and the sexual organs) of each other. I surmise The Buddy System isn’t so much about the Dreyfuss/Sarandon conundrum as it is about poor little Wil Wheaton. Wil is the wayward, dejected, lonely child of stenographer Susan Sarandon (herself a single mom living with her own possessive mom, All in the Family’s Jean Stapleton) who strikes up a friendship with Richard Dreyfuss’ school security guard. It seems Sarandon and her kid have been scamming the school, by pretending to live in the designated school district and using a fake mailing address. Dreyfuss is about to bust them. I didn’t know this was such a problem; we’re talking about educating children, for crying out loud.

Shut up, Wil!

Dreyfuss takes a liking to the kid and promises not to spill the beans. Even though Sarandon is incensed by Wil’s attempts to pair up her and Dreyfuss, the kid still hangs out with him. It turns out Dreyfuss is a gifted inventor, but his real passion is writing. He encourages and inspires Wil to read, which surprises Sarandon, and it’s obvious Dreyfuss is a good influence on the kid, unlike Wil’s real Dad, who, in his words, “took a powder” after he knocked up his Mom. He hasn’t quite gotten the hang of his most recent novel, so he plunges into his work as an inventor. He finds an investor for his portable dog-washing contraption. His flighty on-again, off-again girlfriend (Nancy Allen) dumps him, but then (like a true emotional vampire) looks him up when she’s low on blood. Sarandon, Dreyfuss, and Wheaton make for an interesting family unit, and it works for a while as an assexual husband/wife heteronormative dynamic. Sorry about the use of the word “heteronormative” – but that’s all I could come up with for the Dreyfuss/Sarandon conundrum.

Unfortunately when Nancy Allen shows up again for another oil change, Dreyfuss makes himself scarce, and Sarandon has to go back to the life to which she has become accustomed: clinging neediness from Jean Stapleton (whom I had always imagined spoke like Edith Bunker in her civilian life). Her mother is a bit of an emotional leech in her own right. Her mother needs Sarandon to be dependent on her, so she can be dependent upon her daughter and grandson. Without Sarandon, she has no purpose, or believes she has no purpose. She consistently fills Sarandon with dread, making her afraid to be her own person, to embrace independence. Sarandon takes a stenography test, gets a promotion, and moves out of the house. She and Wil take up residence in a nice, but small apartment with a backyard. This is one of the few movies I’ve seen where taking an apartment is a step-up. I like that. Apartments are cozy, more secure, less expensive to maintain, and the heating/electricity bills are considerably lower. It makes sense.

The Buddy System seem to be wish fulfillment on the part of Wil Wheaton. He just wants a family. A mom and a dad. The movie played constantly on cable television between 1984 and 1986. I mean it had to have been on every day. I had a very similar upbringing to young Wil. Lonely, strange (precocious is the word my wife used to describe him) and yes, there are pitfalls to having only your single mother for a parent. He desperately wants a dad, and he thinks Dreyfuss fits the bill perfectly. Looking at it again courtesy of a Key Video VHS tape, the movie still resonates with me. Sarandon seems to be in a perpetual state of confusion, whereas Dreyfuss is some kind of a frustrated genius. They have their own personalized antagonists in Nancy Allen and Jean Stapleton; characters designed to keep them stagnant or fearful of either enjoyment or fulfillment. When they reunite at film’s conclusion, you’re still not sure they can make it work as lovers, but Wil Wheaton’s smile when he sees them together does give you hope.

The Buddy System was an extremely difficult movie to find. At the time I was looking for it, I couldn’t even find scenes online. I did manage to procure the Key Video VHS tape from a collector. Curiously, you have a movie starring Richard Dreyfuss and Susan Sarandon (two Academy Award winners) with Jean Stapleton (three-time Emmy Award winner) that received only a perfunctory VHS/Beta release, not available on Laserdisc, DVD, or Blu Ray. I knew when I started Vintage Cable Box, I had to take another look at this movie and I’m glad I did. In a way, it represents closure for me as I wrap up this series next week with a classic movie I’m sure you’ll all remember.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month. Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.