TGIF Month: A Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper Live Blog

It’s Friday and you know what that means: pay day!!! Yes, but also the continuation of our month-long TGIF celebration! We’ve revisited Family Matters. We looked back at Step by Step. And now, we’re watching the pilot of another classic show from ABC’s old school Friday night lineup: Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper! Get your pencils out boys and girls, it’s time to take notes on this 90s fave.

Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

Original Air Date: 9/22/1992

Pilot Plot: Mark is hired as a substitute teacher, but his roommate Robin must teach him how to control his students. Alan Thicke guest stars.

T: I’m 99% I’ve never seen this pilot. I would’ve remembered Alan Thicke. Pour one out.

M: I watched Hangin With Mr. Cooper but remember less about it than ANY TGIF show. Holy cow, it was on for 5 seasons?! Anyway from what I recall, Mark Curry is not-a-parent who is the cool adult/neighbor to Raven-Symone and a boy.

T: WAIT. Alan Thicke shows up as Alan Thicke, the star of Growing Pains, whose show was recently “retired” (you don’t say cancelled, you say “retired” or “rich” after seven seasons). All these shows from my past blur in my mind. It’s crazy to think Growing Pains ended before Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper began. I have no concept of time. ALSO THIS IS SO META WHAT IS IT DOING IN THE PILOT. MARK LITERALLY LOOKED DOWN THE BARREL OF THE CAMERA.

M: Alan Thicke just showed up to KOOL AID MAN THROUGH THE FOURTH WALL. Mark Curry is Mark Curry, preparing to star in HWMC & Alan Thicke is Alan Thicke, retiring from Growing Pains, talking about Mark taking over Alan’s time slot. Who thought this bit was at all good?

T: Alan legit just said “Good luck here in the ‘hood… if you ever need a white guy…” HUH?

M:  I’m going to say it. It’s the worst cold open I’ve seen in my life.

T: I was about to say, “the opening credits are very En Vogue-esque.” Never realized it was actually En Vogue.

M: This is our first TGIF pilot so far to feature a cold open, so it was a little trickier to clock the theme song time. AKA I had to do simple subtraction. One minute … of excellence. We should do a post about 90s R&B theme songs.

T: I have no recollection of Mark’s house being the exact same as the Seaver house. The living room at least. I have a completely different picture in my head when I think of the Cooper home.

M: Is it Martin? Because I was picturing the house in Martin.

T: This guy Holly Robinson Peete is going on a date with isn’t “fine”, he’s “foine”. I get this on a deep leve.

M: “He’s got a butt that makes me with I was his wallet.”

T: THIS IS LEGITIMATELY THE SEAVER HOUSE THO. WHAT’S GOING ON.

M: Did they change the set later? I do not remember Growing Pains well enough to be able to picture the house. I didn’t think the house was so beige and blah.

T:  Yes Mark, this warranted a “DAYUMMNNN”

M: It was probably the most “language” that had been used on TGIF to date. Holly looks smashing.

T: Omar Gooding, actor and brother of Cuba Gooding Jr. is one of the students in Mr. Cooper’s class, which makes sense since he’s a 90s TV staple.

M: Always wearing this exact outfit. Honestly, all the teens look so cool but ESPECIALLY the girl with the floral dress, black boots and blossom hat. That was 100% my dream look c. 1992.

T: As soon as the kids find out Mark’s a sub, they act up and start throwing papers at each other but Mark immediately lashes out and yells at them to stop, citing the fact he just got out of prison and I am DYING. On the verge of tears crying it’s so funny to me.

M: I rewound to watch it again!

T: Why is there a random boom box on the table next to Blossom?

T: Oh it’s so they can listen to Boyz II Men in class and dance to it.

M: Partially serious question, did ABC option the rights to Motown Philly? Because it also figured prominently into a Full House episode, which I’m sure you all remember.

T: Am I the only one finding this pilot is incredibly predictable? He picks unnecessary fights with Vanessa (because he likes her). He gives into the students’ wishes to have a dance party (and the principal walks in). He sits down in the chair after Omar/Earvin walks away from it (because he pulled a prank & did something to the chair). I’m not complaining, I’m just saying it’s typical ’90s fodder.

M: It’s like putting all the things that happen in 90s sitcoms in a hat and pulling them out. You can also tell from Episode 1 that it’s all about the Mark/Vanessa chemistry.

T: Mark was the kind of student that bullshitted his entire way through high school.

M: I can’t remember if they kept the Belding-esque principal and that Zach Morris-esque Omar Gooding character beyond this episode.

T: Do people actually work out in silence by themselves in their home? Also, she’s not even overweight in the slightest and she’s complaining about not being as sexy and thin as Vanessa.

M: Yeah you saw Vanessa in that mustard yellow dress, though. (Seriously, I DO remember it just being a very 90s thing that ladies in sitcoms/romcoms would talk about needing to lose weight but they never actually cast a fat person? It was v. Cathy comics.).

T: “Couch Potato or Stockbroker? Stud or Spud?” The live audience really loved that line.

M: Mark has said “dayumm” for the third time, proving the writers were really referencing the sitcom guidebook.

M: Vanessa bought one of that dress in every color, I think: comes down in a blue version. Mark is super weird with Vanessa’s date William, a boring stockbroker who will probably not be back. I realized why this wasn’t my fav sitcom until Raven-Symone and the little boy came into the scene: this is 100% about adults. Also Vanessa and Mark mention sex, which I bet means this was on my mom’s no-fly list (to be fair I was 6).

T: Coop shows the kids who’s the boss (not Tony) by supergluing Earvin’s chair, because that’s how you teach.

M: Confirmed: that’s Earvin’s only outfit, or all his outfits look the same.

T: Just before the show ends, there’s a scene where Mark introduces himself as Mark Curry… what is all this realism business? I don’t think I like it.

M: Makes no sense. I guess this is how you had to find out who people were before IMDB.

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Pop Culture Blind Spot: Teen Witch

It’s October, and I am continuing to tackle my Halloween movie pop culture blind spots. As a person who loves Halloween but hates to be scared, it’s a chore. A neat trick I learned with Teen Wolf is that if a movie has the word “teen” in the title, it’s probably not that scary … and with that, I delve into Teen Witch.

What I Think It’s About: An ’80s teen learns that she’s a witch, like in Halloweentown or Twitches or Worst Witch or Harry Potter. She raps at a mean boy. That part, I HAVE seen.

Hulu short description: A high school student who is a descendant of bona fide Salem witches uses her magic to snag a football star as a boyfriend.

Okay, I’ve mentioned before how far down the Salem Witch documentary/podcast/google hole I’ve fallen, so this sounds pretty cool. Except for the second half, anyway – even a dopey teen has better uses for magic powers than “snagging a football star as a boyfriend.”

The movie opens with 80s sexy smooth jazz saxophone, which I hate. Two teens hang out in blue lighting on a rooftop. The first FOUR minutes look like any generic music video of 1989. It’s just a dream, we learn as Teen Witch wakes up in her Laura Ashley bedroom.

Also my bedroom style c. 1989 – 1999.

The family all sits around the breakfast table at the same time, being formal at each other.

Teen Witch’s best friend has dark hair and is 100% the person I thought was the Teen Witch based on the rap clip I’ve seen.

Anyway, Teen Witch (Louise) and Best Friend (Polly) wear those oversized, menswear, Annie Hall-type 80s clothes, which I find really underrepresented in the 80s-inspired fashion universe.

Cute look!

Teens just rap in the hallways. White boys. They’re dressed like the Uptown Funk video, or more accurately, the Uptown Funk video is dressed like them.

The cheerleaders sing and dance ‘I Like Boys’ in the locker room. THIS IS A MUSICAL?! This is a musical! I didn’t know.

I have so many things to say about the I Like Boys sequence, none of them probably search engine-friendly. You don’t strictly see anyone singing it, they just sort of prance in the locker room, having antics. As gals do, while telling you over and over that they like boys.

I probably don’t have to say this, but the ’80s teen hunk Louise is obsessed with is named Brad.

Louise goes to a creepy unpainted Victorian house to see someone named Madame Serena. The Victorian House trope is always interesting to me. By, say, the 1950s an 1890s Queen Ann Victorian was already known as a creepy witch/ ghost house. But in 2017, a house the same amount old (built in the 1950s) isn’t considered creepy. Our scary movies don’t involve a foreboding ranch house.

Madame Serena is a small psychic woman with a high voice, like in Poltergeist. She refers to Louise’s “cute little Punky Brewster face.” Ha.

Is Louise’s little brother going to turn into a rat ever? I feel like that happens in a lot of these kinds of movies.

Casting breakdown: Twerpy Younger Brother Who Gets Turned Into A Rat

An elderly health teacher has the kids chant ‘condom,’ which probably doesn’t happen in public schools? Or does it??

I think the only thing in the school’s soda machine is regular Coke.

Louise’s vest from her mom is “dorky” but with 28 years’ perspective, it doesn’t look any worse than anyone else’s outfits. Her dad has a big poinsettia sweater.

Wait but the nerd assuming Louise wears glasses, when she does not, is my whole life. Does this happen to everybody?

The nerd boy just looks like a hipster.

He’d be the hot friend on a CW series today.

“You think you’re hot stuff because you went to a dance. Nobody wants to date you because you’re a dog.. a dog… a dog!” That’s what kid brother says in that wavery scary voice before he TURNS INTO A DOG. I know I said rat before but I feel like I was close.

There’s a witch yearbook – “new faces of 1632” – and I choose to find it unrealistic that (1) they’re photographs and (2) not in 1600s-style clothing. The witch part is fine. Louise and Madame Serena are both in there. Does that mean all witches are reincarnated? Or they’re both 400 years old but went dormant and lost their memories for a while? I have questions.

Surely you all realized this already, but Madame Serena IS the actress from Poltergeist! I haven’t seen it since I was 7, but I was so certain it was her I had to IMDB it. What a very specific role to be typecast in.

It’s been almost an hour but I just realized that the character breakdown for Louise was absolutely “Molly Ringwald type.”

Louise has gone full witch, with love spells and a poppet.

Anyway, Louise voodoo poppets her awful English (?) teacher, a man whose classroom includes some weird stage with a desk and bookshelves on it, and who openly torments Louise every class. She makes him strip. ‘S funny.

Mean Teacher gets poppetted through a carwash on foot while the song “All Washed Up” plays, but the beginning of it sounds so much like Bad Romance. So much!

Ladies and gentlemen, the moment we’ve ALL been waiting for:

I thought there would be more context but, no. Also how I said it was a musical earlier? There was really just the locker room I Like Boys scene, then this. It’s like if I dreamed a kind-of musical about a Teen Witch, and an hour into the dream I realized I forgot to do songs.

Polly’s my favorite. It didn’t sound like the guy’s voice was coming from him?

Louise gets an ’80s perm, AKA she looks exactly like me if I air dry my hair, and a tapestry vest and a flouncy skirt. Hot stuff, indeed. She’s like Tiffany now. There’s a montage and all her outfits are super cute now.

It’s just Grease with witches, isn’t it?

The Sexy Sexy Saxophones are back, but this time Louise isn’t dreaming. She kisses Football Brad near a plaster-and-lathe wall.

Louise accidentally (?) magics the lead of the school play into breaking her leg, thus getting the lead role. I just thought witches had more control over their magic? Like with spells and wands. Louise is running this operation on poppets and hormones.

I’ve been checking how long there is left every 15 minutes or so.

Never have I ever seen a school dance scene that felt like it was the appropriate length. Like real school dances, it just goes on and on and on with very little happening.

In 1989, the bigger your hair was, the lovelier you were. Must have been nice to have such a clear formula.

I thought we’d get more clarification on the popularity-doesn’t-matter thing, but like Grease the messaging is not all that great.

To that end: the closing theme is “I’m gonna be the most popular girl. Gonna change my hair and makeup, soon you’re gonna see…”. There was nothing spooky in this whole movie – it was way too un-scary, actually – but this theme song would be PERFECT playing at the end of a dark, Black Mirror-y study of popularity at all costs.

Takeaway: I really like a lot of kiddie ‘scary’ movies, and I think witches are the coolest thing ever, but this didn’t 100% do it for me. Judging by my love for Hocus Pocus, I probably WOULD have liked this if I watched it first as a kid, though. It’s almost like it needed to be more witchy, or at least for the witch to have a more interesting objective than Football Brad.

 

EDIT: It’s been like 3/4 of a day since I watched Teen Witch and I find myself liking it more and more. Maybe it’s magic after all.

Podcast You Should Be Listening To If You Aren’t Already: 36 Questions

Going to a theater to see a musical? That is SO old school.

With 36 Questions, it’s taking musicals to the next level – an audio only story that you can listen to anywhere at anytime. CRAZY, I KNOW. Yes, the idea of musical podcast is novel in and of itself, however 36 Questions is the perfect piece of art to be the first of its kind in this platform, because it’s… actually good.

What’s It All About

In this three-part podcast musical starring Jonathan Groff and Jessie Shelton, a couple attempts to bring their marriage back from the brink of divorce using 36 revealing questions designed to make strangers fall in love.

Still not convinced? Here are a few more reasons that hooked me into the pod, and I hope they do for you too!

Groffsauce

Sure, he has the singing voice of an angel, but Jonathan Groff has the type of speaking voice that will make you wonder why you’ve ever listened to anyone else’ dumb voice all these years. The way Groff talks is like a silky blanket gliding over your person in a way that makes you feel fuzzy and warm inside yet slightly aroused. Sure if you’re a Broadway nerd, you’re used to hearing him in your ears on soundtracks like Hamilton and Spring Awakening, but this seems different. It’s more personal. And you can *hear* him acting in a way I’ve never felt before with Groff or any other musical theater soundtracks before. Every breath, every sigh, every silent pause is loud and clear, and it only elevates his performance even more. Also, as a friendly reminder, it’s JONATHAN FREAKING GROFF.

Jessie Shelton

The other half of this 3 hour couple fight is played by Jessie Shelton, who is a relative unknown outside of those who attend a lot of Off-Broadway shows (Hadestown, anyone?). Although you may not know her name, you’ll never forget her voice once you listen to this. At first, you think she has this child-like innocence to her, but there’s a worn-in feeling to her tone that makes you think she’s lived a lot of lives – which is perfect for this role. There’s so much pure and unforced emotion that comes out of Jessie that makes you feel for her with every word. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jessie finally makes it onto Broadway as a breakout star one of these days.

The Score Is Fantastic

There are two masterminds behind 36 Questions: Ellen Winter – a composer and playwright, and Christopher Littler – writer, director and composer. Together, they’ve created music and lyrics that fit perfectly in the contemporary genre along with Pasek & Paul (Dear Evan Hansen, Edges), Jonathan Larson (Rent, Tick Tick Boom), Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years, Songs For a New World), and Kerrigan-Lowdermilk (The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown). Groffsauce even has a few jazz-infused numbers that area a great complement to his character.

The Book is Fantastic

36 Questions has a The Last Five Years feel in that there are only two (human) characters throughout the entire musical – and it’s the conversation between two people who know each other so well. This history between them gives the podcast an even more intimate feel, not to mention there are heartbreaking moments, as well as scenes of pure hilarity that really just hit the sweet spot of the dramedy variety that I love so much. Not to mention, this musical was MADE to be a podcast, so it was written with audio only in mind, making each word even more important than the last.

The Play Is Happening In Your Ears

I’ve only really listened to talk show-type podcasts – your Pod Save Americas, your Gilmore Guys, your Serials. None of these have ever had foley artists working on the sound of creaking doors and furniture falling over from a room downstairs. Each individual sound is placed in the podcast for a reason, and it’s so vivid and clear that it actually makes you feel like you’re in a rural house (no spoilies). Podcasts already give a level of intimacy that other entertainment platforms like TV or movies can’t give, but when each sound you hear is intentional, it’s hard not to be drawn into this world.

A Happy Ending?

One of the great things I loved about this story is that I never actually knew how it was going to end. Obviously it’s a will they won’t they situation, but which way would the writers actually go? A three part, three hour musical that keeps you guessing is quite the feat, and one revolving romance? Well you’ll just have to find out if they get their happy ending or not.

Listen to 36 Questions  [subscribe on apple podcasts here or elsewhere]

TGIF Month: A Step by Step Live Blog

It’s Friday during TGIF Month, and you know what that means: gonna have some fun, show you how it’s done, and liveblog another TGIF pilot from Hulu. Up today: Step By Step, the blended-family sitcom that we liked, but which didn’t gain the nostalgia foothold of a Full House or even a Family Matters. Like most TGIF sitcoms, it starts in the aftermath of something bad happening to a nuclear family. It’s the ’90s!

Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

Original Air Date: 9/20/1991

Pilot Plot: While vacationing in the Caribbean, Frank and Carol get married, and when they return, have to deal with the conflicts between their children.

T: Definitely did not remember this show took place in Wisconsin. Definitely DID remember and will never forget this theme song/opening credits. Pitch: Step by Step cast reunites but they only recreate the opening credits as adults. That’s it. No episode. No series. Just that.

M: Yes, into it. For years I thought of the roller coaster every time I was (rarely) on one.

T: Port Washington, Wisconsin is a real town just north of Milwaukee on Lake Michigan. However, at the end of the credits when they zoom out on the roller coaster, the tide is so freaking strong it’s like the Pacific. What’s going on there?

M:  Before you @ us we grew up on a Great Lake, they’re massive and you can’t see across them but there’s not a TIDE.

We should have clocked the opening songs starting with week 1 of TGIF Month…  but this one was 1:51. Almost TWO MINUTES. Out of a sitcom episode’s 22 minutes. Just walking around a theme park in coastal Wisconsin.

T: I DON’T THINK I’VE EVER SEEN THIS PILOT. I have no recollection of ever being at Frank’s pig sty of a house before he moved in with Karen.  

M: If I saw it it was once, in maybe 1991. PS, I was always HORRIBLE at remembering which kids are bio-sibs. That’s why the Brady Bunch color-coded the kids’ hair.

T: I feel like there’s always a science project on the kitchen table.

T: Tag yourself, I’m Dana with a hint of Mark.

M: I’m also a Mark/Dana, with a bit of the littlest brown-haired boy who nobody remembers. Brandon or whatever. [Ed. note: Brendan I guess.]

T: That Suzanne Sommers sure is a fox.

M: Wait there was always a hair salon hooked onto the house? I have exactly ZERO recall of that. This is some Steel Magnolias nonsense.

Also, Suze and her blue kitchen both look GOOD and she knows it. I have the hugest crush on this kitchen.

T: Frank went on vacation. Carol went on vacation and met a man. Frank is Carol’s customer and they’re secretly dating/got married in Jamaica. You’re telling me that the premise of Step by Step is loosely based on Grease? Also is a marriage legal if you only get married in Jamaica?

M: What the hell sort of single parent who lives in a hair salon is going on freewheeling vacations to Jamaica? If they’d just throw us a line about Carol winning a radio contest this would make so much more sense.

T: Suzanne is classic 90s overacting and I AM SO INTO IT.

M: The music cues are every bit as dramatic, too.

T: LAKE MICHIGAN UPDATE: Found this on IMDb. Apparently I’m not the only one who noted this issue:

In the opening credits the amusement park is intended to be in Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan. However at the end of the credits the body of water can be see to have rather large waves on a calm day. These waves are much too large for Lake Michigan in the absence of a storm.

M: Yeah, those were some Edmund Fitzgerald-looking waves. (SEE, WE KNOW THE GREAT LAKES. Traci even worked at an amusement park right on one, like in the credits!)

T: Patrika Darbo’s outfit is so 90s that it’s in right now. 

M: This happens every week, but I am floored by how young the kids are, particularly JT who always seemed like basically an adult.

T: Guys, I’m genuinely enjoying this episode.

M: It’s so much fun! Which is weird because Step By Step gets a lot less nostalgia cred compared to a lot of other 90s sitcom.

T: “My God, here comes the Joad family,” a reference I do not understand.  I have not read Grapes of Wrath.

M: I can’t believe that was a reference that in the early ’90s, writers of a family sitcom just assumed their audience GOT.

Frank & Co. move in with random chairs and wooden things strapped to the top of their vehicle.

T: 14:00 The fashion in this show is on point.

“I don’t think this is gonna work. Our kids hate each other. I’m a nervous wreck and to tell you the truth we just don’t like livestock all that much.” – a Carol line I actually LOLed at

M: Suzanne Somers, in addition to being a total fox, has good timing and delivery.

T: Do we think Frank and Carol are actually still together in 2017? Discuss.

M: Well. I actually paused my TV to think about that and I’m of a few minds. I could see them being one of those couples that gets together after divorces than stay together forever. On the other hand I could see them both leaving for greener pastures when that random little blonde girl they had later went to college.

T: CAROL IS WEARING A JUMPSUIT.

T: Also, do families still have breakfast together?

M: I think my siblings’ kids do? Not in a formal way, but they have cereal or whatever. Bleh. Leave me alone in the morning.

T: Al looks like Steve from Blues Clues’ sidekick.

 

M: I’m in Al’s corner. She goes from zero to moving in with this random family with a giant blue kitchen and getting taken to the doctor by her dad’s hairdresser. Adults are the pits.

T: Like Family Matters, are we going to get an explanation on what happened to Frank and Carol’s significant others? This is not a detail I’ve kept in my head for 25 years.

M: I decided they were divorced, but did the exes just disappear? This is probably addressed somewhere. It’s been decades.

The twinkly music starts while Carol and Al have a touching convo about blended families and appendices.

T: “I’d like to be your friend because that’s the first step in become a family.”

M: “You and I have something in common. We both love your father.” YEESH.

T: I can’t get over how into this aesthetic I am.

M: Future post: Step By Step Is Our Aesthetic. I keep thinking about that kitchen with stars in my eyes.

T: Note to self: visit exterior of the Lambert house in Pasadena.

M: Carol has the cutest tortoiseshell glasses!

T: The audience was actually clapping at the end like it’s a live theater play. They really don’t make shows like they used to.

M: For better or worse.

T: I think I’m going to keep watching to find out what happens.

M: I could consume an unhealthy amount of this show without even realizing I was doing it. It’s like the Goldfish crackers of 90s sitcoms.

T: EDIT: HULU AUTOPLAYED THE NEXT EPISODE AND URKEL CRASHES THE DINNER. LIKE LITERALLY HAS A JET PACK ON AND CRASHES ON THEIR PICNIC OUTSIDE. I CAN’T. (I am and I will).

 

Inappropriate Reactions To Harvey Weinstein Bingo

Anyway, here’s a BINGO board.

Inappropriate Reactions To Harvey Weinstein
[Condemnation from somebody who still supports D.T.] “price of fame” “hush money” “Out of the woodwork” “To play devil’s advocate…”
“Our friends/sisters/ coworkers/ daughters” “He said/she said” [He never did anything to me so he never did anything to anyone] [Silence] “As the father of four daughters”
[Blame Hillary Clinton] “innocent until proven guilty” Free Space

Free Space
“he’s mentally ill” [H.W.’s net worth as motive for fabrication]
“If they had spoken up sooner this wouldn’t have happened to anybody else” [Calling man over the age of 25 a “kid”] “When men and women work together…” [I interrupt this comments section to defend Bill Cosby] “Why wouldn’t they say something at the time?”
“Things were different in the [60s/70s/80s]” “What are they asking for? Trouble.” “knowing that he’s married…” “What do you expect when…” [I interrupt this comments section to defend Woody Allen]

TTYL, AIM. LYLAS.

Well, it’s the end of an era. Our childhood is dying and we are all dinosaurs.

Last week, the folks at AOL announced that its trailblazing program, Instant Messenger, would be shutting down for good in December.

Like many millennials, I haven’t used AIM in years, but it was such an integral part to our lives when the internet was just becoming a thing in the late 90s/early 2000s. Before Snapchat, Instagram, GChat, Twitter, Facebook, and kinda before texting, there was AIM. It was social networking before we knew what social networking was. We’d spend all day at school with friends, only to go home and turn on AIM to talk to friends some more. We’d perfect our AIM profiles with the right quotes and shoutout to friends using their initials – it was a precursor to perfect a Facebook profile. It’s where we first learned how to abbrev – “brb”, “a/s/l?”, “nm, u?” etc. AIM let us make our first internet identities with vague SNs (screennames duh) that gave others a hint of our interests and/or hobbies (one of my first ones had “BSB” in it). We’d sneakily put our crush’s SNs on our buddy lists and get giddy when we heard the sound of the door opening and their name flash up on our ~*u kNo wHo*~ buddy list (1/1). If we were super bored, we’d open a new window for Smarter Child and see what they were up to. We’d put up elaborate away messages with way more info than we ever should’ve given out. Or if you’re like me, you’d just keep an away message on 24/7 even though you’re sitting in front of your computer and not, in fact, away.

Because I’m a hoarder of sorts – I like memories, OK – I was one of those people who installed a secondary program which automatically logged conversations with my friends. My archive only goes back to like, 2004 right before I started college, but boy oh boy did I find some gems. Re-reading all these got me thinking – why? Just why? But also, making an away message was like a first generation Facebook status update (IE: “Traci is… really upset that her VCR decided not to tape the last 5 minutes of the American Idol finale.”) It told a story about your mood, what you were doing, where you were doing it, who you were do it with, who you were thinking about while doing the thing – it gave a lot of details away – information superhighway, amirite?? After going through my archives, I noticed a few trends that made AIM the iconic fly trapped in amber that it is. Here are some of my favorite/questionable away messages, not only of my own, but also of some of my friends. Don’t worry, your identities are protected. To reiterate, these are REAL.

Various Ways to “Hit the Cell”

Following the popularity of AIM, cell phones became more and more common, specifically for use of the texting feature, which was basically like a portable version of AIM. So when you couldn’t sit and have a conversation with your friend because you’re in class, hit them on their Motorola Razor and you’d get in touch instantly. But what we needed to put at the end of the away message was the prompt. And as for me, I know I wanted variety. I can’t say, “leave love or hit the cell” all the time. Which is why some popular variations of this included, “cells good”, “hit the digits”, “make it vibrate” “make it ring”, “cell’s avail”, just in case you were confused that my phone WASN’T available. These days I don’t want anyone to contact me at all.

Deep Song Lyrics

“Deep” is a relative term. Here I am using lyrics from underrated Journey song “Don’t Stop Believin'”, which in my defense, was like our high school group’s theme song.

Ashlee Simpson? Yeah I guess I can’t really defend that.

I was a theater nerd. I went to a college with other theater nerds. This is actually too mainstream theater for school standards.

A Convo Between Friends IRL

First off, I’d like to say I was not offended by this conversation. Second, this was what AIM was really for. Having funny convos with friends and showing it off online to your other friends.

A Convo Between Friends on AIM

And the other half is having “hilarious” convos with friends online and copy and pasting into an away message because that’s cool. This isn’t even that funny. But it was funny to us at the time. A majority of our away messages were inside jokes that 5% of your buddy list would understand. But we did it anyways.

Taking a Shower

Like, why? Why did we do this?

Legitimate Schedule of Events

To continue from the shower bit, why? It was certainly a different time in terms of people being able to easily find your information and cyberstalk you, but we got so specific with our schedules. This was my friend’s day as an acting major.

this is my friend/co-worker who specifically asked his friends to call him, because, yes, that’s right, he has a life.

Meanwhile, I also gave a breakdown of the imporatant events in my day – a nightly TV schedule. And the last line isn’t a shout out to my homestate. It’s literally the VH1 reality TV program “I Love New York” featuring Tiffany “New York” Pollard.

Some Kind of Countdown

The away message not only told people when you were away and what you were doing when you were away, but it told a story of your future. Another popular trend was a countdown to whatever event you were looking forward to. “6 Days Until Spring Break!”, “1 More Day Until DF, TW, & SP ARRIVE!”, and “T-Minus 4 days until Project Turkey”, which was a thing I used freshman years of college for a v embarrassing thing.

Elaborate Text Art

I was such a sucker for these. It took creativity and skill to make an elaborate away message, even if it was just a few words (that could’ve been shortened to BRB).

Remember wingdings?! Or was this a webding? I could never tell the difference.

Farewell AIM, we’ll miss you. Put up a good away message for us before you go, ok?

TGIF Month: A Family Matters Live Blog

Welcome to the first installment of TGIF Month! Every Friday through October (and the first weekend of November), we’ll be watching and live blogging the pilot of five beloved sitcoms that aired during the iconic ABC TV block of programming, TGIF. Why? Because we can. Also, because a lot of these shows are now available on Hulu for the very first time, so we’re taking advantage of the nostalgia while we can.

First up is Family Matters, which centers on the Winslow family, a middle-class black family living in Chicago, Illinois. It is one of the longest-running non-animated sitcoms featuring a predominantly black family, having run 9 seasons. It was one of the biggest shows to come out of the TGIF lineup, and brought us one of the most iconic characters on TV history. #DidIDoThat. Let’s take a look back at the very first episode featuring the Winslows.

Season 1, Episode 1: The Mama Who Came to Dinner

Original Air Date: 9/22/1989

Pilot Plot: Mother Winslow asserts a little too much authority when she comes to live with her son Carl and his family.

T: Did we all know that Family Matters is a spin-off of Perfect Strangers (another TGIF program available on Hulu)? Because I definitely forgot that fact.

M: Definitely never knew it in the first place. We compared notes of our Perfect Strangers memories, and both of us just remember the opening credits. To be fair we were like 3.

T: There’s no cold open in the pilot, and it launches right into the opening credits with the unforgettable theme song, “As Days Go By”. It was catchy like a lot of the other TGIF theme songs – which makes sense, because many of them were written by a dude named Jesse Frederick, who’s probably super rich rn. Also, this reminds me of when we did our Cheers recaps because it LOOKS like the ’80s.

M: I still get warm, cozy feelings watching this theme song. It feels like being home after school during the winter when it was dark out early, to name a very specific cozy feeling.

T: This is an extended version of the theme song!!!

M: You know what doesn’t happen anymore? Those opening credits where (A) it’s a long – and I mean LONG – song and (B) they show little clips of the characters from the episodes.

T: Everything in their house looks so dark? As in the wood trim and paint look much darker than I remember? But that just might be a result of the TV pilot structure, when a lot of things are different than when they are in the rest of the series.

M: Funny enough, this came up in our Cheers recaps too – that it was so dark, not in tone but the actual palette. It is also of a fuzzier quality than I remember. I specifically remember watching ’70s sitcom reruns and being super-proud of the better picture quality of our early ’90s shows.

For what it’s worth, I’m sure the paint was brighter later. It’s a very dingy beige. The house is all shades of brown, like a McDonald’s meal.

T: I probably haven’t seen this show since I was living at home at watching reruns on Nickelodeon, but I don’t remember Carl having such an adverse reaction to his mother being around? Or is my memory just horrible and that was the entire premise of the show?

M: In my memory, the grandmother was BELOVED.

T: Is everyone overacting? Was that a 90s sitcom thing?

T: I’m V into Harriette’s sweater.

M: It’s the brightest thing in that whole drab house, is what it is.

T: Remember extemporaneous daughter Judy? I barely do.

M: In my memory she was Aunt Rachel’s child and they both moved, leaving Richie behind for whatever reason. Wrong. Just a childhood head-canon to make sense of Judy’s departure.

T: Eddie’s adorbs.

M: This show started when we were LITTLE (age 3) and as a result I always saw Eddie and Laura (and Judy for 5 seconds) as big kids. Oh my god, they are all absolutely adorable.

T: Wait, are they living in an apartment??

M: In later episodes the front door came from outside/the front porch, but here it definitely looks like an apartment hallway. Which is weird, because the house is, like the Full House house, ENORMOUS with extraneous doors and hallways everywhere.

T: Kind of upset this episode doesn’t have Urkel in it. Didn’t realize that he wasn’t introduced until halfway through the first season!

M: That’s right…  he wasn’t planned to be a big part of the show, but audiences loved them some Jaleel White.

T: Do they ever reveal why Rachel is a single mother?

M: Now I’m picturing 1990 execs suddenly realizing they had put a single mother on TV and pulling Rachel during hiatus.

T: This is the type of outfit I always picture Mama to be in.

M: I like how old people on TV always used to be stuck in another century. Speaking of which, I IMDB’d it and Rosetta LeNoire (Mama) was born in 1911. WHAT. Time is a crazy thing. We’re youngish adults in 2017 reminiscing about a lady who was born when the Titanic was still a promising venture. And her godfather was Bill Bojangles Robinson!

T: UPDATE: Rachel’s husband Robert died so that’s why Rachel and Richie had to move in with Carl and fam. It’s like Full House but Danny Tanner is a supporting character.

M: True Story: My brother and his kids moved in with my parents after my sister-in-law died and I always refer to our family situation as “a real Miller-Boyett production.” Also, why does Rachel ask Laura if she “remembers” an event that had to have happened a couple months ago, and is a huge deal? (Exposition, is why.)

Harriette: Girls, don’t argue at the dinner table.

Laura (to Judy): Ok, let’s take it outside

Do not mess with young Laura.

T: THIS BOLO TIE ENSEMBLE

M: If I was several years older I’d have been all about Eddie. Despite those pleated slacks.

M: Mama says “it’s almost the 90s.” Did we know that “it’s the 90s” as a catch-phrase started before the 90s even did?!

T: Carl’s heart-to-heart with Mama included a musical cue of emotional music as soon as he hit the main talking point in his conversation, which I just realized is a common denominator in all these 90s family sitcoms. Danny Tanner assuring Stephanie he still loves her after accidentally driving a car into the kitchen? Cue the emo music.

M: My main thing is when the emotional music is THE THEME SONG SLOWED DOWN AND INSTRUMENTAL. Full House always did that, but the Brady Bunch perfected it first. “it’s the sto-o-o-ry of the lovely la-a-a-dy”

T: Eddie moved to the attic to let his grandma stay in his room, but it still looks like an attic? Like they couldn’t have cleaned it up and moved the misc. furniture and knick knacks to another location?

M: And they live in Chicago, so that attic will be hot in the summer and freezing in the winter. And there’s a grandfather clock in the attic and downstairs. How many grandfather clocks does a family need?

T: Of course Harriette, Rachel and Mama are singing He’s Got The Whole World in His Hands and OMG THEY JUST PANNED OUT THE SHOW THE FAMILY IN THE WINDOW SURROUNDING THE PIANO AND SINGING, WHICH IS IN THE CREDITS!

M: During the credits I almost said “this show involves far fewer family old-fashioned piano parties than the credits would have you believe.” Which was all-the-way wrong.

T: I feel like I’ve never even seen this episode before, and despite the fact that it’s corny like most 90s sitcoms, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

M: I also don’t remember this one (and haven’t watched Family Matters since I was a child), but I could see putting on episodes as sort of soothing background TV now that it’s on Hulu. Love those Winslows!

Pop Culture Blind Spot: Teen Wolf (1985)

Welcome back to the spookiest month of pop culture blind spots! (October. The spookiest month is October). I started us off with The Shining, one of the most iconic horror movies of all time, so I don’t feel bad for dialing it way, way back this time and watching Teen Wolf.

What I think Teen Wolf is about: Michael J. Fox plays a teenage basketball player who discovers that he is a werewolf; he has to hide it from his friends and from the requisite 80s movie cute blonde girl; in the end she’s fine with it or maybe is a werewolf herself.

Hulu short description: A teenage boy’s incredible werewolf powers improve the quality of his life in dramatic and hilarious ways.

Look, if the grossest thing we see this whole movie is the sweaty teen face close-up we open on, it will be gross enough.

Michael J. Fox (Scott) goes into his coach’s office, mentions that he is “changing,” coach apologizes for not noticing but says he hasn’t been in the locker room much. A few things:

  1. APOLOGIZES FOR NOT NOTICING BUT HASN’T BEEN IN THE LOCKER ROOM MUCH
  2. I think it’s fine and actually v good if adults don’t notice teens’ puberty stuff
  3. In locker room situations, didn’t you always assume that nobody was really looking at you? Well you were wrong.

Everything is exactly as it should be in ’80s teen movie land: Scott has a Brunette Platonic Friend(TM) and a Blonde Crush. He works at a folksy, cluttered hardware store. The school’s theater director wears a turtleneck and a tweed blazer. Blonde Crush Pamela has a tough-guy boyfriend in double denim.

Honestly this is the whole thing in one photo.

Scott demands a keg at the liquor store, his eyes glowing red which is an early werewolf thing.

The one thing most 2010s depictions of the 80s are lacking: the intensely feathered and permed bangs that are all over the place in this teen party scene.

Peep the young Andy Samberg lookalike.

Does Scott have a mom? Single-parent households were the thing in 80s movies.

Importantly, Scott grows fangs and nasty thick nails before morphing into a full fur-face; more importantly, the green tiled bathroom was out of style for so long that it’s in again. I’d love that bathroom.

Scott is the only person, other than me, who says “jeez Louise” in moments of stress and panic.

There was a D.P. who was REALLY feeling this downward ceiling-shot in the bathroom.

Post-werewolf Dad (Dad’s also a werewolf BTW) looks so much like Jim-Bob Duggar.

Not sure if it’s the sound mix on Hulu or the sound cues in general, but the background music is so jerky and loud, bad and jarring. No shade to the music supervisor: it was the style of the time.

There is some very extra-casual use of f*g and I thank my lucky stars that it is 2017, not 1985. I only hope that 32 years from now, people are horrified by the things we say in movies today, too.

Everyone in the school is very cool about wolf-Scott. (SCOTT WOLF! Would have been a relevant thing to say 15 years ago.) Scott’s dad understands. There is basically zero conflict at this point in the film, except for a vice principal. Come to think of it, Scott’s friend Stiles was significantly nastier when he thought Scott was maybe-gay than when he thought he was definitely-wolf.

Platonic Brunette gives Blonde Crush a t-shirt, which is “too big for me.” Shade.

Season 1 Joey Potter-level sass.

The theater director is now in a cowl-neck with seemingly no shirt underneath, which is itchy and sweaty.

Pam & Scooter hang out backstage, where she is just in a bra and underwear, but it’s 1985 so like, white granny panties and a plain white bra. They hook up. She seems to really, really want him to turn into a wolf, which I mean, if that’s what you’re into it’s fine.

Scott calls his teammate “chubby” and “chubaroo,” and you’d think a wolf-teen would be more cool about other people’s body situations.

Scott thinks he’s hot stuff because he goes to a school dance in wolf mode.

I don’t know if I’m more confused as to why vice principal and Blonde Crush’s boyfriend hate werewolves so much, or why literally everybody else is so nonchalant about werewolves.

The only time I like a sports montage is when the movie description includes the phrase “rag-tag misfits.”

The twinkly, inspirational song that ends the basketball game! Oh my goodness. It’s like the same song that plays at the end of every 1980s to early ’90s teen movie. The entire ending sequence is all b-ball, no wolves, BTW.

That’s the end of it – they win a ball game.

One thing I forgot to mention is that Platonic Brunette’s name is Boof. I kept thinking it was a nickname for something that I missed (Lisa, per the internet), but the end credits confirm. Boof.

Top 10 Videos That Defined The OG TRL

Today, a new generation of kids will be introduced to Total Request Live, a fan-voted music video countdown show on a network that’s become known for not showing music videos. Of course, for millions of millennials across the country, TRL is a trigger for a time in your life where you either watched it religiously, or didn’t give a shit about the most popular TV show amongst your peers.

For me, I fell into the first category, making it a point to be sitting in front of the TV home alone at 3:30pm, relaxing after school and hoping my faves would make the countdown. I taped it when I wasn’t home, voted multiple times on the phone and online, and true story: was even the “TRL Fan of the Week” in 2002. Carson Daly said my name, my profile was featured on the website, and I use it as the one-line bio for my internet profiles.

Carson Daly not only hosted the show and introduced all the videos, but he interviewed the hottest stars in not just music, but TV, movies and more in the heart of Times Square. Today, Carson is a permanent fixture a few blocks away at The Today Show and the hosts of the new TRL are DC Young Fly, Tamara Dhia, Amy Pham, Erik Zachary and Lawrence Jackson, who are all apparently people that would entice the kids to watch TRL. Oh, but that’s not all. The revamped TRL also includes “content creators” Liza Koshy and the Dolan Twins, while Eva Gutowski, Gabbie Hanna and Gigi Gorgeous will be the show’s social media correspondents. Because it’s 2017. Again, I had to vote for music videos via telephone.

I might be slightly out of touch with the youngins these days and not recognize a lot of the artists on TRL’s new countdown, but what I can tell you is that our TRL featured iconic artists and music videos that defined a generation. Here’s (my) list of top 10 videos that made a huge impact on the show and will always be remembered in the TRL era.

10 – Ricky Martin, Livin’ La Vida Loca

Ah, the song that introduced the Latin heartthrob to anyone that wasn’t a Menudo or General Hospital fan. He was sexy, his songs were catchy, and his bon bon shook that made women (and men) fall intro a trance. Livin’ La Vida Loca is arguably Ricky’s biggest hit, but it helped also reintroduce Latin music into the mainstream again, with stars like Marc Anthony, Shakira and Enrique Igelsias becoming chart-toppers too. The video was a staple on TRL and even won Best Pop Video and Best Dance Video (because there’s a lot of dancing?) at the ’99 VMAs.

9 – Limp Bizkit, Nookie

I admit it: I was a teenybopper. I had an aversion to rock bands (white guys), but jumped on the bandwagon if said rock bands were featured on TRL (or were liked by the boys I had crushes on in middle school). Nookie of course was one of Limp Bizkit’s biggest mainstream hits, but it was also their first number one video on the TRL chart, and I still think Carson Daly had something rigged to get his pal Fred Durst on the show.

8 – Destiny’s Child, Survivor

Destiny’s Child had been around long before Survivor – in fact, the first iteration with Letoya and Latavia made the rounds early on with hits like Say My Name and Bills, Bills, Bills but they hit the jackpot when Michelle came in and because DC3 as we know them today. Survivor was all about strong independent women, and the camo lewk was one that many teen girls attempted to create.

7 – Christina Aguilera, Come on Over

You know what MTV should actually reboot? Making the Video. I specifically remember Xtina giving us a behind-the-scenes look for this music video, which made it all the more exciting to watch when it was on TRL. This era was prime time for pop princesses like Christina, which is why it’s hard to choose just one for her on this list. Genie in a Bottle? Yup. What a Girl Wants. Yessir. Dirrrty? Mhm. I really miss the late 90s.

6 – Kid Rock, Bawitdaba

Listen, I hate that I have to even put Kid Rock anywhere on the blog but here we are. This song still makes no sense to me, but it was catchy and crossed the line of rock/metal/rap that the TRL generation hadn’t really seen before. It deserves a spot on this list, and now I’m done talking about Kid Rock.

5 – Blink 182, What’s My Age Again?

TRL was the accessible way for non-pop pop stars to make it in the mainstream, and Blink 182 took advantage of this by parodying all the pop stars who topped the TRL list. It was meta and it worked and was one of the most iconic videos (I know I keep saying that, but it’s true) of the TRL era.

4 – Britney Spears, Lucky

The real pop queen deserves multiple spots on this list, so like Christina, it was difficult to choose just one. Lucky featured Brit as a Hollywood star who, while she seemed happy, wealthy and healthy on the outside, wasn’t so much on the inside. #2007. I think this best describes the fame that came with her being one of the biggest stars to come out of the TRL era.

3 – Eminem, The Real Slim Shady

There weren’t many (if any) shows in the late 90s/early 2000s that allowed Eminem to be played next to Britney Spears in a daily countdown, but that was also the magic of TRL. Eminem (another one of Carson’s cronies) blew up during this time, and over the course of the decade the show was on, Em was number one nearly 100 times with various songs, so it was clear Slim Shady was the real deal.

2 – *NSYNC, Bye Bye Bye

I have only listened to Bye Bye Bye maybe like 10 times max in my entire life. Why? I was a teenybopper/Backstreet Boys fan who refused to hear *NSync’s biggest hit. I’d turn the station or channel any time it was on and have legit sat down at a wedding because it played at the reception (that happened this past June). But real recognized real. Boy bands dominated TRL, no more so that BSB and *NSync. I couldn’t tell you anything about this video because I’ve never watched it, but I CAN tell you I’m v familiar with the gif of JT as seen in the above still. V FAMILIAR WITH JT.

1 – Backstreet Boys, I Want It That Way

Am I biased? Yes. But am I wrong? Probably not. IWITW is easily the boys’ biggest hit and it was the song that started the mania. By the time their Millennium album released, IWITW was already a huge hit, and to celebrate, BSB took over TRL – and so did their fans who took over Times Square. It was insane. But it also showed the power that fans had over this show. TRL was ours. We felt like we had power in what we wanted to see on TV. We got to see our heroes either on TV or in person with some sort of weird ownership that we hadn’t felt before. And for the next generation’s sake, I hope they feel the same way too.

Fixed It For Ya: Popular Tweets, Inflated To 280 Characters

The 140-character tweet is pulling a 280, like it or not. It feels a bit like your third-grade teacher assigning a haiku then saying “but it can be as long as you want.” That’s not a haiku, it’s free verse; 280 characters isn’t a tweet, it’s a screed. Besides, with so much vile speech spewing from Twitter, do we really need it to be twice as long?

To play around with the new confines, I’m looking at some of the most-liked and most-retweeted tweets of all time  and inflating them to 280 characters.

A note: most of these come in well under Twitter’s 140 character limit to begin with, and that’s the real takeaway here. Even if the Twitter character limit doubles, you can still be as brief as you wanna be.

Before:

After:

HELP ME GOD, OH MY DEAR LORD, WON’T THE PEOPLE OF TWITTER COME TO MY AID, PLEASE. I IMPLORE YOU. A MAN – THIS MAN, ME, CARTER WILKERSON, NEEDS HIS NUGGS. NUGGETS. I NEED NUGGETS AND I NEED YOUR RETWEETS. THERE ARE 18 MIL RETWEETS BETWEEN ME AND ONE YEAR’S SUPPLY OF WENDYS NUGGETS

Before:

After:

If only Bradley’s arm was longer. If only Angelina lifted her head a few inches. If only four subjects weren’t in the same outfit. If only we had included one unattractive person for contrast. If only we had all agreed on a filter. This would truly be the Best photo ever. #oscars

Before:

After:

Hi everybody! Back to the original handle. Is this thing still on? Ok good. Michelle and I are “off on a quick vacation” AKA I’m still president but we can’t tell the other guy. DON’T TELL HIM, OK. Gotta make it look like I’m Eat Pray Loving for 2 wks then we’ll get back to work.

Before:

After:

LIMONADA.x
I’M INTERNET FAMOUS & COULD PUT ANY RANDOM NOUN/EMOJI COMBO HERE & GET A CRAZY NUMBER OF RTs. IT WAS LIMONADA🚊 BUT COULD’VE BEEN
BIBLIOTECA🚀
OR
MAQUILLAJE 🧗‍♂️
OR
PAYASO🕰️
REMEMBER THAT REALLY CLEVER QUIP YOU MADE YESTERDAY THAT GOT 0-2 LIKES?
ANYWAY HERE’S LIMONADA