Salute Your Shorts Live Blog: Zeke The Plumber – Open Air Toilets & Brain Plunging

In keeping with our Social Media Hashtag week, we’re celebrating #ThrowbackThursday and the 25th birthday of Salute Your Shorts by rewatching the favorite episode of my childhood, Zeke The Plumber (don’t worry, this isn’t one of our real theme weeks …. but the one we have on deck next week is gonna be non-stop, if you know what I mean, and I think you do). We only had five days during Big Orange Couch Week, and we focused on Are You Afraid Of The Dark, Clarissa Explains It All, The Secret World of Alex Mack, The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, and All That. But if you were a 90s Kid (TM), you’ll also hold Camp Anawana in your hearts. And when you think about it, it makes you wanna fart. Which was a great joke when you were 6. 

You can watch the episode here! Or, preferably, somewhere legal instead. Ready? Go!

  • The episode opens with a child holding a 90s camcorder and narrating a walk through the woods for his parents. Remember camcorders? And how if you didn’t have a heavy, expensive piece of equipment and the ability to convert those little cassettes to videotape, your memories just had to live in your brain?
  • Sometimes, we look back on terrible haircuts of the past and think “well, it was fashionable then. Times change and someday we’ll all think we look dumb now, too.” This isn’t one of those times. I knew Budnick’s red mullet was bad when I was in kindergarten, and I know it now. Looking back, it actually might be the first time in my whole life I identified that somebody had bad hair.

    But also, this wasn’t totally out of left field in the early 90s – it’s not like he made up this weird hairdo. The 90s did.

  • It’s almost on the fence between ‘mullet’ and ‘too much of your hair is bangs.’ MAKE UP YOUR DAMN MIND BUDNICK.
  • I, um… I don’t remember if I noticed that Ug Lee’s name was “ugly” as a kid. I do remember assuming that he was Budnick’s dad or uncle, because wherever two or more redheads are gathered, I will assume that they’re related. (My childhood BFF and I were both tiny freckly gingers; we loved that people thought we were sisters.)

    No but. They do look alike, right???

     

  • Let’s talk about the theme song. First of all, why do people/Ug put zinc oxide just on their noses? I’ve never had a sunburn that encapsulated just my nose but surely there’s a reason. Also, this may be the genesis of me thinking it was super dorky that I had to wear sunscreen all the time. Anyway, all of the characters are set up in the opening credits. ZZ is a goody-goody who loves nature (she’s Dawn from the Baby-Sitters Club, mas o menos), Ug doesn’t know what’s going on around him, Donkey Lips is a Bobby Moynihan character, Budnick is a shit-stirrer with silly hair, Telly likes sports, Dina is the pretty popular girl, and Sponge is small. There’s a blonde boy I don’t remember well (Michael) who was just … regular … I think? Like if Salute Your Shorts were a movie, he would have been played by one of the Corys.

  • The kids are telling ghost stories and I have questions. Are they supervised? And where did they get all those candles? And matches? Does anyone else think this looks like a huge fire haz? I never went to camp; this all may be very normal.
  • The gist is: Zeke the Plumber was a camp plumber who had no nose. He hit a gas pipe, couldn’t smell the gas and lit a match (I HAVE MORE QUESTIONS, like why would he light a match in the first place, and why are there so many damn matches at this camp, and surely he knew he punctured a pipe, ok?). So Zeke dies and only his plunger was left behind, which I don’t think he needs in a hole with a match, but I’m not a plumber so what do I know.
  • Wow all of these kids are so young! I thought Dina and Z.Z. were so cool and sophisticated and they looked like literal babies:

  • Zeke the Plumber appears in the boys bunk, spending his afterlife plunging children’s toilets, which seems like an odd choice but you do you, Zeke. More specifically, he is plunging the OPEN AIR TOILET THAT JUST HANGS OUT IN THE BUNK ALL THE TIME. Was this there before? And is this camp or prison?!

  • On a related note, I have a weird ghost toilet in my basement and the floor drain near it started spewing water last week …. and all I could think was “in what universe would someone need a haunted toilet in their basement anyway?” I’ll tell you what: a universe in which you’re keeping someone in your basement. That’s all.
  • Nevermind. Zeke was a dream. He “found” Michael’s stuffed hippo in the toilet and plunges his brain.
  • How expensive do we think this camp is?
  • Now, via dream,  Zeke tells Telly he can turn her into a professional ball player, plunges her brain, and sends her to a ball instead. But all the kids dream Zeke the same so he’s obviously real, right?
  • Sponge has an enormous laptop, because this was still that era where being really into owning a computer meant you were a nerd on TV. For a moment I think he’s about to look up Zeke the Plumber, but then I remember that we were years away from it being normal to have internet access, and even more years away from wifi. Maybe that nerd-o was playing Oregon Trail or Carmen Sandiego.
  • Now Budnick is going to spend the night in the woods at the spot where Zeke died. Hold on, I have questions again. How do they know, and why was he digging a hole in the middle of the woods, and why is there a gas pipe in the middle of the woods?
  • The kids all set out to punk Budnick to get him back for scaring them with the Zeke the Plumber story.
  • The punkers become the punk-ees, as Budnick replaces himself with a dummy with a melon-head and sets off soda cans.
  • Ug impersonates Zeke and Budnick catches him in a rope trap, and I know I’m getting old because all of this seems like a lot of damn work just to prove a point.
  • Ug looks exactly like all the kids imagined Zeke The Plumber, which in my estimation means that he’s a real ghost after all.
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Camp Cookies + Sangria: Movies And TV Shows For The Camper In You

Summer camp? If you’re over the age of 20 or so, you probably don’t have time or money for that. Besides, if you’re over the age of 20 and have always dreamed of going to camp, the only way to get there is going to have to be by impersonating a kid. [Sounds like a good camp movie, right? I’m adding it to my to-write list; it sounds like an ABC Family-level concept.]

While you may not have two weeks and thousands of dollars to go off to camp, these movies and TV shows can transport you there – if only for a few hours at a time.

Movies

The Parent Trap

The movie: The Parent Trap – Hayley Mills and Lindsay Lohan versions alike – is tween girl wish-fulfillment, served straight-up. Think about it: realizing you have a secret twin. Living in London with a cool wedding gown designer mom, or in Napa with a fun dad and horses. Divorced parents reconciling. And the big one — spending six weeks at a camp where you’re given free reign to play poker, pull elaborate pranks, pierce your ears and try out a new hairstyle. No, really — where were the counselors?

For would-be campers who: are, or ever were, an 11-year-old girl; or, who want to give 11-year-old Lindsay Lohan a hug, a copy of a 2007-era US Weekly or Star Magazine, and a stern talking-to.

Troop Beverly Hills

The movie: Not technically a camp flick, this 1989  classic follows a group of rich girls trying to become real Girl Scouts.

For would-be campers who: like camping in theory, but realistically would rather have a slumber party in a hotel.

Addams Family Values

The movie: Your typical fish-out-of-water scenario — Pugsley and Wednesday Addams go to camp, finding themselves at odds with “camp culture.” The Harmony Hut scene still cracks me up.

For would-be campers who: will not – nay, can not – sing Kum Ba Ya or participate in group bonding activities.

Wet Hot American Summer

The movie: A counselor-centric comedy, this is a pastiche of 80s teen films and summer romances. Also, Amy Poehler. Paul Rudd. Molly Shannon. Bradley Cooper. AND SO ON.

For would-be campers who: suspect that the counselors are the ones having the real fun.

Camp Nowhere

The movie:  With the exception of Lisa Loeb dancing the Macarena while wearing a slap-bracelet and sporting the Rachel, this is probably the most 90s thing you’ll ever see.  Kids tell their parents they’re going to various fake summer camps, but actually create their own dream camp. It’s sort of a trumped-up version of the TV trope where kids tell their parents they’re staying at eachothers houses in order to go somewhere they shouldn’t.

I think there was also a wacky cop.

For would-be campers who: love summer fun, but hate the man.

Heavyweights

The movie:  A group of kids eat their way through fat camp. Most of them were “90s-fat,” not “HBO documentary series on childhood obesity-fat”.

For would-be campers who: hate-read weight loss articles or obsess over “fitspo” on Pinterest and Tumblr.

Meatballs

The movie: A quintessential camp comedy and a clear inspiration for Wet Hot American Summer. Classic Bill Murray vehicle.

For would-be campers who: approach competitive events with the cry of “it just doesn’t matter!”

Camp

The movie: A teenage Anna Kendrick stars in a musical comedy about teens at theater camp; complete with requisite Gay Theater Boys (TM) and acapella moments that will make you tear up.

For would-be campers who:  are former, or current, drama nerds.

Moonrise Kingdom

The movie: A very sweet, super-Wes Anderson-y tale about two kids (literal kids) in love against the odds.

For would-be campers who: enjoy a bit of visual interest and can maintain a healthy suspension of disbelief.

Indian Summer

The movie: Part of a wave of early 90s camp movies that I never quite realized happened until I was compiling this post, Indian Summer follows a group of adults taking a last-chance stab at the camp experience. I think it wanted to be The Big Chill. It isn’t.

For would-be campers who: Are adults who think camp still sounds like a blast. (If this sounds like you, stay tuned for our post on throwing your own “camp!”)

 

Television

Salute Your Shorts

The show:  An anchor of the early 90s Nickelodeon schedule, Salute Your Shorts had some awesome characters and a theme song that’s probably still stuck in your head.

For would-be campers who: had cable as children.

Hey Dude!

The show: Hey Dude! was nearly interchangeable with Salute Your Shorts – again, the early 90s Camp-Based Entertainment Boom was a real thing — and probably the reason I still long to go to camp as a full-grown adult.

For would-be campers who: are pretty into horses or Southwestern decor.

Bug Juice

The show: Bug Juice was an early incarnation of the reality show and provides a true-to-life look at what camp is really like.

For would-be campers who: are reality TV junkies; watched and can remember Kid Nation.

 

Camp Cookies + Sangria: For Grown-Ass Adults Who Never Got To Go To Summer Camp

This one goes out to all us grown-ass adults who still feel a little bitter that we never got to go to summer camp.

Does The Parent Trap – both Mills and Lohan – make you feel culturally alienated and more than a little wistful? Then I’m talking to you.

In our younger years, we non-campers had the worst summer vacation stories when we reunited with our friends in September. Our camper friends had all new social groups and secret camp identities. You know what’s NOT a great story? “I got a fun new nickname – from my brothers!” See, we all may have spent our summer doing the same activities, like swimming and hiking …. but us non-campers were with our siblings instead. (Lame-sauce Camp Substitute #1: having a big family.)

Our friends would tell us that you “just can’t understand camp” if you didn’t go. Yeah. We know. That is like telling me that I “just can’t understand yacht ownership” or “don’t know what it’s like to be married to Idris Elba.” Trust me, camp was not a luxury we chose to forego. Telling us that we couldn’t conceive of how totally awesome it is only made us feel worse.

Camp Envy is a disease of the middle class, like tennis elbow or credit card debt. You may have contracted Camp Envy if your folks had too much money to qualify for financial aid, yet not enough to enlist you in the sleepaway elite. My parents claimed they couldn’t afford camp, so one year I told them that I had heard there were camp scholarships and even special camps for low-income kids! That’s when I learned that I was not, in fact, low income. My disappointment at missing out on camp was somewhat tempered by the pride of forcing my parents to admit that they had sort-of lied. As it were, budget-wise I got private school instead of camp. (Lame-sauce Camp Substitute #2: Nuns.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I did get to go to theater day camp, but there were no cabins. No lake. No fires. No camp nicknames. I think we can all agree that for Camp Envy purposes, day camp isn’t “camp.” It’s school, but with all the rote learning replaced with creativity or sports. There was also some sort of a local Gilda’s Club camp I would have qualified for in high school, but let’s be real. If there’s anything worse than a parent having cancer when you’re 15, it’s being expected to macrame about it. Or make a Popsicle stick house for your feelings. Okay, I’m actually not sure what goes on at camp, since I never got to go.

I imagine it’s basically like Troop Beverly Hills without Baby Jenny Lewis, right?

I thought that Camp Envy was behind me until yesterday. It was Camp Day at Tim Hortons. For those of you not from Canada or Almost-Canada, Tim Hortons is a ‘cafe and bake shop’ that sends over 15,000 children to camp every year through its charitable foundation. On Camp Day, proceeds from all coffee purchases go to sponsor campers. You can also add $1 or $5 to your purchase to help kids buy, I’m guessing, boondoggle equipment and s’mores ingredients. My initial reaction? “Screw them! I didn’t get to go to camp, you don’t get to go to camp!” (Lame-sauce Camp Substitute #3: Some coffee)

By the time I made my order — coffee, iced and black like my envious soul – I had thought better of depriving polite Canadian children of their time-honored right to get weird rashes and learn all of the verses to American Pie. Instead, this summer, we will turn our blog into an occasional “camp” for those of us who didn’t get the experience as kids. Grown-ass adults who DID go to camp, you can play, too! Just refrain from telling us that we can’t imagine how magical camp was. We watched Bug Juice and Salute Your Shorts; we know.

So, consider this the opening of Camp Cookies + Sangria. We’ll sprinkle camp-themed posts throughout the summer. We can help you create your own mini-camp with friends, teach you fun crafts, and delve into “camp culture” by discussing movies that always made us want to sleep in cabins and eat at mess halls.

If you never got your chance at sleepaway camp, but always harbored a secret belief that you would have been a freaking amazing camper, come on over! If you were a freaking amazing camper, we want you too (and we’re happy you got to realize your potential)! Whenever you see a post tagged Camp Cookies + Sangria, you know that we have summer fun in store. Minus the weird rashes.

90s Nickelodeon Shows – And Today’s Adult Equivalents

Buzzfeed, Tumblr, and your Facebook friends won’t let you forget it, and neither will we: 90s kids are adults now, and we’re all still really, really passionate about the 90s. Can you blame us? The 90s were a great time for kids’ culture. With so many Baby Boomers having children from the late 70s to the mid-90s, there were a lot of us growing up then. The economy hadn’t tanked yet, and 911 was still just an emergency phone number. Nickelodeon was at the forefront of it all, promoting a “pro-kid” culture and presenting kids as cooler and smarter than adults. If people want to blame Millenials for forming a mass internet-culture that older folks can’t penetrate, it all started with Nickelodeon and its ‘us against them’ attitudes.

Today’s TV networks aren’t stupid. They know what Millenials want. That’s why, for every beloved Nickelodeon show from our youth, there is an adult equivalent on the air right now:

Are You Afraid Of The Dark = American Horror Story

Are You Afraid Of The Dark: From the second you heard those creaky swings and eerie theme music, you knew you were in for a scare. The midnight society gathered every week to tell stories and throw some sort of weird sand into a camp fire, and we were right there with them. I watched every week as a five-year-old, even turning off the lights for an extra scare. We liked this show because it didn’t underestimate kids. There were real ghosts, vampires, and murders in Are You Afraid of the Dark – it wasn’t that weak-sauce kid stuff where the creaking in the attic was just a leaky pipe, or the ‘ghost’ was just a beekeeper in a bonnet (I’m looking at you, The Adventures Of Mary Kate And Ashley). If you didn’t love the story one week, you’d just wait until the next Saturday when you’d get a whole new plotline to scare the pants off of you and make you ask your mom if she will let you sleep with the hall light on. That’s right – a children’s horror anthology series. Can you really blame us for missing the 90s?

American Horror Story: Like Are You Afraid Of The Dark, American Horror Story is a spooky anthology. However, to account for adult attention spans, each season tells a different story, instead of each episode. This show touches on all aspects of the horror film genre – psycho killers, ghosts, aliens, nuns, evil doctors, Anne Frank, witches, a pinhead, The Black Dahlia … it’s like a winning hand of Apples To Apples.

An aside: I just finished watching Season 2 of AHS. Somebody told me to start with that one because Coven isn’t on Netflix yet, and Season 1 would scare me more. Now that I’m done, I have to wonder – if Asylum was this freaky, what the hell could possibly happen in Murder House? Don’t worry, I’m starting it this week, because I’m an adult now and I’m in charge of my own hall light.

Clarissa Explains It All = Girls + The New Girl

Clarissa Explains It All:A young woman with ambitions of being a journalist lives in a cooler bedroom than you can imagine having. She is supported by her academic parents. She has constant fallings-out with her brother Ferguson, and the undying support of her buddy Sam. She dresses like a cool hobo. Lots of tights. Clarissa has a creative solution to every problem and gets into a lot of scrapes because she sort of doesn’t think everything through.

Girls: A young woman with ambitions of being a writer lives in a cooler apartment than you can imagine having. She is supported by her academic parents. She has constant fallings out with her friends, yet somehow retains their constant support. She dresses like a cool hobo.

The New Girl:  It’s almost like Jess Day and Hannah Horvath are two different versions of how Clarissa could have turned out. Jess and Clarissa have a lot in common. The first word you’d use to describe them is “quirky.” They have wacky clothes. They have a cool home. And – unlike Hannah Horvath – they both have fun, sunny attitudes toward life. So, if Clarissa went to college, became an el-ed major, and held onto her obsession with tights, you have Jess. If Clarissa decided to become a hipster in college, started writing for the school literary mag and reading a lot of McSweeney’s, and went to slightly seedier college parties, she graduated and became Hannah.

Salute Your Shorts = Community

Salute Your Shorts: A group of teens are thrown together for summer camp, and form all of the bonds and rivalries that you’d expect in that kind of close situation. They work both with and against the camp’s administration (counselor Ugg) and truly become a community of their own. There are even themed genre episodes – Zeke The Plumber, everyone? The characters are surprisingly well-developed for a kids’ show, with the jock, nerd, and popular girl presented as being complex people instead of just stereotypes.

Community: A group of adults are thrown together in community college, and through forming a study group, they become a… well, community of their own as well. Like in Salute Your Shorts, there is a love for Greendale Community College, but just like the kids at Camp Anawanna, they also have to work against it sometimes. I don’t think I even need to tell you about the genre episodes. Character development is a big deal on this show, too, and the former athlete and the brainy liberal arts girl aren’t just two-dimensional.

Hey Dude = Brooklyn Nine Nine

Hey Dude: Somehow, a bunch of teenagers are working at a Dude Ranch, because… why not, I suppose? It filled pretty much the exact same niche as Salute Your Shorts, except these kids had JOBS and RESPONSIBILITIES and HORSES. Never underestimate the pull of horses for tween girl viewers.

Brooklyn Nine Nine: This is one sitcom you should be watching if you aren’t already. Equal parts buddy cop (with multiple pairs of cop-buddies), workplace comedy, police procedural (er… kind of) – but with really clever writing an an awesome cast. Like Hey Dude, this is a funny ensemble show that actually shows people doing their jobs. Every kid who grew up watching Salute Your Shorts thinking “ugh, somebody get those irresponsible kids some stalls to muck or cows to lasso” should watch Brooklyn Nine Nine, a workplace show where people actually work.

The Adventures Of Pete And Pete =  Parks And Recreation

The Adventures Of Pete And Pete: This show is probably the reason our generation has been into quirky indie comedies since we were in high school. This small-town sitcom is a bit absurd, and centers around two brothers named – you guessed it – Pete and Pete. The show was so matter-of-fact about the weird goings-on of the town that the place became a character unto itself, and the audience accepted all of its weird quirks at face value.

Fun Fact: The Wellsville of Pete and Pete is apparently supposed to be Wellsville, NY. I live about 100 miles from there and have passed through on plenty of trips, and honestly, apart from an annual Balloon Rally it’s not that interesting.

Parks and Recreation: If you grew up loving slightly offbeat comedies about life in a more-than-slightly-offbeat town, you may as well watch Parks as an adult. It’s no secret that we’re big fans of this show around here, but we’ve never stopped to consider that our childhood watching Pete and Pete primed us for this small-town comedy about a group of unusual personalities. Like our favorite redheaded brothers, the folks in Pawnee face situations that are a touch more surreal than you’d see in real life, but the show somehow manages to be more true-to-life than a lot of more ‘realistic’ comedies.

The Secret World Of Alex Mack = Orphan Black

The Secret World Of Alex Mack:How good was this show? So good, right? Alex Mack was a junior high student who was hit with a truck from a chemical plant, and she developed special powers like being able into morph into a puddle of what looked like mercury, moving objects with her mind, and conducting some sort of electrical charge. Alex, with the (sometimes grudging) help of her brainy sister Annie, had to keep her powers on the down low so the folks at the chemical plant wouldn’t find out about her and … well, I’m not sure if we knew what they would do. Experiments, probably.

Orphan Black:  Here’s another show about a young ladies who are scientific freaks because of circumstances beyond their control (they’re clones). Once again, they have to escape the clutches of the sketchy Dyad Institute, and creepy Dr. Leekie, who are already collecting samples and monitoring the clones against their will. Like Alex Mack, Orphan Black deals with the ethics of scientific progress. No, really –  a major issue ahead is going to be the copyright of human DNA.

Space Cases = Battlestar Gallactica

Space Cases: It’s hard, guys. It’s hard walking around under the burden of being the only person alive who remembers the show Space Cases. It was a short-lived children’s sci-fi show set in space. I think this one is due for a re-watch, if only to revel in the low-budget 90s-ness of it all. Some of the props were evidently things like CDs glued together, and the game Lights Out pasted to the wall. See, things like this are why the Montreal TV industry – and children’s cable sci fi shows – never really took off.

Battlestar Gallactica – I’m positive that this is a sci-fi show with space ships, the future, and I’m pretty sure aliens. Okay, you caught me. I’ve never seen it. But there haven’t been too many outer space-based sci fi shows in recent years, and this is the closest one I could find in the near past. I suppose Stargate Atlantis is another option.

Noozles = Doctor Who

Noozles: According to Wikipedia, this show is 1000% more confusing and screwed-up than I remember it being. But basically, it’s like this: Noozles were adorable koala bears, but only certain people could know that they were actually aliens!

Doctor Who: Doctor Who is an adorable British man, but only certain people can know that he’s actually an alien!

The Mystery Files Of Shelby Woo = Scandal

The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo: Shelby Woo was a ridiculously talented teen who, with the help of a mid-90s PC and her crew of friends, solved mysteries and fought crime. As a mere teenager, Shelby wasn’t officially part of the police department, but we all know that Shelby Woo was the law.

Scandal: Children who grew up without questioning how it was possible to solve mysteries in a short span of time with the help of just an internet connection and a rag-tag crack team of experts – without wondering why the proper law enforcement didn’t just deal with crime itself instead of allowing a non-officer to take the reins — well, those children probably grew up to watch Scandal. Like Shelby Woo, Olivia Pope is able to fix anything – even stuff that technically, we’re pretty sure somebody else should be handling.

Nick News With Linda Ellerbee = 20/20

We love you, Linda. We don’t care what Dawson Leery says.

Nick News: This was a kids’ news magazine which tried to deliver the “who, what, where, when, why and how”  of the age to kids whose other main source of news was that Scholastic Weekly Reader that you’d get on Friday afternoons when your teacher had basically given up for the week. To be quite honest, Nick News did an admirable job of it, breaking down issues like presidential elections, the Gulf War, racism, and global warming down to a nine-year-old’s level without condescending. In fact, you can probably thank Nick News, in part, for the environmental “go green” push that’s sweeping the nation. Older adults were just getting into these issues after that Al Gore powerpoint, but us 90s kids grew up hearing about pollution and climate change from one Ms. Linda Ellerbee.

20/20: Well, this one also is able to break news and information down to a nine-year-old’s level. We may have mentioned this before, but both of us watched way more than a normal amount of 20/20 as kids. As a fourth-grader, I stayed up until 11 on Fridays because 20/20 was on at 10. At least these days, 20/20 is light on the news, heavy on the magazine, with a bunch of tiny segments simplifying stories as much as possible. Actually, maybe Nick News was better – at least they didn’t do monthly stories about “places you won’t believe our crew found a lot of germs!”

All That =  Saturday Night Live

Okay, this isn’t quite fair. All That was almost certainly intended to be a kids’ version of SNL, so there shouldn’t be any surprise here. But when you consider that today’s 20-somethings grew up watching Kenan Thompson on All That, it is sort of remarkable that we’re watching the same guy on the grown-up version of the show.

I may have been under-supervised as a kid, but I watched a lot of real SNL in the 90s (especially the older stuff), and was struck by how very not funny All That was in comparison. That Lori Beth Denberg sure could deliver the fake news, though.