Thursday, 2 August 2012

Kids in the Hall

A Canadian classic.

There are sometimes comedy shows I actually like. Though few and far between, they often have some kind of smart humour mixed with some kind of stupid humour. Kids in the Hall was one of those type shows. It established many of the tropes I use when I write comedy these days like the awkward reveal, the dumbass character, the stupid jokes...well, it probably didn't invent those, but I first saw them on this show.

Starring in the show were: tough guy Bruce McCulloch, meek guy Kevin McDonald, tall guy Mark McKinney, lead guy Dave Foley, and fruity guy Scott Thompson. I loved them all and it's really hard to pick a favourite.

The show ran from 1988 to 1994, burning over one hundred episodes across five seasons. A sketch comedy, it introduced us to many memorable (Canadian?) characters, like the Chicken Lady, Buddy Cole, and Darill (fun fact: that was one of my earliest online usernames). Some of the most memorable sketches included the pen one (guy freaks out when he loses his pen), Sausages (a bizarre Lynch-esque surrealist short about a man whose father loves sausages), and the fur trappers one (two French Canadian pelters who live in the modern day and hunt businesspeople for their suits). My personal favourite was the King of Empty Promises:

After the show ran they made a movie Brain Candy...which kind of sucked. Then they did a few new shows, which I've never seen. I'm always waiting for the day when they return to their sketch comedy routes in the vein of the original show. I don't think it'll happen. But I'll hold out.

Until that day comes, have the kickin' rad theme song:

Thursday, 19 July 2012

The Next Generation

Everyone who knows me knows I like Star Trek. I used to like it a lot more (in a weird fanboyish kind of way) but now I'm sort of settled into a calm enjoyment of the franchise. Either way there once was a time I didn't like Star Trek, and I think it may have been because of a show called Star Trek: The Next Generation.

When I was young my mother would watch reruns of the show on television (this is probably when it was first put into syndication, I remember because they were doing it to promote that dumb Generations movie). It was a very educated show but something clicked with me that meant I could never get into it on a weekly basis. It was cool but as a kid it just didn't have enough fun in it to keep me hooked. It soon fizzled into hate when I got into the preteen shithead phase and just thought it was boring and stupid. Dumb kid.

Then in high school I was given a bunch of magazines filled with Star Trek shit. Character bios, ship diagrams - and it worked. I, being a little sperglord at the time, fell in love. That's when I saw the original series, and that's what got me into the series. In fact I love the original series so much more.

Enough of my experiences, let's talk about Star Trek in the 1990s. Of course The Next Generation coasted from the '80s till about 2002 with half the series left and a string of shitty movies. Beyond that though were also Deep Space Nine (which is forever be my second favourite of the Treks) and Voyager (worst show ever lol).

The Borg two parter was what really got people into the show. I think it exploded over the summer between Part 1 and Part 2. You could find memorabilia everywhere, the shows were coming out on tape, and everyone was talking about it. It was like the time before the new one came out a few years ago. The Borg really mark the air of the '90s in Star Trek - their robotech appearance, which propelled toy sales with how cool and futuristic it looked, their stark contrast to everything else ever in Star Trek. They were the backbone of the series from their inception - the two parter made the show popular, the point of that ship on Deep Space Nine was to fight off Borg attacks, and Voyager even had a Borg crewmember. In fact they were so popular they had a movie based on them; albeit a shitty one. The Borg were the new Klingons - fearsome, popular, and evil.

The late '90s meant the death of Trek for a while unfortunately. The rise of the internet gave way for nerds to obsess over the most minute details of the series to anyone that would listen, which prompted the writers to gear the series more to them so as to curry their favour. When this happened the general public stopped caring about Star Trek and a few years later Nemesis was barely making its budget back and Voyager were being ended finally by the higher ups. Even Enterprise, a decent show in its own right, didn't really get a chance.

Bottom line, '90s Star Trek could be pretty good, but to quote Wayne's World "although in many way superior, it will never be as recognized as the original".

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

DK! Donkey Kong!

Here we go!

So they're finally here, performing for you
If you know the words, you can join in too
Put your hands together if you want to clap
And we'll take you through this funky rap! HUH!
DK! Donkey Kong!

That's quite a way to start an entry.

Everyone knows Donkey Kong. I mean everyone. Christ old people know about DOnkey Kong. It's no secret he's not from the '90s. But he was made in the '90s. That sound crazy?

Of course he would have remained a video game icon we'd all cherish if he stayed looking how he used to. But by now there'd be generations who didn't see him as anything other than "that old video game character", which obviously isn't the case. No, Donkey Kong had to change to retain his place as king of the video game jungle. And that happened.

See, until 1994 people stopped caring about Donkey Kong, or at least didn't see him as a character who'd be carrying on a legendary series the way Mario might (regardless of whether or not the games are good nowadays, Mario still is in them and they still sell a shitload of copies). Nintendo must have had a place to fill in Mario Kart though, because he was a character (still in the old leotard etc).

Then Donkey Kong came out on the Game Boy. This was, I believe, the first iteration of the simian with the monographed tie. He didn't have the cowlick - no, that would come later. After being in Mario Kart and on the Game Boy though he was ready for anything.

Rare came along and turned him into what he is today. Donkey Kong Country was born, and with it an entirely different design for Donkey Kong series games. He was fleshed out into a brand new character - no need for Mario except as an indirect reference in the intro. He was a brash, bold character whose game took advantage of the 3D "capabilities" of the SNES. It was an all new adventure, and it owned.

This bore witness to a series, which continues on to this day with brand new games and shit. Most importantly it spawned a television show in 1998 (for us Canadians) which is what I remember Donkey Kong for. Yeah - maybe the most famous video game character of all time and I remember him best for being from that monkey cartoon! Ironic!

As a footnote, I think he may have been part of the inspiration for my character Monocle Ape. No really! Gorillas in ties own!

Monday, 2 July 2012


What do you get when you combine robots with neon see-through plastic?

You get Poo-chi. Whether you remembered him or not, he was the best low-effort pet a parent could buy for their kid! This lovable mechanical dog sang songs, had a robo-bone you could give him, and came in four fashionable translucent neon colours - teal, hot pink, green, and pink. They could also sit down or stand up, and had red LEDs displaying their "emotion" for eyes. 

Shortly after they came out, McDonald's ran a promotion where you could get them in more colours in a Happy Meal. Just like Beanie Babies though they didn't have the same quality to them and were noticeably smaller (probably has to do with being a cheap plastic toy you get for free).

Poo-chi was superseded by the less popular Meow-chi (which actually was more effort than a real cat) and Dino-chi, despite dinosaurs being awesome. They also had Baby-chi, which was probably the most frightening thing ever.

Futurama captured the actuality of being a Poo-chi owner best:

Friday, 29 June 2012

Gotta Go Fast

A Sega was another of those things I didn't have when I was younger. I was like 14 before I played Sonic 1. But my memories of him as "that other video game character" go back farther, thankfully.

Let's kick it off with a little music. '90s music. Because that's what we do on the '90s blog.

Jesus CHRIST that's so out there man. The chipmunk voice, the early 3D, the catchy beat...holy shit. It reminds me of those commercials that were around when cell phones first started getting big where you could text a number for a ringtone of a singing baby or rabbit with cartoony voice covering love songs. Those weirded me out, especially cause they came on late at night. They plague me to this day.

Anyways, onto Sonic. Sonic has a fantastic soundtrack and is a poster boy for the struggle going on in the '90s between Nintendo and Sega, and later on Sony. The guy was created for the sole purpose of destroying Mario, like Cell from Dragon Ball Z with Goku. And for a while, it wasn't clear who was on top. 

Obviously it was Mario who prevailed, but for a short while our cyan compadre gave the plumber a run for his money. Sonic doesn't enjoy the fame he once did, but that was the nature of the business - in the game of thrones you either win or you die, and Sonic fell off the map in the mid 2000s after a few good games followed by some terrible ones. They still make Sonic games today (him in Brawl was a major point of contention for me because I had that one asshole friend who always played as him so he could use that annoyingly unbeatable final smash attack) and from what I've heard the recent ones aren't bad, but I can't be bothered with them any more. 

I watched the Sonic X cartoon too sometimes but I don't have a very good memory of it to be quite honest. It was on either before or after the Kirby show on Saturday mornings, a very finicky time for me.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Radio Active!

Think 'Community' but not very good and in high school. Also with a different main plot. Actually it's nothing like Community.

The epitome of Canadian teenager sitcoms from the mid '90s to early 2000s. It ran for three seasons and followed the miss adventures of a gang of high school students as they ran their school radio show.

The gimmicky characters, crazy aesthetics, and wacky "would never happen in real life" things that went on were all part of this particular breed of show's charm during the 1990s. Ms. Atoll was the sneaky, conniving bitch teacher who set out to make their lives miserable. I think every sitcom on YTV and Teletoon during this period had a character like that. Sadly I had a few of those teachers myself in high school! 

Just listen to that silly theme song with the boppy synths and shitty logo:

It starred Giancarlo Caltabiano, who would later go on to be the boss on another low budget Canadian sitcom "Fries With That?" in the 2000s. I hope that guy lands a big role or something again someday, he was fantastic.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

This is gonna be a big one. YTV.

YTV spans every Canadian aged 18 - 25's childhood probably.

What good shit used to run on there. Especially on The Zone. For the longest time 'The Zone' was the place to be on a weekday afternoon after school with your Coke and chips watching whatever the hell was on. There were the PJs, a line of 'programming jockeys' who supplied jokes and interesting facts between shows and during commercial breaks. Most often there were two. Phil was one of the most memorable ones. I heard from someone I worked with at the radio station that the Chinese guy does carpentry now for a living and one of the other ones smokes a ton of the ganja. These were people we looked up to, and even now they still own.

Sugar was one of the most notable. Stephanie Beard did the voice for someone on Sailor Moon and hosted the programming block we all love from 2001 to 2007 (so, just outside our '90s comfort zone). She also did some commercials for things like chocolate bars (which I swear used Crash Bandicoot music).

Speaking of commercials, YTV had the best bumpers. They were so eccentric and out there, keeping in line with the whole "Keep It Weird!" logo the company and its PJs enacted. Check them out!

Lots of greens, purples, and golds. And they remind me of Toronto for some reason. Maybe it's because YTV was based there. As well we had the classic Concerned Children's Advertisers PSAs. '90s as heck bro:

Watch 'em all sometime, they are a real flashback. 

Dragon Ball Z was on here either before or after it was on the 8PM block, and Pokemon was on every day at 4PM. I am still a manchild for that series. It is probably not healthy. 

Later on, when Spongebob Squarepants became a thing, they showed marathons of that and Fairly Odd Parents every holiday which they called "SpongeOdd SquareParents Day". They were a lot of fun even though we had seen the episodes like a million times!

Anyways, I'm off again. Have fun with those old PSAs!