The ABC Perfectly Strange Saturday Morning Preview Special

But first, a Friday night preview!

NEXT FRIDAY: Larryoke!

larryoke

Instead of a review next Friday, what I’m doing is hosting a livestream of six–count ’em–six Perfect Strangers episodes, interspersed with lots of surprise content.  But most importantly: there are eight–count ’em–EIGHT Larryoke songs, where and I some other regulars in this little community sing Perfect Strangers-themed parody lyrics of popular 70s and 80s songs.

April 14! 8PM Eastern Time! Facebook event link!

BE THERE OR BE SQUAW, COUSINS

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I am legitimately excited to review this, y’all.  You see, I watched this when it originally aired, when I was only four years old and finally proficient in using the toilet by myself. Wiping myself was another story.

I’m going to tell you here in briefer sentences everything you could learn about Saturday morning preview specials from about 5 minutes of Googling.  It’s a practice going back just about as far as Saturday morning cartoons. Networks would show clips of their upcoming Saturday morning fall line-ups, hosted by real actors or cartoon characters.

Just to show you how faulty memory can be, I would have sworn this had aired on a Thursday, but the recording I have shows it coming on right after Full House, which would indicate a Friday night. However, now that I’ve reached the end of the first paragraph on Wikipedia, I see that local network affiliates had the option to air these when it was best for them.

I find the fact that children were watching prime time–often and in numbers enough to air these specials then–to be pretty interesting in and of itself. And perhaps these were intended purely as advertisement to children to begin with, but as a child of the severely-late-80s, I have another thought.  1989 saw America only just coming out of the Reagan era, although with George Bush in the White House, I suppose that’s arguable.  At any rate, I’m probably a member of the first generation to be heavily influenced by campaigns such as Just Say No (or, as we had at my school, D.A.R.E.).  The 80s and 90s were the time of moral messages in cartoons, which I say not because I had that level of analysis as a four-year-old*, but because I’ve read things here and there about the context. Some of you might remember the “characters talk directly to the viewer” segments at the end of G.I. Joe, or Police Academy: the Series.  Some of you might remember Pee-Wee telling you to stay off crack cocaine.  You might even remember when ALF told you not to smoke weed.

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Anyway, point is, it was a thing. Enough of a thing that some writers seemed to not take it seriously (the Flintstones Kids “Just Say No” special featured a kid named “Stony”), or even to lampoon the social message push completely (see Mark Evanier’s explanation of his “Buddy Bear” characters on Garfield and Friends).  Enough of a thing that you have to imagine that networks still wanted to deliver on that promise to viewers even after Barbara had vacuumed the last jelly bean out of the Oval Office’s couch.  I mean, without diving too thoroughly into the Big 3’s Saturday morning programming, the vast majority of their programming was pretty darn wholesome. I think it’s a safe bet to say that The Real Ghostbusters was the scariest/grossest thing on Saturday mornings by 1989, with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a far second.  And, hey, the relatively tame (compared to the stickers) Garbage Pail Kids cartoon got pulled from the 1987-1988 programming block before it even aired, thanks to parent and interest group complaints. Gross was, in general, not accepted.

Lest I lose the thread here, what I’m getting at is that I’m wondering if these cartoon preview specials weren’t also intended as a way for parents to decide what to let their children watch.  And I’ll admit that’s what four-year-old me encoded along with the memory of watching this: that I was getting to see something I wasn’t supposed to see, which was really meant just for parents.  Watching it now, knowing what I know about Perfect Strangers, and prime time audience demographics, that theory seems mostly inapplicable. But hey, why can’t a TV special scratch two itches at once?

Anyway, what the fuck, who cares, you all came here to see this thing I’m supposed to be reviewing.

Now that Lawrence and Hardy Boy had become cartoons themselves, it was only appropriate that they host one of these TV specials.

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The copy I have shows the last few seconds of Full House, which either bespeaks laziness to edit correctly, or… what?

Then there’s commercials–for Mr. Belvedere, for Swatch–

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Look at this. Just look at it. Color design peaked in 1989.

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–and a McDonald’s commercial about some slob who throws his garbage right on the floor, even with ample table space.

Did you feel you needed proof that this was recorded off of TV? Get to the program!

The cousins start right in on fighting over who gets to choose what they watch.  Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are Larry’s nights, and Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are Balki’s nights. (Sunday nights they have sex with each other.)

Larry wants to watch a “special” on “global” “inflation” and starts crying about it in less than 5 seconds.

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Larry: Cartoons? On a Friday night?

Then, the cousi– no, j/k, nm, it’s more commercials.

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Hey, parents, take pictures of your kids wearing nothing but a diaper and send them to me!  I’m really Pampers! Prizes, etc.

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McDonalds “crispy country coatin’” Country Style McChicken.

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Balki tells us that on Mypos, all the kids would go and watch Speeti Moo, the shadow maker.

Larry: And did dual-income families rely on Speeti Moo to be a kind of babysitter for their children?

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But did Larry watch cartoons? He’d get up before everyone else and watch Winnie the Pooh.

Balki: You were a Pooh man, too?

Not my joke, guys.

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Haha get ready for lots of jokes about shit, y’all.

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First of all, what kind of dumbass has a fireplace inside a tree? What kind of moral lesson is that?

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Piglet tells a story and Tigger just shits all over it, saying it ought to be scary. At one point Tigger threatens to go find more exciting entertainment, like pursuing his foot fetish at Pooh’s house.

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A giant Winnie the Pooh stomps around, destroying everything in his path in search of honey, and completely ignoring the fact that he’d break his legs just by walking, since it appears that the leg bones have grown proportionally, which would be far too much strain at that size.

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The other denizens of the wood form an unruly mob and go after Mad Scientist Piglet, knowing that soon after Pooh gets honey, he’s going to take a 100 Acre Shit.

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Having just finished reading The Fountainhead, Piglet is scared shitless by Tigger’s demonstration of art-by-committee.

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Balki says he’s hungry now, and Larry shares this feeling. Balki suggests a list of foods that Larry might want to eat:

Larry responds that man lives not on bread alone:

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But in the end, they settle on cereal and run squealing off to the kitchen.

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Kids are told they have cavities, but then the kids who use Crest are told they don’t. This is the best segment from the Jimmy Kimmel show I’ve ever seen!  Just think, these kids are in their late 30s now, likely months away from switching to some old-fogey brand like Sensodyne.

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Granpda loves potatoes au gratin.  Always has.

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“Trader Rick” traded his snacks for junk food every day until his mom wised up and started buying him Mott’s applesauce, which absolutely nobody wanted.

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Well holy shit, here’s an ad for Family Matters that mixes scenes from “Crimebustiers” and the new show’s pilot. And here I thought they stopped drawing black people’s lips that way in the 60s.

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Looks like the cousins were paid for their silence with a lifetime supply of Raisin Puffs.

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Also, Amber Alert on a little girl wearing a leather mask.  Thanks to age progression imaging, our best guess that this lost child now looks like this:

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If you know or have seen this woman, please call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at toll-free at 800-843-5678.

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Here’s how I picture a conversation between a Perfect Strangers writer and an ABC Executive:

Theobald von Reiter: What, pray tell, are the new children’s animated programs we shall advertise?

Adelbert Bogohardt Crecelius: One of them is called “Beetlejuice”.

Theobald von Reiter: Ah yes, I believe there is the possibility of a joke here, perhaps one that Balki can say. You shall have my script on the morrow.

And folks, this is what I remember most clearly from this. I didn’t remember a damn thing about Larry and Balki being here.  I’m pretty sure that I had already seen the VHS box for Beetlejuice at a rental place. But it was either this, or the Kenner action figure line, that was my true introduction to Beetlejuice. One of them led to the other. And other than my Madballs toys, this was my second introduction to the concept of gross being fun.

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This cartoon is about Beetlejuice competing on a gameshow called “24 Hour Gross-Out” and is worried about how he’ll do in the facemaking round.

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This kind of cartoon is written much like the ALF comics were: you just throw in as much horror/gross wordplay as possible. Like, Beetlejuice says “fiend” instead of “friend”. A game show announcer says “scum on down”. How can I explain it? It’s the type of logic that demands that Scrooge McDuck live in Duckburg, even though none of you lives anywhere named Humansville.

Here’s another way to explain those kind of jokes: they make both less and more sense than anything Balki says, because Balki is supposed to be a real person.

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Beetlejuice house is called “BJ’s Road House”, which makes no sense at all since I am now an adult. Some other points of interest, if you’ve never seen this cartoon.  Instead of living with the Maitlands, Lydia still lives with her parents, the Deetzes. Why Adam Baldwin and Geena Davis didn’t agree to have their likenesses on this show makes even less sense. I mean, look!

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Somebody put in a lot of effort to get the design of the Deetz house correct!  Also Lydia hangs out a lot in the Neitherworld (yes, Neitherworld) with Beetlejuice and his friends.

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Beetlejuice and Lydia are competing against last week’s champions, Humphrey and Henna Scuzzimoto. The audience boos the former and cheers the latter, just so you know how hard this episode is going to be for the B-man.

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Also this is very likely the first time I ever saw vomiting on TV.

The games:

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Synchronized Slime Swimming, which Beets and Deetz win.

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Muck-sucking. The contestants must drink putrefied swamp muck.

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I may never have a boner again, y’all. The Scuzzimotos win that round.

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There’s eight rounds you don’t get to see, and then–OH NO–they have to play Funny Faces, the one thing that Beetlejuice was afraid of.  Who would have guessed?

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By the way, Beetlejuice featured very early CG animation, which holds up pretty well thanks to an actual artist’s touch, which makes it charming.

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Beetlejuice and Humphrey make faces at each other.

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It goes on for a while.

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Finally, Beetlejuice wins. And here it is, here’s the ending that has been burned into my memory for the past 27 and a half years:

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This is why I spent so much time at the top of this review talking about the lack of gross-out humor on 1980s Saturday morning cartoons. I can understand why ABC showed previews of these two shows specifically.  They wanted to let concerned parents who held family values in high esteem that, yes, they were going to be airing a nauseating watered-down cartoon which featured no clear role models or lessons; but if they didn’t like that, they could let the little scamps watch Beetlejuice.

At the end of the program, Larry says that, sure, blatant commercialization of newer film properties is great, but what about shows that aren’t such a risk, like something with Scooby-Doo in it, or real network cost-cutters, like re-running fifty-year-old Bugs Bunny cartoons?

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Balki: ABC has a healthy balance of oldies but goodies, and newies but gooeys.

Larry has his own Saturday morning preview. He senses that it may be another four years of waking up on Saturdays knowing that those who respect him in the theatre world might have seen him on television the night before puling about how he can’t get into Jennifer’s pants.

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Then we get to see what other cartoons will be on ABC that Fall.  I remember this commercial, or versions of it, even outside of this program.

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You’re got a store-brand Ghostbuster, the future founders of Anthrocon…

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…it wouldn’t surprise me at all if that’s a young Ellie Kemper…

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…the worst possible Beetlejuice costume…

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…and a Slimer costume that, if it’s been well-kept, will likely turn into someone’s retirement fund through eBay in a few years. Now, onto the previews!

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Seriously, I’m never going to have a boner again.

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For those of you who never watched Adventures of the Gummi Bears, it was about the Gummi Bears, and the adventures of them.

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Oh yeah, Winnie the Pooh, I guess.

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And even though I haven’t watched much of The Real Ghostbusters since 1990 or so, it does appear that these snippets are from the season about to air.  Since Ghostbusters II came out that year, Louis Tully was added to the cast (and the action figure line).

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Seen here: a rare shot of Beetlejuice trying to drain his anal glands.

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Also, kids that year could watch The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show, which I remember seeing anytime I got up really early on Saturday.

Hey Parents? Do your kids like to watching the most boring shit? Well, ABC’s got some great shows for them, too!

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Alan Thicke on Animal Crack-Ups and the ABC Weekend Specials were exactly the type of thing I never watched.

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Then there’s a black guy rapping about the same list of cartoons that we were told about. $500 well spent, ABC.

*sigh* one more set of commercials

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There’s one where a kid keeps asking his dad if he can do all kinds of stuff he knows dad won’t allow: parachuting, beekeeping, owning a monkey.  Psychology sidebar: this is a tactic called “anchoring”.  It’s mostly handy in negotiating car prices, or jail sentences, but here, the kid knows that after a whole day of ridiculous requests, Dad will accede to the first possible one he hears.  In this case, that’s going to McDonald’s.

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Then there’s a Pringles commercial where the chips are marketed as a “party reliever” for “party fever”. Some guys can’t finish sawing a log because they’re out of Pringles, but luckily, some babes show up in a boat full of *ahem* cans.

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When the Earth has been overtaken by landfills, and your house is made out of beer bottles and styrofoam, blame Proctor and Gamble’s marketing department and their wanton endorsement of not only waste and litter, but also of feeding wildlife junk food.

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Lastly, an ad for Free Spirit, which looked to be a sitcom mashup of Bewitched and The Brady Bunch.

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In the final scene, Larry and Balki realize that it’s actually Friday night, and that they should rush upstairs and have sexual intercourse with their girlfriends.

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Oh, no, wait, Balki and Larry are children now. They sit down to watch more television.

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Catchphrase count: Balki (1, but I’m not counting it in the total)

*I did, though

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3 thoughts on “The ABC Perfectly Strange Saturday Morning Preview Special

  1. So affiliates could show it whenever they like, but the characters specifically say it’s a Friday night? Not that I don’t believe you, but that seems silly on their part. Especially since the fact that it’s Friday doesn’t seem to play into anything. “Cartoons? At night?” would have filled exactly the same purpose and be a more natural way of letting channels show this on whatever night they chose.

    It’s weird to me that this would get sent to affiliates with the note that they could show it whenever they like…but the characters all insist it’s Friday. Maybe they didn’t decide to let it float around the schedule until after they shot the stupid thing.

    I forgot that Free Spirit existed.

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  2. I watched this on the night that it aired. I remember these specials always airing on Friday nights, the night before the new Saturday-morning line-up started. I was so excited to be able to preview these new cartoons.

    Bugs Bunny and Tweety aired early in the morning for you? I remember it airing at, like 11 AM, meaning it was kind of bittersweet, because I knew my cartoons were close to being over for the day.

    I remember “Free Spirit”. I liked that show. Fun fact: they showed a commercial for it between the fake news bulletins at the King Kong attraction at Universal Studios. I would see the commercial whenever I waited to get on the ride, and I remember thinking “Wow, they haven’t updated the video in a while.”

    Like

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