How I Spent My Summer Vacation: 1990

Welp, time for another post that’s disappointing for everyone involved–you, because I’m not making jokes about the cousins yiffing, and me because I’ll watch about 15 hours worth of media just for a measly 15 minutes of Perfect Strangers actors.  I’ll be lucky if I wring 1,500 miserable words out of it and we’ll all feel like we’ve wasted our time today.  Let’s begin!

Melanie Wilson

Well dye me blonde and kick me out of the apartment, Melanie was on something else!

She appeared on the pilot episode of a sitcom called The Family Man, a Bickley & Warren/Miller-Boyett show that only lasted one season.  The premise seems to be Full House, but Danny is a fireman and Al Molinaro is both uncles.  Look at this intro, doesn’t this look like the audiovisual version of soggy white bread?

I mean, they got Jesse Frederick to do the theme, and even he didn’t bother to write lyrics, knowing this was destined for eventual exclusion from “the best one-season sitcoms of the 90s” lists. Scott Weiniger as Steve seems to be the only actor bringing any enthusiasm to the show; it’s no surprise that he got a recurring spot playing Steve on Full House.

I almost missed that Melanie was on this, but luckily the fansite’s YouTube page memorialized the appearance. The fact that Melanie’s role as Steve’s teacher, Ms. Hickerson, is not on IMDB is proof that I’m only the second person to ever see it.

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Oh, Melanie’s performance?  They let her say a couple of punchlines.

And that’s the most anyone has ever written about The Family Man (1990).

Jim Doughan (Lance Dick)

Speaking of one-season sitcoms, Jim Doughan played a character named Mr. Buckley on His & Hers. His & Hers starred Martin Mull and Stephanie Faracy, so it’s a real head-scratcher why the show never made it past 13 episodes.

The intro is the only surviving piece of the sitcom I can find, and it rivals The Family Man for blandness.  At least The Family Man indicated that sometimes the characters go outside. His & Hers appears to be about a man and a woman who sometimes lie down, sometimes stand up, and on special occasions sit down. IMDB lists Jim Doughan as being in every episode, but I have a little trouble believing that.

Jim also appeared in an episode of Empty Nest, a show I have more distinct memories of than I do for Perfect Strangers. I’m glad that I watched this episode–“Goodbye Mr. Dietz”–because it was a David Leisure-centric one. Charlie Dietz–along with Balki, Kimmy Gibbler, and Urkel (well, seasons 1-3 Urkel, anyway)–was influential in me wanting to grow up to be a wacky-neighbor type. I didn’t realize he was such a lech, so it looks like it’s time for me to add that to my personality.

One part of the episode features Charlie throwing a party, and Jim gets to be the one party guest who has any dialogue.

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I completely forgot that Park Overall was on this show. How the hell is she not working these days?

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F.J. O’Neil

This is, what, the third time Valerie/Valerie’s Family: The Hogans/The Hogan Family has come up on this blog?  It’s weird to think that a six-season sitcom that survived two name changes never got a DVD release.  As I understand it, by the time it was done with its third season, Jason Bateman was carrying the show.  Anyway, RT (Revised Title) was on an episode as somebody named Mr. Norris, I can’t find it, so nevermind.

I did finally have a reason to watch the horror movie The Willies, which ended up being one of those movies for kids that feels like it was written by one.  He plays an elementary school principal and stands next to Patrika Darbo.

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IMDB says he was also in The Hunt for Red October, but I refuse to watch a two-hour+ movie for this.  I’ll just watch it until he shows up.

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And there he is. CONFIRMED

Robert G. Lee (Doug MailKenzie)

Evidently, this guy was the warm-up comic for a few sitcoms, including Perfect Strangers. In this video, you can see him not wearing a hat.

Belita Moreno

This week’s theme appears to be one-season sitcoms now, as Belita appeared in one episode of Going Places as “Madame Pushnik”.  In fact, it’s the episode that commenter Mark Moore mentioned way back when I reviewed “The Horn Blows at Midnight”. Now that I’ve read about it some more, Going Places looks like it falls into that same camp with Full House where the unique concept (here, television comedy writers living together; there, comedians living together) was retooled in order to make it sell better in Peoria. Going Places‘s premise lasted half a damn season before they gave up on it.

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Belita plays a psychic who is called in to help protect one of the characters who was “cursed” and is expected to die within hours. She’s far and away the funniest part of the episode, and I can say that even without watching the whole thing (here’s the clip, if you’re interested). It’s actually instructive, I think, to watch this alongside “The Horn Blows at Midnight”, just to see how much better that plot can be done. They have mostly the same elements (Mme Pushnik even sprays some foul-smelling stuff on them, made from “fish parts”, no less!), but they’re rebalanced. Most of the characters aren’t doing anything, but that’s okay, they’re responding to a whirlwind that entered their home. She acts circles around “Horn”, which was just Balki saying “you should be as scared as I am” and Larry saying “no” over and over again.

Could it possibly be that having a silly foreigner doing a silly foreign accent and a silly foreign ritual only as a 6-minute extended gag in a single episode has more impact than having to see him every week?

Haha nahhhh anyway Belita was also in the movie Men Don’t Leave for about 10 seconds, playing, I don’t know, some woman.  If you want to watch Joan Cusack play a nurse who commits statutory rape, this has got to be the film for you.

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Rebeca Arthur

Rebeca appeared in the film Opposites Attract, which was a boring little TV movie vehicle for Barbara Eden and the guy who played the voice of Charlie on Charlie’s Angels.  If waiting an hour and a half to watch two old people kiss is your thing, then you should really check this one out.

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Rebeca plays John Forsythe’s bratty kept young girlfriend, Victoria.  She’s actually in the movie a fair amount, and even got to have, if not a whole emotional arc, at least a couple of emotions. She’s got her dog Emmy with her again, plus she shows up in a number of different outfits. And here’s my chance to make good on following in the footsteps of my wacky idol, Charlie Dietz:

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Sam Anderson

I found it much easier this time around to get downloads of episodes of Growing Pains, where Sam Anderson played Principal Willis Dewitt.  He was only in a couple of episodes throughout 1990, and I can tell from watching them that he would have had a larger role in earlier seasons when Mike Seaver was still in high school. And here’s something interesting: even though Gorpley and Dewitt seem to have roles that occupy the same secondary-character space, Dewitt has a much bigger presence.  And I don’t just mean because he has an actual relationship with Mike Seaver that is obviously informed by past storylines (what a luxury), or that he gets more lines, or even that he seems to enjoy his role; I mean that he functions as a character without even being there.

In the first episode I watched (“Mike the Teacher”), it was a story about Mike trying to be a substitute teacher at his old high school.  Here’s Anderson standing next to Patrika Darbo:

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And here he is having a reaction to Kirk Cameron somehow not realizing that primates have hands very similar to ours*.

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The other episode I watched (“Ben’s Sure Thing”) is about a parent-teacher night at the school. You only hear Anderson’s voice over the PA system, and see his face on a couple of posters.

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One of those posters gets more of a story than Gorpley does in “Father Knows Best, Part 2”.

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Somehow letting a character talk and interact with other characters conveys a lot more personality than having them stand around and eat every time you see them. Go figure.

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Also of note for this episode of Growing Pains, Kimmy Gibbler was Ben Seaver’s dorky girlfriend! Growing Pains seems like it’s ripe for the snarky review blog treatment. Somebody should review it!

*searches on Google*

Somebody should review it, but with jokes!

While we’re playing Six Degrees of Bronson, Tim O’Donnell was producing and writing Growing Pains up until early 1990… after which he wrote and produced Uncle Buck. No, not the movie. I wish I could have watched something that good for this post.

*sigh*

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IMDB lists Sam Anderson as being on a few episodes of the 1990 sitcom version of Uncle Buck.  I watched five episodes of this garbage and not a single one of them had Sam’s character. Bravo, Sam Anderson, for pinpointing which videos to report to YouTube as DMCA violations.

Friends, when I was about 10, I used to stay at my grandmother’s house during the day.  She had cable, and for whatever reason she let me watch all of the standup that came on during the day on Comedy Central. I am not ashamed to admit that I liked Kevin Meaney’s material.  Yes, 90% of it was him saying “that’s not right!”, but the other 10% was him doing a bit with a shitty Mexican accent, so if you want to criticize him, make sure you mention both.

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But Uncle Buck as a sitcom has to be the most unnecessary TV spinoff of a movie I’ve ever come across, and yes, I am aware of the Little Shop of Horrors cartoon.  Seriously, if all CBS could do for competition with Full House was, you know, Full House with fewer uncles (here, the parents died between movie and show), no wonder it only lasted one season. Kevin Meaney’s Uncle Buck seems to be at the opposite end of the annoying, bad-influence uncle spectrum from ALF.  Where ALF would steal cars and write songs about fucking the Tanner children, Uncle Buck just smokes once per episode. Lu Leonard plays a store-brand Mrs. Hoargarth, and every time she’s on-screen the other characters can’t shut up about her being fat and/or ugly. Someone forgot to tell them that those jokes only worked in the movie because John Candy’s Uncle Buck was trying his damnedest not to say them.  Also there’s way too much makeup on Kevin Meaney, I’m talking John Schuck on The Munsters Today levels. But I digress!

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Lastly, Sam Anderson played Warren, “head of the White Boys, yuppie Criminal”, in the film Dark Angel. It’s one of the endless sci-fi shoot-em-ups that came in the wake of Terminator, but it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen. If you enjoy watching films where nobody tells the actors what regional accents they should have, crack open some wine and watch this tomorrow night with your very best boyfriend.

Mark Linn-Baker

nuthin’

Bronson Pinchot

Bronson followed up his turn in Second Sight with the 1990 TV movie Jury Duty (or as it later came to be known, The Great American Sex Scandal).

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Just like Going to the Chapel, this features an All Star Cast, meaning there are a ton of television actors in it, Alan Thicke, Bill Kirchenbauer, Reginald VelJohnson, Heather Locklear and Tracy Scoggins being most prominent among them.  And just like Going to the Chapel, they all pretty much just hang out around the hotel where they get sequestered.  It’s an umbrella structure designed to have a few mini-stories that don’t touch each other, and I’m having trouble coming up with feature films that use that structure.

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Finally, just like Going to the Chapel, Bronson’s role appears to be expanded: he plays four characters.  The only one of his characters that’s necessary to the plot is accountant Sanford Lagelfost–on trial for embezzlement–who doesn’t get any lines; which indicates to me that the other three characters were added for Bronson.  The result is a film that doesn’t function as a Bronson Pinchot vehicle, nor does it really function as the drowsy ensemble movie it was intended to be.  I guess I’ll give Bronson the credit for Jury Duty being merely forgettable as opposed to completely featureless.  I mean, he does show us which of his sketch ideas from his Saturday Night Live appearance was discarded first:

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That’s right, you heard right, Bronson plays a Geraldo Rivera-alike called Jorge Jiminez. Another of his characters is Arthur Lloyd, who pretends to speak French so he can bang Ilene Graff.

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And, finally, Bronson plays a hotel receptionist named Magda.

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Eat your heart out, Eddie Mumphrey!

Anyway, I refuse to leave you without a screengrab of Reggie VelJohnson.

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If you’re too lazy to write a suicide note, Jury Duty is the movie you want open in Windows Media Player when they find your body.

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And that was all the stuff I could dig up on the Perfect Strangers cast for 1990!  I’ve got to say, unlike the previous Summer Vacation posts, this one actually felt worthwhile.  Not that half this shit was worth watching for its own sake, though. Rather, this was a window–albeit quite a narrow one–into some of the minor television shows of the period.  I watched shows for this post that I’d never even heard of, and I was an avid sitcom-watcher back then.  The one-season sitcoms I discussed I think are good examples, not just of how important a good intro is, but the limits of television formula.  Stray too far, like Going Places, and you find that television wasn’t quite ripe for navel-gazing.  Take a winning formula, but strip it of almost all comedy talent, like Uncle Buck or The Family Man, and you end up with the sitcom equivalent of getting a papercut from a photograph of a pillow. Compared to these, it’s no wonder that Balki would continue to shake his imaginary tits and sing “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” for another two years.

Next week we’ll take a look at articles and interviews up through the end of season 5.  See you then!

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*this is for the one person who doesn’t know what I’m referring to: https://youtu.be/2z-OLG0KyR4

Patrika Darbo count: 2

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Susan Campbell, RN

always moving

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changing her name as often as she changes her hairstyle

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as often as she changes boyfriends

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nothing, not even more, satisfies

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susan come home we miss you

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2 thoughts on “How I Spent My Summer Vacation: 1990

  1. WTH? Dude doesn’t actually pick up his kid in the Family Man intro. He sort of mimes like he’s going to, and the kid jumps up, but then he puts her back down and straightens up. Can’t ruin that money shot of zooming in on the smiling firefighter! Nothing says “I have no idea who these short actors are” quite like a non-interaction like that.
    *
    “Why isn’t Park Overall still on television?”
    Amen, brother. Park Overall is a treasure.

    Like

  2. “Stray too far, like Going Places, and you find that television wasn’t quite ripe for navel-gazing. Take a winning formula, but strip it of almost all comedy talent, like Uncle Buck or The Family Man, and you end up with the sitcom equivalent of getting a papercut from a photograph of a pillow.”

    Funnily enough, I’d argue that BOTH of these illustrate the eventual misfire that was Bronson’s sitcom followup, The Trouble With Larry. Please provide a timeframe for when you will review each episode in full.

    Let me add another hug to the Park Overall love fest. She was great.

    Like

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