Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We'll Be Right Back, But First ...

smoke gets in yer eyes, life gets in yer way, and gainful employment has pretty much commandeered most available writing time for the past long while. as we muck out the closets and attics this summer, we shall unearth the archive and get back to this.

meanwhile, keep wearing those snazzy duckhead jeans.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In which we Do Do that Voo Doo that We Do so Well

Here we are waiting for the schedule change that will allow us to shift over from live shows to taping the shows (something to do with the painfully slow commissioning of all that new equipment). Hi-jinx continue unabated (one of these shows' cold open is a fake crawl for the-then Lexington cable company, complete with the same awful typeface and orange background; Keith has an excellent future as a forger), while all n sundry are reporting various Odd Encounters with citizens n taxpayers. Dougie's is typical: in his tale he's on the studio floor doing something or other with a grand high poobah from state government in prepping for the Sunday public interest show, while the grandee fixes him with the steely eye of command, then ahems and States for the Record: "You're on that Monsterpiece show. That's pretty funny." In parsing this comment, the group is divided on whether it's pretty funny that Dougie is on the show, the show is pretty funny, or someone broke wind (which is always funny but seldom pretty).

Meanwhile, the next movie up in our story is Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things. After the letdown from Plan 9, we're just crankin' them out. Many years later, I come to realize that there are three rules of creativity and the Children show illustrates these rules quite handily. The rules are:
  • Just sit down and crank it out every day. Keeps the craftsmanship in shape.
  • Don't assume beforehand it will be a masterpiece, a signficant event, or anything out of the ordinary. The work won't conform to your expectations.
  • If it wants to go in a different direction than you intended, take that road. You can always backtrack if you have to; but if you force your original intention, you'll always wind up in a cul-de-sac.

We knew from our up-front research that this was a Bob Clark laff riot, and were quite prepared to lade the show up with Porky's references. We did not expect to find that this was quite an effective little retelling of Sake's The Monkey's Paw. Barb was off auditioning that week, both in and out of town, so the first time she would see the script would be after it went into production (this being in the Dark Dark Ages before email and whiteboard wikis, however in the world could we do our work I wonder? The kinder remain amazed when we describe these legendary days. No, revise that last to read: The kinder remain bored when we describe these legendary days). Two center-of-show gags wrote themselves:

  • Since the conceit of the movie is that the Beloved Son returns from the dead, it seemed logical to resurrect Dougie from the dead. Actually he was not dead, but merrily toiling away in Master Control; he had not been on the floor during show for months, which limited Millie's opportunities to act with him. So we pulled the Dead Guy mask from the trunk, put it on Dougie, and had him interrupt Millie's learned discourse on the movie with the immortal entrance line "Here I am, Millie, back from the dead!" Keith put Little Jeff on audio (an amusing choice, since the two of them tended to spontaneously combust when in close proximity) so that Dougie could step away from the board. Once I had written "Here I am, Millie, back from the dead!", the follow-up line flowed automatically: "P-U, Dougie, you stink!" and the topper just fell right on top of it, right on cue: "That's because I'm dead." I don't remember any other writing session where the lines just flowed like that.
  • As has been noted by the Teeming Masses, Dougie was armed with one or two Dr. Demento albums for audio cuts, which albums included the equally immortal Ogden Edsel tone pome, "Dead Puppies Aren't Much Fun". Well, why not? The script called for this to to be staged like the Beatles' Hey Jude video, where the camera pulls back to show the population of a small city gradually filling the stage for the interminable Na na na nas. (This being the Dark Dark Ages as noted, I was rewarded with blank stares with the reference to the Beatles and their Hey Jude video. So much for shared cultural heritage.)

We didn't have the population of a small city available to rush the MT set on cue, as our pathetic little band of studio groupies had long since found other ways to amuse themselves at 2AM Sunday morning, but there were a few night owls in the newsroom who came down to feel the love. This represented the last appearance of Wags (the Obnoxious Battery Powered Puppy), with Millie pulling out the Infamous Cast-Iron Skillet to dispatch Wags to the Doggie Hereafter in spite of management's directives to administer no further on-air whackings to small adorable creatures. Keith interrupts Millie to stay her hand in administering corporal punishment to Wags because (cue music).

Somewhere someone's going to find that cut and post it. Dougie had put a hot mic into Master Control, and you can hear Dougie and Keith singing along with the track.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

In which we need a new Plan

So three cheers and a tiger for us, victory is ours, darn the torpedos and full speed ahead, and just in time too because we were in the run-up to Plan 9 From Outer Space and had Great Plans for appropriate related video mischief. Plan 9, as all fanboys n grrls knew, was The Worst Movie Ever Made. I actually saw a snatch of Plan 9 as a wee prat, on the 4PM after school monster movie program (a desperation move by the local ABC outlet to combat the NBC affiliate's capture of the kids market with its Kowboy Kartoons, the CBS affiliate's capture of the kid's market with its Paramount Popeyes, and the indy station's subversive Three Stooges hour, as it was programmed with American International rubber-suit pictures and ultimately replaced by Dialing for Dollars) -- dimly recall being disturbed by the concept of zombies, if not the execution as it were -- but hadn't seen the whole masterwork, it being too horrific for viewing on the public airwaves no doubt. But if it surpassed The Carpet Monster, as our desk references said it did, then we would surely be in high cotton. So we made great plans to make great mockery, and proceeded on our assumptions.

We teased the upcoming movie during the three or four weeks of February previews, usually through the Millie/Keith dialogs and supplementing with inappropriate crawls at inappropriate moments. We also began using George Thorogood's Bad to the Bone regularly as the music out, because power chords are always a Good Thing, one should always Leave Them Wanting More, and because we felt like it (Gosh!). I also had decided that we would open with the Fox Fanfare (with Cinemascope extension) because nothing announces a bombastic movie like the full Fox Fanfare with Cinemascope extension, complete with standup foamcore graphic and crew guys waving flashlights for the searchlights. Couldn't miss, I tell you.

Then we actually got the movie. And, as Jack Benny so aptly put it, "Well!"

It was not what I expected.

Remember the drill: the Millie MT show hijinks always sprung as riffs on the movie. And Plan 9 opened promisingly, with Criswell ranting, the paper plate flying saucers, and the two-chairs-plus-a-stick cockpit set. But then it veers into the Bela Lugosi footage, which is a fatal wrong turn at Albuquerque, and loses the audience. Historically, we have not yet arrived at full-blown Ed Woods revisionist scholarship yet -- we just have the work itself as Sola Scriptura to deconstruct, and no matter how many times we run and rerun the tape, none of us can get around the Time/Lifesuck of the Lugosi sequence.

I expect we were trapped by our expectations. Based on the rumors, we expected balls-out incoherent disregard for form and structure from start to finish. We had boxed ourselves into the Count Floyd box, building the movie up to an acme of awfulosity only to discover that the real thing just wasn't very bad, now, was it? Well, no matter because we still had to produce a show, and staring at the teevee wishin' and hopin' that inspiration would leap forth and smack us upside our pointy little heads wasn't going to work, and we had production deadlines to meet. So I started typing, and Barb started editing. We gave up trying to produce the show we wanted to make from Plan 9, and started work on the show that we could make from Plan 9.

There was one gag that we wanted to try, having talked about it conceptually several times with Keith. Much time was spent colorbalancing the cameras before we went on the air, so that there would be no visible change in quality from one camera to another (typically, the problem child was the minicam); the balancing was done with a white card placed in the three set areas. Film directors of photography often stacked several color-correction filters in their primary lens, and some were experimenting with filming through somewhat stronger color filters. Since gelling the studio lights for mood or effects was still off the table for the moment, we were toying with the idea of mounting theatrical lighting gel in front of one or more camera lenses as an effect; the idea was that after color and white balancing, we could keep the engineering department happy for the majority of the show while achieving a desired effect (whatever that would be) as a one-off gag. With a wide variety of colored gel available, we could quickly tweak the effect by swapping color. Keith liked the idea, and we had gotten sidetracked in testing by the recent office politics. The infamous day/night cemetary scene would be our test bed.

So we wrote a completely straight fanboy dissertation on the movie for Barb, pulling out all the academic buzzwords that we could remember. Barb would read sections of it for our friends n neighbors, and if anything induced a laff we took it out: we wanted one minute of terminal stultification. Then for the sequence, we taped a blue gel over one of the two cameras that would be used for the sequence: we wanted this to be textbook bad direction, with Point 1 assigned to Camera 1, Point 2 to Camera 2, Point 3 to Camera 1, et cetera. Except that Camera 1 would be "daylight", and Camera 2 "night". Keith's final tweak was to have Barb pivot from one camera to the other, holding the cut until she completed the pivot. It was metalicious.

The problem with making meta-comedy is that too often you're making comedy for an audience of one, two or three. You can rationalize this any way you want as a Tortured Creative Soul and feign cosmic indifference as to whether anybody gets the meta-point, but getting all wrapped up in your own cleverness is not a good place to be. That's what happened to the Plan 9 show; it was good enough, but too self-indulgent to be anything better. I was irked n offended that Ed Wood hadn't given me material to work with. Now that we had unequivocal creative freedom, it was time to get over my particular bad self and get to work -- especially since Barb had just landed auditions for several out-of-state graduate schools. The future was coming fast, and it was definitely the place where we were going to spend the rest of our lives.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

In which the Ground Shifts Yet Again.

So we did the next show as a sit-down, bad pun, nothingburger show. Our wonderings whether the guys had received the same talk were answered: the studio mood was glum, with lots of questions of "What are you going to do?" We did think about doing the show so snarkily bad as to Make a Point, but to who? Conceptual n artistic purity uber alles is a nice 19th century concept, along with the lack of room for commerce in art, and for that matter naivete trumping cynicism because it's naicer (well, that might be Rousseau, the creature); but we thought that indulging in a public display of temper tantrum would be neither productive nor entertaining. Best to disengage without regrets -- we got to play with a teevee station, test out whether our ideas of structuring an entertainment program would in fact be entertaining in the inhospitable environs of Central Kentucky, and got paid for it. Good enough, and time to start working on our personal future plans.

BTW, Bill loved that particular show. He left an ebullient message that he knew we had it in us, and looked forward to this week's show and more of the same. Definitely time to walk away. So along with the script, we prepared a letter that advised Bill that this would be our last MT, thanks for the use of the hall, etc.

The weekly script drop-off routine was to visit Keith and Doug in the master control room, talk with them about the overall plan, point out particular segments that would need attention, sometimes they'd have some reactions or ideas that we'd incorporate into the final polish, and visit a bit about this and that. They were more surprised that we'd be back for a last week than they were that we'd be gone after this week. Somebody was hollering down the hallway, which was unusual. I stuck my head out to see who was hollering, because it seemed to be esaclating.

It was JD. And he was hollering at me, trying to get my attention. Now what?

I knew JD from my college days in the early 70s. He was one of three noobs who were engaged by the Harvard of the Midwest as the managers charged with the daily management of student life n activities. JD's activities oversights included the campus filmmakers' group and the theatrical groups unaffiliated with the formal theatre program, which groups I passed the time and effort left over after the formal theatre program's demands. In this exalted position, JD got to be one of the boots-on-the-ground managers of the great university's response to the stoont activitists who took over the campus at the height of the antiwar protests. Not fun times, didn't do much for his sunny outlook on life, the university's crisis management was ineffective at best, no one was crowned with glory, and generally anyone part of all that probly leaves it off their curriculum vitae. So I was less than sanguine about engaging with JD on any level -- who knew how raw all that 70s foolishness still was?

Anyway, here's JD calling out "How ya doin got a minute come on in let's talk got some things to catch up on" in a good ol' Midwestern run-on sentence that was not a question. Ah well, not like there was anything else to do. So into JD's office we go.

"So what's up with your show. It stunk." Good old Midwestern directness, haven't heard that in years, but I am very weary of this particular trope from management. "John, we've been over this with Bill and we responded to the issues he raised, and yada yada yada managementbabblespeak and ..."

JD cut me off. "What show are you talking about? I'm talking about last week's show. It stunk. What happened?"

WTF? "John, we were led to believe that WLEX management hated the show we were doing. We were given a directive to do the show in the standard monster movie host format. We disagreed with the directive, we did it anyway. We were told to do this week's show the same way, that this was what WLEX wanted and if we didn't do it you would engage someone who would."

JD nodded. "Bill told you this." It was not a question.

The mental alarm bells start going off that this is not about our silly little show. "Bill is our official contact with WLEX. He speaks for management."

"I'm WLEX management. He doesn't speak for me." Ah. "So Bill changed your show and you didn't call Larry." Deeper and deeper WTF.

"John, I had a very nice chat with Larry a couple of months ago, but this is Kentucky. There was no reason to think that was anything deeper than the Boss being polite to the Help."

"That's what I told him you'd say." I don't like where this is going. "What's that?" pointing to the envelop I was carrying.

"This week's script. Bill wants to see the script before broadcast."

JD nodded. "You're quitting, right." That also was not a question.

"This will be our last week." JD nodded. Then --

"I don't think we've been entirely clear with you, so let me clear things up for you.

We like what you did with the show. Keep it up.

Don't talk to Bill anymore. Don't talk to anyone but me about the show. Don't talk to me unless you're doing something you think I need to know about. I'm not worried about you, never have been, I know your work." And he tore up the script and the letter.

Well, this puts a different light on things. "So what are we paying you?"

"Fifty a week for Barb, up to twenty-five a week in reimbursable hard costs."

"Seventy-five a week. You invoice us? Redo your invoice for last week and leave it for me. Is there anything that you want to do different?"

"Well, we'd like to get away from the live show and do it live-to-tape. "

"I thought live was your idea."

"Um, no. Bill thought it would keep us spontaneous ..."

"Forget that. What do you want?"

"I want to tape it."

"Done. Tell your guy Keith to set it up. No, I'll handle that. By the way, we're going to do a second run of movies. Here's a list of titles we're looking at -- pick out the ones you want to do. Anything else?"

Well, there were two things. Let's do the easier one first. "John, I don't think Bill told you that our intentions are to leave Lexington this year."

Pause. "No, he didn't. How soon?"

"Don't know. It depends on how things work out. Could be as early as August, could be later."

Pause. "Well, we'll deal with that when we need to. Doesn't change anything now. Anything else?"

Into the deep waters, folks. "John, you know we've been poking fun at a studio suit on the show that we call 'JD' ..."

JD laughed. "Yeah, that's pretty funny. My friends kid me about it. I think it's a hoot. What about it?"

"I hope you're okay with that."

"Why wouldn't I be? You going to do more like that?"

"Now we are."

With that, the interview ended. I poked my head in master control on my way out. Barb was visiting with Keith and Doug, wondering where I was. "I think we're going to punch that script up a lot." And told them what happened. Barb, Keith and Doug were very happy. I told Doug that I had one request for music that week, and I'd bring it with us. It was a Ry Cooder version of an old jass tune -- (Big Bad Bill) is Sweet Willie Now.

Now the real fun began.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

In which the Hammer Strikes

I may, and probly am, compressing time a little here. Just to set the history straight.

February was sweeps month, and we had big plans for building on the momentum of the Carpet Monster show. Although we didn't have a say in the selection of the first run of movies, we did have a say in assigning the air dates; so we had selected what we thought was a strong selection of the available cheese, building up to Plan 9 from Outer Space at the end of the month. We knew that we could pull off the kind of show that we wanted to do; the production fixes were relatively minor, and would be nailed if we could move to live-to-tape. And we were convinced that the Carpet Monster show would yield a shower of praise from the teeming masses, covering us in glory and convincing Bill to approve the minor production shift.

Well, wrong on one count and right on the other, but not the way we expected. Nary a peep from the Teeming Masses on the Carpet Monster show. A quite large peep from Bill on Monday, instructing Barb and me to come over to the station tout de suite about last weekend's show. We came in on Tuesday, to learn that Bill was Not Amused by the show.

Not Amused At All.

Appalled, outraged, dismayed, consternated, dumbfounded, aghast, stupefied, and enraged would be closer to the mark.

For him, the Carpet Monster show displayed everything that was wrong about our concept of the show. It moved too fast, it was too in-jokey, the characters were unappealing, it was impossible to follow, the production values were so sub-par as to be unacceptable for student work let alone the output of a professional major market teevee station. In case we hadn't noticed, this was a business and not a playground; and WLEX had made a sizable investment that he was not going to jeopardize during the all-important ratings sweeps month.

And while he was at it, where did we get off making public fun of station management? Didn't we realize that this undercut their position in the marketplace? It was embarassing for him and the rest of the senior management to constantly have to defend a foolish little show every time they showed their faces publicly. One thing was certain: nobody in the higher echelons of Lexington media had any clue what MT was about, and that reflected badly on WLEX management, of which he was one.

And so henceforth, not to be deviated from one jot or tittle, by order of the Supreme High Command of WLEX, and without mercy or hope of appeal:
  • No more crew interaction
  • No more snarky dialogue
  • No more Bobs, Nathans, studio visitors, pizza deliveries, phone calls fake or otherwise
  • No more puppets
  • No more references to anything outside of the movie
  • No more reading viewer letters on the air
  • No more run on graphics, crawls, or animation
  • No more roaming around the studio on air
  • No more sound FX, visual FX, or any other FX
  • No more nothing that wasn't funny jokes and puns about the actual movie
  • The show will be Millie in a chair talking about the movie. Period. And if we didn't care to offer that, somebody else was available and waiting for the opportunity.
Well, that was plain enough.

Out in the parking lot we noted that this was Tuesday, which was our crew's day off; so we figured they didn't know that the hammer was coming down. We talked about what we wanted to do about this; neither of us wanted to put any time into anything that wasn't fun, and staying up to 3AM Sunday to recite bad puns was not high on our list of fun things to do. Besides, Barb had out-of-town auditions coming up for grad schools; that would be our future life, far far away from Lexington. This foolishness was now a distraction that was jeopardizing our plans for our particular and immediate future.

OTOH, we did have a loyal audience of some unknown size; and we did have a studio crew that we had convinced to become part of what now appeared to be a fiasco of epic proportions, which would surely make their particular short-term careers hell. We would be gone anyway in a few months, we were going to write off our Lexington reputations as dust in the wind anyway. But we had some responsibility to them, to try to ensure that there was no lasting professional fallout poisoning their livelihoods.

So we decided: we'd give Bill the show he wanted. For two weeks. And then we'd leave. Obviously it was time to go. The Future Beckoned!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

In which we Parse the Show, Part Deux

But wait! There's more!

0:10 Here's Bob with a handful of Real Mail. Keith would hand me the week's mail when I checked in with him; we usually received between five and ten pieces of mail per week. I'd scan the letters and pick out the sections of each letter that we'd respond to on air; I'm pretty sure we acknowledged each piece of mail received each week, even if we didn't read the letter. Sometimes Barb would read the actual piece of mail with the on-air section hi-lit; usually we'd rewrite it with a Sharpie so that she could read it quickly. I'd bullet the response and she'd adlib around it. We'd stick the letters onto the set, so that everybody would see the letters every week.

0:42 I'm sure glad we didn't hear half of what Dougie was putting out for the soundscape, because I have no idea what he's doing with the FX.

0:56 This was a live show, so we didn't do the loop repeat gag. We must conclude that Mr. Mike created the loop for his buds at Morehead. We knew Morehead was a bastion of Milliedom, so this is not surprising. Recently, we learned that Asbury College was, too. Sakes! Who'da thunk?

1:38 This letter was not a setup; that was a real letter from a real fan. We used it as a Clever Device to integrate the plot into the show. If you listen carefully, you can hear the plot wheels creaking in the background.

2:14 The week's obligatory Punky Brewster running gag. Barb and I found this show vastly amusing for all the wrong reasons, including finding the words "punky" and "brewster" highly risible.

2:50 This is the week's single fake letter, which not only sets up the fake mailing address but is Secret Clue No. 2 to dating the broadcast.

3:07 This week's fake mailing address. The post office box is WLEX's main post office box. We put the joke header on in the first few weeks out of amusement at the conniptions it would give whoever sorted the mail. Imagine our surprise when people actually started sending letters to the fake address. Keith told me that it actually worked in our favor, because we got our own little mail cubby out of it. We'd occasionally use a cancelled envelope as the background to a bump shot, just to acknowledge that real people sent mail to the silly addresses and the Postal Service processed it through. I guess if they accept letters to Santa Claus, North Pole they'll accept anything. Of course, this was back in the day when mail was handled for the most part by humans. Our youngest son does not understand why you would write something on a piece of paper and send it when you can just email somebody.

3:08 Dougie has now shifted to his planned soundtrack, so we're back on the script -- the BG music is ripped from the movie.

3:09 Can't even read my own script, and give the wrong ZIP code. That's why we needed trained actors!

3:23 Get us out of this scene, Keith! We got nothing left!

3:51 Position 4 -- in the reception area -- note the on-air feed to the big honkin' console teevee. This was one of the early meta "watch ourselves watching ourselves" gags; but it's real function was to cue Bob; we didn't have enough cable to extend the headsets out for the two or three crew guys needed for the shot. So Little Jeff had the live headset, because as the cameraman he needed to hear the director. When Bob saw himself come up on the teevee, that was his cue to head for the conference room.

4:12 And here we are in the conference room. Shot just the way they left it at COB Friday. Usually we used the conference room for Barb's makeup and dressing room. Later on we discovered that the offices weren't usually locked at night, and we'd shoot "JD" in the real JD's office. Yes, folks, now it can be told -- we shot JD, not Kristin.

5:11 And speaking of the real JD, he had just given us a list of movies that they were looking at for "season 2" of MT. That was the first hint that we had that WLEX was committing to extending the show. So we selected and programmed the second wave of 26 movies that followed the "first season"; season 2 started with the Bela Lugosi Dracula.

5:27 Position 5. This sequence was written for Officer Elmer, but he decided that night that he didn't want to do it. This was an unpleasant surprise; we'd told him about it when we dropped the scripts off Thursday night, and gave him his pages, and he was up for it. Go figure. We needed to recruit somebody to stand in, in a hurry, so Terry did it. But Millie's posturing about a security breach makes no sense as played to Terry; Millie's on-air relationship with the production guys was amped-up Talent 'tude (go back to her manhandling Richie and Jeff in position 1). Well, we figured that anybody who stuck through the broadcast this long wasn't interested in strict internal logic n consistency.

6:09 Oh, look! More dead video air! That's because there was only one minicam, and it was set up at the film chain; Barb had to run over to it. We actually tried to get a pedestal camera out into the corridor for a cover shot; couldn't get it out the door.

6:25 The lens flare kills the payoff. The bookplate reads "Property of WKYT-TV". Guess we should have rehearsed that one.

6:54 Our first experiment in slipped synch. Doug had discovered that he could take an audio feed, loop it back through the audio rack, and throw the audio out of sync with the video. There was a noticeable degrade of the sound quality, but hey it was MT. We thought it might be interesting to have Millie's audio dubbed after going through the whole silent movie shtick; and we figured that people watching were half-asleep and if they noticed would think that their exhaustion was causing their eyes to play tricks on them. We played much more extensively with the slipped synch in later shows.

7:28 It's "je ne sais quoi", folks.

7:53 The Devil's Hand -- A Swedish anthology movie featuring Lon Chaney, Jr. as the devil, recovered from having his hand nailed to the set. He stays seated at a desk, wearing what looks like one of his personal shirts through his scenes, which were the wraparounds for the anthology stories. At the end of the movie he blows up the world.

8:06 The third Secret Clue to the air date. The show aired either the week before the Super Bowl, or the week of. We guys were vastly amused by Da Bears, not because we were football fans but because it was Ditka and Da Bears; we shared a brotherhood of punkdom. The out music is Da Bears doing the Super Bowl Shuffle.

8:32 Barb is adlibbing her way out.

So there you have it. We were pretty happy with it; this was, truth to tell, how the First Show would have played if we had had the chops to pull it off. We had the celebratory pizza afterwards, and everybody was feeling very good about this. We left the station sure in the certain knowledge that the cards n letters would pour in, congratulating us on our artistic accomplishment.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

In which we Parse the Show -- Part 1

Thanks to good ol' Mike the Carpet Monster show was saved for Posteriority:

So here's what was going on that fateful night.

0:08 SMPTE leader was a Clue that we were going to show a movie around the movie.

0:18 Dougie's soundscape was the first show-length soundtrack. For this show he ripped the music from the movie itself, and stacked his effects cassettes (regular old cassette tapes, not the carts that disc jockies used to use) in front of his decks. He had marked his script where he was going to play specific effects, and had others that he would drop in as fast as he could cue them up. Usually, he didn't send the soundscape out into the studio -- it would get picked up by the mics. So we never knew what the soundscape was until we played the show back. O that scamp Dougie!

That's Mike and Little Jeff fussing over Millie in the open. The blue cloth she was wearing was our Instant Blue Screen; if we wanted to matte in some thing, we'd put it on a little pedestal, drape the Instant Blue Screen over the pedestal, and put the whole thing in front of the permanent blue backing.

That's me doing my fake plummy FM radio announcer voice. I didn't have the pitch or resonance that a real plummy FM radio announcer had, but I knew what I wanted. I was trying to match the tempo of the movie's voiceover, hence the deliberate pacing of the VO; the normal MT show tempo would have been twice as fast.

0:23 If we repeated something, we wanted the audience to Get It. Repeating "zany" was that week's giveaway that we hated the word "zany" ICW MT. Ordinarily, we would have beat the repetition into the ground, but we had to get into the setup.

0:38 The Farrah Fawcett movie is one of two internal references that date the broadcast. If we had old teevee guides, we could pin it down for sure. The second internal reference puts the air date as either January 18 or 25. I'll tell you about it later.

0:45 "Horror Beyond Imagination." That's what the movie's original advertising promised. 1986 was also the year of Star Wars III (or VI), which to keep the fanboys away had the working title of "Blue Harvest" with the tagline "Horror Beyond Imagination". So there's our obligatory fanboy throwaway reference for the week.

0:51 That's the film library. All of the "on location" rooms were shot with available light; we had a little Lowellite on a stick to augment. So that's why the "on location" rooms are greenish; the lighting was moved from room to room, and we couldn't colorbalance the camera for each setup. A real DP would have pre-lit each room. Meh, we didn't have the lights, sue us.

Who knows why Doug put the woo woo into the soundscape here? Guess it was to show an alarm going off. We probly couldn't get a Star Trek Red Alert FX here, there was no Internets to pull down the file; if you wanted a sound effect, you had to go get the record.

I was way off to the side in the studio reading, as close to the mic as I could get, so that we had no background noise; I might have been up on the news set, can't remember. Barb could hear me live, but Bob was in another room; so Doug set up a monitor speaker for him to hear the VO.

Bob is tapping the bookplate on the film to set up the final joke. The bookplate reads "Property of WKYT-TV". The idea was to zoom in on the bookplate in the final segment; since this was a live show (we said so on teevee so it had to be true), unfortunately we had to remember to do so and cue the zoom -- and in that particular segment, things got rushed. Oh, well.

1:09 Yes kids, that is a Film Chain, and they actually still used it. When we showed the movie on the show, the movie was dubbed to videocassette, and the deck was cued automatically from the control room. But it arrived as a 16mm film, and Keith's first MT Job O The Week was to transfer the movie to videotape, using this very machine.

1:27 Another trope, this one from Michael Keaton in Night Shift: "Is this a great country or what?" We quoted a lot from not-quite-popular movies.

1:41 The standard show format by this point was an intro, five internal segments (mail is segment 3 or 4, depending on the film pacing), and outro including the preview. So this is Segment 1.

1:58 Doug has genuinely perplexed Barb with the "Secret woid" clip -- nobody knew that was coming, and he put that one out into the studio since there was no narration. So her look of puzzlement is not only in character, it's real.

2:06 That's Richie. He was floormanaging, so he went first. Since the cameras were generally locked down, the camera operator stood next to the camera during the shot.

2:23 That's Little Jeff. He was the minicam operator for the show. It was his tryout on the minicam.

2:45 Bill had grumbled about the writing being "glib and facile" at one point. So of course we had to call attention to the show's glibness and facility.

2:50 Barb was listening to Frankie Goes to Hollywood at this time, with the tee-shirt tag line "Frankie Say Relax". So we tried to work in "Millie say" at least once per show.

2:54 And speaking of live teevee and nobody knowing what someone might do, which as we all recall is what Bill hoped for back in the day, nobody knew that Barb would close out the segment by blowing a raspberry; we might have gone with live audio for that.

3:10 Here's Barb in the film room, and the lighting stinks. It didn't look so bad in the Bob sequence, because the blanket was green to begin with; but Barb's makeup and costume was in the reds, lavenders and blues. And since we all remember that teevee tubes broadcast light, and the primary colors of light are red, green and blue, and that under green light red and blue go black ... the perils of live teeveee with a half-hour setup taught us that we had to pre-light the next time we did this.

3:29 The "Clue" joke came from the Hard-Boiled Dick show (remember the Miami Vice montage?)

3:40 Self-referencing jokes in full mode here, folks.

3:50 Here's a geography lesson for the studio, showing how small the places really were: the Film Room was accessed through the Mail Room, which was right across the hall from the Control Room.

4:07 We are not above bad jokes. We were one of the few couples in our circle who thought Airplane was a great movie, and that quantity of jokes would work as well as quality of jokes.

4:20 The lighting in the Control Room stinks, and Terry has to fix it by dialing up something in the shot. After this show, Keith pronounces that we can do no more Control Room shots until we figure out how to fix the lighting.

4:28 In the writing, we saw that we were getting too off-track and that there was no way to get back to the so-called plot of the show; so we used the deus ex machina of the viewer call-in. We really wanted to get "real" viewers to call in, but that never happened. Probly for the best -- I don't know if we could have controlled the call. Bill Cosby was great at leading people into setting him up, when he felt like it.

I'm still reading in the studio; Barb is getting her cues from the room and booth monitors.

4:50 What in the world is Doug doing with the sound FX?

5:02 Finally, after all these years, I get the sound joke at the end of the bump.

5:19 Millie's crank calls were a staple of the show. We had the doo-dad where the call audio ran through the mixing board; when we did that live, she called the Control Room and one of the guys would answer (or call her in). That was a working extension she was dialing on, unplugged for this show.

She's calling for outside help because the previous movie segment had the Esteemed Scientist called in by the Sheriff. The Esteemed Scientist had explained the Secret of the Movie Monster to the stoic young Hero Guy. How did he know what the Secret of the Movie Monster was? Because he was an Esteemed Scientist from a University. I met one of those guys the other day.

5:32 The week before, Larry "Bud" had made a series of crank calls on Letterman using these exact jokes. Wonder if anybody remembered? He only made two calls; gags must always run in series of three. Running gags must always top each other, and run in odd-numbered series. Larry "Bud" made only two calls. Alert the media.

5:36 Now I'm in the ad-lib act; don't know why I thought the nyuk-nyuks would help the bit. I probly did it to irritate Barb, who to this day does not find the Stooges funny.

6:12 Here's the third joke. It's un homage to Willy Elder and one of his Mad chicken fat gags. A no-prize to the Merry Marvel Marcher who can identify which story this one was buried in.

6:32 Well, by this time he was established as a staple. I don't think that's my arm up the puppet's hinder, but it could have been.

6:43 Here's the Tape Room, which was behind the Control Room. This was the very room ripped up by the Real Engineers. Note that they're not quite finished yet -- they've still got masonite down on the floor where they were staging equipment to keep it clean.

7:09 Note the high-tech state o the art Sony decks.

7:12 Snappy-dressing Bob and his snappy dressing shoes. I would have sworn he was wearing Chucks.