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.


  1. Hah, even having been a product of the 80s, I never did make the Frankie Say Relax connection.

    Good recap! Big props to Mike for preserving it for everybody.

  2. I'm always surprised that the posted shows hold up as shows. On the one hand, by this point we did sort of know what we were intending to do. On the other hand, the shows were never really rehearsed -- we would mark the scene for pacing and moves, and then go for it. We shoulda failed miserably more than we did.

    It's probly just as well that the Apocalypse Now show, for example, hasn't survived in anybody's closet.

    Part Deux of the parse tomorrow, folks.