819: Invasion of the Neptune Men
by Wyn Hilty
Hey, look at that—it’s Oliver Reed’s liver encased in Lucite.
Oliver Reed (1938-1999) was an English actor who appeared in such films as The Three Musketeers and Oliver! He was famous for his public drinking bouts; he once removed his pants during an interview, and on another occasion he was thrown off a TV talk show after trying to kiss one of the other guests, feminist writer Kate Millett. He died of a heart attack in 1999, reportedly after a massive binge at a pub in Malta. Lucite is a brand of acrylic glass product that became popular in furniture and decorative objects in the 1960s and 1970s.
Well, kids, the Hamilton clock on the wall tells us it’s time for the invasion of the Neptune men.
The Hamilton Clock Company was founded in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1876, but this is likely referring to the Hamilton Watch Company, an American maker of timepieces since 1892. “The old clock on the wall says it’s time to …” was a hokey yet commonplace line used by old-time radio announcers.
If it’s not too much trouble, could someone ritual seppuku me right now?
Seppuku is a Japanese ritualized form of suicide that dates back to 1180, as part of the samurai warrior code. Used to die with honor rather than be captured, or as a form of capital punishment to spare them the humiliation of public execution, seppuku involves slicing one’s abdomen open with a short sword. Sometimes a friend or relative would cut their head off after the initial stab to spare them the pain of a lingering death.
Sounds like the Little Rascals are going to be in this.
In the 1920s and 1930s, producer Hal Roach created a series of short comedy films about a group of poor neighborhood children, dubbed Our Gang. More than 220 shorts featuring 41 child actors were eventually produced. In the 1950s, many of the shorts were recycled for television and packaged under the name The Little Rascals.
Featuring Santa! Speed Racer! Shonen Knife! Sailor Moon!
An urban legend has it that a department store in postwar Japan, which was eagerly adopting American culture, once featured a holiday display of a crucified Santa. The legends seem to date back only to the 1990s, however. Speed Racer was a Japanese animated show that first aired in the United States in 1967. The title character was the teenage son of a car designer who, in addition to winning races, solved crimes and foiled supervillains. Shonen Knife is an all-female Japanese rock trio that was quite influential on alternative rock bands such as Nirvana and Sonic Youth; the band opened for Nirvana on several occasions in 1993. Sailor Moon is a manga/anime franchise about a young girl who uses her powers in defense of the earth. (Thanks to multiple readers for the Santa legend.)
Oh no, someone knocked over the sump pump in the Mir!
Mir was a Russian space station in orbit around the Earth. The first bits of it were launched back in 1986, and it was slowly assembled over the next ten years. In 1997 a couple of widely publicized disasters aboard the station (a major fire, a collision with a cargo ship) contributed to the Mir’s image as an aging, unreliable spacecraft. In 2001 the station was de-orbited and broke up upon re-entering the atmosphere.
D’oh! Now the Mir’s fan belt has snapped!
See previous note. “D’oh!” is the classic exclamation uttered by Homer Simpson on the animated TV series The Simpsons, which first aired on FOX in 1989. Actor Dan Castellaneta, who supplies the voice of Homer, has said he borrowed the phrase from comedian James Finlayson, who appeared in a number of Laurel & Hardy shorts. In 2001 the expression made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, thus becoming enshrined in the English language.
Come to the Renaissance Festival!
Renaissance Festivals are an entertainment phenomenon that began in Southern California in the 1960s and spread first to the rest of California and then the nation. Generally they feature a number of vendors selling leather mugs, swords, jewelry, and so forth; singers, dancers, and comedians performing; a “court” complete with king, queen, and courtiers; and rides and games for both children and adults. As proved in two scathing host segments in Show 703, Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell, the MST3K gang has an intense dislike of Renaissance Festivals. Specifically, Kevin Murphy had this to say in the Sci-Fi Channel episode guide for Deathstalker: “As you might guess if you've watched more than one episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, many of us involved in the writing of the show hate Renaissance Festivals to the point that we have wished dire harm on their participants and patrons, written letters to wit, received court orders enjoining us from stalking around them, been incarcerated for lighting fires in the bazaar and hurling flaming dream-catchers at horrified festers.”
They’re trying to catch Mothra.
Mothra was a 1961 Japanese monster movie about a giant moth that levels Tokyo. Mothra went up against the quintessential Japanese monster in 1964’s Mothra vs. Godzilla.
Head for the Alps! The border is closed!
Probably a reference to the end of The Sound of Music, in which the Von Trapp family escapes over the mountains into Switzerland.
Music courtesy of Sergei Prokofiev.
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was a Russian composer who wrote numerous operas, symphonies, concertos, and ballets. His best-known works include Peter and the Wolf and the ballet Romeo and Juliet.
We feel fresh!
“Mom, do you ever feel, you know, not so fresh?” was the opening line to a classic commercial for Massengill douches, spoken, for some reason, by a young woman on a boat. The mother in that commercial was played by Kathryn Harrold, who went on to play Larry Sanders’ ex-wife Francine in The Larry Sanders Show (HBO, 1992-1998).
Soldiers are popping up everywhere, asking if the war is over yet.
Long after the end of World War II, Japanese soldiers remained in the Pacific islands who either refused to surrender or had never heard of Japan’s surrender to the Allies in 1945. The last known holdout was Private Teruo Nakamura, who was found in Indonesia in 1974. (Thanks to Shannon Trainer for this reference.)
It’s a prefab Lutheran church.
Lutherans are a branch of Protestant Christianity that follow the teachings of 16th-century reformer Martin Luther.
In the late 1990s, the allergy medication Allegra ran a series of commercials showing people running happily through open fields with the tag line, “Ahhh. Allegra.”
He must be the Piggy of the group.
Piggy is a character in the William Golding allegorical novel Lord of the Flies, about a group of British schoolboys stranded on an island who gradually revert to savagery. Piggy is the hapless boy whose glasses are stolen by the others to make a cooking fire; in the ensuing melee (spoiler alert), Piggy is struck by a thrown rock and falls off a cliff to his death.
They have Braille helmets.
Braille is a system of raised dots standing for letters that allows blind people to read; it was invented in 1821 by Louis Braille, a blind French musician and teacher.
And immediately Bob Hope is flown in to entertain the troops.
Comedian Bob Hope (1903-2003) was well-known for his military performances for the United Services Organization (USO), a tradition that began in World War II and continued through Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf. In 1997 Congress made Hope an “honorary veteran” in recognition of his efforts to support the troops over the years.
Tojo’s death car!
Hideki Tojo (1884-1948) was the prime minister of Japan during World War II (1939-1945). After the war, he was found guilty of war crimes and hanged in 1948 after an unsuccessful attempt at suicide.
Children of the pot.
“Children of the Corn” is a 1977 short story by horror writer Stephen King, about a small town taken over and terrorized by a cult of children who worship “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.” In 1984 it was made into a movie starring Linda Hamilton.
LaToya Jackson is one of the show-biz Jackson siblings, of whom the most famous is of course Michael Jackson. LaToya enjoyed moderate success as a singer during the 1980s with such minor hits as “If You Feel the Funk” and “Bet’cha Gonna Need My Lovin’.”
This guy trained under Bruce Lee … bowitz.
Bruce Lee (1940-1973) is considered by many the greatest martial arts star ever immortalized in film, for his performance in such movies as Enter the Dragon and Game of Death.
This is the set of Tattletales, if I’m not mistaken.
Tattletales was a TV game show during the 1970s on which celebrities and their spouses competed to see which pair answered the most questions with the same answers; kind of like the Newlywed Game. It aired from 1974-1978; an updated version aired from 1982-1984.
I just know Dr. Smith’s going to be in this. –William …
Dr. Zachary Smith, as played by Jonathan Harris, was the mincing, villainous stowaway/saboteur on the TV series Lost in Space, which aired from 1965-1968. Originally cast as a villain, Dr. Smith soon became a sympathetic character and comic relief in the series, with most of the conflicts resulting from his harebrained schemes gone awry. Dr. Smith’s relentless cowardice resulted in frequent emotional breakdowns, wherein he would either hide behind other characters and howl “We’re doomed!” or confess his shortcomings and whimper, “Oh, the shame, the pain …” Will Robinson was the young son of the family; the part was played by Billy Mumy.
The phrase “legalize it” has long been a slogan of various efforts around the world to legalize the medical and recreational use of marijuana. “Legalize It” is also the title song from reggae artist Peter Tosh’s 1975 debut solo album.
Oops, looks like the Russians blew another reactor.
In 1986, in what was then the Soviet Union, one of the nuclear reactors near the small town of Chernobyl blew, killing thirty-one people immediately and contaminating an enormous area of land with radioactivity. Hundreds of thousands of people had to be evacuated, and no one knows what the final human cost will be. Birth defects and cancer rates rose after the disaster, but statistical recordkeeping in the area was poor, and the then-Soviet government deliberately hid the extent of the problem anyway. It is considered the worst nuclear accident in history. The clouds of radioactive dust eventually stretched over wide parts of the earth, including Japan, but radiation exposure outside the Soviet Union is thought to have been relatively slight.
It’s the Neptunian Bay of Pigs.
The Bay of Pigs invasion took place on April 17, 1961. It was an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the communist government of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Plotted by the CIA and executed by about 1,500 Cuban exiles, the invasion lasted only about two days before all the exiles had been killed or captured by Castro’s forces. The invasion was a fiasco and a serious political problem for the Kennedy administration, which had authorized the strike.
It’s over two hundred mAs!
A reference to the Bob Dylan song “When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky.” Sample lyrics: “Well, I’ve walked over two hundred miles, look me over/It’s the end of the chase and the moon is high/It won't matter who loves who/You’ll love me or I’ll love you/When the night comes falling …” The “mA” on the instrument panel presumably stands for “milliampere,” a measurement of electrical current. (Thanks to Sara Garrett for correcting the mA reference.)
Well, there’s the dolphin killing festival.
Dolphin drive hunting is a controversial method of hunting dolphins that involves herding dolphins into a bay or cove, blocking their escape, and then slaughtering them. Of the handful of nations that engage in the practice, Japan is the best known and most widely criticized for it; the Academy Award-winning 2009 documentary The Cove is about Japan’s annual dolphin and porpoise hunts.
It must be Santa's beeper.
See note on Santa, above. Before smartphones were in everyone’s pocket, people who felt they could never be out of touch (drug dealers, for example) would carry a “beeper” or “pager,” a small device that would beep or vibrate to indicate someone wanted to contact them. Later models would display a phone number to call. The person would then have to find a phone—meaning an actual, analog telephone, with a wire connecting it to the wall and everything. MSTie trivia: In the unaired pilot for MST3K, there was a silvery, vaguely Servo-esque bot named Beeper, who spoke in excitable beeps that only Crow could understand. That bot evolved into Tom Servo.
Meanwhile, in pre-revolution Havana …
Havana is the capital city of Cuba. Before the revolution of 1959 spearheaded by Fidel Castro, Havana was the Caribbean equivalent of Las Vegas, home to glitzy hotels, posh casinos, and throngs of tourists, professional gamblers, and mobsters.
Paul is a dead man, miss him, miss him.
For years, an urban legend has circulated that Paul McCartney of the Beatles was killed in a car crash in the mid-1960s and secretly replaced with a double. One of the key pieces of evidence for this theory was the song "I'm So Tired” off the White Album; apparently, when played backwards, the above lines appear at the end of the song. (Thanks to Scott Schaffner for this reference.)
Hey! Hey! Hey!
Tom is imitating “Russian Dance” from the ballet Petrushka by Igor Stravinsky.
How’d they ever get around to designing good cars? –I don’t know.
Into the 1970s, the American “Big Three” automakers continued to produce poorly made gas-guzzling cars, while Japanese automakers had been producing smaller, more reliable, and more fuel-efficient cars for years. Due to Japan’s limited real estate, smaller cars were a necessity, and Japanese emphasis on worker loyalty and efficiency resulted in high productivity at auto plants. When OPEC's stranglehold on oil production led to gas shortages in the United States in the mid-1970s, the automobile industry was turned on its ear, and small import cars flooded American highways.
Hey! Hey! Hey!
See previous note.
It’s Rip Taylor’s voice pattern!
“Crying Comedian” Rip Taylor is a comedian known for his wacky costumes, props, and extensive use of confetti. He was the host of the painfully cruel TV game show The $1.98 Beauty Show, which aired from 1978-1980.
Charlie was close. He was right next to me.
In the Vietnam War, American soldiers often referred to the enemy as “Charlie.” The nickname came from “Victor Charlie,” which in the NATO phonetic alphabet referred to the Viet Cong.
At the Comfort Inn Suites.
Comfort Inn is a chain of “budget luxury” hotels owned by Choice Hotels, which also runs the Sleep Inn and Econo Lodge chains. Comfort Inn Suites is the all-suite version of the hotel.
No one showed up for my one-man Il Duce show.
The fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who controlled Italy during World War II, adopted the title “Il Duce” in the 1920s; “duce” is an Italian word meaning “leader.” Like fellow fascist Adolf Hitler, Mussolini was fond of dressing up in military garb and giving grandiose speeches from balconies.
“The band was caught in America.” In Big Pink?
Music From Big Pink was the 1968 debut album of The Band. The album was a reference to the New York house of singer Rick Danko, which was painted pink.
Walter Mondale goes camping.
Politician Walter Mondale, the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for president in 1984, served as ambassador of Japan from 1993-1996, under President Bill Clinton.
Kurosawa, eat your heart out.
Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998) is considered possibly the greatest Japanese filmmaker of all time. In films like Ran (1985) and The Seven Samurai (1954), he made Japanese film accessible to the West.
Ooo—grandpa tried to program his VCR.
VCR stands for Video Cassette Recorder, an ancient home electronics device that recorded television programming onto a magnetic tape cassette. Now replaced by streaming video, digital video recorders (DVRs), and DVD or Blu-ray players, VCRs ruled the home entertainment landscape in the 1980s and 1990s, with prerecorded tapes widely available for rental or purchase (the last major Hollywood film released on videocassette was A History of Violence in 2006), and blank videotapes used for home recording. VCRs could be set to record television shows automatically, but they were notoriously hard to program, leading to many botched recordings and VCR clocks eternally blinking their default time setting: “12:00 ...12:00 …12:00 ...”
I suppose Rachel Carson’s going to bitch about this now.
Author and marine biologist Rachel Carson (1907-1964) is credited with helping to launch the environmental movement in the United States with her book Silent Spring (1962), about the dangers of pesticides. Her work led directly to the banning of certain pesticides, such as DDT, and indirectly to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.
And yet we play Racko.
Racko is a card game produced by Hasbro, in which the goal is to get ten cards in sequential order.
[Sung.] Can’t get enough Super Sugar Crisp …
An advertising jingle for Super Sugar Crisp cereal, sung by cereal mascot Sugar Bear.
Oh, and don’t miss “Dilbert” today, it’s great.
“Dilbert” is a comic strip about the foibles of working in an office; it has been published since 1989 and is one of the most successful comic strips of its time.
Sorry, I was in the weeds. Did Joannie come by with the menus?
“In the weeds” is restaurant-speak for falling behind on orders and customer service due to being buried in work.
Mr. Gower’s son died!
Mr. Gower is the druggist for whom George Bailey works as a boy, and whom George saves from accidentally poisoning a patient when he drunkenly fills a prescription incorrectly, in the 1946 movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Gower is drunk because he has just been notified, by telegram, that his son has died of influenza. The part was played by H.B. Warner (1875-1958).
His glasses’ll be done in about an hour.
LensCrafters is a chain of eyeglass stores founded in 1983; it promises its clients that their glasses will be ready in “about an hour.”
[Sung.] Set me free, why don’t you babe …
A line from the Diana Ross song “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” Sample lyrics: “Set me free, why don’t you baby?/Get out my life, why don’t you baby?/Cause you don’t really love me/You just keep me hangin’ on …”
Hmm. Sea-Monkeys are disappointing.
Sea-Monkeys are a brand name for a type of brine shrimp sold to children as pets; they were first marketed in 1957. For years the packaging has showed a family of adorable mer-creatures, and countless kids were disappointed when the Monkeys hatched and turned out to be tiny shrimp that just swam around aimlessly.
Hey, it’s Thomas the Tank Spaceship.
Thomas the Tank Engine is an anthropomorphized train created by W.V. Audry in his Railway Series of children’s books; the books were later turned into the successful kid’s TV show Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. He first appeared in print in 1946; the first episode of the TV series aired in Britain in 1984.
Shoot at Earth all you want—just get Bill Maher.
Bill Maher is a standup comedian best known for hosting the panel discussion show Politically Incorrect from 1993-2002; the show was canceled following his controversial on-air remarks about the 9/11 attacks. The following year he began hosting a new show on HBO, Real Time with Bill Maher. Over the years his targets have been numerous and diverse: George W. Bush, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, organized religion, Michael Jackson, and junk food, to name a few.
Jeez, Midasize it!
A reference to an old commercial for the Midas chain of muffler shops, where passersby urge a man to “Midasize” his noisy car.
Gamera, get back in your kennel!
Gamera was a giant, fire-breathing turtle that starred in a series of Japanese monster movies. A “friend to all children,” Gamera would also occasionally destroy large tracts of Tokyo, presumably killing thousands, including, presumably, children. MST3K riffed on five Gamera movies, originally in the KTMA days (K04, K05, K06, K07, and K08), and then did revised versions of those same five in Season Three (302, 304, 308, 312, and 316).
Oh, Jimmy Osmond and Santa, save us!
Jimmy Osmond is the youngest member of the Osmonds, the Mormon family singing group that hit it big in the 1970s.
On the left, it’s John Foster Dulles!
John Foster Dulles (1888-1959) was a foreign policy expert who served as Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. His tenure was marked by an aggressive stance toward the Soviet Union and Communist China that became known as “brinkmanship”—the art of containing communist expansion through a seeming willingness to engage in nuclear war. This threat of nuclear annihilation became a standard tactic throughout the Cold War.
They’re attacking St. Louis!
The Gateway Arch, less poetically known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, is a concrete and metal arch that soars 630 feet into the air. It is located in St. Louis, Missouri, a city long viewed as the “Gateway to the West,” or the place where the East ends and the West begins. The Arch was designed by architect Eero Saarinen and opened to the public in 1967.
Oh, it’s Mr. Bill! Oh nooooooo!
Mr. Bill was a plasticine character on the TV sketch-comedy series Saturday Night Live. Created by Walter Williams, Mr. Bill made his debut appearance in 1976. The premise was simple: poor Mr. Bill is tormented by his mortal enemies, Sluggo and Mr. Hands, and at some point utters his trademark phrase: “Ohhhhh, noooooo!”
Hey, Phil, now you were a big Loggins & Messina fan … Phil!
Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina had eight albums together as a successful duo in the 1970s before starting their own solo acts. In 2005 the two reunited for another tour.
Future cities of the past. By Kenner.
Kenner Products was a toy company founded in Cincinnati in 1947. It enjoyed phenomenal success when it introduced Star Wars action figures in the late 1970s. The company was bought and sold several times; in 2000, Hasbro, its latest owner, closed the Cincinnati office and merged Kenner’s toy lines with its own.
And the angel Gabriel’s in the lead along the rail, Michael’s in second, and there’s a bag of cherubim and seraphim closing in fast.
Gabriel is one of God’s angels in Judeo-Christian tradition; according to the Book of Luke, Gabriel is the angel who visits Mary to reveal that she will bear the son of God (an event known as the Annunciation). Michael is another angel, traditionally the head of God’s armies.
Get under the table! Move over, Bernard Shaw!
In January 1991, during the Persian Gulf War, CNN reporter Bernard Shaw famously reported from his Baghdad hotel during a bombing attack by American forces, in the course of which he and the other crew members took shelter under tables and other furniture.
Oh, man, and they just got ISO 9001 certified!
ISO 9001 is a set of standards for business procedures, administered by the International Organization for Standardization. A business that has been ISO 9001 certified has demonstrated that it follows established, well-documented procedures. Originally the designation focused on manufacturers, but it has since been expanded to cover many types of businesses.
I’m losing weight as we invade, thanks to my new sauna suit.
Probably a reference to the Trim-Jeans Theatre sketch on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, in which audience members can watch TV while losing weight thanks to their “slenderizing garments.”
Intergalactic flaming Jarts!
Jarts is a brand name for lawn darts, an outdoor game in which players toss large darts and attempt to hit targets on the ground. In 1988 lawn darts were banned in the United States over concerns that they were unsafe; in eight years more than 6,000 people (the vast majority children) went to the ER with injuries from the darts, and one child was killed when she was hit in the head with one.
Oh, they’re invading Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome city!
Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller (1895-1983) was an inventor known for his concern with sustainable living. In the 1950s he invented the geodesic dome, a spherical structure supported by interlocking triangles. Fuller hoped that these domes would become widely used as housing, but they never caught on in a big way; however, a number of commercial domes have been built, including the Tacoma Dome in Washington state and the most famous of all, the Spaceship Earth dome at Epcot Center.
The first version of Pac-Man wasn’t very much fun.
Pac-Man is the most popular arcade game of all time, creating a veritable merchandising craze during the 1980s and inducing millions of teenagers to blow their allowances on quarters. It was created by Japanese game designer Moru Iwatani in 1980.
Jeez, they’re making the chicken men of Krankor look super-competent and dignified.
A reference to Show 816, Prince of Space.
Oh, yes it was.
An imitation of Popeye, the star of a series of short cartoons: a diminutive sailor with a jones for spinach; a skinny girlfriend, Olive Oyl; and an arch-nemesis, alternately called Brutus and Bluto.
The right shorts!
The Right Stuff is the name of a 1979 book by Tom Wolfe about America’s original astronauts. The book was made into a film by the same name in 1983.
It’s Crystal Gayle’s curling iron!
Crystal Gayle is a country singer who was popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s; her biggest hit was “Don’t Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” She was known for her super-long hair, which reached nearly to the floor.
Robby the Robot in a depressing cameo.
Robby the Robot, as played by an actor in a seven-foot mechanical suit, first made an appearance in the 1956 film Forbidden Planet; he also appeared in The Invisible Boy and other TV series and films, including several episodes of The Twilight Zone.
“Is it radar?” Gary Burghoff?
Gary Burghoff is an actor who played Corporal Walter “Radar” O’Reilly in the 1970 film MASH and in the TV series based on the movie; he was the only regular cast member to appear in both.
Kill the pig! Drink his blood! Oh, wait, that’s another story.
“Kill the pig! Cut her throat! Drink her blood!” is what the boys in Lord of the Flies (see above note) chant after their first successful hunt.
I think the Tin Man had that thing surgically removed.
The Tin Woodman, a.k.a. the Tin Man, is a character in the series of Oz books by L. Frank Baum. He was originally an ordinary man who kept getting bits lopped off by an enchanted ax and replacing each part with tin, until eventually he was made entirely from tin.
He looks like the Grinch, doesn’t he?
The Grinch is the main character in the 1957 children’s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, by Dr. Seuss. A grouchy fellow who dwells in a cave, he sets out to steal Christmas from the Whos in Whoville, but eventually learns the true meaning of Christmas and has a change of heart.
James Earl Jones!
James Earl Jones is an actor especially known for his deep voice, which has been heard most famously in Star Wars as the voice of Darth Vader, and for a time as the announcer for CNN.
Don’t worry. I won’t hurt you.
“Don’t worry. I won’t hurt you” is the opening line to the Prince song “1999.”
It’s the Grinch!
See previous note.
There appears to be plenty of parking for Lilith Fair. Shall we?
Lilith Fair was a traveling music festival featuring woman musicians; it was founded by musician Sarah Mclachlan in 1997 and ran through 1999. It was revived in 2010 but suffered from financial problems and was not repeated.
The MTV News thing is broken!
MTV News is the news arm of the popular music cable network; its introductory credits show an animated satellite dish.
And she was caught in a vat of Jell-O with these men.
Jell-O is a sweetened gelatin dessert made by Kraft Foods. The powdered gelatin that serves as a base for the product was first developed in 1845 by Peter Cooper. In 1897, a New York carpenter added colors and flavors to it. The first flavors available were lemon, orange, raspberry, and strawberry; his wife came up with the Jell-O name.
Surely Mozart and his holy reindeer will come down to save us.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) is one of the most famous composers of all time; his masterpieces include operas The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro, the Jupiter symphony, and numerous piano concertos.
And Ernie and Uncle Charley—where are they?
On the TV sitcom My Three Sons, after the actor who played eldest son Mike left the show, producers brought in an adopted son, Ernie (played by Barry Livingston), to keep the cast in line with the show’s title. Similarly, after actor William Frawley (who played grandfather Bub O'Casey) left the show due to health problems, William Demarest took over as Uncle Charley, who acted as the housekeeper of the household and as the full-time caretaker for Ernie.
They’re playing an intense game of Red Rover, Red Rover.
Red Rover is a playground game in which children stand in two lines facing each other and link arms. Players from one line attempt to break through the opposing line when summoned by the chant, “Red rover, red rover, let [your name here] come over!”
Chris Farley broke wind! Oh, no!
Chris Farley (1964-1997) was a rotund comedian best known for his appearances on Saturday Night Live and in a series of movies with fellow SNL alum David Spade. He died young from an accidental drug overdose.
It’s the Stay Puft Marshmallow boy.
The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is the chunky, adorable company mascot that gets blown up to horrific proportions and lays waste to New York City in the climactic scenes of the 1984 movie Ghostbusters.
It’s the AP wire service cross-country team.
The Associated Press (AP) is a news-gathering organization that sells its articles to newspapers around the country. It was founded in 1846; in 1914 it introduced its wire service, which sent its stories over telegraph wire and greatly increased the speed by which news could be transmitted. Twenty years later it began sending photographs by wire service as well. Starting in the 1980s the AP began delivering its news via satellite, and later over the Internet.
But I just ordered a brat!
“Brat” is short for bratwurst, a type of sausage that is particularly popular in the American Midwest. It originated in Germany in the 14th century.
Designed by I.M. Pei, built by Jim Varney.
I.M Pei is a Chinese-American architect known for his modernist buildings, which can be seen all over the world. A small sampling: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio; the Louvre Pyramid in Paris; and the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City. Jim Varney (1949-2000) was an actor, comedian, and writer best known for his portrayal of the bumbling Ernest P. Worrell on commercials and in a series of movies.
Ask me about my grandchildren.
“Ask me about my grandchildren” is a popular T-shirt and bumper-sticker slogan for Americans of a certain age. Unless you have plenty of free time and enjoy looking at snapshots, do not ask them about their grandchildren.
Thor is the god of thunder in Norse mythology, generally depicted as a huge man with wild red hair and a beard, wielding the giant hammer with which he made thunder and lightning. Marvel Comics created a character based on the god in 1962, although their version showed him with flowing golden locks (and clean-shaven, unlike the bearded Chris Hemsworth in the popular movie series that began in 2011).
[Sung.] Oh you never would believe where those little soldiers come from …
A reference to an old advertising jingle for Keebler cookies, dating back to 1967. The complete lyrics: “Man, you never would believe where those Keebler cookies come from/They're baked by little guys in a hollow tree/And what do you think makes those cookies so uncommon?/They're baked in magic ovens and there's no factory. Hey!”
[Sung.] It’s been a hard day’s night …
A reference to the 1964 Beatles film (and its title song) A Hard Day’s Night, in which the Fab Four spent a lot of the film running, their screaming fans in hot pursuit.
And now, a brief musical tribute to Alexander Nevsky.
Alexander Nevsky (1220-1263) was a 13th-century Russian military leader who in 1242 turned back an invasion of German Knights in the Battle of the Ice. In 1938 the great Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein made an eponymous biopic of Nevsky that featured a famous musical score by Sergei Prokofiev (see above note).
[Sung.] When Debbie comes marching home again, hurrah, hurrah/We’ll give her a panty girdle then, hurrah, hurrah …
“When Johnny Comes Marching Home” is a Civil War-era song written in 1863 by Patrick Gilmore and set to the tune of an old Irish folk song. Sample lyrics: “When Johnny comes marching home again/Hurrah! Hurrah!/We'll give him a hearty welcome then/Hurrah! Hurrah!/The men will cheer, the boys will shout/The ladies they will all turn out/And we'll all feel gay/When Johnny comes marching home.”
Thank God they carry Clinique at the PX, eh?
Clinique is a brand of cosmetics and skin-care products manufactured by Estee Lauder. A PX, or Post Exchange, is a retail store run by the U.S. Army, located on military bases as a convenience for service members.
I don’t know, Rocky!
An imitation of Bullwinkle, the moose star of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, an animated show about a moose and his sidekick squirrel that aired from 1961-1973. It was animated by Jay Ward.
Filmed in a ghetto in Kingston, Jamaica?
Kingston is the capital city of the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica. The population is about 650,000. The poverty-stricken downtown section of the city is exceptionally crime-ridden—Jamaica has one of the highest murder rates in the world, and a huge percentage of those deaths occur in downtown Kingston.
Yay, here come the Banana Splits!
The Banana Splits were animal rock musicians on a Saturday morning kiddie show in the late 1960s. They lived in Hocus Pocus Park, where their cuckoo clock always read 6:55. The band consisted of Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper, and Snork.
Space Chief is actually Racer X, Speed’s brother.
See note on Speed Racer, above. Racer X, a.k.a. the Masked Racer, was a mysterious race car driver and a rival of Speed’s; it turned out that he was actually Speed’s older brother Rex Racer.
They all have Flintstones phone voices.
The animated TV series The Flintstones aired from 1960-1966. A prehistoric take on The Honeymooners, it starred the voice talents of Alan Reed (as patriarch Fred Flintstone) and Mel Blanc (Fred’s pal Barney Rubble). The show was the first prime-time animated hit and inspired numerous product tie-ins, including a toy phone that spoke phrases in various characters’ voices.
Exit, stage left even.
“Exit, stage left” (or sometimes “stage right”) was the departing catchphrase of Snagglepuss, a slender, nattily dressed lion on the animated children’s TV show Yogi Bear. He had another catchphrase as well: “Heavens to Murgatroid!”
It’s the Keystone Kids!
The Keystone Kops were a group of wildly incompetent policemen who starred in a series of short silent films for Mack Sennett’s Keystone Film Co. between 1912 and 1917. Their films include Hoffmeyer’s Legacy and The Bangville Police.
“Stanley!” Yes, Ollie?
A reference to the comedy team Laurel & Hardy, which made a string of movies during the 1920s and 1930s. The stout Oliver Hardy played a childish, bossy, fussy character opposite Stan Laurel’s thin, gentle incompetent.
RuPaul Andre Charles was a popular drag entertainer in the 1990s, appearing in a number of commercials, television shows, and films. He also released a number of pop songs and even worked as a supermodel for the cosmetics firm MAC. Beginning in 2009 he became the host of the reality show RuPaul's Drag Race, a competition among aspiring drag queens.
“What’s he got?” Boogie fever.
“Boogie Fever,” by The Sylvers, was a number one hit song in 1975. Sample lyrics: “She’s got the boogie fever/She likes to boogie down/Boogie fever/I think it’s going around.”
Walter Mondale stops for chicken.
See note on Mondale, above.
The catacombs of ancient Legoland.
Legoland is a series of theme parks based on the children’s building toy. The first opened in Denmark in 1968, and there are locations in Germany, England, California, Florida, and Malaysia, with more planned around the world. The parks are aimed at younger children.
John Sununu has that waiting at all times.
John Sununu was White House chief of staff under George Bush the Elder. He was forced to resign in 1991 after controversy erupted over his use of government planes for personal business.
They’re ogling the Diet Coke guy.
In the 1990s, Coke ran a series of commercials that showed a group of female office workers spying on a hunky construction worker (played by male model Lucky Vanous) while he refreshed himself with a Diet Coke.
Jacques Cousteau (1910-1997) was a French ocean explorer and the inventor of the Aqua-Lung, which helped him in his extensive underwater expeditions. He wrote a number of popular books about the ocean and also wrote and produced films on the same topic.
“We thought we had reason …” To invade Manchuria.
Manchuria is a territory in northwest China. In 1931, the Japanese invaded the territory and occupied it until the end of World War II.
Pat Paulsen (1927-1997) was a comedian who became famous for his appearances on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, but he is best remembered for his tongue-in-cheek efforts to win the presidency of the United States.
Run! Work! Run faster! Work harder! Abandon healthy diets! Drink a lot! Never speak to your children! Do not apologize for the war!
Following World War II, Japanese culture shifted toward a focus on becoming competitive and successful in the postwar world economy. Businessmen and office workers in particular, called “salarymen,” were driven to work exhaustive hours, along the way abandoning traditional Japanese family values and health habits, and taking up Western bad habits like smoking, drinking, and eating junk food. The drive to work hard was so prevalent that some Japanese salarymen simply dropped dead. The Japanese even have a word for it: “karoshi.”
The trip to Six Flags is still on. Bring a sack lunch.
Six Flags is a chain of amusement parks that includes Six Flags over Texas, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and Six Flags Great America, among many others.
Oh, man, there are 73 McDonald’s lawsuits pending. –Easy.
The McDonald’s chain of fast food restaurants has been extremely protective of its trademarked “Golden Arches” that make up the “M” in the company logo, a shape so identified with the company that at one time it was built into every restaurant.
A winged Playtex nurser! Most like mother herself.
The Playtex company makes pacifiers called Binkys, which brag that they are shaped “most like mother.”
I’m going to ramp up the fuzz pedal a little for you there.
A “fuzz pedal” or “fuzz box” is a foot-controlled device that distorts the sound of an electric guitar.
Crispix is a breakfast cereal manufactured by Kellogg’s: corn and rice in a gridded hexagon shape. It was introduced in the 1980s.
Here at WKRPeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
WKRP in Cincinnati was a TV sitcom that aired from 1978-1982, about life at the titular radio station. Its theme song contained the line “I’m at WKRP in Cincinnati.”
I never thought I’d say it, but suddenly Independence Day seems a richly nuanced movie.
The 1996 film Independence Day was a blockbuster hit about an alien invasion of Earth. It was wildly successful at the box office but bombed with critics, who complained about its simplistic, jingoistic plot.
Thomas was very cross with Japan, and felt he must resort to carpet bombing.
See note on Thomas the Tank Engine, above.
The pierogis of death!
A pierogi is a filled dumpling, made from unleavened dough wrapped in a semi-circular shape around a savory or sweet filling and then cooked in boiling water. Eastern European in origin, pierogis are similar to ravioli (Italy), pot stickers (China), or empanadas (Latin America).
Mr. and Mrs. Bridge!
Mr. and Mrs. Bridge is a 1990 film starring real-life husband and wife Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward as a conservative couple grappling with change in Kansas City.
Meanwhile, Eliot Ness and his men, and his cousins and friends and some guys he met at the auto parts store were all on their way to … here.
Eliot Ness (1903-1957) was a law enforcement operative for the Department of Justice in the 1920s. Heading up a special nine-man team known as the Untouchables for their legendary incorruptibility, he led a series of raids that ultimately helped shut down Al Capone’s mob rule in Chicago. Berwyn is a suburb of Chicago. The comment is delivered in the style of Walter Winchell, one of the narrators of the Untouchables TV show.
They’re in the lost city of Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu is an ancient city of the Incan Empire dating back to about 1460 C.E. It is located on a high mountain ridge in Peru and is considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
Von Ryan's Express was a 1965 film starring Frank Sinatra as an American prisoner of war who organizes an escape attempt from a German prison camp. In one scene, the escaping prisoners are strafed by German planes.
Little chicks? What is he, Sinatra?
American crooner Frank Sinatra (1915-1998) is an entertainment legend, known for his commanding stage presence, memorable voice, and (surprisingly) hefty acting chops. Among his many films, he played the title role in Von Ryan’s Express (see previous note).
Japanese fire drill!
The phrase “Chinese fire drill” is used to describe a large number of people rushing about frantically with no clear purpose, accomplishing nothing.
Space Chief’s off having a couple of Sapporos with Jet Jaguar and Prince of Space.
Sapporo is a brand of Japanese beer. Jet Jaguar is a reference to Show 212, Godzilla vs. Megalon; Prince of Space is the title of Show 816.
Ken Kesey’s got a gun!
Ken Kesey (1935-2001) was a writer whose most famous work is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He was also a strong advocate of using drugs to free one’s mind from its conventional patterns, especially LSD. In 1964 Kesey drove cross-country in a bus with a group of like-minded people dubbed the Merry Pranksters. The group eventually settled outside San Francisco and began throwing wild LSD parties that included the likes of the Hell’s Angels. The story of the Merry Pranksters’ bus trip was told in Tom Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
Oh, and now Old Faithful goes off! Great!
Old Faithful is a geyser in Yellowstone National Park, located in Wyoming. It erupts more frequently than any other geyser—about once every ninety minutes—and is thus one of the most popular sights in the park.
And now enjoy music from Triumph of the Will.
Triumph of the Will is a 1935 film by Leni Riefenstahl about the 1934 Nazi Congress at Nuremberg. While unabashedly a pro-Nazi propaganda piece, the film is also considered one of the most skilled examples of 20th-century cinema. The soundtrack for the film used a lot of music by Richard Wagner, a favorite of the Nazi Party.
It’s the Curly gun. Whoop-whoop-whoop!
An imitation of Curly Howard (born Jerome Lester Horwitz; 1903-1952) of the Three Stooges.
They took out the Hitler building! Where’s everybody going to go to see Hitler memorabilia? –All the Hitler rides and games! The Hitler salt and pepper shakers!
Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) was the dictator of Germany during World War II (1939-1945).
That great restaurant, the Bunker! It’s all gone, you sons of—
The Fuhrerbunker, often referred to simply as the bunker, was an underground complex in Berlin. Hitler took refuge in the bunker in the waning days of the war, when Allied forces were pressing into Germany, and it was there that Hitler and his wife, Eva Braun, committed suicide in April 1945.
What next, the Mussolini mall?
See note on Benito Mussolini, above.
Followed by the Pinochet petting zoo.
Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006) was the military dictator of Chile from 1973-1990. His government systematically repressed its political opponents, using everything from mass arrests to torture to murder. Although he was indicted for numerous crimes after his regime toppled, he died before being brought to trial.
Prince of Space … Chief.
A reference to Show 816, Prince of Space.
Is it a Junior Mint or something?
Junior Mints are a mint-filled chocolate candy manufactured by Tootsie Roll Industries. They were introduced in 1949.
Oh, man, this movie! You know, I think this is gonna become The Magnificent Ambersons. In fact, it is The Magnificent Ambersons! Right now, it is! You see it, guys? Huh? Huh? The family, riding in a sleigh … “There it is: Amberson mansion. Pride of the town. Hot and cold running water upstairs and down.”
The Magnificent Ambersons is a 1942 film directed by Orson Welles, about an upper-class family in Indianapolis. The dialogue is taken nearly verbatim from the beginning of the film.
This really is disappointing as the follow-up to Psycho.
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho, about a young motel owner who’s a little too attached to his mother, is one of the all-time horror classics. In 1983 a sequel was released, Psycho II, that was not directed by Hitchcock and was generally panned by the critics. In 1998 director Gus Van Sant did a shot-for-shot remake of Psycho; critics hated it, audiences ignored it, and Van Sant himself admitted the “experiment” proved that greatness cannot simply be duplicated.
Who Kobe beefed?
Kobe beef is a Japanese type of beef that comes from a particular breed of cow in one specific area of Japan. It is considered a very high grade of beef.
You know, all he really did was trick out an Alumacraft.
Alumacraft is a manufacturer of aluminum fishing boats; it is based in St. Peter, Minnesota.
Slurpees are frozen carbonated beverages in various flavors, sold at 7-Eleven convenience stores everywhere.
I didn’t know Estes was a major defense contractor.
Estes Industries is a Colorado company that makes model rockets; it was founded in 1958.
Babe Winkelman’s world headquarters. –We’ve located a bass bearing south-southwest at two knots, Mr. Winkelman.
Babe Winkelman is a TV outdoorsman, for years the host of Good Fishing (angling, etc.) and Outdoor Secrets (hunting and conservation).
Go. Sketch. Draw your Tippy the Turtle.
A reference to the old “Draw Tippy the Turtle” ads run by the Art Instruction School in Minneapolis.
[Sung.] Cry-yi-yi-yi-ing ...
Possibly a reference to the Roy Orbison song of the same name. (Thanks to S. Sullivan for this reference.)
How does the old saying go—light and get away? We should be able to get away at this point, shouldn’t we, guys?
“Light fuse and get away” is a common warning on fireworks.
Well, it’s the end of the world as we know it, and actually, I feel a little bit gassy, but otherwise, I’m fine.
“It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine” is a line from the R.E.M. song of the same name.
I gotta go do Donnie Brasco.
Donnie Brasco is a 1997 film starring Johnny Depp as an FBI agent who infiltrates the mob.