by Wyn Hilty
Mithril? Oh, wait, it’s Mitchell.
Mithril is the super-strong metal that Bilbo and Frodo’s vest is made from in J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings.
Oh, the Martha Mitchell story.
Martha Mitchell was the wife of Attorney General John Mitchell, a key figure in the Watergate scandal that took place on the watch of President Richard M. Nixon. She was known for sloshing down a few and calling reporters to make veiled hints of skullduggery during the period when the scandal was exploding. The Mitchells split up in 1973, and Martha died of cancer three years later.
Joe Don Baker is Martha Mitchell.
See previous note.
Bigfoot, a.k.a. the Sasquatch, is a legendary ape-like creature supposed to haunt the Pacific Northwest and western Canada. What is generally considered the best evidence for its existence—a blurry film taken in 1967—has been debunked as a hoax, but the debate rages on.
Who’s the puffy guy who’s a big blurry sex machine? –Mitchell! –That Mitchell is one fat … –Shut your mouth! –I’m just talking about Mitchell.
An imitation of the famous theme to the 1971 blaxploitation movie Shaft, written and performed by Isaac Hayes. Actual lyrics: “Who’s the Black private dick/That’s a sex machine to all the chicks?/Shaft! … You see this cat Shaft is a bad mother–/Shut your mouth!/But I'm talkin’ about Shaft.”
Looks like Grendel.
Grendel is the monster that plagues the hall of Hrothgar, king of the Danes, in the epic Beowulf. The hero Beowulf eventually kills Grendel by ripping off his arm, and then kills Grendel’s mother when she comes to avenge the death of her son.
"Screen credit: Merlin Olsen." Yeah, here’s your loser actor bouquet.
Merlin Olsen (1940-2010), the former football player who plays Benton in Mitchell, was the spokesperson for FTD Florists for many years, beginning in 1983.
Any movie with wakka-chu-wakka in it is okay by me.
The “wakka-chukka” guitar sound was a staple of groovy 1970s songs, particularly themes and incidental music for TV shows and made-for-TV movies. The 1971 Isaac Hayes song “Theme from Shaft” is a fine example of the style, which has become a self-contained punchline for any reference to the blaxploitation film genre or porn. Also a possible nod to the 1972 album and song titled "Waka/Jawaka" by rock composer and friend of the show Frank Zappa. (Thanks to Ray Queen for the Zappa reference.)
[Sung.] It was the third of September/A day I’ll always remember …
A line from the song “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” by the Temptations. Sample lyrics: “It was the third of September/That day I'll always remember, yes I will/’Cause that was the day that my daddy died/I never got a chance to see him/Never heard nothing but bad things about him/Mama, I’m depending on you to tell me the truth.”
It looks like he’s doing a Nixon or something.
Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994) was the 37th president of the United States, from 1969-1974. He resigned on August 9, 1974, rather than face almost certain impeachment by the House of Representatives over his role in the Watergate scandal. He was known for using the V for victory sign, in which the first and second fingers of the hand are raised in a “V” shape.
He looks like a middle-aged Chucky.
Chucky is the homicidal living doll in the series of Child’s Play horror flicks; the first came out in 1988. His voice was supplied by actor Brad Dourif; Dourif also played serial killer Charles Lee Ray, whose spirit animates the doll after his death.
He looks like the wrathful Buddha.
The wrathful Buddhas are deities of Tibetan Buddhism, consisting of eight dharampalas, or creatures with the rank of bodhisattva, who are charged with defending Buddhism against demons and others that would harm the faith. Although they look fierce, they are not evil, but rather personifications of the effort it takes to defeat evil. The wrathful Buddhas include Lha-mo, the only female deity, and Yama, the god of death.
He looks like the moon in A Trip to the Moon.
Le voyage dans le lune, or, to give it its English title, A Trip to the Moon, is a 1902 classic of early cinema, directed by Georges Méliès and based on the novel by Jules Verne. There is a famous sequence in the film in which a rocket gets stuck in the eye of the “man in the moon.”
Maybe he’s doing t'ai chi or something.
T’ai chi ch’uan is a form of Chinese martial arts that uses a combination of slow movements and relaxed muscles to foster an appreciation of balance and presence in the body. Many people are familiar with the sight of groups of people performing t’ai chi in a park, as happens every morning across China and in many other parts of the world.
Mitchell’s on the corner.
A paraphrase of the 1972 Curtis Mayfield song “Freddie’s Dead,” which was used as the theme song to the film Super Fly. Sample lyrics: “Freddie’s on the corner now/If you wanna be a junkie, wow/Remember, Freddie’s dead.”
A reference to Show 506, Eegah!
Another reference to Show 506, Eegah!
Watch out for snakes!
Oh, look! Yet another reference to Show 506, Eegah!
We’ve hidden Mitchell somewhere in this picture. –Mitchell, will you stand up, please?
In the Monty Python skit “How Not to Be Seen,” which aired in the eleventh episode of the second season, an increasingly crazed narrator purports to demonstrate how not to be seen while killing all of his hapless associates.
[Sung.] The lunatic is on the grass …
A line from the 1973 Pink Floyd song “Brain Damage.” Sample lyrics: “The lunatic is on the grass/The lunatic is on the grass/Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs/Got to keep the loonies on the path …”
Johnny Nash breaks into a suburban home.
Johnny Nash (1940-2020) was a reggae musician best known for his 1972 chart-topper “I Can See Clearly Now.”
Hey, it’s one of the kids from Fame. –Which one? –Any of ’em.
Fame was a 1980 movie about a group of aspiring performers at the New York High School for the Performing Arts. It was made into a TV series that aired from 1982-1987; there was also a remake of the film released in 2009.
Johnny Mathis is a traditional male vocalist who appealed to the adult contemporary audience of the 1960s and 1970s. Although he charted very few singles, many of his albums did remarkably well, a dozen of them hitting gold or platinum status. He is known for his few chart toppers, among them “Chances Are” and “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late.”
[Sung.] It’s not for me to say …
A line from the Johnny Mathis song of the same name (see previous note). Sample lyrics: “It's not for me to say you love me/It's not for me to say you'll always care/Oh, but here for the moment I can hold you fast/And press your lips to mine/And dream that love will last.”
The Green Hornet.
The Green Hornet was a superhero who debuted in a radio serial in 1936. His alter ego was wealthy newspaper publisher Britt Reid; his indispensable sidekick was his valet, Kato, whose nationality wavered between Japanese, Filipino, and Korean. The Green Hornet was later adapted for film serials, television (where Kato was famously played by a young Bruce Lee), and comic books. Their gadget-laden car was known as the Black Beauty.
Al Noga? –Nope. Still Johnny Mathis.
Al Noga is a former football player, born in Hawaii, who joined the Minnesota Vikings in 1988. See note on Johnny Mathis, above.
Doctor Detroit is a 1983 film starring Dan Aykroyd as a college professor who becomes a pimp.
With songs by Devo. Cutting Crew. And Haircut 100.
Devo was a geek-rock proto-new-wave band that hit its peak of popularity in the 1980s. It provided several songs for the Doctor Detroit soundtrack (see previous note), including the movie’s theme song. Cutting Crew was an English pop group that formed in 1985. It is known chiefly for its smash hit “I Just Died in Your Arms.” Haircut 100 was a new wave band in the early 1980s that had a couple of hits in Britain before its lead singer decided to leave the group for a solo career. Neither Cutting Crew nor Haircut 100 actually appears on the Doctor Detroit soundtrack.
[Sung.] I say to myself, it’s wonderful …
A line from the 1956 Johnny Mathis song “Wonderful, Wonderful.” Sample lyrics: “I feel the glow of your unspoken love/I'm aware of the treasure that I own/And I say to myself, it's wonderful, wonderful/Oh, so wonderful my love!”
A picture of Mo Connolly?
In 1953, Maureen Connolly, a.k.a. Little Mo Connolly (1934-1969), became the first woman to win the U.S., British, Australian, and French tennis championships in the same year.
No, not the limited edition Star Trek collector plates!
Star Trek was a science fiction TV series that aired from 1966-1969. It has been the subject of any number of series of collector’s plates.
Hey, Lucas McCain lives here!
Lucas McCain was the star of the TV western The Rifleman, which aired from 1958-1963. The part was played by Chuck Connors.
They’re on a collision course to wackiness!
A reference to the 1989 misfit buddy cop movie Collision Course, starring a pre-Tonight Show Jay Leno and Pat “Karate Kid” Morita as mismatched cops in Detroit trying to find a stolen Japanese turbocharger. Or something.
All right, last call, drink ’em up.
“Last call” is when a bartender announces the last opportunity to order drinks before the bar closes.
Hey! Oh, a Goldstar.
Goldstar is a bargain brand of electronics. The company is now known as LG Electronics.
Santa Claus is a fairly recent synthesis of various Christmas traditions of a being who delivers gifts the night before Christmas. Claus is based primarily on the Dutch gift-bringer Sinterklaas, who was in turn derived from the 4th-century historical figure Saint Nicholas of Myra. (Sinterklaas, rather than elves, has “Black Pete” to assist him, which leads to the [unfortunate, to American eyes] tradition of dressing up in blackface, a tradition that is becoming somewhat controversial in the Netherlands as well.) In the 1770s, the name “Santa Claus” was first published as an Americanized version of Sinterklaas. The commonly known attributes of Santa Claus’s legend (his North Pole residence, elven helpers, reindeer-powered sleigh, etc.) became widespread after the 1821 publication of Clement Clarke Moore’s poem “Old Santeclaus” and the 1823 publication of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (a.k.a. “The Night Before Christmas,” also probably written by Moore). The famous image of Santa Claus as a jolly, chubby man with a full white beard and red clothing with white trim comes from the mid-1800s art of famed cartoonist Thomas Nast. Nast’s illustrations later influenced depictions of Sinterklaas and England’s Father Christmas.
Wait a minute—I think maybe the Snoop Sisters are in there.
The Snoop Sisters was a 1973 TV series starring Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick as two elderly sisters who solve crimes.
I’m gonna get a series before Stuart Margolin.
Stuart Margolin is an actor best known for playing shifty ex-con Angel Martin on the TV show The Rockford Files, which aired from 1974-1980.
Johnny Mathis? All right! Get my gun! –Well, you know, it’s not often you see Johnny Mathis in the wild.
See note on Johnny Mathis, above.
Hey, a Gunderoo.
Underoos are a brand of children’s underwear produced by Fruit of the Loom and featuring various licensed designs ranging from Batman and Superman to the Dukes of Hazzard. They were first marketed in 1978 and now offer adult sizes.
Uh, hello, this is Carlton, your doorman?
On the television show Rhoda, which aired from 1974-1978, Carlton was the unseen doorman to Rhoda’s apartment building; he was played by veteran voiceover actor Lorenzo Music.
Cedar lattice—works every time.
“It works every time” was an advertising slogan for Colt 45 Malt Liquor, associated with the brand’s ambassador, actor Billy Dee Williams, from 1986 to 1991. The ads were criticized for marketing high-alcohol malt liquor to low-income audiences, and for their implied message that Colt 45 helped to make women more sexually available. Nonetheless, the campaign was revived in 2016, featuring a 78 year old Williams.
[Sung.] Chances are … huh?
A line from the 1957 Johnny Mathis song “Chances Are.” Sample lyrics: “Chances are 'cause I wear a silly grin/The moment you come into view/Chances are you think that I'm in love with you.”
If that’s John Saxon, I’m dead.
Character actor John Saxon (1935-2020) appeared in such films as Enter the Dragon and Nightmare on Elm Street.
Sonny, are we, like, bait?
Probably a reference to suave undercover cop Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) on the TV series Miami Vice. (Thanks to Ronald Byrd for this reference.)
Meanwhile, on an Adam-12 episode not far away …
Adam-12 was a TV cop show that ran from 1968-1975.
“Party’s over.” [Sung.] Time to call it a day …
A line from the song “The Party’s Over,” from the musical Bells Are Ringing. Sample lyrics: “The party’s over/It’s time to call it a day/They’ve burst your pretty balloon/And taken the moon away.”
“My secretary will give you their names and addresses.” And disavow any knowledge of their actions.
A paraphrase of the statement that ended the tape-recorded instructions on Mission: Impossible every week. The actual line: “As usual, if any of your IM team is killed or captured, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.”
He’s talking to Commissioner Gordon.
On the campy 1960s TV series Batman, Commissioner Gordon had a special red phone on his desk that was a hotline to Batman.
Orson Bean. He’s a cop!
Orson Bean (1928-2020) was an actor and game-show mainstay best-known for his longtime role as a panelist on To Tell the Truth.
They arrested Harlan Ellison! –Good.
How does one define Harlan Ellison (1934-2018)? Short story author, of course; screenwriter, of course; notorious gadfly, definitely. This was a man who once mailed a publisher a dead gopher fourth class and threatened a TV producer with a noose when his words were rewritten. Which is to say he was a ferociously talented writer and (by reputation, anyway) a downright irritating human being.
He sounds and smells like William Conrad.
William Conrad (1920-2004) was a portly actor known for his roles in such TV series as Cannon (1971-1976) and Jake and the Fatman (1987-1992).
[Sung.] Chico, don’t be discouraged, the man don’t …
A line from the theme song to Chico and the Man, a TV sitcom about a crotchety old white guy and a cheerful young Latino man that aired from 1974-1978. Sample lyrics: “Chico, don’t be discouraged/The man he ain’t so hard to understand/Chico, if you try now/I know that you can lend a helping hand.”
Andy Capp is the eponymous star of the long-running comic strip created by Reg Smythe, which first appeared in Britain in 1957 and was then syndicated worldwide. He is, as the Toonopedia says, “lazy, belligerent, unskilled at any socially acceptable occupation, and usually drunk.” He always wears a hat pulled down low over his eyes.
Boy, Flo’s really gonna be mad, I’m drunk again.
Flo is the wife of Andy Capp in the comic strip of the same name (see previous note).
But I’m not a salesman—I’m the chubby blue line.
The Thin Blue Line is a 1988 documentary that argued a man convicted of the murder of a Dallas police officer was railroaded by a corrupt justice system. The phrase “the thin blue line” refers to the police, who like to regard themselves as the line between society and anarchy.
As an actor, Merlin Olsen hadn’t found his instrument yet.
Merlin Olsen (Benton) was a former football player for the LA Rams; he went on to act on Little House on the Prairie.
Whoa! The thing with the deal … oh, gee.
An impression of one of comedian and actor Jerry Lewis’s (1926-2017) best-known shticks: lapsing into the voice and mannerisms of a spastic, geeky, awkward, and semi-moronic man-child who can never seem to string a sentence together.
He seems down. I’ll send him a Pick Me Up Bouquet.
As previously mentioned, Olsen shilled for FTD Florists; the Pick Me Up Bouquet has been an FTD exclusive since 1984.
Somewhere, an Indian is crying.
Iron Eyes Cody (1904-1999) is remembered as the crying Indian in the 1970s PSA commercials about littering, but he was actually an Italian-American named Espera Oscar de Corti. He arrived in Hollywood calling himself Tony Cody in 1927 and claimed to be of Cherokee-Cree ancestry; throughout his career he made a living playing American Indians in Hollywood, and was active in Native American causes in his personal life. He married a Native American woman and adopted several Indian children. His true origins were revealed in 1996 by a New Orleans newspaper, but Cody went to his grave denying it.
I’m gonna call Lady Bird Johnson.
Lady Bird Johnson was the wife of Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president of the United States. She acted as first lady from 1963-1969, during which time she spearheaded the "Keep America Beautiful" campaign, which bankrolled the aforementioned "crying Indian" PSAs. (Thanks to Brian Dermody for the "Keep America Beautiful" reference.)
Fluffernutter is a sandwich spread beloved by kids, a combination of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff.
I’m King Hussein.
King Hussein was the ruler of the small country of Jordan from 1952 until his death in 1999.
Good night, John-Boy.
The Waltons was a classic family TV drama that aired from 1972 to 1981. It starred Richard Thomas as John-Boy Walton. “Good night, John-Boy” was a catch phrase of the show.
Well, almost time for Silk Stalkings.
Silk Stalkings was a TV crime show that aired as part of “Crime Time After Prime Time” on CBS from 1990-1999.
Hi, Larry, I love your show.
Larry King was a longtime talk-show host on CNN who got his start on radio in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1985 CNN, then a fledgling cable network, began airing Larry King Live, a phone-in talk show featuring diplomats, heads of state, celebrities, and other life forms. King’s trademark heavy glasses and suspenders were familiar icons with the American public for 25 years.
Nose candy is one of many slang terms for cocaine.
Loved you in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is a 1974 film about the hijacking of a New York City subway car. It starred Walter Matthau and Martin Balsam.
Hey, you want the radio? King Biscuit Flour Hour’s on.
The King Biscuit Flour Hour was a syndicated radio show featuring live concert performances by and interviews with musicians like Bruce Springsteen; it ran from 1973-2007. It was named after a radio show in the 1920s that was sponsored by King Biscuit Flour.
“What’s on the water?” Smoke.
“Smoke on the Water” is a song by the band Deep Purple. Sample lyrics: “Frank Zappa and the Mothers/Were at the best place around/But some stupid with a flare gun/Burned the place to the ground/Smoke on the water, fire in the sky.”
“Because that’s the way Mr. Gallano wants it.” Uh-huh, uh-huh.
A callback to the song “That’s the Way (I Like It)” by K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Sample lyrics: “Oh, that’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh/I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh/That's the way, uh-huh uh-huh/I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh.”
Hey, look, an Applebee’s.
Applebee’s is a casual dining restaurant with more than 1,900 locations worldwide. It was founded in 1980.
You can’t handle the truth!
A famous line from the 1992 film A Few Good Men, spoken by Jack Nicholson. The entire exchange:
Colonel Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth.
Colonel Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!
I just had a French dip.
A French dip is a sandwich consisting of thinly sliced roast beef, usually on a French roll, that is either dipped in beef juice or served with a bowl of beef juice for dipping.
This week’s practical joke. The victim: John Saxon.
TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes was a TV series that aired from 1984-1993. Hosts Dick Clark and Ed McMahon would showcase bloopers from TV shows and play elaborate practical jokes on celebrities.
Do you know who did it? Have you figured it out yet?
At the end of each episode of the 1975-1976 TV series The Adventures of Ellery Queen, Queen would look at the audience and ask, “Have you figured it out? Do you know who the murderer is?” and then reveal the solution to the mystery.
A line from the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day, spoken by a pre-gubernatorial Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Reynolds Wrap: keeps freshness in, can’t keep Mitchell out.
A reference to an old advertising slogan for Reynolds Wrap, a brand of aluminum foil.
[Sung.] Oh, you’re a holiday …
A line from the song “Holiday” by the Bee-Gees. Sample lyrics: “Ooh you’re a holiday, ev’ry day, such a holiday/Now it’s my turn to say, and I say you’re a holiday.”
Melmac? Why would he be collecting Melmac?
Melmac is a brand of plastic dinnerware created in the 1940s and used widely during the ’40s and ’50s. Its popularity had waned by the 1960s, in part because it scratched easily and was susceptible to staining. A great many people do in fact collect the stuff.
Keith Haring was here.
Keith Haring (1958-1990) was an artist known for active, colorful paintings of dancing little people drawn in simple, thick black lines; they were particularly popular with children. He derived a large part of his inspiration from the bold forms of street graffiti. Haring died of AIDS at the age of 31.
It means the victim was Jack Valenti!
Jack Valenti (1921-2007) was the longtime (1966-2004) leader of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). It was during his tenure that the motion picture ratings familiar to all (G, PG, R) were put into place.
Why are they playing “Nadia’s Theme”?
Nadia Comaneci is a Romanian gymnast who, in the 1976 Olympics, became the first gymnast to receive a 10—a perfect score. In fact, she received seven of them and won three gold medals. A montage of her floor exercise later aired on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, set to the theme song of the soap opera The Young and the Restless. The segment proved so popular that the song was released as a single and peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Top 40 charts; it became known as “Nadia’s Theme.” Comaneci herself never competed to the song, however.
Or The Young and the Restless.
See previous note.
[Sung.] Mitchell. Mitchell. –Keep your eye on the sammich. –Mitchell. –Heart’s pounding. –Mitchell. –Veins clogging. –Mitchell!
A parody of the theme song to the 1975-1978 TV cop show Baretta, “Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow,” which was performed by Sammy Davis, Jr. Sample lyrics: “Don’t go to bed with no price on your head/Don’t do it/Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time/Keep your eye on the sparrow/When the going gets narrow.”
See above note.
Detective Phil Fish was originally a character on the sitcom Barney Miller. The part was played by Abe Vigoda (1921-2016).
We can’t name a series after you, sorry.
In 1977 Vigoda left the series to star in his own spinoff, Fish, in which he and his wife take in five relentlessly adorable foster kids. The series only survived for one season.
Hey, he looks like a guy from a Dave Berg cartoon.
Dave Berg (1920-2002) was a comic book illustrator best known for his work on Mad magazine, for which he wrote “The Lighter Side.” His art appeared in Mad for forty years.
EVERY federal law violation …!
An imitation of Ed McMahon, longtime sidekick to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (NBC, 1962-1992). Specifically, an imitation of the way McMahon would bombastically repeat what Carson said when setting up certain comedy bits.
Damn. It’s almost time for Bozo.
Bozo the Clown is a much-beloved children’s character first introduced as the star of a series of children’s books in the 1940s. He quickly got his own television show, and soon there were Bozo shows springing up in local markets across the country. Although there were many actors who portrayed Bozo, probably the most famous was Chicago’s Bob Bell.
Yeah, go for the gusto, Mitchell.
"Go for the gusto, or don’t go at all" was a slogan for Schlitz beer back in the 1970s. (Thanks to Boyd Vincent for this reference.)
Bo Derek is an exceptionally beautiful leading lady known for her parts in such films as 10 (1979) and Bolero (1984), in which she often took off her clothes on camera. This is an in-joke of sorts, as Bo’s husband John Derek (1926-1998) was previously married to Linda Evans; the two divorced in 1974, the year before Mitchell was released.
I’m selling Yanni tapes.
See note on Yanni, above.
Uh, just gotta adjust my roscoe here.
“Roscoe” was a slang term for a gun, usually a pistol, used in hardboiled detective fiction in the first half of the 20th century.
Where’s John Derek? Should we set another place for him?
See note on Bo Derek, above.
Uncle Fester is a character on the television series The Addams Family, which aired from 1964-1966. The role was played by Jackie Coogan, who always wore a long, heavy fur coat.
Oh, this is so embarrassing—he’s playing a Kitaro album.
Kitaro is a Japanese composer known for his New Age synthesizer pieces. See note on Yanni, above.
Uh, sorry about the porn. There’s a Kilgore Trout piece in there.
Kilgore Trout is a fictional writer created by sci-fi novelist Kurt Vonnegut. He appears in several of Vonnegut’s books, including Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions, where he is described as an unsuccessful writer whose work has appeared in many porn magazines.
I got these at Conoco. They got Dick Butkus on them.
Conoco is a chain of gas stations owned by ConocoPhillips. Dick Butkus was a linebacker for the Chicago Bears, considered by many the greatest linebacker ever to grace the sport of football. Gas stations used to give away glasses and other merchandise, often with sports stars on them, as marketing promotions.
[Sung.] It’s Bugsy Malone …
Bugsy Malone is a 1976 “gangster” movie in which all the mobsters are played by children. It starred Scott Baio and Jodie Foster and was scored by Paul Williams, including the title song. Sample lyrics: “He’s a sinner/Candy-coated/For all his friends/He always seems to be alone/But they love him/Bugsy Malone.”
[Sung.] Mobsters laughing, really smiling/A man selling heroin …
A paraphrase of the song “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago. Actual lyrics: “Saturday in the park/I think it was the Fourth of July/People dancing, people laughing/A man selling ice cream …”
I’m not Rappaport.
I’m Not Rappaport is a 1986 play by Herb Gardner about two old men in New York City and their strange but enduring friendship. The play was made into a movie starring Walter Matthau and Ossie Davis in 1996.
Hey, where’s Ruth Buzzi?
Ruth Buzzi is a comedian best known for her appearances on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, which aired from 1968-1973. One of her most famous roles was the little old lady Gladys Ormphby, who sat on a park bench and flailed at people with her purse.
“Now it’s your turn.” [Sung.] To be what-a you can be …
“Be all that you can be” was the longtime jingle of the U.S. Army, enjoying tremendous success for many years. The tune is from the Diana Ross song "It’s My Turn." (Thanks to “Mike” for the Diana Ross reference.)
“I’m not bringing that shipment in, and that’s final.” [Speed-up sound effect.] The shipment’s in!
A classic comedy shtick popularized by Bob Denver as Gilligan in the TV sitcom Gilligan’s Island (CBS, 1964-1967). When Gilligan was being urged to do something outrageous, such as dress up in a grass skirt and coconut brassiere, he would firmly refuse, which would be immediately followed by a jump cut to Gilligan dressed in a grass skirt and coconut brassiere. The technique became so indelibly associated with the show that it is now known as a “Gilligan cut.” More specific to this riff, the sitcom F Troop (ABC, 1965-1967) used Gilligan cuts quite a bit: Corporal Agarn (played by Larry Storch) would declare he wasn’t going to do something, ending with “… and that’s FINAL!” followed by a speed-up sound and a jump cut of him doing that very thing.
I’m almost Anthony Quinn.
Anthony Quinn (1915-2001) was an actor who appeared in more than 200 films over his six-decade-long career. He won Oscars for his roles in Viva Zapata and Lust for Life, but he is better remembered for his title role in Zorba the Greek.
Was Merlin ever in the Dave Clark Five?
The Dave Clark Five was a rock band, part of the “British Invasion” of the 1960s. They had their biggest hits between 1964 and 1967, including “Glad All Over” and “Bits and Pieces.” The band broke up in 1970.
It was a big time, when big men drove nothing but huge Ford cars! See?
Ford Motor Company is an American automaker, founded by Henry Ford in 1903, that manufactures a wide range of cars and trucks. Before the fuel crisis of the early to mid-1970s, full-size cars in the U.S. had a wheelbase of 121-127 inches, compared to that of a modern SUV, which is just under 80 inches. Their length was similarly ginormous: 195 inches, compared to 174 inches for a modern Ford Explorer. Car sizes shrank dramatically by the late 1970s, when gas prices skyrocketed.
Who, Rosey Grier?
Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier was a football player during the 1950s and 1960s, playing for the New York Giants and the Los Angeles Rams. He also had a brief acting career after his retirement (most notoriously in The Thing with Two Heads) and has written several books, including Rosey Grier's Needlepoint for Men (1973).
This is what I’ll remember when I think of the movie Mitchell. And I will think of it.
A variation on Deborah Kerr’s line in the 1956 film Tea and Sympathy: “Years from now, when you talk about this, and you will, be kind.” The movie is an adaptation of a 1953 stage play by Robert Anderson.
You know, it’s not an official chase scene without the wakka-chu-wakka-chu …
See above note.
This makes Driving Miss Daisy look like Bullitt.
Driving Miss Daisy is a 1989 film starring Jessica Tandy (1909-1994) as a cantankerous old woman and Morgan Freeman as her chauffeur. Bullitt is a 1968 action flick starring Steve McQueen as a San Francisco cop bent on avenging the death of a witness under his protection; it contains one of the most famous car chases ever filmed.
And today, 3M is a vibrant company. Combining innovation, effective risk management, and marketing. 3M.
3M is a worldwide corporation that bills itself as a “diversified technology company.” Products include Scotch tape and Buf-Pufs, among thousands of others. It is headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The only really exciting thing is that Vanishing Point is being filmed on the other side of the canyon.
Vanishing Point is a 1971 film about a man who works for a car delivery company, who bets he can get a Dodge Challenger from Colorado to California in 15 hours. Sort of a Smokey and the Bandit for the early ‘70s, only with nude motorcyclists.
Oh, this is nice, they’re using the light rock for the chase scene rather than the grunge sound.
“Light rock” is a popular radio format that leans heavily on ballads and love songs. Grunge rock is a subgenre of alternative rock popularized in the early 1990s by such Seattle bands as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and characterized by heavily distorted electric guitars and angst-ridden lyrics mumbled and/or growled into the mic.
Finally, the chase scene’s pace car.
In motor racing, no one is allowed to pass the pace car; it is used to limit the speed of the other cars when there’s a hazard on the track.
Yes, the Lincoln Continental—perfect for off-road excitement.
Lincoln is a division of the Ford Motor Company (see note on '70s cars, above), and the Lincoln Continental is a luxury car that has been in production since 1939. Like most luxury models, they work best on pavement.
The vicious Mustang culls the weak ones from the herd.
The Mustang is an iconic American sports car that was introduced by the Ford Motor Company (see note on '70s cars, above) in 1965 and has been in continuous production ever since.
Standup comedian and character actor Larry Miller has appeared in such films as Pretty Woman and L.A. Story.
Kind of a hot rod Ben-Hur. Ben-Him.
Ben-Hur was a 1959 Hollywood epic starring Charlton Heston. One of the most famous scenes in the film is of a vicious chariot race.
Yeah, as a matter of fact I do own the road.
“As a matter of fact, I do own the road” is an old line from a bumper sticker.
Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity is a dish served at IHOP restaurants: buttermilk pancakes topped with fruit and whipped cream.
“Who’ve we got on our side?” Ghostbusters!
Ghostbusters is a 1984 film starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis as ghost-fighting entrepreneurs. The movie’s theme song, performed by Ray Parker Jr., featured the repeated musical question “Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!”
Earl Holliman ...
Earl Holliman is an actor who has appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows. The MST3K writers seemed particularly taken with his work on the series Police Woman (1974-1978), on which he played Lieutenant Bill Crowley.
Ah, Daryl Gates on his day off.
Daryl F. Gates (1926-2010) was the chief of the LAPD from 1978-1992. He was chief of police during the period of the notorious Rodney King beating by members of the LAPD and the rioting that followed their acquittal. Gates announced he was retiring shortly after the riots, and a Black police officer, Willie Williams, succeeded him in the post.
Oh, no, Mr. Trevino’s been hit again!
Lee Trevino is a retired professional golfer. In 1975 he was struck by lightning and seriously injured; however, he recovered and resumed his golf career, retiring from the PGA in 1984 with 29 tournament wins.
The new Chrysler Fury—the car that thinks it’s a house.
Chrysler is an American auto manufacturer that is currently owned by Italian car-maker Fiat, registered in the Netherlands, and based in London. Plymouth is a Chrysler brand; the Plymouth Gran Fury was a full-size automobile that was actually only produced between 1975 and 1977; a smaller version was manufactured from 1980-1989. The Gran Fury was popular with police departments and taxi companies.
Booker’s a good cop!
A variant of one of the writers’ favorite phrases, “Hooker’s a good cop!” The comment is a reference to the 1980s cop show T.J. Hooker, which aired from 1982-1986.
“Booker, Booker …” Who’s got the Booker?
A variation on the traditional children’s guessing game “Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?”
My dinner with Mitchell.
My Dinner with Andre is a 1981 film about two men (played by Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory) having dinner in a restaurant and exchanging brittle bon mots. The film is a favorite among the arty crowd and is frequently cited as the epitome of art-house fare.
Oop, boom mike, big time.
Top center of the screen. Boom mikes are necessary to pick up the actors’ dialogue, but if the sound guy lets them dip too low …
It’s The Servant by Harold Pinter.
The Servant is a 1963 film written by British playwright Harold Pinter and starring Dirk Bogarde as an insidious servant who gradually takes control of his master’s life.
Jeez, those Jehovah’s Witnesses are getting tough!
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are an apocalyptic Christian sect known for proselytizing door to door.
Sorry, bud, we thought you were Rockford.
See note on The Rockford Files, above. James Garner got in frequent fistfights on The Rockford Files, many of which he ignominiously lost.
Well, ol’ Mitchell sure got hisself hogtied and railroaded there.
An imitation of the folksy narrator from the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard, which ran from 1979 to 1985. The narrator, dubbed “The Balladeer,” was played by country-music artist Waylon Jennings, who also performed the show’s theme song, “Good Ol’ Boys.”
Mitchell, honey, do you have any New Age or something?
See note on Yanni, above.
Oh, he’s sleeping with Helen Keller.
Helen Keller (1880-1968) was a writer and educator who was deaf and blind. As a child she was left deaf, blind, and dumb after being afflicted with a disease, which may have been scarlet fever. She was unable to communicate with the outside world until a young woman named Anne Sullivan became her teacher and taught her to communicate by drawing letters on her hand. She ultimately learned to speak and graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904. She became a champion for the cause of educating physically disabled students. Her story was told in the play The Miracle Worker, which was made into an award-winning movie in 1962.
Oh, how I long for The Burning Bed right now.
The Burning Bed is a 1984 made-for-TV movie starring Farrah Fawcett as a battered wife who kills her husband by setting him on fire in his sleep. The movie was generally acknowledged as Fawcett’s breakthrough into serious acting.
A vase, or two faces?
This is a reference to a famous optical illusion, consisting of a black-and-white illustration. Depending on how you look at it, you can either see a black vase or two white faces in silhouette.
Um, how about some BTO?
Bachman-Turner Overdrive, or BTO, is a Canadian rock band popular during the 1970s for such hits as “Takin’ Care of Business” and “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.”
And I still don’t have any Tic Tacs.
Tic Tacs are a brand of breath mint that was first marketed in 1969.
I wanted a Super Soaker.
The Super Soaker is a popular toy water gun made by Hasbro.
Merlin Olsen sent him that painting.
See note on Merlin Olsen, above.
My Mitchell … I think I’ll keep him.
A riff on a controversial 1972 TV commercial for Geritol dietary supplement, in which a husband praises his wife’s many accomplishments (thanks to the boost she gets from Geritol) and concludes with “My wife … I think I’ll keep her.” The line didn’t sit well with the burgeoning women’s liberation movement, was savaged by commentators and parodied by comics at the time, and was the inspiration for Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 1993 song “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her.”
Referred to as “sad trombone” or “chromatic descending ‘wah,’” this sound effect dates back to early 1900s vaudeville.
Sirens was a TV drama about the lives of three policewomen in Pittsburgh. It aired from 1993-1995.
Nobody asked for a prostitute, we can take her right away ...
In one scene in the Marx Brothers movie Animal Crackers, a man shouts, “Three cheers for Captain Spaulding!” and Harpo promptly rushes in carrying three chairs. Perennial dowager and straight woman Margaret Dumont says, “No one asked for chairs, put them right where you found them.” (Thanks to Bill Stiteler for this reference.)
“Honk-honk.” [Sung.] At Beneficial, you’re good for more.
An old advertising jingle for the Beneficial Finance Company: “At Beneficial (honk, honk) you’re good for more.”
The declining years of Lee Majors.
Lee Majors is an actor best known for his lead roles in the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-1978) and The Fall Guy (1981-1986).
So, tell me, Merlin, do you know Roman Gabriel?
Roman Gabriel was a quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1970s. He and Merlin Olsen were teammates in L.A. for ten years.
[Sung.] Movin on up …
A line from the theme song to the TV sitcom The Jeffersons, which aired from 1975-1985. Sample lyrics: “Well we’re movin on up/To the east side/To a deluxe apartment in the sky …”
“Weezy” was George Jefferson’s nickname for his wife Louise on the sitcom The Jeffersons (see previous note).
“This way.” To Wall Drug.
Wall Drug is a pharmacy/tourist trap in the tiny town of Wall, South Dakota. It employs some third of the town’s residents to tend to the free ice-water well, the bucking bronco, the fiberglass jackalope, the miniature Mount Rushmore, the animatic bears, and, as an afterthought, the pharmacy. For years it blanketed the nation’s highways with signs advising motorists of how far they were from Wall Drug, although most of the signs outside South Dakota no longer exist.
It’s a Shriners car!
The Shriners are a fraternal organization known for hosting circuses, donning fezzes, and driving comically small cars in parades.
She’s got a David Cassidy haircut.
Actor/musician David Cassidy played Keith Partridge on the TV series The Partridge Family, which ran from 1970 to 1974. Within a year of the show’s premiere, Cassidy's feathered shag hairdo had been on pretty much every teen magazine cover, had a number-one hit, and was officially ranked as a teen heartthrob.
She’s gonna write “REDRUM” on his windshield.
In Stephen King’s classic horror novel The Shining (and the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film based on it), the young psychic Danny continually sees visions of the word “redrum.” It isn’t until he sees the word reflected in a mirror that he realizes it actually spells “murder.”
Get me some flowers pronto, Merlin.
Poor Merlin will never live that down, will he? You know he was in the Pro Bowl 14 times in his 15-year career? But sure, flowers, whatever.
Now wait, you’re not leaving without some tuna wiggle.
Tuna wiggle is a popular comfort food—it is usually a baked tuna-noodle casserole, but in some regions the name tuna wiggle describes creamed tuna served on toast.
So, are you ready to join Hair Club yet?
Hair Club For Men is a company dedicated to baldness cures; it offers everything from bald-friendly shampoos to hair transplants.
I usually take it with a Ding Dong in it, but I guess I’ll take it neat, that’s okay.
Ding Dongs are a chocolate-covered, cream-filled snack cake manufactured by Hostess. They were first introduced in 1970.
Booze is good food.
“Soup is good food” is an old advertising slogan for Campbell’s soups.
“You really think so.” I’m turning Japanese.
A line from the song “Turning Japanese” by the Vapors. Sample lyrics: “I’m turning Japanese/I think I’m turning Japanese/I really think so …”
“I arrange a hundred-dollar company in your name.” You mean Orion?
The Orion Pictures Corporation was a movie production company founded in 1978. It made films like Platoon and Amadeus, but the company experienced severe financial difficulties during the late 1980s and early 1990s, and in 1992 it declared bankruptcy.
I’m Rosalind Russell.
Rosalind Russell (1907-1976) was a film actress known for such pictures as His Girl Friday and Auntie Mame.
Is that a Slim Jim? Can I have that? Are you done with that?
Slim Jims are a brand of jerky snacks marketed primarily to teens and manufactured by ConAgra Foods. They were first produced in Philadelphia in 1928 by Adolph Levis. The jars he kept them in featured a caricature of an elegant man with a top hat and cane that Levis dubbed “Slim Jim.”
Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.
An imitation of entertainment impresario and longtime variety TV host Ed Sullivan’s stilted speaking style. Sullivan hosted The Ed Sullivan Show (originally titled Toast of the Town) on CBS from 1948 to 1971.
Oh my goodness, I think B.J. Thomas is in his room!
B.J. Thomas is a country singer known for such 1960s and 1970s hits as “Hooked on a Feeling” and “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.”
He’s gonna strip down to his underwear and watch McQ.
McQ is a 1974 film starring John Wayne as Lieutenant Lon "McQ" McHugh, who uncovers police corruption while investigating the death of his partner.
Adam Rich was a child star known for his role as Nicholas Bradford on the TV series Eight Is Enough, which aired from 1977-1981.
Tonight, on Crossfire.
Crossfire is a political-affairs show on CNN in which two conservatives and two liberals argue about the issues of the day. It first aired in 1982.
The inspiration for Cop and a Half.
Cop and a Half is a 1982 film in which Burt Reynolds plays a kid-hating cop forced to team up with an eight-year-old boy; the kid is a witness to a crime but refuses to tell police what he knows until they make him a cop.
Oh, Schlitz would listen to me right now, that’s for sure.
Schlitz is a brand of cheap beer made in Milwaukee. It was once the most popular brand of beer in America, but tinkering with the formula in the 1970s was disastrous for sales. Schlitz actually lost their original formula years ago and had to re-create it, reintroducing “classic” Schlitz in 2007.
[Sung.] Did you ever have to make up your mind …
A line from the song of the same name by the Lovin’ Spoonful. Sample lyrics: “Did you ever have to make up your mind/Pick up on one and leave the other behind/It's not often easy and not often kind/Did you ever have to make up your mind …”
The Loving Handful.
There you go. The Lovin’ Spoonful were a folk-rock band popular during the late 1960s and early 1970s, with such hits as “Summer in the City” and the aforementioned “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind.”
He’s no Claude Akins, but what a butt!
Claude Akins (1918-1994) was a burly character actor who tended to play villains, gunfighters, sheriffs, and cops. He appeared in more than 100 TV shows and films over his long career, including Show 322, Master Ninja I.
Port? You got port here?
Port is a sweet red wine, usually fortified (meaning brandy is added to it to make it stronger), with origins in Portugal.
[Sung.] Sweet Adeline …
“Sweet Adeline” is a mainstay among barbershop quartets. It was written by Richard Gerard and Henry Armstrong and first published in 1903. In the 1931 Marx Brothers movie Monkey Business, the brothers sing the song while hiding in barrels. (Thanks to Justin Butela for the Marx Bros. reference.)
Be careful with that horse, young man.
“Horse” is one of many slang terms for heroin. (Thanks to Kyle Tekaucic for this reference.)
[Sung.] My Adeline … sweet Adeline …
See previous note.
Take me to Wendy’s. I’m meeting Clara Peller.
Clara Peller was an elderly actress in the 1980s who starred in a famous series of advertisements for the fast food chain Wendy’s, in which she repeatedly asked, “Where’s the beef?”—a question that quickly became a catchphrase. Peller died in 1987.
Just keep driving, Hoke.
Hoke Colburn is the name of the chauffeur in the 1989 film Driving Miss Daisy (see above note). The part was played by Morgan Freeman.
Oh, I just felt the balloon break!
Sometimes drug smugglers attempt to transport their product by putting it in a balloon and then swallowing it. The practice is a risky one, since not infrequently the balloon breaks, poisoning the smuggler. The affliction even has a name: “body packer syndrome.”
All right, let’s see the scag.
Scag is one of many slang terms for heroin.
Jeez, Scarface didn’t do that much at once.
Scarface is a 1983 film about a Cuban immigrant who takes control of a drug empire in Miami. It starred Al Pacino in the title role.
Quality is job one, yep.
“At Ford, quality is job one” is an old advertising slogan for the Ford Motor Company.
He’s putting a dickey on his car.
A dickey is a kind of false shirt-front, basically a collar with just enough fabric below it to hold it in place, meant to be worn under another shirt or jacket.
Oh, no, not the Catalina Caper!
A reference to Show 204, Catalina Caper.
Okay, you guys, I call no singing the Gilligan’s Island theme.
Gilligan’s Island was a TV sitcom about a group marooned on an island after a “three-hour tour” by boat went bad. The theme song, written by composer George Wyle and show producer Sherwood Schwartz, was justly famous. Sample lyrics: “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale/A tale of a fateful trip/That started from this tropic port/Aboard this tiny ship.”
See note on Eischied, above. In Germany, Eischied was broadcast under the title Schauplatz New York. Much better title.
The gods must be crazy! Look!
In the 1980 film The Gods Must Be Crazy, a tribesman in the Kalahari desert finds a Coke bottle and decides to return it to God, whose possession he thinks it must be, by throwing it off the edge of the world.
We are two wild and crazy guys!
In the early years of Saturday Night Live, Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin appeared in a series of skits as Georg and Yortuk Festrunk, “two wild and crazy guys.”
Oh, this must be Dateline NBC.
In November 1992, the news program Dateline NBC aired a segment on a certain kind of General Motors trucks that supposedly had a tendency to blow up in side collisions—which the news crew captured on tape. Unfortunately, it turned out that the producers had rigged the truck with small incendiaries to make sure it would explode on cue. Dateline NBC later apologized and settled a lawsuit GM had filed against the show.
Andy Kaufman was a comedian and actor remembered both for his bizarre acts, which included lounge singing and wrestling, and for his appearances as Latka Graves on the TV series Taxi. He died young in 1984.
You’re so stupid.
An imitation of Andy Kaufman's standup character Foreign Man, which was adapted into Latka (see previous note). Foreign Man liked to impersonate celebrities, like Archie Bunker and Jimmy Carter, in a thick, vaguely international accent.
Come back. You’re so stupid.
See previous note.
Thank you very much.
See previous note.
There went Bronson.
The TV show Then Came Bronson aired from 1969-1970; it starred Michael Parks as Jim Bronson, a young man traveling across America, searching for the meaning of life.
Huh? What’s that? What do you mean you don’t have any Schlitz on board?
See note on Schlitz, above.
We’ve got to close the beaches!
In the 1975 horror movie Jaws, a series of shark attacks prompts the local police chief (played by Roy Scheider) to repeatedly insist, “We have to close the beaches!” over the objections of the mayor, who wants to keep tourist dollars flowing into the town.
From maritime polymers for boats to the fuel in this helicopter, 3M, building the future.
See note on 3M, above.
Hey, it’s the starship Enterprise in drydock.
The starship Enterprise was the spaceship in the TV series Star Trek (and the series of movies that followed), which aired from 1966-1969.
3M. Innovation. Research.
See note on 3M, above.
It's the miracle acrylic bubble that makes it possible.
According to Sampo, this is a line from an old 3M commercial.
Now this looks positively Baywatchian.
Baywatch is a television series about lifeguards on a SoCal beach that aired from 1989-2001. It starred David Hasselhoff as a veteran lifeguard who watches paternally over a string of younger, extremely good-looking lifeguards.
PT 109 is a 1963 dramatization of President John F. Kennedy’s experiences serving in the Navy during World War II. Beverly Hills 90210 was a prime-time teen drama about a group of rich kids in Beverly Hills; it ran from 1990-2000.
Yes, the future belongs to 3M.
See note on 3M, above.
Hey, is that Paul Hogan in the middle there?
Paul Hogan is an Australian actor best known for his portrayal of Mick “Crocodile” Dundee in two mid-1980s movies (and a third in 2001).
Boatniks 2: The Final Conflict.
The Boatniks (1970) is a film comedy about three inept jewel thieves. Omen III: The Final Conflict is a 1981 horror flick starring a young Sam Neill as the Antichrist.
It’s turning into an episode of Riptide.
Riptide was a TV series about three Vietnam veterans turned private detectives. It aired from 1984-1986.
Jimmy Osmond, all grown up.
Jimmy Osmond was the youngest member of the Osmonds, the Mormon family singing group that hit it big in the 1970s. He first performed onstage (on The Andy Williams Show) at the age of three.
On The People’s Court.
The People’s Court was a daytime TV show that featured grumpy retired jurist Judge Joseph Wapner deciding actual small-claims court cases. It aired from 1981-1993; a new version featuring former NYC mayor Ed Koch began airing in 1997. Koch was replaced two years later by Jerry Sheindlin, followed by Marilyn Milian.
Martin Balsam: the Dewar’s profile.
Dewar’s Scotch whisky ran an ad campaign called “Dewar’s Profiles,” in which they profiled interesting, adventurous, glamorous people who just happened to drink Dewar’s.
And it’s all here, at 3M’s new facility in Mexico.
See note on 3M, above.
Think those are Schlitz cans?
See note on Schlitz, above.
Things’ll work out, Mr. Maxwell … Mr. Maxwell?
Robert Maxwell (1923-1991) was a British publishing tycoon. At one point he owned several book publishing companies, a string of British tabloids, the New York Daily News, and many more companies. However, by the 1990s he was in shaky financial circumstances and used $1.2 billion he secretly siphoned off from employee pension funds and other sources in an attempt to keep his empire from crumbling. On November 5, 1991, he disappeared off his yacht, and his body was recovered from the Atlantic some time later. The official cause of death was a heart attack plus accidental drowning.
This phrase comes from the comic Jimbo, Adventures in Paradise, by illustrator and Pee-wee’s Playhouse set designer Gary Panter.
All right, now jig it off the bottom.
A jig is a weighted fishing lure designed to sink; the fisherman raises and lowers the pole to move the lure along the bottom.
Jon Pertwee played the third incarnation of the Doctor, from 1970 to 1974, in the BBC show Doctor Who.
It’s the maritime equivalent of rock climbing.
A reference to Show 208, Lost Continent, which spent about 20 minutes of its runtime showing in lavish detail the main characters’ tortuous ascent and descent of a rocky mountainside.
I dreamed I was Father Murphy.
Father Murphy was a short-lived TV series that aired from 1981-1983. It starred Merlin Olsen as John Michael Murphy, a man pretending to be a priest to help orphans.
Um, guys, wasn’t John Saxon in this movie? –Oh, yeah!
Yes. In an earlier scene, when Mitchell is pulling up outside Cummins’s house (right before his heartwarming shouting match with the kid on the skateboard), there’s an easily missed radio voiceover that announces Deaney’s tragic death in a dune buggy accident. In the theatrical release, there was a scene in which Deaney dies trying to run over Mitchell with a dune buggy. That scene was cut from the MST3K version, resulting in the John Saxon subplot awkwardly petering out halfway through the movie.
These Circle Line tours are getting really brutal.
Circle Line refers to two maritime touring companies that offer tours of New York City by water: Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, founded in 1953, and Circle Line Downtown, which spun off from the parent company in 2004 in an effort to revive lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks. The company is famous for its harbor cruises, which “circle” the island, and its jaunts to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Mannix! Extra large.
Mannix was an action-heavy TV series starring Mike Connors (1925-2017) as private detective Joe Mannix. It aired from 1967-1975.
Oh, vaudeville. Or not.
In the golden age of vaudeville, performers who were particularly bad or going too long would be removed from the stage by means of a long pole with a hook on the end, similar to a shepherd’s staff. There’s scant documentation that the technique was widely used, but it was embedded in popular culture by “Sandman” Sims, a tap dancer at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, who would use a hook or a broom to usher failed acts offstage. It has survived in animation, popping up in Warner Bros. and Disney shorts, among others.
And there, on his colon, was a hook.
A reference to the old urban legend about the couple necking in a car who get home to discover the dismembered hook of a crazed murderer hanging from their car door handle.
Well, let’s see—I see Van Morrison, I see Meat Loaf, and … Spock.
Van Morrison is an Irish singer/songwriter known for such tunes as “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Moondance.” Meat Loaf is a hefty singer/songwriter who peaked in the 1970s with such songs as “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” And Spock is the half-Vulcan, half-human first officer of the starship Enterprise on the 1960s TV series Star Trek.
Either those curtains go or I do.
According to some sources, Victorian poet and playwright Oscar Wilde’s last words were “Either those curtains go or I do.” Other versions give conflicting accounts of his last words: “Either that wallpaper goes or I do,” or “I suppose I shall have to die beyond my means.”
Dead Calm is a 1989 thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill as a yachting couple terrorized by a murderer (played by Billy Zane).
Mmm, boy, this sure is good booze! Captain Schlitz, I think your order’s up!
See note on Schlitz, above.
“Benton?” Harbor, Michigan.
Benton Harbor, Michigan, is a small town on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Population: about 11,000.
Da-dum. Da-dum. Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum …
This is the iconic theme from the film Jaws, composed by John Williams.
Oh, you’re smart enough, Mitchell.
An imitation of comedian and actor Jackie Gleason (1916-1987), in his role as everyman Ralph Kramden in the TV series The Honeymooners, which aired on CBS off and on from 1955 to 1978.
You’ll never take me alive, coppers.
A paraphrase of James Cagney in White Heat: “Come and get me, copper!” The movie was based on real-life events: the arrest in 1931 of the criminal Francis “Two-Gun” Crowley, who actually appears to have screamed out the window either “Come and get me, coppers!” or “You'll never take me alive, coppers!” (accounts vary). But the riff is definitely imitating Cagney’s voice.
Let’s rip off the last scene from Key Largo, Mitchell!
Key Largo is an excellent 1948 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall as people held prisoner by a gangster (Edward G. Robinson) during a hurricane. The climactic scene takes place on a boat between a silent Bogart and a panicky Robinson, and is in fact almost identical to the scene here in Mitchell, even to the point of the bad guy throwing out the money and one gun while concealing another. It’s amazing they didn’t sue.
In the 1991 remake of the thriller Cape Fear, bad guy Robert De Niro says this aboard a boat while engaged in a cat-and-mouse pursuit of lawyer Nick Nolte. Mitchell stars Joe Don Baker and Martin Balsam also had prominent roles in the 1991 remake. The 1962 original starred Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck.
I’ll never grow old, I’ll never die, and I’ll always eat oatmeal.
The 1985 movie Cocoon starred Don Ameche and Wilford Brimley (of Quaker Oats commercial fame) as senior citizens who discover a kind of alien-powered fountain of youth.
Mr. Roper? You home?
Stanley Roper was the suspicious landlord in the TV sitcom Three’s Company. The part was played by Norman Fell. In 1979 the Ropers got their own TV series, but it only lasted one season.
Mitchell: license to slouch.
007: license to kill.
Yanni, you’re home!
See note on Yanni, above.
All right, John Tesh, I know you’re in here.
John Tesh started out as a TV sports commentator and co-host of the TV show Entertainment Tonight. He wound up the phenomenally successful New Age composer of such albums as Romantic Christmas and Sax by the Fire.
What, did you have Mickey Rourke over or something?
In the 1986 film 9½ Weeks, Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger have a famous sex scene in a kitchen in which they smear food all over each other’s bodies.
Where’s your Cheech and Chong album?
Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong are a Grammy award winning comedy duo, most of whose humor revolves around getting stoned. In their 1970s/80s heyday they produced a number of comedy albums, including Big Bambu and Sleeping Beauty, and feature films, including Up in Smoke and Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie.
You got any Froot Loops?
Froot Loops is a brand of fruit-flavored cereal popular among kiddies. It is made by Kellogg’s.
Zero tolerance is so funny.
Zero tolerance is a controversial policy adopted by many American, British, Canadian, and Australian public schools, which metes out harsh punishments for any violation of the school’s policies regarding drugs, weapons, or behaviors, with no regard for extenuating circumstances or intent. Stories abound of honor students getting expelled and/or arrested for minor or unwitting infractions.
[Sung.] Put ‘em on your feet/Give your dogs a treat/What a comfortable shoe …
This is an old advertising jingle for Hush Puppies brand shoes.
The hood to the Mustang got a credit.
See note on Mustangs, above.
Oh, Hoyt, how could you?
Hoyt Axton (1938-1999) was a country-western singer/songwriter whose best-known works were generally those covered by other bands, including “Joy to the World,” covered by Three Dog Night, which hit number one on the charts.
You know, Joe Don Baker would be perfect for Elvis: The Dying Days.
Elvis Presley (1935-1977), the King of Rock and Roll, was one of the most popular musicians from the 1950s until his death in the late 1970s. He was a teen idol in the late 1950s, helped usher in the era of rock and roll, became a movie star, created an enormous and opulent home at Graceland in Memphis, developed problems with drug abuse, and finally died of a heart attack at the age of 42.