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Nov 022016
 

Sesame Street has done it again with classic segments grouped together in a musical theme. This time Sesame Street – Sing Yourself Silly! is about, well, silly songs. After almost every song, a random Sesame Street character comes out and says; “Now that was silly”.

There’s no subplot in this feature, but there are quite a few classic segments that I remember well. For instance the opening song The Honker-Duckie-Dinger Jamboree features one of the first appearances of the Dinger. Like the Honkers, he doesn’t talk but sure stands out since there are no other Dingers around.

Another interesting segment I recall is James Taylor performing Jelly Man Kelly on his guitar with some kids. I never understood the lyrics, but I liked the relaxing setup.

One Banana was very creative. It’s about how bananas always grow in bunches and never alone. It also relates to how people grow with friends and family. As silly as this song is, it has some realism too.

Now who remembers Don Music? He’s that song writer that seems elegant, but when he gets stumped on a lyric, Don slams his head on the piano saying that he’ll never get past his writers block. At times he can be too emotional and give up too easily. It’s funny at first, but after a few times it’s hard to watch.

In this segment, Don works on Mary had a Little Lamb. With Kermit’s help, Don makes a new song called Mary had a Bicycle. While performing it, the members of Little Jerry and the Monotones suddenly join in. Where did those guys come from?

The last big highlight is Hoots the Owl and his band performing Put Down the Duckie as Ernie tries to play the saxophone. It’s a catchy song (Despite that it was already on Sesame Street: Put Down the Duckie) that features many celebrity cameos, including Pee-Wee Herman at his playhouse. It’s interesting that Ernie’s only problem was not to hold his rubber duckie while playing the sax. You’d think there would be harder things about playing the instrument to consider.

This was another great feature with classic Sesame Street segments. It’s the kind of material that makes you look forward to the next Sesame Street Old School DVD set, if there are any more coming.

Aug 102016
 

Sesame Street – Put Down the Duckie is a feature I remember well long before it was released on DVD. Back in 1988, it was advertised as The Sesame Street Special and premiered on Prime Time. When I first heard about it, I couldn’t wait to see it, despite the fact that the network had a telethon that ran through some of the time slot. Don’t you just hate that?

The special starts with Gladys Knight and the Pips performing the extended version of the Sesame Street theme, then Phil Donohue interviewing the people on the street. Of course everyone wants to speak. It was enough for Phil Donohue to take off. I remember Phil Donohue having a popular talk show back in the day but never understood it.

From here on out, this feature is all songs and segments from previous episodes of that season. The highlights include the Monsterpiece Theater segment The 39 Stairs, Grover as a singing and dancing waiter in a Spanish restaurant, and the Jellyman Kelly song.

Of course the biggest highlight in this feature is Hoots the Owl and his band performing Put Down the Duckie as Ernie struggles to play the saxophone while holding his rubber duckie. As an extension to the catchy song, various celebrities join in like Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Madeline Khan, Paul Simon, Jane Curtain, Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens), and bunch of others I didn’t recognize.

Speaking of celebrity guest stars, in another segment Bob (Bob McGrath) sings People in your Neighborhood, which features Barbara Walters getting the scoop on Bob and Linda’s (Linda Bove) relationship and Ralph Nader practically destroying Bob’s sweater as he inspects it. This segment seems much different compared to past versions of this song because it’s not as innocent as before when comes to describing each person’s job.

I can also remember back in the day when Robert MacNeil was a news correspondent on PBS. He appears on this feature to investigate a missing cookie story by talking to Cookie Monster. Kermit the frog also appears as Cookie’s lawyer.

The final segment is called Pretty Great Performances, which features an all animal orchestra performing Italian Street Song with Placido Flamingo. Who remembers this character? Looking back now, he sounds just like Wayne from The Muppet Show, especially when he sings.

This was certainly a classic Sesame Street feature, especially since it was only on TV once. You still won’t find this feature on cable because it’s now part of Sesame Street Old School. By the way, when do you think they’ll release Sesame Street Old School: Volume 4 on DVD?

Jul 132016
 

Sesame Street DVDs are best known for their entertaining and educational segments coinciding with themed story lines, but Sesame Street – Friends to the Rescue is different in more ways than one.

It starts with an exciting story line about a hurricane hitting Sesame Street and everyone prepares for it by taping windows, getting supplies, and bringing all loose items inside which includes Oscar’s trash can. That sure inspired me to prepare in case something like a hurricane was to occur.

It’s also nice to know that Kermit the frog makes an appearance as a Sesame Street news reporter. How long has it been since he last did that?

 

After the hurricane ends the next day, the story goes in a different direction. It focuses on how natural disasters can affect people emotionally. The one most affected is Big Bird because his nesting area behind the colored wooden doors was completely destroyed. I haven’t seen Big Bird this sad since Sesame Street’s Follow that Bird when he was captured by those crooked funfair owners, known as the Sleaze Brothers, and sang that sad song about wanting to get back home again.

It turns out that there are no extra segments about any letters or numbers. This feature is all about everyone helping Big Bird rebuild his home. Big Bird is grateful but goes through a lot of emotional distress.

Even though the place gets all fixed up again, there’s still one thing missing, the nest itself. Big Bird was left to build his own since birds do it all the time, but Big Bird doesn’t know how. He was never taught.

Just then, three architects who are based on The Three Little Pigs offer their services, but they only know how to build houses and I don’t mean birdhouses.

Big Bird decides to call his Granny Bird for assistance. I remember Big Bird mentioning his Granny Bird before, but this is the first time we ever actually see her.

The new nest does get built, but there’s another problem. The city nest inspector, based on the Big Bad Wolf, suddenly arrives to make sure it’s safe. That just goes to show that when it comes to fixing up homes, one thing always seems to lead to another.

This was a good feature that’s both exciting and heartwarming. My only concern was that some of the other characters like Ernie, Bert, Grover, Cookie Monster, and the Count do not appear at all. It makes you wonder what they were doing throughout this duration.

Jun 222016
 

Normally I don’t do follow-ups from previous top 10 lists, but I recently found other pop culture villains I’d like to add. Feel free to check my other list of Top 10 Underrated Villains for a comparison. So here’s another group of favorites.

#10) Spell Binder from The Electric Company (70s version): He is the arch nemesis of Letterman in the reoccurring Letterman animated segments. Spell Binder likes to cause chaos by magically changing letters in words, thus also changes the object, only to be defeated by Letterman who uses letters to change the words and object back to normal. Spell Binder does appear lame compared to other villains, but if you think about it, the chaos he causes is pretty effective in the long run.

#9) Scorpina from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Let’s face it. She was a standout villainess when she fought alongside Goldar. However, Scorpina was removed from the show due to lack of footage, which is understandable. On a side note, Lamy from Super Sentai Zyuranger, who was later known as Scorpina, was just as interesting after seeing what footage had not been used on Power Rangers. My only real concern was that Scorpina wasn’t written out of the show gradually. She just suddenly vanished with no explanation of what became of her.

Mezmeron

#8) Mezmeron from PAC-Man the Animated Series: Normally, PAC-Man’s enemies are the ghosts. In this version, the ghosts have a master who appears more intimidating. As powerful as Mezmeron is, he never fights his own battles. More importantly, this is the only version of PAC-Man he’s ever been featured and even then he hardly ever appeared. It would’ve been nice to see this villain more often, possibly as a final boss in the video game. That already sounds awesome.

Lorena from True Blood

#7) Lorena (Mariana Klaveno) from True Blood: Of all the vampires on this show, I find Lorena the most incredible. When it comes to love, she is very possessive and can be short tempered from time to time, especially if anyone speaks against her. Even though Lorena was slayed, I might have expected her to return later on in the series. I mean, if slayed vampires can return on shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, why not on True Blood? Of course, that never happened.

#6) Lord Maliss from Happily Ever After: He’s the brother of the Wicked Queen from Snow White that’s even more dangerous. This dark wizard can turn into a dragon and has a cape that can turn anyone into stone. On top of that, no other version of Snow White has such a character. So Maliss truly stands out, even though his only true goal is revenge.

#5) Taminella Grinderfall from Muppets franchise: This classic wicked witch character is an oldie but a goodie. Whether her evil plots are scary or goofy, Taminella was what helped make the classic Muppet Fairytale specials so magical and exciting as part of the fantasy genre, next to King Goshposh and Featherstone. With the Muppets still hugely popular, Taminella has never made an attempt for a comeback. It would be nice if she did. That is, whenever the Muppets decide to make a new fantasy film someday.

#4) Vam-Mi from Ninja Turtles: the Next Mutation: When it comes to vampire women, it seems like Vam-Mi is one of the least likely to come to mind. However, this 2000-year-old Chinese vampire is both dangerous and powerful despite that she can also be a total drama queen when things don’t go right. I find Vam-Mi as interesting as she is unique. Too bad she only appeared in the four-part episode “Unchain My Heart” and was never featured in the franchise again afterward.

Cracklin the Wizard

#3) Cracklin from The Adventures of Raggedy Ann and Andy: I’ll admit that it can be hard to take this dark wizard seriously as a villain because of his intense allergies to animal hair. As the arch nemesis of the Raggedys, Cracklin is very fearsome and powerful when it comes to using magic and will do anything to become even more powerful. His reasons are unknown as well as his background, but one thing is for certain. Cracklin is not one to take lightly, even if his sneezing is strong like the wind.

#2) Zira from The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride: Most of the Disney villains are hugely popular, even the ones that were only in one movie. Zira is one of few who are often overlooked. Sure, Scar was an interesting villain, but Zira is even more ruthless. Even though she was never mentioned in the first movie, Zira knew Scar before his demise and seeks revenge on Simba. She’ll do anything to kill Simba, including training her own cubs to hate and kill. Now that’s just low.

#1) False Face from Batman franchise: Of all the villains Batman has gone up against, this is the creepiest and most mysterious. He’s a master of disguise and commits crimes by leaving his calling card, a false quote. False Face has appeared in several different versions of Batman, which includes Batman Beyond, but the one I remember best is his appearance in Batman (60s version). As one of the most difficult criminals to catch, False Face isn’t featured often. He’s also not on the same level of popularity as Joker, Penguin, Riddler, etc., but I think he ought to be, despite that his origin story isn’t revealed.

May 182016
 

We all enjoy a good audio book once in a while. Back when I was a kid the only kinds I preferred were the ones where you could follow along in a storybook while listening to a cassette tape or sometimes a vinyl record.

The main ones I still have are based on 80s pop culture I grew up on. That’s what made these books on tape so interesting and it’s very helpful that there’s always some sort of chime that lets you know when to turn the page. Usually audio books don’t have a book to follow let alone a signal to turn the page.

Let’s start with the series sets where each book was sold separately. The Smurfs had four different stories based on certain episodes; A Winter Smurf, The Smurf Champion, There’s a Smurf in my Soup, and The Smurf-Eating Bird. What really kept these interesting was the nice tune that played at the beginning and end of each story as well as the three-second tone that signals to turn the page. No other books on tape do that.

Ducktales had several stories as well based on particular episodes with the original voice actors and musical score. My favorite is Scrooge’s Treasure Hunt, which is basically from part 2 of the series pilot Treasure of the Golden Suns.

There was also a set of five stories on The Gremlins. I don’t remember these too well, mainly because I’m not as much into The Gremlins as I used to be. Moving on.

Next is a series of books based on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Unlike any other books on tape based on popular shows that stay loyal to their series, this group is nothing like the actual He-Man animated series. The stories and action are edgier. Some of which are featured in comic book style format. At first I struggled to get into these because they were so different, but now that I’m more into the fantasy genre these storybooks are awesome.

It wasn’t just TV shows that became books on tape. Movies have too, like The Muppets Take Manhattan and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Of course due to time, the story lines were trimmed down quite a bit, but still remain faithful to their source material.

There are other books on tape about 80s classics I’d like to blog about. So check my blog for part 2 for more.