Another Scorcher!

Summer is definitely here in full swing, and you know what that means. Most likely, you can not live another day without air conditioning, and tomorrow's going to be hotter! Hotter... just like yesterday when you said you'd call Sears. You know what I'm talking about because when summer gets into gear, it probably meant sooner or later you'd be seeing that Sears air conditioner commercial with the husband/wife (or were they even married?) talking about how hot it's going to be tomorrow... "just like yesterday when you said you'd call Sears."

You know this thing by heart because they played it for about 10 years straight, every day, in one form or another. Sometimes they played it without the "Softer Side of Sears" music, sometimes with, and sometimes they edited out the end, or stuck a new offer in the middle, but it was always the same basic commercial... the same goofy dialogue... for years and years...something you could always rely on to herald in the summer. I guess the only reason they don't play it now is because nobody still reads the paper to find out what the weather is going to be tomorrow!

For me, seeing this was like a sign that summer had officially begun, with all its talk of "hot days" and standing in front of the fridge to cool down. And as far as I know that outdoor Kenmore unit could've been shot at my rich uncle's house because his looked exactly like that. Even the red brick foundation was spot on, and the little bush right along side the screen there... wait a minute, did I play there?

You'd see a lot of these air conditioning ads popping up on the Weather Channel in the summer right next to the ones for rain tires. Sometimes it seemed like the Weather Channel was run by Trane air conditioners and the Michelin Man. Remember the slogan for that one? "It's hard to stop a Trane!" I actually got that too, because you see, "Trane" kind of sounds like "train," and they're both hard to stop, unlike Michelin tires on a wet road. But I digress.

I used to think "Trane" was so fierce sounding, like you weren't just getting an air conditioner, but real honkin' piece of machinery that would really bring the chill. In the battle of the serious air conditioners, Trane would've gotten my vote when I was a kid, but while "It's Hard to Stop a Trane!" was a catchy phrase, you can't beat "Another scorcher!" 

Honey I Shrunk the Kids

Among all the greatest epics, there is Honey I Shrunk the Kids. It's no small pun to say that this film was epic in size, and yet it all took place between the backyard and the kitchen. They just made the most of everything in it--from the epic broom scene to the giant blades of grass they slide on, not to mention the friendly ant, the ride on the bee, the scorpion, the lawn mower, the sprinkler system, the cereal bowl...this movie is just scene after scene of death-defying goodness!

It's all very vivid to my memory, and mainly because they really did a great job making the small world look so damn REAL (although "big" movements were still painfully slow for some reason once they shrunk)...and man did these kids get messy in this movie! If they weren't dripping wet with mud, they were soaked with giant water droplets, or covered in big yellow globs of pollen, or bathing in milk. And it all looked so real, like how it might actually be if you were that small and had to make your way across the "ten or so mile" backyard, sleeping in a Lego brick, riding down a river of grossness, and fighting off bugs along the way. The film also had good kid characters, biting each other's heads off and yet sticking it out for one another the whole way.

Each one of them almost died a number of times too, whether it was due to a ride on a bee, or getting sucked up in the lawn mower, or getting hit by the sprinkler jets, or getting hounded by a scorpion... and then they were all separated, and reunited, and that big ant "Anty" saved their lives and finally ended up paying the ultimate sacrifice (which was sad). And while all of this epic stuff was happening, the bumbling Rick Moranis was combing through the yard with a magnifying glass to find them and still not making their journey any easier. One kid even almost pays the ultimate sacrifice at the end nestled inside a giant Cheerio because of Rick Moranis!

So please, a moment of silence is due for Anty, the one (and only) thing not working against them in the film, who's brave sacrifice is duly remembered.

What Would You Do?

My recent look back at Legends of the Hidden Temple forced me to instantly remember other great 90s Nick game shows, and here's one that definitely made me go, "Oh man! I totally forgot about this and now I totally remember it!" Of course you know what I'm talking about, because you're feeling it too. It was called What Would You Do? or if you prefer: "wha-wha-wha-would you... wha-wha-wha-would you... wha-wha-wah would you do?" 

This show was basically "pies and eyes." It had a lot of pies, and for some reason, a lot of creepy eyes. They were everywhere: googly eyes with lashes blinking, popping out of walls, spinning around here or there... even the title had a couple eyes in it. Very strange. After that, every episode started off with Marc Summers looking something like a Ken doll in a hypnotic dress-shirt and standing against a set looking something like a pastel comic book with splatter paint and leopard skin patterns and random shapes. He'd tell us where the heck we were, and then we'd enter the "bouncing-ovaly-eyes-against-neon-green-polygons" dimension (what they normally call an "acid trip"), and we'd see shots of Marc gargling the air, dressing as a banana, and painting a French mustache on his face all screwed up. "You're doing it wrong!" 

The audience was a pool of funky neon, tucked-in bulky shirts, pink scrunchies, white shorts, and bare legs, and you'd spend so much time looking at them in the running time that you'd actually begin to tell them apart from one another. Who was wearing the weird costumes and who was wearing the normal clothes? It's impossible to know these days. The people back there were just a stack of colors, stripes, and poka dots, with fanny packs and plastic visor hats as far as the eye could see. Blinding to look at, but always eager to stand up, accept a challenge, and get a pie to the face. Seriously, at this point, what planet was this show beamed in from?

Step on up to the Wall O' Stuff!
As to what it was actually about... I'll fill you in as soon as I know (controlled substances may be needed). But from what I can piece together, it seemed to be about kids torturing their parents in various ways that usually involved humiliating tasks and every possible way to put a cream pie into someone's face. And I really mean that. This show started a pie-face contraption industry. It had the "Pie Pod," the "Pie Slide," the "Pie Pendulum," the "Pie in the Sky," the "Pie Roulette," the "Pie Wash," AND the "Pie Coaster." But you could only take one of these things for a spin by picking a number and retrieving a card out of the trippy and colorful doors on the "Wall O' Stuff." Afterwards, those cream pies probably tasted pretty good, especially pasted to your shoulders and dripping off your chin.

Simply put, this show was idiot TV as high art, but sure fun enough if you were the kid who got to see his dad dress as a bee, strap a stinger to his can, and try to sit on a series of balloons to pop them. You know if he makes ten in 60 seconds, he'll look like an idiot, and if he doesn't, he'll get to go sit in the Pie Pod and have a pie launched at his face. Sounds radical doesn't it? And I guess the show gets its name from the segment where kids had to decide whether to get a pie to the face or do what was written on a card strapped to their head... or maybe it had something to do with what number door you'd open in the Wall O' Stuff, but who really knows? Usually getting the pie to the face was the better option because half the time the card had them eating the sauerkraut and jelly bean sandwich. Yuck.

Still don't get it? What can I say, it was the 90s!

Ecco 2: The Tides of Time

In the vast ocean of otherwise mediocre Sega Genesis games, only about one or two really spoke to me that didn't have anything to do with a blue hedgehog or Jurassic Park. One of them was the insanely classic and insanely hard Ecco the Dolphin 2: The Tides of Time. I never played the first one, so I have no idea about it, but this one had mystical crystals and teleportation rings and time traveling dolphins with super telekinetic powers. It was as New Agey as it gets, and even the soundtrack often sounded lifted from one of those Pure Moods samplers... but man was it awesome.

I loved dolphins. They were my favorite animal and it might've been because of this game, I'm not sure, but this game had sharks and squids and turtles and orcas and just everything cool about the ocean. Every level had some kind of shipwreck in it too, and how the ships got down there was no mystery seeing as giant jagged rocks were basically everywhere. Even Ecco could barely move around underwater without slamming into something and making that painful "squeaking" sound that used to drive me crazy! Play this game for two minutes and all you hear is *squeak* *squeak* *squeak*...etc. I mean, ouch already!

The other thing that used to drive me crazy about this game is just how LONG it is, and how HARD some of these levels ended up being. Take "Tube of the Medusa" for instance. Thanks to the fact that you have no lives, I spent hours sometimes trying to get around that giant squid monster and only ended up getting chucked back time and time again. And when you get chucked out of the sky tube, you fall back two levels and have to work your way back up... it's nearly impossible! Also, as soon as you lose your powers and have to start surfacing for air and looking for bubbles, the game becomes a constant challenge. My brother and I never beat it. We didn't even come close.

But is it a great game? Of course! This game inspired me to invent all kinds of stories around those super-intelligent dolphins, and many a backyard make-believe focused on playing Ecco like we were making a movie version of it or some kind of weird role play. The game was so movie-like already. It did what it was supposed to do and made the ocean mystical and magical, and though it was hard as hell and involved a LOT of "back and forth a hundred times between two points collecting stuff", it was at least imaginative along the way. Any time I got in a swimming pool, I was playing Ecco.

Of course I used to pronounce it "EE-co" for some reason. It took me years to figure it out: "oh... echo... I get it."