Come on down — January 13, 2021

Come on down

Well, 2021 is off to a terrible start, but one good thing has occurred this year. I’ve learned that Pluto TV now has a channel devoted to the 1980’s Bob Barker era of The Price Is Right.

You might have some questions, including what the expletive is Pluto TV and how do I access it?

I researched the Internets to find a good description of Pluto TV, but I found the explanations sorely lacking. Here’s the best that I can do. If you can access the likes of Netflix and Hulu, then you can add Pluto to your buffet of platforms. It’s free, offers live TV-ish, and has oodles of channels. Don’t ask me how to add it or you’ll end up in Denmark. Instead, ask a loved one or a neighbor or that pesky feller who keeps offering to upgrade your car warranty.

Anyway, Pluto added TPIR on Dec. 1, but I didn’t learn of its existence until Jan. 1, which means I missed the holiday marathon. (Fun fact, as a wee lass, I thought the TPIR anagram stood for trip. I also thought announcer Johnny Olson was saying cars came equipped with California ignition instead of emission. Yes, even as a child, I was a candidate for a think tank.)

Many of the episodes haven’t been seen since they aired back in the ’80s and, during my down time, I do my best to make sure I watch as many as possible. It reminds me of when my family first got the MTV. My siblings and I tried to watch the channel around-the-clock, as if we expected it to disappear if we turned off the TV.

That’s me and TPIR on Pluto. There are so many aspects of the ‘80s episodes I had forgotten. These include the train, a few of the retired games, and the fact that women didn’t wear much clothing back in the day. I also wince at some of the remarks Bob Barker makes to the female contestants and models, who were known as Barker’s Beauties.

But I’ll give the man his due. He brought energy and pizazz to every single episode and never acted like he was too good or too cool for the show. Other game show hosts act(ed) like they’d been lobotomized, but not Barker (or the recently departed Alex Trebek). Barker maintained a repartee with the contestants and the studio audience that was fun to experience.

Another fun fact: whilst watching my first Pluto episode, I wondered in what year it was set. So, I studied the skimpy clothing, the hairstyles, and the TPIR merchandise and decided on 1982. Then, I watched the credits to see if I was right.

I was.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me because the showcase showdown is starting.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Soap gets in your mind — December 30, 2020

Soap gets in your mind

During normal times, I take down my tree and the other holiday decorations the day after Christmas. As of this writing, however, my family has not celebrated Christmas. What’s more, I’ve enjoyed taking in the tree against the backdrop of the snow that continues to blanket my yard. So, for now, the decorations shall remain within my view and not hidden in a closet.

Anyway, my decision to wait a few days to un-decorate has led my mind to one obvious location – soap operas.

Although I no longer watch soaps, I, like most people who were raised right, grew up watching stories, as they were known to some. Thus, every year at the holidays, I was flabbergasted by how the characters waited until Christmas Eve to decorate their trees. (I was also flabbergasted by how they wrapped presents. They wrapped the top of the box and the bottom, but not the entire present together. So, this meant that characters simply lifted the tops of the boxes to reveal their gifts. It seemed like a waste of dramatic effect to me.)

Back to the subject at hand – procrastinating until Christmas Eve to trim the tree. If you were/are a Days of Our Lives’ viewer, you might be saying to yourself, “Self, once they gather together on Christmas Eve, the Hortons decorate the tree with ornaments bearing their names. It’s a tradition. What’s she got against traditions?”

Nothing. And while I might be persuaded to grant you the Hortons’ tradition, what about all the other families on Days and the other soaps? Trust me, at one point I tried them all, so I can safely say that the lot of them wait until Christmas Eve. I know they’re busy having affairs and plotting revenge and world domination, but you’d think at least one or two of them could squeeze in a few hours to decorate a tree. Or, I don’t know, have a servant complete the task.

Because decorating takes time. One of the reasons I do it around Thanksgiving is because I’m not expending all that effort to create a masterpiece that will disappear in two days.

Speaking of masterpieces…once my mind settled on soaps, it also started thinking about how the genre’s villains tend to have giant portraits of themselves in their homes. I’m not sure if they commission these portraits or if they’re gifts from minions or family members who don’t know what else to give a super villain for birthdays and Christmas.

I do know that there’s a present adjacent to my mom’s tree – it can’t fit underneath – that could be a portrait. Although I usually avoid mirrors and likenesses of myself, I won’t be disappointed if a loved one has commissioned a giant portrait of me. I’ll keep you posted.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Not missing out — August 5, 2020

Not missing out

On occasion, I tell the person to whom I am talking that I miss video stores. As a movie aficionado, a trip to the video store represented an event to me. As an experienced video store visitor, I knew they might not have the titles I wanted to rent, so I always went armed with a list – sometimes in writing – of alternative selections.

I’m sharing this “thing I miss” with you, my dear readers, because I recently stumbled onto a discussion about things people don’t miss. For example, the subject of video stores reminds me that I don’t miss having to rewind VHS tapes. Yes, I was kind and always chose to rewind.

In fact, I splurged on a rewinder to aid in the chore because someone told me doing so would help save the VCR heads. By the way, I have no idea if that is true, what it means, or how many heads an average VCR boasted. For all I know, the person who offered the advice could have owned stock in a company that produced rewinders.

Of course, the rewinder didn’t help if I had recorded a week’s worth of TV and/or movies and needed to rewind or fast-forward until I located that sweet spot on the tape that featured the latest episode of “Alf.” All that rewinding and fast-forwarding couldn’t have been good for the VCR’s heads. Maybe that’s why most of the VCRs in my past eventually malfunctioned, mangling tapes in the process.

So, no, I don’t miss VCRs, VCR tapes, or, for that matter, cassette tapes. Sure, I miss making mixed tapes for myself and friends and receiving mixed tapes as gifts. But you never knew when a hungry tape player would eat a cassette, either homemade or brought on. And I don’t miss 8-tracks and the annoying way they interrupted songs, either.

Nor do I miss rotary phones. What’s more, I shudder when I consider how we tempted fate by answering the phone without already knowing the identity of the caller. What were we thinking? Literally anybody could have been on the other line.

Anyway, when I moved into my house nearly 16 years ago, I found a rotary phone in a closet. It eventually found its way to the garage and, back in the spring, into the car of the family hoarder. Although they initially seemed flabbergasted by the relic, my great-niece and great-nephew eventually became enamored by it. They took turns dragging it across the floor and making calls.

Someday, I’ll tell them about pay phones. I’ll explain that although pay phones saved me a couple times, the reception was poor and I always wondered about the hygiene of the people who used the phones before I did. And I’ll make sure they know I don’t miss them.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Watching the wheels — April 29, 2020

Watching the wheels

If my TV was on in the 7 p.m. hour during my pre-pandemic existence, then it was usually tuned to some sort of sporting event. Alas, just as with not being able to see my great-niece and great-nephew or make random trips to Dollar General and Big Lots, sports represents something else I’ve had to learn to live without. Well, sort of. I’ve taken advantage of a free subscription to NFL’s Game Pass and I’ve devoted dozens of hours to classic Olympics coverage. What’s more, as of this writing, my TV is tuned to a classic Major League Baseball game.

But during the aforementioned 7 p.m. hour, I’ve returned to two old favorites – “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!”

Indeed, for decades I had a nightly date with “Jeopardy!” The show was also a favorite of my dad, who pronounced it as Jefferdee. At some point, though, I fell out of the habit of watching every evening. Oh, I would watch both game shows here and there and sometimes for several nights in a row, but I can’t say that either resumed being part of my daily routine.

That is, they weren’t until the coronavirus.

One evening, with no sports on and with “Magnum, P.I.” airing an episode I had seen a couple weeks prior, I decided to flip the flicker to “Wheel.” It comforted me to see that Vanna White was still lovely and sweet and that Pat Sajak was still ingratiatingly sarcastic.

But I have two complaints with the show. Firstly, it has too many toss-up puzzles. For those of you unfamiliar with that term, it means the puzzle is revealed one letter at a time and the contestant who correctly guesses wins $1,000 or $2,000.

To the best of my recollection, the last time I watched they had only three toss-up puzzles, which was already excessive. Sure, toss-ups throw money at the contestants, who don’t have to spin the wheel and, thus, run the risk of hitting a bankrupt or lose a turn. But it also reduces the drama because viewers know the contestants won’t lose any money or turns.

Secondly, the rules regarding winning $1 million make me borderline angry. In order to win the million bucks, a contestant must hit the million dollar wedge, call a letter, successfully solve that puzzle, win that round, and win the game without hitting bankrupt.

If you assume that the contestant will then win $1 million if he or she successfully solves the bonus round puzzle, you would be wrong. If you haven’t watched in several seasons, during the bonus round the winning contestant spins another wheel containing envelopes that represent money and prizes. If the contestant has hit and held onto the million dollar wedge, the envelope that usually represents $100,000 is replaced with a million. This means that the contestant still has to correctly solve the puzzle, which I endorse, and hit the million dollar envelope to win the big bucks.

I do not endorse that nonsense. If a contestant makes it that far and still has the million dollar wedge, he or she shouldn’t even have to spin the second wheel.

Somehow, this extra hurdle has not rendered it impossible to win a million on “Wheel.” In fact, three contestants have done so.

Of course, I guess I should just be happy that they’re not throwing a million dollars at contestants who solve those ridiculous toss-up puzzles.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The one and only — February 11, 2020

The one and only

On the heels of last week’s “news” that the postal service still offers collect on delivery services, I’m back with another bulletin of epic proportions. This time I’m here to let you know that the original recipe “Magnum, P.I.” is now on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel.

As you might recall, “Magnum, P.I.” ran on CBS from 1980 to 1988 and starred Tom Selleck as the title character. The show followed the exploits of Magnum as he solved mysteries in paradise aka Hawaii. Magnum lived on a beautiful estate called Robin’s Nest, which was owned by the celebrated – yet never seen – author, Robin Masters. Magnum frequently bickered with Higgins, (John Hillerman) the caretaker of Robin’s Nest, who was not amused by Magnum’s laid back approach to life.

Although I adore Higgy-Baby, which is how Magnum’s buddy, T.C., referred to Higgins, I’ve always been a Magnum fangirl. Nonetheless, Higgins had a point about Magnum. In dern-near every episode, Magnum, Higgins, T.C., their other friend, Rick, and Magnum’s love interest of the week found themselves embroiled in dangerous situations that could have been avoided.

Indeed, in an episode I happened to catch a couple weeks ago, bad guys and one bad gal descended upon Robin’s Nest with machine guns. Magnum, with an assist from T.C. and his ubiquitous helicopter, saved the day and everyone’s lives. Afterward, Magnum offered a wisecrack about how Higgins’ guard dogs, two Doberman Pinchers nicknamed the lads, let him down. At that point, I said to myself, “Self, unlike the lads, Magnum is a professional and he has opposable thumbs. So shouldn’t he be held a tad more accountable for weekly ruckuses?”

Regardless, I’ve been a fan of “Magnum, P.I.” since my days as a wee lass. I can remember coming in from a long summer’s day of playing to find Magnum on the TV, speeding through the streets of Hawaii in Robin’s red Ferrari. The show has been in syndication on and off since the ’80s and I’m always overjoyed when it shows up on my TV. It’s one of those shows I can keep on all day without watching a complete episode.

I have, however, never sampled so much as a second of the version of “Magnum” currently airing on CBS. Let’s be honest. The original series owed its success to the various charms of Selleck and Hillerman. There is only one true Thomas Magnum and his name is Tom Selleck.

So, if you want to watch him crack wise his way across paradise, check your local listings.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Whatever floats your boat — November 27, 2019

Whatever floats your boat

During a chat about Thanksgiving, one of my besties expressed unbridled love for the holiday. She said she loves cooking the meal with her daughter whilst watching the parade and then eating the meal with her family whilst watching football.

I certainly identify with the football-watching aspect of her schedule. But while I cook and bake specific dishes and desserts, I don’t make the entire meal. Besides, come Thanksgiving, I pretty much stick to eating mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, and pie. In other words, it’s food I could eat on any random Thursday.

Still, I eat and I watch football, so we’re on the same page there. But when it comes to the parade, we’re not even reading the same book.

Now, before you get all judgmental and advise that I simply need to give the parade a chance, you need to know that I’ve given it dozens of chances. For most of my life, I excitedly tuned in to the parade every Thanksgiving morning. I couldn’t wait to experience tunes from the biggest Broadway hits or watch the newest floats drift in the air. But approximately two and a half minutes into the parade, I’d ask myself, “Self, can a person die from boredom?”

This scene repeated itself oodles of times over the years until I finally realized that, for me to start enjoying the annual event, either the parade or I would need to change. For starters, I would need to enjoy parades in general. That’s right. I’ve never met a parade I like. I cannot fathom the premise of standing – sometimes in cold rain – on the street just to watch people walk by. If I wanted to do that, I’d hang out near a cross walk.

Of course, the Thanksgiving parade offers me the chance to sit in the comfort of my home and watch people dance and march by.

As it turns out, I don’t enjoy that spectacle, either. As I relax in my rocking chair, eating my morning oatmeal and trying to concentrate on the TV, my mind wonders from the lip-syncing performers and canned banter to thoughts of dusting. Do you know how bored I need to be to even consider dusting?

But that’s how much the parade bores me. In fact, it’s always bored me. But when I was younger, I tried to convince myself that it was fun. Although I never made it through an entire parade (or even half a parade), I’d try again the next year.

Until the year I’d had enough. I’m happy to report that I haven’t so much as watched one second of the parade in years. But if it’s part of your holiday tradition, I hope you continue to enjoy watching people dance and march by. Indeed, I hope you enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Witch-ful thinking — November 6, 2019

Witch-ful thinking

I am so grateful to the powers that be who postponed tricks-or-treats night from Thursday to Saturday. The change in schedule allowed me to spend Halloween the way the framers of the Constitution intended – by watching a “Bewitched” marathon.

As a wee lass, I enjoyed watching “Bewitched” reruns on the SuperStation WTBS. And even at my advanced age, Elizabeth Montgomery, who played the chic witch-turned-housewife Samantha, remains one of my favorite TV performers.

Aspects of the show, however, have always bothered me. For example, at every phase of my life – from an imaginative child who wished she could conjure up a spell with a twitch of the nose to a skeptical woman who realizes she’s the embodiment of Sam’s nosy neighbor, Gladys Kravitz – I have wondered what Sam saw in her husband Darrin. In addition to being incredibly boring, Darrin was prone to fits of hysteria and easily provoked. (By the way, I’m not sure what this says about me, but I only recently recognized the differences in the two actors who played Darrin.)

Anyway, ever since I first started watching “Bewitched,” I’ve questioned Darrin’s directive that Sam not practice witchcraft. Granted, Sam usually ignored him, but that’s not the point. The point is that Darrin – and Sam – were crazy for not taking advantage of her powers. Even as a kid, I couldn’t understand why Sam continued to do housework.

The fact that Sam dusted the furniture or swept the floors is more unrealistic than her choosing Darrin as her mate. In one holiday episode, she worked her magic to make a fully-decorated Christmas tree appear in multiple areas of the living room. After she determined where to put the tree, she made it disappear.

That’s not magic. It’s madness.

Sam’s behavior makes it easy to understand why her mom Endora, played to campy delight by Agnes Moorehead, held such contempt for the man she referred to as Derwood, Darwin or Dum-Dum. She blamed her boring son-in-law for turning Sam into a woman who apparently enjoyed performing chores that normal people delay until company has arrived on the doorstep.

Nonetheless, as I hate Halloween, looking forward to the “Bewitched” marathon helped me make it through a rainy day populated with coworkers dressed like cartoon characters. It also made me, even at my advanced age, practice twitching my nose because you never know when magic might happen.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Welcome to the family — August 28, 2019

Welcome to the family

My mother has always cautioned that self-bragging is half scandal.

So, when I hear people boasting about their accomplishments or possessions or when I’m tempted to brag about my ability to eat an entire can of potato crisps in one evening, I’m reminded of her advice.

But one of my dreams has come true. So I’m throwing her caution to the wind and announcing to my dozen or so readers that my household has been selected to participate in an important research study.

That’s right.

The Nielsen company has reached out to me!

For those of you unfamiliar with Nielsen, maybe this snippet from the letter will prove illuminating: “Have you ever wondered how radio, television and other media outlets decide what shows to broadcast and cancel? In large part, those decisions are based on feedback from people like you.”

And by “you,” Nielsen means me.

I’ve been hoping to receive recognition from the company since I first heard of the Nielsen ratings in the 1980s. Back in the day, I wanted so badly to help decide which shows remained on air and which ones got the ax. And, at the sake of sounding boastful, I would have been such a good Nielsen family member because I used to watch the heck out of the TV. Believe me when I say that I watched it so much that there was no chance it was going anywhere.

Nowadays, I’m not so sure I’m a good fit for Nielsen. Although my television is dern-near always on, I don’t actually watch much TV. And I listen to the radio only when I’m forced to do so. Indeed, for question four – “In a typical day, how many hours of radio do you listen to?” – I’ll have to mark zero.

So I’m not sure how helpful I can be to my new friend, Nielsen, and that gives me a case of the sads.

After all, the letter explains that my household, which Nielsen characterizes as “unique,” “may receive cash rewards or check rewards” for participation. I’m not sure what a check reward is, but to thank me for doing something as simple as opening an envelope, Nielsen enclosed a crisp one dollar bill.

Due to such generosity and a decades-long dream, I really don’t want to let Nielsen down, especially since he and/or she addressed the letter to “Dear Area Household.”

Talk about a personal touch!

But I can’t exaggerate my TV viewing or outright lie about listening to the radio. I’m fairly certain that doing so would constitute a bigger scandal than bragging.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

No Whammies — June 11, 2019

No Whammies

The game show “Press Your Luck” is set to return to TV tomorrow night on ABC. In case you don’t remember “Press Your Luck,” which originally aired in the 1980s, it’s the show with the Whammies. When contestants landed on a Whammy, they lost all their money and prizes. If that wasn’t humiliating enough for them, the Whammy would then prance across the screen, taunting them in the process.

I will not be watching the new incarnation of “Press Your Luck” for two reasons. Firstly, the show always made me nervous. Secondly, I cannot stand that smart-alecky Whammy.

When I shared this truth with my bestie, I also told her about a few other cartoon characters I abhor due to their smarty-pants natures – Bugs Bunny, the Road Runner, Tweety Bird, and Jerry from “Tom and Jerry” fame.

Before I continue, I should make one thing clear. With a couple exceptions – most notably, the Peanuts – I’ve never been a fan of cartoons. This was true even when I was a child. Indeed, I can remember sitting in the floor watching Wile E. Coyote plot against that beeping Road Runner. When the Coyote’s plan failed – once again – I shrugged and announced to the room, “He’s never going to catch him.”

That was the last time I actively watched the Coyote make a fool of himself in pursuit of the Road Runner, whose beep-beeps have probably driven oodles of viewers to drink.

Tweety Bird’s voice also triggers me. To be fair, Tweety’s lisping nemesis, Sylvester, doesn’t sound much better. Nonetheless, on the rare occasion I was subjected to them, I always rooted for Sylvester.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention that I would cheer on the cat. That’s one of the reasons I also wanted Tom to catch the elusive Jerry and wipe that smug expression off that meddlesome mouse’s face.

But no other cartoon character defined smugness like Bugs Bunny. Everything about him – from the way he held carrots to the way he uttered his “What’s up, Doc?” catchphrase – got on my nerves. In the real world, I like rabbits. When it came to the Looney Tunes world, however, I hoped that Elmer Fudd would indeed kill the wabbit.

Anyway, when I recently ran across a discussion about fictional villains, I was surprised to see Wile E. Coyote and Elmer Fudd included. You know, because they’re not the bad guys.

That smart-alecky Whammy definitely should be on that list, though.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

The gift you keep on giving — December 4, 2018

The gift you keep on giving

Tis the season of peace on earth, goodwill toward men, and warm and fuzzy holiday car commercials that make me so angry I could snap a candy cane. And not just a regular candy cane, either, but one of those that weigh a couple pounds and could cause a concussion if wielded the right way.

You’ve seen the commercials. A man, or a woman, rushes outside on Christmas morning to find a shiny new automobile wrapped in a bow and parked on a snow-lined driveway. There are variations on this theme including one where a husband upstages the two-for-one fitness trackers his wife purchases by buying two trucks.

That’s right. Because one truck wouldn’t have put them in enough debt.

You might be asking yourself, “Self, what could she possibly have against their fictional joy? After all, these people, who don’t even exist, have nothing to do with her.”

Well, once the commercials started airing on the TV inside my house, they became my business. So, it’s my business to comment on how ridiculous they are.

For starters, I’m fairly certain that if a spouse purchases a big-ticket item like a car – or two trucks – without the other spouse’s knowledge or permission, the second spouse has immediate cause for divorce. For example, if a wife runs into a judge at the dollar store and mentions that her husband plopped down approximately 20 grand on a new vehicle for Christmas without consulting her, I believe the judge has the authority to grant the wife an immediate divorce, right there in the household cleaning supplies aisle.

What’s more, I’ve also spent a considerable amount of time obsessing over who pays for these vehicles. Indeed, I’ve concerned myself with the matter since the first Lexus December to Remember commercials started airing nearly 20 years ago. From the way I see it, there are only two scenarios. In the first one, a spouse robs a bank or goes into heavy debt to purchase the vehicle outright, thereby establishing cause for divorce. (See above.)

In the second scenario, the spouse provides a down payment. And you know what that means? Spouse two is on the hook for five or six years of monthly payments, not to mention the skyrocketing insurance premiums.

Maybe I’m the only person in the universe who struggles to comprehend how this works. But it has always been my belief that the recipient does not pay for the gift. If the recipient does pay, then it’s no longer a gift. It’s a bill. Or, in this case, car payments.

Now that I’ve offered this explanation, you might have a better understanding of why these commercials trigger me. And why it’s not safe to leave candy canes in my presence.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.