Sunday, June 27, 2010

Kiddie TV, The Classics

The world is a little scary and a lot of fun when you're 8 years old.

When I was 8, the fun part was filled with characters whose only job was to entertain me. Some were funny, some were magical and all came armed with just the right combination of old movies, games or cartoons guaranteed to mesmerize the pre-pubescent mind.

Some were seen nationally ...

The king of nationally televised kiddie characters was Captain Kangaroo. Every morning he would open his door and let us inside the little piece of our imaginations in which he had apparently attained the rank of captain. I later found out that the kangaroo part came from the deep pockets in his jacket, but I didn't ask those kinds of questions back then. Here we met Mr. Moose, Grandfather Clock, Dancing Bear and most especially the Captain's wing man, Mr. Green Jeans. Mr. Jeans wore green overalls (although that was an article of faith on our black-and-white TVs), often brought exotic animals and, contrary to an urban legend from later years, was not the father of Frank Zappa.

Today it's said that adults watched Kukla, Fran & Ollie almost as much as their kids did. (Orson Welles and Adlai Stevenson were reportedly big fans.) It was basically a comedy show done every morning. Kukla was the ringleader, Fran was the only human seen on most shows and Ollie was a one-toothed dragon. I have to admit that this show was a little (actually, a lot) above my head. But now I'm not feeling so bad about that since I defy any 8-year-old to hang in there with the director of Citizen Kane and a three-time almost president.

So after the morning shows had brushed away the cobwebs from our tiny brains there was Lunch With Soupy Sales. Soupy was a whole different breed of cat when it came to kiddie show hosts. Watching this show gave a person (even a little kid person) the feeling that there was something a little naughty going on. There were comic sketches; there was slapstick (pies in the face in every episode); there were recurring characters, White Fang (“the world's meanest dog”) and Black Tooth (“the world's sweetest dog”) seen only as giant paws; and there were an unending series of puns, many of which were not really meant for the kiddies to understand. And today we have evidence that Soupy's most famous ad-lib moment really did happen!

Of course we had no shortage of Philadelphia-area host/babysitters, too ...

The queen, my first love and “our gal Sal” was Sally Starr. Not only was she pretty, sweet and a cowgirl, but she had the Popeye cartoons and the best movie stars ever (my considered opinion at the time), The Three Stooges. I can still hear Sally begging us not to try the Stooges' stunts at home because they used “trick photography” to accomplish them. (I resolved right then that I had to get me some of that trick photography, whatever it was). Years later Sally hosted a “Western Theater” movie of the week with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and a lot of her “old friends” from the cowboy days. It never occurred to me to question how old my gal Sal would have to be to have known some of the old cowboys, but I guess that's just the wanting-to-believe of youth.

Usually right before Sally came on (or sometimes right after) there was a Native American “other side of the old West” show with the great Chief Halftown. The chief's name really was Halftown, and he was 100 percent Seneca Indian (it's said he preferred the term “Indian” to the more politically correct one I just felt compelled to use). Never seen in public without full feathered bonnet, buckskin and beads, he was the epitome of dignity and authenticity before any of us knew what those things were. He liked to point out that in the old movies you never saw an Indian laughing. Well, Chief Halftown laughed a lot and so did his “tribal members.”

At Cartoon Corners General Store (where you could get “anything that you're hankering for) we met the amazing Gene London. He told the best stories on television, and illustrated them right before your eyes as he was telling them (our first exposure to “multitasking”). His boss was Mr. Dibley, or “Old Dibble-Puss,” who paid Gene eight-and-a-half cents per week (our first exposure to “The Man” keeping us down). The cartoons Gene showed were mostly Disney, which fit right in with the kind of atmosphere at Cartoon Corners … classy but fun!

One of my very earliest memories is watching Happy the Clown and his “marching sticks,” the exact purpose of which escapes me to this day. If I remember correctly, the idea was to bang the sticks together while marching along to music. One end of the sticks was red and the other blue and kiddies only got to use one particular color (I forget which) when it was their birthday. Although I can't attest to this personally, there have been multiple reports that “Happy” was anything but happy in real life. Rumor of his surprising dislike for children may or may not be an urban legend, but I do know that he provided me with the first lifetime goal that I ever failed to accomplish ... banging a marching stick on TV for my birthday. So I guess that's a valuable life lesson.

I think it's safe for me to admit today that occasionally I cheated on my first love, Sally Starr, with the delightfully sprightly Pixanne. To be fair, the fact that she could fly was a big attraction, and she lived in the “Magic Forest” with creatures that looked a lot like Muppets before I'd ever seen a Muppet. She sang and danced and spread “pixie dust” wherever she went, which are top-shelf qualities in a girlfriend when you're 8. There was also a witch named Windy who occasionally appeared in the forest. She looked a lot like Pixanne, but was very, very nasty. Political correctness and a healthy instinct for survival prevent me from pointing out that this split-personality quality may have been an invaluable lesson in dealing with women in the years to come … so I won't do that.

At the very tail end of my kiddie show years, I was introduced to Lorenzo, a very unusual clown/hobo. At the beginning of each show Gerry Wheeler, who played Lorenzo, came on without make-up and would slowly transform himself into Lorenzo while we watched. That seemed odd (or maybe I was just growing out of the genre). But Lorenzo did serve as a kind of conduit to teen years by highlighting a special dance known far and wide as The Lorenzo Stomp. I never did become much of a dancer, but the guy tried, at least.

I would be negligent if I failed to mention two shows that I barely recall but which probably were the very first things I saw on television.

When I was very young there was Pete's Gang, hosted by the very grandfatherly Pete Boyle. My two favorite things about Pete are that he introduced me to Our Gang movies (or Little Rascals movies, if you prefer), and that his son went on to do a monstrously funny “Puttin' on the Ritz” in Young Frankenstein.

Around that same time, Bertie the Bunyip was a puppet show with quite a few puppet and people characters, the most important of which (to me) was a puppet called “Sir Guy de Guy.” Why was he so important? Well, it seems that my grandmother Reilly had this great talent for giving people nicknames. There was “Markie Down the Street,” who I believe was actually named Margie but who did live down the street, and an aunt called “While You're Up” who would die of thirst rather than get off the sofa for her own drink. But when grandmom Reilly named a man on her street Sir Guy de Guy (I'm guessing because either he looked like the puppet or his name was Guy) I finally got the genius of her talent!

A little after my time there came more kiddie shows. They seemed to be more educational than my generation of shows, which I suppose is a good idea. There was Captain Noah for one (who I saw only in passing and mainly remember as a man in a sea captain's uniform who spoke very slowly). But I have to say that I'm very happy to have been a kid when we learned our life lessons very slyly sneaked in between Popeye and the Stooges.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Toys Will Be Toys

A few days ago I saw that a yo-yo, exactly like the one that I was foolish enough to take out of its wrapper and use when I was 10, sold on eBay for over $2,000. Naturally, I've mentally added that to my share of the untold millions in old baseball cards that every guy of my generation believes his mom threw away. (It's okay, mom, you were just a scapegoat. I lost most of my collection flipping cards with the Kramer brothers.)

But mainly it got me thinking about some of the toys that I loved as a kid.

A lot of us have observed how simple those toys were compared to the video and Wii and Internet diversions that the kids have today. But that's not really a bad thing. I have a feeling that our creative minds were engaged by those less sophisticated playthings.

When I fought the Civil War with my army set, called The Blue and the Gray, I did it with a certain dramatic license. I did it straight up according to history; I did it with Grant and Lee switching armies; I did it with Roman gladiators from another set joining the Confederacy (they didn't help); I did it with the North having World War I bi-planes and the South having Thompson machine guns (pretty much a stand-off). The possibilities were unlimited. And the dead guys just fell over, unlike the video war games today, which are nearly as bloody as the real thing.

So, with a nostalgic smile, here's the scoop on a few of my favorite childhood companions:

Electric Football: So you start with a two-feet by four-feet football field that plugs into an outlet. Add 22 players in various football-like poses, each player with four antenna-like pieces of plastic that just barely touch the “field.” Turn on the switch and the field vibrates (and buzzes like an army of bees) moving the players in every direction, sometimes including forward. The football was either a small piece of cotton or a magnet that attached to a player's metal base (depending on which brand you bought). There was allegedly a way to throw passes, although I have never met a person who successfully did so. My brother Dan and I soon realized that there was almost no football involved in electric football, but we did find a way to have fun just the same. We painted the players before each game in the colors of the NFL team we were pretending to be that day. The painting took much longer than the actual games and since we failed to recognize the value of stripping paint between coats, the players eventually became too heavy to move on the vibrating field. But by that time we had graduated to the incredibly advanced Strat-o-Matic Football game, but that's a long story for another day.

Silly Putty: The mystery that is Silly Putty starts with its description in a TV commercial as “a solid liquid.” What? I wonder if that idea boggled the still-forming brain cells of other kids as much as it did mine. For a Catholic youngster that was right up there with the conundrum of the Holy Trinity. And seeing it in person just made me more mystified. It bounced higher than a rubber ball. Left unattended it formed a strange, not-quite-liquid-puddle. But the oddest characteristic was that it could replicate any image that you pressed it against in a newspaper. What sort of magical substance was this? Was it of this world? It pains me to report that after hundreds of hours of testing, I have never been able to satisfactorily answer those questions.

Easy Bake Oven: This was quite understandably marketed to little girls, gender stereotypes being what they were back then. But you'll find today that a remarkable number of little boys not only admit to having one, but are proud of it. I'll bet many of the great chefs of today started out with this wonder of light bulb cooking technology. Brother Dan was one who flew in the face of conventional thinking and asked for one for Christmas. Against all odds (Santa being the very definition of old-school) he got it! And we developed the perfect symbiotic relationship. As fast as he could cook the pizzas, brownies and cakes … I would scarf them down. Each of us performing the task he did best. Oh, just in passing, I'm sure that many little girls enjoyed the Easy Bake Oven, too.

Slinky: This one was actually not one of my favorites, but it was everywhere so I thought I'd mention it. I've always thought of the Slinky as not so much a toy as something that fell off a truck on the way to a construction site. Riding the wave of a jingle that bounces around in your head at the most inopportune times (like while reciting your wedding vows or answering that “where do you see yourself in five years” question in a job interview), the Slinky was basically smoothed-over barbed wire. It did deliver on one promise though … it rolled down steps. However, even with that promise fulfilled, I'll have to take issue with the claim made in the jingle that “for fun it's the best of the toys.”

The Mini Gas Station: It was all metal, about two feet long and a foot deep, with working lifts in the service bays, two gas pumps (non-working … they weren't completely unaware of child safety back then) and a bright red Coke machine out front. I believe we flew the “Flying A” brand. I know I spent hours and hours playing with this toy but for the life of me I can't remember why. Today it seems kind of limited as to entertainment value. I do remember combining another toy with this one though. I had a toy car that was spring-loaded to explode apart when the front bumper was pushed in. Now that was entertainment! It took about 10 minutes to put it back together (in my mini gas station, of course) and then … BOOM!

Mr. Potato Head: What could be more fun than putting different facial characteristics on a potato? Well, okay, probably a lot of things. But there were minutes of good, clean fun before the novelty wore off. I always wondered why they provided a plastic potato though. Anyone who couldn't afford a potato was being irresponsible, to say the least, in buying a Mr. Potato Head Kit.

Formex 7 Military Casting Set: What is the major problem facing every kid when staging an important battle with his toy soldiers (or as we called them “army men”)? There are never enough to deploy in the numbers needed to carry out one's brilliant strategies. Enter Formex 7. This was a set of molds of soldiers, jeeps and cannons that you could pour melted wax into, creating … reinforcements! (It's possible that this toy was inspired by Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam strategy, but that has never been sufficiently proven.) There were also monster molds like Frankenstein or Dracula for anyone who cared to inject a bit of the macabre into the battle.

Tiger Joe Army Tank: I'll round out the military portion of my toy collection with an absolute favorite. This tank was about two feet long, could roll over almost any obstacle, shot actual projectiles and was remote-controlled! The perfect toy for any boy, and perfectly annoying for anyone in that boy's vicinity. Who could resist shooting the little plastic rockets at moms, little brothers and sisters, pets, the milkman, the mailman and anyone within range? Also, I happened to have a pet box turtle at the time and so there was a whole “World War II tank crew meets prehistoric monster” angle that played out, too.

Etch-a-Sketch: This was an amazing piece of technology that I have to admit I never quite mastered. There were people who could more or less reproduce Da Vinci paintings or Frank Lloyd Wright buildings on this apparatus, whereas I was especially good at making squares and clearing the screen entirely to see the inner workings. In spite of this I did spend hours and hours twisting those little white knobs. Almost everyone I know wound up taking his or her Etch-a-Sketch apart at some point when the curiosity became too much to resist. So this was probably the first toy with a replacement sale market.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There were spinning tops, marbles, jacks, board games, a Superman costume (that's another long story) and more. Feel free to chime in with your stories of the toys that got you through the simple years before that puberty monster struck!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Man Before His Time

(A fictional tale told to me by an elderly gentleman on the 69th Street Trolley.)

There's no future in seeing the future.

I found this out after hundreds of hours of thinking that was “out of the box” at a time when no one even knew where the box was. Here's my story.

Apparently, a successful invention is the result of small, logical steps that people can understand and see as useful. If you get too far ahead of the curve there's a danger of being seen as (at best) eccentric or (at worst) dangerous to yourself or others. This explains why it took millions of years to go from throwing rocks at our enemies to launching rockets at them. What would prehistoric man have done if one of the top cavemen scientists had come up with a rocket and launcher? Bop someone over the head with them, no doubt. It's all about “baby steps,” as we learned from Bill Murray in that cinematic classic, What About Bob?.

I bring this up because time after time my great ideas have been poo-poo'ed (if you'll pardon my language) and called stupid, goofy or even “the workings of a diseased mind.” Then again, they said the same things about Copernicus, Galileo and Professor Irwin Corey.

But these “wild” ideas always seem to pop up years later as viable products and services. So, for the record, here are just a few of the ideas I had far in advance of their obvious usefulness:

The Musical Backpack

About 40 years ago, long before The Walkman or iTunes, I saw the need to make our favorite tunes mobile. Unfortunately, the technology of the time posed certain roadblocks to realizing my dream. Undaunted, I devised a system whereby 12 to 15 long-playing albums (LPs) could be placed into a specially designed backpack and attached to a set of those giant NASA Project Mercury-era headphones. Of course, keeping the needle steady and playing while in motion was a major problem. My solution remains proprietary, which is basically 21st century business-speak for, “That's for me to know and for you to find out.” Today, most people see the 1960s as the Golden Age of Musical Appreciation, but I'm here to tell you that people weren't so enamored of their precious music to carry around a 40- to 60-pound backpack full of it with them wherever they went. Helen Reddy and Mac Davis each sang I Believe in Music, but, as far as I'm concerned, they were no better than anyone else about proving it.

The Personal Phone

It was my idea to line every city street and country road in America with phone booths, placed 12 feet apart. I can now see that this was probably not practical, but I contend to this day that involuntary hospitalization was not warranted.


I'll admit that I never called it a “social network,” but in 1980 I devised virtually the same concept using Post-It Notes and bike messengers. Basically, a person could jot down his or her thoughts on the Post-Its and affix them to a 3-feet-by-3-feet section of sturdy cardboard. Each hour a messenger would come to that person's home, photograph the cardboard and deliver those photographs to as many “pals” as had agreed to be on the “pal list.” Snappy comments on those original thoughts were returned using the same procedure. At its peak I had I had nine members, and although it cost me a fortune to run I was sure I could make it a viable business one day. People called me insane. “Who cares what the kid who sat behind me in Algebra class 30 years ago is thinking of having for lunch?” Well, today I'd like to point out to my detractors that the answer is crystal clear … everybody cares!


Operating with the distinct disadvantage that the Internet had not yet been created, I nonetheless scanned resources like dictionaries and encyclopedias to answer questions that occurred to me. Often I would physically go to libraries to look up information. In order to acquire the best route to reach any destination I employed maps that started small, but folded out like budding flowers of useful directional information. Occasionally I'd ask a person for directions. True, my methods were slower, but the resulting information was definitely more reliable.

With the possible exception of those directions I got from my fellow humans. I think people will actually give you wrong directions rather than tell you a simple “I don't know.”

Well, this is my stop. Nice talking to you.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

How We Solved the Sixties

The issues and conflicts of the 1960s seemed like an unending series of “irresistible force meets immovable object” situations. Hawks vs. Doves, the Generation Gap, hippies vs, Young Republicans, police vs. protesters, and on and on. But slowly, almost imperceptibly, those conflicts and issues did get settled. Some were confronted and resolved, while others just faded away. Here are just a few examples of how some of the slogans that defined the Sixties resulted in changes we see today.

1960s: “Let it all hang out.”

2010: Not every little bit of the 1960s mindset has turned out for the better. An unprecedented increase in per capita caloric intake has combined with a sedentary lifestyle and an unexplainable lack of shame or self awareness, to make the beaches around every body of water in America look like tryouts for the fat man and lady in a carnival freak show. Clearly, it all does not need to be hung out. There's a Bruce Springsteen video about something else entirely, but that more or less says it all.

1960s: People all over the country were on a quest to “find themselves.”

2010: This is no longer a problem, thanks to GPS technology. Now you can find yourself anywhere on the planet. If Jack Kerouac were alive today, he and Neal would scope out their cross-country trips on Mapquest and take hourly satellite readings to make sure they were on course. They'd be at the forefront of The Tweetnik Generation, where everyone knows every movement and bodily function of everyone else. And GPS has settled one of the most common questions of those long ago days: “Where's your head at, man?” (Except in extraordinary and unfortunate circumstances, it's in the same place the satellite says the rest of you is.)

1960s: “Don't trust anyone over 30.”

2010: You might think that as the revolutionaries among the Sixties generation aged, this particular idea might have softened or even disappeared. It would make sense that people over 50 or 60 or 70 would eventually be the ones not to be trusted as the years wore on. But that's not how it went. As the Baby Boomers got older they saw a lot of things that “blew their minds,” if you'll excuse the expression. Things like kids shooting up middle schools ... the Menendez brothers …and that “I don't like Mondays” girl. Those images have a tendency to stay in your blown mind for a long time. So even though we rarely express the thought today, we all know that the 21st century mantra is: “Don't trust anyone over 10.”

1960s: “What we have here is failure to communicate.”

2010: Oh, we communicate alright! Now that just about everyone has a phone in his pocket, we talk at each other a hundred times more than we did fifty years ago. Are we getting more done? That's debatable. And thanks to those phones that fit into a person's ear, we no longer have to keep our distance from that guy who's happily talking to himself while strolling down the street. (But I still do, just to be safe.) And there's Facebook and Twitter to keep us current on the lives and loves of people we had never expected to hear from for the rest of our lives.

1960s: Make love, not war.

2010: Population numbers, combined with the fact that there have never been less than five wars going on in the world at any time in the past 50 years, have made it clear that we can do both at the same time!

1960s: Ban the bra.

2010: Not so fast. Not only was that particular means of support not banned, but it has become an industry in itself. Yes, the WonderBra got all the press, but today there are more choices for women of every level of endowment than you could shake a boob at. The sports bra, the convertible bra, front-closure, back-closure, the push-up bra, the maternity bra, the Minimizer, the Maximizer, padded, nursing, the Racerback, strapless, trainer, underwire and many, many more. I have a theory that the Beatles foresaw this trend in the Sixties, though.

Wasn't it them who told us, “Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on, bra”?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Television, B.C.

I come from a far off land.

It's a land of giant adjustable rabbit ears and rooftop antennae of every shape and size. A land where mysterious tubes, carefully placed into just the right slots, were heated up and glowed brightly inside gigantic “sets” named Philco, Dumont, Muntz and Admiral to bring a black-and-white, horizontally unstable world into our living rooms.

I come from the land of Stone Age TV.

Yes, the Flintstones were there, but it goes much deeper than that. There was a time when the choices for television viewing could be counted on the fingers of one hand (with a finger or two left over for shooting rubber bands or poking your little brother out of sheer boredom).

From the early 1950s to mid-1960s, there existed just three channels plus one educational channel (so for all practical purposes to any kid ... there existed just three channels). You probably know about the great classic programs (for some reason they were called “programs” instead of “shows” back then), like The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, Sgt. Bilko and Rawhide (featuring an impossibly young Clint Eastwood as “Rowdy Yates”).

But “The Golden Age of Television” had a lot of pig iron in it, too.

There was Queen for a Day, a game show in which four women would beg for a (reasonably priced) gift of their dreams by telling the pathetic story of their lives. The audience applauded for the most heart-wrenching tale to determine the winner. I suppose a more realistic title like Poor Unfortunate Soul for 364 Days wouldn't have had the desired public appeal.

In My Mother the Car, Jerry Van Dyke's mom has died. But don't be sad. The fun lives on because she returns from the grave in the form of a 1928 Porter convertible. Jerry never saw that one coming. The mom/car's very distinctive voice is that of long-time popular actress Ann Sothern, and it's no surprise that she's determined to have a say in every wacky aspect of her son's life. Apparently someone in authority at the networks really loved this concept because years after this show was cancelled its premise more or less returned as Knight Rider.

Before he gave us The Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island (I'll leave it to you to evaluate the merits of those two), producer Sherwood Schwartz unleashed It's About Time, the tale of astronauts who accidentally break the time barrier. They wind up in a prehistoric era where they meet classic comic actors Imogene Coca and Joe E. Ross as a constantly bickering cave-couple. There were high hopes for this show's success, bolstered by the popularity of the catchy theme song. But when the original premise didn't catch the fancy of the viewing public, the astronauts managed to solve their time travel problem and brought the prehistoric pair to 20th century New York City. Come to think of it, we may be seeing the legacy of this show in those Geico caveman commercials that air every 15 minutes or so today.

I'll reserve a special category for Soupy Sales, a nightclub comic turned children's show host, who managed to be great and awful at the same time.

It's important to remember here that there were no remote controls at this time, so if we wanted to switch to another channel we had to (I swear I'm not making this up) actually get up and turn a knob!

In the mid-60s a technology came along that doubled our viewing selection. UHF introduced three new options (channels 17, 29 and 48 in the Philadelphia area). Every kid I knew got hooked on Superman reruns featuring the ill-fated George Reeves. And every kid I knew was completely stunned (and probably traumatized, if we'd known what that meant) when it somehow got leaked that “Superman” had been shot to death a few years earlier. Someone had obviously gotten the story wrong. You see, bullets bounced off him. Just ask Lois or Jimmy.

There was an international bent to the cartoons we saw on UHF. A Japanese bent, specifically, with Ultraman, Speed Racer and Kimba the White Lion competing (not very successfully) with VHF's tried-and-true Bugs Bunny, Popeye, Road Runner and Mighty Mouse. Even if the imports weren't as popular as our homegrown favorites, I suspect that our exposure to them may have broadened us in ways that are impossible to prove, demonstrate or even detect. But I'm no psychologist, so what do I know?

Of course, all of this was Television, B.C. (Before Cable).

When that wonder of science and technology was hooked up (for a “nominal fee”) HBO, known by its full name Home Box Office, brought us George Carlin cursing up a storm using the seven words he finally could say on television and Prism gave us year-old, commercial-free, unedited movies. We were in TV heaven.

However, with cable television came the creation of that uncomfortable moment when you're talking to your grandmother in the rec room as a movie is playing in the background. Suddenly and without warning, there are naked people having slow motion sex on a kitchen table (this is taking place on the TV screen, just to be clear). It takes about a minute to find the remote and switch to “regular” TV, and you always wonder if granny was embarrassed, appalled or hiding the remote the whole time.

Cable also gave birth to an explosion of channel options. Suddenly there were networks ranging from the WGN “Superstation” to MTV to CNN to Discovery Channel. And cable was the first whiff of the communication technologies that would change the way we lived our lives. Soon computers, the Internet and cell phones would follow.

But just when we thought cable was about the coolest thing ever, there came ... satellite TV. Now competition between cable and satellite resulted in hundreds of channel choices.

When the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, called Sputnik, we were all afraid that satellites would one day rain unholy terror down upon us. So far we've been lucky in that regard.

On the other hand, you could make the case that we had no idea what unholy terror really was until Sputnik's descendants, in the form of the communication satellites constantly circling the planet, rained the likes of Jersey Shore, Cheaters and Temptation Island upon us.

I suppose it's not really a shock. If three networks could produce some really bad television shows, hundreds of networks could produces hundreds of times more putrid, stinking, rotten ones. Even early on, television was called “a vast wasteland” and “the boob tube.” (Late night programming on Cinemax may have altered the meaning of the latter description, but that's a topic for another day.) Yet for some reason I have to admit that I keep watching. I just can't help myself.

It almost makes a guy wish they'd bring back My Mother the Car.