Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Case for Underappreciated TV

In today's post I will make a case for 10 shows that in my opinion have gone underappreciated in the sands of time. I have developed 3 basic categories for underappreciated shows. 1: Almost nobody has heard of them (Complete Cultural Unknowns)...2: Most people have heard of them but ignore or actively dislike them ...3. Most people have heard of them, and they are even somewhat appreciated, but not nearly enough. I will not discuss shows like Freaks and Geeks or Home Movies which most people haven't heard of, but have a strong cult following and are critically acclaimed. Not even shows like Rocko's Modern Life which most people loved as kids but now they've forgotten how sweet they really are. No, for various reasons all these shows have gone underappreciated. They have a small fanbase and were not particularly acclaimed. Also, I've seen way too many episodes of all of these shows.

Special Note: Three of my favorite shows of all time are, I think, underappreciated. Those are The Adventures of Pete and Pete, Boy Meets World, and Pinky & the Brain. I will cover those in a follow-up post because they are on a different plane entirely from these 10.

The 10 shows are, in alphabetical order: Big Wolf on Campus, Cram, Digimon, Earthworm Jim, The Mole, Monster Rancher, Road Rovers, Seriously Weird, Strange Days at Blake Holsey High, and Weird Science

I also considered Freakazoid!, which I love but decided that the cult fanbase for this show was too strong.

Plot summaries are copied and pasted from the internet...grammar/spelling mistakes and all

Category 1: Complete Cultural Unknowns


This show aired on: Fox Family, midday
Percentage of episodes seen: Probably about 50%
Last time I saw an episode of this show: About 4 years ago or so.
Plot summary of this show: The week before he returns to school for his senior year, popular High School jock Tommy Dawkins is bitten and turned into a werewolf. The only person Tommy Dawkins can turn to for help is the school nerd and Goth Fantasy Guild President Merton J Dingle. Now Tommy & Merton while still looking for a cure for Tommy's condition fight a whole slew of baddies in Pleasantville including Mummies, Vampires, 50's Bullies, Witches. In the Second Season they are joined by kickboxer Lori Baxter who had just transfered from Pleasantville Catholic.
How it slipped through the cracks: Only aired in the US on ABC Family which is a tough set for any show, especially a weird one like this.

The case for Big Wolf on Campus: BWOC was always a TV show that deserved better than it got. A lot of the episodes were done cleverly, and the acting was never too bad...The characters were mostly interesting, and the situations were fun. Merton Dingle was a funny, somewhat annoying's tough to say about Merton, he's either an awesome character or one of the worst characters ever, I'm not sure. There's some weirdo Merton fanbase that just loves the guy...he's a teen icon in the bizarro internet world.
The best part of BWOC is the two episode set featuring Corey Haim & Feldman. Corey Haim comes to the school and it turns out that (gasp!) Lost Boys was a true story and Corey Haim really is a vampire, so Tommy has to kill him. Then, in a later episode Corey Feldman comes to the town to check up on his buddy Corey Haim and he freaks so they have to kill him too.
Don't take the fact that this writeup is so short to mean that this show is not as good as the later ones. This show was quite entertaining.

This show aired on: Game Show Network
Percentage of episodes seen: Probably no more than 50% or so
Last time I saw an episode: I'd guess about a year or a year and a half ago
Plot summary of this show: Four brave souls were locked up in our Hollywood and Highland Cramatoriums. Deprived of sleep, the two teams were each given a huge pile of ridiculous information to study. Trapped in a Hollywood storefront all night, they had to resist the urge to sleep and cram as many facts as possible into their exhausted brains. No sleep. No privacy. No mercy. Now it's time to find out what they've learned: there's ten grand on the line!
How it slipped through the cracks: Only aired for about a season and a half and only aired on Game Show Network which most people don't get. Also a lot of people found the premise cruel, which honestly I guess it is.

The case for Cram: Cram was a show with an awesome premise, a funny host (Graham Ellwood), an extremely attractive cohost (Icey), and very nice execution. The plot summary I posted doesnt' really do justice to the premise so let me put it in my own words. They take these two teams of two people each. Put em both in rooms with a huge amount of books and info to study. Give them 24 hours to study it, and they are notallowed to sleep at all. Then at the end of the 24 hours, they get the two teams together and quiz them using questions based on the info they just studied. Now I'll describe the rounds. For round one, they are given a large number of articles to study from various magazines. Of those 3 are chosen. Each team picks one of the 3 chosen articles. Then they have to "rant" about the article. Each person has to speak continually for 30 seconds about teh article. If they pause, hesitate or go off topic, they get dinged 5 points. 8 key words are chosen from the article and for each one they say they get 10 points. Also for this whole round they are in oversized hamster wheels that they must keep moving. Brilliant.
For round 2 they are given various reference books to study and they have to do a matching game based on those. For example, matching the name of a bird to a picture, Identifying pressure points on the body by name, etc...At the same time, there is a book of lists they gotta study and they are quizzed on that too. The funny part about this round is they gotta do 2 things at once and since they are real tired they usually screw up. Round 3 they are given a bunch of riddles to study (over 500)...then they have to answer about 15 riddles when given them. There's more to it than that, and there's also a bonus round, but as I'm writing this I realize how hard it is to describe this show in print.
Cram is an awesome game that deserves a lot more recognition than it got; Probably one of my top 5 favorite game shows of all time, and I love game shows. I mean, it's always fun to see people answer ridiculous's fun to see people try to reach back in their memory banks for something they know they've seen but can't quite recall...but the most fun thing about this show is taking advantage of sleep deprived idiots by making them do multiple things at once, and forcing them to recall insane bits of trivia. It's funny to see how they react, some people overcompensate by getting super cheery and energetic, some people just kind of stand there half asleep...I like those second people the best.


This show aired on: Family Channel
Percentage of episodes seen: Around 75%
Last time I saw an episode: About 4 to 5 years ago
Plot summary of this show: Monster Rancher is about a kid named Genki who gets sucked into his favorite videogame. There he meets Moochi, Holly, Suezo, Tiger, Golem and Hare, together they go on a journey find the Phoenix and stop Moo's diabolical plan.
How it slipped through the cracks: Like BWOC...everybody assumes the Family Channel is crappy b/c of its name, but a lot of the shows on it rock. Also, most people assumed it was a third rate ripoff of Pokemon/Digimon

The case for Monster Rancher: As lame as it sounds, I do truly love this show. The point is, the characters in this show rock. Suezo is the yellow eyeball in the picture up there. He's really sarcastic and always complaining. He rocks. Tiger of the Wind is another fine character. The first bit of this show was really good, it just had them wandering around meeting various monsters and then they would come and go throughout the episodes. Mocchi is a little penguin guy who is kind of pointless, but looks cute so the ladies love him. Holly is the requisite human female on the show. Golem is a huge rock dude; he talks in the stereotypical DEEP ROCK MAN VOICE and in broken English. Perhaps a bit stereotypical, but damnit, he gets the job done. Hare is, oddly enough, just a hare...he doesn't really have any special fighting powers. But he's a real jerk, he doesn't really like the people in the party and tries to steal from them. I forget why he joined in with the party at all. Eventually though, he warms up to them, but he and Tiger of the Wind always hate each other, for the whole time of the show. It was fun because it was just some quirky little show about random monsters, but it was really a character based show more than anything else. It did go a bit downhill once they started going on large quests (destroying Moo and Pixie?), but it was still fun.
Funny fact about this show...this show was based on a video game for the playstation, also called "Monster Rancher". Like the plot summary says, the main character is playing this video game when he gets sucked into the screen...only in the show, the game is "Monster Rancher" for the Tony StayPlation, I guess they couldn't get the rights or something.
The awesome part about this show is the character development. All of the characters were fleshed out pretty fully, even the most ridiculous ones like Suezo or Golem. Also, Geinke used to always ride around on skates with Mocchi on his head, and that looked funny. The real star of the show, all things considered was Tiger of the Wind. He had these horns that he shot lightning from, which was pretty sweet. He ran straight up sheer cliffs...he could pretty much do anything. He was the de facto leader of the group...but he had an attitude too, and he could get pissed off pretty easily.
Everybody compares this show and Digimon to Pokemon, so I'd like to deflate those references right now. Pokemon is a dumbass show about weird creatures who say cute crap and get captured in balls. It is a boring show. Digimon and Monster Rancher, man, the monsters on those shows have REAL personalities. That's the primary difference to me. Digimon and Monster Rancher are at their heart character based, Pokemon is a weird action show. As for them being ripoffs, I don't know. I heard that Monster Rancher and Digimon were both originally released before Pokemon in Japan, but I have no idea if that is true or not.

Andrew remembers this show a lot better than I do.


This show aired on: The WB
Percentage of episodes seen: Probably 100%...there were only 13 episodes
Last time I saw an episode: 8 years ago
Plot summary of this show: Road Rovers are an elite team of crime fighting dogs chosen from around the world. When the call goes out, they rush from their homes, (they live with heads of state around the world) and return to the Master who turns them into Cano-Sapiens (super charged dogs).
How it slipped through the cracks: Weird premise, bad time slot...never caught on and was cancelled after 13 episodes.

The case for Road Rovers: This show was very very very weird; perhaps the weirdest show on the entire list except for Earthworm Jim and possibly Big Wolf on Campus. This is also the shortest running show on the list. I'd say the two are probably related. This is another show that I don't remember very well at all. I'm gonna be honest, this show was pretty bad and made the list for only 3 reasons. One awesome quote, one sweet character, and one catchphrase that is annoying but fun to randomly quote.
The Awesome Quote: The character Exile is the Siberian Husky you see in the picture up there. He speaks with a traditional Russian accent. The doberman character up there, I'm too lazy to go look up his name but he talks just like Governor Arnold. Every episode the doberman character would do or suggest something completely ridiculous, and Exile would say the phrase "Don't be a weird boy". Difficult to describe why it's funny in print, but the way he says it is funny. For example, in one episode Dobey tries to get Exile to try out a Peppermint Milkshake, Exile informs him not to be a weird boy.
Awesome Character: Muzzle. He's in a straight jacket tied up to a kind of metallic board, which he bounces around on. He says and does nothing and has no point to being on the show, nor explanation as to why he's there.
Annoying Catch-Phrase: Hunter is the leader of the gang. When he gets everyone together he says "Let's hit the road, rovers"...stupid ass line, but again, it's funny to quote in inappropriate situations especially since you can be 99.9% sure nobody will get it.
Road Rovers is probably one of the worst overall shows I've seen 10 or more episodes of. Well, Out of the Box is the worst but this one would probably be top 10. I think it does deserve some recognition though. This makes me think of the show Out of the Box. I promised myself I would only do topical commentary for these shows so I'll just note that show had an awesome end theme song and maybe save further comments about that show for a later post (probably not).

This show aired on: Don't know where it aired originally, but I watch it on WAM!
Percentage of episodes seen: About 25-50%
Last time I saw an episode of this show: About a week or two airs during the middle of the day so I usually don't get a chance to catch it.
Plot summary for this show: When Harris Pembleton is transported to The Weird Dimention through completing an ancient puzzle, he angers Steve ( ruler of The Weird ) and is cursed for life to be targeted by all that is Weird. Along with his good friends Fenella and Hugo, Harris must deal with his curse and try to find the best possIble solutions to all of his new problems. But just because he's cursed with The Weird, doesn't mean it won't come in useful...
How it slipped through the cracks: In this case, it's probably because it was never aired on a regular network or standard cable channel in the US which makes it tough to gain many fans.

The case for Seriously Weird: Seriously Weird really is an awesome TV show. The main character on the show is British, but none of the other characters are, I don't know where this show was made or takes place, but for some reason, I've always assumed it was made in Canada. As I think on that now, I see no reason why I would think that.
The main character on this show, Harris Pembleton is an awesome character. He's a real smartass, and he really does take all the bizarre goings on in stride. Much more composed about it than you would expect. I'm pretty sure that's because he's British. Finella is kind of like the "normal" one, not too much weird going on with her, pretty much the stabilizing presence on the show to keep it from going totally over the top. Also, she's a token black character. She's pretty pointless. The last character, Hugo, is a goofy sidekick kind of character. Mostly pointless, but they bring him in when they need something goofy to happen. I hate him. I really don't know why Harris would be friends with two boring people like this, but they all work out okay together. Harris also has a love interest on this show, a popular girl named Claudia who won't give him the time of day. The character is stupid, but I bring her up because she was the actress who played Nikki on The 4400 for those who like me had the misfortune of watching that miniseries.
Harris is the best part of the show, though, by far. The other characters are just there to give Harris some context for the show to take place in. I know nothing about the guys who plays Harris (except that the credits give his name as Ryan Cartwright) and I've never seen him in anything else, but he is good in this show, and I hope he does go on to some better known works. A lot of "The Weird" things that happen to him are pretty interesting (aka ridiculous), like when THE WEIRD gives him dancing lessons in the form of some incredibly bizarre over the top latino dude, and then said latino dude challenges him to a dance off. That episode rocks. Or the episode where Harris becomes a motivational speaker for a group of ghosts. The possibilities for a show like this are endless, and that's what makes them pretty sweet.
I guess a lot of people might say this show is unoriginal/derivative. Actually, that's probably true, but the fact is that this is a show which is extremely entertaining to watch, even if it doesn't offer any deep entertainment, or true insight. Highly recommended if you ever get the chance to watch it.

This show aired on: Currently airs on Discovery Kids on weeknights and NBC morning lineup on Sundays.
Percentage of episodes seen: About 50-75%
Last time I saw an episode of this show: Last night
Plot summary of this show: There is something weird going on at Blake Holsey High something paranormal. When Josie Trent is sent to a private prep school she must come face to face with things that cannot be explained easily but with the help of friends and one science teacher maybe surviving school won't be that hard.
How it slipped through the cracks: Have YOU ever heard of the Discovery Kids channel?

The Case for Strange Days at Blake Holsey High: Is this show a true classic? No, not really. But it is quite entertaining with good characters and probably the best "kid's" show out there today. I strongly suspect that one of my friends is attracted to Emma Taylor Isherwood, who is the primary actress on this show. To protect him, I will not say his name. I really really like the way they try to use pseudo science to explain the weird happenings at the school. You see, it's educational AND it's fun! For example, one time Josie leaves gum in a Petri dish, it becomes electrified and BOOM a clone of Josie is created. Complete nonsense, of course, but a great time to teach kids the facts about DNA, such as, people can be cloned by leaving gum in a Petri dish. This show and Seriously Weird are very similar shows. Seriously Weird is a better show, but this one is good too. To compare and contrast the shows, Seriously Weird has better characters and funnier actors. Strange Days does have the added dimension of hilarious pseudo-science explanations for all its happenings, but it bogs down more, because it has big storylines with people figuring out important things. Seriously Weird is better because it's just a group of 3 kids that weird crap happens to which are always resolved in a half-hour segment of show.
This is the kind of show that you could watch just once and dismiss it as utter crap, but once you start watching a few episodes you realize that it really is done pretty well, and the long story arcs can drag the show down a bit but they are fairly interesting. The fake science educational value only adds to the charm in my book, but I could see how to some people it can mess with the flow.
As I look on a Strange Days at Blake Holsey High website now, I see it was nominated for a Gemini award, whatever that means.

Category 2: Known, but Ignored/Disliked

This show aired on: Originally on the WB, now airs on Family Channel...linking two common channel themes for these shows
Percentage of episodes seen: 100% of the first two seasons, <10% of the next 2
Last time I saw an episode of this show: A few months ago
Plot summary: 7 kids are mysteriously transported to Digi-World and are befriended by strange talking creatures called Digimon. The Digimon prove to be more than company when they digivolve into bigger Digimon and defeat Kuwaggomon. Agumon changes into Greymon to defeat Shellmon and save Tai's life. Now it's up to them to save the Digi-World. But can they? And will they ever get back? We'll have to watch the future episodes and find out! Why it is ignored/disliked: Most dismiss it as a cheap ripoff of Pokemon, and a stupid kids show and leave it at that.

The case for Digimon: This show really deserves its own column. In order to fit this blurb to this column, I'm only gonna talk about season one. Okay, Digimon. People invariably laugh at me when I say I like this show, but I'm gonna take a crack at explaining what I find so appealing about it. To say the obvious right off the bat, a lot of people dismiss digimon outright from the start because it is VERY confusing until you see a few episodes. The terminology and character names are insane. Okay, once you get past that you get a show with excellent, well-defined characters and well-animated battle sequences.
The first season of Digimon was awesome. 8 characters, all very different, perfectly matched to their digimon. A few examples. Joe was a weird, frightened nerdy guy. His digimon Gomamon is really sarcastic and makes fun of him all the time. They have a really sweet dynamic because all of the other digimon are really supportive and Gomamon just sits there and laughs at Joe for being a goofy idiot. Sora and Biyomon were my two personal faves. Sora was just like some cheery upbeat lady who always said and did "cute" things, and Biyomon was exactly the same. I liked Sora, because secretly I wish I was a girl. Matt and Gabumon were the two most popular characters. Matt was a moody little teenage rebel type character and Gabumon was a wacky jokester. They match together really well because Matt is always real serious and Gabumon is kind of goofy. I'm not gonna get into all 8 pairs of humans/digimon, but take my word for it that they all rock.
In this paragraph I will discuss my five favorite Digimon from season one. In no order they are Togemon, Monzaemon, Etemon, Angemon, and Pumpkinmon. Togemon is a huge cactus with boxing gloves. You can see the humor in this guy already. He has no personality, he's just hilarious to look at. Monzaemon is a giant teddy bear. In one episode Togemon and Monzaemon fight. The visual image of a giant boxing cactus punching a greatly oversized teddy bear is permanently seared in my brain. Angemon is a great character. He is the digimon for TK who is the youngest of the crew of humans (called the digi-destined)...TK is really young and unsure of himself, and Angemon is just a straight up badass. He talks in a deep voice and takes charge of the situation friends, believe you me. Pumpkinmon I don't really remember that well, except his head was a jack-o-lantern, he was incredibly wacky, and he somehow died to save the digidestined. Those 3 things alone though are enough to push him into top 5. Etemon might deserve a whole entry unto himself. He is a metallic, Elvis-impersonating monkey who traps the digi-destined in ridiculous ways and tries to stop them from getting their tags and crests. Eventually he must fight against the main characters in a huge soccer stadium, and when he gets defeated he rockets up into outer space.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention Gennai, who is a very stereotypical old mentor type character to the digi-destined. He appears to the characters by hologram and tells them cryptic but sage advice. Gennai rules.
I gotta stop talking about Digimon now for space issues, but consider I wrote this much, and I didn't even get into the Dark Masters saga which was the best part of the first season, and I didn't talk about season 2 at all which was probably better than season 1, all around. This is DEFINITELY a show you have to watch a few episodes of before you "get" it, but once you do, it's so awesome.

This show aired on: ABC
Percentage of episodes seen: 100%
Last time I saw an episode of this show: half a year, or a full year ago
Plot summary: A group of strangers, working together to earn up to $1 million, that in the end only one of them will win. One of these players is the mole, a double agent we hired, working for us against the other 13. At the end of each episode, the players take the quiz, ten questions about the mole. The quiz determines who stays and who goes because the player who scores the lowest on the quiz is executed and sent home immediately. Up to $1 million hinges on discovering who is the mole. Why is it ignored/disliked: Dismissed in association with the reality craze at the time it was released. Often unfairly considered a ripoff of Survivor and other reality shows.

The case for The Mole: This show was hosted by Anderson Cooper of CNN fame. The best part about The Mole is the strategy, which is so insanely complicated and involves so many trade-offs if you actually take time to go over and think it through. For example, imagine you are the mole. You need to sabatoge games, because that is your job. At the same time, you gotta do it really subtly so that people don't find you out; after all, your real job is to sabatoge as many games as possible without people figuring out who the mole really is. At the same time, you can't be too discreet, because if you are too sneaky people will know you are the mole. So you have to be right in between. But then, how do you play it when speculating? Do you actively try to divert attention to other players? etc. Participants in the UR Prole game know about this, except there wasn't a million bux on the line on that one. Actually because of all the complex strategic elements to this show MENSA called it "The Smartest Show on Television". The first season had the best example of strategy yet. If you haven't seen the first season yet and don't wanna know who the mole is or who the winner is, then discontinue reading. In the first season, these two guys Jim and Steve made a coalition. The purpose of the coalition was that each one was to try to convince as many people as possible that the other one was the mole. Now that is a sweet strategy. Not coincidentally, they were the last two players left, other than the mole. Also in the first season, this old guy got caught sneaking into a production tent in the middle of the night to steal their notes about who the mole was. I can't really suggest that as a good strategy, but it was hialrious when it happened. Of course with this show you get all the "real" emotional extremes that come with any other reality show. Fights. Bickering. Hysterical Crying. Hurt Feelings. Joyous surprises, and bad surprises. Games specifically designed to make people hate each other. Etc. Obviously it's funny to laugh at idiots who get put through hard games and start yelling at each other and crying. That's not in question. Example: in season 2, Anderson made all the people who hate cooking raise their hands. Then he made fun of them and made them cook. That was really sweet. Speaking of Anderson Cooper, he really was an excellent host. He brought the right amount of faux-serious grave reality show host nonsense that is required out of a host, but he was really snarky and insulting. Another example from season 2. This group had to ride a bike up a huge mountain road in the middle of summer in Italy, on crappy bikes. While they did this, Anderson rode right beside them on a truck, fans blowing in his face, drinking tasty drinks, etc, and the whole time Anderson kept insulting them. I mean, I assume they only did this for a little bit so they could tape it, but still, that rocked. Of course the best part of the show is the viewer speculation on who the mole might be. That's the most fun part, taking the little clips they give you and trying to get from that who the mole is.

Category 3: Known and Appreciated, but not Enough

This show aired on: The WB sunday mornings
Percentage of episodes seen: It's very difficult to say since it's been so long, but probably about 75%
Last time I saw an episode of this show: 8-9 years ago
Plot summary of this show: As in the video game, our main character is Earthworm Jim, an annelid with a power suit. His best friend is Peter Puppy, a scared doggy, but when Peter gets mad... Let's say you do NOT wanna be in the vicinity. His love interest is the "beautiful" (whether she really is or not depends on whether you're a pro or anti) Princess Whats-Her-Name. The villians are the evil Psycrow (an evil, well, crow.), Evil The Cat (a cat who lives in Heck), Bob & #4 (a goldfish and his very big friend), Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-Filled, Malformed, Slug-For-A-Butt and others. Our hero must do battle with these creatures, and while he does, he's a master of hilarious quotes.
(This plot summary leaves out Professor Monkey-for-a-Head, the best villian of them all).
Why isn't it appreciated more: Didn't air for very long, and aired right next to Freakazoid, which is a similar but obviously better show.

The case for Earthworm Jim: Actually that plot summary does a pretty good job summarizing what is so awesome about this show. It's kind of hard to describe why I like this show because it's good for a lot of little and random reasons.
Case in point: Haggis. Every episode of this show made reference to haggis, or at least almost every show did. My favorite one, Peter and EWJ are eating at IHOH (International house of haggis) and EWJ goes "Man this haggis is great, why don't more people eat it?" Peter: "probably because haggis is the heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep boiled in its own stomach"...hehe comedy gold.
Case in point: Professor Monkey-for-a-Head. Looked like a normal guy, except on top of his head, upside down was a monkey. To help you picture it, if he flipped over it would look like a monkey standing right side up with a professor upside down on his head. Also the monkey talks. Also, the monkey was named Monkey Professor-for-a-Head. He talked like a weird mad scientiest, his personality was pretty much like The Lobe from Freakazoid. The Episode which was lifestyles of the rich and famous: Prof Monkey-for-a-Head was truly awesome.
Case in point: Random, often ridiculous plots. In one episode Psycrow has a devious scheme to destroy the universe. He will get all the screaming beasts of (some planet) to scream at the same time by showing them a holographic image of a fondu fork. Fondu forks make them scream. It doesn't work because one of the beasts is nearsighted and does not think it is a fondu fork and therefore does not scream. Foiled again.
Case in point: This show, truly, had an amazing theme song. I really truly think the theme song to this show is a great pop song. There are more hooks and melodies packed into this theme song than most full songs. Whistle breakdown = genius. I highly recommend you download this particular tune.
Lots of other great stuff about this show, but I'm gonna move on.

This show aired on: Originally on USA, now repeats air on WAM!
Percentage of episodes seen: Maybe about 50%
Last time I saw an episode of this show: A few days ago
Plot summary of this show: Weird Science is a show based on the 1985 John Hughes movie of the same name. High school geeks Wyatt Donnelly and Gary Wallace create their dream girl, a magical genie named Lisa, on Wyatt's computer. Having a genie leads up to five seasons of unique adventures for the guys.
Why isn't it appreciated more: Does Weird Science REALLY need a TV show? Most people would see this show as unnecessary and ignore it. Those who did watch it mostly vaguely remember it as OK, just like I used to before repeats started airing again on WAM! Just never really made an impression for some reason, although at 5 seasons it stands as the longest running show on this list.

The Case for Weird Science: I'll keep this one short to counterbalance the rest of this insane post. Extremely hot female lead, funny male characters. This show shares a common feature with many other shows on this list: Ridiculous plotlines, insane, self-contained episodes. I think those shows tend to go a bit underrated because most people don't know what to do with em, but I really love shows like that. The episode where Gary and Wyatt give Lisa a family by programming in one rocks. Her dad is a secret agent, her mom is a barbarian queen, her brother is a talking chimp detective, and her boyfriend is an American Gladiator. Also their palace is a putt-putt course. And in order to win the heart of Lisa, Wyatt challenges the Gladiator to a game of "Centurion Golf" which is minigolf, except you tackle each other. It's hard for me to discuss why this show rocks. The chemistry between the 3 main characters is very good...the situations the characters get in are interesting and funny...I feel like I'm just saying "this show is good because it's good" but there's nothing to say about it. It is just a good show.
This show also has a parody of the 80's group fundraising songs called "Do they know it's groundhog day at all". This song is amazing. It features aliens, and the ghost of the principal and a guy in a huge groundhog suit. I never saw the rest of the episode that features this song, so it has NO context for me, and I think that only makes it rock all the more.

Top 5 shows on this list in terms of absolute quality of show:
5. Earthworm Jim
4. The Mole -- my commentary on this show really didn't do it justice.
3. Seriously Weird
2. Monster Rancher
1. Digimon

Top 5 best theme songs for listed shows:
5. Digimon
4. Big Wolf on Campus
3. Road Rovers
2. Seriously Weird
1. Earthworm Jim
I don't remember the theme song to Monster Rancher at all.
Also I don't count Weird Science b/c it wasn't composed for the show itself.

Number 1 most underappreciated TV Theme song of all time: The Aladdin animated series.


Sunday, January 09, 2005

Sideways Stories from Garrick Way

My favorite series of books growing up was the Wayside School series of books by Louis Sachar. These books rocked. Recently my little brother Andrew found these books for a few bucks at some bookstore so he picked em up and we read them again and they are still hilarious, all these years later. So to commemorate these underappreciated books, Andrew and I have concocted a list of our top 10 chapters from the three Wayside books and here we will unveil them with our commentary. These lists were compiled separately and without any consultation whatsoever between the two of us.
For reference, the three boks in the Wayside Series are
1. Sideways Stories from Wayside School
2. Wayside School is Falling Down
3. Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger
in chronological order. There was also a weird book with math problems (Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School? Something like that), but we lost that book and can't find it in any stores, so that one is not included. Without further ado, here are the lists:

Greg's Pick -- "Myron" from Sideways Stories from Wayside School
Andrew's Pick -- "Valooosh" from Wayside School is Falling Down

Greg's Comments: In this chapter, Myron is elected class president. He is very excited to do good for the class until he learns that the one and only responsibility of the class president is to turn the lights on and off at the beginning and end of the day. After his first day as president he finds a fellow student with a near dead dog, and takes him to the vet. He checks up on the dog the next morning and is late to school, very proud of his presidential actions. Unfortunately he is fired as class president because he was not there to turn on the lights at the beginning of the day. Ahhhh, the sweet irony. I love the shorter, ironic chapters like this one.
Favorite quote: "Myron, who was only president for a day, was the best president in the history of Wayside School. It was just that nobody knew it."

Andrew's Comments: In this fine chapter, a world famous dancer, Mrs. Waloosh, comes to Wayside School to teach the kids how to do classic ballroom dancing. I guess world-famous dancing isn't enough to occupy her time, so she has to teach small children to do so as well. So they start dancing, tangoing rather, and the teacher starts throwing up the kids on the last beat of the songs. The kids see how fun it is and start to dance with each other, all having a great time. Eventually the teacher gets so tired that she throws one of the students in the air and never catches them. Brilliant. Excellent chapter all around
Favorite quote: "Ve aren't going to dahnce, ve are going to tango!"

Greg's Pick -- "Eric, Eric, and Eric" from Wayside School is Falling Down
Andrew's Pick -- "What?" from Wayside School is Falling Down

Greg's Comments: There are three Eric's in the class in Wayside School (Mrs. Jewls' class, by the way). So Mrs. Jewls is obviously confused when the principal requests that she send down 'Eric' to his office, but she just sends down the largest Eric, and then all the other Erics eventually. Mr. Kidswatter is grilling them about a card that he got, on the front it said "Charlie's Barber Shop"...on the back it said "Mr. Kidswatter is a Mugworm Griblick" written in a sharpened pencil by a left-handed man. It's just funny how he grills the hell out of them one by one "Have you ever been to 'Charlie's Barber Shop'..."Are you left Handed"...etc. Great chapter with funny one liners start to finish.
Favorite quote: " 'Did Maurecia step on somebody's pencil this morning?' asked Mr. Kidswatter
'She stepped on everybody's pencil' "
Andrew's Comments: This chapter is amazing. The whole story takes place backwards, i.e. the chapter begins at the end of events chronologically and works backwards. Also, part of the events are about a person reading a story backwards. It's BEAUTIFUL. What a premise. I think I'm done here.
Favorite Quote: " 'Why are you late?' asked Mrs. Jewels. 'I can't hear you,' said Jenny. 'I better take off my helmet." She took off her helmet. 'Take off your helmet,' said Mrs. Jewels."

Greg's Pick -- "Calvin" from Sideways Stories from Wayside School
Andrew's Pick -- "Rondi" from Sideways Stories from Wayside School

Greg's Comments: A little backstory first. Wayside school was accidentally built sideways. ie it was supposed to be one story 30 rooms across, but the builders accidentally made it 30 stories one room across. Also, the builder forgot to build the 19th story. Mrs. Zarves teaches the class on the 19th story. There is no Mrs. Zarves. There is no 19th story. This is why Calvin is perplexed when Mrs. Jewls has Calvin deliver a note to Mrs. Zarves. Also, she never even gives him the note. So he's got to deliver a note he doesn't have to a person who doesn't exist. He eventually just gives up and goes back upstairs, and it turns out the note was to tell Mrs. Zarves not to meet her for lunch. Calvin: "Don't worry, she won't". Beautiful, beautiful irony. I love irony and that's why the Wayside School books are so awesome to me.
Favorite quote: When Calvin is getting advice from Louis the yard teacher on what he should do -- " 'It's very simple,' said Louis. 'You are not supposed to take no notes to no teachers. You already haven't done it.' "
Andrew's Comments: Rondi is another fine chapter. Rondi is a student who has her two front teeth missing, but everyone says she has cute front teeth. This confuses Rondi since she doesn't even have them. One day, the class takes it farther, commenting on the hat she didn't wear, the boots she didn't wear, and laughing at the joke she didn't tell. Eventually she gets really mad, and when Louis, the yardteacher, asks her to smile so he can see her cute front teeth, she bites him with her missing teeth. Great irony.
Favorite quote: "She bit his arm with her missing teeth. And that's the kind of bite that hurts the worst."

Greg's Pick -- "Terrence" from Sideways Stories from Wayside School
Andrew's Pick -- "Eric, Eric, & Eric" (Greg's Number 9)

Greg's Comments: Terrence is a very awesome and short chapter based on a simple premise. Whenever Terrence is playing a game with people, he steals the ball and kicks it over the fence. The kids get fed up and complain to Louis the Yard Teacher, so he picks up Terrence and kicks him over the fence. Simple humor is the best kind. Also, Terrence always insults people with rhyming couplets "Shut up, Dixie Cup", etc.
Favorite quote: DJ and Dameon are playing basketball -- " 'You have to share the balls. Louis says so.' said Terrence. 'Okay, but just throw it in the basket. Don't kick it.' ... Then Terrence took his shot. He kicked the ball over the fence...'Take a train, peanut brain.' Terrence answered."
Andrew's Comments: Greg already informed you of the wondrous beauty of this chapter. So instead, I will list some of the better one-liners, then finish off with my favorite quote. For example, when one of the Erics is sent down, he blames his parents for it, asking why he couldn't have been named Osgood instead. In my opinion, Osgood is a funny name. Also, Mr. Kidswatter asks the Erics if they are right-handed or left-handed. When one of them says right-handed, Mr. Kidswatter throws a stapler at him to see what hand he tries to catch it with. This just shows how ridiculously detailed his grilling of the children is. Why is he so offended though? I mean, what is a mugworm griblick anyway?
Favorite quote: "Mr. Kidswatter is a Mugworm Griblick."

Greg's Pick -- "Mr. Gorf" from Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger
Andrew's Pick -- "A Story with a Disappointing Ending" from Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger

Greg's Comments: In this chapter Mrs. Jewls goes on maternity leave so they have to get a new teacher. Mrs. Jewls is a very nice teacher and they are all frightened their next teacher (Mr. Gorf) will be really mean. So when they get in the next day, even though the teacher isn't in the room, they all behave as well as possible, do work all day and never goof off. After all, he may have been hiding in the closet spying on them. So the chapter progresses that way until one of the students snaps...You know talking about how ridiculous it is, there's no way he's been hiding in the closet this whole time, here, I'll prove it...then he opens up the closet and it turns out the teacher WAS locked in there the whole time. Haha, wonderful, wonderful setup and an awesome payoff at the end, that's what slots it up so highly on my list.
Favorite quote: " 'How's your substitue teacher?' asked Louis. 'Tough!' said Bebe. 'I've never worked so hard in my life'. 'I did more work before ten o'clock than most people do all day' said Calvin. 'But he's very fair,' Myron quickly added, just in case Mr. Gorf was listening. He might have been hiding in the bushes."
Andrew's Comments: "A story with a disappointing ending," one of the few shining gems of the third and final Wayside School book. This one prominently features Dr. Pickell, a professional psychiatrist who lost his liscense and therefore became a school counselor. He lost his liscense by playing practical jokes on his hypnotized patients. For example, in this chapter, he hypnotizes a student and says that he will lick another student's ear whenever she says the word pencil. The "disappointing ending" is when it sets it up for the student to say pencil, gives her like 3 chances to, and she never says it. Excellent.
Favorite quote: while hypnotized -- " 'When-Leslie-says-'pencil'-I-will-eat-her-ears,' said Paul."

Greg's Pick -- "Another Story about Socks" from Wayside School is Falling Down
Andrew's Pick -- "Joe" from Sideways Stories from Wayside School

Greg's Comments: One of the students in the class, Sharie, brings a hobo into class for show and tell. The students proceed to ask him weird questions, and most of them end with how he doesn't wear socks because he believes they make you stupid. For example, he can't get a job because he refuses to wear socks. That's pretty much it for the story. The reason it rules so much is that the stories he tells and reactions of the kids are really funny, and just the general awesomeness of the idea of bringing a hobo to school for show and tell.
Favorite quote: " 'Was he a good cook?' asked Todd. 'No, he was eaten by cannibals.' 'Yuck!' said everyone together, except for Dana, who was very confused. She thought Hobo Bob had said he was eaten by cannonballs."
Andrew's Comments: Joe is another fine chapter. It starts out with Joe not knowing how to count, and Mrs. Jewels determined to teach him how. She holds him back from recess to count various amounts of objects. The problem is, when joe counts, he does it out of order, like "four, six, one, nine, five" is how he counts to five. Whenever he counts this way, he always ends on the right number and gets the right answer. Mrs. Jewels teaches him the right way, "one, two, three,...ten" and he starts counting like that. But he always goes to ten and says there are ten objects. The next day, Joe wakes up and knows how to count properly. beautiful.
Favorite quote: "Joe counted the books. "A thousand, a million, three. Three, Mrs. Jewels.' 'correct,' said Mrs. Jewels. 'Can I go to recess now?' Joe asked. 'No,' said Mrs. Jewels."

Greg's Pick -- "A Story with a Disappointing Ending" (Andrew's Number 6)
Andrew's Pick -- "Another Story about Socks" (Greg's Number 5)

Greg's Comments: More on Dr. Pickell: Hypnotizes somebody to slap her husband whenever he says potato, quack like a duck whenever they see a freight train with more than 20 cars, etc. The ending to this chapter, is, truly, both disappointing and awesome. The best part is, about 10 chapters later the girl in question does say the word pencil and so he licks her ear. Sweet, because you've forgotten about this by then. By the way, to set up this quote, the girl who gets her pigtails pulled is Leslie, the guy who gets hypnotized is Paul.
Favorite Quote: "Just a short while later, Leslie's pencil point broke. 'Oh, great!" she complained. 'What's the matter?' asked Jenny. Leslie showed her the broken pencil point." -- there are about 3 other setups just like that in the last 2 or 3 paragraphs.
Andrew's Comments: To begin, I must agree with Greg about the sweetness of bringing a hobo to school with you. Also, interestingly enough, this story is second on our combined list, even though it never cracked either of our top 3. in my opinion, the best part of the chapter is at the end, when the kids have a spelling test and they all stop to take their socks off first because hobo Bob convinced them that socks make you stupid.
Favorite quote: during show and tell -- " 'This is a hobo,' said Sharie. 'I found him on the way to school.'"

Greg's Pick -- "Rondi" (Andrew's Number 8)
Andrew's Pick -- "Dameon" from Sideways Stories from Wayside School

Greg's Comments: Rondi...the best chapter for simple irony in the whole series. I just love how everything Rondi doesn't do is the best. She showed great taste in not wearing the hat, because it goes really well with the boots she also did not wear, etc, etc. Not much more to say about this chapter, because Andrew said pretty much all I wanted to say about it.
Favorite quote: " 'Hey everybody', called Todd. 'Listen to Rondi's joke'. Rondi didn't say a word but the rest of the class began to watch....'The classroom is not the place for jokes' Mrs. Jewls' said. 'But Mrs. Jewls,' said Rondi. 'I didn't tell a joke.' 'Yes I know', said Mrs. Jewls, 'but the funniest jokes are the ones which remain untold.' "
Andrew's Comments: All of my top 3 came from the first book, but what can I say, that's how it worked out. The chapter starts out with Mrs. Jewels class watching a video about turtles. Mrs. Jewels asks Dameon to go ask Louis, the yard teacher, if he wants to watch the movie with them. Of course, as previously explained, Dameon is 30 floors up, and Louis is on the ground. So Dameon has to run down 30 flights of stairs to talk to Louis, then up 30 more to talk to Mrs. Jewels. Dameon has to go up and down the stairs like 3 times before Louis finally decides not to watch the movie because "turtles are too slow." To set up the quote, at the end, Dameon loses his pencil, and when he gets it back, Mrs. Jewels tells everyone to write their name on their pencil to prevent that from happening again.
Favorite quote: "Dameon spent the rest of the day trying to write his name on his pencil."

Greg's Pick -- "Homework" from Wayside School is Falling Down
Andrew's Pick -- "Calvin" (Greg's Number 8)

Greg's Comments: Awesome chapter, Andrew sucks for this not making his list. In this chapter Mrs. Jewls keeps trying to teach the class information but Mac keeps interrupting the teacher by telling random and pointless stories. Then there's no time to finish teaching so Mrs. Jewls assigns the rest as homework. Then at the end of the chapter Mac loudly complains about how Mrs. Jewls must be the meanest teacher in the school for all the homework she gives. Best part of this is how he's telling a story about how he lost his sock this morning, he looked all over and it turned out it was in the refridgerator. Beautiful. It's left unexplained how his sock got in the refridgerator.
Favorite quote: Mac composes a song while looking for his sock -- "I got one sock! Lookin' for the other/ One sock! Lookin' for its brother./ When I find that sock I'll tell you what I'll do/I'll put it on my foot, and I'll stick it in my shoe."
Andrew's Comments: I suck do I? Well Greg sucks for "Dameon" not making his list. There, I said it. But more to the point, Calvin is an amazing chapter. I personally think it's funny that Mrs. Jewels tells him to deliver the note but never actually gives him a note. It's funny, cause he does things like go to the teacher's mailboxes to find Mrs. Zarves mailbox. He isn't disappointed when there isn't one because he didn't have the note in the first place. Also, writing a note to tell someone not to meet you for lunch is a hilarious concept, in my opinion.
Favorite quote: Calvin, musing on his various problems -- " 'I'm supposed to take a note that I don't have to a teacher who doesn't exist, and who teaches on a story that was never built."

Greg's Pick -- "Sammy" from Sideways Stories from Wayside School
Andrew's Pick -- "Sammy" (Greg's Number 1)

Greg's Comments: Sammy, the unanimous, unquestioned number one. There is a new student in Mrs. Jewls class. He keeps insulting people. Also he smells terrible. In fact, his raincoat smells so terrible they make him take it off, but there's another raincoat under it. And so forth, there's like 10 raincoats and each smells worse than the last. Under them all is a dead rat, who has snuck into the class masquerading as a student. Genius. I don't feel like writing any more, so I'll let Andrew fill you in on the rest
Favorite quote: "Dead rats were always trying to sneak into Mrs. Jewls' class. That was the third one since September."
Andrew's Comments: Ah Sammy, the cream of the crop so to speak. There's isn't really much to say, as the pure genius of the chapter can only be absorbed through experiencing it first hand. the sweetest part is when they start throwing his various raincoats out the window because they smell too bad to keep in the classroom.
Favorite quote: "At last, she removed the final coat. All that was there was a dead rat. "Well, I don't allow dead rats in my classroom," said Mrs. Jewels.

Greg's Picks -- "Calvins Big Decision" from Falling Down
"Elevators" from Stranger
"Ron" from Sideways

Andrew's Picks -- "A Bad Case of the Sillies/A Wonderful Teacher/Forever is Never" from Falling Down
"John" from Sideways
"Bebe's Baby Brother" from Falling Down

And now, our comined list, based on the combined rankings of the books on our lists (Add together the ratings of the chapters on our two lists, with a story scoring 11 if it is not on a list)

10. Mr. Gorf (Score 17)
8 (tie). Joe (Score 16)
8 (tie). Eric, Eric, and Eric (Score 16)
7. Dameon (Score 14)
6. Homework (Score 13)
5. Rondi (Score 11)
3 (tie). Calvin (Score 10)
3 (tie). A Story With a Disappointing Ending (Score 10)
2. Another Story About Socks (Score 9)
1. Sammy (Score 2)