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It (Allegedly) Stinks!: Exploring the Underappreciated Charm of “The Critic”

*Watching the “Readability monitor* (Sigh) Such a critic.

Not The Simpsons

Anyway, now that you know how I feel about that Readability monitor…

If you watched enough primetime cartoons in the 1990s (other than The Simpsons, of course), “it stinks!” may sound familiar to you. And many believe it to be a direct spinoff of The Simpsons (and they’re so wrong!).

This show it comes from, you ask?

The Critic!

Before There Was Family Guy

In the 1990s, one primetime cartoon was king, and that was The Simpsons. There was nothing quite like it at the time, and it ruffled quite a few feathers. Bart Simpson was every parents’ worst nightmare, and the example that moms used when they said “this is not how you will behave!” Because my mom allowed my brother and I to watch the show, I never understood why so many other kids could not, and why parents were in such a tizz over The Simpsons. And that show was supposed to be family-friendly – I can’t imagine what the people who got their panties in a bunch over The Simpsons felt when they saw Family Guy a few years later.

If you guessed they got their panties in a bunch AGAIN, you’re right. Pat yourself on the back, you’re so smart!

Picture it, a Brief Time in 1994 (and 1995)…

Between that time, in 1994, Al Jean and Mike Reiss, who were previously showrunners on The Simpsons, decided the time was right for another primetime sitcom, but not of the family variety. The premise, you ask? The life of a New York film critic named Jay Sherman. That’s it. He’s a film critic, he’s balding, fat, has a child, is divorced, and has a Siskel and Ebert type show (called with all originalness, Coming Attractions) where he watched trailers for upcoming films. The movies he reviews are spirited parodies of actual films that you’ll immediately figure out if you’re familiar with movies of the time.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiryercg53SAhUJQiYKHYL_DoQQjB0IBg&url=http%3A%2F%2Fthecritic.wikia.com%2Fwiki%2FComing_Attractions&bvm=bv.147448319,d.amc&psig=AFQjCNEqc-Ck9gcv4BGSDSuac4pQRP1bOA&ust=1487623536718562

And they were hilarious! Who didn’t want to see Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Rabbi Cop, Clint Eastwood make another Dirty Harry movie, a Raptor smoke a pipe, or Dennis the Menace shoot up Mr. Wilson?

A Critic(al) Response

In theory, The Critic seemed like a great concept. It was funny, witty, and was floated as a “love letter to New York.” Plus, Jon Lovitz had name recognition and seemed like the perfect person to have his own series. So this should have been a hit, right?

Nope.

Like the tagline Jay Sherman used to describe the movies he was forced to watch and review, people were not fans. The Critic started off on ABC in January 1994, but moved to Fox in its second season. Despite improving ratings, the show was cancelled after two seasons, and twenty-three episodes. For several years in the mid-late ’90s through its Fox airing and later Comedy Central reruns, this was regular viewing for my brother and myself.

Since I had no idea (at least, initially) that this show began life on ABC, I assumed it was premiering on Fox because of the crossover episode of The Simpsons, when Jay hosts a film festival in Springfield. Oh, and he badmouths MacGyver. I’ve never forgotten that. :-D

Original Run

The show originally premiered on ABC in their Wednesday night lineup beginning on January 26, 1994, but was cancelled after 13 episodes.

Uploaded by VHSgoodiesWA…and proof that this show aired on ABC.

The show promptly moved to Fox for the 1994-1995 season (airing all those original episodes during the summer explains why I thought it only aired on Fox). It followed The Simpsons on Sunday nights (a respectable timeslot), but was cancelled after the second season. A move to UPN never happened, and with no network to pick it up for a third season, The Critic was officially done.

Old Soul Approved

Admittedly, I’ve always been an old soul. Don’t get me wrong – I was your typical kid when it came to toys and cartoons, but I loved primetime sitcoms growing up. As far back as I can remember, I watched many of the “important” ones that ’80s babies grew up on, and even at a younger age, I liked the humor. As an adult, I have not spotted one sitcom I liked as a kid and cringed over it. Ok, except for Small Wonder. I now see why my mom was so weirded out by that show.

Where The Simpsons was low-brow and played to the “everyone can relate” stance, The Critic took a satirical approach to humor, parodying movies by combining different movies, lightening up some, darkening others, and parodying high-profile stars of the time. The movie parodies were brilliant – the “clips” were movies any smartass would love to see. And then there was the Orson Welles parodies – Maurice LaMarche is brilliant. Just sayin’.

Uploaded by seinfan9

The feeling of audience commonality to The Simpsons was parodied in one episode. Jay Sherman was often depicted as elitist and smart, but it was his over-the-top dramatics that made him funny and endearing to this “old soul.” I always liked the humor of the show, even at 11-12 years old. The movie parodies were the highlight for me.

I sorta knew who Jon Lovitz was at the time (thanks to A League of Their Own). His is a voice you can’t forget, and his haminess works perfectly for Jay.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjNobH_gp3SAhVGRyYKHWlqBvUQjB0IBg&url=http%3A%2F%2Fvillains.wikia.com%2Fwiki%2FDuke_Phillips&psig=AFQjCNHrWIYFLd55U3_v78q0QVPqCH0u7Q&ust=1487623348012497

“All hail Duke, Duke is life!”

The only other character I laughed at as hard as I did at Jay was his boss, Duke Phillips, and while I knew who Charles Napier was (but not until much later), I didn’t think that was his real voice! Duke’s characterization was that of Ted Turner – a media conglomerate owner who rules with an iron fist.

And What About Those Movie Parodies?

Yeah, what about them?

Uploaded by Random Comment

There are many more amazing parodies, and this merely scratches the surface. There’s this…

Uploaded by KnightedFrog

This…

Uploaded by Kanaru2

And this!

Uploaded by YoKozo

These, and the many other parodies of the movies…not bogus!

Availability

The show aired in reruns on Comedy Central (where I watched it after Fox cancelled it), has been in syndication during the last decade, and made the trek to TV-on-DVD in one set with all 23 episodes, including the ten-episode Flash Animation webseries (2000-2001). The set is available on Amazon for a respectable price of $14.99. And yes, I own that DVD set.

And In Closing…

The Critic was one of those gems that lacked the proper respect in its time, but still holds up well despite its age. It had a great sense of humor that paved the way for the humor of Family Guy, and all of the shows that would follow in that vein. Ahead of its time? Maybe. Classic? Definitely!

How could anything with that distinction stink?

It is impossible!

1960s Board Games - Hats Off

1960s Board Games you have never of

You think you know your board game history? Well here are a pair of 1960s Board Games that I think will be “new” to many of you.

1960s Board Games rock paper scissors

Rock, Paper, Scissors Board Game

We have all played rock, paper, scissors at times. But did you know this grade school game was turned into a board game? I didn’t until I found this 1967 board game by Ideal. It consists of game pieces with 3 levers, marked with a picture of a rock, scissors and paper. Instead of making the symbols with your fingers you simply tap the lever that represents your choice. Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper and paper beats rock. For each win you draw a game tile and try to fill in your game card. First one with a full game card wins. So is it any more fun than just playing the game with your hands? Not really and that’s probably why I had never saw this game before.

1960s Board Games hats off

Hats Off Board Game

The next board game is also from 1967 and made by Kohner Brothers. It is the Hats Off game. A game of skill which is actually really fun to play. Each player tries to flip their little cone-shaped hats into the scoring board in their color section. 5 points for each score and a bonus of 5 points if you stack two or more hats in your color section. The flipper part is spring-loaded and features Slide-O-Matic scoring! First one to 75 points wins. I am going to have to take this game to Arkadia Retrocade and challenge Vic Sage to a game!

Watch Hats Off in action

The Thing

John Carpenter’s The Thing…Is Becoming A Board Game?!

1982’s The Thing is one of John Carpenter’s greatest movies. Having said that, I want to point out that isn’t hyperbole but just a stone cold fact. Granted in 1982 most audiences weren’t ready to embrace The Thing. While the average movie goer was certainly basking in the warmth of 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and for good reason. There were indeed a few fans of horror that embraced the much darker film of alien contact.
Drew Struzan

In addition there were enough fans of John Carpenter as well as his exceptional film about isolation and paranoia. That The Thing continued to quietly capture fans by and large over the years. I can still vividly recall the sense of delicious dread and fear watching it for the first time, at a local Drive-In. Furthermore John Carpenter’s take on John W. Campbell’s novella Who Goes There? over the years has mutated from cult film to full-fledged classic.

{Via] Thriller Chiller Films

I would like to point out I place The Thing in my top ten favorite movies of all time.
The Thing

All things considered it shouldn’t have shocked me that there was an announcement today by Mondo. In partnership with Project Raygun they are producing a board game based on the 1982 movie. Entitled THE THING: INFECTION AT OUTPOST 31 it will boast artwork by Justin Erickson of Phantom City Creative. Of course Outpost 31 was where the cast of characters in the 1982 movie were stationed – an Antarctic research station.
The Thing

As for the style of the game this is what the news release from Mondo stated:
“When we set out to create the first licensed Mondo board game the biggest question was; what film property would we go after? So many of the films we celebrate at Mondo would be an absolute blast in game form,” explained Jay Shaw, Mondo Brand Director. “As soon as John Carpenter’s suspense masterpiece, The Thing was mentioned it very quickly became our top choice,” Shaw noted.

“The next step was to figure out how to actually make a game. We all love playing them, but none of us had designed one before. Game mechanics are an incredibly complicated art form and we didn’t want to enter this space unless we were going to get it right. Luckily our dear friends at Project Raygun were completely up to the challenge. They’ve built an incredibly challenging fast paced game of paranoia that transports players directly into the film,” Shaw continued.”

By all means I do realize that might not be a whole lot to go on. On the positive side until we can get more facts about the game itself – it gives us ample time to start staking a claim on which characters we will want to play.

I call dibs on Fuchs!
The Thing - Fuchs

I also want to thank Earl Green for the heads up on the upcoming The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 in the first place. Talking it over with Earl, I think we might be able to arrange a night in the future where we can sit down and record the game session. I’m positive there are more than enough people at the arcade who will want to join in for the fun. I’ll also be sure to post any updates on the board game as they come in!

Would You Like To Enjoy Breakfast at Jellystone Park Every Morning?

Imagine being able to have breakfast with Yogi Bear, Pixie and Dixie and the rest of the gang in Jellystone Park. Every morning! This Jellystone Park plate and Pixie and Dixie bowl set, which was made in the 1960s, makes this possible.
Jellystone Park

My husband loves all things pop culture, just like I do. He has fond memories from his childhood of eating from this plate and bowl set. I was amazed to discover that his mother still had it and it was in excellent condition.

My husband enjoyed being able to see the familiar Saturday morning cartoon characters on plates and bowls. He has fond memories of his mom telling him that he was not finished until he could see Pixie and Dixie at the bottom of the bowl.

These characters first appeared in the late 1950s and early 1960s. My husband and I saw them as kids as Saturday morning cartoons re-runs.

The plate has Yogi Bear, Ranger Smith, Quick Draw McGraw, Blabber Mouse, Snooper, Hokey Wolf, Ding-A-Ling Wolf, Mr. Jinks., Quick Draw McGraw and Baba Looey, Huckleberry Hound, Snagglepuss, Yakky Doodle, Pixie and Dixie.

On the plate, Ding-A-Ling is helping put up the sign and Snooper is carrying a bowl of food. Baba Looey, the Mexican burro, Huckleberry Hound, and Snagglepuss are putting the tablecloth on the table. Blabber Mouse is carrying Yakky Doodle in a pink flower pot. Pixie and Dixie are wrapping a present.

I’m a big fan of the Hanna Barbera cartoons. I feature them regularly on my blog, Between the Pages. Check out this Snagglepuss Cake and these amazing Flintstone Cakes and Scooby-Doo Cakes and this Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons.

Batman ’66 3¾” Figures Revealed: Finally, The Heroes We Both Deserve AND Need

Retroist readers, it took me a minute or two to literally stop dancing in my office (believe me, I’m getting some looks), stop singing the Nelson Riddle Batman theme, and write this up for you. If the news from the real world is getting you down, this news is guaranteed to pick you up. Friends, bear with me and forgive my journalistic trespasses, for this brief article is bereft of any objectivity whatsoever.

Funko’s ReAction line is bringing characters and vehicles from the 1966 Batman TV series to the 3¾” scale (known almost by default as “Kenner Star Wars scale”.

Take a moment to let that sink in. Like the recently announced Twin Peaks figures also expected this year from Funko, the Batman figures will have more than 5 points of articulation.




(I wonder if they will release a variant edition of Mister Freeze – who was also portrayed by George Saunders and Eli Wallach. This toy design certainly appears to be based off the time that Otto Preminger played the character in the Batman ’66 series. – Vic)

And get a load of this glorious, glorious Batmobile.

The show’s villains are well-represented, and not even the most obvious ones: Mr. Freeze, King Tut and Catwoman are just the tip of the iceberg of memorable baddies that could be commemorated in plastic.
Conspicuous by their absence: the Joker, the Riddler, and the Penguin. (I have no insider info, but just between you and me and the Batcave, I smell a box set waiting to happen there. There’s clearly no issue with likeness rights, as both the Riddler and the Penguin will be appearing in the second wave of Funko’s Batman ’66 Vinyl Pops.)
Batman '66

And while she may have been a late addition to the show, Batgirl will be one of the first arrivals in figure form.

If you, like me, have been waiting for this moment since you were six years old, well, I’m gonna start up the Batman soundtrack in my office and start dancing again until these are in the stores.

When he’s not keeping score at the Retroist, Earl Green is the founder, head writer and podcaster-in-chief at theLogBook.om, a site devoted in roughly equal parts to classic sci-fi, classic video games, classic soundtracks, and space history. He can be heard on theLogBook.com’s Escape Pod daily mini-podcast of geek history, and monthly on the Select Game, Don’t Give This Tape To Earl, and In The Grand Theme Of Things podcasts.