And yet it's happening. It's a TV moment we thought we'd never see again, and obviously shouldn't have seen the first time. Television keeps placing its hand on the same goddamn hot stove. So to celebrate this latest catastrophe, I went back and found some of television's previously biggest remistakes. I then rated them all using a specialized D.U.H. System* and found the following top five.
*The D.U.H. in the D.U.H. System stands for: D.uh, which is what you'd say if I explained it. U.nlogic, where thinking is replaced with magic. H.indsight, or lack thereof.
5. Fuckin' With Foo'ballFirst Mistake: The World League of American Football
In 1990, they created a new football league to appeal to an international audience that thought football meant something completely different. We even got the foreigners themselves involved with a rule that required coaches to always have a non-American on the field. We would have been less subtle, but we didn't know how to say, "We'd play without you if we could," in German.
The other thing that made The World League different was gluing a camera to everything. We finally got to see what it was like inside the helmet of a real pro quarterback, which gave us a whole new way to think about football. For instance, before The World League I wouldn't have described football as staring at the back of a 300-pound man's junk for a few seconds before blurry shapes in every direction tried to kill you.
Repeat Mistake: The XFL The World League folded after the Earth came together and agreed that American football should stay exactly where and exactly what it is. Well, during this time Vince McMahon was developing steroids that were safe to use on kids but didn't make their meat taste like horse. He missed the entire lesson. So in 2001, he developed the XFL. It was just like the NFL, but with everything that X implies. A few weeks later and Vince McMahon was in a race with the Internet to see who could kill money the fastest.
To cap the unsuccess of The World League of American Football, the first champions were from London, England. For anyone with national pride, that's like finding out your salsa was made in New York City one week after your grandma dies in a New York City salsa vat.
Adding thongs and a pro-wrestling attitude to something that's already a celebration of high-impact violence... it's like pandering for the sake of it. If we wanted boners and interpersonal drama during football, we would have fucked our wives' sisters at halftime.
I was forgiving to the unlogic in these bad football decisions, because it makes a kind of sense to keep adding stuff to a thing until everyone loves it. Like if you were having a beer with your friends and a man came up and said, "Hey, fellas! Would you like some whipped cream for those brewskis!? Best of both worlds, am I right?!" You'd be like, I love whipped cream and I love beer, I want to film myself slamming against this man and others. You know who else would love this? EVERYBODY.H.indsight: 5
Before he lost millions of dollars ruining football with an 11-year-old's idea of awesome, Vince McMahon had already done the same thing with bodybuilding. Man, that guy can even make a greasy, naked, muscled man seem gay. 4. From Commercial To TV ShowFirst Mistake:Max Headroom
Max Headroom was a stuttering head from the future or something, that became popular in America for advertising New Coke, a product that coincidentally failed and then came back several years later to fail again. Someone decided they should make a show about him, but what kind of a show do you make for a wise-cracking corporate shill? That's right, develop a high-concept cyberpunk drama with an anti-establishment theme! It was so mixed-up I think its main sponsors were Black Panther Shoe Polish Remover and George Orwell's Chipotle BBQ 'Tater Skins.
You know something is a good idea when every person you tell it to says, "Seriously?" That's what happened when they made a sitcom based on the cavemen from the car insurance commercials. The show itself seemed vaguely edgy because their whole thing is mocking racial stereotypes, and that's comedy gold to us insecure white people still struggling to break into the world of acceptable racism. You see, it's OK to make fun of how Native American bodies process liquor if they're prehistoric allegories! In your face, Stumbling Buffalo. Just like how it's OK to laugh when Carlos Mencia is racist because he has Down's Syndrome. Sorry, Stumbling Buffalo. But when you take the naughtiness out of racism, it's only depressing. It's the same reason the sex dries up when your local government finally lets you marry your sheep.
Who would have thought that making a commercial 100 times longer would be a shitty thing to watch?
Saying you're making a racist joke by dressing as a caveman and disco dancing is like rubbing your dick against chapstick and saying you're getting a blowjob. We're not sure whether to call you a liar or explain how racist blowjobs work.
Maybe they thought that Max Headroom failed because it was on at the same time as Miami Vice during an era of human history when you could only watch one channel at a time. But still, they should have seen that Cavemen wouldn't work. The California Raisins TV Specials had already made it very clear that TV audiences would not tolerate racist spokesthings for anything longer than 15 seconds.
3. Vehicles That TalkFirst Mistake:My Mother The Car
Forty-five years ago, Jerry Van Dyke starred in My Mother the Car, a show widely regarded as one of the worst of all time. Note that "car" isn't some sort of term for fat people that fell out of use. His mother in the show was actually a car. She nagged, fussed and did all kinds of terrifying Stephen King this-car-is-alive shit. The "jokes" that she and her human son exchanged were nothing less than the Vietnam of words. My Mother the Car was so terrible that to this day, many governments will execute you if you try to be funny near a car.
Repeat Mistake:Heat Vision and Jack
Produced by Ben Stiller back when he was an under-appreciated genius, it's about a man who gains super intelligence in sunlight (played by Jack Black) who rides a talking motorcycle (played by Owen Wilson). Ron Silver, the bad guy from Timecop, played himself: an actor and superagent sworn to track down Jack Black. If you're a savvy nerd, you already know all this. It's probably the most famous show that never got made, and the hardest thing we'll have to explain to our grandchildren when they ask why television is made for Mencias, which is how they will say "tards" in the future. D.uh: 1
To be honest, it was so awesome that it would have been canceled within a season anyway. It was that kind of silly and intelligent satire that the Mencias don't quite get, but deep down they somehow know they're being made fun of.
Handing something as uniquely rad as Heat Vision and Jack to TV executives is like teaching someone how to say, "I'm allergic to condoms" in Swahili. It sort of seems like you're doing the right thing, but no good can come of it.
This was a gigantic missed opportunity. If you made a TV show today with Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Jack Black, it would cost you $250,000,000 and be about three animated trolls helping a girl reunite her divorced parents at the center of the Earth. And the only way you could get Ron Silver involved would be with an actual Timecop, but that's insane. This is what happens when Ron Silver meets a Timecop: 2. Singing AthletesFirst Mistake: "The Super Bowl Shuffle"Second Mistake: "Rip City Rhapsody"D.uh: 6
Five years after the '85 Chicago Bears celebrated their incredible season by kicking music in the face, The '90-'91 Portland Trail Blazers did the exact same thing. Now, up until this point, 98 percent of all black people who appeared on television knew how to rap and did, all the time. Urkel, Mr. T, The Fresh Prince, even Bronson Pinchot. For a young white boy learning everything I knew from television, seeing this many black people who couldn't rap was like yanking out the tablecloth of my universe. I had to rethink everything! It reminded me of the first time I heard that there were no regulations against troop leaders shaving their own balls without a scout witness.
In the song, Walter Payton tells us that he likes to dance; runnin' the ball just like makin' romance. So either "Sweetness" has sex by getting ridden off the edge of the bed by a Green Bay Packer, or this song is nonsense. You know, I'm beginning to question the very nature of Superbowl Shufflin'! I'd need a huge research grant to test it, but it's possible that football and rappin' are entirely different skill-sets.
Culturally, Portland, Oregon has a way of becoming irrelevant as soon as you're seven to eight inches outside of Portland, Oregon. Which means no one remembers "Rip City Rhapsody." I'm not sure if the Blazers were counting on that or if it came as a pleasant surprise. What really came as a surprise is that going into the final part of the song, they didn't all completely choke. Note to any Timecops: If you're heading back to the 1991 NBA season, that joke would have been amazing.
1. Non-Musical MusicalsFirst Mistake: Cop Rock
Cop Rock was a musical cop show experiment that took place in 1990. It mixed a gritty cop drama with high-spectacle razzmatazz for a schizophrenic mess that no viewer could trust. You never knew when someone in the singing chorus line was going to pull a knife, or if the jaded coroner was going to suddenly pliet over the corpse to make out with the guy taking a semen sample. It was like an old married couple each picked a show to piss the other one off and they passive-aggressively switched between them for an hour. The word "obviously" barely had time to get its pants on before Cop Rock was canceled. Repeat Mistake: Viva LaughlinViva Laughlin was a show about a casino manager where characters sang top 40 songs barely relevant to the plot. It was never clear why. It felt like you were watching the cast of a terrible show at a company karaoke party. At least Cop Rock had original music. Sure it was music about murder weapons and rape kits and completely crazy, but it wasn't fucking pointless. D.uh: 1
Police and singing? Casino management and singing? These should have worked!
There can't be a hard seam between talking and singing in these types of things. If you turn on a musical during a part when they're not singing, you can sort of tell they're about to do it. I know it's coming whenever I see one character put their finger in another character's butt. On these shows, you would have no idea. They'll start singing even when you can see all their fingers. It's not natural.
I have a feeling that the people who made Cop Rock look back at that day a lot. Hopefully from some kind of musical jail.