While friends, family, and other disappointingly human beings often behave with infuriating unpredictability, we demand better from our beloved TV characters. We demand consistency: all of reality resets every 30 minutes, kids stay young forever -- hell, the animated ones aren't even allowed to change their outfit without an uproar. But every once in a while, some coked-up screenwriter gets clearance to step outside the box and delivers a scarring, surrealistic meltdown of our favorite fictional universes.
What better way to advertise the wholesome, all-American eatery that is Denny's than by featuring the nation's most well-regarded carpet swatches, the Muppets? What could possibly go wrong with featuring a lovable, sassy pig-puppet sitting down to a nice balanced breakfast of eggs, hash browns, and ba-
Oh God. They didn't?
It's worse than it looks. Those sausage links are from Gonzo.
After sitting down for a breakfast that easily could have consisted of french toast, or an omelet, or basically anything but pork products, Denny's patrons Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog place their order ...
... and Miss Piggy orders three Grand Slam breakfasts.
Get it, because she's a pig?
And a gluttonous cannibal?
Is this Muppet Soylent Green? We're not sure if it's more or less disturbing that it's implied that Kermit, too, is ordering the same Grand Slam. It's one thing to devour your own kind. It's quite another to look the love of your life in the eye while you eat her sister.
"Yes, extra bacon. And make sure it doesn't talk so goddamn much."
This Korean ad starts out normally enough, with a couple of kids watching a substandard store-brand-looking RoboCop (whom we shall refer to as RobotCop) on television while their mom cooks up some delicious fried chicken in the kitchen.
"Delicious" here is a synonym for "yellow."
Then shit gets all Korean, and RobotCop emerges from the TV like Samara from The Ring.
If she'd been cooking corn dogs, ED-209 would've staggered out.
RobotCop proceeds to snatch the chicken out of their very mouths, devours their dinner right in front of the hungry children, and then -- for no reason except spite, we suppose -- he straight up jacks their entire fridge ...
He shot both those kids on the way out.
... while the family can only watch on in amazement and horror.
RoboCop, for those of you who are unfamiliar, was not a slapstick comedy. It was not an all-ages adventure flick. There were bare titties and cocaine and a man being hit by a car so hard that he turns into blood pudding. These kids should have no idea who RoboCop is, much less trust his taste in chicken. He could not digest normally in the movie, remember: They had to feed him baby food. That's how much of his humanity he lost.
And yet, somewhere in translation, we lost the fact that RoboCop is a humorless, exacting, brutal law enforcement tool. Now he's some sort of chicken-stealing metal ghost that haunts the television. Which, come to think of it, does actually sound way more watchable than RoboCop 2.
Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue is so representative of the late '80s, it's astounding that Urban Outfitters isn't selling reproductions of the VHS tape for $29.99. Introduced by George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, this 1990 anti-drug special gathered all of our favorite cartoon characters together to traumatize the living hell out of any child who watched it.
For instance, in this scene, the Muppet Babies take a psychedelic roller coaster ride through a drug-infected brain:
We're convinced. Pass the mescaline and Diet Ketamine.
What? Does that even come close to anything that ever happened on the show Muppet Babies? Why not use the characters from G.I. Joe, or Transformers, or anybody else who could stand a chance at handling the messed-up trip of a drug addict? Why specifically hurl babies into this psychedelic nightmare?
Oh, and good luck reading any more of A.A. Milne's classic Winnie the Pooh stories now that you've seen him arguing with an anthropomorphic cloud of pot smoke voiced by George C. Scott.
Whom we've always considered to be the embodiment of marijuana.
The special also featured Alvin and the Chipmunks, Alf, Slimer, and many others. Basically, if you had a favorite cartoon in the '80s, fuck you, kids; here they are crying over a dead junkie who just OD'd in an alley.
We should also mention that the whole show was sponsored by McDonald's. Man, they really burned their bridges on this one, alienating both the Happy Meal-loving children who just wanted to watch some carefree cartoons where Garfield doesn't ralph up a stomach full of heroin balloons all over Nermal and the career stoners who were the only people high enough to take McDonald's seriously.
The original 1960s Batman show was awesome because it was terrible. It's complicated. There's a fine line between tongue-in-cheek camp fun and drunken embarrassment. The TV show straddled that line perfectly. Adam West tried to walk it, lost his balance, and threw up all over that line. See, West continued to appear as Batman well after the TV show wrapped, most notably in a 1976 taped event opposite wrestler Jerry Lawler (the two were set to appear at the same car show).
Christian Bale has never been within three zip codes of a car show.
Here Batman is wearing his rarely seen Bat-tracksuit and behaving like he'd gotten into the Batcardi. Rather than striking fear into the hearts of evil men, this incarnation of Batman is content with lobbing awkward insults at a pudgy wrestler, slurring his words as he attacks.
Batman: That costume that you're wearing, if you are indeed the evil king of Memphis, has been stolen from a friend of mine: Supe ... Superman. I call him Supe.
Odd. He calls most of his friends "grain alcohol."
Batman: And I think that Spider-Man, Spidey baby, would probably object too.
It's important to remember that this is the official Batman of the era. As far as children of the time were concerned, Adam West was Batman. They didn't have multiple Batmen -- Keatons and Bales and Afflecks -- to contend with. Just Adam West. And now here is the real, authentic Batman on their TV, sounding like daddy when he starts drinking his angry-juice, and yammering about his friends "Supe" and "Spidey baby."
Minutes later, the announcer held Batman's cowl back while he vomited in the alleyway.
This clip is every bit as scarring as it is embarrassing. It's the pop-culture-nerd equivalent of that time your dad picked you up from school in his bathrobe, smelling like mouthwash and screaming all the wrong words to "Dust in the Wind."
Any fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation is familiar with the lovably promiscuous, '80s-dad-bearded first officer, Commander Riker. In the show, he always played second fiddle to Captain Picard's sultry baldness. What fans might not know, however, is that Riker did eventually get a leading role in his very own film: a promotional video for Boole & Babbage, a British software company. In the six-minute video, shot on the actual Enterprise set, Riker uses the ship's view screen to communicate with an early '90s desktop computer, where he helps a poor schlub named Harold use the new "Command/Post" networking program.
"Ah geez. Riker episodes are bad enough when I'm at home."
Star Trek is supposed to take place in a utopian future where Earth no longer uses money, yet Riker seems to care pretty deeply about how much dough this guy's making:
Riker: In fact, if you were using this technology today, the connections would have been rerouted and you wouldn't have lost a quarter million dollars' worth of business.
Harold: Thanks, Number One.
Thanks for rubbing it in, I mean.
So what, is this canon? It's the actual Riker and the actual Enterprise set, not some hilarious third-party knockoff. If so, what does that mean for the show? We're pretty sure this whole "using a time machine to sell software to '90s businessmen" thing is against the Prime Directive -- the guiding principle of Starfleet that promotes non-interference with developing cultures or the past. Did Riker go rogue and tamper with history? Is this why we have pictures of Harold over all of our money? Before this scene occurred, what did we call a man so outlandishly wealthy that women literally hurled themselves at his schlong, if not "a Harold"?
Who could forget the Smurfs? Not anyone who grew up in the '80s. Not even if they wanted to. Those little blue imps were everywhere, from plastic figurines, to records, to breakfast cereals, to sexual paraphernalia (we have to assume). Aside from the troubling fact that there appears to be only one female among the thriving Smurf community, the Smurfs were harmless, happy folk who lived in a Smurftastic paradise. Naturally, the family-friendly cartoon characters seemed like a perfect fit for a UNICEF commercial.
But instead of nudging us to take an example from the shining utopian Smurf society, in this iteration of the beloved cartoon, Smurf Village is located in the middle of a war zone. Moments after being introduced to the frolicking, carefree characters, bombs start raining from the sky.
The last two movies make this genocide more acceptable than most.
The ad remorselessly details the gruesome, bloody destruction of all Smurfkind, and finally, mercifully ends with a baby crying amid a sea of Smurf corpses. Pretty Smurfed up.
To be fair, the ad was intended for older audiences in order to, according to UNICEF, create "a stark link between happy childhoods and the horrors of war."
Mission accomplished, UNICEF!
But why stop there? Where's the footage of Yogi Bear being waterboarded to protest government torture? Or Strawberry Shortcake stepping on a landmine to highlight the ongoing issue of unexploded ordnance? We could do a PSA where Patrick Star gets strangled to death in one of those plastic six-pack holders -- really drive home the message about pollution! Just show six straight minutes of starving villagers cooking and eating Scooby-Doo in order to address world hunger! Sky's the terrifying, soul-crushing limit here, fellas.
J.M. McNab writes and podcasts for Rewatchability.com.
Related Reading: You know who never breaks character? Wrestlers. Not even when they're horribly injured in a plane crash. Getting into character in the first place is pretty hard, which is why Tom Cruise was willing to work undercover as a FedEx driver just to figure out a role. Of course, sometimes the best way to get a perfect performance is to not let the actors know they're acting.