Every week on Ask The A.V. Club, we answer your burning pop-culture questions. For instance:
Koalas In Space
This is a really strange question, but when I was little (1985 to 1993-ish) I used to watch a show on Nickelodeon about koala bears from another planet. If I remember correctly, they could talk and lived in a tree outside of a girl's window. Any ideas? This question has baffled every single pop-culture guru I've run across.
Kyle Ryan responds:
Be baffled no more. A quick keyword search on IMDB and some digging on TV.com reveals the show's name: Noozles. According to TV.com, the anime program debuted in South Korea and Japan in 1984 and came to the U.S. in 1989, where it occupied a spot on Nick Jr.'s afternoon lineup.
The story went like this: An archaeologist named Alex Brown sent a stuffed koala to his young daughter, Sandy, while on a dig in Australia. When Sandy rubbed noses with it, the koala came to life and introduced himself as Blinky, from a magical world called Koala-Wala Land. Not long after, Blinky's sister, Pinky, appeared. The siblings had special powers: Blinky had a watch that could stop time, and Pinky had a makeup mirror that could see into the future and lipstick that could draw a portal into Koala-Wala Land. The pair were apparently hiding out from their homeland because a dictator named High Dingy Doo had taken over, basically creating a police state run by the KangarooCops. Sandy's dad accidentally found his way into Koala-Wala Land, where the fascist police imprisoned him. He sent Blinky to Sandy to help him escape.
The show stretched out this thin-sounding storyline for four seasons, before going off the air in 1993. It isn't currently available on DVD, but VHS tapes are still floating around on Amazon.
Why do most DVDs have an odd disclaimer: "The commentaries on this disc do not reflect the views or opinions of the studio"? Why do they need to say this? Are they afraid that the actors are going to say something slanderous on the DVD that the studios themselves produce and sell? It seems odd.
Yes, actually, they are, and with good reason. To save time—studio time and contract time for the directors, actors, etc. involved—DVD commentaries are often recorded "live," in one or two continuous sessions where the filmmakers sit down with the movie and a microphone. They generally aren't pre-scripted or pre-planned, which puts the commentators under some pressure to spontaneously think up something to say at every single moment of a film. Add that pressure to a bit of distraction—the film running in the background, other people present and participating—and the lack of a visible audience to engage the commentators' instincts toward tactful self-censorship, and, well, it's a wonder that more DVD commentaries don't feature honest revelations of the kind that might offend or embarrass someone involved. (We won't even get into the number of audio commentaries where the participants are drunk, stoned, and/or actively in the process of achieving either state.)
In addition, DVD commentaries generally don't receive the kind of pre-release lawyer scrutiny that actual films do, and they often aren't censored or edited. So the disclaimer is really just a standard ass-covering move on the studios' part; the studios would prefer not to have to field lawsuits over a random offhanded, unthinking comment. It's easier to run the disclaimer than to actually hire a team of lawyers to, say, search though every hour of the many Lord Of The Rings commentaries for potential landmines.
You May Already Have Won
I'm certain I didn't dream this, but nobody else remembers it. I think it was a TV movie, but it could have been a show or even a theatrical release: the thing is about a guy (or group of guys?) who, in order to rig the Nielsen ratings so his (their?) new show goes to number one, sends all the Nielsen families on vacations, telling them they are sweepstakes winners.
You're thinking of 1984's The Ratings Game, one of the first directorial efforts of Danny DeVito, who also starred as the low-rent producer who fixes the Nielsens with the help of an insider (played by DeVito's wife, Rhea Pearlman). This was indeed a TV movie, though like DeVito's later feature film work, it's highly exaggerated, wacky, and dark. You can find it on DVD in some places as The Mogul.
WAY Too Close For Comfort
As a child, I was given to fits of watching Too Close For Comfort, a sitcom featuring Ted Knight as a grumpy, right-wing underground cartoonist (?) who lives in a 'Frisco duplex with his wife, his two ridiculously buxom daughters, and a sexually abstract basement-dweller named Monroe. I've never forgotten the show's unutterably bizarre "very special episode," if in fact it even exists. My memory of the story begins with Monroe out clubbing one night when he's lured into a van by two overweight women. The women strap Monroe to an upright mattress in the back of the van and rape him repeatedly. My question is this: Does and could such a show exist?
Yes it apparently existed, since a web search for "too close for comfort monroe rape episode" pulls up multiple hits, most notably the "Jump The Shark" site. But research doesn't reveal when the episode aired, or what its name was. Neither of the Too Close For Comfort seasons that are available on DVD contain the episode, and the show doesn't seem to be airing anywhere in syndication at the moment, so I doubt you could TiVo it.
A side note: What the hell has happened to the Internet? It used to be that nearly every TV series ever had some obsessive fan writing episode guides and transcripts for awkwardly designed fan sites. The novelty of being online must have worn off, because now those sites are gone (or maybe they were threatened with legal action and taken down), and we have to rely on the spotty user-supplied information of TV.com. The golden age of useless fact-gathering is over, friends.
Ghosts In The Peanut Gallery
Last week's column featured a letter asking about a film in which an Air Force plan crashes and the crew gradually realizes they've all died and become ghosts. We suggested that the letter-writer might have been thinking about a pair of Twilight Zone episodes, but several people wrote in to suggest an alternate answer: the 1970 movie Sole Survivor, starring Vince Edwards and William Shatner. The plotlines of the film and the Twilight Zone episodes are remarkably similar, but the film is probably what the writer had in mind. Thanks, guys.
Next week on Ask The A.V. Club: The origins of Snidely Whiplash and more. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.