Friday, October 21, 2011

If You Say So Mr. Loggia...

A few days ago I suffered a completely random pop culture acid flashback about the above Minute Maid Orange Juice Commercial featuring veteran actor Robert Loggia from circa 1998. I was not at the breakfast table at the time nor was I drinking any orange juice or watching "Necessary Roughness". It was just one of those inexplicable overflows from the thick simmering stew that is my subconscious (also maybe my body's telling me I should get more vitamin C in my diet?).

Regardless, after looking up the commercial again I came upon a few new observations and conclusions that escaped me when I initially saw it in the late 90s:
  • Before I even get into the content of the commercial, I was surprised at how much more popular this commercial was than I originally thought. I thought the ad was so obscure that there would be a good chance that it might not even be available on the internet. Additionally, despite a having a career that spans television and movies all the way back to the 1950s, Loggia's performance in this commercial takes up on entire paragraph of his wikipedia entry. It may either be a testament to the popularity of the commercial or the shoddiness of his wikipedia page (I'd say a combination of both; it's definitely not the best written of pages).
  • The commercial predates "Family Guy" by nearly a decade in discovering the previously unknown inherent humor of just mentioning the name Robert Loggia. I don't know if the "Family Guy" cutaway was supposed to be a loose parody of the commercial, or an inspired pastiche of the ad, or just a weird random coincidence. I still find it pretty funny; although like all "Family Guy" cutaways I have absolutely no idea what the actual episode was about.
  • The joke of the commercial is ostensibly supposed to come from a young boy randomly suggesting an unexpected actor like Robert Loggia to be a source of integrity about the deliciousness of the new orange juice and the sudden appearance of said Mr. Loggia into the kitchen to convince the boy. It's all a pretty surreal scene. However, the commercial becomes far more interesting and oddly more logical if you suspect that the mother is having an affair with Robert Loggia. Check out the knowing, beaming smile of the mom when he invades the kitchen. The dad reacts the way any normal person would in that situation, with surprise and suspicion, but the mom just keeps that gigantic devilish smile going through the whole scene. Add that to the knowing wink Loggia gives to the mom right before he leaves and you have to suspect something's going on. I can't rule out the possibility that Billy is the secret love child of Robert Loggia and the mom and our poor bald dad is a pathetic cuckold whose "son" doesn't even respect him enough to believe when he says he'll like the taste of the juice.
  • As to the implausibility of a pre-adolescent boy knowing who Robert Loggia is, while it's highly unlikely that he knows him from is tough guy roles in mature movies like "Scarface", "Prizzi's Honor", or "Lost Highway"; but he might have just saw him the night before in "Big" or maybe "Independence Day" (ID4 was still sort of fresh in all our minds around 1998). What's really inexplicable is why the kid is so ardently anti-calcium; does it even have a taste?
  • That extra Robert Loggia "yeah!" at the very end of the spot really is the cherry on top, the whole spot would be nothing without that final exclamation point. The bite special effect that comes right before the "yeah!" however makes it sound like he's the one who took a bite out of the carton.
Next week, I'll be covering that old Little Caesars commercial where the little girl goes to meet the head of Little Caesars only to have it be George Burns instead (although she doesn't seem disappointed in the least by it).

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Should Know, I'm Bocephus

During all the recent controversy involving country music star (although it has been a pretty dry two decades career wise) and amateur political pundit Hank Williams Jr.'s Hitler accusations against the President leading to his subsequent firing from his longstanding tenure as Monday Night Football's official football readiness ambassador; I found it surprising that in all the internet coverage, I have yet to find a single reference to the above 1997 SNL sketch with the late Chris Farley playing Bocephus.

For SNL and Chris Farley fans the October 1997 episode with Farley as the host will always be a little bittersweet since it would turn out to be his last major television appearance before his unfortunate death from an overdose a mere two months later. I remember finding the whole episode to be pretty damn awesome at the time. Watching it again recently, in an abridged form on Netflix Instant, some parts still hold up well, I will always find Farley's turn as "El Niño" to be stupidly hilarious (note: the full sketch, which was unavailable on youtube has Jim Brewer, doing the worst Ric Flair impersonation in history, coming in at the end to fight El Niño), but it has definitely lost its luster in other parts. Through the prism of hindsight it becomes pretty obvious that Farley was sort of a wreck at that point: he's gigantic, perpetually sweaty, and his voice is unusually horse (even the opening sketch is Tim Meadows trying to "convince" Loren Micheals into letting Farley host, despite his reservations about his ability to keep it together which leads to an opening monologue involving him initially flaking out before being talked into going on stage at the last minute).

As for the above sketch featuring Hank Williams Jr., it stayed about the same in my eyes in terms of humorousness. Although that isn't really saying much since I only found it mildly funny the first time. The sketch really doesn't go anywhere and is almost totally held together by Farley's ridiculous portrayal of Williams Jr. as a fat talentless drunken clown. The interesting thing about the sketch compared to recent events is that Farley's Bocephus turns out to be a sympathetic victim, having been unfairly mocked and generalized by the seemingly cultured, urban, studio engineers. Bocephus gives a softhearted monologue about empathy, not making snap judgment about others, and his ultimate goal of bringing people in his own awkward way together through his music. This comes off as a bit of a contrast to the the real Bocephus who responded to his critics and firing by releasing a hastily put together, county fried, reactionary diss track about guns and freedoms and decrying the "United Socialist States of America" that makes Ray Stevens sound as liberal as Bruce Springsteen by comparison.

In these polarizing times, I think we can all learn a little something from Farley's Bocephus.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

It Was The Last Game of the Season

Ideally this post about David Geddes's mostly forgotten, cumbersomely titled, 1975 top 20 hit "The Last Game of the Season (A Blind Man in the Bleachers)" would have been most relevant last Wednesday when it actually was the last game of the MLB season for all the teams. It could have still been relevant if Atlanta or Boston didn't complete their spectacular month long collapses and ended up at least forcing an extra play-in game for the next day. However when it comes to posts on this blog, we should all be happy enough to get posts let alone timely ones.

As I was saying, since discovering "The Last Game of the Season" a few years ago the final regular season games of all the major sport teams I follow have reminded me of it for obvious reasons; I can't really think of any other notable songs off the top of my head about the last game of the season. Additionally, since most of the big four sports teams that I have a rooting interest in have long been in periods of "rebuilding" (Islanders, Mets, Knicks, Bills) the regular season have often become the end of the line.
That being said, I sort of wish that there was a better song to commemorate the end of professional sports seasons. I have to admit "The Last Game of the Season" is well, more or less, kind of terrible. Ostensibly it's not even related to professional sports, the song's story is about the last high school football game of the season; and even then it's pretty lacking in any actual details about the game and focuses on the ludicrously cornball story about the underdog second string running back protagonist and his faithful titular blind man father who listens to his games from the stand.

Generally I am a huge fan of the overly melodramatic and overwrought 70s story song and I actually really enjoyed Geddes's more successful first single, the deliciously over the top tale of doomed star crossed love, "Run Joey Run" (it still absolutely blows my mind that Glee once covered this obscure hit). However, there's just something lacking about "The Last of the Season". The song's set up is fine and there's plenty of excessive sentimentality in the story: the dad's boundless optimism for his scrappy underdog son's future success (perhaps blind faith?) contrasted with the sad predicament of the father only being able to see his son scoring touchdowns in his dreams. The reveal at the end is killer, where after the son comes into the game and inexplicably leads the team to a thrilling come from behind victory he reveals that his father had passed away in a hospital during the middle of the game but he takes solace in the fact that "it's the first time that my father's seen me play". Utterly devastating. Basically you take "Rudy" and make the dad blind and kill him off at the last game of the season; a game which Rudy makes an actually meaningful contribution to the team's end of the season victory rather than just getting the symbolic victory of getting on the field in garbage time.

Unfortunately the music and the singing just doesn't bring across with enough gravitas to support the heavy concept. The vocals could have been more soaring, the chorus could have been expanded, the score stripped of even more subtlety. The song felt like it was pulling its punches, or I guess in this case, not pulling enough on the listener's heartstrings. In addition, there weren't enough little touches to paint a vivid enough picture to match the emotions. It's never explained how far the team was behind, if the game meant anything to the team, or what exactly the son do to get the win.

To put it into a more relevant sports analogy, there's certainly a lot of potential in the song but at the end of the season it ultimately and disappointingly falls short of the playoffs.