More sh*% my sister used to watch : It’s a Living


So's ditch digging, honey..

Imagine these lyrics being shrieked at you as if by 5 middle-aged women you had scorned terribly:

LIFE’S NOT… THE FRENCH RIVIERA!!!!

LIFE’S NOT… A CHARITY BALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Actually, no need it imagine. Here, check it out:

 

I had no idea at 12 what I had done to piss these women off so much.. but it was good practice to get used to being yelled at with seething resent by various women for reasons I couldn’t fathom.

Anyway, if you recall, I lamented that my sister absolutely adored a terribly cheesy Canadian kid’s show called Today’s Special. And I mentioned that any mere suggestion that the channel should be changed during said show was met with shrieks and wails at incredible decibels. Well, for It’s a Living, the same suggestion of alternate programming was met with similar auditory assaults, along with projectiles and terrorist threats. I guess we were gonna watch the show.

This spritely pile of dung was a dramatization of the lives of 5 or so cocktail waitresses who worked at a snazzy restaurant in L.A.’s Bonaventure Hotel. The main crux of every subplot seemed to revolve around the women warding off the advances of the sleazy piano-man Sonny, played by Paul Kreppel, who according to Wikipedia is “best known” for this role. Bravo, Paul.

Relax toots, It's 1985. "Sexual Harassment" isn't even a thing yet.. What? What'd I say?

Of course, this was 80s sit-com land. So Sonny’s antics are met with canned laughter and considered endearing. Even at 12 I realized that lawsuits and mace were much more likely.

So, as annoying as Sonny was and every insipid mundane plot, which to my recollection always revolved around some rich guy visiting the hotel and wooing one of the “gals,” always leading inevitably to the guy flaking out or being married (ok, so some of the show was believable), things just got dumber and dumber with each successive show.

The presence of Ann Jillian did nothing to lessen the pain..

When a show runs for too long, and this one died and then was resuscitated exclusively for syndication (didn’t know they even did that), you have to up the ante for each show to keep the viewer interested. It’s why every South Park and Simpsons episode has been basically re-hashed 8 or 9 times, but they can slide in some current pop-culture to keep things “fresh.”

But with TV dramas and sitcoms, it’s not as easy. So to keep viewers interested in this one, things just got more and more hysterically stupid. We had: Bomb threats, terrorist-hostage standoffs, drug busts gone bad, CIA surveillance, spy vs. spy action, mafia shoot-outs… The Bonaventure restaurant became the craziest most dangerous goddam place in the country to work. And these gals were undeterred. Hey, it’s a living.

I remember laughing out loud at the sheer stupidity of it all, not to mention every episode was shot with soft soap opera-lighting and community theater understudy acting. There is fun, campy 80s cheese, and then there is pain. This was mostly pain.

Ann Jillian was pretty hot, and she's a cancer survivor.. so there's that.

I desperately wanted to find a clip from the “Hostage” episode.. there was at least one, maybe several. But alas, no luck on the youtubes. So here’s a little taste of the madcap hilarity of: A creepy would-be sex offender pianist, 5 attractive ladies who came to L.A. to be stars and got stuck waiting tables with said creep coming on to them all shift, every shift, their bitchy boss who doesn’t say or do much but gripe about having the most incompetent wait-staff in L.A., a fatherly type chef I don’t remember at all, and the very dangerous unpredictable world of L.A. hotel dining.

The “joke” here in this episode is that these folks have come to dine at the top of a very big hotel, and they are afraid of heights. So the waitress ignores their desperate please to just shut up and take their orders, and does everything in her power to make them lose their shit. This woman is either a sadistic fuck or a complete moron. We are supposed to believe these people work for tips? Anyway, this kind of violent dislogic permeated every excruciating 60 minutes of every show. So have a little taste of what I had to endure for several years, every weekday at 5:30 on TBS.

Saturday 80s Video Insanity : Today’s Special


BURN IT. WITH FIRE.

For this edition, let’s call it “Shit my sister used to watch.” Sorry sis.. I endured years of this at your hand, so enjoy the roast. Back in the 80s Nickelodeon was really the only kids’ network on basic cable. There were some great shows like You Can’t do that on Television, Out of Control, Dangermouse, and others. But there were some painfully awful ones as well. At least we were many years before “kids” networks used the banner of children’s programming to sexualize young girls.

One of these surreal crap-fests was an insipid Canadian show called Today’s Special. I think they wrote the title with anticipation this show would take place in a restaurant, then canned that idea but kept the title, because fuck you, kids. It’s about a mannequin that comes to life every night when what looks like the shittiest department store on earth closes. If that sounds familiar, don’t get excited. The mannequin looks nothing like Kim Cattrall. Instead, it’s a too effeminate to be imagined prancing sweater-vested bit of nightmare fodder who sings and dances and teaches kids the importance of how to use the “off” button on the remote control.

It’s accompanied by a retarded puppet mouse (seen above), a creepy puppet security guard with Alzheimer’s, and a lady who looks like she got all of her outfits from Goodwill in 1971. I’ll walk you through the intro then you can see the horror for yourself.

This actress's real name is Nerene Virgin. Sometimes, I don't even have to try.

We start with our lady friend, in some sort of orange Brady Bunch monstrosity for a jacket, taking the mannequin out of the store window while grandpa puppet security guard muses to himself that the store is all locked up, “as it should be.” Then the 3 go upstairs, the security guard peeks his head in a dark room and says “The coast is clear, the customers have all gone home.” Hey gramps, maybe you should have checked on that before potentially locking them in the store?

Anyway, then our lady friend sheepishly sneaks her man…nequeinn into the most depressing toy department on earth, and it’s at this point that if you can imagine a kid’s face watching this, that’s real fear in their eyes as they are wondering just what this old man, lady, and mannequin are about to start doing away from the prying eyes of the public.

Fortunately, she just puts the mannequin down then starts to scamper away as if she’s wired it to explode, but no such luck. The brain-damaged puppet mouse emerges and says something moronic, bad early 80s Canadian special effects happen, then the mannequin turns into some horrible combination of Richard Simmons and Zach Gilligan. He stumbles around like he’s on PCP, gains his footing, does a fruity twirl, a fruitier jump, then runs straight into the camera.

Yup.. don't have to say much here either.

If at this point you don’t want to punch this show in the face until it dies, you have an iron constitution, and should consider a career as a CIA operative. You are impervious to torture. That, or you’re my kid sister. Either way, next our fruity mannequin man (Was old Irish man attire popular in 1980’s Canada??) takes the hand of fashion nightmare lady.. and they run into outer space and turn into more crappy special effects.

I’m pretty sure at this point I had set fire to the couch to try to make it stop, but my sister loved these shows more than life itself. Any attempt to change the channel during Today’s Special was met with ear-piecing shrieks. So, my parents sided with quiet. Again remember, this was the 80s. Average middle class families had one TV. So Today’s Special it was. Sometimes people ask why I’m so damn angry, and I tell them, 80s kids shows. They think I’m kidding. I’m not.

Next, we get to enjoy some bad cartoon renderings of our main characters disembodied heads, floating through space. If it sounds like this “intro” lasted a half hour, it only seems that way. When we got to the actual show, things got much, much worse. Still on the into though, our next animation is an old woman riding a goose, still through outer space, (a spacegoose?) leaving behind a trail of rainbow vapor. Finally, mercifully, the last shot is another cartoon rendering of the idiot puppet muse, jumping through a computer monitor where I guess the old man security guard was surfing the net? What the hell was he doing on a PC in Canada in 1986?

Anyway, our final screen, and a woman’s voice tells us today’s special is… whatever. For this intro, it’s “adventure.” But crappy 80s show, we’ve already been on one with this fanciful intro! How much more adventure can I stand??

 

Anyway, that’s a mere taste of what awaits. Here’s a clip of some of the “action” from the show. There’s so much wrong with this sketch I don’t know where to start, so I won’t try. It’s something about a robot teaching kids how to drink juice, and then bad wardrobe lady friend gets squirted in the face.. with robot juice. Haha.. I am not making that up. She acts about how you’d expect too. And that’s only the beginning. Snidely Whiplash’s creepy uncle enters the picture and 1000 more horrific innuendos unfold. Watch.. if you think you can handle it.