From the Couch Hole: Put a Smile on Your Face

Previously on FTCH, we pursued amusement parks, big drivers, and presidential assassinations with Stephen King, and along the way sampled the sweet candies of the holidays. Most of the past week on vacation has given me time to catch up on some outstanding projects. And eat my body weight in leftovers. This week we revive our dreams of Stephen King, travel back to tomorrow, and remember Apple holiday ads of the past. Remember, FTCH is part of a complete nutritious breakfast.

Vacation mode activated.

Pop Culture Ephemera

“Home is where they want you to stay longer.” – Stephen King
  • Stephen King – Revival (2014) (Scribner): “And everyone needs a miracle or two, just to prove life is more than just one long trudge from the cradle to the grave.” This King novel follows our narrator, Jamie Morton, from his youth in Maine in 1962 up to 2014. His life is intertwined with that of Reverend Charles Jacobs. The story wears its H.P. Lovecraft influences on its sleeve including direct quotes from Lovecraft: “That is not dead which can eternal lie. And with strange aeons even death may die.” The pacing is a bit odd here. We spend lots of time with Jamie in his early years including his high school days as a budding musician. We skip forward to the paths of the Rev and Jamie crossing in Tulsa in the 1970s. And then much of the remaining portion of the story takes place in the last decade or so. The theme of electricity links back profoundly to the spark of life and what gives us life. It’s related to the ability to really change our lives and heal. It’s also the power that separates the living world from the dead (the most Lovecraftian scenes take place at the end with this theme in place). The title itself hints at the Frankenstein influences on the story, and with his preoccupation with electricity as a healing power, it’s hard not to view Reverend Jacobs as a Dr. Frankenstein character. I enjoyed these characters and the story but (and this isn’t something you hear often) King could have expanded this book more to improve the pacing to give more importance to the conclusion. I’m curious to check out the current Midnight Mass (Netflix) because the religious themes appear to be similar.
  • DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – “Bullet Blondes” (S.7 E.1) (2021): The Flash has become too serious, Batgirl is still trying to find a niche, and Stargirl is telling fun but simplistic stories. The remaining veteran of the Arrowverse, Legends of Tomorrow, is my current favorite and the most consistently entertaining week to week. What started out as a Doctor Who-influenced weekly time travel show has lost a majority of the original cast over the years and is now a fun balance of time travel, cosmic fun, parodies, and classic superhero group dynamics. The season starts with the group stuck in 1920’s Odessa, Texas. Their Waverider has been destroyed which is the equivalent of the episodes when Doctor Who lost his TARDIS. The episode starts a story arc that simplifies the cosmic craziness of the past season. Slowing down the story and keeping the characters together feels fresh (although this is what would happen in the early seasons) and this is one of the more entertaining episodes because of that. This is one of the few Arrowverse series that is showing a steady incline again in ratings and I think that comfort with the cast is a big part of it.
  • John Mayall’s Blues Breakers – “Key To Love” (1966) (from Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton): This song came back to mind when I read that it is one of Brain May’s favorite guitar solos. It’s hard to argue with the work that Clapton was doing with Mayall and the Blues Breakers. The more you listen to this album and particularly this song, you can hear the roots of so many threads that will last deep into the Seventies. The band with Mayall, Clapton, and Jack Bruce among other future stars sets the stage for other Clapton acts like Cream. There’s the Blues Rock that would become the initial formation of Fleetwood Mac. It’s easy to forget that other acts were filling out the charts that weren’t the Beatles, Stones, Kinks or The Who. This smart little tune is a great listen at loud volumes.
  • Doctor Who – “The Power of the Daleks Part 6” (S.4 E.14) (1966): This is the first story where the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) gets to establish is unique identity from the First Doctor (William Hartnell). We have to remember that the idea of regeneration was still a foreign concept to viewers of the show. Even the companions, Ben and Polly, were relatively new, so we don’t have much to tie us to the story except the villains, the Daleks. The longer story helps establish Troughton’s differences from Hartnell. He’s a little obtuse to start but I found myself warming up to him quickly. The story of the planet Vulcan scientists reviving the crash-landed Daleks, thinking they would be their servants, is basic but contains some creepy moments. This final episode pays off lots of exposition earlier in the story with plenty of “Destroy! Destroy!” action from the Daleks. There is still quite a bit of evolution to come for Troughton and Ben and Polly aren’t at their strongest here. But it’s an important evolution for the series for both how they can continue for another fifty years and for the biggest villain in the series to show they can continue and thrive.
  • Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) (Directed by Jason Reitman): What if the 283rd movie reboot didn’t just come across as a poor copycat of the original? I will contend that a majority of the negative reviews of this film will center around it not being as lighthearted and full of funny lines as the original. It’s not 1984 and the type of film like the original Ghostbusters don’t get made for theaters for a reason. The reboot that toes the comedy / horror / coming-of-age genres is just what I expect from a theatrical release. The trio of mother, Callie (Carrie Coon), and children Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (McKenna Grace), relocating to Oklahoma to her dead father’s dilapidated home is less of a nod to the original as it is to any handful of Spielberg films. The film succeeds in bringing the plot along as a serious ghost film with funny characters that still has a spiritual (if not actual at times) connection to the original films. You could highbrow this film to death with all that it isn’t and I’m sure that you’ll see that disparity between grades from reviewers and the enjoyment of people who see it in theaters. If you are looking for an easy fun return to the theaters that doesn’t require keeping track of seventeen characters from fifteen previous films, this is just what I was looking to experience.
“You just demonstrated zero knowledge of science.”

Best of the Rest

  • The early front runner for Christmas ad of the year is the Apple commercial with the snowman. The 60-second version that aired during football games this weekend is really good. But the Ivan and Jason Reitman short “Saving Simon” runs about three times that length and tells a wonderful story. The short film format combined with the emotional song and the cute little girl all work together to make this an unforgettable advertisement.
  • In many ways “Saving Simon” is an emotional sequel to the 2013 Apple holiday commercial “Misunderstood”. It could be the same house and part of the same family. The message feels more timely today than it even did eight years ago. Keep the tissues handy again – there’s a crying grandma that gets me every single time.

Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback

  • On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 7/9/2006, I was in a mid-Summer television funk. The best that week could bring was the World Cup Final and the 2006 Home Run Derby. VH-1 had a number of specials airing during the week and there was Big Brother All-Stars. Wednesday started a four-week, eight-episode series called Nightmares & Dreamscapes based upon Stephen King stories. Five of the eight stories are adapted from the book of the same name. Two are from Everything’s Eventual and one from Night Shift. I planned on watching these Twilight Zone meets Creepshow episodes but must have been too wrapped up in I Love the Seventies, Part Two. I took time to watch them now fifteen years later.
    • “Battleground”: This episode feels the most Creepshow-influenced of the eight. The story from Night Shift illustrates my one problem with a format like this. You are asking directors to take stories of much different length and adapt them all into a one-hour format. Instead of making each story an episode, I would like to have let each story have room to breathe as much as it needed. This dialogue-free episode stars William Hurt and plays out as a sort of Small Soldiers gone evil. There are great special effects but there’s too much filler. This is a 30-minute story fleshed out to an hour with repetitious battle scenes. Overall, a great table setter for the series.
    • “Umney’s Last Case”: Starring William H. Macy in dual roles as an author who throws himself into his work (literally) when his son drowns and as a hard boiled detective in his novels. This episode is directed by Rob Bowman and shows the influence that The X-Files was still having on television in 2006. I’m not talking in terms of subject but the storytelling has the same feel as some of those great episodes.
    • “Autopsy Room Four”: Another fun story that has a very Alfred Hitchcock Presents vibe going on throughout. I really enjoyed this story in Everything’s Eventual. Whereas “Battleground” translated well to the screen despite not having any external monologue, this story is all internal monologue on the page and it doesn’t work on the screen. We are able to pan the room and see things that the patient can’t know is happening. Richard Thomas plays Howard Cottrell, our main dead/not dead character. He was a great choice for Bill in the It miniseries but here we are limited to his voice only. This is a good series that deserved more attention. Even a misguided adaptation like this episode is better than most hour-long horror series.
You know they got a hell of a band.

Flash From The Past

These tasty crackers were somewhere between Cheese Nips and Goldfish Crackers

What the Hell Did I Put In My Mouth?

Applebee’s Cheetos Wings & Mountain Dew Dark Berry Blast

A quick trip down to the neighborhood bar and grill for a couple exclusives. The Cheetos Wings come in regular and flamin’ hot. Once again, we use the word “wing” to mean breaded chicken pieces. The flavor is all in the dusting of crunchy topping. That accomplishes the flavoring and leaving you the experience of some finger dust when you are done. The regular flavor is mild and didn’t offend or impress. I should have gone with the flamin’ hot. The exclusive Dark Berry Blast from Mountain Dew is a combination of dark raspberry and blackberry flavors and would be perfect with a whiskey or vodka. Worth a trip to your local eatery? Probably not a planned one.

Sweet Chaos: Cold Stone Cake Batter Drizzled Popcorn

The lesson of the past couple offerings is that it’s hard to really mess up popcorn as a snack. Unlike potato chips where you can’t really separate out the flavoring, with popcorn you have a base of salty popcorn and the rest is just on top of the snack. This tastes at first like a very rich kettle corn. It’s a good salty popcorn and the candy drizzle is supposed to have the cake batter flavor. It was much more like a candy sugar glaze – like the sprinkles on a cupcake. Overall, a good sweet snack that doesn’t lean too far into the candy realm.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: Peanut Brittle

If this was Reese’s Peanut Brittle, I think I would have been more excited. I’m a fan of most forms of brittle and the holiday season is the best time for those little tins of brittle. The holiday release of peanut-brittle-flavored peanut butter cups comes in miniatures, King Sized and Big Cups. I wonder if I should have gotten a bigger size to sample. The smell and taste is not that different from kettle corn. There’s a bit of salty peanut aftertaste. But what I love about brittle and what I’m really missing here is the crunchy. It’s just not crunchy enough. I will finish the bag easy enough but my anticipation wasn’t fulfilled. Gimme more crunch.

“Somewhere in this world, the one you waited for
Come along and find you, turn the key in your door.” – John Mayall

Stay Hard.  

Shawn Bourdo

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