Things They Didn’t Tell You on I Love the ’80s
VH1’s I Love the ’80s series, a ten-part tribute to that decade that brought us Run-DMC and Boy George, premiered last month and performed extremely well in the ratings for the basic-cable channel. It seems to have been a preamble to that which I both dread and welcome as due: An ’80s revival.
The ’80s, I am told, are coming back. I have already seen two reports on two different TV shows that say this is the coming trend for 2003. On one of those reports, someone was asked why they thought there was a wave (an old wave, I suppose) of ’80s nostalgia washing up on the beach. She replied that it was longing for a more innocent, simpler time. I almost choked, coughing up my New Coke. Innocent? Simpler?
The decade of an actor playing the president and married to his stage manager, the decade that saw the tabloid-ization not only of talk shows but of politics? The decade when being qualified ceased to be a qualification for Vice-President of the United States? The decade that finally insured that Michael Jackson would never be able to regain his sanity? The decade when we had an attorney general who believed Scrooge was better off before the visitation by the three ghosts and that all suspects are presumed guilty? The decade when a Lt. Col. in the Marines lied to the whole country, and got away with it, the decade when ketchup was declared a vegetable?
That decade? Innocent. Simpler.
Still, as I say, I alternately welcome and dread the idea of a “New new wave.” Welcome because I do love the ’80s, especially the pop. Not because I’m being clever or ironic, but because I really love it and think the early-to-mid-’80s is an underrated period in music history, primarily because most of those who have done the rating are old hippies who can’t see the songs for the synths.
Dread because I take ’80s pop culture seriously, and don’t relish a lot of dilettantes making kitschy fun of it while scoring points on the decade with their “Can you believe we were ever this stupid?” attitudes.
Fortunately, I Love the ’80s was actually wicked awesome good fun. It was clearly assembled by, with and for people like me. However, even in ten parts, there are some things they had to leave out. With that in mind, I give you…
Top Ten Things They Didn’t Tell You on I Love the ’80s:
10: Teddy Ruxpin was a tool of the devil (to be fair, they did mention this. But it, really, really needs to be emphasized).
9: ALF was funny. The family they put around him was not. That is why he is still working now and most of them are not.
8: Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “I’ll be back” in every single movie he made in the ’80s (okay, most of them — don’t make me go back and check)
7: Of course, Huey Lewis famously sued Ray Parker, Jr for his Ghostbusters theme’s remarkable resemblance to Lewis’ “I Want a New Drug.” But what’s less well known is that M could have sued them both — and did in fact file a separate suit against Parker — for helping themselves to his “Pop Muzik.”
6: This one is not so much something they did not tell you, as something I want to tell you. The next time someone starts giving you shit about how lightweight the ’80s pop stars were compared to the grungy ’90s, look them right in the eye and say “’80s: Live Aid. ’90s: McWoodstocks ’94 and ’99. Next question.”
5: Vanna White. Can you believe we were ever that crazy about this woman? I can’t remember who said this first, but if she had just said, “Hey, I get paid a lot of money to wear pretty dresses and turn letters. What am I, stupid?” She would have been a lot less insufferable. Unfortunately, she used to pretend what she did was actually hard work. Or work of any kind.
4: I Love the ’80s did cover Queen’s big hit “Another One Bites the Dust” and The Sugarhill Gang’s breakthrough “Rappers Delight.” What they didn’t mention is that the former was either influenced by or completely ripped off from (depending on how generous you want to be) “Good Times” by Chic. The latter just sampled it. (and “Promises, Promises” by Naked Eyes pinched the guitar riff, while I’m at it).
3: In the segment on Pretty In Pink, many of the celebrity women interviewed for the series proclaimed that if they had been in Molly Ringwald’s shoes, they would have ended up with Duckie at the prom and not preppy snot Andrew McCarthy. What they don’t mention is that this is exactly how the film was originally supposed to end, but was changed due to a combination of audience testing and Molly Ringwald’s insistence (so they say).
2: I’m a teensy bit tired of the fact that nobody can seem to mention Tom Hanks’ sitcom days on Bosom Buddies without taking shots at his co-star, Peter Scolari, and I Love the ’80s was unfortunately no exception. So I feel compelled to point out: No, Scolari didn’t go on to have Hanks’ career, but so what? 97-98% of the actors in America if not the world aren’t having Tom Hanks’ career. Scolari finished out the decade with a perfectly respectable supporting role on Newhart, a critical and popular success, and now has a nice line in quest-star parts. And what have you done lately?
1.: This is the big one. The movie WarGames literally changed, and may indeed have helped save, the world. Honest to God. I quote from Ronald Reagan, by Lou Cannon:
“Early in [Reagan’s] administration he saw the film WarGames, in which a teenage computer whiz accidentally accesses the computers of the North Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and almost starts World War III. This was a movie, to be sure, but when Reagan asked experts about it, he was told that the notion of accidental war was not far-fetched. In fact, though no one wanted to talk about it, both sides knew of incidents where miscalculations had brought the world perilously close to a nuclear exchange. Reagan concluded that if the United States and Soviet Union stayed on hair-trigger missile alert into perpetuity, the possibility of an accidental war was not at all remote.”
From that moment, Reagan saw it as his duty to avert nuclear war, and this is what accounts, in part, for his overtures to the soviets and Mr. Gorbachev later in the decade.
All because he liked WarGames. Thank God he didn’t see Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (which was Dan Quayle’s favorite film, but that’s another story).