Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Best Educational Shows for Kids

I think the title is pretty self explanatory. This list focuses on kid shows from the 80's and 90's that gave us a proper television education growing up.

5. Beakman's World (1992-1997)

What do you get when you combine a mad scientist, his energetic lab assistant, and a strange man in a filthy rat suit? Saturday morning gold, is what. The whole show was about these three weirdos hanging out in laboratory answering viewer's questions with zany experiments and demonstrations. While the questions they tackled covered a wide range of topics, I remember a lot were about gross biological questions (eg. Why do we have snot?).

For all the slime and farts there was a lot you could learn and it was really funny and entertaining. For kids it was a winning combination of craziness, humour, and facts. The only question they never answered was if Lester was supposed to be an overgrown lab rat, or just some creepy hobo in a costume.

4. OWL/TV (1985-1994)

Of course we need to get our Canadian content in here. I have to be honest, there was something about this show that was kind of strange. I don't know if it was the animated owl wearing sneakers, the shrinking children, the talking skeleton, or just the ugly 80's hair and clothes, but I just have weird memories of the show.

Anyway, much of the show focussed on kids learning about animals, human biology and nature (a Canadian show about Nature!? Surprise!) and participating in environmental projects. It was fun, engaging, and eye-opening. Plus as a bonus, it has a pretty catchy theme song.

3. Bill Nye the Science Guy (1993-1998)
If you couldn't guess, this is a science show.
It shared similarities with "Beakman's World", but it was on the slightly more mature side (meaning less rats and boogers). Each episode of the show was great at teaching a specific topic in an understandable and interesting way, using segments with elaborate props, experiments, parodies of famous songs, and more.

It used the fun Disney approach, but it never treated the viewer like an idiot. Bill Nye tells it like it is, in his own fast-paced and funny way. It's obvious the guy cares about science and spreading an appreciation for the subject. The show is smart enough to be used in classroom learning, and fun enough that you'd watch it at home too.

2. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (1991-1995)

A game show about geography might seem like a boring concept, but this was anything but boring. You got your contestants playing as detectives trying to catch an ambitious thief, tracking her and her goons around the globe and hunting for clues along the way. I really wanted to be on this show. Too many times I found myself yelling at the screen because some kid running around a giant map couldn't find Norway.

The show had interesting characters and, as Cole has pointed out, a wicked theme song. By having the players facing a common enemy it made a competitive game show more like a battle of good vs. evil. You were learning AND fighting injustice. I mean, that bitch stole the beans from Lima, people.

1. Sesame Street (1969- Present)

Is there really any need for me to explain why this is number one? Look at how long it's been on the air for crying out loud. The show, the characters, and lessons are hardwired into every child's brain. Sesame Street is the quintessential educational kid show; it lays the groundwork for early childhood learning.

But of course, Sesame Street is for every age group, because it presents basic concepts in clever and creative ways: skits, musical parodies, animated segments, celebrity appearances, and a main storyline.

Yes, this show introduced us to the upsetting and annoying, Elmo, but we can forgive that since every other character is awesome and memorable: Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Grover, Bert and Ernie, Kermit, to name a few. On Sesame Street kids saw that a large bird, a hairy mammoth, a trash monster, and humans could all get along and work together.

Not only did these colourful characters teach us how to count, spell, and sing, but they taught us important life lessons. To be independent, to solve problems, to treat everyone equally and fairly, to share, to cooperate, to care for each other and the earth. Because of this show millions of kids had a foundation of information to become smarter, better people, and that makes it the greatest educational show for kids ever.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Lighter Side of Friday the 13th

We all know the Friday the 13th films for the flagrant use of gore and teenage sex, but we can't ignore just how hilarious some moments can be in this horror franchise. This year, I thought it might be nice to highlight some of my favourite funny dialogue from the series.

5. "We love premarital sex!" - VR Teen Girl #1 and #2 (Kaye Penaflor and Tania Maro)

I personally consider Jason X to be one of the worst films in the Friday the 13th franchise. A lot of this film falls flat, but it has its moments. In a tongue-in-cheek scene meant to poke fun at the series as a whole, we are treated to probably one of the best moments in the film.

Jason, who has now become some kind of cybernetic super killer (ugh), is stalking the last of his would-be prey throughout a spaceship in the distant future (double ugh). In a last ditch effort to give themselves some time to escape, the remaining crew turn on a VR simulation of Crystal Lake as it would have been in the 80s.

Instantly the landscape changes to a picturesque sunset over the breathtaking Crystal Lake. As Jason turns to take it all in he sees two young, supposedly teenage girls standing scantily clad just a few feet away.

One has a beer in her hand and the other a joint. They then go into this hilarious exchange about how much they love to drink and smoke pot. Then they bust out about how much they love to have premarital sex and begin to strip off right there.

As funny as that is, it isn't the punch line. We cut back to the crew, frantically trying to use this time to their advantage and when we return to the VR scene, we see that Jason has stuffed the two girls into sleeping bags and is smashing them off some trees. This is a nice nod to Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, for those in the know.

It's just nice to see that the film wasn't taking itself too seriously (which it couldn't... I mean, future Jason in space, remember people?) and Todd Farmer, the writer of the film, threw in this cute little nod to the yesteryears of the series.

4. "Sit on it, Tonto!" - Officer Dorf (Ron Millkie)

This is one of those serendipitous moments in the Friday the 13th series that can never be planned or replicated. Ron Millkie, having known Sean Cunningham (director of Friday the 13th) early in his career, called Cunningham up to see if there was a part for him in the film. Having intended to play Officer Dorf himself, Cunningham passed the part on to Millkie and the rest is history.

Officer Dorf is one of those pumped up, over-confident, big men cops. When he gets a call to check out Camp Crystal Lake he makes sure to impose his presence over the youngsters there.

I believe this scene is mostly improvised by Millkie and the whole thing comes off as comedic gold. He plays this perfect cross between total jerk and benign dork. He starts off by asking the counsellors if they're smoking a plethora of drugs, trying to use their "lingo", and ensures to impress his authority on all the young people before speeding off into the wilderness.

One of the funniest parts is that Millkie had no idea how to ride a motorcycle, so when he attempts to start it up before leaving he just looks so stupid, it adds to the dorkiness of the Officer Dorf character. A stunt double from the local Sheriff's department had to be hired to drive the motorcycle away for the rest of the shot.

3. "God, I'm horny." - Jim (Crispin Glover)

In what could be argued to be the best film in the series, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, we are treated to two amazing characters by the names of Teddy and Jim. In a pack of good-looking teenagers, Teddy and Jim instantly stand out as lovable dorks. They have several funny conversations in the film, but my favourite is when we're first introduced to the duo in their car ride to Crystal Lake.

Sitting in the back of the packed station wagon, Jim is pouring his soul out to his best friend Teddy about his girlfriend, Betty, dumping him. Ted makes sure to crunch the numbers as to why ol' Jimbo might have lost his girl into his trusty imaginary computer. The result: Jim is a "dead fuck".

I found the dialogue between these two to actually be well written, which is certainly not a staple of the series. But best of all was their camaraderie. You actually feel like this is two best friends giving each other shit. I can't say that for the rest of the group. They almost seem like strangers, but not Teddy and Jim.

To make any of the scenes between these two characters even better, Jim is played by Crispin Glover. To say he's a strange person would be an understatement. Glover is known to often improvise his scenes and add stuff into them that is completely inexplicable (i.e. the dancing scene later in the film). After he and Teddy talk about Jim's problems, leaving Jim feeling completely demoralized and less of a man, he quietly utters into his own hands, "God, I'm horny."

I lose it laughing every single time he does that.

2. "Those damn enchiladas!" - Demon (Miguel A. Nunez, Jr.)

These last two entries are actually from the same film, Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning. The dark horse of the Friday franchise, Part V is a new take on the mythos of the films that most people either love or hate.

I happen to love this movie.

It's actually a pretty extreme movie that has a lot of everything. It has boobs, blood and a twist ending. One thing it certainly doesn't lack in is comedy.

In this scene we see Reggie (the Wreckless) meeting his brother Demon in a trailer park, where Demon is staying with his new girlfriend. Of course as soon as you see these two you know that the only reason for them to have met up with Reggie was so that they could be offed in horrible fashion later in the film.

Once Reggie hits the road Demon chills out with a nice joint and some Mexican food to relax for the evening (because eating Mexican while sleeping within the confines of a van is a great idea). Suddenly he leaps up from the back of van and screeches for the bathroom screaming, "Those daaaamn enchiladas!"

After you've had a good laugh at that line, you're treated to one of the most inexplicable scenes in the series. His girlfriend shows up to scare him by shaking the shithouse he's in. Demon then drops the manly line, "You're gonna get it, bitch!" Once the two have settled down, they decide that this is an opportune time to sing love songs to one another.

This is, of course, capped off by Jason having his way with the two of them, but up until then the scene is just too strange to believe, and has me in stitches every time I watch the movie.

1. "Holy shit! Who the fuck are you and what the fuck do you want?" - Ethel (Carol Locatell)

As funny as the stuff with Demon is, it doesn't hold a candle to any of the scenes that include Ethel and Junior Hubbard. Ethel and Junior are town legends for their crazy, red-necked antics. I can't possibly choose just one scene that they're in to highlight in this list, so you'll just have to go watch the movie and see it all for yourself.

One of my favourite lines, though, does come from Ethel when she meets up with a drifter looking for a bed and a hot meal. She is startled by the man at her step and screams out, "Holy shit! Who the fuck are you and what the fuck do you want!?" The shocked look on her face coupled with multiple f-bombs from this diminutive woman totally land the line

As she relays what just happened to her to half-witted son, Junior, the two have a hilarious back and forth, in which Ethel proceeds to call her son a "big dildo" and force feeds the man her "stew". Having watched this movie many times, my best estimates are that this stew includes copious amounts of water, some kind of green garnish, tomatoes, whole chicken parts and chunks of carrots. Whatever the case, Junior can't heave the stuff into his gullet fast enough.

Every single scene that Ethel is in, she steals, but Junior plays a great prop for her antics and the two make what I consider to be the best comedy pairing of the entire series, bar none.

Now that I've talked about all these great (and not-so-great) movies, why don't you go out and watch a few! Happy Friday the 13th!