There was a time when the playground was my daughter’s entire life. We would have to spend good chunks of our weekends there plus any slab of weekday daylight leftover when I picked her up from daycare.
Sometimes she’d rope me into being a customer in an imaginary store she set up underneath the shaky bridge or I’d have to be a passenger in the giant train she pretended the entire playground to be. Sometimes I had to be Venom to her Spiderman and chase her around while she shot make-believe webs at me. Sometimes she’d insert herself in a group of other kids and she would run around with them in that manic headless-chicken gallop that suffices for entertainment at that age.
Continuing the fabled tradition begun all the way back in 2009, Scratchbomb presents Holiday Horrors and Holiday Triumphs: an advent calendar of some of the more hideous aspects of this most stressful time of year–with a few bits of awesomeness sprinkled in.
Yesterday, in my post about the puke-tacular He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special, I wrote about how you shouldn’t let nostalgia cloud your judgment about the true quality of beloved items from your childhood. There is no such danger with today’s Holiday Horror, because even in my less discriminating youth, I knew it was garbage.
Like many folks of my generation, I loved Nintendo. Scratch that, I didn’t just love Nintendo, I believed in Nintendo. If I added up all the hours I spent playing it as a kid–assuming there are machines powerful enough to make such calculations–I would probably have to kill myself once I learned how much time I wasted.
One of the main tenets of Nintendoism holds that Mario is awesome, no matter what he does. Therefore, when a cartoon show debuted called The Super Mario Brothers Super Show, naturally I had to watch it. I eagerly anticipated its arrival, but once I actually watched the thing, I felt that horrible Kid Feeling of being gypped by adults. This show was nothing short of an unmitigated disaster.
My first tip-off should have been the fact that it was called The Super Mario Brothers Super Show. In retrospect, that is a painfully stupid name, and indicates the amount of care and thought that went into the whole enterprise.
Do you remember another Nintendo-themed cartoon called Captain N? That was pretty awful (except for the choice to make Mother Brain sound like Little Richard, which was insane). But compared to The Super Mario Brothers Super Show, Captain N was The Wire.
It would’ve been bad enough just as a cartoon. The animation was terrible, and the plots about as threadbare as you might expect from a show based on a video game. Its only redeeming feature–if it can be called that–was that the music and many of the sound effects were taken from the real Mario games. Such a minor detail being its best feature–one that might be noticeable to only the fanniest of fanboys–should indicate how bad the rest of it is.
But the show wasn’t just a cartoon. For some reason, there were also live action sequences with the Mario Brothers engaging in sub-Bowery Boys-level comedy, on sets that make Steampipe Alley look like Barry Lyndon. And in case you thought anyone involved would escape with any dignity, the producers added a laugh track that ironically punctuates just how unfunny the whole thing is.
Mario himself was played by legendary wrestling figure Capt. Lou Albano, who was a ubiquitous figure in the 1980s thanks to his contributions to rubber-band-based fashion. He was not, however, a very good actor. Then again, Laurence Olivier couldn’t have done anything with this material. (Although I wish he would’ve tried; it would’ve resulted in a hilariously scenery-chewing Jazz Singer-esque performance.)
Like every other cartoon ever made, The Super Mario Brothers Super Show had a special Christmas episode, “Koopa Claus”. Truth be told, this installment is not any worse than any other. But all those other episodes didn’t try to drag down the Yuletide with it, so this one gets an extra large lump of coal in its stocking.
After a title sequence “rap” so cringe-worthy it will make your teeth hurt, the Mario Brothers’ enjoyment of boxing is interrupted by a kid with a suitcase (who I’m pretty sure is the youngest kid from Family Ties who aged five years in one off-season). He wants to run away from home because his parents don’t love him anymore. Being responsible Italian stereotypes, the Mario Brothers try to talk this wayward child off the fence while their cartoon unfolds.
What happens in the cartoon? Does it matter? Even if you’ve never seen it, you could probably relate what happens just as well as I. The Mario Brothers, The Princess, and Toad wind up near the North Pole just as King Koopa kidnaps Santa and tries to ruin Christmas. Like every other villain ever, he hates Christmas, presents, and goodness of all kinds, and he keeps saying “Bah, Koop-bug” as if this makes any goddamn sense whatsoever.
Enemies from the games try to defeat the Mario Brothers, to no avail, and King Koopa’s evil plans are thwarted by the power of Christmas spirit. When you subtract the live action segments, the cartoon probably clocks in at 12 minutes, and yet it feels like nine years have passed. While waiting for this garbage to end, I swear I grew a beard.
With that unpleasantness over, we return to the hilarious live action antics of the Mario Brothers, which include a flashback to Mario and Luigi’s feckless youth, when they wore propeller beanies and didn’t want to help their mother peel garlic. Only color film and an audible soundtrack tell you that this wasn’t produced in 1917. You would not be the least surprised to see a Keystone Kop hit a huge fat lady with a cream pie.
Stick around for the end credits to learn how to do The Mario. If you can’t wait that long, here’s how: Swing your arms from side to side, then step once, and then again. That’s it. Words can not express how truly uncomfortable this song made me as a kid. It made me feel bad for whoever was involved in writing it, performing it, and, in a small way, for the entire human race.
If you love Mario, download the old games for your Wii. Do not watch this Christmas special, or any other episode of The Super Mario Brothers Super Show. It does not even qualify for so-bad-it’s-good status, and the live action segments are so old timey and weirdly racist against Italians, I think they were written by vaudevillian Klansmen.
Continuing my pointless quest to digitize every 80s ad I possess, I present this latest collection of commercials from The Vast and Dusty Scratchbomb VHS Archives. The latest batch comes from a tape with material recorded right around Halloween, 1985. Why am I presenting Halloween materials when we’re so close to Christmas? Because many of these ads have holiday relevance. And because I lump Halloween into that Drive To XMas Season. And because SHUT UP IT’S MY STUPID SITE OKAY?!
This first ad definitely has Christmas significance. In it, Alex Karras (aka Webster’s dad) informs parents that they better rush down to their local toy store NOW if they want to get some decent Transformers for the kiddies come December 25. This ad aired very close to Halloween, meaning there were at least seven weeks left until The Big Day. Just in case you thought retailers jumping the gun was a recent phenomenon.
It also features Webster’s dad lip syncing to “robots in disguise”, thus putting it in my top 10 favoritest ads ever.