This is the first film to consciously rack and lose focus for effect, in this instance the introduction of a break in perceived reality. Quite funny!
Episode Cast: Andrea Byrne, Amyas Godfrey, Abby Hagyard, Vanessa Lindores, Doug Ptolemy, Adam Reid
Running Time: 25 Minutes
Number of Sketches: 28
Number of Studio Segments: 7
Average Scene Length: 42.8 Seconds
The show always started with a cold open that usually riffed on a real TV show and claims that said program is what You Can’t Do That on Television (YCDTOTV), is pre-empting.
“The Huxtables put their kids up for adoption will not be seen today…”
One of the standard bits in this show is having one of the cast members, who rotated over time, standing before an (O.S.) firing squad. This execution was always set in some vaguely Hispanic country based on the Captán’s (Les Lye) accent.
The set-up is the kid would try to outsmart the executioners and either get their capitán shot and the kid off the hook. Here Adam (Adam Reid, all the kids essentially played themselves) claimed he couldn’t be shot because he had been put up for adoption. This is one of the instances wherein the ruse did not work. The firing squad adopted him and the order to fire is undeterred.
Firing squad – “I’m an orphan.” “We know that.” “A rich orphan.” “Shoot him.”
Opening Title Sequence
The second version of the intro was the one I was more familiar with:
And the prior, plus the second with a weird theme I never heard:
Rather Monty Python-esque n’est-ce pas?
Adam talks to Doug (Doug Ptolmey), who didn’t want to be at Summer Camp but it was that or adoption. The Camp Director (Les Lye) adopted him. The scene ends with them being out to skinny dip in leech-infested waters.
These brief interludes serve a few functions: firstly, and most notably in this episode they set the tone. Now, if one were to watch this show enough they would see that these kind of silly, outlandish gags; such that the humor is merely exaggerated rather than dark or existential; are commonplace. The difference in this episode, in what makes it my favorite, is that it takes its own brand of humor on to a topic most would not: you guessed it, adoption.
The titles of YCDTOTV episodes typically denote what the topic du jour would be. However, with this show’s infamy of certain episodes; as Nickelodeon aired this episode but once legend has it (which I saw), in that airing there was an edit; and there were such complaints that it never aired again, with it being the far less politically correct 1980s, with all this taken into consideration – even having seen this episode a few times – I forgot this episode did feature a disclaimer in its introductory studio segment.
In this episode the studio segments began with Adam Reid and Vanessa Lindfores and they stated the following this episode was “written, directed, produced, and performed by people who have no idea about adoption, and of course, haven’t bothered to find out,” this is acknowledged as par for the course for this show, TV in general, and they debate if it matters, Vanessa thinks it does and acknowledges that “some kids watching might be adopted.”
The cue card man (Les Lye) tries to stop them giving away trade secrets. They then apologize in advance, say “you know this is all meant in fun,” and “you have to have a good sense of humor to watch this show.”
Seeing this episode not only as a child, a still-rebellious young adult, and now father via adoption, I still appreciate it. Aside from the delay in beginning the introductory segment (it begins at 2:02, which is not unusual for the show).
Having said that I would show other episodes to my adopted son if I thought it might enjoy it, but it should be noted fewer jokes than one would expect border on even the realities of the fears of adopted children, seeing as how a lot of the gags deal with either a) the antiquated adopting orphans paradigm, whereas now nearly all adoptions occur through the foster care system, or b) the threat of being put up for adoption used in ultimatums and punishments.
#2 The Running Gag
It was not unusual for the studio segments to be threaded together by one running gag. In this segment Doug Ptolmey joins Adam and Vanessa. The suggestion that they might be brother and sister is mentioned and they bicker more about the possibility that they might be adopted.
#3 Introduction to the the Opposites
The opposite sketches were a bloc in every episode where a perception the opposite of reality would be presented based on the topic du jour. It would start in studio with a confusing bit of dialogue “Wouldn’t it be great if Vanessa and Doug were brother and sister?” Those in the studio would then say “This must be the introduction to the opposites!” There would be a vertical flip of the image as a transition, and the sketches would proceed. How this was handled in this episode will be featured later.
#4 Out of the Opposites
Doug proposes marriage to Vanessa before flip out of the Opposites. Hilarity ensues.
#5 Apparent Defeat of the Running Gag
Adam, Vanessa and Doug engage in another brother and sister conversation. “I’d die,” Vanessa says and Vanessa gets upset. Vanessa’s apparent defeat is conceding she may be Doug’s sister, this structure for the studio story applies to this episode, I’ve not tested it against other episodes.
#6 Slime and Water
One of YCDTOTV’s, and by association, Nickelodeon’s, signatures became green slime. These were prompted on this show by saying “I don’t know,” saying “water” lead to water being dumped on your head. This was always a feature of the show that just became a given that you knew. It’s not dissimilar to the secret word on Pee Wee’s Playhouse. One pedagogic use this has is it gets kids in suspense awaiting that surprise and thus paying close attention to the dialogue.
In this scene Vanessa calls her mom. Confirms she’s not Doug’s sister. The conversation causes her to say “I don’t know,” get slimed, which causes the phone to spark.
In this particular endcap to the studio segments Vanessa is on the phone telling a story about how story how she was born in Paris. She gets watered twice. Dough gets slimed.
It was not unusual for the show to “double-dip” in this fashion.
Amyas who do you think is in the burgers?
They all died.
The kids drop dead.
Barth was in the orphanage once, jokes about his parents. He worked there. Kids died of food poisoning.
This was another frequent set-up replete with Les Lye’s Groucho-like pediatrician.
Here one of the cast was playing a kid whom had just been put up for adoption and seeking comfort from his doctor, where there is none.
HOUSE – LIVING/DINING ROOM
Adam doesn’t want to eat his mother’s (Abby Hagyard) dinner. Little Orphan Amyas comes in to eat what she cooks. He is bribed into being adopted, and Adam is off to orphanage.
Sen. Prevort calls orphanage about Adam wants to give him back because he’s done what he had to do. “What do you mean adoption is forever? You get over here right now you damn bureaucrat!”
Aside from the use of the word damn, which reportedly was dumped from the Nick broadcast clearly this is the most problematic moment of the episode, inasmuch as it preys to humorous affect on the juvenile whimsy some adults treat adoption with and the adopted child’s worst fear: rejection.
TODAY’S CHILD – MOCK PSAs
The unique thread of this episode were the Mock PSAs created to lampoon news segments like the omnipresent Wednesday’s Child where local children are featured in hopes of increasing their chances of finding permanency. Clearly, on YCDTOTV these segments have a more acerbic and sarcastic slant.
The skits begin with a money-grubbing, insult-driven Vanessa.
Little Orphan Andrea makes her appearance in these as as well. She beats up the boys.
Amyas. Dissolve to get him and his sailor suit dirty.
Doug is advertised as reading Playboy, looking up girl’s skirts, and being a gross, typical boy. Since he’s a handful its advised that you can put him in cage, where you can keep “it.”
Todays child: Adam doesn’t stop talking . “And if you prefer we’ll cut Adam’s tongue out before you take him home.” This gag creates a great final image within skits for this episode.
In this other frequent setup Adam is chained up, Little Orphan Andrea comes in to beat up on him.
HOUSE – DINNER TABLE
At Dinner Dad starts off by saying “Your mother and I are complete idiots.” The kids are overjoyed to be adopted. Great vocabulary in this scene
Riffing on Today’s Kids we see two parents up for adoption.
Today’s Parents are Senator and Mrs. Prevort…
More on the Opposites later.
HOUSE – BEDROOM
As is common with fare tailored for younger audiences, many scenes are homebound in YCDTOTV. In an episode clearly many of them will revolve this locale. These scenes usually centered around three locations (i.e. sets) the dining room, the bedroom, and a façade representing the front door.
The first bedroom scene is:
HOUSE – BEDROOM
Amyas has a nightmare that his mother (Abby Hagyard) put him up for adoption. She wants him to clean your room. Then he welcomes adoption.
The second bedroom scene appears in the Opposites:
Mom (Abby Hagyard) and Dad (Les Lye) love that their adopted hellions are jumping about from bed to bed.
The final occurrence is a standard skit wherein Amyas dreamed I was adopted by a mother who let him do what he wants. He is mom’s nightmare.
This was a familiar setup which usually involved in copying an obscene number of pages out of the dictionary. Being a literal-minded child that always struck me as equal parts hilarious and horrifying.
There is one instance of this skit in this episode.
The principal (Les Lye) and Student (Doug Ptolmey) find out they are father and son. Principal adopts him. And as per usual there is further exaggeration with a kid chained up a dungeon-like technique toward the back of the room.
The library is frequent of equal fascination and revulsion to kids. The stereotypically stern librarian and fear of late fees had something to do with it.
In this episode the librarian (Abby Hagyard) scolds a student who is returning Little Orphan Andrea. It continues the running gag as Little Orphan Andrea comes out to wail on the student as a penalty.
HOUSE – EXTERIOR
Doug has been adopted and lives in a new home, he has been chained and put in the dog house to bark at intruders. The orphanage doesn’t charge anything at all for him they say gleefully, as opposed to a dog.
Of all the staples on this show, this was perhaps my favorite. There was more formula to these than all all other sketches but you really got used to the rhythm.
“Oh, (insert cast member name)!”
“Yes, (insert cast member name)!”
and so on and so forth.
Furthermore, in this particular episode it was the locker jokes that was the second attempt to address prior realities of adoption.
Among the things mentioned in these jokes were that: orphanages were mean, orphans are now protected (in the US and Canada anyway), and it ends on a serious note encouraging people to adopt a kid in a 3rd world country, in financial terms, which was a more common practice in the 1980s.
One running skit on YCDTOTV that also featured its fair share of humorous morbidity was the bus scenes featuring the character Snake Eyes (also Les Lye). Much like Barth, in which scenes ended in vomitus, presumed food poisoning, and perhaps death; the bus always crashed. Having only been on the bus a year, and sadly seeing more news items than I’d care to, the fear is quite real, sadly.
Snake Eyes reveals he was an orphan. He drove bus that killed his parents, after he tells this tale he gets into his daily accident.
Another traditional part of the show was a sign-off citing a faux production company, and riffing on the episodes theme, and then with Les Lye as a station Announcer complaining about the show on a hot mic.
“You Can’t Do That On Television has been an adopted production… All the kids on the show back to the orphanage.”
Essentially, when it comes to this particular episode, if it’s not for you due to the subject matter that’s one thing; but if it’s the style of humor you don’t jibe with then the show overall isn’t for you. It’s a fairly good litmus test for YCTOTV actually. This is the show at its most extreme, if you like it anyway you’ll want to look into seeing more.
You can catch it on the rare occasions when it is shown on TeenNick’s The Splat late-night programming bloc.
As you may know by some of my past posts, I am a bit of a Stephen King nut. Therefore, I am very excited and honored to announce that come June I will be co-hosting, along with Myron Schmidt of Ancient Slumber, a podcast entitled Guardians of the Beam, which concerns itself with Kings sprawling epic The Dark Tower that has repercussions throughout his literary universe.
With the first ever motion picture adaptation of the film coming from Warner Brothers in July, what better time to revisit this series that has fascinated Constant Readers, engendered a cult following, and of course been the writing quest of the man himself?
More information as the date approaches, but I hope you all enjoy it as much as we undoubtedly will.
Long days and pleasant nights.
Bernardo, The Tosspot of Calla Bryn Sturgis
One of the first examples of shot continuity. Start on train POV, when entering the tunnel cut inside, and then cut to the exit of the tunnel from a objective angle.
This was the first film ever banned (story below from Change Before Going Productions). Also noteworthy is that this is a compiled version of all the shorts, as the films were originally shot in parts.
The Dreyfus Affair (aka L’Affaire Dreyfus) is a multi-film narrative by Georges Méliès regarding the controversial political scandal surrounding Captain Alfred Dreyfus, convicted of Treason in 1894 France. After Emile Zola published his infamous letter, “J’Accuse”, which accused the government of anti-Semitism and unlawful jailing, Dreyfus was eventually re-tried. In 1906, he was exonerated and reinstated as a major in the French Army. This film, produced in the midst of the scandal, would become the 1st censored movie as it was banned in France.
I was invited to share some films of the 1987 vintage that I find to be underrated. Check it out here.
Just a quick preview of what you can expect coming up on The Movie Rat in the next month or so.
For the second time I will be contributing to A Shroud of Thoughts’ Favorite TV Show Episode Blogathon. Last year I wrote about my favorite episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. This year I will be contributing a post about an episode of You Can’t Do That on Television. My entry is already written and awaiting publication which will allow me to prepare for the following…
I joined Movie Silently’s Early Women Filmmakers blogathon writing about the career of Germaine Dulac. Leading up to this post I will likely have three short posts about her work.
Lastly, (for now) I also signed up for Speakeasy’s Great Villain Blogathon 2017. I will be writing about Frailty (2001), a film I’ve long been a fan of, and deserves a little more attention turned its way due in part to the far-too-soon demise of Bill Paxton, the director and one of the stars of the film. Plenty in mind for that one, so be sure and check it out.
I also write fiction. My February GoodReads blog entry on my works-in-progress can be found here. An update will be coming for march when there is a bit more to report. In the meantime, what I’ve written and published can be found on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Also, on my Instagram you can see some “behind-the-scenes” shots of my first painting unrelated to a film or a play in quite some time.
An early disaster film.
The V.I.P.s (1963)
This is a film that is pretty intriguing while its players are all fogbound in the airport and their disparate stories are interesting but when the story extends to a second day and incorporates another locale it loses steam and fast. I can’t say I guessed that this was a supporting actress win for Margaret Rutherford but it makes the most sense, however silly her character and plot-line were.
Oscar Nominations/Wins: 1/1
The Window (1949)
This film was not on Turner’s line-up this year. Instead I acquired it form the Warner Archive Collection. This film was out of print for sometime despite its brilliance and it being one of the rare films to win a young actor the Juvenile Award. Not only is it likely to be my favorite film of this month but it’s also one of the best films I’ve seen in quite some time. The set-up is simple: a boy who cries “wolf” once too often is witness to a murder and doubted at every plea for help and in danger because of it. If you didn’t know that this was based on a story by Cornell Woolrich you’d guess, it plays like a kids’ introduction to Rear Window and that’s not a wonder as the one of Hitch’s DPs (Ted Tetzlaff Notorious) directs here. Combine Woolrich brilliant story with a man who worked with the Master and you get something very close and a film so suspenseful you hope it’ll last. I’m not embarrassed to admit this film actually had me talking to the TV and shouting interjections at times that’s how into it I got. Yet all this is accomplished in a little over 70 minutes. It’s not a wonder this film also earned an editing nomination. Not a shot, not even a moment is wasted in this film. I’ve talked about this film more than most in this rundown and and I think you can see on and clearly I could go on. One could call many Academy decisions into question but Bobby Driscoll’s Juvenile Award is not one of them, not in the least. He is absolutely pitch perfect in this performance. It embodies all his abilities as a young performer yet all things are in service to the story it’s not a star vehicle per se.
Oscar Nominations/Wins: 1/0* (One academy award win for Bobby Driscoll as this film is cited for his Juvenile Award win).