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Friday, September 30, 2011

TGIF - Gimme A Break!

It's hard to believe that we are at the end of September already, isn't it? Only a few weeks ago, the hot sun was shining down and people were at the beach sucking back ice cold sodas and walking around in bathing suits. Now as I look outside my window, the leaves on the trees are changing colour, and the temperature is dropping one degree at a time. It's funny how time flies.

I think that is mainly why I started up this blog, and why I chose to make the main subject on pop culture. Pop culture trends are always constantly changing and it's hard to keep up with what is in and what is out. By talking about the trends of the past, present, and future, I want to open this blog up to a wider audience, and I hope that most of you can see that I'm trying to open this blog up more to talk about shows, movies, and songs from all eras. As we approach October and Halloween, I have some spooky entries coming up from all different eras, and it is my hope that you will all take something from at least one of the October entries.

But before we get into October, we have to wrap up September.

Have you ever had days where you feel as though everybody and everyone is on your case at every turn? Days where you feel as though you have a hundred and twenty different things to do and only twenty-four hours a day to get them all done? Days where you are so stressed out that you aren't sure of what to do next?

Days where you just want to cry out 'GIMME A BREAK!!!'

I'm sure we all have had those days. I know there are instances in which I have had lots of days where I wish that people would have given me a well-deserved break. We all have them.

Certainly in the NBC sitcom Gimme A Break (which ran from 1981-1987), Nellie Ruth Harper (played by the late Nell Carter) definitely had moments in which she wanted a break. With good reason too. If you had to move into the Kanisky household as the housekeeper to a police chief and his three teenage daughters, it would probably make you a little bit crazy as well. I know it certainly would me if I were in that situation.

The thing is that Nell genuinely enjoyed taking care of the chief and his girls. And the reason Nell took on the job as housekeeper was as a favour to the chief's late wife, Margaret. Margaret and Nell were friends during the time that she was alive, and before she died, she made Nell promise to look after her husband and their children. Nell said that she would, and when Margaret passed away, Nell moved into the family household in Glenlawn, California.

Gimme A Break managed to attract a few celebrity guests during its six season run. Notable celebrities that appeared on the program included Pat Sajak, Whitney Houston, Ray Parker Jr, Andy Gibb, and Sammy Davis Jr, amongst others. And while the show never managed to get past the top thirty in the Neilsen ratings, the show still garnered enough interest from viewers to stay on the air.

Over the years, more cast members would come and go, and by the end of the series, Nell Carter was the only cast member to last the entire run of the series. Other cast members over the years included Telma Hopkins, Rosetta LeNoire, John Hoyt, Rosie O'Donnell, Jonathan Silverman, and Joey and Matthew Lawrence. So, as you can see, Gimme A Break really ended up being the big breakout show for many of these stars, in particular with O'Donnell, Silverman, and the Lawrence brothers.

Gimme A Break also had some behind the scenes drama associated with it as well. It was widely reported that upon Rosie O'Donnell joining the cast of the show in its final season that O'Donnell and Carter did not get along. According to O'Donnell, Nell wasn't overly friendly with her, and rather than call her by her real name, called her 'Maggie', which was the name of the character she played on the show. In Carter's defense, she claimed to have had done this with all the actors who were on the show as a way to help Joey and Matthew Lawrence (who at the time were ten and six) focus on their lines and give better performances. O'Donnell later told an interviewer that while initially excited to be a part of a big named show like Gimme A Break, she soon grew disappointed, as she felt snubbed by most of the cast that was there.

There was also some controversy at the beginning of the show's run when reports of the stormy, friction-filled relationship between Nell Carter and the original producers of the show came to light. The show's original producers (Coleman Mitchell and Geoffrey Neigher) clashed with Carter over creative differences and personality conflicts. Things had gotten so strained that by the beginning of the third season, Mitchell and Neigher were dismissed from the show as a result of this. For the next few months, Mort Lachman (who had co-created the sitcom) served as co-producer until the team of Rod Parker and Hal Cooper were brought in to serve as producers for the rest of the show's run. This was a team that Carter firmly stood behind, and because she and the team of Parker and Cooper saw eye to eye more often than she had with the previous team, it helped Nell reach the decision to stay on with the series.

Now that you know a little bit about the history of the program, let's meet the characters of Gimme A Break (or at least the ones that were heavily featured).

Clearly, Nell Carter was the star of the show, having been the only character to stay on the show's full six season run. Her character Nell Harper was an interesting sort of character in itself. Born in the state of Alabama, Nell had aspirations of becoming a singer. She ran away from home at eighteen to pursue her dream, and it is on that pursuit that she meets Margaret Kanisky. In the episode 'Flashback', it is shown that Nell meets Margaret in 1974, after Margaret catches her act. It is explained that Nell ends up quitting a job because her boss tries to hit on her, and feeling sympathy for the woman, Margaret takes her into her home to meet the family. Of course, once Nell meets Margaret's husband, Carl, there is an immediate dislike between Carl and Nell, and after a few days, grows sick of Nell being there, as she doesn't have a job. Eventually, Nell ends up getting a job in Bakersfield, California but before she can go, Margaret reveals to Nell that she is dying of cancer, and asks Nell if she would stay behind to look after Carl and the girls. Margaret feels terrible for even asking Nell of this request, but knows that Nell would take good care of her family. Nell eventually honours Margaret's last request, and the rest is history.

Nell is best described as being a sassy, sarcastic, sharp-tongued woman when the need arises, and usually saves some of her best comebacks and barbs towards Carl. She is also a kind, gentle, loving woman though who would do anything to help Carl and Margaret's daughters get through boy troubles, school troubles, medical emergencies, and much more. In 1983, Nell became a foster mother to Joey Donovan, and in 1986, Joey's brother Matthew would become Nell's second foster child. So clearly, Nell's maternal instincts kicked in, even though Nell herself never had children of her own.

One of the running gags of Gimme A Break was Nell's attempts to lose weight. A heavier woman, Carl would often make jokes about Nell's size at Nell's expense, but to Nell's credit, she often gave it as good as he could give it. In some early episodes, Nell became a member of a weight-loss group called PORKO'S, and while she had some success and some failures along the way, Nell never let what other people said about her get to her. She actually had one of the best self-images and self-perception out of all the cast members of the show, which was pretty cool to see upon retrospect.

It is here that we meet our next cast member. Carl Kanisky, portrayed by Dolph Sweet. One thing you could say about Carl Kanisky is that he had a tough, no-nonsense exterior. This worked fine for the police station, where he was employed as a police chief. It didn't exactly work well for the home, especially one with three teenage daughters. One might say that Carl Kanisky was a little bit too rough with his daughters when it came to disciplining them. When his daughter Katie was caught shoplifting in the pilot episode and she sassed him back, he slapped her in the face. When Julie took up smoking and Carl found out, he slapped her. As for Samantha, I don't think he ever slapped her, but he certainly threatened to spank his girls a few times, such as in this clip from the first season of the show.

The only thing I can say was that it was the early 1980s and back in those days, television programs could get away with airing things that they probably couldn't get away with now thanks to political correctness.

But even though Carl had a tough exterior, he was often soft on the inside. He immediately felt terrible after punishing his daughters, and although he never really showed much affection towards Nell, he really did appreciate having her there deep down. Although it takes him some time to accept, he welcomes Joey into the Kanisky family with open arms.

Sadly, Dolph Sweet was diagnosed with cancer during the fourth season of Gimme A Break. Despite the fact that the cancer was wreaking havoc on his body, Dolph wanted to work as much as possible to get his mind off of the treatments that he was experiencing. He passed away on May 8, 1985, just three days before his final Gimme A Break episode aired. At the beginning of season five, the first episode addressed Dolph's death by killing off the character of Carl Kanisky, setting the stage for the revamping of the whole series just one year later.

The Kanisky kids were all different in personalities and character traits, but they all loved Nell, and in many ways were all the apples of their father's eyes. All three of them were mostly gone by the show's final season, but they made an impression on the seasons they were on.

We'll start with Kathleen Kanisky (Kari Michaelsen), who went by Katie. Katie's first appearance on the show wasn't all that great, as she had been caught shoplifting. Katie was the eldest of the three Kanisky girls, but she wasn't exactly the brightest penny in the fountain. She did enough work at school to get by, and she seemed more concerned with how she looked, rather than making a difference in the world. She opted not to go to college and opened up a boutique called 'Katie's Korner'. When the boutique closed up shop, Katie took a job in San Francisco and left the series in 1986.

Next comes Julie Kanisky (Lauri Hendler), who could be considered the polar opposite of Katie. Where Katie took great time and effort in making herself look beautful, Julie was content with her plain Jane bookish appearance. Where Katie wasn't all that interested in schoolwork, Julie was very intelligent and got really good grades. Where Katie was a hit with the boys, Julie sometimes struggled to get a date, and well, you get the idea. Therefore, it's interesting to note that Julie was the first of the Kanisky girls to get married, and have a child (whom she named Nell). Julie also left the series in 1986.

The youngest Kanisky daughter was Samantha (who liked to be called Sam). Sam (Lara Jill Miller) started off on the series as a tomboy type who loved playing sports and doing all the things that boys liked to do. As she matured, she grew into becoming a boy-crazy teenager. She was the only Kanisky daughter to stay on during season six, albeit in a recurring role rather than contract.

Samantha was involved in some of the most controversial storylines that Gimme A Break had ever done. One particular episode that starred Samantha dealt with the subject of race. It was an episode that was so shocking that it ranked #38 on TV Land's 100 Most Unexpected Moments list. The episode in question was one titled 'Baby Of The Family' which aired in December 1984. In the episode, Samantha is incredibly angry with Nell because she wouldn't let her go on an unchaperoned camping trip where boys would be present, and also because she feels that Nell favours Joey more than her. So when Joey is asked by Nell's church to sing in front of the congregation, Samantha decides to get even by tricking Joey into painting his face black for the concert. When Joey performs for the church with the face paint on, everyone is offended, and when Nell finds out the reason, the showdown between Nell and Samantha is not to be missed. In fact, you can view the episode by clicking here and here to see what I mean.

I should warn you though...the episode does contain a rather direct racial slur.  The only reason I posted the video is because the word is uttered to prove a point in the episode, but I figure that you should know that it is present before you click on the links in question.  You have been warned.  Again, let's just say that television (especially sitcoms) could get away with more back in the 1980s than it can nowadays.

Finally, we can't really end this note off without talking about the foster children that Nell took on responsibility for. Joey Donovan (Joey Lawrence) initially came onto the show as a seven year old boy con artist (who was raising money to see his uncle in Chicago). Nell decided to take Joey on as a foster child, and Joey ends up becoming an honorary member of the Kanisky family. There are some moments in which Nell is forced to say goodbye to Joey (especially when his father comes by with his little brother Matthew to take him back). But when Joey and Matthew's father admits that he cannot handle taking care of the two boys, Nell becomes their legal guardian, and the two boys stay with Nell when Nell relocates to New York during season six.

There are several life lessons that we can learn from Gimme A Break.

We have learned that sometimes keeping a promise to a friend can be quite rewarding in the long run.

We have learned that sometimes if your heart is big enough, you can really become a good influence to someone you never thought you would (as in the case with Nell being there for Matthew and Joey).

We have learned that sometimes the brainy girls CAN get everything they want.

Most importantly, I think the one lesson that Gimme A Break can teach us is that it doesn't matter what colour your skin is, or what size you are, or what economic background you have, or whether you have two different coloured eyes. Nell Harper showed that she had love for everybody. She may not have always shown it in the most gentle or appropriate ways (which could also be said for Chief Kanisky), but it was there. And, really, as long as you have love, isn't that the most important thing?

And so ends September. Stay tuned for October!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday Night At The Arcade: FarmVille

I can only imagine that the occupation of farming is one that can be both rewarding and exhausting at the same time.

While I've never really known anybody who has owned a farm, or even worked on a farm, I can appreciate the effort that they must put in on any given day. Spending long hours tending to their fruit trees and vegetable gardens, hoping that this year's crops are more bountiful than the year before. Working long hours feeding chickens, cows, and horses to make sure that they keep working. Spreading fertilizer and black earth all over the fields in the hot sun to keep your plants growing and nourished.

Still, a lot of people out there in this world, they don't seem to have the same appreciation for farming and agriculture that I do. Many of them would have the opinion that farming is one of the dullest occupations that one can ever take part in. Of course, what some of these people don't seem to realize is that if we didn't have farming, our produce sections in grocery stores would look a little empty, but that is a different argument altogether.

A few people I have talked to have said that they would probably not last one whole day doing farming and agricultural tasks. They see it as way too much work and not enough play. A few of them have even said that farming seems boring to them. A couple of them would rather play video games or computer games.

But making a video game about farming? That's crazy talk, right? Right?

Enter social networking site Facebook and computer gaming company Zynga.

I'm sure that most of you reading this blog has at least one Facebook account. Don't be afraid to admit it. I use a Facebook page myself, and actually have a fan page for the Pop Culture Addict's Guide To Life (and while we're thinking of it, please like the page, because I post links to up to date entries there, and because I can promote my blog ON my blog. Thanks).

Okay, now that the shameless self-promotion period is over, I can continue.

Certainly, Facebook is one of the largest social networks online today despite all of the changes that people are having a huge difficulty keeping up with (or liking), and one of the reasons why it has grown so much is because of the millions of game applications that pop up each day. It's true what they say about being anything that you want to be on Facebook. You can have the opportunity to play simulated games that let you be whoever you want to be. If you want to be a crime scene investigator, there's a Facebook game based on the popular CSI show that will allow you to do this. If you always wanted to own a restaurant but are unable to get the loan to start one up, you can always go to Cafe World. And, well...if you always wanted to kill someone off without going to prison, you're in luck, because Mafia Wars will let you kill off an entire population of a whole town (albeit virtually).

And yes, there is a Facebook game that will let you become a farmer.

The game FarmVille was launched onto Facebook through Zynga on June 19, 2009. Since June 2009, the game has exploded onto the social media circuit with a reported 32 MILLION Facebook users playing this game at any given day. As of last September, FarmVille had reportedly 60 MILLION monthly active users...twice the amount of FrontierVille (also programmed by Zynga). It is currently the third most played Facebook game ever, behind CityVille and Sims Social.

Here's a sobering fact for everyone here. If you took every single Farmville player in the whole world and lined them up shoulder to shoulder, the line would stretch all the way from San Francisco, California to New York, New York. That's a distance of over 10,000 miles (16,100 km for those of you who still use metric).

That's a lot of virtual crops!

It honestly baffles me to see just how addicted some people are to FarmVille. I myself have never played it because my brainstorming for writing projects and my blogging ventures don't leave me with a whole lot of free time to play it. But at my real world job, I can probably gather a group of fifty together and find at least one person who has played FarmVille. Some people are almost obsessed with the game, spending hours on end harvesting virtual crops and tending to pixelated animals. I'm not talking about people spending just an hour or two on the game per day. I'm talking ENTIRE DAYS.

So, why is FarmVille so addictive?

I think a part of it has to do with competition. Certainly with millions and millions of people playing the game, you almost have to work extra hard to make your farm stand out in a crowd.

People can achieve that by buying items and animals. Certainly, there's the basic needs, such as plants, horses, cows, ducks, and chickens. You can also build structures such as houses and barns. You could even have specialty items such as ferris wheels, hot-air balloons, and merry-go-rounds.

However, to get the best items, as well as bragging rights, you're gonna have to spend the currency of FarmVille to buy these items. This currency is known as 'farm coins', and when a new player signs up for FarmVille, they get a fixed amount. They can also earn more coins by performing various tasks in the game, and they can even buy FarmVille gift cards at some retail stores so that they can afford to buy the best stuff. I suppose it also helps to have a lot of Facebook friends who also play FarmVille because that way you have the best chance of getting the rarest of gifts for their own farms.

Or, so I'm told.

The game has even gotten endorsements from businesses and major celebrities over the years. As of June 2011, McDonald's has become a big sponsor of the game, offering FarmVille gifts that are McDonald's themed, like McCafe items and hot-air balloons. Even Lady Gaga used FarmVille as a promotional tool to help sell her 'Born This Way' album by offering special Lady Gaga themed gifts for FarmVille users to purchase and give to friends. Proof that to some people, FarmVille can be more than just a game.

Of course, the game has been subject to controversy in regards to how the game is played. Because the game largely relies on a player to spend real world dollars to afford the most expensive luxuries for their own farms, and because of the largely competitive nature that can erupt between players, FarmVille has been linked to some rather unusual behaviour.

In April 2010, a 12-year-old boy from the United Kingdom made headlines after spending more that $1,370 US) on virtual items in FarmVille. Only about $440 of this was his own money. The rest he used with his mother's credit card without her knowledge. Whoops!

A few months later, in August 2011, a court had heard that a man by the name of Adam Hamnett of Greater Manchester, UK was so addicted to the FarmVille game that he even committed murder as a result! He was so desperate to purchase virtual animals for the game that he resorted to robbing a blind man for money to pay for these animals. When the victim threatened to report the crime to the police if he wasn't paid back, he then broke into the home of his mother's former beau and stabbed him for the cash!

Don't believe me? Here's the story in all its gory details.

Now, I ask this not messed up or what?

I mean, certainly, video game addiction is one that a lot of people have. I myself can get pretty deep into a video game if I allow myself to be. But I would never think to steal from someone or kill someone just so I could buy a cow for a virtual farm. That's absolutely insane to me.

Still, though, those are just two of the most extreme cases. I'd like to believe that most FarmVille players aren't that crazy or addicted. I'd LIKE to believe that.

Certainly in moderation, FarmVille can be an enjoyable distraction from the day-to-day struggles of work and the home, and certainly there can be a few positives in the game. Still, has to wonder if those playing the game would even last five minutes on a real farm, taking care of real animals, and harvesting real crops.

I'll wager a bet that most of them won't.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Across The Pond and Beyond: Coronation Street

Last week, I talked about soap operas and how in the United States, they seem to be on life-support. With a peak of seventeen soap operas airing during the 1970s, the fact that only five remain on the American airwaves shows that the genre is one that seems to be fading away.

But what about soap operas that air overseas?

It seems as though the soap operas based in countries like Britain, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand seem to be trucking along quite nicely.

I think a part of it has to do with the various charm that each of these shows seem to have. Unlike most American soap operas, which are set in glamourous office buildings, fashionable coffee shops, and luxurious mansions, many of the overseas soap operas are a bit more realistic in nature. Some were set in gritty British neighbourhoods where the local pub was the center of all the action, while others were seaside towns with a surf club and fishing port.

A lot of the current overseas soap operas tend to hold onto their history much better than the American soaps. Whereas a lot of American soaps retcon their writing and their histories for a variety of reasons (bringing someone back from the dead, for example), overseas soaps only use such gimmicks sparingly.

I would also like to think that unlike the youth-obsessed culture that most American soap operas seem to embrace, the overseas soap operas utilize characters of all ages and backgrounds. I mean, yes, certainly there are exceptions on American soap operas. The Young and the Restless has Katherine Chancellor, The Bold and the Beautiful has Stephanie and Eric Forrester, and Days Of Our Lives has Jennifer Aniston's father.

(No, seriously, Jennifer Aniston's father, John, has a role on Days Of Our Lives.)

It's amazing to see how long of a shelf life some of these shows have on television overseas. Certainly, the vast majority of these programs haven't been on the air as long as General Hospital or One Life To Live, but where ratings seem to be eroding for American shows, overseas shows consistently do well over there.

In Australia, for instance, Neighbours (1985) and Home and Away (1988) are still screening, despite cancellation rumours for the first show. Partly because the shows have been marketed to British television networks, and both shows have developed as big a following in the United Kingdom as they have in their home country.

New Zealand's longest running soap opera happens to be Shortland Street, which has kept viewers on the edge of their seats since 1992.

And, of course we can't forget about British soap operas. You have Hollyoaks, which debuted in 1995. EastEnders debuted one decade earlier in 1985. Emmerdale has kept audiences watching day after day since 1972 (though back then it used to be called Emmerdale Farm). Even hospital dramas like Holby City and Casualty do consistently well. There was even a soap opera for teenagers called Grange Hill that wrapped up a thirty year long run in 2008.

There is one show that has surpassed all of those international dramas in terms of longevity, and show history. In fact, with the final episode of As The World Turns airing on September 17, 2010, this show entered the Guinness Book of World Records, for the longest running current soap opera on the air.

When Coronation Street debuted on Grenada Television (later renamed ITV) on December 9, 1960, it was originally going to last just thirteen episodes. Nobody ever expect the show to last over 7,700 episodes as of September 28, 2011. For over fifty years, Coronation Street has seen its share of weddings, affairs, funerals, explosions, murder, crime, and disaster, and for over fifty years, millions of viewers all around the world have watched the trials and tribulations of the thousands who have lived on the street.

In my home country of Canada, for instance, Coronation Street is probably one of CBC's highest rated programs. I can vouch that several of my co-workers tune in every day to catch the latest happenings of the people who lived in the fictional community of Weatherfield.

So in order to do this blog entry on Britain's longest running soap opera justice, I really had to do a lot of research on this program (as I myself have maybe only seen five episodes of the program in total). After watching the 50th anniversary special detailing 50 of the most exciting moments in Coronation Street's history, as well as some further research on various characters in the show, I'm going to give it my best shot. After all, Coronation Street is a very big deal to some people, and I would probably be blacklisted by some people if I didn't have this show as a feature in Across The Pond Wednesday.

So, I figure that I would cherry-pick some of these moments and we'll talk about them a bit.

Let's start off with the most recent happening.


Coronation Street celebrated its 50th anniversary on December 9, 2010. The creator of the show, Tony Warren, as well as the production team knew that they had to make the week of the golden anniversary a memorable one.

So they came up with the decision to destroy a portion of Coronation Street in a tram disaster.

How it came about was like this. A new bar had opened up underneath the viaduct on the street called The Joinery. It was opened up by Nick Tilsley and Leanne Battersby, and at the time of the disaster was packed full of people helping Peter Barlow celebrate his stag party. Peter's soon to be bride, Leanne, was just down the street at the Rover's Return where a party of her own was going on.

Without warning, a gigantic explosion occurs at the Joinery, destroying the tram track overhead, and putting the lives of everybody inside at risk. As if that weren't bad enough, a tram was on its way over the destroyed viaduct, and can see in this clip what exactly happens.

As you saw, the train split into two sections. One half smashes into the corner shop, trapping Molly Dodds and her baby inside. The other half crashes into The Kabin, trapping Rita Sullivan inside. The very next day was when the show filmed a live episode, detailing the aftermath of the disaster. By the end, two people were killed in the wreck and many more injured. The disaster also was used to cover up a murder, and saw both a wedding and a birth happen at the same time. It was quite a memorable week of episodes, and the tram crash of 2010 netted huge ratings.

Of course, this has hardly been the only disaster that the street has faced over the years. The tram crash was actually the second one to happen on the street (the first one happened back in the 1960s). We also saw a truck crash into the Rovers Return in 1979, as well as witnessed the Rovers Return burn down seven years later.

A huge factory known as Underworld was destroyed in early 2010, as part of a special week of episodes known as 'Siege Week', and in 2004, we saw a Weatherfield resident wreak havoc on the residents of Coronation Street in a storyline called...


Maya Sharma wasn't always so crazy, you know. When she first came on the show in 2003, she was a lawyer, who represented Roy and Hayley Cropper in a child custody battle. She immediately attracted the attention of shopkeeper Dev Alahan, and the two start seeing each other.

However, it became clear that not all was well with Maya. It all started off mildly with Maya getting involved with misdemeanors such as stealing vases and dognapping. She also seemed to partake in the act of dining and dashing, and took Dev on a ride where she would not stop speeding unless Dev agreed to marry her. By then, the residents of Coronation Street were starting to see Maya in a new ugly light, and Tyrone Dobbs accused Maya of murdering his dog, comparing her to the 101 Dalmatians villain, Cruella De Vil.

At this time, Dev's former love interest Sunita Parekh has developed a brain tumour, and Dev decides that he wants to be there for her. At first, even Maya has sympathy for Sunita, and acts as a caring friend to her. But when Maya discovers that Dev and Sunita have rekindled their love for each other, Maya becomes mad. She trashes Dev's store and destroys his home. Despite this, Dev and Sunita make plans to remarry each other.

Maya starts to go after Sunita in some vile ways. It was bad enough that she soaked Sunita's dress with urine (of all things), but things really went out of control when Maya stole Sunita's birth certificate and used it to marry illegal immigrants. The police barged into Dev and Sunita's wedding ceremony and arrested both of them for the charge of illegal marriage. Thanks to Dev convincing a taxi driver who helped transport Maya to the illegal wedding ceremonies, Maya is arrested. But she doesn't stay in jail for long because she is released on bail. Afterwards, she jets off around the city of Manchester, England, where she burns down almost every single store Dev owns.

The only store that Maya hadn't torched was the flagship store on Coronation Street. In November 2004 (on a Monday, no less), Maya took Sunita hostage as a way to get Dev's attention. When Dev arrives at his store and sees Sunita tied up, he tries to calm her down, but is knocked out by Maya and is taken hostage himself. Maya then sets the store ablaze with Dev and Sunita still inside. Luckily, thanks to the quick thinking of the residents of the street, Dev and Sunita are safely rescued from the building before it explodes.

What they weren't aware of was that Maya watched the whole thing unfold and was very disgusted that Dev and Sunita survived, so she opted to try and run them down with her car. It didn't work. In fact, if you want, here's the link to the whole episode where Maya truly goes mad.


'You're Norman Bates with a briefcase!'

Famous words uttered from a woman named Gail Platt...married to a man named Richard Hillman. A man who could easily have been named the most dangerous man on Coronation Street ever.

Lying from the start of his tenure in 2001 (he was brought onto the show by crashing the funeral of Alma Baldwin), he secured the attention of Gail Platt, who had recently split with her husband, Martin. The two fell in love, and eventually Gail's children, David and Sarah Louise grew to accept him as part of the family.

Of course, there was some talk of Richard's dodgy dealings right from the start. When reports surfaced that he had stolen money from trusting elderly people, the people of Coronation Street had questioned whether he really was a family member of Alma's, or if he was there to scam even more people out of their life savings.

During 2001 and the early part of 2002, Richard set up a business called Kellett Towers, and went into business with Duggie Ferguson, where they were in the process of building an estate of new homes. Sometime in 2002, Richard and Duggie got into an argument where Richard accused Duggie of shoddy workmanship. Of course, Richard's argument was proven to be sound when in the kerfuffle, Duggie ended up falling over a banister to his death below. Richard was panicked at first and started to dial for help...but in a cold twist, put the phone away and left Duggie to die.

This incident would trigger Richard's rampage. Nobody in Weatherfield was safe as Richard ended up killing people who ended up getting in his way. He murdered his ex-wife Patricia by bashing her head in with a garden spade. When his business started to go under and he learned that Gail's mother Audrey had an insurance policy that would bail him out, he tried to roast her alive in a house fire. Audrey had survived, and she tried to warn Gail about Richard, but Richard had convinced Gail that Audrey was senile, and Gail refused to believe him.

Richard's next victim was supposed to have been Emily Bishop, but before he could finish her off, Maxine Peacock entered the house at the worst possible time, and she ended up becoming the next to die.

Soon after, Richard's crime spree unravelled, and lies that he had told Gail and her family were starting to become unearthed. In 2003, Gail confronted Richard over everything, and in that moment, he confessed everything. He confessed to killing Maxine and Patricia, not calling for help for Duggie, and the attempted murders of Audrey and Emily. Gail pieced together the events, and when she realized that Richard was sterile and couldn't have kids, it became clear to her that he wasn't really in love with her...he was more in love with being a part of a real family. She called the police, and Richard fled.

However, two weeks later, Richard returned, and took his entire family hostage. Initially he was going to kill them by locking them in a garage and turning on the car, letting the carbon monoxide do the work for him, but when Gail's ex-husband, Martin was tipped off to the plan by Audrey, they foiled Richard's plan. Plan B was this.

Although Gail, Sarah Louise, David, and Sarah Louise's daughter Bethany survived the incident, Richard's body was found a short time later, ending the reign of terror he inflicted on Coronation Street.


After talking about three of the most captivating storylines of Coronation Street, it is important to know that it isn't all doom and gloom there. Coronation Street has been at the forefront of many social issues and commentary since it began in 1960. Here are just a few of these social issues that the show has tackled.

The show is the only show to have both an openly gay couple (Karl Foster and Todd Grimshaw) and an openly lesbian couple (Sophie Webster and Sian Powers).

The show made history in 2000 when Sarah Louise Platt (then a thirteen year old girl), gave birth to her daughter, Bethany, and the next few years showed the struggles that a teenage mom had to endure raising a child. Think Teen Mom only scripted.

The show also has one of the first instances of a transsexual character appearing on a soap opera in the form of Hayley Patterson. Played by Julie Hesmondhalgh since 1998, Hayley was born as Harold Patterson, and was in the process of undergoing gender reassignment surgery when she debuted on the show. While the move to incorporate a transsexual character on a soap opera was quite controversial (only the American soap opera The City had introduced a transsexual character at the time, and she only managed to last eight months on the program), Hayley proved to become one of the most popular characters in the history of Coronation Street. She ended up falling in love with loner Roy Cropper, and despite the challenges they have faced over the years, they have managed to become one of Weatherfield's most solid couples.

Of course, they aren't the only ones. Until both of them died, Vera and Jack Duckworth managed to have a long-lasting marriage. Sally and Kevin Webster had a few challenges thrown their way, but they too stood the test of time...well, that is until the tram crash of 2010 and a dying Molly told Sally that she gave birth to Kevin's child...they're still feeling the effects of that storyline as of 2011, but those scenes haven't aired in Canada yet.

Some legacy characters have come and gone over the years. Many people couldn't forget Bet Lynch, the sassy barmaid at the Rovers Return for many, many years. Nor could they forget Mike Baldwin, who oversaw the workers at Underworld until his death in 2006. How could they? With Mike having four wives and 25 girlfriends in his twenty-nine and a half year run, and Bet having run-ins with almost every central character on the street between 1966 and 1995, the storyline possibilities were endless.

It's funny to see just how involved the viewers of Coronation Street get with the program. One of the most interesting moments of this in action took place in the spring of 1998, when Deirdre Rachid went to jail after being set up by con-man Jon Lindsey. A reported 19 million people watched Deirdre wrongfully imprisoned, and soon after, viewers sparked a media campaign by viewers urging the show to 'Free The Weatherfield One'. The media campaign grew so large that even then-Prime Minister of Britain, Tony Blair, couldn't help but comment on the storyline. Deirdre was eventually released from prison three weeks later (which is what the writers and producers of the show had planned for all along), but it was quite interesting to see the amount of attention that storyline ended up getting.

But that was the magic of Coronation Street. It was a show that was so captivating and so relevant with the times that viewers couldn't help but love it. I know that after writing this piece on Coronation Street, I have to admit that I have a whole new respect for the program, and I imagine that it must be a lot of work for everyone involved with the program's past, present, and future for consistently putting out original episodes for nearly fifty-one years.

To conclude this posting, I wanted to end it on a light note, because as I said before, Coronation Street isn't always about doom and gloom. Here's a couple of video clips that showcase the dry humour that can be associated with the show. Ironically enough, these instances of dry humour both involve water...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Garfield and Odie BFF's - Best Frenemies Forever

As nerdy and bookish as this sounds now, one of my favourite activities to partake in as a child was looking through a dictionary and learning new words. What the definition of words were and what their meanings were fascinated me.

I guess in retrospect, it shouldn't really surprise me or anybody else for that matter. As someone who wants to break into the world of publication, and has wanted to break into that world for years now, it helps to know exactly what words you want to use that will make stories flow better and keep the reader interested.

From the early days of my childhood when I leafed through the Charlie Brown Dictionary (a book I still wish I owned, but luckily can buy online), to my adulthood when I studied Webster's Dictionary with keen eyes, I have always been fascinated with words and sentences and meanings. I guess it sort of helped me along with making the decision to have the dream of making it big in the writing world. Someday my chance will come, and if all holds true, I'll be at the top of that bestsellers list one day.

Until then, you get the opportunity to read the pop culture ramblings of a thirtysomething who works in the world of retail. Won't that be fun?

I actually have a copy of Webster's Dictionary right beside me as I type this out right now. Maybe I should look up a couple of meanings while we're here.

FRIEND: n. one attached to another by affection or esteem

ENEMY: n. one that is antagonistic to another; especially : one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent.

So, by that logic, if we combine the two words above into a nice little portmanteau known as a frenemy, the definition would probably go as such.

FRENEMY: n. one that is attached to another by affection who frequently antagonizes the other person to one-up them or belittle them.

What a mess of a word. What an unusual word frenemy is.

And yet, the term frenemy seems to be popping up more and more, even though the word itself has reportedly appeared as early as the 1950s. People who say that they are your friends, but behind your back, they plot to destroy you.

There are many examples of frenemies in the world of pop culture. Betty and Veronica. To a lesser extent, Blair and Jo from the Facts of Life. Heck, the whole cast of Desperate Housewives could be considered the ultimate frenemy relationship.

And then there's Garfield and Odie.

Anyone who has read a Garfield comic strip or watched an episode of Garfield and Friends on television knows the relationship between Garfield and Odie can be incredibly complex one.

When the Garfield comic strip debuted in newspapers on June 19, 1978, the comic initially centered around the adventures of Jon Arbuckle and his overweight cat, Garfield. Two months later, in August 1978, Jon took on a roommate named Lyman, who came with his dog, Odie.

Upon Odie's introduction, Garfield was not too keen on having the little yellow beagle invading his personal space, and actually treated the dog rather badly. Although Odie was constantly trying to befriend Garfield and wanted him to like him, all Odie would usually get in repayment was a nice kick off of a table or countertop.

Eventually, as the comic serial progressed, Lyman became more and more invisible. By 1982, Lyman had vanished from the canvas without any sort of explanation whatsoever. To this day, Garfield creator Jim Davis has not given any indication as to what the ultimate fate of Lyman was, joking that people shouldn't go looking for him in Jon Arbuckle's basement.

Whatever the case, although Lyman was gone, Odie still remained, with Jon having decided to adopt him into the family.

Which kicked off the beginning of a frenemy style relationship between Garfield and Odie that has lasted for thirty-three years and counting.

Garfield and Odie could not be more different. Odie was kind hearted and generous, while Garfield was self-centered and snarly. Odie was energetic and couldn't get enough exercise. Garfield was a sloth-like beast who hid in bed to avoid Mondays. Odie was very affectionate and would show you that he liked you by slobbering all over you with his huge tongue. Garfield shunned almost all physical contact, and actually grew disgusted by Odie's constant slobber.

Basically these two were your odd couple in animal form.

Garfield and Odie basically had a love-hate relationship with each other in the fact that Odie loved being around Garfield and Garfield would often hate having Odie invading his personal space. Though, to Odie's credit, he wasn't the only one that Garfield felt that way about. Garfield also had these feelings for Jon, Lyman, Liz the veterinarian, spiders, Nermal the world's cutest kitty cat who he frequently tried to mail away to Abu Dhabi.

Yep, you get the picture.

Garfield often treated Odie horribly. As I said before, Odie would be constantly kicked off of the table by Garfield for no reason other than because Garfield found it to be funny. There were some occasions in which Odie had tried to do the same to Garfield, but in this comic from 2005, sadly it didn't work out to his advantage.

Garfield wasn't very appreciative towards Odie as the comic strip continued. In fact, Garfield had the belief that Odie was the dumbest creature alive. Garfield seems to believe that Odie's simple thought processes and his lack of being able to say anything beyond unintelligible barks. Garfield would often play pranks on Odie because he thought Odie was too stupid to put the pieces together to pinpoint the mischief on him.

Personally, I think Odie was a lot smarter than Garfield gave him credit for. Take a look at this comic strip from 1989 if you don't believe me.

I always like to say that Odie downplayed his intelligence just enough to make Garfield think that he really was a bumbling idiot of a dog when in reality he was anything but. Odie had his moments of clarity and intelligence over the years, and more often than not, he exhibited it by getting back at Garfield for all those times where he booted him off of every table in Jon's house.

So there are numerous examples of Garfield and Odie treating each other as adversaries, rivals, and annoyances.

However there are also beautiful moments of friendship, loyalty, and love between Garfield and Odie as well.

Surprisingly enough, although Garfield has the tendency to belittle and make fun of Odie every chance he gets, he would never let anyone else abuse Odie. He actually gets fiercely protective of Odie when Odie is picked on by anyone else but him, as the 1981 comic I posted above shows. Because deep down inside, as much as Garfield loved to play pranks on him, the last thing he really wanted to do was see Odie get seriously hurt.

Garfield really does love Odie and sees Odie as a really good friend, even though he doesn't always show it. It wasn't until the 1982 Garfield special 'Here Comes Garfield' was released that we got to see just how much Garfield really did care for Odie. When Odie was caught by the dog catcher, Garfield couldn't help but remember how sad he would be if he didn't have Odie in his life. Here's a clip of that moment from 'Here Comes Garfield', and I never really knew just how sad it was when I was a kid. Watching it through adult eyes, I almost need a Kleenex to get through it now.

You should be aware that all went well in that special, otherwise Odie would cease to exist in the comic strip after 1982. But it just goes to show that despite his appearance of disliking Odie, the cat does care about the dog.

And Odie certainly does care about Garfield, even if Garfield is reluctant to reciprocate it. Case in point, the Garfield Christmas special from 1987. During that special, Garfield, Odie, and Jon headed off to the farm where Jon grew up to spend the holiday with Jon's family. During the course of the show, Garfield seems to notice that Odie is scurrying around in secret, grabbing random items and running off with them. He wonders why Odie is being so secretive, and on the night of Christmas Eve goes out to investigate what Odie is up to.

As the sun rises above the sky the next day, and Christmas morning begins, everyone exchanges presents (including some fifty year old love letters that Garfield gave to Jon's grandmother as a gift that he found while spying on Odie). Odie drags Garfield to a brown paper bag wrapped contraption that Odie had made as a present for Garfield for Christmas morning. Garfield isn't sure of what exactly the gift is at first, but when Odie demonstrates how it works (another case of Odie not being as dumb as originally thought), Garfield immediately wants to try it out. It touches Garfield that Odie would selflessly donate so much of his own time and hard work to ensure that he got a beautiful homemade Christmas gift. The two friends embrace each other warmly. It is Christmas, after all.

But that's the way that a frenemy type relationship works. One day, the two people in the relationship hate each other, and the next, they're inseparable.

The big surprise between Garfield and Odie is that despite their frenemy status, it appears at least to me that the friendship is a lot stronger than their dislike of each other.

And that's a very unique bond.

Since there's still a little bit of space left for today, why not post a classic cartoon starring Garfield and Odie?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Matinee: The Breakfast Club

The Athlete.
The Brain.
The Criminal.
The Princess.
The Basket Case.

These were the people in your high school. In your high school. In your high school...

(Oh, sorry...little Sesame Street throwback there)

I'm sure that most of us can recall our high school days quite well, regardless of whether they graduated last year, or fifty years ago. I'm sure that many of us were grouped into some sort of high school clique, or at the very least, wanted to be a part of one.

The five cliques that most high school students have probably faced are the ones that I have listed in the opening paragraph of today's entry.

You had the athletes who bonded over basketball and football games. You had the brainy people who could do algebraic equations with their eyes closed. The so-called 'criminals' were the kids who used to bully smaller kids while carving their initials into their desks. The princesses were the cheerleaders, fashionistas and quite often, stuck-up faction of a class. As for the basket cases, they were the ones who often had the most problems at home or at school, but was unable to tell anyone about them for reasons only they could understand.

Quite often, you would walk down a school hallway, and see each of these cliques off in one area. I can tell you that in my school, these meeting places for the cliques were one of four places. You could find the athletes around the gymnasium area, which made sense. The bookish kids were usually found on the first floor, as that was where our library and audio-visual editing suites were. The princesses were usually scattered around the second floor. The basket cases and criminals, I'm not exactly sure where they hung out, as I tried to stay as far away from them as possible. Perhaps they hung out at the park directly across the street from the school where they dabbled in the effects of drugs and alcohol. Merely speculation on my part though.

Sometimes, these cliques would find a way to intersect each other. There was a display of flags on the second floor of my school, and I can tell you that a LOT of people from my graduating class used to hang around those flags. A lot of them were the athletes trying their best to fawn all over the various princesses of the school. At the time, my locker happened to be just down the hall from the flag hallway, so I ended up seeing a lot, even though I wasn't a part of either clique.

So athletes fawned over princesses, and some brains became basket cases, and the criminals would play pranks and bully almost everyone who belonged to the other four cliques.

But it was very rare that you'd ever see one representative of each clique together in the same room.

I mean, yes, the odds of having at least one member of the five cliques in your English class were quite good. But I bet that whenever group assignments were brought forth in class, the cliques mostly stuck to their own kind.

So picture this scenario. Imagine that you are forced into serving a detention (on a weekend, no less) where you are the representative of one of the five cliques. Then imagine that the four other people serving the detention with you are people from the other cliques that you aren't a part of. That might be awkward indeed.

But that's exactly the situation that five teenagers had to face in the John Hughes movie The Breakfast Club. And on an added note, this may be one of the very few Monday Matinee entries where I may spill some secrets about the ending.

Released on February 15, 1985, The Breakfast Club took a look at five students who could not be more different from each other serving a Saturday detention, which was largely unsupervised by the bumbling vice-principal of Shermer High School, Richard Vernon (played by the late Paul Gleason). From 7:06 in the morning to four in the afternoon during the date of Saturday, March 24, 1984, the five teenagers were not supposed to move out of their seats or even talk to one another. They are also each assigned a one thousand word essay for them to write. The subject? Who they think they are. Of course, Vernon leaves the group largely unsupervised, which only serves to have the five students break the rules at every opportunity.

And just who are the five students? I'm getting to that.

In fact, I'm going to introduce you to each of the kids, what their stereotype is, how they interact with the others in the film, what their backstory is, and a trivia fact about each of the actors who played the characters in the film. As I talk, I'll likely be spoiling some details of the movie for those of you who haven't seen this film yet. Though I trust that most of you have. When the movie was released, it made almost $46 million at the box office (which in 1985 dollars was a huge blockbuster), and the movie is ranked consistently at the top of several lists of 'the best movies of all time'. Just on a personal standpoint, The Breakfast Club is one of my all-time favourite movies as well, and I have probably seen this movie over a dozen one year.

So, let's go ahead and meet the kids of the Breakfast Club.

portrayed by Emilio Estevez

CLIQUE: The Athlete
DETENTION REASON: Taping the buttocks of a teammate together

Andy Clark is your standard teenage jock type character. He plays on sports teams for Shermer High and is highly respected for his athletic ability. Therefore, it might surprise some to hear that one of the main motivations behind Andy taking part in sporting events was the fact that his father was a former star football player who had infused into Andy's brain that being anything less than number one was simply unacceptable. Part of the reason why he agreed to playing the prank on his teammate which netted him the Saturday detention in the first place was to earn his father's respect. In the end, all he ended up feeling was guilt and remorse. During the course of the film, he starts to become curiously drawn to Allison Reynolds, especially after Allison receives a makeover, courtesy of Claire Standish.

TRIVIA: Emilio Estevez originally auditioned for the role of John Bender, but when John Hughes had difficulty casting someone for the role of Andy, Emilio was recast as Andy.

portrayed by Ally Sheedy

CLIQUE: The Basket Case

Allison Reynolds was the only one of the group who didn't get an official Saturday detention. She claims that the only reason she goes to detention willingly is the fact that she has nothing better to do. To say that Allison was kind of the 'weird girl' in the school was a bit of an understatement. Here's a clip of her in action as she prepares to eat her lunch.

As odd a character as Allison was, she really did have a lot of depth to her. Feeling neglected by her parents, Allison often talked about how she would constantly be thinking about running away from home because she was so miserable there. When she tries opening up to the others about her problems at home, at first they don't seem to care about it (or rather they don't believe it because she admits to being a compulsive liar). Gradually, she eventually gets the others to listen to her. Claire Standish gives her a makeover, and Andy Clark starts to show her more attention as a result.

TRIVIA: Before Ally Sheedy became an actress, she wrote a book at the age of 12 entitled 'She Was Nice To Mice'.

portrayed by Anthony Michael Hall

CLIQUE: The Brain
DETENTION REASON: Possession of flare gun which went off in his locker

Brian Johnson is the stereotypical geek of the group. He was one of the more academically sound students at Shermer High, and always managed to get good grades. However, this came at a price. For Brian had extremely pushy parents who basically pressured him to keep consistently doing well in school. It is revealed that the reason he brought the flare gun to school in the first place was because he was going to use it to kill himself, citing that fact that he could no longer take the pressure his parents were putting on him. During the course of the movie, Brian is seen as the most diplomatic of the group, attempting to smooth out the conflicts that arise between other members of the group. It is he who comes up with the name of the group...The Breakfast Club.

TRIVIA: Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald dated each other briefly after the filming for the movie wrapped up.

portrayed by Molly Ringwald

CLIQUE: The Princess
DETENTION REASON: Skipped school to go shopping at the mall

Claire Standish upon first glance comes across as the girl who seems to have it all. She's pretty, she's popular, she wears the finest fashions and owns the most expensive accessories. Therefore, according to the others, she seems perfect. She especially becomes the target of John Bender. In this clip below, you can definitely see that Bender seems to take great pleasure in making Claire's life a misery as long as they are in the same room together. (Warning for mature language in this clip)

The relationship between Claire and Bender does warm up as the movie progresses, but I won't exactly reveal how. Hey, a guy has to keep some secrets, right? However, one thing I can reveal is that Claire also seems to have a strained relationship with her parents, who see her as more of a tool that they can use to one-up each other in their arguments.

TRIVIA:  Molly Ringwald wanted to play Allison Reynolds, but Ally Sheedy had already been cast.  She took on the role of Claire instead.

Hmmm...I seem to be noticing a pattern here. Might as well confirm it with the last character profile.

portrayed by Judd Nelson

CLIQUE: The Criminal
DETENTION REASON: Setting off a false fire alarm.

John Bender is probably the angriest of the five, and probably has the most character development of the whole movie. John Bender is the criminal of the group, and when he is first introduced, he gets his kicks out of harassing and bullying the others. He especially likes to save his venom towards Claire, as you have seen up above. Bender openly defies vice-principal Vernon at every given opportunity, and in this scene, he actually tries to escape the detention hall...with not so great results.  (Another warning for mature language here)

You can't blame him for trying though.

Anyway, the reason why Bender seems to have so much anger towards the world is based on the traumatic childhood that he sustained. Thanks to being raised by a violent, abusive, alcoholic father, Bender's anger issues are easily explained. In fact, Bender goes so far as to showing everyone in the room a burn mark that he suffered when his father burned him with a lit cigar after he accidentally spilled paint all over the garage. He is the last one to really open up in the film, but when he does, it's almost amazing to see just how relieved he seemed to be at letting it all out.

TRIVIA:  Judd Nelson was almost fired from the movie by John Hughes because he was bullying Molly Ringwald off screen.  But when his co-star Paul Gleason stood up for Nelson, claiming that he was staying in character in between scenes, Hughes kept him on the project.

By now, I'm sure that you all have figured out that all five kids in The Breakfast Club are connected by one key thing.

They hate their parents.

Well, okay, hate seems to be too strong a word (well, unless you're Bender, who actually did have a valid reason to hate his father), but they all were afraid that they would end up like their parents. They wanted desperately to learn from the mistakes that their parents had made, and vowed to never repeat them. As a result of this shared connection, as well as other minor connections that made the kids realize that maybe they had more in common than they thought.

And common threads linked together to form a rather unusual, but heartwarming friendship between five people who never would have met each other under different circumstances.

I guess the one thing that we can learn from this movie is obviously to not judge a book by its cover. If you take the time to get to know someone, regardless of how radically different they might be from yourself, you might be surprised to know that maybe their lives aren't as happy as they make out. You might even be surprised to get a new friendship out of it.

When the movie first began, we see Brian writing the essay assignment that Vernon had given them while they served their Saturday detention. Here was the excerpt that he had written at the very beginning of the day.

Saturday, March 24, 1984.
Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois, 60062.

Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was that we did wrong...and what we did was wrong, but we think you're crazy to make us write this essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Correct? That's the way we saw each other at seven o'clock this morning. We were brainwashed.

Compare that to the letter that Brian writes at the end of the movie. Each character reads the part of the letter that corresponded to their parts in the movie as Mr. Vernon reads their finished essay...

BRIAN: Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was that we did wrong...but we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain...
ANDY: ...and an athlete...
ALLISON: ...and a basket case...
CLAIRE: ...and a princess...
BENDER: ...and a criminal.
BRIAN: Does that answer your question?

Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club

And on that note, let's end this blog off with the main theme for the movie. A little hit by Simple Minds that hit the top of the charts on May 18, 1985.