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Thursday, October 16, 2014

"Seven Little Indians"

Hello, everybody, and welcome to another edition of TUBE TALK THURSDAY!

And for the rest of October, these television discussions are going to be quite frightful in nature!

Seriously, with Halloween coming in a little more than two weeks from now, it's never been a more perfect time to dig into the television archives to showcase some special Halloween programming.  After all, there have been a lot of Halloween themed shows that have aired over the sixty plus years that television has been around.

And I thought to myself, why not do a feature on a Halloween themed television episode for the next few weeks in this blog?  It's a good idea!  It's a great idea!  Besides, I think I already talked about all the Halloween cartoons that I could think of.

And I think that this could be a lot of fun because I have several possible television shows that I can think of to talk about.  Believe it or not, I even found a DVD at work that had thirteen classic Halloween episodes from thirteen different sitcoms in one Halloween collection.

And yes, I did buy it.  It was only $6.97.  A mere impulse purchase.

Still, I was sort of disappointed that one of my favourite Halloween episodes that ever broadcast was left off this DVD collection. 

I'll be honest with you, when I saw that one of the thirteen sitcoms that was featured on the collection was "The Facts of Life", I was really excited because of the possibility that I would see this episode in high definition greatness.

Instead, I found that they had chosen a different episode.  Which was fine, as I did like the "Halloween" episode of "The Facts of Life" as well.  But there was one other one that I liked better.  And it is this episode that I want to discuss in today's blog.

Now, I know it seems hard to believe, but "The Facts of Life" ran for nine seasons between 1979 and 1988.  That makes it the longest running television series of the entire decade known as the 1980s.  If it had gone two more years, it would have been one of the only sitcoms to air brand new episodes in three different decades!  That's how popular it was.

The episode that I want to feature in this blog was one of the episodes in the show's eighth season.  And many people who are fans of the show "The Facts of Life" don't really like the later seasons of the show, because Charlotte Rae left the role of Mrs. Garrett after seven seasons, and Cloris Leachman took over as Mrs. Garrett's sister, Beverly Ann.  Certainly many fans believe the show's "Over Our Heads" seasons to be the point in which the show "jumped the shark".  However, I find that some of the episodes in seasons eight and nine did stand out as being just as good as the original ones. 

After all, the reunion between the Season 1 girls with the rest of the cast that were kept took place in Season 8.  The episode in which Bobby Rydell and Fabian hosted a 1960s throwback happened in Season 8.  The episode in which Natalie lost her virginity happened in Season 9.

Mind you, Season 9 was also the season they brought out that pointless Pippa character.  No disrespect to Sherrie Krenn though.  The character just wasn't needed.

Anyway, back to the episode discussion.

While the episode didn't technically air on Halloween (the actual airdate was January 3, 1987), it was appropriate enough that it could have been a Halloween favourite.  It was based on the song "Ten Little Indians" by Septimus Winner which started off with ten little indians, but by the end only one remained. 

Well, that's where the title of the episode "Seven Little Indians" comes from.  In the show, the six main stars of the show (Blair, Jo, Natalie, Tootie, Beverly Ann, Andy (Mackenzie Astin), and special guest star George Clooney all gather together for what is supposed to be a nice quiet night at their place of residence which happens to be attached to their tacky 80s memorabilia store called "Over Our Heads".  But when each of the gang start dropping dead one by one, everyone realizes that a killer is among them.

But who is the killer?

Well, before we discuss this episode further, why don't I post a link to this episode HERE.  Go on.  I'll give you twenty-three minutes or so to watch it.  We'll resume discussion until you get back.  In the meantime, watch this very scary music video.

Okay, so on with the show.

Did you notice how ridiculously clever this episode was?  It was like they took all of the 1980s horror movie cliches and amped up the parody levels!  I guess that's why I enjoy this episode so much. 

So, what did I like about this episode?  Lots.


Believe it or not, there was once a time in which Maurice LaMarche made his living in front of the camera.  You may recognize him now as the voice of The Brain in "Pinky and the Brain" and several other cartoons.  But in this episode, he played the part of the Rod Serling lookalike/soundalike where he roasted marshmallows, ate pastries, and had an obsession with saying the word "Tootie".  But I have to tell you, this man did such a fantastic job with the episode, and you could tell that he was having a blast.  In fact, while I was looking for the episode on YouTube, it looked like LaMarche actually commented on one of the videos where he gave some behind the scenes moments about his experience on the show.  But really, the only juicy secrets he revealed was that the script was heavily cut while filming and that George Clooney was an incredibly nice guy.  Still, that's something.



Now, when you think of a murder mystery, you're used to seeing the classic weapons being used.  You know, steak knives, guns, candlesticks, ropes, lead pipes...ah, maybe I'm just thinking about the board game "Clue".  But this show certainly got creative with choices of weapons.  And while I'm aware that I'm spoiling the episode for those who haven't seen it...well, I'm not really.  I posted the link to the episode above the David Hasselhoff video, remember?

We'll start with Andy, who was the killer's first victim.  He eventually suffocated by choking on rubber cement glue, but not before slipping on a whole bunch of stuff in a comedic style Rube Goldberg manner.  George was the next victim, hung up in a closet clutching a pink balloon for protection - because everyone knows that a balloon is the best defense against a serial killer.  Natalie was the next to die, getting strangled by a pair of fuzzy dice.  Then Blair was "Dippity-Doo"ed to "death".  Beverly Ann was the next victim, drinking a poisoned drink and having one of the most hilarious death scenes ever.  And finally, Jo croaked after being bludgeoned to death by an...inflatable frog.  Again, you have to hand it to the people who wrote this episode.  The fact that we knew it was a parody made it funnier.

Oh, and the breaking the fourth wall gags with Tootie shushing the background music because she was trying to sneak up on someone?  Priceless.  You see, this is what we children of the '80s had for parody before the "Scary Movie" series debuted.


Of course this leads to the...


Now, if you've been counting along with me from the last couple of paragraphs, you would have counted that six of the seven people in the episode are now dead.  That leaves Tootie.  So, you might automatically suspect that Tootie is the killer.  Amusingly enough, even Tootie suspects herself!  But what Tootie doesn't realize is that one of the previous victims isn't really dead.

Yes, the real killer was Blair Warner, and her reason for murdering everyone was simple.  She wanted to rid the world of everyone who fell under the 50% tax bracket. 

Of course, if this show had aired in 2014, she would be killing everyone in the 99% - which would essentially leave fewer people in the world than after "Captain Trips" devastated the world in "The Stand".

But anyway, just before she could stab Tootie with a beach umbrella, Beverly Ann wakes up and realizes that it was all a dream that she had.  Which makes me wonder what exactly was in that cocoa that she was making herself at the beginning of the episode!

Anyway, the episode ends as normally as could be...except for that strange man that suddenly appears at the end.


And, well...that's what you can expect over the next couple of weeks.  I'll be choosing a Halloween themed episode for discussion, and we'll be watching it (if I can find it online), and then we'll be talking about it.  Think of it as like a book club, only with videos.

Until next week, everyone!


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