Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Friday Film Specials

Now I’ve no idea where today’s post topic came from. It was just one of those moments where you’re busy doing something, and a memory just slaps itself at the front of your consciousness, and refuses to go away. Something you haven’t thought about in years appears in your head. Something that is completely unrelated to what you were doing.

The memory was of a particular movie I watched in the late 80’s.

Not just any movie, but a Friday Film Special.

Let me explain these movies:

On Fridays, the BBC, rather than run their usual after-school programming (Dooby’s Duck Truck, Thundercats, Ulysses, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), they would play a movie instead.

Now these weren’t normal movies. Today, I look back on them and wonder how I ever watched them, with every symptom (and I choose my words carefully) of enjoyment…and I mean true enjoyment, not ironic, piss-taking enjoyment.

But why is that a bad thing? How can enjoying a movie be bad?

Well, you see, every single one of those movies, had to have the following characteristics:

a) Be at least 10 years old.
b) Have never been released in Movie Theatres or on Video.
c) Have a $50 budget maximum.
d) Contain at least one washed up soap-opera actor.
e) Have extremely bad acting.
f) A very far-fetched story, with a kid or group of kids as the heroes.
g) Have some well meaning moral, that doesn’t work in real life.

Basically, these movies were crap. Complete and utter crap. The kinds of movies that make the world’s worst B-movie look like a billion dollar masterpiece.

Here’s the storyline of the one Friday Film Special that popped, uninvited, into my head. Trust me, you’ll enjoy it:

A young boy is at school. He’s getting bullied and isn’t very popular. Then, one day, he finds a T-shirt with a picture of a Tiger’s head on the front of it.

Oh, he finds this T-shirt on the ground…in the mud…in the frigging woods.

Rather than leaving it where it is, like any other sane person, he picks it up and takes it home. Somehow he’s completely oblivious to the fact that the reason he is unpopular and gets bullied, probably has something to do with the fact he proudly wears clothes he finds on the ground…in the dirt…in the woods.

His parents don’t ask, and don’t care, that their son is wandering around in a T-shirt that’s likely been used by a hooker to clean up afterwards. Oh, that’s another thing. He doesn’t clean this T-shirt. He gets home, takes off his normal T-shirt, then pulls the other one over his head before examining himself in the mirror and saying “Cool!”

By lucky coincidence, from a story point of view, the next day at school is Physical Education day…

(Quick aside, I remember being 5 years old, and trying to work out what the letters P.E. (Physical Education) actually stood for. One girl stated authoritatively that P.E. stands for ’Good Fun’. This is the same girl who, during another conversation about why we actually had to go to school, stated that we all came to school to ’earn money’…she didn’t get much smarter for the 13 years I knew her…surprisingly, she never went to college. Right now, she probably wears clothes she finds on the ground…in the dirt…in the woods.)


The kid in the movie decided that P.E. would be the perfect place to show off his “Found on the Ground in the Dirt the Woods’ T-Shirt. His two complete social misfit friends positively adore his new T-Shirt, and are not put off when he proudly states that he found it. The ’cool’ kids (following one of the prevalent Friday Film Special conventions…IE are they are mean, bad, and assholes), quite rightly point and laugh.

We discover that our hero is a sports-spaz. We find this out by the mean ‘cool kids’ making fun of him.

(Oh, another FFM convention. The cool kids aren’t cool at all. They look like the kids that got beat up daily at school. They’re ‘cool’ because they have gelled hair, sunglasses and earrings.)

Anyway, they line up for the 100 meter dash, and something amazing happens. Our ground-clothes wearing hero, who is usually a complete sports spaz, wins the race by a massive margin. I mean, he’s finished by the time the rest of the pack are at the 20 meter mark.

(This was obviously achieved by having the other kids run in slow motion, the hero run normal speed, and then running the tape at 60 frames per second…remember the $50 budget maximum.)

That’s right, the hero’s new T-shirt, the one he found on the ground…in the dirt…in the woods, gives him super powers.

I should point out here that this is never explained. We never discover how the T-shirt lets the geek run at about 80mph, or how it ended up on the ground…in the dirt…in the woods.

Our ‘ground T-shirt’ wearing geek-boy becomes an overnight hero, because as everyone knows, being able to run fast automatically makes social outcasts super-popular. Everyone wants to be his friend. The cool kids want to be his friend. The teachers want to be his friend. Even the evil school principal (another FFS convention, Principals are always evil), starts sucking up, and wants him to represent the school in the Inter-School cross country running competition.

Our new hero accepts in a display of bravado. He now has gelled hair, sunglasses and and earring. I only hope that he didn’t find them on the ground…in the dirt…in the woods. I also hope to hell that that is actually gel in his hair.

However, after a few more wacky adventures, in which he completely alienates his geek friends, the T-shirt starts to act strange, doesn’t work properly…and wouldn’t you know it, the Cross Country competition is tomorrow!

Ignoring his geek-friends warnings, he decides to wear the T-Shirt anyway. The T-shirt made him cool. The T-shirt is his friend.

Race day arrives.

Halfway through the race, his T-shirt starts to screw up, he’ll run, stop completely dead, then start running backwards (Done with the amazing special effect of running the tape backwards…kids are too dumb to notice smoke from chimneys going back in, or that a dog in the background started running backwards as well).

His friends, who just happen to be watching at the spot where this happens, beg him to get rid of the T-Shirt. He argues, he relents, he takes it off and throws it into a bush.

The T-shirt inexplicably explodes.

However, then something miraculous happens. Despite the fact he’s a good mile and a half behind everyone else, he grits his teeth and starts running. He manages to pass everyone, and wins the race! It’s like Anakin Skywalker’s Pod Race, but without the aid of two gigantic jet engines, production values, special effects or horse-faced Duggs saying “Et chuta, bantha poodoo!”

He wins to general acclaim. Tells his cool friends to sod off, and despite the fact he treated them like shit for weeks, his geek friends welcome him back with open arms.

I think the moral of the story is meant to be “Believe in yourself and anything is possible.”

Let me pick that moral apart for a second, before I tell you what the morals the kids actually picked up are.

Contrary to popular belief, you actually need more than belief to get anywhere in life. You actually have to do things like work hard and practice to get good at anything. I could believe that I could become the worlds greatest singer. However, it’s never going to happen, I just don’t have a good singing voice.

Basically, you can have all the belief and potential in the world. It’s not going to do you a damn bit of good if you don’t work at it.

I think it was said best by Nanny Ogg: “If you follow your dreams, and wish upon a star…you’ll get left behind by the people who actually worked at it, and didn’t waste their time wishing.”

Anyway, here are the morals a 7 year old Paulius got from that show:

1) It’s perfectly acceptable to wear clothes that you find on the ground…in the dirt… in the woods.
2) People will be friends with you, only if you’re good at something they can exploit.
3) It’s perfectly fine to cheat.
4) If your cheating sets you back, it doesn’t matter, because you’ll win anyway.
5) Getting in with the cool kids should be your number 1 priority.
6) Never, ever trust a school principal.
7) Feel free to treat your friends like shit if you get a better offer. They’ll welcome you back with open arms if it fucks up for you.

Bear in mind, we watched that shit every single week. Other morals I learned are:

1) Attempt to capture dangerous criminals…it’s fun!
2) Two 10 year olds can take down a hardened criminal by both holding opposite ends of a rope, and running round and round the guy. He’ll just should “Get out of it, you kids!” Before humorously falling over.
3) You can break a smuggling ring with a RC plane that can drop water balloons.
4) As well as wearing any clothes you find, eat things you find outside as well. They’ll do great things like make you shrink, grow or give you superpowers.
5) Don’t bother to work, practice or apply yourself in any way. A special piece of clothing, food or magic pixie will come along and sort everything out.
6) If a teacher is youngish and had straight hair, she will help you out of any bother you get into. If they’re older, have their hair in a bun, and have their glasses on a string around their neck…they’re evil, and should be avoided.
7) It’s perfectly safe to build a clubhouse in a scrap yard. No one will care that you’re trespassing on private property.
8) After beating off the local bullies with a barrage of slime filled water balloons, everything is fine. They will not kick the shit out of you the next day at school. They will have ‘learned their lesson’.
9) All bullies are cowards, and will back down from you, no matter how big they are, if you challenge them. None are just plain psychopaths who enjoy causing pain
10) It’s perfectly safe to build a hang-glider out of stuff you find. Dropping freshly mown grass from this hanglider will clog up the engines of the enemies micro-lites…forcing them to land, humorously, in prison.
11) Parents never, ever give half a damn about where their kids are or what they‘re doing.
12) When parents find out that their kids took on a gang of dangerous criminals, they will be proud. They won’t care that their kids could have got killed, and will certainly not beat the crap out of them for being stupid.


MC Etcher said...

Thundercats!! Have you seen the 'Family Guy' segment where he uses 'sight beyond sight' to peep at Teela while she's on the toilet?

Terrible, and funny.

MC Etcher said...

Sadly, for some kids, #11 is true.

My folks watched me like a hawk, which is odd because all I wanted to do was watch tv and read.

Paulius said...

Same with me, my parents where actual parents. made sure to know where I was, what I was doing and who I was with.

I loved thundercats, when I was a kid I had the plastic "Sword of Omens". I'm dying for a replica company to make a steel version.

In closing,

"Get your foot of that Blasted Samoflange."

MC Etcher said...

You mean like this?

Pinchy78 said...

I don't suppose you remember a tv show or friday film special on at around that time... my memory is very hazy of it, and it is really getting to me. There was a bus with kids on, (and I can't really remember why - probably solving some mysteries or something) but one of the kids had a dark side, and would meet up with a baddie, and they would identify each other by singing "Camp Town races sing this song" and the other would say "do dah do dah" and thats as much as I remember.

Diesel said...

Hey Paulis, what was the name of that film from the 80's with that Tiger T-Shirt. I thought of it too and wanted to see it again. If you're able to tell me that would be great. Cheers

Matt Le Marquand said...

The film in question is 'Sammy's Super T-Shirt' other gems from the Friday film special slot were 'The Battle for Billy's Pond' Glitterball and 'The Electric Eskimo', many others but those are the ones that spring to mind. There was one other criteria for a Friday film special none of there were any longer than 55 mins.