February 2012

Friends, Windows 95, And The World's FIRST Cyber-Sitcom!

Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston, in the video I bet they'll regret their whole lives
Microsoft has a long history of releasing incredibly dorky and stupid guides and promotional videos for their latest operating systems. And the Windows 95 guide (which shipped on VHS cassette) is no exception. 
Narrated by Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry, this 10-minute video begins with "The world's FIRST cyber sitcom," whatever that means. (The narrator is careful to hit the word "FIRST" with extra emphasis. Were they planning to make more of these?)
It opens with a woman who has the harsh "older New Yawk smoker" accent of a character actor who gets cast as the unsuccessful agent. Perry and Aniston appear on screen, mugging in the way that only a pair of vintage 90s Friends actors can. The woman behind the desk is Bernice Keppelman, Bill Gates' assistant, and she will show Perry and Aniston around Windows 95 in Gates' absence.
Bill Gates, you see, is out. That's right: Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston appeared in this video, but Bill Gates was, what? Too good to show up? Too important? Too awkward to star in his own cyber-sitcom?


The best two-hour programming block on TV.

Remember when it was cool to sit at home with your family, make a pizza and watch Nickelodeon's SNICK on a Friday night? I don't either, but that doesn't mean that wasn't the way I spent my weekend nights when I was a kid. The Friday night block of programming had all of my favorite shows, including Clarissa Explains It All and Are You Afraid of the Dark? Everybody was doing it in the '90s; were you?

The Fame of Mahir

Welcome to my homepage! I kiss you!!!!!
Mahir became famous in 1999, at the very end of the 90s. In fact, in a lot of ways, Mahir's fame is the perfect transitional point between the 90s and the 2000s. His story embodies elements of both, and his insane fame presaged the internet's rise to prominence within our lives.
In the 90s, everyone had a home page (or wanted one). We didn't really know why. We were reaching out across the perceived silence of cyberspace. (Although everyone who was around in the 90s knows that cyberspace isn't REALLY silent, it sounds like "eeebbeeepopopopcrkkhssssssssqueeee!") We used clumsy tools, and added lots of crazy-ass ugly stuff like textured backgrounds, javascript effects that followed your mouse cursor around the page, and MIDI music that automatically loaded with every page.

The best cartoons of the '90s

Hey Arnold!, Doug and Aaah!!! Real Monsters

In the past few years, I've come to the realization that I watched way too much cartoons as a kid. Like way too much. If somebody mentions a show that was on Nickelodeon or Saturday morning or Disney Channel at an indiscriminate point in the '90's, I can not only recall the show, but also on which strange Canadian sci-fi series the lead voices currently star. I wish I could do something useful. Still, since my brain managed to ward off most of its '90's rotting and I work--as all things--a writer, let's discuss some of the best cartoons from the '90s:

Wild Palms

Oh for the televised excesses of the 1990s!
A recent Metafilter post reminded me of this truly bizarre artifact of the 1990s. Back then, we were content to let Oliver Stone do just about anything he wanted, for as long as he wanted. And in 1993, it turns out what he wanted to do was bring a big confusing graphic novel from Details Magazine to the small screen. "Wild Palms" was a five-episode miniseries that did not make a lick of sense. 
I remember having watched it when it aired, and having been completely dumbfounded. Somehow it had been explicitly linked to my then-favorite show "Twin Peaks," although at this point I forget how this linkage was framed. It must have been something in the ad campaign, because "Wild Palms" itself is completely free of any "Twin Peaks" influence, except in so far as it is bizarre and nonsensical. (But not in a fun way, like "Twin Peaks.")

Magic Eye Posters

YES I tried everything. YES, that too.
Even just thinking about this pop culture icon of the 90s gives me a headache. I fully grasp the biological mechanism behind the autostereogram, but I have never, not once in my entire life, gotten it to work. And I curse the man who invented them.
Although the autostereogram was invented decades earlier, it wasn't until 1991 that they made it big. Wikipedia informs me that Tom Baccei and Cheri Smith struck a book deal with Tenyo, which published their Magic Eye book first in Japanese, and then for American audiences.