125,000 fans and fanboys struggled their way through traffic jams and back home through epic airport delays in order to attend the just-wrapped Comic-Con 2008. But amidst all the movie hype, some attendees grumbled that this was the year the convention finally lost sight of the comic books it was actually started to showcase. This week on the IFC News podcast, we look at what’s changed for Comic-Con, why it’s gotten so much press attention this year and which movies everyone’s been talking about.
Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.
Posted by Luke McKinney on Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television
The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.
Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.
1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.
2. IKEA Heights
IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.
When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.
Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.
5. Too Many Cooks
Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.
6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace
Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.
7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV
Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.
8. Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…
9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.
10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show
The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.
11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)
Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.
And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”
12. Acorn Antiques
First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.
13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show
In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)
14. The Spoils of Babylon
Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.
15. All My Children Finale, SNL
SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.
Stars Gerard Butler, Jeremy Piven, Idris Elba and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges joined director Guy Ritchie for yesterday’s presentation on “RocknRolla,” Ritchie’s first film since infamous bomb “Revolver,” which took two years to reach U.S. shores. “RocknRolla,” which is about the Russian mob in London, is the film that everyone’s hoping represents a return to form for the director who first made a splash with snappy urban crime films like “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch.”
Mostly, though, all eyes were on Butler, who offered chocolates to the crowd of adoring female fans and answered questions on the nature of his role and whether it was as physically challenging as his part in “300.” Piven, in turn, offered his own fan service, saying “I’m completely overwhelmed by everyone’s focus and their dedication. I’m in honor of all of you and I celebrate each and everyone one of you — and I would like to do that personally, I’m in a service position for all of you. I would give you chocolate — I have no more chocolate left. But I am going to take my shirt off.”
While “RocknRolla” is set to open October 3rd, many were already looking forward to Ritchie’s next film, “Sherlock Holmes,” which promises (threatens?) to give a contemporary spin to the classic character, who’ll be played by Robert Downey, Jr. “It’s like James Bond in 1891,” producer Joel Silver offered. “It’s an action picture, it’s seeing Holmes the way he always should have been seen.”
Catch Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II this month on IFC.
Posted by Jeff Finkle on Photo Credit: Mary Evans/Columbia Pictures/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection
They say if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. And since the early days of cinema, The Big Apple has seen all sorts of dreamers and schemers depicted on the big screen. Before you catch Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II this month on IFC, here are ten of the best comedy films that show what it’s like to live in the city so nice, you don’t even mind being mugged leaving the packed subway train each morning.
10. The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975)
Melvin Frank’s adaptation of Neil Simon’s play captures the “screw this city” feeling that every New Yorker eventually experiences at some point. Jack Lemmon is the perfect harried Simon protagonist, a middle-aged everyman who feels like the city has conspired against him. A fed-up Lemmon chasing a mugger (a pre-Rocky Sylvester Stallone) through the streets of Manhattan is just one in a series of classic New York moments depicted in this roller coaster ride of urban agita.
9. Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
Madonna’s first major film role captures the grit and coolness of New York City’s East Village in the ‘80s. Through the wonders of amnesia, Rosanna Arquette’s Roberta Glass ditches her dull New Jersey life to dance in cool bars with club kids with poofy ’80s hair, wear an awesome pyramid jacket (at the now defunct East Village thrift shop Love Saves the Day ) and, of course, live The Material Girl’s life. We imagine the plot point about the classified section will be updated to Craigslist Missed Connections for the inevitable remake starring Lady Gaga.
8. Night Shift (1982)
A comedy classic for anyone who watched too much HBO back in the ’80s, Night Shift launched the feature film directing career of Ron Howard and unleashed the frantic comic energy of Michael Keaton into the world. Henry Winkler ditches The Fonz to play a bookish nighttime morgue attendant who starts an escort, er, “love broker” service with Keaton’s hyper-energetic “idea man.” With Cheers‘ resident nice gal Shelley Long playing a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold, this is a film that could only exist during the good old seedy days of the city that never sleeps.
7. After Hours (1985)
New York City is filled with characters, many of which Martin Scorsese sheds a light on in this cult favorite dark comedy. A bored office drone (Griffin Dunne) heads to the (at the time) bohemian and sketchy neighborhood of Soho to see a girl he met at a coffee shop and encounters a series of oddballs during his late night quest to get back to his apartment. Dunne is kind of like the “Dorothy” of After Hours as he tries all night to make it back home from the whacked out “Oz” known as pre-gentrification downtown Manhattan. Sculpters, bouncers and punk rockers, Oh My!
6. Arthur (1981)
To crib a line from the film’s theme song (performed by falsetto-voiced crooner Christopher Cross): “If you get caught between the moon and New York City, the best that you can do is fall in love.” Although, it has to be easier to meet someone if you have a few hundred million or so in the bank, even if you are a drunken layabout. In this classic comedy, Dudley Moore’s spoiled man child falls in love with Linda (Liza Minnelli), a girl from Queens who he helps get away from a life of shoplifting at high-end department stores. Between the drunken laughs, there are some poignant moments between Arthur and his butler/father figure Hobson (Sir John Gielgud, in an Oscar-winning role). Arthur’s New York doesn’t include taking cabs or the subway, but he does love a nice drive through Central Park.
5. Coming To America (1988)
Where does the prince of Zamunda go when he wants to find a wife? To Queens, of course and that’s where the hilarity begins for Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem and his trusted servant Semmi (Arsenio Hall). Akeem falls in love with Lisa (Shari Headley) after taking a job at her father’s local fast food restaurant, McDowell’s, home of the “Big Mic.” The barbershop scenes showcase Murphy’s skills for playing multiple characters and add to the film’s vibrant NYC flavor. (Look for Samuel L. Jackson in an early role as the would-be robber who Akeem takes down with his trusty mop.)
4. Quick Change (1990)
Before Bill Murray was crashing random house parties in Williamsburg, he co-directed and starred in this underrated comedy. Donning clown make-up, Bill plays a bank robber trying to escape the city along with Geena Davis and Randy Quaid (hilarious as the dim-witted Loomis). Of course, their only real obstacle to paradise is getting stuck in the everyday quagmire and craziness of New York City and pre-gentrified Brooklyn as they attempt to make it to JFK. Along the way, they encounter a gangster (Stanley Tucci), a confused cab driver (Tony Shalhoub) and a by-the-rules bus driver played by Philip Bosco. Quick Change is a hidden gem in Murray’s filmography, and the perfect film for anyone who has had it with the big city grind.
3. When Harry Met Sally (1989)
The movie that asks and answers the question “Can men and women just be friends?,” When Harry Met Sally is also one of the great New York City romantic comedies. Making use of iconic locations like Washington Square Park and Katz’s Deli (yes, you can actually sit and eat where Meg Ryan had her “I’ll have what she’s having” moment), Rob Reiner’s comedy captures the romance of the Big Apple with its tale of two friends dancing around the inevitable over a series of encounters.
2. Annie Hall (1977)
While Manhattan has the gorgeous shots of New York City landmarks set to Gershwin music, Annie Hall is the Woody Allen classic that captures the city in all its neurotic glory. It’s fitting that the seeds for the film were planted while Allen and co-writer Marshall Brickman were walking around Manhattan — the city is as much a character as Allen’s kvetching and Diane Keaton’s trend-setting neckties. The scenes with Alvy being miserable among the shiny happy West Coast people started the LA vs. NYC debate that still rages on today. Like a lot of New Yorkers, Alvy is bound to the city that he doesn’t just love, he lurves.
1. Ghostbusters (1984)
Ghostbusters isn’t just one of the best comedies ever made. It’s also, hands down, one of the best New York City films of all time. From Venkman, Egon and Ray hunting a poltergeist in the New York Public Library, to Rick Moranis’ Louis getting cornered by a hellhound outside of Tavern on the Green, the city comes to life (literally in the sequel) whenever the Ghostbusters are on the job. You don’t get more New York than Annie Potts as Janine answering the phone with, “Ghostbusters. Whaddya want?!” Click here to see all airings of Ghostbusters on IFC.