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How did the ’80s become a punchline?

How did the ’80s become a punchline? (photo)

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Give anything 20 years and it’ll start to look like the makings of a joke. And so — welcome back to the ’80s, or, as LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge” put it, “borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered ’80s.” You don’t even need to have had first-hand experience with the decade to make fun of it.

Today’s opening of “MacGruber” — which Karina Longworth’s review clusters alongside “Hot Tub Time Machine” and “Cop Out” as movies whose primary subject is a decade’s worth of pop culture rather than actual people — confirms what we already knew: VH1’s “I Love The 80s” was far, far more insidious than we figured.

Compare and contrast — the trailers for “MacGruber” and “Hot Tub Time Machine” are below:

The ’70s didn’t suddenly see a big spate of films mocking the ’50s, nor the ’80s the ’60s and so forth. There is a joke in “Dazed and Confused” — the only one that really guns for the low-hanging fruit — where a character speculates on the rule of how every other decade is awesome, and figures out since the ’70s suck, maybe the ’80s will be totally awesome. But that’s about it.

05212010_hottubtimemachine.jpgThat an entire decade’s worth of pop culture is, in and of itself, a punchline, is new and unnerving. It’s different from the numerous films taking old TV franchises as a starting point for a movie. The idea isn’t playing with an established brand and resurrecting familiar images; it’s toying with passed-down imagery as a joke whose currency is already established.

The idea that changes in fashion (accessories, clothing, music, so on) automatically constitute hilarity, then, is a special rule we’ve come up with for the ’80s. Familiarity breeds contemptuous affection for a decade that’s just stupid, which was VH1’s whole premise — mention just a title or name, then laugh away. What’s unclear is whether thirtysomethings now getting to make their own movies will be able to sell that to kids too young to directly remember the ’80s, those for whom the below montage conjures no nostalgia.

What really gives me pause is wondering whether this is a one-off or a harbinger of something more sinister. 20 years hence, will we be deluged with movies portraying the aughts as a time of toxic smart-phone abuse, American Apparel and people writing their own Wikipedia entries? It’s easy to reduce a decade to its pop-culture sound-bites and trend topics when you have no memory of being complicit with them. Sneering is easy, compassion is hard.

[Photos: “MacGruber,” Universal, 2010; “Hot Tub Time Machine,” MGM, 2010]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.