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Marc Mason is a freelance writer based in Tempe, AZ.

Friday, October 24, 2003  
This Thing I Love Without Reason

Maybe I’ve just had a hard time letting go of certain elements of my youth, but for whatever reason I am thoroughly addicted to VH1’s “I LOVE THE 80S” and its ilk (“I LOVE THE 80S STRIKES BACK” and “I LOVE THE 70S”). I just finished watching the final hour of STRIKES BACK, and already I feel empty inside because it’s over. Goddammit, where is the justice??? Why must this magnificent pop culture Cliff’s Notes be complete???

The show’s hour long looks at each year inevitably bring something back to mind that I have forgotten about, or something that I had very little familiarity with at all. Sure, I watched THE SMURFS, but I never saw a single episode of JEM. I owned a TRAPPER KEEPER, but I never wore L.A. GEAR. But I think we all watched MY TWO DADS at least once, so at least there are some cultural touchstones that we all share. God bless Greg Evigan.

I think what really makes the show fun for me is are the celebrity commentators that VH1 uses to help the reminiscing along. Rich Eisen, now freed from ESPN, really ups his humor quotient in STRIKES BACK. Juliette Lewis is twenty times more charming and appealing talking about her childhood and whether or not Samantha Fox was a skank than she’s been in any film she’s made since NATURAL BORN KILLERS. Virginia Madsen shows that she’s aged spectacularly and will likely be sexy until she’s seventy. But the real stars this time out are Hal Sparks, Donal Logue, and Rachael Harris.

Sparks has been charming in the earlier efforts, but this time around he manages to knock almost every single bit he does out of the park. Even when he has to discuss Rainbow Brite, Sparks finds a way to make me snort. I used to watch him do TALK SOUP, but he was never as good there as he has been in VH1’s little retrospectives. Donal Logue has always been a very funny guy, but for STRIKES BACK he seemed to kick it up a notch. He added a comfortable anger to his bits, never missing a chance to poke a hole in an inflated bit of pop or tip over a sacred cow. VH1 actually recognize his brilliance this time by adding a new segment to the show: “Donal Logue’s Unfinished Thoughts On…” A couple were a bit unnecessary, but for the most part, Logue batted for high average.

The third bright star of STRIKES BACK was Rachael Harris. I was pretty unfamiliar with her work, though a cursory look at her IMDB listing tells me I’ve seen her in plenty of things before. Harris is dryly witty, treading a constant thin line between mocking the topic at hand and admitting love for it. She gives off the impression of being amusingly embarrassed about her own personal participation in the decade, as we all probably should. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for further work from her. And yes, I did finish the ten hours of pop highlights crushing on her a bit, too. It’s the glasses. But she’s a comedy genius, dammit. So bite me.

Wisely, VH1 cut back on bits from the now over-exposed Mo Rocca and the annoying Michael Ian Black. Black at least doers a better job of reining himself in during most of the shows, but a little Rocca can go a long way, as those who saw The Smoking Gun’s television special can attest. But in the end, you just have to look past the commentary, and marvel that we survived those fashions, those hairstyles, and those music videos with our dignity intact. Well, most of us anyway. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find my parachute pants and Vuarnet sunglasses. I want to look cool while getting my hair feathered.


8:48 PM

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