The episode: “The Skydivers,” ep. 609
The riff: Delivered by Mike as one of the movie’s various nondescript characters decides to lumber off the scene. Seriously, this movie is extremely painful.
The explanation: The “Kefauver hearings,” more accurately known as the United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce, was a series of investigations in 1950-1951 into organized crime activity crossing state borders. It became known as the “Kefauver” hearings after its chairman, Senator Estes Kefauver. I’m pretty confused as to the context of this riff, though. It doesn’t fit the time period, and there’s nothing about organized crime in the film. Anybody?
Novelty factor: I’ve never heard of these hearings before. I know you’re probably shocked.
The episode: “Hercules Against the Moon Men,” ep. 410
The riff: Chuckled by Tom as good ‘ole Herc stumbles through a small waterfall. He’s played by Sergio Ciani in this one.
The explanation: Irish Spring deodorant soap has been made by Palmolive since 1972, and is still around today. Tom is referencing a well-known series of commercials in the 1980s that played up the “Irishness” of Irish Spring and had men talking about it being a “manly” soap. Their women would then chime in, “Manly, yes, but I like it too.” And of course, being a son of Zeus with human parents, Herc is a demi-god.
Novelty factor: I know the Irish Spring brand, but these actual commercials are before my time.
The episode: “Monster a Go-Go,” ep. 421
The riff: Said by Crow in a distressed voice as yet another drabby scene begins.
The explanation: “Darkness Visible” is the name of a memoir by Styron, who also authored famous novels such as “Sophie’s Choice.” First published in Vanity Fair in 1989, the memoir deals with the crippling depression that descended on Styron after giving up alcohol in 1985. Crow is suggesting that every frame of this achingly slow and ugly movie induces the same level of depression. Of note: Whenever they include the author’s name in a riff like this, I feel that even the writers were aware that the joke might be a bit too obscure without it.
Novelty factor: I’ve never heard of this memoir before, but I have heard of Styron.
The episode: “Beginning of the End,” ep. 517
The riff: Suggested by Crow while Peter Graves’ scientist character learns they need stronger weapons against the giant, invading grasshoppers in the movie.
The explanation: Okay, this one is pretty obscure. “Chlordane” is one of several names for a pesticide that was used in the U.S. from the 1940s to the 1980s, when it was banned by the EPA because of long-term danger to drinking water. “Retsyn,” on the other hand, is an ingredient that was long a central part of the marketing campaign for the breath-fresheners Certs. Note that I do not say “breath mints,” as Certs doesn’t actually have any mint in it. Retsyn, a mixture of “copper gluconate, hydrogenated cottonseed oil and ‘flavoring,'” is the source of both the “minty” flavors and green flecks in Certs. So really, Crow is suggesting a deadly poison with something to help it go down a little easier, as it were.
Novelty factor: I didn’t know about any of this, although “Retsyn” sounds vaguely familiar. I think the SOL crew may have made jokes about things “with Retysyn” before.
The episode: “Final Justice,” ep. 1008
The riff: Quipped by Crow as Joe Don Baker’s Texas Ranger character lays back in a prison bed, revealing his oddly black and white-spotted boots.
The explanation: The pattern on his shoes looks a lot like the black and white splotches of a Holstein cow, which has long been the symbol of Gateway Computers. In the 1990s, the brand first became popular after a series of commercials featuring the black and white spotted Gateway boxes and a cow mascot. Unbelievably upon reflection, this is when human beings were getting new computers by ordering them over the phone because they saw a TV commercial. Even though I lived in that period, the thought is still bizarre to me.
Novelty factor: I was perplexed for a moment when I heard the riff, and then I had a flash of memory and made the connection. I remember the cow commercials in particular, like the one embedded below.
The episode: “Laserblast,” ep. 706
The riff: Observed by Tom Servo during the synth-heavy score of the movie’s long opening credits. And they are very long indeed.
The explanation: Hawkwind, as it turns out, is an English rock band formed in 1969 and still active today, although the 1970s-1980s was their most prolific period. They were among the first groups labeled as “space rock,” blending electronic sounds and “spacey-sounding” keyboards with progressive rock music. The crew of the Satellite of Love previously showed themselves to have a certain fascination with this type of music with all their commentary on “music from space” in “Pod People.”
Novelty factor: Completely new to me. I must say, when I hear “Hawkwind,” it sounds like a really nerdy rock band. They sound like a group of bards that I would have run across as NPCs in a D&D game.
The episode: “The Saga of the Viking Women and their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent,” ep. 317
The riff: Spoken by Tom in a gruff voice as a warrior on horseback whips the one shrimpy man who snuck off to adventure with the titular Viking Women.
The explanation: This is a sly reference to a great bit from the 1978 film comedy “Animal House.” In the scene referenced, the white boys from Delta House have stumbled into an urban bar where they are clearly not welcome. A huge African American man asks this question before ripping their bolted-down table off the floor in a show of terrifying strength. Tom is parodying the situation as the guy being whipped is having his women “stolen” from him by the men on horseback.
Novelty factor: I recognized the line as soon as I heard it, because I love “Animal House” and John Landis movies in general. Except, you know, John Landis movies made after 1990.