The episode: “The Crawling Hand,” ep. 106
The riff: Observed by Crow as a middle-aged brunette woman draws a gun on a young man she has mistaken for a prowler. (NOTE: No video available for this one.)
The explanation: Harriet Nelson was an actress and singer best remembered for her long stint on the radio-turned-TV sitcom “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” The show was notable for starring real-life members of the Nelson family, including Ozzie Nelson, Harriet Nelson, David Nelson and Ricky Nelson. While never a resounding success, the show nevertheless lasted for eons, running from 1952 to 1966 with a whopping 425 episodes. It was the longest-running sitcom of all time until it was finally surpassed by The Simpsons in 2004. It remains the longest-running live-action sitcom of all time.
Novelty factor: I’ve heard the name of the show several times before, but I definitely didn’t know who Harriet Nelson was when the riff was mentioned. I am mildly surprised that I didn’t at least know how long “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” was on the air. Those who watched–was this pretty much the whitest, most 1950s show of all time?
The episode: “Horrors of Spider Island,” ep. 1011
The riff: Quipped by Mike in imitation of the movie’s shirtless, pompous “hero,” as he leads a gaggle of lovely ladies away from a boat crash and inward onto a desert island.
The explanation: They’re referring to the 1980 romantic drama “The Blue Lagoon,” which starred then-teenage actors Atkins and Shields as two children marooned on a tropical island. As the pair hit puberty, they undergo a confusing transition and develop feelings for one another, separated from the typical romantic constraints of society. It was somewhat scandalous at the time because it’s full of semi-clothed “nude scenes” and Shields was only 14, although she used a double for much of the filming. It’s kind of a weird movie, and it reviewed quite poorly. Roger Ebert called it “the dumbest movie of the year,” for what that’s worth.
Novelty factor: I recognized the riff because I’ve seen bits and pieces of “The Blue Lagoon” before. I’ve always found it to be achingly boring, and I’ve never made it through watching more than 10 minutes or so at one time.
The episode: “The Corpse Vanishes,” ep. 105
The riff: Narrated by Crow while the movie’s heroine sleeps in bed, unaware of the menacing Bela Lugosi looming over her.
The explanation: This is a reference to a line from 1970s commercials for Scope Mouthwash. As explained by the commercials, this “pasty film” forms while we sleep and is the cause of “morning breath, the worst breath of the day.” Crow confirms the reference a minute later by repeating the line about “worst of the day.”
Novelty factor: Definitely not the kind of thing I would know off-hand, and fairly obscure jokes for them as well, especially when the name of the product doesn’t actually appear.
The episode: “Cave Dwellers,” ep. 301
The riff: Gawked by Crow as the name “Lisa Foster” appears in the film’s very strange, letterbox-style opening credits (complete with scenes from a different movie)
The explanation: Crow is simultaneously drawing parallels between the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981 by John Hinckley Jr. and the coincidence of there being the similarly named Donald Regan as the president’s Chief of Staff in his second term. Donald Regan also served as Secretary of the Treasury in Reagan’s first term, and was a major figure of the “Reaganomics” movement. As Hinckley shot Reagan in an attempt to capture the admiration of actress Jodie Foster, Crow offers to shoot the lower-ranking Secretary to capture the attention of Foster’s long-lost “sister,” Lisa.
Novelty factor: I’ve seen this episode often and always understood the assassination reference, unsurprisingly, but I will admit I didn’t know who Donald Regan actually was. I always assumed it was just someone in entertainment, not actually a member of the Reagan administration. Enjoy this demonization of him:
The episode: “Gorgo,” ep. 909
The riff: Sarcastically riffed by Servo as the movie’s giant Godzilla-ripoff monster wades into the Atlantic Ocean and out of the film as the credits roll.
The explanation: “My Giant” was the title of a 1998 comedy drama starring Billy Crystal and 7-foot, 7-inch pro basketball player Gheorghe Muresan. In the film, Crystal plays a con man/talent agent who exploits the Romanian-born giant’s freakish proportions to make him an actor in Hollywood. It was critically panned to nobody’s surprise, just another terrible movie that Billy Crystal was involved in. As for Muresan, he had an injury-riddled career spread over 7 seasons in the NBA, and was never a particularly impactful player.
Novelty factor: I never actually saw this movie, but I remember its stunt casting very well. Even though I wasn’t particularly a basketball fan at the time (except for the Jordan-led Bulls of course), I still knew who Muresan was. And I also knew enough to avoid a movie with such a stupid premise and title.
The episode: “The Touch of Satan,” ep. 908 (Note: Two riffs in a row for this episode because I love how obscure this one is.)
The riff: Inserted by Tom at the end of the sweaty farmer’s sentence, after he exclaims “Oh, bosh!” in an incredulous way, as if saying “poppycock.”
The explanation: They’re referring to 15th century Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch, a fabulist known for his depictions of religious imagery such as heaven and hell. His best known work, “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” was a three-panel triptych depicting creation, life on Earth and the punishments awaiting sinners in Hell. Bosch was also an extremely talented sketch artist and portrait painter, although he is mostly remembered for his religious pieces today.
Novelty factor: Despite the fact that I am not a fine arts buff, I’ve still always understood this riff. Similar to the woodcuts of Albrecht Durer, I’ve always just liked Bosch’s romantic imagery.
The episode: “The Touch of Satan,” ep. 908
The riff: Growled by Mike in imitation of the family patriarch, a farmer proudly sporting massive sweat stains on his shirt.
The explanation: This line is a parody of a long-running ad campaign for Mitchum, an anti-perspirant. From the 1970s on, Mitchum ads often claimed that it was such a strong fighter of perspiration an odor that it was “so effective you can skip a day.” That slogan apparently lived on all the way to 2007 before being dropped, presumably because someone finally realized it unintentionally makes you sound like a slob who can’t be bothered to apply deodorant on a daily basis.
Novelty factor: It may sound odd, but I’ve never even heard of this brand before, much less the slogan. Not sure how I’ve missed it.