Disposable '80s Nostalgia
The Opinions of two EAR CANDY writers:
GPR & DJ Ivan

With the inevitable nostalgia for the 1980's which has recently reared its ugly head, two EAR CANDY writers discuss the merits (if ANY) of this new wave of nostalgia.

Is it disposable? Is it any different from the 1970's nostalgia?


GPR:I grew up in the late '70s/early '80s, so I'm qualified to judge the merits of the two Fox network nostalgia shows, "That '70s Show" & "That '80s Show". "That '70s Show" started out as pretty much a continuance of the film, "Dazed and Confused". But, it developed a life of its own and its four year track record proves. I doubt (and hopefully pray to God that) "That '80s Show" will last as long." While "That '70s Show" has gone to great pains to make their show authentic (from music, clothes, current events and even the posters!), the same element seems to be missing from "That '80s Show". Not only have they gotten some of the music WRONG, but also a casual glance at the posters in the record shop are late '70s! Anybody who hung around record stores at that time (which I certainly did to beg for free posters!) knows the turn around rate for promotional posters. You didn't keep up a promotional poster for the 1979 Wings album, "Back to the Egg" 5+ years later when there was new product coming in. Slap in a few cursory references to the '80s and a punk-rocker, Madonna-wannabee, yuppie and BINGO, you've got another hit show right? Wrong! Besides, they haven't even TOUCHED what was the primary musical event of the '80s...I'm talking about MTV! Yeah, they've had a few bad memories of the '80s that have made cameos on the show, such as Debbie Gibson and Tiffany (probably to promote her new Playboy layout). May I suggest Gary Coleman or Mister T? That way you can really up the ante on the cheese-factor for the "disposable decade". I can't wait for "That '90s Show" and "That Millennium Show"!

DJ IVAN:As for "That '80s Show", I totally knew what I was in for. As is the norm for FOX network fodder, you get stock-cliched characters, tepid/untalented actors, banal situation comedy writing, and wafer thin plots. Sure enough, "That '80s show" met and exceeded my low expectations. What is amazing about "That '80s show" is that even by situation comedy standards it is an insipid, slow-moving affair. I watched the first episode and waited for something - anything - to happen. Twenty-five minutes later, the cliched "yuppie" character had uttered some pro-Reagan platitudes, the Madonna wannabe had giggled, the "punk" girl and record store employee (a shameless, terrible copy of John Cussac's character in the movie "High Fidelity") argued. Even an episode of "Scooby-Doo" moves faster than that. Furthermore, those cheapskates at FOX couldn't even be bothered to get the rights to the original song "Eighties", relying instead on a completely half-assed cover version. "Half-assed" about sums up "That '80s Show". It lives up to the Hollywood edict: "You can't polish a turd".


GPR:Which brings me to my point. I hate the corporate music of the '80s! When I was in my car the other day, I noticed a new radio station. It was an all '80s station. Cool, that means I can finally hear Husker Du and the Replacements on the radio, right? Sorry...all you get is Madonna and Phil Collins ad nauseum. Several other stations also have "80's weekend" formats. Great - lets celebrate the corporate mediocrity and blandness of radio in the '80s. All I can think of when I hear "80's radio" is all the GOOD bands that didn't get airplay. Off the top of my head I have: Husker Du, the Replacements, Black Flag and the Minute Men.

At least I don't need TV and radio to program "happy" thoughts into my head of a decade that wasn't. I remember how it really was and my ticket stubs, old videos of MTV and vinyl records remind of what really happened.

DJ IVAN:Overlooked bands that come to my mind are: Dead Kennedys, X, REM (not until 1988-1989) Soul Asylum, Midnight Oil (not until 1987), The Church (not until 1987), Meat Puppets, Violent Femmes, and Killing Joke (among many others..).

Let me harp on REM for a bit. What is so great about a decade too chickenshit to play REM until 1988? Are today's thirty-somethings really that nostalgic for a decade that considered Michael Jackson a brilliant pop genius? The 1980's should be remembered as the decade that great musicians starved (or at least went unrecognized). While I love all the aforementioned bands, I'm not terribly nostalgic for a time when great bands played to empty clubs and D.I.Y. was a bad word.

As for 1980's retro radio: The demographic for these stations is fairly obvious. People too young for "Classic Rock" and too old for "Alternative". Most stations doing this rely heavily upon the mid 1980's MTV one hit wonders (Talk-Talk, Men Without Hats, ABC, A Flock of Seagulls, Dexy's Midnight Runners) bad 1980's pop (take the "Purple Rain" soundtrack away from one of these stations and you would have at least two hours of dead air time) and increasingly big hair 80's metal bands (Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and their ilk). Though there are rare exceptions (101x in Austin has a "retro" show, which will actually play the Sex Pistols, Fugazi and Husker Du), there is little deviation from this formula. It gets fairly old rather quickly. How many times do you want to hear Frankie Goes to Hollywood or Phil Collins? For my money, I would prefer that the 80's be left in the 1980's.


Well, well well & not long after we finished this essay, I read the news on E! online. Guess which show was canceled? Yep, you guessed it, "That '80s Show". So much for the new "breakout comedy". Mark my words, though. We still aren't safe from "That '90s Show"!