Whose coffee advice do you trust most?

September 29 is National Coffee Day. So let’s take a moment to acknowledge our favorite coffee spokespersons and thank them for their valuable coffee advice over the years.

Clockwise from upper left: Mrs. Olson (Virginia Christine) for Folgers; Cora (Margaret Hamilton) for Maxwell House; Lauren Bacall for High Point; and Robert Young for Sanka.

Perhaps the best known coffee personality is Mrs. Olson, played by Virginia Christine. Women seek out Mrs. Olson’s sympathetic ear to complain about their husbands’ insensitive remarks, which always seem to center on the wives’ poor coffee-making ability. Mrs. Olson advises using mountain-grown Folgers coffee, “the richest, most aromatic kind of coffee.” On the surface, it seems like helpful advice, but it still leaves the women believing that they deserve to be treated like dirt unless they learn to make good coffee. Maybe instead, Mrs. Olson should recommend marriage counseling or suggest that the women leave their abusive relationships and discover their own self-worth. Folgers, the coffee most preferred by women with low self-esteem!

MRS. OLSON: Mary, come in! My goodness, you look as if you lost your last friend.

MARY: It’s my Jim again. You should have heard him this morning! “Mary, your coffee is as undrinkable as ever.”… Maybe he’s right. I just can’t seem to make good coffee.

When you were a child, did Margaret Hamilton scare you as the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz? Did every cackle and “my pretty” send a shiver down your spine? Well, you’ll see a much milder Hamilton as Cora, the proprietor of the general store that carries no coffee but Maxwell House. Instead of sinister and shrill, here Hamilton is wise and earthy. And a bad businesswoman. She should at least carry one other brand so people feel like they have a choice. But Cora insists there isn’t room in her small store to carry anything but the best. “I only sell one kind. Maxwell House,” she boasts. “Like they say, ‘Good to the last drop.'” Now give me those ruby slippers!

One thing about running a country store: You only stock what’s best. Fruit in season. Home-baked pies, when I can get ’em. Even coffee. I only sell one kind. Maxwell House.

Robert Young knew best on Father Knows Best and played a doctor on Marcus Welby, M.D., so his coffee advice certainly seems trustworthy. Just ask the young couple in the commercial below. Times have changed since Mrs. Olson’s day, and now, it’s not the wife’s poor coffee-making that’s the problem, it’s the husband’s ineptitude. Poor Don even has trouble folding a map. Don’s wife makes excuses for him: “The doctor says caffeine makes him nervous.” A little Xanax would probably help, but since Robert Young isn’t a real doctor, he prescribes “Sanka brand decaffeinated coffee.” Later, Don’s wife claims that switching Don to Sanka brand helped make their vacation a second honeymoon. Yeah, that’s what happens when a guy’s blood vessels are no longer constricted by caffeine. Young concludes, “Sanka brand: The coffee that lets you be your best.”

ROBERT YOUNG: You should drink Sanka brand decaffeinated coffee.

DON: But I only like real coffee.

ROBERT YOUNG: Sanka brand is real coffee, and tastes it. Try it.

Finally, there’s Lauren Bacall for High Point. Like Young, Bacall too drinks decaf, explaining that she doesn’t need the extra caffeine: “I’m active enough, thank you!” Rushing around to make her eight o’clock curtain, she drinks instant decaffeinated coffee in her limo, wearing a fur coat and pearls. Bacall purrs about how much she loves the taste of that crap. She really is very convincing; she deserved all those acting awards she won during her lifetime. When she says “That’s rich!” you truly believe she is referring to the taste, and not making an ironic comment on her own endorsement. But if you’ll permit me to make a pun, I’d say that High Point was a low point in Bacall’s career. Sadly, they stopped making High Point years ago. I do hope she managed to find another instant decaffeinated coffee to keep in her limo and satisfy her “coffee-lover’s taste.”

You know what makes High Point taste so good? Deep-brewed flavor. I love it!

Today in TV history: The wreck of the S.S. Minnow

Gilligan with mouth openGilligan’s Island debuted on this date 50 years ago (September 26, 1964).

The first episode broadcast was “Two on a Raft,” in which the castaways discover themselves shipwrecked on “an uncharted desert isle.” It was not the pilot, however. That wouldn’t be televised until 1992, nearly three decades later.

The pilot is like an alternate universe version of the show. No sitting right back to “hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip.” In this version, there is a calypso theme song. Looking for Mary Ann? You won’t find her — there’s someone named Bunny instead. Ginger and the Professor are there, but they’re played by different actors, and Ginger isn’t a movie star — she’s a secretary. Oh, and the tour is six hours, not three.

There is something disturbing about seeing something you know as well as your own name — and it’s almost the same, but different. Ready to have your mind blown? Watch the pilot show opening theme below. You don’t know the words to this one!

Rare opening theme, Gilligan's Island pilot (1963)

Talk like a pirate… and dress like one too

September 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Arr! But talk is cheap. Why just talk like a pirate when you can also dress like one?

Perhaps you’d like to wear a puffy pirate shirt like Jerry Seinfeld (above right). In “The Puffy Shirt,” Kramer’s new girlfriend Leslie, a “low talker,” says something inaudible to which Jerry nods his head and smiles. What he doesn’t realize is that he’s just agreed to wear a puffy pirate-style shirt she’s designed during his upcoming appearance on the Today show. Reluctantly, under pressure from Kramer, Jerry goes ahead and wears the shirt. Bryant Gumbel gives him grief:

BRYANT: (Talking directly to the camera) Back now, 7:46. On Tuesday the 19th here in New York there will be a benefit for the Goodwill Industries – a used clothing organization that provides services to the needy. One of the performers will be comedian Jerry Seinfeld. (Turns to face Jerry) Jerry, good morning.

JERRY: (Mumbling out) Thank you, Bryant.

BRYANT: (Pointing out) And speaking of clothing, that is a very, very unusual shirt you have on.

Bryant Gumbel and Jerry SeinfeldJERRY: (Looking down at the shirt; mumbling) Oh, thank you.

(Backstage, Kramer’s standing with his girlfriend. She’s brimming with pride)

BRYANT: You’re all kinda, (waves his hands around) kinda “puffed up.” (Chuckles)

JERRY: Yeah, it’s a puffy shirt.

BRYANT: (Laughing) You look kinda like a pirate.

(Elaine, also standing backstage, closes her eyes – showing her dissatisfaction)

JERRY: (Nervous laughter) Yeah… like a pirate… (attempting to get on another subject) Anyway, ah, you know, we’re hoping to, um, raise enough money… with this… uh…

BRYANT: (Rudely interrupting, still snickering at the shirt) You… ah, look, I’m sorry, it is just a VERY unusual shirt. It could be kind of a whole new look for you.. you know, you could put a patch over an eye, you could be kind of like the pirate-comedian.

JERRY: Uh-huh, yeah. (Smiling, nodding, clearly wanting Bryant to shut up)

BRYANT: Are you going to be wearing the shirt at the concert?

JERRY: (Losing it, mad) Look, it’s not my shirt.

BRYANT: (Confused) Whose shirt is it?

JERRY: What’s the difference? I agreed to wear it. It’s – it’s a puffy shirt. I feel ridiculous in it, and I think it’s the stupidest shirt I’ve ever seen, to be perfectly honest with you. (Nodding)

LESLIE: (Off camera, shrill, high pitched yelling) You bastard!

BRYANT: (To Jerry) Did you hear that?

JERRY: (Pointing off screen, nodding) THAT I heard.

From “The Puffy Shirt,” Seinfeld (Sept. 23, 1993)

Today on the tray: TV dinners

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September 10 is National TV Dinner Day.

Who came up with the nifty idea of TV dinners, anyway? Well, several different parties lay claim to the invention. Swanson & Sons is credited with coming up with the term “TV dinner.” A popular story is that Swanson & Sons had 260 tons of unsold frozen Thanksgiving turkey on their hands one year, and one of their executives, inspired by airline meals, came up with the idea of packaging and selling the excess turkey as as part of a frozen dinner. This was in 1954. Quaker State Foods was already selling frozen dinners in aluminum trays in 1949, but Swanson was the first to enjoy widespread success with the frozen dinner concept.

In 1973, Swanson introduced its larger-portioned Hungry-Man Dinners. Below, a pre-Taxi, pre-Grease Jeff Conaway stars as a hungry man in an early commercial for the new, larger meal.

Jeff ConawayEver since we got married, all he does is eat! Good thing I found these Hungry-Man Dinners from Swanson! Look at all that chicken! Four meaty pieces. Swanson already put the second helping in. There’s fried chicken, turkey… four Hungry-Man dinners with the second helping already in!

It’s the next best thing to your good cooking. Swanson makes it good!

Today on the tray: Wiener schnitzel

September 9 is National Wiener Schnitzel Day.

wiener schintzel

Wiener schnitzel, according to Wikipedia, “is a very thin, breaded and deep fried schnitzel made from veal. It belongs to the best known specialties of Viennese cuisine. The Wiener Schnitzel is the national dish of Austria.”

I, for one, cannot hear “schnitzel” without thinking of Julie Andrews singing about “schnitzel with noodles” in The Sound of Music.

My Favorite Things

“Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels,
doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles”

Have you ever been to a Wienerschnitzel restaurant? The chain was founded in 1961 in Wilmington, California, and was then known as Der Wienerschnitzel. But if you go there looking for wiener schnitzel, you’ll be sorely disappointed, since it is not on the menu. And to make it more confusing, “Der Wienerschnitzel” isn’t even correct German; it should have been “Das Wienerschnitzel.” Oh, how I wish the world made sense.

Below, in a 1977 Der Wienerschnitzel commercial, a family passes by McDonald’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box, and a hot dog stand before ultimately settling on Der Wienerschnitzel, because it has hamburgers and hot dogs (though not wienerschnitzel). We all know the real reason is that the dad doesn’t want to have to turn the car around, but whatever. The commercial has a nice jingle. Sadly it does not feature Wienerschnitzel’s mascot, a hot dog named The Delicious One, who is on Twitter.

Vintage Der Wienerschitzel commercial (1977)

Today on the tray: Banana splits

banana splitAugust 25 is National Banana Split Day. 

According to some sources, the banana split was first created in 1904 by a pharmacist named David Evans Strickler in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Others dispute the claim. But in August 2013, Latrobe erected a commemorative marker with great fanfare at a banana split festival, so it must be true. After all, a sign says so.

banana split historical marker in Latrobe, Pa

In Latrobe, Pennsylvania, citizens celebrate banana split history and erect a marker staking the city’s claim as the birthplace of the banana split.

If you watched Saturday morning television from 1968 to 1970, you might also associate “banana split” with The Banana Splits Adventure Hour and its theme song that began, “Tra la la, la la la la. Tra la la, la la la la.”

The show featured a fictional rock band composed of Fleegle (a beagle), Bingo (a gorilla), Drooper (a lion), and Snorky (an elephant). It was produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions with costumes and sets designed by Sid and Marty Krofft.

Opening, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour

Tra la la, la la la la. Tra la la, la la la la.

One banana, two banana, three banana, four.
Four bananas make a bunch and so do many more.
Over hill and highway the banana buggies go
Comin’ on to bring you The Banana Splits Show.

Today in TV history: We learn The Facts of Life

The Facts of Life cast

The Facts of Life cast

On this date in 1979, Mrs. Garrett, the housekeeper from the first season of Diff’rent Strokes, graduated to her own series, The Facts of Life. In this spinoff, she becomes housemother to the girls of Eastland, a girls’ boarding school in Peekskill, New York. No more cleaning up after the Drummonds!

Charlotte Rae, who portrayed Mrs. Garrett, had played character roles on numerous shows, including Car 54, Where Are You?

Here are the rare opening credits from the first episode of The Facts of Life showing the crossover guest stars from Diff’rent Strokes. Like the opening used for the rest of Season 1, this one includes vocals by Mrs. Garrett herself, Charlotte Rae. There’s no mistaking that warble.

Opening credits and part of first episode, The Facts of Life, (August 24, 1979)

Which Facts of Life girl are you most like? Are you spoiled and vain like Blair? Tough and butch like Jo? Gossipy and immature like Tootie? Funny and zaftig like Natalie? (I’m a Natalie!)

Which one are you: Blair, Jo, Tootie, or Natalie?

Family Guy has paid homage to The Facts of Life in quite a few episodes. In this clip, for example, the androgynous Jo approaches Mrs. Garrett with a unique problem.

Family Guy, “You have both?!” from “Brian Goes Back to College” (Nov. 13, 2005)

Peter Griffin as Mrs. Garrett's rack

“No, no! That’s not what Mrs Garrett’s bosom looked like. It looked more like this.” –Peter Griffin, from Family Guy, “Family Guy Viewer Mail” (Feb. 14, 2002)

My favorite Facts of Life reference on Family Guy is from an episode in which the Griffins develop superpowers as a result of exposure to toxic waste. Peter’s superpower is the ability to change himself into any person or object. At the end of the episode, he transforms himself into “Mrs. Garrett’s giant rack,” complete with liver spots. “Girls, girls, girls!” he imitates the large-breasted housemother, and everyone laughs.

Today on the tray: Potato sticks

August 19 is National Potato Day. (So is October 27.)

There are a lot of different things I could have posted for National Potato Day. After all, potatoes are prepared so many different ways, and are used in so many different snacks.

But I ultimately settled on potato sticks, so that I could bring you this Japanese commercial for Nabisco Idaho Potato Sticks starring ’70s teen idol Leif Garrett. Watch as Garrett dances to his own recording of “I Was Made for Dancin’.” Gazing into the camera, he says, “I want to dance with you… and this [can of potato sticks].” How dreamy!

Nabisco Idaho Potato Sticks commercial (Japanese) with Leif Garrett (1979)

Born on this date: Maureen McCormick

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Maureen McCormick turns 58 today, August 5, 2014. McCormick is, of course, best known for playing Marcia on The Brady Bunch from 1969 to 1974, and then on its spinoffs, The Brady Bunch Hour, The Brady Brides, and the special A Very Brady Christmas. 

“Oh, my nose!” Marcia Brady gets a football in the nose in “The Subject Was Noses,” The Brady Bunch (Feb. 9, 1973)

mccormick as endora

Maureen McCormick as a young Endora on Bewitched.

Prior to The Brady Bunch, she acted in commercials and worked on shows such as Bewitched. Post-Brady Bunch, she appeared on The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and other series. In 2008 she published an autobiography titled, Here’s the Story:  Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice.

Here’s a video of McCormick on The Dating Game, where she has to choose one of three losers to go out with on a date. I can’t believe they couldn’t find more appealing guys than these in the L.A. area. Fer cryin’ out loud, she could have gone out with Doug Simpson, “the big man on campus”!

Maureen McCormick on The Dating Game (1973)

If you want to know which guy she picked, you have to watch Part 2. Oh, I’ll spoil it for you: It’s Loser #2. McCormick shows her acting chops when she pretends that she isn’t mortified when she sees him. They get to go to Monterey on their date.

Today on the tray: Ice cream sandwiches

August 2 is National Ice Cream Sandwich Day. The Los Angeles Times suggests “19 wild, weird ways to celebrate” National Ice Cream Sandwich Day, such as substituting brownies for cookies, or putting frosting on the inside.

ice cream sandwichBut I don’t think their suggestions are wild or weird enough. How about celebrating with a little food porn? This sexy Carvel commercial has a porn soundtrack complete with sighs of ecstasy (or, um, I’m told that’s what porn sounds like). About five seconds in, they make an ice cream sandwich.

Hey there, cookies, how about the three of us getting together and making a sandwich?

Carvel ice cream commercial (1986)


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