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Classic Television Rundown: Salute Your Shorts, Episode 1-4; "Brownies for Thud Mackie"

It seems like every time I watch one of these episodes, I come here with the intent to express some broad talking point about the devolution of culture (pop and otherwise) since the halycon days of my youth. Of course, I'm watching these episodes predisposed to their nostalgic awesomeness and with an assignment to discover something to talk about, so that would be how it ends up, wouldn't it? Maybe I need to view Salute Your Shorts through the eyes of a modern child aka the child of my desired mistress Cameron Richardson whose perfect picture I will post here again because it's become 50% of my will to survive.

Anyway, this episode finds our default protagonist Michael stumbling into the ire of camp bully Thud Mackie when he accidentally squashes the homemade brownies Thud had hidden in one of those book shells that hides a secret compartment. NO HOMEMADE SNACKS AT CAMP, duh. It may seem like a rule purposed to the plot, but really it's designed to make sure every kid feels as abandoned by their parents as the other kids.

Side story: I was gifted some secret compartment books by my grandma when I was young, disguised as Seymour Hersh's The Samson Option. I would go on to meet Mr. Hersh in a discussion group at an off-campus house during college. I would then go on to deliver sandwiches.

So yeah, my first thesis is this: A standard Salute Your Shorts episode is more complexly constructed than 90% of today's popular procedurals. It may just be a byproduct of comedy versus straight drama, but look: Almost every lawyer/cop/detective show features an investigation that goes from person or place to place or person in a straight line. There may be a B story shining some personal light on the weekly players, but that almost never ties into the A. The whole drama usually ends up being that one of the people along the way lied or some briefly-mentioned object takes on more importance than it previously did. The end.
"Brownies for Thud Mackie" is no work of genius, but it still coordinates itself towards much more rewarding smiles. For instance, the episode starts off with counselor Ug welcoming "foliage fans" to his nature walk, only to find Z.Z. to be the sole fan. With Michael's effort to appease/avoid the bully dominating the episode, vignettes of Ug's and Z.Z.'s plant misadventures seem to provide little more than a sideshow on the surface; however, they work their way back into Michael's story at 3 separate points, sometimes for a simple laugh, yet sometimes to actually further the main conflict.

I know this may sound like 101 level narrative analysis, but I point it out because so many shows - and so many popular shows - persist far below this level. I'm not blaming Hollywood, because they're simply a business catering to demands. I'm simply wondering: What enjoyment do people continue to draw out of the same, drab drama?

Second thesis: The world has changed more in the past 15 years than it has in any 15-year period ever before. Imagine that the 17th century progressed exactly as it did, technology-wise, only television existed and people were able to watch old shows from their youth. They'd be commenting on the different fashions and figures of speech, just like we do today, but otherwise I guess they'd probably focus on all the different empires and plagues that transgressed since their childhood...

To that I say: So what? Politics and epidemics are cyclical forces that really don't deviate anywhere near as much as society supposes they do. The basic social necessity of peer interaction, meanwhile, has absolutely changed since they days of Camp Anawanna.

At the end of the episode, Michael almost leaves camp to escape from the bully. He gets in a van to be taken to the airport and asks Ug how long it will take to get there. "Fifteen minutes, and then you'll be gone forever." And in 1991, he really would be gone forever. Think of all those kids you had intense friendships with for short periods of time that you've never seen again, and may not even remember and therefore can't really think of. Do today's kids face that dilemma? I imagine even children under 10 are exchanging e-mails, facebook pages, etcetera, never facing the threat of completely losing relationships.

The last real farewell?

Now that I think of it, the advancement of plane transportation may be more significant than the advancement of the internet. I mean, when people used to leave home, they would leave home forever. But think about how different everything is from your youth because of the internet. I would be spouting this nonsense to you in person, if I ever even got the opportunity to do that. I'd be spitting and frothing and probably getting half the character names wrong without the resources to refresh my knowledge. Nowadays, I can just place this here, in this intangible space, and wonder if any of my 400 facebook friends will ever read it.

They do have the rest of their lives to do so, since we no longer say goodbye.

Memorable Quotes

Dina - "You know I could be creating a whole new fashion here? Sickly is sexy!"

Michael - "Z.Z., you can have my arts and crafts project. It's a tweezer holder. Donkey Lips, you can have half this candy bar. It melted in my pocket, but it should taste pretty good."
Iconic insults: Perma-wuss, mega-wuss.

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  1. Blogger chris | 11:39 PM |  

    I meant to mention this in your last post, but I approve of both the picture of Cameron Richardson as well as your choice of her as your ultimate mate.

    Harper's Island is the best. Can't wait to see her in the new HBO (cue Qualler's radar kicking in) show 12 Miles of Bad Road.

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