80s Odyssey: Zapped (1982) & Teen Wolf (1985)

I’ve been on a real 80s movie kick since I watched Back To School and Just One Of The Guys. Since then, I’ve probably watched a dozen or so 80s flicks. I’ll be pairing some of them up and writing about them over the next few days and weeks. Zapped appealed to me instantly because, as longtime readers will remember, I am a big fan of Charles In Charge which also stars Scott Baio and Willie Aames.

The story behind Zapped actually reminds me a lot of a movie I saw when I was younger called School Spirit as both are R-rated teen comedies about a kid getting a certain kind of superpower and basically using it the way that a kid that age would. In this case, Scott Baio gets telekinesis after some of the chemicals in the lab he uses at school get mixed up and he ingests them.

There’s little touches here and there that made this film fun and quirky when it could have gotten tired and stale. Even before getting his powers, Baio is growing weed in the lab. His parents also think he’s on drugs and give him a really hard time until he controls a ventriloquist dummy to scare his mom and then she leaves him alone. Oh, Scatman Crothers also plays a coach in the movie and I always enjoy seeing him do his thing.

And, as you might expect, there’s plenty of T&A to go around. I was actually surprised that I didn’t remember this movie from my youthful days of watching USA’s Up All Night or Comedy Central’s T&A Matinee. Heck, the end of the movie finds everyone at prom and Baio going all Carrie, but instead of being pissed, he’s just ripping everyone’s clothes off. In my mind, I like to think that Baio and Aames changed their names, went on to college and wound up on Charles In Charge.

The theme for this post is “high school comedies about kids with strange abilities and the wackiness that ensure” in case you couldn’t tell. Unlike Zapped, I had, of course, seen Teen Wolf. I think it’s nearly impossible to be my age, had cable for a long time and not seen at least a part of the movie. In case you haven’t, though, basically Michael J. Fox is a nondescript teenager on a crappy basketball team who finds out that he is, in fact, a werewolf. Things actually start turning around for him when people find out about his secret (apparently, in addition to getting hairy and growing fangs, being a werewolf also makes you awesome at basketball). From there it turns into a question of identity and being true to yourself as Fox struggles between being the wolf that everybody loves and the boy Boof loves.

I think what sets Teen Wolf apart from movies like it is how differently they play everything. It runs out that Fox’s dad actually completely understands what he’s going through because he is also a werewolf (I love that scene where he opens the door and dad’s standing there in wolf mode too). I also like how no one really seems to care that he turns into a werewolf in the middle of a basketball game. Sure some people are a little weirded out, but they also don’t care because he’s actually good at the sport. I also love the character of Stiles in pretty much any incarnation I see him in. He’s that perfect 80s smooth operator that seems to be missing from modern movies. I think some actors make that guy too douchey for consumption, but Jerry Levine kills the role of ultimate party guy who everybody loves. We need more Stiles’ in our lives.

Like with Zapped and all movies like this that follow a somewhat formulaic plot (you know prom has to be involved and the lead has to like the popular girl while his female friend pines after him), Teen Wolf lives or dies based on the main character. Luckily for both flicks, both Baio and Fox are great at playing normal guys who you can either feel for or relate to. You feel kind of good when they get to be awesome and then feel bad for them when they take it too far, but then good again by the end when they redeem themselves.

I want to take a quick paragraph and talk about this Teen Wolf show that MTV’s got coming up soon. I’ve seen a few previews for it and it doesn’t look like my bag. I’m not one of those idiots who throws around terms like “raping my childhood” when things like this get remade. Not only do I find the very idea of the phrase to be repugnant and a wild misuse of a term, but someone making a new version of something you liked as a good should have no baring on your enjoyment of the original work. It’s still there. You can always watch the original Karate Kid or Teen Wolf and completely ignore the remakes. It’s as simple as that. All that being said, I the bits of the Teen Wolf show I’ve seen seem to take all the fun that was inherent in the movie out of the proceedings in order to make another cheap Twilight rip off. I said something like that to the missus the other day and she responded with something like “Kids today don’t want fun, they want brooding.” I hope that’s not true. I know movies like Teen Wolf and Zapped aren’t in vogue anymore, but they should be. Maybe teens aren’t as into comedy because the only things aimed at them are shows on the Disney channel and the occasional dramedy on TV like My Life As Liz. Where’s the Zapped, Teen Wolf or American Pie for this generation?

Charging Ahead: Charles in Charge Season 2

I’ve made no secret of my love for the first season of Charles in Charge. The first season was awesome and even though I talked about how choppy the transition from the first family (Season One) to the second family (Seasons Two through Five) was, I enjoyed Season Two just as much as One.

The funniest thing about going through the episodes is when memories flood back and soak me in decades old thoughts. This first happened on the second episode of the season called “The Naked Truth.” Charles takes Adam to his art class with Buddy. Charles wants to go because there’s a girl in the class he has a thing for. Then it turns out that said girl is the live nude model. I can’t point out the exact moment, but at some point, I remembered the scene shot for shot. I’m pretty sure this is the first “naked lady” I ever saw, even though you only get a look at her feet as the robe drops and a shoulders-up shot of her. That was wild.

Memories aside, the show impressed me with how honest it was. Charles and Buddy didn’t straight out say they wanted to bang chicks, like a normal college guy might today, but they definitely allude to it in creative, sitcommy ways. But, the thing I love about this show is that it’s got heart, it’s honest, and it’s funny. There’s one part where Charles is trying to deal with his mother visiting and he refers to how she’s always treating him like a kid to which Buddy responds with something like “She cleaned your diaper, there’s no way she can see you as an adult.” I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s felt like this at one time or another.

Since it’s summer and most of the good shows are off the air, I highly recommend for everyone to give Charles In Charge another look, especially because you can watch it on Netflix Instant Watch. I can really never watch just one episode, it’s usually a group at a time, which leads to some sleepy train rides sometimes, but it’s worth it. My only problem is that the last two seasons aren’t available on DVD yet and, as far as I know, haven’t been put on any production schedules yet. Anyone else want to start a petition with me?

Charles in Charge

2009-04-03
3:02:48 am

So, after getting Xbox Live I went through and added a TON of movies and TV shows to my list, everything from classic movies that I have or haven’t seen to TV shows I fondly remember or have always wanted to check out. One of those shows was Charles in Charge. After doing some digging online and through my memory, I remembered there being two families, the original Pembrokes and the latter day Powells. Apparently, the show didn’t get picked up after the first season, there was a two year gap and then it started up in syndication. I remembered both families from childhood (the first season which had the Pembrokes was from 1984-1985, the Powells from 1987-1990). So I figured what the heck, let’s check it out.

And you know what? I freaking LOVE the first season of Charles in Charge. It’s got boatloads of heart, it’s funny and, though sometimes corny, the performances are great. You really get the feeling that Charles and the Pembrokes really get along. All in all, it feels real. Well, mid-80s sitcom real. And Scott Baio (who plays Charles) is really freaking charming.

The basic idea is that Charles is a freshman in college who takes care of the Pembroke children (Douglas, Lila and Jason) in exchange for room and board in New Jersey. There isn’t really an overarching, season-long storyarc, which is fine, but each episode the basic format of Charles trying to live his life while juggling the Pembroke childrens’ problems, his own problems and his friends Buddy and Gwendolyn.

Now, while the Powells may be the more well-known family (as it includes a pre-Baywatch Nicole Eggert), but, as I sit here watching the first episode of the second season, I can’t help but like the Pembrokes better. Sure, it might just be bias, but I just find the Pembroke children and parents (the dad is played by James Widdoes who was Hoover in Animal House) more convincing.

This is rambling, definitely, and I kind of wish I would have made notes as I went along watching the episodes. A few highlights include a young Meg Ryan showing up a couple of times, Charles helping the teenage Lila deal with growing up (surprisingly honest, though also kind of hokey) and Douglas the nerdy Pembroke boy being a big time nerd in the 80s.

Normally this is where I’d tell you to do yourself a favor and check out Charles in Charge’s first season on Netflix (and I do), but I’ve also got to throw in a few thoughts on the first episode of the second season. Charles comes back from the summer trip he left for at the end of the first season. He comes into the Pembroke house to find different people living there. Mrs. Pembroke (though it’s not the same actress, blarg) informs Charles that Widdoes’ Stan Pembroke got transferred to Seattle and they moved (all of this took place in two weeks in the show’s time, but two years in real time, so everyone who was actually on the first season looks different). Jason, the youngest Pembroke is there as well and definitely looks more grown up. It’s actually a pretty sad moment when they leave and then Charles has to decide if he’s going to stay with this new family that the Pembrokes sublet their house to or move into an apartment with Buddy. We get to know the three Powell kids a little, there’s a boy who doesn’t do much, Nicole Eggert who’s pretty much a vapid, popular jerk and then Sarah who is a sensitive book lover who’s verging on maturity with no real direction. Her and Charles spend some time together and Charles decides to stay. Oh yeah, their mom is married to a guy in the miliitary and her dad lives with them, the grandpa isn’t too fond of Charles right off the bat. We’ll see where it goes from here, but season’s 2-5 (only up to 3 is on DVD so far) have a lot to live up to, as watching the first season has been one of the more enjoyable shows I’ve watched this year.