My buddy Matt let me borrow some tapes that his family recorded back in the mid ‘80s, which is seriously the best thing anyone could let me borrow. Like holy shit. I need three external hard drives and cake.
I’ve only begun to sort through the goodies, but I already found one of my unholy grails: Halloween specials that aired on CBS back in October of ‘85. With all commercials intact. Schwing.
Getting the 1985 version was extra special, because that was the debut year of Garfield’s Halloween Adventure. (October 30th at 8PM, to be exact.)
I was six years old at the time, and I absolutely watched Garfield’s Halloween Adventure on that night. Immediately followed by It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, those two specials suddenly became the power couple of Halloween Toontown. They were shown back-to-back for so many sequential Halloween seasons that people anywhere near my age will forever associate childhood spooky times with fat cats and fit dogs.
So if you’ve lived my life, here’s a treat: Every commercial break from the 1985 broadcast of BOTH specials. The nostalgia will drown you, and then you’ll come back as a water ghost who can only haunt using obsolete ad slogans.
It’s aaaa gooood tiiiime…. forrr thhhhe greeeaat taaaaste…
Commercial Break #1:
Here you’ll see the first of many McDonald’s ads. Amazingly, they aired a different McDonald’s commercial each time. Today’s sponsors prefer to beat us down through repetition, but I guess Ronald thought, “Well, I already shot all of these Chicken McNuggets out of a circus cannon, went to the gym with Grimace and then drove the Fry Guys around on my 1930s Super Goofy Bike, so I may as well get my mileage.”
There’s also a Teddy Ruxpin commercial, and it’s a doozy! Instead of relying on Teddy’s technological gifts to sell us on him, we get a bizarre story about a boy who’s too shy for show-and-tell, so THANK GOD he has a robot bear to do the talking for him. Trying to target the “shy kids who need bears to talk for them” demo seems almost foolishly specific, and I suspect that Worlds of Wonder only did so on a dare.
(Though I will admit that I rooted like hell for that kid.)
Commercial Break #2:
More from Ronald. I’d forgotten that I was around to witness the citizens of McDonaldland before they got their cutesy makeovers. Seeing Grimace with shittier eyes and the demon version of the Hamburglar is jarring.
Like I get that visual trends change, but I just don’t see how kids of any era were supposed to not die when they saw that Hamburglar. He looks like one of the goblins from Troll 2 mixed with one of the clowns from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, and also somehow Zorro.
Then there’s a Kit Kat commercial. It’s another weird one. Between that and the Teddy Ruxpin commercial, everything I’m seeing in these breaks feels like like a puzzle wrapped in a riddle wrapped in foil and coated with milk chocolate and oh my God, I WANT KIT KATS. This esoteric candy commercial from 1985 STILL WORKS!
Commercial Break #3:
Garfield’s final break featured more from McDonald’s, of course. After that, there was a lovely dog food commercial. Confession: I have this weird horrible thing where I look at animals in old TV commercials, realize they must be dead, and then spend the next two hours mourning strange dogs from 30 years ago.
You don’t pay me enough. We’re moving on.
We end on a promo for (part of) CBS’s Saturday morning lineup, which at the time included Muppet Babies and The Wuzzles. I associate Muppet Babies more with its weekday repeats than its Saturday first-runs, but the show no doubt built its cred on the weekends. As for The Wuzzles, well, if I was one, I’d be a shark/lion, and my gimmick would be eating people twice.
Commercial Break #4:
Okay, so now we’re past the 8:30 mark, watching Linus freak over Samhain Santa while mean girls draw on a sad boy’s head.
We only get one commercial in this oddly short break, and it’s all about butter. There are these two cows having a conversation about butter, and already I feel like I’m telling a bad joke. But no, really, you’ve got these cows talking about Blue Bonnet Butter Spread, and acting as if butter comes directly out of them in neat rectangles.
You don’t pay me enough. We’re mooving on.
Commercial Break #5:
Gotta give Nabisco credit: Their commercial for Mix ‘n Eat hot cereal marked the first and last time that I’ve ever found hot cereal in any way exhilarating. If this article devolves into me just transcribing the Mix ‘n Eat song a hundred times in a row, could anyone really blame me?
Then there’s an ad for some old Cadbury bar, which stars ANOTHER cow. She even looks like one of the cows from the Blue Bonnet commercial! What was with 1985 and cows?
(Oh, and if you’re thinking about skipping the cow commercial, DON’T. The freeze frame on Bessie near the end of the spot is unanimously regarded as the most awkward thing in TV history. You’ll cringe, but you’ll also replay it five times.)
The commercial break was then interrupted by a legit special report, and no jokes about that one. If you look up the associated case, you’ll see that there was nothing funny about it. As a kid who viewed special reports as lightweight versions of those horrible “Updates” from Unsolved Mysteries, the me-of-1985 would’ve been pretty freaked out to hear about that case during a Snoopy cartoon.
Commercial Break #6:
The York Peppermint Pattie commercial was cute enough, but it had nothing on that Bubble Yum ad, which was both the best spot of the night and the one that screamed “1985” loudest. The most impressive thing about that commercial is that it was actually one of Bubble Yum’s tamest.
Snoopy’s still soaring, but I can’t remember the last time Garfield’s Halloween Adventure played on television. It’s easy enough to toss on the DVD, but Garfield’s antics just don’t sell as well when they’re not splintered by McDonald’s commercials and talking cows.
Hopefully this article gave you a taste of what you’ve been missing. I’d assume the flavor to be somewhere in the area of a chocolate bananaberry cheeseburger on buttered bread. Savor it, if that’s possible.
(Thanks again, Other Matt, for letting me borrow this amazing tape!)