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Super Duper Blooper Pooper

A couple of weeks back I got a phone call out of the blue from a one-time chum of mine. We didn't part on the best of terms and hadn't actually spoken to one another in well over five years.

The conversation was forced at best. Long pregnant pauses punctuating awkward small talk and uncomfortably terse answers to tentatively posed questions. In fairness, I was drugged up on cold medicine, but still and all, I would have to call that one of the more uncomfortable blasts from the pasts I've had in a great while.

Until tonight, that is, when I turned on NBC.

In an example of television that falls well short of the "must see" standard established by mad programming genius Warren Littlefield, NBC aired a brand new edition of TV's Super Bloopers, hosted by the ever-young Dick Clark. The show was subtitled "Show Me the Bloopers!," giving me yet another reason to despise Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. for giving life to that most hated catchphrase.

Dick Clark's Blooper-rama, you may recall, first aired on NBC in 1984, lasting one and a half years before NBC mercifully yanked the program off the air in favor of the more tastefully understated Alf. The show would be brought back intermittently, whenever one of NBC's other programs went into the tank and broadcasting test patterns just didn't appear to be a feasible alternative.

The show was billed as TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes, and joining Dick for the hourly parade of fun was drunken co-host Ed McMahon. Each week, Dick and Ed would show clips of celebrities flubbing lines and missing cues and tastefully cursing, while back in the studio the hosts and their canned studio audience would double over in hilarity.

To spice the proceedings up a bit, Dick and Ed added the practical joke segment, where one grade-B celebrity would pull a zany prank on one of his grade-B cohorts... Gerald McRainey convincing Jameson Parker that his wife had been horribly bludgeoned, for instance, or Nell Carter slipping a Mickey Finn to a scandalized Joey Lawrence.

Even at an early age, I recognized the show as crap. There's only so many times you can watch George Pappard and Mr. T mug for the camera after Dirk Benedict mispronounces "falafel." And after the eighth clip of Shelley Long breaking out into spontaneous laughter at a joke only she understands... well, the thrill is gone.

But that's not what made Dick Clark's Super Blooper gravy train so objectionable. Rather, it was the fact that the blooper concept became so ingrained in our consciousness that celebrities almost went out of their way to wind up on Dick and Ed's parade of shame. Sister Kate's Stephanie Beacham would muff a line, for example, and then turn sheepishly to the camera and say something like, "There's another blooper for you, Dick and Ed!"

And a weary nation would sigh a weary sigh...

It got so bad that Tim Allen would make hilarious outtakes and outrageous bloopers the staple of his lackluster Home Improvement. As the closing credits played, we would see clips of Tim and Richard Karn and all the gang clowning around after blowing their lines. Sadly, this proved to be funnier than any given episode of Home Improvement which, I think, says more about Tim Allen's career than he's probably comfortable with.

Well, the blooper show is back and Dick looks as young and virile as ever, thanks in no small part to both the cryogenic chamber Dick sleeps in and his pact with Satan for eternal youth. (Ed McMahon did not saddle up with Dick this time out, in one of his few good career decisions... the kind of clear thinking Ed should have used when someone asked him if he wanted to star in The Kid From Left Field with Gary Coleman.)

The blooper concept hasn't changed that much, except maybe for the faces. Where once we saw Teri Copely goofing up on We Got it Made, we now have Teri Hatcher pulling boners on Lois & Clark.

The only difference now is that Dick feels compelled to add running commentary to the blooper reel. When a local TV news reporter takes a tumble down a flight of stairs, we hear Dick chuckling. "Don't worry, folks," Dick is there to assure us. "He's all right."

Well, you can't have nice things, I guess...

But the most poignant moment of the evening came when Jere Burns, star of the bland sitcom Something So Right made a guest appearance alongside the ghostly apparition of Dick Clark. Burns brought along a whole reel of clips featuring him and Mel Harris and their adorable TV spawn bloopin' away, much to the delight of the Dickster. Of course, Jere made this appearance on the same day that NBC pulled the plug on his flat-lining TV show.

And for my money, that's the greatest blooper of them all.


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