The Woes of Trying to Watch Scrubs in 2020.

I’ve got a bone to pick with Scrubs. Actually, not with Scrubs itself, but with the circumstances surrounding the classic 2000’s medical comedy series. It’s a problem that I came to recognize about a year ago as I was preparing to do an episode about the show for my movie and TV review podcast. You see, Scrubs is a great show. It really is. It’s got fun and memorable characters, simultaneously heartfelt and subversive comedy, and a varied and catchy soundtrack that could fill an entire iPod with songs worth singing to. I genuinely consider Scrubs one of the most binge-ready shows of all-time and regularly mention it as one of my favorite comedies shows.

But, whenever I boot the show up on Hulu, I can’t help but think about a major problem I have with watching the show in the modern era.

So what’s my problem with the show?

There isn’t an “perfect” way to watch Scrubs in 2020.

Hear me out. I’m not saying there’s a bad way to watch the show, per-say, nor am I saying that the show isn’t worth watching in 2020. I’m simply pointing out that there isn’t a truly ideal way to take in the quality television that is Scrubs. And that problem starts with the lack of a quality remaster for the series.

You see, Scrubs came out and was aired on NBC in the early 2000’s, the final stretch for standard definition broadcasting. As a result of this, seven of the nine series of the show were never aired in HD, nor were they edited to accommodate that resolution or the bump to a 16:9 aspect ratio that came along with it. Essentially, with the advent of HDTV’s in the mid 2000’s, things started to change and Scrubs’ presentation quickly started to look dated. There’s simply no denying this, and as much as I love retro/standard definition media, the shows 480p presentation and 4:3 aspect ratio probably does it more harm than good these days. For casual TV viewers, starting a classic episode of Scrubs means having to deal with “bad quality” and watching the show in “a box” as opposed to in crystal clear HD and in widescreen and, as shallow a statement as that may sound, you can’t really blame them for wanting to watch something in the current standard for entertainment.

Which leads to the question: Why not remaster it? That’s an option, isn’t it?

Why yes, it is!

According to ShotOnWhat.com, Scrubs was shot on Super 16 film, a format that (roughly) translates into a resolution that can at least rival that of a 1080p video. On top of that, Super 16 also has the benefit of natively recording in widescreen, which means that the shows originally 4:3 presentation can easily be expanded, assuming it was framed for 16:9 to begin with. After all, we don’t want another Buffy The Vampire Slayer remaster, do we? And even if a 16:9 version of the show is impossible for framing reasons, Scrubs wouldn’t be the only show to get an HD rerelease that’s framed in 4:3. Arguably my all-time favorite show, Twin Peaks, has been available in beautiful High Definition quality for years now, while also retaining its 4:3 aspect ratio.

So why hasn’t it happened?

Well, simply put, it probably just doesn’t have the sort of return of investment (ROI) to justify the labor of remastering a show that ran for 182 episodes and was never much of a titan in the ratings. When it comes to taking a Standard Definition program and remastering it in HD, there isn’t a CSI-style “enhance” button that can blow the series up to high definition. Instead, the series would likely need to be meticulously re-edited using the original negatives and assets from when the show was produced, in order to try and perfectly match the series we know and love. On top of that, FX shots would need to also be reconstructed as much as possible, recreated with new assets or techniques to closely resemble the original shots, or rely on upscaled shots from the DVD release of the series to compensate for any missing shots that can’t be recreated. It’s a huge undertaking that doesn’t typically happen for television shows, unless they’re touted as pop culture landmarks or are a part of “prestige” TV. And in the case of a show as long running as Scrubs, it’s likely that doing this won’t come cheap either, given the number of episodes it has and the number of licensed songs in its soundtrack that would likely need to be relicensed (a bit more on that in a second).

So, while the peeks at an HD version of Scrubs that we saw in it’s final season (and spin-off that refused to call itself one) are salivatingly easy on the eyes, an HD remaster of Scrubs is largely out of the cards. A guy can dream though (and dream I do, it’s actually a dream of mine to get to work on an HD version of the show and to dive into the series with as much love as The X-Files HD remaster got).

Until then, there’s always streaming the standard definition episodes…

That’s not to say the series isn’t inaccessible though. Quite the contrary, it’s actually easy to watch Scrubs online due to it being available for instant streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime in standard definition. Which brings me to my next problem…

Streaming a standard definition show on an HD television is less than ideal.

I watch a lot of SD content still and let me tell you, it isn’t pretty. The bigger your screen and the higher the resolution of it, the worse off you’re gonna be. Without diving too deep into the technical side of things, standard def content goes through a lot of upscaling to fill a 4K television. In fact, a 480p signal has to be upscaled roughly 20 times to take up the appropriate amount of room on a 4K screen. Have you ever tried zooming into something 20 times? Suffice to say, the picture looks (as the kids say) like it was shot on a potato.

That, in itself, isn’t the worst of it though. With the right settings on your TV, the right connection between a streaming device and your TV, and a device that can handle some of the upscaling before your TV has to do some of the dirty work itself, you can get some pretty alright looking results out of upscaling SD content.

But, I think some of the other problems that come with watching Scrubs through a streaming service are more likely to (at least somewhat) outweigh the convenience of its accessibility.

For me, the biggest deal breaker with watching Scrubs on Hulu (which is admittedly the way I usually watch Scrubs) is the bitrate.

At this time, Hulu streams SD content at a bitrate of 1.5-3Mbps, which is over half of the maximum video bitrate of a DVD, and below the standard DVD bitrate which fluctuates between 3-6Mbps. In layman’s terms, this video is compressed. Darker/higher action scenes are going to have more visual artifacts on it, some colors will appear inaccurately or simplified on screen, and details can be buried under a haze of data-management.

That’s not to say that the DVD’s are going to look jaw-dropingly better than what’s on Hulu, but is definitely an improvement. It also helps that the DVDs for Scrubs have its original soundtrack in place.

This one is a minor gripe for me and is one that I’m less qualified to talk about, so I’ll keep it brief. Essentially, the version of Scrubs on streaming has different songs edited into the background of multiple episodes/scenes. This was likely done to avoid having to renegotiate licensing those songs (I told you that would come up again!) and honestly, while I’m bummed about some of the changes and how they dampen some of the shows better moments, I’ve grown largely accustomed to them and am fine with them if it means being able to conveniently watch the show. The musical changes don’t change the context of every scene they’ve been made to, so while having the original music would have been great, I’d hardly consider it a dealbreaker for me. There are even some pretty funny moments on the streaming version of the series where the subtitles will incorrectly attribute a song that’s playing in the background of a song with it’s DVD counterpart, as opposed to the stock music knock-off of the song that it was replaced with.

But ultimately, while Scrubs definitely looks better on DVD than it does on streaming, it still has one major problem.

DVD’s are inconvenient in 2020.

Look, I love DVDs. I’m saying this as I sit next to a literal bookshelf of DVDs and VHS tapes in the basement of my childhood home. I still buy DVDs and think that the format has a lot going for it. Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, I love physical media and can never see myself giving up on actually getting to own TV/movies in the form of a compact disk.

But dear God, are DVDs an inconvenience in 2020.

My main issue with trying to watch Scrubs on DVD is that, while clearly better than what’s on Hulu/Amazon Prime, the improved picture quality isn’t better enough to justify relying on a disc to watch the entire series.

And this isn’t just because a single digit difference in bitrate isn’t that much of a feast on the eyes; this really just comes down to the the resolution still being magnified by 20 in order to upscale the content to fit a 4k TV. And while I’ve gotten better results by using the old 720p TV I had in high school to watch the series, along with the Standard Definition CRT TV my Dad had from when I was a kid to get what I genuinely believe is the best picture quality I’ll ever see for the show… none of that is remotely practical for the average viewer.

That CRT setup I just mentioned; that’s, no question, the best way to watch the show. The resolution matches what DVDs are capable of outputting, the scan lines that CRT’s are synonymous with are able to help hide compression/artifacts in the picture, and the fuzz and warmth of an old-school TV go a long way to really drive in the nostalgic feelings I have towards the series. For anyone versed in retro gaming, watching Scrubs on DVD with a CRT TV makes as much sense as playing the NES on a Sony Trinitron. Everything is compatible with everything, all is right in the world. Cue Lazlo Bane.

But how many people have a CRT laying around? And how many people are even gonna be able to convince their friends to watch something on a DVD these days? If part of the appeal of Scrubs is how great of a show it is to unwind after a long day at the office, doesn’t jumping through those hoops to get the best viewing experience for the show nullify how comforting the show is?

While this is the ideal way to watch the show, it’s far from perfect.

Is there another way to watch Scrubs?

Yep! One more! What was that format the series initially aired on?

T-t-television?

Yes, Scrubs is still in syndication. In fact, it’s on pretty often, from what I can find online. There’s just one problem…

It’s in widescreen.

This one really bothers me. Like I mentioned earlier, Scrubs was shot on Super 16 film, which natively captures a widescreen image. This would, somewhat instinctively, make you think that Scrubs being on TV in widescreen would have to mean that it’s using that entire Super 16 frame, right?

Nope!

Because the series was prepared for broadcast in the age of 4:3 entertainment, that extra information on the sides of the frame was never used in the show. So, aside from being a 480p upscale of the show that’s being broadcast in what’s likely to be 720p (TV is still typically broadcast in 720p or an interlaced 1080i signal), the show is being “converted” into widescreen through image zooming. That’s to say that the picture is being cropped on the top and bottom of the frame, similar to the recent controversy surrounding The Simpsons’ presentation on Disney Plus/FXNow, leading to weirdly in-your-face framing for the series.

Frankly, this is the worst way to watch the show. Besides the mild inconvenience of not being able to watch it whenever you want, you’re technically getting “less” of the show due to the cropping. You’re also watching a very compromised version of the series that is being presented in a way that the shows cast and crew definitely didn’t intend for it to be shown in. And as if that isn’t enough, you’re still getting an upscaled version of the episode, complete with the various compression issues I mentioned earlier. If anything, that unnecessary cropping is deteriorating the picture quality even further, but zooming in by an additional 50% to prevent pillarboxing (those black bars you see when you watch 4:3 content on a widescreen TV) on the sides. You do get the original music though, so… that’s a thing.

So what’s the takeaway here?

The main takeaway here is that, despite all of my vamping above, Scrubs is still top tier comedy. It’s such a good, well crafted series about friendship, coming of age and medicine, that I can complain about how much of a pain it is to watch with modern technology and follow that all up with a casual, “but it’s you good. You NEED to watch it!”

Even without a “perfect” way to enjoy the series, I can’t recommend it enough. JD, Turk, Elliot, Carla, Dr. Cox and the rest of them are some of my favorite fictional characters of all time and I genuinely find new things to love about the series every time I watch it.

*cues sentimental wrapping-up-the-blog-post monologue music*

And that’s pretty special when you think about it. We often view flaws as reasons to not enjoy something but, in some cases, it might be worth overlooking them when we think we’ve got something special on our hands.

For me, I’ve come to be okay with dealing with compressed image quality when it means getting to watch one of my favorite comedies on the subway to work. After all, it’s not like there’s some evil suit at a TV Network somewhere that’s actively trying to prevent us from watching this show. On some level, I’m actually grateful to be able to watch Scrubs to begin with, to be able to do it with some semblance of convenience, and to be first-worldy enough to be able to complain about that convenience on the internet.

I dunno, that’s just my take on things. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to Zach Braff and Donald Faison’s incredible Scrubs rewatch podcast, Fake Doctors, Real Friends.


I hope you enjoyed this article! If you think you can stomach more of my rambling about how much I love Scrubs, feel free to check out our podcast episode on the series! I’m always working on new episodes of the podcast so if you ever need anything to listen to, feel free to check out the show on your favorite podcast player!

We Have Star Wars At Home | Battle Beyond The Stars

Need something to watch? Check out our full video podcast on Battle Beyond The Stars!

A “Modestly Priced” Sci-fi B-Movie…

Battle Beyond the Stars is a 1980 space opera/sci-fi film that was produced by Roger Corman, the fabled king of b-movie, exploitation and independent filmmaking, at a modest budget of $2,000,000 USD.

Isn’t that a weird thing to say? “A modest budget of two million buckeroos.”

Believe me, it is modest. For a feature length science fiction film that features exotic create designs, dogfights in space, and surprisingly good visual effects, it’s a miracle this thing cost that much to produce.

The film is a soft-retelling of the classic western The Magnificent Seven, which was in itself a retelling/remake of Akira Kurosawa’s iconic film Seven Samurai. Never heard of it? It’s the song that The Barenaked Ladies referenced in their hit single One Week. In this version of the movie, we follow a plucky youth named Shad who must assemble a team of mercenaries to help him defend his pacifist home planet Akir from the homicidal tyranny of Lord Sador.

It has a passing resemblance to a movie that takes place in a galaxy far, far away…

Alright, it’s a bit more than a passing resemblance. It’s… well, it’s very Star Wars. The film was clearly produced, in typical Corman fashion, to cash in on the success of the original Star Wars film (later subtitled Episode IV: A New Hope). And with its 1980 release, Battle Beyond the Stars was also double dipping by being released only a few months after the followup to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back. Why, the films soundtrack even alludes to moments from the respective scores of A New Hope and Empire and it’s (simultaneously talented but not given much to work with) cast even are clear composites of the characters found in A New Hope.

But is that such a bad thing though? I honestly think that comes down to personal preference. For me, I’ve always been partial to camp in cinema and can entertain the idea of watching “Star Wars-lite” without thinking much of it. Sure, the film is very derivative of both The Magnificent Seven and Star Wars and sure, the film isn’t going to win any awards for what it tries to do with these similarities; but I genuinely felt myself having a lot of fun with this one. The movie itself is slight and doesn’t do anything to really stand out, but I genuinely felt something genuine in it’s execution because of that.

When all’s said and done, this movie is unremarkable… In a good way!

I think there’s a particular quality to the brand of carelessness that went into films like Battle Beyond the Stars. While produced quickly and with the sole intention of cashing in on the success of one of the first true blockbusters, the movie has a level of endearment to it that I struggle to find in newer cash-grab/straight-to-video movies. I feel like movies coming out today that are trying to accomplish the same goal as this film are usually more phoned in and intend to use the label of “so bad it’s good” as a means of justifying an inferior product. But that’s nowhere to be found here. Yes, this movie was made quickly and for little-to-no-money (again, given the scope of the film itself). But it also exists as a complete, thought out, albeit not well thought out, motion picture. While seemingly self-aware of how over the top it is, Battle Beyond the Stars doesn’t try to lean too heavily on that in the name of irony and, as a result, is a much more genuine movie going experience than a lot of people might assume it would be.

Simply put, the movie is unremarkable but competent, which puts it a mile above more recent cash-in movies that aim to be remarkably incompetent in the name of “irony” or because the filmmakers love the B-movie genre. And to me, that made it a lot of fun to watch.

Oh, and this is the movie that gave James Cameron his big break. He was behind this movies special effects and garnered a really warm reception for his work here, which was honestly well warranted. While nowhere near the technical level of visual trickery found in Empire or A New Hope, Cameron really showcased some clever effects and work in this movie and was recognized for the effort. In a weird way, this movie helped set him on his path to box office dominance in the later half of the decade, through to the modern day. Without ˆBattle Beyond the Stars, we may have never gotten Terminator, Terminator 2, Aliens, True Lies, Titanic or Avatar and it’s quarter-million sequels that may-or-may-not ever get released.


If you wanna hear more about our thoughts on Battle Beyond the Stars, check out our podcast episode on the movie! It’s available on every major podcast player, as well as on YouTube as a full video episode!


Written by Nicholas Abouhamad for The Media Obscura

M.O.P. Episode 44: Gaslighting Mike (The Addams Family Reunion)

The latest episode of The Media Obscura Podcast is out now on your favorite podcast player! This weeks episode follows Nick and Raekwon as they check out/discuss The Addams Family Reunion, a straight-to-video pilot for a new Addams Family movie that was produced by Saban Entertainment.

The movie follows the Addams as they scramble to find a cure for ‘Waltzheimers disease,” before it completely eradicates the eccentricity of Gomez’s grandparents. Along the way, they end up at a family reunion for a different Adams family and mistake them as long-lost relatives. At this reunion, Gomez goes up against a crazed psychiatrist, while Fester releases a hair-eating demon dog and Pugsly crushes on someone that he thinks is his cousin…

Oh, and there’s a subplot about that crazed psychiatrist trying to kill his sickly Dad in order to get his inheritance of something.

Speaking honestly, the movie isn’t great. It has a few decent laughs, a very strange commercial-like pace, and a shoestring budget that really shows in it’s computer generated effects. And while I’m personally a sucker for weirdly paced movies with the budget of a liquidating dollar store, these are not reasons to ever check out a movie.

But you know what this movie does have that’s unique, attention grabbing and all-around kinda cool.?

Tim Curry.

Now don’t get me wrong, Ol’ Timmy boy is barely trying in this thing. In fact, he doesn’t even try to disguise his distinctive accent. But despite this, the Sweet Transvestite puts on a performance that is equally cerebral, aloof, lovely, and twisted as Gomez Addams. Well, as much as he can given the character he’s playing.

As a longtime Addams Family fan, I was very disappointed in this movie. It felt like a very sanitized take on the characters, the result of simplifying their morbid and macabre tendencies until we ended up with characters that were more cartoony than they were developed. That’s not to say the Addams can’t be silly and over the top, I’d argue that the two early 90s movies prove that they can excel at it, but this movie lacked a bit of the edge that made those interpretations of the characters so memorable. It also doesn’t help that the movie itself feels woefully miscast. I won’t dive into the details here, but it’s baaaaaaad. Fester Addams, one of my favorite characters in other 90s movies, is outright annoying in this movie.

I’m honestly at a loss for words with this movie. It had a lot of pacing issues and didn’t really do much to introduce us to this version of the Addams, aside from establishing that they don’t like things that are “normal.” And like, okay. That’s kinda par for the course with The Addams Family, but they didn’t do much of a good job there either. Take the second episode of the original Addams Family for instance. It’s a story that accomplishes the same exact thing this feature-length movie set out to do, and does a much better job of it despite only being 20 minutes long. It also does this with much less elaborate staging, and at a fraction of the cost.

At the end of the day, do I recommend this movie? Not really. I could see the argument being made that this would make for a perfect ‘turn it on for the noise’ kind of movie, or something you could get a few laughs out of with some booze and good company. As for viewing this as an actual piece of entertainment… Well, just stick to just about any other take on the characters.

But still, Tim Curry was pretty cool in it.

If you wanna hear more about what I thought about this movie, as well as the thoughts of my faithful co-host Raekwon on the matter, be sure to check out the latest episode of our show, The Media Obscura Podcast!

Mixtape Obscura Volume 1: An introduction to rhythmic ceremonies

Remember mixtapes? Weren’t those sick? Something happened when digital music took over, people stopped making mixtapes. At least, I think something happened. I grew up in the digital age of music and wouldn’t know, honestly. But I have seen a ton of 80s and indie movies so I know that the art of the mixtape is sacred and must be maintained in this digital age.

Mixtapes meant something. They were meticulously curated expressions of the hearts and minds of their creator, and they spoke to what makes music such a personal experience. I mean if you think about it, it’s kinda a wonder that songs written years and years ago can still resonate with people living in an almost entirely different world. And yet, that’s exactly what happens to me whenever I put on a Joni Mitchell song, or listen to a bit of Miles Davis. I may not know either of them, and they may have been leading very different lives to the one I’m living, but their music is still so powerful.

I actually find myself making “mixtapes” pretty often. I guess I’m what one would consider playlist addict, constantly building lists of music that speaks to me and throwing it in the general direction of my friends/family. I just love putting together themed playlists and using them for a day or two before moving onto the next one I suppose. Now that I think about it, I guess mixtapes aren’t really gone; they’ve just been supplanted by Spotify playlists.

Which brings us to why I’m starting this series. Every so often, I’m gonna be compiling a wide variety of songs and music for people to check out and listen to and sharing it here on the blog. Some volumes might be themed, some may not be. Some may even have some narration between the songs.

Volume 1: An introduction to rhythmic ceremonies

For this first mixtape, I’ve decided to go with the theme of “rhythm.”

How vague, I know.

My idea behind this mix was to start things off on the right foot by queuing some Pop, RnB, and soundtrack tunes from the past 50 or so years in order to show that, genres and time signatures aside, music of all kinds can really get you moving.

On top of that, a lot of these songs are personal favorites of mine and I couldn’t help but want to put them in the first mixtape I’m sharing online because of what they mean to me.

Here are a couple of my highlights from the playlist…

Deep End – Lykke Li (so sad so sexy)

This one has kinda been my jam for the past few weeks, superseding a handful of other Lykke Li bangers in order to get onto this list. It’s off her latest record, so sad so sexy, which finds the Swedish vocalist in full trap-RnB mode. The entire album is loaded to the brim with great beats and melodies to dissect and I can’t recommend it enough if you’re into this song. I also highly recommend her proceeding album, I Never Learn, which found her expressing a heart in devastation after a bad breakup.

D.J. – David Bowie (Lodger: 2017 Tony Visconti Mix)

Anyone that’s known me for longer than, say 20 minutes, knows I’m a diehard David Bowie fan. It’s just one of the infallible truths of the universe, I suppose. D.J. is off of Bowie’s 1979 record Lodger, which caps off his famous Berlin Trilogy of albums. Those records found Bowie steering into the avant-garde more completely than he ever had leading up to then, and the period yielded Bowie favorites like Sound & Vision, Heroes, and Beauty and The Beast.

D.J. is a song that revolves around a self-absorbed disc-jockey who has let his popularity go to his head and infect his mind with a narcissistic haze. So it’s basically what’s gonna happen to me if this whole mixtape schtick takes off.

Oh, and Tony Visconti’s 2017 mix of the original song really brings it to life. The original mix of this song wasn’t that bad to begin with I suppose, but Lodger as a whole really benefited from Visconti’s fresh coat of paint.

Only You – Steve Monite (Doing It in Lagos: Boogie, Pop & Disco in 1980’s Nigeria)

It isn’t a Nick playlist without a completely out of nowhere, how-did-you-even-find-this, selection finding it’s way into the mix.

I found this song back in 2018 when Theophilius London and Kevin Parker from Tame Impala released a one-off single that was a cover of this song. And let me tell you, I was changed after I heard this song. The groove and desperation in the lyrics/vocals immediately make me imagine being in the smokey back of some scotch-stained limo in the back of LA in the 80s. And that’s just the cover we’re talking about; the original recording (which is what I’ve featured on the mixtape) is on another level entirely. The drum programming here, with it’s drum effects swirling around that keyboard (?) bass line is to die for. Killer.


But that brings us to the end of the first Mixtape Obscura! I hope you dug it and that you found some music worth adding to your own playlists! If you liked what you heard, wanna share some love, or have recommendations for future themed mixes or songs you’d love to share with me, feel free to hit me up in the comments or on any of The Media Obscura’s social pages! We’re @themediaobscura on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook 🙂

Til next time!

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (Review)

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is a 2011 documentary following the legendary late night host as a mounts his 2010 Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour, after being ousted from The Tonight Show in favor of Jay Leno. And wow, what a movie. I know that I should technically try to stay impartial towards that whole debacle, especially since it happened almost 10 years ago and the dust surrounding it has since settled, but I can’t help but quickly fire off my very unique, never before had opinion of it: Jay Leno is awful.

There, I said it. I’m sorry. It’s done. Back to Conan.

Actually not back to Conan because those who don’t know what happened with him and The Tonight Show is going to need a bit of a primer for this post/the film.

Basically, the TL;DR for the debacle was:

• Conan O’Brien was promised The Tonight Show when Leno retires.

• Leno retires, Conan gets the show. 

•Leno gets a new late night talk show that doesn’t do well in the ratings, while Conan’s Tonight Show doesn’t perform that well either, likely because it still needed some time to find it’s footing with The Tonight Show’s audience, and because Leno’s show preceded it on the time slot which basically cannibalized it’s audience.

•There’s some back and forth regarding time slots with NBC, which ultimately leads to Conan receiving a settlement to leave The Tonight Show, which Leno then goes on to host again.

•As a part of Conan’s settlement, he’s told he can’t appear on TV for several months. 

And now we’re all caught up. The movie picks up from there, showing Conan prepare and perform a comedy tour to pass the time until his still-on-the-air TBS show gets up and running. It also deals with Conan as he works to process what happened with NBC and, because of this, is in full comedic-catharsis mode.

As a longtime Conan fan (the guy is a comedic idol for me), it’s interesting to watch him act a bit differently than how I’m used to seeing him act on his show. This could either just be because of the change in format from late night to documentary, because of the amount of stress/exhaustion he must be going through from being on tour, or because of how genuinely hurt losing The Tonight Show was for him. But regardless, he seems a lot more on the attack than I was expecting him to be.

Conan has always been known for comedically jabbing his staff members in the name of a good bit on his show but in Can’t Stop, his skill as an improviser and goofball almost feel weaponized to the point of making Sona, his long-time and still-to-this-day assistant, appear visibly upset with being picked on over a botched lunch order.

In another bit, Conan picks on Jack McBrayer (Kenneth from 30 Rock, a show Conan had appeared on back in it’s first season) and his midwestern upbringing which, while initially funny, quickly starts to outstay it’s welcome.

Now don’t get me wrong, both of those bits have some pretty funny stuff in it, and I’m not accusing Conan of being a mean or rude person, it’s just genuinely jarring to watch after years of associating him with being the best self-deprecating talk show host on television.

As for those apparently out of character moments, it’s all up for argument as to why they’re there to begin with. After all, documentary is just one persons presentation of the truth, this could all be the result of a strange decision in post-production or a simple bad edit. Either way, it’s something I found equally perplexing and interesting about the movie.

The rest of the film, the snippets of performances, the (many) sequences of Conan forcing himself through meet and greets, and interactions with the fans are seldom a chore to sit through. Watching Conan play rhythm guitar in a replica of Eddie Murphy’s suit from Delirious isn’t something I knew I needed until now, but I am very thankful that it was something I got to watch in this movie. 

And it isn’t something Conan related if it doesn’t involve appearances from other celebrities. Some of the famous faces that crop up in this movie alongside him are Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Jim Carrey, Jack White, and Jon Hamm and watching Conan interact with them is a genuine delight. I especially loved getting to watch Conan plan a bit with Stephen and Colbert and Jon Stewart before a show in New York at Radio City Hall, which is literally right next to the NBC building. That show didn’t need an excuse to be better than the rest, what-with all the NBC drama and the fact that it was a spitting distance away, but having two other classic late night hosts there with him had to have led to a great show.

I say had to because we didn’t actually get to see much of them on stage with him. As a matter of fact, we honestly didn’t get to see much of his performances at all. While we do get segments showing him performing songs throughout the tour, I’m a little bummed that we didn’t get to see what the rest of the show looked like as… It’s Conan. I would’ve killed to see as much of those shows as possible, even if it was just relegated to the bonus features on the Blu Ray.

That omission isn’t enough to tank the movie for me, but it does feel like such a missed opportunity, especially given Conan’s rapport with… well, just about everybody. I mean, the guy could talk to a bowl of hard candies that have had googly eyes slapped on them and it would make for riveting television.

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is an interesting film, and it’s one I recommend to fans of the comedian. But I honestly find it hard to recommend to people who are less familiar with his work as I feel it doesn’t really encapsulate what makes him such a blast to watch/listen to. Conan’s known for his over-the-top remote segments, his self-deprecating humor, and his charisma/chemistry with guests on his shows, which is all a bit absent in this documentary. I feel like this film was trying too hard to show us a side of Conan that we hadn’t seen before, during a time in his life when we would’ve benefited from seeing more of the guy we love, than the guy NBC had rejected.

For people curious about getting into Conan O’Brien and his genuinely incredible sensibility as a humorist, I’d recommend checking out new episodes of his show on TBS, as well as the treasure trove of material he has on YouTube. His team is also apparently working on a website that will curate and host as many previous episodes of each of his talkshows as they can possibly find which is going to be the easiest streaming subscription I’ll ever make, should they charge for it (and they should).

On top of that, Conan’s a podcaster! His show, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend is the perfect encapsulation of what makes him such a comedic legend, and it also gives us peeks into his life off the air. In a lot of ways, it’s probably the idealized version of this movie and listening to it is always the highlight of my week. He recently just completed a mini-series with another comedic idol of mine, Dana Carvey, which is available on his main podcast feed and is also a total blast to listen to. 

But what do you think of Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop? Sound off in the comments below 🙂

Episode 43: The Duran Duran (Elvira: Mistress of the Dark)

The latest episode of The Media Obscura Podcast is out now on your favorite podcast player! It has Nick and Mike checking out Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, the 1988 feature that finds Elvira dealing with her worst enemy yet… Suburbia! Nick and Mike also imagine the reading of Nick’s will as a Deal-Or-No-Deal-esque gameshow which, if you think about, really makes a lot of sense.

Sorry, I need to derail this announcement post for a sec in order to think this one through. It just makes a lot of sense to me. Like, post-funeral, people are going to be sad. Someone close to them died, they miss them. and now you want some bland, I-have-sex-with-my-socks-on lawyer to read a will? That’s bleak…

But, if will readings were like Deal Or No Deal, or what we in the biz call “the greatest thing ever,” that wouldn’t be a problem! There would be a little bit of much needed pageantry to things and, while I totally understand how some may view this as being insensitive, it would definitely liven up a (pun intended) decidedly un-lively circumstance!

And think about how that vaudevillian gesture could improve lame things left behind by loved ones? Take the example of this that I gave in our latest episode: I imagined what it would be like if a gameshow-host-type allowed Mike to decide what I left him based off of choosing a briefcase and, after finding out that all I had left him was worms, Mike was delighted by how strange the entire situation was.

Now call me nuts, but I think that if the depressing and soul crushing eventuality of my own impermanence can be momentarily forgotten through a gameshow host giving Mike a bucket of worms, then there may be something worthwhile to this idea.

I mean… they’re worms!

Anyway, for all things worm-funeral and Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, be sure to check out our latest episode on your podcast player of choice, or via the RadioPublic embed below:

Who exactly IS Elvira?

In preparation for our Elvira: Mistress of the Dark themed episode of the podcast, I decided to draw up this handy little retrospective about America’s favorite horror hostess. If you’re left jonzing for some more info about the iconic TV horror hostess, be sure to check out some of the sources for this article, which are nested at the bottom of the page!

Cassandra Peterson, better known around the TV landscape as Elvira, was born on September 17th, 1949, which makes her 70 years old at the time of writing this. After becoming a Las Vegas showgirl, having a rumored appearance in the 007 feature “Diamonds Are Forever,” and creating/taking her own variety show across the country, she rose to prominence in the 1980s with her highly self-aware and kitsch character Elvira, as well as her show, Elvira’s Movie Macabre.

Elvira’s inception was a simple one, Peterson took clear influence from the TV horror hosts of years past, with Elvira’s look clearly being modeled after the likes of the 1950’a horror hostess Vampira, who many remember for her now iconic appearance in Ed Woods’ Plan 9 From Outer Space, and Morticia Addams from the seminal television series The Addams Family.

Elvira’s purpose as a horror hostess was as simple as the job title implies it would be; all she had to do was host the movie. At the start of the program, as well as between commercial breaks, she would interject with some light comedy about the film, while also engaging in some pretty sharp wordplay. It’s a bit like those podcasts that revolve around people bantering about movies either while they’re watching it, or immediately after they’ve finished it… Hm… Was I just meta?

Before long, Peterson/Elvira’s star rose and her show, which was then based and aired locally in LA, began to be known around the country. She’d go on to appear on talk shows, beer commercials, comic books and even have her own line of videocassettes.

Then it happened. In 1988, Peterson got to write and star in her own campy horror comedy, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. Almost mirroring the fate of the films she would cover on her show, the film underperformed at the box office, but found its audience on the video circuit, eventually becoming a cult hit and spawning a sequel in the early 2000’s.

As for Elvira herself, she’s still out there being her best self! Movie Macabre came back in 2010 using public domain movies and basically returned again, albeit with a different name, in 2014 as the Hulu original 13 Nights of Elvira. That was actually my introduction to the character, after only seeing her in random YouTube clips for a couple of years.

Oh, and the Vampira resemblence was totally noticed by Maila Nurmi, Vampira herself, who famously sued Peterson in 1988 for basically slapping a new coat of paint on Vampira and creating a career out of it. It’s hard not to see where Nurmi’s coming from with the claim but at the same time, Vampira was only locally broadcast in LA for a year, while Elvira has been around for what’s rapidly approaching 40. Suffice to say, I think there was a bit more to Elvira’s success than essentially being an 80s version of Vampira.

Sources:

If you dug this little write up on the Queen of horror TV, be sure to let me know in the comments! Also, consider checking out our episode of our podcast on Mistress of the Dark!

Until next time, unpleasant dreams!

Cult Sirents: Elvira – Cassandra Peterson

nwi.com: Vampira, aka actress Maila Nurmi’s passing rekindles memories of Elvira rif

The Origin of The Media Obscura Podcast

Need I say more?

I probably should. It’s just that I’ve always wanted to start a presentation/post of some kind with a smug, self-indulgent, closing statement. It’s just the way I am.

Anyway, hey everyone. So you wanna hear the story of The Media Obscura Podcast, eh? Weird flex, but okay.

My name is Nick and I’m a content creator that has, for the longest time, suffered from a lack of contentment in what he’s creating. I have a degree in Media Production and have tried to express myself through storytelling, comedy, acting, and directing for as long as I can remember. After I got my degree, that ~holiest~ of slips of paper, I ended up taking a number of jobs that pulled me away from creating the kinds of content that bring me sweet, sweet emotional sustenance. Why? Well… I had bills to pay, man.

Without trying to bore you with the details, I worked for a couple different teams for a bit over a year; I was writing and editing a ton of videos that were, for lack of a better term, gave my decidedly right-brained noggin a minimal level of satisfaction. I liked the work. I liked the people I was working with. I just didn’t like how formulaic and inexpressive the work was for me.

But that all changed in early November 2018, when my childhood best-friend Mike and I decided to start a podcast! It was an idea we had been toying with for years; I had done a very short-lived and ragtag podcast back in 2011 with some other friends and had always thought that the medium would be a great fit for the two of us. Throughout the years, we always found our on-set improvisation and banter to be one of the best parts of working together and, after a friend told us one night that she thought a podcast featuring the two of us in our element would be a blast to listen to, I decided to stick a pin in that idea until I felt the time was right.

Suffice to say, the time was eventually right. After taking a job that would afford me a much stabler schedule than my freelancing as an editor for multiple clients could ever afford me, Mike and I started The Media Obscura Podcast. Explicitly, the show is about the two of us bantering and reviewing strange, forgotten, and retro movies and television shows. But implicitly (for any schmuck with a film degree must always consider the explicit), the show is about friendship and friends staying in touch.

I know, I know. What a tearjerker. I’ll be sure to send some Kleenexes your way. I really do mean that though. For all of my narcissistic vamping on the show, I really do think the best thing to come out of the podcast has been the privilege of getting to riff/do improv with one of the most effortlessly funny people I know. And like I said earlier, that had always been one of my favorite parts of getting to be creative so like… it’s a total win! I get to have fun with my buddy making each other laugh and I don’t have to stress myself out with scripting and editing dozens of takes! Our recording days are genuinely the highlight of my week, with getting to listen to the improv while I’m editing the episode in a close second.

The podcast has done a lot of good for me, I think. I’m still not doing the kind of creative work I’ve always dreamed of doing but, for the first time in my life, I’m actually pretty okay with i!. I’m finding creative satisfaction in doing and editing the show, and I’m getting to share that process with a person who has been around since I started creating content. What else could I guy want?

Anyway, that’s the story of how The Media Obscura Podcast got started. I hope you dug it and that it becomes a well-worn fable that will be passed down from generation to generation. In summation, this podcast is so much more than dumb jokes and movie references. It’s about expressing yourself and being creative through dumb jokes and movie references.

I guess creativity can be fun, smart and dumb, all at once. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

– Nick