This is it. The final episode of Existential Parachute Pants: A 90’s Pop Culture Podcast. For the occasion, we talked about whatever we wanted to. We touched on topics we hadn’t gotten to but wanted to. We talk mission statements. We also spend an inordinate amount of time talking about “The Principal and the Pauper” for, like, the fifth time.
It was two years ago that I begun the Existential Parachute Pants blog. I wrote a little introduction post, and I wrote a thing about Darth Maul. Every single day between then and now I have written a blog post here about 90’s pop culture. That’s, frankly, a lot of writing. However, on this, the two year anniversary of EPP, I am writing what is the last of the consecutive posts on the blog, and one of the last new things that will ever end up here. If you listen to the podcast, you know that Existential Parachute Pants is, for all intents and purposes, about to shut down shop.
There are reasons for this. One is that there is only so much stuff you can write about. The 90s is a finite amount of time, and some shit within those parameters doesn’t interest me. This is even more true with the podcast, where we have to actually be aware of what we are talking about, and where we have to coordinate the schedule of at least two people.
I began Existential Parachute Pants for a couple reasons. One is because I love pop culture and I hate nostalgia. I have a genuine contempt for it. I was watching the 90s becoming what the 80s was, and it annoyed me. The first time I heard that college kids were having 90s parties I knew that enough was enough. I had also watched the pop culture of the 80s be reconsidered and re-validated by people willing to treat it with substance. I feel all pop culture is worth truly thinking about and assessing and writing about, no matter how ridiculous and fleeting. I know that, eventually, the 90s will be where the 80s are now, and the 2000s will be where the 90s are now, and some day we will all be dead. However, I wanted to get ahead of the curve, and start talking about 90s pop culture in a way that had some substance to it.
Did I do that entirely? Well, I never got nostalgic, so there’s that. In truth, though, there was never a real “voice” to Existential Parachute Pants beyond me simply fucking around. I wrote reviews. I did humor pieces. I posted things ironically. Sometimes I’d just post some video, or some GIF of Salem from Sabrina the Teenage Witch. It was all over the place. The only really thruline was me, and what I happened to stumble upon or whatever I happened to be thinking about. Which is cool, I think. I enjoyed it, and I talked about a lot of different stuff. Some of the pieces I just sort of threw up there. Some I am really pleased with. There is a ton of content on here, most of which will never be read again. Which is fine.
The other reason I did this blog, and did it for all these consecutive days, is because I wanted to showcase my writing somewhere. I am a professional writer, after all, and one who writes about pop culture a bunch. The way I saw it was that maybe this would be a way for me to show prospective employers my writing style and my skill, and also to show I can generate content, to romanticize things for a moment. If you tell somebody you have written a blog post for over 500 days in a row, that could pique interest, potentially. Since I started Existential Parachute Pants, I have, in fact, gotten a lot more writing work. I wrote an entire book on Mystery Science Theater 3000, after all. However, none of it came from this blog. I don’t know how much traction it ever got, in truth.
So yeah, from a practical, analytical standpoint, Existential Parachute Pants was a failure. From a creative standpoint, I consider it a success. I enjoyed it, and that probably is worth something. I found so much weird old pop culture. Whenever I would scroll through the photos to get the EPP podcast logo for a post, I would be struck by just how much ridiculous shit I had written about. It’s somewhat amazing, in its own way, and delightful. Plus, I wrote a fake pilot for Speedway Squad and a ridiculous sped for F Troop. Those were pretty big projects, but I loved doing them.
I have accomplished nothing beyond writing for writing’s sake. I will continue to be writing, of course. I am all over the internets, writing about pop culture. I do a fair amount of 90s related stuff on Uproxx, because I know my lane. I have some big projects that have been in the hopper for months, but they aren’t around yet because they require other people to do work, and they haven’t quite come through yet. Check out my Twitter, or my Tumblr, for info on that stuff, and for other stuff. I’m sure I will still have feelings about 90s pop culture I put out into the world.
On the podcast, Seth and I talked about all sorts of shit, both good and bad. We chatted with Chris Marcil about all sorts of cool 90s stuff he worked on. We argued about Daria. We talked to noted creep Mathew Klickstein about Pete and Pete even though he was more interested in talking about the woman who does the voice of Tommy Pickles being topless in Valley Girl. We made you mix tapes. We talked about The Simpsons a million times. We learned, we laughed, we loved. Seth got dogs. I’ve been watching more Daria recently. I really like that show.
Existential Parachute Pants is a worth of substance that I am pleased with. Existential Parachute Pants is dead. Long live Existential Pants. Well, actually we have a couple more things to get posted, so it’s not quite dead yet. It’s dying, though. We’re all dying. Existential Parachute Pants is just closer to death than most of us.
One time I wrote a short story about Kimmy Gibbler working as a sniper. This is something nobody can take from me. It is something I will clutch to my chest, metaphorical, whilst I am on my death bed.
Guys! Did you know Gene Wilder had a sitcom!? In the 90s!? Seriously. Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka himself, longtime comedic compatriot of Mel Brook and Richard Pryor, had a sitcom in the 90s. And it was called Something Wilder. That sounds so much like a temporary title I don’t think anybody can beat it in that regard.
Wilder didn’t even play a guy named Wilder. His characters name was Gene Bergman. He played a fiftysomething married to a thirtysomething and they had two four-year-old twin sons. It seems like a really broad family sitcom. It lasted only 15 episodes. Gene Wilder had a sitcom, on NBC, and it only lasted 15 episodes.
If the show had been set in Newark, it could have been called Newark Wilder. Pavement joke!
I watched The Creeping Terror of MST3K recently. I also recently watched The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, the first Mike episode, and I realized that Brain That Wouldn’t Die may be the worst movie they ever showed. Worse than Hobgoblins, worse than Manos. Seriously. Anyway, during The Creeping Terror episode, they do one of my favorite host segments, an inexplicable “scathing satire” of Love, American Style.
You may not remember Love, American Style. I do, because I am a ridiculous person who watched a lot of Nick at Nite as a child. It’s a sort of anthology of stories about “love.” Happy Days started there. Apparently a lot of failed pilots ended up there. In MST3K’s version, every little segment is super broad and arch, and sort of on point in its own way. I love it though because of the credits for each segment, and because Mike kisses both of the bots, which is very goofy. What is it about a man in a jumpsuit kissing a puppet of a robot?
There’s a movie about the making of The Creeping Terror, too. Both a documentary and a narrative film. Because the guy who made it was an awful person and con artist, apparently. Having seen the film, I am not surprised.
When we talked about the career of Phil Hartman, we briefly covered Small Soldiers, the Joe Dante motion picture, but we didn’t really have a ton to say about it if I recall. Well, I decided to give it a rewatch, as I am a Joe Dante fan, and I haven’t seen it in like 15 years. Like, when I saw it, it didn’t register with me that I was watching Dick Miller, and that Miller is in all of Dante’s films. These are the things that matter.
Small Soldiers is a good movie. It’s not one of the Dante’s best offerings. He wasn’t trapped by anything, really, as he got to make a PG-13 movie, which is what Gremlins 2 is, and essentially what Gremlins is. The movie is about some toys that get military microchips put in them that are super advanced so they become somewhat sentient, violent killing machines. Well, the soldiers at least. Their “enemies,” the Gorgons, are programmed to hide and lose. They are the good guys, of course, and the Commando Elite are the bad guys. Then the soldiers start attacking people, including Kirsten Dunst, Kevin Dunn, and Phil Hartman.
It has some of that standard Joe Dante anarchy to it. At some point, toy soldiers are shooting flaming tennis balls at people, and the main kid’s mom is returning them with a tennis racket. They send up military movies a bunch. A lot of the Commando Elite are voiced by Dirty Dozen cast members. The movie The Crawling Eye is briefly seen. There’s also some pointedness about the military and big corporations. Big corporations aren’t Dante’s thing. Oh, and at one point, whilst Kirsten Dunst is beating up Gwendy (Barbie stand-in) dolls with a baton, one quips, “It’s a Baton Death March!”
On the other hand, it has problems, too. It’s super slow to get going. Probably a good half hour before it gets interesting. The romance between the main kid (who is pretty much a zero so much so that I just remembered his name is Alan Abernathy) and Kirsten Dunst is awkward and tacked on. Like, they have the scene where they talk and realize they have so much in common. Dunst even says “Do you like Led Zeppelin?” and Alan is like “Yeah,” and she’s all like, “They are my favorite.” It’s ridiculous. This is, like, a 14 year old girl in the late 90s who is super into Led Zeppelin. More to the point, they handle it awkwardly. Also, a couple of the comedy relief Gorgons aren’t very funny.
In short, if you like Joe Dante, it’s probably worthwhile to see Small Soldiers. And Hartman is delightful.