The “Ha!” comedy Channel on cable TV begins transmitting. Wrestlemania VI, Ultimate Warrior fights Hulk Hogan. World’s largest bunny hop at Radio City Music Hall (NYC). Madonna starts her controversial Blond Ambition Tour in Tokyo, Japan. Hubble space telescope is placed into orbit by shuttle Discovery.
Honorable mention to the soundtracks that have their fans but that I can’t personally get into: The Lightning Seeds: Cloudcuckooland; Fleetwood Mac: Behind the Mask (I was never into this band, though it was difficult to get through the 90s without hearing them mentioned); Suzanne Vega: Days of Open Hand (won a Grammy); Lou Reed and Jon Cale: Songs for Drella; Barry Manilow: Live on Broadway (eventually reached Platinum status); A Tribe Called Quest: People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm; The Dead Milkmen: Metaphysical Graffiti; Hunters & Collectors: Ghost Nation; The Afghan Whigs: Up in it.
En Vogue: Born to Sing
This is the type of music you would expect to hear in those gangsta teenage/adult flicks that have a romantic main plot or subplot to it. Decent music to fit those type of films where they couldn’t think of something better to play over the opening or closing credits of a 90s film. But in all seriousness, this did make Platinum, so it has to be up there for consideration. It may not be my type of music, but this is some definitive 90s hip-hop, soul, and r&b. “Strange” is the track that stood out for me.
Public Enemy: Fear of a Black Planet
Now while I usually don’t prefer giving significant mention to rap groups (because rap isn’t really my kind of music), when we’re dealing with Public Enemy, and with the album that released the track Fight the Power, I kind of have to make an exception.
Green Day: 39/Smooth
Yep. The debut album from Green Day. You know their name. And as far as debut albums go, this is a pretty damn good one. Top song pick: I Was There.
That Petrol Emotion: Chemicrazy
This was supposed to be the “make or break” album, their “do or die” attempt. Some say it is the best stuff the band has ever put out, and is one of the best hidden gems of music out there. Which pretty much says all you need to know as to whether or not the Irish alternative rock band made it. They didn’t. But there is this stuff to look back on and remember them by. And I have to admit, this album isn’t half bad.
Death Angel: Act III
A band that attempted to be the next Metallica, and many would argue they succeeded when they released this album. Considered their magnum opus. Unfortunately, they would break up soon after this album’s release, but reunite during the next decade to release some more albums. Personally, I think the album is just ok. No single track is fantastic or terrible. The whole thing is consistent, and decent.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: The Good Son
Huh. I’m honestly at a loss for words for this one.
Johnny Gill: Johnny Gill
So this isn’t an album I would listen to. But, this is one of those albums whose style screams 90s. Well ok, so it’s more like mid-80s to early 90s, which is basically when this style of music called New Jack Swing burst onto the scene, but it was definitely prevalent during much of the time period. It had 4 hit singles: “Rub You the Right Way,” “My, My, My,” “Wrap My Body Tight,” and “Fairweather Friend.” While I wouldn’t purchase the album to listen to, I would eat up these songs when they play in a movie or 90s tv show.
Warrior Soul: Last Decade Dead Century
Fairly good grunge rock album before Nirvana came along and popularized the genre. A pity they ended up not catching on to popularity.
Consolidated: The Myth of Rock
This one is interesting. That’s all I’ll say. This is one of those strange hip-hop, hard-rock, and industrial mash-up styles.
Interesting punk-rock style, which basically has some genre titled post-harcore. Well whatever you want to call the style, the album itself, it’s not bad.
Beats International: Let Them Eat Bingo
Some damn infectious funky stuff. If you should ever seek this album out, try to get the out of print Japanese 2-disc release. Otherwise, it might either be missing a couple songs, or trimmed down a few.
But anyway, the album of the month for me would have to be, undoubtedly:
Now this is more like my kind of metal. And not just metal, but Viking Metal! In fact, one could argue they created the genre, starting in 1988 with their album Blood Fire Death; only to completely define the genre here with this album. Just listen to this epic masterpiece (assuming it’s your kind of music, like it is for me).
Now for my highlights for films of the month.
Honorable mention to a film called Spaced Invaders. Not because it’s good, but because it’s a notorious piece of shit. And there’s this horror film called The Guardian which has a bit of a cult status, but I personally didn’t think much of it. Some people who like Ernest will likely enjoy Ernest Goes to Jail, but I didn’t find that movie all that appealing; but it does highlight kiddie 90s humor at some of its most extreme. With that out of the way…
The only real reason to mention this movie is because this was Johnny Depp’s performance that put him in the spotlight. Otherwise, the film itself is a lesser version of Grease, and just meh overall.
While I don’t personally enjoy this movie myself, it has become revered as a classic that isn’t all that well known. It’s about a black African who was more or less raised as a British person, and how both those cultures end up clashing with each other in the worst ways. He embodies the best and worse traits of both, which inevitably leads to a tragic albeit fitting conclusion. A film misunderstood back in the day, and deserves a chance.
An interesting enough police procedural, with Nick Nolte giving a great performance. That is all.
Bit of a cult classic, with a role that Alec Baldwin is actually good in (because he plays an asshole). Sort of like Payback in that you get ready to root for the bad guy. And this film doesn’t beat around the bush with his character, he stays villainous, with only small slivers of good that temporarily peek though, until the very end. And this film had the plot of a criminal stealing the identity of a police officer before that show Banshee did it decades later.
I Love You To Death
This is one of those movies I wouldn’t enjoy so much, if I didn’t know that it was based on a true story, and some of the most insane events that take place during the film’s second half actually happened. Truth is stranger than fiction. This would be the most criminally overlooked film of the month if not for…
Backtrack (aka Catchfire)
I reviewed this film. A misunderstood masterpiece that has been crippled by a theatrical cut, only for the Director’s Cut (the way it is meant to be seen) to pass by largely unnoticed, only given a VHS release.
Now for my highlights for videogames of the month.
There was sort of a sequel to Metal Gear called Snake’s Revenge that came out on the NES, but that’s one of those Metal Gear titles everyone would like to forget about. There was also a Fist of the North Star release for Game Boy, the system’s first fighting game. But it didn’t seem all that great, despite the existence of a few people who seem to enjoy it.
NAM-1975 (April 1990; Arcade, Neo Geo)
Gotta point out the first major Neo Geo game. Galaxian 3 (April 1990; Arcade)
This wasn’t just an arcade game. This was a motherfucking 90s event! Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road (April 1990; NES)
Oh yes. Phantom Fighter (April 1990; NES)
Pinbot (April 1990; NES)
Tecmo World Wrestling (April 1990; NES)
Some call this the greatest wrestling game of all time. Eh, I don’t know about that, but many loved it back then. Super C (April 1990; NES)
The sequel to Contra. And it was better.
WCW World Championship Wrestling (April 1990; NES)
Well, they weren’t going to let Tecmo have all the fun. So here’s the other good NES wrestling game:
Wrath of the Black Manta (April 1990; NES)
Despite just about every video reviewer bitching about this game today, it holds a lot of nostalgia for many, who still proclaim this game to be good for a Shinobi knockoff. It may be inferior to Shinobi and Ninja Gaiden, but it had its fans.
Xexyz (April 1990; NES)
Oh lord yeah!
Air Diver (April 1990; Sega Genesis)
Well, the Sega Genesis had to have at least one decent one. The system was still just getting going. It would get better titles and be more capable of competing with Nintendo down the road. Until then, this was their Top Gun (more like Firefox, the Clint Eastwood film).
Nemesis (April 1990; Game Boy)
Basically an inferior port of Gradius. But everything on the Game Boy was inferior, so…
Heiankyo Alien (April 1990; Game Boy)
This game is unique and weird, and that’s all I’ll say.
Flipull (April 1990; Game Boy)
Man, just when I thought the Game Boy had no more surprises in it, we get this unique little puzzler. There’s a Famicom version with better graphics.
Afterdrive (April 1, 1990?; Ha!)
The Ha! channel before it became Comedy Central. They had this little show with Dennis Leary and Billy Kimball. Never saw it, but people seem to remember it for Dennis, the theme song, and a couple comedy sketch bits that they retained in their memories over the years.
Marshall Chronicles (April 4 1990; ABC)
Only ran for one season. Many loved this show, but it never had enough viewers to keep it maintained. The fans claimed it had a great combination of intellectual and slapstick comedy.
Shannon’s Deal (April 16, 1990 – May 21, 1991; NBC)
Another short lived 2 season series that had its fans who wished the show ran longer, or at least got a legit video release. About a lawyer/gambler. I mean, seriously, there are fans of this show who legitimately love it and consider it one of the best ever. And I never heard of it until doing research for this month.
Cartoon All Stars to the Rescue(April 21, 1990; 4 major TV networks)
Gotta inform the kiddies about the war on drugs.
And now for the big 3:
Wings (April 19, 1990; NBC)
Famous comedy series that ran for 8 seasons. Though the show did decline in quality during the last 2 seasons.
In Living Color (April 15, 1990 – May 19, 1994; Fox)
Of course, who can forget one of the best skit-comedy shows that is probably only topped in terms of popularity by Saturday Night Live? Not to mention all the celebrities who were made famous because of this (again, like SNL). Watch how long it takes before the anti-PC jokes start to fly.
Twin Peaks (April 8, 1990 – June 10, 1991; ABC)
Undoubtedly the most influential prime-time television series of the year, let alone of the month. The show that broke ground of having an ongoing story progress from episode to episode, as opposed to having most episodes be stand-alone events (like sitcoms). Everyone was in a frenzy over the first season, to the point where even news broadcasts would ask the question, “Who killed Laura Palmer?” Unfortunately, the second season answered that question, and many have mixed opinions about it, mostly negative. But then we got a third season in more recent years that is far more difficult to approach for casual viewers.
Ok, some disclosure before proceeding here. I’m generally not a fan of rap and hip-hop, but I can’t ignore something that reached platinum status (and later quadruple platinum; that’s not a joke in case you were wondering, that’s a real thing apparently). So Bill Biv DeVoe released an album titled Poison that was a huge hit. Not my kind of music, but for those who are curious to know and are interested in that style of music. I’ll be sticking with my metal and rock. Also worth mentioning is Salt-N-Pepa: Black’s Magic, Digital Underground: Sex Packets, Above the Law: Livin’ Like Hustlers, Urban Dance Squad: Mental Floss for the Globe. The rap and hip-hop wave was out in full force. For those electronic lovers, there’s also The Beloved: Happiness. As for the rock & roll genre, I’ll give an honorable mention to The Fall – Extricate, and to Nitzer Ebb: Showtime.
Tribe: Here at the Home
The song “Outside” would later be featured in the game Rock Band. Personally, I’m more akin to the song “Rescue Me.” The band never made it big and only released 3 albums and disbanded in 1994. It had its fans; I wasn’t one of them (a casual listener at best). But the songs are decent enough. Plus I’m a bit biased with this particular selection, considering some band members would go on to get involved with the creation of the videogame Thief II: The Metal Age. And System Shock 2.
Borghesia – Resistance
So this is an electronic band, which usually isn’t my thing. But I have to admit, I really dig the beats on this album. It sounds epic, yet not overdone. I mean, just the opening track is incredible. The downside is that it’s in a foreign language that us English speakers won’t be able to understand, but that’s ok, because I usually have a hard time listening to lyrics in general anyway.
Robert Plant: Manic Nirvana
Interesting rock n’roll stuff. It’s groovy. Stand outs for me were Tie Dye on the Highway, Anniversary, Watching You.
Depeche Mode: Violator
You know this band from the song Personal Jesus.
Definitely one of the best female bands that has ever existed. But there’s only one song for me on this album. Wild Child.
Social Distortion: Social Distortion
It’s one of the most famous rock bands with their debut album. I have to include this just on principle alone, even if these guys are pricks. You’ve heard the songs “Ball and Chain” and “Story of my Life.” I think the band is just ok, but one can’t ignore their fame.
I’ll give an honorable mention for a film called Side Out. The film itself is just so-so at best, but it does have, “that’s so 90s” feel to it, and many do consider it the greatest beach volleyball movie ever made (some competition that genre’s got; I still say Top Gun is the best one, and it’s not even a beach volleyball movie). So, with that out of the way, there were some fairly good picks for this month.
A film to capitalize and promote the lambada dance craze, which never really took off as well as many hoped it would. In fact, in the same month, another lambada film was released titled The Forbidden Dance. Let’s just say it’s not even in the same league as this film. But whatever, this is a prime guilty pleasure film, with great cheese and ridiculous moments. Such a guilty pleasure for me that I enjoy it more than Dirty Dancing (you can’t hit me, I’ll lambada dodge all those beer bottles and bullets coming my way). This is one of the definitive, “that’s so 90s” films. Though I have to admit, that chick in the poster is a bit of a bitch in the movie, in ways that, well, just don’t happen in movies anymore, at least not in the context of this movie.
Joe Versus the Volcano
First it’s a dystopian future film about a guy who hates his desk job. Then it turns into a road-travel-romance flick. It’s interesting, and a bit of a cult classic (this month’s films have plenty of those). What would you do if you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal disease and only had a few months to live?
Last of the Finest
So it’s mainly a so-so cop action-thriller, but I’m a bit of a sucker for this movie. Especially because of the bitchin’ shootout during the finale. Also known as Blue Heat in the UK, which is a better title.
This is a pretty damn fun thriller that moves along at a brisk pace which never lets up once you get about 30 minutes in. James Earl Jones literally chews the scenery, Stan Lee makes a cameo, and there’s some fun stunts served with a decent dose of cheese. This film flies under the radar of many, but it’s a great under-appreciated popcorn flick worth checking out.
A cult classic. It’s no Zatoichi, but it’s the best American-made blind swordsman movie we’re ever going to get.
Found it difficult to get into until the 2nd half kicked in (though I do believe I should give that portion a second chance). That second half alone makes the film worth seeing. Great down-to-earth characters and moments; some good laughs; and one of the best endings ever. A true cult classic, the kind that Superbad wishes it could be.
This was the #1 highest grossing film of the year. It also skyrocketed Julia Roberts film career. And… it’s not bad, for a dream scenario of a rich guy going out with a hooker and making her life better and saving her from it (I’ll take it over 50 Shades anyday). Richard Gere and Julia Roberts work well together, and would team up again in a future romantic comedy film.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Come on, you know this movie! You know this franchise! The most financially successful independent film of that decade. And you bet your ass it’s the best live action TMNT film ever made.
The Hunt for Red October
Arguably the best film of the month, at least as far as popularity from today’s perspective goes. Also arguably the most famous Tom Clancy novel-to-film adaptation ever done (though not my personal favorite; that one comes later on).
I’ll give brief mention to Kid Kool and the Quest for the Seven Wonder Herbs, just because the Kid Kool franchise was known well-enough during the time period. But this game is too fucking irritating to recommend playing. Fuck you, and your Mario Bros. rip-offs.
Baseball Simulator 1.000 (NES)
No, I’m not a fan of sports games. But this one is remembered by anyone who played it during that time period. That’s all I’ll say.
Burai Fighter (NES)
Now this is more like my kind of side-scroller shooter. This is fun, but like most of them, hard as hell.
Abadox: The Deadly Inner War (NES)
Yep, another fun side-scroller. Just look at those levels. Aren’t the graphics great? It’s like you’re flying through intestines.
Adventures of Lolo 2 (NES)
Finally. Something that is neither a sports game nor a shooter. A puzzle-like game.
Well what-do-ya-know? Another one that stands out. This time it’s more of a tabletop wargame than it is a puzzle game or shooter. Basically think of it as one of those Avalon Hill wargames from the 70s and 80s put into videogame format, and this is basically what you get. If we had an NES back in the day (I was a Sega Genesis person, didn’t hop over to Nintendo until the N64 came out), I’d imagine my dad would’ve played the hell out of this. He’s a sucker for stuff like this.
Code Name: Viper (NES)
Another side-scrolling shooter, but this time it’s a shameless rip-off of the arcade game (also ported to the NES) Rolling Thunder. However, they did improve on the gameplay, letting it be a bit more forgiving (ie fair).
Al Unser’s Jr. Turbo Racing (NES)
That racing music. The immersion this manages to bring for an NES title. Have to admit, despite racing games not being my thing, there’s something alluring and addictive about this one.
Good luck pronouncing the name of this hack-and-slash side-scroller. Another port of an arcade game (most NES games were).
The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle (Game Boy)
Well… Ok, so this game isn’t regarded as good. But it does have a reputation that made it well-known. The first videogame released to feature Bugs Bunny. Puzzle elements. And gameplay that infuriated gamers; including the inability to fucking jump, while you played as a fucking bunny!
Kwirk (Game Boy)
So this is when I usually throw the Game Boy a bone here, because their games aren’t on par with those from the NES and PC. But when the games emphasize puzzle-solving rather than action, then it’s not bad. The hand-held systems weren’t capable of making any decent real-time action games yet. But every now and then… But this is no masterpiece. It gets monotonous. But the fact that there’s a Game Boy game that’s fun which isn’t Pokemon…
Revenge of the ‘Gator (Game Boy)
And what-do-ya-know? Another decent title for the Game Boy. Another pinball game. Quite polished for a Game Boy title.
Well, there were at least 2 memorable ones that go a bit beyond being just cult favorites. Makes it better than last month’s offerings then.
NewsWatch TV (March 1990 – present; AMC Network, Ion Television)
You can pretty much tell what this is from the description. A news series. Well, considering it’s still ongoing; kinda worth mentioning. H.E.L.P. (March 3, 1990 – April 14, 1990; ABC)
I honestly can’t say I know much about this series. What I do know is that some consider it to be ahead of its time, and cancelled as a result. To quote a youtuber: “it was basically Third Watch…but a decade earlier, with some really big names in it.” Also came out before Law & Order, though that would be coming soon. Only ran for one season (6 episodes), and was intended to be a simple mid-season replacement for Mission Impossible. Mainly mentioning the show because it may have inspired others that came after it, particularly Third Watch (which wouldn’t come out until near the end of the decade).
Sydney (March 21 – June 25, 1990; CBS)
A show that was hyped and sort of popular, likely because it starred Valerie Bertinelli. But it was short lived and didn’t go past 13 episodes for 1 season. Never saw it, but I’m aware of the brief popularity it had at the time.
The Outsiders (March 25, 1990 – July 22, 1990; Fox)
There are a lot of mixed opinions about this show. On the one hand, the pilot episode ended up being one of the highest watched and rated series premieres of all time during that time period. On the other hand, the ratings fell sharply after that, thanks to 60 Minutes and Married With Children. Some revere the show, others think it is a borderline disgrace to the famous film it acts as a sequel to. Main reason it has its haters is largely due to the cast, which many felt were inferior to those who were cast in the 1980s movie. The show only ran for one season and was cancelled, but from what I understand it didn’t end on a cliffhanger either; so it can be considered more-or-less complete. You be the judge, if you ever decide to watch it.
Equal Justice (March 27, 1990 – July 3, 1991; ABC)
The show had its cult following, which were outraged when the show got cancelled after 2 seasons. From what I understand, just about everyone who watched the show loved it. Great cast and writing. But it never built up a big enough audience (like others); probably because many dismissed it as an LA Law ripoff. Plus the early 90s was loaded with courtroom drama and police drama shows already, and Law & Order hadn’t even aired yet. So if you like your Pittsburgh D.A. shows, well here’s another you might like. Bagdad Cafe (March 30, 1990 – July 27, 1991; CBS)
As if The Outsiders wasn’t enough, now we have another series made that is based on a film (and may more or less act as a sequel to it). I wouldn’t have given this sitcom much thought if not for one thing. It stars Whoopi Goldberg. That should be enough to convince some to give it a watch, even if it did get cancelled midway through season 2.
Carol & Company (March 31, 1990 – July 20, 1991; NBC)
Only ran for one season, then got cancelled (though there was some sort of spin-off which some would consider season 2, which also didn’t last long). An anthology series without any ongoing character development or storyline. So it didn’t leave any threads dangling when it got off the air. Anyway, some people love the show. I was never a watcher.
Alright, so enough with the petty shows only some fanatical fans remember. Now for the 2 big tamales.
Tribes (March 5 – July 13, 1990; Fox)
Ah, this show. One of the High School soap operas that made its mark alongside other shows like Degrassi and Edgemont (the latter of which would show up during the next decade). It was created precisely for the timeslot it occupied, so that high schoolers could catch an episode when they got home before doing their homework. Unfortunately, despite the popularity and cult following this series had, it was cancelled after 1 season of 95 episodes. Fox hoped the series would reach Syndication, but it never happened. Oh well. Thanks for the memories.
Road to Avonlea (March 5, 1990 – March 31, 1996; The Disney Channel)
Heard good things about this Emmy Award winning series from Canada. Ran for 7 seasons. Technically, the series started airing in Canada in January 1990, but made it’s way to American televisions for this month. But watch out for those alternate titles and versions. To quote Wikipedia, “In the United States, its title was shortened to simply Avonlea, and a number of episodes were retitled and reordered. When the series was released on VHS and DVD in the United States, the title changed from Road to Avonlea to Tales from Avonlea.” It’s a family show that takes place during the very early 1900s. And this could very well be the top show of March 1990, and one of those series many hold in high reverence. I should check it out sometime.
So, it starts. My trip back into the 90s, digging up old memories, returning to the nostalgia, and bringing it to light for those around today, who visit this site. At first I thought this was going to be an endeavor that would take a few months to do to cover the entire 90s decade. Nope. It’s going to take a lot longer than that in order for me to do the decade justice. Considering how much work it has taken just to do this month alone, I’m not even sure I’ll be able to complete the project. But I will do what I can, so long as I have the willpower and don’t allow other priorities to overtake this one (that’s inevitable).
This is not a definitive retro-trip. I’m not going to be covering every single thing. That’s nearly impossible, and it would get too muddled. Instead, I am going to be covering what I consider to be good (or even great) about each month, covering film theatrically released, games released, music albums released, and some tv shows that aired in the month. So this is going to be a biased coverage, to some extent, but for the sake of fairness I will also include a few things that don’t personally appeal to me, but were respectable hits back in the day. Except for music, because fuck anything that isn’t rock and roll or heavy metal.
Films released in theaters that are worth revisiting today:
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!
“I tried to talk to you, but you wouldn’t let me, so I had to kidnap you so you could get to know me. I’m sure you’ll fall in love with me, just as I’m in love with you.”
This film is basically a more light-hearted remake of the 1965 film The Collector, and I found it to be quite fun. It has Antonio Banderas in it, a good amount of humor, suspense, romance, and thought provocation. But here’s something about the film that cements its place in film history: [Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!] was the last film to receive the MPAA’s X-rating due to its depiction of forced bondage and rape – however, it was re-rated and released as an NC-17 film. — www.filmsite.org/1990-filmhistory.html
And like several films that suffered at the hands of the MPAA for reasons related to this, this film is not that intense, in my opinion. There’s a scene of a toy scuba diver swimming up against a woman’s vagina, and one long sex scene, but other than all that, there’s nothing else all that edgy about it. It sucks how an NC-17 rating harms a film since most theater chains won’t show films with that rating.
“I think most people want to be bad.”
“That’s because it is bad. That’s why we’ve got cops.”
“Except the cop is the guy that wants to do it worst of all.”
Solid film, albeit with an ending that wrapped up things far too conveniently in my opinion. In any case, it’s a solid thriller with an otherworldly soundtrack to it. It played on the concept of distrust in police, a trend that was growing even during that time period (along with Maniac Cop from the previous decade). It also took Richard Gere, who normally played roles as a heart-throb ladies-man in light-hearted films up to that point, and put a very dark twist on it. Quite brilliant in that regard.
“By the perception of illusion we experience reality.”
Now this movie. This movie is a fucking head trip. It’s weird, but seemingly straightforward and easy enough to follow for the first half hour, even if there are hints here and there that something is up with what we are seeing. And sure enough, once the film reaches the midpoint… Well… Let’s just say you’re going to start questioning what is real and what isn’t, if any of it is real, what story should be believed, if they should all be believed, etc. Think of it as the anime film Perfect Blue, but taken up a couple notches on the “What the fuck is going on!?!?!?” factor. It may seem low budget, and it is. But it has Bill Pullman in it (doing ok, nothing too spectacular), and Bill Paxton (also does alright) in it, and enough of a weird factor to it to make it worth watching. And despite the insanity of it all, it is cohesive and everything is linked and comes together in a bizarre fashion. That doesn’t mean you’ll be able to make sense of it all on a first or even repeated watch, but, well, there it is.
Treasure Island (TV movie)
Considered by some to be the most faithful adaptation of the novel, and the best version we’re ever going to get. And I have to admit, it’s not half bad, especially by TV movie standards. Definitely worth checking out.
“This valley is just one long smorgasbord. We have got to get out.”
Now this. This is easily the best film of January 1990. Still one of my favorite films today. Arguably the last good practical effect monster film, which is fitting because it was made to pay tribute to older monster films. If you haven’t seen this movie, you’ve been living under a rock, and that’s the last place you want to be when graboids are squirming around. This is the only film on the list I saw when I was a kid in the 90s, and we watched at home via VHS rental. Good times with my mom, dad, and sister. We we enjoyed the hell out of this movie.
This film also, unfortunately, marked the end of creature features that had life-sized models (at least in terms of making those for films on a regular basis).
But you know what? People may bitch about people seeing trash in theaters today and overlooking the great stuff. But I gotta tell ya, it’s been going on since forever. And with this film, it’s no exception. Motherfuckers.
Although “Tremors” was not a big hit during its theatrical run, the film became a runaway smash in the home video market, and ultimately tripled its original box-office gross with VHS sales and rentals. — IMDB
I also would’ve liked to have seen the R-Rated audio version.
Was originally given an R-rating by the MPAA not for violence, but for language. The film included as many as twenty f-bombs. As an appeal, producers removed all utterances of the “f” word, with the exception of two. Many of the swears were dubbed over with other words, including “can you fly you sucker?”, “we killed that motherhumper,” and “what the s***” when Val is overlooking the dead sheep. — IMDB
I thought about taking clips from various commercial videos and making my own custom vids of what I consider “best of the best” of the 90s commercials, but then decided, “Nah, I’m too lazy for that.” But I will point out clips from certain commercials that I believe stand out from the rest.
3:00, the Ring Raiders. I wish I had that shit back in the day.
3:30, Flying Fighters
5:11, Hot Lixx (God I love that name). Before there was Guitar Hero, there was Hot Lixx.
6:11, SqueezeIt Fruit Drink. Seems sexually suggestive to me.
8:19, Typhoon Hovercraft
10:31, SqueezeIt returns, this time with a girl doing the sexually suggested squeezing.
11:01, Zero Gravity Cliff Hangers
17:09, an amusing Corn Flakes commercial
19:13, Bug Out
19:52, Dino Riders. These look cool.
22:43, Tiger hand-held games. These things sucked ass, but I found the beginning of the commercial amusing considering the idea of hand-held games.
I must confess, I haven’t seen this show. And it’s not readily available on any film site I’m aware of (including sites like Amazon where you could normally buy a DVD version or something, that doesn’t exist either). It’s just a sitcom, and those are a dime a dozen. But some people state that this show is great, especially the opening theme song, but there’s mixed opinions about the actual quality of the show itself once it got started.
There is potentially one way I could get a hold of some episodes to watch, but it would require me to spend seventy-five fucking dollars on BluJay.com, and I don’t feel like doing that for a show I’m pretty sure isn’t going to be all that memorable for me personally.
So just consider this a reminder that this show existed, and it had its fans at the time, but I was never aware of it until now. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to do this for very many shows on this nostalgia trip, I prefer to watch a few episodes before deciding if they’re worth putting on this blog series or not. That being said, if anyone wants to donate $75 to my blog site, and specifically requests I use that money for purchasing and reviewing the series, I’ll see what I can do (fuck knows why anyone would want to spend that much money for something like that).
So this isn’t technically a show per-se, it’s more like in the same vane as Tom on Toonami, with little tidbits between shows/commercials and whatnot. That being said, there were some fairly entertaining comedy bits that this came up with. This show didn’t last very long. And to be honest, watching some of these clips again, I’m getting very vague memory lapses.
The Baby-Sitters Club
Originally ran January 1 – March 26, 1990 on HBO.
Yes, this show is girly as fuck. It’s also 90s as fuck. The acting, the camera shots, the video quality, the clothing, the music. Everything about this show screams 90s. And despite the fact that I probably can’t stand to watch more than 2 episodes in a single day else risk my balls falling off, it’s a show I recommend for families who want some good moral lessons. The friendships are good, the lesson to take away from each episode is good, the girls have an amount of professionalism about them, and it only ran for 1 season (in stark contrast to The Simpsons which is still ongoing). Oh, and you probably won’t get that theme song out of your head once you hear it.
Not to be confused with the Disney series from the 50s, this show ran from January 5, 1990 – January 30, 1993 on The Family Channel. You might be wondering what The Family Channel is, since it’s a channel that no longer exists. Well, it was eventually acquired by Fox and being renamed the Fox Family Channel in August 15, 1998, before eventually being acquired by Disney and renamed ABC Family, and then later renamed Freeform. But anyway, while the channel was still The Family Channel, it aired this little series that’s a decent family-friendly swashbuckling adaptation of Zorro.
And I’m not going to lie, I haven’t actually seen an episode in its entirety recently (I only remember small portions of it from my early days). I was tempted to purchase a copy of the first season, since I can’t seem to find it anywhere online, but decided against it, since I’m currently not making any money off this blog site anyway, yet. But from what I remember, it was fun enough, though by my present standards it probably wouldn’t do enough to keep me interested past the first few episodes.
America’s Funniest Home Videos
Technically it originally aired as a 1-hour special in 1989, but was popular enough to where it became a long-running (and still going) series on January 14, 1990. Originally had Bob Saget as the host. The show is basically what many people watch gifs and youtube videos for today. People caught on camera doing dumb shit that makes you laugh, or are just victims of circumstance. And it was a show me and my family watched regularly. Great laughs, great host, but not likely to be something one would revisit regularly, given the nature of the program. But every once in a LONG while…
While the first episode did technically air in the previous year (December 17, 1989), the first regular episode aired on January 14, 1990 on FOX. Until then, they were first seen as short sketches on The Tracey Ullman Show (April 5, 1987 – May 26, 1990). I don’t think much needs to be said about this show and its legacy, especially since it’s still running to this very day. Oh yeah, 1990 really did start off with a bang. And it would only get better and worse at the same time from here on out.
0:42, racial tensions, prior to the 1992 LA riots.
19:59, Encyclopedia Britannica
21:29, what a difference, Blockbuster Video!
23:10, now this, THIS is a true bona-fide 90s commercial! Street Hot court shoes.
25:56, arguably the most epic Mario commercial ever created.
26:26, an amusing Bill Cosby commercial, doing a picture page (be warned, it’s a long one).
32:50, Nick Jr. ad for Eureeka’s Castle
36:14, I actually remember this fucking bizarre Nick Jr. ad.
33:48, jeans commercial.
44:18, shoe commercial, because these shoes will cause skateboards to spontaneously appear and make you play basketball better than the pros.
Ok, I’m not going to lie, I’m not the right person for the job when it comes to this subject. Unlike films where I’m usually willing to watch just about anything, that is definitely not the case with music. With very few exception, I prefer hard (alternative) rock and heavy metal (but not that type where you can’t understand what they’re saying because of the deep hoarse voice ala Metalocalypse). So when it comes to music for the month, I’m only going to list hits, and stuff I personally liked, and bands that made an impact with their presence. In other words, this portion is going to be quite biased.
And honestly, when it comes to music, the 90s was the beginning of the end of the era of great music. Just my opinion, but music for me never really took off until the late 70s (with some obvious exceptions such as The Doors and The Beatles). Because it wasn’t until the late 70s that some semblance of heavy metal came into the picture (and ironically enough, the magazine series too), which got established in the 80s, and slowly eroded away in the 90s. The true destruction of all that is good and holy with the music industry came with the arrival of Nsync and The Backstreet Boys. When they first arrived, things were ok. But it was no longer cool when every-single-mother-fucking-major-band ended up just being replicas of those two. At least that’s the impression I’m getting with the shit I hear on the radio all the time, and in clubs that blast music, let alone at school campuses (Christ, no wonder the youth is so fucked up today).
Gwar: Scumdogs of the Universe
Typical trash metal by today’s standards. A satirical shock rock band. Guess those were common back then, considering Ween also came out with an album in the same genre in the same month. But what makes them really stand out is seeing them in person, live, with those insane fucking costumes that they wear and how much they pushed the envelope.
There was also a Hank Williams Jr. album released titled Lone Wolf. But I honestly don’t care about that, ’cause his music isn’t my type. What is worth mentioning is that he is responsible for making the intro to football fun. Monday Night Football. ABC. Now technically I’m kinda cheating here, since this Monday Night Football song technically started in 1989. But fuck it, it carried on over through the 90s up until around 2005. “Are you ready for some football!?”
Ween: GodWeenSatan: The Oneness
This band is one of those that gave a name to alternative rock (and experimental rock). I don’t believe this particular album of theirs can say it is mainly responsible for this, since it’s basically a glorified “best of” for many of their previous works. If I were to describe this band, I’d say it’s Psychostick before Psychostick was around.
Fish: Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors
I’m not saying anything.
The Black Crowes: Shake Your Money Maker
Not bad actually. A nice little rock album from a band I’ve never heard of (though that’s probably not saying much coming from a guy who’s been living under a rock when it comes to the music industry throughout most of my life). Was received well and was quite popular at the time. You may know this band by their hit song (also from this album) Hard to Handle.
Slaughter: Stick It To Ya
Now this is my kind of music right here. A metal band. And yes, it was big back in the day. And I think this album is still pretty damn great to this day.
0:29, funny that they decide to spell out the names of the kind of people their mother is likely to have an affair with.
3:25, I could never stand that smug fucking bear, but he does manage to stick with you. Golden Crisp.
The main home console system out at this time that was pretty much wiping the floor with all other competition was the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was 8 bits, but at least it had graphics superior to the Atari ST (also still around at that time). However, having been released since October 1985, it had been out for nearly 5 years. And when it comes to video game consoles, it’s usually about 4-6 years before the next big thing hits the market.
But that’s not all Nintendo brought out to the fore. There was also the Game Boy, released in the U.S. in July 1989. The first major hand-held game system. Too bad a lot of the games sucked and were just inferior ports of console counterparts.
And that next big thing is the Sega Master System II, or so Sega thought. Unfortunately, that system crashed and burned. Thankfully, since August of 1989, the Sega Genesis was released with its fancy 16 bit graphics to give it an edge over the NES. And it was definitely giving Nintendo some much needed competition in the home console market. But it wasn’t alone.
There was also the NEC Turbo-Graphx-16, which also had its own decent line-up. Unfortunately, it’s popularity would never get as high as that of the Genesis or the NES.
One other main competitor for the games of the early 90s was a glorified PC system that was built for the purpose of gaming and video graphics/editing. And that PC system is the Amiga. Of course there’s the MS-DOS and all that, but the Amiga stands apart from those as being a PC built for gaming first, everything else second.
The other minor mentions due to games still being released for them during this time period is the Atari ST, and the Commodore 64 (January 1982).
But make no mistake. It was the Sega Genesis and the NES that were dominating the game market in 1990. That would change (sort of) in the next year. And now for the major memorable games that came out this month for those systems. Some of these games are ports from older Arcade versions, just an FYI:
A Boy and His Blob (NES)
This game was nearly impossible to beat without a strategy guide. Hell, players were lucky enough to know how to play it back then. Yet its style was enough to make it a revered classic that later got a (much more playable) remake on the Wii decades later. Not my kind of game personally, but it has its charm. But I agree that this game is far too fucking frustrating to play without a guidebook, and it’s at that point that you have to wonder, “Why bother?”
Not something I would play today (or even back then), but it has cultural appeal, so I’m including it here.
Clash at Demonhead (NES)
Now this is more like my kind of game. Not to mention it’s the inspiration for that one scene in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. However, it’s hard as fuck, right off the bat. Those goddamn flying bees piss me off. It’s a basic platformer/shooter where you run around and dodge bullets, hop on platforms trying to get from point A to point B and not fall to your doom, collect a few important items, and then make it to the end for a final boss encounter. The thing that sets this game apart from most others at the time is that it has an impressive amount of narrative elements within the game. You’ll encounter characters who start a dialogue with you. Plus you have multiple paths to choose from to determine in what order you’ll collect things to beat the game. Sounds a bit like Megaman doesn’t it? Granted, Megaman beat this game to the punch, and is better from a gameplay standpoint. But this game makes up for it with the narrative element, and the more natural open-world nature of it. And you will be taking notes during this game when it comes to learning which route you need to get to.
Worth checking out.
Demon Sword (NES)
Now this is a fun game. It’s like if Sonic the Hedgehog was a bit slower but could jump higher, climb trees, swing a sword (that gets longer as the game goes on), and can climb and jump through trees. It’s like you’re playing one of those Chinese martial arts films where everyone is on a wire and leaping in the air for too long (ex: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon). The one thing that brings it down is that, if you’re to play it proper and playing to win, you’re going to have to grind a bit in some of the levels.
Kings of Beach (NES)
It’s actually a fairly a solid beach volleyball game. That’s all.
River City Ransom (NES)
A decent beat-em-up with RPG elements. The Scott Pilgrim vs. the World game released a few years back ripped this game off tremendously, even if it had better graphics and better gameplay and is the overall superior game.
The Chessmaster (NES)
Surely you’re familiar with the Chessmaster series. This is where it all started. Simple, but effective and perfectly playable to this day.
That being said, I personally wouldn’t play this version when there’s superior alternatives out there nowadays.
Top Gun: The Second Mission (NES)
Now this, this is easily the best flight simulator that the NES has ever had. It blows the first Top Gun game out of the water in every way. Gameplay is better, landing is easier, graphics are better, more variety in music and sound effects. This game is fun.
I’d still play this game to this day.
A quick note. It’s worth mentioning that while this is the best flight simulator on the NES, this isn’t the best flight simulator experience available at the time. There’s one that predates this, in the Arcades, that is very much worth mentioning even if it’s before the 90s. But it was still played in the 90s damnit! Hell, I played it in the 90s back when my local mall actually had a decent arcade room. Now I have to drive all the way to Dave & Busters to get anything decent! Anyway, After Burner, by Sega, released in 1987. That’s the ultimate arcade flight simulator experience.
Kickass! I would kill to relive this experience again (don’t take that literally, unless you’re talking about killing digital 16-bit enemy sprites, in which case: gladly).
Motocross Maniacs (Game Boy)
The only decent game that I know of released for the Game Boy during this month. The programmers were perfectly aware of the Game Boy’s limitations, and thus made this game more of a puzzle game rather than a straight up racing game. It’s about knowing how to race and get through obstacles without crashing rather than making the best time.
Not something I’d play today, but I had to throw the Game Boy system a bone here.
Bases Loaded II: Second Season (NES)
I hate sports games. I really do. I’ve been through so many football and baseball games during this time period they make me sick just thinking about them. Monotonous garbage, all of them. If you’ve played one of them, you’ve played all of them. Yet for some reason people tend to have fond memories of this baseball classic. I’ll just take their word for it. But what I do find interesting is that this game was released without an MLB license.
Arrow Flash (Sega Genesis)
I don’t care if that’s a picture of the Japanese edition, it kicks way more ass than the U.S. image. It’s basically just another side-scrolling shooter. If you’ve played one, you’ve pretty much played them all. But it’s an anime-style mecha game. Plus, I’m going to be honest, side-scrolling shooters were the best type of games back then, at least during this period. However, there were signs that a new type of gameplay would arrive to rock our 90s world. Also from Japan.
Phantasy Star II (Sega Genesis)
The first game was good until I realized just how much fucking grinding I had to do. The sequel isn’t much better in that regard. But in any case, this was the main fantasy (oh, I’m sorry, phantasy) series to compete against Nintendo’s Final Fantasy games. And to be honest, I think this game series really did give Final Fantasy a run for its money. Just a pity it never got as big. And like I said, it’s a grind-fest, but so was the early Final Fantasy games. Nowadays I wouldn’t play this without cheats or something to reduce the amount of grinding needed to progress past the bosses.
Now while this isn’t a game that has aged all that well, the storyline is quite good. Plus, this is just a sample of the masterpiece that is yet to come in this series.
Zoom! (Sega Genesis [ported from Amiga version, 1988])
Pretty damn fun actually. Try the Amiga version for a different style of graphics.
Overlord [aka Supremacy: Your Will Be Done] (Amiga, Atari ST)
The Amiga version is superior to all others. And this is arguably the best game of the month unless I’ve overlooked and/or misjudged any. I mean, just look at this thing. It’s like the precursor to Master of Orion.
Loom (MS-DOS, Amiga)
A point-and-click adventure game with an interesting story that makes you think. Honestly, with very few exceptions, point-and-click games, while I’ve enjoyed some in the past, usually don’t interest me (with the exceptions being Riven, Obduction, and Blade Runner). They’re nothing but glorified interactive stories, done better in RPG games like Final Fantasy. Most of them rely on these dumb fucking puzzles that most people can’t solve without finding a guide somewhere or spending countless hours on something that should only take a minute. So I usually end up watching the “movie” version online, with someone playing through it who knows the game well enough to get through it. If the story is good enough, it has my interest.
But I’m not going to let my general disliking for point-n-click games get in the way of pointing out a classic for those interested in this genre. Plus it has a cool style to it. And Lucasfilm was killing it in the point-n-click genre during the 90s.
Now, while I did say that Supremacy was arguably the best game of the month, this one was easily the most popular. In fact, it’s considered to be one of the best games ever put out on the Amiga. The other major flight sim next to Top Gun 2, except it didn’t just focus on flying around and shooting planes out of the sky. There were a few different mission types with different perspectives, and stuff to do between missions. And it had a bit of a storyline to it.
Technology, Culture, Etc.
End of the Month
So if there’s anything I missed that you think is important for the month of January 1990, let me know. Considering how much shit there was back in the day, I wouldn’t be surprised if I overlooked something. If you bring up something that is important/significant enough, I will include it. But if it’s something WWF related, I wasn’t planning on getting into that until 1996, maybe 1995. Because that’s when the company began to slowly get better, acquiring attitude.
Edit 10/25/2017: Added in 2 entries to the Video Games section, Loom and Wings. I can’t believe I overlooked Wings for the initial post.
Edit 6/17/2018: Holy Christ! I failed to originally include America’s Funniest Home Videos! Problem rectified.
Edit 5/14/2019: Added in Treasure Island (released January 22, made for TV).