Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Ask The A.V. Club: March 16, 2007

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The Lost Before Lost

I have successfully avoided Lost for two and a half years, until the winter-hibernation doldrums forced my non-cable-having-self to the public library for some books and A.V. material to keep me entertained.  So I picked up Lost and have been watching it from the beginning.  At first, it seemed really familiar to a TV pilot on NBC that I liked. There was the rogueish dude with the Southern accent (Sawyer), a guy and his son (Mike and Walt), etc. etc.  I figured it was just a coincidence, and kept watching the show. But now I'm in the midst of season two, and there's no doubt in my mind that Lost was attempted before, and on NBC in the early '90s.  It was the hatch that tipped me off. I distinctly remember watching the second episode of the pilot and having my pubescent mind blown when the characters found evidence of "Others" on the island.  There was even a mysterious transmission! My fiancée looks down her nose at me and says that this isn't the case, that Lost has never been on TV before, and that I am obviously and categorically wrong.  I followed the usual protocol: IMDB-ing the producers and writers to see if any of them contributed to the show I'm thinking of, Google-ing every possible incantation of "lost+pilot+90s," and so on and so forth. I need someone else to agree with me on this.

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Dustin Anderson

Lostie Noel Murray tries to help:

It's unlikely that a Lost precursor could've vanished entirely from the pop-culture landscape, especially with so many people obsessing over every clue the show's creators deign to drop in our paths. But you may not be completely crazy either.

The most widely known Lost predecessor is the short-lived 1969 ABC series The New People, about a group of college students who crash on an island and have to build a new society. But it's unlikely that you're remembering that one. I also doubt that you're thinking of Flight 29 Down, a kids' show about even younger castaway teens that aired in 2005 and 2006 on NBC and Discovery Kids.

No, my guess is that you may have seen some of the Canadian TV version of Mysterious Island, based on the Jules Verne novel that's often cited as the most significant forerunner of Lost's scenario. It's got refugees from the Civil War (hence the Southern accents), a sailor and his protégé (who have a relationship just like father and son), and Captain Nemo watching everyone's actions from a technologically advanced bunker (à la "the hatch"). And yes, the landing party receives a strange distress call. Or at least, that's what happens in the novel. I imagine the Canadian series—which ran for 22 episodes in 1995—follows much the same arc.

Were you in Canada, or near the border, in the mid-'90s, Dustin? Or did your local NBC affiliate have some adventurous programmers with a stack of unusual syndication catalogs? And when you experienced this bout of déjà vu, did you buy your fiancée the diamond ring or not? (Sorry, that's a season-three reference.)

The Munich Before Munich

I remember watching a film on HBO—I'm almost certain it was an early HBO Films production—about almost the exact same story depicted in Steven Spielberg's Munich. There's even the same scene with the Israeli agents planting a bomb in a terrorist's phone and panicking when it looks like a little girl will set it off. Any idea what it was called? Was it based on the same source material? Can't seem to find it using the internets.

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Rick Harrison

Steven Hyden doesn't need no internets for this one:

Munich and the four-hour made-for-TV miniseries you're thinking of—Sword Of Gideon—are based on George Jonas' controversial 1984 book Vengeance: The True Story Of An Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team. Sword Of Gideon originally aired on Canada's CTV in 1986 and was later picked up by HBO. It starred Stephen Bauer as Avner (played by Eric Bana in Munich), and as you remember, the films have pretty much the same plot. (History being history, they would have to.) Sword Of Gideon is available on DVD, so perhaps a fun-filled double feature of '72 Olympics massacre movies is in order.

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No, Not Your "O" Face

About a year ago, I caught a flick on cable that I have been unable to track down on the good old IMDB. It was a horror movie, pretty crappy-looking, and clearly made sometime before 1995. I didn't actually get to watch more than 15 minutes, but here's what I remember: It seemed to be about a group of '50s-style greasers who were monsters or something. In one scene, they're driving around in their car with a hostage, and one greaser says to the other, "Show him your face," which he then contorts into a monster face, not unlike that of the melting Nazi at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark. The protagonist was, I believe, a high-school principal or teacher played by either Judd Nelson or someone with a real Judd Nelson look to him. Anyway, I can't stop sneering "Show him your face" to people who have no idea what I'm talking about, and I'd like to at least know the movie I'm referencing. Any ideas?

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Jake

Jason Heller is willing to give you some face time:

Hate to ruin your one-man in-joke, but you're misremembering a line from Sometimes They Come Back, a 1991 made-for-TV movie based on a short story in Stephen King's Night Shift. You've got the scene pretty close, though: Three back-from-the-'50s ghosts kidnap a high-school jock named Chip and take him on a wild ride in their hot rod. Here's the verbatim exchange:

Greaser #1: Well, boys, what is it gonna take to scare this guy?

Greaser #2: Your face.

Greaser #1: Oh, man, the face? You do it, North.

Greaser #3: Aw, that's kid's stuff, man.

Greaser #2: I'll do it.

Greaser #1: Man, we must be bored, doing this crap.

[#2 turns around, leading us to believe that he's going to "do the face." Instead, #1, who's sitting right next to Chip, whips out his ghoulish visage, petrifying Chip. After they all get a good, evil laugh, they pull out their switchblades, chop Chip up, and toss his body parts out the window.]

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The school-teacher-hero isn't Judd Nelson, but Tim Matheson of Animal House fame. The pelt-like mullet is what fooled you. STCB is available on DVD alongside its 1996 sequel, Sometime They Come Back… Again—an even lamer movie highlighted only by a young Hilary Swank.

Is It Harder Out There For A Baby Or A Pimp?

I need help remembering a song! This was a song that came out in the early to mid-'90s. The song was sung by an infant or a kid in early childhood, and I believe the language was German. The song was a #1 hit in other parts of the world, if I remember correctly. What was the name of the artist/song? Thanks!

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M. Breon

Tasha Robinson sympathizes with babies more than pimps:

It was French, actually. Unless there was a German copycat attempt that we missed, you're almost certainly thinking of "Dur Dur d'Être Bébé" ("It's Tough To Be A Baby"), a huge dance-floor sensation abroad, and a mid-ranking chart hit in the U.S. back in 1992. The vocalist was a French kid named Jordy Lemoine, who was 4 years old when his debut album launched. The poor kid had his career cut short at the tender age of 6 when French authorities banned his music from the airwaves amid accusations that his parents were exploiting him, which might explain the lack of follow-up hits like "It's Tough To Be A Kindergartener" and "It's Tough To Be A Has-Been When You're 8." Now 19 years old, Jordy recently returned to French TV and to radio on his own. If you're curious what that hard-luck baby looks and sounds like today, well, perhaps inevitably, there's a MySpace page playing his music.

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Next week: Answers that we're pretty sure are right—but not 100 percent sure. Ready to fact-check us? In the mean time, send your questions to asktheavclub@theonion.com.