Hooked on a Feeling
VH1 ran another edition of I Love the 70s this past week (and, if you missed it, the channel will likely be repeating it over the weekend and in weeks to come). The first edition focusing on the 1970s, three years ago, was a pretty satisfying retrospective of the decade's fun. It's clear after watching the new edition for a while that all the best moments of the 1970s were featured in the previous edition. Volume II, as it's known, has been a mix of good and bad. Here are three instances of each.
Good: Several of the better commentators from the first edition are back again, including Loni Love, Rachel Quaintance, and Bil Dwyer, who are billed as "actor/comedians," but whose primary gig seems to be commenting for VH1 specials like this. Unlike some of the commentators, none of them seem to be reading scripted lines--the little secret about this program and others like it is how highly scripted they are, so maybe Love, Quaintance and Dwyer are just better actors than the rest.
Bad: Michael Ian Black's schtick, which was hilarious in the first edition, has curdled into obviously scripted unpleasantness this time, and there's way, way too much Charo. Among the missing commentators from last time is Fox Sports' Jillian Barberie, whose enthusiasm for the gadgets, fads, and TV from the 1970s came across as utterly genuine and whose comments were surprisingly insightful, and Donal Logue from Grounded for Life, whose unhinged rants on the absurdity of 70s culture were funny in a "he said WHAT?" sort of way.
Good: This edition of the show has added a couple of "then-and-now" features. One shows photos of 70s celebrities as they look today, with snark provided by Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie. Another features Christopher Knight, who crankily points out the difference between Brady Bunch characters and the real-life actors who played them. (That Knight plays as tired of being mistaken for his Brady Bunch character is a little odd, given that VH1 has built an entire reality series around him called My Fair Brady.)
Bad: The first edition of the show moved very quickly, but since 2003, VH1 has refined this sort of program, and now the speed of it is likely to give you a headache. Several recurring features in each episode ("It's Time for Burt Reynolds' Mustache," "Look Who's Got a Farrah Do," and "Bruce Lee and Evel Knievel in Stunt Fu") last no more than 15 seconds, and as such are largely pointless.
Bad: The series is a little less precise on chronology this time, often illustrating particular 70s artifacts with music several years removed in time, and occasionally blowing it completely. A feature on hit songs of 1974 mentioned "Hooked on a Feeling," but played the 1969 B. J. Thomas version instead of Blue Swede's 1974 monster. The same episode contained a feature on the Electric Light Orchestra--even though the band hit the Top 40 for the first time in 1973 and didn't return until 1975--and prominently featured their 1979 hit "Don't Bring Me Down."
Good: At least VH1 finally returned to the 70s, after doing two additional series of I Love the 80s and two of I Love the 90s. And if you watch the series in the spirit VH1 intends--with your brain pretty much on pause--it's entertaining. And if you can reactivate some memories that have undeservedly gone cold, so much the better.