3.17 "Debasement Tapes"

Aired May 09, 2007

Cultural References

Fresca (Organizations, Companies, and Products)

"Am I a twelve-year-old girl?"
"No, but you're drinking Fresca and watching Joan Crawford movies."

Finally, something Wallace Fennel and Lyndon B. Johnson have in common! LBJ reportedly loved his Fresca, a grapefruit-flavored soft drink, so intensely that he had a button installed on the White House desk to call for the fizzy beverage. Wallace's soda love may not eclipse Mr. Johnson's, but he does enjoy it with a Joan Crawford movie and derision from Veronica — and to us, that's as good as being the leader of the free world any day.

The Women (Movies)

"So is the girl talk over? I'm trying to watch The Women."

The 1939 witty, sharply written comedy is surely no mere serendipitous choice for Wallace's film studies homework. The movie, with an all-female cast, focused on the backbiting and petty betrayals of Manhattan's socialite community as one of their number was threatened by a focused, bitchy interloper who would let nothing stand in the way of achieving her ambitions. The premise and execution were brilliant at the start, but sadly conventions of the time and commercial concerns led to the sharpness being dulled and a contrived, fairy-tale ending of romantic fantasy. Yuck. The role of Crystal Allen as the interloper was one that brought Joan Crawford considerable acclaim and at least she was allowed to remain true to her character throughout.

My Little Pony (Sports, Games and Toys)

"NYU, Dean's office. Johnny dropping out and Desmond expelled. Formed My Pretty Pony the next day."

Only the most collectible toy of the 1980s! The name says it all: they were little, they were ponies, and they were yours. Because you could brush their manes and tails! They came in an assortment of colors and bore little marks to distinguish them. Don't they sound exciting? It's only natural, then, to give your rock band with such hits as "You Break Me" and "Jesus Saves, But Where Does He Shop?" a name that calls up such girly associations. Here's some trivia: My Little Pony was actually based on a larger model called...My Pretty Pony! Here's some more trivia: My Pretty Pony sound exactly like power pop Austinites Cotton Mather. No, really, exactly.

FCC (Organizations, Companies, and Products)

"One of our idiot DJs swore on air, and the FCC is literally fining us into oblivion."

The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, is a pesky thorn in the sides of Howard Stern, Eminem, Janet Jackson, and First Amendment devotees everywhere. Established in 1934, the government agency is charged with the thankless task of keeping all public airwaves (including radio and television) free from smut and indecency. The agency has come under fire of late for its huge fines and overblown reactions to incidents such as Ms. Jackson's (if you're nasty) "wardrobe malfunction" in early 2004, or (apparently) curse words on college radio. Gruesome wartime footage or self-promoted tapes from a gun-wielding sociopath, on the other hand? Perfectly fine for public consumption.

Ghost riding the whip (Sports, Games and Toys)
Hyphy (Words, Sayings, and Slogans)

"Dude, that's me. Ghost riding the whip!"

Ghost riding the whip involves putting your car in neutral and letting it coast while you walk beside it and make a complete idiot of yourself. Look, we don't invent culture, we just report it. This particular inanity is a hallmark of the hyphy movement (hence Dick's title "Hyphy Goes Cracker"), which...honestly, we don't understand. It basically seems to be Bay Area crunk, or something. So there are a lot of rap songs about ghost riding the whip, which is a nice change from the ones about shooting pimps and slapping hos. Aw, it's like the inverse of gangsta rap! There's a reason Dick wasn't able to successfully ghost ride, however. Hasn't he listened to MC Lars? White kids aren't hyphy.

Ultimate Frisbee (Sports, Games and Toys)

"The last time I run will be to chase down at kill the inventor of Ultimate Frisbee."

Is regular Frisbee too boring for you? Don't you wish you weren't allowed to run with the disc? Have you ever thought that ten seconds is just too long to hold onto a flying disc? Then Ultimate Frisbee may be the sport for you! It's like Frisbee meets rugby, as the object is to pass the disc from player to player until you get it across the end zone or home base or hole in one or whatever it is. It is not for the unathletic, so it's no surprise that Mac vows to kill the inventor of the sport, who just happens to be Joel Silver, producer of Veronica Mars. We're not kidding. We wouldn't make this stuff up. We just wonder why there was no bullet-time Ultimate in The Matrix.

Red Bull (Organizations, Companies, and Products)

"I'll need Red Bull and licorice."

Love alcohol but hate that depressing "depressant" that goes along with it? Nothing like sprucing up your vodka or Jägermeister with an energy drink that contains 80 mg of caffeine for every eight ounces. Sickly sweet and not unlike cough medicine, Red Bull is fairly rough going down on its own, but desperate times call for desperate measures. As Mac faces long nights of work (working for Logan, no less), she plans on riding a caffeine buzz the whole way. Maybe she'll use the requested licorice as a straw...crazy delicious!

Liberty Lunch (Places)

"You're on the air with Desmond Fellows of My Pretty Pony, playing a benefit tomorrow night at Liberty Lunch, brought to you by Wrigley's Extra gum."

Freedom Fries? Independent Ice Cream? Enfranchised Empanadas? Okay, they're all alliterative, but none pack the same punch as Liberty Lunch. This rockin' venue is the former crown jewel of the Austin, Texas, music scene. Like any happenin' joint, Liberty Lunch began serving, well, lunch in the '40s. By the '60s, it was attracting all sorts of acts, from reggae to punk, and by its closing in the late '90s, Liberty Lunch had hosted such big names as Bush, The Flaming Lips, and Hole. After Neptune's own Liberty Lunch hosts My Pretty Pony's Desmond Fellows, we can only guess the crowd went out to Amy's Ice Cream for dessert — for Neptune, CA, is fast becoming Austin, TX, redux.

Jews for Jesus (Organizations, Companies, and Products)

"I'm calling from Semites for the Savior. We want everyone to know that this man makes songs that mock our religious beliefs."

It's a quizzical name, don't you think? Because I heard the Jews killed Jesus, and that's not the greatest vote of support! But this is actually a Christian organization dedicated to convincing Jews that Jesus is the Messiah and God. Their chief weapons are fear and surprise an alliterative name and pamphlets. Lots and lots of pamphlets. They also have a tendency to sue for using their name, so it's no surprise that Hearst can only have their doppelgängers, Semites for the Savior. Clever, no? They even kept the alliterative name! And the pamphlets. Lots and lots of pamphlets.

Night Court (TV)

This sitcom ran from 1984 until 1992 and followed the wacky hijinks of the night shift staff of a Manhattan court. There were a lot of cast changes over the years, but the unorthodox judge/amateur magician/Mel Tormé-ophile played by Harry Anderson; the narcissistic, sex-obsessed lawyer played by John Laroquette; and the childlike bear (or "Bull") of a bailiff played by Richard Moll remained for the entire eight-year run. We're guessing Desmond Fellows considers watching mid-afternoon reruns of a syndicated sitcom spending time amongst friends — perhaps he closely identifies with Larroquette's character, Dan Fielding. See, they even have the same initials.

Indie rock (Music)

"Indie rock or rock rock?"

Look, you guys, if you don't know what indie rock is, I'm not going to explain it to you; if you knew about it, it wouldn't be cool anymore! The cool thing about indie rock is it's independent, man! Free from The Man! Because they're not trying to be all mainstream and marketable, indie rockers generally have a less generic sound than what you hear on the radio. Their fashion sense is also decidedly less mainstream: while your traditional rock star will strut out in a brash leather jacket, an indie rocker will stroll onto the stage wearing this plain white T-shirt his grandmother gave him. Because he's sensitive, man.

"Things That Make You Go Hmmmm...," (Music)

"That's a thing that makes me go, 'hmm?'"

Veronica was just a baby when this C+C Music Factory dance track became a hit. Taking its name from a popular phrase in Arsenio Hall's monologues, it describes all sorts of things that would make a person, after reflecting upon the unusual circumstances surrounding the anecdote, vocalize a humming sound most closely transcribed as "Hmmmmm..." Yes, all five M's and the ellipses would be emitted from your mouth after hearing these tales. We're sorry to say that the Mystery of Desmond Fellows' Backing Tapes as told to Jeff Ratner, however, does not have all the makings of a breakaway pop hit, no matter how many '90s songs Veronica makes reference to.

Johnny Carson (People)

"Yes, the answer is: Danny Cleaver's bag and all my time this weekend... What are two things you didn't mean to take, but did?"

Nac and Son.

Nac and Son?

What syllables could you add to "Car-" to explain this cultural reference?

Carnac the Magnificent was a popular character of Johnny Carson's on The Tonight Show (yeah, it wasn't always hosted by Jay Leno). Putting a sealed envelope up to his gigantic turban, the psychic would deduce the answer to the question hidden inside. By giving the answer first, he created all sorts of expectations as to what the question could be, only to dash them with a corny pun or topical ribbing. This is comedy, folks! It's no wonder Veronica steals his schtick when she gets the opportunity to hold something up to her head.

Rosetta Stone (Things)

"She cracks the code on the Rosetta Stone."

The Rosetta Stone is a large stone, unique because it bears two Egyptian language scripts as well as classical Greek. Translated by Thomas Young and Jean-François Champillion in 1822, it bears the Ptolemic Decree of Memphis, but, alas, the Stone is short on kickin' rock lyrics. And unless Desmond's girlfriend is the reincarnation of two dead guys, he's using hyperbole to expand her skill set. Whatever happened to comparing the object of one's affection to a summer's day or a red, red rose?

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