Invariably during every season there are episodes which can mostly pass without comment -- "good" but not "great". In the midst of these episodes though there may be a terrific host segment or a short film which outshines the feature film it is paired with.
So this post is where I highlight those things.
'The Rainy Day Holo-Clowns': This one actually starts in the third host segment of episode 405 -- Being From Another Planet. The gang would continue it in the opening to the following episode Attack of the Giant Leeches. The second half -- in which it turns out the 'holo-clowns' have been up on the hexfield viewscreen for three weeks -- is the funnier bit as Joel frantically tries to finally shut the system down and the holo-clowns start to have their own nervous breakdowns. And yes, that's Mike Nelson as one of the clowns -- the other is Paul Chaplin, a writer on the show. This was Chaplin's first on-screen appearance.
Next: 'The bots try to convince Joel he's crazy' from episode 409 The Indestructible Man. The movie and the short are a unremarkable and unmemorable but this opening host segment is a hoot. It wasn't too often that the bots tried playing tricks on Joel but when the gang brought one out it was usually a good one. On top of that, this segment does beg the question -- was Kevin Murphy pupeteering Crow instead of his usual Tom Servo? And was Trace Beaulieu handling Tom Servo instead of Crow?
This next one is a short instead of a host segment. Apparently a tourism film to promote the Canadian National Exposition or something Johnny at the Fair chronicles the exploits of young Johnny (who else?) as he runs around the expo meeting famous people and getting free rides and free food while his parents search for him frantically... well, as frantic as you can get in a 1950's film designed to convince people to come to the expo. Wait... was 'come to the expo and lose your kid and then have a lousy time while you freak out looking for him and imagining the worst' really the message they wanted to send? Anyway, as you can imagine, Joel and the bots have an excellent time making fun of little Johnny's adventures and the riffing for this short is a lot more fun than the movie it's paired with -- episode 419's The Rebel Set.
We're back to host segments for 'Grumpy Hugh Beaumont'. Back in season 2 the gang tackled the snoozer film The Lost Continent and the host segments for that one were livened up by a visit from Leave it to Beaver's dad Hugh Beaumont (Mike Nelson)... as one of the horsemen of the apocalypse. Well, in season 4 Hugh returns courtesy of episode 420 -- The Human Duplicators. Hugh may no longer be a horseman of the apocalypse but he's decidedly older and grumpier... much to Joel and the bots' dismay and much to the delight of the viewer... Sadly, I can't find an embeddable copy of this video so just check out the third host segment for the episode -- you'll be glad you did.
And here we have another short which was far funnier than the film it was paired with... Circus on Ice is... well, I'm honestly still trying to figure out WHY this short film was created in the first place. It doesn't seem to fill any tourism function and it's not really educational and it's past the days of the old newsreels when they would splat just about any odd thing onto film but no matter it's original purpose here it becomes comedy gold. Joel and the bots indulge in quite a bit of dark humor and some risque riffing but it's hysterically funny -- far more funny than the weird and nearly incomprehensible Monster A-Go-Go it's paired with.
Finally, we come to kind of a tough one for me. You see the short Hired! -- obviously a training film created by Chevrolet pre-WW II to train it's sales managers -- actually originally came in two parts and the riffing team did use both parts. Part one was paired with episode 423 Bride of the Monster and part two was paired with the next movie in line -- Manos, The Hands of Fate. The riffing on the first half of Hired! is pretty good really but the riffing on the second half is superior in my opinion. Still, I almost included the first half of the short here as well if for no other reason than the second half makes slightly more sense in context when you've seen the first half. Also, because one of the host segments for episode 423 also makes more sense when you've seen the first half of Hired! In the end, I'll leave it up to you if you want to seek out Hired! part one or not. It's pretty good stuff but the real gem here is actually the host segment...
Joel and the bots take the events and characters from the short and turn them into a really great parody song medley. 'Hired! The Musical' is one of the best parody musical bits the gang has done in a good while as far as I'm concerned. Mike Nelson outdid himself on the songs and Joel Hodgson manages to pretty well control his often wayward voice to turn in an acceptable singing performance. Kevin Murphy's tenor is, of course, the scene stealer. The gang manages to do a perfect parody/satire of a musical in less than four minutes -- that takes serious talent!
So, that's season 4 wrapped. Onward from here!