Tag Archives: promotional

The CBS / Diet Coke Sneak Peak Promo VHS (1997)

Look at this incredible piece of 1990s television and VHS memorabilia!

This isn’t a super recent find; I came across it at a thrift store some months back, but man, I knew, knew it had to come home with me. And so it did! The content is right up my alley, and it’s still sealed, too! The price? Under a buck! Cool winnins!

As you can see, it’s a promotional VHS presented by both Diet Coke and CBS, given out in advance of the 1997 television season. Yep, this was the fall line-up on CBS! While out and about hunting for tapes, sometimes it’s easy for me to forget how neat they can be, especially after passing the 9000th copy of Titanic, but this is definitely one of the good’uns.

What’s really amazing about this, from a personal standpoint, is that even though I myself didn’t own this video back in the day, I remember so much of that ’97 CBS line-up. Even what I didn’t watch myself, I vividly recall being ‘around’ nevertheless. Advertisements in TV Guide and what have you.

But listen, this isn’t going to be a big huge full in-depth review of the tape, and for one very simple reason: I refuse to crack the shrinkwrap, man! I just can’t do it. I’ve never come across one of these before, and currently there’s only one like it on eBay…for a whopping $35! Whether that means it’s actually rare or not, I couldn’t say, though I doubt it; there was a time when preview cassettes (and later, DVDs) like this were fairly commonplace. Maybe still are, I don’t know. Nevertheless, my copy is going to stay minty sealed fresh – though I’m stretching the term minty here, since my copy is a little beat-up and dirty. Evidently someone did not appreciate the majesty of this tape the way yours truly does!

(Looking on eBay, it appears CBS released preview tapes such as this for several years. I’m not going to say I’ll go out of my way for any others, but should I come across them while thrifting, well, that’s a no-brainer purchase for sure.)

So, the front cover. The whole thing is apparently hosted by Ray Romano, whose sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond was steadily picking up steam around that time, if it hadn’t already. That was the season I started watching his show, though it was near the end of the year; actually, I think it had hit summer reruns when I first jumped on board. Anyway, it’s interesting to look back at the show in its earlier years; eventually it would be the cornerstone of CBS’ powerhouse Monday night line-up of sitcoms. (I watched the show avidly for years, though truth be told, it hasn’t worn particularly well for me.)

Cybill, the appropriately-named sitcom starring Cybill Shepherd, I never watched back in the day, though I caught some syndicated episodes in more recent times. Dellaventura and Michael Hayes were and are unknown to me outside of this cover, though the latter appears to feature David Caruso in some capacity, and that just puts the whole CSI: Miami pre-credits-pun thing in my head.

However, it’s the appropriate pictorial references to Meego and The Gregory Hines Show, neither of which I ever recall watching, that provide the real reason I’m so excited to own this tape. Y’see, there’s one very specific factor that makes this VHS a must-own, and it ain’t Ray Barone. Rather, the answer is found in Meego and Gregory The Hines Show, or to be precise, the block they were a part of…

Do ya see it?! Urkel! Yes, URKEL! The presence of Steve Urkel can only mean one thing: A Friday night block of sitcoms aimed at kids too young to go out and do anything else. That’s the pool CBS was jumping in that fall, and Family Matters was jumping with them.

Y’see, ABC’s Friday night sitcoms, deemed TGIF, was a big deal for quite some time. I absolutely grew up with it, and there’s a good chance you did too. I certainly have my share of nostalgic memories pertaining to the line-up (well, various line-ups), though in this more jaded day and age, it may be hard for some modern audiences to understand just why TGIF was such a dominate force. It was though, and while by no means was he the only reason, a big, big factor in that TGIF dominance was indeed Steve Urkel.

Meant to be a one-time-only character on a show that was supposedly facing cancellation, Jaleel White’s uber-nerd Steve Urkel instead became the de facto face of Family Matters and, for a time, a legit cultural phenom. Dude totally saved the series, stole the spotlight from ostensible star Al Powell Reginald Vel Johnson, got his own dolls, his own cereal, even his own novelty dance! Mystery Science Theater 3000 later brilliantly ripped into the (inexplicable?) phenomenon, and admittedly the Urkel character grew tiresome (and the storylines of Family Matters more insane) as the series progressed into the mid and late-1990s, but there’s no denying that, for a few years there, Urkel was one of the faces of ’90s television.

But you know what? I still like Family Matters! Oh sure, much of that has to do with nostalgia, the show was a big part of my childhood for sure, but as dumb (and crazy) as it could occasionally be, I still find myself enjoying it when I watch nowadays. Indeed, I’d say Family Matters is the definitive TGIF show, or at least tied with Boy Meets World. (Sorry Full House, you lose.) If you didn’t grow up during the 1990s, I’m not sure you’d get it, but those of us that were there, we know. Maybe. I do, at any rate.

ANYWAY, for the fall of ’97 CBS managed to snag Family Matters and other-TGIF-mainstay Step By Step from ABC and used them to headline the “CBS Block Party,” their very own attempt at a TGIF-ish line-up. Truth be told, both shows, and TGIF in general, were a little long-in-the-tooth by 1997 (and in my particular case, I was about to discover Son of Ghoul, which left little time for anything else Friday evenings), but there was a residual name-factor at play, so along with Meego and The Gregory Hines Show, CBS acquired Family Matters and Step By Step and proceeded to take TGIF head-on.

Annnnd it didn’t really work. None of the shows lasted beyond that season – some spectacularly so (Meego only made it six episodes!). Family Matters wound up being placed on hiatus mid-season, with the remaining episodes burned off during the summer of ’98. Still, despite the ultimate failure, as an experiment in late-90s programming and featuring two very 1990s shows, the CBS Block Party is an interesting subject to look back on, if nothing else. (Furthermore, while TGIF lived on, it was never really the same, though Boy Meets World continued to fight the good fight).

And that my friends is why this tape is such an important find for yours truly: It represents a piece of nostalgia tied directly into a programming experiment that ultimately didn’t fly. I couldn’t ask for anything more!

But what about the other shows promoted on the back cover of the tape? The Bryant Gumbel thing and Brooklyn South, I can’t say much about those. But Cosby and George & Leo I absolutely remember. Coming a few years after his previous, far more popular sitcom, Cosby I caught now and then, but frankly never thought it was very good. George & Leo, however, I liked a lot. It only lasted that single season, but I enjoyed it, and looking back, it was my first entry into what would end up being an endearing Bob Newhart fandom, though I wasn’t cognizant of that at the time.

So seeing all that plastered on the tape is an added bonus for me. Steve Urkel and Bob Newhart sharing the same stage? Did that ever happen prior? Or after, for that matter? Thas history, man.

Anyway, dig the helpfully included schedule on the back cover; it’s a veritable study in late-1990s television, albeit a CBS-centric one. (Well duh!) The only thing missing is David Letterman’s goofy smile to complete the package, though since this was the prime time line-up, his exclusion is understandable. Disregarding the shows I just don’t know much about, there’s not a whole lot listed that I actively hate. Except The Nanny. I detest The Nanny and always have. Also, I wonder how Don Johnson felt about Nash Bridges getting Step By Step as a lead-in? That’s not exactly a seamless transition!

Finally, I love the big WKBN TV-27 Youngstown sticker slapped on the back, even if they’re not quite my CBS affiliate (a WOIO sticker would have made this the ultimate). This isn’t unusual; the $35 copy on eBay demonstrates a sticker from the respective television market that one hails from, so tailoring these to local needs was evidently the norm. I would imagine this tape was made available for cheap (free?) in video stores, supermarkets, wherever VHS tapes were sold in WKBN’s market. I remember getting an NBC fall preview DVD in the early/mid-2000s at Best Buy, so I’ll go with that mindset regarding this CBS VHS.

On the surface, this may not seem like a “big” find, and in the grand scheme things, or at least in the grand scheme of my disturbingly large video collection, I guess it’s not. Nevertheless, it’s still amazing how this one transports me right back to the fall of 1997. Man, (I was in 5th grade! That’s mind-blowing to realize!) It’s a cool promotional representation of network television in the late-1990s, including some throwbacks to the earlier-1990s, as part of a TV experiment that ultimately didn’t take. Add in the looks at the shows that did take, and you’ve got an invaluable view of a very specific era in broadcasting. And I’m just going by the sleeve! I can only imagine what it’s like actually watching this!

I don’t know, maybe I should crack the shrinkwrap? Or do I dare hold out hope for a double instead? Oh the decisions that I must face!

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WUAB TV-43 / Cleveland Indians-Branded Louisville Slugger Baseball Bat.

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Well, I wasn’t expecting to find this. Under normal thrifting-adventure circumstances, my eyes would glaze over and I’d run from sports equipment like so much Kryptonite (my inflated ego tells me that I am indeed the Superman of whatever this hobby is, though Lord knows I’m not). I mean, I love baseball (and football), but aside from vintage mugs and glasses, I generally have little use for sports, um, stuff. However, the particular trip to Goodwill that yielded this find was not exactly fruitful; indeed, I was batting zero (see what I did there?! Haw haw!), and with each passing second was becoming increasingly more distressed at my lack of scores (see what I did again?! Haw haw HAW!). Which is why I even gave a freakin’ baseball bat more than a passing glance. I’m glad I did though, because as unlikely as it may seem, it ended up becoming an interesting Northeast Ohio TV-related find. Plus, I got to menacingly walk to the car holding the bat in one hand, like I was just itching to beat some hoodlum down. Made me feel like a big man.

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It’s a Louisville Slugger bat. I know little to nothing about sports equipment, but I know Louisville Slugger is quality stuff. So, that was neat. But, it was gonna take more than that fact to get me to part with $5. I mean, this was a hot five-buck-bill, man! You want me to part with that kinda dough, you really gotta show me sumpin’!

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Here’s the sumpin’: It’s been branded with WUAB TV-43 and Cleveland Indians graphics! Cool winnins! I won’t pretend that they’re in good shape, though; this thing was obviously used quite a bit, or at least left outside for long periods of time. That’s another thing about sports equipment that really makes me shy away from it: I’m not that big of a germophobe, but anything can happen to this stuff when it’s outside. Kids smashing dog poop with it, canines pissing on it, birds crappin’ on it, children using it to smack around the dead squirrel laying in the backyard, etc. etc. Basically, all of my bizarre mental scenarios regarding “outside things” end with dead animals or some kind of animal’s bodily function winding up all over whatever I’m considering buying. Hey, I once bought some CDs that a cat had, erm, ‘gotten to’ at some point (unbeknownst to me until I got home, of course), so I’m allowed to have my suspicions. Once bitten twice shy or something along those lines.

But, my bat doesn’t smell like anything dead or any kind of excrement, so that’s a good thing. And make no mistake, I really was sniffing this thing; a bigger creep you’ll not soon find, hombre.

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Besides the WUAB and Indians logos, there’s another logo that time has rendered incomprehensible. The general shape of it makes me think it may be Burger King. I know BK did some Indians promotions in the past, so who knows. Of course, the WUAB connection is that 43 broadcast the Indians games at the time. Needless to say, I wish the graphics were in better shape, but since I don’t expect to come across another one of these bats anytime soon, I’ll have to be satisfied with what I got.

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The graphics may be severely worn, but the bat itself seems to be in fairly solid shape. However, as previously stated, I know precious little about this sort of thing, so take that what for it is. That said, I can’t find anything about the bat online. Where did it come from? Was it sold at the ballpark as a souvenir? Was it a special WUAB promotion? Was it given to kids on “Bat Day?” It does seem like it’s a bit lighter, so maybe it was indeed intended for the lil’ baby childrens. I don’t even know what year this thing hails from. The WUAB logo is the same one used around the early-to-mid-1980’s so I can kinda sorta narrow the time-frame to around then, but beyond that…?

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Since I wasn’t prepared to add this sort of item to my collection, I was initially perplexed as to where exactly to put it. But, after many seconds of deliberation, I think the best place for it is in a position where it can be ready to protect my Laserdisc players and, just out of camera range, the Sears Video Arcade II I never play, should the circumstance ever arise. Plus, it makes me look vaguely athletic, which is ostensibly a good thing.

(This post has taught that it’s extremely difficult to get satisfactory pictures of a baseball bat, by the way.)

Nintendo GameCube AM/FM Stereo Cassette Player.

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Found this odd little number at Goodwill the other night. I usually don’t go for portable cassette players this ‘modern.’ I prefer the more heavy-duty models of the 1980’s, even if they are, generally, considerably bulkier. But, this one was just too strange (to me) to pass up, especially since it was only $2; less, actually, since it was customer appreciation day, which knocked an additional 35% off. Cool winnins!

It’s a portable AM/FM radio and cassette player. Nothing too unusual about that, except it’s branded with the Nintendo GameCube logo. It just seems like such an odd combo to me. I can understand Nintendo throwing the GameCube logo on clothing, keychains, mugs, or what have you. That’s just the nature of the promotional beast. But a cassette player? Honestly, and I can’t place my finger on why exactly, but it just seems a little ‘off’ to me. A portable radio and cassette player just isn’t something I’d have ever thought I’d find the GameCube logo on.

Then again, a quick search shows that there were portable cassette players with Game Boy Color and Nintendo 64 insignias made prior, so maybe it’s only unusual in my sad little world.

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At any rate, it sure looks GameCube-y. I mean, they got the colors down right, not that that’s really an amazing feat or anything, but it’s fitting all the same. If they just had to make a cassette player adorned with GameCube propaganda, I suppose this was the best we could’ve hoped for. Actually, no it’s not: a cube or at least rectangular player made to look vaguely like the real GameCube would have been pretty badass, especially if they included the handle. I should be getting a million dollars a week for these ideas.

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You got yer headphone jack, yer AM/FM switch, yer tunin’ knob, and yer tape/radio switch. You have to manually open and close the case to insert and/or remove a cassette. Obviously, it’s a pretty bare bones set-up, not that I’d expect a high-end audiophile unit anyway. It works, but truth be told, this thing plays and feels pretty cheap. Maybe the headphones I was using weren’t up to the task, but audio quality on both cassette and radio was pretty spotty. Something tells me my GameCube radio thing couldn’t have cost more than $15-$20 originally.

Now initially, I was a little puzzled as to why Nintendo would want to hook-up with the cassette player format. I don’t know when this thing was released (there’s no date anywhere on it), but the GameCube hit the U.S. in late 2001. But even if this were released that year, cassette tapes were still pretty far along in their path down the mainstream pipe, right? But, the more I thought about it, I guess it makes some kind of sense. Cassettes may not have been priority number one for new, mainstream releases, but it stands to reason that people still had stacks of tapes lying around; the format wasn’t that obsolete. I mean, they’re still making new VCRs, and the VHS format has been dead for, what, about 10 years now? And yet, they still make new blank tapes (they still new blank cassettes too, come to think of it), so there’s some kind of demand. The day they stop making new VCRs will be a sad one for your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter (it will also make my, erm, job somewhat harder to perform), so, yeah, I’m glad they were still supporting those that held dearly to the cassette format.

Also, there’s no manufacturer noted anywhere on this. Did Nintendo make it themselves? Somehow I doubt it, but I don’t know. If by chance they didn’t, well, why not get the GameCube logo on it if someone else was footin’ the bill? And if this came later in the 2000’s, when the ol’ Cube was slipping behind the Xbox and waaaaaay behind the Playstation 2 in sales, a little extra promotion sure couldn’t have hurt.

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See, AM/FM radio and cassette. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t. Also, it takes two AA batteries. So, yeah. The handy belt clips allows you to, say it with me, clip it to your belt.

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I guess it has now become mandatory to include a picture of my cassette copy of The River every time I talk about a cassette player, so there it is. I suppose if I really wanted to blow minds left and right, I could go walking down the street listening to a 1980 tape on a weird GameCube-branded cassette player made some 20 years later. Maybe it would elicit cries of approval. Or protest. Of course, knowing my luck, I’d probably get jumped. I couldn’t really blame the muggers, though; who wouldn’t want a set-up like that?

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Vintage Bruce Springsteen Carnival Mirror Prize!

For $2, your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter found pure joy at Goodwill last night. No, this has nothing to do with videos, broadcasting, electronics, or any of the crap I usually cover, but I’m a diehard Bruce Springsteen fan and it’s my blog so I’ll do what I want.

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An old school Bruce Springtsteen carnival mirror prize! It sat, sad and alone, with the other miscellaneous goods that made up the “knick knacks” section, but this was so, so much better than candle holders and novelty statuettes. Generally, you’d win these things at, say it with me, carnivals, should you perform whatever feat a rigged game called for. There seem to be a few pin-prick holes in the graphics, so maybe it was won by throwing darts? That’s what my patented NEO Video Hunter deductive reasonin’ is telling me, at least.

This is clearly from the Brucemania days of the mid-1980’s; the red & white stripes and headband are dead giveaways this is Born In The U.S.A.-era Bruce. Not quite my favorite Springsteen period (that probably goes to the Darkness On The Edge Of Town and The River-eras of his career), but certainly his biggest. It’s impossible to overstate how huge Bruce Springsteen was in the mid-to-late-80’s; The Born In The U.S.A. album and tour were massive. Springsteen never had a wider audience, though this has had the unfortunate side-effect of creating a bunch of stuck-in-1984 fans that refuse to give anything else he’s done since a listen (seriously, during his 2012 Cleveland concert, someguy directly behind us whined and complained nearly the entire time because Bruce wasn’t playing songs he recognized. The only time he shut up was when an older song he did know was played. If this dude would have closed his mouth for even a moment, maybe he would have realized what an amazing show Bruce was putting on. But, I digress).

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Now, as far as I can ascertain, this is a carnival mirror prize, but it isn’t like most carnival mirror prizes I’ve seen online. Typically, carnival mirror prizes would feature an image over mirrored-glass (hence the term “mirror prize,” dig?), placed into a cheap, usually cardboard, frame. If you can peel your eyes away from the admittedly cluttered spot I decided to take this picture, you’ll see that my Bruce Springsteen thing lacks a frame proper. Rather, it’s under glass, which is duct taped to a piece of cardboard. Furthermore, the image (which isn’t mirrored in any way) doesn’t appear to be a part of the glass, but rather a plastic-graphic sandwiched in-between the glass and cardboard. So, while I’m thinking this was a carnival mirror prize, it may have been some other kinda-related promotional item. I seem to recall stands that had pics hung on the back wall, and you could pick which one you wanted to be airbrushed onto a shirt. But, I don’t know.

No doubt about it, this thing is cool. Yes, joy can be had for only two damn dollars.

(In the interest of full-disclosure, I would have had absolutely no clue what this might be if it weren’t for a helpful article on one of my very favorite sites, Dinosaur Dracula. The proprietor of that fine site wrote an article all about carnival mirror prizes, and it’s thanks to him that I even know to call them “carnival mirror prizes”. You can read that article here: http://dinosaurdracula.com/blog/carnival-mirror-prizes/ ).