Ah, youth. And specifically the years between 1981 and 1990, inclusive — when everything was better than anything that had come before or has come since, including entertainment. Especially entertainment, actually. Superb, flawless entertainment that set our expectations unreasonably high for decades after. Except that none of it made a lick of sense. Sorry!
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
In 1936, archaeologist Henry “Indiana” Jones is asked by United States Army Intelligence agents to help find Jones’s old mentor, an expert on the ancient Egyptian city where “Indy” surmises the Nazis believe the Ark of the Covenant to be buried. If the Nazis obtain the Ark, they will become invincible! So Indy and friends try to discover the Ark before the Nazis do…and in the process our heroes effectively deliver the divine relic directly into the hands of the bad guys. Then, when the Nazis finally open the Ark, all of the bad guys present are killed, but Indy and his girlfriend — who at the time are tied up, literally — are spared. If Indiana Jones had never gone looking for the Ark himself, the Nazis might never have gotten it; in any event, the Ark takes care of itself. If Indy had just stayed home, in other words, everyone would have been better off. Small wonder, then, that his name was not in the movie’s title, originally.
Knight Rider, Season One (1982)
Of course you remember, and fondly, the greatest television show ever made — the one about high-tech modern crime fighter Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff!), who was assisted by his advanced artificially intelligent, self-aware and nearly indestructible car, K.I.T.T.! And the single best episode, of course, was “Trust Doesn’t Rust,” the one that introduced K.A.R.R., the evil prototype of K.I.T.T., who had been mothballed in a warehouse until a pair of hobos accidentally reactivated him! Didn’t you get chills when you first saw K.A.R.R., who looked almost identical to K.I.T.T.? Two awesome black Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams! So cool! Until you realized that K.I.T.T. looked like that only because Michael had been driving a black Trans Am when he was left for dead in the desert in the pilot episode…and no other reason. Hmm? You’ve never thought about that extremely unlikely “coincidence”? Think about it now!
You know that you must never feed a mogwai after midnight. But midnight where? And what is “midnight,” anyway? It’s always “after midnight” somewhere, including wherever you are. Even if it’s noon on a Tuesday, it’s after midnight Monday. So, really, mogwai would never be mogwai, and this movie should have been a nonstarter, but instead it grossed more than $153 million from domestic box office sales alone.
The 1986 World Series (1986)
On Saturday, October 25, 1986, at Shea Stadium in Queens, the Boston Red Sox quickly took a 2-0 lead over the New York Mets in the sixth game of the annual Major League Baseball championship series. The Mets tied the score in the fifth inning, but then an error in the seventh gave Boston a 3-2 lead. Some other stuff happened, resulting in the game’s being tied again at 5-5 in the bottom of the tenth inning. Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson hit a ground ball that went through the legs of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, which allowed Mets infielder Ray Knight to score the winning run…and because this was so extraordinarily exciting, the Commissioner of Baseball declared the New York Mets the 1986 World Series Champions right then and there, even though the Mets’ win that afternoon only evened up the series and there should have been a Game 7, which no one seems to have noticed, even to this day.
Die Hard (1988)
Die Hard was based on the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp, which was the sequel to an earlier book, The Detective, which in 1966 had been made into a movie of the same name starring none other than Frank Sinatra. 20th Century Fox was contractually obligated to offer Ol’ Blue Eyes the lead role in Die Hard — which they did — but Sinatra, then in his early seventies, turned it down. This is actually just a bit of trivia. Die Hard is a perfect film.
Back to the Future Part III (1990)
Time travel is tricky, so follow me closely here. At the end of Back to the Future Part II, Doc Brown is in the DeLorean when it is struck by lightning, in 1955. Man and machine are transported to 1885. Marty, with help from 1955 Doc Brown, travels back to 1885 in the DeLorean that Doc had taken back to 1885 and promptly hidden in an old mine shaft, where it had then sat for 70 years. When Marty gets to 1885, he accidentally tears the fuel line of the DeLorean, making it impossible for the car to get up to 88 mph under its own power. The main plot of the movie therefore involves getting the DeLorean to go fast enough to return Marty and Doc Brown to 1985. Because they don’t have any gasoline in 1885. (If they had gasoline, the movie would be all of twenty minutes long.) But they do have gasoline. Because the DeLorean in which 1985 Doc Brown traveled from 1955 to 1885 is there. It’s in the mine shaft. With gas in its tank. “Great Scott!” indeed.
Sesame Street (1969 – present)
Officially, Bert and Ernie are not gay. In fact, they are not even technically “human.” So, I mean, is anything even real?