“The Best of Times” (1981) with Crispin Glover and Nicolas Coppola (Cage)

“The Best of Times” is a truly awful television pilot from 1981 that only aired once (to the best of my knowledge) and never continued past its first episode.  Co-produced by “Laugh-In”‘s George Schlatter, “Times” (I imagine) was supposed to be a lighthearted, albeit sensitive look at the struggles of being a teenager, though it’s executed in the most ass-backwards, tasteless early 1980s corporate TV manner.  It’s a truly weird WTF hybrid of lowest common denominator sitcom humor, occasional drama, and … yes … musical numbers.  Imagine “Freaks & Geeks” had it been produced by Sid & Marty Krofft and you’ll get the picture.

So why am I even talking about this?  Yes this is partly due to “Times” being truly one of those god-awful train wrecks that’s worth watching for its sheer cluelessness.  But mainly  because the stars are Crispin Glover and Nicolas Cage … sorry Coppola … before they became famous.  And they’re playing characters called Crispin and Nicholas, respectively.

I don’t feel too bad ripping on this because I’m sure Glover and Cage would gleefully agree this is not their finest hour.  But what makes this particularly an odd watch is seeing a 17-year old Glover struggling to play a “normal” early 1980s-era sitcom teenager.   It’s simultaneously painful and fascinating to watch and arguably stranger than Glover’s legendary appearances in “River’s Edge” and “Wild at Heart.”

Now here’s the really weird part … I totally remember watching this when I was 11 years old.  While my tastes back then were not as evolved as they are now, I remember being totally baffled by “Times” … and not in a good way.  This was so memorably bizarre that I actually thought about the show the other day, but not remembering the title or who was in it.  Thanks to Glover’s appearance on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast today, I looked the show up on YouTube and much to my shock, I realized “So, THIS was that odd and terrible show I remember seeing when I was 11!”

If you have a strong stomach, are a fan of really bad TV pilots, or want to see what certain stars did before they became famous, “Times” is a must-watch.

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“Norman … Is that You?” (1976) dir. George Schlatter

Video

I was browsing the Warner Archive channel on my Roku box and watched a Redd Foxx film from 1976 called “Norman, Is That You?” Foxx plays a distraught cuckold who goes to visit his son, unaware that his son is gay and is living with another man. Foxx’s character eventually figures it out and as you can guess … considering the character is played by Foxx … is initially not supportive. Though, eventually, in his dumb, clumsy, old-school way, he comes to understand his son and accept him.

It’s not a particularly great film, horrendously politically incorrect (his son’s boyfriend is the absolute worst screaming queen stereotype) but the movie is actually quite funny a lot of the time, mainly due to Foxx, who is an absolute comic genius. Despite the film’s political incorrectness, it’s also remarkably progressive, especially given the fact that it was made in 1976. You can check it out the link above or watch it on the Warner Archive app on Roku.

Best scene: Foxx goes to a bookstore to find books about homosexuality. Some wiseass puts a copy of Woodward and Bernstein’s “All the President’s Men” in the section about homosexuality, which prompts Foxx’s anguished conclusion: “All the President’s Men? I should have known!”