Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Unsolved Mysteries

Good morning!!

Howaya, howaya, howaya. It's Tuesday, saints bless us, and I thought I would take a minute to tell you about your show of shows, Unsolved Mysteries, and its triumphant return to syndication. I mentioned a while back in my birth story post that we'd been watching episodes of UM on my phone while waiting for Remy to make his grand debut, and isn't it surreal that I'm sitting here, nine months later, with a not-so-newborn in my lap and Robert Stack telling me about a suspicious car fire...happier than a pig in mud.

I watched a lot of the show when it was first aired on NBC, because in those long ago days of the late 80's and early 90's, there was no cable and just a single television set... meaning if your folks were watching Cheers, and you wanted to watch something on tv, you, too, would be watching Cheers. Hard to believe in this age of having multiple screens, technology on demand, etc, etc, but I can see myself on the brown shag carpet of the living room, probably chewing on the wood stick of a grape popsicle and wondering if the "someone may have the answers, that someone may be...you" tagline was true...though , to be fair, my sphere of influence was pretty small at nine years old and the killer/missing sister/UFO witness would have to be in my second grade classroom or my mom/dad/grandparents for there to be much of a chance of me being the missing link in this investigation. "God, I wish I knew more masked motorcyclists and key witnesses to disappearances," was a good summation of my feelings of ruefulness at not being more involved in inexplicable events.

Hi-ya, handsome!
Sidenote: I had no idea in first watching the series that Robert Stack was any more famous than Wink Martindale, Mark Summers, or the other various early nineties' television hosts I could name off the top of my fourth grade head. Much later, I would get to know Stack for his performance in one of my favorite fifties' auteur-work-posing-as-soap-opera-melodrama, the lurid and lovely to look at Written on the Wind. In his youth, Robert Stack had the same distinguished speaking voice but a clean-cut , tanned, youthful handsomeness and smoldering blue eyed gaze that was really something special. He plays in that movie a paranoiac alcoholic playboy, heir to an oil fortune, who spends most of the movie being egged on to further debauchery by his nymphomaniac sister (Dorothy Malone) and mistreating Lauren Bacall, the latter of which is a problem for my-boyfriend-Rock-Hudson as his childhood best friend who's in love with Bacall. Sounds very Redbook, but in the hands of director Douglas Sirk, take my word for it, it's like a painting come to life. But anyway. Isn't it interesting to think he did that, and then The Untouchables, and then kind of kicked around Hollywood for twenty years or so until a career-reviving stint on everybody's favorite true crime/occult/reunion show in prime time?

"What the..." (I'd tell you what my favorite re-enactment was but they're all my favorite)
Speaking of, I always prefer the missing people stories and ghost stories to the UFO and miracle stories, though the latter categories can be a hoot and a half. One category that had completely slipped my mind in the twenty plus years since I was originally watching the show was the "Lost Loves". It's easy to forget in the age of Facebook stalking and Spokeo that at one time, if you lost contact with someone for enough years, they could be very difficult to reconnect with in the present day. Some examples I remember off the top of my head: a guy who served in Vietnam with another guy and lost touch with him after they both returned home, an English girl in a German boarding school in the sixties who wanted to reconnect with a girl who was kind to her in her grade, a girl who wanted to find the two children who her father had fostered for a year in the 1930's before their father was able to take them back and moved away, and ALL THE TEENAGE MOTHERS who were somehow swindled/coerced into giving up their babies for adoption. I spend like a good 80% of these segments just openly weeping-- I can't help it if seeing a tough old guy tearing up over wanting to contact the daughter his estranged girlfriend ran away with in the forties' is like emotional quicksand for me. The updates where they find the people across decades and across the country KILL me... the one about the thirties' semi-orphans had the daughter of the foster father and the girl they fostered meeting as now-sixty-year-olds, and the one lady exclaims, "You still look like yourself!" Cue me just bawling. The idea of getting to see someone who meant so much to you that you took on a national search for them is so touching, and then the idea of someone before that reunion sitting at home, just minding their business, and then watching the episode and going "That's me! I'm the one they're looking for!"-- it's really something. "It meant so much that somebody out there was looking for me after all these years," is an oft repeated refrain from the reunited and the reunitees... it's so quaint to think that now, in five minutes in the Facebook searchbox, you can do what it took volunteer private detectives and a viewing audience of however million to accomplish thirty years ago.

"And so I told 'em...wait, the check didn't clear? There must be some kind of mistake!" --> flim flam man's oldest line in the book.
One neat aspect of the series coming back into syndication is that the producers have inserted updates where available-- so when the story ends and you go, "MAN, did they ever find the missing girl/murder suspect/lost friend/etc?", a lot of the time there's resolution in the form of a paragraph that includes information on developments in the ensuing decades since the show aired. This becomes kind of a problem for the inveterate bingewatcher like myself, though, in that I became dependent on the updates-- when you get to the end of a particularly gruesome murder or disappearance and there ISN'T an update, you feel like "What?! What do you mean they never found out who did it?!" I got so worked up I had to google the case of Angela Marie Hammond, who they still haven't found. I was sitting there with my socks up on the coffeetable like "THE BOYFRIEND DID IT, RIGHT? WAS IT THE BOYFRIEND?" And was very surprised when there were no answers to the many questions raised by the circumstances of her disappearance. One gets the impression from shows like Dateline and 20/20 that, ethical and moral beliefs aside and from a purely rational point of view, you should NEVER try and murder someone because 100% of the time you get caught. Except...those shows only use cases where people WERE caught, thus creating a beginning, middle, and end of the dramatic arc. The whole point of the crime portions of Unsolved Mysteries are that, uh, they were unsolved at the time...leaving some loose ends that continue on into the present day. The worst one I've seen so far was where a woman was looking for her husband, who had a concussion and disappeared a year earlier-- a stranger was interviewed who had seen the guy seeming disoriented on a bus and the trail went cold, but the wife never stopped posting flyers and looking for him. The update said they FOUND the guy two years later-- he had become an amnesiac after I think being mugged and hit over the head again in his concussed state...but when they reunited the couple, the guy didn't remember anything about their relationship and just went back to his normal life afterwards...can you imagine?! He was like, "Nah, you know, that was nice of you to look for me and all...but I'm kind of just happy like I am." This was all conveyed through two screens of text...if it were me, I would have done an entire new episode about this. But again! An embarrassment of riches here in terms of human interest stories.

Some of the updates are more straightforward than others.

Last but not least, I'm obsessed with the fashion/hair on a lot of the eyewitness interviewees-- as the late eighties and early nineties are the LAST VINTAGE TIME PERIODS I wasn't old enough to wear with any sort of agency as it happened, I'm weirdly savoring the 1990's-does-1940s Adrian shoulder pad, the art teacher style vest/collared shirt combos, and ALL THE EARRINGS. Think about how each of these people would have gone"Oooh, I'm gonna be on tv...what is my BEST outfit? How do I want my hair done? What will my makeup look like?" It's a great example of everyday Sunday-best fashion of the time on people that weren't celebrities.

This was a particularly good one for re-enactments and the story was NUTS. I wish I could figure out how to look it up. That guy was a con artist/psycho ex who had his former girlfriend shot when she was about to testify against him.

Sage advice AND my favorite review on the front page of Amason's customer reviews on the show
So! Talk to me, people-- what have you been watching lately? Do you have any non-guilty TV pleasures from a bygone age of channel surfing that have come back in recent years thanks to streaming services?

And don't forget to check out ALLLLLL the Unsolved Mysteries if you have Amazon Prime.

If you need me, I'll be watching the skies for unidentifiable light sources and unmarked helicopters. Have a great rest of your week! Talk again soon.

PS: Shout out to blog reader Jodi who I met at an estate sale this weekend-- thanks for saying hi! :)


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