Pop culture

1980s guilty pleasures that should come out of the attic

Nov. 17, 2013 at 6:11 AM ET

Need a trip back in time? Mark your calendar for Jan. 18, when Lifetime will air its remake of creepy, incesty 1979 novel-turned-movie "Flowers in the Attic."

IMAGE: George Clooney on "Facts of Life."
NBC
George Clooney played a charming handyman with a mullet and a ready quip on "Facts of Life."

But maybe that's not enough retro embarrassment for you. Inspired by the remake, here are six delightfully discomfiting entertainment offerings from the 1970s and 1980s that should make a 21st century return.

George Clooney's mullet
He's a frequent magazine cover boy and Sexiest Man Alive candidate today, but back in the go-go '80s he played handyman George Burnett on boarding-school sitcom "The Facts of Life." He delivered groan-inducing jokes to Tootie, Natalie, Blair, Jo and Mrs. G, all while sporting acid-washed jeans and a mullet that would make a midwestern hockey player proud. Clooney's all Silver Fox and debonair now, with his villa in Lake Como, but that moment with the mullet reminds us that he wasn't always too cool for the room.

Image: "The Monuments Men" - UK Premiere - Red Carpet Arrivals
John Phillips
Hollywood’s sexiest leading man is a movie star in every sense of the term.

'Battle of the Network Stars'
Here's what we want: We want "Homeland's" Claire Danes paddling off in a kayak race against Sofia Vergara of "Modern Family." We want "Sons of Anarchy" star Charlie Hunnam captaining the FX team and screaming in the face of Andrew "Walking Dead" Lincoln, claiming the AMC team cheated during Simon Says. We want "Battle of the Network Stars" to make a comeback, and be taken as seriously as the World Series or Super Bowl, with McDonald's handing out "when NBC wins, you win" stickers on large soft drinks and team jerseys for sale at sporting-goods stores. Famous one-time "Battle" Captain (and Mis-tah Kot-tah!) Gabe Kaplan's still around, right? Who's got his number? His country needs him.

'After School Specials'
Kids today probably don't need the "After School Specials" that their parents once watched while lounging in their living rooms on stylish shag carpet. Schools and parents are more in tune now to introducing topics such as alcoholism, teen pregnancy and child abuse, and when's the last time you saw a kid out hitchhiking? But back in the day, subtly named specials such as "Schoolboy Father" (spoiler: it was Rob Lowe!) and "The Boy Who Drank Too Much" (Scott Baio!) taught kids right from wrong. Don't tell us we couldn't use that again. We'd sure prefer it to another round of "Teen Mom."

IMAGE: The Love Boat
Everett Collection
Love, exciting and new: "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island" once made Saturday nights special.

'Love Boat' and 'Fantasy Island' Saturdays
What's on television Saturday night these days? Does anyone know? In the 1970s and 1980s we sure did, tuning in religiously to the powerhouse block of "Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island," right in a row. It was two hours of tropical fantasy that gave kids snowed in during yet another eternal midwestern or East Coast winter a chance to dream of a warm laugh-filled adulthood, where we'd be trading jokes with Gopher and Julie our cruise director, and hunting for Amelia Earhart courtesy of Mr. Roarke and Tattoo. Heck, they don't even need to make new episodes, just run the old ones. Our nostalgia gene will be satiated, at least for one night.

Variety shows
Rosie O'Donnell tried to bring the variety show back in 2008 with one-episode-failure "Rosie Live." But in the '70s and '80s, variety shows were handed out like bus tickets in Hollywood, with The Brady Bunch, The Carpenters, Captain and Tenille, Donny and Marie Osmond and even The Starland Vocal Band landing shows. Some featured ice skating, some synchronized swimming, and all featured an awkward blend of singing, dancing, bad jokes and even sequins to satisfy even Liberace. Who would have one today? The battling Jonas Brothers, snarling digs at each other the way Cher once did to Sonny? The cast of "Glee," pretending their fictional bonds are real, as the "Brady" cast had to? It's a guilty-pleasures genre that's ripe for renewal.

Gael Cooper 1970's Items
Scott Eklund
A new book co-written by a TODAY.com producer looks at the lost toys, tastes and trends of the 1970s and 1980s. Where are you, Quisp cereal, Malibu Barbie, and Dynamite Magazine?

Videos on MTV
MTV is like KFC. They don't really want you to know what one of the letters in their name once stood for. Music Television? Fried Chicken? Don't know ya! But back in the day, MTV was the place to go for the latest music, accompanied by videos that ranged from the classy to the crazy. Now MTV shuns the videos that once made it famous, and we want them back — yes, even naked Miley Cyrus swinging on her "Wrecking Ball." While we're dreaming, "Pop-Up Video," which used cartoonish bubbles to dish on the backstage secrets of the videos, needs a comeback, too. And get off our lawn.



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