(New to the countdown? Catch up here.)
The commercial break begins with the promo for “The Year in Rock 88.” The people deemed newsworthy enough to get a quick video clip of them flashed in this spot: Chuck D. (in a Pittsburgh Pirates cap), Tracy Chapman (looking dour), Keith Richards (with cigarette), Billy Joel (playing guitar!?), the “Addicted to Love” “Wild Thing” video girls (pouty), Bruce Springsteen (reclining), Madonna (red-carpet glam), Bono (earnest, and with an earnest hat), Axl Rose and Slash (both uncharacteristically amused), all of U2 (at the Grammys), Sammy Hagar (looking bloated and drunk), Jon Bon Jovi (bangs teased over his eyes), D.M.C. (hat, glasses, gold rope, toothpick), George Michael (very tan), Michael Jackson (grainy), Sheila E. (hair piled high), Bjork (backlit), Cher (in front of a trellis), Iggy Pop (in a swimming pool, hair dyed bright red), Neil Young (with wooden beads and a Cirque du Soleil shirt).
We then get a repeat of the two-minute spot for Time-Life’s book series about paranormal phenomena, Mysteries of the Unknown. It’s framed by vignettes about a woman who has a sudden premonition that her daughter was in an accident. (It can’t be a premonition if it already happened, can it? A postmonition? A monition?) In the opening scene, the set designer has taken care to have lots of circles: the large dots on the mother’s shirt, the polka dots on a flowerpot, the ball that the little girl chases. When mother and daughter reunite at the end, the daughter is wearing a checked dress: the circles have changed to squares, to symbolize how enduring mysteries have been neatly put into a box for you.
“How would you explain this?” the narrator asks, as we see a series of pencil sketches. “A dozen people around the world who have never met each other describe an encounter with a being from space. And their illustrations of the creature match almost exactly.” Well, judging by the sketches, I’d guess they all saw Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
We’re told about more mysteries, and then we make the pivot to the sell: “Maybe no one can fully explain these things, but they can no longer be ignored. That’s why Time-Life takes a serious look into this world with a remarkable new series, Mysteries of the Unknown.” This was not only before the AOL merger, this was before Time Inc. had joined forces with Warner Communications.
“How can you explain this?” the narrator asks again (and of course, you can’t, which proves your need for these books). “Four men are drawn to an ancient Anglo-Saxon fort, the site of a fierce battle. They enter the shadows of a ring of trees.” We see three dudes who look like they were extras in St. Elmo’s Fire. “And without warning, one of them is grabbed by an unseen force, lifted five feet in the air, and suspended for thirty full seconds.” The three dudes stare at their fourth friend, who is horizontal, floating in the air (it looks more like three feet up, though), and wearing a cable sweater. I tried Googling to see if I could figure out what incident this described, but I came up dry. We get ordering info ($12.99 per book plus shipping and handling).
Another MTV promo: some sculptures in an art gallery. Stainless steel, spraypaint: it all looks very ’80s. The camera pans right, and we learn that viewed from the correct angle, the art forms an MTV logo. It happens again with a different installation, and then a third one (at which point there’s really no surprise). It’s a cute idea, but doesn’t really come off.
The intro to “Welcome to the Jungle” signals our return to the videos. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Adam Curry has entered the building. He’s wearing a black tuxedo jacket decorated with three medals. But is his hair resplendent, you want to know? Oh, yes it is.
Curry tells us he’ll be taking us through the second half of the countdown, and thanks Kevin Seal for doing the first half. “I actually watched a lot of it,” Curry says in a flat tone, “and he comes up with some stuff that is just incredible, don’t you agree?” I don’t know if Curry’s being ironic or not! Which is the most fitting tribute possible to Seal.