Sunday, May 19, 2013

DotTeeVee: Under the Viaduct

Today's subject is nice and topical: a police video from 1986. You're probably thinking that's sarcasm, but in reality it's the opposite of sarcasm, whatever the hell that is. Unsarcasm? Non-snark? Sincerity? Who knows. Anyway, this gem of a video came to light when some minor civil servant rose to the heights of "Interim Police Chief" only for footage of this worthy and his fellow officers making fun of the homeless twenty seven years ago to suddenly surface and with it calls for his firing. For future reference so that this doesn't happen to you here's a list of people you can still mock without any fear of getting into hot water three decades from now: White heterosexual rural Christians. End of list.

As if to hammer home just how ungood everything we're about to see is, we open with a full disclaimer, warning of the "inappropriateness" to follow. Basically the message is "What you are about to witness contains ideas that are not approved by your rulers. Should you find yourself agreeing with them, please close the video and spend several hours on MSNBC."

 Are you bad enough to handle something that "commanders" couldn't?

As if this warning wasn't enough we now get the 1986 version of the same, which features a man whose general appearance and demeanor suggests a grade school principal more than a police officer. As if somehow anticipating the butt-hurt of people who hadn't even been born when this was originally filmed he says it's "an attempt at some humor" and invites us to go under the viaduct. Well, I'm in.

"I'll be safely retired and dead by the time anyone cares about this."

The familiar catchy beat of The Drifters 1964 classic "Under the Boardwalk" plays as we slowly focus in on the "attempt at some humor." Officers have created less than fully convincing "person currently without a home" disguises. Basically it's a Red Skelton routine. Man, the fresh and up-to-the-minute references just keep coming. In that spirit I should mention they've also gone to the joint for some giggle water and are nice and spifflicated. And how! Let's get on the trolley and watch.

Cutting-edge police department comedy.
Someone sings modified lyrics, blaming the sun for waking them up. Yeah, that sun is trouble, no doubt about it. I will concede that the singer is decent and since this was before they had the billion dollar technology that makes our current crop of sissy-boys and junk-in-trunk sluts somewhat listenable it's all just pure talent. The fact that this solid performance is in an ill-conceived skit for a police training video underlines how common singing talent really is, as opposed to writing which is, like, all hard and stuff and so on. 
The central conflict is quickly introduced when the People of Disadvantage are promptly "herded like sheep" by The Man. We cut away from this developing morality play to explain that "T-Birds" are the drink of choice and "all day" is the preferred time to consume them for the people under the viaduct. We even get an unconvincing scene of said drinking, featuring bottles that are clearly empty. Bad production values in a 1986 cop video? It's more likely than you'd think.

When "Night Train" is out of your price range.
The praises of life under the viaduct are, literally, sung. Dirt floors. Booze consumption. Loving close-ups of what I'm hoping is a simulated "oozing sore." They couldn't be bothered to fill the bottles with some sort of liquid, but when it comes to a disgusting open wound suddenly we get all big budget. With the general virtues of living beneath an overpass established, it's back to the storyline, such as it is, of being taken off to jail. Of course this process is fully simulated and as a veteran viewer of the shows "Cops" and "Bait Car" I can vouch for the rigorous accuracy.

Let me wave goodbye to a promotion in the distant future.
Anyone who loves 80s action films can guess the next scene. That's right, a "sympathetic judge" releases them back to go commit more crimes like public drunkenness, loitering, and, um, danger of living a derelict or debased lifestyle. Sharp-eyed viewers, or really any viewer who hasn't been tucking into their own "T-Bird" will note the liberal judge is the same man from the introduction and that this role is also much more believable for him than police officer. Maybe it's just me, but everything about this guy just screams wimpy and ineffectual petty authority figure. 

Anyway, back to the viaduct for more drinking! Oh, and breaking into parked cars. Always even-handed and sympathetic, 1986 Seattle police. We get some weak footage of said breaking in, limited by the fact that the department for some reason wouldn't let them break a real car window for a mildly amusing, offensive as all outdoors video that probably never should have made it past the "wouldn't it be funny if we did this" stage. 

"They're coming to get you, Barbara!" 
We get some special effects suggestive of eighties MTV and then a line about how "the cops are kicking our ass." Yup, let's add "approving attitude toward police brutality" to all the other things that are deeply wrong with this. Maybe what seemed like a good idea at eleven at night in a bar actually isn't. 

A rare literal depiction of kicking someone's ass.
We repeat the chorus and cycle through the general themes that have already been established, such as "sleeping in trash," the drinking, battling police and a system too cowardly to actually punish them in an eternal war that can not be won and more drinking. All of this is accompanied by more music video effects and general silliness. At least the officers look like they're having fun, I hope it was worth it.
 One singular sensation.
The video concludes with two officers receiving a radio report of "transients under the viaduct" and I guess this brings everything full circle. When dealing with art of this quality it's easy to miss the finer points and it probably would take several hundred viewings to do everything justice. The suspects are described as "drinking wine" and one of the officers balls up a fist and slams it into his hand repeatedly while leering menacingly in anticipation, presumably, of beating up on society's most sad and helpless individuals. I knew making those "Clockwork Orange" kids into cops was a bad idea.

The video ends and we wrap things up with the actor who so ably depicted the "sympathetic judge" character. He discusses some sort of cutting edge 1986 technology that can now be found in a museum near you as well as the dream of a "video library." He offers up a thirty-eight minute video on a shooting as an example of the wonders of this new, cutting-edge idea. See it all on Beta tape, my friends. We get some holiday wishes, roll credits.
   Suspect is described as a filthy, dirty old drunkie, howling away at the filthy songs of his fathers and going blurp blurp in between.
Komment Korner  

Sorry America don't mean to hurt your precious feelings.
Best cop humor I've seen in a long time!!! Why are the lib-tards upset. The homeless are mostly vermin, and continue to accost decent citizens.
6 people live under the viaduct
This is majestic, this is beautiful... this... is... art.
Aaron Zehner's first novel The Foolchild Invention is available in e-book format at and Barnes & Noble.

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