Moaning for Monstervision

I mean with respect to Gore De Vol and Penny Dreadful, without a doubt my favorite horror host of all time is Joe Bob Brigs, a surly and veritably undeniable force of nature. He was one who didn’t need gimmicks and or a costume to please his audience. Joe Bob Briggs presented the new wave of horror hosting. To where fun individuals like Dreadful and De Vol dressed up and engaged in props and plays for their audience, Briggs always seemed very aware of his mortality.

He almost seemed to do the job with one foot out the door. And surely enough TNT broadcasting station in America made sure to remind him he could go off the air at any moment, even putting him in a hiatus for a few months, and airing his show a few hours late thanks to their basketball programming. I think the reason why I mourn Mr. Briggs so much and Monstervision so hard is because it was a sign of the end of an era. It was the sign that horror hosts and gimmicks were no longer a part of television and that networks were changing.

Even in cable. Around the mid-to-late nineties there was TNT’s Monstervision with the host du jour Joe Bob Briggs hosting a double feature. And then if you had time you could go to the USA and watch Up All Night. This block consisted of a hostess airing soft core porn sans the sex and boobs and or sleazy bikini laden horror films from the eighties that very few people ever saw for themselves. Or vice versa. Who knows?

But with TNT buying the basketball franchises, Ted Turner branching out in to mainstream fare, and the growing marketability of syndication becoming a lucrative prospect, there just wasn’t room for men like Joe Bob Briggs to stomp around in anymore. Which is not to say he didn’t have anything to fall back on. While Penny Dreadful and De Vol were and are still around thanks to their domination of the free internet waves, Briggs took to his own form of media authoring many books and novels, going on speaking tours, appearing in some truly low budget horror films, and the like.

But in spite of the fact that Briggs is still doing damn good, I miss Monstervision. I miss it dearly. I miss staying up late to watch a double bill. I miss falling asleep on and off during the double bill just trying to stay awake to hear Briggs wax poetic about the movie being played. I miss a lot of his antics and witty commentary about god knows what. I love his one commentary about single moms after announcing the birth of Adrienne Barbeau’s babies at the age of 51. I miss the off camera notes and murmuring that went on that usually resulted in something disastrous.

For one, Briggs could never get a hold of the entire “Friday the 13th” series, and for another he always had to be censored and or muffled. During an airing of “Ghoulies” I could still recall Briggs being told to stop calling the midgets in the film midgets, and Briggs expressing anger at not being able to host “Fargo” for the network. Monstervision was like watching movies with your best friend and Joe Bob Briggs was always the down home gent who was cynical about every single movie, but only to the point where it was amusing and worth listening to.

He could point out flaws in every movie, and knew how to throw out his own philosophical observations about films like “Return of the Living Dead.” And who can forget his Drive-In Totals? These tallies and estimates granted him and the audience a score card of kills and T&A to look out for, all of which were mostly skewed thanks to television editing. He expressed great sadness at not being able to spy on Linnea Quigley’s fine breasts for the “Return of the Living Dead” screening. And he had a damn good sense of humor about himself. He still does. He knew how to deal with slightly out whack guests and was never above hob knobbing with big cult stars like Linnea Quigley with whom he shared a deep fondness for her boobs thanks to her star making turn in “Return of the Living Dead” as Trash.

And you had to love his good humor during his interview with Rowdy Roddy Piper who had a propensity for mocking the good Joe Bob’s accent and Southern attire and his inability to speak directly in to the camera to challenge an opponent. All in all, the interview stands as one of the best, and Piper let loose on many facts including his incapability to keep up with Keith David during fight training for “They Live.”

Plus there are moments of great awe where Joe Bob was able to interview Ms. Tippi Hedren from “The Birds” in an extra long Monstervision–or whatever the show was called at the time of its airing. Thanks TNT. When Monstervision went off the air in the early millennium the horror conglomerate and movie loving bunch of goons that pretended to hate Joe Bob mourned the loss of Monstervision.

With cable now less about catering to specific tastes and more about throwing whatever random crap you can find while saving money, Monstervision is a fixture of late night Saturday cable that many horror and film aficionados still long for and want with immense zeal. I doubt it would hurt anyone to cut four hours off of Law & Order repeats just to show Joe Bob back at his old tricks again. That’s not too much to ask for, and it’s not like his show required a big budget. But he’s not suffering, and we can take solace in that.

Joe Bob’s a celebrity without many knowing and often times without anyone else knowing as is witnessed by his assistant’s inability to remember Briggs was in “The Stand.” This exchange is one of the funniest moments on Monstervision to date. Joe Bob or John Irving Bloom is still one of the primary go to sources of knowledge, and information from the independent horror film circuit, and he’s still a man people pay attention to and will buy literature from. You can’t keep a good horror geek down, that’s for goddamn sure.

Briggs the last of his kind, he was a personality who is aware of his imminent death as a TV host and he proved that through his ahead of its time internet contests, and letter readings that he took great joy in making in to gags for his non-sequitors.

I love Monstervision I miss it to death. And when TNT is playing a thousand episodes of NAVY NCIS or Law & Order, we’ll be thinking of you guys, the ones who made the thousandth viewing of Godzilla oh so much fun to watch yet again.