SCARECROW ON SEATTLE
In appreciation and recognition of Seattle's long and illustrious film history, we are proud to partner with Scarecrow Video to bring you weekly reviews of historical Seattle films. Each week we will showcase a new movie, with special emphasis on how these films show Seattle's most filmable locations.
Almost Live! Guide to Living in Seattle (1994)
For those either too young or recently transplanted to Seattle, Almost Live! was a local sketch comedy show that ran from 1984 to 1999 on KING-5 and spawned distinguished alumni such as John Keister, Bill Nye, Pat Cashman, Lauren Weedman, Nancy Guppy and Joel McHale. This rare VHS collection from 1994 complies some of their more geographically-based sketches into a humorous primer on life in the Northwest. It begins, of course, with our desperate need for coffee. The opening scene depicts the Denny Party's arrival at Alki in 1851, where they are met by a friendly Native barista at an espresso cart. The program goes on to expound on some of our other Northwest idiosyncrasies: We are devout recyclers, consume mostly Thai food, and are as picky about microbrews as we are coffee. We wear only fleece and gortex and buy tons of recreational equipment we'll never use. The collection is also a good showcase for some of the show's best bits. "The Ballard Driving Academy" shows a wool-capped John Keister leading Bob Nelson from Mike's Chili Tavern down Ballard Avenue, instructing him on how one drives in the neighborhood (seat belt stuck out the door, left turn signal on at all times, traveling as slow as possible).
"East Side Story" pits the pastel sweater-clad Bellevue Squares against the polyesterd and pre-irony trucker hat wearing Factoria Trash. It ends in a rumble in the Factoria Square parking lot where the two gangs duke it out, beef stick vs. a now hilariously oversized cell phone. And while it's not specific to Seattle, Pat Cashman in the "Roscoe's Oriental Rug Emporium" commercial is a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of Seattle landmarks captured on film. We do get a nice shot of the marquee of our neighbors Seven Gables Theatre (showing Latcho Drom, ends Tuesday!) and a look at the interior of Grand Illusion Cinema, where we learn Seattle moviegoers enjoy drinking tea and pretending to understand the pretentious pre-show lecture. Instead of showing places, the Guide ends getting us nostalgic for TV of the past, with mentions of Breakman Bill, Captain Puget, and of course J.P. Patches, who shows up in person. They also raid KING's archives for vintage Ivar's commercials and Seafair footage, which play while Keister waxes on about the city's history and "universe that continues to fade away." That's truer today than ever, but thanks to Almost Live! there will always be a bit of our collective consciousness properly satirized for future generations. The last shot is of Scandinavian humorist Stan Boreson walking along Alki, playing accordion singing "Acres of Clams." I must admit, I got a bit teary.