I was recently having a discussion with someone who does marketing for Pepsi’s website, and I asked them, “Who goes to Pepsi.com?” They didn’t really have an answer, because while I love Pepsi, I have never been to Pepsi.com. Likewise, “Community” and “Parks and Recreation” are two of my favorite TV shows, but I’ve never been to their official websites (the closest I come is watching old episodes on Hulu) because IMDb and Wikipedia can answer for me what Ben called Perd Hapley at the end of “Media Blitz” (correct answer: Turd Crapley). But nearly every show in the Internet era has (or had) one, and thanks to the magic of the Way Back Machine, we can see what, say, the website for “Freaks and Geeks” looked like (way) back in the day.
Here are ten of my favorites.
USA Today: “…hands-down the best sitcom of the new season”? No wonder newspapers are dying. There’s also some hideously outdated “how to survive in Hollywood” tips, like, “No trucker hats or wristbands in auditions. They just make you look like a wang.”Also, just to show the way TV viewership has changed: “Joey” was on at 8 p.m. on Thursday nights, the time slot now owned by “Community,” and it averaged 7.3 million viewers, a huge ratings failure. What did “Community” get in season two? 4.5 million. [Also a ratings failure, but permissible in NBC’s decayed state. -Ed.]
There’s a poll on the “Joe Millionaire” website for, “Would you want someone worth $50 Million?” (You’d think a billion dollar network would know not to capitalize million, but whatever.) The results:
There are other polls dating back to 2002, too, including, “Will the final 4 women use sex appeal to win over Evan?” and “Are the girls gold-diggers or love-seekers?” Yes and Kanye.
Another source of entertainment on the website is the Paul the Butler’s recap section (Paul’s actual last name: Hogan), which inexplicably ended on January 27, 2003, three weeks before the finale. WHAT HAPPENED?!?
I couldn’t remember the name of my favorite “Kid Nation” refugee, but I remembered something about her. So I typed in “kid nation bitch” to Google, and the first result gave me who I was looking for: bitchy Taylor, the original Eden, pictured above. On her official bio, when asked, “Who have been some of the worst U.S. presidents, and why?” Taylor responded (sic’d), “Since I’m only 11 & Bush has been Pres. for the last 7 years then I asked my family & friends to tell me about some past presidents and their opinions. This is what we came up with. Bill Clinton because he lowered the country’s moral. Jimmy Carter because he gave away the Panama Canal.”
“Kid Nation” only ran for one season, but the application for season two remains. Sample question: “Do you have a girlfriend or boyfriend, or do you have a crush on anyone? If so, tell us about him or her.” They also need to know your favorite desert. My kind of application.
I was 17 when “Listen Up!” premiered, and I liked Tony Kornheiser at the time, mostly because I loved “PTI.” Two guys yelling at each another with a Mr. Met cut-out behind them? TV GOLD. But even I hated “Listen Up!” and its flimsy-at-best premise, about Tony Kleinman (played by, sigh, Jason Alexander) splitting time between work with his co-host, former NFL player Bernie Widmer (Malcolm Jamal-Warner), and home with his family. I don’t remember any of the show’s plot, but if its website is to believed, it went a little something like this:
Really says it all, doesn’t it? Also, Alexander’s face is maybe the greatest DERP ever. Sorry, Philip.
I don’t know what I like more: seeing Dennis from “It’s Always Sunny” with long hair, or the Comic Sans. But wait, it gets better.
I emailed the account, but got back the “following recipient failed permanently” reply. Shame. The domain name expired on September 29, 2011, so better snatch that up before Fox relaunches the show.
MONKEY PUZZLE. THERE’S A MONKEY JIGSAW PUZZLE ON THE “PASSIONS” WEBSITE.
Above is what xfiles.com looked like on December 20, 1996, when the show was in its fourth season. All that’s missing is Mulder’s alien poster, and Fox buying the domain name. That problem would be solved in the early 2000s and the website began looking like this:
The truth will be discovered when the calendar hits -3,500 days until the finale.
Right under the “Cancelled for Now” stamp on the main photo, there’s a message that reads, “Stolen Autograph Scripts! We Beg You, Please Return!” followed by Judd Apatow’s business address in Los Angeles. There’s also a link to Apatow’s diary throughout the production of the show that ends with a post beginning, “I am sitting in my hospital room after spending five hours in post-op listening to people moan as they wake up after their operations. They kept telling me my room wasn’t clean yet.” It only gets more depressing from there, but something tells me it’s going to work out for this Apatow guy. One more fun thing on the website:
I emailed Judd and Paul; if I hear back from the addresses, I’ll update.
Go to the Community section of “Six Feet Under’s” official website circa 2002, and there’s a lengthy discussion on “Funeral Directors and Aftercare.” User Gloria999 writes, “We are thinking of starting a family, and I am very nervous as to how dedicated he will be since the ‘funeral home’ is his #1 baby. My husband is a very good looking man. He has a very ‘addictive’ personality. He has had many problems with drinking and other ‘things’.” Jesus (“Jesus”?). There’s also a “Death and Loss” category, with heartening stories like, “My wife committed suicide in July of 1999. I was relieved by it in a way, because she was so full of hatred and misery. Her family blames me for her suicide, even though they knew of her problems. I now associate the smell of flowers with death and the withering of the flower in the opening moments of the show brings back that memory.” I’m now going to crawl into the fetal position and listen to Radiohead’s “Lucky” until I ironically die.
Going as far back as I could, below is what the downright quaint websites for the Big Four looked like in the 1990s:
CBS, December 19, 1996
ABC, October 13, 1999 (I can’t wait to hear about this so-called “cell phone.”)
FOX, October 22, 1996 (The “O” in “FOX” of course spins around.)
NBC, December 28, 1996 (This one’s my favorite. The somewhat-misspelled “Er” is fantastic, as is the Jean-Claude Van Damme Street Fighter teaser text. No clue why the “dog house” link is on the homepage, because all it does is take you to a flower and gift website. Effective use of space. I, for one, think Jamal Mashburn will have a more successful career than Jason Kidd, but only time will tell.)