Malcolm in the Middle, the Butthole Surfers

DAVE: Or maybe Malcolm in the Middle fronting for the Butthole Surfers.

Malcolm in the Middle [pictured], sitcom which ran from 2000 to 2006. It stars Frankie Muniz as the title character Malcolm, one of four sons (later five) in a comically dysfunctional lower middle-class family. When Malcolm’s oldest brother is sent to military school, that leaves Malcolm as the middle child of the three boys still at home. Malcolm is an adolescent with a genius IQ of 165, forced into special classes for gifted children that are made fun of by the other students. The show was critically acclaimed and highly influential.

Francisco “Frankie” Muniz (born 1985) was one of the most popular teen actors at the height of his career. He gave up acting in 2008 to pursue a career in open-wheel car racing. From 2012 to 2014, he was the drummer for indie rock band Kingsfoil, so he did actually end up in a band.

Butthole Surfers, rock band formed in San Antonio, Texas in 1981 by singer Gibby Haynes and guitarist Paul Leary. Emerging from the 1980s hardcore punk scene, Butthole Surfers quickly became known for their chaotic live shows, black comedy, and a sound that incorporated elements of psychedelia. Although respected and with a loyal fan base, Butthole Surfers had little commercial success until their 1996 album Electriclarryland, containing the hit single “Pepper”, which went to #1.

Round-robin

JENNIFER: Follow up ?

DARREN: And then we’ll go round-robin.

A round-robin tournament is one in which each contestant meets with every other contestant, usually in turn. It’s usually the fairest way of deciding an overall winner, but can be very lengthy. They are common in team sports – Darren’s love of sports might have prompted this idea. The word robin in this context is a corruption of the French word ruban, meaning “ribbon”.

Oddly, Marie (played by Anita Finlay, who, like her onscreen husband and children, had also been on Judging Amy) is never shown taking part in the quizzes or being expected to, as if her role is simply to bring out iced tea and say Darren is brilliant. It doesn’t seem very likely – surely Marie is also a college graduate? Perhaps we just never see her have her turn, and she takes her part during the round-robin tournament.

Lorelai looks very unhappy to be roped into the round-robin tournament. Jennifer looks like Christmas has come early, and Jack looks like he’s forcing himself to smile. I get the feeling he’s not quite as into the competitive quizzes as Jennifer. He doesn’t seem to be as good at them.

Ted Williams

LUKE: Taylor, no, no, no, no, and every day from now on ’til the end of my life, I am gonna come in here and say, “Taylor, no!” And when I die, I’m gonna have them freeze me next to Ted Williams, and when they find the cure to what I died of and they unfreeze me, my first words are gonna be, “How’s Ted?” followed closely by, “Taylor, no!”.

Theodore “Ted” Williams (1918-2002), professional baseball player and manager who played his entire career for the Boston Red Sox, from 1939-1960. Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966.

Ted Williams died in Florida of cardiac arrest at the age of 83 on July 5, 2002. Although his last will and testament asked that he be cremated and his ashes scattered in the Florida Keys, his son John-Henry and his younger daughter Claudia chose to have his remains cryonically frozen.

Ted’s elder daughter, Bobby-Jo Ferrell, brought a suit to have her father’s wishes recognised. John-Henry’s lawyers then produced a “pact” signed by Ted, John-Henry, and Claudia, agreeing that they would all be frozen, in the hopes of being together again one day. Ted’s signature was found to be genuine, and Bobby-Jo dropped the case due to lack of funds. Publicity from the case increased the number of enquiries to cryonics organisations.

Ted Williams’ biographer, Leigh Montville, claims that Williams’ signature on the pact was a practice autograph on a plain piece of paper, around which the family agreement was written. He had signed the pact Ted Williams, as he did for autographs, while legal documents were signed Theodore Williams.

John-Henry Williams unexpectedly died from acute leukaemia in 2004, and was also cryonically frozen by Alcor in fulfilment of the family agreement.

Note this is another baseball reference from Luke.

[There are picture available of Ted Williams’ frozen head, but they’re frankly a bit disturbing, so I’ve gone with one from during his career].

Dogtown and Z-Boys

TAYLOR: I’m telling you, Luke, if we don’t quickly furnish these skateboarding Z-boys with a moral distraction, they’re gonna turn Stars Hollow into Dogtown.

Taylor refers to the 2001 documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys, directed by Stacy Peralta and narrated by Sean Penn. It explores the pioneering Zephyr skateboarding team in southern California of the 1970s (of which Peralta was a member), using archival footage, contemporary interviews, and a rock and roll soundtrack. The documentary received good reviews, and won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival, as well the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary. It was also a commercial success, making over a million dollars at the box office by 2002, and selling almost 2 million videos and DVDs by 2004.

I can only speculate that Taylor watched the documentary in order to familiarise himself with the horrors of youth culture – a sort of “know your enemy” information session. It clearly gave him a disturbing glimpse into what depths Stars Hollow could sink without his intervention.

Lacrosse

LORELAI: Okay, what activities interest you?

RORY: All of them except for the sports.

LORELAI: I thought you were the lacrosse kid.

Lacrosse is a team sport played with a stick with a net on it and a ball; the stick is used to carry, pass, catch, and shoot the ball into goal. It is the oldest organised sport in North America, with its origins with the indigenous people of North America, going back as early as the twelfth century. The game was extensively modified by European colonisers to create the current game. It is commonly played in schools and colleges in the US, and there are professional leagues as well.

Lorelai jokingly refers to Rory as “the lacrosse kid” in acknowledgement of her quote from The Karate Kid – an example of something being referenced twice in one episode of Gilmore Girls, without the title of the work ever being used.

French Skating Judges

RORY: We are not supposed to be brokering backdoor deals and pushing through agendas with intimidation and bribery. I mean, what are we, French skating judges?

Rory refers to the figure skating scandal of the 2002 Winter Olympics, held in Salt Lake City, Utah, in February of that year.

It was alleged that the pairs’ figure skating competition had been fixed, in which a French judge had compromised scores. The Russian team was awarded the gold, to a furious reaction from Canadian commentators, who believed that their team’s performance was clearly superior. The US press supported Canada, and suspicion quickly fell on the French judge, Marie-Reine Le Gougne. Le Gougne admitted being pressured to choose the Russian team, but later denied any wrongdoing.

After limited investigation of the issues, a second award ceremony was held, and two pairs teams received gold medals: the Russian team, and also the silver medalists, from Canada [pictured]. As a result of this scandal, the International Skating Union suspended two officials for three years: Marie-Reine Le Gougne, and the head of the French skating federation. A Russian organised crime boss was arrested for fixing the Olympics while in Italy, but released due to lack of evidence.

Greg Louganis

CHRISTOPHER: So, should we avoid the subject for awhile or just dive right in?

LORELAI: Call me Greg Louganis.

Gregory “Greg” Louganis (born 1960), Olympic diver, LGBT activist, and author. He won gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics, in springboard and platform diving. He is the only man, and the second diver, to sweep the diving events in consecutive Olympic events. He is regarded as the greatest American diver of all time, if not the greatest diver in history.