Mister T “Fortune Cookie Caper” (part 2 of 8)

For this live-action bookend, Mr. T is sitting at a picnic table surrounded by closed-up Chinese food takeout containers, all of which are as pristine and obviously empty as the big cardboard boxes in Future War. T is opening them up one by one, apparently looking for something. Where is my brain? Nope, not in this one. Nope, not here either. Dang. Where did I put it? I might need it later!

Caption contributed by Mark

“Ugh! Who puked in here?”

By the way, we learn here, to no one’s surprise, that T is a big ol’ mouth-breather. I expected to see a sliver of drool flow down into one of the takeout containers. He’s also wearing so much gold around his neck that I think I can see, way in the back of the shot there, an army of salivating Conquistadors.

Finally, T finds what he’s looking for: the fortune cookies. This perplexed me, because—at least here in New York—the fortune cookies don’t normally come inside the white takeout containers. Maybe they do that in other parts of the world, or in the strange little world that Mr. T lives in. But my first thought was that the crew actually hid the fortune cookies from T, just to recreate the Ang-Uh! segment from his Be Somebody video.

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T pulls out a fortune cookie and then looks up, not at all surprised to find a TV camera has been tracking his every move. Heck, I’m sure T doesn’t know what to do with himself when he’s not being filmed. The music here, by the way, is a very playful orchestral overlay, the same sort of cheery just-another-day-in-Pleasantville kind of thing you’ve heard in a thousand sitcoms. It’s perfect here, because it underlines how totally unthreatening Mr. T is, despite his bruiser affectations. It’s like, “La la la, what a beautiful day. Hi, Tinkie-Winkie. Hey there, Beav. Oh look, it’s Mr. T! Hidey-ho there, Mr. T!”

T holds up the fortune cookie and asks us if we know “what these are” (holding up just one cookie, thereby totally muddying the concept of “plural” for all his impressionable young viewers). Then without pausing for a second he tells us that if we said “fortune cookies”, we were right. Well, I would have said that, if you’d given me a chance. Geez, Mr. T, you’re the worst teacher ever!

He then goes on to explain the concept of fortune cookies in a way that makes it sound like he was up all night sweating today’s oral exam on message-concealing snacks. Usually, the fortunes are good, he says, but once he got one that wasn’t. Funnily enough, the last time I had a fortune cookie it said, “A crazy man with a mohawk will explain the concept of fortune cookies to you.” So there you go, they aren’t all good.

He goes on to say we’re about to see the “Fortune Cookie Caper”, which happened when they were “in New York for a meet!”

Mr. T: We were in Chinatown having dinnah when the case started! And before it was ovah, we chased crooks ovah, undah, and aroun’ the city!

Before the dinner was over? I hope they kept it warm for you, because otherwise your moo goo gai pan must have been really gross by the time you got back to the table. And I like the way T talks about “the case”, too, like some Inspector Lestrade called him in. “This investigation requires mangled maxims and smashing down doors. Better get Mr. T!”

T finally opens his cookie, and with his patented “desperate for approval” smile, he reads the fortune for us: “It says, ‘Stay tuned for high adventure!’ ” Does it still count as “high adventure” if the only thing “high” about it is the writers?

Anyway, that’s the end of the front bookend, and now the title card, which tells me “Fortune Cookie Caper” was written by Flint Dille. Because this name sounds completely made up, I naturally googled Mr. Dille to see if I could dig up any dirt. And while his subsequent authorship of the Transformers movie and that stupid Fievel Western seems snicker-worthy, he’s since found some respectability as a well-known video game writer. And so I say, if you can start out your career on Mister T, and have a name like “Flint Dille”, and still have a decent career in Hollywood, more power to you.

“Fortune Cookie Caper” also sounds like such a clichéd title that I knew there had to be other uses of it on other crapmation shows. Predictably enough, not only was there a Hong Kong Phooey episode with exactly the same name, but also an episode of Scooby-Doo (it was one of the later episodes, where they meet the “Moon Monster”).

Best of all, “Fortune Cookie Caper” also shows up in what could be called the ultimate in crapmation, Clutch Cargo. That’s the show from the late 1950s where they just threw still drawings up on the screen, and inserted live-action mouths talking over them—just like when Conan O’Brien has “Saddam Hussein” on his show. Fascinatingly enough, the Clutch Cargo creators promoted this cheapness as an innovation called Syncro-Vox [!]. Great name. You know something’s evil if the name welds together mismatched Greek and Latin roots. Like “television”.

There’s also a 1969 Batman comic called “Fortune Cookie Caper”, and the cover is so laughably offensive (and so cavalier about it), that I’m surprised it hasn’t shown up on Superdickery yet. (Although the absence of a Popemobile go-cart may be putting it on the backburner.)

Damn, I’m close to 3,000 words and the actual episode hasn’t even started yet. Not that I’m putting it off. No sirree. So… what do you think, will Lucas ever do Episode VII? Because—what? Okay, fine. “Fortune Cookie Caper”.

Mark "Scooter" Wilson

Mark is a history guy, a graphics guy, a guy for whom wryly cynical assessments of popular culture are the scallion cream cheese on the toasted everything bagel of life. He spends his time teaching modern history at Brooklyn College, pondering the ancient Romans at the CUNY Graduate Center, and conjuring maps and illustrations for ungrateful bankers at various Manhattan monoliths. Readers are welcome to guess at reasons why he's nicknamed Scooter, with the proviso that all such submissions are guaranteed to be rather more interesting than the truth. Mark lives in the Midwood section of Brooklyn with a happy-go-lucky, flop-eared dog named Chiyo who is probably, at this very moment, waiting patiently for her walkies.

Multi-Part Article: Mister T "Fortune Cookie Caper"

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