(You’re welcome, by the way, for not making the obvious “20/20 hindsight” reference in the title. Seriously considered it, though.)
When I think back on the entire experience of making “Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian,” there are 3 main events that stand out: the trip to L.A. and meeting Spielberg; the premiere of the finished episode, of course; and the airing of the 20/20 segment. It was by far our most involved media appearance and, quite frankly, probably the one that the most people had heard of and watched regularly, at least in our area. (And until it aired, none of our other national TV appearances could be set for firm dates, so I’m assuming they were given exclusivity.)
One of the details I’d forgotten about in the saga of 20/20 is that issue with the air date. On April 5, 1991, our publicist, Valerie, told us it would air on the 19th, so we immediately set about telling… everybody. Family, friends, teachers, local newspapers, local radio and TV stations. After all, as Thirteen noted in her journal, we were told that “the only way we won’t be on 20/20 on the 19th is if there’s a national disaster or something.” (We were somewhat familiar with this, since a planned article in TIME had been derailed by the start of the Gulf War.)
Ten days later, Valerie called back with the words “I’m a messenger from hell.” The air date had been moved from the 19th to the 26th. There was not, as far as we knew, a national disaster, and all of us ranged from irritated to furious, since we’d been waiting for this thing for months already and, more importantly, we had to call everybody and their brother back and tell them, uh, yeah, it’s not the 19th after all. Of course, like a lot of snags in big events, in the long run it was so unimportant that I’d entirely forgotten about it until I reread my journal—but Thirteen sure had some all-caps lines in those entries at being forced to wait.
Friday, April 26, 1991:
It’s 6:20. Only 3 hours and 40 minutes left until showtime.
(Yeah, we were a little excited. I’ll spare you the running journal entry complete with timestamps…)
The title of our story is “When Dreams Come True.”
I still can’t believe it. I mean, us on 20/20. This is just so cool.
The running gag in my journal entry became how many times I kept writing “This is just so cool” or variations thereof. For anyone who cares (and I’m not sure I’m even among them), the grand total was 9.
I think the big impact of the 20/20 airing wasn’t so much anything about the segment itself—though of course it was well done, and even Thirteen notably had no complaints about it—but the fact that it was a show we already watched every Friday night in our house. It was part of our normal media landscape, and now… there we were, on the screen. It might be hard to fully understand this, in the age of YouTube and viral videos, but back then, being on TV was big, and not just in the “I’m famous and people recognize me in the grocery store!” kind of way, but in a more internalized, personal, “this feels not entirely real, but apparently it is” kind of way. We were now a part of what we watched. (That would be true to some degree again when “Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian” finally aired, but we were so involved in that whole process that the premiere felt more like just wrapping things up.)
At the time of posting this, “When Dreams Come True” is available online for those of you who haven’t seen it. (I should note that I’m not affiliated with the YouTube channel that posted it, but do check them out, like, subscribe, etc. They’ve got some fun old commercials posted too.)
If/when the video below disappears, you can also check out the segment’s transcript below.
See what you think, but… y’know, I think it’s still pretty cool.