The question is, why wouldn’t Throwback Thursday want to keep you?
If you have seen the movie Dumb and Dumber, even once (and even back in the mid-1990s), you probably remember this scene:
I remember being twelve year old and finding it hilarious that they were crying over a telephone commercial. It didn’t matter that it was for phone service (for a company I’d never heard of), and that it looked like a movie. Years later, I can understand the emotional impact of commercials, but when I was that age…this was goofy.
Years later, I did some research on this commercial, and what I found out about it was interesting, if this type of useless information is appealing to you.
For your Throwback Thursday, you should expect nothing less of me and my research skills.
“The Rain Children” is an advertising campaign “miniseries” (I’m not kidding, it is listed on Internet Movie Database as such, a listing I didn’t know about until earlier this week) through Pacific Bell/Pacific Telesis, and aired in eight parts, beginning in early 1988. It was one of several miniseries-type advertising campaigns produced by Pacific Bell at the time.
The story centers on Nick (Jonathan Brandis) and Lucy (Jaclyn Bernstein), siblings who arrived in the barn of their Uncle Forrest Coy during one rainy night. Forrest takes them in, but they don’t believe they’ll stay. Nick promises his sister that they will stick together, and Forrest does, in fact, keep them. Each moment in the lives of these two children revolves around phones operated by Pacific Bell. The first such hint of this is when Lucy spends the day with Uncle Forrest, and buys a new dress, wanting to call her brother “just to know her brother was home.”
As time passes, Forrest grows fond of his niece and nephew, and even taking them to watch him perform. But the new family is threatened when social services comes for Lucy, citing that the farm is not a place for a girl. All those promises of staying together are broken, but they’re still together, even if by phone. Nick and Forrest continue to bond, and discuss plans to get Lucy back, continuing to use the phone to stay connected.
And with some extra money, Forrest’s friends help build a proper extension on the house, so Lucy could come home. And of course, because you’ve seen Dumb and Dumber, you know how the story ends. But it isn’t without some Lifetime Channel-style drama.
As the “miniseries” ends, Lucy’s potential family returns her, citing that it isn’t right to keep the kids apart, and a flash forward in time (through voiceover) has the two kids calling each other, “just because.” The way it had always been, with the promise of not drifting away.
And through it all, Pacific Bell was always there.
And so was someone who edited the commercials together, to make a short film. They didn’t let the original concept “drift away.”
The original spots were thirty and sixty seconds long, always ending with the adult Nick and Lucy talking on the phone, much like the version of the final part seen in Dumb and Dumber.
The product it promotes, phone services, is that of Pacific Bell. Pacific Bell was established as part of Pacific Telesis in 1983, as part of the breakup of AT&T as a holding company for both Pacific and Navada Bell. Pacific Telesis was acquired by SBC Communications in 1997, with the cellular and paging unit, PacTel Cellular, spun off in 1994 into AirTouch Communications. In turn, that spinoff was merged with Bell Atlantic Corp. (which was the Northeast’s regional Bell service – I had internet service through Bell Atlantic in the mid-1990s), and later became Verizon Wireless.
As for Pacific Telesis, the company was dissolved in 2006 into AT&T Teleholdings, and has been under AT&T (ironically) ever since.
The story of Lucy, Nick, and their bond with Uncle Forrest was the second such series of commercials for Pacific Bell, following the success of “Garland,” the story of two lifelong friends, Garland and Lawrence. That series aired in twelve parts, beginning in August 1986, with a new part released every 6-8 weeks and airing on California television stations. That series won a Clio, and paved the way for another campaign of a continuing story that promotes the use of a certain phone company, which is still used by the story’s stars in the present day. Both series were written by Creative Director Robert Black of Foote, Cone, and Belding in San Francisco
What I find funny about the whole thing is that this series aired in 1988, and Dumb and Dumber came out in 1994. So…how long was The Rain Children melting hearts all over the west coast?
I originally wrote about about The Rain Children a few years back on Retroist, but that article, along with 193 other articles I wrote, were lost in the interwebs when that site shut down. At least, I thought it was lost. Apparently, it does exist on the interwebs somewhere else…republished on a site called Leadville.co, which I’ve never heard of.
I was reading it, and before I got to the bottom, I realized how much it sounded like my writing…and then I saw my bio at the bottom of the page.
I should be flattered that something survives of mine, but why do I feel like bots are the ones doing the saving?
Oh well, wouldn’t be the first time. Or the second.
We’ll always have the story of Forrest and his newfound family, the sobbing mess it made of two guys, and my cribbed original article all about it.
Now there’s two floating out there on the interwebs!
Have a great Throwback Thursday, and…don’t drift away!