Bianca Bob’s late nite TV junk food pop culture lament over the loss of “Red M&Ms”

By on April 25, 2019

“On this next ‘Shoestring Theatre,’ Night Flight gets to the bottom of a very sticky problem,” says Night Flight’s announcer Pat Prescott in her introduction to Bianca Bob’s video art production “Red M&Ms.”

“Don’t bum out, everything works itself out in the end,” Ms. Prescott assures us, which you can see for yourself a little over an hour into this “As Aired” full episode which originally aired on May 10, 1991, just a few days before Mother’s Day — watch it now “Night Flight” on Night Flight Plus!

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Bianca Bob or Bbob — who went by Bianca Bob Miller back in the day — is a New York City-based writer, director, songwriter and performer. Her award-winning works have been widely broadcast and exhibited in festivals and art galleries around the world.

Her song “Red M&Ms,” also known as “They Took It All Away,” grew out of a short news piece she wrote and became part of her Basement Tapes Collection.

She shot, directed and performed in this video version, which was one of her first short films to explore high and low tech image processing, including mylar and plastic disc effects sourced from NYC’s Canal Street Plastics.

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Bianca Bob plays “Red M&Ms” at WFMU radio station circa 1989 (photo by Irwin Chusid)

The video was produced at Experimental Television Center, located in Owego (which everyone thinks is Oswego), a small village in the central Southern Tier of New York state, where she was a happy Artist-In-Residence for many years.

This unique video art production studio was founded in 1971 by Ralph Hocking and Sherry Miller as an outgrowth of a media access program he’d created at Binghamton University in ’69.

The ETC studio featured handmade analog video and audio processors designed and built by Nam June Paik, David Jones and other giants in the video art world.

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“It’s a huge gift to have a chunk of time in this amazing space filled with unique, hand-built analog and digital tools and toys,” Bianca Bob told us via email.

“To have that chance to play hard, fail harder and recreate your ideas into something you didn’t imagine before — that was and still is everything.”

Deborah and Jason Bernagozzi and Hank Rudolph are continuing the amazing ETC legacy through Owego’s Signal Culture, offering toolmaker, researcher and artist residencies. Bbob has been a happy Signal Culture Artist Resident as well.

“Red M&Ms” appears on the Experimental Television Center’s 40 year anniversary DVD anthology.

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We’re not 100% sure, but we believe Bianca Bob actually made her nationally-televised debut on “Night Flight” with “Red M&Ms.”

“Red M&Ms” also appeared for a heartbeat in the movie Eye for an Eye playing on a TV in the background, right before someone gets killed. Spoiler alert.

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Bianca Bob and James King (co-shooter, cast member) testing out plastic discs from Canal Street Plastics for distortion effects for shooting her song/video “Red M&Ms,” October 1988 (photo by Lashawn Butler)

Her song laments how her favorite red-colored chocolate candies had been discontinued, due to the unfounded scare that they contained Red Dye No. 2 (more on that below).

“Oh, I used to love my red M&Ms, then they said that they could kill me…
Red Dye Number Two, I loved you (and speaking of carcinogenics)
I really miss cyclamates that they put in Fresca back in ’68 and I
Really miss eight-track cassette tapes,
And the Bay City Rollers…I thought they were great!
They took all the fun outta bein’ a kid… they took it all away”

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Bianca Bob also graciously helped with some of the details we weren’t sure about in this post, and we asked her to tell us a little more about “Red M&Ms”:

“I am still fond of this song and this video all these years later. I love the guitar by William Dial and the drums by Steve Dansiger. Those loud castanets were all my fault, btw. Steve does a cameo at the beginning of ‘Red M&Ms’ as an out of control Puppy City pitchman.”

“I truly did and do miss all the things in ‘Red M&Ms’ in both an ironic and palpable way. Well, almost. I did like saying ‘McRib’ and how odd it felt to sing about sandwich separation. But I never was a McRib fan. Facts.”

“I surprised myself when the end coda came out about everything being taken away, and the temporal nature of all. The ’80s were about loss for so many. “

“And at the same time in parallel, so much felt possible then. You could be in four bands, tour with a dance company, make several movies at once and sleep sometimes. This piece is a bookmark to me of all that change and the transitions in those early days of the digital world.”

“Lessons learned? If you write about ‘stuff’ disappearing, most of it will come back to laugh at you. I see you, Yumbo. But McRib? Why! WHY!! Why not Linda Ellerbee, said this life long fangirl?”

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Bianca Bob performs at the original Knitting Factory in NYC with William Dial (L) and Steve Dansiger (R) (photo by Lashawn Butler)

Bianca Bob writes, directs and scores documentaries, commercials, and shorts. She’s working on a Beaux-Arts musical script and soundtrack, among other offbeat projects.

She hangs out on Instagram and likes creating Unintended Art projects there. @biancabob @unintendedarts
Signal Culture
Experimental Television Center
iTunes: “Red M&Ms

(thanks, Bianca Bob!)

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Read more about what happened with red M&Ms below.

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We’re offering up original uncut air masters of Night Flight programming from the video vaults of the 1980s TV show, as well as provocative new selections from the world of music, documentaries, animation, cult films and more. Sign up today!



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You may be old enough to remember this — or you might have forgotten if you’re of a certain age — but there was actually a time when the red-colored M&M candy were banned in the U.S.

The reason? The red M&Ms — which had been made by the privately-owned Hackettstown, NJ-based M&M-Mars candy company since 1941 — were discontinued in 1976 over unwarranted confusion and concern because consumers believed they contained Red Dye No. 2.

As it turned out, the disappearance of Red Dye No. 2 from the American marketplace can be traced back to poorly-executed Russian science tests completed in the early ’70s at The Moscow Institute of Nutrition.

The Russians had fed rats Red Dye No. 2 and later found that 26% of them had developed tumors. A second study linked Red Dye No. 2 to rat stillbirths and deformities.

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The U.S. authorities immediately rejected the findings in the Russian studies — we were in the middle of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, after all — and proceeded to conduct their own equally-shitty scientific study.

It turned out to be a total nightmare, though, because the study’s lead scientist left midway through, and the rats were all mixed up in the lab.

In the end, the remaining scientists misread and mishandled their own test results, and were led to believe that Red Dye No. 2 was, indeed, carcinogenic.

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The FDA were flustered by the public outrage once the press published the results — Red Dye No. 2 was used in summer fun foods like hot dogs and ice cream –because it created problems for certain corporate PR departments.

Eventually the FDA erred on the side of caution and banned the substance.

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Bianca Bob performs at the original Knitting Factory in NYC with William Dial (L) and Steve Dansiger (R) (photo by Lashawn Butler)

As it turned out, those crappy scientific tests by the Americans and the Soviets both proved inconclusive in their findings.

Meanwhile, organizations across the country had started campaigns to get red M&Ms back into circulation.

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One heavily-publicized campaign, in particular — led by an 18-year-old University of Tennessee freshman Paul Hethmon — received national exposure.

Hethmon formed the “The Society for the Restoration and Preservation of Red M&Ms” to publicize his personal demands to the Mars company, and he also wrote directly to U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

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Hethmon’s many national radio station interviews and major TV network show appearances led to Mars quickly re-instating red M&Ms sometime in 1987.

Unfortunately, progress moving as slow as molasses sometimes, the red M&Ms didn’t make it back to store shelves until the early ’90s.

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Don’t even get us going on those weak blue M&Ms, though!

Below: Bianca Bob sets up a multi monitor background for shooting her song/video “Red M&Ms” (photo by Lashawn Butler)

Watch Bianca Bob’s video art production in our “As Aired” Mother’s Day Special, streaming exclusively on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.