John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

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Memories of children's programming

I saw this video on engelen's Facebook page the other day:

Apparently, it's a clip from a local children's TV show, of which she is not a fan:

It's complete, stupid, bullshit nonsense that is fed on a daily basis to the kids in my hometown. My mom never let me watch that show growing up, because "it's dumb."

I agree! About the complete nonsense part, at least, and I'm willing to take her word about the dumb part, because it sure looks dumb. But I think that's fine; kids like dumb things that are completely nonsensical, and as long as that's not all they watch, I don't think there's any real harm in indulging that once in a while. I mean, I watched plenty of dumb nonsense when I was a kid, and it's not hard to imagine something just as dumb as the video above airing on the local kids programming I used to watch when I was a kid.

There were several locally produced kids' shows that I remember watching back then: Bozo's Circus; Ray Rayner and His Friends; Garfield Goose and Friends; and my favorites, The BJ and Dirty Dragon Show and its successor Gigglesnort Hotel. With the exception of the last, these were all variety shows at their core, and probably had more than a little in common with the show from which that video above came. There were skits, cartoons, games, clowns, puppets, all sorts of stuff. Gigglesnort Hotel was a little different, as I recall, with episodic storytelling. I seem to recall that there were some two-part episodes in the mix. I think one involved a recurring villainous character called the Lemon Joke Kid, who went around dropping lemons that had jokes written on them, which were so terrible that it would cause their lips of anyone who read the joke to pucker instantly. Weird, but memorable.

But of course, dumb local programming is hardly the only stuff I watched growing up. I also watched a ton of syndicated reruns. Some were live-action shows that originally airedin primetime: The Brady Bunch; The Partridge Family; The Monkees; Batman; The Courtship of Eddie's Father; Bewitched; Love, American Style; That Girl; The Andy Griffith Show; The Adventures of Superman; and of course Gilligan's Island, speaking of dumb nonsense. There were a lot of old animated series that I watched too: The Flintstones; The Jetsons; Underdog; The Bullwinkle Show; Speed Racer; Spider-Man; and Battle of the Planets.

There was also a class of programming that I don't think really exists anymore: shows that repackaged old material into a new show, though of course at the time I didn't realize that was what was happening. For example, there was The Banana Splits and Friends Show, which repackaged content from the original Banana Splits show that aired on Saturday mornings and four other old Hanna-Barbara series. (The syndicated Underdog and Bullwinkle series did this, too.) Channel 32 used to air packages of animated shorts — Popeye, Woody Woodpecker, and Tom & Jerry — at various times throughout the day. I remember watching Tom & Jerry one morning before school when my mom came in to say Anwar Sadat had been assassinated. (She probably remembered how upset I'd been when she didn't wake me up to tell me about John Lennon's murder and didn't want to take any chances.) There were also syndicated packages of old Three Stooges and Our Gang shorts, but I rarely watched those, because my mom didn’t like them.

Then there were the educational PBS shows: Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Zoom. Let me tell you, a goofy dance number would not have been out of place on any of those last three shows. The song probably would have been nominally educational, but you can't tell me this video from The Electric Company is significantly less ridiculous than "La Internet:"

And of course there were the Saturday morning cartoons. The announcement of the new Saturday morning lineups was one of the highlights of my year, and I remember discussing them in no small detail with my friends Russell and Chris. Aside from the The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, a perennial favorite, the only Saturday morning show I have really strong memories of was a live-action show called The Kids from C.A.P.E.R.

It had a lot in common with The Monkees, so it's no surprise I liked it; The Monkees was possibly my favorite show. I was so strongly attached to The Kids from C.A.P.E.R. that I actually cried when it disappeared from the schedule unexpectedly. I haven't seen it since it went off the air back in 1976, but watching the title sequence makes me think I'm better off with my memories of the show than I would be reacquainting myself with it as an adult.

Tags: halcyon days of yore, illinois: chicago, social media: facebook, tv: other, videos

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