TV…It’s What’s for Dinner

Last week, I asked you to join me in never growing up. Well, not exactly (but wouldn’t that have been cool??) – no, in fact, I did ask you this:

When you were a little kid – 2-6 years old – what television shows inspired and entertained you the most, and why? What was it about those shows/characters that left such a lasting impression? 

So when you were thinking  back – far, far, FAR away – to the TV shows that held a soft spot in your heart, what names did you come up with? A few of you chimed in with some of your own thoughts in comments and on Facebook. Old favorites like Captain Kangaroo, Sesame Street and Electric Company kept coming up. I promised I’d share mine – obviously, Mister Rogers is one given the fact that I provided not just ANY clip of the show but an ENTIRE episode in the last blog! And I completely grew up on Sesame Street and its messages of diversity and peace and love. I also think it’s no strange coincidence that I too share an almost stalker-like affection for cookies, vampires (or at least ones who bear a strong resemblance to Alexander Skarsgard) and apparently trash and grouchiness. If you could see my office right now and live inside my head to assess one of my most common moods, you’d see  — it isn’t pretty. The room or my snippy attitude, for that matter.

But there were other shows that as a kid left a tremendous impression on me. Some were kids’ shows but some weren’t kids’ shows at all and might surprise you.

Okay, other kids’ shows that live in infamy for me – or at least in my head…

New Zoo Revue – giant frogs and hippos and the like roaming around in tutus with tea sets and charming Southern accents…it was all-too odd and hallucinogenic and I loved it, man!

ZOOM – a bunch of kids – some American, some with those funny cockney accents, eh, who liked to stand around in wide-legged pants with far too many checkered squares on them and sing really groovy tunes, eh? And not always in tune, you know, but they were cooooooool anyway. Cool enough for me to buy the LP. That’s vinyl, baby.

KidsWorld – take 60 minutes and shave everybody’s age by about 80% and you had KidsWorld. A chance for kids to hear news from kids about other kids doing far cooler, smarter and much more ambitious things than any of us were doing. While we were trying to persuade our parents to buy the latest box of Honeycombs (even though they damn well knew we couldn’t stand eating the crap and only wanted the hippest cereal toys around!), a kid in Philadelphia had started his own successful neighborhood lawn service and was going to net $10,000 by the end of the year and of course, he was donating half of it to the local orphanage and putting the other half in his college fund. Oh yeah? Well, good for friggin’ him. I just wanted my damn toy.

But the shows that probably did me the most damage – I mean, influenced me the most – were not children’s television shows at all.

Saturday Night Live – I was five years old when the very first SNL with host George Carlin hit the airwaves, and you know what? I was watching it. Yep, even back then. (No, you can’t go after my parents with any charges – I’m grandfathered in, I think.) I loved that show and it literally established a foundation for my sense of humor. So like me or hate me, you have the Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time-Players to thank or blame for it.

Midnight Special – Okay, I’m going to talk to the younger readers among you, those of you under 40 who have no idea who Wolfman Jack was. Let me tell you: Ryan Seacrest has nothing on this guy. He was Cool, yes, with a capital “C.” But best of all, he had people on his show performing who never appeared anywhere else or at least rarely anywhere else. For example, I distinctly remember as a little chickadee seeing Steely Dan of all groups appear on this show, and those guys never crawled out of their cave to appear anywhere, least of all on television. If you’ve seen Steely Dan, particularly during that era, you know why. A face for radio is I believe the kind expression usually bestowed upon homely chaps like them, but they were some talented fellas despite this hard and fast truth.

The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mystery Hour – I had no need for Pamela Sue Martin as Nancy Drew. I’m sure I went and got a snack or brushed my teeth when she came on the screen. I read the books but I was not tuning in for her. No, not at all. I was, however, tuning in for my first official boyfriend/crush. And no, it’s not who you think. I was not a Joe Hardy girl. I was in fact a FRANK HARDY girl. Yes, Parker Stevenson. Dreamy as ever. He was my man. Before there was Gonzo Gates in Trapper John MD, Doug Ross or John Carter in ER – sigh – there was Frank Hardy. (He’s the cutie on the left below.)

The show? Eh. Nothing spectacular, at least I don’t think so. I really don’t remember. But the event of sitting down to watch it? Invigorating. Mmm.

Liars’ Club/High Rollers/Tattletales/Match Game/Password/To Tell the Truth, the 70s version/Family Feud/insert your own game show title here – Yep, I was hooked. I loved the game shows. And it didn’t matter which one. As long as Alex Trebek, Bert Convy, Allen Ludden or Bill Cullen were hosting, I was probably watching. For me, I continue to lead life like a game show. Ask me at any point during the year if I’m participating in a pool or contest of some kind, and I bet ya 2-1 that I am…

Charlie’s Angels – I know this was a T&A show disguised as a serious cop drama but little girls like me, we wanted to BE one of Charlie’s Angels. Yes, we could be tough and deadly one-minute, even disguised as a harmless nun or a friendly crossing guard and then HAH–YA—CHOP. Kick the living shit out of you. Yep, you little boys might have been looking at the nipples and there were a lot of them – often – but we little girls were focused on the message: that we could be tough, strong and anything we wanted to be. Okay, yeah, we noticed the boobs, too, and wondered when the heck those would be appearing in the mirror for us, as well, but seriously, the focus really was on the message, toughness, rah-rah, chicks rock, yadda yadda yadda. And to answer the question that I know all of you are wondering: Kelly. Yep, just like the Beatles, the Scooby Gang, Duran Duran, and later the Spice Girls, you had to pick a favorite, and mine was of all people the one to go on and have her own clothing line — at KMart of all places. Oy.

I could go on forever. TV for me was not a vast wasteland – it was my second home. I consider myself a fairly intelligent person. I was a straight A student, did fairly well on my SATs (at least by the third try) and I usually have some bit of logic around my decisions. But supposedly, this vacuum was sucking all of the brain cells out of me as so many people chose to characterize TV (especially back then before The Learning Channel, Discovery and Bravo started adding all of that cultural programming and brain trust inspiring content – like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, American Chopper and The Real of Housewives of Wherevah.)

So how did TV scar – I mean, CHANGE your life as a toddler? Tell me about the shows that left you inspired, dreaming or just plain drooling when you were in your formative years. Feel free to share here and have fun thinking back to your younger days. No one can take that away. Well, technically the networks can and probably did but the memory lives on. And there’s always YouTube.

Cheers to finding that daily spark in your life!




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