There are a number of television programs so ingrained in my memory, that I’m not sure if they’re actually good, or if I only think they’re good because my six-year old self decided that they were a couple decades ago. Sometimes its a desire to wax nostalgia that sends me flipping to blocks of blue (color coded guide, blue is children’s programming) or fixated on YouTube videos of kid’s shows past. For the following shows though, I’d like to believe that it’s a genuine enjoyment of content that makes me willing to watch these programs. That, and a wealth of free time.
5. Beetlejuice (1989-1991)
Perhaps you’re more familiar with the box office smash Beetlejuice than its animated re-incarnation. Perhaps thats because the movie is hilarious and star-studded, and the show was but a blip on late 80’s/early 90’s children’s programming circuit. What makes this show memorable though, is it’s creator and executive producer, TIM BURTON, who directed the movie, and as far as I’m concerned could animate grass growing and I’d be intrigued. Subtle differences exist between the movie and cartoon. In the animated version, Beetlejuice is the protagonist rather than the antagonist, and Lydia is his best friend, rather than a young girl forced to marry a disgusting snaggle-toothed corpse. She seeks out BJ’s help to get back at all the a-holes who treat her like, well, the goth that she is. Hell is redesigned as a desirable destination, a devil’s playground if you will, rife with fun and curiosities, rather than fire and brimstone.
4. Alvin and the Chipmunks (1983-1990)
Who cares what the plot of this show ever was. Or why in the hell everyone else in the show is a HUMAN while the three stars of the show are not only chipmunks, but INTERNATIONAL POP SUPERSTAR CHIPMUNKS! The important thing is, that these three cuddly crooners take pop songs (contemporary and olden timey alike) and sing them in sped up, high pitched, tiny voices, making them ever so much fun. Plus! They dance! And wear color-coded sweaters, and have girlfriends with identical features (I assume to eliminate confusion). Here’s where I admit how pop-cultured I am. At one point during the show’s run, Alvin said to Mr. SEVILLE (which sounds similar to DEMILLE), “Mr. Seville, I’m ready for my close-up.” (Or maybe he didn’t ever actually say it, I just thought it). At any rate, I was about 18 before I realized that variations of that quote were references to a line that Gloria Swanson made famous, not Alvin the Chipmunk.
3. Double-Dare (1986-1993)
This miiiiiight be the pot talking, but Double-Dare is probably the single most entertaining half hour television has EVER seen. Two teams battling it with the simplest trivia questions ever written, and when they don’t know the answer they DARE the other team, who might DOUBLE DARE them back, and now that its worth like, triple the points, they must opt for (by saying the greatest catch phrase on earth) “I’ll take the physical challenge.” And then it just gets more awesome from there. Until one team–after answering say one question correctly and then digging through a jumbo plastic nose for “boogers” which they then must squeeze into some hat slash beaker atop the head of their cohort, all while donning zany clown pants with electric suspenders, a blindfold and a foam cowboy hat–“wins” and moves on to the obstacle course, which, let’s just say, I would totally own, hard. Winners receive shitty audio equipment, BK Dymacels and sometimes, foot propelled scooters.
2. Gumby Adventures (1988)
I don’t like to discriminate between old school Gumby and 80’s Gumby, and I hate to disrespect the original, but when it comes to clay-mation, the more modern, the better, I always say. Plus, the updated version gave Gumby a super cool sister, Minga and instead of spending all their time in some lame toy store, G-dawg (that’s what I call him) and his pals started their own rock band! Also, new Gumby was brighter, shinier and more colorful, and it looked more like a cartoon than balls of Play-doh interacting (again, not to disrespect the original, it was ahead of its time, truly). In third grade I bought a Gumby figurine (come to think of it, I had Pokey too, who the fuck stole him?) that still sits on my shelf to this day, which may not seem like that big of a deal, but when you consider that I threw away my high school diploma, it kind of is and tangibly exhibits my unwavering love of that little green man with pompadour. The following clip, made my head spin. I thought I had forgotten specific episodes, but as soon as it began, FLASHBACK!
1. Pee-wee’s Playhouse (1986-1990)
No other television show, in the history of television shows was a crucial to my development as Pee-wee’s Playhouse, which either makes a lot of sense, or is tragic and sad. I was first exposed to this program one Saturday morning at my grandparent’s house when my uncle (in his early 20’s) parked me in front of it, for us to enjoy together. Days later my mother walked by my room where I was sitting on the floor chanting, “Mekka Lekka Hi Mekka Heiny Ho. Mekka Lekka Hi Mekka Hieny Hay. Long Live Jambi,” which must have been terrifying for a protestant mother of a toddler, until she discovered that I wasn’t worshiping the devil, but merely a fan of Paul Reubens twisted but childlike sense of humor. On the first day of first grade my mother drove me down the street to my new bus stop. I was halfway to the bus when I noticed I had forgotten my lunchbox, a plastic fuschia number featuring the likes of Pee-wee Herman, matching Thermos INCLUDED in the set. As I boarded the bus, a motley group of high school losers began to mock and ridicule my choice of lunch receptacle, shaming my fondness for all things Pee-wee (I also owned the action figures) until I realized that these douche bags were riding a bus with first graders, instead of driving their own cars, allowing me to continue my lifelong adoration of Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Also, I would be remiss not to mention that in 1989 my sister dressed as Pee-wee Herman for Halloween, and I, as Jem.