Social Buttons

Saturday, September 22, 2012

TV Nostalgia

In the spirit of Derrick Adams’ The Channel, which plays off of educational TV shows from the 70s and 80s, we at the BAM blog took a moment to wax nostalgic about the television of our respective youths. From The Wonder Years to Whazzat Kangaroo, here are a few of our favorite earliest cultural influences.


Samantha Stephens: suburban housewife, witch, feminist?? Bewitched enthralled me as a child. Samantha lived in a town like my own, her ad-exec husband took the 8:09 to Grand Central every day, and she was involved in all the mundane activities you'd expect in 60s suburbia (nosy neighbors, bake sales, dinner parties). She was also a real witch with magical powers beyond my imagination. The sitcom twist, of course, was that she boldly abandoned that life for a mortal one (by marrying boring Darrin) and yet couldn't escape her own family of witches and warlocks (who created the mayhem in each episode). Who can escape their own family? And how many times did I wish I could wiggle my own nose and make something change in my life? I can't count. Just sold my Samantha doll on eBay. But I still love this show.  –Sandy Sawotka

Gilligan’s Island

Gilligan's Island taught me to never go on a three-hour tour (or to at least go with interesting people), that (pre-Breaking Bad) professors can be really useful, and that rich people can be helpless, nattering egomaniacs. It also taught me that a blustering bully yelling your name at the top of their lungs meant run at top speed (even though he'd eventually make it up to you, his little buddy) and that being the less-glamorous female wasn't always terrible. –Susan Yung

The Magic Garden

Every day after kindergarten I would rush home from the bus stop and pull on the giant dial on my parents’ wood-panel Sony Trinitron. I would immediately turn it (“clunk clunk clunk!”) to Channel 11 to watch the last few minutes of The Magic Garden, where the angelic voices of Carole and Paula would sing “See ya, see ya! Hope you had a good good time! Ba da…” as they’d sit on swings in an Astoturfed garden—the most beautiful fake garden in the world. This is all I would see—the bittersweet closing song, and, if I was lucky, a few previous minutes, including the inimitable “Chuckle Patch,” comprised of a bed of daisies who’d tell jokes by way of blue note cards. A formative experience that would herald the rest of the day, The Magic Garden provided warmth, caring, fuzziness, and innocence by way of epically long pig-tailed hair and cerulean bell-bottomed denim. –Gabriele Caroti

Night Court

I grew up in a suburb outside Seattle, and Night Court made such an impact on me as a kid that it’s basically why I live in New York today. To me, it defined New York and moving here was something I could never get out of my head. The filthiness and luridness of 1980s New York City might be hard to find these days but it’s still a funny place. FYI, the real night court is at 100 Centre Street from 5:30pm to 1am. I’ve never been.  –Adam Sachs


I was a severely TV-deprived child. My well-intentioned parents allowed me a limited dose of Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers, and that was all. But for my fourth or fifth birthday, someone gave me a She-Ra action figure that I absolutely adored. Playmobil and My Little Ponies tossed aside, She-Ra conquered my playdates and imagination. I knew she was the Princess of Power, which sounded like something worth aspiring to, but that was about it. After months of inventing stories and songs and personality traits about this fierce 4-inch blonde bombshell, my parents felt guilty and finally let me watch the TV show that inspired her. Little did I know, tiny She-Ra could lift mountains! And talk to animals! And He-Man was her twin brother, not her boyfriend! And their posse of globe-trotting evil-fighting friends was called The Great Rebellion! I was enlightened and inspired…and well on my way to an adolescence full of going against my parents’ best intentions in a mediocre rebellion of my own.  –Claire Frisbie

Swans Crossing

I don't really remember Swans Crossing (the preteen 90210 that aired for 13 weeks in the summer of 1992), but it must have shaped my person in some profound way. I refused to go on any family outings that happened on Saturdays that summer because I couldn't miss the show. “Do you want to go to the Magic Valley Mall, Joseph?” Nope. “We're going out for Oreo Cookie Blizzards tonight, are you coming?” No way! Leave me alone! I already told you Swans Crossing is on tonight!  —Joseph Bradshaw

The Time Tunnel

Irwin Allen's The Time Tunnel (1966) was my favorite show of all time (when I was 11 years old!). It may have had something to do with the fact that my family had just gotten our first TV. My grandfather took pity on us and bought us a little black and white model. In my preteen mind, there was nothing more fantastic than time travel and the psychedelic graphics on the show were so seductive. I was fascinated with the control room where the "Time Tunnel" itself was located, and all the technicians were always twirling dials, pushing buttons amid a background of changing lights (sort of like a Robert Wilson piece!). I'm certain the show influenced my graphic design approach.

Every episode had the two main characters end up in some critical moment of history, such as the moments before the Lincoln assassination. Then the two characters would try to change or fix history in some way and were always unsuccessful. It was only years later, when I found the reruns on the Syfi channel, that I realized how horrible the show is. While the basic premise for the show is great, the writing was mercilessly horrible. Still, you can't rewrite the past. Or can you?  —Louie Fleck

Today’s Special

Today’s Special was about a mannequin that comes to life after a department store closes and that hangs out all night with the woman who designs the window displays. (Apparently this particular window needed a lot of attention, because homegirl was there every night.) I think, based on the large fear of death that began in my childhood, that the episode “Sleep” had a profound effect on me. Check out the anxiety expressed by the mannequin, when he learns about what sleep is (it’s at 8:20 in the clip):

What if I fall asleep and I forget to wake up? Or what if my heart forgets to keep beating, or I forget to keep breathing?

I didn’t even remember the name of this Canadian show before looking it up for this post, but I did remember that line, almost verbatim, for over a quarter-century. Why? Probably because it directly links every kid’s reluctance to go to bed with their then-nascent awareness, and fear of, the Big Sleep. I have been unable to determine if the creators of Today’s Special ever read Ernest Becker’s 1973 Pulitzer-winning The Denial of Death, which makes the reasonable case that all of our hang-ups come from a fear of death. Today’s Special crystallized this fear for me. I had a lot of hang-ups as a small kid.   –Nathan Gelgud

The Wonder Years

OK, this is excruciatingly embarrassing, but It’s time to confess my shame. I had a tween crush on Fred Savage.

I first noticed him in The Princess Bride, I adored him in Vice Versa with Judge Reinhold (I could write another entry just about “The Judge”), and I even loved him in the criminally overlooked Little Monsters. However, where he really captured my heart was as the Jets-jacket-clad little twerp in The Wonder Years. I was 11 when Kevin Arnold first beamed into my living room in all his dimply adorableness. And as he navigated the daily tribulations of being a high schooler in the turbulent late sixties, I shared in Daniel Stern’s (who played the adult Kevin) nostalgia for a time that I never lived in, even if to this day I’m disappointed that eventually Kevin Arnold grew up to be Daniel Stern. Fred Savage is the pivotal entry in my crush catalog and, as I entered my ghastly years of sexual self-discovery, I’m sure I spent many lonely nights dreaming of those dimples. Oh, what I would have given to be Winnie Cooper and to be the object of his affection as the Diana Ross & The Supremes harmonized to “Some Day We’ll Be Together”! Oh, yes we will! Yes we will! –Troy Dandro

Zoobilee Zoo

Hands down my favorite show from my formative years, Zoobilee Zoo featured a super-talented cast of people who looked like they stepped straight out of the musical Cats (minus the melodramatic Andrew Lloyd Weber score). Ben Vereen was the mayor of the Zoobles, and there is a small, childlike part of me that wishes Ben Vereen would run for mayor of New York City. (P.S. Did you know that he’s Usher’s godfather? Yes, that Usher.) I like to think of myself and young Usher watching this surreal and freaky show, both of us wondering what half the animals are. It didn’t matter, because they were wonderful and sang songs and danced and played games all day long. “Whazzat Kangaroo” was my favorite (Whaaaazzaaaat!!!!!). Sing it with me now:  “Zoobilee Zoo....Zoobilee Zoo...Magic and wonder are waiting for you...”  –Cynthia Lugo

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.